Friday, 30 December 2011


My 95 year old Grandma is in hospital. She fell before Christmas and broke her hip. Since her operation, her dementia has worsened. A businesswoman all her life, she's now convinced that she's owns the hospital and is paying all the staff. She got very angry the other day when the nurses saw to the lady in the next bed first - after all, she owns the hospital, doesn't she?

It's all so sad. She remembers quite a lot and recognises people with prompting, but it's becoming clear now that her nastiness when I last saw her (see this post from last year) may all have been part and parcel of the same thing.

I think we have to face the fact that this is now the beginning of the end. Always a fussy eater, she's refusing hospital food and living on biscuits and crisps, and not many of those, either. I wish I was closer and able to go and see her. All of her other grandchildren have been. Sometimes being an expat is hard.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry (authentic) Christmas

Unlike last year, we're spending this Christmas in the Gulf. My husband wasn't given any of the leave he asked for over the holiday period, so we're making the best of the three days off he *does* have (which we're very grateful for, mind you) and staying put.

God willing, he'll land tomorrow night after a trip to New York and then have three full, wonderful days to spend with us - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

This year has been a mixed one.  A few hopes have been dashed, but a few doors have opened, too.  One thing that's certainly true is that we've grown together as a family. I'm certainly more confident as a Mummy (after my very shaky start) and there is simply nothing like spending time together, just the three of us. Sometimes I catch myself, grinning as my husband plays with our beautiful son, and want to record the moment in my head so I can remember it forever. I think we make precious memories daily at the moment.

So, to the title of this post. I think we're all so fixated on the idea of a "White Christmas" (me included) that it's so easy to forget that Jesus was born in the Middle East. When I feel homesick (which I always do leading up to Christmas) I try to remember that I'm actually celebrating Christmas in the area Jesus lived in his entire life. He never saw a snow flake or frost - nope, he woke up to the sun shining (almost) every day, just like me. It's a thought that gives me a lot of comfort.

So - Merry Christmas to all my readers. May you have a wonderful, love filled Christmas, wherever you are in the world. Thanks for reading, I do appreciate it.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

What really happened on Air France flight 447

Recently, I came across this. It's an article in the magazine Popular Mechanics which contains the transcript of the flight deck recording just prior to the aircraft breaking up and crashing into the sea.

Personally, I think the article is sensationalist and rather unfair. It lays the blame firmly on the most junior of the two FOs at the controls. Admittedly he did react in an incredibly stupid way (pulling the control column up rather than pushing it down) but we all know that humans can behave insanely under extreme stress. As usual, the causes of the accident are many - both pitot tubes freezing at once, Air France failing to train its crews properly on this scenario in the simulator, the extreme weather, and who knows, fatigue may have played a part, too.

What this article does do, though, is remind us that today's aircraft, clever as they are, are not infallible. These pilots felt it was impossible to stall an Airbus, but learned to their cost that it wasn't.

As for that FO in the right hand seat - I can't stop thinking about his family reading this. The poor things. How awful that his final moments are available for all to read - and for all to condemn him, too.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Aviation - the most antiquated career path imaginable

Recently, we've been reflecting on how infuriating the aviation career path is. In what other industry can an employee NOT take their skills and experience and transfer to another company at the same level? Let me elaborate.

My husband has thousands of hours as an FO of a large widebody jet, one of the biggest there is. Great, you'll be thinking, surely he's in demand? Well, yes, but only to people who also fly this said same plane. And that's not the whole story. If he chooses to leave his current airline and move to another one on this same aircraft, he will drop right to the bottom of that airline's "seniority list".

Seniority is everything. In his current company, it can make all the difference with issues as diverse as promotion to the left-hand seat, annual leave bids and whether you get a seat on stand-by or not. In other airlines, it can also affect whether you get the days off and routes you ask for, too.

So, if he decided to move companies, he would be giving up a lot. Really key to all of this is promotion. If he moved, he would go right to the bottom of the list for that, possibly delaying his promotion by as much as 10+ years (in the case of Virgin Atlantic, for example.)

So, simple you think - he just needs to stay where he is and get promoted in a couple of years. Yep, he will do, and he'll earn lots of money doing it. All good so far. The problem then is, however, that entering another airline as a Captain is a rare thing indeed. All major airlines in the UK (BA, Virgin, Monarch, EasyJet etc) don't take direct entry Captains. So if my husband wanted to move home to work (which he'd like to, eventually) he'd be forced to give up his command and start at the bottom again as an FO, for a very paltry salary, or work for a lesser charter airline that might be accepting direct entry Captains.

This particular option is a tricky one, as charters like these are prone to collapse. You could therefore leave a well paid job in the Gulf for a less well paid one in the UK, only to find it disappear completely overnight, something we are of course very familiar with. Aircraft type is also an issue. That particular charter might not want pilots who fly my husband's aircraft, and specifically ask for, say, 737 time, an aircraft he no longer flies. Are you getting how tricky this is?

The other option is contract flying. There are some well paid jobs out there for direct entry Captains on commuting contracts. Still, commuting is a loose term, generally meaning a pilot would only make it home for 2 weeks out of 6 on average. The affect this would have on our family life is a price we don't want to pay.

So, what are we left with? Staying where we are! No matter how many times we discuss this conundrum, that's the only answer we come up with.

At least we have a great family life here, and no money worries to boot. In fact, we're currently negotiating to buy a second investment property in the UK. Every cloud has a silver lining, etc...

