The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

With a fizz, pop and a whizz bang

I can hear the last few crackle and pops fading away. It’s been a decade since those familiar sounds signalled the start of shorter days and colder nights. Since the clocks went back an hour last weekend, there has been an unfamiliar drop in temperature outside. Oh my gosh! So much for acclimatasing gradually into a traditional northern English winter. 

I’ve gone from embracing this cooler weather to sporadically yelling ‘I’m bloody freezing!’ We’ve been going to the local park every day after school. In the early autumn days that was lovely. Sitting in the late afternoon sunshine, chatting to other parents over a coffee, only calling out home time when it was time for dinner. 

Now, now you’ll be lucky if I can manage 20 minutes of non body movement on a cold wooden bench whilst my ability to chat to other parents diminishes by the second as my face freezes up. I mean it’s possibly just me. I have seen some people still in shorts. And it is no use saying to me ‘But you’re from Newcastle!’ Do you know how many years, nay decades it has been since my proper north east of England days? I’ve just moved back from the tropics for goodness sake!

I AM FREEZING! 

And I am not the only one in this household who thinks the same. #2 was in tears last night after just two hours outdoors. Trussed up in multiple layers and a big thick winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves. I don’t know what else she can wear for when winter sets in proper. We had all been admiring the fireworks when suddenly, painful yelps could be heard from #2. Baffled as to what could have happened #2 woefully declares her fingers are not working and her toes have disappeared. 

And she was right. I couldn’t feel my toes on the walk home either. Nor was my mouth formulating the shapes to speak. But #2’s distress was too funny as you see unfurl before you the idealistic notions of playing in the snow to the reality of living in conditions for snow to happen. I’m sure in time, they will all acclimatise. Maybe I will too but until then it’s tempting to see sense in #2’s declaration that she was catching the next flight back to Singapore.

Bonfire Night. Guy Fawkes Night. Fireworks Night. It’s a brand new occasion for #1, 2 and 3. Who is this Guy Fawkes? Why do we burn him on a fire? Why was he naughty? These are quite terrifying concepts for young children. As we gloss over the story on our way to said Bonfire Night the local church are handing out free sugared doughnuts as a timely distraction. This will mark all that is good about Bonfire Night forever for #1, 2 and 3. 

Fireworks are one of my all time favourite things. The explosion of sound and colour against a clear night sky just makes me happy. In Singapore we were truly spoilt for magnificent fireworks displays. But I feel there is something more authentic just standing watching a frenzy of fizzing, popping, crackling fireworks going off in the freezing cold.  

There’s a proper massive bonfire, the likes of which I haven’t seen since I was a teenager on a beach in Sunderland. And actually a house just down the road and around the corner from ours had their own mini bonfire going on in their front garden which concerned #1 no end. He was pleased to see just the embers were smouldering when we passed it again on our way home.

The other thing I did today was boil a lot of sugar. A lot of sugar. And syrup. For cinder toffee and toffee apples. I honestly don’t know why I felt the need to make my own. I mean when cooking for small people, homecooked from scratch is usually the better, healthier option. But sugar is just sugar. I could have just bought them from the shops. 

But then again, there is something soothing to be indoors on a FREEZING cold afternoon measuring sugar and syrup with #1. And I have to say, it is not so easy to make your own toffee apples. I’m not even sure the cinder toffee is right either but #1, 2 and 3 were more than happy.

And that is enough for me. For these occasions will come to mean something to #1, 2 and 3 as we add it to the other calendar of events. Creating new traditions as we embrace this new life and add some warmth in our hearts to defrost those fingers and toes so we will brave the cold outdoors again. 

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A proper cold Halloween

“I can’t wait for Halloween”, says #1.

“It’s today!”, replies #2.

“I know”, answers back #1.

I wasn’t sure whether we’d be out Trick or Treating tonight. Not just because I’m scared of all things spooky. I even couldn’t cope with #3 randomly “woo oohing” around the house this past week in a Casper the friendly ghost fashion. 

No, it’s more to do with being without a ready made condo community on our doorstep. It’s a bit tricky figuring out what’s the norm when you’re trying to create a whole new normal for yourself. This time last year, #1, 2 and 3 had wrapped up three Halloween events already. Which looking back now seems a bit excessive for Halloween but a lot of fun. So much fun for #1, 2 and 3. 

Without the security of a ready made condo community, Trick or Treating seems to hold many people in conflict about going knocking on the doors of (mostly) strangers to basically ask them for sweets. Of course we all get where the concern comes from. So what do you do in these different times to that of our childhood. Though I’m not sure it was considered that acceptable even back then when sweets were actually a proper treat. 

So I’m of sort giving up on the idea when a very kindly teacher sends a note home with every child, inviting them to come Trick or Treating at her house. Well at least there’s one house to visit and perhaps there’ll be a few more on the way. 

As it happens, there were whole streets festooned with cobwebs and pumpkins. The scary and the sweet were out in dedicated sugar harvesting mode. Cries of all 200 bags of sweets have gone could be heard from several doorways but by then #1, 2 and 3 plus their three friends have reached sugar saturation point. It’s so dark at 6pm that you can’t see the amount of sweets that have bypassed the Halloween bag! 

And it’s funny how when Trick or Treating there are no cries of “How much further do we have to walk?”, “I’m coooold!”, “Can we go home now?”. In fact I’m the one yelling how cold it is and I’ve got three layers on! With a long cloak not just for Halloween effect but in a bid to keep extra warm! I found myself admiring and nodding in approval at those wearing full on fleecy onesies as my next year’s Halloween outfit of choice. Makes a change from sweating it out in the tropics wearing 100% polyester.

