Giving thanks

English: A can of pureed pumpkin made by One-Pie.

Try it. Trust me. It’s really nice!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week I am mainly celebrating Thanksgiving. On Wednesday at my son’s school, on Thursday at our house, and on Saturday at someone else’s. Given I’m not even American I find this somewhat amusing and I’m a little terrified of what it will do to my waistline mere moments away from the Christmas season, but as it is my favourite time of the year, I am willing to suffer the once, twice, nay thrice agony of turkey dinners and pumpkin pies.

I LOVE Thanksgiving. It is totally the best holiday ever and I am so pleased I married an American so that I get to celebrate it. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with family and friends and breaking bread together. What could be more perfect than spending a day with your loved ones just eating and being together? “It’s just like Christmas!” I hear you cry – and it sort of is – but without any virgins or babies or donkeys or manic gift buying or endless George Michael/Paul McCartney/Aled Jones (delete as appropriate) pumping from every shop and restaurant, or thank you note writing or days and days of sitting about eating yet more crap during that dead bit between the 25th and 31st December that no-one talks about or the sheer pressure to perform that seems to leak into every corner of Christmas.

Thanksgiving…far more chilled. Turkey, trimmings, pie, wine. Of course to say it was a piece of cake would belittle my own preparations which so far have run to something close to a military operation and are about to turn red alert. It is hard work to pull off a three course dinner for ten and still have time to enjoy it, of course it is. But the whole premise of Thanksgiving – to just share a meal and be thankful for the company you share it with – well, there is just something magical about it I love.

Despite being several time zones and a half day’s flight away from the US, every year we celebrate Thanksgiving. We have had many people grace our table over the years – and sometimes it’s been just us and a chicken – but it’s something we make the effort to do even though our family is so distant. Especially because they are so distant. It is a way of reconnecting, of reminding us of home, of making traditions for our little family and sharing them with others. In fact I’m always surprised just how much people from other countries also love to celebrate Thanksgiving. I think it’s the feeling of inclusiveness and of togetherness that it instills, that makes it a pretty feel-good thing to do in the remote expatriate world that we live in. I look forward to one day sharing it again with our families, wrapped up warm and cozy by a fire, but in the meantime I can’t think of a better way to start the seasonal madness than tucking into turkey by torchlight in the back garden, surrounded by the friends new and old that we have made during our time here.

A friend of mine invited us to their Thanksgiving many years ago (before my husband and I owned a table I think). She introduced me to the most lovely tradition which I annually force my guests to participate in (the Brits in particular loathe it but it’s my table, my rules). After a toast from the host, we go around the table and all say something we are thankful for. Schmaltzy, much? Oh yeah. But it reminds us to be thankful, to consider that there is something in each of our lives that is worth stopping to think about and truly value in that moment.

What am I thankful for? Well, it’s hard to say. I don’t normally divulge, or even think about it until it’s my turn around the table. But I guess this year I am thankful for a whole lot. For being content. For finding my place in this world again. For my boys, the big and the little,whom I love so dearly and who give me so much joy. For not feeling lonely or homesick for the first time in a long time. For reigniting my passion for theatre and writing and finding time to do both. For looking forward to the future but not wishing away the here and now. For living what is really the most wonderful life I could ever have dreamed of. And finally, for the 8kg turkey I am attempting to shoehorn into the oven on Thursday.

Happy Turkey Day


Oops I did it again

Dammit. The weather is beautiful. The sky is blue. Life is exceptionally good. I’ve gone and fallen under the Dubai spell all over again.

It happens every year. It’s difficult not to love never-ending blue skies and warm sunny weather that is perfect for doing just about anything in when you are skype-ing a family in polo neck jumpers and reading FB status updates that continually moan about rain and putting the heating on.


Just about the only thing likely to give me cold hands this side of Christmas (Photo credit: Tris Linnell)

Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t miss the UK anywhere near as much at this time of year as I do in May or June; but most of the time, I couldn’t care less. I’m too busy worrying about getting rid of strap marks, booking outdoor tables at restaurants and figuring out which pool to go to. Living in Dubai is no holiday, that is true, but at this time of year it can really start to feel like one.

