Total Pageviews

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The One Where We Moved to Qatar!!

When you first arrive at a new place, regardless of your level of confidence, you will always feel vulnerable. New faces. New personalities. New surroundings. Everything around you is a constant picture of uncertainty and the unknown. You instantly become aware of your own imperfections and idiosyncrasies, and wonder if anyone else is aware or if you are being judged.

Well no need to wonder. You are being judged! That may seem like a rather paranoid statement, but just like you are making first judgements, however subconscious, you can guarantee the people around you are too. They too are feeling insecure with the new faces, new personalities and new surroundings.

Right now I am feeling all these things and more.


We moved to Qatar.

So let me tell you how we got here!

After having an enjoyable, albeit, chaotic and busy summer, we had reached the packing stage. With that came the unpacking and repacking stage too. Way too much luggage and we had never flown emirates before so we had no idea as to how strict they were on weight. Let me tell you now, they are strict!!!!! It took a little persuasion and cunning to get through with 22kg extra plus the 4 pieces of hand luggage of about 25kgs over too!!!! We just scraped by, a little convincing and I expect my tear stained face at the check in didn't warrant any confrontation either!

Saying goodbye to my Dad and Val was hard.It always is! It was fabulous that Val was able to come to the airport this time too. Jason had gone earlier with the luggage and my Dad had come back for us. Of course it is hard going to a new place, the constant changes. But we chose this life and I wouldn’t change it. But Dad and Val are my security. Knowing they are always there gives me the emotional strength to do what we do and the fact my Dad has such faith in Jason as a husband, a father and a teacher strengthens my faith in him too.

So we were finally on the plane. A very nice plane too! Lots of room and really comfy. But we are the wobbly table family and if anyone will sit by anything that is broken then I am sure it will always be us! Yep, we were sat under a drippy head locker, a few engineers and the cabin crew supervisor later we finally took to the skies! As with most scheduled flights of this length, they give out things for the children, whether it colouring books, teddies, bags etc. Our children got a colouring book and crayons, however the children around us got that and a puppet. Now I realise in the grand scheme of things it is only a puppet. But when the kids saw others getting something they hadn’t then I had to ask. To which the lady said she didn’t have enough and was being fair to everyone. Hmmmmmmm, pretty sure she wasn’t as she was giving different things to different kids. When the supervisor checked on us (because of the leak) I let her know what had happened. A few minutes later the lady came back with a bag from business class for the kids and a rather snippy dig that now she was treating us differently to the other kids!!!! There was really no need. We hadn’t been asked to be treated differently - just the same as everyone else! I was ready for an all out strop at 35,000 feet, until, obviously she had calmed down, she came to apologise for the way she had spoken to me. So I just left her with a gentle reminder that all children have to be treated the same and there was really no reason for her to speak to me like that.

The rest of the flight - plain sailing!

You must also be aware that this was also Grace's 5th birthday. So with the normal stress and chaos of travelling, let alone moving country, we also had gifts and happy birthdays to do!! Grace donned her princess dress all the way to Qatar, where she must have looked like Disney royalty as we came though arrivals! The staff were fabulous with her. She had a birthday cake and pictures taken - even on the connecting flight where time was very short, they made up a tray of cakes and chocolate for her and even more Polaroid’s.

By now it was about 3.30am on Friday.

The head and his wife collected us from the airport and took us to our apartment. Only problem being it wasn’t 'our' apartment. We, as are many other staff, are in temporary accommodation. Exhausted and overwhelmed we just went along and finally got into bed just after 5.30am. The kids had been awake for over 19 hours by this point. By 11am we were up again to get sorted to get some groceries. Later in the afternoon we began to panic about how long we would be here. As a mom and a wife, my primary job is to settle my family. I couldn’t do this. Once again we were living out of a suitcase. We met with the HR manager that evening to talk about the problems. And with that conversation we knew instantly she was really doing everything she could and was making absolute sure that we were comfortable and gave us a few options. I actually felt quite bad for her, not only must she be swamped with work with everyone arriving; she is also fasting for Ramadan and then must be getting complaints about where people are living. She is definitely in the right job - approachable, helpful and damn good at what she does!! And very sympathetic and patient with us and our questions!!! Soon we should be able to move and settle in to our proper home and then it will all be fine - in the meantime the place we are in really is very nice!

