Saturday, 13 April 2013

From under my cloud

I blame repatriation. The other night someone linked to one of my old posts and let me know that they had and given the occasional oddness of my post titles I decided to go back and look at it to see what it was actually about. Not long after I finished laughing at my own jokes I ended up on one of the posts about repatriation shock ('We're not in Karlsruhe anymore, Toto'), read over it and swiftly decided that everything that has been wrong with my life in the past few months can easily be blamed on the horrors of repatriating.

You see I've been a bit miserable, and frankly quite negative about how terrific it is to be back in the UK. And rather than having a positive outlook and making attempts to be proactive in getting out from under my dark cloud, I've decided to pin all of the following on a nice handy excuse - repatriation shock.

1. I barely blog anymore because there's nothing worth blogging about here. Yes, I sound like a teenager - everything sucks.
2. I have taken only a handful of photos because there's nothing worth photographing here. See the beautiful Peak District above brought down by my dark mood in February. And very little has changed since then except I'd probably add a few more "blah's"
3. I am bored of everything. Seriously, everything. Even going to M&S Food and discovering there are no big queues fails to stir me into a sunny mood. And that's just WRONG.
4. I can only just find it in myself to lie to people I meet who ask how things are, and are waiting to hear that it's really, really brilliant to be back.
5. I am taking comfort in my new found addiction to some of the totally crappiest programmes currently being shown on daytime ITV2. Not even ITV, I like a heavy dose of depressing gambling adverts thrown into my programming schedule.
6. While I feel that my friends *don't understand me*, they eerily have nailed the fact that I would enjoy everything a lot more if there were Bratwurst involved.

It's not that I feel so much like a fish out of water, or that everything has changed very much, but when I look back at the list I've copied below, I can't help but feel it resonating as a subconscious menu of moods and feelings that I work my way though in a Pick & Mix style every day.

Some common symptoms or situations that repatriating families encounter*:
  • irritability/ resentment
  • sense of difference and disconnect
  • disappointment
  • inability to concentrate
  • low morale
  • change in values/attitudes
  • marital conflict
  • fatigue
  • parent/child conflict
  • educational/adjustment problems for children
  • depression
  • feeling unappreciated personally/professionally
  • decreased productivity
  • loneliness
*Source: 'Reverse Culture Shock (or Why Do I Hate Being Back Home?)' by International HR Forum

As much as I would have liked to have given myself a good kick and told myself to just get over it already, I have to admit it's been a struggle. But I feel like I am starting to emerge at last. Things are on the up! Change is afoot! I may still find the time to enjoy some parent/child conflict, but my mood is definitely improving. Even I can laugh at the fact that while the only thing the kids new school is criticised for is the lack of kids attending from other cultures, I have managed to become friends with the only foreigner at the school, who, eh, just so happens to be ... um... German.

Monday, 8 April 2013

From bleak to sleek

Crying. Whining. Whinging. Complaining. Moaning. Girning.

Just some of the things occurring in our household over the past few months. What can I say? These continuous noises of complaint coming from the mouths of my children do not make for excellent blog posts. Of course there have been other events, but well, maybe it's all a symptom of my repatriation sickness, but well, nothing really has seemed very blog worthy. I'm more than a little bit bored.

There's been the snow of course. My children's school situated in one of the peaks of the Peak district where the snow was pretty much targeting was determined to stay open providing all the parents with lovely heart-in-mouth journeys to drop off and collect their kids. On one particularly frightening return trip I nearly had to pull over just to be sick: well I would have had I not suspected the huge articulated lorry driving no more than a foot behind me the whole way downhill would have plowed right into the rear of my car killing both my children. The next time it snowed, I lied and said I had tried but couldn't get through the traffic to get the kids to school. While the rest of England closed it's schools, they told me to try again in an hour. Presumably when the fire and ambulance services had cleared all the accidents, crashes, etc leaving my path clear to plough through.

Orla turned 6 at the end of March. She had a great time, and all the grandparents came down to visit for a few days, but I can't shake the feeling that it's significant that I barely took a photo over her birthday weekend. In fact I feel like I have barely taken a photo in the past 3 months. Which is very unlike me.

I did take a photo of this though.

