Monday, 30 July 2018

What is a friend?

Friends are extremely important to me, even more so since we embarked on our expat journey in 2011, in the absence of family, friends have filled the void.

Everyone has different definitions of what makes a friend and categorises some as best, close or acquaintances. A friend is loyal, honest and someone you can trust, it is a mutual but not exclusive relationship.

Friends can also be toxic which I've learnt at great detriment to myself. I've had 3 particular friendships throughout my life lasting each for almost 15 years, face to face friends, friends who have looked after one another's children, both turned to each other when times have got hard and celebrated the good stuff, but I noticed changes. Where they'd become too honest about me and my family, but not been able to accept any defence from me. As a true friend, I've given them the benefit of the doubt, hung on to the possibility of the friendship recovering, then each time they've quite literally cut me out of their lives. On the last occasion an actual letter was written telling me I was no longer welcome at their house after listening to years of having my children put down. I dared to criticise one of their adult children in their 'own home' and that was it, our friendship became 'unbearable' I realised after I read the letter how controlling the friendship had been, only interested in what was going wrong in my life, it was negative and I felt free.

I've made friends easily throughout my life, I'm outgoing, talkative and social. Some people find that over powering and are wary of me, but those who take the time out to get to know me, make life long friends.

I don't have a best friend, different friends fill different roles and those roles change as we change, as our children leave home, we move around and have reduced contact.

I had groups of different friends during my school years. I'm still in touch occasionally with one friend from the age of 5, but that's only through facebook randomly, her daughter now 28 is an instagram friend, so we see what one another families are up to but with little interaction.

I've work friends, former neighbours, the kids school friends and football club parents that I keep in touch with, but other than when I visit the UK or they come out to Dubai, these friendships are reduced to letter writing and messages.

I have 2 old school friends who I have regular online contact with and visit when I'm in the UK. 3 friends who were made through when the children were in school, 2 in the UK and 1 in South Africa. I have 1 friend I met in Uni and like 2 sets of married friends of Peter, whom I've known for the past 19 years and we see one another a lot, we just don't message outside of my UK trips often.

The rest of my friends have been met online, some I've never met, some I've flown 1000's of miles to visit, some I just message, some I write to some just pop up for time to time. Out of those online friends, I have 3 I see weekly when I'm in Dubai, 4 that I visit in South Africa who became real world friends and quite a few in the UK that I randomly meet for coffee when I visit. I spent last week in Germany with friends I made online 7 years ago and we see one another at least once a year, since I moved to Dubai and them over to Germany.


I consider myself to be fortunate, I have lots of friends around the world, each and everyone of them is special to me in their own way. Some of my friends know one another, some are purely online only, some made the transition to the real world, some I've yet to meet. Some are friends through letter writing only.

Each and everyone of them is valuable to me. I notice their presence, I notice their absence. Last year when my father died, my friends in real life and online got me through it. During this time I realised a facebook friend had been absent online, we'd arranged to meet that summer but had to postpone. I messaged her daughter who informed me her mother had died earlier that evening. I'm never too busy or occupied to have time for friends, even if in some cases, it's too late to do anything.

This is my best friend, my husband Peter, he who knows everything there is to know about me. The rest of you just get snippets.




Sunday, 29 July 2018

My Sunday Photo - Bergisel Olympic Ski Jump, Innsbruck, Austria. Week 187

The current ski jump building was designed by Zaha Hadid and completed in 2002. Zaha is a British Iraqi architect and she also designed the Opus Building in Dubai, that I featured earlier this year. The tower stands at 47ms tall.


A couple of weeks I go I also showed you around the Ski Dome in Dubai If you think that was big, wait till you see this weeks My Sunday Photo.

The first ski jump was erected here in 1925 and in 1964 and 1976 it was the venue of the Winter Olympic games.

Skiers use the same elevator to reach the tower which is at a height of 250ms and is reached within 2 minutes. I opted to walk back to the bottom.

The inrun which is 98ms long, with an incline of 35 degrees has a plastic track, in summer the jump and slope is lubricated with water, in winter it is packed with 30cms of snow.

Jumping skis measure 3ms and within 4 seconds the jumper reaches speeds of 90km/h.



The longest jump at Innsbruck was recorded at 138ms  in 2015. The world record ski jump is 253.5ms recorded in 2017 in Vikersund, Norway.

The views from the tower are spectacular and if you look closely enough you'll see there's a cemetery right at the end of the landing zone.

