Time to stop doing…

It’s October and we are nearly at the end of all our senior school visits. The last one is this evening and it now means we need to start applying. It has been a whirlwind the last few weeks and DD and I are starting to feel drained.

State school applications have to be in by the 31st. Private school registrations have November deadlines, with first round tests, then second round tests in early January, face-to-face interviews late January, and finally, the offers are made in February. State school offers come out 1st March. Hey all my peeps in the US of A, does this not sound like what we went through to get into university? So why do people in the UK think this is the way to send off 10-11 year olds to the next step of their education?

I spent last week assisting on her class excursions – they were doing a week away from school – and I was exhausted. However, since my daughter didn’t complain, I couldn’t. She kept up with all her extracurricular activities as well, but by Saturday afternoon, she was beat. So we took the rest of the weekend off. We do not have the time to get sick now, if we’re going to stay on schedule!


Having had another crazy start to the week, I’ve done the unthinkable and taken the day off. Well, as OFF as any mother ever does. I’m catching up on emails, Homeland, some reading and trying to keep all my crazy diseases in remission. I am pacing myself so that I can enjoy my time in France with BB later this month.

Today, I’m falling in to autumn, with its promise of jumpers, new boots, mulled drinks and stews (there’s one in the slow cooker). The smell of wood fires in the evenings. Toffee apples at Bonfire night. Knitting projects. Walking in crunchy leaves. I’ve got a full-blown case of the warm and fuzzies now. The niggling greyness is hovering at the edges of my vision, but for now, I’m going to smother it in pumpkin spice.

Back in the saddle again…

So DD is back to school and loving it. The last year of primary school is off to an auspicious start, and we’ve begun the whirlwind of school visits to choose senior schools next year.

Our first visit scared the bee-jay-sus right outta me. Seriously. Husband’s words: “If I hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have believed your re-telling.”

The school we visited was gigantic and soulless. Even the art rooms. It felt a little like Gattaca come to life. I had an almost irrepressible urge to pinch one of the teachers to check if they were human or identikit robots with humanoid characteristics. The Head Teacher did a sparkling rendition of “I’m so fabulous” for about 45 minutes, followed by “The School is Perfect” for about 15, and ended with “your child would be so lucky to come here”. He also told us the teachers put their families second, and were actively encouraged to do so for the benefit of the school. That children and staff “didn’t dare to challenge the Head”. Say what?!?! Husband, DD and I executed a daring escape halfway through the school tour.

How can I entrust my child to someone who doesn’t understand work-life balance? Who puts winning above all? Who will not see my child as an individual? Who will not allow her to challenge and question and thus discover on her own? If we didn’t have a clear idea what we were looking for when we started this process, we sure as heck know now what we DON’T want for DD. I have to believe that was the worst we’ll ever experience and the rest will be better, right? Otherwise it’s home-schooling all the way. EEEEEEK.


On an upbeat note, the tropical weather has finally broken, and it’s starting to feel like sensommer (late summer for my non-Scandi readers) is sliding in to autumn. DD has settled on a steampunk theme for Halloween, so I am pinning costume ideas and scouring eBay for finds! Any suggestions and ideas are gratefully welcomed – send me pins on Pinterest if that’s easier.

I’m off to bake another batch of banana bread – they don’t last very long in this house now that I’ve meddled my way to a low-sugar, gluten-free version which is deliciously moist. Then I might move on to applesauce. I promise I won’t touch the pumpkins till October, but in the meantime, I am staving off my cravings with this candle.

First Day of School!

So DD is back to school today. It’s her last year of primary school, and we enter into a whirlwind of school visits and testing to get her into senior school next year. I’m done screaming, “She’s 10, leave her alone!”, and hoping the UK miraculously invents middle school, because that’s not going to get me anywhere. I am more focused on reminding her to be herself, chill out, and remember that the right school for her will recognise her. She has a lot to offer and I hope that the testy-choosy people see that. My job is to get her through the next 5-6 months unscathed (OK, relatively whole).

IMG_20160820_082306Our holiday in France did a lot towards that end; we had a really good time with some rousing games of charades and Uno (Granny plays to win!), lots of swim/beach time and ziplining for DD, and lots of book & wine time for me. We did an insane amount of crossword puzzles, too, and spent many evenings discussing the news (sigh, yes, Trump). But all good things must end, and it was lovely to get back home to my super-sprung mattress and reliable WiFi.

The weather is tropical in London today, and we’re expecting warmer temperatures this week – I do love a bit of ‘sensommer’ – that’s late summer for the non-Scandi readers. But I did sneak in a pumpkin spice latte this morning and my Pinterest clothes boards are already filling up with chunky jumpers and boots. The slow cooker is waiting in the wings, DD is already working on Halloween costume ideas and I’m waiting for Wholefoods to list their Thanksgiving menu – can you tell we love autumn?

