Tuesday 31 October 2017

They don’t do Halloween in Dubai.

The word on the street is quite literally ‘get in your car and drive round to where we live’ as apparently our street gives out the best treats in the neighbourhood. Despite half the street being knocked down this week, this evening we’ve been inundated with trick or treaters of all ages and nationalities. Dressed as witches, vampires, superhero’s and unicorns.

Dubai is full of Halloween, from the stores selling over priced, imported Pumpkins (I carved a melon) to shops dedicated to Halloween costumes and displays in shops selling cards.

There are themed parties at some of the top hotels for children and adults alike and we’ve even been a long to a HowloWeen party especially for the 4 legged variety kids.

Whether you like Halloween or not, it really does happen here in Dubai. It’s friendly, safe and nearly everyone joins in, whether it’s understood or not.

It’s the same as Christmas, Easter, Diwali, Ramadan and Eid. And all the other festivals regardless of  religion or origin. Everyone is encouraged to participate and learn about the different cultures. Even the cat has joined in.

I personally love this the most about living in Dubai. In that respect it’s the best city in the world to live in, if you ask me.

How to do things without the internet

When my dad died earlier this year my mum had to transfer everything into her name, close accounts and set up new insurance policies. She had to do almost everything over the phone or online.

My mum is 73, she has a hearing problem, she struggles on the phone and only has access to the internet on her mobile phone and in all honesty, as much as she's savvy with face book and skype, setting up accounts such as online banking and using emails is a bit of a challenge.

Everything required an initial phone call.

Press button 1 for
Say your reason for the call after the tone
Did you say xxxxxx?

Each time I had to say I was calling to report my father was deceased was bloody difficult, I'd then have to explain that my mum struggled to hear over the phone and was told I could do everything online. But 9/10 times there were other questions to be asked such as how do we transfer Dad's car to mums name when he was unable to sign the form. Arrrhhh we write deceased in the box and mum signs as normal. Enclose the death certificate or read the number over the line. Mum has to confirm her name, address and date of birth and that she is happy for me to deal with the issue on her behalf, but that permission is only valid for the duration of the call. Paperwork received in post addressed to my dad, thanking him for informing them of his death. Give me strength, more calls, more permission needed to be given.

We finally resolved this issue by buying mum some new phones, she was then able to make the calls herself.

Some companies would deal with me directly, some tried their best to make me go online, the banks were the easiest to deal with, we popped in, they made an appointment and told mum what she needed to bring and dealt with everything in a side room, giving us privacy, access to a phone and support and guidance.

It took 8 weeks after my dad died to get everything sorted, the pensions are now being paid into a bank account, the new direct debit payments have been set up, Dad's car sold and insurance cancelled at no additional charge (which was an added bonus) his name has been removed from all the utility bills etc, the house was on the market, the garage and attic emptied and most of his stuff has been sold.

We've managed it all without using the internet to get things done. Obviously I've been googling the arse off everything before we've done anything, making sure we've covered all basis, but mum needed to be able to hear/see what I was doing so she could deal with things in the future herself and not have to keep on relying me to do things for her.

We hit a barrier last week when I had to return to Dubai and an influx of paperwork arrived for Mum to fill in, in regards to selling her house and the purchase of her new flat. We did have to eventually rely on the internet. There was no other way of doing it. I'd scanned all mums documents before I left and the solicitors were able to send everything to me electronically to save Mum having to photograph every letter and send it to me via facebook, but we hit a high hurdle, when it came to me relaying the information back to the UK on what to fill in as mum's phone wouldn't play ball and she was struggling to read the print on the small screen. It also didn't help by the fact the company who built the property she was purchasing were phoning her up saying they'd been in touch with her solicitor, could you hurry up with the forms and then endless letters from the purchaser solicitors asking questions about building and planning permission for her current property that she'd purchased with my dad in 2001.

I completed forms, took a photo and sent it back to her, I made endless and very expensive phone calls back to the UK, there was confusion, missing forms, information my mum was unable to find, but in the end we got there and all the paperwork was sent off over the weekend. Any further paperwork will be sent back and forth via the teen who will then print it out for my mum to copy, to save her the stress.

When Mum moves she will have access to the internet, she has a new laptop which currently has only her photos on it and she will hold out as long as possible from having to go online to get things done. There's a whole generation of people out there who don't want to use the internet and companies need to take this into consideration and stop assuming it will make everyones life easier, it doesn't. Half the time to a lot of people it just causes more stress.

I really do dread to think what happens to people who don't have family around to support them during difficult times. They say the 5 most stressful things in life to deal with are Death, Divorce, Moving, Major Illness and Job Loss. They take over your life and require endless filling in of paperwork and tight deadlines in which to complete, all of which is overwhelming on top of the situation you are facing.

Do you find you have to do everything online these days? Do you prefer it or would you rather go back to receiving paperwork and being able to pop into the office to speak to someone face to face rather than getting put on hold to call centres?

Alcohol, Parents and Teens.

Last week on #TweensTeensBeyond Co-Host Mother of Teenagers asked 'What is Responsible Drinking for Parents?' I am a great believer that children follow by example and experience has shown me that if parents drink heavily or un responsibly in front of their children it can lead to them consuming alcohol at an earlier age.

I rarely drink when I'm on my own. There have been quite a few times when I've had a call in the middle of the night which has resulted in an emergency dash to a hospital with a child or for a family member. There was a situation about 12 years ago when I poured myself a rum and coke before bed and I was distracted by a last minute 'hunt the PE kit' when hubby phoned to say he'd arrived back at Heathrow but his luggage and car keys hadn't and I had to bundle 4 kids into the car and drive down from Worcestershire with the spare keys.

