Monday, June 30, 2008

Dank je wel

Thanks to my Mum who has just left after a week here. We don't see her often enough but when we do she surely makes up for it. She has spent a week packing for us, cooking every single day, ironing (all Andy's 100% long sleeved Jermyn Street cotton shirts), looking after the kids, treating us to a several meals out and listening to Chloe reading nearly as many books as she does! The next time we see her she can relax, feet up, rum cocktail in hand, enjoying the views over the valley and out to sea from Sisserou Lodge..........she deserves it!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Trolley Dash

One more day to go and then the packers come. Today we have spent all day getting rid of junk and packing 3 suitcases for our 6 weeks in transit. Yesterday we did a trolley dash to Primark in Maidstone, I stayed downstairs and left Andy upstairs in the children's section. Big mistake - he came down with 4 bags and I had 1. He can't resist anything that says 1.50 on it. Ollie now has the largest t-shirt collection ever and it's not like I can pass his down to Scarlett. We then tried for school uniforms - well no-one has blue socks - black socks, navy socks, white socks but not blue blue. Then the best bit of all we went to the M&S food hall and got those curry meal packs for dinner and loads of crisps, hot cross buns, travel sweets and sausages - all the essentials. Then we drove all the way back to Belgium. Scarlett was a superstar, she really would prefer to be an only child. C&O stayed with Grandma here and had a ball, one game after another. In fact Ollie said it was his best day of his holidays - didn't like to mention it was the first one.

Friday, June 27, 2008


So the swimming pool arrived this morning, in its 40 foot trailer outside our house. Andy had arranged for it to arrive on Monday so he could be here, possibly. Anyway, to cut a long story short the pallets wouldn't go up our drive as it's too uneven, so the Dutch (they are nice) driver and I unloaded each pallet and carried each box up to the garage. It took 1.5 hours and lots of small talk. The neighbours watched. You probably can't believe that so I will type it again, the neighbours watched.

The pool has changed a bit since I last mentioned it. The horrors of building it on a slope were too much for us all to overcome, well no-one felt confident to take ultimate responsibililty for it sliding down the hill into the brand new sports stadium, understandably. So we now have a prefab (I know what you're thinking) one. However, the design will be that it is half submerged into the existing hole on cement with a retaining wall in front of it and then there will be a full wooden deck surround so it won't look like a prefab pool but an inground one. This means there is easy access to all the gadgetary - and there's quite a bit of that too. Also, 100 kilos of sand for the filter. Umm, sand to the Caribbean, that will make the customs officer chuckle. Talking of customs, it was someone's bright idea to loose pack the boxes (to look used!) so they were half sealed which meant that everytime they were tilted the contents, usually a long pole or vital little gizmo fell out and rolled back down our drive narrowly missing the ditch. This bit was probably fairly amusing for the neighbours. I aim to entertain. Anyway, so that's where we are at on the pool. A guy from England, Andrew, is coming out to install it for us which will ensure it is all done correctly and then it's down to pool man Andy. Andrew has just asked if his girlfriend can come too - maybe she's going to test out the poolside sun loungers....

It's the childrens' last day of school today and then they have 66 days holiday not that I'm counting or anything. Chloe is quite sad as she has made great friends in the 3.5 years she has been here and they are a lovely bunch. They have each written her a letter and photo and her teacher, Juf Goele has put them all in a book to present to her today. We will keep in touch and hopefully this will ensure her Dutch lasts a little bit longer.

So, back to the boxes now....

Sunday, June 22, 2008


We've packed 4 boxes since 9am this morning. The children helped us, hence 4 boxes. I asked the packing company to drop off a few so I could pack my own bits and pieces. There's bits and pieces you just don't want other people to pack aren't there? They left 50 boxes outside my front door on Friday. I'm paying 16,738 Euros to pack my own boxes, clearly.

Today is our last day by ourselves for a long time. We have visitors from tomorrow until we leave this house on the 4th July and then we are living our gypsy like existence until our container arrives in Dominica. Our allowance is 23 kilos each, for 6 weeks, piece of chilli.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Good Life

We'll be ok. We can grow chilli plants from tiny seedlings.
Just look at this one!
Chilli sauce, chilli jam, chilli fish, chilli stew, chilli chicken, chilli rum...
You name it we can chilli it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Location of Dominica

Yes, surrounded by Euro land each side.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Employed !!!

So, I got an email today headed 'Congratulations' - how cool is that. I got the job - yipee - help!