In the evening all the staff were invited to dinner. The Iftar meal. It is Ramadan here at the moment. This was all paid for by the school. What a wonderful welcome. The food was divine! We went down to reception to wait for the school transport to pick us up and this is where we met all those new faces for the first time.

WOW!!!!!!! How terrified was I? I was always the type of person that could walk into any room and not be fazed, not anymore. At this point I just wanted to go back to our room! But we didn’t and I am glad we didn’t. We met some great people. From all walks of life. This is maybe one of the reasons I love this. You get to meet, talk and socialise with people that maybe you wouldn’t normally. It really broadens your mind. I think there are some people here we could really get along with. In fact I have already met a Pakistani woman who is prepared to swap Nihari for carrot cake - quite a result in less than 24 hours!

Things are quite different here to that in Saudi. The people are different and there is a lot more of them. A lot to cope with. But I am sure we will. The kids got to see the school this morning and our bank accounts are sorted. hopefully tomorrow we will have our car back too!

We are all exhausted. We are all emotional. We are all definitely overwhelmed. But some time, a little patience, a good night's sleep and our own place to settle down in will soon fix all of that. And I have to remember that. I have to remember that first impressions should never be the lasting impression and that all these people around us are feeling just as insecure and vulnerable as we are right now. But it is sometimes good to feel like that. It is good for the soul. And it is definitely good to remember we are not on our own. This is going to be great. This is going to be fabulous. Our life is one big adventure and we are making sure we make the most of every second of it. I just must remind myself not to rush these things, there is time, we are here for the next two years.

Hello sunshine. Hello Qatar. We can't wait to see what is in store for us here!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The One With All The Riots!

So here I am angry.  I am annoyed.  So what should I do?  Shall I go and rob the Bullring shopping centre.  Shall I terrorise the streets near people’s homes?  NO!!!!!  I should deal with my anger in a more productive way.

This is my blog.  And although this may not relate to my travels, my travels have an effect on how I look at situations.

We are back in the UK for our summer holidays.  A time to reunite with our families and have some relaxing time before we move to a new country and start new jobs.  But I, like many others, have been enraged and deeply affected by what has been dominating the news lately.

Now there is a lot of unrest all over the world at the moment, predominantly in the Middle East.  I have witnessed firsthand the fear and upset in the eyes of our friends.  Our friends from Egypt and Syria, worried about their families, devastated at the unrest in their countries.  I am British; I had no way of truly understanding what they were going through.  Until now I had been lucky.  Now I have some idea.  Still not fully, but we have suffered our own unrest here.

So how did it all begin……………….

Well, let’s be fair we shall never fully know.  We are to believe, there was a man, a man with a gun, who the police tried to apprehend, the man was shot, and subsequently died.  The man, Mark Duggan, 29 and before I go any further may I say I am in no position to judge, I did not know this man, I was not there and therefore I do not know.  So may he rest in peace and may his family find some resemblance of peace during this very chaotic and difficult time.  After all, without judgement, He was still a human being, and for that my condolences are sincere.

After this, people began to riot in London, we would imagine out of anger for his death.  Yet his family did not condone this behaviour, therefore if this was the REAL reason for the unrest it should have stopped immediately!  But it wasn’t the real reason was it?  Of course it wasn’t it was an excuse.

The riots began to spread across the country.  It reached Birmingham, not too far from where we are right now.  I was becoming more affected by what was happening.  Of course I was affected before, but the closer to your doorstep it is the more you see the reality of what is happening.  We are lucky, we were never in any danger, nor were we likely to be.  But I was still worried about sending my husband to Tesco’s that evening.  So how must have the people in the flats above shops and streets being attacked have felt.  Holding their children, terrified as to how far this was going to go.  The places that were set on fire.  The people cornered into buildings, shops, alleys, their homes, either scared they will never see their kids again or scared for theirs and their children’s lives!!?  I cannot even begin to comprehend how they must have felt.

