Monday, 31 August 2009

Things said this weekend

- The weather forecast is great for today. I know, lets go on a day trip this weekend.

- Have we got the map with us?

- Everyone in? Lets go!

- What do you mean you want to do a poo? What, now? Why didn't you do when when I asked you 5 minutes ago before we left the house?

- Where are we?

- Where are we supposed to be going?

- Ok, lets go to Brcko (pronounced Birchko). We haven't been there before.

(When they signed the peace agreement to stop the war they split Bosnia into 2 entites, the Republika Srpska and the Federation. However, both sides wanted Brcko to be in their entity so badly that they basically had to say that because they couldn't agree who would have it then neither side could, confirming my suspicion that high level political negotiating is not that different to dealing with toddlers. They did the equivalent of putting Brcko up really high on the shelf out of everyone's reach. It has to be said that Brcko probably did pretty well out of the deal, it has its own government and by most economic indicators seems to be doing rather better than the rest of Bosnia.)

- There's a big river in Brcko, Jess could go for a swim.

- It is really hot.

- Look boys. That is the border. Over that river is Croatia. Lets throw some stones in for Jess.

- That fish that just flip flopped in the river was ENORMOUS.

- I don't know why the restaurant has cannons in the garden.

- Luke, put the axe down please.

- Dave, there was a lot of fighting round here in the war. I don't think we should go off the map.

- Lets head home. The sign says that way to Tuzla

- This isn't the way we came.

- The sign definitely said Tuzla this way. Lets give it a go.

- Look at the view! That's amazing. So green and beautiful.

- What is that sign?

- Boys, listen to Mummy very carefully. Do you see this sign? The red one, with a skull and cross bones on it, that looks a bit like a pirate flag but is red? If you ever see that sign, do not ever ever put a single foot off the road. Do you understand me? This sign means that there are mines. Do you know what mines are? Mines are bombs that men have hidden under the ground and when someone steps on them they will explode. Mines kill people. You must never, ever, step off the road if you see a sign like that.

- What do you mean you need a wee?

- Nearly home now. Is that the police ahead?

- Looks like there's been an accident, we'd better find another route. Let's try going left.

- I know this road isn't tarmacked, but it is marked on the map. There isn't another way to get around.

- The man on the tractor said we were going the right way. We must have faith. Let's keep going and hope for the best. I know we haven't seen a house in about half an hour.

- It's looking pretty dark over there

- WOW! Did you see that lightening?

- Asphalt. Phew. I think it is really going to pour and don't fancy driving on the dirt track in the rain much.

- Rain? This isn't rain! This is someone throwing a bucket at the car.

- There's a river in the road. It is flowing faster than we are driving.

- Home! Home home home. Never have I been so pleased to see you.

- You enjoyed the adventure? You want to do it next weekend? Are you quite sure?

- Darling, I think we've got two adrenaline junkie sons on our hands.


Mummy Do That, a German living in Glasgow, has put together a Bilingual Childrens Carnival. I strongly advise anyone thinking of bringing up children bilingually to head on over there for a read. There are problems, stories and support for parents of children trying to get their heads around two languages. This carnival will be a monthly affair so any contributions from other parents of bilingual (or not so bilingual as the case may be) would be very welcome.

Must be carnival season, as the Best of British Mummy Bloggers Carnival is up and ready to go over at ClareyBabble - so many new blogs are included. I'll be up all night having a good old read.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Summer Visitors

In the last month or so Tuzla has been inundated with foreigners. In a car park the other day, I had a quick look around and realised that of the 15 or so cars parked under the trees, only one had a Bosnian licence plate. The rest were from Holland, France, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Sweden and the like.

These are not your normal holidaymakers. Love Tuzla as I do, I'd never call it a general holiday destination. You would only really come here if you have a reason. No, by and large these people are the diaspora, those who left Bosnia and now come 'home' once a year, usually during the ever so nice summer months. They come back for a holiday, to see family and friends, gorge themselves on the Bosnian specialities, hold barbecue after barbecue, sun themselves at the lake and generally have a fine old time.

Those who live here full time view them with mixed feelings. Many people grumble that they only come back to show off their big fancy cars and how much money they have. They definitely bring with them a holiday vibe and race around doing things they probably wouldn't do at home (stop racing about on your scooter without your helmet young man, believe it or not, there are laws here, and they don't include behaving like an idiot). But some of the resident Bosnians are jealous. Jealous of the money the diaspora appear to have, the lifestyle that they appear to represent. The diaspora certainly bring money with them; one village I know is hoping to rebuild their mosque based on donations from the diaspora returning this summer.

