A Final (LONG) Reflection

I’m writing this on night 3 of our return to the UK.  I sit in a lovely new house that already seems to be peppered with the level of mess that feels like the Wilson brand of homely. We’re hoping this night clears the jet lag and then all there is to do is get mildly drunk till the end of Christmas and then face into the apparent misery that is reverse culture shock.

Before all that happens, in this pursuit of blog closure, I wanted to write a little conclusion on my Malaysia experience.

I’ve already written so much about the positive, happy stuff of which there has been so much.  I read a lot about general “happy posting” on Facebook and how this is all supposed to be a false read on the reality of life.  My Facebook rule is that if something makes me happy, laugh or feel something I just post it.  My view is that it might make someone else laugh which is a win (example: Ben in a girl’s swimsuit – come on.. if you saw that you laughed right?).

Being an expat definitely puts a shiny filter on things. I’ve only been an expat once. In Malaysia.  It has been undeniably glossy.  It’s been marble floored, guarded condos, tropical beaches and sunsets, champagne incidents – weekly, big groups of laughing friends, sunshine glinting off elaborate pools.  For me, it’s been privilege, no doubt. Pinch yourself ridiculous sometimes.  But in my exercise of going through my diary to look for those brilliant memories, it was the in-between bits that I found really interesting. This diary was never written for verbatim sharing. Oh my gosh if you ever see it.. DON’T READ! Anyway, OK.. you’ve got all the usual stuff like bad driving and customer service, no crumpets bla bla. Whilst frustrating those things are actually funny mostly and definitely surmountable.

There are 2 bigger things that this experience really flagged for me.   These are friendship and purpose.  This is what I mean:

Thing 1:  Friendship

On the face of it, it felt like I had the most friends I’ve ever had whilst in KL.  Really though, on reflection I can now see that was a bit of an illusion. Most of my social network were people I’d discussed the ages of my kids with at a playgroup and said hello to a few times at a mall.

When I arrived I only knew my husband who wasn’t available for playdates and my 2 year old who was. Like most new expats I had to fish for pals with some urgency. I found that if you put yourself in the right places you can meet an inordinate amount of “potential” buddies. About 95% of encounters are with open and friendly people.  But the friend thing, that’s more complicated.  What I’ve come to realise is that OK, true friendship at first sight does exist, but you can’t really “know” at first sight.

A lot of my downer diary entries were dramatic misery if someone called off a playdate, worry at things I hadn’t been invited to, worry of things I hadn’t invited someone else to, fear I’d upset someone, concern someone I liked had found someone else to play with, thinking people thought I was a chav.  Playground stuff really, but it was real to me. It was all amplified because in an expat situation 14 hours from home, the result of no friends is loneliness that at the time feels like it might never end.

Of course, it does and did. But, as I said, it was a “thing”.

Now I’m home, I have my comfort blanket of about 5 x 25 year old friendships within a 1 hour drive, plus all my lovely family and little  of this is really relevant.  But if I ever go expat again, I want to tell my future self this:

  1.  Be patient for the biggies.
  2. The biggies will find you.
  3. The biggies may not be who you first think they will be but when you suss who they are, it will be obvious.
  4. Your pool of potential biggies expands about twice a year – it also contracts.
  5. You just have to deal with the latter
  6. Remain open to new biggies even if you have, by your own definition, enough.
  7. If you can’t crack into a friendship group, just move along and find a better one.
  8. Have contingencies for cancelled playdates (or other) and don’t take it personally or consider it terminal.
  9. Stop giving a rats if people think you’re a chav, if they do you don’t want to be their friend anyway.
  10. You’re a chav with a wide vocabulary and nice shoes. It’s who you are.

Thing 2:  Purpose

This is too big for a little blog. I still don’t have the answer, certainly not 10 things to recommend to future me. I’ve had about 7635 sweary conversations on it with my husband, about 98,123 deep analyses with friends and I still don’t know the answer.

What this boils down for me to is financial purpose, I’ll leave the rest to the Dalai lama and Victor Frankl. Prior to expat-dom, right up until departure day I was  financially independent. Then I became a kept woman in a luxury life, like a wag with no balls.

I didn’t like it. But sometimes I did like it. I didn’t want to like it. Should I have liked it?   I did like raising my children. But it’s sooooo hard! I liked the chance to write (and I wrote ALOT!). Can I buy an expensive pair of shoes? (obviously). Should I feel bad? I got bored! I got jealous of my husband taking a lunch. I got jealous of my husband going on a flight. I spent my husband’s wages. Are they my wages too? I got up in the night at 4 am didn’t I? I thought my husband thought I was a loser.  Was I a loser? Am I a loser? My husband’s female colleagues don’t seem like losers. But I’m going to be a writer.  Will I be a writer?  Will it contribute to our finances?  Should it? Does it need to? Are my mum and dad disappointed in me? Am I disappointed in me?  How much money is in the bank?  Should I know this?  Why don’t I know this? Do I deserve this pedicure? Should I provide my husband with a home cooked meal? NO! Go to McDonalds and celebrate your financial purpose.

