Wednesday, February 10, 2016

when in rome-ania

So. Romania is mental.
 A mangled pay phone = actual neo-modernist hipster art.

Despite missing my son like my arm had been torn off my body (honestly, it's got worse since he was younger. I really missed the hell out of the little blighter), Romania was a pleasant break from the incessant work, grey and windy drizzle that is London at the moment.

 Happy mama. Dogs balls cold, but dusted off sunnies.

Firstly, it' was starkly bright and sunny. See, this is where Europe can be a welcome escape from this island I live on. It was -3, but walking outside wasn't even vaguely unpleasant. It was crisp, the sun was on my skin, and there was no fucking wind.
This is where all the issue lies with winter in Britain. Wind chill factor. It makes things 8 000 more cold than they need to be, and coupled with the rain lashing down at you at a 60 degree angle, you really do think about offing yourself multiple times a day sometimes.

So the weather really made Romania for me. While I thought it would be dreary and lend itself completely to its communist past, it really didn't.

It also helped that our friend doubled up as a local guide. So we went to the tourist places that really counted (like the massive Parliament Palace and the square where the Communist Revolution against Ceausescu's dictatorship, started), but otherwise she took us to all the hipster so-cool-my-tits-actually-ache places that Bucharest had to offer.

There were scenes in Bucharest that reminded me of East London. Grimy, raw and endlessly cool.

We spent most of our days pootling around, stringing it together with local foods. It wasn't all cabbage and dumplings, as one might think, although did eat a frightful amount of cheese. Encased in pastry. There was also jellified/gelatinous meats on offer, but someone had to take one for the team because, no.

Like any post-Communist country, it had a delightful array of old, pristine and slightly decrepit buildings squeezed next to formless clod blocks, all higgledy, piggledy and makes no architectural sense at all.
Or new things built directly on top of old things.
Which is why I love visiting these places.
You find this, when turning a corner:

Just sort of crammed together.

Romania is also slightly set apart from the rest of the Eastern Bloc countries, and it's leader during the Cold War, made sure of it. He wanted complete autonomy over his own system, and didn't want to just fall in line with the Soviets.
Nikolai Ceausescu (and his wife, to a large degree), were considered one of the worst and most destructive leaders of 20th century history.

He bankrupted the entire country - on experts on purpose - drove most people in abject poverty, while deploring a North Korean/Chinese slant on his communist approach.

After an official meeting to North Korea and China to meet Mao Zedong and Kim Jong Il, it had a profound effect on him and he decided to bring a bit of them, to Romania. He loved the idea of having his face plastered everywhere, people bowing down to him, ensuring all visitors couldn't go to certain "poverty corridors" to hide the fact he was starving the nation, while building a billion dollar palace for himself in the city.

(Sound familiar, Jacob Zuma?)

The Palace is so fucking massive, that when we toured it, we walked 2 kilometres and then that was only 7% of the entire building. It's the second biggest administrative building in the world (after the Pentagon), and it's the heaviest. It sinks 6mm every year. It's encased in marble. Marble and crystal. Even the brocade curtains weigh 250 kilograms in one window.

It's an ostentatious display of [false] economy.

Nadia Comaneci, the famous Romania gymnast who scored a perfect 10, got married there. 

It wasn't even finished by the time he died, and communism fell. All of it's grand 450 odd rooms aren't all done, even to this day. They have to hire a few out for conferencing just to pay the heating bills.

What Alin, our tourguide lacked in personality - oh boy - he made up for by allowing me to pose with communist relics found in the bunker underground.

Ceausescu was toppled violently and dramatically in 1989, when Communism fractured; after his famous speech from a balcony,  addressing an angry and erupting public below him.
Instead of listening to him, the crowd started rioting, and it all ended badly with 1 000 people being shot and thousands injured in a bloody scene around the balcony square.

There are still bullet holes in some of the surrounding buildings; and the square is dedicated to those who basically overthrew him.

After this, he and his wife tried to escape, but were taken hostage by the military who cornered them in a kangaroo trial, then bound their hands and shot them, 120 times, up against a wall.
It was filmed, all rather hastily, and made public.
 In a delightful twist of irony, this impaled testicle is the monument symbolising the downfall of Ceausescu, and memorial to the people who overthrew him.
Still to this day, Romanians being big conspiracy theorists, people don't believe he was actually shot, even though the footage proves it. They exhumed him and his wife's body in 2010 to do DNA testing to ultimately show he had, indeed, been taken care of.

