Total Pageviews

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Police knocking at my door

Less than 24 hours ago the aptly named KLM Hopper fell out of the sky onto the runway at LeedsBradford airport and I began the countdown to my son’s wedding 7 days 4 hours 45 minutes as from now.

This morning I sat on the bed in Richard’s (my son) room. He kept his eyes averted from the game developer mod of Minecraft images on his oversized screen. And we talked.

I talked him about his granddad and his family in Ireland. He flicked the Minecraft image to Facebook and searched for pictures of his second cousins. He told me about the wedding plans, all the organising he'd done, the bills they had yet to pay – the florist, the caterers, the church. And I remembered.

I remembered the baby who was in such a rush to enter the world he arrived three weeks early and 10 minutes after his immature 20 year old mother climbed on to the delivery bed.

I remembered three year old Richard scaling the six foot wooden fence at the end of our garden to reach the neighbour’s paddling pool.

The policemen knocking on the door – to caution ‘his brother’ for vandalising a car, and eleven year old Richard stepping forward to admit it was him. (It wasn’t vandalised, he fell off his push bike on to the bonnet).

The teacher at his school phoning to say: he’d been hit by a cricket ball, tennis racket, rugby ball and his front teeth had been knocked out - again!

His teacher pulling me to one side in the car park her eyes shining. A little girl had climbed the Cedar tree in the school grounds and froze at the top. There wasn’t time to call the fire brigade, and the sports teacher didn’t think he had the balance to bring her down safely. Twelve year old Richard was pulled from his history class. A circle of anxious adults waited at the base of the tree while he scrambled to the top, convinced the little girl to wrap herself around him baby monkey style and swung them both back down.

Watching him plough down the field with a rugby ball, the thunder crack of his skull as it collided with the opposing team’s number eight, the set of his teeth as he kept moving. The astonished gasps from the crowd as he waded through the mud dragging a human chain towards the goal post to score the winning try.
The policemen knocking at the door a year later asking, ‘to speak to Richards parents’. I can still feel the booming of my heart and my bloodless cheeks. What had he done? Was he hurt? Was he ….?

My beautiful, brave, thirteen year old son had stepped into a circle of bullies throwing stones. Inside the circle was a young boy whose brother had been drowned in a canal two months earlier. The family, perhaps understandably, were not functioning well and were on the receiving end of some rather malicious gossip (the early 90’s was a cruel place). Richard tucked the boy’s bike under one arm and the boy under the other and faced down the bullies. Anyone who has ever seen my son in a rage will understand why the bullies ran. The policemen knocking on my door came to give him a commendation.

As I watch him walk down the aisle in seven days. It won’t be the tall young man I see dressed in a morning suit, but the toddler who knew no fear, the accident prone school child the teachers called on in an emergency, and the young man who when he recognised injustice and wasn’t afraid to be the one who stepped into the circle.

I’ll watch Richard and Raian promise to support each other though ‘better and worse’ and I know he’ll have both. But I also know that with courage and bravery, the hallmarks of his life, he’ll be ok.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Letters from the Netherlands: Big knickers and Ex’s

Letters from the Netherlands: Big knickers and Ex’s: Being an expat means having a lot of ex’s in your life. I’m an ex-boss, an ex-therapist, an ex-Pilates teacher, an ex-runner (might be ...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Big knickers and Ex’s

Being an expat means having a lot of ex’s in your life. I’m an ex-boss, an ex-therapist, an ex-Pilates teacher, an ex-runner (might be pushing it a bit), an ex-walker of the Derbyshire Peak District. All these ex’s I accept as part of the life changing adventure that happens to an expatriate. What I didn’t expect, and what I’m struggling to deal with as part of my life changing adventure is the big knickers.

Big knickers, as every woman knows, are the domain of the elderly, and the uncool. Recently, I’ve discovered they are, also, the domain of the desperate – that’s me!

Glamour wear

In exactly 19 days my handsome, talented, creative son will marry the love of his life.

This event is not news to me. I’ve already had advanced knowledge that I might just be included in photographs that could be around for eternity.

With this advanced knowledge in mind, while, feasting on bittenballen, I drew up a plan. Mr Sunshine and I bought a cross-trainer, half an hour a day should see me right I thought, before turning to the latest free Kindle book. I filled the house with lettuce and bananas, Mr Sunshine stocked up on wine and family sized Tiramisu. I can easy do it in six months I thought after Christmas, I’ll start tomorrow!

Mr Sunshine dismantling the unused cross-trainer
A funny thing about tomorrow - it never arrives.

