Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Wish you were here?
February 11, 2010

Yesterday I received an e-mail from some very close friends who have just gone to South Africa for 3 weeks. They are having a wonderful time and it was so nice to hear from them. However, as it happened to arrive on a day where I felt as if  I had been to hell and back, I couldn’t resist sending them the following response..tounge in cheek of course. Their email first:

Here’s a note from a very warm and fantastic Cape Town.  We arrived Monday morning – pretty weary from the flight and straight to our B&B at Hout Bay.V. nice a great place for seafood and beach walks.  We didn’t expose our bodies to the masses as that would be totally unfair on them.  Tuesday we went shopping – yippee says Sue.  Woolworths (an M&S equivalent) is great. We went to the Cape Town Waterfront – V&A dockside.  Loads of people – very smart, so we blended in nicely in our newly acquired attire.  Shame they couldn’t see Marcus’ new pants, but they would have been impressed. Wednesday, we went wine tasting in the Constantia region – not very far away.  Three wine tastings and a long lazy lunch on the lawn just seemed to take all day.  

So our plan today is to linger in the same area a little longer – do Cape Point and Table mountain, or whatever takes our fancy along the way.  Then head off East.

We are thinking of you.  Hope the weather back home is ok.
With love from the both of us on the road trip…

Marcus and Sue   xxxxxxxxxxx  

And my response:

Here’s a note from a very f**king freezing , snowy C******. Yesterday, got up at the crack of sparrows and drove on icy roads to Castelnau Montmiral to teach one-one business English for the day. On the way a dog  with a death wish tried to commit suicide under the wheels, so was left a little shaken before I even entered classroom. Taught comparitives/superlatives and how to interpret graphs from 9-5.30….brain was going into meltdown by the end. Drove back in snow to collect child from friend’s. Got in at 6.30pm and started child’s homework – 4 pages as he has exams on Friday! Child ended up on floor having temper tantrum as he didn’t want to do it. Mother felt like getting right on down there with him! After 1 page sent child upstairs to calm down. While child is up there (as I later discovered, hiding my things and chucking my clothes around) I took the opportunity to start dinner and write a detailed, coherent report to 7 teachers (due in by 9pm latest) on the day’s lessons and how the students dealt with them – not easy while child is sobbing away loudly. After 10 mins, manage to coax child down. Give up on forcing him to do rest of homework and turn a blind eye to the fact that he has just started to play his Nintendo DSI.  Manage to get the report off by 8.30pm, which also happens to be small child’s bedtime. Sit down to dinner with grumpy/hungry/tired child. Child refuses to eat as ‘chicken’ is no longer his favourite. Mother on the verge of tears. As it is child’s bedtime, mother decides it is probably best if child actually does go to bed. Temper tantrum number 2 ensues. Child tries to escape from bedroom and has to be restrained; in a loving, firm hug kind of a way – bloody child-parenting books! Child then asks to see Papa. As Papa lives 15 mins away, mother offers to call him instead. No deal. Only Papa in person will do. Screaming escalates. After some gentle reasoning, give up, strip child to underwear and carry to bed – pyjamas and brushing of teeth are out of the question! Leave child crying (he is so tired he drops off within 5mins) and go downstairs to find there isn’t a drop of booze in the house. Feel like crying myself. Go to bed several hours later, to find jewelry box under the bed, and various other personal items hidden in strange places. 

Wish you were here?…….didn’t think so!

Wish I was with you guys? Y>E>S. Have a big Gin for me ;@)


April 30, 2009

I came across this delightful meme on Belgian Waffle earlier today. As Mdme Jaywalker has opened it up to all, I thought it would be fun to give it a go.

1. Are you a male or female: Red shoes, red nail varnish…yes, I’m a bloke.

2. Describe yourself: Snow White with roots – plan to get them done just before my sister’s wedding in 2 weeks time.

3. How do you feel about yourself: Could try harder. It was even on my report card at school.

4. Describe your parents: My poor, long suffering parents. Absolute stars, the pair of them! I have given them so much grief over the years, that they have well and truly earned the right to come and live with me in their old age – come to think of it, that would probably be their worst nightmare.


P.s If either of you ever happen to stumble across this blog: Sorry, I love you and I promise I won’t put plastic on the chairs.

5. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriends: Disappointing, including the actor Gerard Butler (yes, I had him before you Mlle Aniston). He left me to ‘make it big in Hollywood’ and he did. Sob.

6. Describe your current boy/girl situation: 6ft ex-marine with extra large extremities – why else do you think I took him back after he totalled my car?

