Is it the holidays yet?

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In Muck Towers, we’ve had a really busy summer.  I mean REALLY busy.  We’ve hardly been at home, having stayed with family, friends and then had a proper holiday at the end of the summer before heading back to work, school and everyday life in Abu Dhabi.

So, when the first week of September arrived, I was feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.  We totally hit the ground running – new school uniforms, shoes, name labels, bags, folders and stationary had all been purchased in July, and we were out of the door, good to go.  Smug? Yes I am.  Last year, one child had to go to school in a pair of MY socks, as I hadn’t sorted her out with new ones, and I hadn’t been allowed to forget it. (I wasn’t as bad as my friend who sent her child in with her Dad’s flask of coffee, having mistaken it for her metallic water bottle.   Fortunately the child realized before drinking out of it, but then announced her Mum’s mistake very loudly to the rest of the drop-off crowd.  Thanks, 7-year-old.)

So, yes, back to school 2015 – I nailed it. And that particular friend did too! New school term? Bring it on!

And this week we have a shorter working week in Abu Dhabi, as the Eid al Adha holiday approaches.  As a non-Muslim, you may be surprised to learn that this particular festival has HUGE significance for me.  Traditionally in the Arab world, this is a time when local families come together to celebrate the festival with prayers at the Mosque, and succulent food to share.  My Emirati friends spend time applying henna, preparing special Eid clothes and gifts for each other, and resting up in preparation for visiting their nearest and dearest.

An Emirati Eid family celebration

An Emirati Eid family celebration | photo by Fatema Hassan Ali Al-Dhaheri

As expats, living here gives us the opportunity to teach our children some of the shared caring values that transcend religion.  In the spirit of sacrifice and giving, we are collecting toiletries and food gifts for all of the cleaners and security staff who work in our school.

Donations from our school children for the cleaners and security guards

Donations from our school children for the cleaners and security guards

At home, we’re going through the wardrobes and toy cupboards and giving away things we no longer need to people who can use them.  Even pieces of furniture and random old picture frames are going to www.takemyjunkuae.com who clean them up and pass them on to people who need them.

And for me? Eid al Adha was when our first little Muck entered the world, almost seven years ago.  Through the fog of tiredness, shock and exhilaration, I suddenly had a tiny baby in my arms.  The hospital in Dubai had a festive atmosphere, and a feeling of love and joy in the air, as families were off work and able to be together.  I’ll never forget how grateful I was to have made it through 48 hours of labour, and to be holding my little girl.

Getting to this point was NOT this peaceful

Getting to this point was slightly less peaceful than it may appear

This year, we’ll be at home as a family, NOT doing the school run for a couple of extra days, and catching up with each other and friends who we haven’t seen in far too long.  I might be keen to get the little ones back to school next week, but right now a long weekend together will be the perfect “holiday” for us.  Whatever you’re doing this week – whether you’re celebrating, working, going away or it’s business as usual – have a good one! Eid Mubarak!

The grass is always greener? Let’s hope so

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It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post, and I had already started drafting a post about how the grass always seems greener, having spent a glorious summer in the UK, away from the 50-degree heat of the desert.  But then the reality of the devastating refugee crisis began to gain traction across the media, and now there is a humiliating layer of context to this position which cannot be denied.

So there’s not a lot of humour in this blog post, but there’s a whole lot of heart.  And some suggestions about what you can do if you’re also a migrant and might not be geographically close by, but fortunate enough to have landed on truly more plentiful times.

How to be a fortunate migrant…

There are so many special things about Abu Dhabi, but one in particular is our tight-knit community.  As so many of us are living here without families close by, our friends take on an extra supportive role, and become like family.

As an expat, it can sometimes be hard to integrate with the local community, as we tend to find comfort and commonalities amongst people of own culture.  I originally came out to the Middle East to work for an international organisation, as did my husband.  I was so fortunate to meet people from all over the world.  It was more difficult to make friends with Emiratis, as our cultures are so different, but the few I can now count as friends are open-minded and as respectful to me as I am to them.