Irrespective of any jealous moments, everyone is delighted to see family again, and it is heart warming to see the grandmothers thrilled to be playing with their grandchildren, adult brothers and sisters hanging out together over a coffee or three. But their delight is tempered with a tinge of regret, a recognition, indeed acknowledgement that this level of displacement in a society is a sad reflection of the country's recent history.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Playground Shenanigans

Adam is now 4. For the first time today in nursery I saw the evidence of the horrid sort of playground antics children are so famous for.

I dropped the boys off. Luke trotted in to his class quite happily and was last seen being embraced by 3 different girls and trying to look cool (my son, the heart throb - really must make sure he grows up to be nice to girls).

Adam also trotted in quite happily and perked up even more when he saw that his best friend in his class, Aid, was there today. He rushed over and went to sit next to Aid. Aid put his hand out and shooed Adam away. I last saw Adam with a wounded expression, sitting on his own, rejection flowing from every slumped shoulder, hands on chin and his back towards the rest of the class stance.

Resisting every bone in my body that said 'get in there, give that Aid a good talking to and make him let Adam sit next to him' which would obviously do no good at all, I had a quick word with the teacher and then left.

I've been thinking about him all morning. Children can be ever so nasty, and as parents the best we can do is to help them to deal with it. The additional dollop of guilt for me comes because I worry that he is being shunned because he doesn't speak Bosnian and the children are getting bored of his attempts to learn. So Adam not only has to deal with learning about playground shenanigans, but he has to do it in another language and culture. He is a shy and sensitive boy in any culture and every now and then I get a real glimpse of how hard our Bosnian adventure must be for him.

Anyway, 10 mintues to go before I go and pick them up. I'm hoping hoping hoping that everything will have been forgotten, Adam and Aid will have had a terrific time playing spiderman outside, laughing and shouting and that noone except me will even remember the way the morning started.


After three hours of maternal fretting, I arrived to find Adam laughing, racing around and obviously having a whale of a time, utterly oblivous to the guilt ridden angsty mother who'd spent the morning chewing her nails, occasionally a bit teary and questioning what we are doing here. He and Aid had been best friends from about 10 minutes after I left.

Children. They have no idea of how much their parents worry about them. I'm making a mental note to say a big thank you (and apologise) to my own mother for anything similar I put her through in the past.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Lights and Lepina

Ramadan began on Saturday. The minarets are all lit up with flags fluttering from them and the sense of community around the mosques is palpable. It is a time for practicing Muslims to show their devotion by observing a fast (no eating or drinking) during daylight hours. This being the summer, it is quite a long day; starting about 5.45am and the evening call to prayer is currently around 8pm. The tradition in Bosnia is for small intimate mosques (not for them the huge mosques of the Middle East) and they play an important role in many communities as the obvious meeting point where everyone gets together for a good old chitchat of an evening. I often see a small bunch of people sitting under the pergola outside the mosque opposite, passing the time of day.

Although Tuzla is well mixed, with several churches and orthodox churches, it is predominantly a Muslim city. You'd not really know it to visit. Alcohol is widely available and women can be (very) scantily dressed. Although it is not unusual to see a woman in a head scarf, it is by no means the norm either. I've always had the impression that Tuzla is Muslim in the way that England is Christian. Although the culture is formed by the religion, the number of actively practicing Muslims seem relatively small. Many people I know go to the mosque only at Bajram (Bosnian equivalent of Eid, at the end of Ramadan) much like many people go to church only at Christmas. Everyone seems to join in with the bits of the culture that they like, including the Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats who usually join the party at Bajram.

For us, non Muslims, Ramadan brings with it a real treat. Lepina bread, best described as quite like naan bread but a bit more bready, is widely available, freshly baked, at all the local shops from 3pm (which strikes me as so unfair to those fasting, when they must be at their most hungry everywhere they go they must be able to smell freshly baked bread, which would finish me off in seconds). Lepina is absolutely delicious; best eaten when they are warm, with cream cheese. The boys can't get enough of it. Neither can I. And having eaten lepina all over the country, I can confirm that the best lepina of all comes from Tuzla.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Dear So and So, Bosnian Version: Part II

Ever since I wrote Dear So and So, Bosnian Version Part I, I've been suffering from an unusual (and quite debilitating) affliction. Now, in my head, wherever I go, I find myself composing these postcards. In an effort to bring it all under control I started making a list of all the postcards I wished to write. It is completely out of control. It is also, therefore, time for another Dear So and So post. So here we go, a few things that I wish others to know:

Dear neighbours,

We don't have a plum tree in our garden. You do and it hangs over ours. We have a glut of plums from your tree that we don't know what to do with. As you have 4 trees, all about to fall over with the weight of the fruit you must have some good ideas about what we can do with all the plums currently halved and stoned and sitting in our fridge.