Saturday, 8 October 2011


Recently, I've been pondering what "home" really means to me. Facebook has a section for "home town", and I haven't put one, because I honestly don't know where my home town is. Is it where I grew up (but left when I was 17?) Is it London, where I lived for 10 years after that? Is it the town in Surrey where we bought our first house together? Or is it, in fact, the city in the Gulf which I now call home?

I've realised I have lots of "homes". Sure, the UK will always be our home country, the place our families are, and there are certainly places there that make us feel "at home." But still - driving back to our villa the other night as the huge, orange sun was just setting, I felt very at home here, too. We've been here nearly three years. We have a great house which is getting ever lovelier as we gradually furnish it, some great friends (amongst some not so great ones - such is life) and our son was born here. My career is really taking off here, too.

In the last couple of weeks, there was a small chance we might have been able to move back to the UK. I surprised myself by feeling very mixed about the chance to move "home."  The UK, as you all know, is in a very bad way financially at the moment. Many of my old colleagues' jobs are at risk. The aviation industry is unstable, and salaries there are low. Tax is 40% (if you're lucky.) Fuelling a car is a frightening experience. Food prices are on the rise. And crucially, I'd have to go back to work full time if we were going to be able to afford a nice house and childcare for our son.

So, as sad as I was when the opportunity was taken away, I was a little relieved, too. This way, I get to work part-time and bring up our boy, pay no tax (not a bean!) on anything I earn, and live in a house we'd have to be millionaires to afford in the UK. And we get home to the UK around four times a year, so it's not as if I never see my family.

I do miss my old friends, though. I crave an evening over wine and crisps with girls who've known me for years.  I've had a few depressing short-term friendships here (a fact of expat life) and it's so shallow. Sometimes, only old friends will do.

Still, one of them told me last night that she's planning a trip out to see me very soon. I'm thrilled.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Unrequited love

I was watching a film with a friend the other day, and there was a character in it who was secretly in love with someone who didn't love him back. This led to us swapping stories of unrequited love, and I realised that I've actually, thankfully, never been in that position (aside from my adoration for Take That, still sadly unrequited. Such is life.)

What I did realise, though, was that quite a few blokes over the years have felt that way about me, more, in fact, as I began to think about it. This is not to say that I'm a goddess (far from it) but I think it must have something to do with my personality - I'm always one for the underdog, always keen to incude people and befriend them if they're lonely. Clearly, this has sometimes backfired...

Firstly, there was the son of one of my parents' neighbours. Let's call him D. As a girl I went to a single sex girl's boarding school, so to say I was somewhat starved of contact with the opposite sex would be an understatement. So, when I was home in the holidays I was naturally drawn to a group of lads who hung out near my house. My parents disapproved of them, which made them only more interesting, of course. Anyhow, one of them asked me, casually, whether I wanted to come over for dinner one night the next week - his parents were away, he explained, and he had to cook for himself anyway. Put like that, how could I refuse?

Now, D was no an oil painting. He was about 5'8" (two inches shorter than me), slightly overweight and sported what I can only describe as a rat's tail pony tail. The idea of him as an object of desire had never once crossed my mind.

Anyhow, I turned up on the appointed evening, only to discover to my horror that far from being out, his Mum was there, and had helped him cook. They'd set up for dinner in the caravan adjoining the house where he slept; linen table cloth, wilting carnation in a vase, and a bottle of Black Tower wine (I've never been able to look at a bottle since.)

I some how made it through dinner, quickly. I have no recollection of what we talked about, but I suspect I spent most of it wolfing the food down so I could make a quick exit.

Then after dinner, "coffee". Before he went out to get it, he went over to his CD player and put on, horror of horrors - Take My Breath Away, by Berlin. Top Gun had recently come out, and this was clearly part of his seduction routine. Him, Tom Cruise, me Kelly McGillis. Or not....

I think I made some very odd sounding excuse about Mum and Dad needing me home to feed the cat immediately or she'd die, and I literally ran out of there.

Oh golly, I had no idea he'd been interested in me. Not at all. What an idiot.

A week or so later, I got together with one of his friends (cruel, I know.) On finding out, D got hold of him and I tell no lie, said he'd "punch his lights out." As much as I was honoured by this medieval jousting type behaviour, I was also astonished. How could I have not seen how he felt?

As I said earlier, this is not the only time I've been insanely stupid. But those stories are for another day...

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

More goodbyes

We're now back in the sandpit after three glorious weeks of holiday. We spent the first one in the UK visiting family (never as relaxing as we hope it will be) followed by two weeks in a cabin on the south-west coast of France.

We've been there for a week at a time before, but our decision to opt for two weeks this time was the right one. It allowed us to completely relax, a rare commodity in our usually busy, packed normal lives. We spent most days sitting outside in the sun with a book, going to the pool and sitting on the beach, watching our now 16 month old son (who's just learned to walk) discover the joys of playing with sand. In the evenings, we put our son to bed and had lovely meals out on the deck, lit by candle light and the setting sun.

Anyhow, we're back now, after a marathon drive from the south of France to Charles de Gaulle in Paris (7 hours, and our son was great for the whole journey) followed by a 6 hour flight (when he was less tolerant.) It's great to be back in our villa - no matter how great a holiday is, coming home to your own things, own bed, own kitchen etc is always a pleasure.

A couple of days ago, I went round to see a neighbour of mine, a fellow pilot's wife who arrived pretty much when we did. She had big news; she's leaving. Her husband has got a job flying for SAS, and they are leaving in October. In fact, he husband told me that a lot of the pilots we know are going, and I'm not surprised. Which means, of course, that there will be many more goodbyes over the next few months.

