Monthly Archives: April 2017

Two down, three to go

We’re two days and nights in and it’s undoubtedly been easier for us than it has for K. His journey was fine, the hotel is fine, he is fine. But, he’s struggled massively with the language barrier and had a pretty crappy first day. The only upside of the whole day was that he was not invited to anyone’s house for dinner. He had a lovely meal in the hotel (feeling a bit Billy No-Mates but better that than the scenario we had imagined with Helga) and was presented with a complimentary starter which pleased him no end – he likes a freebie. As this meal was the only food he had all day I am sure it was all the more enjoyable (picked up too early for breakfast in the hotel and no sign of anyone having lunch so he was starving by dinner!).

Today has been a better day, as he has spent it with someone with good English skills (no reason why they should defer to us in this way, but K had expected that as his bosses had arranged this they would have established if he would be able to communicate, as he has zero German skills) and he has managed to get answers to questions and compare their way of working to the UK setup. He has just FaceTimed us and seems much more upbeat and positive about the whole trip.

As he was going to be en route while Line of Duty was being aired on Sunday night, I had set him up with iPlayer on his iPad so he could watch it on catch up. What I hadn’t factored in was that the iPad would know it wasn’t in the UK (how? it’s all too technical for me) and iPlayer wouldn’t, well, play. T came to the rescue and talked him through downloading a bit of software that would trick the iPad into thinking it was on home turf and he was able to watch. Thank god, we can talk about Balaclava Man and he doesn’t have to avoid social media for the next 3 days.

As expected I haven’t slept well at all. I don’t sleep brilliantly when he is here and normally blame it on his snoring (not actual snoring, just annoying noises from his nose) but I have been far, far worse without him here. I doze a bit and dream weird dreams – last night I was queuing up at a supermarket checkout with my weekly shopping and remembered I needed rocket (?), left my shopping with a little old man to look after (?) and proceeded to wander for hours and hours around the supermarket looking for a bag of rocket, getting more and more hysterical. The night before, I was trying to get through to the school absence line to report T having an orthodontic appointment and couldn’t get the number to work. I am literally the most boring dreamer in the world. It could be worse, I suppose – no-one wants nightmares and at least if I am dreaming I must be getting some sleep! And stuff I need to do is at the forefront of my mind the next morning meaning I am less likely to forget to do it. Not sure I needed any rocket but I have bought some today just in case there is a sudden shortage.

Three days to go. Nearly half way.

 

A lump in my throat

I’ve just waved K off as he heads off to Germany for a week. Well, 5 days and 6 nights to be precise, he will be back next Friday, but it feels like a week. Since we moved in together 17 years ago, we have never spent more than 2 nights apart. Neither of us has ever been inclined towards holidays away with friends without each other, even if we had the means. We’ve always wanted to go away together, and since having the children this has been a given. I’ve had weekends away, he’s had work trips away, so this trip has made us both a tad unsettled.

I need to explain. We’re not a lovey-dovey couple who can’t bear to be apart. We don’t shower each other with overt displays of affection. We just like being together. We like being at home in the evenings watching a bit of TV and chatting about stuff. We like spending time with the kids (why else have them?). We just like it that way. Of course we have time apart, we both have friends that we see (me more than  K as his friends are dispersed far and wide) and we do go out separately, but more often than not we are together. I often joke with friends that I would only miss him if he wasn’t here because I would have to put the bins out (in fairness it was one of the things I thought of when I knew he was leaving on a Sunday – “but it’s bin night!”) but in reality he does far more than that. He makes me feel grounded and he stops me worrying so much about stupid stuff and he makes me laugh. When he’s not here it just doesn’t feel right. And I can pretty much forget about sleeping.

K is nervous about the trip for different reasons to me. He hasn’t been abroad with work before. He hasn’t flown alone before. I usually organise trips (apart from last summer holiday) and take the blame when it all goes wrong. This makes him sound useless and a bit pathetic – he’s not, he is more than able to sort this and he has made all the arrangements necessary. He’s just not confident that it will all work out. He’s a bit apprehensive about the itinerary while he is away – mainly because he doesn’t have one. He is unsure what format the trip will take and he doesn’t know if there will be any communication issues, as he doesn’t speak any German. I’ve assured him that their spoken English will probably be better than his (let’s face it, he’s a brummie) and for him not to worry. A has given him the phrase “My name is K…” in German as a little bit of help. I suggested a name badge.

