Tuesday, June 30, 2015

If you want something done...

I have a vague childhood memory, which is probably false as is often the way with childhood memories, of being told by a teacher at a parents evening with my Mum that I did too many activities. This has been a common theme throughout my life, I take on too much and I have a dreadful habit of not saying no.  Often I am too flattered that anyone asks me to do anything, and sometimes I just like the idea of being busy.  This is some thing that a dear friend of mine knows only too well and has written about on her blog.  There are people who "do" and we tend to do a lot!

I have just come to the end of a two year stint as Rowing Captain of our Club here. It's not really a rowing club like anywhere else, it's a massive private members club with some 3000+ members and around 300 active rowers and paddlers who all come under the section of which I was Captain.  And four full time staff. When I agreed to take it on I hadn't really though how much time and emotional energy it would take me. Two years later and, although I am not one to regret any decisions I make, I am wondering why on earth I did it.  I think it's taken, on average, around 10 hours of time a week. I've had to be a secretary, diplomat, CFO and mediator.  Sometimes people are just damn rude, forgetting that I was a volunteer. Ive weathered some very personal attacks, although also some praise too.  I've developed an understanding of the mysteries of HK government departments and employment laws.  I know the minutiae of insuring boats for a sport that insurers don't quite understand, and issued apologies and thanks on behalf of lots of people.

So now I find myself breathing a huge sigh of relief that it's over and other than a couple of sub committees that will take very little effort, I have lots of time on my hands.

So I've agreed to get a bit more involved in the running of the riding stables...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Start spreading the news

Being a lady, as I am, well travelled and in my late 30s, when I tell people that I have never set foot on Mainland U.S they usually shriek in horror or disbelief. Other than Hawaii, I have never been to the U.S.  When I lived in Europe there were always more interesting places to go (Russia, Africa, Egypt, anywhere involving diving with sharks).  Despite my sister living and working in the U.S. for a year, I didn't visit.  Since moving to HK it seemed a long way away and as living in Asia was always temporary (in my mind if not reality) then I travelled around this region.

So it is with some joy and excitement that I find myself in New York, currently sitting in the rather lovely apartment of a friend. 

I landed 4 hours ago.  It was a bit strange to land in the British Airways terminal, so it felt like landing in London. All the staff were wearing BA uniforms and the signs were all he same as Heathrow. It freaked me out a little bit initially and I did half expect to see Mum waiting for me after immigration!

However, thereafter I am flinging myself into NY.  In my brief 4 hours since then I have sampled the mass transit system (more confusing than London - I'm not sure why I needed one ticket to leave the station and another to go on the train), been in a proper yellow cab, driven past Broadway, spotted the Chrysler building AND had the largest oatmeal cookie I've ever eaten.

I have always known that I was a big City girl. I grew up in London proper and feel completely at home in HK. However, as my view of NY is largely formed by episodes of CSI and Person of Interest, I was a bit apprehensive about what I would find and whether I would like it.

No fear there. I LOVE it here already. I love the bustle and noise. I love that it is properly multicultural like London, I love that people talk to you and smile. I love that there are slightly nutty people on the streets.

I can't wait to spend the week exploring what I suspect will very quickly become one of my favourite places.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Blogs in a Facebook world

I readily admit that one of the reasons I stopped writing this, other than the clear and obvious sense that it's a bit narcissistic to assume anyone else cares about my life or opinions, is the invention of Facebook.  I resisted Facebook for a long time until a friend signed me up when we were having morning tea one day - I can still recall it now, I am so tech illiterate that she had to do it for me.  Facebook has become an easy way to keep updated with news, especially important when my friends span 4 continents now, and generally let rip.

However, in the Twitter, whatsapp and Facebook age, I can't help feeling saddened that friendships and relationships are conducted with such immediacy and brevity, shooting from the hip, that we've lost the subtle art of thinking, pondering and writing.  I am horribly guilty of flying off the handle at someone on whatsapp, attempting a vague dialogue while working / on a call / making a cup of tea. It's caused more misunderstandings and offence than I ever could in person! I tried sending handwritten letters to a friend a while back, I think I managed two before I gave up.

So, I am returning to my blog.  Where I can use a slightly more meaningful length of commentary and return to using it as my sort of diary. Not narcissistic, I don't assume anyone else will read this, but I will (and maybe my Mum) and that's all that matters really.

7.5 years in

I thought I'd restart this. As Eve gets older the challenges change and the stories become different. I wonder if anyone still looks at it!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mary Poppins

One of the fears of working mothers everywhere is the quality of childcare that one is getting.  Of course nobody will ever look after your child the way that you would (admitting that sometimes someone may even do it better), but you want someone who raises your child in roughly the same way you do with roughly the same values.