But for now, I need to sign off, and finish all my filing and shredding for August.

It’s good to be back – à bientôt!

Thursday Thanks


Today, I am so grateful I got to walk through central London with DD, taking time to admire the architecture, like the beautiful Royal Courts of Justice, and just soak up some pre-Yuletide atmosphere. 

This is officially the last day of calm before the storm of holiday mania and panic buying; the UK has embraced Black Friday with fervour, even though Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here. I am also grateful for online shopping which enabled me to do almost all of my holiday shopping, so that I can look forward to a wonderful and relaxed Thanksgiving/birthday celebration for Husband this weekend. 

I’m thankful for many things, but this year, most especially for the incredible blogging community which has welcomed and supported me over the last ten months. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. You’ve kept a girl relatively sane.

Now…if you only got to keep one Thanksgiving food for every Thanksgiving to come, what would it be? 


#prayforparis #paris #prayforhumanity Last night’s events in Paris impacted me on two fronts: concern for the Bretonne Bestie and her immediate and extended family, and the heightened security in London today, a stark reminder of the days after 7/7. Like most people, I am shocked, saddened, and beyond speechless. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the #PrayForParis hashtag; why are we assuming a compartmentalisation of empathy based on what folks are showing support for at the moment? The assumption that people are only supporting Paris for racial reasons is a slippery slope. I am sad for Baghdad and Beirut and a large swathe of East Africa and mothers watching their children die in this refugee crisis. I am sad for the homeless people I see in London every day, whether they’ve had a hand in their situation or not. I am sad. Full stop. My heart weeps. Because despite my education, voice, social mobility, ability to vote or anything else that might hold any sway, I still seem to have NO impact on the world. As a mother, I have no way to comfort the mother of the 9-year-old Afghani girl who was beheaded. I just cuddle my 9-year-old daughter and weep silent tears for the world I am leaving her. Surely it’s time for the ripple effects of compassion and love to kick in? I leave you with some borrowed words to ponder…

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one


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Weekend Writing (or my weekly whinge)

I really didn’t want the last post I wrote to become a self-fulfilling prophecy – but it kinda has. Just a smidge. A teeny tiny widgeon.

It has rained non-stop for three days and a pluviophile I’m not, especially if I have to leave the house. I loathe being wet. My hair gets frizzy, my glasses get fogged up and smudgy, and there’s a generally lingering dampness around which just grates my gears. Grey is an accent colour, London, not something to colour winter with. Just sayin’. 

#bonfirenight #fireworks #nanowrimo #november #autumn

But I am grateful the rain let up for a few hours last night so we could watch the most fabulous Bonfire Night fireworks display at the park. It was spectacularificious! We stood there catching flies and cricking our necks, and then came home and had cherry Coke floats. (OK, that was just me.)

NaNoWriMo is kicking my pants in terms of wordage, but I’m actually fired up. I have notes, and scenes, and a timeline. Now I just have to get more sentences out and string all these things together and I’ll have a book-thingummy with about 50,000 words. Never underestimate latent Catholic guilt to spur you into action, as my husband always says. 

And I’m tired. Bone tired. Weary. My knees hurt. My back hurts. My wrist hurts. If this is what old age looks like, count me out. Actually, maybe I won’t have to do as much in my old age, because after this MBA, maybe I’ll earn so much money I’ll be able to employ me some hot young things to run errands, so maybe let’s leave old age on the table for a while.

Contributing to the dystopia is my precious DD, whom, in her usual charming way, has auditioned successfully for every darn activity which involves singing, dancing and a costume between now and Christmas. I have to come up with a Victorian lady-disguised-as-a-maid costume by next Monday. Now sensible me went to eBay, but silly me asked DD for her opinion. Of course, I got the lecture on how the fabric didn’t look authentic and could I not just whip her up one like I’ve always done? Sure. I was starting to feel decadent with six hours of sleep every night. No problem.

But in between all this whinging, I’ve found time to sneak in some red, green & gold bits. I’m rationing myself because we’ve still got Husband’s birthday aka Thanksgiving to come, but after that, it’s open season and the Yuletide is going to fart glitter all over me. Watch this space! Or not, in case you’re not a holiday person. Whatever. You have been warned!

How has your week been? 

Where’d I go? NaNoWriMo!

I’ve got the Dixie Chicks in my ears and I’ve plugged away for the last three nights to pull out 2050 words for NaNoWriMo. Nowhere near the 1667 per day recommendation, but 2050 more than I had three days ago, so I’m winning. 

It’s been a whirlwind week and I had to take yesterday off to rest myself and get over a serious case of tired-and-achey.