Making stupid jokes is the way we (in our family) seem to deal with nervous moments. I think it’s so that the subject matter seems less ominous. It doesn’t mean we don’t care, it’s just our way of saying “hey don’t worry it will all be OK” without actually saying it (because we are not American).  Here’s a case in point: K developed a rather unfortunate lump on his neck a few days ago and has had to get it seen to by the doctor. She diagnosed a boil (sounds very 1950’s) and prescribed a steroid cream. T’s immediate response was to refer to it as Susan. This has now stuck firmly in all our minds and we now say “Susan’s looking better” rather than “your boil is not too bad”. It’s mainly due to relief that the lump was nothing more sinister and therefore we can be silly about it. I was rather disappointed that my comment of it being where his bolts had been removed was overtaken by the Susan comment, but you can’t win them all.

An email K received from his German colleague last week confirmed the hotel booking and the plans for collecting him from the airport. It was signed off with “we look forward to welcoming you to our house”. Of course, we said this was surely due to a Google Translate issue and that they meant “to our company offices/our place/our town”. Then, we saw the hotel booking was for bed and breakfast. Still no big deal, as no doubt they will be taking him out for food each night rather than expect him to sit alone in a hotel restaurant (for K this would be almost preferable to having to be sociable). And then, it hit me. “Welcoming you to our house” might mean exactly that and he could be dining “chez nous” as the French would say (I have no idea what the German equivalent is). Unfortunately, the kids overheard our conversation and we now have an ongoing joke that he is going to be having selfies with Helga and Wilhelm, the directors lovely kinder, while eating home-cooked bratwurst and sauerkraut. Even his Auntie S joined in when we saw them last weekend. I was slightly perturbed by his Uncle D’s comment of “watch out for the lady-boys”. K reiterated that it was Germany he was going to not Thailand, and we have since put it down to a slip of the tongue; we think he meant to say “lederhosen”.

Joking aside, we will all miss him massively while he is away. A has sneaked a letter and cuddly Panda toy (his nickname) into his suitcase, T has been giving him way more hugs (i.e. more than one) than usual and I have found myself looking at him a bit longer than I normally would (i.e. more than a few milliseconds). He has promised to FaceTime and asked if I would like him to bring back a bottle of Gin from duty-free (did he even need to ask?) so it’s not all bad. The week will soon be over and he will be back with us: annoying us with his singing, farting and general nonsense. And it will be fab.

 

 

Re: the title of the blog piece. Whenever I am a bit stressed, I get the sensation of having a lump in my throat. I first had it when we were planning our wedding and after weeks and weeks of being convinced I had throat cancer and would not make it to the wedding day, I finally plucked up the courage to see the doctor (funnily enough, the very same one that diagnosed Susan) and she gently asked me if there was anything big going on in my life, with a quick diagnosis of a stress-related phantom ‘lump’. It comes and goes at certain times but is never more apt than when waving K off this lunchtime. A true lump in the throat moment.

Uphill battle

On Wednesday the Beddoe Four went for a walk around the nearby Ashridge Estate taking in Pitstone Windmill. It’s a walk that I’ve done recently with Mrs F and I thought the others might like it. That might be a slight porkie pie – I wanted to go on the walk and I wanted them to come with me. And I wanted them to enjoy it. I’m not sure they loved it as much as I did but it was a lovely day, the scenery was beautiful and I was with all of my family so I was happy! It was a 7 mile walk and we managed it in just over 2 hours so I was pretty chuffed and decided we all deserved a cup of something hot and a cake at the cafe afterwards.  

Spurred on by our successful walk, we decided that on Thursday we’d get out on our bikes. We’d initially toyed with the idea of a trip to the coast but the tides weren’t in our favour and so we decided to stay at home. T goes on bike rides regularly with his friends and wanted to show us the route that they’ve recently discovered through two local villages. I was quite nervous about getting back on my bike after a long break – it must be nearly ten months since I last went out – but decided that all the walking I’ve been doing recently would stand me in good stead and I’d be fine. How wrong I was. After a very short time and just one small hill later I was struggling – a lot. I persevered and managed the 6 miles to our pit stop of the pub (not part of T’s usual routine I hasten to add!) and glugged back a very welcome cold half of lager shandy! The three miles home were less arduous but it was a huge disappointment to me that I had lost all of the fitness that I’d gained before last summer. I wasn’t Olympic fit by any stretch of the imagination but I could cycle up some pretty fierce hills without too much trouble. Now I can barely push my bike up them on foot. But as K rightly pointed out, I’ve just got to keep at it and I’ll soon find it easier. 