Back in 2014 I worked with South African Breweries whilst living in South Africa to raise awareness of their 18+ campaign to educate children and teenagers about the dangers of drinking and to say no to alcohol. It covered a range of subjects from signs your child is drinking, talking to your teen about alcohol and alcohol responsibility at social events. Part of the campaign included a family day out to Sun City where we spent the day on Segways providing us with the opportunity to talk about the dangers of drinking alcohol. I had another opportunity and a captive audience a few weeks later when the teen and I spent 27 hours on the Shosholoza Meyl Train traveling from Joburg to Cape Town.

Peer pressure is one of the biggest reasons kids drink. Adverts in the media show young adults, drinking alcohol and having fun, being grown up. TV adverts glamourize alcohol and the message of ‘enjoy responsibly’ is rarely taken in as a warning, more of a slogan.

There are many reasons as to why under 18s drink alcohol, they mimic behavior of others around them, their friends and family members, they may complain of being bored, stressed, unhappy, lack confidence, want to rebel or are angry. There could be death in the family, a change of school, not doing as well in their subjects as they wanted. 

Many teenagers go though these stages and not all take to drinking alcohol, some may take drugs also, self harm or become reclusive, some have eating problems. But not all teenagers resort to the above, some will choose to talk to a parent, a teacher, a family member or a friend. From an early age we teach our children about the rights and wrongs, we teach them to say pleases and thank yous to say no to strangers if offered sweets or a lift. We can empower our children from an early age to say NO to anything they don’t want to do, teach them to walk away, ask them will these so called friends be there to help them in a difficult situation? Teach them the concesquences of their behavior, their actions, even the future implications on their working and family lives and future relationships. A lot of what you say may appear to go in one ear and out the other, but they take in a lot more than you realise.

I've fallen out with many a friend because they've purchased alcohol for their child, as they put it 'to control the situation' I’ve had children to sleep over who've brought alcohol with them and had my kids return from parties where alcohol has been provided by parents. I’ve seen parents sneaking a bottle of alco pops to their children as as they call it ‘it’s not proper alcohol anyway’

As a child we had alcohol in the house, my parents weren't drinkers, in fact my Mother doesn't like the taste of alcohol and even as an adult has felt peer pressure to 'let herself go, unwind and have a drink'
We also have alcohol in the house and while I enjoy a glass of wine or a spirit from time to time, I rarely drink in the week and hardly ever alone. I tend only to have more than a few when we have visitors for a braai or a party and only have an alcoholic drink when out if hubby is driving and doesn't have any alcohol. I usually volunteer to be the driver because I don't NEED alcohol to have fun and to be honest too may people here tend to think one or two drinks won’t impair their ability to drive and besides as they say ‘I’ve had something to eat, it’ll be out my system soon’

I must say for us now with no children living permanently at home we tend not to invite friends with children round to social gatherings and many of our friends have babes in arms, we have never allowed our children alcohol at home other than to have a sip to try it when they’ve pestered and every time they’ve been disgusted by the taste and ask why do we drink it?

When the eldest child turned 18, we were in America where the drinking age is 21. We bought him a bottle of cider and he didn’t drink it, I guess being given permission by your parents isn’t a lot of fun.

The legal age in South Africa to buy and consume alcohol is 18. Alcohol to under 18s is only permitted for religious reasons and can only be given under supervision of the parents. In Dubai the legal drinking age is 21. You also have to have a license to purchase alcohol if you are resident here, which requires you having permission from your sponsor and proving you are not a muslim.

However the legal age in the UK differs greatly, a child under the age of 5 may only be given alcohol under medical supervision, aged 5 drink alcohol only on private premises, aged 16+ with a meal on licenced premises but the adult must order and pay for the alcohol and aged 18+ to purchase and drink alcohol, unrestricted. 

Do you allow your child to consume alcohol? What are your reasons?

Sunday 29 October 2017

My Sunday Photo - Week 148. Z is for Zoo

For My Sunday Photo for 2017 I decided to use a different letter of the alphabet as a prompt for each week. As we get toward the end of the year I am left with N for New Year. Q, R, S, Xx2, Yx2 (I'm having 4 xmas/yule posts) and Zx2. So as I was bored on Wednesday so I popped along to Dubai Zoo to tackle one of the remaining letters.

All I will say on the subject of my 2 dirham visit with free parking is that I'm grateful most of the animals have already been relocated to the new Safari Park with the rest to follow. However I am a little sad that animals are already being brought in from their natural habitats to fill the new Safari Park.

With the internet, apart from breeding and conservation programmes I really don't feel there's a need for Zoo's in this day and age other than for revenue and entertaining families. Also having lived in South Africa for 4 years and having camped on several occasions at Kruger National Park, I can safely say this is the last time I will be visiting a zoo and I will definitely NOT be visiting Dubai Safari when it opens.

I leave you with a couple of photo's from my visit and you can make up your own mind as to whether we need zoo's and safari parks in this day and age.

Please read this link about how and why Dubai Zoo was set up. All the animals were either confiscated by customs, including 2 Gorillas, or donated by residents who were keeping them in their homes. Yes people really do keep Lions in their homes in Dubai and they often escape.

Saturday 28 October 2017

One daily Positive - Week 43

Don't be fooled by this weeks photo's. I have dragged myself out the house this week as Peter has been away, I've been incredibly lonely, very ill with pneumonia and extremely stressed with events in the UK, due to miscommunication and not on my behalf. To say I feel cross and let down is an understatement and I'll leave it there.