When I was invited to a Suhoor during the holy month of Ramadan at the house of a wonderful Emirati friend, I knew it would be an extra special meal.  Particularly as my friend is also a master baker and the talented chef behind the home-baked brand that is taking the culinary world of Abu Dhabi by storm: Crunch and Crumble.  Turns out, she can rustle up a pretty splendid Suhoor too.

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It was an absolute honour to be invited into this beautiful Emirati home, and be treated to home-made bread, samosas, an incredible meatball tagine and basbousa for dessert.  Even more of a treat, we were requested to dress in jalabea – traditional Arabic evening dresses, with long sleeves, full of colour and glimmering with sequins and jewels.  We had a sparkling night, and my only regret was – as usual – not being able to finish everything on my plate.

Photo edited to respect the privacy of our wonderful host

Photo edited to respect the privacy of our wonderful host

Today I feel so lucky to be a migrant and not a refugee.  To have actively chosen to move country, been welcomed with open arms by the locals, and able to work in a country that is not my country of birth. To have a British passport and a valid work visa permitting me to stay in a safe, peaceful country, which has welcomed a melting pot of cultures to create a truly international community.

There have always been refugees in the world, but watching the steady stream of people walk across Europe to seek refuge in a safer country, has hit home. It’s not just the horrific pictures of children, but the reality that the majority of these people are peace-loving families who have been forced out of their homes.

When it’s safer to put your children in a dinghy and cross the ocean than to stay in your home country, it tells you something of the atrocities that are happening today.  Our long flights to and from our home countries this summer suddenly don’t seem so bad.

How to help

I’m no expert on how to help, but I opted to donate money to the British Red Cross.  They are a charity I trust to actively contribute towards improving the lives of the Syrian refugees.  There is an URGENT APPEAL as the refugee crisis in Europe continues to grow.  Click here to donate:

http://www.redcross.org.uk/

The Independent also published a list of other ways in which we can help here:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/5-practical-ways-you-can-help-refugees-trying-to-find-safety-in-europe-10482902.html

Anyone else missing their motherland?

Life of Muck

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As we’re just getting to know each other, I thought I might introduce myself properly.  I’ve had a few questions from my non-English friends about the meaning of “Lady Muck”, as there’s a danger of misinterpretation. Shudder.  I’m a linguist, you know!

I live in Abu Dhabi, where English is the most common language and the language of business, but there are so many different nationalities and dialects here.  Certain phrases don’t translate.

So…let me try to explain.

You’re a “Lady Muck” if you’re a woman and you aspire to be something better than you actually are.  I know! Heaven forbid. (And don’t even get me started on why there isn’t a similar categorisation for men.  Or is there? Feel free to enlighten me please…)

Most people use the phrase with affection (she says, trying to convince herself of this).   OK, admittedly, some people will say it to take you down a peg or two.  Particularly up in my beloved north of England, if you even so much as think of admitting that you actually quite like London, and no, the tube doesn’t bother you that much, and actually it’s quite good fun living there, you tend to get a bit of an * affectionate* eye-roll.  An “ooh la-di-da”.  Get her.

I was born and bred in Yorkshire and that remains to me the most wonderful place on earth.  My roots are there, along with my family, life-long friends and their families.  Pretentious people are few and far between.  What you see is what you get, and most people will tell you what they think to your face, and happily have a cup of tea with you over it.

Muck-kitchen.  Baby puree. Questionable hair bands. Food stains.

Muck-kitchen. Baby puree. Questionable hair bands. Food stains.

I once saw a lady driving in the wrong lane as she turned a corner into a carpark.  An old man stepped into the road and banged on her bonnet with his walking stick, giving her and most of us around us the fright of our lives.  When she put her window down, he cleared his throat and announced at the top of his voice: “What do you think you’re doing? You’re on’t wrong side of t’road.  You’re not in FRANCE.  Lady Muck.” And then he tutted his way off.  Brilliant.