Yesterday, as per every Good Friday for quite some years now, we had fish and chips with G&G for dinner and I enjoyed them, but in the back of my mind was the niggling voice that this would not be helping my crusade to get fitter! A walk today should ease my conscience a little – we’re meeting my brother and his family and G&G for a “bluebell walk” which doesn’t sound as taxing as the 7-miler but it’s better than nothing and is really all that my poor blistered feet will currently allow! 

Home Alone

Don’t worry, this isn’t a film review about small blonde boys running amok, scaring off incompetent burglars. I’m talking about me. Again.

It is the Easter holidays and I have worked for the first two days and now I have a glorious (regardless of the weather) 12 days off (including weekends). K is off for just slightly less time. We don’t have much planned; we’re not going away. I am mostly looking forward to not rushing up – I don’t like to lie-in but anything past 6.30am will do me fine, thank you very much. I am looking forward to not having to sit at a computer all day. I am looking forward to some walks and maybe some bike rides and perhaps a day-trip to the coast.

The kids, on the other hand, have made it very clear that they are cramming as much time with their friends into these first 2 days as is humanly possible, as they will be stuck with me and K for the remainder of the holidays. They haven’t said it out loud, but I can tell. I asked them both to ensure that all homework is done before the close of business today (no I didn’t use that exact phrase) so that we don’t end up with frantic, last-minute panicking ruining our break. A spent most of yesterday doing all of hers and has free time today to go out with friends. T’s response was “but I only have these 2 days to see my friends…..” (and then I am going to have to spend the rest of the time with you, you boring old woman, and you are going to make me do ‘family stuff’ and I will be bored, so no, I am not going to do my R.E. revision, are you mad?)  It’s the unsaid words that are the loudest.

I love that my kids have friends that live close by and that they have a safe environment to go out in and that they are free to do as they like (within reason) most of the time. T has spent most of his free time lately going for long treks through the local woods with his friends, undoubtedly annoying dog walkers and wild animals. A pops out with a friend, they come back here and giggle in her room. It’s lovely.

But, I see friends with younger kids going to the Zoo, the Farm, the Park and I feel a bit wistful. I used to love going to the Zoo. I still would love going to the Zoo but might look a a bit odd on my own. I suppose I am forgetting the horrendous trips where it started raining and we had to dash back to the car, or when someone spilt their ice-cream all over themselves, or the time at the Farm when my friend’s child slipped over in pig excrement (this wasn’t just poo it was Excrement with a capital E) and we all stood horrified not knowing what to do with him. Or the time when we went to the seaside and A fell over at the waters edge and I HADN’T TAKEN A CHANGE OF CLOTHES (*) so she spent the day in her brothers thankfully very long hoody in lieu of  a dress. The list of nightmare events while attempting to enjoy ourselves is never-ending. But, I forget all those when I see my friends pictures of little faces beaming at lambs, or baby elephants. I remember the time when T held a rabbit for the first time and the look on his face and him whispering to me how soft it was still makes me want to weep. And the time when A wanted to feed the lamb but was too scared so we did it together and she held my hand while I held the bottle and we laughed at how hard it was to keep hold of it, even with 2 of us doing it. I wish I had enjoyed those moments a bit more. I wish I recalled those moments more than the ones with sick involved.

As much as I would love more of these moments, I am not going to force my kids to spend the next 12 days solely in my company. We will have some days out where we will be on our own together, just us four. But, it wouldn’t be fair on them to stop them going out and seeing their friends. I am sure K and I will have plenty of Home Alone time and that is quite nice too, especially as it is guilt free alone time, i.e. we haven’t ditched the kids at my mum’s or taken time off during term time to have a day off on our own – the kids are off out doing their own thing, having a great time, and so we can too. There are definite bonuses to having children old enough to fend for themselves, who like to be left to their own devices sometimes (most of the time) and who, when they do spend time with us, are good to chat to and nice to be around (most of the time) and who are less likely to puke down themselves, fall in mud (or excrement) or into the sea.

So, although I may be feeling wistful at the ever-changing, teenager-centric, world I live in and remembering the rabbits, I do actually quite like it how it is now. For now.

 

(* a lesson I never really learned from and still see as one of my biggest mum-failures. T had to once borrow a pair of pants from the well-stocked boot of my friends car when he had a slight accident on a day out at the farm – the same farm as the pig poo episode but on a different occasion.)

Maturity, Determination and Expansion

Three completely unconnected words, but ones which have meant a lot in our house since the last blog post.