Since then, Romania, like most poor Eastern European countries has battled to rebuild itself, especially in the face of dire corruption. Only three months ago, a nightclub caught fire killing almost 100 people, due to club owners being paid off and health and safety standards being non-existent. Once again, there were huge mass protests and the president resigned.

The fire was a tragedy and still very raw; many people weren't going out and lots of clubs had closed when we visited, the atmosphere was quite sombre at night.


We were going to travel to Brasov, a city to the north for a night, but decided against it because of work commitments. Maybe next time. To see Transylvania and the castles.

Until then, between the Dacia's and the Dracula fables, Bucharest did tick all the boxes.

The Dacia. Romania's answer to East Germany's Trabant.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

eastern bloc sojourn

It's been a while (years) since I've done a trip to a completely weird post-communism country. It used to be my schtick.

Well, tomorrow that changes. The new British passport will be doing its maiden voyage to none other than the eastern European country of:

........ROMANIA! I win Romania!

It'll be negative 2,  and we'll be there until Monday evening, but nonetheless this is exciting.

I'm going with my team from work, and one of my colleagues happens to be Romanian so will be our local guide. She has booked us into Communist-style apartments, and show us all sorts of interesting things in Bucharest.

I go with my heart in my throat a little though. I really do hate leaving my little boy. Even for a matter of days. Also, while Daddy travels frequently, Mummy doesn't, so he is going to be very confused. He knows when we leave now. He remembers and it's heartbreaking when he calls out for one of us if we are not there.
The cars. Communism had the best shittest cars.

Anyway. Deep breaths. It's three nights, and I get to take pictures of bleak, brutalist buildings and lie in until 8am. Eat brunch undisturbed. Do some cultural stuff for a change. Tick off another country. Use my shiny new passport.

So aesthetic it hurts the actual eyeballs.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

headlines

See? I called it.

It's like they knew.

On the plus side, I feel like we are closer than ever to finding our house.

(Which I'll only pay off when I'm 80)

Goodbye crazy French woman, putaine merde.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

truth vs reality of old age


I have a real fear of being old, retired, poor and living in a place like Clacton-on-Sea, one day.

As a few of us that own property happen to own it in London, most of us are fully aware that we will only pay off our diningroom table-sized flats when we are 65.

And even then, will we have any money? Will our pension support us?

Basically, am I going to die in Bognor Regis?

(It's the last stop on the southern railway, coincidence? And I'm pretty sure I had a great aunt that "retired" down there and was never seen again).

No, it's not meant to be like this! The story is meant to go that my children are happily working as neurological surgeons or top criminal barristers (or forensic scientists. Or they find the cure for all cancers. And also play the piano/violin.)

Anyway, the kids are all happy, and me and the Brit are happy after all these years, and at 65, somehow probably not just having retired from a lifetime in the tech industry (because understanding Snapchat, today, is a challenge, nevermind virtual reality goggles that take you to space at the push of an app, of the future), no.

By then, we'd have our own business. I'd be living off the profits of my highly successful bunting enterprise, where my flag-making skills adorn the Libertine walls of many a-nursery across the country, and the Brit would do "geek consulting" when he wants to, and "if the client's right."

We'd buy an eight room house in Sandwich - so that the grandchildren can come over - and our best friends would live astride us on the same massive estate. They'd be full of Alzheimers, and so would we. But we'd all still be sane enough to know the difference between everyone's mobility scooters, and I'd remember to put on my red lipstick everyday, because all grannies should wear red lipstick.

Once a year, we'd take a cruise, sometimes to warmer climes like St Vincent and The Grenadines; other times to watch the glaciers move on the coast of Alaska. Because global warming would've been reversed by then.

We'd do line dancing and tell dirty jokes.

But this is all a big pile of shit, because in reality I'm going to die in Bognor Regis. Aren't I.

I mean, we all get a state pension (or do we? After communism collapsed, and inflation did it's thing, eastern Europe, was, by large, bent over a barrel. The same thing could happen to us), and while it might cover basic groceries, I mean, you can't exactly go out and buy a pair of shoes?

I thought I'd have a 15-strong Birkenstock collection to cushion all of my bunions at the very least.

But in truth, I'll be lucky if I'm eating Hill's Science Diet out of a tin, and worst case, your bog(nor) standard Pedigree Chum out of the bag. With a bent spoon.