I'm not very good at change. In fact, I'm rubbish at it. And if there's a universal truth about expat life, it's that it's constantly changing. People come, and people go. I just don't like it, that's all. To cope with it, you have to be good at making new friends (which luckily, I am) but also accepting of the loss of old ones all the time. And there's always that nagging feeling that somehow you're being left behind.

All I can do, though, is get on with life as normal, busy myself with work (which I'm getting a lot more of these days) and wait for the announcements to come.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Pilots and divorce: It's not pretty

Whilst idly reading Pprune's (Professional Pilots' Rumour Network) Middle East forum this morning, I came across this.

In a thread entitled "ex-wife", an Emirates pilot asks his Middle Eastern pilot colleagues:

"Does anyone know how successful an ex-wife would be at obtaining all your EK pay and contract benefit history, including provident funds for the time you worked at EK if her lawyer served a a court order for the information? "
Which translates as:

"I'm getting divorced, and I don't want my ex-wife to be able to access any of the money I've made while I've been out in Dubai. Granted, she moved over here with our children, gave up her career and friends at home, and spent years living in a hot desert while I flew all over the world, but sod it, I hate her now, so I don't want her getting any of the money she thought I was making for all of us."

To be honest, the question alone shocked me enough, but as I read further down the thread, some of the comments made my blood pressure shoot up even more.

For example:

"Sell all you have and go into cash, physically hold the money. Keep this burried in the garden not safety dep box (no annonimity in dxb anymore)
Have no money in any account anywhere in world. Hold the cash.
Run up as much dept and personal loans as possible. All goes into the pot + and -.
When the lawyers ask about the dissapearing assets, say you where scammed when you tried to buy gold bars in BKK/JNB/Deira. The rest you lost gambling.....sorry."

"I think perhaps that my present First Officer has the right idea...'Why get married when all this free skirt is around, it's a bit like taking a ham sandwich to a banquet.' "

"Anybody know what happen if you don't pay the full child support amount?
Is it anyway that they could impound your salary from a European country? "

The fact that this sort of view is the majority not the minority on this thread is really a huge cause for concern. What sort of people are these men? I'm amazed at all the bitterness and vitriol.

I do think aviation is an easy route to divorce if a marriage is weak anyhow. It's a tough job for any family to deal with, with frequent absences, moving away from a home country, tiredness and financial instability all coming in to play. My husband often jokes that he's amazed if a Captain he flies with is still on his first wife. And it's not really a joke; it's true, they're definitely in the minority.

And the fact that divorce proceedings often get nasty is not an excuse to refuse to offer financial support to your wife and children, particularly if it was you who opted out of the marriage.

Girls (and boys!) I suggest you have your say on that thread. They deserve to have a bit of a reality check, I think!

Saturday, 30 July 2011


Sorry it's been a while since I last posted - we only got back from the UK two weeks ago and we're heading back again next week (en route to France for a holiday) and my feet don't seem to have touched the ground.

My work is busier than ever, and I had a big break recently which has been taking up a lot of my energy. I was reflecting the other day that our move out here has, ironically, re-energised my career, and helped me see my options much more clearly. When you're in the UK, a wage slave, it's much harder to see the bigger picture.

It's topping 50c here some days, and our plants are looking withered/dying. Hey ho. Thank God for aircon. It's too hot to do much outside except swim, which is fine, as we have lots of work to be getting on with! The little'un is now 15 months, and he's just taken his first steps. Magic.

And to finish - this is completely unconnected, but when I was home last I dug around for my old Take That videos, and found Take That, The Party, Live at Wembley, from 1993. This segment, Apache, has stuck with me since. Guess which bit of Howard's section I freeze-framed rather a lot...

Teenagers, eh.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Back to the future

I'm home in the UK at the moment. I flew over last weekend without my hubbie, who can't get leave until next week. This isn't something I'd usually do - I had a special reason. On Tuesday, I went with Mum and one of my best mates to see the glorious Take That live at Birmingham Villa Park. It was an incredible night. As ever, they put on a brilliant show, full of theatrics and energy. And seeing all five of them together again was stella. But, I digress.

Yes, I'm at home with my parents now, with our little boy, but without my husband. It's not great.

Firstly, they have taken my son over. This is great for a couple of days while I get all the sleep I need and enjoy the novelty of being able to read the newspaper, but after that, it rankles. Yesterday, we went to a wildlife centre, and I always seemed to be 10 steps behind them, looking like the older daughter, not the mother of the little boy in the buggy. I know I sound ungrateful, but I AM a grown up, and I DO look after my son day in day out, often alone, when I'm at home!

Secondly, I'm regressing. Going to Take That hasn't improved matters, of course (I feel like a teenager again whenever I see them) but I do feel like I've somehow been transported back to 1994. Suddenly, I'm a hormonally challenged bean-pole once again, sans driving licence and dreaming of something more interesting than a daily routine of hanging the washing out, emptying the dishwasher and going for lengthy walks in the countryside for the rest of the day to avoid having to do any more housework. Back then, I dreamed of the bright lights of London (where I eventually went to University, and lived there for more than 10 years). Cripes, I'd have thought my life now was exotic and thrilling. Which it is, really. Unbelievably, sitting here looking out at my parents' gorgeous English garden alive with all things summer, I'm pining for our villa, which is caked in dust and baking in 45c. After all, that's our home, mine, our boy's, my husband's. Our family's place. Not here.

