Week eight : Limbo

It’s been a strange week. My two lovely children are getting ready to go back to school. My daughter has been boarding for the past three years and starts her final year and my son has decided to join her at the same school after our move from Hong Kong. He got a good set of IGCSE results and is looking forward to A levels and my daughter matched him with super AS results enabling her to carry on her chosen A levels. I’m very proud of them both, they work hard and realise that although the only way they can get into university is with good grades,  good grades don’t make good people and don’t define who you are. My kids are well rounded and balanced, thoughtful and considerate although mostly only after 11am when they get out of bed and if they are supplied with copious amounts of crisps 😉

So last weekend we hit the shops for new clothes, toiletries, stationary and of course tuck. Next weekend we make the 2 1/2 hour drive on Friday to visit the uniform shop, spend Saturday with father-in-law (guardian to the children when I am away), hen back to school on Sunday with son making final A level choices and then leave him there, take daughter back on Monday then I drive back home to Cuckfield. I have audio books queued up ready for the journeys! It will be an emotional time but we all know it is the right place for them to be and they are happy to be at that school. It’s also the first time I’ve taken them, normally my hubby does it because HK schools start in the middle of August so I was always at work. I have tissues in the car………

Although you never stop parenting whatever age your kids are, there is obviously a role change as they grow up. I’m not changing nappies, preparing packed lunches, picking them up from the school gates but they still need me in much more personal ways. I love the conversations we have and I am especially proud that even when we argue, they make up pretty quickly and get on with each other and me. We all miss hubby/Dad and have found electronic ways to keep in touch, Skype and a family group whatsapp mean we all know what’s going on at the same time.

Limbo? Well, I suppose it is the question every empty-nesting parent must face. Where do you go from here? I know I am the glue that binds us all together. I know I am the homemaker providing everyone with a physical place to come home to. I know I am the emotional force in our family. The question is how to balance all that with what makes me tick. I suspect that is a question I will find answers to over the coming months on my own. I also have to start to re-embrace the UK as my home, part of me is still very attached to Hong Kong. When we moved there I decided the only way to live was to throw myself into everything it had to offer. As a family, we did the usual expat thing every summer, we got on a plane for 12 hours with copious amounts of luggage (the UK gets four seasons in one day to quote Sting), rushed round visiting as many people as we could catching up on a year’s worth of news before packing it all back up and facing the queues at LHR for the return flight home and jet lag. Knowing I’m not going back has put a different set of parameters in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that I’m near my family and I LOVE I’m going to see my UK friends so much more (although most live miles away from my house), I just miss home.

However, I do live in the most beautiful village and if you ready the gravestone, you’ll see a family who had a long expat tradition!

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Week seven : Reconnecting with the countryside

This is our third week in our house and although I’ve been just as busy as the previous two weeks, when the jobs become smaller, it’s frustrating that their impact isn’t such a visible one. It looks as if I’ve not done anything! So, instead of letting my frustration get to me, I took my daughter  off to visit our local beauty spot. We are so lucky to live on the doorstep of Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, also known as Kew in the Country.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wakehurst-place/

Camera in hand, daughter and I snapped away and soaked up the beautiful English countryside. I’m a very amateur but keen photographer, here’s the link to my Flickr set. We both loved the fact that there is a dedicated area to encouraging gardeners to plant their gardens to attract insects and birds with a view to encouraging more pollination. The issue of disappearing bees is real, not just a Dr Who episode! They have a fantastic schools programme, children must love getting out into the countryside and learning about nature in such a practical way and in such a glorious setting.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hongkongphooeydp/sets/72157635098849194/

We also did a quick visit to Cardiff where my son had been spending a week with his grandfather. The sunshine was out again so daughter and I repeated our English experience with a Welsh one and walked to Roath Park.

http://www.cardiff.gov.uk/content.asp?nav=2%2C2868%2C2965%2C2991

Here’s the link to my photos from Roath Park. Can you spot the Scott memorial lighthouse? Captain Scott set off for his Antarctic journey from Cardiff and I’ll post photos another day about him when I do a Cardiff history blog.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hongkongphooeydp/sets/72157635152342325/

I find I struggle with photography, deciding what kind of photographer I want to be. I started on a film SLR (too many moons ago to let you in on that secret) and have had a digital camera for over 20 years now. Currently I’m inseparable from my digital SLR, the mighty Nikon D7000. The difficulty isn’t how to use it (although I can always learn more) it’s more the debate between being a recorder of family occasions, a kind of visual diary keeper versus taking a really beautifully composed and visually tempting photograph. I’m so lucky to know lots of professional and amateur photographers who have all generously shared their time and talent with me so I hope to do them justice when I’m behind the lens. Maybe the question isn’t which type of photographer I am, but do I take photos that make me happy?

All I know is that when thought I’d lost my camera for ever, it was like losing a child (well, ok, so that’s a tad extreme). Now I have it back I’m a happy bunny once again.