This is a rolling sample of my general expat internal monologue most of the time.

GET A JOB! I hear you cry! And yes, that feels rational. But… I WANT TO BE A WRITER…. I just can’t call it a job just yet.. arghhhhhh!

And do you know what, in just writing that I’ve decided. I’m going to be a writer. It may take time for that to be a financial purpose but hey if it don’t work out, I shall get me a job.  Promise. (talking to myself here).

And so, after that little bit of internal catharsis, I conclude.  There is a lot to say about expatriation.  There is a lot to say about Malaysia. And motherhood. And friendships and purpose, but for now I’ll close.  There are over 100 entries on this blog about all of it and about a trillion other blogs by other people on all of it.

My conclusion is this. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was expatriation, but really it was just life, that amazing, winding path of surprising, exciting, dull, heartbreaking, heart warming life.

And it’s a wonderful life.  images

Merry Christmas 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Admin Errors, Angkor Wat and All By Myself*

IMG_0404

My penultimate weekend in Malaysia was spent in Cambodia, which makes it sort of not that in real terms, but you see what I mean. I came to run the Angkor Wat Half Marathon which is something that always felt like a good idea and I came alone. Now, again, this is not “strictly” true as several people I know and half the KL running community also came but to all intents and purposes I have been a lone traveller. OK, I’m not some courageous teenage backpacker, I am a spoilt brat expat with 2 phones. And I’m far from that chick who wrote Eat,Pray, Love because it’s 3 days, I haven’t prayed and I didn’t really actively love anything (OK maybe the spa). But still, I am a little bit proud of myself.

DESPITE THE FACT THAT IT HAS 50% BEEN AN UNMITIGATED DISASTER OF ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR BASED PROPORTIONS:

ERROR 1: Husband books my flight using Malaysia Air Loyalty points. YAY! It’s a business class flight and it’s FREE. So excited am I about this. Only something slightly niggles me and I only choose to investigate said niggle on day of departure when googling the distance from PHNOM PENH airport to hotel. It’s 7 FREAKIN’ HOURS away!

ERROR 2: In panic booking an internal saviour flight, I call myself my name: JACKIE WILSON. Except I’m not am I.. no! I’m JACQUELINE WILSON. This leads to 30 minutes of administrative bother and a telling off from a scary Cambodian Airport lady who won’t meet my too stupid gaze.

ERROR 3: Getting in a taxi with a driver who uses double glazing salesman tactics to get me to agree to 5 subsequent unwanted journeys with him. In my blubbering English too polite way I try to dodge this making him angry and impatient and taking me to the wrong hotel down a darkened street. In fear of my impending horrible death I burst into tears. It’s OK though it was a genuine mistake of me saying hotel rather than resort corrected through snot.

These were the main errors, but there was also me trying to get my marathon chip, queuing 20 minutes to be told I needed to get my number from a board somewhere, meaning I had to rejoin a longer queue to start again. I’m 44, I have a degree and some A-levels. I should be better than this, I’m a bumbling idiot traveller and clearly need a chaperone.

Anyway, day 2 I decide to stay out of trouble on a sun lounger to read, write some stuff and take occasional visits to the Spa. (Pls note: in my reading, I am 62% through Infinite Jest which is an incredibly intellectual book that only people who probably do not make administrative travel errors would read). I am good at day 2’s activities. I feel better.

Day 3 I get up, utilise the travel arrangements I have pre-made and nothing goes wrong. I line up to run my half marathon and do you know what?… I run it. Nothing goes wrong. OK, around about 12kms I get cramp and nearly fall over but, I bargain with myself to do another km and I do. I make this bargain for the remaining 9kms resulting in my finishing the half marathon in just over 2 hours without stopping.

And so, at around 9am Cambodia time, I find myself slumped alone in a lovely breezy tuktuk and I feel really proud of myself. I shed a little tear in euphoric, run endorphin fuelled happiness.

It was all OK you know. OK, the taxi driver incident was scary, the admin errors annoying but they were solved. I maybe wish I cried a bit less and showed less outward panic and distress, my poker face is shit. I missed my family. I genuinely watched a kid have a tantrum over dinner and felt envious. (That was WEIRD). But you know what, I came to Cambodia. I ran a half marathon. I did that.

All by myself*

*Apart from the bit where I met Catherine and Nina to do temples
**I’m a total fraud right?

2014: A Whole Year’s Batch of Memories

So, having only completed 1 of 3 years with less than 3 weeks to go, I thought I’d better step up pace.  Here is the whole of 2014’s highlights (and lowlights) in one post:

19/1  Hanging about the trees at Skytrex

Basically playing Tarzan (with safety harnesses) for Tiina Bunker’s birthday.  People say we monkey’d around.. but we were too busy swinging (through the trees) to put anybody (or fall) down. (That’s the song from the Monkees!)

