Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romance and Roses, are those for me?

Valentine’s Day always catches me on the hop and that goes for the frog in my life – or sorry should that be Prince Charming? Regardless of the fact that it is heralded by hopeful hearts and flower decorations and prominently placed lingerie and chocolates in every shop window somehow the evening of the 13th of February always ends the same way with my standing in the newsagent with a predominantly male group of last minute chancers looking disconsolately at an array of cards that I wouldn’t send to my worst enemy let alone my nearest and dearest. This year at the last gasp I remembered I had a vaguely appropriate one in my card bag – or at least more appropriate than the “Welcome Baby Boy’ that’s been there at least a year – could someone hurry up and have a boy. It was unfortunate when I opened up the card that it said “Happy Anniversary” but a slash of the pen soon corrected that – it could have been worse along the lines of “Get Well Soon” that might have made it sound as if love and marriage were some kind of lingering affliction.

Valentine’s Day dawned grey as it were, as indeed it dawns every single morning in Sydney at the moment and indeed far from being drenched in rose petals I got absolutely soaked walking into work – I can see the ‘Ditch the car and use the Legs’ New Year’s Resolution is about to go the same way as the rest of them. My mood lifted when I returned home to find a large flower box on the front step. I walked up the steps with a Nigella Lawson, think Domestic Goddess, type sway of my hips. The smirk however was swiftly replaced by a look of frothing fury as I discovered that far from being from a secret admirer, or even at a pinch my husband, the flowers in question were in fact for one of my daughters. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned. I had a moment of instant empathy on the Snow White’s stepmother front – and made a mental note not to ask any mirrors leading questions along “Who’s the fairest?” lines for fear of receiving an unfavourable if truthful opinion. I also resolved to point out to the relevant Drama Queen the importance of explaining to any prospective boyfriends the first rule of successful dating - “Suck up to the mother.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Call yourself an expat?

The sun has made a rare appearance this afternoon in Sydney so the back garden is now festooned with washing in an attempt to get to grips with the backlog that has been building whilst wet and grey has been the default weather pattern. February is generally the hottest month in Sydney but to put things into perspective when I went to bed last night my feet were cold and my good old RM Williams boots, the stockman’s standby designed to stand up to life on the rough side, have gone mouldy in my wardrobe – and I can’t face looking to see what else in the clothing line is sporting attractive white spots and whiskers.

The bright and cheery high spot of the week though, was a performance by Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre Company of ‘Midsummer’ at the Opera House last night. It’s a really clever modern take on a romantic comedy complete with songs and guitar solos, all set in Edinburgh. It’s riotous, raunchy with the main prop a double bed and has a couple of laughing through your fingers in front of your eyes type moments. Conjured up Edinburgh for me – partly because it is such a small city centre that even though I haven’t lived there since I left university, I could immediately imagine where the two participants were in their mad weekend trotting round the town – though I should perhaps clarify that whilst I knew where most of the settings were. I have never popped into a bondage club in Leith. Am sure part of the reason I loved the production so much was because the accents and humour reminded me so much of home – and that’s an interesting concept in itself. When does one stop being an expat and become a local? What’s the difference between an expat and a recent immigrant? And at what point does home become where you are, rather than where you’re from?

We’ve lived in Sydney three times – so we’re serial Sydneysiders, (try saying that after a few beers at a barbie) – and Sydney definitely feels like home in many ways to us BUT I do still listen to Radio 4 – (got to love the internet radio Husband got me that has transformed my listening), and just the thought of being plonked into the UK high street sends me into paroxysms of joy – but that may just be a combination of unfamiliarity and the strength of the Aussie dollar.

A great friend has just moved to Amsterdam with her family, and reading her emails about the excitement and frustrations of family relocation is unsettling me as I have come to the conclusion that now I no longer really count as an expat, I do miss some of the addictive aspects of life on the move. There is something in me that craves that adrenaline rush of a new place, new people, situations that make the eyes boggle and the brain buzz – the sense of being you as a unit, be it couple or family, standing together in the face of a city of strangers, never mind the more mundane questions such as where you buy a kettle. One of my favourite, reread again and again books, is ‘Diplomatic Baggage’ by Brigid Keenan, subtitled ‘The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse’ that should be required reading for anyone contemplating life as an expat as it conjures up the ups and downs of life perpetually adjusting to life on the other side of the comfort zone. Dangerous reading for a change addict like me!