Monday 26 June 2017

When your kids spread their wings.

OK so I can finally share 2 bits of news. It's not been my news to share. But that of 2 of my children. Children 3 and 4. It's been causing me quite a bit of stress in regards to the impact it will have on my life as a mum and the worries I have for my children. But they've now told all the family and their friends about their plans and travels so there is no stopping mum now.

My kids tell me everything (well what they think I need to know and enough to keep me off their backs)

My kids tell me everything before they tell anyone else (after they've told their girlfriends, best mates, cousins, bloke in the pub etc)

My kids tell me everything that will have an impact on my life life (when they need to borrow money)

Child 4 is now 22 and happily settled in Northern Ireland. I'm flying to Belfast on Saturday for 4 days to say goodbye before he goes on his first tour of duty with the British Army for the next 7 months in the Middle East. He actually won't be that far from me in Dubai as the crow flies, but he may as well be on the moon for a while. As a mum it's hard when your child leaves home, he has a new life now, with his girlfriend and her family on a daily basis, but I'm still mum and still a very important part of his life, even if I do say so myself.

My 2nd piece of news is that 3 weeks ago, child 3 who left home in 2010 aged 18, 3 months before we moved to South Africa has announced that on July 31st he is moving with his girlfriend to Australia, initially on a 1 year working visa, but the plan is to extend it and stay out there for a long as they can, if not forever. His first comment upon telling us was that we couldn't complain about the distance as we currently live in Dubai and we left him when he was 18 and moved 6000 miles away to South Africa. He made a fair point.

I see all my children between 2-4 times a year, either through visiting the UK or them coming over to Dubai to visit us. When I'm in the UK, I focus my visits around them, but with child 3 in Leeds and child 4 in Northern Ireland, the last couple of years it's been getting harder to see them together. In fact the last time all 7 of us were together in the same country was in 2007 and the last family photo was in 2003. This Spring we managed to get all 7 of us together in a car park in Cheltenham for half an hour where we took this photo.

I doubt we'll ever get all of us together again, I know we'll all see one another, in various places around the world, but as a family of 7? especially now they have long term girlfriends and are involved in their lives with plans to settle down, holiday plans will change, Christmas and birthday's will be shared, it's just life and with us living in 3 different continents it's going to be virtually impossible from now on.

As for the rest of the kids:

The eldest child, child 1, is in a residential home in the UK, she is now 29 and profoundly disabled, we aren't involved in her day to day life, but every 2 years we are invited to take part in an assessment and are involved in her financial planning and any budget changes and the impacts on the services provided. When this process takes place it is a full time job for around 4-6 weeks, form filling and negotiating back and forth to ensure there is no disruption in the care she receives.

Child 2 left home at 18 and joined the British Army also, he was based in Germany for 4 years and now lives with his girlfriend and works in the Forest of Dean, he is 27.

Child 5 left home aged 13 and returned to boarding school in the UK in 2013 aged 14, he leaves school in 2 weeks time and he is currently applying for apprenticeships. I'm back in the UK to support him through this process and assist with housing and moving and attending interviews. We have no idea at this point in time where abouts in the UK he'll end up, but for now we're looking at Gloucestershire.

For the foreseeable future our family visits will be as a family of 5 as that's all we will be able to manage to get together, but we'll make the most of of it and carry on making memories and adding photo's to our wall. I'll just need to learn to photo shop.

My Sunday Photo - Week 130 O is for Outdoors

'Bring some of the sun with you Suzanne when you come to the UK please'

I was slightly disappointed to arrive at Birmingham Airport on Monday to a heat wave, I left Dubai to escape the summer, I did find it very hot this week, but it's a different kind of hot, one you can get a respite from when you stand in the shade, one that carries a cool breeze from time to time, one where cold water actually runs from the cold tap and one where the max temp of 32c that I experienced here in the UK is the minimum temp in Dubai right now.

I spent today in Stratford upon Avon. I had a picnic by the canal and a walk around the town. Something I can't do in the summer in Dubai. It's so nice to be able to be outdoors and actually enjoy it. I know a lot of people have found it too hot, but it's only been a week. I'm looking forward to the cooler weather forecast for the rest of this week, there was a bit of rain today and I was like a child in a sweet shop, it was exciting to actually have weather for a change rather than none stop oppressive heat and I intend to spend the rest of the UK summer outdoors as much as possible, come rain or shine.

