The last (I promise) in the ‘here’ or ‘there’ saga!
I was driving through the village today, on the way to Scunthorpe to get Betsy a new bank account set up for university, when she asked the question, “Mum if you hadn’t gone to university do you think you would have always lived in Broughton or somewhere close by?” My answer was “I doubt it” to which Betsy asked “Why not? Hmmm… good question. When I stop to think it doesn’t really make sense to not have stayed local. It seems that I’m a bit Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde!
Reasons to Live Locally
When I think about my own personality these are all reasons I might have expected to have stayed close to home; they are criteria I’m happy to adhere to. If I am such a ‘localite’ and it seems, that as a lover of non-wild, steady-eddy routine, I am, I wonder why I have chosen to live 6000 miles away from home in Bangkok for 17 years and prior to that 4000 miles away from home in Tanzania for 5 years. It just doesn’t make sense!
It seems I’ve managed this by turning Bangkok into Broughton and emulating the same life I would have done if I’d stayed. For example, family is very important to me and has always been a massive pull back to Broughton. In addition, I’m not very wild and like a routine (In Bangkok, I always shop in Tops supermarket for example); we have found an area we like to live in, (the oft mentioned Thana City); and stick there. We tend to go to the same cinema (Mega Bangna Cinema complex) or Mahidol University for Saturday concerts by the Thai Philharmonic. This regularity further fulfils the ‘reasons to stay local’ criteria and also we have a maximum of four or five places we tend to eat. The school, the athletes group and my book club basically is my community and I have learned what is on offer for me work wise in Bangkok (Not a lot when flexibility is key!)
I gave Betsy’s question some further thought. When I went to university my mum thought I’d only last a couple of weeks. Allegedly, and I’m not sure this is true, I would do anything to avoid speaking to shop assistants or strangers or anything of that ilk up to being about 25! (Fair enough really as typical introvert behaviour in my view!) I don’t think, though, it ever crossed my own mind to not stick uni out. I think I maybe got the occasional twinge for the familiarity of Scunthorpe’s shops and the treats it afforded, (the High Street was much better then), but nothing major happened. I wasn’t terribly homesick or anything like that. After uni and several months of temping work, I, along with Saint Mick (who was just Mick then and had mainly brown hair not grey – me too, come to that) backpacked extensively in Asia and Australasia. It was probably then that the idea of living and working abroad started to become attractive to me. Perhaps in my youth I must have been a bit more of a risk-taker than I realised.
But as a fifty something mum and wife, I’ve shown there is nothing very wild about our expat lifestyle!
Living abroad means:
And eventually if you stay somewhere a while, you embrace this ‘same/same but different’ as normal. Living an expat life meets the needs of both my Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde sides!
As I worked through the conundrum posed by Betsy I realised that I am easily restless and the ‘what’s it all about’ question is never far from the surface. Perhaps it’s an expat gene that we teachers abroad all have. Those with vaguely itchy feet wondering what else is ‘on offer’ can keep searching whilst simultaneously holding down well paid jobs and bringing up regular families and turn anywhere into a place that is both ‘same/same and different to home. The desire for adventure, sits alongside routine and ordinariness, though thankfully backpacking can be replaced with nice hotels and holidays in exciting neighbouring countries. It perhaps sounds exotic to tour South East Asia, but no more so than our planned trip to Scotland later this month – same/same but different.
Lately, being back in Broughton has made me think once again about the paths that life has taken me on. I have opted to return ‘’home’ and be part of village life at the minute and it’s making me realise how I’ve never really left it. I guess it is back to the idea of it not being the place but the person that creates a sense of belonging. Right now I’m living locally, and doing the ordinary comfy stuff as regularly as I have ever done, and mid August I’ll just as easily slip back into my Bangkok routine.
Reading this back I’m not sure I’ve got to grips with Betsy’s question at all. What I’d like to claim is that although I’ve abroad for twenty plus years I’ve actually stayed local. I wonder though, is that possible? What do you think?
Today has been one of those days that I have felt really grateful for. The reason for this isn't becasue a new (well 23 year old) Landrover, purchased from the extremely efficient, helpful team at Landrover Centre Huddersfield - whose cars are extremely good value for money and are actually an investment - (or so Mick tells me anyway), arrived in our drive, thus putting a smile on Saint Mick of Thana's face.
