Already Awesome

In January my husband nipped off to our apartment, the same little one to which we were about to go and live in for six months, for a week’s skiing holiday. I know – crazy. But the holiday was with his old ski buddy from uni days, and had been booked for ages, plus we actually needed someone on the ground there to talk to the school, so… he got let off!  Not that I wasn’t a bit miffed, mind you.  Anyway, he did his duty, talking to the school and sorting out places for our two girls, and on the last day of the month I pick up a message from him  saying we need to decide if girls should go on school trips during the term. I’m wondering where the nearest zoo is, or what they might do – a mountaineering course maybe?  He calls… I say – yes, yes, trips, of course. Wait, he says, because you might want to think about it; Isla (7)’s class are going to Milan for three days, and Daisy (9)’s class are going to Paris for five days.

WHAT????!!!!! No! I think.  There’s just no way I’m throwing my children into a new home, a new school and a new language and then sending them away.  I mean ITALY? When she doesn’t even speak FRENCH? I’d be crazy. No no no. I imagine a few precious days with Isla on my own while the rest of her class are away, then a week with Daisy when her class go on their trip. Or would they have to go to school all by themselves and be a billy no mates for a week?  Or is there another class they’ll have to join, and would that be okay for them? Argh, so much to consider. So many ways for them to be afraid. For me to worry.

Then again…. a trip like that might be good for them.  Empower them. But… I don’t know…  I realise James is talking. I tune in,  “…school would prefer that they go… teaching… joining in…. Amy (an English teacher we’ve been put in touch with) says it might be too much for them….  they might feel left out or excluded if they don’t go… we can think about it.”  WHAT? My babies excluded?  Left out? I don’t THINK so.

My mind whirrs with all the stories I’ve heard from travellers at various points in my life. The other Naomi who was a single mum and took her five year old backpacking round the world with her.  The Rachel who was worried about how her young daughter was doing at school so removed her and packed her off to be home schooled with her sister on a yacht to wherever for the best part of a year – she’d said ‘it made her – she’s amazing’ or something along those lines.  I think about how awesome I want my girls to be. How much braver and bolder and more assertive than I was in my younger life.  James and I finish our conversation and say goodbye.

Isla is doing something crafty in the dining room, Daisy is reading in the living room.  I look at Isla.  I’d already mentioned that Daddy had said there were school trips coming up, so,

“Isla, would you like to know where your your new class in France are going for your school trip?”  Her face is eager and excited as she nods, “Italy!” I exclaim.

Her jaw drops, she grins and laughs, “Italy?!”

“Yes, Italy.”

“To sleep over?” she tentatively asks,

“Yes,” I say, “To sleep over. But it won’t be for a while. Do you think you’d like to go?”

She smiles, looks nervous, and says decisively “YES!”

I go to Daisy in the other room. At nine, and having been already away on school camp for a couple of nights I think she can take a bit more detail up front.

“Daisy, would you like to know where your your new class in France are going for your school trip?”  Another curious nod. “To Paris – for FIVE days!”

Her jaw drops, then she grins. Breathlessly says “Paris!!!!  Best. Chocolate. Crepes. Ever!”  And moments later her face is back in her book.

We took the girls to Paris a few years ago during a longer holiday in France. Daisy in particular loved it.  Something about it just captivated her.  She’d gushed “I want to live here when I’m older,”  and I’d responded with something like “Great idea – come to college here – I’ll visit you!”

Isla charges into the living room, “Daisy, my class are going to ITALY for a sleepover!”  I explain that they are going to Milan, world capital of fashion – Isla loves drawing and craft and is really interested in design and clothes. She goes wild.  I mention it might be a few days, but try not to make too much of it.  There are nerves and excitement – she’s frightened and desperate to go all at the same time.  Daisy tells her about Paris and the crepes – she can’t wait.  I explain that they will have been at school for a while before the trips happen – they will be settled in and have friends. (Well, a month for a seven year old is a long time, isn’t it?) They start dancing and racing about the house in a frenzy of excitement.  It’s great to see them so positive – I’m filled with pride and hope and love. And I realise they aren’t going to get to bed on time with this mood and start trying to calm them down.

So I guess my children are going on their school trips.  They are already awesome – what am I worrying about?


Move to France? May as well…

On the first day of December 2016 I got an email telling me we had to move out of our rented house by 31st January.  I burst into tears.

Not because I love the house. It’s a nice size, in a great place and we have fantastic neighbours, but I cried because of the stress I’d had finding the place. Landlords in Bristol hate cats. Or maybe it’s the agents, I don’t know. But if you have a cat and want to rent, you’d better be ready to live in a shit hole, or jump through a lot of hoops.

We’d begged and cajoled, written letters direct to landlords, argued and fought about how we were going to find a new place to live with two cats in the family. When the flat we’d previously rented was sold it had taken me the best part of three months – which we were fortunately granted – to find a decent house for us all. I couldn’t go through it again.

That night I lay in bed, tears dried, considering the new reality. I laughed to myself about the flippant comment I’d made back when we’d moved in, “I’m never doing that again in England,” I’d said, “If we got evicted from this house before we wanted to move I’d pull the kids from school and go to Barcelona and just work it out.”

And that, I realised, was exactly what I wanted to do.  Only… Barcelona? I wasn’t sure I was ready. So what were our options?

There was a house in Italy belonging to James’ late dad’s partner. It was on the market, but it didn’t look like selling in a hurry and I thought G would be happy for us to live there until it was. We’d visited twice and loved the village. Although James was the only one with any Italian. Hmmm. The village was pretty remote too. And the house didn’t have wifi, which we would need if we were going to work remotely. I dreaded to think how long it would take in a rather remote Italian village to get wifi installed…

Then there was our small studio high in the French Alps which we’d bought at Easter with some of James’ inheritance money. It was an investment – a holiday place for us we could rent out for some income – and so that our skiing holidays essentially paid for themselves. It was 29m2. Quite small. For a family of four.  With a cat and a hamster?  Hmmm.  For six months?  But on the plus side it was warm and cosy with a view of the mountains. We’d been to the village and surrounding area a few times before we’d bought the place for mountainbiking, and we’d been at least five times since, getting the flat rennovated and ready to rent out.  And going skiing! It had started to feel like our second home – we were all relaxed there – the girls would walk together through the village because it was small and safe and friendly. James and I both spoke French; the girls did a bit at school.  I felt my heart flutter. The idea sat well, something about it just felt good. I signed and knew that now I would sleep.  In the morning I would speak my idea out loud to James.  And then it would begin to happen.