Sunday 25 June 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 25 In the UK

Anyone else spring clean their house before going away? I actually clean the house to spring clean standard every week, out of boredom. All the washing and ironing is done. I did a shop, wrote lists for Peter that he'll ignore then wake me up with a phone call at 4am forgetting the 3 hour time difference because he can't find the cat litter and he needs to go to work now, but it's what I do and I know when I come home, he'll have kept the house clean and tidy but I'll spend the first week, getting the house back into order, my order.

It's been a stressful few weeks dealing with several family and health issues, a bit of a scare this week, which needed me to register with a UK Doctor the day I arrived, a bit of drama with one of the kids and a few other things going on that I still can't blog about, not all bad though, just waiting for 2 of the kids to get around to sharing their news before I can share it.

169. Sunday. Dad. The teen bought a card and gifts when he was here over Whitsun but forgot to sign it, 2 boys sent a message on FB after a prompt and have sent cards but sadly they didn't arrive in time.

I had my BOGOF blow dry, so decided to take up the 'free' one in the morning before flying to the UK as well as a manicure, pedicure and new shellac polish. I then had lunch with a friend, finished packing my case. I got to the airport at midnight, ready for my 2 flight to the UK via Istanbul.

170. Monday. Celebrate. It's the little things. After her initial upset that Uncle Peter wasn't with me, my 6 year old niece was easily pleased with her Hello Kitty kitchen roll gift, last time it was Hello Kitty toilet paper, you wouldn't believe how much excitement loo roll can

Arrived on schedule at Birmingham. My sister collected me, the first time she's ever been able to do it due to her health, makes one hell of a difference not to have to catch a train/bus or pay for expensive car hire after such a long flight. Collected child 4 of 5's car to use for the summer as he's away with work until February, so it saves me quite a chunk of money this trip.

171. Tuesday. Colour. I brought the sun from Dubai with me, you can thank me later. It's been so nice being able to sit outside and enjoy it.

A lovely lie in, in the flat, so nice to have been able to unpack and have my own space. The afternoon was spent pottering around Tewkesbury and at the teens school, with his teachers trying to sort out his future once he leaves in 2 weeks time. I called in at my mums for a slice of her birthday cake, sadly it had all gone by the time I arrived.

172. Wednesday. The letter S.......The face of stress. I'm not sure how much more I can actually take.
I didn't sleep well, just couldn't get off and woke at 6am. There are a few bits and bobs of paperwork to sort on this trip, but no time limit as I don't have a return flight booked, so I taking one day at a time while I can. I met my sister in town for a coffee and spent the afternoon with my ex SIL and ex MIL before visiting child 2 and 2a for a fish and chip supper in their new home.

173. Thursday. Leaps. Feel like I'm constantly being forced to jump through hoops, but I'm not sure for whose entertainment.

There's a theme going on here. Another restless night and up early. I'm not hungry at all, but I'm forcing myself to eat, but I'm drinking plenty. More Coffee with my sister and out for lunch to meet her boyfriend, we had a nice afternoon. I was in my PJs by 6pm, watching trashy tv and reading trashy tv mags, trying to switch my brain off.

174. Friday. Doors. Enough with this weather now. I will confess I have found it hot, but not Dubai hot, but now the temps have dropped back to normal UK summer, equivalent to winter in Dubai, I'm finding it cold, everyone has all the doors and windows open and I'm now shivering.

Grrrrr still no sleep, been getting plenty of exercise, going for walks every day. Off to Hereford with my sister for a spot of retail therapy, called in to see my parents in the evening and attempted another early night.

175. Saturday. Cool. Early morning walk around town and coffee shop visit at 8am, so lovely to be able to sit outside. Did I mention that?

Pool party at my sisters with my 6 year old niece, and my older niece and her 3 year old, 18 month old and 2 month old boys. My first meeting with the new great nephew, he was born the day I left the UK on my last trip.