Andy beat me to it and got the 'Congratulations' phone call on Friday offering him a job he really wanted too with a great company and he can work from home combined with some inter-Caribbean and Miami travel.

Two years in the planning and it's all coming together now, I can relax, a bit, however, there's always something overlooked in the planning process you know - do you think anyone "out there" does three-tone 'oh so natural' highlights? I'm not sure I'm at the L'Oreal 'it's so easy you can do it yourself with the special comb' stage quite yet - maybe I can train Chloe up.........she's already agreed to work in Sisserou Lodge.......may have to increase her minimum wage now...

Compost / If only

So, the grass/trees/borders etc are all cut down (thanks Derek/Andy) now to keep our landlord happy. Now, the farmer opposite won't take it because we've mixed our grass and our trees - completely forbidden.

So now I've got to get this lot into tiny compost bags for compost collection day or pay the very expensive gardening maintenance company to remove it for me in their little regulation compost disposal truck........ Anyway, I went to Ikea today and bought quite a lot of essentials (scented tea lights are essential actually - power cuts remember? and Celia said so, so it must be true) anyway, there's not much left in the budget now for compost disposal. Now, if only we could burn it without setting light to the garage...........

Yes, he is my designated 'Compost Disposal Truck Driver' actually.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Remembering who it's all about

Chloe has exams from today until next Friday. Exams at 6, wow. I had to sign a form for school to give permission for her to take them. What if I hadn't signed - would she have just sat there reading a book watching her friends?

Yesterday, the girls were asked to be bridesmaids at a family wedding in the UK in December. It's a really tough one - they would adore it - every girl's dream to dress up as a princess in a fairytale venue. I was always the (runaway) bride but never the bridesmaid. The practicalities are another matter though - flying back to the UK in December and then the logistics of getting to the remote, middle of nowhere location coupled with the overall cost. But it may be their only chance.....

Can't imagine why they didn't ask Ollie to be their pageboy.
A swallowed ring will reappear won't it?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wacky Races

Andy's favourite expression to me as he strolls out the door for work every morning is 'just flick a mail to'. I always smile sweetly and nod - the secret to a successful marriage I'm sure - agree in principle and then do a mad Muttley (my Penelope days have long gone) impression when they've gone. I've sort of, well no sort of, I have definitely got my plate full at the moment but today's 'flick' has pushed me over the edge.

My recreating artist's impressions are as good as my photography - did you spot I even managed to cut the top off the surfboard on Sunday......

By the way - it's our swimming pool...........revolutionary as it's shallow down the length of one side and not the traditional width - much more fun for kids and games - can anyone recreate it with a 'flick' back to me, please?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Baywatch to Bushwacker

One Sunday of the year, a huge sports emporium here is open, so this morning we went - it's Father's Day here today and Andy was keen. Having got the flatscreen out of his system we're now onto ping pong (think he prefers me to call it table tennis but ping pong is so satisfying to say isn't it - now repeat it really quickly.....) in a big way - it would be wouldn't it - big that is. No little net with little screwy bits on (with the net permanently tangled) that you can attach to a suitable table for us - oh no, all swinging (keep up!) all dancing all weather is the only option. We looked at them, felt them up a bit and then walked on, only for now I'm sure. Our purpose of the trip was actually to buy Ben & Miriam (who live in Dominica) some sea shoes - rubber and not dissimilar to attractive Crocs, fins (don't call them flippers), mask, snorkel and that was it. Well, the big 'convince you it's summer' displays were all out in force and Andy spotted a boogie board and said the kids would like it. I said no, don't be ridiculous they will float away. He then did his 'you'll regret it once you're there' speech which always terrifies me so I said ok. So we now have 5 boogie boards (one each for Ben & Miriam) and 1 adult size one - well it is Father's Day. I will use it to float on and improve my tan at least.

We got home and then broke the law. Well, in Belgium you can't garden on a Sunday - well use any noisy machinery, surprisingly kids are still allowed to play outside. However, we're under real time pressure now and yesterday it was pouring all day. So feeling incredibly guilty we got out the chainsaw - well the borrowed chainsaw and started cutting away madly. My job was to make sure the plug stayed in the extension lead so there I am ducking and diving desperately trying to avoid this manic machine. My other job was then to gather the debris and dispose of it in the correct GFT/Compost (2 Euros each) white bags. Our landlord says the garden has to be as we found it - well we moved in in December when it was hardly a green wonderland but we will do our best to comply. I can't wait to have a real gardener - my jobs were all the rubbish ones today but it might take a while to be trusted with much else unfortunately.