As much as #1, 2 and 3 were keen on the haul, they were equally excited about giving out the treats too but we were out ourselves during prime time. Would we get any Trick or Treaters ourselves? They enthusiatically looked up and down the street. Practically wanting to open the front door and shout out to passersby to come knock on our door. And their yells of excitement when they heard the doorbell ring and proudly held out their cauldron of treats made me very happy for them. 

So that’s our first Halloween in our new town done. All that’s left is to remind myself I still have my Halloween face on before I head off to get ready for bed and scream at myself in the bathroom mirror. 

Happy Halloween!

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Lets stay together

Ten years of marriage. It seems like such a milestone to reach and then all of a sudden it’s here. Over the years, Husband and I had talked about how we would celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. Particularly when not much celebration had gone into seemingly less significant anniversary years. When that happened, we vowed we’d make this one something special. 

Would we be able to take a few days away somewhere on our own now that #1, 2 and 3 are older. Would we be able to have a dinner with our Bridesmaids and Best Men. Would we be able to take #1, 2 and 3 back to where we got wed.

Well it turns out that none of these things are happening. I’m not even in the same time zone as Husband. I’m sat on our sofa with Strictly Come Dancing on in the background. Something I can do without Husband sat here silently rolling his eyes. Especially after I’ve had The Undateables and First Dates on earlier in the week too. Whaaat!? I’m catching up on nine years of missing out on British culture and what is shaping the great minds of tomorrow.

 I don’t want to paint a tragic figure here but last night I was listening to Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ all on my own some. It was our first wedding dance song you see. A beautiful song but very hard to shuffle to. As I was listening to the lyrics in the quiet of the night, I thought about our wedding day and how…fresh, I guess is the word I would use to describe how we were then. Perhaps like all young newlyweds. 

‘Let’s stay together, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad’

Ten years later, what have I learnt? Well that times can be good and bad, happy and sad. Mostly exhausting. A buzzing hive of activity that never stops when young children are involved. Their needs are our priority. Their calls of ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy’ reaching up from waist height often the only sounds we hear. The number of times I’ve heard from other couples celebrating a night out/weekend away as an occurrence as rare as sparkling unicorns. We love our family. We love each other too. 

Ten years have passed and we have experienced so much, far beyond what we could have imagined that day. The upheaval of moving to another country, starting a family on our own, taking on new challenges as a unit of two, figuring out the answers and finding our own way without knowing what the outcome would look like. It has certainly been an adventure. Not always plain sailing. But strong in the belief that every decision made, every action taken, is for the good of us. 

It is without doubt disappointing to be apart from Husband on our 10 year wedding anniversary. Not because I feel like I’m missing out on the spoils such celebrations bring, but because I am missing that other person, the only person, who has shared exactly the same days that I have. Except of course for these past few months since I have moved back to the UK with #1, 2 and 3. We are in the midst of good and bad, happy and sad. For how could we be truly happy without being together. One of my biggest fears about starting back on my own was ‘can I really do this?’ Can I do this on my own? 

As a trailing spouse in Singapore, dependent on Husband’s employment visa, one can become fairly invisible. Even when in Gainful Employment in my own right, I was still tied to Husband’s  status. That’s just how the bureaucracy worked out. So to suddenly do a 360 degree turn and be the driving force behind setting up a new home is daunting. When it comes down to it, we are all stronger than we believe. Especially if we have a supportive network to cheer us along the way. But the greatest pillar that I could possibly have is to know that Husband is there everyday. To listen, comfort and reassure that all is well and who is encouraging me to plan ahead for what I want to do next. 

It is quite odd to be conducting a long distance relationship at this point but we’ve done it before and having to rely on more traditional modes of communication. None of this videocalling malarky. Perhaps it comes as a timely reminder not to take anything for granted. Though we inevitably always do. Like being blase about celebrating your wedding anniversary because you think there’s one every year.  Whether you celebrate quietly or go all out, do something on your Anniversary to acknowledge to one another just how far you’ve come and what you’ve overcome, for the good of you.

Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary to us.

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And just like that

As bright as three shiny new pound coins, #1, 2 and 3 left the house, bounced down the road and around the corner, off to explore new places and be amazed by great things. 

It has been a long summer holiday for these three. A lot of change. A lot of moving around. A lot of waiting. But finally, a step towards normality. 

Filled with a good mix of nerves and excitement, #1 and 2 started their new Big School just a couple of days ago. Thrown right in at the deep end having never seen the inside of their new school before. What an adventure. And such bravery from them. For what else can be more nervewracking at that age than being the New Kid. The one that doesn’t know what is expected of them. 

  • What do I wear.
  • What’s my teacher called.
  • What do I put in my bag. (Actually this is more for me)
  • Where are the toilets.
  • What if I get scared.

Two years ago I was sending #1 and 2 off to Big School for the first time. They were fine. Two years later, I was sending them off again. They were fine. As I knew they would be. I took them to meet their new teachers, who were waiting to welcome them in class with big friendly smiles. I could feel their hesitation. A few more moments of delay. A few quiet words of nerves. ‘Mummy, I’m scared.’ I know sweetheart but you will have a brilliant day. And I will be waiting at the gates for you.

And of course they did. Brimming full of excitement and hardly believing their good fortune that for school lunch there was ice cream! Ice cream inside some kind of cake. Wow, that sounds exotic. Artic roll? 

The relief is palpable as I hear them excitedly chatter about their day. And the hug. That hug you get when they see you immediately after school. I’m so glad for the chance to get these hugs again. Those arms wrapped around you, filling you with warmth. Then it dissipates like steam and normality resumes. “I’m hungry Mummy.” “Can we go to the park? Whhhhy noooot!”