Yours, in appreciation of your fruit orchard which has served us well over the summer,
Fraught Mummy


Dear man in charge of the volume of the call to prayer of the mosque opposite,

Any chance you could turn it down? Just for the early one, the one as the sun comes up? Please? We'd really appreciate it.

Yours, in tiredness and slightly grumpy at just before 5am,


Dear Bosnian Drivers (and one on the Tuzla Sarajevo road the other weekend in particular),

Overtaking is a manoeuvre to be carried out when you are certain that you can complete the manoeuvre without causing an accident. In practice this means that you should only overtake when there is a stretch of road ahead of you that allows you to see what is coming for quite some distance. So, overtaking, going up a hill, heading towards a blind corner, in the dark with only one headlight working is not really best practice.

Yours, forever wondering how there are any Bosnian drivers left,


Dear Bosnian Pedestrians,

You are a nation of walkers. You put us British to shame. You walk everywhere and for long distances. This is wonderful. Can I make an observation however? If you walk along main roads in the pathway of the cars, in the dark, wearing black, it is very likely that the drivers won't be able to see you. Just saying.

Wishing you a long and healthy life,


Dear Boys,

Listen to your mother. Listen. It's not so hard. I only do it to stop you from hurting yourselves or other people. It would make everyone's lives a whole lot easier if you did what I ask within the first 5 times of asking, because if I have to ask any more than that I'm liable to turn bright red and blow a gasket.

Your loving but exasperated mother xx


Dear Butcher down the road,

You are my favourite butcher in the world. Not only do you sell the most amazing meat, but you didn't mind that I left my wallet behind in a blonde mad mummy moment, and you let me pay you the next time we were in the shop.

Deep thanks from the bottom of my heart,

Dear Bosnians looking for a parking space,

Space on the pavement is not the same thing as a parking space.

Yours, a bit fed up with weaving past your cars,

PS - drivers in Tuzla, every other city in the world requires you to pay for parking. You used to pay for parking in the centre of town before the war. Stop whinging about the new parking restrictions.


Dear Imam from the mosque over the road,

Thank you very much for the gift of some Bosnian delights and perfume that you handed over the gate the other day. I'm not quite sure why you are giving me presents and do find it a bit random. But thank you anyway.



Dear Bosnian Authorities,

Please, please can you get a programme in place to sort out the stray dog situation. The number of lost puppies on the streets at the moment is breaking my heart.

Yours, trying not to adopt another dog,


Dear Jessie,

You've seen the life other dogs have. Yours is not so tough. But if you try and get into one more picnic I might be tempted to let you live their life for a bit.

Yours, fed up with apologizing for our pizza eating dog,
FM xx


Dear neighbours, friends and pretty much anyone we have ever visited,

Thank you for all your amazingly yummy fruit, veg, homemade jams, juices and pies that you give us every time we have ever visited. At the moment I have to say that your grapes are the best thing I have ever tasted, but the peppers are pretty good too.

Yours, stuffing my face,


Dear International Community in Tuzla,

Thank you for always inviting us to your dinners on Thursday evenings. I'm sorry we have been so rubbish in actually attending. Every week we plan to and every week we sort of don't quite manage. We will keep trying, please don't stop inviting us.



Dear Bosnian Women,

You rock. You are feisty, scarily intelligent and can more than hold your ground. You are professional, well educated and sometimes a bit scary as you are not frightened of expressing your opinion with a level of passion that the British in me is just not used to. There's just one thing I really don't get. What is the obsession with cutsie cutsie little girl like cartoon characters?

Just wondering,


Dear Dave,

You're great. Hang on - that's not my handwriting. Have you been adding things to my list??

You are great though, but it is treason to mess with one of my lists. Treason! Do you hear me?

Lots of Love,
FM xx


Enough for today. There'll be more as this is such a fun post to write, try it yourself and see. You too will soon find yourself composing postcards in your head all day. If you write a post, then make sure to head over to Kat's at 3 Bedroom Bungalow and add your name to the list, so other fans of the genre can come and have a read.

Again, other Bosnians, anything you care to add to the list? I'm going to do these posts every other Friday, so let me know if there's anything that you'd like to add.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mad Dogs and Englishmen (women and children)

It's all going a bit pear shaped in the Brit household.