 


If you're interested in seeing some of the other construction, building projects and life in other countries then click on the links below:

Week 158 Dubai Bluewater Islands and Dubai Eye. Man made island a 210m high Big Wheel
Week 159 Dubai Dubai Marina - Reflections
Week 160 Dubai Dubai Frame. A window between the Old and New Dubai and a 150m high glass floor.
Week 161 Dubai Dubai Marina 3 years apart.
Week 163 Dubai New Metro Line for Expo 2020
Week 164 Arizona and Nevada Hoover Dam 2002 - 2010
Week 165 Dubai Dubai Opera House What a difference a year makes
Week 166 Dubai Unfinished buildings. The Pentominium
Week 167 Coventry Mixing the old and the new. Coventry Catherdral
Week 168 Dubai New Dubai Metro Station 
Week 169 Dubai The new extension of the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa 
Week 170 Dubai Hotel fire After the Address fire 
Week 171 Dubai Unusual designs The Opus Building
Week 172 Dubai District Cooling. Keeping the desert cool.
Week 173 Dubai Can I visit the Burj Al Arab
Week 174 Dubai The Almas Tower
Week 175 Dubai The Cayan Tower
Week 176 Toronto The CN Tower
Week 177 Nevada The Paris Hotel 
Week 178 Dubai Ibn Battuta Gate
Week 179 A Wedding
Week 180 Dubai The World's Tallest Tower
Week 181 Dubai and Wales Al Fahidi Fort and Chepstow Castle 
Week 182 Dubai New Metro Station in Al Furjan 
Week 183 Dubai Cleaning the windows on the world's tallest building
Week 184 Dubai Ski Dubai
Week 185 Another Wedding
Week 186 South Africa Life in a township

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Week 30 - One Daily Positive

I was in Germany for the week visiting friends we knew when we all lived in South Africa. Child 4 was also in Germany this week with work, but a 2 hour drive north from Munich. I'll see him on Saturday morning when I fly back into Manchester as he'll be collecting me with 4a when they drive over from Belfast via Liverpool for the week.

Peter spent the weekend with friends in Istanbul and is now back working in Dubai.

I'm spending the days on my own while Dirk and Jacques are in work, the evenings are spent putting the world to rights. There's not much English spoken in this part of Germany, but I'm doing ok with ordering coffee, food and buying train tickets.

I also took a drive over the border to Innsbruck in Austria, although I'm used to driving on the right hand side of the road, I've never driven a manual left hand drive, in fact I rarely drive manuals these days so hill starts through the tiny villages in the Alps were a bit of a challenge.

203 Sunday I woke to torrential rain, it was lovely, we don't get rain like this in Dubai and I haven't seen any since I arrived in the UK the end of May. We spent the day at a medieval festival.

204 Monday I explored Wolfratshausen on foot and visited a fairyland theme park.

205 Tuesday A lie in and then off to Munich on the train. I love how the municipality puts chairs out for people to just sit and watch the world go by in the city centre.

206 Wednesday I drove to Austria and visited Innsbruck for the day. Check out My Sunday Photo tomorrow.

207 Thursday Peter announced he had some days off in August and booked himself a flight to Greece in 3 weeks time, I've of course booked a flight to join him from the UK and now looking for somewhere to stay. I visited Starnberg and the lakes today.

208 Friday Coffee, packed, finished reading my book and flew back to Manchester. I stayed in airport hotel.

209 Saturday Up early and collected by 4 and 4a on their way over from Belfast for the week. Later tonight I'm going to Newport to a friends 50th birthday.

I've been using Google Maps to travel throughout Germany by car, train and on foot. I used their maps to drive to Austria. Yesterday I typed in my destination, it tried to take me through car parks and over fences. I clicked the bus symbol, caught the 288 and was at the hotel in under 4 mins. Why didn't the damn thing work when I got back?

On the blog this week:

I didn't realise how crap my life was until I switched on the TV in the UK and saw the adverts.
Should I seize the day more? Say sod it to the G&T and extra slice of cake? It's all about balance and starting point.
Did you know in 2018, people still walks miles to get fresh drinking water? Life in a township in South Africa





Tuesday, 24 July 2018

I only found out how crap my life was when I turned on British TV

I might have irritable bowel syndrome.

I really need to do something about my wrinkles.

I don't have enough healthy bacteria in my gut.

I'm at risk of e coli by not using the right cleaning chemicals.

Should I panic? Deep clean the house? Make a Doctors appointment? Have botox?

I don't watch a lot of TV other than box sets on Netflix and the British soaps, if I can find them on You tube. Therefore I rarely see TV adverts. But after 6 or so weeks in the UK, I've seen every advert going and apparently, my current lifestyle choices are crap.

A lot of people say how Social Media puts other people down, judges them and helps to inform our decisions on how we judge others also, but I'd say it's NOT Social Media, it's the TV.

TV is a major financial institution, your TV licence doesn't cover the cost of what you watch, even the BBC have adverts, you might not realise this, but the items they present on lifestyle choices are led by major companies, pushing their products, their ideas.

It's subliminal advertising. Adverts they tell you that you have a problem in order to sell you a product.

'Did you know the leading product only reduces your chance of xxxxxxx by 95%, our new and improved product can reduce those risks further up to 99.9%'

They're telling you that the risk of you developing/catching something is high. They scare you into buying their product, they lead you to believe that without their product you're putting yourself and your family at risk.

Ok, so skin care products aren't that risky when it comes to your health, but are you aware of how many times you get stopped in a store or in the street and told you look old, you have bad skin, your nails look terrible, your hair is lank? I know they don't use those actual words, but that's what they are implying.

