Wednesday, 28 October 2015

I'm Back

Hello blog, it's good to be back.

Finally we have our own space and internet connection once again. 

And I have so much to write about.

Perhaps I should explain too that this post has been in the making for a few days, and my mind has changed a few times since i started writing it, which you will probably notice. But its all a process. A process I have missed by not writing. Most of it is me deciding what we'll do next, with a little bit of background on what has happened since I last wrote. I may do a few more posts on that. Theres's been some big stuff. BB's birthday for example, the embryos and a very special person has died, but for now...

...About a week after my last blog post we moved out of our house. We got to the point where it was hard to get any further with the packing without going, so we moved into a spare room at my parents place. All our stuff was collected by the removalists on the 20th July. It was all very carefully engineered as we were due to arrive at our new place on 5th October and the shipping company said it would take 10-12 weeks to get here, so it left 11 weeks before us - perfect I thought. It still hasn't left the UK - but that's a whole other story.

We had a fabulous summer in the UK. I was winding down all my work commitments and so had more time enjoy life instead of slogging away all hours and still going backwards.  The weather was good. We went lots of places and visited lots of people. It was summer. It was great. By the time we got to it being time to leave I was wondering if we were doing the right thing. 

The sale of our house dragged on and on and on. I'm not sure why. We went from the buyers wanting to move in mid July to it still not being completed a week before we were due to leave. In that time the AU$ had started to go down and my house had gone up so it was worth more than the value I had agreed to sell it at. I began to panic. When I was in Australia last time my Dad got really sick but I couldn't afford to move back. UK house prices had gone up and combing that with the low value of the dollar I just couldn't afford to go back. It was a situation I wanted to avoid happening again, which you may remember I was hoping to do by getting an investment mortgage on the UK house and then renting it, but I couldn't get a mortgage. 

Anyway - a week before we left I mentioned this to my Dad. Interest rates on savings are low in the UK at the moment. I decided to offer him a better rate than he could get in the bank and see if he would loan me the cash. And he agreed! Awesome. I felt so much better then. Our house is great, we have made it perfect for us. It's small and has neighbours attached by a very thin wall, but that is life in the UK. At the very least it is a place for us to go to if we need to, and close to my parents. And if we do decide to go back to live, at least we're still in the property market.  At the moment the rent gives us a little income each month and when we buy a new place the rent will cover my payments to my dad.

So 2015 is now the year I sold my house twice but kept it.

And then we left.

Leaving was hard. Leaving my Mum was the worst part for both BB and I. I could never imagine that I would live away from my Mum. When I came to Australia last time it was just for a visit which unexpectedly turned into 10 years and citizenship. Leaving with the intent to establish a life overseas was so much harder. In fact I am amazed that I was able to do it. 

The journey was not so bad. BB quite likes planes it turns out and the in flight entertainment kept him amused. We arrived at my friends place on the Sunshine Coast and it was so good to see her. We headed to the beach on our second day and BB was so happy. As I sat and watched him I really felt like I had made the right choice and was really pleased that I'd had the guts to do it. The feeling was like we had set ourselves free.



BB did have some mild culture shock though. I hadn't really factored this in to my plan. Naively I had thought a week in the sub tropics, followed by a week in the desert and then down to the south west would be a great plan. I think we could have done it but a few things made me decide to try and take it a bit easier. Firstly we were loving where we were. It was one of two places on my short list for where we would live initially, perhaps we should stay and check it out a bit more. Then there was BB adjusting to a whole new county. He was just getting into the groove on about day 4. It seemed crazy to move him again on day 7. I was in the shower on the Wednesday morning thinking that I don't really want to leave yet, and then the first thing BB said when I got out was that he wanted to stay. Then half an hour later an old friend called and asked if we would house and horse sit for them the next week. It seemed like the universe was aligning to make us stay... and so we did. For an extra week. 

This means the Alice Springs trip will have to wait for another time. Probably a good thing as I would have likely wanted to stay there too! The extra week was good too for helping us decide. I love the sunshine coast, I love my friends there very much, but already in September and October we had days where it was too hot to enjoy the outdoors during the day. For those people who get up to surf at 4 am its great, and for holidays its brilliant. But I don't enjoy hot and humid when you actually need to get stuff done. I would retreat to the air con and get lazy. Its also very busy, and there was a lot of driving from place to place for different services, rather than it all being in your home town, which is something I have loved about all the regional towns in Australia I have lived in.

We arrived in WA and it felt great. I loved the 4 hour drive from the airport down to Albany. As I looked out of the windows I felt as though we were in the right place. The bush had that familiar homely feel. BB and his friend G were getting on so well in the back seat. It was awesome to see another old friend again. We went to the beach and the town, checked out some cafes. Getting things done here is so much easier than on the Sunshine Coast too. 

We spent a week with our friends and then moved into our house (which belongs to them, we are renting with a view to buy). I fell a bit flat on those first days here. We have had company everyday since July. It has been fun. Now its just us. What are we doing? Our loved ones are so far away.  I wanted to go home. BB on the other hand was fine. He is loving being close to his friend G. Loving checking out a new place. We've joined a play group, been to gymnastics, signed up for swimming lessons, been to some new parks. He is really missing my Mum, but when I ask if he wants to go home to England is answer is not yet. "not until we can't remember when we came here, and we want to remember what England is like again"

I have debated on and off for the last couple of weeks whether we should just go home. Then I remember why we left. One of the main reasons is because I don't want BB in the outcomes and assessment obsessed UK education system at such a young age. And though I'd love to home school, the reality is that we couldn't afford to eat if I did. And I know we haven't given it long enough. When I came last time it wasn't until I lived and worked here that I discovered that Australia is a better place to live and work and that the UK is a better place to visit. I know that I have a rosy picture of the UK in my mind as I wasn't working so much and we were doing lots of visiting and going lots of places and it was summer...  Truth is, England is a great place to visit, and a great place to live if you are well off. The UK government is anti single mums, and the situation for us gets worse and worse. I feel like I have exhausted all possible ways we could survive without BB going to full time school and to before and after school care and me getting a teaching job in the system that I hate.  