Finally, Orla got her hair cut. It has looked a straggly mess for a while. She's wanted to grow it long, but she has a penchant for chewing the ends off any bits that stray into her mouth. A disgusting habit that has resulted in her eating herself a mullet. I let her keep it long until after her birthday, but then booked her in to get it all chopped. I think she looks much better, much tidier. And there was none of the disappointment and tears that I was expecting And that's about it. All my news. I need an adventure!

Monday, 25 February 2013

IKEA meatballs - turns out I like horsemeat

I'm not really one for blogging about issues in the news, but a friend just posted an article from the Telegraph on Facebook that has made me revise that idea. Have you heard the latest on the horsemeat story?

The news is that they have discovered that IKEA meatballs have contained (or do contain in some cases), but maybe not all countries, up to 75% horsemeat. Aw, crap.

Horrified? Totally. My baked potato and cheese started churning in my stomach. But then I got to thinking, maybe all it proves is that I like horsemeat. Because I really like IKEA meatballs. And really, I know I have eaten hotdogs at outdoor events in the past, and I *KNOW* that they usually contain pigs eyelids, and bumholes, and penises, and that's got to be worse surely than just eating a bit of decent horsemeat. Then I remembered the bit where they described it as "horsemeat offcuts" (under the article photo helpfully showing a horse next to a big juicy horseburger) and I felt a little bit sick in case I've been eating horse eyelids, bumholes and penises. God, that baked potato is creeping up my throat.

It get's you thinking doesn't it? I read in the comments about someone saying "well, that's the middle classes affected now!", and while I had previously quietly patted myself on the back for not signing the kids up to Sodexo school meals last year (Sodexo are also mentioned in the article), I suspected prior to today that there was a good chance that I probably would have eaten horsemeat at some point. I can't recall the last time I ate a Findus lasagne, but no doubt I have, and no doubt horsemeat has been used in processed meat products for a long time. Who knows. Ah well, there you go.

What are we going to find out next though? What about the IKEA hotdogs that they sell near the exit? They're only 50 cents or something! If there's a report out soon that they contain mice bumholes cause that's cheaper then pig bumholes, well, I guess I won't be surprised. I might be a little sick in my mouth, but I won't be surprised.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Save water, bath with a friend

I love our bath. It is a real saviour and time eater during holiday times. It's the place where Orla & Hamish can actually get on and not argue for 10 minutes allowing me to wash the dishes or unpack a few boxes without having to involve me in everything they do.

Orla and Hamish have had lovely long, decadent daytime baths all this week. When all else has failed, when all the craft projects have been done, when I can take no more of the bickering and whining about who's not being nice to whom, "How about a nice, deep bath?" restores calm.

Grumpy children become the best of friends again once they both have bubbly beards. And I have just about unpacked all the boxes and watched a fair amount of catch-up on iPlayer while they've been in there. Bonus!

So while I barely ever have a bath, much preferring showers, I have realised in this past week I am a total bath convert. There are some things about this house which I totally love. Maybe I am coming round to life in Blighty.... slowly.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Plasticine rainbows & rock bugs... it's half term, not an acid trip.

It's the first day of half term. In fact it's only 11am and already we've had our electricity meter changed for a nice new digital one, made rock bugs, plasticined a rainbow, secretly devoured some chocolate crispies before breakfast, and played trains. They've only been up 2 and a half hours! How am I going to fill the rest of the week????

Aaaahhhhhhhh................... crap.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Mummy Project

I used to live in a giant Rice Krispies box.

Cross my heart and hope to die, but as of today I swear that I am NEVER going to do my children's projects for school ever again.

Yesterday I heard in the playground that the 'house' project was due in today, and when I asked her teacher about it, it turned out that either we hadn't been given a letter about it, or Orla had lost it. The teacher helpfully suggested that 'we' give it a bash anyway. Orla on the way home started wailing that she HAD  to have something to take in, as she COULDN'T be the only one without a house. Scouring the internal Pinterest boards of my brain, I figured we could rustle something up relatively quickly using a cereal box, and if I couldn't find my paints (still in one of the many boxes in the living room) then we would use the emulsion we're using to paint the house. Easiest building to make? - Berlin apartment block.

Unfortunately, I still had a lot of de-siliconing to do on the shower cubicle which I had propped upside down in the spare bedroom, and Orla had to do a piece of writing about her house, so time allocated to the making of the model was an hour. Squidged in between the writing part and the completion of the making of dinner. But of course, Orla started getting tired and distracted and very quickly the writing was abandoned, and I got left with the making of the house.

