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

The world according to #1 – Eggs and Farts

We are a household with small people aged six, four and two.

What do they find absolutely hilarious? All manner of natural bodily functions. The Booming Fart. The Belch. The Long Drawn Out Squeaky Fart. The Belch on Demand. The louder the better.

Have I ever mentioned #2 and 3 are Champions at belching on demand. This is not something I have specifically imparted on them. They are, if I may sing the praises of my own children, geniuses in the field. Though we have not yet entered them into any Belching on Demand tournaments, I’m pretty confident they would get a podium place.

#2 has been belching on demand since she was just over two years old and must have been secretly training up #3 who has been able to do since she was 20 months old. So confident and comfortable are they with this talent that they like to showcase it at every inopportune moment.

Just when members of the public are looking on approvingly in a rare moment of peace and tranquility amongst the five of us, out of nowhere there’s an ‘Eeugh’ followed by an ‘Aeuch’ followed by a mini series combo hit of the two. If there’s anything that makes people be at a loss for words, it’s when there’s belching in their general direction.

What can you possibly say? Good work dear, you just need to project with greater force from your diaphragm. Open up the airways a bit more. Yep, that achieves a deeper resonation. Well done.

Actually I don’t say anything. But it does make me laugh. And that is encouragement enough.

Perhaps if I hadn’t laughed and told them it’s rude to do so then perhaps we could have avoided the scene at Sister in Law’s wedding last November. During the serious exchange of vows moment, #3 in all her flower girl finery decides to bring forward the wedding reception entertainment by launching into a round of impromptu Belching on Demand. Quickly supported by her sister. Well done #2 and 3.

So this is just to give you an idea of the sort of future world movers and shakers we are raising.

But all is not lost when I consider the logic of #1. #1 is not a fan of the boiled egg. The boiled egg as a breakfast item has been relegated to Sunday mornings when #1 is off playing rugby. Sunday morning breakfast in his absence is the domain of the boiled egg and toast soldiers. Whether real or imagined, in the presence of the boiled egg, #1 displays behaviour of severe dry retching.

This is in itself is not an example of behaviour peculiar to #1. The aroma of the boiled egg is often related to the Silent but Deadly Fart. An emission of gaseous fumes that directly links to an outpouring of rage from those people in close vicinity.

And so it happened that during the familiar and calming bedtime ritual of reading stories together before they all fall into an angelic slumber. #2, full of rage, ‘Who has just done a smelly fart? Who? Who did it? I feel sick. I really feel sick. My face is melting. It’s disgusting. Yeeeeeuuuugghh’.

To which #1 rather reasonably replies, ‘But you should love the smell of farts. Eggs smell like farts. And you love eggs. So you must love the smell of farts’.

Indeed.

 

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Sleep……..that precious commodity most wasted

Yes I know that sleep, or lack of, is very topical amongst people with small children. It’s talked about right from pregnancy, to the sleepless nights of having a new born and from there on afterwards until new born is a teenager and how they then sleep all day and all night. How then we shall laugh and seek revenge and wake them up at 6am. But that’s not going to work. They’ll just ignore us and carry on sleeping. They’re not fine tuned to wake up at every snuffle or non snuffle to check why they’re not snufffling like all parents of small people are programmed to do.    

The reason why I’m talking about this right now is because at 10pm I have a lurker to the left of me. I know she’s there, she knows I know that she’s there. This has been going on for the last five nights.  

 It just started out of nowhere. One minute #3 is enjoying a daily two hour nap after the exertion of Part One of her day, waking up refreshed for Part Two and then going to bed after bath time, milk, story time, getting into sleeping bag, put her in cot, kiss Goodnight twice and walk off for Happy Hour. Though actually Happy Hour starts after #1 and 2 are in bed which is often trickier after delaying tactics such as ‘Just one more story please Mummy’, ‘I need a wee’, ‘I need a poo’, ‘I’m thirsty’, ‘Turn the lamp off’, ‘Turn the lamp on’ and so on.
I don’t know why I’m surprised when I’ve been through this twice before.  

Yes, the newborn days and early months are blackholes of sleep deprived nights and bleary incoherent days. But they pass sooner than you think. You have a surprisingly large amount of Grown Up time in the evenings again. You pride yourself on having one of those babies who ‘self soothe’ as the Generic Parenting Guides term it. Who don’t need hours of patting or rocking to sleep. Who go to bed and you can guarantee they won’t wake you up until the morning light arrives.  

Some people say they have good sleepers and some say they don’t. Either way, this day will come to all parents when they have a lurker hanging around silently in the hallway or just outside the living room door. When you thought they were safely tucked up in bed fast asleep after years of following a stable and comforting bedtime routine as prescribed by the Generic Parenting Guides.  

What they do not tell you is that this is by no means going to last forever. No. It doesn’t. One day, all of a sudden, they let you think they’re going to bed like normal. You in your naivety go off and enjoy your two hours of ME time, Happy Hour, watch crap tv and all other kinds of time wasting activity that you are free to do.  

Until you feel a presence. Like a Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker parental intuition thing.  

So I suspect it’s one of the three lurking around. Usually #1 and 2 are more blatant and vocal about their lurking but #3 is rather a rookie at this. I go off tentatively in search of the out of bed activist and sure enough #3 is just stood there looking very cute and innocent in her pyjamas. I take her back to bed and she complies willingly. But it’s too late. She has figured out that one can get out of bed before the morning light arrives.  