However, this week is particularly troublesome in that a whole load of people we know are lying in wait to see what Hurricane Sandy will blow their way. As well as the friends that are all on Sandy’s current flight path, half my family are also getting ready for the hit. My sister is in New York – last year we camped out at their apartment in Manhattan a mere block away from the evacuation zone, and watched Irene blow through the city from rain spattered windows. My in-laws are scattered over Massachusetts and New Hampshire and various of them lost power in a freak snow storm that hit in October last year. So it would be fair to say it feels a little churlish to complain about the Dubai version – a couple of hours of blustery sandy shamal that forced us out of the pool and indoors this afternoon and has already moved on as I write this.

In summary, America is windy. And everyone in the UK, without exception, is cold. It’s half term from school there as well as here, and I compare struggling to think of anything to do with a small child in the cold and wet (maybe that should read ‘anything to do that involves me having to leave the house’) vs. my oh-so-difficult choice of beach/pool/park to fill in the hours over the course of the next few days. Clearly there is absolutely no better place to spend an October week off with your kids than Dubai. The thousands of tourists that have flocked here like penguins at mating season would seem to concur.

So our host city wins. And it will continue to do so for the next four months. With the brief exception of two weeks at Christmas of course, when we will dress up in our finest antique wooly jumpers and grace England with our suntanned faces and relaxed demeanours and everyone will be jealous and think about visiting us again (although they probably won’t, even though they should).

Whilst it might travel under the guise of spending time with loved ones, in reality this fortnight of cold, damp and darkness is not a particularly desirable choice of Christmas vacation. After all, we could be eating turkey on the beach. However, I like to think our decision to leave Dubai in what could easily be agreed on as the BEST TWO WEEKS OF THE YEAR (not that I’m bitter) is done for three reasons:
1. It is incredibly difficult to get into the festive spirit required of a mother of a pre-schooler if you are dressed in a bikini and drinking rose wine in the garden instead of trawling Bluewater for tree presents.
2. My son has demanded snow for Christmas. Whilst it is unlikely to actually snow in the UK in December, it has been known to – and there is a greater chance of it happening there than here in Dubai.
3. It is essential to refresh the memory of how awful the cold, damp and darkness is in order to prolong the feeling of smugness as long as possible into the new year. There are a good few months left until the summer begins in earnest but it’s never to early to start emotionally preparing for it.

So it’s time to enjoy the next six weeks before we break out the hats and boots and jump on a plane. To get out in the warm sun and make the most of every single day. To worry and fret about our loved ones with serious weather warnings and – well – largely ignore the rest of the moaning masses who are a bit chilly. Get on a plane dudes. It’s bloody fantastic here.

Contemplation by the creative mind (or some such poncey nonsense)

I love it when interesting people stumble into my life. After an initial flurry of – ooo – two or three people, whom I met in the first few months of being in Dubai, I then spent a good few years yearning for more of them to cross paths with me and become my friends.

And whilst I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t have much in the way of social stimulation I can honestly say that I didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity. The first year we were in Dubai I was studying, so I had plenty of time in the day to meet people. But it didn’t work like that. I found it very hard to just ‘make friends’ with people, for starters, because I couldn’t find anything in common with most people I met. Because I didn’t have kids, I was dismissed by those that did, and because I didn’t work in an office, I was dismissed by those that did. And I dismissed them too. They weren’t interesting to me, and I started to think I didn’t fit into anyone’s world. I was bored and I was boring.

In my second year here I started work as a teacher. I didn’t have a huge pool of co workers to get to know, nor the time to spend getting to know them. Most of my days were spent in the company of twenty under-5s, and whilst they are interesting in their own way I wasn’t exactly going to be drinking buddies with any of them. After that I gave birth, and I think anyone who has done the same can say, hand on heart, that it saps all the ‘interesting’ out of you for a good chunk of time. Meeting people who make your brain come alive is only relevant if you haven’t had all of your little grey cells burned up by sleep deprivation and shitty nappies. I was irrelevant to my old teacher chums and although I met a few new mums once I had the baby, most fell by the wayside as our kids got older and we found we had less and less in common.

But when my son turned a year old, he wasn’t the only one to take the first baby steps towards independence. Upon realising that my life probably wasn’t anywhere near as awful as I made it out to be, I realised that my angst and anger at being stuck in a foreign land with a small baby and no friends really needed to be channelled into something more positive. So I went back to my roots, and joined a drama class, where I finally found the energy to be me again.