I have a routine that I like and enjoy which is as English as it gets which goes something like this.

12-5pm: (once I have picked them up from nursery) various activities with the boys, outside as much as possible preferably running them into the ground. Luke isn't really doing naps any more so it is 5 hours of fun fun fun.

5pm - I start thinking about dinner. The TV can go on from this point, but in reality comes on when I have had enough and everyone is starting to kill each other. This can be as late as 6.30 but usually is around 5.30pm. I use the respite to cook dinner when I can concentrate on what I'm doing and not having to worry about stirring a cheese sauce whilst simultaneously refereeing the latest fight and acting as activity coordinator and retrieving toys thrown too high for them to reach.

6pm - dinner during which at some point Daddy normally reappears leading to much excitement and then more rampaging around the house.

6.30pm - bath, pyjamas, teeth, one last (calming) DVD, stories and bed. If I'm on my game it'll all be over by 7.30, sometimes stretching out as far as 8pm.

8pm - And relax: a glass of wine, The Archers (we are one hour ahead of UK time) and time to sit on the porch watching the rest of Bosnian society heading into town.

The Bosnians are true Europeans though. Their children nap in the afternoon up until the age of about 6 but don't go to bed until 10pm or later. For a long time I haven't able to understand this. But the latest bout of hot weather (it's been up to 40C here again) has shown me why this attitude makes a LOT of sense.

No one is outside between 12 and 4. No one. Absolutely not a soul. Sometimes it is just me, the boys and the dog. Wilting. So hot and sweaty and miserable. Even with SPF 50, sun suits, hats and the full British hot weather look, it is miserable. I have come to understand that just because there is blue sky outside doesn't mean that outside is the place to be. Obviously this goes against every English bone in my body. It still feels wrong to be inside when the weather outside looks so enticing.

But I have come to understand that it is best that the kids get their outdoors fix after 5pm. The temperature is so much more pleasant. Everyone else is out there too, so there are others to play with.

With this understanding has come a realisation that we will have to change our routine, for the summertime at least. Now, I'm pushing them to have a nap during the afternoon. Sit quietly. Maybe even put the DVD on (arrghgh, this seems so wrong, against my not before 5pm rule). Then, when the heat of the day has subsided we head on out for the outdoors fun at what should really be outdoors time.

This means bedtime has gone totally to pot. The other night they were still rocking at 10pm, and even being pretty good with it. I've had my moments of stressing about it. I certainly miss my evenings. But the whole of the rest of the day is so much less stressful and so much more fun that I'm finding I don't need them quite so much.

In many ways I'm looking forward to the arrival of autumn, cooler weather and a re-installment of my old routines, but in the meantime it is a case of when in Tuzla...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

From the mouths of babes

An exchange earlier following a bout of cheek from my youngest:

Me: You are a cheeky monster!

Luke: You are a cheeky mother!

gales of hysterical laughter from both boys who are very pleased with this retort and repeat it many times to make sure that everyone has heard and understood it.

How on earth does anyone ever manage to keep a straight face?

Latest Best of British Mummy Bloggers carnival is up at OMG We're Pregnant! - head over there for your biweekly fix of tales of parenthood.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Awards, schmwards, tags, shmags

My name is Brit in Bosnia and I have been a bad blogger. I have busily been accepting awards, displaying them proudly, and have done absolutely jack about passing them on. This breaks all rules of bloggerville. So, I intend to sort this forthwith. Be warned, this may be a long post.

First up, from the lovely Kat at 3 Bedroom Bungalow: You blog is Bloody Brilliant. This award has no strings attached. Nothing to do. Just send it on to a few others whose blog you love. So, this award goes out to the other mothers of small boys. As we are run off our feet enough as it is picking up cars, with reflexes of catches that would make an English cricketing slip catcher jealous, we can deal with balls, noise, fighting and general pandemonium. Sitting quietly doesn't happen. Often. But, but, our boys, they love their Mummies. So without further ado, I give you the Your Blog is Bloody Brilliant award for my fellow Mothers of Brothers:

Next up we have the award that I'm passing onto blogs that are new to me. In general I think this will just demonstrate exactly how behind the curve I am on this. But without much more ado, here are the newbies to the Brits In Bosnia world, awarded the One Lovely Blog Award (coming to me from BabyBaby). I'm probably supposed to do something like tell everyone 7 things about me, but I can't remember what, so if you will forgive me, I shall just get on with dishing it out.

London City Mum

Not SuperMum

Mud in the City

Lost in Translation

Mid-Atlantic English

OMG I'm Pregnant

Half Mum Half Biscuit

Muddling Along Mummy

Mummadeede aka Dee Parrot (who deserves a special mention for being the British Mummy Bloggers 500th member!)