I needed another plan. My usual (and preferred attire) is jeans and T shirts, if forced I’ll squeeze into something black. Neither of these looks I assumed would work as a wedding outfit for the mother of the groom. So, gathering my remaining shreds of dignity, I set sail for the shops; wisely leaving my glasses at home. Unfortunately none of the shops in Breda stock weight or age shaving garments.

With my head hanging I turned towards the underwear department in V & D. Disappointingly, the shop assistants looked not in the least bit shocked as I harvested an array of skin coloured XL underwear from the section deludingly called Glamour wear. I bought the biggest! It’s uncomfortable, will double as thermals in the Dutch winter, for some reason best not thought about it’s crotch-less, but it works.
An array of skin coloured xl underwear

My plan was coming together.

All that was needed was the highest pair of shoes I could conceivably stand up in.

I can't believe I'm swapping my trainers with bespoke dropped arch support for these!
As I wobble down the aisle in 19 days on my 5 inch heels, clutching the arm of Mr Sunshine, and take my place on the front pew, I’ll pass by all my ex’s. My ex mother-in-law, ex brother-in-law, my ex. Who should all be so surprised by how much I’ve grown, they won’t notice how many bittenballen I’ve eaten.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Letters from the Netherlands: Exit

Letters from the Netherlands: Exit: Lovely Breda When we first arrived in the Netherlands we raved about the location of our new home. Breda is an extraordinarily pretty...

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Lovely Breda

When we first arrived in the Netherlands we raved about the location of our new home. Breda is an extraordinarily pretty city, the people here are friendly and gracious (with the, possible, exception of a lady at the city hall and one rather unfortunate haemorrhoid suffering vet). We are on the doorstep of so many magnificent cities; we can drive to France, Italy, or Switzerland in a few hours. We can fly back to the UK in sixty minutes, or visit practically any destination that takes our fancy from Schiphol International, Europe’s largest airport.
Paris or Venice or Frankfurt!

So, why the day after Mr Sunshine submits his Masters did we choose not to visit any of these dream destinations, but to drive to Frankfurt?
Mr Sunshine, needed to see a friend and Frankfurt, it seems, is about equal distance from that friend’s home and ours.
So, dizzy with the thought of an adventure, we booked Alfie in for 24 hours at the doggy respite centre, hire a car from Budget Rentals (anything above 35mph in our own dear vehicle turns the passengers into juddering earplug wearing marionettes) and packed our best, rather tight, going out clothes.
The odd facial tick and involuntary arm jerk warned me that Mr Sunshine was still coming down from his Masters high, and in no fit state to take the first shift at the wheel. So, in an attempt to earn some brownie points I offered to drive. For those of you that have never driven a right hand drive car be warned it is not as easy as it looks. Patting your head with one hand and rubbing your tummy in a circle with the other, is a reasonably close description of the sensation. According to Mr Sunshine I was in constant danger of hitting the curb. I noticed my eyes spent dangerously long scanning for the mirror. These were minor inconveniences compared to my door swinging open every time I tried to change gear.
After some rhetorical discussion I convinced Mr Sunshine to let go of the dashboard and I continued with the drive. The long motorway/autobahn drive to Frankfurt was unremarkable, apart from one fact: it circles the longest city in Germany. From the moment we entered the Deutschland autobahn I started seeing the signs for this long city. Mr Sunshine even looked up once or twice from his ‘Zombies R Us’ magazine to comment irritably its ridiculous size.
Every junction had a sign for this city
Six hours later the Satnav led us into an abandoned subterranean car park, where we parked, rather foolishly, next to a 1970’s orange and black Mustang and walked out into Harlem. We partook of several more rhetorical discussions while trying to locate the Best Western Hotel.
‘Let’s ask somebody where the hotel is.’
‘Let’s look up here’
‘Can we go home?’
After walking gingerly over the dried vomit littered streets we finally found the hotel under a busy flyover. Trying not to be downhearted we consoled ourselves we the thought that wine and the good company of friends would soften out our first impressions of Frankfurt. And I expect it would have, if the receptionist hadn’t informed us that, not only, had our friends not arrived but they weren’t even booked in. 
Best Western Frankfurt
Mr Sunshine stormed off to our room muttering 'typical', and I felt that familiar guilty question lurking:
Is it my fault?
Several hours later we discover those friends were, actually, booked in the same hotel, just not in the same city.
At which point I thought longingly of that extraordinarily pretty city I’d been so keen to escape and wished to see another one of those signs for Ausfahrt.

Translation for Ausfahrt.