That was two years ago. The people I met in that class went from being a bunch of misfits I vaguely knew the names of, to being my friends who I can count on to have an interesting and entertaining time with whenever we meet. The class gave me confidence in myself and my ability, and has led to more and more involvement performing and learning with an ever expanding group of people who inspire me to be great. It allowed me to think again, and to celebrate the weirdo in me that had got lost in a sea of conformity somewhere along the journey into expatriateworld and mummydom.

Once the juices were flowing, it made me want to do more. I began to write again. And six months ago, I joined twitter to boost my reader numbers (because as any blogger knows, the stats page is the most important one of all, especially if you thrive on being the centre of attention like I do). And now I have friends who I have made through blogging and twitter, because we write, and we like how each other write, and although I don’t know them terribly well, I have begun to put my trust in the theory that if someone can make me ‘feel’ with what they write, or say, or how they act, that they are ‘my kind of person’. They become interesting. They become my friend.

I had assumed a rather old-fashioned definition of ‘friend’ up until this year. I was searching for people to replace the ones I left behind. It took me a long time to realise that they can’t be replaced, nor do I want them replaced. But now when I think of all the interesting people I have met through being a little more creative, and a little less judgemental and proud, I realise my life is the fuller for it. And if I really think about it, all the friends I left behind came from the same place – they too were once a bunch of misfits in a rehearsal room who over the decades, have become my family.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately, of books and blogs, in preparation for my MA and to improve and invigorate my work onstage.  I find increasingly that these two ‘careers’ of mine overlap, and intertwine, so that my life is slowly becoming fluid again, and instead of wearing many hats in a day to try and fit in with everyone else, I find my world as a mother, wife, friend, and ‘creative person’ is about life fitting in with me. The two things I loved doing in life twenty years ago – writing and theatre – have once again become central to my life today. And life – mine and my family’s – is all the better for it.

People thrive on different things to get them through life. How I keep forgetting, and how I only just figured this out again, is beyond me. I have the attention span of a fly, clearly. But in my life, being busy doing creative things is key. If I am not creative, I am not inspired. If I am not inspired, I am not interested. If I am not interested, then I am bored. If I am bored, then I am thoughtless, and lonely, and sad. And right now, I am horribly, smug-tastically happy with my life, which is full to the brim with busy all of a sudden, doing all the things I love, surrounded by people who make me smile. Which can only mean I’m getting it right.

I want to break free

There’s no two ways about it: I want to go back to work. I don’t mean actual work of course; Working 9 to 5 (who ever finishes at 5, anyway?) in some grey office doing the bidding of a boss I can’t stand has never been my strong point and that’s not about to change. And I have a degree to start thinking about in January which will eat up large quantities of time I’m sure. No, I don’t mean I want a job…I mean what I said – I want to work. And I think I’ve finally figured out why I’ve flitted between so many different careers all these years – administrator, manager, writer, theatre practitioner, teacher: so I can do virtually anything on a need-to-work basis whilst remaining resolutely uncommitted to anyone except myself. In posh terms, I believe one would use the term ‘Freelancer’.


Dear patronising Worker Bees: Despite being a stay at home mum for three years, both sides of my brain are working just fine, thank you (Photo credit: TZA)

Of course the word ‘Freelancer’ is partly composed of the word ‘free’ which has several meanings. ‘Free’ can mean uninhibited, or unpaid. So let me be clear. I want to be paid. I don’t want to compromise on the time with my son but I would really like to earn my own money again and feel like I’m making a contribution to wider world once more. And despite my adoring fanbase whom I truly appreciate for all their kind words and encouragement, I am not making it a better place just sitting here faffing about with a blog. Nor is it earning me beans to buy shoes or birthday presents for my husband, who with the best will in the world must be slightly bored with his ‘surprise’ gifts turning up on the credit card.