H, our nanny / housekeeper, has been brilliant.  She is one of these people who "does" babies, in fact in a way that I do not.  She has been great with Eve as a toddler, and Eve's social skills, language and reading and writing are all a little ahead of her peers.  However, Eve started school 2 months ago and all has not been well since.

Eve went to school a cute little girl and came back after her first week with an attitude, opinions and quite clearly has got very used to playground antics to get her own way.  Over the past few weeks it has been clear that H is struggling with our bright and manipulative daughter.  There were a few warning signs that I spotted a while ago - I found out Eve had watched the whole of the Lion King DVD on a weekday and when I challenged H as to why she said that Eve wouldn't let her switch it off.  We have also noticed that Eve has a complete melt down when the Boy or I say no to anything.  However, after a few hours with us and the usual boundaries she is an angel again.  I have tried working with H to discuss the issue, bought her creative things to do with Eve, structured their days.  However, H just doesn't have it in her to discipline Eve and set boundaries the way I need her to so something has to be done.

One option is replacing H.  However, she is great in every other respect and we are thinking of expanding the family and having someone I trust with a new baby will be very important.  Another option is me giving up work, but when I say this the Boy goes white as a sheet.  The money I bring in is useful but he also suspects I would get very bored at home.  So, the final option is getting a professional nanny for Eve.

So I spoke to a nanny agency a few friends have used today.  It seems my options are limited.  Part time childcare in HK doesn't really exist so we have to hire a full time nanny.  I have no issue with this, and H positively bounced with happiness when I told her - she knows she has been struggling and would be keen to learn from a professional.  However, when I worked out what we would end up paying for a full time nanny, a housekeeper (H), school fees at Eve's ridiculously expensive international school and the extras for swimming, ballet, gymnastics classes - suddenly half my salary disappears on child-related costs.  This, alone, is reason for me to give some serious thought to whether we press ahead.

Any ideas more than welcome!

PS.  to prepare Eve for getting a nanny we watched Mary Poppins at the weekend and then Eve wrote down her list of criteria today.  Top two were "can fly" and "can do magic".  I did tell the nanny agency these were Eve's main requirements!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

You know you're old when...

At 5.30am you decide to do yoga and listen to Classic FM rather than go to boot camp.

(in my defence, this came after my last huge week of training before my race in Hawaii and I could barely move - another sign of age, muscles ache and tighten and get sore the more you punish them).

Friday, September 7, 2012

School Mums

I've been rather quiet, deliberately, about Eve's progression into "proper" primary school.  The options for schooling in HK basically fall into two categories 1) local schools - taught almost entirely in Cantonese and 2) hugely oversubscribed international schools to whom you mortgage your life and your soul in order to get a place.  Of the 450 pupils who applied for 80 places at one international school, Eve was one of the lucky few who got in.  I'd like to think it was down to her innate excellence but it may have helped that the teacher who interviewed her goes to our church (so Eve was completely at ease with her during the interview) and me knowing a Governor of the school probably didn't hurt either.  You do what it takes, however much you believe you shouldn't have to!

Eve, of course, trotted off to school on the school bus on the first day with no problem at all and has settled right in.  I, however, have not.

As I have mentioned before, expat women in HK who have children tend not to work.  International schools have clearly taken this as a given for all Mums and every single school related event is in the middle of the work day.  I had taken 3 days off before Eve even started school (parents welcome picnic, orientation morning, first introductory day).  When one of the other Mums organised both a coffee morning and a playdate for the kids within the first week I completely lost the plot and told Mark that he had to take time off for the playdate - it helped that I was on a business trip and not even in the country.  To his credit he took the morning off.  Other than getting lost and having nothing in common with any of the Mums (welcome to my world darling - just because I share their gender I don't share much else), he had a fine time and his overall assessment was that they were "wearing a lot of make-up, all rather high maintenance".  Still, being part of Eve's school community is important to me and I was feeling lonely and, yes, guilty, about not being able to get involved.

Inspiration came after the coffee morning and playdate emails.  When I got them I was relatively polite and apologised for working full time and said my husband would try to come.  Another Mum was far less polite and said that as she worked full time and asked whether they could arrange something she could actually attend.  Another Mum just replied, simply saying "I work, sorry".  Taking the bull by the horns I emailed them both and asked if they fancied lunch in Central where we all work.  So, next Tuesday, we are off for our first working Mum's lunch.  There is no working Mum's association at the school so I think I could have just found myself a new committee to organise...