We're still waiting to find out when our moving date is, so we can reserve a new build town house, hopefully we'll find out soon, but with Peter being the one with the work visa it has to all be done through him and with him travelling and pinning him down to make the calls it's tricky. So I've started having a sort out regardless and it's soul destroying having spent the past 3 months going through all my dad's stuff, I really can't keep on living in groundhog day. Of course every drawer or room I tackle I find more and more stuff of my dad's here, from his old bedtime books he gave me on a recent visit, from his grandmother, to a pen and a box of paperclips with his old company logo on, to photographs that have yet to be shared with the rest of the family, an album of dad's teenage years, mum helped me smuggle out the attic last October, ready for me to start sorting something for dad's 80th birthday. Sadly he died just short of his 78th.

295 Sunday Silver. Spent most of the day back and forth between Doctors, getting diagnosed with walking pneumonia. As in the patient doesn't realise how ill they are. Bad cough, bone pain and high white blood cell count. Leukaemia was ruled out in early July, whilst I was in the UK, but I obviously had some infection, still waiting to find out if it's viral or bacterial. My Pandora jewelry all tells a story, linked to my family and life.

296 Monday Cosy. Met a friend for coffee in the morning and slept most of the afternoon before house viewing in the evening. The world doesn't stop just because I'm ill and with no one to do these things for me, what else am I to do.

297 Tuesday Brown. Called in at Dubai Mall to pay some long over due medical aid cheques in, but apparently I need to go to my own branch for that. The canal looks far nicer at night time when it's all lit up.

298 Wednesday My Joy. Still tempting to clean the house, hubby has hoovered and cleared up after himself while I was away for 3 months but it's not 'Suzanne' clean and tidy.....lol. I decided to spend some time on the beach, because I can, but I was back in the car within 15 minutes of taking this picture, too hot, too ill and too much of an effort.

299 Thursday Purpose. Lazy morning and a bit of housework, it was hard work and took me way longer than it should have done. Was collecting hubby from the airport at 9pm. It was our wedding anniversary, which we both forgot, although I had packed a card in his case when he left the UK in September which he did find later in the afternoon and I'd forgotten all about and he bought me a rose and chocolates on arrival in Duty Free. I called in at Ikea to buy 2 more storage units to replace an old MFI desk.

300 Friday My Town. Catching up on sleep from last night and started sorting the study and craft room. Started to develop a migraine, took a walk over the local shops, phoned hubby to collect me within 15 mins, felt sick, slept in the spare room.

301 Saturday Wide Angle. Headachy, but much better after a solid sleep, ate plenty of fruit and took myself over the shops for a coffee and some blogging. I hate being stuck in the house, regardless of how ill I feel, I need to get out and it's still too hot, just to sit outdoors. I don't think the air con helps, I hate the noise of it and the cold feel on my skin. They've knocked down half our street and the next 2 streets back from us as well this week, good job we're moving, suspect apartments will be built and it'll be dusty and noisy for the next year or so.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo N is for Normal.  Still drinking coffee and blogging just in slightly different surroundings.

PoCoLo Moving House in Dubai, Part 1. Giving notice and choosing an agent and removal company.

TweensTeensBeyond and TriumphantTales Advice for a new mum. I've been parenting since 1992 and to behest with you, like giving birth, I've actually forgotten what it was like to raise kids.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Advice for a new mum

Parenting since 1992.

This is me with my 1st born, aged almost 3 months old. The day this photo was taken, I got on a plane to Barcelona to go on holiday for a week.

That baby is now 25 and boy doesn't he go on about how I abandoned him. When he reached 18, he left home and 3 months later we moved to South Africa.

25 years on, he has emigrated to Australia.

I had 2 more children in 1995 and 1999 and in 2000 I inherited a 10 & a 11 year old when I remarried.

I think I've done ok as a mum, hubby hasn't done too bad either, as a dad. All 5 of the kids still speak to us. We visit them regularly and they come to visit us in Dubai for their annual holidays accompanied by their girlfriends.

Each one of my 3 boys learnt different things at different times. the eldest was 13 months when he walked, the 2nd was up and running around 10 months and youngest........oh I have no idea, I stopped recording every single milestone by then.

For the eldest child I have a perfectly completed 'my first year' book, complete with lockets of hair, first teeth etc. Nothing other than the red book for child 2 and by the time the youngest was born, I hardly visited the health visitor so the red book is half empty other than dates of inoculations.

Things that seemed important at the time, but have no relevance now:

Dates, days and times of birth.
Eldest Friday 7.29am
Middle after Eastenders, narrows the day down to a Tuesday or Thursday
Youngest 3 4.40pm?????

Age at first tooth.
No idea

Potty trained.
Eldest At the expected development time
MiddleBefore starting school
Youngest Sometime after starting school

Eldest breast fed 6 weeks, bottle fed till aged 1 and weened at 6 months as per the health visitor.
Middle Breast fed till 4 months, bottle fed till 1 year and weened
Youngest Breast fed exclusively 4 months and then breast and bottle fed till 6 months and weened at 6 months also.

You see the thing is they are all now adults, they can all read and write. they all have different interests and hobbies and personalities. They have favourite foods, music, football teams, political opinions and different views on Brexit.

It doesn't matter now at what age they took their first steps, said their first words or even rode a bike. They are who are they are now and there is nothing we can do about it.

Raising kids is hard, but you don't have to make it harder on yourself, try not to over think it, don't compare yourself to others with any milestone for your child.

Every stage is a challenge, every stage can be stressful, every stage is the hardest thing you've done, but raising kids is like giving birth, once you've done it, you forget all about it, until the next one comes along, let your child go with the flow and trust me, if you're relaxed, they will be also and milestones achieved with greater ease.