And that’s the crux of the matter. Never mind that thing about having to use my brain again – despite evidence to the contrary, I use my brain almost all the time, every day. I have plenty to keep me busy and I’m not desperate for company, so whereas I thought I would eventually return to work to be around people again, this is not the reason. No, the reason is I want to have some earning power again, no matter how small. It has great meaning, to be able to earn your own money. It is synonymous with freedom and even the smallest amount would change how I feel. Some of it is about me, of course. I want to buy that dress I saw that would be perfect for Christmas without it appearing on a Mastercard statement for my husband to torture me with. But most of it is about pride, and achievement, and just the very basic happiness that can be derived from buying something with money you worked for. For example, I’d like to take my husband out to dinner and actually pay rather than ‘pretend pay’ with money that he gave me in the first place. I’d like to treat my son. I’d like to send myself flowers, and maybe send them to other people too, to make them happy and because I can. It’s not the stuff mortgages are made of but it’s the little things that I’m tired of not being able to do without relying on someone else to pay for it.

Not working is a curious state of mind. It is not easy to not work. If you’re not careful you start to lose respect for yourself at approximately the same speed that everyone else does. People that work don’t understand that people who do not have lives that are just as challenging. We do all the stuff the people that work don’t have time to do, but that add a little love into the world, like baking cakes or going to sports days or being on the PTA committee or keeping the house standing. Not all of it is fun and there are days when I wish I was in an office with a boss I don’t like, just so that I didn’t have to wait in for the electrician or look after a sick child. But a lot of it is fun, and valuable, and irreplaceable. I would not want to give up the time I have with my son when it’s just us and no-one else, nor would I want to watch the house disintegrate into chaos as a result of me resuming a full time career. And as an expat, I would not want a mere four weeks of holiday to take to see family and friends on two continents, nor would I want to be reliant on a housemaid to look after my child every day because I am not there.

I’ve talked a lot in the past about ‘having it all’ and struggled to find peace with only having ‘some’. I believe there is a balance and the more people I meet the more I understand what the balance is and how to achieve it. The next step is to actually do it. So that’s what I’m concentrating on now, to make the most of the many strings on my bow, new skills and old ones, and get out there and work them. I believe I will get there.

Age is just a number

I am getting older.

Old bottles of wine aging by candle light

Just like a fine wine, I get better with age, particularly in candlelight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t actually mind. I used to – when I was younger, and forty seemed like the end of the world, but now I really don’t mind that much that it’s just a couple of years away. I like me now. I look better, feel better, and am fitter than I ever was ten years ago. I’m a nicer person. I’m wiser. And if not happier then certainly more content, more easy going, and more forgiving. (Which makes me one scary bitch a decade or so back). But the fact that I don’t mind getting older doesn’t necessarily mean I am willing to accept the various reminders from the people around me, from advertisers, manufacturers, and in particular the people I pay to perform various services on my body. There is absolutely no need for them to keep pointing out the obvious to me AT. ALL. And certainly not as frequently as they seem to be currently enjoying. Maybe I don’t help things along because I’ve stopped lying about my age. Maybe it’s time to start again before it’s too late and all these people manage to convince me I am actually getting on a bit…anyway, here are my top ten ‘Old Person In The Making’ moments of the past month. I defy anyone to not feel their age after this sort of abuse…

1. I was offered ‘botox for hair’ at my salon the other day because ‘its good for when your hair gets older and over treated’. It didn’t occur to me for one minute to say no or consider this a ridiculous and unnecessary procedure. My hair certainly looks more vibrant and shiny but I fear it is now devoid of expression when I smile.

2. When I went for a facial, the therapist politely suggested the anti-ageing one.

3. I was recommended a bra by a saleswoman that said something along the lines of ‘make your breasts look 10 years younger!’ on the label. Rather insultingly she was right, and in her defence I now sport fantastic looking boobs. I’m still not sure I’m happy about it though.

4. I got called ‘a mature woman’ by my 25 year old guy-pal on a night out. He compared me to Demi Moore – who is approximately ten years older than me. (This is not all bad either. It could have been Melanie Griffiths)

5. I was suckered into buying hideously expensive skin cream and now can’t stop buying it even when I know full well it will not halt the passage of time marching across my face. Yet still I can’t go back to using the cheaper stuff just in case.

6. In my mind, I am perfectly able to perform basic physical skills such as forward rolls, skipping and limbo, but in reality when challenged to do so it is quite difficult and can really bloody hurt.