This is what the cosmetic companies are saying to you 'you look like crap' buy our products and you too can look as beautiful as this.

It's all about the money and you're gullible enough to fall for it and then blame others on Social Media who have fallen for this.

This is a before and after photo of me from 18 months ago. On the left I was told to come bare faced, there was no lighting, just look at the camera. After I'd had my make over, lighting was introduced and I was encouraged to smile.

If I ever go missing, make sure the picture they use is the one on the left, as I only look like the person on the right in my profile pictures.

Should I seize the day more?


We've lost a lot of family members and friends over the past 12 months, I'm sure we'll lose many more over the coming years. I like to make the most of every opportunity, I love to travel and have the resources and support of my husband for me to do so. I love nothing more than taking up an invite to see people far and wide.

I think my life and that of my children is fairly adventurous. Two of our kids were in school in South Africa with us. Peter was asked if he wanted to move there and within 4 months of the question being asked we were 6000 miles away. Two of our kids joined the army and travelled the world. One of our kids announced last summer he was going to Australia with his girlfriend and within a month they were gone.

As a family we seize the day, we make the most of every opportunity we are given, but we weigh things up carefully, we write lists of pro's and con's, we always find more pro's and if things don't work out living abroad then we can always go back.

But yet I still get told I could seize the day more, but for every thing I choose to do there are consequences, some are harmless, some are life changing. 
When friends do a charity parachute jump or take part in a dangerous activity, my first thought is 'What if something goes wrong?' My husband wants to do a parachute jump, but I can't help but think of how I'd be affected if he broke a leg on landing such as sorting out the medical aid bills, having to drive him to work every day or worse still if he died if something went wrong. I like to weigh up the risks. Of course if my husband broke his leg I'd do the above for him, but I know I would feel resentful if he did out out of an activity that could've been avoided.
I know we are at risk of our lives being cut short at any given time, through the fault of others and by our own acts, but I don't want to be responsible for an accident that inconveniences others or even my life being cut short through a dangerous activity.
I will however eat that slice of cake, enjoy a pint of beer, eat fast food, but I will balance my diet healthily to ensure I'm around as long as possible. I'm aware of how my father died after developing type 2 diabetes and having a stroke. I've started to drink a bit too much, the odd G&T here and there does no harm, but the odd G&T is becoming 2 or 3 on 2 or 3 days a week.

I've spent beyond my limits and worried myself sick about how I'll manage till the next payday, but I've learnt from all that, I've learnt to think about the consequences, weigh things up properly. It doesn't make me a party pooper, I just know my own limitations.

I've flown down the zip wire, I've been caving in the days before I had kids and responsibilities. I've drunk too much on a night out, I've made decisions that could've ended badly.
I have of course seized the day when the risks have been lower and the finances higher. I've booked a last minute flight to visit family and friends, worn the heels that blister my toes, because I look fab in them, worn the dress without worrying what other people think about my mum tum (that's their problem, not mine) I've purchased THAT handbag, tested my fear of heights by walking on glass floors 350ms in the air and going up the World's tallest building.

I'm currently in Germany staying with friends, they're at work during the day, I'm exploring locally, I don't speak the language, not many speak English here, but I'm not letting that stop me.

I don't think I need to seize the day more, I just need to carry on living the life I choose. I think my life is full enough already.

What about you? 



Sunday, 22 July 2018

Life in a township in South Africa. My Sunday Photo - Week 186

I've spent the last 2 weeks uploading names on a data base of children living in poverty in South Africa who will receive Christmas gifts from a charity this year. I've been involved in this charity and others since 2011. I'm currently visiting friends in Germany who moved here in 2015, Dirk worked at a home for disabled adults and children and I've worked with him on a variety of projects.

Every week this year for My Sunday Photo I've been focusing on construction projects mainly in Dubai and around the world. Today I thought I'd share some of the photo's from the townships in Pretoria where I've worked as a volunteer. I'm back in South Africa in September for 3 weeks and I'll be revisiting some of the places below.


A township in South Pretoria


Rubbish dump

It's common for people in townships to tap into the street lighting and run cables to their shacks to power a light bulb

A pre school receiving Christmas gifts

People walk 4-8 kms a day to get fresh water every day

If you want to see more about the construction side you can click on the links below:

Week 158 Dubai Bluewater Islands and Dubai Eye. Man made island a 210m high Big Wheel
Week 159 Dubai Dubai Marina - Reflections
Week 160 Dubai Dubai Frame. A window between the Old and New Dubai and a 150m high glass floor.
Week 161 Dubai Dubai Marina 3 years apart.
Week 163 Dubai New Metro Line for Expo 2020
Week 164 Arizona and Nevada Hoover Dam 2002 - 2010
Week 165 Dubai Dubai Opera House What a difference a year makes
Week 166 Dubai Unfinished buildings. The Pentominium
Week 167 Coventry Mixing the old and the new. Coventry Catherdral
Week 168 Dubai New Dubai Metro Station 
Week 169 Dubai The new extension of the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa 
Week 170 Dubai Hotel fire After the Address fire 
Week 171 Dubai Unusual designs The Opus Building
Week 172 Dubai District Cooling. Keeping the desert cool.
Week 173 Dubai Can I visit the Burj Al Arab
Week 174 Dubai The Almas Tower
Week 175 Dubai The Cayan Tower
Week 176 Toronto The CN Tower
Week 177 Nevada The Paris Hotel 
Week 178 Dubai Ibn Battuta Gate
Week 179 A Wedding
Week 180 Dubai The World's Tallest Tower
Week 181 Dubai and Wales Al Fahidi Fort and Chepstow Castle 
Week 182 Dubai New Metro Station in Al Furjan 
Week 183 Dubai Cleaning the windows on the world's tallest building
Week 184 Dubai Ski Dubai
Week 185 Another Wedding

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Week 29 - One Daily Positive Off to Germany

It's important to me that people know I haven't just spent the last 8 years living abroad in Dubai. prior to that we lived in South Africa for 4 years, it was a completely different experience than Dubai. As I'm spending week 30 in Germany I thought I'd provide a little context to the reason for my visit.

I'm staying with friends outside Munich. I first met Dirk in 2011 when he took me and a woman called Janet and her mother in a battered old Golf, off roading to a township in Pretoria, to visit a children living in poverty to see how we could help and support them with their educational needs. I'd met Janet a few weeks earlier when we both dropped off a Santa Shoebox at a charity. 7 years on, I'm still actively involved in the charity in South Africa and as well as Peter and I now living in Dubai, Janet and her wife Nicky and 2 boys are now living in Ireland and Dirk and his husband Jacques are living in Germany. We've all remained very close. Sadly Janets mother died on Friday, we often talk about that day when we first all met one another.

196 Sunday Struggled with a hangover, had breakfast and said goodbye to the Bride and Groom from yesterday's wedding. Took child 1 out to Cheltenham, then home to watch the World Cup final. the evening was spent in, eating chocolate and drinking tea. This photo of the 3 stooges is Peter and his two golfing buddies who have been friends since the mid 80's.

197 Monday Visited my MIL and spent the day in Bath In the evening child 2 and 2a came to Monmouth for dinner.

198 Tuesday Collected child 5 from Cirencester and took a drive out to Cheltenham. Called in to see a friend in town and left with our dinner to cook in the flat as it was late.

199 Wednesday Collected child 1 from Gloucester for the day and in the evening went for dinner with Saturday's Bride and Groom and friends.

200 Thursday We drove Mum to Blackpool where she's staying for the week with her brother and sister in law, we had a little paddle in the sea and then we then drove back to Manchester before going to visit one of Peter's old friends.

201 Friday Arrived at the airport at 7.30am and took 2 hours and 40 minutes to reach the gate for Peter who flew to Istanbul for the weekend and me to Munich for the week. Peter's flight was at 10.25am, mine was at 1.35pm. I spent the time uploading names onto a data base for this years recipients for the Santa Shoeboxes. The evening was spent catching up on our adventures since we last saw one another.

202 Saturday I woke early but it was 10am before we headed off for a drive to visit a castle and a Christmas village, it's Christmas all year round there in the shops. We ate dinner out then chilled out for the evening. if the rain stops we'll head off to watch some fireworks in the village.


Either my Daughter in Law or DIL's to be are just too polite or they're using my son's to get their message across, either way, I think I may have nailed this 'How to be a good Mother in Law'

My Sunday Photo - The Best Man and Me



Monday, 16 July 2018

How to be a good Mother In Law

I've been 2a's Mother in Law for 6 weeks now, although she's been part of 2's life for a good few years, I'd have to ask them how many, I forget.

When 2a came into our son's life we were living abroad, we still are. I'm in the UK several times a year and we spend time together, usually visiting child 1 and my own MIL, or I go to theirs or they come to me.

During the year when I'm not in the UK we actually don't communicate a great deal. Neither of them are that active on social media, although 2a will respond within a few hours, 2 can take a week to reply. But the moment I arrive in the UK, the phone rings, messages are sent back and forth and we meet up around their working schedules.

I always wonder though if I'm doing enough, should I be contacting them more, asking if they're ok, if life is treating them good, more general chat about work and day to day life.

Last year our relationship changed, I went from being 2's Mum to being part of his daily life. My father died, they looked after me. As did my other children, but they were on the doorstep, drove me to the funeral, made sure I was OK, putting my needs ahead of theirs. Comforting me when they took me out for dinner and I broke down 2 weeks after the funeral. They helped with clearing my father's things, they checked my mum and child 5 were also ok.

Then just before I returned to Dubai, they announced their engagement. I returned to the UK in February/March but with the snow and a trip to Northern Ireland, our time was limited.

And then I almost messed it up. I asked why the rush to get married, if they could consider changing the date to accommodate our travel arrangements, I questioned the number of groomsmen, how much money they were spending when they both worked part time and why no one would tell me what colour the Mother of the Bride was wearing so I could sort my own outfit out.