We continue this dance for two and a half hours. There is no longer any ME time, Happy Hour, watch crap tv and all other kinds of time wasting activity that you are free to do. I miss it already. 


 
 




Emboldened by Night One of lurking activity and no admonishment from Husband or myself (because we misguidedly thought it was a one off), the lurking continues into Night Two. And I know it’s happening and yet as I go and investigate the rustling and snuffling going on in the hallway, I still manage to yelp in alarm at finding a small child lurking in the semi dark. She then starts crying out in fright, quite naturally as you would if your own Mum screams at the sight of you.  

By Night Three, #3 has advanced in her nocturnal wanderings and with ninja stealth traverses from her room to ours and uses this opportunity of no watchful eyes to do as she pleases. She then just casually walks into the living room with almost full make up on and asks us ‘What are you doing Mummy?’.  

What am I doing? What are you doing? It’s 9.50pm and you’re wearing lipstick #3! Then she decides she needs to poo. And this always flummoxes me. How any of #1, 2 and 3 can just do a poo in the middle of the night if they’re awake and yet won’t have the need to do so if they’re asleep like they ought to be. I just don’t get it. I really don’t. 

So this is how my evenings have rolled this week. It is exhausting. You can get through the days adhering to the needs and demands of small people so long as you get a couple of hours to recharge and do all sorts of rubbish stuff. I need that time. Like we all do. To retreat into a cave and be by myself for a short while. 



So it gets to 11pm and #3 is finally asleep. She’s sleeping in our bed which most likely will be frowned upon by the authors of the Generic Parenting Guides but I don’t care. She’s asleep. And I am drinking beer, eating the Easter egg haul still remaining and working my way through a jumbo bag of crisps. My Dad, Mr Li always said I could only have one bag of crisps a day but he didn’t specify what size. 

 
 




Just a few days of this has really thrown me off kilter. Last night, I truly was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open at 10.30pm. I should have gone to bed. I know that. 



Except I’m not very good at that. I’m very much a night owl from my early years development training in late nights whilst waiting for family to finish work in the restaurants and takeaways they worked in. And I imagine like most parents of small people, you just can’t go to bed an hour or so after your small people have. So I tend to stay up later than I should.  
 

Sometimes my sleep deprived status is from my own doing. You know, when you just feel like rebelling a little and being a bit daring and staying up that hour or two later. Consider the consequences tomorrow. And tomorrow sometimes can be rather painful as a result. It’s worthwhile if you’ve spent this time not sleeping wisely, like hanging out with friends and drinking beer on a school night. That is rather risque. But what if you just spent it doing crap stuff? Was that worth it?  

We all need good quality sleep. It’s very easy to obtain and it’s free. People say Youth is wasted on the Young but actually it’s sleep. You just don’t know how good you have it being able to sleep whenever you like and sleep in whenever you like. Like what Students do. It’s rather cruel to give Students the gift of sleep with no one badgering them to get up and not waste the day like what parents do. Then to suddenly never be able to regain this level of sleep freedom again. I mourn the loss of those days. 



I didn’t gain enough sleep credit in those days to offset the sleep deficit I’m currently in. My sleep poker face is obviously rubbish as #1, 2 and 3 have won all my sleep poker chips.




And yet, I am not helpng myself am I? #3 is finally asleep, after with further Ninja stealth having raided my jewellery box and putting on my bracelets. Instead of sleeping, or at best being in bed, I’m writing this to tell you how and why I’m not getting any sleep.  

Same like how last night, I really wanted to sleep. I was so tired my eyes were closing and my brain couldn’t function. The sensible part said ‘Go to bed! You’re tired!’. Like what I am always saying to #1, 2 and 3. And yet I wasted more than half an hour lying on my bed fully clothed telling myself I need to get ready for bed. What is wrong with me? 

So what’s the solution to regaining my evenings and doing crap stuff for a reasonable amount of time to then give myself permission to go to bed? 



Well, it’s sad when it happens but #3 needs to drop that nap. We all grow accustomed to that break in the day when you can sit down for an hour or so day time quiet time. It is a luxury as precious as sleep even.  But alas it must be traded in for those evening hours back again.


 

 




And it’s not pretty. Oh no. An attempt to keep #3 awake all day only succeeded in creating an irrational bundle of fury that fell asleep in the car at 5pm. Putting us right back to Night One. 

But like with all things, this stage will pass and I will soon regain my evenings to waste on doing crap things and not going to bed whilst #1, 2 and 3 sleep soundly until the arrival of the morning light. 

On that note, it’s really time for Goodnight.

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The new Sporting Sunday

Sundays are meant to be a day of rest. 

Or if not a day of rest, Sundays are meant to be a day of doing something constructive because you wasted Saturday in a state of Hangover Hell. 

There was a time Sporting Sunday meant watching the football in your local pub with a couple of pints of beer. Or sat in Highgate Woods watching the local cricket teams play in the distance with a couple of cans of beer. Sometimes it could be a long leisurely run followed by a light afternoon of rewarding beer.  

Sundays are no longer a day of rest since the arrival of #1, 2 and 3. You will already know this if you are the parents of small people. You will already know this if you know anyone who are the parents of small people and they have stayed with you/you have stayed with them. 

So it appears we are so used to Sundays no longer being a day of rest that we are actively seeking out activites to ensure no long leisurely lie ins even if they were available. I know! What exactly are we thinking?