(Bent, because my cutlery doubles-up as a screwdriver.)

Maybe I'll grow my own vegetable patch in Bognor Regis. Turnips and shit. As sides for the dog food. And so that scurvy isn't the thing I die of.

I'm upping my company pension fund once we have a new mortgage, but in truth, the real story I had of my retirement was us living in a sunny place, perhaps a small cottage or something, on the coast of Spain, Portugal, Greece or France (because the UK will still be in the EU - Jesus fuck please may it still be in the EU), tanning my raw, wrinkly hide on the beach once a day, and smoking a joint.

But I'm starting to think that I might , in fact, die in Bognor Regis.

She Who Also Loves Tweed reckons, quite nonchalantly like it is a trip to the shops, that she would euthenase herself if she got to the point where she was eating dogfood scoops on a soggy cone in Eastbourne, and by then "it'll definitely be legal."

 Someone else said that they're curtailing this issue by planning to "marry up."  So, they're sorted then.

My Best Irish Gay Friend: "Worse. You'll die on a delayed train to Bognor Regis, because this country couldn't run a tap, nevermind a railway service."

Look, I might die at any second. But what if it's in Bognor Regis?

Friday, January 15, 2016

nutters and numbers


Had two memorable conversations this week. One with my son; one with a nutter.
I do live in London, after all.


Peas: One.

Sebastian: DOO.

Peas: Three.

Sebastian: Six!

Peas: Four.

Sebastian: Six!

Peas: Five.

Sebastian: SIX!

Peas: Seven.

Sebastian: EIGHT.

Peas: Nine.

Sebastian: NINE.

Peas: Ten.

His preference may be even numbers, but he is definitely slotting them in there. The boy is a-counting.

Then on the number 35, which I was thankfully on for all of seven minutes:

Man with massive man bun gets on, he's rotund. And he's bashing into people, being loud, barking into a mobile phone, and all around I'm seeing red flags being raised in the eyeballs of the weary Londoners on the bus. You can see it behind their dead eyes.

He's being loud, but I'm listening to some banging Rudimental on my iPod, so I can see his mouth moving, but nothing more.

Then a woman moves, and suddenly it's just me and him alone, in the standing area. Still, I'm on my phone, the beats are in my ears, I'm doing what London commuters do best: ignoring everyone around them.

I look up, as it appears that he is addressing me. He's talking, non-stop, so I take an earbud out and say, "Sorry, I can't hear you.....anything the matter?"

Man: WAS JUST SAYING THAT I NEED TO GET OFF THE BUS SOON BECAUSE PEOPLE ON BUSES REALLY WIND ME UP.

Peas: Right, ok. [Standard response when you know this conversation has only but just begun, but you know it'll be a long one.]

Man: YEAH, IT'S BETTER IF I GET OFF OTHERWISE I JUST START FIGHTS AND MY PSYCHIATRIST SAID I NEED TO DISEMBARK WHEN I WANT TO SMACK SOMEONE'S FACE.

Peas: ....Yes.....probably safer to just get off then?

[Start looking around feverishly for the bell, as luckily my stop happens to be the next one. Everyone else avoiding eye contact, but shuffling uncomfortably]

Man: NO IT'S NOT THAT IT'S SAFER, BUT IT'S JUST BETTER. IT'S BETTER, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

Peas: [Oh God]
Whatever makes you happy, you should probably do. Except start a fight.

Ding........ Ding Ding Ding!

Criminally long pause.

I hope to fuck my ringing the bell doesn't set him off on a killing rampage.

Man: I DON'T WANT TO GET TO THAT POINT LIKE LAST WEEK WHEN SOMONE ASKED ME IF I WAS A FUCKING WOMAN AND I'M LIKE NO, I'M A FUCKING MAN, JUST BECAUSE I HAVE A PONYTAIL DOESN'T MEAN FUCK!

[Pause]

I ENDED UP TELLING THE WOMAN THAT HER BABY HAD A FACE LIKE A BULLDOG. AND IT ALL KICKED OFF.

Peas: [So uncomfortable right now]
Yeah.....ok....anyway, it's my stop soon [not fucking soon enough] so, best of luck...!!

MAN: YOU KNOW SOMEONE GOT STABBED ON THIS VERY BUS RECENTLY.

Peas: BYE THEN!