At the point 2 asked me why I was being such a bitch?

Did I back off? No. I replied as so.

I'm not being a bitch I'm trying to show you I'm interested and supportive of this wedding. It's called  'You're our first child to get married.' It's tough getting the balance right between showing an interest in your life and for you to not think I'm interfering.

He replied with:

Ok, well let rip on your questions.

The trouble was by the time he replied, I'd gone to bed, thinking I'd messed up. In the morning I woke to this:

Look I'm giving you free reign to ask, so ask. I have noticed and I appreciate.

The amusing part in all of this is, I didn't actually upset my daughter in law to be, she was unaware of this conversation until the other week and told 2a off.

I'm gaining 4a as a daughter in law September 2019, I've already been involved in their planning ideas from venue to colour scheme and cake tasting. This has made the whole process easier to ask questions about, but there's always the risk of a fall out by me putting forward my ideas that may or may not be wanted, in fact to date the only person who has snapped at me was 4. 4a and her mother told him to behave himself.

I don't have to worry about how to be a good mother in law, I need to pay a bit more attention to being a good mother.









Sunday, 15 July 2018

My Sunday Photo - The Best Man and Me

Wedding no 2 of 2018 took place yesterday. Peter was Best Man. We didn't look quite so smart by the end of the evening. Any suggestions as to what I should be doing with my hands/arms? They either hang by my side in photo's or they're tucked behind my back, usually hiding my cigarette.


I've taken a break this week from my series of construction projects and unusual buildings in Dubai and around the world. If you'd like to see them, then click on the links below:

Week 158 Dubai Bluewater Islands and Dubai Eye. Man made island a 210m high Big Wheel
Week 159 Dubai Dubai Marina - Reflections
Week 160 Dubai Dubai Frame. A window between the Old and New Dubai and a 150m high glass floor.
Week 161 Dubai Dubai Marina 3 years apart.
Week 163 Dubai New Metro Line for Expo 2020
Week 164 Arizona and Nevada Hoover Dam 2002 - 2010
Week 165 Dubai Dubai Opera House What a difference a year makes
Week 166 Dubai Unfinished buildings. The Pentominium
Week 167 Coventry Mixing the old and the new. Coventry Catherdral
Week 168 Dubai New Dubai Metro Station 
Week 169 Dubai The new extension of the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa 
Week 170 Dubai Hotel fire After the Address fire 
Week 171 Dubai Unusual designs The Opus Building
Week 172 Dubai District Cooling. Keeping the desert cool.
Week 173 Dubai Can I visit the Burj Al Arab
Week 174 Dubai The Almas Tower
Week 175 Dubai The Cayan Tower
Week 176 Toronto The CN Tower
Week 177 Nevada The Paris Hotel 
Week 178 Dubai Ibn Battuta Gate
Week 179 A Wedding
Week 180 Dubai The World's Tallest Tower
Week 181 Dubai and Wales Al Fahidi Fort and Chepstow Castle 
Week 182 Dubai New Metro Station in Al Furjan 
Week 183 Dubai Ski Dubai

Saturday, 14 July 2018

One daily Positive - Week 28

It's been an emotional week. Peter arrived on Wednesday, I'm always so happy to see him, even if it does take a few days to get used to being in the company of someone else 24/7 for both of us, especially in a 1 bed flat. England lost the semi-finals and are coming home on Saturday after the play offs and Wednesday marked the 1st anniversary of my father's death.

And yes, in that order. I actually woke Wednesday, checking plane finder to see where Peter was in the world, after working out he'd arrive around 3pm he'd have time for a sleep and then we could go to the pub to watch the game and then I read my messages from friends far and wide letting me know they were thinking of me on that day. I'd forgotten the date.

I'm ok with that.

Anyway the rest of my week:

189 Sunday Finished putting the world to rights with Mediocre_Mum, then joined in with Monmouth carnival, well i ate ice cream watching everyone walking past. It was a great atmosphere, there's so much going on in Monmouth this summer and I'm loving being part of a community, even if it's just for a short time.

190 Monday Hung around all day waiting for my Aunt and Cousin to arrive from Blackpool. I cooked dinner in the evening, had a good old catch up and called in at the pub on my way home.

191 Tuesday We all went to Abergavenny for the day, I love these chickens in the market hall. In the evening I visited my niece and had my nails done for Saturday's wedding, then called in to see child 2 and 2a for a cup of tea and out of date chocolate. How can any child of mine allow chocolate to go out of date? I'm disowning them lol.

192 Wednesday I bought flowers, coffee and a copy of the Daily Mail and visited the crematorium. I read the paper on a bench, hearing my father commenting and moaning about the state of the world and placed the paper by the memorial as I left. I told him I was going to watch England play in Geoff's pub and that Geoff was looking after his jag that I sold him after my father died. Peter arrived mid afternoon. Too many G&T's in the pub, disappointment and I bumped into old friends from 25 years ago.

