Archive for the ‘Single Parenting’ 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 ;@)

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.

 

Reeling
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.

 

 

Silly Mama
October 7, 2008

 

The other morning I came downstairs to find Sonny sitting on the sofa with a stone the size of a large avocado tucked under his bottom.

 

 “Er…Sonny…why are you sitting on a stone?”  I enquired, as any normal mother would.

 

“It’s not a stone,” he sighed, lifting his left butt cheek to give me a better look.  “It’s a dinosaur egg and I’m trying to hatch it.”

 

“Oh…silly me…of course it is,” I replied, trying to not to show my surprise.

 

Several hours later I sat down with a cup of tea and saw the “egg” neglected on the floor. Thinking this was the perfect opportunity to make amends for my earlier faux pas, I said to Sonny:

 

“Do you what me to sit on your egg for a while?”

 

And do you know what the little monkey said?

 

“It’s only a stone, you silly Mama!”

 

Thanks for that one son!

 

Must try harder
September 3, 2008

Sonny woke up at 2.45 this morning and didn’t go back to sleep until 6. He couldn’t sleep. He was “too excited.” Today was his first day at primary school – he has already spent three years at the Maternelle. We have been preparing for it for weeks. Scouring the shops, trying to find everything on the list that was given to us by the school at the beginning of the holidays. Fortunately we had 8 weeks to go shopping, as the list was long and my comprehension of it left me lost in the aisles on more than one occasion.

 

And it is not just me who has struggled with it. Even some of the French mums have complained about how they have had to go hither and thither (screaming children in tow) to lay their hands on some of the items. If you leave it to the last minute, like most of the people I know, you can be sure that the supermarkets (which devote 4 aisles to this stuff in July and August) will be missing at least one of the items on the list. So, it’s everyone back in the car, off on a wild goose chase in search of a red, plastic jotter cover. And it does have to be red. A green one will not do. We must “Respecter les couleurs, les format, les consignes,” or else!

 

 

With this in mind, I went shopping for the following:

 

·     1 trousse (pencil case) – I didn’t see that on the list until now. My son has consequently gone to school without one. That will be a rap over the knuckles for me then.

·     2 stylos à pointe tres fine, 0.3mm: vert et rouge (pens) – After

     10 mins of scanning the shelves for these elusive, little buggers I gave up. There were hundreds of green and red pens, but could I find any with 0.3mm tips? No! Given that this was the first item on the list (if you don’t count the trousse) I wasn’t off to a great start. Exasperated, I grabbed a pack of 0.4mm ones instead. I know I am not “Respecting the blah, blah,blah,” but 1mm isn’t going to make that much of difference, surely?

·     1 gomme de bonne qualitié (rubber) – Got one of those at home. 1 Euro saved.

·     1 taille-crayons avec résevoir (encased pencil sharpener i.e we would prefer it if the classroom didn’t resemble a hamster’s cage) – Sonny wanted to borrow my Cat’s arse pencil sharpener – kids love it. It’s a white, plastic cat, you ram a pencil in its derrière, then listen to it meeowing as the shavings fall into a litter tray under its feet – but I told him it would be too much of a distraction for the other children, and that the teacher might not appreciate it. We went for a batman one instead.

·     10 bâtons de colle a conserver a la maison: founir a l’enfant baton par baton (glue, to be kept at the house and handed to the child, stick by stick) – Found a pack of 10 on special offer. They will be doing a bit of gluing then!

·     1 paire de ciseaux a bouts ronds (round ended, ‘anti-stabbing’ scissors) – Sonny and I had a fight becasue he wanted the most expensive pair. When he refused to put them back, I threatened to swap the batman pencil sharpener for a plain, black one. Needless to say, he settled on the cheaper pair.

·     1 boite de 12 crayons de couleur (coloured pencils) – Made sure I bought coloured pencils and not ‘crayons’, as we know them in the UK.

·     1 cahier de texts, pas d’agenda (homework jotter) – Needed help from a nearby shop assistant for this one. By the look on her face I am not the first foreigner to have asked her this question.

·     1 cahier de brouillon petit format. 17×22 (another jotter) – Hope I got the right one? The dimensions matched, but I didn’t see the word “brouillon” (whatever that means?) anywhere.

·     3 protège-cahiers, format 24×32: bleu, vert et jaune (jotter covers in three colours) – Right next to the jotters. Phew

·     3 protège-cahiers, petit format 17×22: rouge, noir, incolore (smaller jotter covers, in three colours) – Right next to the other jotter covers. Double phew.

·     Du plastique pour couvrir le livre de lecture (plastic to cover the reading book with) – Faced with an empty shelf, I didn’t get any. Am hoping the teacher will have some spare.

·     1 double en plastique (ruler) –  ‘Double?’ Sonny was no help. Didn’t want to appear stupid in front of same shop assistant again, so I asked another shopper who very kindly took me to the right section.