I got off and pissed myself laughing. What else does one do? [Once they've escaped certain death?]

Monday, January 11, 2016

you're*

Perhaps I'm just a liddle bit grumpy, perhaps it's because today was the second time I've fainted on the tube in a matter of weeks (I've become one of 'those' people. A person responsible for the delay of a train because I have to flail my way off, and onto the platform to recover. It's getting a bit tiresome.) Nonetheless, social media is REALLY STARTING TO GET UP MY GOAT.


Racism
This is a no-brainer, but I'm kind of sick of seeing this angry, festering debacle all over my news feed. There are a lot of stupid people out there, who say stupid things, and somehow think it isn't going to get a reaction.
When you post something, good or bad, people go mad. There's no context, no tone, and it can spark an unprecedented backlash. Sometimes it's deserved. Sometimes it's not. But I am kind of tired of seeing issues conflate into massive, heated arguments that are inescapable.

There are refugees desperately trying to rehome themselves. There's a drought and climate change happening on this Earth that is, frankly, terrifying. David Bowie died, for fuck's sake.
There are massive things happening in the world that need attention, but no, everyone has to have their special opinion on this, which isn't helping the problem!

With everything else going on in this world, there are people openly hating on each other because they are DIFFERENT. Because they see the world differently; because they have different colour skins.

And what's more, is that the corrupt, money-guzzling toad that is the president of South Africa is LOVING all of this, because it takes all of the heat off him and the ZumaMustFall campaign, making all of his heinous, bullshit crimes seem somewhat less of a crime.

Grammar
For the love of Christ - and this is directed at some of the English people I am acquainted with - it's YOU'RE not YOUR.

"Your so funny!" Oh my God, how many TIMES a day do I see this? Like, 4 or 5?

"I was laying down. I should lay down."  No. Go and LIE down. And think about what you just said.

I could go on, but it's actually making my eyeball twitch. The grammar that pops out of the page at me is nothing short of appalling. And I'm not even including text speak in this. Let's not even go there. Because that's not even a language.

Why so much? Why? Why is it everywhere?

I want go on a complete barrage where I basically wake up, and instead of ignoring it, go absolutely MENTAL one day. Where I correct everything I see with a *you're and a *lie down to the point where all of these people just unfriend me immediately. So that 1) I've taught them a fucking lesson and 2) I don't have to see their crimes against grammar anymore.

Just take my red pen qwerty keyboard and open a can of whipass all over their memes, comments, status updates.

Too much? (Told you I was grumpy).

Clickbait
Why are there so many sponsored fake stories everywhere?
"Kate Middleton gives William the middle finger over Christmas lunch with the Queen."
"Kate Middleton pregnant already! With triplets!"
"Woman watches her husband die, but you won't believe what happens next."

Annoying. Fuck. Off.

People you have to be friends with
There is a small group - maybe 10%? - of people you have to befriend, perhaps because they're part of your family, or part of your husband's family, or they're work colleagues, or friends of friends that you'll see and it'll be awkward.
There's no getting around it, you have to just chin it with some people.

You do your annual cull, and as much as you want to unfriend or unfollow, you can't. Because you need to know what they're up to. (Or do you?) And perhaps they spew stupid shit all day long, which just makes it worse.

Things like, "EAT FULL FAT SUGAR, OR YOUR AN IDIOT. LOW FAT STUFF WILL KILL YOU."

I saw something like this today. And had to tie my hands behind my back to avoid writing a response that went something like,
"Well yes, you dumb fuck. But check *your* spelling, and also if *you're* on the cocaine four times a week, you might as well be caning the aspartame as well. Surely it's negligible after all the Class A drugs you take?"

But you can't. Because he's your cousin. Or your husband's friend. Or your best friend's brother.

Or the person who changes their profile picture to a new selfie every second day.
Oh how I wish I could just say, "I've just been through some of your holiday snaps. And sadly no pictures of scenery, only pictures of your face. Got anything more interesting to share from your trip to Greece?"

But you can't. Because it's your sister-in-law. Or your brother's new girlfriend.

I should say that Facebook, is generally, annoying me immensely at the moment.
But in fact, humanity is. People who use it. Who don't think. Or who think too much.

Hell is other people.