Next up is one for the Dads out there. Again, I'm supposed to do something but can't remember what so I'm just going to get on with dishing it out the Honest (s)crap award, which was awarded to me by Half Mum Half Biscuit who has sensibly gone on holiday. I've noticed that the Dads don't tend to do this award thing much, so am issuing a vague challenge to them to actually pass it on. To someone that doesn't already have it (and that, my father friends is a serious challenge indeed).

Life and Times of a House Husband

Single Parent Dad

All That Comes With It

Bringing Up Charlie


Finally, and I have to say I'm impressed if you are still with me, I'm starting to lose the will to live, we have the MeMeMeMe award, from Maternal Tales and from Muddling Along Mummy. I do have to do something for this (curses).

I need to list 7 things about me. See my cunning plan in leaving this until last, I figure that noone will still actually be reading, so I'm not really revealing anything.

1. I have no patience. None at all. This can make parenting difficult.

2. About the only household chore I ever get under control is washing. The rest of it is a disaster. But we do always have clean clothes to wear.

3. I totally and utterly adore my boys, even though they drive me demented on a regular basis.

4. I'm doing a PhD on football and reconciliation in post-conflict societies.

5. I once trained with the Sierra Leonean National Sprint team. I am the slowest runner that you (or anyone else you know) knows. They lapped me many times and I never got asked back.

6. I might be a slow runner, but I can keep going. 2 marathons later I can agree with my Dad's advice - let those greyhounds go out fast, by the 15th mile you'll be winding them back in. So true.

7. I need to start earning some money again soon to feed my TOAST sale addiction.

Ok, this is to go to 7 bloggers whose only connecting feature is that they are great and they deserve all the awards that they get.

Gaelikka: Out of Ireland and into India

Home Mum of 2 (or 3 if you count their Dad)

Being a Mummy

Who's the Mummy

Another Day in the MadHouse

Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy?

A Modern Mother

Ok - that is it. Well, it might not be as I've also been tagged a load, but I'm losing the will to live. Feel free to use a different award if you've already got the one I've tagged you for. I'm off to have a strong coffee and sit outside for 5 minutes to recover.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

BBC World Service Analysis: Bosnia's Future

The BBC World Service has just aired a good analysis on the situation in Bosnia at the moment. It's fairly short, just 10 minutes, and well worth a listen if you get the chance.

World Service: Bosnia's Future

Friday, 14 August 2009

Moonshine machines

September is fast approaching, and around here that means the plums are ready to fall off the trees and the time to make the local rakija is upon us. Slivovica (or plum brandy to the uninitiated) is part of the staple diet of Bosnians, coming out at any gathering or event. You can buy it in shops, but that is shunned in favour of the homemade stuff. The making of it is an event in itself, lots of people get together to eat and drink and look forward to drinking the rest of the gallons of it throughout the year. We, the unBosnian Brits, might get through a litre in the year (and secretly use most of the stuff we've been given to get the ticks off the dog). The Bosnian party could get through that in a night.

We were chatting with some friends the other night, arranging our annual sliva fix. The men were animated, discussing the best way to ensure the purest brew. Dave offered to bring along his homebrew ale, but they waved it away - a kit? you just add water? It is like orange squash! - it appears they are only interested if he was to be picking the hops himself. Dave retreated to lick his wounded manly pride, muttering darkly about the difficulties of the art of homebrew.

Anyhow, during the course of the conversation we discovered what the Bosnian word for the still, the moonshine maker, the contraption that permits them to make the brandy is. Literally translated it means Happy Machine.


Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Holidays at home

Tuzla is miles away from any beaches. It takes us about 9 hours to drive to the nearest stretch of coast, which is admittedly the exceptionally lovely Croatian coast, but by any counts, it is a long way to go for a swim.

That doesn't mean we have to go without our saltwater fix. Tuzla gets its name from its salt mines, although many of them are now caving in and leading to some interesting subsidence in the centre of the city. A couple of years ago, the mayor took the inspired decision to fill a few of the disused ones in and turn them into a salt water lake. This proved to be a runaway success and there are now 2 salt water lakes, a couple of waterfalls and pools and, a whole beach. There is beach volleyball, a whole load of cafes, exercise machines, trampolines and a real holiday atmosphere. It is also situated in the centre of town right opposite Dave's office.