Homes, businesses, streets, communities and lives have been destroyed.  Three lives that were lost were three young men from Birmingham; I believe their names to be - Haroon Jahan  Shezad Ali and Abdul Musavir.  Another man to lose his life was named as Richard Mannington Bowes.  I am sorry if I have missed anyone from here, for them and anyone else affected, grieving or injured, you are in my thoughts.

So what is to blame?

We have now moved on from the shooting in London.  Again if this was the REAL cause then that would be what is being shouted from the rooftops, but it’s not.  I saw one woman on the news saying she was claiming her taxes back!  Seriously – I would love to know exactly how much tax she has paid, is she working, and did she loot more or less than the amount of tax she has paid, minus the tax money she has used in resources and now the amount she has stolen – I am pretty sure she now owes the country money!  People have turned this whole situation round to a case of the ‘hard done to people’ in the UK.  Now by no means is this country perfect, yes there are people who are poor, homeless, sick, alone, untreated etc etc etc – however, take a look at other countries where people are suffering all of these things and more with absolutely no level of democracy!

As the British public, we are now supposed to feel sorry for all these people we feared just days ago.  These people are apparently desperate; they are socially and economically deprived.  They need our pity and support!!???! REALLY?  They terrorised our streets for days.  They have just doubled or trebled the tax bill for this country, who is paying for it?  The tax payer will pay for it.  The hard working people will pay for it.

But aside from all of this, these people were not doing it out of economic deprivation, if they were they would have stolen milk, bread and eggs from Tesco’s and baby clothes from Primark.  But they didn’t they stole 100’s of thousands if not millions of pounds worth of merchandise – as in phones, TV’s, top of the range clothes – these are not the things that desperate poor people steal.  These were not the actions of desperate people.

Now the violence, and let’s be honest that is what it is by definition, is beginning to calm, we as a nation are being asked to have an element of sympathy for these people.  Why? To be honest I have no idea why.  They will be caught, they will be sentenced and they will given the punishment deserved and decided by our system.  Some people are claiming these punishments are too harsh.  Like what I ask?  Like prison?  Like losing benefits?  Like having restrictions on their movements?  In my opinion none of these punishments are too harsh.  They terrorised the nation.  They cost the nation money.  They committed unforgivable crimes.  They should and will be punished.  If they lose their council house then so be it – there are plenty of families living in temporary housing who deserve to be able to set up home, these people who have been given a home are biting the hand that more than generously fed them, and we are supposed to think that they still deserve them?  Well I for one don’t!  In this country people should work for what they get, they should earn everything from self respect, to respect from their community, to the house that they live in.  It isn’t difficult.  It is achievable.  This country has many problems, but these things we can achieve, if we are prepared to work for them.  We don’t need to fight for these things; these things are there for the taking, if we are prepared to work at them and work to keep them. 