Which makes me think of the women I know who've decided to move back to the UK, leaving their husbands to live alone in the sandpit. This short spell home has proved to me I couldn't do it. Staying here doesn't feel like a positive step forward - it feels like a step back. Living with or near my parents, as many of these women are choosing to do, for childcare reasons, would drive me (and my parents) bonkers. We love each other, but living that close would drive us crazy. We all need our space. I need to be independent.

And that feeling that all I've fought for over the years - my career, travel, living somewhere that challenges me daily - I'd lose it the minute I moved back.

Nope, moving back to the UK without my hubbie is a complete no-go. I'm staying put, thanks very much. Plus, it's apparently summer here in the UK, but I'm freezing! Brrrrrrr! Take me back to where the sun shines brightly, take to where the sea is blue...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Take That - they're only human...

I'm currently very excited about my imminent date with a certain fab fivesome at Villa Park. Yes, it's Take That in concert - all five of them, including Robbie. I'm heading back to the UK especially.

In the run up to the big event, I've been watching a few old DVDs and generally reminiscing - each of their songs and videos seems to hold a snapshot of my past. The idolisation of my teenage years has long gone, but I must admit I do still have moments when I forget each band member is a human being, and project something more other-wordly on them.

Then this morning, a friend came round for coffee and we got chatting about Take That. This particular friend loves gossip magazines, and she filled me in on some less than savoury behaviour Howard and Mark have admitted to recently. I guess I'm a little behind now I don't read the British papers every day, so news of Mark's post-marriage shenanigans and Howard's super-injunction on a woman he'd had a 10 year affair with had thus far passed me by.

I feel rather let down by them. I know this isn't fair; they're human after all, and they're in a very rarefied environment, which undoubtedly puts them in temptation's way more than most. I suppose an illogical side of me just wants these blokes I've followed for 20 years to be something more than normal, fallible human beings.

When I look at them on stage in a couple of weeks, a large part of me wants to see them in the same childish, innocent way I did way back in the 90s, when Doc Martens were cool and the more holes you had in your jumper, the better.  Instead, I will see five very good looking, very talented men, but just men, nonetheless. Putting someone on a pedestal isn't wise anyhow, is it. They can only fall.

Monday, 6 June 2011

All change, please

It seems like it's leaving season here in the sandpit. It's the end of the school year, of course, and the beginning of a long hot summer in the Gulf. So many people who have been here for much less time than we have are packing up and heading home.

There's a container sitting outside our neighbour's villa as I write this - his wife is leaving with the kids, despite the fact he has no other job to go to in the UK yet (although there is one in the pipeline, next year, probably). Once his family's gone, he's going to be lodging with a friend in his spare room.

I've just met another pilot's wife in a coffee shop who suddenly announced she's leaving in 3 weeks with her two kids, again leaving her husband behind. He has at least another year to do here before his bond is up. I asked why, and she just said "I hate it here". Nothing like positivity, eh.

Yet another pilot's wife I know has decided to move home so she can work. Despite company subsidy, school fees here have eaten in the family's budget and reality has dawned. This is not the gold-plated emirate they had anticipated. Money doesn't grow on palm trees. So, another family is separated.

Call me a cynic, but I think these stories didn't have to end this way. When I first came out here I was homesick, disorientated and depressed. I wanted to take the first plane home - but I didn't. Yes, I've had bad times (PND as an expat is no joke) but at no point have I considered going back to the UK and leaving my husband here by himself.

The sandpit is not perfect, and it's a long way from London (both in distance and lifestyle) but it has great things about it, too.  We have lovely friends here, a great place to live, tax free salaries and a great lifestyle. We won't be here forever, and I don't see it as some sort of prison sentence (as some certainly do). My career has actually taken off in a totally different but really fun direction, and most importantly, we're together as a family. That matters to us more than anything.

I do think that your happiness out here is a state of mind. If you want to be happy, you will. I believe the women who are heading home have never tried to enjoy themselves here, have lived insular lives and have spent a great deal of their time complaining.

So, actually, I think them going is a good thing. It's not healthy to have so much negativity around. At least the people who are left behind actually want to be here.

All change, please...

Monday, 16 May 2011

(Expat) mean girls

Lately, I've just about had my fill of some of the women I know out here. I've missed my old friends in the UK hugely.

It's not that I don't have many friends - I do. In fact, I have lots and lots of "friends", people who invite me to coffee and lunch, children's birthday parties and trips to the pool. I just don't have many of the sort of friends you need when you have, say, post-natal depression. Yes, those sorts of friends - the ones you can REALLY rely on. The ones who don't mind when you invite them over and talk about nothing but your own worries the whole evening.

And it's not just this that gets me down. Having lots of superficial friendships doesn't bother me overly - but quite frankly, I just can't bear two-faced people, and there are more than a fair smattering of those out here, I can tell you. I just feel I can't trust many of the aforementioned "friends".

Really, I think this is an almost inevitable result of the expat way of life, particularly in aviation. I mean, most of the pilots at my husband's airline live in the same compound, right next door to each other. This means their wives, who spend a great deal of time without their husbands (and a great many of whom don't work and don't drive) have only each other for company. Cue a lot of trips to the pool and coffee shop, and guess what they talk about between themselves? Well, here's a clue - it's not the stock market or the latest terror attack in Pakistan. Nope, it's the people they know in common.

Some people thrive on this sort of behaviour. They love to be in groups, and this allows them to bond together by bitching (or excluding) other people - a bit like gangs do in schools. In fact, a lot of behaviour here resembles the school playground. It's almost like these women have regressed. There's also a great deal of negativity. Get these women together, and all they do is moan about being here, their husband's jobs and command prospects, the cost of living, blah blah blah.