Since January 2014, #1 has been ‘playing rugby’ every Sunday morning with his team the Titans. 

I say he’s been ‘playing rugby’ in loose terms because he’s still getting to grips with it all. It took some time for him to get into it and enjoy heading off on a Sunday morning for an hour and a half of training. He’s now so into it that it’s the only morning he doesn’t drag his heels in getting out of the door. If we don’t tell him in advance that he’s not going to rugby training, it really ruins his day. Like the mornings (though rare) when Husband is too hungover to face directing a bunch of 5/6 year olds to run with the ball in the right direction.  

I’ve only been to watch #1’s team play rugby on a handful of occasions but my favourite part by far is watching a really keen small person having grabbed hold of the ball and running full pelt with it in any direction they choose. With complete disregard to their Coach shouting at them ‘You’re going the wrong way, you’re going the wrong way!’ This never fails to crack me up. There is nothing that a small person enjoys doing more than eating ice cream than just running in open space. A small person running in full flight is a joy to behold. Except when they’re doing it around the living room. 

For the last two days, Husband and #1 have been up and out of the house by 7.15am for a rugby tournament. At this stage, I think it’s still more about the taking part and joining in rather than the intent of competing. Though I can see a competitive streak beginning to take hold in #1 as he gets older. There was a time during training where they would play a knock out game and #1 and his best mate Master Cake Pops would be first or second out. This never bothered them because the sooner they were out, the earlier they could get themselves an ice pop from the cool box. Priorities.    

Usually on a Sunday whilst Husband and #1 are out at rugby, it is Boiled Egg Sunday with #2 and 3. I know! We know how to rock a Sunday. This is because the smell of boiled eggs makes #1 vomit in his mouth. 

But this morning, #2 and 3 were taking part in their own debut sporting event – The Cold Storage Kids Run 2015! An 800m route around Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. They have been so excited all week about taking part in this event. Mostly enamoured with the idea of getting a medal and quite rightly so. I always need to know if there’s a medal involved when partaking in an event. I’m not so bothered about the t shirt as they are usually rubbish and totally oversized. Though not so much in Singapore where you actually get a proper sporting top.  

They’ve all heard me say that I’m just off on a run and they’ve seen me come back all hot, sweaty and smelly. They’ve seen my medals from recent running events and they like to pretend they’re running too with a lap around the coffee table. But I seriously think today’s run really made them wonder what all the fuss was about! A known fact some of you are strongly familiar with.  

It was very unclear to #2 that the run had started and very unclear that the run had finished. #3 made a rookie error and started off too strong and hit the wall 50 meters in and demanded to be carried. Then she’d recover and optimistically take off at speed, only to hit the wall again. This was more or less her running style for the whole 800m. #2 took a slow and steady approach with sweat dripping off her profusely about 100m in that didn’t stop for a good couple of hours. 800m may not seem any distance but to small people it is a very long distance and it is even longer if you have to carry one of them for half that way.  

I could see the look on #2’s face after we crossed the Finish Line that she had no idea what had just gone on. There was no fanfare or flag waving, just me saying how great they had done. I’m not sure she’s going to be so enthusiastic for the next run that comes along! But the sense of pride for them and for me, when presented with their Finishers Medal was a very proud moment.  

Today has been a real Sporting Sunday for #1, 2 and 3. It was quite a haul of medals for their (and ours) hard work in the sun, giving up the potential of long leisurely lie in and seeing as it is Sporting Sunday, Husband and I are now rewarding ourselves with Sporting Sunday beer. Even though for the most part, Husband and I haven’t been doing most of the sporting activity, it is exhausting!  

Sunday is definitely no longer a day of rest but looking at the way #1, 2 and 3 are cherishing their hard earned medals (half earned for #3), I’m ok with that. 

Well done #1, 2 and 3!

  
  
  

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The ‘do nothing’ holiday 

Even though we live in tropical Singapore with tropical temperatures nearly all year round, it’s not quite the same as being on holiday. We do have the luxury of a swimming pool downstairs but you just wouldn’t spend all weekend in your swimming togs bagsying your sun lounger with a towel before you’ve even had breakfast.  

Though I know one day when I am no longer in the tropics and I am looking out of my window onto the umpteenth consecutive grey, rainy, dull day, I will be wondering why I didn’t spend more time lounging by the pool when it was just right there.  

But even life in the tropics is governed by the social diaries of small people, chores and general weekend time has disappeared into a blackhole again. So you still need to get away every now and then to have a real holiday experience and exhibit holiday behaviour.  

What is holiday behaviour? The need to eat three course breakfasts when usually two slices of toast will sustain you, the marvelling of seeing a Boots, Tesco’s and now WH Smiths outside of the UK and popping in just to check what they sell. I know full well what they sell! The sudden and incomprehensible desire to purchase and display upon oneself a garment of a tie dyed nature. And the all important beer calls at any time. 

If you only want to travel for just two or three hours, more than likely you’re going to end up in another tropical location with tropical temperatures nearly all year round. So shall we go to Krabi, Phuket, Langkawi, Koh Samui, Penang, Laos, Phom Penh, Borneo or Lombok? Places that once sounded so far flung and exotic that are now within a long weekend break away.  

 
 
 
I would say we are fairly experienced in travelling with small people on long haul flights which lulls you into a false sense of security when it comes to short haul flights. That because the flight time is shorter then luggage will be less, good travel behaviour from #1, 2 and 3 will be disproportionate to travel time and every thing will just be a lot breezier than travelling long haul.  