PS: The caveat here, of course, is that it's January in London. And what makes it worse is seeing the plethora of pictures captioned as "CAPE TOWN BEING A BABE" or the overused, "ANOTHER SHIT DAY IN AFRICA" to a background of Savanna Lights on a balcony overlooking Clifton 4 or the mich-used, "CAPE TOWN SHOWING OFF AGAIN!"
The sea of blue juxtaposed to my sea of grey does a grumpy woman maketh.

So if I'm being a little OTT on the social vibe, please bear in mind that I fainted on a group of strangers in a tube carriage filled with stoic, grey sardines, and that it looks like this outside:

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

how to apply for british citizenship (2015/16)

Boom.

Look what arrived in a nondescript little envelope yesterday. A spanking new British passport, ready to unlock more than 65 countries for travel.

Ironically, my "travel years" are not in their prime time, but it's still good to know that I can hop over to Paris for lunch or go to Canada, Australia and the rest of Europe without blinking an eye.

Getting to this point is expensive and lengthy.

For those undergoing the procedure, I advise that you take the journey as chunks, ticking off milestones as you go along.

Visa and immigration requirements change on a yearly basis, usually in April, so no doubt this will change, but for the moment, this is how you go about this:

You can only apply for "naturalisation" or "citizenship" once you have Indefinite Leave to Remain (permanent residence.)
 - Usually ILR is granted to you after living in the UK for 5 years (or married to a Brit, living here, for 2). The procedure for applying for  ILR is the most costly out of all the processes, and also requires the most paperwork. Don't throw the paperwork away, you'll need it all again.

 - You have to prove that you haven't left the country for more than 180 days each year (2015 guidelines), and it has to be a natural progression from a working visa, spousal/partner visa or ancestral visa, among other criteria.

Once you have ILR:
1) If you're not married to an EU or British national, you need to wait a full year before applying for citizenship;
2) If you are married to one (I am), you can apply straight away.

But before you do this: if you want to remain tied to South Africa in any way (ie: dual citizenship), you need to apply for this first. South Africa is one of the few countries that doesn't naturally allow you take on another citizenship alongside it; you have to ask.

 - Go to the SA consulate and collect the forms. It's not South Africa House, but the small office with the long queue opposite it, off Trafalgar Square. Get there early.

 - Pay the money, and this will request for a letter to announce that you're not already a British citizen. It's madness. (Because why would you be doing this in the first place?) Grit your teeth and wait for the letter.

 - Once it arrives, apply for British naturalisation as soon as you can, as this letter expires after a few months.

 - Collect naturalisation forms from a Post Office, and once again fill out exactly how many days you've spent out of the country for the past 5/6 years.

 - Get a countersignature. This person has to have a 'professional' qualification, so they have to be in a profession that would typically be represented by a union or government body, such as an accountant, teacher, doctor or lawyer.

 -  Get letters from work, salary slips/P60s, utility bills, bank statements, your university degree (in my case, for a Tier 1 working visa), and basically most of the papers you needed for ILR.

 - If you're applying for citizenship from a spousal point of view, you'll obviously need other stuff - not sure what these are, but been told you need to prove that your relationship is real by providing lots of personal correspondence and other things.

 - You can use the Check and Send service (an extra £20 or so) at selected post offices to check that you have everything you need before filing the application with the Home Office, or you can be a dumb ass like me and do it via an immigration agency. (And pay anything from £500 for the privilege. I'm a sucker.)

 - Then wait. For anything up to 6-7 months. My application was processed in about that time.

In this time they'll do tons of background checks on you, apparently more than when you applied for ILR. So any traffic fines, dodgy stuff, missed payments, and so forth will be noticed and possibly affect your application.

 - When the magical letter arrives to say that you have been approved for citizenship, hug something. Because the hardest part is over!

 - They'll then send you a Citizenship Ceremony invitation. You phone the number and arrange the day you want to do it; it'll be in the borough in which you live. Mine was at Wandsworth Town Hall, and all fairly straightforward.

 - Go to the ceremony, pledge your allegiance to Queen and country, sing the anthem, and proudly take your Naturalisation Certificate that announces you a British National. Get a photo.

Keep this certificate safe. You'll need it for everytime you reapply for a passport.

 - Go back to the post office. Grab the forms to apply for your First British Passport. Use the Check and Send service again to check your passport photos, forms, certificate and countersignature. I had to redo mine three times. I blame the yuletide fog in my brain and general lethargy. As a result, my passport photo for the next ten years looks like a becrazed, angry woman who has been taken into custody. But, whatever.