So you see, I’ve been through this before. I’ve done the whole starting school thing several times. I should be a Pro at this. I should be writing my Get Up and Go List with all three in Big School. Six hours a day of quiet time. Isn’t this what all parents have been waiting for? The countdown to the end of summer holidays and back to school. 

Yes that is quite true. When I was in Gainful   Employment, school marked a sigh of relief that their time was going to be properly occupied and I no longer had to wonder what to do with them outside of the annual leave Husband and I could take.

Equally, since giving up Gainful Employment I have enjoyed seeing their faces everyday. And not just for the last hour, half hour of the day. Some days have been looooong. Some moments of some days could be better but overall, I wouldn’t be without these days. Especially when I think about how fleeting every stage of their childhood can be.

Perhaps it’s because I know how fleeting it is, preparing #3 for Big School has been the hardest. Apparently it always is for the youngest one. Your last baby all grown up. The one you don’t mind crawling into your bed space in the middle of the night, long after the older ones slept all night in their bed. You don’t mind because you know one day it will stop, this little squidgey person snuggling up to you. And one day you want it to stop because they are taking up too much bed space. 

I always enjoyed shopping for school uniform. I think it’s because it was the only time you got so many new things at once! New clothes, new shoes, new bag and new stationery. It seems it’s just as much fun for #1, 2 and 3. (Less so on our pockets though. Three lots of uniform, school bags, PE kit, welly boots.) #2 and 3 have been wearing their new school shoes indoors for days! They are so proud to be wearing their new uniforms and they look so smart in them too.

It’s funny this whole Big School thing. Now that it’s the end of the day, I can laugh about it to myself. How this morning I could barely hug #3 closely and wish her a brilliant day before I could feel the tears threatening to fall. She had no doubt it was going to be ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. Yesterday we talked about how she felt about starting Big School, she was ready. Then she said “you’re going to cry Mummy.” Really? Why! “Because you’ll miss me.”

Ah. She got me there. 

The walk was barely long enough. The Goodbyes in the school yard all too brief. I help her place her bag on her peg and walk her into her new little world. It’s colourful, warm, fun and exciting. This is where #3 belongs. She’s waited patiently for today. For the uniform, the shoes, the friends, the learning. The learning. Constantly telling me that she doesn’t know how to read the words yet. I’m sure it won’t be long. 

I watch her through the window. Overhearing other parents talking about the Parent Syndrome. I have Parent Syndrome too. I wonder if #3 will look up and see me for one more wave. But of course she doesn’t. She’s looking around with a curious happy smile on her face in her smart new uniform and shiny shoes. Full of confidence. She’s looking happy. And then she moves out of sight and it’s time for me to move on. 

But before I do, the Teaching Assistant has already clocked another one with Parent Syndrome. She comes over and asks if  I’m ok, offering words of comfort and encouragement.  I feel even more ridiculous admitting #3 is #3 but she reassures me it’s all quite regular. 

There are days you cry out for ‘ME’ time. A quiet moment to sit down and have a hot cuppa tea uninterrupted. None of the multiple echoes of “Mummy, Mummy”, being able to get jobs done within half the time it takes with three in tow. Sort out boring admin jobs. Clean and tidy. Go out running. Have coffee. Find new cohorts. Regain Gainful Employment. Read a book. Do something new! 

Six hours seemed to pass by quite quickly before I’m back in the school yard. There’s #1 and #2. We go and collect #3 together. She’s all smiles and dishevelled curls. A sign of a brilliant day. 

Later on, we all ask her how she felt. She thinks about it. 

“I almost cried but then I was having too much fun.”
And that is why she’s ready to join in with the big kids.

 

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The end of summer

Perhaps not quite the end of summer. Who knows. There may even be an optimistic few days of balmy weather towards the end of September to send us into a frenzy after our summer/holiday/Singapore standard wardrobe has been relegated to the backs of cupboards and wardrobes. 

I have never known The Weather to feature so prominently in daily life. It’s rather exciting how utterly unpredictable it’s going to be. Rather like the temperament of #1, 2 and 3 all at once. One moment it’s cloudy and grey, the wind picks up a bit and you consider putting on another layer. No sooner have you done this then brilliant sunshine breaks through the clouds and your legs feel on fire, protesting indignantly at being covered up.

My Birthday Treat this year was an outing to York Maze complete with pig racing (put it on your bucket list) and an international corn eating competition no less. (To think a couple of years ago I spent it sipping posh BOGOF martinis at the glossy hotel bar in the Hyatt.) You can just tell the out of towners, the rookies to a British summer by the way they react to the whim of the Weather. Both Mrs Cake Pops and I were like this:

Grey clouds overhead.

She: It’s getting a bit chilly now isn’t it. I’ll go get us coffees.

Me: Ok, go get us coffees. I’m going to put my jacket on.

Sun peeps out.

She: It’s getting a bit warm now isn’t it. I’ll go get us ice creams.

Me: Ok, go get us ice creams. I’m going to take my jacket off. 

This activity is not just reserved for the Grown Ups. I have become a walking wardrobe for #1, 2 and 3. I’m expected to produce raincoats, cardigans, scarves, gloves, wooly hats at their request. And at their change of body temperature, I am equally expected to be a walking coat stand. 

If ever you relocate back to the UK, summer is the season to do so, even Spring if you can. Summer fills people full of cheery optimism and this is what you need when starting a brand new life. Winter receives unfair bad press I think. Why waste a quarter of your life complaining. But from a practical perspective, I’m glad we haven’t waited until December because the last few weeks of getting out and seeing all that is glorious about the UK has definitely softened the edges of transition. 

