Summer by Number

Seven weeks
Four long haul flights
Eight different beds
One blood vessel-bursting tantrum
90kg of luggage
Lots of lie-ins (thanks mum)
1,124 miles driven in the worst hire car ever
Half a stone
200 hours of work
Three take-outs
Two bike rides
Zero manicures
One cheeky night away
Two congestion charge penalties
Three nannas, two grandads, five aunts, four uncles, five cousins, two great uncles, one great aunt and a couple of great grandparents for luck
Several bottles of wine
Lots of laughs
A few tears
One fun summer.

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


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!