 - You can't expedite your first passport, so prepare for 6 weeks without travel. You also have to hand in your SA passport.

 - Your SA passport and certificate should come back after a week though. Then, after a few more weeks, you'll get another letter asking you to come in for an interview at Her Majesty's Passport Office.

 - Phone the number and book the appointment.

 - It'll be about 20 minutes long and they'll ask you anything from how you met your husband (got this), to describing in detail what you do (got this), to what colour your toothbrush is.

 - Two days later I received my passport. But prepare to wait a couple more weeks.

Besides the admin, paper chasing and filing, and endless waiting, the thing that frustrates many people is the cost. I was lucky, as my work paid for my ILR, visa applications, and agency fees, which runs into well over £6 000. Citizenship cost me personally another £2 000, with a passport application all in.

All in all though? This process can cost anyone up to £10 000 over a period of a few years (at current 2015/2016 rates), with full agency fees. Expect to pay a few thousand less if you don't use any agencies, although I wouldn't recommend this.


Best of luck. As they all say, it's worth it in the end.

Monday, January 04, 2016

it's a new year?



A two week break of doing pretty much nothing definitely has its ups.

Happy new Year!

The problem was, I was sick for pretty much most of it. I managed a record 10 days of all day pyjama-wearing, and for the first time ever, I didn't make any 2016 resolutions; I didn't have thoughts or "reflect on 2015" (publicly or otherwise).

I pretty much ignored the fact that it was a dawn into a new year, without looking back or looking forward at all. Just being in the day. That's never happened before. I usually try and put some effort into trying to be a nicer person or something, for at least a few days.

That'll happen when you're sick, and sick constantly for a couple of weeks on end. You don't care about things like losing weight, breaking bad habits, taking a moment to think about all the good things. You just want to feel better. You only care about your next hot drink and taking another nap.

I genuinely couldn't give less of a fuck.

Perhaps it's my newfound Britishness that makes me slightly cynical about all the upbeat "I'm going to do all the things and be amazing etc etc." It's fucking January in Britain. Have you looked outside? (Mood reflects weather.)

Christmas was fine. It was spent with the Brit's family, and I'll just leave that there for now.

The magical part of Christmas wasn't entirely lost however, because I now have a nearly 2 year old. Who, for the most part, was thoroughly confused by things like flashing fairy lights, conical trees and items wrapped up in gaudy paper.

Once he figured out that the things could be ripped open and a toy or something of equal bewonderment like a TACKTER! (hashtag tractor) would be revealed, therein lay the joy. Of watching a child, as his excited little gasps completely take over his little face.

He also started doing marvellous things like string words together this holiday. Usually he just gets by with one word commands, but has since come up with things like, "Mummy water?" (very handy - he actually tells me when he is thirsty now. This is quite a big thing), or "Daddy pooh?" when Daddy disappears into the toilet. ("That's right, my darling. Daddy is doing a pooh. On the POTTY. Like how you can do a pooh, too.")

Just when I think my kid cannot possibly get cuter or that 'this is the best age, surely', he goes and gets even more adorable and does something wildly developmental, and I think, 'no actually, this is the best age.'

Sebastian is unhinged though. I always knew - just based on mine and his father's personalities alone - that he was going to be an eccentric, if not slightly, hyperactive child.
This is how my son chooses to sit. He pulls his chair up close and kicks back with a book.
 
He always has been a classic boy; noisy, pouncy, jumpy, active, never stopping, pushing boundaries constantly, pushing pushing pushing.
"Get off the table, Sebastian."

[cue evil grin. As he stands his ground. On the table. Watching me. Knowing.]

"I'm not telling you again. BOTTOMS DOWN. Get off the table please."

I then have to stand up and wrench him off the table. For the fourth time in that hour. Because even though he knows damn well he shouldn't be up there, it's a really fun little game to watch Mummy try and put her feet up for more than 2 minutes.

But he's also a complete character. He does things that make us burst into fits of laughter on a continual basis. His current catchphrase (ie: the thing he says all the time, all day and everyday), is "Oh dear."

I'll drop something, and somewhere in the background: "Oh dear."

He'll drop something: "Oh dear."

He'll climb onto his chair, huffing and puffing, then sit. "Oh dear" he'll sigh.

I'll shout "Brit! The toast is burning!" ("Oh dear," says a little voice.)

He loves rough and tumble play, begging for the Brit to pick him up and throw him around. He can do that for hours, while we are huffing and puffing after a few minutes.