I’m pretty sure there will be days quite soon where the reality of the change of seasons is less romantic than I remembered. This makes it immensely important to store those days in the outdoors, it doesn’t have to even be sunny,  for the days indoors. But of course by then, I will be excellent at creating indoor entertainment.   

This last day of August marks the end of my first month back to the UK. It’s gone by fast hasn’t it. I can hardly believe it myself. I’ve been very busy looking at what’s around me. Exploring new ground, introducing #1, 2 and 3 to amazing new adventures. Mostly play grounds, parks, woodland walks. We’ve travelled several times to our soon to be new stomping ground and looked at houses and cars together. Involving them in the process of putting together their new life. It’s been a month, only a month, and if you ask them what would they like for lunch or dinner, the answer is still chicken rice. 

I have been so impressed with how much the UK outdoors is putting into getting people outdoors. Farms, parks and country houses that offer amazing days out with really fun activities and not everywhere charges an entry fee. This makes me look forward to other events in other seasons.

  

But to be fair, it hasn’t all been green fields and rolling hills. There have been clouds of confusion, blank space in my brain space, a lot of noise from #1, 2 and 3 and juggling a massive to do list in my head. 

You see, I haven’t had to do All The Stuff on my own for a long time. I’ve always had an extra pair of hands which takes the edge off  things in so many ways. Now all of a sudden and even if it’s not going to be like this forever, I am the person getting us from A to B about 90%, maybe a bit more, of the time. I think I’m getting better at it. I have to be but I’ll let you know in another post in a month’s time when we’ve got a new routine on the go. 

Humans, as #3 often likes to refer to us people, are a resilient species. We can draw immense strength when we need it but we also need to soften our hearts and let others in to help us along the way. This process of repatriation is a slow and long one. Quite frankly I am losing patience and I am weary of living out of a suitcase for six weeks with another three weeks to go. I completely understand why #1, 2 and 3 lose their rag and they have done amazingly well. They miss Husband to a heartbreaking degree and I can only provide big hugs and kisses and to wipe away their tears. They have been distracted with amazing outings and lots of fun and they have received warm welcomes from so many close to us who are very happy to see them, as we are them. But it is time they had their own space and familiar things around them. It is time to create and implement a new normal. One that welds both their Singapore and UK sides together before chicken rice is replaced by chicken nuggets forever.

The lazy days of summer are drawing to a close. August has been a wonderful welcome back. I’ve just returned from a week road trip with #1, 2 and 3 visiting family, godparents and friends. I could not say just how fabulous it has been to see the people of England who have helped us recharge for the next few weeks. 

As I turn my thoughts to the start of a new home, new school year, new school and new school system for #1, 2 and 3, here is where the real steps towards ‘settling in’ begin. I’m almost out of the waiting room and I’ve decided to start a new blog about it too documenting whether repatriation is as difficult as I’ve heard others say.

Until then, there’s still time for a last few glasses of Pimms. 

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Birthday Eve of new beginnings

Well actually new beginnings started 10 days ago. At the same time they haven’t really started at all. 

Since I arrived back in the UK with #1, 2 and 3, it has felt more or less like previous times we’ve been back on holiday but without the frenetic pace of travelling here and there trying to fit in people and places in a few short weeks. We also won’t be packing up and flying out again but we hopefully will be packing up to move into a new house of our own. 

I’ve been asked how does it feel being back in the UK after so long. In short, it feels quite surreal. I’m neither here nor there right now. Whilst I feel like we’re on holiday, I also need to think of the quite big things such as finding somewhere to live. Even getting a monthly mobile phone contract wasn’t as easy as I thought. It seems I’ve been away nine years and you can’t just pick up where you left off. 

So I guess you could say I’m in the waiting room just before starting my new life and the key is not to be impatient. As much as I would like to have a house, a car, a mobile monthly price plan and a routine, I have to wait for these things to happen. In short I want to have the regular ebb and flow of how my life used to run. This transit period feels like it is moving too slowly. And yet it’s only been 10 days since I landed. How long did it take me to get up and running when I first landed in Singapore? A lot longer than my memory cares to acknowledge.

But it is also quite amazing how quickly you adapt to your current surroundings. Perhaps it’s because I have #1, 2 and 3 to entertain that you push yourself to get out there as soon as you can. Or more to the point push them out there to avoid endless hours of bickering indoors. Everywhere we go right now, there is something new to see and who can make you see the ordinary from a different angle than from the viewpoint of small people. From supermarket aisles stacked full of good things to eat to the summer blooms in the neighbours gardens; from stairs in houses to walking past sheep and cows in fields. I get to experience all these things afresh with #1, 2 and 3. 

With more time to explore the neighbourhood where Husband grew up, we have discovered a number of places we had never been to before just a short drive  away. And whilst the first few days were unpredictable with sunshine and rain showers stopping play, when you grab hold of a good day, there is so much to appreciate and how many sights can you behold that could be better than sunshine across fields and watching small people round up the sheep. 

So far, the beginnings of this new life looks promising. I take it as a good sign that upon visiting our soon to be new home town that I feel a good sense of warmth. Yes, it is different to how life was in Singapore but there is also a new groundedness I feel will come about once we have moved there. 

And so tomorrow will be another Birthday. And as if to remind me, a few more grey hairs pinged out from nowhere. How do they do that? Just ping out of nowhere? 
This is my first Birthday celebrated in the UK for nine years. It brings Husband and I full circle to my Birthdays spent in the UK whilst he is in Singapore. (Maybe that’s the pattern for all our future moves.) I would much rather he was here than there and I take that as a good sign too.

So this Birthday Eve marks the beginning of something truly new. I’m interested to see what’s going to come in the next year. Yesterday on my run down country lanes I found a horse shoe and horse shoes they say bring good luck, so I hope it will be sprinkled with a dollop of good luck. And some for you too. 

