Silent Sunday: Fun and games at the roundabout

They’ve been digging up this traffic circle outside school for some time now. I drove by the other day and saw this sign. I can hardly wait to see what the ‘new and exciting roundabout’ will look like! But then, as my friend L pointed out, it will be exciting. See on the sign, we’re all going to be driving around the roundabout in the other direction. Now that’s sure to make the school run more interesting.

roundabout sign at Arabian Ranches

 

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Grown-Up Gaming: Pokemon Go for mums

IMG_3932

My boys started screaming blue murder this morning. I honestly thought they were being chased by a child snatcher.

“We got it!” yelled my eldest, in a voice so loud my mum’s china rattled in the cabinet. My youngest joined in, and I quickly realised, to my relief, that there was nothing to worry about.

They’d caught a Pikachu.

Prosecco Go

The hunt for booze: Got one!

Three weeks ago I had no idea what Pokemon Go was. Someone at work explained it to me, and I eyeballed her suspiciously as she rolled a Pokéball at a strange little creature lurking by the printer.

Since then, I’ve watched in amazement as the monster-catching craze enjoyed more and more hype, with players in Hastings walking fully-clothed into a red-flag-zone part of the sea (prompting the launch of a lifeboat), and groups of teens marauding round our local park holding their iPhones like compasses.

Adults are at it too in my parents’ neighbourhood – you can tell who’s playing through a combination of snooping at their phone screens and watching them waft their devices around in the air.

It was inevitable my boys would get into it. And actually the meshing together of fantasy and reality has been great. It’s got them out, exercising without even realising it. The game keeps track of the distance walked, and when it bleeped and flashed up 10km I wondered if we might even have lost some weight.

But, with the long summer holidays stretching on like a gaping canyon, don’t you think they should launch an alternative app for mums? Prosecco Go! Where you can find glasses of wine all over the place, real ones. As a reward for all that zooming around.

How to download Pokemon Go in the UAE

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8 things that happen when your parents sell up

As if there weren’t enough house moves already going on (EK wives will know exactly what I mean), my parents dropped a bombshell on us a month or so ago.

“We’re selling the family home!” said my mum, trepidatiously.

Well, okay she didn’t exactly say it like that, but that’s what I heard!

“You’re what?” I said, going into shock as I imagined mum excitedly packing everything up. They’ve been there nearly 30 years, and it’s the house I lived in, came back to for weekends and many a Christmas, and, since becoming an expat, have stayed in every summer for long periods with my own kids.

We’re ‘vacationing’ at the house right now, and there are at least eight things I’ve learnt about parents downsizing.

  1. When you tell the children their grandparents are moving, they take matters into their own hands.
Parting with the family homestead and its memories is hard for all generations

Parting with the family home and its memories is hard for all generations

2. I’m suddenly attached to everything in the house.

"Could you keep it? Just for a little bit longer?"

“Could you keep it? Just for a little bit longer?”

3. As well as all the clearing out I’m doing in Dubai, there’s another few tonnes to sift through here.

So much stuff

4. I’ll spend at least 10 minutes reading every single letter from my childhood penpal.

The lost art of letter writing needs special attention

The lost art of letter writing needs special attention

Which means I’ll be done sorting everything out in … 10 years.

5. To keep all the photos and certificates or not? That is the question.

Full disclosure: Most of the certificates are for participation

Full disclosure: Most of the certificates are for participation

6. You hide down the bottom of the garden when some people look round … then get talking.

And find out their kids go to the same school in Dubai as your own

And find out their kids go to the same school in Dubai as your own

It really is such a small world.

7. You go to make one last mark on the height chart … and discover he’s outgrown it.

height chart

8. You go out with your family for the day and realise that your home isn’t going anywhere.

Worthing pier

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Throwback Thursday: The Expat Olympics

Circles staggers over the final hurdle to win gold in the hail-a-taxi-in-rush-hour relay!

Circles staggers over the final hurdle to win gold in the hail-a-taxi-in-rush-hour relay!

If you think about it, it’s a funny ole thing that expats spend such a big chunk of the year away from their adopted home, living out of a suitcase. While most people take two-week holidays, for expats six to eight weeks is often necessary in order to see all your family and friends who you don’t see the rest of the year.

As we all know, it’s not always plain sailing …

With the Rio Olympics about to start, I thought I’d repost my list of some of the events that expats the world over would be in great shape for this summer:

Speed

  • Catch every flight, with time to spare
  • Pole-position passport-queuing
  • The find-your-holiday-home-before-dark Road Race
  • The 32-hour-day Time Trial
  • Sprint to the toilets before the inevitable

Endurance

  • The up-before-dawn jet-lagged 6YO (how long til you lose it?)
  • The bath-book-bed triathlon in new surroundings
  • The time-zone jump (how many days to adjust? Bonus points for family members under 10)
  • The Eventing marathon (plan and execute four to six weeks of events and get-togethers without leaving anyone out)
  • The 1,500km cross-country steeplechase (how many relatives can you visit?)
  • Sofa surfing (who needs a good night’s sleep anyway?)