So I think now that we have got this far we should perhaps give it a go and stay here for two years. Our UK house is rented out on a two year lease. Two years is how much longer we have here before BB would start his formal education, so by staying we could buy him two more years of childhood. It is a great place to be a kid. I can afford to spend some time sorting myself out so that I can change to another career perhaps. Its nice having an old friend nearby. The space we have to live in is amazing, a cute little house on a nice block with great views over the town. We are walking distance from most things we need too, and the school has a great reputation and all new facilities. But I do wish my mum would pop in on her way home from the supermarket.

Two years isn't long. We can visit the UK in that time too. Two years is long enough for us to really assess if we want to be here. If we go back now I don't think we will have really tested it out properly for me to be able to make a certain judgement and I will always wonder.

...

So I thought I had it all sorted - that two year thing. But then I was A & E (just something in my eye which resulted in a slightly torn cornea - all good now) when a lady younger than my mum came in while I was there, and she had just fallen and broken her hip... what if that were my mum? I really don't want to be so far from my family, but they live in the wrong side of the planet! But does that mean we should go home? And if we stay for two years won't that just make it harder to go home?

Some things are disappointing me too. The education system is not as good as it was. They too are moving away from play based learning to formal teaching in the early years. At the school BB is signed up for we were told they don't do a transition into the year 1 class anymore as the pre primary work and teaching approach is no different from year 1. The orientation for the kindy which he will start in Feb doesn't actual allow the kids to attend. At an event at the weekend someone from a childcare centre was giving us a speil about how they have changed their name as they are not just care any more and we shouldn't undervalue them. They follow the curriculum and deliver educational outcomes to all children however young they are to make them "school ready"...

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

I think I have now come to the conclusion that I don't have to decide right now. I have been thinking that as a responsible parent I should find a place for us to stay long term, and my concern is that this doesn't feel long term.  I thought that knowing where we are going to be long term would matter, but I don't think it does.  I thought it would be an important thing for BB but actually he is thriving, and he's far happier with uncertainty of it all than me.  And I do really want him to know his Australia home too.  If we are not going to stay forever maybe getting to know more about that is bigger priority right now.

So I am starting to think that perhaps we should go back to that original plan of a big Australian road trip. We are going to his Aussie grandparents place for xmas anyway. Perhaps we should carry on from there, visit our friends in Victoria and Alice so that BB gets to see all the important people and places. We would spend a bit of money, but until we buy a new house and get a loan we do have the rental income from the UK house which will cover some of our expenses at least.

The more I think about it the more I think its a great idea.

So what's stopping me from doing that? Just driving over to SA at the start of December and then onto VIC in the new year and then on up to NT?

1. Stuff. Ever since I packed up my house in the UK the first time when I came to Australia in 1999, I have held the philosophy that you don't own stuff, stuff owns you. I guess I am quite minimalist compared to many folk but still, I have lots of stuff. And in the process of setting up in our rental home here I have got more. A bed, a couch, a fridge, a washing machine... But its just stuff. And getting it has actually been good in a way. It was when I bought the washing machine that I first got the feeling I was committing too much too soon here, so it served as an indicator of that. It's a new one, having bought a second hand one that didn't work I went out and got a good one. Ah well - I sold my machine in the UK, and I have shipped a washing machine to the UK before...and we do have other stuff to send if we go. And we can put it in storage here while we work out what we're doing. Its not the end of the world and I won't let stuff stop me. But I won't buy more stuff either.

2. Money. We will be eating into our savings which we should use to buy a house. Though we could get a cheaper house. Or just go back to our old house once the tenancy agreement is up. It feels wrong though, to just spend money travelling around when you are a responsible parent.

3. Being a responsible parent. I think this is the biggest one. Should I not be providing a stable home for my child? I just left the UK when he should have started school there and now I am considering going on a road trip when he should be starting kindy here. Is that an issue. Is my belief that experiences and family and friends and no formal education whatsoever when you are 4 valid, or am I totally bonkers. Am I really providing diverse, rich and authentic early learning experiences for my child as I like to believe, or am I deluded? How is my indecision impacting upon him?

4. Friends My friends here have been amazing. I don't think they could have done anything more to make us feel welcome, provide us with a home, look after us, entertain us. J is an old friend of mine and it is so fabulous to be around such a long standing friend that you have a history with. And she is so much fun. BB really loves her kids, her partner has been awesome to us too. So have their parents. They kept their house for us so that we could rent it and possibly buy it. It is an amazing house.  I did pay half rent from the time they moved out until the time we moved in, and we are paying our way now, and they have had the advantage of moving slowly (lots of there stuff in the shed still), but I feel bad that they could be selling it or renting it long term instead of having indecisive me occupying the premises.  Although the time since it has been our house has not been a particularly good time of year to put your house on the market, we are now coming into the best time of year sell in the next couple of months. I have suggested they try and sell their house while we are living here, that way of someone makes an offer they can sell, or I can make an offer if it makes me feel jealous (probably what I need to give me a nudge). If we leave we will miss them heaps.

So anyway - thats where I'm at! Indecisive as always. Navigating our way through life as it happens is fun though.

I'll do a photo post later...

Updated a few hours later... they are going to put it on the market. We are both sad. BB actually cried. Maybe this is a sign. I hope it doesn't sell and that we get to rent if for longer while I decide.