We did it

7/2  Cups of tea and karaoke

Who knew this was even possible? I of course had wine, but all the other chanteuses (namely Larissa Ledge MC, Alison “Bright Eyes” Slater, Rachael “Wrecking Ball” Green-Roche and Erika “Living on a prayer” Giles) were quaffing warm and soft beverages and singing their butts off… in some cases well!!!

22/2  First time on the Helipad

..Which I think I will say in retrospect is my favourite “up high”venue in KL.  One more time???.. 2.5 weeks to go.. anyone.. anyone….???

15/3  My 1st Irish Ball

I have to say, my resounding memory of is telling Karen Morgan she was tall!  I’m so useful. I actually couldn’t even fully remember it actually – it was a later confirmed beer fear memory.  Doh!

12/4  Ben’s 1st Birthday

He was so little!  There’s me thinking that marked the end of the hard bit.  Hahahahaha (repeat to fade).  Hey 2014  me.. it wasn’t.

10151399_10152483316393900_7389929159789144361_n

14/4 1st time up d’ Petronas

16 months in.  Not bad.  Some people still haven’t done it.  Do it! Awesome.  You wobble at the top.  Not you… the tower.

16/5  Club Med Cherating with The Blairs and The Airds

One of my favourite mini-breaks of my time in KL. We flirted with the idea of Kids Clubs.  We found an adult only pool, I did line dancing (note: that wasn’t a we).

10345841_10152086795696931_7680822483232856589_n

30/5  Mum Dancing at the Backyard

Random night that was supposed to be a calm night eating Thai food nicely like grown ups.  Ended up dancing to 80s music with double vodkas.  Sometimes the path of Saturday night can lead you in mysterious ways.

10372591_10152113174591931_5172063774557716122_n

8/6  Crazy Trip to Koh Samui

A trip that goes to show even in paradise a non sleeping baby is a nightmare.  Ben didn’t seem to even try to sleep.  It got increasingly worse to a point of hourly waking, finitely at 5am.  A whole new meaning to full moon partying.

10336643_10152346422649279_6360048239199638835_n

27/7  Girls Trip to Singapore

I think as an antidote to the non sleeping trip, I had to prove to myself that trips away with kids can be fun. This was.  Holly totally slept.  We had slings in Raffles with Karen Cole.  We went on rollercoasters and open top buses.  I missed my Ben.. but did I mention Holly slept….??

10494718_10152706616793900_4663680188418381663_n

30/7  I started a 200 word per day novel writing challenge

I totally completed it too!  25,000 odd words.  It was rubbish.  I’ve started again though.  It’s not over.

9/8  Brilliant Picnic at the Lake Gardens

Every now and then something ordinary turns an ‘ickle bit better. This seems to have a high correlation with the moment champagne comes out and on this day… it did.

10583908_10152738846763900_6193492111886359962_n

12/8  I ran 5K in 31 mins

For some reason I thought this was notable. I ran it last week in 27 mins so there year ago me!

12/10  The 2014 Standard Chartered Half Marathon

Done. My first Malaysian half.  Little did that me know there wouldn’t be another evil haze 😦  Still Angkor Wat tho!

10401950_10152998657468900_4912051866313435395_n

22/10  Ben Rejection in Bali

He rejected me that is.  For a week in paradise, my lovely little boy only wanted Daddy. Mummy was sad.  I won him back though.  It may have had something to do with M&Ms but I ain’t sayin’.

16/11  Weirdness in A’Famosa

What a strange place. By far Holly’s favourite Malaysian holiday.  For me the most perfect location for a horror film. The camera even tagged an open space… spooooky!

22/11  Handjive in Havanas

The first time I danced in Havanas.  Just one little dance.  Loved it

And in December, me and Hols saw Stevie from Hi 5 live, the crazy fool.  We went to the brilliant Graham’s Christmas Chilli night.  We trekked back to the UK.  My little sister got married and celebrated up the Spinnaker Tower (my life in towers!) and .. we came back again.