Maturity

Last week, T was on a break from school doing work experience at a local tech company. He hadn’t originally been selected to do work experience, as this is now only offered to year 10 students who are not deemed to be working at the level that they would need to be in order to do A’levels. (Quite how the school determines this after only 6 months of the 2 year GCSE course I can’t tell you but I guess they know what they are doing..) Anyway, T was not selected  – which I suppose we should be pleased about on the basis that he must be doing OK in his chosen subjects – but in actual fact we as parents and he as a student were all a bit disappointed. He is pretty sure that he won’t want to stay on at school to do A’levels. He has a keen interest in tech, as I have mentioned on my blog before, and he thinks (this is all subject to the teenager’s right to change his mind numerous times in the next 18 months and so is not set in stone) that he is more likely to go onto college and do a more specialised computing course. Regardless of his future intentions, we all thought that work experience would be of benefit to him. After some discussion we agreed that there was no harm in him approaching the Careers Officer at school to see if there was any possibility of him getting on the list. The answer was”yes” and he was given the details of how to apply. He found an IT Support company on the database and applied via the school to go there. He had the placement confirmed by school and was told to contact the Director of the company to make the necessary arrangements. I thought he might baulk at this and would, at most, fire off an email (perfectly acceptable, but the easier alternative to calling). Wrong again, mum. He called straight away and although he got the guy’s voicemail he left a message and followed it up with an email. We worked out the logistics of getting him to and fro and he started last Monday. He was a little nervous going in, but had a great first day and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the week. Among other things, he went out on site one day with one of the technicians to install laptops for a client, spending the whole day in the company of a complete stranger twice his age but he didn’t bat an eyelid, just took it all in his stride. The report back from the Director at the end of the week was brilliant. To quote a few lines “nothing was too much trouble”, “didn’t have to be shown anything more than once”, “showed maturity beyond his years”. Fab. These flashes of real maturity totally outweigh (for the time being) the bouts of nonsensical behaviour (texting me 27 times to ask for a later curfew, despite each reply being “no” being the most recent example and most frustrating, resulting in the biggest row we have ever had).

Determination

At our Secondary school the PE department requires the students to run a set course once every half tern. The students lovingly refer to this as “The Death Run”. The idea is that they endeavour to improve their time each half term and outrun their last Personal Best. A, like her mother, is no athlete and was dreading The Death Run way before even starting at the school. The first time she had to run it she “felt ill” and had to walk most of it, coming in very close to the back of the pack. She wasn’t overly bothered but the run had lived up to it’s moniker in her eyes and was firmly established as A Big Deal. She dreaded the next one and performed equally badly. Just before the end of the Christmas term she announced over dinner one Tuesday evening that she had been to Fitness Club at lunchtime. We were all pleasantly surprised and wondered if she would go more than once (she is very much her mothers daughter). She surprised us all and probably herself by sticking to it and last half term she ran The Death Run and made such an improvement in her performance that she received a postcard at home from the PE department congratulating her on her improvement and attaining a new PB. Today, she has run it again and taken another 6 seconds off her last time, earning her a place on the latest photo of PB smashers on Twitter. Her time may well be 3 minutes behind the faster runners, but as I pointed out to her this afternoon, the idea of a PB is that it is yours and yours alone and all you have to do it better your own time. She is proud of herself and rightly so. She may be her mothers daughter but she has way more determination.

Expansion

Every summer, when the weather permits it, K and I like to sit outside in the evening and drink wine on the deck and talk about what a waste of space it is. Don’t get me wrong, we love sitting outside but we only get to do it for about one month every year. And for that month every year we talk about how much better it would be if we could use that space all year round. It’s always been just talk, over a bottle or two of wine, and punctuated by lots of “if only”s and “if we had more money”s and “wouldn’t it be great if”s. Nothing has changed in our financial circumstances – we haven’t won the lottery (we wouldn’t be thinking of extensions if we had; we would be moving to the posh part of town) or had massive pay-rises (remember those?). We have just decided that this summer we won’t sit outside and talk about it; we are going to make it happen. We’ve talked to the bank, rather apprehensively. They asked a LOT of questions, and eventually said yes. We have a budget. We have an architect on board. We have an idea of what we would like to do. The architect has suggested other things that make much more sense – that is why he does this job – and we have got the beginnings of a plan (not actual plans yet as we have to make a few more decisions first). We may actually be able to spend this summer talking about something real rather than a pipe dream. There are planning hoops to jump through first and neighbours to talk to, but for once I am allowing myself to believe that this might actually happen. Watch this space.