Thursday was a day off to do our dental and eye checks, and then DD and I had a delicious dim sum lunch before heading home to vegetate. By the time I woke up Friday morning, every bone in my body ached like I had been slammed into concrete. My toes felt broken. Not a good sign, as I was due to go to the long-anticipated U2 concert with BB, who was over from Paris. Soldiering on through the day, I was wiped by the time I got home to get ready to go out again. But go out we did, after a mini-meltdown. (Are you sensing my meltdowns seem to be occurring with almost precise regularity?)

#U2 #U2ietour2015U2 was nothing short of spectacular. Emotional. I found myself laughing and crying. Raw and exhilarated. Young and oh so very old. I was spent by the time I got home later that night (well, technically, VERY early the next morning).

Saturday was a day packed with errands and the annual greed-fest known as Halloween. DD went as the ghost of a Pink Lady from Grease. Don’t ask. It was creative of her; she tries so hard to be girly but she has a definite Goth edge. We walked around for over two hours before I lost the will to live and begged to go home. When do they get too old to trick or treat, or old enough to go by themselves?

I cannot for the life of me remember what we did on Sunday, other than troop out with half of London to see the Oxford Street lights go on that evening. It’s officially OK to talk about Christmas now. Just in time! I need something to look forward to, and distract me from waiting to hear about MBA applications. 

It feels like it’s going to be a rough month and I have no idea why. It could be because I am messing around with my eating habits, which triggers my other auto-immune condition. It’s just stupid, I know. I am learning to accept that some days, just getting out of bed is a victory. Some days I can fly and some days I have concrete blocks on my feet. I haven’t got the energy to do a root cause analysis. Perhaps NaNoWriMo will get me through the month?

How are you feeling? Are you doing NaNoWriMo or NaNoBloPo? Have you planned out and scheduled your posts?

Stress Test: the autumn edit

wtfWanna see me twitch? Make me update my CV, start an MBA application, research funding and then think about referees. Gah!

It makes all my foot-stomping you-can’t-make-me skills come to the fore.

The process of evaluation, the judging, the possibility that they will look and find me lacking – these break me out in a cold sweat. I wish I could be slightly narcissistic and see this experience as an opportunity to talk about me and my razzle-dazzle, but the darn truth is, I don’t trade in that malarkey. I should, I know I should, if I want to ‘get places’ and ‘be someone’. 

I have to create a pitch video, too! If you’ve read my posts, you’ll know I’m hyperventilating into a paper bag at this thought. I hide from normal cameras, preferring to be the photographer. Now you want my lips to move, my face not to make weird contortions, and sense to issue from my lips – all at the same time? 

But in the spirit of 2015, you know I’m going to do this. I’m going to grit my effing teeth, hone my blurb, edit, edit, edit, and hit submit by November 4th. This is a huge step outside my comfort zone and a huge reach, and I just have to do it.

Because how on earth am I ever going to convince my daughter to shoot for the stars if I don’t do it myself? 

Reaching for the stars in Montmartre

We started this micro-adventure around Paris at the Tour Eiffel, lunched near Notre-Dame, and had hot chocolate and macarons near the Opera Garnier on Saturday. Our train was leaving at about 3pm on Sunday, so we had the morning to conquer Montmartre, round the corner from BB’s apartment.

#paris #france #travel #montmartre #sacrecoeur

If you can climb the bazillion steps to Sacre Coeur, you have conquered Paris!

We caught our breath in time to tour inside Sacre Coeur. It is awe-inspiring and what grabbed me most was the almost equal representation of males & females in the statues, stained glass and other imagery. I was not really expecting this at a Catholic church. It’s probably a good thing we weren’t allowed to take photos inside; I could have lost a day there.

#paris #france #sacrecoeur #montmartre #church#sacrecoeur #paris #france #montmartre #church

After gorging on the metropolis of Paris laid out before us from the viewing points, we went in search of lunch (and thankfully, headed downhill!).

#paris #france #montmartre #stone

This surprising little gem looked like it had been transplanted directly from St-Malo to the centre of Paris.

We had Breton galettes (not up to BB’s stringent standards), and walked past another church on the Rue de Abbesses. Called Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre, the church stopped me in my Art Nouvea-lovin’ tracks. See why?

#paris #france #montmartre

The first example of reinforced cement in church construction – the exterior is covered in brick & tile to create this stunning finish. The church is over 100 years old.

What a way to end our fantastic whistle-stop tour of Paris. DD is enamoured and spent the Eurostar journey home presenting me with all the reasons why we should move to Paris. Honestly, I am sorely tempted! But for now, I am just glad she fell in love the way I did, and had a good weekend with her friends.

Where should we head for our next micro-adventure? Copenhagen? Ghent? Amsterdam?