193 Thursday Off to Cirencester after coffee with mum to take the the teen flat/room hunting for the end of August. Called in to see the Mother of the Groom for Saturdays wedding. Had dinner in the Mill Race near Ross-on-Wye.

194 Friday A chilled morning, I drank coffee and blogged in caffe Nero's while Peter finally got round to writing his best man's speech for tomorrow. In the evening it was the wedding rehearsal and the Groom came back with us for the night, for dinner and a few beers. I slept over at my mum's.

195 Saturday I had a hair appointment, Groom and Best Man had breakfast out and we're leaving for the church at 11.45am

On the blog this week:

How I'm grieving one year on after my father's death.  Has it really been a year? I have some amazing friend's who have supported me through all of this sadly, several of them also lost a parent last year.

Top Tips on planning your wedding and reducing costs.  My opinion is to spend the money on your home not just one day, it doesn't mean that the one day can't be magical.

Prom dresses have more uses than just for a prom.  I wore a prom dress when I got married, they also make excellent dresses for the bridesmaids.

Should I be more tolerant?  Or should I give up expecting others to be more mindful of me?

My Sunday Photo - Ski Dubai How to keep cool in Dubai in the summer months.



Thursday, 12 July 2018

Top Tips for Wedding planning and keeping costs down

As you are probably aware, I’ve had a busy and expensive year to date with weddings. Child 2 got married in June, my husband is best man at a wedding this Saturday, his niece is getting married in October and child 4 is getting married next September.



As a guest alone the costs are mounting. I can hardly wear the same dress to all 4 weddings can I? Other than a cash donation to child 2, we’ve not had any input with the other 2 weddings we’re attending this year, but we do know how much they’ve spent and the lengths they’ve gone to, to make sure everything is in place for their special day. 

We’ve also made a cash donation to child 4 and have already been involved in helping them to plan their special day. 

Peter and I eloped in 2002, we’d both been married before and had recently bought a new home for us and our 5 kids to live in and so we kept our wedding as simple and cheap as possible. I’m a believer in keeping things simple and costs down, but if you do want the full wedding experience there are plenty of ways to keep the costs down.

The confetti shop offers a wide range of ideas to plan your big day, choose by theme, colour or season. This is a great idea for weddings that are in the planning for 12 months or more; you can see the current and predicted trends, help inform your colour scheme and more importantly give you an idea of the costs involved from save the date cards, invites, table decorations, wedding favours to planning the hen night and stag do. 

With child 4s wedding there are a lot of people involved in the planning, we have a face book group message titled ‘Wedding’ where we can pop suggestions on anything that we come across from web searches and attending other peoples weddings. 

My top 6 tips:

Invitations -  Can you do save the date and invitations online? Only printing out a handful of cards for those not on social media. It will also reduce the amount of stress chasing up replies.

Photography – Disposable cameras on tables for guests to snap away more personal shots, especially for the evening do after the photographer has captured the first dance and departed.

Bridal Party Gifts – If you’re giving your best man cuff links as a thank you gift, then give them to him in the morning so at least he’ll get some wear out of them. Personalise gifts for the bridesmaids and groomsman; consider something they can actually use. 

Wedding favours – Consider making a charity donation. Purchase a charity pin or band for each guest on the table.

Hen and Stag do’s – Do you really need to go abroad for a week before the wedding? A meal in a local restaurant or even a party at home, this way you can accommodate all budgets and invite all ages.

Food – Not for the reception but between the wedding and the meal. It’s common now for the bride and groom to spend up to 90 minutes having photo’s taken, guests can often be left hanging around, they will be catered for but if you’re part of the wedding party you may not get a chance to eat or drink from breakfast time till 4pm. I always pack drinks and snacks in a small cool bag to hand out to keep us going through the day.

This post is in collaboration with the Confetti Shop.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

How I'm grieving one year on since my fathers death

I thought we'd got through all the 1sts since my father died suddenly on July 11th last year, until my birthday on June 26th, the moment my mum walked into the coffee shop that morning. Last year my father was with her. Of course there is still the anniversary of his death to get through and then the funeral 2 weeks later. Then we're done or are we?

For me, my start to the summer is mimicking last years UK trip. Helping the teen find somewhere to live, visiting child 4 in Belfast to say good bye before his overseas posting and typing up 1000's of names on a data base for a charity in South Africa. Mum and I even visited the Speech House for afternoon tea where I took this photo.

The same place this one was taken 3 days before my father died.

As an expat my greatest fear was not being able to be there for my parents and my children should there be an emergency and not being able to get there in time to say our last goodbyes. Travelling for nearly 20 hours back in 2012 from South Africa with no way of communicating was traumatic, not knowing if by the time I arrived at the hospital my father would've have survived his surgery or not.

After that trip, every subsequent trip I made then became my most feared trip. As much as I enjoyed the time with the family, the moment I arrived I was fully aware that I was already dreading the goodbyes, the last hugs, the last kisses and the last words, knowing that at some point in time and soon, I would be coming back to the UK with the full knowledge that my father would no longer be there.