None of this is to do with upbringing and social circles.  My family became somewhat disjointed after my mom died, when I left home I was surrounded by people who took drugs – and I mean snorted cocaine off a bar and injected heroin in front of my eyes!!!  Did I join in? NO!!!!! I DID NOT!!!!  I could have done – it was easy, I could have had what I wanted at that point.  But I refused.  Yet I was an ‘impressionable’ 16 year old.  But I was a 16 year old with my own mind.  I made a choice.  I have struggled to get where I am now.  I am in debt, I have two kids to look after – although when I say ‘I’ – I actually mean my husband as well – he is the financial strength in our situation.  He has worked in jobs he hates.  Extra hours when exhausted and picked up the pieces when times are tough, where robbing a bank may have maybe seemed easier.  We are not perfect nor are we rich – nowhere near in either case!!!  But we sleep at night with a clear conscience that we have worked hard and worked honestly and worked for us – for ourselves – to make our own future.  We don’t expect anyone to fix our financial situation, that I know many people our age are in, we are in it and we work ourselves out of it.  It is economics.  We will never starve.  I know if we returned to live in the UK tomorrow that our government will make damn sure that me and my children will have a house and food if we ask – it may not be perfect but it would be there.  As British people we are very blessed in that respect, not a lot of governments in the world will look after their people that way.  Wherever in the world I live, I am glad I have that passport.  I am protected.  My children are protected.  We shall always have food and shelter and even education and when you boil it down what more does one REALLY need?  In reality we have no real reason to protest THAT violently.  If there is an issue, at least exhaust every avenue possible, OK it may not be perfect but at least if you have genuinely exhausted every avenue then maybe, just maybe, there is a cause for the masses to protest for.  The lack of an I-Phone, a plasma TV and Addidas track-suit is not just cause, and the actions of these people merely portray that, that is all they were concerned about – I refer you once again to the shops they looted........................

Where were the banners?  Where were the chants?  Where were the marches outside parliament?

Answer – there were none!


There was no REAL cause here.

People used a vague cause.  A vague grievance that they had against the government, that they did not feel passionate enough about to approach them, more of an excuse to cause mayhem.  To profit from.

They have ‘their tax money’ now.  Unfortunately they also have all of yours too!  It is in the plasma TV they are watching, whilst calling their ‘bro’ on their I-Phone and sitting in the designer outfit on the sofa they would have stolen if they could have got it home without being seen!!!!

The bottom line is these people had NO just cause.  IF they did they would have exhausted all other avenues, but none were even attempted!    These people are NOT deprived.  IF they were they would have stolen food and none descript clothes.  These people were violent, greedy and in the modern day description they were terrorists.  They terrorised their country and their own communities.

May God bless all those who have died.  May we support those affected. And may I never become that disillusioned that I would believe that ruining a society is the answer.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The One Where We camped in Pembrokeshire 2011!!!

Let's face it, camping is a re-enactment and grown up version of playing house and making dens from when we were kids.  We put up a canvas structure in the middle of a field, design a little kitchen and living space, bedrooms, a changing room and then we live in it - for the next 10 days!

I love camping.  I love the little things about it.  I love the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to walk around a field, surrounded by strangers, wearing your PJ's.  In no other community could you get away with this!

For us camping is great as during our summers we are constantly camped out around our families houses, which is fabulous, but for them and us, it is good for us to have a place where we can be alone as a family and our respective families can get their houses back for a short time.  It also acts as a base for us when we visit Pembrokeshire, combining visits and a holiday in one.

Most of all it is good for us as we are trying to give the kids the best of all worlds.  With our lifestyle of airport lounges, flights and private school we run the risk of raising city kids with no real knowledge of the real world around them.  Shamefully our kids already know at their young age how a hotel works, how an airport works, but their outdoor knowledge is limited.  Getting their feet all muddy, washing in a dribbly campsite shower, sand between their toes, climbing trees and most of all making their own entertainment with other children in the middle of a field in a commercial and technological age that we are all dependant on.

So off we went to Pembrokeshire, car very much packed.  It took a little longer than expected - over 5 hours due to being diverted off the motorway, which in true highways agency style there were no actual sign posts once leaving the motorway.  Many circuits later and back on the motorway, we arrived.  A beautiful sunny day.  We sat and had a picnic before we set up the tent.  The kids played in the park and 3 hours later the tent was up, everything unpacked and a very tired and hungry family!

Back in the car we travelled over to Pembroke Dock, went to Tesco’s and got real British fish and chips.  We went down to a place called Hobbs Point.  A place that has many memories, good and bad.  But this time the sun was setting and I saw a beauty in a place that I had once taken for granted.  Not just the visual beauty but the ability to experience such a momentary emotional beauty.