No doubt we will get some fixed penalty garden fine through the door tomorrow. You think I'm joking.....

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I only had a starter

Last night I went on my final girls' night out. I've avoided these since baby group - Scarlett is now 3 so that's a while back but one of the girls (from baby group) was back in town and Lemony was going so she made me join her - well she made me get my hair done and then said it would go to waste - we've had no babysitter for 6 months since our Polish angel gave birth and reality set in on the joys of childcare for her. Anyway, we got there and the one girl, well she's nearly a Grandma but insists on joining us on these nights out even though she doesn't even live in Belgium now or in fact was ever in our baby group, was as annoying as I remembered her. Last time she went round the table asking everyone who was Prime Minister - I mean, this is a country that's as divided as can be - a passport's practically required to move from the Flem side to the French side. Anyway, I sit as far away as possible from her after giving the obligatory air kiss. But oh no, someone has that bright idea of swapping after courses - I hate that idea - you've just got to start all over again on the weather, how many times a night do you get woken up, is your husband still the most important person at Proctor & Gamble/the EU/the International School/etc all over again. I always avoid the baby talk because that's the whole idea of getting out for the night I thought but someone always drags you back down to the joys of potty training Anyway, I stay in my seat and others swap and I get Grandma (who tells me she's just bought an apartment overlooking the Grand Place no less) - what's worse I also get 'pay the bill' duty shortly afterwards. So, there's 20 of us, some have left and some are muttering under their breath they didn't drink that much, only ate half a chip etc, so I just divide the bill between us and avoid all eye contact. However, I make the mistake of saying 'service charge'. Grandma (did I mention she was Scottish) tells me it's in the prices - what does that mean 'in the prices' there's no service charge and the food isn't expensive - here's 20 annoying women asking for no mayo, no oil, lightly fried, take off the cream, is this vintage, are these rolls gluten free, etc and she doesn't want me to leave a service charge for the 17 year old waiter who has patiently spoken perfect English to us all night, passing closing time too, in a very Flemish restaurant. At that point, the lady who's flown all the way from England for this big night out says 'we should leave 10%' - (that would be Euros 50). Grandma nearly chokes on her chocolate mousse, makes me recount everyone's money whilst counting alongside me but slightly out of sync (like kids do) - reminds me that the 5 Euro notes look like 20's incase I make a mistake and if I leave a tip 'we spoil it for everyone' - what on earth does that mean? I'm worn down now, Grandma wants some change so I leave 20 Euros tip. Of course the 17 year old is terrified of a group of 20 half-cut loud women so brings the change. Grandma, when she thinks I'm not looking, pockets it. I should now tell you what they thought about my big move but no-one had even heard of Dominica, and few could comprehend moving out of the metropolis of Belgium although the majority not actually liking it here they couldn't imagine being anywhere else. There's a whole wide world out there girls.........


It's been a truly heart stopping rollercoaster lately but things now seem on a fairly even keel - thank goodness. In the end life insurance through Dominica wasn't possible (even we couldn't arrange a long distance medical) so we did it here in Belgium for twice the price and half the hassle, so we thought. However, because the NBD want it assigned both in the policy document and then another form of their own, ING lingered and lingered and lingered even more. Finally yesterday we got everything, signed, witnessed and notarised and scanned it and couriered it. So from our side we had done everything and then we were told that NBD hadn't received the buildings insurance confirmation from Trinidad but a letter from the broker in Dominica would suffice. So, I think Monday everyone should have their money finally and phase 2 of our project can commence. It can't come soon enough.

The other good news is that our townhouse in Turks & Caicos has finally been refurbished. I thought it was going to be a 'Changing Rooms' type project but lovely Michelle, whose passion is redecorating, has made it into a 'Grand Designs' project. Finding the budget for that was creativity in itself... However, nothing is straightforward and the furniture from Miami arrived broken (glass table) and had to be returned and replaced, so this exercise hasn't been plain sailing either. The great news is that it's all done now though and a new tenant moves in on the 23rd June with an improved new rent achieved by the full makeover. When I get pictures I will post them.

Last but not least I had my telephone interview - 5 people, 45 minutes long. It was hard as it is impossible to gauge feedback and the line wasn't great but I did my best. In hindsight, yes I spent all night going over my answers, there are a few things I wish I'd said differently and my answer on my most memorable lesson plan was probably not the most academic choice but it had stuck in my memory as the kids had loved doing it so much. Anyway, what will be will be.

The packers come in 23 days, am I ready, what do you think?