On the blog this week:

P is for ..... - My Sunday Photo
My Top 10 places to visit and view wildlife in South Africa - PoCoLo and Animal Tales
Things I wish I'd done differently now my kids have left home - TweensTeensBeyond and TriuphantTales

Tuesday 20 June 2017

My top 10 places to view Wildlife in South Africa

We lived in Centurion, Pretoria for 4 years and welcomed numerous visitors every year to South Africa, including family, friends and work colleagues. We were regular visitors to the first 6 places and enjoyed annual trips to 7-10.
In no particular order, other than closest to our home at the time, are the following places to view game, wildlife and birds.

1. Reitvlei Nature Reserve just off the R21. Fantastic for picnics, bird watching and viewing Rhino.

2. Groenkloof on the outskirts of Pretoria where the M18 and the R21 join. Get out your car and take a walk with Giraffes, Zebras and Gnu’s. Hire bikes, ride horses or experience the awesome 4x4 route. Picnic, camp and experience authentic African food at Moyo’s restaurant.

3. Walter Sisulu Gardens in Johannesburg. Enjoy a picnic, a stroll through the gardens, view the nesting Eagles and walk to view the waterfalls.

4. Krugersdorp Lion Reserve, best to visit on a Sunday and experience the feeding habits of the Lions in a semi wild habitat. Picnic site and camp site with restaurant.

5. Pilanesburg Game Reserve. The closest place to view the Big 5. A two hour drive from Pretoria or stay over in a lodge, Sun City or camp site. Take a picnic or eat at Pilanesberg Centre. View Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Cape Buffalo and a Leopard if you’re lucky. Self drive or game drives available.

6. Kruger National Park. Nearest entrance is Malelane, nr Leopards Leap Golf Course, stay inside or outside the park in a lodge or camping. Drive along Crocodile River and take a walk with a ranger to view the hippos. Visit one of numerous restaurants in the park or take a picnic and braai.

7. Take a road trip to Cape Town via Port Elizabeth and visit the Addo Elephant National Park, there’s a variety of lodges nearby at reasonable prices. Spend the day viewing Elephants and other game.

8. Port Elizabeth Light house and visit the SAMREC Penguin Sanctuary. Learn about the plight of the penguin and the good work they do to rehabilitate penguins and return them to the wild. Take a walk on the beach to the light house and view the Oyster Catchers in their natural habitat.

9. Visit Oudtshoorn, inland of Mossel Beach and George. There is a great restaurant and gift shop and take a guided tour of the Ostrich farm and learn about their environment and the trade in feathers. Finish the day off with an Ostrich ride.

10. Finally visit the Cape of Good Hope, where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. Take a walk on the beaches with the free roaming antelope.

Sunday 18 June 2017

My Sunday Photo Week 129 P is for......

........Packing, Penguins, Presents and Polish.

I dragged Peter round Dubai Aquarium yesterday for my birthday treat. I'll be in the UK next week for my actual birthday. He bought me a cuddly Penguin as a gift.

Today I finished packing my suitcase and had a manicure and pedicure and new polish, then had to reopen my case to add my birthday present and card Peter bought for me after work.

Saturday 17 June 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 24

I got my results from my blood tests and MRI back on Sunday. I have a high white blood count, which indicates a virus or infection so had to have them repeated, they came back My MRI shows I have protruding discs on C5, 6 & 7 which are pressing onto the nerves and the spinal fluid. I also have no curve to my spine, all of which causes me pain, can aggrevate the migraines, gives me pins and needles in my thumbs and index finger and can cause me to drop things without warning. Surgery isn't an option and there is no long term damage. I did however point out to the Dr, that I've had this chronic pain and problems since 1994 and therefore I already consider it long term. The good thing being there was little change since the last MRI scan in 2000. Physio over the years and nerve regeneration and nerve blocks have helped but only short term, so basically this is just how it is, which I knew already.

My brain scan results were a little worrying but again there's nothing that can be done, I have a lesion on my frontal lobe either a cause of, or caused by my migraines, apparently nothing needs doing, they are fairly common.