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Thank you Singapore, you have been amazing!

Did you think I would leave Singapore on a sad note? That is not my style. I am going out with a happy face emoji like this 😊 and perhaps with a few of these thrown in too 🤗😍🤗😍😮.

I woke up from a good nights sleep 😴 at the Shangri La Rasa on Sentosa and no one could wake up unhappy ☹️ there. #1’s favourite part of any holiday is unlimited, help yourself breakfast buffet 😋. All the places we have travelled to around South East Asia have done this really well. But without thinking I went for the full English fry up instead of roti prata and soup noodles. 🙄

I’m on my way with #1, 2 and 3 to the UK🇬🇧 leaving Husband to fend for himself in Singapore 🇸🇬for a while longer. That’s the hardest part of this move😥. It would be totes different if we were all starting off this new chapter at the same time but you know, we’ll be ok. I will miss Husband and so will #1, 2 and 3 but we’ll take each day as it comes. 

Hence there’s this slight panic 😵 over suddenly parenting three on my own. Especially since we’ve had home help for the last seven years but fear not, I do know how to work the washing machine, I’ll do the ironing whilst watching Netflix and suddenly I’m all for dishwashers even though in my green marital days I told Husband we would never need a dishwasher as that’s just lazy 😒 and when we had kids they would do chores around the house like cleaning and stuff. Except I forgot to factor in that they need to weigh more than the vacuum cleaner before they are of much use 😕. Though I can already see that #3 has a clear talent for cleaning which will come in handy 🤗 and #2 is handy with some carpentry and #1 can do laundry sorting.

Among all the advice I’ve been given about parenting the regular way like the rest of the world, these are my new best friends first and foremost…. 🍷🍷🍷🍺🍺🍺🍻🍻🍻🍻🥂🥂🥂🍸🍸🍸🍹🍹🍹🥃🥃🥃. And in the UK these new friends cost way less than Singapore. Bonus. 🤗.

But that aside, I’m packed up 🎒 and ready to start this next new adventure of our own. Thank you for all your kind words of friendship and support these past few weeks. I’m so grateful for friends who have had #1, 2 and 3 over for all day, and I do mean all day, play dates, when the packers were around. Thank you for making the time to fit in last minute catch ups and dinners. Even at the very last hour for one more glass of bubbles.

Of course there’s a part of me that’s still sad 😫. Like not being in the same time zone as Brilliant New Adventure and having to wait hours for a reply to my photo and ‘what do you think of these?’ messages. But I’m so very glad that nine years ago, fate would put us both together again. ❤️.

Besides some of the more obvious life changing experiences involving travel, parenthood and Gainful Employment in a new country, the biggest and most significant experience I’ve encountered is the network of inspiring women I’ve met. 💪. Having reached that 40 PLUS milestone and starting afresh in your 40s, it could seem a bit daunting. Note I say could. But I’m totally nonplussed about that. I’ve been surrounded by strong, independent women all these years who do nothing but support each other in everyday things, sporting achievements and Gainful Employment advancement to have learnt a thing or two about communication and camaraderie. 👏.
For the past nine years I have had the support of many amazing women to get through all these new challenges. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without you. I will miss your sound advice and good shoes 👠. But I know you’re just one whatsapp away.

Even though I have mentioned on other social media platforms that Twin One has a certain knack of encouraging my running 🏃🏼‍♀️prowess, I would not push myself as far without her watchful eye 👀. I’m pretty sure she’ll continue doing so when I’m over there too. And so she should. 👍. But covering four running routes in this last week whilst residing at Windsor Castle has taken a toll on my knees but filled my heart. 


  
There’s still a lot I’ve not done in Singapore and I keeping hearing of new hidden gems all the time like Mrs Imperturbable’s love of torch ginger and foraging for fresh herbs at Fort Canning.  As I sat there on a sun lounger watching #1, 2 and 3 charge around the poolside, I couldn’t help but feel thankful for all the amazing experiences I’ve had. The opportunity to travel to places I would never imagine I’d make it to and still more that I didn’t get to but feel I must some day.

At this juncture, I have new opportunities ahead and I have additional experiences, expectations and understanding to add to it. That’s quite something to keep in mind. 
Yes, I’ll miss Singapore and Asia. I’ll miss being in a culture that is also partly my own but now I know far better how to integrate that part into the lives of #1, 2 and 3. Lion dancing around the living room. Lantern walking in the garden. Earl grey chiffon cake for afternoon tea 🎂☕️.

This Singapore sojourn has been an amazing experience for Husband and I but it’s time for a new chapter. And almost like fate is guiding us towards it, just as I’m walking into the breakfast room this morning I happen to bump into an old friend who made the move to the UK just two and a half years ago. Hearing first hand of how it has been for their family has been so good to hear and we are already looking forward to catching up in the UK.

And don’t think I’m not thinking about all you people in the UK who I can’t wait to see! I just need to find a car 🚙 and house🏘 to live in before I’ll be making our first British summer road trip. 

And you know what? I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings. 🤗😊

Thank you Singapore. I’ll miss all that is good about you. I’ll miss all these faces and so many more. Let me hug you all again right now. 🤗😘

But for now it is time to say Hello again UK! See you tomorrow 😍.

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Out with a bang

It’s my last sleep as a resident of Singapore. 