Neither is it because we are now proud owners of a King of all Kings Scalextric Set - opened as an early birthday present for the self-same Saint Mick (honestly, talk about it being a day of 'toys' for boys' and yes, I know that is a sexist comment!)
No, it's actually because Betsy and I had a really enjoyable afternoon with my mum and dad at our local Village Hall, enjoying the music of a popular local singer.
This event was organised by long time Broughton resident Ann Smith, after she had enjoyed a similar event in neighbouring village Waddingham. The singer was a man called Terry Carey, who looked, I thought, somewhere between Jeremy Clarkson and Tom Jones. He had clearly enjoyed his own recent trip to Tenerife as he mentioned it more than once, (we weren't at all jealous!), but had a great voice and was quick with a joke. He sang lots of golden oldies and got everyone hand tapping, singing along, with even a bit of dancing thrown in.
I think if we're honest neither Betsy nor I were really sure if we'd enjoy the afternoon, but we really did. I was actually very proud of Bets. It's not every teenager who'd go along with their grandparents to an event, where almost everyone else in attendance was at least 50 years older than themself. She didn't just go, but she chatted, joined in and, would you believe it, even learned a bit of line-dancing. I just don't know where that 'changeling-child' of ours gets it from. I did text her sister Annie the video clip below and got the response "OMG, you'd never get me up there!" That's more how I'd respond too!
Corny but True Alert ...
The whole thing got me thinking about my question earlier in the week about which is preferable - a sleepy village or bustling city? Well the village certainly wasn't sleepy today and came out on top for several reasons:
Old friendships in a village are formed and literally last a life time. Many of the people in the centre today have known each other upwards of half a century.
Going Against the Grain
A last word, anyone who knows me well, and knows what an introvert I am, will think that they are in a parallell universe. I am not known for enjoying group events. and local community get-togethers are way out of my comfort zone. My blog post on How to be an Avoider, proves this point only too well. I was in people's bad books for weeks after I'd posted it! I guess it just goes to show what a yummy slice of cake, piece of fruit loaf, lemon tart and cup of coffee and some fun entertainment can do to a person!
Thank you Broughton!
I've been a little bit lazy with my blogging lately. I'm not sure why. I guess I'm not invested enough to do the background work to get my SEO rankings anything like respectable and I'm too poor, or too mean (not sure which!) to pay someone to do it for me. Also, more importantly I'm still not completely sure what type of blog I want to produce. It's a work in progress. If' you've stuck with me so far thank you very much.
All the advice I've read about being a successful blogger says to write what your audience wants to read. However, I think when I started this blooging malarkey I'd had a more 'write what you want to write' approach in mind. A kind of online diary I guess - the musings of a middle aged mum. Heaven fobid that I tell the whole truth! Sticking with this approach means, of course, I won't get lots of readers as the blog isn't focused enough, but it makes me happpy to share what I've been thinking about, so that's what I've decided to continue to do.
This week I've been spending time back in Broughton and just chilling with family. It isn't wild, but is very lovely. In the gaps I've managed to read the memoir, 'Somebody I Used to Know'. I came across it online as I follw Wendy Mitchell's blog, 'Which me am I today?' She is a woman who (or is it whom?) I hugely admire. Diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers, she has set about showing the nation that her illness is just like any other, something you live with and maange rather than a reason to give up on life.
Wendy is something of a force of nature. In all honesty, I bet she is a real 'go-getter' and would scare the pants off me. She gave an animated interview on Jenny Eclair's and Judith Holder's 'Older and Wider' podcast which I really enjoyed and inspired me to learn more about her (episode 20 I think). In her book she shares how she travels up and down the country, raising awareness about dementia and meeting both like minded people, and also people, who need educating. Significantly, she describes her emotions of living with the illness and how she manages the difficulties it imposes. She is very frank and honest, so consequently it is a really moving and powerful read.
I've actually recently reviewed the book on my goodreads acccount if you're interested. As an aside, if you haven't come across goodreads, I can't recommend it enough. It is a great way of keeping tabls on your own reading and getting recommendations from others. You can follow your favourite authors, share reviews and all kinds of book related things. I'm completely addicted to it - wild woman that I am!
I actually recently reviewed a different book, Sally Magnusson's Where Memories Go, also about dementia, on the goodreads site. Strangely they are the only two books I've given a five star rating this year. I guess it is because I think they so successfully fill the gap in the market for intelligent well-written social commentary on this emotional topic. Where Memories Go focused on sharing the author's story of how she helped care for her mum with dementia. It was a hugely insightful and inspiring text to read.
So, if you're not sure what to read this summer and you do like memoirs, these are two great reads on an under explored topic. If anyone else has any recommendaitons for other interesting summer reads I'd love to hear them. My next pick is going to be a novel I think. In the meantime, happy reading and happy summer holidays!
So the end of term is upon all my teacher friends. It's a bit weird to not be there for the end of term leavers' assembly and it's odd to think that now both girls have left school there really is very little reason to return to Patana. It has been a large part of all our lives. It sounds cliched but school becomes more than just a place of work. We've all made some lifelong friends through work and I guess school has been the centre of our social and work lives. Anyway, now there's only Saint Mick of Thana left at school. He's had a very busy week running around helping organise set ups for assemblies, (I actually just came across the clip of Betsy's leavers assembly on youtube, it shows Patana doesn't do things by halves!), wishing the leaving kids luck for their future and all the other unseen stuff that goes on behind the scenes. It really is the end of an era and a time of change for us all. I know next year he will miss seeing Betsy around the place a lot. Any expat teachers who have kids at the same school where they work will know what I mean .
I'm lucky as the advent of social media has meant that I am in touch with lots of alumni students, not only from Patana, but from the other schools I worked at. I feel privileged to have taught these young men and women. Only this week I received a lovely message from a girl, Victoria, (sorry woman) I taught in my very first teaching role at Fakenham High School, saying that I was that teacher in the quote below. I was hugely flattered and touched, but it was a long time ago and maybe her memory cells have gone a bit skewey! I must have done something right though, as Vic treated me to a lovely 'afternoon tea' in London last summer when I was back in the UK. My kind of ex-student friend!
It acutally makes me feel pretty humble to get nice notes and so on from ex-students and to think that I had played a tiny-teeny part in their road to success. It has also made me reflect on the responsibility associated with the role. (I bet it would have freaked me out if I'd reflected on that too much when I actually was a teacher!) Another student I taught, Hanoi Lamtharn once told me (though a long time ago now) how something relatively small that I had done made a huge difference to hismotivaton levels when he was feeling fed up of all the IGCSE English revision he had. All I had done was write him a little good luck card with a personal message and target, but it had clearly hit the spot. I think when students are appreciated as individuals, rather than just one more kid in the class it is is incredibly empowering for them.
Here are some other things that my teacher friends have done to make their students feel special:
I think it is testament to teachers' dedication and willingness to go over and above for their kids that they have found the energy to do this. I can see that they are a lovely way to start the summer and, I guess, a reminder for the teacher too of all the good bits of the year. Its hard work but I know that I have welcomed, very much, the friendly and positive correspondence in this vein, from Betsy's fabulous Head of Year. It has meant a lot to know that she has been genuinely cared for. Thanks Claire.
Anyway, I think that really is it for me in terms of teacher talk. The era is offically ended. From now on my blog posts will be strictly about Porsche, oh no, I mean Landrover driving. A little hint about what Saint Mick of Thana might be getting for his birthday. Happy holidays everyone.
It's the last week of term at my old school, Bangkok Patana. My teacher friends are frantically busy getting ready for the holidays; be it packing for school improvements, organising end of term assemblies or planning final lessons - it is full on. I remember that buzz only too well and just a teeny bit of me misses it, but, to be honest, not too much. It is hard to think that it is nearly a whole academic year since I left my role as Head of Libraries. Since then I've spent a good chunk of time back in Broughton, Lincolnshire hanging out with my oldies and living the life of a retired 50 something, let's pretend I'm cool, Porsche driver! What with blogging and reading and writing and swimming, I really don't have time to go to work any more!
Although it was only three weeks ago that we were all together for Betsy's school graduation, I, like my teacher friends, can't wait for the end of term as my Saint Mick of Thana and Betsy will be coming home to Broughton, soon to be joined by Annie. (A.K.A I'm a poor student but I've just been to Malta and I'm heading to Italy tomorrow - good on her I say!)
I woke up this morning thinking about which place I liked living in best - good old Blighty, specifically Broughton, or Bangkok?
Weather - let's start with the important stuff ...