We're making the most of it. On a nice day, we swing by Dave's office just after 5, pick him up, plaster on the sunscreen, get out the armbands and get in the water. Nothing is guaranteed to get us in the holiday mood faster. It's almost like living on the beach in California. Except you can see the Orthodox church just over the road, hear the bells ringing from the Catholic cathedral just a little further away and catch the call to prayer from the myriad of smaller mosques dotted about the city whilst watching everyone tucking into their beers and parading in the most glamorous swimwear. Only in Tuzla.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Games to play on Bosnian road trips

For various reasons we do quite a lot of driving around Bosnia. So, although we live in Tuzla, which is in the Federation part of Bosnia (the Bosnian Muslim and Croat bit), we do spend quite a lot of time driving around the Serb part of Bosnia, the Republika Srpska (almost always known as the RS).

This doesn't usually entail any problems. It is still a part of the same country. The cars all have the same licence plates, the money is the same, the language is the same (bar the odd semantic difference about whether you are speaking Bosnian or Serbian, but for us to be able to notice the differences between the languages would need us to speak it a whole lot better than we do). The police forces are different but by in large they can't face dealing with the English driver so both forces tend to leave us alone.

By far the biggest difference for us, is the script in which the road signs are written. The Federation operates in the Latin script. The letters all look like what we're used to. We might not have a clue what the signs mean, but at least we can have a decent stab at what the word actually is. In the RS the signposts are in Cyrillic. Not only do we not know what they are saying but we can't even read them. I get sudden bursts of sympathy for my boys starting out on learning to read. Now I know how they feel, a maze of symbols which mean absolutely nothing to me.

We are not totally clueless though. We know for example that a sign that says 'CapajeBo' equates to Sarajevo. A building with 'pectopar' written on it is a restaurant. This gives us a certain number of letters from which we can start to construct the word.

So, as we drive along we tend to have conversations that go something like this:

Driver: Where are we?

Map Reader: I don't know

D: There's a signpost - what does it say

MR: I don't know.

D: Get the map out.

MR: The map is in Latin, the signpost is in Cyrillic, I still don't know where we are.

D (stopping the car in front of the sign, often with an audible sigh and a form of well if you could mapread properly in the first place you would know where we are anyway): Ok, there are 8 letters.

MR: Alright, do we know any of them?

D: Blank, S, Blank, Blank, R, A, Blank, Blank, Blank.

MR (hunting frantically on the map for any name that might fit the bill) er, not sure, can't quite see anything that fits, is there a Z anywhere?(we know what Z looks like too, it is a back to front 3)

D: No Z

MR: How about a C?

D: I don't know what a C looks like.

MR: Well do you think the last 3 letters could be VIC?

D: Dunno. Probably.

MR: Oo, oo, I think I can see where we are. Oh no, sorry, that town only has 6 letters. Are you sure that it is 8 letters? Is there a D?

D (by this point the driver is usually getting quite irate and there have been a couple of cars tooting us as they pass us): Yes it is still 8 letters. No, no Ds. I don't know if there's a D. Maybe there is a D. Anyway you've had enough guesses, that's hangman, you lose, it's your turn to drive.

And off we go, only for the whole process to be repeated at the next signpost or town, whichever appears first.

We've been places and we still don't have a clue where. We spent an entire afternoon once driving around the area to the East of Sarajevo and were in quite a big town and to this day we don't know where we actually were. We have now decided to take action and are developing our own crib sheet, one with all the letters on, to help us. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that we'll still be playing our own Bosnian version of hangman most times we go out for a drive.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Dear So and So, Bosnian version

Having found writing the postcards to my family the other week to be a most enjoyable post, I decided to take on Kat's challenge and write a Dear So and So post; postcards to all those people who need to be told something.

Dear Bosnians,

You can be a Bosnian and a non-smoker. The two categories are not mutually exclusive.

Yours, gasping for air,
Fraught Mummy

Dear Bosnian tradesmen,

The key to a good job lies in the detail. For example, putting in a power socket is a good thing. Plumbing a hot water pipe directly in front of it is not so clever.

Wearily yours,

Dear Bosnian Kitchen Fitter who fitted our kitchen,

The drainage board is there to permit the water from drying utensils to drain away (the clue is in the name). In order to do this it requires somewhere to go. When you decided to cut short your job by half an hour and chose to not plumb in the pipe that goes from the drainage plughole to the water outlet thing and decided to superglue the whole thing shut, it sort of ruined the whole drainage board idea.

Yours and getting pretty grumpy about constantly having to slosh out the water from the sink,


Dear Sarajevo,

You're getting a multi-screen cinema? With online booking? We might have to move.

