Tuesday, 20 September 2011
It's no secret that I have been lucky enough to travel a reasonable amount, mainly around Europe, but also (with the exception of South America and Australia) briefly touching the other continents.That's not to say that there aren't a great many places I have yet to visit that are on my "to do" list!
I've also been lucky enough to spend extended periods of time living in other countries in my childhood and early adulthood. I'm therefore no stranger to adapting to different cultures, although to be fair they have been mainly Western European!
Whenever I go anywhere, whether for business or for pleasure, I therefore naturally find myself wondering what it would be like to live in the particular country I am visiting. In my head I've lived in the US, done the expat lifestyle in Dubai, lived the good life in France, and even returned mentally to Germany and Finland. Whilst there have never been concrete opportunities, I am sure if at any point I had really wanted to, I could probably have found a chance to push for one of those locations over the past *cough* years.
I do often wonder what has stopped me from taking the plunge. There was always an excuse or other. I guess the truth is that in a two-career household neither of us felt strongly enough about it in order to warrant the inevitable disruption to the other partner's career it would have entailed. Then there are the little excuses that creep in; Dubai is too hot (true, and very valid), the US seemed too far away at the time, France has too many smokers (although the wine may balance that out), Finland is too cold and dark for half the year, I don't think I could cope with the formality of Germany any more etc etc.
When it all comes down to it, this funny little island we live in suits me. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the UK is perfect - far from it by all means. What I am trying to say is that I guess I have finally realised it is kind of perfect for me - probably more by a process of elimination than anything else.
Of course, now that there are children to throw into the equation, and they now both at school, there are different considerations to bear in mind. There's no doubt I'd love to give my children the same experiences I had, and the ease at which they would now earn a foreign language is almost too good an opportunity to pass up. However, I also remember the stress it caused me in my own childhood - the stress of starting a new school in a whole different country when you already have a grasp of the language is reasonable is bad enough... Whilst I know, deep down, that children are adaptable, maybe I'm just not brave enough to take that chance with my own. Finally, from a purely selfish point of view I have friends and family here. I have a support network - not something to be underestimated as a working parent, after all.
It never stops you wondering though, does it...
Monday, 12 September 2011
September. Holidays over. Back to work, back to school, back to reality with a big bump. Leaves are falling off the trees, the nights are drawing in, and Hallowe'en decorations are jostling for shelf space with Christmas crackers in the supermarkets. (This last point may be a lie, I haven't actually been near a supermarket since coming back from holiday - oh, the delights of online shopping - but let's face it, this year isn't going to be any different from previous years on that front, is it?)
Holidays are funny things though, aren't they? All that pressure on a couple of weeks somewhere different and away from home... if you ask me, they should be up there in the top 10 of most stressful life events. Divorce? Break-up? Death of a close relative? Losing a job? Not half as stressful as spending 10 hours straight in a car with children and their infernal "Are we there yet" questions. Thank heavens for the advent of portable dvd players...
Once you get to your chosen destination, maybe you look forward to some time by yourselves? A little time as a couple? A little time to - dare I mention the "s" word - indulge in the activity that brought about said little darlings in the first place? There is, after all, such a thing as Holiday Horn(TM), which seems to rear it's head (pun intended) when sunny climes result in fewer items of clothing and excess sangria/red wine/babycham loosen inhibitions.
If you will allow me to give a top tip to those looking forward to holiday hanky-panky; do not spend the first few days sleeping in the next room to your mother in law. Now, for some people, being under the same roof as a parent may excite them by reminding them of their teenage fumblings. Let's just say I am not one of them, and no matter how well I may get on with my mother in law, there's something about the thought of her listening through the plasterboard that doesn't really induce lustful feelings.
Never mind, you may tell yourself - this holiday is in several parts, and only the first few days are spent in the company of relatives. Maybe you hope that the prospect of staying in a hotel later in the holiday will reinvigorate things? Think again. Holidaying with children in a hotel rarely lives up to the expectations that you might have had of Egyptian cotton, fluffy robes and room service. Instead you find yourselves in the dreaded "family room" - essentially a normal double, with an additional sofa bed squashed into one end of it. If you are very lucky (thank you, Novotel), this will fold into two separate single beds, thus avoiding the inevitable duvet fights that ensue should two children not used to sharing a bed together find themselves having to do so (thanks for nothing, Disneyland Paris).
Your children will of course have managed to grab forty winks in the car on the journey from wherever you have come, and will be rested and full of beans when you reach said hotel. Not for them therefore the early bedtime you had hoped for and that had you dreaming of the smuggled cans of beer and gin and tonic you had packed with tremendous optimism and foresight. Instead, they will join you in the hotel restaurant, demand televisual rights and generally fidget and be wide awake so much that you are forced to employ the final weapon in your arsenal.
Yes, it's time for the "but it's so late even mummy and daddy are going to bed" argument. This involves you putting on nightwear, brushing your teeth (so much for the sneaky alcoholic drink), getting into bed, extinguishing lights and feigning sleep in the vain hope that for once in their lives your children will follow your example. Of course, the inevitable happens, and you reawaken at midnight, dribbling, thirsty, and slightly disorientated by the fact you were asleep at 9pm...
So it is that after two weeks of sunshine, fun, Mickey overdose and 2000 miles of driving, you return home, tired, sexually frustrated, and in need of another holiday...