That is unless I get in an afternoon nap tomorrow which I hope is highly likely. I have no doubt we will be back to visit every now and then and marvel at what has changed and what remains the same.  There is much to love about Singapore. The weather is one where most people rave about what seems like an endless summer. Most days I’ve just felt hot and sweaty or even more hot and sweaty but I am definitely sure on a long, dark winter day I will look at photos of blues skies over Marina Bay Sands and wonder whether I will ever feel so hot and sweaty again. Perhaps I will even kid myself that I actually liked the hot and sweatiness and never lived in a semi permanent state of heat rage. 

Like most things you’re about to let go of, you suddenly feel reluctant to do so. A feeling that kept arising as I was trying to clear stuff out last weekend. On one hand, I never wore that blue top. But on the other hand, it’s a perfectly good top and I definitely could wear it again at some point maybes. Luckily Brilliant New Adventure happened to be right next to me, no doubt itching to grab a bin bag and declutter in a more efficient manner, she immediately picked up said offending garment and placed it in the see-no-more-forever pile. Which I then may or may not have retrieved from the bin bag. I honestly can’t remember.

In fact, this whole process has gone by in a sleepless blur. I haven’t slept more than 6 hours for quite a number of days. Some days I’ve been down to just three. I could close my eyes and fall fast asleep right now but sleep can wait a few days more. It seems having put into motion such a life changing big decision, I have the lost the ability to make simple everyday ones. Like what to eat when meeting friends for lunch and dinner. Often resorting on the goodwill of others to take pity and decide for me. Things must be pretty dire because when it comes to food, that never happens. I will eat what I want to eat and have some of yours too. When I’ve been asked what will I miss most about Singapore, one of the top three has to be the food. From $4 hawker centre fayre to amazing fine dining experiences at Michelin starred restaurants. Singapore – you have spoilt my tastebuds forever. Though I have to say that kidney beans and sweet corn should not be classified dessert components. Yet I was looking at #1, 2 and 3 tuck into an ice kachang this afternoon and they seem to find the combination very much a regular thing. 

And that’s the thing as #2 clearly demonstrated earlier this week. She identifies herself as being Singaporean, she knows Husband and I are not and therefore are the reasons why we have to move away from Singapore. The logic is quite simple in her mind. Singapore is our home. It’s been home for as long as #1, 2 and 3 have been around. So where are we moving to? It certainly can’t be home as home is here. It was an interesting observation made to me some six or seven years ago when I was still fairly new to the whole living away from home thing. I naturally missed the UK very much and spending time with valued friends always made it difficult to leave. But like with most things, something changes over time very subtly that you don’t even notice you think less about being over there and much more about being here.

So now it’s time to head back over there. Be positive for me and don’t tell me you’d rather be here instead of over there. That’s not very helpful when one is trying to imagine a whole new life someplace else. But actually I can’t even imagine what that whole new life will look like. I don’t have feelings of great euphoria but I’m also not being dragged out of Singapore against my will. I know that if we had decided to stay, a whole host of things would pop up that would make me feel less than content. But as with any occasion of letting go of something, there’s that slight panic of wanting to stick with something familiar, predictable even if it’s just not quite right it seems better than the unknown. But we are more brave souls than that aren’t we.

I know a new life is exciting and I am more than equipped to put into motion building a new life for ourselves. The possibilities of creating new memories for everyone makes me want to get on with it right now. Or tomorrow even. I can see small bubbles of new memories just ready and waiting to be collected. Things like Christmas in cold weather. The change of seasons. Walks up mountains and down valleys. These are the good things that will counterbalance the not so good things. The important lesson to remember is to keep moving forward and whilst you may mourn the loss of your old life, you should make the most of the present. 

In saying that, I’ve found myself organising gatherings and outings that has focussed on visiting familiar faces and places. The nostalgia is clearly all my own. For when #1, 2 and 3 have had play dates with old friends we haven’t seen so much of lately, they get right back into things without missing a heartbeat. And you wonder why you didn’t make more effort to see each more often especially when the children get on so well together. Easy to say outside of all school or Gainful Employment related activities. But it is still good to know and I wonder whether #1 and 2 will remember any of this time together. And I wonder how will we keep these many relationships going. This network of international buddies all over the globe. These kids are really lucky to be aware of the wider world at such a young age and to have friends in many interesting and wonderful countries to visit. I do intend on visiting many people when we’re back in the UK and hope that we will be just as comfortable with each other.  

Even though I have been on the farewell trail for some time, it still doesn’t quite feel real. I think I’m actually too tired to let the emotions hit me properly. It will probably happen some time next week when I’ve had more sleep. Or perhaps you and I over here are pretty good friends as it is and whilst things may be different, we will always be friends. I hope so. As I think back over the last five weeks of the farewell trail, I have seen so many of you for BBQs, coffee, lunch, dinner and running. The people who have been a part of our lives these past nine years at different stages. People who have provided good company, wise counsel and booze. People who #1, 2 and 3 adore. Whose children I have watched grow up. I know I will remain in contact with many of you and I know there are some people I may never see again. Two people said that to me as we hugged Farewell and that really unsettled me. There are of course, hundreds of people I’ve met and never seen again from days gone by. But when it’s said out loud, it can make you feel quite odd and sad to realise the high chances of it happening.

I had a list of Things To Do Before Leaving Singapore. The usual tourist hotspots but what #1 and 2 cared most about was seeing friends. Isn’t that lovely? And every spare moment has been spent catching up with old friends and yet still I didn’t get around to seeing all of you. So you’ll just have to stay on in Singapore until my next visit. And I wonder who will still be here in a year or two posting photos and check ins at places I once went to. 

Repatriation they say is harder than moving to a new country. But I guess it’s all about perspective. I have many new things to learn before I’ll even get our new family life going. It will definitely be different and hard but it is also different and hard over here too.  What makes it all worth while are the people you meet and I have met some wonderful people.