I'm trying a new medication to prevent the migraines and have more physio booked to try and get me back to a better place for me to maintain the pain. This is a process I repeat every 2 years.

I also had an eye test on Wednesday which involved dilating the pupils and I couldn't see anything for a couple of hours. There's nothing wrong there either, other than directly linked to the migraines. It's just migraines......mmmmmm just? They cripple me for several days, at least once a month

I haven't been taking many photos recently, I haven't been doing anything of interest and when I do it just seems to be of the same things. It's rather boring in Dubai at the moment now it's summer. When I do go out it's for as shorter time as possible in this heat and besides my phone keeps switching itself off with the heat. I'm off to the UK tomorrow night for a couple of months, so I'll have something to interest me for a while.

162 Sunday. Calm. MRI results back.

After getting my results I spent the middle of day with a friend for coffee and cake and then ran the hoover round, spending the late afternoon and evening watching you tube and blogging.

163 Monday. Contract. Geez medical aid doesn't need to be this complicated.

Waited in all day for the aircon repair man, he didn't show. Cleaned the bathrooms and bedroom and spent the rest of the day sorting out the medical aid and sons school. I'm so frustrated, at several points I actually cried and threw things.

164 Tuesday. I'm doing.

Bob had his injections ready for kennels when I'm away and Peter is travelling with work next month. Everywhere has changed their opening hours for Ramadan and not everywhere has updated their website, so I bought myself flowers and coffee and read my book. Bob and I visited the vets for his annual jabs.

165 Wednesday. Cake. I opted for beer rather than dessert.

After the shock discovery of being weighed at the Doctors almost 3 weeks ago, I've cut sugar and bread out of my diet and have lost 1kg. I had physio, blood tests and my eye exam and in the evening I went out for dinner with a friend for the pub quiz. We came third, it was just the 2 of us and we really need to polish up on our geography.

166 Thursday. Spots.

I stayed over the night before and after walking the dogs early morning, I enjoyed a swim in the communal pool, by 10am the sun was too hot and I could feel the sun burning my skin, so my swim was cut short. I took a walk in the afternoon for a coffee, the temps hit 46c, I was physically sick on the way back.

167 Friday. Nature.

We went out for coffee in the morning, Peter had his haircut and we did some shopping. We've both been playing word cookies and are rather addicted to it, we watched TV and did little else, it's just too hot for being outdoors and everything else involves spending money just to be entertained.

168 Saturday. Song. When you walk past these tubes and touch them they play tunes, at Dubai Mall.

Up early to walk Bob, bathe him and wash his bedding ready for me going away on Sunday. It's my birthday next week, so I dragged Peter to the aquarium and we went out for lunch, food shopping in the afternoon, stocking up on dog and cat food etc whilst I'm away.

On the blog this week:

Disability - Spectrum Sunday - Disability in South Africa
What's bugging me this week - My Sunday Photo - K is for Khalas
Parenting - Triumphant Tales and Tweens Teens Beyond - Parenting from abroad
Travel - PoCoLo - What to pack for a UK holiday

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Parenting from abroad.

Our youngest child is in boarding school in the UK, having returned there from South Africa in 2013 ready to start his GCSE's. On July 6th 2017, his school days will be over and we can pat ourselves on the backs for successfully raising 5 children into adulthood, who currently still all talk to us, so we've done something right.

Our children have not gone to University, but they have gone into careers with further training. Our eldest child is disabled and in a care home in the UK. 2 of the boys joined the British Army and 1 went into hospitality. The 3 boys all had accommodation with their employment, 2 have now moved on, changed jobs and have their own homes, living with their girlfriends. 1 is still in the army, but the youngest is an altogether different challenge for us now.

The 2 older boys left home, from our home, the family home in the UK. We were at hand to help them move, prepare them for their move, move them in and have them visit on weekends, or us to them. The 1 who is still in the army, left home from South Africa and moved 6000 miles away to make his application, living with family while he waited for his starting date. He however asked all his questions from me, but he knew what he wanted to do, where he wanted to go and then he was off. We attended his passing out parade in Catterick and he moved on his own to Northern Ireland, where he has made a new life for himself, mates, a car and a girlfriend.