7. Describe your current location: Rented flat, with grubby 1970’s lino, make do furniture and a gorgeous, sunny terrace. I also have a ghost that presents itself in the form of a dark shadow. Shiver.

8. Describe where you want to be: I was going to say on a beach in Mexico (Playa del Carmen is one of my favourite places ever), but in light of recent events, (oink, oink, has someone turned the heating up?) maybe not. Alternatives would include: in a hot bath with a glass of champagne, or in bed with Mr XL Xtremities (think I have found a new name for him. He will be pleased).

9. Your best friend(s) is/are: Fantastic, wild, funny and rude.

10. Your favourite colour is: Mint/pistachio Green. I bought my first car, a Nissan Figaro, because it was green. I was in tears when I sold it (I didn’t want to, but I needed the money to settle my debts before moving to France), especially as the new buyer came to pick it up on my 29th birthday. My ex made me this card to make me feel better. Suffice to say, it didn’t.



11. You know that: If someone says, ‘it will only take a minute,’ it’s a lie. I wouldn’t say I was slow, but it has only taken me 35 yrs to work that one out.

12. If your life was a television show what would it be called: I would go for ‘6 feet under,’ but it’s already taken.

13. What is life to you:


20 days per month – Something to get through.

5 days per month – Hell

The remaining 5/6 – OK, sometimes verging on pretty good.


14. What is the best advice you have to give: Do the washing up before you go to bed and make your bed in the morning. It makes you feel as if you are in control.

If anyone else fancies having a go, link back to me, so that I can come and check it out.


Food for thought
April 1, 2009

Son (to shiny new boyfriend): I want a brother.

Shiny new boyfriend (to son): Oh that’s nice.

Me (trying to change subject): So what do you two fancy for supper?

Son (pointing at more than ample bulge in shiny new boyfriend’s trousers): If put your zizi in my Mama’s kiki (now pointing at my essential equipment) you could make me a brother.

Shiny new boyfriend (bulge in trousers no longer visible): eeeeerm…..

Me (squirming): Toad in the hole anyone?…..nope. Didn’t think so.

That was over two years ago. Now the not-so-shiny-new boyfriend is up for the job. Mmmmmmm. It would seem I have some thinking to do.

Reeling – Part 2
November 13, 2008

I have come to a decision. I am not going to confront my ex about K and her 6 yr old daughter (I forgot to mention that she has a daughter in my last post) moving in, I am going to wait for him to tell me. I have my reasons for this:


  1. If I initiate the conversation and an argument ensues, Sonny will feel to blame. As he is only 6, he is far too young to be having guilt trips over things he has said, or situations he has caused.
  2. My ex may tell Sonny off for telling me what goes on between him and K, and I wouldn’t want him to feel that he had to start keeping secrets, or to censor everything he said.
  3. If Sonny is happy with the situation (which I think he is) and my ownership rights remain unchanged (call to lawyer required), is it really such a big deal?


I suppose I am just annoyed that neither K nor my ex has had the decency to come and speak to me about it first – especially before they sat down and discussed it with the kids. To be honest, K probably doesn’t even know that I still own the house. My ex has always been very economical with the truth, and as we were never married, he could quite easily have said that the house belongs to him.


There are times when I wonder if K even knows why I left. If she did, she might not be so keen to move in. As my mum said, “give her six months, and she’ll be out of there like a shot.” That remains to be seen, but in the meantime I am going to take some legal advice and play this one very carefully indeed.


November 12, 2008

A conversation over dinner with Sonny:


Sonny: “K is moving in with Papa.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Sonny: “She is not going to live in her house anymore.”

Me: “Do you know when she is moving in?”

Sonny: “In December…I think.”


I knew this day would come, but I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel about it when it did. I suppose I have just been burying my head in the sand, hoping it never would. Now that it has, I am less than happy. It is not that I am still in love with my ex, it’s just that I don’t like the thought of another woman enjoying the comforts of my old home (which I still own 50/50 with my ex), while I am forced to rent a small flat 10 kms down the road. Is that petty of me?


Most of you will be wondering how I have managed to get myself into this situation? Why haven’t I taken my ex to court and forced him to sell, to give me my half? I could, I suppose, but I am just not ready yet. I know that as soon as I take this route my relationship with my ex will turn sour (very sour) and Sonny will suffer as a result.


I think I have made the right decision, but it still doesn’t make it easy.



Happy Holidays
July 15, 2008



Tomorrow I am going to visit ‘the family.’ Not just my parents but my grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins. The last time I saw them was just before I moved to France 6 years ago. I did the ‘goodbye tour’ thinking it might be the last time I would see some of my grandparents – they are in their late 80’s/early 90’s – but miraculously they are all still here.