I really can't be doing with this. It reminds me of the bullying I experienced at boarding school - not pleasant memories, I can tell you. And all the negativity makes me want to top myself.

So, what to do? I've realised finally that all of this is tremendously unhealthy. Thus far I've tried to remain "friends" with said people, in order to avoid any further unpleasantness. But having spoken to a few other people who feel the same about it all, I've decided I need to cut ties. The time has come to focus on my genuine friends here (and they're really lovely people, thankfully).

Our family is going to be here for some years to come I think, and what we need is to surround ourselves with people who are glass half full sorts, people who are determined to make the most of life.

Because, blimey - life's too short for this crap....

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Royal Wedding, and homesickness...

Yesterday, my husband, son and I gathered round our TV and were glued to the Royal Wedding. It felt oddly like Christmas in our house. Waving a Union flag, we indulged in a bottle of bubbly before lunch, ate celebratory choccies and felt part of something; something very historic and moving.

Afterwards, we went for a walk together (another Christmas Day tradition.) It felt so odd emerging from our front door into bright sunlight and a temperature heading upwards of 35c. There are other British families on our street, but in the main they're not, and instead of a raucous street party, we were greeted with the sound of the call to prayer, the street sweeper working his way down the road, and the bark of the dogs in one of our neighbour's houses.

Both my husband and I felt a little down last night, and we realise it's homesickness. For a few hours we were mentally on the Mall, glimpsing William and Catherine's first kisses over the crowds and anticipating the first glimpse of the bride as she journeyed to Westminster Abbey. It was an event that caused a huge swell of national pride, and it felt extremely odd not to be there. Still, I've put the Union flag on display outside our house. It now lives in our plant pot - there's nothing wrong with a bit of patriotism!

I watched a few highlights of the day online this morning and the memories are extremely rich. It was a beautiful wedding. I hope that William and Catherine (or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as they're now known!) have a brilliantly happy marriage. Lord knows, the Royal family could do with a success story....

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter, everyone

I just wanted to wish all my lovely readers a very happy Easter. Out here in the sandpit it's 40c and a normal working day, and my husband's away on a trip. Still, my son and I have said our prayers and enjoyed our day anyhow.

A year ago, my husband and I were enjoying our last day childless - tomorrow is our son's first birthday. It's been an incredible year, full of ups and downs, but mostly ups. We love him more than we could possibly say. It's hard to believe there was ever a time when he wasn't part of our family. So, Happy Birthday, little fella!

And some humour for you... Found this on another blog, Fletch in Flight, and it made me chuckle....

Monday, 18 April 2011

Some things about being a pilot's wife never get old

My son and I have just flown back from the UK on Daddy's flight. Although it was a difficult flight (what 7 hour flight with a year old baby wouldn't be?!) it had its highlights.

When we were waiting for the flight to board at LHR, who should appear but pilot Daddy! Looking gorgeous in his uniform, he came over and grinned at us, playing with our little boy and generally glowing. Afterwards, one of the ground staff came over and told me how much she liked my husband, and how gentlemanly he always was to her whenever they met. She said we made a lovely family. I was very proud.

Then later, my husband came to visit us both during the flight. He listened to my moans sympathetically and offered words of encouragement to the lady sitting behind me, who was on her first flight without her husband, who'd died the previous year.

As I said in the title of this post, there are things about his job I'll never tire of, and it's moments like these. You couldn't put a price on them.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Etihad bomb hoax

Caught this on the BBC news website today. A British man's been sent to jail for 3 years for pretending there was a bomber on an Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to London.

I really can't fathom why anyone would do something like this. He must have been very drunk (they do say he'd had quite a lot to drink...) but surely he must have had time to say he was lying before they diverted the plane and scrambled fighter jets to accompany it to Stansted?

3 years in jail, though, seems a little harsh to me. I guess they're making an example of him.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Working Mum vs stay at home working Mum - the eternal dilemma

I've been thinking more about the whole returning to work after a baby issue, trying to figure out why I'm so deeply affected by it all - feeling absolutely that I NEED to get back to work, but also feeling horribly guilty and sad that soon, a large part of my son's care will be done by someone other than me.

The other day, when I was having a bit of a crisis about whether I could find decent childcare to fit around my new job, my husband said, as he has done several times before "Well, we could always swap. You work full time, and I'll look after our boy." He and I both know this is not an option. Firstly, he earns a lot more than me, and secondly, if he took time off work, he'd run out of currency and struggle to ever get a flying job again. When he says this sort of thing I always feel somehow belittled, because it's like he's saying to me  - there's no option, there really isn't a choice. This is how it is. You're a woman, I'm a man. You look after the boy, I provide.

I know this isn't what he means. I think he's just trying to point out how keen he would be to trade places with me. I know I'm lucky to be able to spend so much time with our son. He's tremendously precious.

Still, though, I can't imagine a future where the only job I have in life is as a Mum. Before having my son last year, I worked in an admittedly rather stressful job that I'd spent years working towards. My career was very important to me, in fact to some extent it defined me. Coming out to the Middle East and leaving my previous job behind was a bit of a wrench, but then having my son made my realise my ability to pursue my career was severely compromised, and I believe now that played a large part in my post-natal depression.

So, back to my working dilemma. For now, I've decided to pursue more part-time jobs that I can fit around my husband's schedule until our son goes to nursery in September. After all, this time of his life is precious, and I know I'll regret it if I don't spend as much time as I can with him now. Part-time will at least mean I'm contributing to the family finances, something I really want to do. As much as I know we share money as a family, I still can't quite get used to spending money on, say, some shoes, when I didn't earn it myself. It's a pride thing. And I know a bit more money in the family pot would take the pressure off my husband, too.