10408821_10153074681718900_5456663685957245735_n

 

Just one year to go….see you in 2015 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malaysia Memories. Batch 4, Q4 2013

996640_10152143610768900_1275853530_nReviewing the diary from this period was a bit weird for me.  So many brilliant and fun things happened, but reading the entries was a bit like looking at an old friend and thinking …”you’re not alright are you?” and that friend bursting into tears. Despite that bit of melancholy self reflection, these 10 things are great memories:

  1.  12th October:  Chocolate buffet with baby-mamas (Emma, Meabh and Nicola) at the Grand Hyatt.  I don’t think there’s much more I need to say… CHOCOLATE buffet.  AND we had prosecco… in the daytime!  4 tipsy mums on a sugar high, what goes up….
  2. 19th October:  Great British Ball 2013.  My first ball since my graduation one (which wasn’t a ball so much as binge drinking in a cheap dress).  What an awesome night!  I dipped my right boob in a chocolate pudding, I performed a “dance off” with  Carly Cole to Proud Mary, I dragged Emma Aird out of the toilet to dance to The Proclaimers.  I think probably in top 3 best nights out in KL.
  3. 21st October:  This was my 42nd birthday, in a villa, in Langkawi!  There was prosecco for brekkie (felt too naughty to have it but it was joyous knowing it was there), we had a personal bbq gatecrashed by monkeys.  Me and Holly did something I can’t remember in a spa. Lovely.
  4. 31 October:  We went to Sunway lagoon (again), Holly’s happy place.  My best memory of this was going down the Vuvuzela… an enormous water slide in the shape of a…you know.   Doing something so utterly childlike and crazy after 6 months of being a terrified and useless new mother was poignant..sharing an inflatable rubber ring with 6 multi-cultural strangers to be pumped down and out the end a giant curly trumpet!  Should be a named therapy.
  5. 9th November:  Lovely Emily came to stay with us.  Everyone in our family loves Emily. She’s a light up the room-er.  She lit up our condo, she lit up Holly’s face, she cuddled Ben like he was the only baby on Earth. For a couple of days we had Emily and we loved it. (She’s since had to take Holly for a poo.. what is not to love about this girl)
  6. 29th November:  I danced with Alison and Rachael to the Malaysian Tom Jones. A pinch yourself moment of such randomness I sometimes wonder if I dreamt it.
  7. 1st December:  I found Narnia.  After 3 attempts on 3 separate trips I found it.  Peter Hoe.  A homewares shop.  I found it and bought padded notebooks and napkin rings and other things I still haven’t used.  But hey. I found it.
  8. 7th December:  We embarked on our first trip back to the UK.  Excited and terrified (of the flight) in such equal mix I can’t really name the final net feeling.  It was all OK!  Ben slept 6 hours!  We got confident.  (Idiots.. see point 10)
  9. 20th December:  We were back at Butlins!  Despite the fabulousness of the trips we’ve done and the places we’ve stayed, this is still number 1 for me.  Butlins.  Vegas for kids. Something for me I just love.
  10. 28th December:  We flew home.  Ben didn’t sleep.  He cried.  All the way, bar 3 short cat naps.  In business class. It was horrible, but then so horrible, the end was euphoric.  We were about to start yr2 in Malaysia.  We would happily stay there forever if to avoid what just happened.  Oh my god I’m shaking just thinking about it*

*2 years on this remains by far the worst flying experience.  (but like.. could it be worse???)

**last flight they both slept 8 blissful hours!

PS. Cannot believe this was all 2 years ago!

 

 

Memories: Batch 3: Q3 2013

This is the actual pedicure!

This is the actual pedicure (see point 2) with my actual sister (see point 1)!

It’s taken a while to get to this batch as it marks the infamous low point of my 5 stages of expatriation.  This little phase wasn’t pretty.  The good news is…. I still found 10 cool memories even in this dark time (yahoo!)  Here we are then 10 of the best and after this it all gets happy again!

  1.  July 13th:  My sister arrives as a surprise.  This relates to para 1 whereby I had got so mizog that I summonsed my Mum back.  She secretly had called in reinforcements in the form of my sister, a paramedic capable of tough love, soft love, hugs and potential medical interventions.  And there she was.. stood in our lift lobby.. an unexpected guest from a long way away.
  2. 20th July:  My first ever expat pedi.  With aforementioned sister.  In expat-land a pedicure would appear to solve most things.  I went shocking pink.  I have since been every colour of the rainbow.  I broke a seal that day.  (Not the animal kind).
  3. Aug 2nd:  Breakfast w*****s. At this stage my salvation guests had gone and Colon decided to take me to a lovely place.  The Rasa Sayang in Penang.. CLUB!  Oh how lovely this was.  Until some snooty evils at breakfast asked the waitress for us to be removed because Ben was crying.  Dicks!  We didn’t ask to be allowed in club 😉
  4. Aug 8th: Holly’s Potty Training begins.  Weird memory, but hey.  This happened.  It wasn’t too terrible.  Number 1’s smashed by day 2.  Number 2’s I won’t mention in case this blog exists when Holly gets her first boyfriend.
  5. Aug 24th:  Holly’s 3rd Birthday Party at JKidz.  Here I realised that I am a “throw money at the problem, non-cake making” type of mum. I’m happy to be her.
  6. Sept 1st:  I bought some Jimmy Choos.  I’m realising now this blog post is making me look like a totally superficial idiot.  Sorry.. it doesn’t get any better….see point 7.  I think I do something worthy in Q4 2014 (watch this space)
  7. Sept 7th:  I drank some Dom Perignon with Kiwi Justine!  I’d never had it before, it was lush.  Thanks KJ!
  8. Sept 22nd:  I got Hand Food and Mouth:  OK, not a great memory, but probably the most rubbish lurgy I have ever had!  6 months after the initial spotty hands and feet my finger and toenails were still dropping off.. ick! And grown ups aren’t even supposed to get it!  I don’t get ill much but when I do.. I do it weirdly!
  9. Sept 27th:  Singing New Seekers with Chinese John Lennon & My Father in Law:  Some moments you cannot see coming.  This is one.  It was BRILLIANT!  I sang Morningtown Ride with an Irish ex cop from Thailand and a Malaysian guitarist who looked like Chinese John Lennon.  AND I CAN’T EVEN SING!  Boo-ya!
  10. Sept 28th:  One Fabulous Drink.  Me and Colon went to Marinis.  I had a Kir Royale or something like that and we came home.  Sometimes that’s all you need. (Colon had a beer.. sometimes that’s all he needs – not often though).