Have you read my post on Parenting without Social Media? I do believe parenting was much easier back then. 

Sunday 22 October 2017

My Sunday Photo - Week 147 - N is for Normal

I'm back home in Dubai until November 6th, the purpose of my trip home is to find a new house to move to, we're trying to downsize. Apparently people in Dubai don't know what downsizing is and all the houses we've looked at so far are bigger than the 4 bed villa we live in now, however, we live near the beach in a prime location, so by moving a bit further inland we can save almost a third in rent and move to a much better quality home.

I'll be in the UK again for 3 weeks to finish helping my mum move, then retuning to Dubai for our actual move and won't be back in the UK until February.

I'm struggling to adapt to the time difference, driving on the wrong side of the road again (I keep getting in the wrong side of the car) and the heat, despite the summer being well and truly over, it's still 35c in the day.

It's been emotionally draining returning to Dubai. Since we've lived abroad I've always worried that every trip home could be the last time I see my parents. Sadly this year, my father died while I was in the UK, hence my extended stay and returning home has meant having to go through things all over again. Telling people when they ask if I've had a good summer in the UK and having some of his things around me that I'm rediscovering, but this time without family around to support me. I'm not looking forward to returning to the UK next month as it all seems so final, but I get one last visit to the home he shared with my mum, before she moves with some of his belongings in a box to her new home.

It's strange being back in Dubai after 3 months in the UK, but it's nice to have a break. I'm not doing anything different than normal, going out and drinking coffee and blogging, I just happen to have different scenery to look at.

Saturday 21 October 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 42

I'm back home in Dubai, we're house hunting and organising packers. We're trying to downsize, so far we've viewed a 2 and a 3 bed property in a location we like. Both properties are a third cheaper than where we currently rent but bigger than what we have now.

I wasn't sure I was going to make it home, after the fire alarm was sounded at Terminal 3 at Heathrow, 2 hours before my flight, and we had to evacuate the terminal. It was an emergency landing and the fire crew had followed the plane into the terminal. I only knew this because in light of recent terror attacks in the UK I decided to evacuate as quick as possible with a handful of other people to the opposite end of the terminal and we could see the action unfolding, however when we saw the fire engines leave and made our way back, I was rather alarmed to see people really hadn't moved that far and slight panic was growing as people speculated as to what it might be.

Being back in Dubai has been difficult for me emotionally after my father's death in July. I'm having to relive events with people I meet here, from the nail technician, to the guy who runs the pub quiz and even to the woman in Starbucks as well as with friends. People say 'oh I haven't seen you for ages, have you had a nice summer in the UK?' I'm also surrounded by a lot of my father's things at home, new things that I'm revisiting on my own, without family support.

Leaving the UK was also emotionally hard on me, every time I leave I worry that this may be the last time I see my father and it's hard knowing that when I return next month, he actually won't be there this time.

288 Sunday Soft Focus. Having arrived in London on Saturday, I spent the weekend with friends in Barnes, we met them on holiday in Tunisia in 2010. The day was spent chilling out, catching up and finally filling in the tax return.

289 Monday Fur. A walk around Richmond Park before being dropped off at Heathrow. I was stunned to see the deer and how close they came. I had a row of 3 seats to myself on the flight and slept most of the way home.
290 Tuesday Spots. Bob and Pushkins love having me home, I can't move more than 2ft without them jumping up to follow me and Bob kept a close eye on me all day. I needed to get my nails and eyebrows sorted as a priority and half heartedly unpacked my suit case.

291 Wednesday Today. Off out for coffee, finished unpacking my case and put a lot of paperwork away. Went out for dinner with friends in the evening and we won the pub quiz by a land slide.

292 Thursday From Where I Stand. headed off to the Mall of the Emirates, treated myself to 2 new dresses and a pair of sandals as well as buying Bob a halloween outfit. I arranged for a moving company to quote and in the evening we went out to view a property.

293 Friday Near and Far. A lovely lie in and off to visit a couple of new properties, they were huge, had dinner out at Carluccios and shopped at Ibn Buttata Mall. I bought an iPhone 8+ and spent the rest of the evening, updating MacBook Air to support the new phone.......grrrrrrrrrr.

294 Saturday Write. Lie in and back out to view more properties. Driving Peter to the airport as he's off to Pakistan till Thursday, then had an early night catching up with writing some letters to friends that I'll post when I'm back in the UK.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo - U is for UK. It's hard to explain where you're from when you've moved around so much.

Triumphant Tales and Tweens Teens Beyond - The world through the eyes of a 6 year old and mini me's breakdown when she realised after 3 months that Aunty Suzanne was going home.

PoCoLo - When an online friend dies. The loss isn't any less just because you've never physically met.

Friday 20 October 2017

When an online friend dies

Having been on Social Media for almost 10 years, I've seen people come and go, most of them strangers.

In the early days, it was common for people to set up an account, explore the new platform, build up followers and either a) get bored b) be easily offended and block you or c) change names and d) as you build up new followers and followed new people, you just lost track of who you chatted to.

Some people become real friends, you move over to face book, you text, you physically meet up, you may live in the same town and see one another every day, you may only physically see one another a couple of times a year. But you are friends who share emotions, secrets, day to day stuff, things you probably wouldn't share with others, you somehow feel safe sharing with 'strangers' online.