This is going to take me ‘off air’ for a couple of weeks, as I will be travelling the length and breadth of the UK, doing my best impression of a girl who is coping on her own! When they saw me last I was happy with my ex, cradling a baby and off to live in a beautiful farmhouse in France, full of hope for the future. I come back to them now, by ‘their standards’ a failure – no husband, no job and a living in rented accomodation. I know I will have to spend the entire trip justifying my ‘alternative’ lifestyle. I can even imagine the questions now:



·        Have you found another man yet? – yes and no. I do have someone at the moment, but I have been briefed by mother not to tell the grandparents as they ‘couldn’t deal with the age difference’ (he is 18 years older than me).

·        So you are living on state benefit (raised eyebrows, tut, tut). You used to have such a good career…it is such a shame – I did work for 2 years in a crèche, but by the time I had paid out for school dinners, childcare and my taxes I was 30 euros a month worse off than when I wasn’t working – no excuse I know, but I hardly ever saw my son, the job was tough, the hours were crazy and the pay was dire. My contract came to an end in November and I am ‘living off the state’ until I can sit a Teaching exam in September. If I pass, I will do one year’s teacher training and then, hopefully, be able to get a job that pays more than the minimum wage – it’s a long shot but I have got to give it a try.

·        What are you going to do about getting your half of the house? (my ex is still living in it and doesn’t want to sell) – absolutely nothing for the time being as my son’s happiness is paramount and if I take my ex to court, all hell will break loose, and neither Sonny nor I are strong enough for that yet.



The worst part will be having to answer these questions over and over again, without being impolite or jumping down anyone’s throat. Two weeks of being happy, smiley and engaging is going to be a killer, so if I am a bit ‘crotchety’ when I get back, you know why!


That aside, Sonny will have a lot of fun with his cousins and I will be able to update my underwear in M&S and gorge myself on Indian takeaways – bliss! 



Camping in High Heels
July 11, 2008

I ‘do’ camping but I don’t ‘do’ the relaxed clothing that seems to come with the territory. Tracksuits, shorts and fleeces just make me look      

fat(ter). Yes, I’m the kind of girl that goes camping in high heels. You are probably thinking that I’d be much better off in a hotel, and you would probably be right, but it is a financial thing – a three figure monthly income doesn’t quite stretch to a bed on legs and a mini-bar. 


It was for this very reason that I found myself ‘sleeping under the stars’ last August. My son and I had been invited to a family reunion at friend’s villa north of Malaga and I needed to find an affordable way of getting there. The plane was too expensive, the train was too complicated and after a particularly bad experience in a coach toilet as a teenager (I had food poisoning, it was coming out both ends and the toilet wouldn’t flush), I swore I would never get on a coach again: not even as a pensioner, and most definitely not as the mother of a 5-yr-old wriggly boy. Driving was my only option. In an old banger like mine, Toulouse to Malaga would take 3 days and I would have to stay in campsites on the way. Hurrah!


I didn’t want to drive. In fact, the thought of doing a 16 hr journey on my own with a small child filled me with dread. I was in a nasty car accident when I was 11 and it has left its scars, both physical and mental. Driving to Spain was my idea of hell, but I was determined not to let it beat me – this was going to be some heavy-duty therapy of the ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ kind.



The thought of having to camp was equally as pleasurable. As a child camping entailed gagging on warm UHT milk, throwing-up powdered orange juice, listening to my entire family pee in a bucket in the middle of the night and being bitten alive by mosquitoes – one year I got blood poisoning from just 1 bite. As a teenager it wasn’t much better. My greatest ‘tent moment’ was at the Reading festival. It was the year when it was particularly muddy and the toilets, which where a good 10 minutes from my tent, were overflowing and not worth the walk. I had drunk a bottle of cider and was busting for a wee. Out of desperation and in a lot of pain, I came up with my own portable toilet – a plastic bag from the supermarket…genius! It was about mid-flow that I began to feel a warm sensation on the back of my legs. The plastic bag had holes in it (the little ones to stop babies from suffocating that I had forgotten to check for) and my pee was spurting out in four different directions all over the tent. When my boyfriend returned several hours later and asked why his sleeping bag was ‘a bit damp,’ I said it was some cider (which does smell a bit like pee) I had spilt earlier – well, it is not something you can confess to at the time or in a blog either, probably!