Back to the tent with full tummies and food ready for the next day.  We got the kids to bed after a scrummy hot chocolate and me and Jason sat with a drink and relaxed.  That night I went outside and saw the sky, it was simply beautiful.  I had forgotten just how many stars there were up there!  I saw a plane.  I have always looked up and wondered who was on them, where they were going and what they were feeling.  I would look up in envy, wanting to be sat in that cabin, going on an adventure.  But this time I looked up and wondered if those people were on as much of an adventure as we are.  This time there was no envy.  Just a level of wonderment and intrigue.  Maybe now I am settling.  Maybe now I am settling into a life that I am happy with.  A life that I am happy to be living.

During this trip I began to reflect and think a lot.  Sometimes it is difficult to do this, it conjures up a vast level of emotion, and there are many emotions I have to deal with, with returning to Pembrokeshire anyway, most of which people would have no idea of to meet me.  Happy, sad, excited, anxiety.  It is always difficult returning, but it is getting easier every year.  And next year we shall have to plan our visits much better as the emotional and physical toll it takes is a little too much!

For the first time I realised that I do actually miss the UK.  Well, some parts anyway.  In true yuppie style we had the TV in the tent with free view (something I said I would never do, but was actually a godsend on the rainy mornings when the kids couldn't play outside!)  We were watching the TV one evening when the kids were in bed and I saw an advert, I can’t remember what for (I think the advertising committee failed there!) but it had fireworks in it and I made me think of Bonfire night.  The smells and the feel of the autumn/winter air in the UK have a real homely feel to it.  Something we haven't experienced in a while.  It made me realise I miss the continuity of Britain.  The adverts we all see, and moan about when we are here, for summer, Easter, Bonfire night, Halloween, Christmas.  They all serve an obvious commercial and financial purpose, but they also give us that continuity we all need in our lives, which in turn gives us comfort, which we all lack appreciation for until we are without it.  Just think of the Christmas Coca Cola advert.............................(you are now all humming 'Holiday's are coming' to yourselves now aren't you?!)

I also began to reflect on friendships.  We had friends come to camp with us.  At one point there were 14 of us.  Meal times may have seemed chaotic with that many people, but they were in fact very organised affairs, noisy, but organised.  We had a roaring fire and toasted marshmallows too!  When I sat back and watched everyone tuck into their food, 3 families all together, I felt warm inside.  But there was a certain level of something I missed.  That familiarity. That family time that you can spend with other families.  Something that we have lacked over the past 2 years.  The constant in your friends and your children's friends.  But I comforted myself with the knowledge that what we have maybe very different, but it isn't necessarily bad.  In fact in some aspects it is better.

The first day of the holiday was glorious.  Real beach weather.  So off we went with picnic, beach towels, buckets and spades and sun cream down to Castle beach.  We even got Daddy in the cold British sea.  We were definitely on holiday!  Needless to say the weather didn't last; it rarely does in Britain, one thing I certainly don't miss!

Thankfully most of the rain was during the night times, so we didn't spend too much time getting wet.  During the 10 days we met up with the girls for the kids to all play together and for us all to have a catch up.  It was just like 3 years ago - the 'pre Ellie getting ill' baby club (we all met as our babies were all born around the same times).  I was incredibly anxious about the meeting, but it was surprisingly easy, and we all gossiped away like old times.

We spent a day on the beach that Jason used to go to as a child.  For him this place has so many special memories and now he is reliving them with our kids.  For him this must be very satisfying.  We climbed the rocks, poked sea anenomies, looked in caves and enjoyed the time, once again, with no technological interventions!

We didn't get to visit all the people we wanted to.  It is really hard, time wise, practicalities and the physical and emotional toll it takes.  Next year will be different.  We shall book a big table somewhere and everyone can meet us at the same time.  This way we can still enjoy some resemblance of a holiday without the constant pressure of who we haven’t been able to visit yet.  To all the people we didn't get to visit, we do think of you and we are sorry this time we didn't meet, but we will again I am sure, and true friendships will withstand the absence.

All in all it was a strange holiday.  Not necessarily in a bad way, in fact we had a great time, expensive, but great!  It was strange because of the varying emotions I had to deal with and the moments of clarity as well as confusion I overcame.