7. My OBGYN told me that I had done very well ‘at my age’ to keep off the weight and maintain my figure.

8. She also told me if I did want any more babies to get a move on as my eggs were nearly past it.

9. I won tickets to Sandance and am mainly considering not going because I’m not sure if I can face the taxi queue at the finish. Also I’m not sure I can stay up that late. And I’ve never heard of the bands who are playing. I was a little worried about dancing like an old person too but I’ve been assured I can get away with that one as long as I rest up every other track.

10. My hair colourist suggested I keep going blonde because “if you dye it dark people will think you’re doing it to cover the grey”.

I don’t have any grey hair you bastard, but I went blonde anyway.

Show me the way to go home

King's bed at the Louvre Museum

Man I miss my bed. It looks just like this too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Less than 48 hours to go and my seven week long jaunt around the world is over for another year. It has been a wonderful holiday full of great memories, the boy has been AMAZING (I attribute this to great parenting on my part, obviously) and I will no doubt be shedding a few tears on top of the ones already parted with as I say goodbye to my dear, dear friends and family for another half year. We have spent time at the beach, in the city and the countryside and immersed ourselves with trips to farms, aquariums, museums and theatres, saturating ourselves with both social and cultural experiences we just can’t get at home. My heart aches at the thought of leaving behind days playing in back gardens with my friends and their kids, and of nights spent in pubs or gazing out to sea or tucked up on the sofa with family all around.

But deep down, in places I don’t talk about, as much as I have had a great time, I’m rather looking forward to being back in Dubai. I would even go so far as to say there were things about it I have missed. A neat ten in fact. So here they are. See you back in the sandpit…

1. My bed

2. My cats. And (and this is a first) my friends. Plural.

3. My kitchen

4. Swimming. Or more realistically, lolling about in a pool to keep cool.

5. The driving (I appear to have gone native and driving in a civilized manner bores me rigid)

6. A manicure, pedicure, massage, eyebrow threading, hair cut and colour and a facial. Words fail to describe the general degenerative state of me right now. I need help, fast.

7. Shopping

8. My weekly thespian fix (the build up of attention seeking behaviour and the need for adulation and applause is overwhelming)

9. My shoe collection. Six pairs of shoes seemed excessive when I was packing two months ago, but I now have serious high heel withdrawal.

10. Going out for dinner with my husband. Well actually, I just miss my husband. See you in a few days babe. X

Greener grass


Green green grass of home(s) (Photo credit: Matt Ohia)

Well here we are at the halfway point of the trip, a little bit over even…and my heart is already quietly lurching at the thought of returning to Dubai in three weeks’ time. We are tanned, relaxed and happy and I am appalled at the thought of reversing all of this. To go from fresh air to air conditioning, from beaches to shopping malls and skanky soft play areas, from being surrounded by family and friends to scrabbling for play dates, it all seems so far away still but I can feel it creeping up on me and I don’t like it one bit. There was a time maybe a week or so back that I was missing a few aspects of my Dubai life, but now I can’t imagine what I was thinking. I know this feeling well of course, and I know it is inevitable that we do have to go back, and by the end of August might have even kidded ourselves we want to go back – but the bottom line is we will still have another eight weeks or so before life in Dubai becomes an even remotely attractive prospect. And that eight weeks is guaranteed to crawl in comparison to my time away of course.

I like Dubai, I do. It’s a little unfair of me to draw comparisons of everyday life lived anywhere to a 7 week vacation including a two week holiday spent on a beautiful beach with not a care in the world. Clearly no matter where I lived the beach would win. So I’m sure I will surrender to my return easily and without too many tears. And come November I will no doubt be saluting the gods who made it possible for us to live in a place that enjoys such glorious winter weather. It’s just that I know, in my heart, that we never enjoy ourselves quite as much as we do when we are home (home to me being at least three different places on two continents, but home all the same). I try to counteract my feelings with the practical facts of the matter: we are on holiday and people make a special effort to meet with us, that life wouldn’t be the same way if we lived nearer etc. but the point is that I’m sort of past all that thinking. I accept that real life would be different, and potentially not as much fun, and there might be fewer trips to museums and beaches and so on involved….but equally there might not. There is nothing to say we can’t do all those things, in fact one would argue there is more time to do more of them if you don’t have a return ticket to worry about.

