I’ve just had an automated email from KLM, asking me to give feedback on my recent flight to Humberside from Bangkok. My granddad used to say to me, “if you haven’t got anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” I will not, therefore, be completing the feedback survey.
To be honest, though, there wasn’t anything particularly terrible about this flight, but, well … is it just me .. or.. well you are like me and you find having to sit 11 plus hours with a perfect stranger on a plane brings out your inner cringy, socially awkward, stammering child? If so these strategies may help.
The passenger in front of you reclines their seat to its max for the duration of all meals.
The inflight attendant spills hot coffee on your lap.
The inflight attendant gives you a meal you didn’t request.
The inflight attendant forgets to give you wine or bread roll with dinner (this particularly applies to vegetarians).
I’ve decided that part of embracing change entails embracing my mid-life crisis, and thus I find myself co-owner of a rather fabulously loud and attractive Porsche Boxster S (the co-owner says the ‘S’ is important!).
We’ve ended up with this car for various reasons:
It was a great choice! There is little doubt in my mind, that whenever I go out in the Porsche I make an impression. I am enjoying the experience of being a super cool, fifty something girl-racer around town. So, to other would-be Porsche drivers, if you heed the following advice you won’t go far wrong:
Obviously I’m joking, well….at least in part!
I do find it interesting though that I have been a little bit hesitant about driving the Porsche and also just a bit self-conscious about glances from other road users. Perhaps it’s just that I’m an introvert, or maybe singing loudly to Abba would attract stares whatever car I was driving! I wonder, though, why I don’t just boldly say that I enjoy driving a fast car and I feel I have to be almost apologetic about becoming a, what do they call it, ‘petrol head’? It seems that, not for the first time I’m not being true to my feminist self! So, embracing the change, in all it’s forms, I boldly state that hence forth I will be loud and proud in my revving and my racing!
However, if anyone out there does have a nice Land Rover Defender 90 for sale, give me a shout. I may be able to find a good home for one!
Sometimes change can feel overwhelming, but a little bit of positivity can go a long way. Public health warning - earnest blog post coming up!
Many of my friends and family know that last September I gave up my full time position as Head of Libraries at Bangkok Patana School. This freed me up to spend a greater percentage of my year living at home in Lincolnshire, in the UK, than that afforded by visiting in regular school holidays.
The arrangement isn’t perfect. My brain often seems to lag behind where the rest of my body is, worrying needlessly about things that it cannot change in a country that it isn’t even in. And, of course, I miss the people in my family who I'm not currently with. My two home bases are a bit far apart and time travel would be welcome: Bangkok and Broughton definitely need shoving a bit nearer to each other. However, as a way of embracing two different lifestyles, and keeping a foot in two worlds and enjoying time with family who happen to live thousands of miles apart, I think I can announce that living in two countries is distinctly doable.
Since quitting work during the time I’ve spent in Bangkok I’ve largely been a lady of leisure. Some might say I’ve been living the expat dream! Five thirty morning starts are a thing of the past; coffee and cake feature most days; and on some mornings my biggest decision is whether to have my breakfast at the club house, before or after my morning swim. In my defence, if one is needed, I structure my days purposefully, (admittedly sometimes around watching Homes under the Hammer) and have committed to a range of self-improving literary and physical activities (this sounds more torturous than it actually is!) In addition, I’ve tentatively become a living embodiment of a city explorer. I’ve accomplished tasks that have had me venturing out on the sky-train and into the big smoke on enough occasions to not even be able to count - well, at least not on one hand...
I can justify my leisurely Bangkok life (for now at least) as I have been busier during my time spent in the UK. In fact, I have made time to move house, renting out our much loved, but very tired little cottage. Note to self: next time you move house, remember to check with the family first. “Mum, you’ve moved house and didn’t even tell us!” “Ah, sorry kids.” We’ve moved into a really lovely bungalow, just across the street from my mum and dad. Another note to self, Don’t take someone else’s credit: Thanks Rob and Anne for making the bungalow beautiful for us. Living there has been a success and I very much enjoyed our whole family’s first Christmas there. I am even confident that once I have learned to allow the kids to sit on the velvet mustard sofa, whilst eating chocolate at the same time, that they might enjoy living there too!
The proximity to my mum and dad’s house means that my mission of never giving them a minute’s peace has been an unmitigated success. They in turn pretend not to mind too much when I get bossy accompanying them to hospital appointments, and forcing them on trips down memory lane, playing old vinyl LPs, (do you ever feel you are being humoured?), An added bonus of being in England more frequently is that I can also see more of my lovely eldest daughter, Annie, studying in London, than I would have otherwise been able to. I’m steadfast in my belief that when she calls my enthusiasm to visit and stay in her digs ‘extra’, that she does actually mean it as a compliment.
Weather wise, (now I’m in the UK more I’m embracing the English culture of talking about the weather) I get the best of both worlds. For the first time, in twenty plus years I could watch Autumn kick Summer into touch. And as Summer seems to be never far from the doorstep in Bangkok, I haven’t minded Winter at all. Nothing like a crisp blue sky to blow away the cobwebs.