I stopped parenting on a daily basis in 2014 when the last child left home and then we moved from South Africa to Dubai. I went through empty nest syndrome, but I guess a move from one country to another softened the blow a little.

The youngest is proving to be a bit more difficult in regards to his future. He is applying for apprenticeships, we have no idea where in the UK he will end up living and working and we need to be there to help/sort him out over the coming months.

So on July 6th 2017 I will become a full time mum again to an 18 year old, an adult. We have a base in South Wales which I'll be moving into in mid June. I'll be staying in the UK until his apprenticeship starts, paying his deposit for somewhere to live and purchasing the basic items he will need.

I'm hoping we can get him a room in a house, with his own tenancy agreement, bills included, so he can start life with everything he needs, no additional bills to pay and his own space where he can feel relaxed, safe and comfortable as he transitions from the safety and security of boarding school, where he has had a slightly more sheltered life than his 3 older brothers.

I will find returning to Dubai difficult, as I won't be there for him to pop home to see on weekends, bringing washing or just wanting a home cooked meal.

I was able to be there and do just that for the 2 oldest boys, but not the youngest 2 and being so far away, makes it difficult for me to manage.

Not managing my children's lives, but managing my emotions as I go through yet another transitional stage in my life.

What to pack in your suitcase for a holiday to the UK?

I asked twitter what I should pack for my holiday in the UK next week and this is what I was told to bring the four S's.

Sense of humour

Now I have no sanity left, my sense of humour has disappeared, I'm coming to the UK to escape the relentless sun of Dubai and a Sou'wester is actually a hat, who knew? For years I'd thought it was one of those long yellow coat/trouser combinations that fishermen wore.

But seriously, I'm coming to the UK for a holiday. My first holiday in the UK since 2010. yes I've been to the UK a couple of times a year over the past 7 years and stayed with family and friends, but I've been sleeping on sofas, sharing rooms with others, living out of a suitcase. I'm NOT complaining, but it's been hard work, tiring and when I've returned home I've felt like I've needed a holiday to recover.

This year we have a 1 bed flat we purchased in South Wales, not in a typical holiday destination, by the sea etc, but in a small town, that plenty of people do actually visit. Whilst it's not a hotel, it will be my own space, it's self contained, in the middle of town and I will be able to not only switch off and relax, but actually unpack and put my suit case away for a while.

The other advantage I have is that I could leave some clothes there on my last trip, winter gear, that I don't need in Dubai.

So being British I know that the weather in the UK is variable, I'm also fully aware that sunshine and heat waves in the South East means it's probably raining everywhere else and that balmy summer will only last 2-3 days before temps drop again to below 20c.

It's always difficult to know what to pack to visit another country, our perception of what weather feels like is based on what we know. For example 20c here in Dubai requires a jacket or jumper in the mornings and evenings, in the UK thats shorts and t shirt weather and I do get funny looks when I'm in the UK wearing hat, gloves and a coat sometimes.

In Dubai I wear dresses, sandals, sleeveless tops, 3/4 length trousers, I dress, I grab a pashmina and go out the door. I don't have to worry about a coat, my feet and my hair getting wet, I don't have to dress with several layers, to take on and off during the day.

If I was coming back for winter I'd be fine, boots, jumpers, jeans, jacket, hat, gloves and scarf. I've got dressing for extreme weather down to a fine art, but summer in the UK? I want to wear a dress to an event, but then I need a coat, once I put the coat on, I need to change my shoes, dainty sandals and a coat don't look right, but then when I get to the venue, I have a lovely dress on and clumpy shoes, should I take my sandals to change into, then I'm carrying a large bag, so I end up wearing trousers and a top that go with the coat and the shoes and a big bag that contains a jumper should it cold later anyway.

I have a generous 30kg allowance. I don't have to pack toiletries and half my suit case is full of gifts.

Camera in suitcase as I'm flying with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and Hello Kitty kitchen roll for my niece, as well as bargain Converse and Toms I picked up in the sales for 2 of the boys and a girlfriend.

The other half of my case just needs to have a pair of shoes, 1 top and 1 pair of trousers to add plus my hair straighteners and I'm good to go.