My father was a very opinionated man and ran commentary on every situation in life, he would wind me up to the point of an argument, with neither side backing down. We both viewed the world as explorers, we shared a love of sport, particularly football, but we viewed life from different vantage points, his mostly from the 'good old days' mine from the present.

The last few weeks of my fathers life were special, we talked so much, we did things together, we always did, there were arguments of course during that time, but I have no regrets, no words left unspoken, no words spoken regretted.

On the night my father died, I said to the teen 'come on we're going to Nanna and Grandad's, be a good grandson and come with me' my niece was there with her 3 boys also. We had a drink and my father started on one of his favourite topics, yet rather than have an argument I just simply said 'I'm not doing this' we said our goodbyes, nicely and left. 3 hours later, I was back sitting at his side as he lay in the hallway, waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

That night I sat with him, I was relatively calm, I knew there was nothing I or anyone could do. When the paramedics took over I collapsed, I couldn't breathe, I phoned my husband and a friend. I stood on the street with the neighbours, then I spent several hours going over all the details with the police as it was a sudden death at home.

The following days I didn't wash, eat or sleep. I couldn't talk to anyone without gulping huge intakes of breath. I walked round the town asking in my head 'why are you smiling? don't you know my father just died' It's a small town and I wasn't able to go far without someone offering their condolences, many times I held it together, said 'thank you' often I fell apart, leaving people staring at me blankly not knowing what to say or do.

All of a sudden I went from saying 'my father died last night' to 'last week/month/year' Mum moved during this period. I returned back and forth to my home in Dubai. My father was a hoarder, thankfully everything was labelled, but trying to sell it all has been a battle. A challenge I've accepted, willingly. I shout at him for leaving me all this crap to sort/sell/donate/throw. I look through his things and wonder why he never showed me this stuff when he was alive. I get angry with him for leaving us like he did. I get emotional, I cry. I can't watch the World Cup without crying, or pass merchandise in the shops without automatically wanting to buy him something. I can't attend a sporting event without getting upset, as he'd be back at home trying to spot me on the TV, while mum relayed the information via face book. I can no longer argue with him, tell him he's wrong and I miss all that.

But as time has gone on, I cry less, but I never stop thinking about him, good or bad. I cried as I wrote this sitting in a coffee shop in Belfast, people were looking at me, I didn't care. Because I fear the day that I don't cry for my father, the day I no longer shed a tear.

There are days, whole days when he doesn't enter my thoughts, but they are rare. He'd be so proud of the teen with his new job, he'd be excited for child 4 as he heads off on another tour with the army, he was so excited when child 3 told him he was going to Australia a couple of weeks before he died, he'd be so looking forward to seeing him come back in October for a visit. He missed child 2's wedding last month.

He's missed by us all, he'll never see Thing 1, 2 & 3 grow up, his great grandchildren, or the great children my mum will get to know. Thing 1 who is 4 said to me the other day 'My grandad died, your daddy died, do you miss him? I do'

This is the post I wrote marking the end of 2017. Managing grief 5 months on.
Although i am not my mother's carer, I do need to support her with stuff while she adapts to life on her own after 53 years of marriage. Living in a different country is challenging and our story appeared in the Daily Mail, you can read about it here.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Prom dresses aren't just for the prom, they're for weddings too.

I've never had a prom, they weren't the done things in the UK in the 1980's, but I did buy a prom dress in Las Vegas for mine and Peter's wedding in the UK in 2002. It was the first time I was aware of the scale of the prom industry outside of the UK. The variety of dresses on offer was astounding and I easily found the right dress, style and colour to get married in, with assistance from staff who said quite a few people bought from them to wear for their marriage in Vegas.


With 4 boys I never had to consider what they wore to their proms, suit hire was easy and simple, their dates had the most gorgeous of dresses and until recently I never really gave much thought as the amount of effort that goes into finding the right kind prom dresses that suit you I was however aware of the cost that goes into finding the right prom dress and even more so the importance of getting the right dress, style, colour and having hair, nails and make up done in light of social media.

I have heard plenty of friend’s say that they treated their daughter’s prom as a pre indication to their wedding day, a practice run.

In September 2019 Child 4 will be marrying his fiancée. Wedding preparations are in full swing; the venue is booked for both the actual wedding and the meal and party afterwards. Cakes have been tasted and ordered.

I played the role of Mother of the Groom to Child 2 and his wife in June this year, all I had to worry about after helping my son choose his suit, was just my own outfit. I considered a prom dress but decided it was a little bit 'too bridal' which gave me an excellent idea for my new daughter in law to be when we started discussing a colour theme and bridesmaids.

There are so many things to consider when choosing a dress for your bridesmaids and it is a difficult decision. Will they like it? Will they suit the same styles? Colours?

I have never been to a bridal shop to try on wedding dresses and the thought of having to make an appointment with a fixed time frame and choosing the dress of my dreams sounds quite stressful to me, let alone having to then make decisions on the dresses for the bridesmaid also. So I suggested to my daughter in law to be, to look at prom dresses to get inspiration for her upcoming wedding and help to choose the colour scheme, which will inform the cake and table decorations and bouquet. 