And Pow!  Back in the room for the acceptance phase.. coming soon.

10 More Memories of Malaysia – APRIL – JUN 2013

Scary!

Right, here are 10 more.  Spoiler alert.. a baby gets born!

  1.  April 3rd:  I faked labour to get a parking space

After doing loops of a hospital car park for 45 minutes, I confess to becoming hysterical.  This happens more times than I care to admit and has subsequently lead to the need for a new front and rear bumper for my car.  In this instance, I didn’t intend to fake labour, I actually just lost it.  When I noticed a Malaysian man moving mountains to help me, I suddenly realised the card I was unintentionally playing.  I continued to play it.  My car was taken to valet and we’ll say no more about it.

2.  April 10th:  I’m only 4 freakin’ cms dilated!

At this point my mum had arrived.  I was 38 weeks and 4 days pregnant.  My doctor had a look where the sun don’t shine and some sun was shining. 4cms of it.  Wasn’t this supposed to hurt?  Can a baby fall out of 4cms?  I ain’t taking any chances, book me in for a waters break…. and….

3.  April 11th:  Welcome Benjamin Hamilton

So, broken waters at 8.30am. Nothing much to report.  12pm – Ouch, that one hurt a bit. 12.07pm: Time to push love.  12.35:  Hello son.  Another hair bear with a Vidal Sassoon crop.

4. April 20th:  First glass of champagne post birth

I fell asleep.  Obviously not for a significantly long time.

5.  April 23rd:  Delivery of Food from Alison Slater

I think over this period I had 3 of these and they were the best thing ever.  Not only did she make me dinner, she made meat AND vegetarian equivalents of about 5 different meals.  She filled my freezer.  For no reason, just to be nice.  You never forget kindness like that.

6.  April 25th:  Holly’s Mega Tantrum

This was a storm that had been brewing since memory 3.  It was clear that Holly didn’t really get the birth of her brother.  What was in it for her?  Less attention, noise!  Why was he even here?  For the first time, I think in Holly’s entire life, she went rip roaring, totally shit house!  I was having a nice civilised playdate with the still pregnant Meabh who I hope made notes on what not to do.  My mum tried to solve the problem by taking Holly out.  Holly saw this as substantiation of her maternal rejection and took it up a notch.  It wasn’t pretty but it passed.  It passed.

7.  May 5th:  Our Blue Cicada Photoshoot

3 weeks into Ben’s life, we invited Caroline a beautiful and talented french photographer into our condo to capture our joy.  Ben screamed. I felt swollen and unbeautiful.  She made us look beautiful.  I will always love her for it.

8. May 28th:  Chinatown with baby and my bezzies

By this time, Erica and Sarah had arrived.  I think, both impressed by the sun and unimpressed by the amount of crying that was happening around them.  Not just by a baby.  On this day we ventured out with a chartered taxi around the sights of KL.  We wandered down Petaling St, being miaowed at by stall owners.  E & S purchased their body weight in goods not unlike Louis Vuitton and other well known brands and I sweated whilst admiring my sleeping baby.  It was a good day.

9.  Jun 7th:  The sweaty Marmalade Meltdown

So, on this Friday all my guests had gone. I had been invited to have a beer with my new friends Carly Cole and Emma Bedlow at a Korean restaurant that was situated next to a kids play ground (it was just for the beer).  To cut a long story short I ended up in the nearby cafe trying to attach my baby to the slipperiest sweatiest feeding source in history (that’s my boob if you’re not concentrating) while my toddler threw food at me. I’d had zero beer.  My friend Meabh walked past and laughed.  I laughed.  The most absolute experience of the saying you’ve gotta laugh or else you’ll….. and one of the reasons why I will always love Meabh.