Let me just say, it is so much harder to make something that looks like it has been made by a 5 year old. (And I doubt any 5 year old would have the patience to be bothering with 27 windows) And I am vowing that I will never do it again. I could see that a lot of mothers had also been up late making houses, but when I was at school I never thought that was fair, especially as I had parents who weren't very good at this sort of thing. Anyway, I will do all the fancy dress costumes and such that are required of me, but that's it.

But it's so hard to say "Tough - you either get on with it, or you have nothing to take in" when there's a wee sad face looking at you in the rear view mirror.

What's your view on mothers doing their kids projects/homework?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The manual of accidents and mistakes

And a happy World Nutella Day to you too.

I feel a little bit homesick for Berlin knowing that, even though Nutella was banned from our household by Stevie who seemed to think that once it crossed our threshhold it would rapidly become the only foodstuff we'd want to consume.

Anyway, here we are, and day to day life continues apace. The plumbers are here as I type. I'm hoping it looks as though I am working from home. To sit on the sofa watching 'The Real Wives of Orange County' strikes me as looking far too much like what I really do, which is full time web surfer and tv watcher and occasional crisp eater. And patently we can't have that! The plumbers are fixing the leaks in the bathroom which will hopefully put an end to people spitting their toothpaste residue into the bath which is slowly but surely driving me nuts. Well, it's not so much that but the fact that once I have scrubbed the bath of toothpaste spittings, the next time I visit someone else has been in using the bath to wash out their paintbrushes and rollers and I have to stop myself from throttling someone with my Cilit Bang chemically-burned hands (which actually are starting to heal now that I have discovered a pack of latex gloves in one of the boxes).

Everything is starting to improve. I might finally be out of the woods with the DVLA, and hopefully will be in possession of a nice new driving licence by next week. Of course last Thursday it would have been nice to have had one, when after parking in the little car park in front of Sainsbury's I watched a woman not look as she reversed out and swing her car round and right into the side of mine. She looked at the car, then looked at me, then continued reversing to where I thought she must be parking up, but as I got out of the car to walk round and survey the damage (which admittedly was minor) she looked at me again, shrugged, and drove off! Outraged? I'll say! I think the factors that made me more so were the facts that she was in her 60's and looked very middle class and decent, and I was horrified by the sheer lack of good manners.

I phoned the police despite the fact that I wouldn't be making a claim and also wasn't sure I had got the last letters of her number plate right, and spent some time the following day at the police station reporting it in person (which is a requirement) in an area where I was sure the car would come to more harm than it had in the accident. The police were very nice and have told me to keep an eye out for the car as I am bound to see her again at the supermarket and when I do to note the number plate and let them know and they'll hopefully go round and have a chat with her about how bad mannered it is to just drive off after hitting someone's car. So obviously now I am scouring the roads to see this woman in her car again and no doubt will not rest until I have tracked her down.

Not having a driving licence to show the police worried me a bit, but I did have my drivers number and it seems they did check that I was ok to drive with the DVLA, for the DVLA have sent me a lovely letter to brandish stating my validity to drive and aid me in my fight against crime caused by the elderly.

The plumbers have finished and left me with this...

I think in modern circles they call it a wet room... well that's what I'll have as the shower enclosure is in the spare bedroom. Turns out the leak has been caused by the poor fitting of the enclosure in the first place, so Stevie and I have a joyous evening of stripping silicone and cleaning the whole thing up before stuffing a gap with silicone and refitting it again.

I've also just taken delivery of two bits of furniture that have been with the french polisher. I am amazed. The man is a genius. My coffee table and console table got scraped and damaged during the move from Germany amongst other things and while he managed to fix some things in situ, he took a couple away. I nearly wept with joy when I saw the coffee table again it's so beautiful. He's even managed to get rid of the well established paint stains that the kids have caused that I couldn't. So all in all, I'm happy. While it's rotten when things get trashed and broken, there's so much pleasure to gain from seeing things fixed and working again.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Living in between cardboard boxes

I'd like to say this is a 'before' shot, but it feels like it might be a 'during' and 'after' shot too. 

You never see Stevie's face any longer. If it's not at work, it's at the top of a ladder.