He is extraordinary. And so damn lovable, even though he can be jolly hard work.

The neighbours were mostly away for Christmas, which meant, in general it was pretty pleasant being at home. Even though the weather was foul and going outside wasn't something that happened on a daily basis.

We even tried to book a sunny holiday to keep the blues at bay yesterday.
"Croatia!" I cried. I haven't been before, and frankly, it's time.

"Actually, Monetnegro!"

("Where is that," sighs the Brit. "It sounds like one of your weird communist countries again."

It has beautiful beaches and is wedged in next Croatia. But yes, weird.

Then we got bored of all the holiday aggregators and gave up. Will try again this week.

Once we've looked at houses. I'm so excited, but it's time: we are going suburban. In fact, buy me a van.

Or a Range Rover Evoque, if we're choosing.

We've finally signed up for some viewings, decided on where we will be looking (South East London and surrounds, and Kent.)

It's time for a big grown-up house. Without a pyschopath above us, and with some actual space.

And therein, lie all my resolutions. Attached to a new house and what comes with that.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

being british, botanical obsessions and & the police


Wow. There are some serious tumbleweeds blowing through this place. I was hoping to regale you with a dalliance about how obsessed I've become with Christmas Trees (side hobby), but really this is what's happened in the last little while:

We called the coppers on our neighbours
It came to that. I knew it would.

No one was stopping her, so we had to get some scary adults to intervene.

I dutifully logged every rant, every deliberate thump, every time she woke Sebastian up, in a logbook.
It was pretty clear to us that she was deliberately trying to be as loud as possible; speaking or ranting loudly after midnight or running as hard as she could along her passageway, or thumping up the stairs.

Then a few nights ago, while I wasn't feeling very well,  I put Sebastian to bed, which took a little time. He is now starting to wise up to bedtime and isn't tremendously keen on the idea of always going, anymore. So he sat up and wailed, around 7:30pm.

As I went in to comfort him, she started banging the ceiling again. I thought I must've been hearing things, surely she wouldn't do this again would she?
Nope, sure as fuck there she was. Banging our ceiling at 7:30pm.

I sent her husband an email. "That was your wife banging our ceiling, for the second time, while i'm trying to put my baby to sleep. This is the last time I deal with this before I contact the police and file a harrassment complaint for your wife's unreasonable and outlandish behaviour."

Because, I mean, surely no one in their right mind would actually think doing this is OK?

Then, he showed her the email. And, as we thought, she went completely mental. Screaming, shouting, "How dare they" kind of thing.

I dialed the police. They came over the next day to talk to us first, listen to what we had to say, and then said they'd go upstairs and have a word with them.

Nice enough blokes, said they can't take sides but could only mediate, and happy to do as many follow up calls as we needed. ("Yes, we will probably need that service.")
Explained that while my baby wasn't deliberately trying to wake her up, he sometimes does. But more than anything, she will deliberately try and get at us by trying to intimidate or bully us, and bang the ceiling, scream at us through the ceiling and generally be aggressive and terrifying.

After speaking to them, they came back downstairs and I asked, "Did she admit to bashing our ceiling with a blunt instrument?"

No, she denied all claims. Obviously lied through her teeth.
"Surely you guys can see when someone is clearly lying?"
 "We can't take sides ma'am. We could only explain to her that a baby doesn't deliberately cry."

It's been three days since they came to visit. And it's been a lot more quiet. I don't want to jinx anything, but I sincerely hope that this has done the trick.

I became a British citizen
It's a long, arduous, bureacracy-filled journey. If you ever intend to embark on it.

You fill in a million forms. Sometimes twice, because you did the first one in blue or you made a mistake. You spend a lot of money, upwards of £4 000 on permanent residency (ILR) and that's not including the work permits before that.

You do repeat trips to post offices, biometric assessment facilities like Lunar House,  stand in many, many queues (essentially, practicing to be British in the most puritanical of ways), and deal with people who don't feel a sense of urgency like you do.


It's hard work. And the authorities know this; because they said so in my citizenship ceremony a few nights ago. ("Well done. You've worked hard to earn this.")

One has to go through the ritual of the citizenship ceremony in order to get a Certificate of Naturalisation. This certificate allows you to then apply for a passport. My application is in the post.