Before Social Media people only really knew their family and the people in the same village, town, city to where they lived. I moved a lot as a child around the UK and from an early age had pen friends that I'm still in touch with to this day. The friendship however has migrated over to FB and is more of an occasional 'like' It's become lazy, we no longer have anything in common. I have real friends who have never done the whole Social Media thing, or have accounts and don't post, but who think they share my life because they see what I'm doing and we do occasionally meet up, usually through me making the effort.

I have friends on SM that I no longer interact with, that no longer interact with me and I wonder why I bother keeping them as friends online, twitter is one thing. FB is more personal.

Earlier this month I realised a friend, who I'd never met, hadn't posted online for a couple of weeks, this is unlike her, I was worried. I checked messages to see when we'd last spoken. We'd not spoken privately for a long time, but she had been extremely supportive with my father's death over the summer months. I'd neglected a lot of friends over the summer, a lot of them had their own problems and had neglected me also, such is life.

When you spend a lot of time on SM it's easy to keep in touch with people, send messages, comment on a post, but it's also easy to just see what they are doing, like an occasional post and not interact.

But like a neighbour, a friend on social media is there every day. You smile at your neighbour, say good morning, wave a hand in acknowledgement as you walk past the kitchen window, share an exchange of words of the lack of survives in your area, the lack of bin collection, catch brief snippets of their work and family life, or you may chat with them everyday over the fence or drink coffee together.

Friends on Social Media you click on their page, but you see a photo of their garden, you see the photos from their holiday, but you don't always interact, you just get used to seeing them there and when all of a sudden they disappear, you worry, you wonder where they are.

Sometimes you never find out where they've gone, sometimes they message you and/or others to say they're going off SM and sometimes they die.

Sara died on October the 3rd. I was catching up with my online friends, she hadn't posted for a few weeks, that concerned me. I'm not friends with her adult daughter but I messaged her at 6.45pm to ask if everything was OK with her mum. She messaged me back at 10pm to say her mother had died only an hour earlier.

I don't know how Sara died, I could speculate, I could ask her daughter, but it's irrelevant to my friendship with her. I don't need to know. All I know is that Sara hadn't posted online that she was unwell. The last time she'd talked about her health was in June when she was bitten on her foot by a horsefly.

All I know is that I wake up each day and as I scroll through my face book, I know Sara isn't there anymore and I've lost a friend.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

The World through the eyes of a 6 year old.

Meet Mini Me, my 6 year old niece. She was born after I left the UK. She knows no different, her Aunty Suzanne, lives in another country and has to catch get an aeroplane to come and visit her twice a year for a couple of weeks at a time. Aunty Suzanne turns up with gifts, does fun stuff like take her out for ice cream and makes sure that there are presents and cards left behind for birthdays, christmas, easter and halloween. In Between visits there are items sent through the post, pictures put up on facebook of where Aunty Suzanne is travelling and skype calls.

Mini Me has a map and a globe to see how far away Aunty Suzanne lives and where she is traveling, she has pictures of our home, our cat and dog

There is always great excitement when Aunty Suzanne is coming to visit, a list compiled of things for them to do and tears when Aunty Suzanne has to go home.

This year there was a complete and total breakdown from Mini Me, when I said my goodbyes. I'd been in the UK for a 3 month stint. I've bought a flat in town where I can stay when I visit and as far as Mini Me was concerned I now lived in the UK, the flat was my home and Uncle Peter was away working as he'd been over twice to visit during the 3 month period I was in the UK.

I was only leaving the UK for 3 weeks, I've returned to Dubai to declutter, organise a removal firm and find us a new house to live in, then I'll be back in the UK for 3 weeks to finish helping my mum move after my father's death this summer, before returning to Dubai to move house and resume my usual pattern of visiting family in the UK.

But in the eyes of Mini Me, 3 months had been 'forever' and she didn't want me to leave.

'But what about the flat? you've got a flat, who will live in it? You're supposed to live in it'

'Christmas, you'll be here for christmas like you always are?' I've not spent a christmas in the UK since 2010 'But you're always here for christmas'

'Who is going to pick me up from school?' I've only collected her 3 times since the new term, but each time we have gone for ice cream.

'My birthday, you always come for my birthday' that's not till February and again, I've never been there on her birthday.

Mini me is getting older, learning more, her understanding of the world is growing, yet she still has little concept of how far away Dubai is even when I equate it to the length of time it takes me to get home as being the same as a night time of sleep for her.

My physical presence in her life of gifts and photographs and this 3 month visit has become 'forever' for her and she just doesn't understand why I'd not be there anytime she wants to see me.

Three weeks is also forever for her until I come back, she's moved house this year, changed schools, her nanna is moving after her granddad died and now I'm leaving her and in the world of a 6 year old, that's just too much to process, although I also suspect that she's back in school this week without a care in the world, counting down the sleeps till Aunty Suzanne comes back again and takes her for another ice cream.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Parenting without Social Media

So it worked for you, that bit of advice you picked up from the health visitor, teacher, friend or even off social network. But it doesn't mean you can start making other parents feel like they're failing because it doesn't work for them.

If you choose not to immunize your children that is your right, but don't tell other people that they're risking a life of disability with their child as you could be also & if your child contracts an illness they could have been immunized against, they and you could be responsible for making another child who is maybe too young for the next set of jabs very ill. 

Ok that may be a bit extreme, you're untitled to your views and opinions but I'm fedup of seeing so many people quick to put others down then play the victim and claim they're being harassed by another blogger who disagrees with them. 

Don't try and make your battles, other people's. Use the proper channel if you as a family have been unfairly treated, talk about it, blog about it but stop trying to convince others that you are right, you may be, you may not be.