 

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A life packed up and ready to go

I guess one who is more organised than I am will not have forgone sleep these past few weeks getting sorted out having known for a few months in advance there’s an international move ahead. It would have been more prudent to slowly shed stuff gradually instead of in the way one crams for an exam the night before. But this is also a good example of how one works well under pressure too.

As I sit here writing to you in the corner of our spare room, I am watching a team of five efficiently at work moving the bits and pieces of our lives to be neatly stacked into the back of a van as if setting up for a giant game of Jenga without any of the pieces falling down.

It has been at times an overwhelming experience sorting through what to keep and what not to keep. What is important and what is not needed as a memory, a momento of a special event. Some of the things that I’ve kept, you may not even recall giving to me, some pieces you definitely will. 

It seems a purge every now and then is good for the soul. What seemed essential in that moment, suddenly holds less meaning later on as it’s replaced with something bigger. I don’t like to throw things out after a single use but isn’t it more wasteful having things sitting there idly. In sorting out what comes and what goes, I’m still reluctant to throw without thinking and prefer everything to go to homes where its use will be appreciated. I’ve tried to sell a few things and the bit of money I’ve made has been handy but sometimes it’s like a full time job. What has given me satisfaction is how others are pleased to receive said items who have more skill or time to do something with them. As I undertook this cleansing of things, it did make one feel lighter but also made me want to make much better use of the things I’ve kept. 

Taking a good look at all of our things threw up some lovely surprises such as photos I came across. There were also many amnesiac moments of how did that get there! Mostly though there was a feeling of letting go and moving on. Letting go of a stage in our lives that has long past. These children of mine are no longer babies, toddlers or preschoolers. It’s time to embrace the next stage. Some of you may be thrilled that you yourself have reached this stage. I am too but there is a part of me that laments how fleeting it all now seems. Letting go of things naturally doesn’t mean you lose the memories but things can trigger a memory and it’s a warm feeling to remember that moment.

Singapore is where we began our family life. Where we got through the crazy, new parenting days with the help of so many amazing friends who guided us and supported us and left an indelible mark. Most have already left Singapore years ago and it will be easier to catch up with them when we are back over in the UK. I guess what is heavy on my mind though is all these familiar places and sights that have shaped the life we have with #1, 2 and 3. 

Nearly every day we pass the hospital where they were born, the condos we’ve lived at, the water fountains they ran around in for free entertainment. All these places in a 15 kilometre radius. We may be halfway  around the globe but the space we carry out our daily lives is actually quite small. But it is so familiar. For me and #1, 2 and 3. And ironically this is one of the reasons why we are ready for the move. To experience something bigger. To travel around the UK, Europe, US. Asia is beautiful and many kinds of wonderful but there is much more out there that I want to see and do.

There is just the middle bit to get through. The disruption period.

The date on the calendar marking the packers arrival means there is no turning back. This move is happening and it’s for real this time. You can be as prepared as you like for them to wrap up all your belongings ready for a new start but in your heart it’s the last vestige of letting go of this life and getting ready for the beginning of a new one. 

Letting go of a familiar routine, even one that you may have tired of, is not often easy. Procrastinating is far easier. I’m ready for a change. It’s easy enough to say but change is a process that needs working through. Whether it’s about relationships, an image overhaul or career focus.  It happens over time with many different building blocks coming together to create a new picture. Like one of those digital advertising panels that flips over a square at a time. 

We can be impatient for change and other times we want to delay it just a while longer because we know that change brings about uncertainty. It takes us out of our comfort zone. It requires reinvention to a degree and it means putting yourself out there again. I have just found my network of familiars who accept my thoughts as they come and now I’m going to have to find some more all over again. Lucky unknown you.

As I buzzed up the packers, the feeling of being overwhelmed was, well, overwhelming. They are here not just to pack up my things. They are here to signify the end of an era. Living in such a transient city as Singapore this is not unusual. It’s what expat living is all about. It’s a merrygoround of people coming and going and over the years I seem to have gotten used to that too.

But you know, it’s almost like the packers know this time can be fraught. I have done three local moves where it has been a frenzy of activity and movement. They swarm in and everything disappears. I was concerned it would be like that this time and how little control just watching from the sidelines would make me feel at a time where there are many unknown variables left to figure. But it’s been very calm and I feel so much better. Still in need of sleep though.

And so here we are. Everything is loaded and ready to go. Am I ready to go?

I need to take in a deep breathe and release the tension and stress of the last few weeks. All the wrapping up of school for #1, 2 and 3. The final catch ups and play dates. The gearing up for something new that may not start off wonderfully but we will get there. 

The same as how we got to here starting a new life from the beginning in Singapore. I’m a little bit teary. A little bit sad and nostalgic. But I’m grateful for this experience and opportunities I’ve had to travel and meet so many people from different cultures and be educated on a wider world that has opened my mind and heart. 

But yes. I do think I’m ready to go. My stuff is moving and I need to go with it. 

Thank you to Classic Moving Services for a professional and reassuring team led by Mr Sam who came amidst chaos and calmly sorted it all out with a cheerful smile. 

 

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The Big Move is underway

Like with any momentous occasion, one minute you think you’ve got months until it’s happening and then suddenly…BUMPF. It’s happening in a matter of days. DAYS!

This time next week, our wordly possessions reflecting our time in Singapore, a family life built up over nine years, will be packed up nice and neat to make its way to the UK. 

I’ve often marvelled at how you can live out of a suitcase or three for seven weeks and be totally fine. And then I’ll think about all my stuff at home and wonder why I have it if I can live out of  suitcase or three for seven weeks and be totally fine. So then I get to thinking that one really doesn’t need such a lot of stuff and therefore wouldn’t it be more satisfying to declutter it all away. But then I get back home and you feel all warm amd fuzzy among all your own things and sort of forget about it all.

