Saturday, 3 November 2012

It's been a while...

So, this blog has been dead since May, for which I sincerely apologise. My life has been so busy I don't really have the time or the drive to blog these days. It's a natural process, I think - I started blogging years ago, when there wasn't much support for pilots' wives online, but now there are hundreds of blogs just like this one, so I don't feel the need to fill that void anymore.

What news from me? Well, we're still living in the sandpit, enjoying life for the most part. There are a few niggles of living out here that get us down from time to time (crazy roads and local management styles, mostly) but it's also been very good to us. We've just bought our second property in the UK, which is already let. It's part of our grand plan to buy as many properties as we can, to build up a nest egg for retirement.

We've had some glorious tropical holidays, our son is growing by leaps and bounds (2 and a half now!) and he loves his nursery, where he's learning Arabic, which makes us very proud.

We're heading home for Christmas, which will be fabulous. We miss the UK still, but accept that it's still no place for a stable job in aviation. My husband will probably have his long-haul command here in 2 years, so we'll stay put for now.

Oh, and last but by no means least, my career is blooming! Being out here has given it a new lease of life, for which I'm eternally grateful.

I'd better get back to it! Best wishes to all of you.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Facebook's "hide" option

Continuing on the Facebook theme, I've been reflecting on the brilliance of the "hide" option.

Deciding on Facebook "friends" is tricky. If you don't accept someone's request, you're sending out a clear signal to them that you don't like them. But if you do accept someone's request, you're allowing them into your life (well, the online part of it) and you're also committing to seeing their updates and photos on a regular basis. 

As I wrote in my last post, "unfriending" someone (and even worse, blocking them) is a very dramatic and actually quite a nasty thing to do. It's also pretty risky when you still see that person on a regular basis, as is the case out here in the Middle East. We pilots' wives often meet at social events; it's very hard to write someone out of your life completely in such a small, tight-knit community.

Therein is the joy of "hide". There are several women out here who I don't see eye to eye with. If I had my choice, I wouldn't see them very much, and the last thing I want to do is see them online every day. But "unfriending" them would offend them, and I don't want to do that. Hoorah for hiding, because this means they have no idea I'm not following them, and we get to keep the status quo. (I do also have several friends on limited profile - I'm not sure they've ever noticed.) 

Recently, a couple we'd just got to know announced that they were moving to another Gulf airline. We were pleased for them, as they were unhappy here. Unfortunately, said couple are complainers, and public ones at that. Lots of public bashing of our adopted home ensued, bitching about the company, etc. It made for depressing (and annoying reading.) And yesterday, Facebook was full of the wife's joy at new villa (6 beds with a swimming pool apparently) which is SO much nicer than she would have had here, given the PALTRY housing allowance here (£2000 a month!) , people, company, country much better, yadda yadda yadda.

So guess what? HIDE. 


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Unfriendly Facebook

Today, someone I used to be friends with blocked me on Facebook.

I found out because when I looked at a nasty comment she'd left on a status update of mine, I could no longer view her page. When I tried searching for her, she was no longer there. So there it was: I had become a victim of the new definition of bullying and small-mindedness for the internet age.

When someone blocks you on Facebook, you become invisible on Facebook to them, and them to you. You can't search for them, see their page or send them messages. Luckily, they can't see the person they've blocked either, unless they decide to lift the block. Annoyingly, it's impossible to block someone back once they've done it to you. They can, in theory, keep lifting the block and peek and you, then block you again. So far, so annoying.

The irony of the whole thing is that I really wanted to unfriend said nasty woman, but didn't want to do it for fear of upsetting her. I was trying to keep the peace. I'd gone for the more sensible option of "hiding" her on Facebook so I no longer had to put up with her posts in my timeline. She's obviously not clever enough to have worked out you can do this.

Let me tell you about this woman. She arrived in the sandpit from the UK about 2 years ago. She left 9 months later, unable to settle. She's left her husband here working, and only comes out during school holidays to visit (except Christmas, because she will only have Christmas in the UK. Of course.) Her pilot husband can't find a job in the UK and is pretty miserable and knackered, commuting home for maybe 3 days at a time once a month.

She used to be our neighbour in company accommodation. Her husband came out first, and we were always there for him, inviting him to dinner, offering him our PC for Skype with the family before he had an internet connection, etc. When she came out, she was extremely friendly, suggesting she and I have dinner some nights, share babysitting, etc. She was even very helpful when I had post-natal depression. All good, you'd think.

Then, it began to go wrong. We decided to move out as I was so unhappy. She told me I was isolating myself. I disagreed. When we'd moved in, her family trooped round to ours and she and her husband inspected it at high speed, loudly declaring flaws like "why didn't they fit a better kitchen?" and "I bet it costs a fortune to cool, I hear it's zillions of pounds a year..." (like hell.)

When I was younger and girls at school were saying nasty things, my Mum used to say that they were jealous of me. I knew this was a line she was spinning me at the time - but I do wonder if that's the factor at play here.