Bizarre as it may seem at the ripe old age of 44, I birthed 3 boys, all were induced, all were full term. I spent quite a few of those years as a single mum and purchased everything 2nd hand. Things were handed down and around with friends, kids were often swopped out with the neighbours kids for weekends camping, there were no gadgets, no sterilisers, no breast pumps and no labels.

When you give a process a label, one is being set up to fail. Baby Led Weening was doing the rounds on Mumsnet this week. As far as I can work out it involves sitting your child in a high chair, with the same foods as the rest of the family and letting them feed themselves. As one mumsnetter was informed 'she was insulting her child's intelligence by shoving a spoon in it's face'

I breast and bottle fed all 3 to different ages, I mashed up their food (I didn't own a liquidiser) and spoon fed them, I let them eat and explore their own foods.

I didn't have pram envy, or designer nursery's, I didn't have bank loans and credit cards to pay for all the stuff I didn't need. I was proud to announce I'd picked up something for almost free and the competition at nursery and later in the school play ground was all about who knew who and what they were passing down this week.

I visited the mobile toy library, we swopped toys out, we donated and exchanged toys at the local play group.

Yes parents in the playground judged others, gossiped, compared reading ages, but that was human nature. Shock most of us were SAHM's, there were quite a few SAHD's but we didn't use labels. But we, as many generations before us didn't know that one day it would be labelled and others would then feel they could judge us for our decisions. Some of us parents had part time or full time jobs as the children grew, but did we judge? No, we collected one anthers children, helped with homework and fed them their tea.

The majority of the village owned their own home, bought in the 1990's when one could get on the property ladder, owned one car and foreign holidays were reserved for when your kids had grown up.

There were no demands for insisting children could miss school to be taken on a family holiday, quoting it as a 'human right'

Back in my day, if it didn't exist, we didn't have it and if we couldn't afford it, we didn't buy it. But we didn't judge others when they couldn't afford to get their car fixed, we gave them lifts. They didn't go out and buy a new pram instead of paying their bills.

No one told you they couldn't afford new school uniform, pay their utility bills, put food on their table yet in the same sentence boast about their new coordinated furniture, designer curtains and TV.

I've recently seen people blogging about holidays abroad, complaining that their child's school won't let them have time off and 'sod it' they'll take the child out anyway as apparently 2 weeks on a beach in a resort is more educational than school, then a couple of weeks later they're blogging about how they can't pay their bills and then moaning about how their child was excluded from an end of term trip due to their attendance record.

It seems that some people in life are going to find things to complain about regardless. Thinking that their basic needs and rights as a family include foreign holidays to keep up with the Jones's. Debt, repossession of houses, complaining that their benefits are being cut, but not cutting back on their Sky, Internet and Phone subscriptions on the grounds that because everyone else has it, it's their right to have it also and then using their 3G coverage to find the local food bank and claiming their kids will be bullied if they don't have certain clothing, phones etc, etc, etc.

We weren't envious, we accepted that our time would come, when our kids left home. In the meantime the kids knew they'd have to wait till xmas for that football shirt or a certain toy/gadget. The TV was huge as in depth and took up half the lounge and we couldn't afford sky so we just didn't have it. I didn't have my first mobile phone until after my youngest was born in 1999 and it was 2001 before I got the internet at home.

I've been told I'm selfish, lucky and spoilt for having my children in Private School, living abroad etc etc. I've been told I have no idea what the real world is like and how 'people like me' don't care about those living in poverty. I lived in South Africa for 4 years and worked full time as a volunteer and let me tell you, living in a shack with no electricity and having to walk 4km for drinking water daily is poverty.

I have what I have now as I worked and I studied.

So why was it different for me as a young and single mum in the 1990's, compared to todays parents 20+ years on?

We lived in a community where everyone had similar values, standards, upbringings and income. I was a much younger mum, living in an older generation, most of my neighbours, friends and school mums with a few exceptions were a minimum of 10 years older than me with kids the same age.

But more importantly, there was no social media, we compared our lives to the others directly around us, we all attended the same nursery's, doctors, pubs, shops we met and knew the same people. Apart from a newspaper article or a story in Take a Break, we weren't influenced by 24 hour TV, adverts, there was no one telling us we would face problems if we didn't buy a certain product, parent in a certain way.

We put our babies to sleep how we found fit, we fed them, potty trained them, educated them, taught them values and demonstrated standards. I keep in touch now with most of these people from my early parenting days, in fact 2 women and their husbands are still very good friends, the girl I used to baby sit, who than baby sat my kids, now has a child of her own. She doesn't do twitter, isn't on face book much, doesn't blog, she works as a theatre nurse, owns her own home with her partner and has no idea what I'm on about somedays when I ask her opinion on breast feeding, co sleeping and baby led weening. She just doesn't have time for it, I just didn't have it.

All our kids are well and healthy, they may not have had the games, the designer clothes, the foreign holidays. But they do have an education, they talk none stop about the camping trips when they were young, the days out with the play groups and school trips and spending time with the neighbours.

Before you get wound up that you're failing as a parent because Social Media tell you are failing, consider where the report, information, advice comes from. Remember journalists will tell you what they think you want to hear, case studies are carried out on very small numbers. Remember statistics can be manipulated to fit the response the advertisers want and don't forget in order to sell you a product a company will quite often scaremonger you you into believing there is a problem that they can solve with one simple 'click' and before you know it, you have purchased yet another product or resource that you don't actually need for parenting, it just makes you feel you're doing something to protect or enhance your child's well being.

I'm grateful my parenting days are over and I'm more than grateful that I wasn't bullied by social media into raising my children how a small proportion of people see fit, when at the end of the day, that's their problem and not mine.