But here's mine. 
I feel like this move back into our old house is never ending. I've only just finished collecting stray leftover items from the 'holiday home' (as a friend named it, whose parents-in-law have spent longer on holiday in Australia than we spent in that house), and today (I'm hoping) I made my final visit to read the meters before we hand the keys back. I will be glad to see the back of that place.

Back in Derby we are floor to (nearly) ceiling in boxes, and progress in unpacking has been painfully slow. Stevie had managed to paint the kids bedrooms before we moved in, but hadn't got on to any of the downstairs rooms. The plan was to put everything in the living room while he pained the dining room, but we filled the living room in no time at all and the dining room has ended up full of furniture which Stevie has had to shuffle around in order to get the walls painted.

It's good to be back in our old house. It feels better. I feel more relaxed. I think it's less stressful knowing that a least if stuff goes wrong then that's our problem and we don't have a landlord to have to negotiate with or to deny there is a problem or whatever. Admittedly there is a lot of stuff wrong in the house at the moment, but at least I know that we can fix it and it'll all be nice again. Even if we are still living in amongst the boxes.

I had a plumber out to price up the jobs that need doing in the bathroom this morning. Multiple leaks under the sink, the freestanding taps behind the bath seem to have been rocked back and forward until they have come loose and now lean at an angle that allows water down the back and through a hole into the kitchen ceiling, and the shower has a leak that drips badly through the ceiling but handily waters an orchid in drips that sits underneath it.

The kitchen ceiling is in such a mess that Stevie reckons it's just as well we moved back in when we did as the ceiling is about to cave in. Luckily we have a friend who is a plasterer who is going to re-plaster the kitchen and the hallway and the dining room.

We keep coming across little problems here and there the more we start to live in the house. We seem to have been able to fix the oven door that was hanging off ourselves, but then when I went to use it I discovered the grill pan and insert were missing. I found the grill pan yesterday rusting in the garden and covered in mud, but the insert is still hiding.

I have been complaining too that I can smell urine every time I walk into the dining room. Nobody else seems able to smell it. But it has been driving me crazy. Sometimes I don't smell it, and other times it seems really pungent and disgusting. But still Stevie and the kids can't smell it. I even smelt myself! Today I finally located it. Turns out one of our tenants has peed behind the dining room door. I have no idea why as there is a toilet about a metre away across the hallway, but there's just another reason I'm not sure I can be bothered being a landlord again.

So there we are. A boring little update featuring packing, plumbing, plastering, painting, and ...peeing.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The landlord begs to differ.

Tenant: "I really want to make sure I get all of my deposit back"

Landlord Fiona: "Great! That's what we want too. We understand that you need that money for your next place. So as long as it's in the same condition as when we handed it over (allowing for normal wear and tear) there should be no problem"

Tenant: "Ha, ha, don't worry! I think it's in even better condition than before!"*

Because there's artwork on the walls in all the rooms...

We've added 4 water features in the kitchen...

We've enhanced the bathroom....

Cleaned the place from top to bottom...

And added money-saving features...

Landlord Fiona: ".... Really??? really??"

I may be a little quiet for a while. Not least because my head is about to explode from the number of square metres I've had to scrub over the past month, but also because I may be a little busy, you know, doing a few small repairs, cleaning, replacing, painting, moving, etc. And just to add a little drama, wouldn't you know Orla has a stomach bug and is off school. To give her her due, she did scrub the fireplace surround excellently, though I'd also like to take this moment to thank Apple for inventing the mighty iPad which managed to entertain her enough today to let me get one half of the kitchen cleaned.

Now I know why people in the UK buy instead of rent. The citizens are animals**. Either they let you move into their filthy wrecked houses and pay a premium for that pleasure, or they filthy up and wreck your house, leaving you to pay for the pleasure... ANIMALS!!!!!!!

I'm done with this 'being a landlord/tenant' business.

* His ACTUAL words!!!!
**Obviously, not all. Especially not the UK citizens that read my blog. I'm pretty sure you'd leave it sparkling like a wine glass from a Finish dishwasher tablet advert.