Oh, Mummy guilt. I'm told it never ends...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

That old toad, work

I've had a couple of job interviews this week. I got one but turned it down (poor pay and conditions) but the other one is looking promising. I have a further assessment for it next week. Our son is 11 months old now, and I feel it's time to try to give a bit more time to my career, and put some more money in the family pot. But golly, it's a hard thing to get my head around.

The irony is, when I was in the depths of post-natal depression, all I wanted to do was get back to work. It was all about regaining control, I think. My job was something I was good at; from my perspective, motherhood was not. It was also about being able to be an individual, something that I felt I would never be able to be again. I desperately wanted to be like my husband, striding out of the door in uniform off to perform a useful function for society. Now, of course, I realise I AM performing a useful function - what could be more useful than bringing up our son?! And the idea of separating myself from my son, even for a few hours, feels like torture.

Add to this the usual childcare challenge of being married to a pilot. Unlike an "ordinary" family, I can't rely on my husband to be able to get our son up or put him to bed every day, because he's often away, sometimes at very short notice. On the plus side, he's often here for long periods of time - but not within any set pattern. How do you fit a job into that? I have no idea. So far I've been doing very occasional work from home when he's been around. But these jobs I've been for this week require me to find some sort of daycare for my son. I'm just not ready to put him in nursery yet - we have decided to send him there in September. In the meantime, my friend had previously offered to step in and look after him occasionally, but today she told me that she'd changed her mind. The only other option here really is to get a full-time live in nanny, something neither my husband nor I want to do. It's a huge move having someone live with you. Yes, it would allow me to go back to my previous career and work all kinds of wacky shifts, but it would also mean giving up our privacy and allowing someone else to play a huge part in bringing up our son.

What to do? I have NO idea.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Pilots and marriage - a cautionary tale

I spotted this the other day when doing a search for other sites about being married to a pilot. It's a hilarious take on what NOT to do as far as relationships are concerned.

There's always a running joke between my husband and I about how many failed marriages each of his Captains have had. But really, it's not so funny. Amongst the humour, there are a lot of very sad kids out there with divorced parents. Sigh...I hate it when pilots live up to stereotypes! Anyhow, here it is. If you don't laugh, you'd cry...

Subject: Life of a Pilot

22 years old: Graduated from college. Go to military flight school. Become hot shot fighter pilot. Get married.
25 years old: Have 1st kid. Now hot shot fighter jock getting shot at in war. Just want to get back to USA in one piece. Get back to USA as primary flight instructor pilot. Get bored. Volunteer for war again.
29 years old: Get back from war all tuckered out. Wants out of military.
30 years old: Join airline. World is your oyster.
31 years old: Buy flashy car, house and lots of toys. Get over the military poverty feeling.
32 years old: Divorce boring 1st wife. Pay child support and maintenance. Drink lots of booze and screw around while looking for 2nd wife.
33 years old: Furloughed. Join military reserve unit and fly for fun. Repeat above for a few more years.
35 years old: Airline recall. More screwing around but looking forward to a good marriage and settling down.
36 years old: Marry young spunky 25 year old flight attendant.
37 years old: Buy another house. Gave first one to first wife.
38 years old: Give in to second wife to have more kids. Father again. Wife concerned about “risky” military Reserve flying so you resign commission.
39 years old: Now a captain. Hooray! Upgrade house, buy boat, small single engine airplane and even flashier cars.
42 years old: 2nd wife runs off with wealthy investment banker but still wants to share house (100%).
43 years old: Settle with wife #2 and resolve to stay away from women forever. Seek a position as a check Captain for 10% pay override to pay mounting bills. Move into 1 bedroom apartment with window air conditioners.
44 years old: Company resizes and you’re returned to copilot status. 25% pay cut. Become simulator instructor for 10% override pay.
49 years old: Captain again. Move into 2-bedroom luxury apartment with central air conditioning.
50 years old: Meet sexy Danish model on International trip. She loves you and says you are very “beeeeg!”
51 years old: Marry sexy Danish model for wife #3. Buy big house, boat, twin engine airplane and upgrade cars.
52 years old: Sexy model wants kids (not again). Resolve to get vasectomy.
54 years old: Try to talk wife out of kids, but presto, she’s pregnant. She says she got sick after taking the pill. Accident; sorry, won’t happen again.
55 years old: Father of triplets.
56 years old: Wife #3 wants very big house, bigger boat and very flashy cars, “worried” about your private flying and wants you to sell twin engine airplane. You give in. You buy a motorcycle and join motorcycle club.
57 years old: Make rash investments to try and have enough money for retirement.
59 years old: Lose money on rash investment and get audited by the IRS. You have to fly 100% International night trips just to keep up with child support and alimony to wife #1 and #2.
60 years old: Wife #3 (sexy model) says you’re too damned old and no fun. She leaves. She takes most of your assets. You’re forced to retire due to Age 60 rule. No money left.
61 years old: Now Captain on a non-schedule South American 727 freight outfit and living in a non-air conditioned studio apartment directly underneath the final approach to runway 9 at Miami Int’l. You have interesting” Hispanic neighbors who ask you if you’ve ever flown DC-3′s.
65 years old: Lose FAA medical and get job as sim instructor. Don’t look forward to years of getting up at 2 AM for 3 AM sim in every god-forsaken town you train in due to the fact your carrier can find cheap, off-hours sim time at various Brand X Airlines.
70 years old: Hotel alarm clock set by previous FedEx crewmember goes off at 1:00 AM. Have heart attack and die with smile on face. Happy at last!