It is more or less the same. 

You pack your regular Grown Ups stuff. Then you pack the stuff for small people. 

  • Clothing for each day of the holiday plus extra sets just in case. 
  • Swimming stuff plus arm bands, goggles and things to build sandcastles/scoop water with.
  • Toiletries plus mosquito repellent, sunscreen and medicines to cover a wide range of minor illnesses
  • Nappies and wet wipes.  
  • Snacks so you don’t have to locate the nearest local shop for local people as soon as you arrive.
  • Books because that’s just part of the daily bedtime routine.
  • Special sleepy toys.
  • Special drinking cups for bedtime milk – this is when you begin to regret establishing the comfort of a regular bedtime routine as advised in all the Generic Parenting Guides.
  • Then there’s the ‘Bag that they packed themselves’. #3 packed a tiara, special sleepy toy and two mini bags of potato sticks. Holiday essentials.     

And so off we went to Bali, just two hours and 45 minutes away from Singapore. With two big suitcases and five small carry ons. No pushchair though which is progress.  

We have been to Bali before about four years ago with Uncle Monkey and we stayed in a villa in Seminyak. But for ease and in want of being on a ‘do nothing’ holiday we stayed in a hotel that had great facilities and that all important ‘Kids Club’ that nearly all families with small people look for. Husband and I thought that perhaps for a couple of hours a day we may just get a glimpse of holidays of old. No. Not a glimmer. It would seem that Husband and I are much more fun than any ‘Kids Club’.  

And even in tropical Bali, there’s no guranteeing the weather. As we landed at the airport to be greeted with grey skies and rain. A lot of rain. Non stop tropical rain. But #1 and 2 did learn how to play Air Hockey that afternoon. And they would have been Ninja Warrior Champions of Air Hockey had the sun not shone brightly every day for the rest of the week.

 

  

 
 
 

There is no such thing as a ‘do nothing’ holiday when you are the parents of small people. Fact. And just because you are in a place of clear blue skies, sandy beaches and sparkling seas, small people have no regard for the inner peace and sense of relaxation this scene is meant to bring upon you. Whatever happens at home will happen on holiday. Fact. But because we are on holiday, we always fail to remember this. Fact. And feel mildly flummoxed when the tantrums, wails and whines make an appearance when we are on holiday.  

WE ARE ON HOLIDAY! 

But because we are on holiday, it is permitted that Holiday Beer can make an appearance at any time of day. Which rather helps take the edge away. When you have a beer in your hand, it’s ok if the kids appear to be alternating between pancakes, chips and at best spaghetti bolognaise for every meal. It’s ok that they appear to be running circles around the restaurant rather than sitting nicely at the table. It’s ok if they are throwing a full body tantrum. It’s all ok with a bottle of Holiday Beer in your hand. If only they would just go to Kids Club.

 
 
 
And as I was saying there’s no such thing as a ‘do nothing’ holiday with small people. Even lounging by the pool requires at least 30 minutes of prep time that includes changing into swimming togs times three, application of sunscreen times three, application of mosquito repellant times three, herding from hotel room to pool times three, repetitive requests to go and do toilet evacuations times three because undoubtedly as soon as you get to the pool one of the three will announce an unexpected and urgent need to do an emergency evacution.  When you are ensconced poolside, one of you is invariably on permanent life guard duty or re-enacting scenes from Three Billy Goats Gruff as Troll Under Bridge. If only they would just go to Kids Club. 

As much as we say that we would love to have a ‘do nothing’ holiday, it also feels like such a waste to have travelled so far and not see beyond the hotel grounds. Especially if the kids are not going to make any use of Kids Club. Sometimes you don’t know really know what you’re going to get until your cab pulls up right in front of your hotel and I’ve had the chance to stay in some quite amazing hotels. But hotels are hotels.  

Each time we go away, Husband and I always say the next time will be easier when #1, 2 and 3 are that little bit older. And each time it is. We no longer have to lug a pushchair, baby carrier, small pouches of mushed up food, baby bottles, milk formula, large plastic tub for sterilising bottles, sterilising tablets, bibs and blankets with us. Neither do we need to find places to eat that have highchairs on the premises. Nor are we the first to eat right on the dot of opening time to get small people back to the room for bed. Most of the time when we are           finishing up, people are just about to head for dinner after enjoying Happy Hour sundowners in the bar beforehand.  

But it appears we are not quite there. And even with packing extra sets of clothing, it’s not much use when you don’t pack them in the Going Out With Small People bag. Inevitably one of the three will expel their breakfast all over themselves and you in such situations. With no spare clothes to change into. In many situations this wouldn’t normally end in a huge fashion disaster but choice of a new wardrobe can be rather limited in the Gift Shop of Bali Bird Park. #3 spent the rest of the day wearing a t shirt that could have doubled as a dress and shorts that reached above her ankles and were so wide they looked like cullottes. Though I suspect Husband secretly rather likes his fetching orange shorts.

 

 
 

But despite the expulsion of breakfasts, the cries of boredom in the car and the frantic seeking of toilet facilities down some remote jungle lane, it is so worth seeing a small glimpse of somewhere else. 

