Parties, Cadillacs, potatoes, Valentines ……and blogging

Yesterday was Valentines day.  They call it the day of love here for anybody or anything.  You can even say I love my cow.  I actually prefer this to the sloppy fake romantic rubbish that has been marketed to us for years in Europe.  Everybody gave me best wishes of love all day yesterday but my wonderful husband let me stay asleep in bed, made breakfast for all the children, washed up all the dishes, pans, glasses from a hastily put together slightly drunken dinner with friends the night before …….. and then he had to go off to work whilst I stayed at home, even Saskia stayed quietly watching Nemo for another 20 minutes before she came and woke me up.  How romantic is that?

In the last 3 weeks …….. I have had 2 parties in my house, done a Cadillac tour around Havana, celebrated potatoes returning on the scene, watched a few good films, begun to reupholster my living room suite (or the diminutive 79 year old who is in my living room has begun the job), met a new fun group of Wednesday lunchers, visited an eco reserve in las Terrazas, been back to Hemingway’s house, eaten in a real vegetarian restaurant in Cuba, entertained filmmaker friends from London and grandparents from the Cotwolds, had the best steak of my life, bought an amazing photo of the Malecon by a very talented young photographer, juiced a lot of sweet delicious oranges (its the season!), met a new bubbly Thai friend who is a dress designer (my new beautiful material sent from London will soon be designed into something cool, thanks Amanda!), received lots of wonderful presents and goodies from kindles to cameras, strawberry jam to my new favourite chocolate bar from Tescos, swiss, orange and almond (any Brits rush down there now, you won’t regret it, Thanks Nico!), a whole load of great music, got very frustrated with my lack of internet, repeatedly failed to post photos on my blog, met a Cuban working in occupational psychology in the Cuban social research centre and remembered what I used to do, failed to even begin to think about the English translations of the film school website, and today I made a cottage pie to celebrate the return of the potato. But absolutely failed to write any of this down.  Some of this is to do with living life to the full rather than writing about it or living on line.  But blogging for me has been a discipline, something to make me sit down and share.

So I have made some decisions: I have to write at least something once a day even if it is off line.

Invite people to guest write on my blog!  I like this one, it makes it more fun and interesting.  Not sure if they actually will write anything for me but it might stop making me feel so overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that I should be writing.

Give up on trying to post photos on my blog and upload them to a related facebook photo page.  I actual do manage to upload pictures to facebook.

Off to swim in the crystal clear sea ……………..


England ……..looking backwards

It is always tricky dipping back into England every year but this year it was particularly hard.  We were homeless, in limbo and I think we all felt disconnected and confused.  I always go for a month but by 3 weeks I am on my knees.

The intensity of trying to catch up with a year of family trials and tribulations can be emotionally exhausting.  Dashing round and trying to spend some time with my oldest friends is great too, but usually demands a bit of drinking and bad parenting (i.e  too much TV and bad food to keep them quiet while I chat, no baths or teeth cleaning and every routine goes out the window).  All this usually leads to lots of bad behaviour and two cheeky boys fighting and refusing to sleep.

Last year I went without the boys and just with Saskia who was 5 months old.  I only went for 2 weeks but after the first week I was missing the rest of the family so much it felt strange but was certainly an easier and more relaxing visit.  I even managed a great little trip to my beloved France to visit Saskia´s godmother, which really did feel like a holiday.  Great food, wine and chat and swimming in a pool surrounded by ancient oak forest.

This year for the first 3 weeks we were staying in a cottage in a beautiful Cotswold village close to my mother and sister full of smart well-preserved retired people.  I had ordered a USB internet connection, which did not work and always have my mobile phone reconnected (which had no network coverage). I had happened upon a village that had communication problems that rival Cuba.  I had so many things to do and so many people to call and catch up with on the phone but could not do much more than try to get through the days without one of my children spilling food on English carpets or waking up the neighbours during jetlagged nights.

We climbed up to Broadway tower with Paulo´s godmother and watched the boys chasing sheep trying to catch them and stroke them in their red El Che T-shirts.

They became experts on CBeebies, rude English words and fruit pastels, maltesers, Fruit Shoots, Hula Hoops and all the rest……..  I was so sad when they didn´t like cherries!

Before Rafa arrived ……… just trying to work out all the appliances, recycling and the TV and get them all in the hire car every day to shop at Budgens was enough.  And having the elderly couple, who owned the place pop in all the time to remind me of the various recycling collections.  Phew………..

By the time I managed to get them all up and fed in the morning Saskia was ready for her morning sleep and I had to put the TV on to keep the boys quiet and feed the pay phone, then it was lunch for the three of them and maybe a stagger to the park to see if I could find a corner of the playground where my phone might work whilst keeping my eye on three children ……….. not easy believe me.