Week six : looking back and moving forward

If you’ve been following my blog for the past six weeks, you will know that this is all about our move back to the UK after twelve brilliant years in Hong Kong. What you may not know is that we have moved back into the house we owned before leaving and it has brought back so many memories.

We bought the house when our daughter was seven months old and I was nine weeks pregnant with our son. We’d moved from Birmingham (UK) to a small village in Sussex, about three hours south so we didn’t know anyone. Hubby was joining the band of merry men commuting to London each day and I was lucky enough to be a stay at home mum. I decided the best way to make friends was to head down to the local park with small daughter and bump and see who was around. It was a great start, I made two friends immediately and, thanks to Facebook have kept in touch with them both over the years. I joined the local branch of the National Childbirth Trust with my babies, moved on to the village playgroup when they were toddlers, then nursery school (kindergarten) and finally the local primary school where our daughter completed her first year of school. They say it takes a village to raise a child and when I look back at our five years in the village, I remember the same  group of parents (mostly) doing the same thing. Four of us decided to share looking after our children once a week. We would do “two mums on, two mums off” for a few hours to give each other a break and I know it saved my sanity on more than one occasion. I’m not saying everyone in a village gets on all the time, that would be just weird, but seeing familiar faces regularly, nodding to the man you walk past each day when he walks his dog, recognising the lady behind the till at the local store, sharing a smile with a neighbour as you walk past their garden, all these things foster a sense of belonging. I was so busy raising my kids that I probably took it all for granted but it is the thing I miss most about Hong Kong. I suppose that means it’s not really Hong Kong I miss but the community, the group of people I knew, friends and acquaintances alike, they all made me feel at home. I’m going to work hard at finding that again here.

After the mass unpacking of last week, our house is looking more like a home. It’s strange being in the same building but with completely different furniture. I keep going to the the cupboard under the kitchen sink to put things in a dustbin that isn’t there anymore, talk about learned behaviour! The decor in two rooms is, well shall we just say very 90s and leave it at that. When we left the UK, it was possible to buy a TV license (compulsory in the UK, it pays for the BBC), plug in the ariel and watch four TV channels free of charge. Now I’ve had to buy a Freeview box and found over 100 channels (and there’s still nothing on). In a cupboard on the garage I found two mugs depicting the companies hubby and I used to work for, both now defunct, hope it wasn’t us……

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Twelve years ago the recycling box was small, now I have a huge wheely bin and the local authority recycles over 80% of rubbish (trash). I did get a bit cross when the bin man said he wouldn’t empty the bin last week because apparently one item was in the wrong bin. Thankfully, we came to an understanding and the bin is empty again. When I think of the little old ladies pushing trolleys of cardboard around almost 24 hours a day in Hong Kong, I do wonder. I hate that they have to do that but it keeps the streets clean and they are not punitive or petty minded!

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The weather is still mostly sunny still and warm for the UK although the breeze is fresh and my skin is so dry already but the views over the UK’s newest National Park, the Sussex Downs are beautiful and considering Hong Kong is waiting for typhoon Utor to hit, maybe I am in the right place.

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PS – The windmill above is for sale, a cool £1,000,000, just in case you’re interested.

Week five : Cuckfield

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193 boxes delivered and (mostly) unpacked

5 removal men who worked like trojans

3 trips to the tip

2 days before the house was ready to be slept in

2 supportive parents providing moral support and accommodation

2 flexible and hardworking kids dealing with the chaos

2 friends from the village offering welcome back messages

1 superhuman sister-in-law helping with unpacking and keeping a sense of humour!

1 husband moving to Johannesburg during the same week

 

Week four : Egypt

Last week the kids and I took a seven day holiday to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula prior to our move back into our old house in the UK.

It was just lovely to be properly warm again! Although the UK is experiencing a heatwave with temperatures in the high 20s (centigrade), the air is still cool which although refreshing, dries out the skin. In Egypt, the weather was hotter (35-39C) with fresher air (no Hong Kong humidity) so we basked in it.  We had fully charged Kindles and weren’t afraid to use them!

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The hotel had eight pools and we found a nice quiet one with a sea view. Let’s face it, if you are going to Egypt, why would you not look at the Red Sea?! We did a bit of swimming but mostly just stared down at the beautiful coral reef and its inhabitants.

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The food wasn’t up to much and we missed the variety but we didn’t starve.

We slept and read and caught up with each other in a way we hadn’t done since leaving Hong Kong. I think it was because there was just the three of us. We missed hubby/Dad though 😦

It was a good job we were refreshed as our return flight had a fuel leak which meant a 36 hour delay. Thankfully we were taken back to a hotel and given fully inclusive meals and drinks which just made the holiday last a bit longer than expected. All in all a good week reading some great books (old favourites and new discoveries) but glad to be back in the UK and ready for our move on 29th July.

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