When our day of departure (my day of reckoning) finally came, it was with deep joy that I entered my car. In true ‘Girl Guide’ style (they kicked me out for sticking my badges on with rubber glue, when I thought it showed initiative) I was fully prepared for the journey ahead. In the passenger seat lay my ‘anti-get-lost’ device – every motorway exit I needed to take, on 12 sheets of A4 paper courtesy of those thoughtful people at ‘Michelin Route Planner.’ In the boot was a flimsy, pop-up tent (perfect for the lazy camper like me) I had bought for 35 Euros from the local ‘budget’ supermarket and in the back – drowning in sweets, games, colouring pens and pillows – was my son, excited about going camping for the first time in his little life. 


We hit the first campsite in Huesca bang on schedule at 5 pm. I could have kissed the ground on arrival. I had managed to drive for 6 hours without getting lost or being involved in a pile-up – it is amazing what you can achieve when you put you mind to it! It was a nice enough place, just on the outskirts of town, but it was practically empty. We had our choice of pitches, so I chose one next to the toilets – no peeing in buckets, or bags, for me! The tent went up in a flash, I filled it with the sponge from my Ikea chairs (they make great mattresses) and within 30 minutes of arriving we were languishing by the pool. After a wonderful 3 course meal (with wine and not a drop of powdered orange juice in sight) we went to bed and slept like babies.


The following morning saw me wrestling with the tent. I twisted it this way and that, then wedged it between my knees while I tried to get hold of the cover, and just when I thought I had it licked, it would spring back up again and whack me in the face. After 10 minutes I admitted defeat, stuffed it behind the passenger seat, covered it with bags and slammed the door as fast as I could – hoping it wouldn’t explode in my son’s face. With the tent finally under control, we left for Santa Elena. This leg of the journey was a real slog. It was only 7 hours on the road but it felt like twenty. Not being able to share the driving was tough and I was really starting to tire. When we arrived at the second campsite all I wanted to do was dive into the swimming pool, have a good meal then fall onto my little bit of sponge. This time it wasn’t going to be quite so easy!


For a start, this campsite was nothing like the one we had stayed in the night before. It was busy and most of the people had permanent pitches, with fridges, comfy chairs and satellite television. These were ‘serious’ campers who no doubt laughed at part-timers like me. I was given a small parcel of land between 4 of the largest tents I have ever seen and as soon as I stepped out of the car I could feel myself being watched. I was wearing a floaty, black skirt that came just above the knee, a pretty, white shirt and a pair of sexy, 2 inch mules from LK Bennett (flat shoes do nothing for my legs in a short skirt.) They were wearing t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops – the appropriate camping attire! My tent exploded as soon as I opened the side door, so I had to carry it fully erect to the middle of my pitch. As I placed it on the ground I realised how ridiculous it looked in comparison to the surrounding tents: like something you might let a child play in, or a dog sleep in. What had been a lovely little tent last night now felt like a Wendy house – great! I still cringe today at what happened next. There was a slight wind so I decided that I had better use the pegs to secure the tent this time (the mattress had been enough to keep it in place the night before.) As I removed them from the bag I heard someone across the way chuckle and someone else mutter ‘you won’t be able to get those in the ground.’ He probably had a point, as they did look a bit spindly, but I smiled politely and carried on regardless. As I bent over to put the first peg in I could see a small gathering of about 6 of men – who had come out of their tents, beer in hand, to watch the show  – tilting their heads in unison as they tried to get an eyeful of my knickers, which were clearly on display! Trying to preserve what little dignity I had left, I quickly readjusted my position to one where my legs were bent and my knees were very firmly together. Leaning awkwardly to the right I began to tap away, praying the peg would go in. The ground was like cement and it bent on the first hit – shit! There was a small jeer from the sidelines and with flushed cheeks, I scurried round to the other side of the tent where I was far less visible and tried again. This time the peg bent right over – double shit! This was public humiliation of the worst kind. I knew exactly what they were thinking: ‘what is this silly, little, city girl with unsuitable footwear, skimpy, French knickers and a toy tent doing on a campsite?’ Or worse still: ‘maybe she has kidnapped her child and is on the run from her partner and the police ?’ I couldn’t have looked more out of place if I had tried.


Whatever they thought, they were gentlemen enough not to let me struggle on my own for too long. On seeing the sorry state of my pegs, one of the men took pity on me and decided to come to my rescue. Brandishing a king size mallet and some of the biggest rusty nails I have ever seen, he ran around my tent sliding them into the ground with about the same amount of effort it takes to put candles on cake. When he had finished, without uttering a word, he walked back to his tent, took a swig of beer and gave me the smuggest of grins – bastard! I said a few ‘grazias,’ grabbed my ‘stolen’ child and hid in the bar until I could slip back to my tent unnoticed under the dead of night! The following day I decided to reinforce my ‘mum on the run’ image and left at the crack of dawn. As I slid onto the motorway, only 3 hours away from the comfort a ‘real’ bed, I swore that for the return trip I would invest in some bigger pegs, and some even bigger knickers!