I'm buying the popcorn in preparation,

Dear Tuzla,

You do not have a cinema. You have a cultural centre that occasionally (and I mean occasionally) shows films. The other place you insist is a cinema has been shut for over a year. How about following Sarajevo's lead?

I'd like to be buying popcorn in preparation but am not holding my breath,

Dear Bosnian pedestrians,

You are the bottom of the pile in the street hierarchy. I can only admire your confidence in wandering out into the road without looking at all, before ambling along in front of my car.

Hoping you have a long and happy life,


Dear Bosnian Drivers,

I'm English. When I see people on the pedestrian crossings I stop. I can't help it, it's in my genes. I appreciate this constitutes as dangerous driving here. I am dong my best to curtail this impulse.


Dear Bosnian Drivers,

Please stop honking me at traffic lights. I can't go before the light turns green. I also can't go when there are people crossing the road in front of me. I'm not traffic light telepathic either, I don't know when they are going to change.

Yours, in a fluster,

Dear Bosnian Drivers,

Thank you for flashing your lights to indicate a police check ahead. I appreciate this very much. Long may this tradition last.

Blowing you all kisses of appreciation,


Dear Bosnian Grannys,

When the boys eat a whole lot of chocolate they WILL go a bit hyper, run around, shout loudly and behave appallingly. This is why I don't give them chocolate very often. If you really want to give them chocolate then please do, but only a little bit. And if I say that's enough, please don't give them any more. If you ignore me and continue handing it over, please don't be surprised if they break things in your house or if Adam is sick. Just saying.

Yours, trying not to be a killjoy but also wanting an easier life,


Dear Bosnian hosts,

I have never seen so much food. I've eaten so much I really do think that I will never be able to eat again. Please don't be offended that I've turned down 4th helpings. The food is delicious, I simply can't eat any more.

Yours, many pounds heavier than I was earlier,


Dear Bosnian women,

How on earth do you manage to turn out such enormous feasts with such a small amount of workspace in your kitchens?

Deeply impressed,


Dear Bosnian women,

How on earth do you manage to do all the washing up on little or no hot water?

In awe,


Dear Bosnians,

What is the obsession with sofa beds? I get it for when they are in the sitting room. But in your bedrooms as well?

Sitting uncomfortably,


Dear Bosnians,

If you get real beds then you can also invest in fitted sheets. Fitted sheets are a good thing. I miss fitted sheets a lot. I feel you will embrace them too.

In a right old tangle,


Dear Pedestrians,

Do they teach you to always gather in places where it will cause the most amount of trouble? When you stop at the top of the escalators no one else can get off with out piling into you. Keep on moving.

Grumpily yours,


Dear young and supremely glamorous Bosnian girls,

I didn't know it was possible to get into jeans that tight. Nor did I know that hotpants were made that short. Nor did I think it was possible for so many long legged beauties to gather together outside of a Milan fashion show. I feel most dowdy beside you.

Yours, without make up and with no hairdryer,


I could go on forever here, but feel this is enough for right now. Other Bosnian residents, anything else fundamental that I've missed that you'd like to add?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

No Domestic Goddess

So it turns out that the thing that I thought was a part of a coffee machine (and spent fairly considerable lengths of time in trying to locate the rest of it so I could increase my already high caffeine intake) is, in fact, a part of the vacuum cleaner.

I'm going to gloss over the fact that I wasn't too worried about not having a hoover.

Having now got one (but still missing a good coffee maker) I gave it to the boys and let them lose in the car. I feel we had a constructive afternoon; the car is no longer a health hazard and the boys have a new love. Long may it last.

While I'm at it, the latest British Mummy Bloggers Carnival is up at NixdMinx, get over there!

And if I'm in a bossy mode and telling you to go places (just be pleased I haven't waved a hoover in your face), have a look at the Great Toy Guide for reviews of toys written by real Mums having actually let their children lose at them. We contribute occasionally, and, you can be assured, my boys can give the toys a real testing.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Of scooting, whinging and blogging

Apparently us 'Mummy Bloggers' have lots of influence. Obviously not in this house, where I have the influence of a sponge pudding, but online where our readers (all 3 of them, hello Mum) have come to know us, laugh with us and trust us. So if we endorse a product this, apparently, carries a lot of weight with our followers.

Now, I'm not so sure about all of this. I mean all 3 of my readers are probably just a tad bored of a lunchbreak and wanting a hopefully diverting moment reading about another cultural faux pas in a land far away. But, I was listed at No. 41 in the Top 100 British Parent Bloggers in July (thank you, thank you) which in theory means that someone is listening to what I'm saying. Obviously not in this household as noone listens to a word I say, but you lot, out there in the ether.