Since moving out, I've been far happier, have a new circle of friends and clearly love my home. My career has also gone from strength to strength. I never talk about my job on here, but suffice to say, it's got glamorous connotations and what I do gets noticed. I think this gets up her nose. Moreover, I've chosen to stay in this country, and I'm making it work. Our family is together.

My theory, therefore, is that she's blocked me on Facebook because she can't bear to see that I'm happy with a situation she rejected rashly last year. And in doing so, reduced herself to the level of the playground.

Still wish I'd unfriended her weeks ago, though...  Who needs enemies when you have Facebook "friends" like these?

Saturday, 10 March 2012

A career of one's own

Radio 4's Woman's Hour recently asked its listeners to tell them whether they felt their career defined them. The implicit question was -  is motherhood enough, or do you need a career to make you feel happy?

I was reflecting recently how stressed I used to be in my job in London. My commute was horrendous, my colleagues occasionally bullying or bitchy, my shifts anti-social. I wasn't conceiving. When we moved out to the Gulf, I looked at it as a blessing in disguise. I realised that not working gave my body a break from the rat race, and would probably make fertility treatment more successful; and so it proved to be. I was pregnant within five months of arriving in my new home.

What I hadn't prepared myself for was the shock of losing my career. I felt like I'd lost my identity. I realised I'd worked for so many years to reach the position I had (in a career that many people aspire to) that I coudn't just let it go.

I don't talk about my career on here as I want to keep that side of life separate from this blog, but let's say, for argument's sake, that I'm a doctor. I've trained for many years to get this far, and obviously people are interested in what I do. When we go out, people are equally as interested in my career as they are in my husband's. When I go somewhere for work, I'm treated as a professional, someone who's worked hard to get where they are.

Once I became a Mum and remained unemployed, all conversation turned to our baby. Social gatherings always involved talking about sleeping patterns and my difficulties breast feeding. No-one ever asked what "I did" anymore, although they continued to ask my husband about his flying career.

Not only this, but my self-esteem began to plummet. I hadn't realised just how much of  buzz I got from my job, from working hard and seeing a concrete result at the end of it. Not to mention the self-worth you feel when you're making at least some of the money you're spending. Motherhood had no deadlines, just long, long, bleary eyed shifts. I told my husband more than once that I envied his work. He looked at me like I was mad, as he was wishing (logically enough) that he could spend more time at home with our little boy. Meanwhile I craved a few hours away from home, dressed to impress, doing the job I loved and getting paid for it. I was as surprised to feel that way as many of you will be reading this.

I also noticed a subtle shift in the way my husband behaved towards me. Call me paranoid, but I felt that he looked at me differently now I wasn't working and achieving in the workplace. I felt, to be honest, that he wasn't as proud of me as he had been. That's probably the post-natal depression that was talking, but it certainly added to the desperation I felt to get back to work.

Fast forward nearly two years, and our son is at nursery three days a week. I have miraculously managed to find a part-time job which means I can balance time with my family with the work I love to do. There are still challenges (the battle to fit decent family time into my husband's roster is never ending) but I'm overjoyed to have my career back.

I love being a mother, but I refuse to give up my career as a result. No-one ever asks men to do that, do they? No-one ever asks a Dad why he's going back to work so soon, or why he's letting someone else look after his child when he could resign and stay at home and look after his child. Well, do they?

Big fat nope.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Frequently asked questions - some answers

Whenever I meet new people, conversation always gets round to what my husband does for a living. It's such a huge part of our daily lives, it's not surprising, really. The questions I get asked are pretty similar. People are very curious about what our lives are really like. So, I thought I'd answer a few of the questions here for people who come across this by googling "what's it like being married to a pilot" and who'd like some answers!

1) Do you get free flights?

Nope. We get ID90s, which means we pay 10% of the fare, plus tax. These tickets are always standby, which means we don't get on if the plane is full. It can be a pretty hairy experience trying to get anywhere.

2) But you always fly up the front, don't you?

Sadly, not any more.My husband's current airline doesn't allow staff kids into Business or First, so even the most senior Captains have to travel in economy with their young families! Gets my goat, this one. I flew Biz all the time before I had my son.

3) Your husband flies long haul - that must mean he's away a lot, but then home a lot, too?

Not really true at the moment, although it used to be. His current airline has a pilot shortage (huge expansion with not enough recruitment to keep up) so he and his fellow pilots are working far too hard. It surprises many of my friends that my husband often only has 24 hours off between long haul trips, often switching over from East to West or vice versa. He's knackered. How long his airline can carry on like this, I don't know. The pilots are so tired and hardly see their families. Some months recently he's just had the minimum days off at home that are legally required - 8.

4) Do all pilots cheat?