But in the knowledge that this time I do have a deadline, I will make sure the remaining three weeks are full to the brim with people and happiness and seeing and doing as much as we possibly can. Now is not the time to mourn the end of our trip (and in fact if the olympic coverage by NBC wasn’t so dire i wouldn’t have thought to even start). There is plenty of time for sulking inside with the aircon blasting when we get back. The grass is certainly greener on this side of the planet, the air is fresher, and our hearts stay west with our loved ones even as our bodies travel east. This year I take comfort in this knowledge rather than being depressed at the thought, and is a far better feeling to have. It doesn’t stop me from dreading the end of our trip but it certainly will take the edge off being back.

In the meantime I say what i hope is a temporary goodbye to our magical little spot on the shores of cape Ann…and it’s onwards to destination number three: Big Apple time!

Holiday, what holiday?

Beach towel Español: Toalla de playa

All I need (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why is it the older I get the more like work going on holiday starts to become? I remember vividly the days of packing a medium sized suitcase stuffed full with bikinis, shorts and a nice dress or two and zipping off to my destination of choice with barely a backward glance. A few hours later would find me unpacked, showered, and by the pool with a drink in one hand and some awful chick lit book in the other – and that would pretty much be the  assumed position for the duration of the trip except to occasionally rotate myself, spit-like, to ensure an even tan.

These days travelling is starting to morph into something more akin to a hard labour. For a few too many hundred dollars, I leave the comfort of my beautiful bed to stay in something resembling a banana hammock, leaving me crippled and unable to turn my head for days at a time. Armed with the knowledge that I am in physical agony, my child and husband then do their best to keep me awake the entire time, by snoring (the big one) and waking me up at 3am every day with jet lag (the little one) and then acting surprised when I am grouchy and emotionally spent. After nearly two weeks away it has also become extremely apparent that we don’t have a maid when we are on holiday.  I have spent more time doing housework and chores than I would normally do in the average year. It’s only down to the fact that I haven’t seen anyone we know for the past few days that I have avoided the ironing, but it’s coming, I can feel it…

And the packing. And unpacking. And packing. And unpacking. And packing. And unpacking. Even writing it that many times feels arduous, but the reality is even worse. The contents of our enormous suitcases seem to morph, expand and multiply with each stop, to the point where I’m sure that sometime around our departure from our current destination we will be forced to purchase our annual extra bag to accommodate everything.

Dont get me wrong, I am loving being on holiday with my boys and away from Dubai.  Nothing could make me happier than the experiences of the past few weeks or indeed the month we still have left to look forward to. I do just wish it wasn’t quite such an exhausting process. I am constantly running mental and actual checks on where our belongings have spread to as well as operating our social logistics from an excel spreadsheet in order to remember where we are going/ what we are doing/ who we are seeing.

My carefully coiffed and polished ‘Dubai style’ is being slowly deconstructed as my clothes become more casual (creased), my hair grows and curls up due to lack of blow drying and my manicure fades away. The final hopes of staying within the same dress size as I arrived disappear as my food and alcohol consumption creeps up and my chances of excercising go drastically down. Make-up becomes a thing of the past and is quickly replaced by a decent SPF. And just when I think I need a holiday from my holiday… I realise that it’s taken me nearly a week to write this post and I’m so relaxed I woke myself up snoring in the sun earlier this afternoon. I feel like I don’t even the know the person who wrote the first few paragraphs, in fact. The jet lag is over and the bed we have arrived at for the next few weeks is blissfully comfortable. I wake, eat, and sleep to the sound of the ocean waves breaking onto shore and I honestly couldn’t care less about anything beyond seeing the smiles on the faces of my family – except maybe having a drink in one hand, my book in the other, and getting an even tan. It’s beginning to sound a lot like a holiday.

There’s no place like it

English: Illuminatable Earth globe, Columbus, ...

Pick a spot, any spot

Home. As usual our time in London has flown past in a blur of rainy days, sunny days, drinking, late nights, laughter and love, this year with a bit of Olympic excitement thrown in for good measure. We are physically exhausted but emotionally refreshed, and for a brief shining moment our Camelot-on-Thames has been the centre of my world once more.

With each passing year I get more used to the hellos and goodbyes, but this year as the faint whiff of hope surrounds me that one day we may come back, I have started to really think about what it would mean to return to London for more than just a holiday. There will be many good things about coming back that would have been lost on me had I never left. Staying in London as a comparitive tourist rather than living and working here has opened my eyes once more to what an incredible city we have at our feet. Walking the streets (walking! An unimaginable pastime for the average citizen of Dubai) and enjoying the weather, the people watching, the architecture, the noise – it is something of a musical dance whose moving parts make up the sum that is this city, full with life in a way that Dubai cannot possibly hope to master. The wonderful parks, museums, galleries and theatres that we have enjoyed the past ten days would never again be taken for granted or left unvisited by the repatriated version of me. Neither would the myriad of bars and restaurants and coffee shops that decorate the streets, or the boutiques and nick nack shops that nest amongst them. But have I been gone so long that I can’t see my city through anything but my sunglasses? And rose tinted ones at that?

With all the thoughts of registering with schools and so on, to plan for this hopeful but currently unsecured comeback, it occurred to me that I may have left a Londoner, but I will return as one third of an international family, a repatriated trailing spouse with an american husband and a third culture kid in tow. It is not going to be as easy as I think to become ‘English’ again, if ever.

My son will be homesick for a place neither me nor my husband call home. And yet, Dubai is our home, and by the time we return it will have most likely been so for nearly a decade. We are long time expats now, and even for me, the only true brit in the family, calling London home again will take time. I struggle with the basics of contemporary London life already, like how to charge my oyster card, and what can I recycle in those orange bags, and do I turn right at the lights if there is no oncoming traffic? And that’s just the start. I have no idea about tv (there were 5 channels or sky when we left), I’m a nervous wreck getting on the tube with my son in case we both magically leap off the platform or get split up by a closing door, and pretty much everything I have in my wardrobe is too white/shiny/expensive to be trotting round cobbled streets in the rain. To repatriate will be a difficult journey, I see now. I will not just simply slot back in, and pick up where I left off. I think it is good to be aware of this now, to start accepting that things will feel different, and that we may not always like it.

We are lucky to have a relatively international set of friends, full of expats and repats and hailing from around the world. They all call London their home and the city is such a melting pot that it hardly matters we’ve been away in that sense. But as I pack our bags and leave behind my beloved city to travel across the pond, I realise I am, these days, just as excited about returning to the US – I get that same familiar, easy feeling from the cities of Boston and New York as I do from London, and with the other 66.6% of the family unit holding a US passport, I am finding it increasingly important to promote American culture in the house and feel as comfortable with it as I do my own.

I wonder had we not lived abroad if I would have found it as easy to bring two cultures under one roof. I wonder if it would not have seemed so important, that my son who belongs to two countries and was born and raised in a third, should have the best experiences of them all and be truly international in his identity, rather than coming ‘from somewhere’. I wonder if coming ‘from somewhere’ has actually ceased to be as important to me. I certainly feel distinctly foreign when people talk about the jubilee, or the Olympics, or David Cameron. Well not foreign, just remote. I can’t relate to these things that people feel so passionately about, and yet I feel like a I should because I am ‘from here’.

But I fear I am not, anymore. Part of me is sad about that, that I have accepted a slightly nomadic existence that will no doubt continue to affect the way I live for a long time to come. That other part of me embraces the fact that I am living this incredible life that spans continents and oceans, that I have learnt and adopted new and different ways of doing things because of who I married and where we live and all the things we have seen along the way. I am daunted and yet excited by the prospect of raising my TCK to appreciate his place in this world. To belong ‘everywhere’ instead of ‘somewhere’, which must surely mean there are more places in this world to call home. To feel connected in these huge cities but undaunted by change. I hope this for him, but for myself as well, that the lessons I have learnt through moving away will stand me in good stead for moving back. To say ‘home’ to me now it means so many different places and I love each one for different reasons. So, from one home to another, we fly off on the next part of our summer journey. Tell you what, if Dorothy lived my life she would have been hard pushed to end up in the right place even with those ruby slippers…

The little things

We are home and yes it’s raining and cold, but I really don’t care. It is wonderful to be back, for the obvious reasons of course, but increasingly, I realise, it’s the smallest, simplest pleasures that make it so great to be back. So here is just one of them, from this morning, that made me smile. It might not seem like much, but looking out from the kitchen window this morning to see a little dappled sunshine through the greenery and the pretty pink flowers along the sill is such a beautiful sight after months of staring at sand and concrete that I just had to snap it and share it. It’s the little things…