 I always assumed Bali was mostly a Muslim culture but it’s not, it’s Hindu. With amazing temples of all sizes and importance located often within metres of each other. It’s also an island rich with craftsmen creating beautiful handicrafts out of wood, upcycling old canoes into shelves, sewing pieces of leather into bags, mosaic pottery and art. There may be hundreds of shops selling the same wares lining the roads of Ubud but it’s heartening to see the actual work in progress in very rustic workshops.  

And it’s very green. Which makes an amazing contrast to the urban living in Singapore. Sometimes you think some buildings are not quite finished, there’s exposed piping and rubble and there appears to be no landscaping around the buildings. It takes a couple of days to get used to seeing this and realising that actually this is it finished. For now at least until perhaps another sum of money has been saved up to build the next part. A true work in progress. Chickens roam everywhere scratching amongst the dirt and dogs wander along the side of the roads. I saw a man stroking a chicken’s head like you would with a cat. I noticed the rubbish collected in the rivers and streams around small clusters of housing and further along a woman washing herself amongst it.   

Which coffee came from beans pood out from a civet cat?

 
I don’t know what the Road Safety Regulations are and they probably don’t mean much when you see two adults travelling on a motorbike together with three children. It’s no wonder they don’t quite get the hooha when we’re trying to find the middle seat belt in a car and won’t set off until we do. Whilst it’s busy on the roads, you don’t get that harrassed stuck in traffic feeling. The traffic flows slowly and any beeping of horns is to let motorcyclists and dogs know we’re overtaking you which is the opposite to my usual beeping of horn to let you know you’re driving like an idiot.  

On our last trip to Bali we saw the volcanic sand beaches favoured by surfers and the popular shopping areas of Seminyak on the south west coast of Bali. It’s not a big island and just 20 or 30 kilometres away the scenery changes completely. I love open space and it can be rare to find in Singapore. Even if you’re alongside another 50 or 60 tourists, there’s still something quite spectacular standing on the clifftop watching the sunset in the distance by the temple of Uluwatu. Whilst cursing the couple in their wedding finery standing precariously on the crumbling cliff edge trying to capture that perfect wedding shot and marring the horizon. Haven’t they heard of photoshop? If only the resident monkeys ran off with the camera at the end.  

Speaking of monkeys, for future reference best not to wear flip slops, hats or anything that can’t be strapped down to your person when travelling amongst monkeys. Real monkeys and not the cheeky monkeys that reside with you daily. And as terrifying as being nearer to the ground and to monkeys as it may seem, it is best to advise small people that they are far better off walking by themselves than being carried. As the monkeys are more likely going to try and grab flip flop from your offending foot whilst it’s flapping loose in the air than whilst you are using it which #2 knows all about. One ran off with someone’s hat and Husband said as I put my bag down to help another couple take a photo, one monkey was keenly eyeing up the contents. They were bold and feral and not dissimilar in behaviour to #1, 2 and 3 with their constant foraging for food and the way they drank straight out of the bottle and just chucked it behind them when they were done.      

 
 
 

So, our taking some time off to ‘do nothing’ holiday in Bali to lounge by the pool drinking Holiday Beer whilst #1, 2 and 3 are in Kids Club didn’t quite happen. In fact #1, 2 and 3 probably ended up more exhausted than normal with being so active in the pool and doing so much walking, eating late and going to bed later than usual. Husband and I on the other hand, had never been to bed so early for quite some years, which is what happens when all five of you have to cohabit a family room.  

 It was probably quite a relief for #1, 2 and 3 to get home and be amongst their stuff in their own bedrooms to finally do nothing. 

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So the UK voting population has spoken

So 66% (46.4 million) of the UK population eligible to vote went to the Polling Stations on Thursday, 7 May 2015 to make their voices count in this year’s General Election. 


As a free and democratic society, the people have spoken and the UK will be led by a Conservative Party majority government for the next five years.

 

 


Five more years of Conservative leadership. Five more years of David Cameron. 


Actually not necessarily in the fickle world of politics. Not quite Game of Thrones fickle but perhaps more Premier League Football Manager in charge of team one point above relegation zone fickle.  



There’s something about politics that grows on you as you get older. The importance to have a better understanding of it all that you didn’t quite have in your youth besides knowing who the main political parties were. I did not have a family that sat around discussing the government’s poilitical manifesto over dinner.  Though I’m quite sure my family did vote because that’s what you did when the polling cards dropped through your letterbox.  

As a result, I personally feel the conversation about exercising your right to vote needs to start early on. Perhaps #1, 2 and 3 are a little young right now. But come the next General Election, #1 will be 11 and by the time he’ll be able to vote in a General Election, he’ll be 21, #2 will be 19 and #3 will be 18. Will it be too much to expect their vote to be made based on a balanced view on issues that may not affect them directly at that age but for the greater good of the UK as a whole.     

More importantly, when listening to the views of every MP for every party, what it is that you need to listen out for. The translation of MPs telling us what they think we want to hear into what it actually means for us. Because quite frankly, I’m still confused about what each Party said they were going to deliver. This could be due to several reasons. 

  • I just do not understand politics.
  • I have been away from the UK for too long.
  • I have not been bombarded by extensive media coverage of the campaign trails these past months.
  • I did not have Boris Johnson and David Cameron personally visit my place of Gainful Employment.