Ain’t aviation great?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Wow, by Holly McNish

The following is a poem featured on BBC Woman's Hour, written by the performance poet Holly McNish. It's her newly composed poem for the Women of the World conference, and it's about motherhood. I found it very moving, and thought I'd share it with you.

My body is amazing

I can almost hear her saying it

As she stands naked at the mirror

Hands clapping in applause to it

Naked, bold and proud

Her mouth open wide and round like


My body is amazing

She is one year’s old and loving it

Full belly sticking out, thighs like mini tyre towers

And when she looks at her reflection she always shouts aloud like

This body is so great!

Gazing down now

I try to do the same

Ignore the plastic advert spreads

That pass me on the way

I say ‘my body is amazing’

Despite what some might say

I say my body is amazing

Despite the claims you make.

The nip and tuck and cuts and sucks that fill my walk to work each day

Enhancement ads and happiness will only come with curves this way and

if I lay in front of you today

Clothes dropped to the floor

You’d prescribe me what I could have less and what I should want more of

A tick box what could be chopped off with red pen ready hand aside your eyes deciding what to slice from lips and cheeks to bum and thighs

The lines below my eyes you say

I ought to peel or pull away

My breasts will start to sag one day

My breastfed baby there to blame

She came into the world you say

That’s great

but now behold your face

your saggy stomach, baggy eyes

Stretch mark stripes you look and sigh:

My eyes, tighten

My legs, inject

My thighs, cut back

My head, perfect

My stomach, flatten

My breasts, enhance,

Don’t smile, too much

Oh God, don’t laugh.

As you mark me like a canvas page in circled bouts of red

I feel the need to tell you you might praise this skin instead

Cos as you chat about corrections, your plucking cuts and lasers

Briefcase stuffed with time relapses, scalpol led erasers

I take up your red pen to my cheeks and mark two stripes on either side

A naked painted warrior could be a sorer site for eyes cos

I am ready for your battles now

My body’s felt the worst

No scalpol cut intense as that last damn push of birth

And I have learnt with awed amazement what my body brave can do

And now I’m marked like tribal tattoos with the tales my flesh went through

But those stripes that line my saggy stomach mark me like gold

And the folds by my eyes tell a tale just as bold

My laughter lines are deeper now because I smile twice as much

so if you palm read these first ‘wrinkles’ my life would light up.

Your official position is that smoothness is queen

but without any lines there’s no reading between them

A storybook opening

My life’s just begun and

Once upon never plays

If you cling to line one

As you try to cover the living I’ve done

As a human, a woman, and now as a mum

But your red pen can’t rub out the night’s I’ve not slept, the parts that I’ve bled or the laughter I’ve wept, the baby I held in the stomach that stretched, the breasts that got heavy so baby was fed, the parties I’ve had out, the sleep I’ve missed out on, the dinners I’ve stuffed down my throat like a python,

As you pile on the pressure to cover my life

I wonder what on earth is so wrong with your sight.

If my mind and my memory can tell you my tales

Then why can my body not tell them as well?

As our babies lie naked,

Applauding their skin

I can’t wait for their lives and their lines to begin.

Hollie McNish

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Two years and counting

Today is the second anniversary of my departure from the UK, and the beginning of our new life. Then, I'd just packed my job in, packed away our belongings and put our house on the rental market, and was being driven to Heathrow by my parents for a tearful farewell. I'd never visited the country I was moving to, and had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that my missed my husband like crazy - he'd moved out two months ahead of me to begin his training.

Two years on, we're very happy here. We have our beautiful son, who we both believe wouldn't be here if I hadn't downshifted so much and removed all career-related stress from my life. My husband has a stable job that pays very well and has good prospects, and I have loads of friends, I'm back working (very) part-time, and we have a lovely place to live.

If I'd seen this coming two years ago, I'd have been ecstatic.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Settling in

It seems a bit ridiculous to write "settling in" as the title of a post written two years after we moved to the Middle East, but there you are. In many respects, it really has taken this long to feel "at home" here.

Recently, for example, my husband and I finally cancelled our mobile phone contracts in the UK. We'd been hanging on to them, saying they were useful when we went home for holidays - but really, it was because we both thought, in the back of our minds, that we might not last out our time out here, and might need them if we moved home. Finally, though, we have severed those ties.

Moving into our villa has helped massively, too. We've just come back from a week's holiday in the Seychelles, which was paradise on earth. But when we arrived back at the airport yesterday morning, we both said to each other, "it's good to be home". Finally, we feel that our house and our city are the place where we belong. Getting back to our own bed, our kitchen, our comfy lounge and growing collection of garden plants, felt right.

It's not been an easy road, by any measure. And many other families I know out here are still struggling with it. There's an inevitable cultural shock, and things are done very differently. You're miles away from your families and old friends. And it's very, very hot here during the summer. Some of the people we know out here are desperate to return to their home countries. It's very easy to get sucked into negativity about the country and the company. There's a lot of bitching about terms and conditions, and I think moving away from company accommodation has removed me from that, which has helped hugely. Living so close to all my husband's colleagues and their families reminded me so much of boarding school, in so many respects - and they're not good memories!

Still, I feel very comfortable here now. Partly, that's because I know my way around, know how things work, and have a base. I've always been rubbish at change, and it takes me quite a while to adjust to new things. And it's also because I really do like where we live. It's not perfect, by any means, but neither is the UK, which is very financially depressed at the moment (and that's an understatement.) Here, the sun shines every day, we don't pay tax, we have a great house, we're 20 minutes from the beach, and we have some lovely new friends.

