Ups and Downs

Life is a rollercoaster I know, and the ups and downs, twist and turns are amplified as an expat. I feel the change in season has been a bumpy ride this year.

It started on a downhill slope with some workplace woes. These mainly involved some self realisations post a Myers Briggs workshop with the work team. Sitting in the workshop I saw how I’ve changed; adapted to my surroundings somewhat. Yet I also identified some strong kiwi traits that haven’t been lost I.e. just bloody getting things done, and sometimes just simply saying it as it is…no bush beating involved. With the workshop done and each member pondering their category, I then moved on to, inadvertently, offend a work colleague with said kiwi traits 🙄. The reaction to this pissed me off no end. However, as per usual, I moved on and carried on with the job at hand…another kiwi trait.

Following this was yet another birthday involving my dear old dad baking a sponge cake and me blowing it out virtually via Skype. A little tradition we’ve developed for each birthday. I love it but it also makes me a bit sad….

I soon cheered up with a visit from some kiwi tourists. I thrive on these visits and think of ways I can kidnap them and hide them in my house. It was so so lovely catching up with my mums old work colleague. As much as I love these visits they can also make me a little apprehensive. There is usually the dreaded question about when will I be coming home? And the other questioning why I’m actually still here in the UK. I loathe those questions as I can’t reply with a simple answer. This visit was more of a pleasant experience than usual. No prodding questions. All positive comments on what a great time they’d had here in the UK, how lovely it was and how they can see why I was here, and how they would love to live here. I felt so relieved. It was finally so nice to have someone say that to me.

Autumn was looking good….until a message from a friend told me of a pending date for her nuptials. My heart just sunk! Such a special friend. Such a special time. Such a distance to travel. If I had the money I would, naturally, be there in a heartbeat. Now all I can do is ask for updates on plans, photos on the day and have a drink on the day….I think it coincides with a work Christmas function so a good excuse to celebrate over here. Developing Teleportation is definitely on my to-do list!

What perked me up from this slump was finally getting round to reading The Book of Dust by Philip Pulman. Set in an alternative Oxford, the scenes and context are all so tangible. I know exactly where Malcolm’s pub is and the river he goes down and where he visits the academics. I love the fact that whilst reading a book of fiction the scene is so real in my mind….the beauty of living amongst the Dreaming Spires. Reading also offered a form of escapism from other aspects of life.

So October ended on a kind of high but with an email I’m not sure what to do with. A chance for travel, work collaboration and maybe that opportunity to head home…for a bit anyway….

The Summer Holiday

The summer holidays…finally at an end. This year the UK summer was extraordinary, I have to admit. Long periods of warm weather, blue skies, ice cream runs at work and everyone generally feeling good….if not slightly tetchy at the height of the heat 😜. The only thing missing was a refreshing ocean breeze. Living in a landlocked city I have developed a new appreciation for (sometimes a yearning for) the seaside! How did I get so landlocked!! The heat in such a city can be stifling – thank heavens for the paddling pool. I wasn’t ashamed to be jumping in it myself at the end of the day.

I also unashamedly bunked off a day at work and took my daughter out of school to head to the beach on a Monday! I mean who could face those crowds and traffic on a weekend? Did you see those photos on the news? Where is everybody’s concept of personal space?

I have found some absolutely beautiful areas of the UK and have become a true believer in exploring your own backyard first. The Gower peninsula in Wales is truly amazing…slightly familiar with its white sandy beaches, and rips in the tide and bush walk tracks to get down to a spectacular beach. Mesmerised by the waves sometimes one could easily transport to the other end of the world….Apart from the teabags I found on the rocks near our towels. This was a sure sign I was still in Britain.

Another quirky trend I have noticed over my observational years….the planning that goes into these summer holidays! All year the talk is about where you are going and where you went last year…..seriously does it matter? Is it this bad post kids in NZ? I know the busy beach places in NZ are booked out over New Years etc but there’s always somewhere nearby to go….squeeze onto someone’s lawn in Whangamata or at the Mount. What’s wrong with grabbing a tent at the last minute and heading to the lake….oh yeah it’s probably booked out!! I suppose that’s why it does matter. You have to get in early, or you miss out. No laid back kiwi attitude. One must be super organised and booked by January at the latest! Some even book the year before! I really need to pull my finger out to get this organised.

This organisation gene is also reflected in all weekend and holiday activities. No one seems to just hang out in their extortionately priced house and spontaneously decide to have a bbque . If you did, there would be no one readily available to join you. No. To do this one must book at least 6 weeks in advance. I will never get my head around this nor get my arse into gear early enough to host a bbque. I know other spontaneous people exist here somewhere. I just haven’t met them yet. I recently read Why Mummy Swears. There is a scene in it where the main character says to a couple of friends “let’s go out for a drink tonight” they gawp at her astonished that such a thing could be suggested, one even responds with “but we haven’t planned anything!”…..obviously there are some like minded souls there, so I will continue to search for the spontaneous few.

Now, as the nights draw in and the Facebook posts show clear, spring days in NZ, the Strictly Come Dancing launch show has aired…..hibernation time is near. The tent and bbque packed away until I begin to look at booking something in January! However, who knows maybe if I work on my organisational skills over the winter, by next summer I would’ve managed a bbque with some friends….maybe!

The Ardern Effect

Like, probably, most of NZ I found myself intrigued by the Beehive baby. Jacinda: the first prime-minister to take maternity leave. How is that for kiwi girl power! I thought it was great.

When the news came of the birth (no star appeared by the way), I was on my own at a conference so couldn’t really share the joy I felt with anyone. I did, however, bore everyone I saw that day at the conference. As usual, some shared the joy, and others shrugged me off as rambling kiwi girl again. My heart swells when I hear any news about New Zealand but to hear such happy news was even better.

I watched the videos that were released over the next few weeks with a sense of wonderment – she’s an amazing role model but also wondering how she looked so fresh! The beaming love and tenderness on a face of a women in power was so wonderful to see…she is human! She is a mum! For sure she’ll get some flack and will feel stresses and guilt, but from one working mum to another, I’ll defend her. She’ll be doing just fine!

6 weeks has gone so fast. Now she’ll be back dealing with the other babies she works with. She’s so lucky to have her partner take on the parental duties so she doesn’t have to hand the baby over to a stranger to look after. She’s sharing the responsibility with the dad! That’s awesome and I bet a lot of working mums wish they could do the same! I was lucky enough to have 7 months off and then pass over baby duties to my hubby. It doesn’t feel quite as painful. Still have the guilt and stress but the pain is less.

Baby Neve is another feather in the kiwi girl accomplishments cap. Showing to the world. Another first for New Zealand females: from the vote to possibly a breastfeeding PM (and everything in between 😜).

I’m not much of a labour fan but I have found myself following Jacinda on social media and am fascinated as to how this situation will pan out. She is an inspiration and I would love to be in the country when she is in office.

Football (aka Soccer) fever….seems familiar

Oh the highs and lows of a sporting nation. The football World Cup 2018….I didn’t really have a vested interest this year, but moderately showed some support for the country I live in and Poland as my sweepstake country. The English team didn’t seem as pretentious as other years so I got into it a bit: I ran the sweepstake at work; I encouraged my girls to get into it; and I smiled at the guys I passed proudly wearing their English football tops. Tonight when I biked home from work, the sun was shining, everyone was happy, people waved or smiled, the kids were excitable when I got in. So much pressure on a squad of, lets face it, boys and their waist-coated manager.

I remember this feeling from the “Black Out” days in the build up to big All Black tests….pressure building, excitement growing and then that sick feeling when they lose. Does the market take a dive here like it does in NZ when their most prized possession loses? Will that lovely feeling I felt this evening disappear with the warm weather tomorrow (when rain is forecast!)?

It may be a different shaped ball, but the intensity and follow on despair is the same!

I did find myself slightly torn tonight too. I have strong ties with Croatia so was half cheering them on! Tough one – cheering on my past or my present….? I maintained a fairly neutral pose throughout and annoyed my husband with questions such as: “Why can’t they just go straight to penalties?” I thought that would be much more exciting.

Like when the ABs lose, people will moan (obviously as they are Poms 😜😜), people will critique this game over and over again. But hello! These are boys who (are, yes, overpaid) play their sport so well they are in the World Cup semi final….first time, I believe, in many years. Isn’t that something to “bring home”.

However, I know, as a kiwi, I wouldn’t be happy with an AB semi final loss so I won’t go preaching this aloud. I will sympathise with them and support my mournful husband through this time.

Also as an aside – I like to remind anyone that will listen that NZ have only ever been to the Football World Cup twice. First in 1984 – who can forget this beauty of a tune (Ray Woolf Marching off to Spain 😜😜) and then again in 2010 where we were the only side unbeaten AND the only side with amateur players!

We’ll score goals, goals, goals and we’ll score some more again… time anyway!

800 Words

I was excited to find the New Zealand series 800 Words on BBC!! I love it when I find even the smallest link to home. I like to watch it every day and am desperately hoping the BBC continue with it. 800 Words has everything: A little bit of kiwi humour, laid back kiwi lifestyle, fishn’chips in newspaper, everyone knowing everyone else, everyone knowing everyone else’s business, complicated relationships, freezing cold wooden houses, and all those small town kiwi things that I love and miss.

George, the main man, is always trying to work out where his place is, in this new world he finds himself in. A vast change from Sydney! The series eloquently shows the culture shock of moving from a big metropolis like Sydney to the wop wops of NZ. George and his family are always finding new oddities of a different lifestyle, while also discovering endearing elements that make small town NZ unique and sometimes frustrating. 800 Words does hint at always feeling like an outsider…..this feeling is rife when new people move to small, tight-knit community.

In one episode, George was in pursuit of trying to understand the intricacies of the kiwi girl. He discovered this: A female kiwi is at her strongest in her natural habitat and calls the shots…..there’s also a rumour that they mate for life but the female does have a tendency to wonder off if she sees something she likes better!!

For me, this makes perfect sense….not the wondering off bit, but the first part. I do feel slightly weaker in the UK. Always slightly on the back foot. Never feeling as confident, nor as loud, as I do in my own kiwi backyard. I put this down to, possibly growing up a bit (finally😜) but also because the British reaction to being more of a natural kiwi is unpredictable. I need to feel my way along in this new habitat and adapt to it.

George adapts kind of willingly, wanting to blend in with the locals. I understand this but also feel I want to keep my kiwi-ness. I don’t want to dampen it down, but the unnatural habitat means I do. I don’t want my accent to go completely, I want to say “see youse fellas layta” and giggle to myself and I want to be loud, and will continue to believe that ugg boots are slippers and not to be worn out!

Don’t get me wrong, in exploring this new habitat I have found a few endearing elements and have found some things really aren’t that different. I have adopted some of my current habitat: I talk about the weather; I reserve my opinion (a little bit anyway), I watch Strictly and tut when people annoy me. I have taken my current habitat, mixed it with what I am used to and developed a new culture for my family to take forward. A blend of two worlds. A modified kiwi. I also hope that this new culture that my kids grow into will influence the habitats they find themselves in later.

I think that’s what 800 Words is good at – showing the influence of the newcomers (George and family) on the community and the influence of the community on the newcomers….mixing their worlds to build their new habitat. We are a continually evolving culture and habitat.

I did wonder if the new Duchess of Sussex will have to do the same. A strong female mammal adapting herself to suit her current habitat. It’s all relative isn’t it! Imagine if I had to adapt to be a royal….would there be any space for kiwi-ness there? Flopping about Buck Palace in my jandals…can just see it!

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day – a day to celebrate your mum. It creeps up on me every year! And every year I scramble around for that last minute on-line purchase…and I mean last minute. I phoned my mum’s local florist shop on Friday night UK time! The poor florist dealing with disorganised off-spring from the other side of the world. The feeling of low self worth got worse as I remembered the florist lost her mum a couple of years ago (of course I know her – it’s NZ after all)…this time of year must be pretty rubbish for her, amplified by her line of work and such disorganised, seemingly ambivalent children calling at the last minute.

The UK don’t celebrate the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Instead they go for the more traditional Mothering Sunday, 3 weeks before Easter, in March. Wiki says this stems from eras gone by when one was supposed to visit their “Mother Church”. It then evolved into a day to celebrate one’s mother. The NZ (and most of the rest of the Western world) went for the commercialised May one which developed from a peace worker who wanted a day to celebrate positive women, so chose the day of her own mum’s birthday as a day to celebrate.

Regardless of which one you follow, if you’re not with your mum for whatever reason, it’s hard. At times I feel retched guilt for not being with my mum: guilty for leaving her continually hoping that I’ll return home one day to live; guilty for not being able to give her breakfast in bed on Sunday; guilty for not cooking her a roast dinner or taking her out for lunch; guilty for leaving her with my brother who begrudgingly does the dutiful son duty on the day…..and I feel absolute frustration that teleporting is not possible!

I feel sad that I’m not there with my mum. I want to be there and I know she wants me to be there and I also know there will be a day when it won’t be possible to be with her on Mother’s Day….so I also feel regret that I’m wasting these Mother’s days away from her. I miss the lunches and shopping with my mum. I miss her randomly buying me some eco facial cleanser or deodorant, or a some cotton undies. She is still there for guidance and support but I miss the fact she’s not just down the road.

So there will be a phone call in the morning NZ time, and a Skype call in the evening…little compensation for a gap so big.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I love you.

This blog has probably been many years in the making.  Part of me hasn’t wanted to acknowledge how I feel and part of me is continuously bursting with a need to vent my observations, my perceptions, my frustrations and my fondness for varying elements of my kiwi life in England. I am a kiwi.  A proud kiwi.  A homesick kiwi.  I am living in England and have been here for the last 14 years.  March 2004 I arrived, just after my appendix had been removed.  That little part of me didn’t leave New Zealand and it will always remain there – along with my heart, metaphorically speaking, of course.  While I have established a career, a family and a semi life here I want nothing more than to go home.  I used the term “semi-life” because I am eternally planning to leave and I sometimes feel I have not fully engaged in the life I lead here.  There’s always part of me that doesn’t get involved fully, and doesn’t wholly immerse myself in the surrounding culture.

However, there are many elements of life in England that I have taken up; I watch Coronation Street & Emmerdale, I love Strictly Come Dancing, I tut at people when they’re in my way, I call people “Chavs” and I talk about the weather! Some culture elements I think I don’t abide by because it just doesn’t occur to me to partake and some I just simply refuse to do so!  Here’s a list of the more obvious elements that create this paradox in my situation (most of these I am sure have been observed by others in the past): I don’t drink tea, I don’t watch football, I wear gumboots not wellies, I am not very good at queuing, I know what to do if there is an earthquake, I can’t believe it takes more than a half hour drive to a beach…or anywhere for that matter! I think it’s due to these aspects I will always feel not quite belonging…..which is fine.   I want to remain a Kiwi, but now find myself in this limbo of two worlds and am not sure where I belong.  This blog will delve into this limbo state of mind and hopefully will help me work out where my home is!