And ultimately, if we don’t like what we hear and what it actually means for us then how can we go about changing it. So often, there’s that ‘what’s the point’ apathy that exists. 66% may have turned up to vote last Thursday but from the 1920s until 1997, the percentage was up in the high 70s and even 80s. We are much better informed and have far greater means to have our voices heard these days and we can say what we feel without fear of retribution unlike in many other societies, democratic or otherwise.  



I know they say never discuss religion and politics but I feel I could learn a lot from discussing politics because there’s just so much information to absorb. I could always do with a little more education in this area. I need someone to draw me up a crib sheet of each Parties main points so I can sit down and think about it. Gone are the days of Labour means fiscal policy and the working class and Conservative means monetary policy and capitalists and the Lib Dems in case you were just unsure. And just now there was UKIP and the SNP and whilst I wasn’t swayed by either of these parties, it’s just more and more information thrown at you.  

This is before even trying to decipher the voting outcomes. How UKIP can have the third highest number of votes at 3.8 million and have one MP but the SNP gains 56 MPs with 1.4 million votes. How Nick Clegg is shamed for losing 49 seats with 2.4 million votes (the Coalition did you no favours). How Ed Milliband accepts the defeat of Labour as purely his responsibility and yet would you say the success of the Conservatives was purely because of David Cameron? But Ed did you really stand a chance after the whole Ed/David Milliband for Labour Party leader?

 

 



So I’m not surprised even on the morning of Election Day, some were still confused as to who to go for or how to vote for the best outcome. It appears, like with most things in this modern world, we have too much choice.  

I listened to a debate amongst seven leading female MPs including Teresa May and Harriet Harman representing seven main parties who first gave a brief overview of what their Party wanted for the UK and then there was an open debate over some of the main issues like immigration, reducing the national debt, investing in the economy, free childcare hours for working parents and the effects of cutting welfare.  

The NHS was also a big thing. I don’t think there is anything like the NHS anywhere else. Having lived in Singapore for the last six and a half years where nothing is free, hence queues hours long for the most ridiculous things, I appreciate the luxury of a free healthcare system. I can’t remember the exact figure it cost us for the prenatal and hospital care for having #1, 2 and 3 in Singapore but it was probably around S$10,000 per child. Throw in an unplanned C-section and you’re looking at an extra S$15,000. For that you could choose to have your own private room or share with one or upto three other people for two, even three nights. My care was excellent, the hospital was like checking into a hotel and my room came with a flat screen tv. As you would expect from private healthcare.  

And I have had conversations with Singaporeans who are incredulous at the thought of how education is free in the UK. They think that’s amazing. Then they’ve heard about how if you don’t have a job then the governement will look after you. Yes that’s also true. What they don’t know is how much higher the tax rates are in the UK in comparison to Singapore. How much pressure there is on services and how the welfare state is not treated as well as it should be by some. That’s the thing. Politics is a complex issue. It’s also a hugely emotive issue.

  


Perhaps it’s more for emotive reasons than factual reasons that we discuss it less amongst ourselves. Because somehow or other, in one way or another, we feel and we have real experience of how we have been let down by The System. And it’s depressing reading and news to hear about all the shit stuff that the economy and measures of austerity have brought upon the UK. It’s not just about balancing the books and more spending on healthcare, education, housing and where is all the money going to come from but also about why there is pressure on healthcare like the rise in obesity and general unhealthy living habits. It was hard to hear and it was overwhelming before I could even take in what each Party was going to do about it all to turn things around. 

So now Election Day 2015 is over. The Conservative Party are leading with a majority which I prefer than having another coalition government. The reason why I feel this is quite simplistic. Every Party disagrees with each other on policy. Every Party sells you how they are different. Could you not agree on some things? Could you not just say, that’s a good approach rather than picking at it and shouting at each other across a room?  

I know that no one Party will have it exactly right. And I know that changing government every five years is not the best way to create stability. Especially if they can’t agree on anything and seek to change how things are ran as soon as they get into power. Singapore has been governed by the same political party for 50 years to rise from nothing to what it is today.  

It’s exhausting this idea of voting. And it takes a lot of time and passion dedicating yourself to being informed enough to make the right decision. It dawned on me the responsiblity we have. How our participation, and more importantly, our lack of participation affects not just us ourselves but the future of our children. It seems caring for our children is not about the day to day looking after, the instilling of good values or the education we can give them but also using our right to vote.  

So it doesn’t end here regardless of whether you are happy or not with the outcome. The dust will settle. Emotions will recover. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to pay attention for another five years. It’s only just beginning. To see what this government plans to do. What the Oppostition parties plan to do. What does it mean for us. And who will replace Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage and whether David Milliband will return from the US. And will there be more female MPs in the Cabinet. And what will Boris Johnston do next.    

So will someone be so kind to write me a crib sheet please and we can discuss it over a beer or two.    


 

 

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It’s a Very Special Day!

I know it sounds like I’m overexcited because today is General Election Day. That in itself is very exciting. If you are in the UK, please go and exercise your right to vote. Even if you think what’s the point when all Politicians are a dishonest, hypocritical and useless bunch of crooks who couldn’t run the country better than you could yourself. At least put in your vote for who you think could do a second best job other than yourself. And only after you have voted are you able to join in giving said democratically voted in Party a hard time for the next five years.

But today isn’t about General Election Day. Tomorrow will be. For today is all about getting you to vote and tomorrow will be all about The People of the UK Have Spoken. Tomorrow will be a day of nerves and exhilaration as the votes are counted and announced. This is one of the few postives of having a seven hour time difference between Singapore and the UK. I get to sleep and then spend the whole day talking to myself about which Constituency has fallen where and which friends to keep or not.