There seems to be a lot more choice online when looking for inspiration if you search for prom dresses, which often throws up results for bridesmaids dresses also, the 2 seem to be interlinked in search engines. 



This post is in collaboration with Prom Dress Finder.






Should I be more tolerant?

I'm one of the first people today 'sorry' if I bump into someone. I'm also one of the rare breed of people who will say 'excuse me please' and actually wait for a response rather than just shoving my way through.

It takes quite a bit of piss taking before I will challenge someone on their behaviour, but I do like to have a moan and complain.

If I hold a door open and someone walks through I'll say 'thank you for holding the door' and if someone pushes in a queue I'll politely ask 'have you any idea why I'm actually stood here?'

I don't know really if I should be more tolerant or whether people need to be more mindful of others.

Most of the time I find people are less tolerant and mindful of others when they're travelling.

The other week I took a short flight to Northern Ireland. On this flight I was in an aisle seat, seated next to a man who had his arm in a cast, because of this his arm was hanging over my seat. A woman sat in a front with a small child and for the entire flight, played a children's TV show with the volume on full on her phone to entertain the child. The seat in the aisle opposite me was occupied by a young man with headphones on and his music on his phone could be heard. behind me sat a woman who struggled to physically fit in her seat and his knees pushed into my back the entire flight.

Did I say anything? No, not at first. I sat on an angle, with my elbow being knocked by crew and passengers going to the toilet. When I tried to straighten myself into an upright position, Mr broken arm exerted his right to my air space, no eye contact was made, no apology, no polite smile. I just had to tolerate it, along with the two iPhones and their volume. However when the woman behind stood up, pulling on my seat and grabbing part of my hair as she did so, I let out an audible sigh and muttered FFS.

On her return from the toilet, I got a dirty look, followed by pulling on my chair and pushing her knees into my back.
When I turned round in the aisle to ask her to refrain she said: 'what do you want me to do?' 
I replied with: 'maybe try a smile, apologise for inconveniencing me and pulling my hair' 
She replied: 'whatever'

I accommodated and tolerated everyone around me, until the point where my hair was pulled, however they were not mindful of me or anyone else around them. I'll assume they all had a good flight and were comfortable with their arrangements. I'll also assume that the woman behind me who pulled my hair probably thought I wasn't at all tolerant of her needs and the man next to me with his arm in a cast, just saw it as his right and was probably not aware that he was causing me any problem in any way.

Do you complain when someone inconveniences you? Or do you just sigh, tut and mutter and hope they don't hear you to avoid any confrontation?

Sometimes it's just not worth saying anything, however polite I am, I also end up being the bad guy.




Sunday, 8 July 2018

Ski Dubai - My Sunday Photo Week 184

A couple of years ago, when I was foolish and didn't leave Dubai in the summer, I visited Ski Dubai with a friend for coffee. We didn't ski, we watched.

The temperature outside was 45c, inside it was -10c.

I carried ski boots and clothing from the car park to the ski dome, the extremes of temperature were astounding.


Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort, access is via the Mall of the Emirates on the ground floor of the mall. It opened in November 2005 and features an 85 meter high mountain, 5 slopes, a 400 meter long run. There's both a quad and a tow lift for skiers and snow boarders. All equipment and skis are included in your ticket price.




I've been documenting construction in Dubai for the past 4 years and also featuring buildings around the world that I find interesting, you can see more by clicking on the links below:

Week 158 Dubai Bluewater Islands and Dubai Eye. Man made island a 210m high Big Wheel
Week 159 Dubai Dubai Marina - Reflections
Week 160 Dubai Dubai Frame. A window between the Old and New Dubai and a 150m high glass floor.
Week 161 Dubai Dubai Marina 3 years apart.
Week 163 Dubai New Metro Line for Expo 2020
Week 164 Arizona and Nevada Hoover Dam 2002 - 2010
Week 165 Dubai Dubai Opera House What a difference a year makes
Week 166 Dubai Unfinished buildings. The Pentominium
Week 167 Coventry Mixing the old and the new. Coventry Catherdral
Week 168 Dubai New Dubai Metro Station 
Week 169 Dubai The new extension of the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa 
Week 170 Dubai Hotel fire After the Address fire 
Week 171 Dubai Unusual designs The Opus Building
Week 172 Dubai District Cooling. Keeping the desert cool.
Week 173 Dubai Can I visit the Burj Al Arab
Week 174 Dubai The Almas Tower
Week 175 Dubai The Cayan Tower
Week 176 Toronto The CN Tower
Week 177 Nevada The Paris Hotel 
Week 178 Dubai Ibn Battuta Gate
Week 179 A Wedding
Week 180 Dubai The World's Tallest Tower
Week 181 Dubai and Wales Al Fahidi Fort and Chepstow Castle 
Week 182 Dubai New Metro Station in Al Furjan 
Week 183 Dubai Cleaning the windows on the world's tallest building

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