Monday, 7 January 2013

miniature disasters and minor catastrophes

Round robin's are not popular in my parent's house. They utterly hate them. "Here!" said my mum as she thrust 2 pages of A4 into my hand with a degree of force, "Read this. See what you think, but I cannot stand people rattling on about how marvellously well their lives are every year". Stevie thinks it's a uniquely Scottish thing; that 'hating seeing people do well for themselves' or rather maybe more that 'taking pleasure in seeing people's lives go wrong after they've enjoyed a bit of success'. I don't think it's that with my mum, but really just, well, I don't know. I don't think it's uniquely Scottish or even British, but I guess people can just sometimes not feel happy for people when things are going well, especially if they keep going on about it, eh.. once a year. No doubt it's got a lot to do with comparing it to your own life and feeling a wee bit like things aren't going quite as well for you. About not being happy with your lot.

I read it and I didn't hate them. I read it and I didn't even think that they were really 'showing off' about what marvellous things they'd been up to. Maybe I have been desensitised from reading so many blogs where people with perfect families are just having the time of their pretty, crafty lives where some new book deal or amazing sponsorship thing by Anthropologie turns up every second day, or maybe that's why my mum has no interest in the internet. I read it and it made me sigh and think, "My life used to be that good".

Let's face it, the return to Blighty has not exactly been a blast. Moving into a filthy, falling-apart yet ridiculously expensive house kind of took the shine off things, and then living amongst piles of boxes while we have waited on a cleaner's quote being approved for the whole of, well, to be honest we are still waiting. It's just not fun.

December was a pain. Aside from arguing our way out of our lease, I didn't seem to achieve very much by way of Christmas preparations. Stevie kept saying "leave it til next week" and I did, though god knows why I listen to him. It's always a mistake. So Orla got ill and was off school for ages and then just as she got better, Hamish got ill and then I got ill. That took us right up to the end of term. I felt so bad that I took myself off to the GP. I was suffering from something flu-like, but I knew I had a pretty bad chest infection as well, and normally they can't get away with just saying 'it's viral. There's nothing we can do'. Especially if you bring out your trump card - "I'm a diabetic". Usually that guarantees you some kind of medicine. The doctor listened to my chest and agreed that I had a chest infection but told me I just needed to go to bed. "But I'm a diabetic" didn't cut the mustard in this place. I blame the constant bombardment of adverts proclaiming that antibiotics won't help a cough or cold so leave the doctor alone. It seems that the doctors have finally noticed them and paying heed to their message.

So I left empty handed and two days later I ended up in hospital dotted with canulas. Or 'drips' for those of you who haven't spent as much time hanging around hospitals as I have. Turns out I really had needed an antibiotic after all. If I hadn't felt so angry I would have felt righteous. Mind you what didn't help was that when I got sent home from the GP's they told me to take ibuprofen for the pain in my chest, and given that it was in an as yet unpacked box and I just wanted to grab something and go off to bed to die; I grabbed the first box of ibuprofen I came across and decided those would do.

They were ones I bought in Germany, and I knew I should look at the dosage on them but I really didn't have the energy to be bothered translating the leaflet. So I took 2 and then 4 hours later when the pain hadn't  really been relieved much at all, I took 2 more. I continued this every 4 hours for 2 days, though by the first evening I had also started topping up with paracetamol because the ibuprofen just wasn't hitting the spot. So when I landed in hospital and they asked me what i had been taking, and followed up by asking me if I "had been feeling down recently". God, yeah! Well, the move had ended up being pretty stressful, and of course I had been worried about the kids settling into their new school, and well the house had turned out to be a total dump, and etc, etc, etc. But when they asked if I had "been feeling depressed for a long time", well I was a little taken aback. Hold on a minute, where are we going here?

Once it was clarified that they thought I was a suicidal chest infection patient, and the first bag of saline which they were blasting through my system was actually an attempt to flush out the ibuprofen from my kidneys before it damaged them, they explained that taking 800mg of ibuprofen every 4 hours is quite a lot. Still... I felt a bit daft whinging on about our crappy move. Anyway, I spent a few days in hospital worrying that I wouldn't get out for Christmas and the kids wouldn't have any presents.

Honestly, when they have to put handrails up to help you hike up the hill, it's just plain wrong.

So far, January has been a breeze compared to December, but give it time. Guess what!? We're going to be moving house in around 2 weeks! Won't that be fun???? Sorry, I got the words round the wrong way. I meant, that won't be fun.
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