I’d love to see him having a few words with some particular ladies I see on the beaches here, who I’m sure have either been  beamed down from another (extremely snooty) planet or who simply shamelessly believe it’s OK to walk around with your nose in the air, with their maids trailing behind them carrying all their things.  (Yes, UK people you read that right.)

I’m proud to be a Lady Muck – and I’m saying this, you understand, with a twinkle in my eye.  I like to take life with a pinch of salt.  Or, in my case, with a pinch of sand.  What are you supposed to do? Stay on the same street your whole life? Cabin fever is something I have always felt.  Itchy feet.  I suppose a life overseas was inevitable for me, as it is for lots of people.

I love the opportunities that expat life has brought.  I’ve worked with amazing people, who have inspired me every day.  I’ve been on yachts, with the wind in my hair and a glass of champagne in my hand.  But I’ve got my feet on the ground and I know how damn lucky I am at that moment in time, and how far-removed from real life this type of privileged behaviour actually is.  So I love it for what it is, and am grateful to get home to my two little terrors and pasta on the floor.

Muck-tastic

Muck-tastic

I love the concept of being a Lady Muck in the positive sense.  I really believe that if you can better yourself, do it.  If you have any idea of what your vocation might be, go after it.  Life is short. Earn some money, keep your nose clean and travel. Meet new people.  Live in new places.  Cut the apron strings and try new things.  Take some selfies and live the high life.  You can’t please all the people all the time.

Let’s just keep our feet on the ground while we do it.

Who am I to criticise? What do YOU think?

The social triathlon

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It may surprise you, my lovely reader, to know that Mrs Lady Muck is not quite the socialite I ought to be.  Give me a choice between a night on the tiles in vertiginous heels and a night on the sofa with the latest series of “House of Cards” and I would be slipping into my comfy Pink trackies faster than Kevin Spacey could don another beret*.  Perennial party girl, I most definitely am not.

I am also a serial planner.  If there’s going to be a night out, I like to sandwich it between at least two early nights, so that the kids can’t completely ruin my rare chance of a social life. They can come visit me all they want at 3am, but if I’ve got to bed early at least 2 nights out of 3, I can – just about – handle it.

Nights out also involve hair, make-up, heels, accessories and – obviously – a killer outfit.  Such careful construction is not achieved in a mere 10 minutes.  My husband and kids are literally banished from my bathroom and bedroom for at least one hour prior to leaving. Getting ready is practically an event in itself.   Trust me, if you see anyone my age in a bar with swishy hair, a perfect manicure and rocking great shoes, you know for a fact she is One. Organised. Lady. (Or man, depending on the bar).

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Recently my plans were well and truly tested with a very last-minute invitation to a fabulous awards ceremony at a hotel a mere 5 minutes away from home.  My husband was already ready to go, whereas I was working an 80’s style pineapple ponytail and pyjamas, whilst wrestling the kids out of the bath.

Not unlike Clark Kent, the speed at which I discarded my comfies and donned my most appropriate awards-event-suitable dress was something for which I myself deserved a nomination.  We were out of the door in 10 minutes, and had the most fantastic evening with good friends.  The coconut-flavoured vodka with Sprite might not have been my greatest choice but it REALLY reminded me of nights out on Malibu and lemonade, and there was even a bit of a 90’s soundtrack to boot.

And then – two nights further on – I realised I had completed three nights out in a row! Three! That is absolutely unheard of in our house and in most of my friends’ houses.  The following nights out were slightly more planned, but I am so, so proud of myself of making it! It’s like a triathlon for parents – three different venues, themes, outfits and hairstyles.  Now, where’s my medal?

*I have met Kevin Spacey and he looked fabulous in his beret

Calling Gloria!