10.  Jun 29th:  Club Suite, Sunway Lagoon.

It was CLUB.  That’s all you need to know.

See you in Q3.

Malaysia Memories: Phase 1 Fresh off the boat 2012/13

So, here we go.  As part of my countdown to home and thanks to my partly well kept 5 year memory book, I am sharing my memories.  Here’s the first batch:

IMG_2861 (1)

  1.  Meeting the Airds:  I sort of believe that sometimes, when it knows you need it, the universe chucks you a metaphorical rubber ring. On 30th December 2012 it threw us a good one.  There we were, wandering the grounds of Wedgewood (Veggavud?), me with a bump, Holly being toddlerish, Colon praying I wasn’t going to melt down and insist we go home and there.. like a mirage in a desert, were the Airds!  A boy toddler, little tiny baby, a dad that knew Bruce and best of all lovely Emma.  In those early weeks, we learned this town together.  She drove, I sweated. Toddlers played, my belly kicked and Imogen was just the cutest, sweetest thing in the world.  Three years on, we still do the beat, but we are now MUCH cockier.  But universe, thanks so much for them.
  2. New Year’s Eve, 2012/13:  This memory is of fireworks.  A 2.5 year old in her pink 1 tog sleeping bag with jet lagged sleepy eyes, a balcony, a bump and feeling like it might all be OK.
  3. Food-Fuel-Gate: This is a memory combo. Me crying in a supermarket because I couldn’t find fresh ready meals and oven chips.. and the chocolate tasted shit.  Then Colon venturing out to the petrol station we could see from the window and returning 90 minutes later to me, crying.. again. That was us going through our food shopping/malaysian roads initiation ceremonies.  We passed.  It was all OK
  4. Alison Slater’s Hen Do:  Alison Slater, (Martin back then), is a bit of mega memory and this shall not be her first appearance. I met her first on 2nd Jan 13 where she showed me the expat way. On Jan 26th I went to her hen do, 7 months pregnant.  There I met Meabh Blair, Catherine Graham, Rachael Green Roche and Erika Giles for the first and what would be far from last times.  Meabh my friend at first sight with matching bump and much better hair, Catherine, who I called Caroline for about 4 months who wasn’t drinking because she had a funny tummy (Oliver just turned 2), Erika, the beautiful local guru and guaranteed night out buddy, Rachael and Alison, either one alone.. slightly intimidating.. together.. no words!!!….and of course Julia who I had met already and who my expat world was just better for having her in it. At the end of the night, I watched a taxi load disappear off to SKYBAR, I watched them swish off in envy.  Meabh’s last night in KL is soon and maybe it will be at the SKYBAR.
  5. Meet the Condo: I cried when I first entered the condo we now live in. Nowadays it’s just a big-ish flat with a pool and a view (look what I’ve become!).  Back then it was somewhere like where Posh Spice might live.  5 Frickin’ loos!  Me!
  6. Trip to Singapore to meet the (now) DeGruchys with Legoland on way home: This is 3 enduring memories; how relaxed a couple look when they’ve nothing little and alive to supervise, how fabulous (virgin) Singapore Slings at Raffles are.. until your 2.5 year old poos her nappy and you ain’t got another one and finally how hot theme parks are in Asia when you are 7 months pregnant. (Answer:  As the sun).
  7. My first attempt at pastry for an expat party:  That memory taught me one simple lesson:  PASTRY IN ASIA – DON’T BOTHER LOVE. I can’t evencook it in a cold climate. The other part of this memory was that it was for one of lovey Larissa’s Easter (you name it) parties that saved us from wandering malls aimlessly on many occasions.
  8. Meeting Dr Premitha who would later deliver Ben:  She drew pictures of lady bits in detail (with pubes).. without laughing.  I of course, did laugh and she didn’t judge.  She was ace.
  9. Birds and Butterflies:  We did both of these parks within the first few weeks. I will always remember them.  Classic case of “leaflet in accommodation do stuff panic”.

Finally, a memory that isn’t happy, but happened, I’ve never mentioned it in this blog and it’s time:

10. Hazel: That’s all my entry says on March 13th 2013.  My friend back in the UK died during the birth of her second son, Issac. I’ve nothing more to say about that one, just that I think of her often and always will.

It’s the FINAL COUNTDOWN!

imagesBy means of a blog announcement, I would like to kindly advise anyone reading this that Family Wilson will be leaving Malaysia on 17th December.  My stint as Malaysia Mummy is now tangibly finite.

For about 18 months most of my conversations in KL and via the means people elsewhere talk to me, have included the question “so do you know what you’re doing yet?”  This can now be answered:  Mr Colon has got a nice new job, still with Colgate, but based in their UK office.