We will continue to camp there every year.  Every year I will get stronger in facing my demons that still lie there.  And every year I will learn to make more of our little trip away.  Our haven amongst the chaos of visits and organising we inevitably face every summer.  Every year it will get better.  And our city kids, that were once beach babies, will return to their roots and learn who they are and where they are from.  And hopefully at 15 they will still want to come camping with their Mom and Dad to the place we knew as home for so many years.

The One With The Family Holiday!!!

Ordinarily this would be a recipe for disaster for a lot of families, living in such close proximity, eating, drinking and days by the pool together, airport lounges and cramped flights.  The perfect combination for the perfect storm!!!

For us this was certainly not the case!  In fact couldn't be further from the truth!!

Relationships with my in laws have been strained over the years (for which I will not go into) but I am pleased to say that all that is behind us.  Jason's parents were very kindly taking us all to Lanzarote for a week.  None of us had ever been before and all any of us wanted was some quality time together and a serious relax.

The Grandparents hadn't seen the kids for a year and they hadn't seen their son either, which I imagine must be tough.  So this holiday was important for us all.

We had briefly seen them on the Monday and so met them at the airport on the Thursday, donned with our summer hat, summer clothes and ready-for-the-pool smiles!  The airport was nice and relaxed, Sheila was amazingly organised on behalf of all of us - sandwiches, crisps etc, cutting down the on the ridiculously over-priced airport amenities where all we had to do was get some drinks.  Onto the plane and up we go!

I could not wait!!!  One whole week of doing nothing, just sitting in the sun relaxing, kids playing, lovely!

The heat we felt when getting off the plane was not what we had experienced on foreign holidays before, as in we didn't experience any - not for us anyway, we were used to the heat by now.  That wall of hot air you would usually feel when stepping out of the airport was replaced with comfortable and familiar warmth for us. Lovely!

We arrived at the hotel, which was only 10 minutes away, unpacked all of our stuff and had some dinner.  I don't know who was more excited - the kids or Nanny and Granddad!!!!  It was a wonderful picture to watch everyone enjoying it so much.  After dinner we all sat on our balcony with drinks and chatted the night away.  I have to say this was one of the most wonderful evenings we have all spent together, very simple, I know, but we were all so relaxed and happy and relaxed in each other's company.  Inside I felt so happy and content and was glad we were at this point.

The week was mostly spent by the pool, chatting and drinking, eating far too much food (well I certainly was!) and the evenings on the balcony.  We introduced our reluctant kids the children's disco, which finally they began to get involved in and enjoy!!!  We went to the beach one morning where 3 generations of the Lloyd family, all equally, revelled in sandcastles and we also got Daddy in the sea!!!!  We also managed to get Nanny and Granddad in the pool on more than one occasion too!

Not only did we get time together as a family, the kids got quality time with their grandparents and me and Jason also got some time alone.  At one point, overnight!!!  A rare treat for us, where we indulged in a late night walk along the beach and a very late night to bed!

We went into the town on one of the days too, for a little walk and a nice lunch out.

Now it was time for us to leave.  Such a shame, it was a great holiday. We made the most of our last day, up and at the pool early, with dry clothes ready for the journey.  Again, all very relaxed and organised.

It was almost midnight by the time we landed back in Birmingham.  After spending all this time with Mick and Sheila it felt a little strange to be saying goodbye.  I know we would see them again in just a few days, but it became a stark reminder on how our lives are full of goodbyes, especially at the moment.

This holiday was without a doubt, marvellous.  We are certainly planning to do this every year if we can.  But not just a holiday, it is a reminder to us all to spend time with our families, for us it is difficult with the distance, but make time, enjoy that time, enjoy your family and create as many happy memories as you can, because in the end it will only be the happy memories in your mind, it will only be the happy memories that carry you.  It will be those memories that make you smile on a darker day.

Love and enjoy your family.  They are what make you the person you are today.