I was supposed to be sorting out all the admin of my English life:  banks, credit cards etc, shopping for the whole family for a year (no shopping in Cuba and 3 growing children and things as ridiculous as bath plugs and car parts, deoderants and low sugar Ketchup, tampons, toothpaste, digital radio).

We spent a wonderful half an hour in John Lewis with a fantastic Indian mama who kitted us out with footwear for the children for a few months.   I dragged my non-consumerist man into New Look to get a wardrobe for Cuba in a 20 minute Sunday Summer Sale power shopping session before hitting the amazing Salisbury Cathedral.  That was after a 20 minute Stonehenge stop off.

My boys had their first taste of surfing on a Devon beach and ate fish and chips and sausage rolls.  We buried them in the sand of the dunes and experienced every weather in one day.  Typical English seaside stuff.

When Amy Winehouse died it hit my hard.  A strange thing when the death of a famous person feels close and personal.  It was quite a shock and I hadn’t even been living in the UK for her rise to fame but I loved her voice, her style and her vulnerable irreverence and never read all the tabloid rubbish about her life.  Maybe there is a bit of Amy in me, or maybe it was just the moment.

Then the riots …………..  a sociological disaster that will be discussed in newspaper columns for years.  At this point we were all staying with a friend in London close to the action and the police sirens were going off all night.  It felt quite strange to be with my Guatemalan husband in London during the worst social unrest in 26 years,  But such is life ………

So my beautiful England I do love you, but I am not quite sure I understand my old world so well anymore.  But thanks to all my family and friends for making this trip so wonderful despite the challenges of being on holiday in your own country, you always make me feel so welcome and loved.


Global Mum

We finally moved out of Guatemala, and are on our way to Cuba via the UK.  So much has happened in the last few days that I don´t know how to coherently write it all down but feel I must blog something.

Leaving Guatemala was harder and more emotional than I had even imagined.  I am not so great at goodbyes and in the end I was emotionally drained and the logistics of packing were tough.  We left in the shuttle though the streets of Antigua that held so many memories for all of us.  We were all quiet and reflective, even the boys!

After many rainy grey days the sun was shining as we left so we got to say goodbye to those beautiful volcanoes.  The country that give me my wonderful husband and three beautiful little hybrids and so many great friends is now officially a chapter of my life that is over.  We will visit of course but we are on our next chapter now, a page has turned ……

The Casa Comal leaving party was amazing.  Grown men were holding back tears and so many hugs and goodbyes all from the heart.  Thanks to everyone for such an amazing night, and yes we danced a lot!

Leaving Juju who his second mother to all of us was tearful and traumatic.

We arrived in Habana and one of our 5 suitcases was stopped by the famous customs and I was imagining hours and hours of complications but in the end it was the two children’s lunchboxes that I had filled with English tea and Indian spices that were causing the problem and a quick check to prove that they weren’t hard drugs meant that we left the airport pretty soon and got to our future home without too much of a problem.

We hardly left the house the two days we were there and I spent too much time fighting back tears whenever I thought about all the good people that I will miss so much in the next few months.  The boys were delighted to spend the two days swimming in the Caribbean and eating way too much icecream.

The flight to England alone with the 3 little ones was relatively painless compared to previous trips.  Although I think I will be ordering a children’s meal on Virgin next time I fly as their food was much more yummy!  I only had the energy to eat comfort food pasta and suck apricot puree from a tube.

My noble sister had got up at 6 to get to Gatwick and meet us and got caught in bad traffic on the M25 but was there within minutes of us passing through the gate.  I was slightly annoyed that with my 3 children and 3 suitcases I was supposed to magically have a pound coin for the luggage trolleys.  Gatwick Gatwick you really need to get better, no wonder Richard Branson has been fighting to get more slots into Heathrow.

Now we are installed in a little village in the Cotswolds that seems to have worse communications than Cuba (my mobile (cell) phone does not work in my house nor the USB internet connection that I had ordered) but the flowers and gardens are picture postcard beautiful and we are settling in nicely!

Moving into an unknown house with jetlag and trying to work out all the appliances was trickier than you imagine.   I had forgotten the stress of recycling.  It seems you have to wash and file all your rubbish.  I know this is all good but surely the responsibility lies with the big companies who insist on so much packaging and pollution.

The children are delighted to see their British family but seem to have forgotten that they need to listen to me sometimes ……….  Their exotic transatlantic accents aare already sounding more English but they are still speaking Spanish to each other.  We spent the first morning at their cousin’s sports day in the village school in summer drizzle.  Saskia is very chatty and will learn a lot of English words in the next month before she hits her Habana nursery in a few weeks.

I just feel happy that I am holding it together.  An old friend is arriving tomorrow to visit and my cousin will visit the day after.  Rafa is meanwhile still in Cuba evaluating students finals and will arrive next week.

Thank God for British TV, it still leaves the rest behind especially when you have the scandal of the Murdoch case going on amongst other things.

Jetlag please leave right now!