How we feel about this has been a multi-phased process.  When Colon was given the news, I wept on the spot.  Colin sulked for 3 weeks.  We made 14.5 hypothetical alternative plans.  Then… I tried 3 times to buy a bag of frigging prawns in a KL supermarket that wouldn’t ring up, wasting 27 minutes of my life (I still don’t have the prawns), returned to the car park furnace and thought…. the UK, you say?

Joking aside, it’s all good.  Coming to Malaysia has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. What a TOTAL AND UTTER ride.  What a pinch yourself, ridiculous set of awesome experiences it’s been.   I regret nothing.  The downers were feelings I’m glad I felt.  The highs were so high, (sometimes 86 floors so), and ridiculous!  I mean ridiculous.  I love Malaysia.  I’ve loved living here, despite many moans, I wouldn’t change a thing (except less haze and to actually BUY THOSE FREAKIN’ PRAWNS.. they will be mine!)

But going back to the UK, that is just another adventure.  I love the UK.  I never intended to leave it.  I’ve missed it everyday. I love the seasons.  I love the food.  I love London.  I love gigs, festivals, the supermarkets, running in cool air, watching X Factor on a Saturday night, cinema, internet shopping.  DAIRY MILK & CRUMPETS. I love my family and my friends and if I’m honest, the possibility of driving a VW Golf again.  I love the British seaside, the parks, theme parks, West End Shows.  Night clubs! Pubs! Beer gardens.  I love SKY PLUS, delivered milk, frosts, fog, winter boots and coats.  I love that green and pleasant land.  Take me back there.  I’m fine with it.

And here lies ahead of us, 3 months to party the backside out of our Malaysian adventure.  For now, there are 2 half marathons, one in Angkor Wat, 1 Ball, 1 trip to Legoland, a holiday somewhere special, 6 weeks of my Mum (look out KL) and who knows what else, but beans shall be given.

And then there’s the all new Wilsons.  We go back with a beautiful spirited little girl who left as a toddler, a crazy little monkey who left the UK as a bump beneath my dress.  I left as a brand manager, I go back a writer.  Colin comes back with the additional grey hairs that come with making this all happen for us.  After all, he is the reason, in ways that are only good.

To complete this blog, known as Malaysia Mummy, I intend to revisit my line a day diary that I’ve kept the whole time we’ve been here and share 10 brilliant memories of every quarter.  Watch this space (if you want), I’m going to blog the ass out of this.

And finally, I don’t think Family Wilson are dun roamin’, but Malaysia; we’ve loved you and we shall see you again one day.  UK;  we always loved you.  Other places:  we’ll probably love you too.  Bring it on.

LIFE IS SHORT.  WEAR YOUR PARTY PANTS.

Becoming a School Mum Part 2: Cracking In

11954707_10153700096248900_3595838068451703618_nI used to work in brand marketing and we’d regularly have to define and segment markets in order to know how best to flog them stuff.  We would run clever workshops where we ate Haribo and named our little clusters things like “Canny Connoisseurs” or “Natural Noras”. Flexing those dormant crazy skills, I hereby create and name the broad segments of pre-teen motherly types in order to express my awe of the school mum:

BABY MAMAS:  Lead Characteristic:  Shell Shocked.  Most likely to be: Sat in a coffee shop with a pram (looking shell shocked)

TODDLER TAMERS:  Lead Characteristic:  Harassed.  Most likely to be: Chasing  a wiley coyote in a state of hyper-vigilance or flailing arms to the sound of “I like to move it move it” or singing about some dude called skinnymarink whilst dreaming of quiet places.

SCHOOL MUMS:  Lead Characteristic: Sorted! Most likely to be: Somewhere else.

Then you have the crossovers such as the baby mama with toddler who is basically as per the toddler description because the toddler has the power to dominate most things.

But, it’s the school mum (or school mum with toddler or baby), that has always appeared to me to be the closest to having things sorted. Since entering the “market” of motherhood, it’s the school mums I’ve watched with a bit of envy, respect and intrigue.  The school mums are like the 5th formers who get their own common room and the chance to wear a different coloured cardie.

School mums know something you don’t.  They go places you don’t or at least I thought they did coz they were not where I was.  They talk about things you don’t know about like reading eggs and mathletics. They hold their heads a bit higher than the other mums.  Their clothes are cleaner, less likely to be from M&S and more likely to be tastefully accessorised.

When I arrived in KL  I was a toddler tamer (who to be fair didn’t need much taming), then I became a baby mama with toddler (but my baby was born directly into the terrible twos).  Mostly I never saw school mums, just school mums with toddlers.  They indeed had all the characteristics of the school mum that I list above. They were much less harassed by their toddlers because they knew what was coming. That one day soon, they would be a school mum 100%.  They understood what that meant.

School mums got swagger.

And so now I have become a school mum/toddler tamer. I have a foot half in the fifth form common room. I nearly have that metaphorical grey cardie but it still has the propensity to bear the stain of very real yoghurt.  I am starting to walk like John Travolta in his cuban heels (you can still find ’em) carrying a tin of paint to the beat of disco and a Bee Gees falsetto.