I have heels, boots, sandals, dress, jumpers, rain jacket, trousers, cardigans, t shirts and blouses. I will be wearing layers and carrying my hand luggage bag around with me with an umbrella, waterproofs etc on most days out I suspect.

Sunday 11 June 2017

My Sunday Photo - Week 128 K is for Khalas

Khalas in Arabic means enough, no more, STOP.

I find myself saying it more and more these days.

To the gardener who sweeps the path with the hose, water is expensive.

To the repair man who keeps finding excuses as to why he couldn't come and fix the air con.

To the cat who is moulting everywhere.

To my husband who keeps saying how hot it will be soon.

To the bag packer in the supermarket who puts my eggs and bread in a bag with the raw meat and a bottle of bleach.

Everyone seems to think I'm in a hurry here in Dubai, that'll I complain if they don't pack my bags at the speed of light and throw everything back in my trolley and try to get me back to my car faster than Usain Bolt.

Just stop, I've had enough, there's no queue at the till, I've already asked to pack my own bags, I've already said I don't want the free plastic bags each filled with only one or two items.

I had a mini melt down in Carrefour yesterday. I bought a lemon, before I knew it, it was put in a bag and the label attached, after I'd asked him to stick the label on the lemon. It was a forgotten item after we'd returned to the car with the rest of the shopping. At the till it was put in another bag while I got my purse out to pay.

Khalas, no more, stop with all the waste. I DON'T WANT ALL THESE BAGS and I took the lemon out of the 2nd bag and as I put my purse away, the bag packer just looked at me and put it back in the bag.

Saturday 10 June 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 23. Doctors and friends.

The teen flew back to school on Monday, I spent the rest of the week, pottering around, tidying, going out for coffee. I had medical appointments Sunday through to Wednesday. Physio x 2 Blood Tests and an MRI, I'm still waiting approval from the medical aid for further eye investigations. Exercises are helping and I'm paying close attention to my diet, having put on 6 kgs over the past 3 years, due mainly to inactivity.

I've found over the years that what helps my chronic pain and migraines is sugary foods, drinks and chocolate. However when we lived in South Africa I was very active with swimming, the gym and my volunteer work, since moving to Dubai, apart from cleaning and walking the dog, I do very little physical activity.

I will be in the UK over the summer so I will have the opportunity to walk places, swim and just generally be more active.

I've not taken many photos this week and I'm lacking enthusiasm with social media, I'm pleased but disappointed with the results of the election, I'd have preferred not to have a coalition, but hey ho, lets just get on with Brexit and then we can start to think about when we move back to the UK.

155 Sunday. Fruit.
Sorted all the medical claims out, popped to Mall of the Emirates to get a few things for the teen, physio and the evening spent on the new #night_swimming_beach and burgers for tea.

156 Monday. Wow. Blood tests £755, thankfully covered by medical aid.

At the airport to drop the teen off at 5am and home by 6am. Walked Bob, did the washing and went for blood tests. I got the sewing machine out, made a dog bed and rest of the day was spent doing bits and pieces of nothing and ended with a manicure.

157 Tuesday. Kids.

A busy morning cooking meals for the freezer for when I'm away. yes Peter is more than capable of looking after himself, but he will work late in the office some nights. I had an MRI scan which wiped me out, got coffee and spent the afternoon in bed.

158 Wednesday. Food & Drink.

After another lie in and physio, I finally got round to doing some more sewing, I sent quite a bit of stuff back with the teen so I have room in my case to take some bunting back to sell and raise funds for Christmas gifts for disadvantaged children in South Africa. Out with friends to Ladies night at Dubai Marina. yes I'm still suffering with this eye pain, but it's my 2nd week now and resting hasn't helped at all, so I had nothing to lose by going out.

159 Thursday. Vote. I registered for a proxy vote this year as my polling papers didn't arrive in 2015 and Peter's were late, guess what? everything came this year and with plenty of time.

Lunch with a friend at the Souk and nothing else all day.

160 Friday. Contrast.

Up early to walk Bob and back to bed with Pushkins, she's been in a foul mood the last few days. We had lunch out went to watch Churchill at the cinema and I started to pack my suitcase for the UK next week, looks like I'll need my waterproofs.