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Today I decided to update my music on the SD card that lives in my car.  It has been there for over a year, since my much more musically-trendy husband decided it was time to move on from “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round” and educate our little mucks about different types of music.  Personally I feel quite bouncy on the school run with the dulcet tones of the CBeebies presenters to keep us company, but as we listened to yet another round of Mr. Bloom, I had to concede that he was right.

Going through our iTunes library is a major feat.  We have collated so much music over the years and sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming.  Then, my littlest girl came into the room pretending to be a cat called Gloria, and that reminded me of the MOST BRILLIANT track by Laura Branigan from 1982.  Which means – and I’m going to let you into a highly classified secret here – I must have been 5 years old when it was on “Top of the Pops”.  I can remember coming home from ballet and dancing like crazy to it in our living room while we watched it.

Every Thursday, 7pm without fail, we would be allowed a can of Lilt or sometimes Coca-Cola (imagine if you actually chose to give your children that now!) and we would watch “Top of the Pops”.  My sister and I would do thumbs up for the songs we loved, and thumbs down for the songs that just didn’t cut it for us (at the highly critical ages of 5 and 3).  In truth, we loved every song, the chart interruptions for live music and the cool 80s dancers on little stages in the crowd.  We loved the hair, the clothes, the amazing make-up…Adam Ant, Boy George and Cyndi Lauper.  At school we scraped our hair into sideways pony-tails on the top of our heads, rolled our socks down and tried to repeat the choreography seared into our imaginations from the previous evening.

When I was bit older, I would carefully cut out the Top 20 chart from each treasured issue of Smash Hits, fill it in and stick it on my wall.  If I wasn’t fast enough to write during TOTP (there was a lot of thumbs up and thumbs down to do too), there was always the Chart Show on Radio 1 on Sundays. If you were really clever, you could tape it and try to cut out the talking, so that you had your very own mix-tape.  In my opinion Yazz was THE most fabulous woman on TV, Madonna was always a favourite, and I felt a bit scared of Billy Idol.  On the odd occasion we’ve had an 80s night (which I swear is not every single weekend in our house …ahem…) I am always able to throw an outfit together. Pink fingerless gloves, legwarmers, safety pins and lots of lace…doesn’t everyone have a drawer full of those?

Grey, glorious grey!

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It’s that time of year again. If summer holidays haven’t already been booked we all seem to be poring over travel guides, questioning our friends on Facebook about “anywhere good for adults and kids not too far from the airport with a beautiful beach and swimming pool and wonderful food”.  Actually make that “literally anywhere with a kids’ club”. Let’s be realistic, then if anything we can be surprised and not disappointed! Here at Muck Towers, we do the reverse.  We head back to Yorkshire and soak up the rain, bask in the grey skies and marvel on sunny days about how wonderful it all is up north when the sun shines.  Our cagoules, umbrellas and wellies are our most treasured items of clothing.  We literally cannot wait to paddle in puddles, walk on the windy moors and “have” to stay inside with a nice cup of tea. After 9 months of sun, sand and sea, the local park with its creaky swings and graffiti-covered slide is all my children need.  They want to wear their wellies round the clock.  Every. Single. Day. With permanent access to Grandma and Grandad, cousins and the glorious BBC we are set for the time of our lives. As it’s St. George’s Day and our July holiday feels a long way off, I thought I’d cheer myself up with a few things that I literally LOVE about going back to England in the summer:

  • Family and friends – top of the list! And there they are…in person, and not just existing as grainy 2D images of themselves at the end of a Skype call.
  • Drinking water out of the tap, eating lettuce and strawberries that you’ve picked yourself, collecting eggs from your own chickens – it’s all there and it all tastes so good!
  • The countryside. It’s seriously nerve-wracking driving along a country lane after months of 6-lane 150MPH aggressive driving.  I have become that little old lady who can’t drive straight because I’m so distracted by fields of wheat and proper hedgerows.  “Look at the COWS, girls! And the TREES!”.
  • Watching the sun eventually set around 10pm.
  • Hearing everyone out in their gardens at night.
  • Perusing decent newspapers in hard print that you can buy and read every day.
  • And the weekend supplements! Fashion.  Music.  Politics.  British journalists are so gloriously opinionated and have so much to say.  They swear, stick their necks out and seem so intelligent – again after 9 months of seriously controlled media, it’s a wonder to behold.
  • Old, dark, stinky pubs.  Lovely, bright, warm “gastro” pubs.  Pubs with Michelin stars.  Pubs with amazing children’s playgrounds outside which literally beg you to sit down with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  Pubs which seem to have actually replaced nightclubs! They’ve got it all.
  • The rain. It is just fabulous to walk in the rain after not seeing it or feeling it for so long.  The sound of the rain. The smell of the rain.  We love the rain.
  • Toys? All you need is a few slices of old bread and you can get down to the local park and feed the ducks.

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  • All the things you can buy that really don’t cost as much as they do elsewhere. Clothes, school shoes, books, real Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, WINE.
  • There are so many music festivals in the UK in the summer it is staggering.  Music, theatre, farming, you name it. We stumbled across a Scarecrow Festival last year.  Granted, some of them were a bit scary for our little ones but how amazing that a whole village can come together and do that.

So come on, all you expats can add to the list.  And all of you lot in the UK, tell me how wrong I am.

Lost in transition

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In the expat community in the UAE, most people choose to rent a house or apartment rather than buy.  Unless you’ve taken the bold decision to invest in your potentially-not-forever country, 99% of us remain at the mercy of our landlords, so no matter how much you try to feel at home, you somehow never quite do.  Not unless you’re in the 1% who’ve put their stake in the sand.

In the eight years we’ve lived in the Middle East, we’ve moved house four times.  I’m happy to say that every move has been a move for the better, but we went through a stomach-churning, sleep-deprived period in the run up to each move debating the pros and cons of types of house, how far we could stretch our budget, would we be close enough to certain schools, what if, what if, what if?

I’ve had curtains made to measure for four properties.  We’ve sat around four kitchen tables, dealt with four different types of garden and various degrees of random foliage, and settled our children to bed in several configurations of cots and beds.  Their bedrooms are always a priority, to help them feel at home, and – crucially – be able to sleep contentedly.  Our favourite sofas were once relegated to the children’s playroom (in a particularly spacious property) in favour of a super-trendy corner day bed construction for our living room.  It was only when we got it home, we realised it only had one functional armrest, and if I actually tried to relax on it my feet didn’t touch the ground.  Not in a good way.

Behind this adorable child is the trendy sofa that nobody ever sat on

Behind this adorable child is the trendy sofa that nobody ever sat on

When we moved again, we managed to sell our uber-cool sofa that we never sat on, and had our old faithful, favourite sofas re-covered (by the curtain people, who are now on speed dial and on the Christmas card list), and re-installed in our living room.

One of my friends loves moving house – she gets bored quickly, has itchy feet and loves the thrill of not quite knowing what’s coming next. She has an eye for design, an appetite for the unknown and a budget to accommodate a frequent upheaval.

My 3rd generation kids, who have moved house every couple of years, also seem to take it in their stride.  When we go to look round houses, they immediately pick their bedrooms, and start mentally moving in.  My husband has a home-is-where-the-heart-is approach.  If we’re all together, happy and healthy, why should we worry?

So am I the only one lost in transition? Or do any of you feel it too?

Feeling saintly

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It’s been a busy month for the little mucks and me – they’ve had never-ending colds, viruses, coughs and high temperatures. My kitchen has turned into a mini-pharmacy, with Nurofen for Children, Panadol for Children, endless cough syrups (different versions for age 6 and age 3), nose sprays (seriously we never needed those when we were kids), tissue boxes and thermometers.  Then we had man flu in the house on top of it all, so the whole world came to an end.