So, I'm going to take this opportunity to have a whinge. A whinge that I have perfected having been taking lessons from my 4 year old, and, trust me, that is a whinge worth having. And I am hopeful that the target of this whinge will pay attention.
When we were back in the UK in May we bought the boys some scooters. Luke, at 2 1/2 received the Mini Micro T Bar scooter which, if I can get the technology right should be pictured below.

I love this scooter. I kiss the ground on which this scooter wheels. Lukey loves this scooter. He, of the front row rugby prop forward frame, will extend his pudgy little toddler leg in a beautiful arabesque with a pointed toe as he glides around town. He flies along and he loves it. Words do not rate this scooter too highly. We all love it.

Adam was bought the Micro Lite scooter. This one is a 2 wheeler and chosen because it is light and easy to carry (vital for me, who usually ends up at some point carrying 2 scooters, holding onto a dog who is also trying to get into other peoples picnics and make sure both toddlers are moving forward in the same direction whilst having a conversation about the bathing habits of the bird just over there). It was also chosen because it was recommended to us by the store. So, the store put it together and Adam fell in love. He is great on the 2 wheeler. He effortlessly slaloms down the path, elegantly zipping past walkers and gliding serenely through the park. Yes, Adam loves his scooter.

We, however, do not. The nuts and bolts keep working lose and on several occasions have disappeared all together. Bear in mind that the official stockist store put it together. Also bear in mind that when the nut holding the handlebars to the bottom bit is gone the whole scooter can completely collapse at any moment. When we returned to the stockist and called the company that sells them, they replied that we hadn't put it together properly. The stockist said that she had. She also said that this was the 5th or so in the past couple of days that had come back with the same problem. We bought some more nuts and tried again. Same result. Nuts worked lose, scooter was an accident waiting to happen.

Eventually we got fed up and made our own solution to the problem which is working (I love the fact that Dave is good at DIY!). So we carried on, scooting, slaloming and enjoying ourselves. Next up, the handlebars and the wheels got out of synchronization. So when Adam had the handlebars pointing straight on, the scooter went left. We fixed it. It broke again. We fixed it, again it broke. We took it apart good and proper and used all manner of tricks to fix it again. So far it has held.

Now my complaint is that at £45 these scooters are not cheap. There are many similar out there that are a lot cheaper. So far we have owned it for 3 months and have had to fix it ourselves at least 6 times. The faults have been fairly serious and could have easily, so easily, led to a bad accident. But, when we call to say the thing is falling apart, I honestly expect the company involved to be a bit more constructive than 'you didn't put it together properly' particularly when so many others are having the same problem. So, whatever you do, buy the mini micro t-bar scooter, whatever else you do DO NOT buy the Micro Lite.
Whinge over. I'm not sure anyone is still listening. Ah well, did my best. Also did my best with the formatting of this post which has gone to pot once I put the images in. Sorry! I have been trying to sort it but am now bored and am off to do something more constructive than play around with blogger.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Building Roads and Driving Trains

Can life get more heavenly if you are male and under 5? All week the road outside our house has been being bulldozed, dug-up, squashed, stones added, flattened, tarmacked and smoothed. Gone are the disintegrating cobbles with their irritating potholes and dustpatches and in its place has appeared is a sleek, smooth road. Enormous machines have been working hard all week to complete their tasks.

We, on the other hand, have not been working hard at all. Instead we grabbed a sandwich and a couple of packs of Smokis and have spent large amounts of time in the afternoons camped out under a tree watching the action. Armed with a Richard Scary book that talks about making a road, we've watched the whole process from start to finish.

By the end of the week not only were we providing most of the workmen with coffees (I tried to give them a decent cup of tea but they were having none of it), but the boys had been invited up onto a few of the machines to have a go. They pressed buttons, they moved the steering wheel. They even got a decent go at the beeping the horn until I couldn't take it any longer. Needless to say, they were thrilled, absolutely eye poppingly, grin until your head might split in two thrilled. The chance to drive a real digger, help build a real road. What a treat.

Now they've finished I've had to come up with some new afternoon activities. So yesterday we shambled down to the train tracks to pick some blackberries and coincided with the arrival of the only train of the afternoon. Within minutes the engine driver had hopped down and the next thing I knew the boys were being shown how to drive the train. There are times that I love the less than strict enforcement of the health and safety laws here which gives little boys a chance to do stuff they could only dream of.

They've now decided that they would like to try being astronauts next so if I could just find where the local space programme is then we could go and have a go next week.