Which is all fine and well until you get to the point where I am today and really must be much more hardened to the art of decluttering. Quite simply, I am not good at it. I never will be. A big part of my make up is sentimentality and that is not good for decluttering. It will only work if I am in a rage. Rageful decluttering is what works for me.  By which I mean, if I am feeling particularly perturbed by something, I will go and clean. It’s therapeutic and then I will declutter to bring some form of order and control to compensate for the other area that I have no control over.

But this decluttering before an international move is not very therapeutic at all. In fact, it sets your mind and heart galloping.  Why can’t they just move everything from here to there exactly as everything is? Well, I did think about that but there’s stuff I probably won’t need over there. Like all the tupperware containers. Every food item that has been brought back from the shops has lived a second life in a Lock and Lock box. You can’t just put a bag of sugar in the cupboard. Not unless you want a trail of ants all over your kitchen. Ants. Ants everywhere. You know how there’s a national statistic about the number of spiders the average person swallows a year, well I reckon I’ve probably clocked up thousands of ants over the years. 

There’s also the matter of sentimentality to contend with as I mentioned earlier. Leftover from failed attempts at decluttering last time we moved, I came across not one but two boxes of clothing that #1, 2 and 3 outgrew before they’d even reached their first birthday. I have to admit, I was quite confused. I thought I’d cleared out all the baby gear years ago. Especially after categorically deciding there will not be a #4. But perhaps because of that I have found it hard to let go of some items. Little hats and favourite tops to remind myself of how wee they once were. But then as I peered into this box of important forgotten items, it looks like I’d started the clearing out process and then just gave up on it with the promise that I’d get around to it some day.

Clearly those books about decluttering  not just your wardrobe/home/life/friends know a thing or two about it. Even the bloke who came round to do the relocation quote said that people tend to have the same amount of stuff to ship at the end as they do at the start. That’s reassuring.

And once you start the process, which should never be done in two or three weeks  but taken on as a lifestyle change, you end up making your home look more like a flea market with no hidden gems for sale.

And never do this with any small people present. I am quite convinced the packing things  into small plastic bags is a genetic disposition. Because it’s definitely a character trait that #3 shares with my Dad, Mr Li. There is something about my Dad, Mr Li and a number of other relatives who will never help us rid this world of plastic with the way they accrue a plastic bag wrapped bundle of specialness. If the thing is so precious, you’ve just gone and made it less special embedding it in plastic bags ‘to keep it safe’ apparently. 

It is no one’s fault but my own that failed attempts to declutter have been set up and aborted. The hours of labour that have gone into secreting piles of toys that haven’t been touched in months are quickly undone because one simply did not continue the process with immediate expulsion from the home. Instead before long, you’ll find said secreted items back where they once were. Do this a few more times and #3 has your number. She will now ask to inspect the recycling before waving permission to proceed exiting the home.   

 To be honest, I feel like I’ve done ok with the decluttering, regifting and general acknowledgement that there are some projects/skills/hobbies I just  won’t get around to fulfilling and that one should shed these ambitions (but I will learn how to use my sewing machine in England!) and feel more free. However on the other hand, I like learning new skills as it keeps your mind fresh and your hands busy and isn’t it just so satisfying to create something from nothing. Well not exactly nothing judging from my crafting supplies. 

And there are some wonderful surprises to be found in the backs of cupboards and dusty boxes. Photos that I hadn’t seen in years. Handwritten notes that are so rare in a time of e-everything. I came across an old notebook and barely recognised my own handwriting which now resembles an uneven scrawl which made me think that I really ought to reintroduce writing with ink that is more substantial than the weekly grocery list. And then suddenly in #3s wardrobe I come across two bottles of champagne that need to be drunk the next two weeks. Bonus!  

Perhaps sorting through stuff is one way of keeping my mind occupied during this big transition. I am so busy sifting and organising that I can’t linger too long on the real changes  ahead. I find it’s when I’m driving along familiar roads that I get an overwhelming feeling of realisation that in two weeks, all that is familiar will be in the past. Including the home that we live in now, the routine we have, the school system, the food that we eat, the places that we’ll go to, the people we see and the cultural norms. Like the men just lying in the back of a pick up truck along the PIE with no care for road safety rules. Sights that used to shock us but no longer do. As I drive myself here and there, in control of that moment, I feel a prickle of tears behind my eyes as I consider the changes ahead and how I will miss Singapore. Until I suddenly have to switch lanes because of unexpected tree pruning causing lane closure which was indicated by the traffic cones about 10 metres ahead of time.

Change is ahead. It is exciting but scary too. I want it to be amazing but amazing takes time to get there. And even with amazing there is going to be the less than amazing to deal with. 

Today I figured we all needed a moment to get away from the Big Move. It’s happening soon enough and if I don’t get to clear out that box of secret hidden treasures then I’ll just have it as a surprise in our new place. 

I, alongside #1, 2 and 3 needed an afternoon off. Just to be with each other and have some fun and not have them watch me dismantle all that is familiar for them and get all shouty because they’re just as curious to  see what’s lurking behind those cupboard doors and adding to the chaos.

I can be honest with you and say that this moment in time is stressful as I try and juggle packing up with saying farewells and start moving towards our new life. For me, this is not just another country move. Singapore holds some very strong memories and associations of key life events. Even though I can picture new memories forming when we’re back in the UK,  I guess emotions are running high and they will pass but it’s hard to leave somewhere that holds a part of your heart and your children’s identity behind. 

But I also discovered there is very little that some Minions dancing to Happy cannot cure. 

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