Did I mention I wasn’t actually sick myself? I drink a LOT of green tea. I’ll just go and polish my halo.

Speaking of halos, in our darkest of germ-infested days, I succumbed to the couch and took in the most life-affirming film I’ve seen in ages.   At the risk of writing a particularly woe-is-me post about everyone being sick, I decided to write a little film review instead.  Be warned, this film contains schmaltz, children who see the light and amend their ways, and a caustic old man who also – yes – sees the light and amends his ways.  But here are 5 reasons why you might just love the film as much as me.

It’s called “St. Vincent”.

1. Bill Murray is in it

Ever since Ghostbusters, this man has done no wrong. Contradict me if you like; I’m more than happy to enter into a debate about this man’s talents. He delivers lines as innocuously and genuinely as my grandfather, with so much heart, nonchalance and stifled emotion it’s impossible to believe he’s acting. He’s such a misanthrope (see, all those years of studying French haven’t gone to waste, thank you Molière) but there are lots of layers to this character, which mean he’s still capable of the art of surprise.

2. Melissa McCarthy is in it

Forget her comedic skills for now and feast your eyes on one of the most wonderful actresses of our time. Her delivery could call for comedy or tragedy, but what I love is the way that she personifies the way that every mother stomachs her emotions and restrains her language to try to keep the peace and do the best for her children.

3. Naomi Watts is in it

For a total curve ball, with Melissa McCarthy playing it straight, enter an unrecognisable Naomi Watts as a stripper called Daka. Here comes the comedy. Pregnant, Russian and so bedecked in fur and cheap polyester, I only realised halfway through that I was actually watching Naomi Watts. Such is the depth of her characterisation, accent, gait and sheer acting skill, it was only her jawline that really gave her away. You’ve come a long way since King Kong, Naomi.

4. It’s starring a young Cameron from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”!

OK, maybe not quite true but Jaeden Lieberher really reminded me of him, and he was brilliant.  What an opportunity. Don’t do a Culkin on us. More please.

5. It has great end credits

You won’t need much encouragement to sit through to the end but the credits are a joy to behold. I suspect there is some improvisation in this movie, but Bill Murray clearly has enjoyed himself with this particular opportunity. Oh and we also have Chris O’Dowd playing a bashful priest. Amen to that.

Bill Murray

Pretty hurts

When writing, it is common practice to imagine your dream reader.  Having spent the best part of my career in marketing it would be all too easy to go off and do some strategizing, perhaps write a pen-portrait and potentially disappear up my own backside for a while.  So I’ve decided to cut a few corners and think of the people I’d really like to read what I’ve written one day.  Two little girls who sit wide-eyed and love listening to stories, whose imaginations are vast and experiences so far unhindered by doubts or negative thoughts towards themselves. So today I am writing with them in mind, as I want them to know how strong and amazing they are.  And when those voices of self-doubt start to creep in, or they become of aware of societal norms and expectations, I want them to have the courage of their convictions, stand up for themselves, fight for what they believe in and love themselves for who they are.

I’m so distracted by the amazing new Sport England campaign #thisgirlcan that I want to focus on the physical side of things today.  I’m sure if and when the girls come to read this themselves, this campaign will be old news and they can have a good laugh at the eyeliner and hairstyles, but today this is very real and raw:

I can nit-pick about the language and the lack of international relevance (which isn’t an issue for Sport England and their target consumer), but the underlying message is pretty powerful.

Apparently the #thisgirlcan campaign was justified because there are fewer women than men of every age who participate in every sport at every level in England.  Market research showed that in addition to finding time to exercise, girls and women are lacking confidence to get out there and get sweaty, because of how they look.   I’ve sooo been there.  It’s hard not to feel self-conscious when your face is the colour of a tomato.  The irony of improving your body and overall health is that it requires pain, sweat and overall physical exertion to get there.  And who do our little girls and teenagers see in the media to help them with all of this?