·     1 ardoise blanche (white board for writing on) – ‘Ardoise?’ Found by yet another helpful shopper.

·     1 tenue de sport, surtout une paire de chaussures de sport (gym kit)  – Yes! Another home find.

·     1 blouse pour faire de la peinture. Une vieille chemise a manches longues de papa ou un vieux chemisier de maman conviendra parfaitement (painting shirt) – One of my old shirts, except it is still in the cupboard upstairs. Another rap on the knuckles.

·     TOUTES LES FOURNITURES DEVRONT ETRE MARQUEES AU NOM DE L’ENFANT (MARK YOUR CHILD’S NAME ON EVERYTHING) – The whole lot got stuffed into a plastic bag. But to be fair, the bag did have Sonny’s name on it. Having read the list properly for the first time today, I think the majority of it should have gone in the trousse. Never mind.

 

 

Score 12/17

 

No gold star for me then!

 

Will go shopping for a trousse today and slip it in with the painting shirt tomorrow. If the teacher tells me off, I will play the Scottish card and say that I can’t read French – which, rather sadly, seems to be the case.

 

I have heard from a friend, whose son is in the year above, that next year’s list is even worse. She managed to get 18 out of 20, and doesn’t speak a word of French. As she considers me to be ‘fluent,’ I am feeling slightly bad about my score. I must try harder!

 

‘Snakes and Ladders’ – That’s Life!
August 8, 2008

Yesterday I sat on the floor playing ‘Snakes and Ladders’ with Sonny.

The first time he landed on a snake he got frustrated and wanted to get up and walk away. I told him the game wasn’t over yet, that he still had a chance to win and if he continued to play, with the next throw of the dice he might just land on a ladder. Even if he didn’t, it didn’t matter; he had to keep on trying right to the very end. He might win, he might lose, but he would never know unless he tried.

Then it dawned on me. Through this simple child’s game I was teaching my son some very important skills: how to deal with the ups and downs of everyday life.

We all land on the odd slippery snake every now and again. The slide down can leave us feeling battered and bruised but we have to hang on in there, carry on believing that there will be a ladder to help us back up. If not, what else is there?

Gosh, that was a bit profound for a Friday afternoon; I don’t know what’s come over me! Think I am just feeling a bit maudlin because my car’s a write-off (see previous post).

You are probably wondering if my son won the game? – of course he did. I thought the lesson on losing could keep for another day.

 

 

Had a bad day?
August 6, 2008

I have.

 

This morning I had a rottweiler from the bank trying to frighten me into upping the repayments on a £23,000 loan I have been saddled with since leaving my ex. After going through my monthly income and expenditure (bills, petrol, food etc), and talking to me like a naughty child, we established that I had a whopping great 64 Euros to spare. Eager to get her salivating chops round this tasty, little titbit, she went in for the kill:

 

“SO WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THAT THEN?”

“Oh nothing much…fritter it away on expensive make-up or the odd Gucci handbag if the mood takes me. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU SILLY *****? IT’s 64 EUROS. AREN’T I ALLOWED ANY KIND OF A LIFE?” is what I should have said. What actually came out of my mouth was: “As I am a single mum, I try to put a bit aside for when I need to buy clothes or Christmas presents for my 6-yr-old son. And sometimes I use it to buy birthday presents for his friends, or to repair my car should it happen to break down. Oh, and the odd stamp now and again too. Just little things like that.”

 “So you don’t have anything to spare then?” (Not the brightest dog in the pack are we then?)

“Well, it would seem not – not unless you want to take the clothes off our backs?”

“ I see…” cue jingly music. “Ok, it would seem that we can extend your current payment policy for another 6 months, but we will have to call at the end of it to review your situation again.”

 

“I’ll look forward to that. Thanks.”

 

Do you know what annoys me the most? I took the loan out to renovate a house I no longer live in. I had to move out because of difficulties with my partner (the person who pressurised me into getting the loan in the first place), who continues to live there and doesn’t want to sell. I think he believes that if I get my hands on half the money I will disappear with his son – which I won’t. As it is impossible to prove that I have no intention of fleeing the country (I really do feel my son should spend time with his Father), we have reached stalemate. 

 

On a lighter note, I don’t have to worry about repairs to my car anymore. My boyfriend wrote it off on a bend last night. The damage is about 2,800 Euros (about the price of the car itself) and my insurance company will only pay out for a new windscreen – the only bit that didn’t break! As my boyfriend has even less money than me, it would seem that I am now without wheels for the foreseeable future.

 

So how am I feeling right now? Well… let’s just say…if someone told me I was going to get run over by a bus tomorrow I would probably let out a big sigh of relief, don my cleanest underwear, then go and sit in the road and wait for the bugger to come along.

 

 Roll on tomorrow!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!