Today is all about Our Jenn and the fact that her Big Birthday will not be hijacked by General Election Day.

Last year I wrote a post about Me and Our Jenn and I was so sure that I would be back in the UK to celebrate it with her too. Disappointingly I’m not. But if celebrating your next Big Birthday is anything like how I celebrated Embracing 40 then there’s always time to party when I’m next back in the UK.

However, I’m not sure just how long the party will last for. I like how having a drink with Our Jenn is a Malibu and coke please. That a couple of them will probably have her dancing on the tables to Duran Duran and then one more will send her off to sleep in a heap in the corner before it’s even 9pm. Yet on a regular day, you’ll find her still up at two or three in the morning and often I see her post something on Facebook and I’m telling her from halfway around the world to go to bed. I thought I only had to do that with #1, 2 and 3!

But it’s good to be able to have those mini conversations in the window of time after you’ve just woken up and they’re about to go to bed. Somehow it makes the hours and distance between us seem less. But also harder too when you think about if you were in the same time zone at least how much more often you’d be able to have these conversations. And how it makes you think you really must make more effort to have more of them.

For some Life Begins at Forty. For others Life is Much Better at Fifty. Will she mind that I’ve mentioned she’s Fifty? No, she won’t mind but I know who will! When I was back in the UK last year, we had this discussion with another family member who will not be identified, who has her own Big Massive Birthday this year. She doesn’t want people to know the number involved and so as a result, the rest of us have to keep quiet about our own age so no one can vaguely guess how old she is. I don’t know how she thinks this is going to work unless she would rather people thought she had her own kids at a very, very young age. But if she wants me to tell you all that my Embracing 40 was all just a hoax and really I merely doffed my cap to 30 then I can do that.

This has reminded me of a Newcastle to London train journey some years ago, I wish I could tell you all about it but as I was sworn to secrecy, I only told Our Jenn. Who will know all about which story as I bring it up whenever I am back in Newcastle and it still cracks me up some ten years later. If laughter really does keep you young then spend some time with Our Jenn. I still haven’t met anyone who laughs as much as she does. I am very funny of course but it’s about laughing together.

As I sit and ponder Embracing 40 and how I imagined 40 to feel and as I look around me at all those who have joined me here, 40 doesn’t seem to be that huge life changing, lost is our youth cut off point that we’re often led to believe. So if 40 isn’t it, then is 50 it?

If I ever began to think that 50 is the number to fear then I just need to look at Our Jenn. There is no better example of how looking outwards rather than inwards is the best way to be. That we are all strong, capable people who can carve our own pathways. Not just once or twice but more if need be.

I hope this next decade brings Our Jenn even more happiness, love and contentment with people who really make her laugh and value her the way she ought to be valued.

I hope I get to spend more of it with her than I have done this past decade.

And I definitely will be having a belated Birthday Celebration with just us two so I can tell her again that story about the Newcastle to London train journey that I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about.

Happy Birthday Jenn! I already know it’s started off a good one.

With much love now and always, if you didn’t know that already. xx

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LinkedIn to Gainful Employment

So, it’s been six and half years since I was in Gainful Employment. How quickly time flies. When I last wrote about this subject matter in Occupation what?, it was 18 months ago.

There is now a six and a half year gaping gap in my CV.

It was difficult and strange not to be defined by my role in Gainful Employment. It wasn’t easy at first to be Unemployed. A Housewife. A Homemaker. On a career break. A Stay At Home Mum. I had never been any of these things before and it wasn’t a conscious decision to acquire these labels. They just happened upon me and I guess that’s why I found it so unpalatable. It’s not always ‘society’s fault’ that you feel at a disadvantage for being any of these things. A lot of the pressure comes from within. That feeling of we ought to be doing much more. That our worth is measured by quantifiable outputs with a financial value attached to it.

I stopped feeling annoyed at being a Homemaker when I realised just how fleeting the time you have with small children really is. And also how expensive they are. For you can’t be a Lady of Leisure or one that lunches all the time for very long when suddenly there is housing, schooling, feeding, clothing and random activities for small people that need paying for to consider. Before there’s even room for yourself to buy shoes you’ll seldom get to wear.

When I recently said out loud in conversation that I hadn’t worked in so long, I was actually asked ‘What have you done in this time?’. I’m sure it wasn’t meant with any ill intent or to make me feel like I couldn’t possibly be contributing to society or pulling my weight within my marriage because I haven’t been in Gainful Employment.

Would saying I’ve been travelling the world on £10 a day, or that I’m about to publish my first novel, or that I’m about to set up my own business be more interesting than the actual answer I gave which was that I’ve had #1, 2 and 3. It was met with a ‘Oh, you have been busy’ and not much else.

I find that just saying I have had three children in this time sometimes doesn’t quite sound enough. Not that I mean I ought to have had four. That is also another bizarre concept I on occasion encounter. When #3 reached a year old, I was asked in all seriousness that isn’t it time for #4? Like having children becomes your thing. Even if there was to be #4, I’m sure I’d be asked about #5.

Anyways, I really hadn’t thought about this six and a half year gap or worried much about it. But in revisiting my CV to give it a good dusting down and from speaking to others, I realise that something does need to be done about it. It’s a competitive market out there and the global economy is not fully buoyant.