What is it about mothering a school kid that gives a mum an accomplished air? My theories are this:

  1. There ain’t no guilt to be had!  There is no “is this the right thing” debate.  Children have to go to school.  Whatever you do with the time when your children are in school is not a guilt based choice.  The kids gotta go to school man!  And they are going to learn stuff!  Good stuff! By clever people who went to uni to learn how to do it.  They’ll do PE and music and learn cultural things and how to be polite.  Errr YAY!
  2. It’s a community. The school is a place where twice a day, 5 times a week there is propensity for an adult conversation whilst your offspring are trapped in an inescapable and educational situation that is making them better humans.  Errrrr YAY!
  3. Things are getting interesting.  Now don’t get me wrong, I quite like singing Skinnymarink (I lurrrrrve you). I am certainly comfortable throwing shapes to “no limits” and little kids are maximum cute and squidgy.  But at school, your child is starting to do things that are interesting. I’ve been a school mum for 12 days and already I’ve created a photo collage, read the sequel to the Frog Prince (darn good!) and listened to Holly explain to me how the brain works.  I like this stuff.

Now, the established school mums out there reading this will probably thinking I’m naive and I am fully expecting that to be proved right when they ask me to bake something.  Did I say this was day 12? But for now, I’ve cracked in!  The pains of my previous blog notwithstanding, I’m up for being a school mum.  I’m UP FOR IT!  Bring me reading eggs.  Let me at Mathletics. Give me some homework teacher! This honeymoon period may be short, but for now it’s real.

Education you badass. I’m in.

Becoming A School Mum: Part 1 Prologue

My old school!  It was good

My old school! It was good

Last week, alongside having the worst jet lag we’d ever had, me and Holly started school.  I became a school mum.  I need to put this in context as this situation has caused me much internal mental bother over the 43 years and 10 months that I haven’t been one (give or take the few years I don’t remember my thoughts).

PHASE ONE:  Observing my own school mum

Here I used to envy the school mums, inclusive of my own.  There were us kids having to do stuff all day while the mums stood at the gate usually having been to a sweet shop or something.  (Dear my own mum:  I know you did more than that, but imagine it through my eyes).  In this phase I wanted to be a school mum.

PHASE TWO:  Pre-kids confusion at the faffing school mums do

For many years of my pre-kids adult life I would hear other adults talking about getting their offspring into “good schools”.  That used to bother me. I just used to wonder why there were “bad schools” and why did some kids get to go to better ones?  When I was growing up we lived in a little Hampshire village. We went to Buryfields Infants, Mayhill Juniors and Robert Mays Senior.  That’s also what my Dad did “a few” years before.  I still don’t know if they were bad or good but I liked them.  They were just the nearest.  I finished school with 9 GCSEs.  I presume that made them good??!! What was all the fuss about? Can’t we talk about Eastenders?

I was never going to be THAT kind of school mum.

PHASE THREE:  In your face Wilson

Cut forward to 2010 and I became a mum, a condition that would ultimately lead to my becoming a school mum. There we were living in a nice little town, me thinking I would follow my “nearest” rule and keep out of all those good/bad shenanigans.

Within a 4 minute walk of my house were 2 primary schools.  Great I thought! One of them will do.  Imagine my chagrin when, in conversation with other baby mamas (yes BABY mamas, this is even late for when those conversations start!!), I discover that one is what’s known in the trade as “good” and the other “bad”.  Oh dear.  What do I do, how do I stand by my principles here? Do we just go with the bad one and hope someone like Michelle Pfieffer turns up, organises a rap musical and turns them all into Bransons?  Anyway, none of that actually mattered, because.. in further conversation, we discovered we couldn’t go to the “good” one even if we wanted to because we were not Catholic.

Oh.. sigh!  Get me OUT OF HERE!  And then, the Colgate fairy came along and sent us to Malaysia.  Phew.

PHASE FOUR:  BECOMING AN EXPAT SCHOOL MUM

So, we came to KL. The school situation as an expat makes an equal plane of school choices.  Money is thrown at the problem and as such, there ain’t no problems. All the schools are good. You pick one.  You go. I guess this makes a giant hypocrisy of my phase 2 principles, I just squeak, it weren’t my fault gov… Colgate made us do it and of course it’s a temporary illusion of privilege that will ultimately pop.  And so, I’m alright. I am able now to consider a game plan to next time live in a place where there is only one fairly good school or learn how to organise a life altering rap musical (if Pfeiffer’s too busy that is). In the meantime, I am an Expat School Mum. It’s a whole different thing.

And so, stay tuned for my next post which will be about my first weeks as one of those.  (Spoiler:  there will be traffic issues and name tags!!!  Don’t worry… it’s coming soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)