161 Saturday. Tree in Bloom. These Delonix regina - Royal Poinciana, Flame of the Forest trees are producing a lovely orange flower and look stunning at the moment and are adding a welcome patch of colour to the beige Dubai desert.

Off to a friends with coffee and cake for the morning, Bob joined us to play with Jelly.
Food shopping in the afternoon and the kitchen floor got cleaned. Can life get anymore exciting?

On the blog this week:

Expat Life in Dubai - My Sunday Photo - G is for giving
Days Out - Animal Tales - The lost chambers aquarium, The Atlantis, Palm Jumeriah, Dubai.
Parenting - TweensTeensBeyond - I used to be a soccer mum
PoCoLo - Are you a blogger or an advertiser?

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Are you a blogger or an advertiser?

A couple of months back I decided to try see if I could earn a decent income from my blog.

I started my research by posting questions in blogging groups and asking people directly how they made an income from their blog.

I found a lot of useful information out there, but when I looked at the actual income v's the hours invested and some of the methods used, I decided that my time would be better spent looking for a part time job and to continue blogging a hobby.

I also don't want to be seen as the person who in the real world walks into a room and within 5 minutes of introducing themselves is trying to sell you a product, which is what I feel happens on social media when you click on a link to an article with a catchy title, that turns out to be nothing else other than advertising.

Now I know what I discovered, doesn't and won't apply to EVERY blogger out there making a living from blogging, but I suspect it applies to quite a few. I'm NOT judging either, I'm just saying it's not for me and here are the reasons why:

  • The world of blogging is very competitive. I left several blogging groups and eventually deactivated my face book account. I didn't like what I was witnessing in many groups, bitching, back slapping and obvious exclusion of others who didn't agree with them.

  • Blogs that were nothing but sponsored posts and always gushing. I've never read a negative post about a product or a service, like ever. What I did see in some groups was people complaining that customer service with a company was dire and receiving information from other bloggers just not to mention it in their review/post.

  • Sponsored posts that aren't declared are so obvious and as everyone seems to be very hot on telling others what to do and what not to do with their blog, I was quite surprised to find these with some high profile bloggers. Also blog posts that are written in the style of a sponsored post without payment or goods being received. Just why would anyone do that and then pay for the face book tools so they're not in breach of any regulations? 

  • Too many people claiming to give professional advice. Now while being a mum is hard work and there are many roles that one juggles, it does not make people experts in that field, but due to the nature of the blog post titles, or back slapping from other bloggers, these blog posts were being used as professional advice and IMO, that is very dangerous.

  • The time and money spent on headers, self hosting, plug ins, designs, as well as paying for services for scheduling posts etc. I've also seen many blog posts especially related to travel where it's been discussed in groups about costs incurred, such as flights, then the post not mentioning what was paid for and what was received for review or declaring they'd received additional payment for the post.

  • Purchasing of followers, using BOTS to comment and like on your behalf. Which is really evident when posts appear in the early hours of the morning or comments and likes are received in the middle of the night. I also don't have the time, energy or desire to build up followers on Social Media, playing the follow/unfollow game. Ok it makes your stats look good.

  • joining PODS and private groups to drop links with rules to comment, like, follow and share. Some of the rules are really strict and regardless of the rules, some are blatantly ignored, even by the hosts. Certain bloggers will leave gushing comments, yet on other peoples posts, comments left are 'nice work' 'well done' The most annoying ones though are linky drops and never returning comments or replying to the 'in crowd' bloggers and ignoring the lesser knowns.

  • Advertising and affiliate links seem to be the biggest income for the majority of bloggers and they aren't actually earning an income from writing (again I'm not saying EVERYONE) A lot of people make money from writing sponsored posts, copy writing and I've seen quite regularly many selling products after they've reviewed them and advertising them for sale on their Facebook, where they've actually posted a link to the reviewed product.

Now I don't actually have issues with anyone doing any of the above, I'm free to scroll on past, unfollow, remove myself from groups and delete social media accounts. But I do find a lot of it misleading that everyone is capable of making money through blogging to bring in a living wage. I have a relatively small following on twitter, instagram and on my face book pages. I love the linkys I currently join in with and have met some amazing people and had some amazing experiences also. 