Nope. My husband is far too tired most of the time to even go out! And he's also more of a culture vulture than a party guy, and his cabin crew are rarely seen outside of their rooms downroute. Having said that, his first airline was more of a "party airline" and there was a great deal of socialising there. I never worried he'd cheat (we have complete trust, thankfully) but I did get annoyed about the girls flirting with him, as they often did. My husband used to come home and tell me all about it :) It has to be said, though, that I'm one of the lucky ones. I've lost count of the number of times my husband has told me that one of his colleagues is cheating on his wife. It's sad, but a fact of life. The aviation lifestyle can be toxic to family life. You have to work very hard at your marriage.

5) But you must be rich?

This is one thing the Middle East airlines do well. Their salaries are fantastic, we don't pay any tax (at all!) and our accommodation is paid for, too.

6) Aren't planes flown by computers nowadays anyway?

Nope. Well, in the cruise they are, but you only have to look at the number of accidents related to pilot error to see how much influence over the aircraft the pilots have.

7) So, your husband is a First Officer. When does he actually get to fly the plane?

Arrrrgggghhhhhh! There are TWO pilots on the plane. Both the First Officer and the Captain are fully trained pilots, who share the flying. But the Captain is in charge overall, and has more experience. (Generally - but there are some very experienced FOs out there.)

That's all for now. If you have any more questions, post them in a comment and I'll answer them!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Wedding presents

We've just got back from a wonderful break in a very snowy uk. We were back for my father in law's 80th. We had some wonderful family time, but also some very precious time for just the three of us. It snowed whilst we were staying at my parents' house, which we had to ourselves as they were away on holiday for some of our stay. We loved it, sitting by the fire in a beautiful country house surrounded by snowy hills and lakes. Taking our little boy sledging for the first time was such a joyful experience. We will never forget it.

While we were home, I did something I've been meaning to do for a while. I went into one of mum and dad's sheds (where most of our belongings from our previous lives are stored) and retrieved the cutlery we were given as a wedding present. We were given so many beautiful things that we decided to leave behind because they were too heavy, too precious or too fragile to ship to the middle east. We also had no idea whether we'd be staying, and we knew we'd have to ship everything back that we decided to take with us. Consequently, we parted with a lot of our belongings, and it's got to the point where we've forgotten we owned most of it. I realised this was ridiculous, so this trip, I decided to bring something back. Crockery and saucepans are too large, but we managed to bring the whole cutlery set back with us in our suitcases.

It's a small thing, but I'm so happy to have it here. We've well and truly settled here, and it makes sense to have our lovely things here, rather than just 'managing' with cheap stuff we bought in a hurry 3 years ago. This is our home now, after all.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Married pilot gets cabin crew girl pregnant - shock

Since when is this news?  I'm linking to a story in the Telegraph from December about a married British Airways pilot (I assume a Captain from the salary they refer to) who got a young female cabin crew member pregnant downroute.

Oh, to live in a world where this a surprise. Blimey, this goes on all the time, as anyone involved in the aviation industry unfortunately knows. I think this got into the press due to the recent (and completely misunderstood) BA "hug a pilot" training. His poor wife.

Who knows where on earth the Torygraph dug it up from - probably Facebook, or someone's mate. Quite frankly, they could have made it up and it would still be true ten times over. But come on, it's not news, is it?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Hong Kong

We've just got back from an amazing trip to Hong Kong. My husband had a four day layover there, so we took advantage and went with him. His roster is crazy at the moment (11 days away with only 2 visits home in that time, each for less than 24 hours.) This way, then, we actually got to spend some precious family time together.

I must admit I was nervous. Our son is now 21 months and tremendously active. Flying with him is a challenge to say the least. Hong Kong is 7 hours' flight from here (and unbeknown to me, 9.5 hours back because of the winds) so it's no short hop. And it didn't begin well; our outbound flight was delayed for three hours, so we'd been in the airport for 5 hours by the time we took off. And when we arrived in Hong Kong, exhausted, we were greeted by the longest immigration queue I've ever seen (and I've been to JFK!) It snaked out of the usual barriers and down the corridor, looping a couple of times. Luckily it moved fairly quickly, and we were out of it in about 45 minutes. Then, things started to look up. We had a limo pick up at the airport and were at the hotel, a lovely brand new 5*, in minutes. Our room was on the Executive floor, and had a super comfy bed for me, a super comfy cot for my son and a dragon toy to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which made me smile and which the fella loved.

Later that night, my husband arrived. He was flying freight to Hong Kong, so we'd taken separate flights. In the back of my mind I'd been worrying his roster might change at the last minute and he wouldn't actually turn up, so when he did, I was overjoyed. From then on in, we had a magic time. We went into Kowloon to shop and see the sound and light show, went up to the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping, and took the tram up to the Peak. I loved the city. I could easily live there - if Cathay wasn't such a bum job nowadays.

When we left to go home in the early hours of Tuesday, I must admit I shed a tear. It had been just a perfect break for the three of us - unexpectedly, one of the best family holidays we've ever had. I'm so glad we made the effort to go. It would have been tremendously easy to decide the effort wasn't worth it, but we'd have been wrong. I'm determined now that we'll be more adventurous in future and do this again. Why not - that's what staff travel's for!



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