The ceremony itself is rather sweet to be fair. The Brit, Sebastian and my dear friend She Who Also Loves Tweed, came as my guests, and in the Wandsworth Town Hall, posed for photos next to a picture of the Queen, sang the national anthem, and I had to take a pledge to remain loyal to my new country.

Sebby burped during my pledge.

Couldn't have been more perfect, really. Only my child.


 Today he is Father Christmas as it's Christmas Jumper day at his nursery.

Became obsessed with Christmas trees

Possibly because this year, we had our first adult Christmas tree ever. We haven't actually had Christmas trees in the past few years living together. Not because we don't feel festive, more just because we couldn't be bothered.
Now with child, and everything is magical obviously, Christmas has been reborn in our household.

We got a real one - a Noble Fir -  and I sat for weeks obsessing about what colour theme our tree would take. Mood boards, Pintresting, following "tree" Instagram accounts, stopping to observe trees in shop windows, generally being All About The tree in such that it took over my mind.

Then styling the tree to look like the one's you see in The White Company, but not quite getting that Nordic, but cosy vibe I was hoping for. (Gaps, not enough white.)

Seriously B&Q?
 
I am slightly disappointed, but my son is not. He loves the tree. Albeit it a little confused as to why we have one inside the house, but all the same, mesmerised.

 Before...and after. Hmmm.

But I still find myself moving baubles around, or looking at it intently and redecrtaing one entire side of it. Because I'm OCD like that and if it's not even or symmetrical, a little piece of me dies.


 Yup.
So, that's that really. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

neighbour nastiness: an update

 I actually hate her. Like, she haunts my dreams. She haunts my thoughts and I wish I could burn down her house in a [controlled] fire. Only because our house is below hers.

So fed up am I, I called the people that live above her and hosted a little meeting. I figured we couldn't be the only people in the world who have beared the brunt of her extreme unpleasantness.

Turns out I was right.

The couple living above them  - only having lived there for a few months - have already had a few run-ins with her. As much as this is shit for them, misery loves company, and I am immediately thinking: ALIBI.

Bitch, you are going down.

We have starting logging what she does to build a case, as have our other neighbours above her. I wish I could take this sheet straight to the police and ask them to have her done on harrassment and intimidation charges, but alas, one has to be restrained and sensible.

I've asked the other neighbours if we can call a meeting with her husband. While he has no backbone, he is 8 000 times more reasonable (and approachable) than she is.
In that meeting, which I fantasise about every time I feel like a prisoner at home - which is all the time lately - "One more step out of your line, and I'll be calling the police on your psycho wife."

But again, this will probably be conveyed in a more passive-aggressive way. 'Police' referred to as "the authorities" and his horrible, self-absorbed ball and chain as "his wife."

I just want to move now. Moving to a bigger place has kind of been on the cards for a little while, as we are rapidly growing out of our spot. Sebastian's stuff is kind of taking over our living area.
But this has escalated things. Every time Sebastian cries or, like lately, has a tantrum, a massive coil of anxiety opens up in my stomach and I wince. What the hell am I supposed to do?

Last night, Sebby had a [frankly, terrifying] 30 minute tantrum because I said no the fourth falafal. He's almost 2, this is going to happen. But it does involve a separate discussion - my GOD, tantrumming almost 2-year olds are scary as all shit.

How does my little angel turn into a monster at the flick of a switch? What do you do? I try to ignore it, use the power of distraction, not let it get to me, but it is the worst. Especially knowing that she is above, about to break all hell loose after midnight with some ranting, swearing and banging to get us 'back' for this.

While Sebby has started to learn how to cuddle and snuggle with us in the mornings, essentially giving us a bit of a 'lie-in' while he burrows his little head next to mine, strokes my face (for realz. Literally just melt), gives us kisses and it's all just the best thing in the world, conversely the tantrums are loud and shocking, and he writhes around on the floor and refuses to listen or reason.
I try to plead with him sometimes, because I know that she is going to make us pay for this later.

He's 20 months. He can't reason and he can't listen through all that howling. He doesn't give a shit that she is evil.

All of this is quite trying. I know I just got back from holiday, but I feel as though I could really do with another.

PS: Do voodoo dolls work? Considering this option. In all seriousness.
PSS: I am willing to stoop low, just so long my fingerprints aren't on the evidence, so any other suggestions welcome. Can't be direct sabotage. But if someone has a shweet witch doctor with a special muti that they can consult on speed dial, do let me know.