My Sunday Photo - Week 146 - U is for UK

Current location Barnes.....I've started my journey home. 

For anyone who has only encountered me this year, it might surprise you to know I don't actually live in the UK. I find when I visit the homeland twice a year that posting on social media in 'real time' instead of being 4 hours ahead means I get to interact with a whole different set of people than usual. 

I've been in the UK for almost half the year on and off. I know all mum's neighbours now by first name, all my neighbours and the people who run the local businesses and I'm even a regular in the local pub. 

For the first 3-4 weeks no one really took much notice of me, then I quickly became part of the furniture in various places and I was just accepted as a local. But over the last week I've started to say my goodbyes and it's taken people by surprise that I'm not going to Dubai for a holiday, but that I'm actually returning home. 

Living as an expat can be quite a complicated experience, you don't have roots to put down, you have no idea when or where you'll be moved onto next and your identity changes as you move countries. 

Everywhere I travel people ask me where I'm from.

I dread this question.

In a city, you can go about your business unnoticed if you choose, in a small town, you stand out like a sore thumb, especially if it's outside the holiday season or you're there for more than a week or two.

A couple of months ago in Northern Ireland I told the guy at the B&B I was from the UK, he pointed out I was still in the UK and replying 'mainland' didn't narrow it down enough. I told him South Wales, it is where I was born, but I didn't sound Welsh, So I told him I lived in Dubai and was over visiting my son. Then I had to answer a million and one questions about life in Dubai, but what I'd rather talk about in regards to my life abroad was living in South Africa for 4 years, prior to the 2 and a half years we'd been in Dubai.

I hate it when people ask me where I'm from, I never know how to answer. In South Africa, people would ask 'where do you stay?' as life in SA was far more transient, so you'd answer with where you actually lived at the moment.

When I'm in Dubai, people ask where I'm from and that gets harder also. I reply with 'we moved here from South Africa.' Why? because everyone in Dubai, regardless of how long they've lived there is a bloody expert on living there and think that once you've lived in Dubai, you know everything about living abroad, trust me, they know nothing. It's also important to me that SA doesn't get forgotten as it was a big part of our lives, where 2 of our children were educated and have ties with also.

The longest I've ever lived in one place, was for 8 years in Worcestershire before we left the UK in 2011. Prior to that was in Gloucestershire for 8 years also, but the last 3 years was in a different house. Prior to having children I worked and lived in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire for 5 years. Lived at home till I was 17, for 7 years in Hereforshire, 5 years in Yorkshire, 3 years in Leicestershire and the first 2 years of my life were spent in Monmouthshire.

To save you the math, I'm 46.

I don't feel like I'm actually from anywhere and with kids now living in various places around the UK and moving as far as Australia and me returning to Dubai this week, I feel it's time for me to put down some roots and be able to answer that question with confidence when I'm next asked it, but even then I'm not sure what my answer would be.

Saturday 14 October 2017

One Daily Positive - Week 41

Hooray, 2 bits of good news this week. Child 2 and 2a got engaged and I booked my flight home. However I'm only going back for 3 weeks and it's to find somewhere to live, declutter and organise movers. I'll be back in the UK in November for 3 weeks and will return to Dubai end of the month to move, spend Christmas and then return to the UK in February and March. I'll be in the UK again Mid June till the end of August and again in October. Peter will join me for a few weeks for each of these trips and by then, Mum will be in her new flat and the teen will have a job and home by then.

281 Sunday Looking Up. Early start to Malvern with a friend to sell some stuff belonging to our parents at the Flea and Collectors Fair. Had a good day, but not as profitable as I'd hoped for.

282 Monday Amazing - Visited child 1 and took her out for a walk before lunch, she was determined to walk independently until we got to a pile of leaves when she sat down, crawled through, then used me as a climbing frame to drag herself up. I then met the lovely Sarah Mum of 3 World before spending the evening researching how to sell Dad's stamp collection.

283 Tuesday The Last Time - Took Dad's clothes to the British Heart Foundation shop in Tewkesbury, while child 5 had a job interview. Finished boxing up Dad's stamp collection.

284 Wednesday Female - In the rain, Mum and I emptied out the green house, lean too and one of the sheds. We/I made 3 trips to the tip and stopped for chips on the way home. I booked my flight home and went to visit child 2 and 2a and drop off some stuff with 2 friends that they'll need before I'm back in November.

285 Thursday Transport - Child 5 and I dismantled the office furniture today and with help from my niece, loaded the car and took it to the tip in one journey. The start of any job is emotionally draining. At the moment, Dad is still here, as I dismantled the furniture I could hear him saying 'that's a good piece of wood that Suzanne' sadly once Mum moves there will just be a few bits and bobs of his in a box

286 Friday Puddle (of strawberry sauce) Met my sister for breakfast, cleaned the flat, caught up with blogging, collected mini me from school for ice cream, visited a friend, got ready to go out for dinner with a friend.

287 Saturday Sun - struggled to drag myself out of bed, returned car hire to Birmingham after stripping the beds and dropping the washing at mum's. Put the teen on the train to Stratford and I headed to London to spend a few days with friends we met in Tunisia in 2010. 

On the blog this week:

#MySundayPhoto M is for Moon, Monnow and Misty Mornings
#TriumphantTales #TweensTeensBeyond #PoCoLo
Parenting without Social Media - We did it, can you? 

Sunday 8 October 2017

My Sunday Photo Week 145 M is for Moon, Monnow and Misty Mornings

7am and 4c the Harvest Moon over misty meadows and the River Monnow.

One Daily Positive - Week 40

I started the week feeling ill. I've had a really bad cough since my Dad died, yes I know I should get to the Dr's and get it checked out, even the paramedics who came out to Mum the other week commented on how bad it was. I was actually physically sick on Sunday from coughing. I've got a load of stuff I want/need to do and no motivation to do it.

Last week I reported I thought the tenant in the upstairs flat had moved out as per his notice, sadly this isn't the case and I returned home on Sunday to loud music, raised voices and doors slamming.

Although I've been posting over the summer, I've not been scrolling through my social media pages like normal and on Monday I spent some time catching up with a few people to see what they'd been up to. I noticed an online friend hadn't posted for a while, so I phoned a mutual friend to find out if she knew why Sara was being so quiet recently. I also messaged Sara's daughter at 6.45pm to ask if all was OK. I'm not friends with her daughter online but it was odd for Sara not to be online for 2 weeks. At 10pm her daughter messaged me back to say that sadly her mother had died at 9pm that evening.

274 Sunday Travel. Outside Cheltenham Spa Train Station
2 loads of washing done, coffee, a food shop and more tidying of the flat. Just how much tidying does a 1 bed flat need? An awful lot when you're hardly in it and it is filling up with things to store ready for selling or for when the teen finally gets a home of his own. Cooked lunch at Mum's visited ex MIL, child 1 and with child 5 took 5a off to Cheltenham for her Mum to collect her at 6pm, getting back to the flat at 8pm falling into bed.

275 Monday Home. Fairy Door in Monmouth
Neighbour home at 1am, lots of noise, shouting and doors banging for 20 mins, kept me awake, repeat performance at 6.45am as various people left the flat. Or maybe just him, who knows. Started to pack up Dad's stamp collection and child 2s stuff for storage, ready for Mum to move. Drove the record collection to Newport to my Nephew who is acting as custodian of it for the family. 

276 Tuesday Flower. Embarrassing my son using my shopping trolley in town
A van arrived to collect most of the tenants belongings. Collected the teen from Mums and moved him back into the flat to prepare him for his interview next week, ready for leaving 'home' again. Received some upsetting news in the evening, when I realised an online friend hadn't posted for a while. I contacted her daughter out of concern and was told she died 2 hours after I sent my message of concern. I was heart broken.

277 Wednesday Black and White. Benson
Spent the day with my friend, walking her dog and lunch in the pub. It would appear the tenant has finally moved out, his landlord asked the property management company to contact me to ask if I would appear in court as a witness to enable him to recover costs for repairs to the communal door for damage done in July. My response 'take the matter up with the police as I informed you of in July, that it was your duty to press charges for criminal damage, not mine, I just reported the incident' I have NO idea what's going on, Tenant returned to property with a couple of people at 10pm making A LOT of noise, this situation is ridiculous now.

278 Thursday Power. Changing light fittings for Mum
Finished packing Dad's stamp collection, will collect it next week for storage. Mum's offer on a 2 bed flat was accepted, solicitors informed and auction house contacted to make arrangements for collection of the last of Dad's stuff. Got ready for a flea and collectors fair on Sunday with my friend, she's trying to sell stuff from her Mum's after her death in January and I've selected a few bits and pieces of Dad's to sell also.

279 Friday Child. Shattered after a day being a good daughter to someone else's Mum
Nanny Glen's moving Day. Moving my friends Mum from Gloucester to Tenbury Wells. Packers have been organised, I'm just moving Nanny Glen herself, following the van, after waiting for her to say bye to the neighbours, lock up and hand the keys over. Sold a Panini football sticker album of Dad's on eBay for £201 from 1978 World Cup.

280 Saturday Food. Mum and I enjoying a cake before the rabble turn up
The plan was to sort Mum's paperwork ready for her move when I go back to Dubai, the reality was I helped her move pots and dig plants out the garden for my sister and niece who collected the pots and garden furniture (mum is moving into a 1st floor flat) I sorted through some stuff for auction, finished packing the last of Dad's study up and selected a few items to sell at a flea fair in Malvern on Sunday.

On the blog this week:

My Sunday Photo O is for October
TriumphantTales TweensTeensBeyond PoCoLo Things I wish I hadn't done as a parent


Tuesday 3 October 2017

Things I wish I'd never done as a parent

Mum to 5. All kids now adults, all still speak to me. 3 living in the UK. 1 stationed in the Middle East, 1 in Australia.

They're all good kids, none of them took the Uni route, none of them have been in trouble with the law (sailed close). Happy with their life choices, partners, jobs or lack off, no real complaints, a few niggles, but in general, all is good.

Could I have done things differently? Of course I could. I could've shouted less, nagged less, let them join all the clubs they wanted, attend all the parties, given them more pocket money, let them stay up later, but this could've made a huge different to the outcome on where they are now, their happiness and their futures. But there are things that I did do, that I didn't need to do, that wouldn't have had a negative impact on their lives and could've saved me, as a parent, an awful lot of stress and they are:

  • make the kids keep their bedrooms tidy
  • bake cakes for birthdays and school fetes
  • join the PTA
  • attend school fetes, book fairs and volunteer to read in school
  • ironed school unifrom
  • sewed name tags on sports kit
  • washed football boots
  • sat and watched every sporting event they took part in
  • attended school assemblies and presentation evenings
  • insisted the boys had their hair cut
  • encouraged them to play a musical instrument or join any club they really weren't interested in
  • insisted they had part time jobs
  • stopped them from having a TV in their rooms until they were 14
  • Ironed clothes

Are there any things you did or do that you think with hindsight maybe weren't/aren't that important in the great scheme of things?