That was then, this is now – an introduction
June 17, 2008

“It all started with the van not starting. Fully loaded with anticipation, two anxious adults, a teething baby, one fidgety dog and mountains of badly packed furniture; key in ignition…nothing. A flat battery meant everyone out and a two-hour delay while it charged enough to take us to the channel tunnel. Broken windscreen wipers and heavy rain as soon as we crossed the channel nearly finished us off – literally. Looking back it was the perfect prediction of how our new life in France was to be, full of non-starters, disappointment and danger. There has been some joy on the way, but generally the bad has out weighed the good.  Four years have passed since my ex- partner, son and I moved to the Tarn and Garonne in the south west of France. We are still here, but as the ‘ex’ implies, no longer together. Underlying problems in our relationship before we left made our eventual separation a possibility; the stresses that came with living in France made it inevitable. This is not a cautionary tale to anyone thinking about moving abroad in an attempt to solve problems in their relationship. Perhaps if we had made some wiser decisions, or even had a bit more luck, the outcome would have been very different. Who is to say? But there are lessons to be learned from mistakes and out of hardship comes an appreciation for the truer things in life, like health, love, family and friendship. Thankfully, I still have these and treasure them more than anything financial – though a bit more money would be nice. I think my parents would agree!”  Nov 2005 


I wrote that when things were pretty tough. I had just left my partner, moved into a new flat with my 4-year-old son and been told the job I was due to start at the local crèche (my lifeline) was no longer available – apparently there had been an ‘oversight’ in the contract. This news arrived on the morning I was moving. I was stunned. I had plucked up the courage to leave my partner, changed my son’s school and chosen to live in a village I didn’t know for this job. It felt like some kind of bad joke. Things couldn’t get any worse. I had suddenly found myself alone in a strange village, with no reason to be there. I was 40 minutes from the nearest big town and the chances of getting another job (especially one where I wouldn’t have to travel or rely on childcare), were slim. The days were long, money was tight and the opportunity to converse (in either language) was scarce. I needed to vent my feelings and writing became the perfect outlet – along with some very, very long walks. A lot of people have since asked me why, at this time, I didn’t just up-sticks and move back to the UK. It may have seemed the easier option, but the reason I chose to stay then still applies now: I just can’t bring myself to separate my son from his father – he lives nearby, they spend a lot of time together and they adore each other. For me, there was no other option. 


Luckily, the job at the crèche came good in the end! The Directrice and my social worker wrote some very angry letters to a government official (it was a state funded post), and the decision was overturned. I had to wait 4 long weeks to hear the outcome, but it was worth it in the end. My new role as ‘Aide Maternelle’ gave me a sense of purpose and belonging and the confidence to start again on my own. In the past, I had always relied on my ex (who spoke fluent French) to take the lead when it came to sorting anything that required a good command of the language. Assuming we would be together forever, I didn’t feel the pressure to become ‘fluent’ straight away. I knew if I immersed myself in the local community it would come with time, but didn’t feel the need for any formal lessons. Consequently, when my relationship broke down, I had only ‘mother-and-baby group,’ conversational French to rely on. It was far from perfect, but evidently enough to get me financial help from the state and through a 2hr job interview!


With the job things began to improve. 2006 saw me participating in village life and making new friends. I had a very active social life and even managed to get myself a French boyfriend (an interesting experience which I don’t intend to repeat, but a great way to learn ‘street’ French). Sonny was happy in school and relations with my ex had become amicable.  Having been forced to move house 3 times in 10 months (not something I would do again in a hurry), I finally struck gold and found somewhere I could stay indefinitely. I am still here now and it feels like home. It is a charming little flat where I can grow tomatoes on the terrace and because of its proximity to the local Maternelle, get my son from bed to classroom in under 30 minutes – as we are not the earliest of risers this is heaven! It also provides the perfect place to sit and write, or rant, as I am sometimes compelled to do! It is from here that I will post my thoughts on subjects such as friendship, separation, relationships, values, single parenting, childcare, employment, education, cultural differences, money and the politics and idiosyncrasies of French village life. On a lighter note, there may also be the odd tale about dog poo, partying, shopping, eating and the joys of exercising on a big, silver ball with rubber nipples. Stories from the past will be interspersed with snapshots from the present.  I hope they are of interest!








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