We won't be here forever, but - it's home for now. And that's a great feeling.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A window on their world

A few days ago, I had another appointment with my doctor to talk about my post-natal depression. There's good news on that score: I'm feeling much better and I'm coming off the tablets in a month's time.

My doctor is a lovely Muslim woman from the Lebanon. She wears brightly coloured clothes that always reach to her wrists and ankles, and a head scarf, quite often in a pretty fabric. On this particular visit we had time to chat as her assistant was making a meal out of sorting out my insurance eligibility.

I can't remember how it started, but we got to talking about women wearing the abaya (black full body gown) and veil here. My doctor told me about dress rules in her home country. She says that many Muslim women there don't wear any kind of head covering at all. My doctor actually didn't cover her head until she had her children. She apparently took the head scarf into hospital with her when she was in labour, and put it on as she left. For her, it was an important sign to the outside world about how things had changed for her, and how seriously she was taking her faith.

It was interesting to hear her views on women wearing the veil. Where we live, many local women do. My doctor's view is that this is a cultural decision, rather than a religious one. Their families and friends all do it, and so it continues. Interestingly, my doctor said it often unnerved her. She said she found standing next to a fully veiled woman in public toilets made her think that there could possibly be a man underneath the outfit! I'd never thought of it that way. Luckily, most women unveil in toilets, as far as I've seen.

For me, it's more an issue of not being able to see a person's whole face when they're speaking to me. It's odd not being able to read someone's expression. My son was at the doctors' the other day and a lovely lady in a veil was making clucking noises at him, and, I think, smiling. However, he started to cry - all he could see was a black veil and couldn't understand where the sound was coming from. I guess he'll learn, growing up here!

I read an interesting comment online the other day by a Muslim woman who wears a Hijab, asking about arrangements for an all-woman dinner. She was asking whether it would be like the Muslim weddings she's been to here, where all camera phones are banned and all the waiters are women. This was because she wanted to "dress up" (i.e wear a ball gown and make-up, something I know women here love to do at special events. The shops are full of glamourous gowns!) She was worried that her photo would get taken and that a photo of her uncovered would appear online somewhere. It just seemed such an alien concern, and yet of course very real.

Just a few windows on their world. Fascinating.

Monday, 31 January 2011

The horrors of Mastitis

A few days ago, I woke up in the morning feeling achey all over. I realised I felt like I had the flu. Then, I realised my right breast hurt like hell. What followed then was, in fact, two days of complete hell.

When I read about Mastitis, I thought it was just a painful boob. But no - it affected my whole being. I had the shivers, the sweats, exhaustion, raging fever, and, finally, vomiting. Added to this, my husband was flying for part of the time, and trying to look after our 9 month old baby (who can now crawl!) whilst feeling at death's door was almost impossible. But, as they say, you cope because you have to.

I'm now feeling a lot better, thanks to some very strong antibiotics and painkillers. It was my first experience of feeling very ill indeed since becoming a Mummy, and it was really, really hard. I know I'm not the first woman to go through it, but cripes, it was nasty.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The expat family trap

We're now back home in the sandpit after a lovely long break in the UK. It was a real tonic to see some snow, some ice, and yes, even a bit of rain (although I have to say we're rather glad to be back in the land of blue sky again - there's only so much cold weather you can enjoy!) And of course it was also very special spending Christmas with our families.

But having said that...

...It's absolutely incredible how difficult it can be staying with your family for long periods of time!

I've come to the conclusion that it's an inevitable part of the expat experience that your family becomes a thorny issue. After all, you can't just drive to see them for a weekend - the only chance you have is during either annual leave or during a visit they make to see you. Either option is very full-on - there are no half-measures. This means you spend all day, every day together, and obviously this isn't always going to work. In our case, both our families are hard to deal with for extended periods of time. Add to this our son, who is now officially everyone's favourite family member, and you get a difficult cocktail. Everyone wants to see our son for as long as possible.

For example - on our recent trip, we spent a week with my parents and a week with my husband's father. For our third week, we went to stay in a cottage in Cornwall for some very crucial time for just the three of us. Half-way through the week, my Mum rang us up and basically demanded that we should end that holiday early so that we could spend an extra night with them before we flew off from Heathrow. An extra night, that is, on top of the night we were already planning to spend with them before we left. I refused, saying that despite loving her and my Dad very much, our holiday time was precious too. She was pretty grumpy about it, but accepted it. It was just an upset we could have done without.

It's a very difficult issue from all sides. Obviously we want to see our families. We love them, and we miss them. But we also want some holidays to ourselves, and more to the point, to places other than the UK! Talking of which, we're off for a week in the sun together in March. We can't wait...

I wonder if any other expats out there are having a similar experience?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Clearly cheating pilots are an internet obsession

Today, I published the 50th comment on this post, which I wrote in January two years ago. In it, I put forward my by now rather well rehearsed treatise on why you can't tar all pilots with the same brush, and that, crucially, ALL PILOTS DO NOT CHEAT.

Little did I know how popular it would be. It's clearly very Googleable (is that a word now? Probably.) Stats show it's my most visited post ever. The 50 comments that follow are an interesting read. They're by no means all the comments I've received - I've rejected ones that named specific people, for example, because I felt that wasn't fair, and there's one particular correspondent who keeps sending in rather illiterate rants about female Cabin Crew which, by and large, I reject.

Still, it's fascinating that it's taken on a life of its own. The internet is indeed an interesting place...



Relationship Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory