Everyone should have a Mr Darcy!

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It is always easy to convince someone that something is in their best interests and it is equally easy to be convincing when you offer a ‘sweetener’ to the deal.

When it came to leaving France and moving to Belguim, my daughter knew I would make the right decision for us both and she handled the idea with a mature head. But in order to clinch her agreement I promised her a pet of some sort…

And as a 16 year old, a pet has to be reasonably cuddly or active so I could not get away with a gold fish nor a hamster. The decision was to either get a kitten or small puppy. After extensive research and procrastination. I finally settled on a kitten and we purchased one, it was bloody expensive, just before Christmas.

A ragdoll kitten with blue eyes and a sense of mischief, was eventually named Darcy (after our favourite male character in a couple of books, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for me and ‘Her Royal Spyness’ for my daughter.) And who would thought of all the benefits?

Darcy has transformed our lives. He definitely relieves stress and prevents numerous arguments. Just playing with him and cuddling him (I am trying to avoid any euphemisms here!) has improved our well being. Every evening, we have a cuddly little fur ball to return home too. The cat has created such a calm and pleasurable atmosphere that I am wondering why it has taken me nearly 16 years to get one.
We are both besotted and definitely much happier in our spirits!

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Money divides

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This week I ventured to Orly airport with my daughter. She was off on a language exchange trip to Salamanca. It was an exciting opportunity for her and although it was expensive for me, (I am still paying it off,) I was thrilled to giver her the opportunity.

On top of the extortionate price of this trip, I gave her 100 euros for a weeks stay. On the first day, I got a bbm message from her stating that this was the best trip ever and thank you. A day later she sent me a bbm picture of some ballerina shoes that only cost 10 euros with the question, can I buy them? I teased her and obviously said, ‘yes!’ It seemed to meet that the trip was not a language trip but a glorified shopping trip but that does not matter. It is the experience that matters and the memories. Additionally, trips like this will provide dreams for her future and help her find her way. I really do believe that the value of these trips is not in the education but in the development of once independence within society. All was well…

…or so it seemed to be. This evening I got a bbm message to say her friend, who she likes a lot was upsetting her. The reason, her friend kept on going on about how poor she was because she could only afford a pair of shoes that cost 10 euros whilst her parents were rich and she could buy whatever she wanted.

How does a parent support their child in this situation? It was a struggle and will be a struggle financially for us in paying for this trip. My daughter understands our family situation and does not ask for much. She is happy getting hand me down clothes and never really asks for things…

Initially, I suggested that perhaps she made her friend feel guilty by throwing her wealth and her fortune back at her and saying how lucky she was that she had a two parent family. However there is bitterness to that idea. Then I suggest that it might be more gracious to ignore it and say nothing but that shows signs of weakness. And finally, I told her that we were rich because we are happy and we don’t need money to feel happy, however whilst an adult can understand it. It will be a tough idea for an almost fourteen year old to accept. I realised that I had no solution for her dilemma.

My final statement, as I was at a loss, was simply, ‘I love you.’ What more could I say or advice?

New Year, new habits

It has been a while since writing this blog. I have been thinking seriously what should this subject of my blog should be this year. How does one write meaningfully to an unknown audience?

I have in the past attempted to reach out to parents of teenagers, single parents and I have attempted to advice those who like me have spent time on online dating websites. I have tried to capture observations of everyday life.

Yet when it came to my time of reflective thinking. I had think seriously, what have I, as yet not faced. It boiled down to the simple fact that I bury my head in the sand, all of the time, when it comes to my financial affairs. It is totally shameful for a once upon a time average accountant!

However, I got through my accounts degree by an absolute miracle, I never fully understood it, and to this day in industry, I always managed to fudge the balance sheet because I could never get it to balance. Thank goodness for that miscellaneous expense account where one puts all the missing pennies (probably more than pennies) so that one could present a company cash flow, profit and loss statement and balance sheet to the directors. I must send a belated apology to all the companies I have worked for in the past. I am sure they are all breathing a sigh of relief that I am now an English teacher! In retrospect, I think it is best to let sleeping dog lie!

So this year. I am taking my head out of the sand. I am going to read everything I can get on how to save effectively, invest effectively, live within ones means and develop healthy financial habits.

If you are interested…keep reading this blog. And to all those, like me, a still single parent, struggling to support your children, and get what we most truly desire, I wish you success!

Christmas Crumbles

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Upon my return from work the other evening I was chatting to colleagues and listening to their challenges that they faced on the holiday season. It is probably the first time that I felt I was truly lucky to be in a position of no pressure.

This season, which is meant to be joyous, is probably one of the most stressful periods for young couples, couples with babies and young children. The demands of family is high.  Each set of parents expect their allotted time with their children and grandchildren. One can only sympathise with these poor parents and equally sympathise with the poor grandparents. So why do we create such a huge mountain out of this consumer fuelled festival?

There is pressure to buy the perfect gift

There is pressure to be present with family

There is pressure to please others around you

There is pressure to give to others, especially charities

And ultimately, various constraints, be it financial or geographical, means you will fail at one or more of the above! The end result…

….extreme guilt.

So why do we do it? Why do we build this pressure to spend one day out of 365 days with family, give to others and buy the perfect present?

Afterall, failure to please only results in disappointment and misery for all.

So instead of crumbling Christmas, why not let go of expectations and desires and subscribe to another day where there is no festival and no meaning attached and make each moment of that day with loved ones special and fun, rather than focus all efforts on this one day that has lost its value!

Resourceful Belgians

It is fair to say the week post the Paris attacks have been strange, unusual and just plain weird. Belgium was not even attacked, yet we are sitting in the highest level of crisis.

This event has had an impact on people without a shadow of a doubt. Some of it negative and some of it incredibly positive.

This week there has been an increase in police patrols, an increase in transport delays and an increase in blockages to certain areas.

And on a small scale this has often meant that people have not arrived at their destinations on time or even at all. However, at the gym, what has really impressed me about the community, who are mostly French Belgians and international eurocrats, is that the regulars have of their own accord started the classes themselves and run the class in the spirit of friendliness and support when our instructors have failed to arrive.

The understanding of the people has and is amazing and instead of anger towards these poor instructors there has been incredible support for them when they eventually turn up to run the class.

For me, as the quiet English speaking person at the back of the class. I have enjoyed following the regulars who have got their favourite music off their IPODS and done a few simple routines. For me, as an observer, I am in admiration of these people who are not shy and initiate the classes start in a fun and friendly manner, engaging other members of the class to take over the leadership of a routine but mostly I am in admiration of the community these wonderful resourceful people create.

In light of the tragic Parisian events and the level 4 security measures in Brussels, it is still important to see that most people are awesome, have amazingly good hearts, and are fun and caring.

A small offering of Hope

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How does one write after tragedy? The facebook posts have given us solidarity with the French people and reminded us of others within conflict zones in our world.

Words are lost , unable to comfort nor understand.

It was Amistice day two days prior to the tragedy and that day was meant to remind us of the value of life, remind us how precious each and everyone of us are in this world community.

Words are lost, unable to comfort nor understand.

And today I left my home in my usual rush to get to work well before the rest of the community. It is a busy day for me, a full teaching day, an after-school meeting and then a quick jog to my French lesson, where I had a French test, (which I was not fully prepared for!)

Out of the blue, I find a tinfoil wrapped parcel and a drink on my desk. My lovely daughter, had made me lunch and dinner. I did not ask her to, I did not expect it and I was truly grateful for it. She is a glimmer of hope for our world.

Tuesdays are always a blur and this Tuesday was incredibly blurry with lunch meetings and discussions and I raced through the day to my French test and then some verb conjugations to race back to the catch the 22.04 tram home ,so that I did not have to wait an extra 20 minutes.

Now, I don’t know what it is about bus/tram shelters but teenagers like to ‘hang out’ there and as per usual there were a bunch of boys ‘hanging’ by the tram. One young man came to me and asked if I was Dutch or French, in Dutch and I responded in French that I was English. He then immediately changed to English and told me the tram was not working and that there was a replacement bus and told me where to wait.

Out of the blue another act of kindness. He is a glimmer of hope for our world.

I in turn spoke to an elderly gentleman who happened to be English about the replacement service and we got on the bus and chatted. There were some other young students on the bus and one of these young boys joined in our conversation, and he expressed eloquently his sadness, his concern and worry for the tragic events. It was incredibly moving to see someone, around the age of 18, speak so maturely. There was no aggression in his talk just a profound sadness at the loss and just by talking to us- a youngish middle-aged woman and an older man- was an act of kindness in itself.

Another act of kindness. He is another glimmer of hope.

The younger generation know how to be kind. They are good role models, we need to learn from them.

Small Insignificant acts of kindness =Hope!

 

 

 

 

Loneliness

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The new John Lewis Christmas advert is highly emotive and highlights the serious issue of loneliness within the aged. However, it is not just the ‘aged’ who are lonely:

Loneliness attacks anyone and everyone and can be experienced in many forms, for example, one can be lonely in a marriage or a relationship or with friends, one can be lonely in a new country, when one has lost all their family, when relationships have broken down. The sad feeling of isolation is not just unique to the old but to all: Young and Old.

To change the feeling of loneliness is probably one of the greatest challenges one can experience and change. I know I have felt lonely in a marriage, as an adolescent, as a new single mother and an expatriate, with friends and with parents and when on my own and having no one to speak to whilst my children have visited their father and I have hated it.

However, I have now become comfortably lonely. One can grow used to the loneliness experienced in life and even make it a friend, so much so… that to change this strange companion becomes the greatest challenge one has to overcome. Afterall, when things are comfortable, is there a point in changing it?

To change loneliness takes courage and whether you are young or old, a parent or a child, or someone who is in their 80’s. It needs courage and it is often courage that is lacking.

We are all capable of making connections…but sometimes it is easier to wear the loneliness than strip it off.

I am still searching for my courage…and whilst I seek it, I will continue to be comfortably lonely.

Remarkable People

I have been lucky enough to attend a conference that will enhance my professionalism in the work place. And I have been lucky enough to meet loads of talented and inspirational professionals this weekend.

But what has been most remarkable was bumping into ex-colleagues and friends at this conference. All still enthusiastic for their subjects and their professional development. They are innovators.

What was even more remarkable was the experience of their warmth, kindness and generosity. All of these people are teachers, remarkable teachers.

Often, and in particular, in the UK, teachers are criticised and pushed to the point that many are leaving the profession jaded and destroyed. We all want to be the one teacher that made a difference to a student and so we push ourselves to become better, we push ourselves to be positive, we push ourselves to make your son or daughter feel that they can achieve their dreams.

Teachers are thinkers, leaders, dreamers. We work both academically and intellectually to help your young children become global citizens, to become leaders and care-takers of this world. Our world.

And so I just want to say thank you to those remarkable friends who inspire our youngsters and have encouraged and inspired me to become a better, hopefully, remarkable teacher.

My remarkable best friend from Cambridge who inspired me to teach, the remarkable man who interviewed me for the teacher training programme and believed in me, the remarkable mentors and teachers who taught me to teach, the remarkable heads, deputy heads and colleagues who listened and did not judge and accepted and respected. All these people are not only the educators of your children but the inspirational influences that have driven me to become better for your children.

It is time that society reviewed the way we look at our world educators, it is time that society recognised just how remarkable teachers are, because it is these remarkable people who are creating remarkable citizens of this world.

These remarkable people just need to be thanked.

Addiction

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When I decided to reflect upon what I really desired in my life (a traditional monogamous relationship.) I realised I had become an addict. An addict to online dating: the thrill of a message, a meetup and a moment that would lead inevitably to…nothing permanent, which meant my life was simple, problem free and isolated. However, it still ensured that my basic human needs were being met, if only for a moment in time.

I realised perhaps part of the reason I have been unable to settle down with someone is and was because I am addicted to the dating scene and I have become a throw away culture expert. If my exacting standards are not met, I throw him away, and why not? Because I have needs. This usually happens before I have given the poor man a chance to find out what makes me tick and what I need in a relationship. These endings are hardly painful-they are quick, easy and do not cause either party any pain. This may be an incorrect perception on self preservation or it may be due to the fact that it is a lot easier to create moments that are great for the time they lasted. It is problem free.

However, this problem free lifestyle is a lonely lifestyle and eventually, I realised that the internet dating was destroying my soul. I am and was a cynic, a romantic and ultimately a contradiction.

It is easy to move from one man to the next on the internet dating scene, take what you want from the moment in time and start again. But there are no foundations and no scaffolds to build any relationship. It is truly hollow and superficial. I had become my own worst enemy.

This realisation made me make the decision to remove my profile off all dating website and to not enter the world of singles meetups or speed dating events. You can imagine, my life went from 3 dates per week to absolutely nothing and far too much time for myself. The urge to return to the internet dating, tinder etc. has been incredibly strong. Afterall, I did not struggle for dates and I got lots of positive responses. It was great for the ego.

This strong urge has made me realise that I was and am (for the urge has not disappeared) essentially addicted to internet dating, and if I was, how many others out there are in my position?

It is a conundrum that the internet is meant to bring people together yet it seems to be pushing people further away from each other.

I have been off internet dating since September and whilst I had met someone that I dated for the  month of September (sadly, I threw him away at the end of September.) I realised I have developed habits that are counterproductive to my actual values and desires.