I read someone else’s blog recently who talks a lot about life coaching and positive well being. It was a post about having to ‘market’ oneself. That a prestigious and qualified education and extensive work experience on your CV alone is not enough to get you noticed in your place of Gainful Employment or to get you that next great job. This is not an entirely new concept as you will know yourself. We all know the power and value of effective networking. Some can do it far better than others, some will do it because they have to and some just baulk at the thought of having to sing your own praises and would rather not.

I have no sound advice on this matter. To me the idea of ‘networking’ to persuade and influence people sounds a bit too clinical. I like meeting new people and hearing about them. I have a natural tendency to ask questions and I’m pretty good at remembering stuff too. This can be rather surprising to some people and a pain for those who have known me a long time when I can recall their youthful misdemeanours even when they have long forgotten. My powers have weakened somewhat though, since the arrival of #1, 2 and 3.

So how does one become as they say, ‘relevant’? I guess a couple of years out of Gainful Employment wouldn’t make a really big difference to most professions. But mine is quite a sizeable chunk. At least heading back into Gainful Employment now, the world is still using technology and gadgets I have heard of before. I’m not switching from a manual typewriter to word processor or fax machines to emails or paper files to zip files.

But then I haven’t had to work with Excel, Word or PowerPoint since then either and I don’t even now if these programmes still exist. Or if they do, it will be a revised version 23 or something. With hindsight, I ought to have given more credit to the ‘everything on a spreadsheet’ approach. I apologise for mocking such behaviour now. I’m painfully out of touch with Gainful Employment speak as well. How could I not be when I’ve been reverting back to English for Babies Level 1 these last five years. Imagine speaking to a small person who take everything literally using these phrases – Drinking from the hosepipe. I need it yesterday. It’s a jungle out there. Push the envelope. Step up to the plate. Talk until you’re blue in the face. Actually #1, 2 and 3 probably do know about this last one as I’m often repeating myself until I’m blue in the face and they care not a jot.

 

There’s a lot to consider on your path back to Gainful Employment before you even look at what possible jobs are there for you.

You need to prepare the world for your imminent return. Get yourself ‘out there’. I wasn’t aware of this at first until someone asked me if I was on LinkedIn. What do you mean? What is this LinkedIn? Linked to what that I’m not in?

The best way it was described to me was as Facebook for Gainful Employment. You do not need to be as discriminatory as you are with your Facebook friends but You Need To Be On It and You Need To Have Connections. Lots of them. Your Connections are a reflection of your networking capabilities. Really? Anyone can click a button and ask totally random people to get LinkedIn with them. I know this because I’ve had such random requests and it really threw me off balance. I agonised over the right etiquette to decline or not to decline? How would it look on my path back to Gainful Employment if I don’t have 500+ Connections? Or an interesting and wide ranging set of Connections? To be honest my LinkedIn Connections look very much like my Facebook Friends List. Bar a couple of names I never thought I’d hear from again. I’m still not sure I like my education and career history being so public. You can tell as much from my rather scant LinkedIn profile. It rather yells ‘Must Try Harder’.

This is the thing with social media these days, everyone is so visible. This is a personal blog but with public visibility. Whilst I should be able to rant and let off steam as I see fit, I know I won’t. Because it’s not appropriate. Same as those Instagram accounts that are full of selfies that seem to serve no purpose whatsoever. Or Twitter accounts that are full of thoughts people should really keep inside of their heads. Or Facebook forums that are full of ridiculous and fanciful concerns. People will cross reference you with LinkedIn you know.

This should be the first point of careers advice you give to anyone. Just because you can let the whole world know your every move, give an opinion on someone else’s problem when you don’t even know them and post a comment or photo in haste, you could professionally repent that move for a long leisurely time.

Then there’s that other matter of how to be ‘relevant’. Experience. Experience is invaluable but if you’re talking too much in the past tense it’s not going to be that valuable. One has to have relevant experience. How to gain relevant experience? And that’s the trouble with a sizeable chunk of time out from Gainful Employment. Can I apply having to manage the basic caregiving responsibilities, social activities and ferrying to and from places of #1, 2 and 3 to how I would devise a strategy plan and work with minimum supervision to manage own workload? Or how getting them to eat a range of solids and green vegetables demonstrated my creative flare. Or how dealing with public meltdowns and tantrums showed I was able to deliver under pressure whilst remaining calm at all times?

I would actually like to conduct an interview and answer questions based on the new skills and experiences I have picked up in the last six and half years alone. I’ve travelled half the world and left behind an established and steady network of friends and family to build a whole new one. I’m forever meeting new people because Singapore is such a transient place to be. I’m always diplomatic when creating new links because you will always know people in common. I’ve been able to adapt to a whole new lifestyle change with minimum preparation and no previous experience when #1, 2 and 3 came along. When you have no close family and friends around, you value the importance of being a supportive friend to those networks you build. Communication becomes key when you live away because you don’t want to lose touch with those networks you already had and all the new ones you’ve made since. There is constant pressure and change with being a Parent and having to think on your feet. Financial targets are forever changing as your outgoings rise year on year. I’ve increased my knowledge in a broad range of current affairs because I need to know more to protect the interests of #1, 2 and 3.

My world, my concerns, my skills have changed and matured since I was last in Gainful Employment. I feel I have much more experience in lots of new areas that have given me much more confidence.

I just need to update my CV and my LinkedIn profile to reflect this. 

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