Gymnastics

  • Stay vertical at the Bar during reunions with friends
  • The Parallel park on tiny roads
  • The Roll-your-clothes test (does this mean you can fit more in your suitcase?)
  • Pommelling-it-shut after repacking
  • The Beam-me-up-Scotty moment (when it all gets too much)
  • The Dismount (when DH extricates himself from the travelling circus and goes back to work – no blubbing)

Skills

  • The daily Dress-Arghh competition (find something uncreased to wear in your capsule wardrobe)
  • Ride public transport in rush hour with children and suitcases
  • The don’t-stick-your-oar-in family regatta (aka, don’t rock the boat if it’s best left unsaid)
  • The triple shift childcare derby (one mum, two whining kids, DH gone)
  • Synchronised schedules (find a good moment to Skype your absent DH)
  • The overtired tantrum throw (how many until you have one yourself?)
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My first e-book: A quick summer read for just 99p (or less!)

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]Please share!

If you’re looking for a light summer read, please think about downloading my first e-book. It’s a short (ish) story, and a super-quick, easy read. I’m raising a celebratory glass, as, believe me, I nearly went cross-eyed trying to figure out how to get this on Amazon. I got there in the end ☺ … here comes the blurb:

Workaholic mum Julie Wainscote becomes an overnight Twitter sensation when her live TV gaffe goes viral. Fired from her job, she takes up the challenge of becoming a stay-at-home mum to her son, Jacob. But when she realises the school run is a catwalk, the coffee mornings involve competitive catering and the class bear has been to Lapland, she has to admit the adjustment required may be beyond her.

Does she have what it takes to join Dubai’s ranks of immaculately groomed school mothers?

Cupcakes & Heels is a delightfully funny short story about the dilemmas facing mothers the world over.

BUY IT NOW: If you’re in the UK, please click here

Or for America, the UAE and worldwide, please go to this US Amazon link. If this doesn’t work in your country, could I suggest searching for Cupcakes & Heels in your country’s Amazon store.

Thank you so much!

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A wing and a prayer

Upstate New York: Four hours north of NYC lies six million acres of wilderness

Upstate New York: Four hours north of NYC lies six million acres of wilderness

“You look nervous – you okay?” DH put the car in park and laid his hand on my knee. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”

“I’m fine,” I lied. “There’s no way I’m watching you all go up without me!”

I meant it: if my family was about to be in a plane crash, I was going down with them! I might be a pilot’s wife, but small planes still make me anxious. “It’s perfectly safe, isn’t it?” I asked.

DH looked out at the Cessna we’d hired. He gave a boyish grin. “Yep – it’s fine.” He held my gaze for several seconds. “Ready?”

I swallowed and felt the bubbles of anxiety begin to pop. “Yes, let’s go.”

"This is your pilot speaking!"

“This is your pilot speaking!”

I looked up. A few white, puffy clouds were drifting slowly across a clear blue sky and I wondered if we’d fly through them. Peering through the fencing, I saw a Cessna taxi-ing out; it stopped just short of the concrete airstrip. It was a bright day and at the furthest point the runway appeared to shimmer, creating the illusion of wetness. I’d seen all this before on previous visits to small airports and flight schools, but DH’s world – the glinting metal, engines, smell of machinery and fuel trucks – never fails to intrigue me.

After the paperwork was finalised, we walked out across the apron in the sunshine. The boys bounded towards the airplane in excitement – they’d been waiting for this day since we’d arrived in the States. As DH checked the plane, I found myself wondering how we’d all fit in. All four of us. The Cessna looked gleaming and airworthy, but … small.

How did my husband, who is at least six foot tall, spend several years giving flying lessons in such a tiny, cramped space, while students practised terrifying manoeuvres, rolls and engine failures?

The aircraft was red-and-white, with a white underbelly and two dark pinstripes running along its entire length. The propeller pointed upwards like a finger. DH climbed onto the plane and pulled a rod out of the fuel tank and studied it.

“Everything alright?” I asked.

“Looking good,” he said.

He inspected the rest of the aircraft then we crawled in, surprisingly fitting snugly inside. DH was relaxed and happy, busy following the procedures on his checklist. My heart gave an exaggerated beat as the propellers started turning. The plane shuddered, and, all of a sudden, the engine spluttered and roared to life. We taxied to the runway, and through the headset, I heard my youngest son chatting away.

DH asked him to be quiet for a bit, then I heard his calm voice talking to air traffic control. “Cleared for takeoff.”