I thought I might worry about the things I am missing out on when I’m not in Thailand, but in my absence, things in Bangkok seem to run smoothly. My husband, affectionately known by my friends as “Saint Mick of Thana", has not only accepted, but relished, the primary parent role to our, admittedly practically grown up, youngest daughter, Betsy. His responsibilities extend to chauffeur to confidante to cinema buddy, to birthday gift shopper, to snack provider to sleep enforcer, to ‘you’ve got this IB, mate’ encourager. They are great buddies.
At work things haven’t fallen apart either. I know right, a little bit annoying, but at least I’m not wracked with guilt at having let the school down. The large conference we’d spent a year planning successfully went ahead without me; the Kids’ Lit competition, first one in Thailand was a rip-roaring success without me, and the wrangles about whether bags should be allowed in the library or not, seem to be occurring, without me. And what’s more I’m nearly in a place where I don’t really mind all that ‘without me’ input.
The reality is that I can’t be defined as teacher, or librarian anymore. My roles as mum, wife, daughter and friend are still as strong as ever, but even there the job description has changed. I do far more commuting and less one-on-one conferencing. The communication channels required now rely heavily on electronic devices, but there are lots of opportunities for personal development and growth in these changing expectations and locations. The dual based nature of the role affords itself both flexible hours and lots of travel opportunities.
I am currently on a plane flying back to see family in UK. I’m grateful and excited to have the chance to do so. I am, of course, missing Mick and Betsy but I know that they are fine. I also know I’m very lucky. I have a supportive family, good friends who make plans for when I’m in town (looking forward to being back in Bangkok for book-club ladies), excellent wi-fi so I can keep in touch; and importantly a healthy awareness that looking for the benefits and perks of having two homes is a positive thing to do. So, with this positive growth mindset to the fore, (hope it lasts!) I will post this blog and ‘embrace the change’!
From sea and sand to being allowed to sit on the sofa!
I was having coffee with a friend yesterday who asked me what I typically do at the beach. I ‘laughed out loud’ and asked if she imagined that I have long soulful walks, perhaps holding hands with my husband, as we plotted our perfect retirement together, as the waves gently lapped round our ankles. Meantime my daughter would be reclining at the poolside reading self-improving literature guaranteed to help her obtain optimum exam grades. She responded with a raised eye-brow.
It got me thinking though, as it is this picture postcard perfect existence that most of my friends and I portray on social media. Take today for example: my family did travel to the beach, so a typical facebook post might say, ‘yummy dinner at a our favourite Italian, after a fab day surfing the waves.’ I’d perhaps follow this with a beaming photo of us all holding raised glasses and a jaunty close up of our pizza and tirimasu making my facebook friends salivate with envy! And it would be … well one version of the truth.
A different version might be less palatable.
I most categorically would not post anywhere that I had woken up several times during the night with a glass half full of half-term angst, and even a shot or two of half-term anger. Details not necessary! Internal dialogue during this morning’s preparations would be kept strictly off -line. (Why did questioning the size of the suitcase I’d opted for evoke such a response?) Equally, I wouldn’t tell anyone that the dog had been sick on the floor, in the same way that I wouldn’t remind everyone that many years ago both our children had vomited on the toes of a customer at the very restaurant we were going to that evening. Weirdly, it’s the main reason we go back, but sharing that would be paramount to ‘too much information’.
I wouldn’t share my distress (only visible in more internal dialogue) at our eleventh hour plan to have breakfast on the journey, because it would be fun. Neither would I mention my self-congratulatory magnanimity for not kicking off when we were stuck in Bangkok traffic for an extra two hours, due to our late departure from the city, due to the aforementioned breakfast. Also, I doubted that I’d bother to snap the avocado, tomato and scrambled eggs served, slowly, with the avocado and tomato missing, for my pinterest ‘delicious meals’ folder.
What I might do is try to paint a slightly better version of myself with a little exaggeration or inclusion of half-truths ...
For example, at some point during our journey, I might make a quick comment on twitter about listening to #ReasonsToBeCheerful podcast. The irony of listening to a podcast about well intentioned lefties feeling guilty about sending their kids to private schools would be appreciated by my teacher chums … ( I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our own school is non-profit-making!) I might try and make myself look smart by posting a further comment about having moved on to listening to #InOurTime podcast. In it Melvyn Bragg and a very posh lady discussed Klimt’s Judith. At length, I might add. I probably wouldn’t include that this podcast sent me straight to sleep, though I might say that coincidentally we had a print of the copy of Judith hanging in our UK cottage, but would omit that it had gone mouldy because the house is damp.
And on it goes …I’d definitely mention that I had listened to #Fortunately podcast, because that is funny and I do so want to be mates with Jane and Fi. I wouldn’t though, say that I put on my headphones for that bit, as what would that reveal about the ‘sisterhood’.
And on it goes and on it goes … with my picking and choosing the ‘best bites’ of my days, weeks, months and years, to inauthentically appear authentic.
I am, then, an outed fifty something facebook fibber and sharer of fake news. Do I need treatment for this illness? Should I be banned from ever darkening the doors of social media ever again? Should I make a stand and share a more palatable reality? Does anyone really want to air their actual dirty washing in public? Well certainly not me, and if that is what is required to be an authentic user of social media please don’t expect many facebook posts from me in the future!