This internet dating addiction has created bad habits, hurt good people and created a craving in me that is hard to control. I am tempted daily to upload tinder onto my phone, return to online dating and continue along the path that feeds on the goodness in your soul.

Today, I am attempting to recover from this demon. I would recommend that you (online daters) too turn off online dating apps and begin to meet people in a more natural, fun manner, doing the things that are enjoyable in your life.

The stories we tell ourselves

I went on a date recently with a fellow South African; one would have thought the cultural similarity would bring people together, one would have thought!

His story was one of woe, a story where he was the victim, a victim of ‘entrapment’ and lies and deceit. He told me how his second wife fell pregnant and whilst he did not love her, he did the noble thing of taking on his responsibility and marrying her because that is what South Africans did unlike the Belgians. His marriage, as it was clearly wrong for him- ended. It ended after having a further 2 children. His anger and bitterness towards his ex-wife made him rather unlikeable, so much so, that I was relieved to be free of his presence. He seemed to carry a poison about him that contaminated the way he saw the world and the way he saw people.

It made me realise that I too have been a poisonous vessel. The story I told people made me the victim too, my husband had an affair, it was all his fault. I have carried that angry bitterness too.

I wondered if my ex-husband told a similar story; I fell pregnant, he was forced to marry me. He never loved me, life took over so to keep me happy or conform to society we had another child. I wonder if that is the truth he told others just like the South African man I met.

And yet this man managed to anger me because it made me wonder if my ex ever loved me. It made me sad too because if his truth, is the truth my ex-husband holds, it makes a mockery out of our 18 years together. It means I have never truly experienced the love of a man.

The truth lies somewhere and sadly my ex-husband and I hurt each other too much for me to ever ask him the question, “did he marry me because he loved me or because of our child?”

And for my children’s sake I try to hold the belief that he married me because he loved me.

The story I now tell the men I meet is that life beat us, we did well given our circumstances. There were good times but it got too hard.

And I hope my truth now does not make me a victim or bitter or poisonous but rather more respectful to the man I once was so in love with.

Internet Dating Delusion!

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Today I wanted to present to you, the reader, my belief that the internet has created a group of people who are unable to make commitments. People who prefer contact via whatsapp and google chat but are reluctant to talk on the phone, and whilst flirtatious texts are sent and invariably photos are sent. Once these photos are sent, interest is lost.

Through the internet, people have all become their own porn stars with sexting, videos and photos offering visual aids for the person behind the screen. Why is this done? Why is this required? Isn’t it better to be with someone physically? Whilst body fluids may not be exchanged, which is healthier, it has become lonely. Masturbation behind a screen is a lonely isolated and sad act.

It seems that whilst the internet has opened up the world and made it smaller; it has also allowed us to remove the mess of life and relationships. A lot of online daters just want a photo or two, some want a sexy flirtatious conversation. Others…and yet most online daters claim they want to settle down and have a long-term relationship, it seems most (and I include myself in this) are afraid and unable to commit.

We are afraid of being hurt again; so it is far more acceptable and easier to participate from the sidelines, every now and then subbing ourselves into the team, only to return to the bench after the first few minutes, with rational reasons and sometimes irrational reasons why a potentially good relationship won’t work.

We are willing but only willing to participate through a screen. The brief human contact we may have with someone from the internet is enough to satisfy our needs but we don’t want our lives to become messy and confusing.

It strange that so many of my gay friends are eager to commit and work at their relationships with their partner and fight for equal rights and gay marriage and us, heterosexuals, seem to be running a mile from any physically relationship. We are only too happy to sit in front of our computer, and do some shopping on a dating website and then discard our shopping once we gained what we needed. There has been no ‘harm’ or ‘damage’ and we can continue with our lives behind a screen.

This is not a moral argument as one of the basic human needs, is to be physically and emotionally involved with someone and the internet has turned this need into the ‘throw away’ culture that we live in today.

The internet has failed in unifying us and improving our world; instead it is creating a new human, a human who is unable to make connections unless there is a screen between us.

One should never stop progress but develop with it. The internet has stunted our growth for we are now unable to connect with each other in a physical and emotional manner. We are unable to be with someone in a long-term relationship. We have become human androids. No longer are we thinkers or feelers, lovers and partners but rather trapped in a web, the world wide web.

I think I would prefer my world to be messy, my bed sheets to be sticky and to hear the snoring a man I can touch next to me. But how do we change what has become the new heterosexual?

It is time to reconnect to the human next to you, they just may be the one!