Bounding down the runway, we picked up speed, bumping along, the plane straining to escape the earth. Until suddenly it was smooth. We were tilting upwards, the nose forging through the air. The ground dropped away, and we cleared the trees. The leafy tips looked as though they were in touching distance. Then, within seconds, they were below the plane.

The plane banked to the right, and I looked back down at the airport. The buildings and planes on the ground could now be toys, the cars tiny diecast models. The turquoise swimming pools in the grassy backyards were all different shapes, a rectangle, a circle, a kidney. We were up! Now I just had to loosen my vice-like grip on the seat.

As we levelled out, I craned this way and that – my nerves giving way to exhilaration, my shoulders dropping, mouth curving upwards in a wild grin. Before us, a vast expanse of blue sky. Below, dense green forest and blue, mirror-like lakes. The whole landscape was bathed in a warm, golden glow.

Noticing I’d been struck speechless (mostly because Son2 had started jabbering over the headsets again, right in my inner ear), DH turned round to see if I was ok. He gave me a look that said, Isn’t this great? Isn’t life so much better up here? Ahead, the tree-covered Adirondack mountains came into view.

Final approach

Final approach

I couldn’t stop looking: at the lush woodland; at Lake George; at the real estate (so much land); the properties clearly visible from our bird’s eye view. I thought about my office in Dubai, stationary and sterile, and the smallness of the cockpit didn’t matter anymore. From above, anything felt possible.

The odd jolt shook the plane but other than that, we weren’t buffeted or tossed by the wind like I’d feared. If it wasn’t for the deafening growl of the engine and the vibrating metal, we could almost be gliding.

I unfurled my fingers from the seatbelt, only for my heart to leap into my mouth as DH handed the controls over to Son1. Christ, my ten-year-old was flying! And loving it! “Just small corrections,” said DH, nudging the stick gently to keep us heading straight. Out the front window, the propeller whirled round, like a baseball bat pounding the air.

We headed over glassy lakes and wilderness, eating up miles of greenery. And before too long, it was time to head back.

At some point, we started descending; the toy towns, dots on the roads and bushes became houses, cars and trees once more. The runway rushed up towards us, and we touched down.

It took a while for my ears to adjust to the silence and we climbed out carefully. “Did you enjoy that?” I asked Son1 as DH tied down the airplane.

“Yes,” he nodded, grinning broadly.

“Think you might want to be a pilot?”

Another enthusiastic nod.

Me thinks we’d better start saving …

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Why I’m glad I enjoyed childhood before technology

Adirondack Park painting
“When I was your age, I was playing soldiers in the forest,” DH glumly told our sons. They were lying sprawled on the sofa, the glow of their screens casting an eerie shadow over their faces. “Come on – off you go! Time to get outside.”

“Shoo,” I added, for good measure.

The boys sat up and stretched their limbs as though limbering up for unaccustomed exercise. DH turned to me, with frustration plastered all over him. “Why don’t they want to play in the forest? … I don’t get it.”

I shrugged. “Lost the instinct maybe? More used to shopping malls.”

It did seem a massive travesty. There we were in upstate New York, in a lovely airbnb holiday home, surrounded by six million acres of wilderness. A wild and magical place, the Adirondack Park is full of pristine lakes, coniferous forest, tranquil rivers and towering mountains.

Paddling routes weave through the dense woodland and rapids swirl along the Ausable Chasm canyon to the east. Whiteface Mountain’s ski runs are nearby, a beautiful area that has hosted the Winter Olympics twice.

We were straight out of Dubai, where the ‘feels-like’ temperature had reached 64 degrees C; it was like finding paradise. On a massive scale. The largest publicly protected area in the US, the Adirondack Park is bigger than the Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier and Grand Canyon national parks combined.

All around us there was hiking, canoeing, fishing and white-water rafting – which we made the most of. But, still, when we were in the house, it seemed the boys would rather plug themselves into their devices than go outdoors.

“Right, that’s it,” said DH the next morning. “iPads are banned.” SCREEN.TIME.WAS.OVER.

Cut off from technology, the boys had to make their own entertainment, while I attempted to sneak in a book and some painting. As long as they didn’t start a bonfire, the kids were free to do wholesome things like building camps and hide-and-seek. It was all going well …

… Until …

Son1 got sick and ended up back on the sofa. This meant Son2 lost his playmate, leaving him in need of company (read: bored) and giving us (well me at least – I’d got really into the painting pictured above) another challenge.

“Mummy, will you come and play in the forest with me?”

“Can I just finish this?”

“NOOOOOOO!”

EDITED TO ADD: Pokemon Go might be the answer! I’m told it tricks them to get out and after about 30 minutes they actually start looking around and realise they are outside. Sad but …

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