Trying to grow my social media audience, increasing my DA and PA score, writing media packs, contacting companies for review opportunities etc has been very tiring, I've not enjoyed it, I've never run with the in crowd, I've never been part of the in crowd. I found it demoralising just not to hear back from companies, to be ignored in groups when I contributed to discussions. I've often felt left out and excluded, back in the school playground.

I've no marketing experience & I've no proven writing experience. Trying to make a living off my blog would be similar to me applying for a job as a life guard when I couldn't swim. So I'm going to stick with what I enjoy and not worry about what others are doing, I don't need an income, I don't need the stress and I certainly don't want to mislead my family and friends who read my blog, like, comment and tell me they enjoy reading to be fooled that I'm doing something more than I'm actually doing. If I can make a bit of pocket money from time to time, I'm more than happy with that. I just don't have the energy or the skills to take my blog further.

i will carry on looking for opportunities to write for other blogs, I enjoy that and I'm chasing up some more copywriting, but my blog? Nope, it's my online diary and nothing more.

Tuesday 6 June 2017

I used to be a ....... soccer mum.

I used to be a soccer mum.

My eldest started playing football aged 5, for Forest Rangers in Cinderford in 1997, the middle child joined him in 1999 aged 4 and for the next 14 years, I spent 2-3 evenings a week sitting in car parks at training and weekends spent locating fields in the middle of nowhere for matches.

My career as a soccer mum came to an end in 2013 on the side of a pitch in South Africa, when the middle child declared he was no longer fussed with football and was concentrating his last 2 years in school on cricket and rugby.

I cannot begin to image the number of hours or the mileage I've driven, the time and cost of getting lost, even in convey. The rain and snow storms I've stood in, the number of times I've dug holes in the pitch to drain the water. The cups of teas and bacon butties made at home games, first aid administered, meetings attended, training, lifts given, the amount of subs collected or the money raised and the time spent organising presentation evenings. The kit washed and boots cleaned and tears dried when games were lost. I was never just a spectator. I dread to think how much we've paid for kit.

The boys have played football and/or referred in the Forest of Dean, Malvern, Birmingham and many, many tournaments around the UK. There have been trials, there have been holiday clubs and middle child spent 2 years training with Birmingham City.
 The middle boys trophies.

As well as supporting the kids playing football we've attended professional matches around the UK, mid week and weekend games to Manchester, Arsenal, Birmingham, Southampton and Wembley. We've seen England qualifiers and FA Cup finals, as well as promotions and sadly relegations. We've appeared on Match of the Day more times than we can remember. We watched Spurs play at Ellis Park.


Birmingham City

Promotion back to the Premiership

18th Birthdays

Wembley and a close up of David Beckham.

FA Cup Finals

Ellis Park and the vuvuzela.

My typical week was spent at work every day. Eldest child had local matches he referred on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in adult leagues, Training on a Friday and matches on Saturdays. Middle child had local training on Tuesdays. Training in Birmingham on a Wednesday night and Saturday morning and local matches on a Sunday afternoon. I usually juggled getting the boys to their venues, either organising lifts or driving between local matches. Local meant within a 30 miles radius of home and often at opposite ends of this radius.

Sponsorship with McDonalds and local and national trophies won.
 There was a core group of around 6 kids who played in this team for 8 years.
With Geoff Hurst and Eric Harrison

Being the goalies mum is nerve racking.

The last 2 years as a football mum were spent in South Africa at Tuks University in Pretoria. this involved Fridays and Saturdays at training where I was the only soccer mum who stayed for the 2 hours, with a book, a flask and enjoying a walk around the grounds.

Training session at Tuks, South Africa.

For many years our lives as a family revolved around football, playing, watching, supporting, fundraising and I even worked for the local FA for 2 years.

I get to Birmingham City when I'm in the UK with  a combination of kids, with hubby or on my own. I miss the football and the way of life, the socialising, the training and the matches. At the time it was hard work and very time consuming, but a great way to spend time together as a family.

How do you spend your family time?