In case your tea’s starting to go cold, I’m only going to highlight two from pop-culture.  My two are still a bit young for Germaine Greer and Caitlin Moran, after all.  (But a future write-up is on the way about amazing authors for young children, I promise).

How not to do it: Beyoncé tells us that “it’s the soul that needs the surgery” in the musically fabulous “Pretty Hurts”.  I hope to God my children never watch this.  And by the way, I haven’t missed the point, I just abhor the sensational presentation. (“Mummy, why is the thin lady eating cotton wool?”):

How to do it: Over to Meghan Trainor for more of a positive message and a massive handful of cheesy pop thrown into the mix:

By the way, the absolute star of this video is not Meghan Trainor.  If I had to be friends with anyone from either video it would be that amazing man who can do the splits. Now you can have a go at Meghan for skinny-shaming and taking a massive dig at the very beautiful girl who dares to be on the slim side. But if you’re feeling a bit put-out at this, I invite you to trawl through the history of MTV and feast your eyes on 99% of the models in the videos, and you’ll soon feel OK again.

Finally I wish she didn’t refer to her plentiful bass for the boys’ sake.  But with my little girls in mind, I would say pay it forward…we all love a compliment.  Feel free to compliment me on mine any time.  As long as you don’t think I’ve disappeared up into it.

 

Happy New Birthday!

It’s not all bad in January, especially when you live somewhere with perennial sunshine. I was sent an article about how awful it is to have your birthday in January and wanted to offer a more positive take. Then – because I’m a January-born Capricorn – I sat down and thought about it.
Hmmm. Actually January can be a bit rubbish, so I had to dig deep.
I can move my body (and I get out and push it hard as many times a week as possible), I can exercise my brain (sorry…you’re reading the results) and my family are in good health. There is dire news coming in from all over the world, and I almost feel a bit selfish sharing my thoughts about birthdays, but for all my fellow January birthday bunnies, here’s a bit of support. (This is “support” as in “support tights” – not strictly necessary but certainly make our tummies feel a bit smoother).
You only have one birthday so how do you really know that it’s worse in January? People are saving for holidays (or away on them) in the summer and preparing for Christmas in December. Grey skies mean it’s cosy inside. Plus I got lots of lovely Facebook messages this year, as people knuckle down back to their computers or simply fail to give up on Facebook as per many NY resolutions.
I appreciate every single one. Thankyou thankyou thankyou.
Having said that, there are some truths about January that there’s just no getting away from:
The presents: You do get recycled Christmas presents that are often lacking in personal intention. Thanks for the coasters!

The cards: This year someone actually gave me a gift tag. Hey, at least it had a written message. Since moving to the UAE most people have given up on the postal service out here. For those of you who haven’t, THANK YOU for persevering with our long address, cost of postage and PO Box number – it means a lot.

Money is tight: There’s no getting around that one. See “gift tag” above.

Everything else is tight: Jeans. Tops. Underwear. Yuck. I’m not really in the mood to “shake it off”, thanks Taylor Swift, although I love your enthusiasm and your personal stick-like ability to ride out the sugar wave over Christmas. Still rocking a size 00 I see.

Yet your appetite is still raging: Yes, we’re addicted to sugar and if you don’t join the masses and kick the habit at the start of January, there’s very little pleasure left in it by the middle of the month. Chowing through your own birthday cake is not much fun after a decadent December. Plus…

It’s time to be healthy!: Yes, love it or hate it, I find I have to exercise to think clearly / shake off my poor-quality sleep / combat my muffin top. If you can resist all the “new year new you” hype, you’re stronger than me. I actually like kale, eggs, walnuts and salad. I just like Häagen-Dazs too.

You’re one year older: OK, not strictly a January thing, but you need less food, more sleep and have to work twice as hard on that muffin top as your metabolism is one year slower. Woop!
Happy New Birthday! (Yes, someone actually wrote this to me. I still love them. It’s fine. I think they’ve just given up sugar).