Bangkok - it's more predictable in Thailand, if it gets under 30 degrees everyone gets out their winter coats (I'm not even joking) and when it pours it really pours. This also gives you a 'get-out free pass; for being late for absolutely any occasion, regardless of the gravitas of it. There's also the pull of sun, sea and sand almost all the year round.
Broughton - like the rest of the UK, Broughton's weather is a great talking point. A trip to the seaside is suddenly cancelled because of chance of light showers, the summer comes early in April and disappears in June. The heat wave (there's bound to be one), is inevitably going to be moaned about. All good fun!
I have loved watching the seasonal changes this year though - the first chance in over twenty plus years to see Autumn turn into winter and so on has been a highlight...
And the winner for me is ... Broughton. I know one Saint Mick though who will definitely disagree.
Broughton - Getting to hang out with my oldies is a real pull for Broughton. I am lucky as I enjoy my parents' company a lot. Me and dad are often out and about getting into all sorts of mischief! I really need 'L plates' when steering his wheelchair. I like to think that my mum and dad enjoy my company too (at least a little bit!) and I can help out. When I'm not here I ring a lot, but it is not the same as living across the road - obvs! You might think that when I'm in the UK I'd see Annie more, but weirdly this year I've spent far more time with Annie during her not infrequent visits to Thailand. A plus is I do get to see my brother and his wife and other family in the UK and form stronger bonds than just a quick trip in the summer enables. My brother also happens to be great at DIY - an added bonus! There are two gorgeous babies in our family now as well so the chance to see more of them is going to be great.
Bangkok - Well my lovely Saint Mick is in Bangkok so that's reason enough for me to choose it. There's nothing quite like having a cup of tea with the old fella as he sits in his Lazy Boy recliner tapping on his laptop, whilst I moan that he is always working! Betsy has been there too so it will be strange next year, when fingers crossed, she will be at York or Hull Uni.
And the winner on family is .. A draw. In my Embrace the Change blog post I explored the advantages and disadvantages of living betweeen two countries. I maintain that a 'time share' is possible. I just wish Bangkok and Broughton were a bit closer.
Broughton - Well, it's sad to say that my visits never coincide with school reunions and I've been away for such a long time that I don't have any. Oh my god, that really is sad! That's unless you count my parents' friends, and I have always liked 'more mature' people so I won't worry about my 'billy-no-mate status' too much! There's one other big attraction in Broughton and that's the great sense of community and lovely neighbours that I have. There is a real sense that if you need anything someone will help, and that is not there in a big city.
Bangkok - You can't live somewhere for 17 years and not make a good network of friends and there's nothing like a good natter to lift the spirits. I read this article about it just yesterday. I think when any expat relocates, especially after a long time, this loss of having friends close by shouldn't be underestimated. It's like being a third culture kid, but grown up - a 'third culture adult?'! So all I can say is thank goodness for text. I have really appreciated those friends who have taken the time and effort, even though busy themselves to keep in touch this year.
And the winner is ... Bangkok, no question.
Broughton - well I can't pretend it is the hub of restaurants, cinemas, cafes or anything like that. There is a good swimming pool close by though - Ancholme Leisure Centre and a good bookshop at Waterstones in Lincoln, so that will do me. Along with our adventures when the whole family is back - this year we're doing a tour of Scotland - I'm not complaining. I also know that for families and pensioners there are loads of things put on in the village, so if you are keen to join things and get inovolved there is plenty to enjoy.
Bangkok - There's tons to do, but I think it is linked to friends and the attractions for me, don't hold that much value without them. I like to go Mahidol University to listen to the Thai Philharmonic Orchestra, but I wouldn't do it without my fab music chum Rachel. (Check out her great blog here.) I also love to swim with my, ironically called, Athletes group. Thana City Country Club is ten minutes walk from home and does top the leisure centre here, but hey... too much sun is bad for you. The restaurants in Bangkok are magnificent in quantity and quality, but I'm a creature of habit, and I've yet to find a really good fish and chip shop there so the jury is out on that one.
Overall though the winner is Bangkok, but I'm not really bothered!
So, looking at the above, there's pros and cons to both. If it was on place only, then it would be Bangkok, but it is 'people not places' that matter. That means, with family and also friends soon heading back this way, right now Broughton is the hands down winner. BUT, ask me again in August when we head back to Bangkok and I suspect the answer might be different.