Friday, 29 January 2010

Dear So and So: Bosnian Edition Part VIII

I've been sharpening my pencil over the past couple of weeks and I've got plenty to say. So here are the postcards that I wish to write to all and sundry.


Dear Next Door Neighbour,

We have repeatedly asked you not to feed our dog. She gets fed enough at home and doesn't need any more. But as you insist on doing so, we can't take responsibility for the fact that she now has now learnt that if she sits outside your window and barks she will get more food. Stop feeding her, she'll stop barking.

Yours, hoping to not have to put the dog on another diet,
Fraught Mummy

PS - that pink shirt and shoes combo are a striking look.


Dear Bank, Car Importers, various municipality officials and anyone else who requires a stamped piece of paper,

I can't even start this postcard. I'm thumping my head on my keyboard and crying with frustration. Surely it can't be this time consuming? There must be an easier way!

Yours, as cross as ever,


Dear Slana Banja,

As ever, the ice rink is looking great. Now the snow has finally arrived it looks like something out of a movie. We're looking forward to a bit of a skate this weekend.

Thanks for putting it together,
FM x


Dear Nursery,

I'm totally LOVING the idea of an ice-skating week. So is Adam. It is genius. I think the British education is missing a trick. When you are 4, it is far more enjoyable to spend the mornings learning how to skate than doing writing drills.

FM x


Dear operators of the lung x-ray machine in the Dom Zdravija

My friend and I were wondering... do you have to recalibrate the machine to take into account the black layer of coal dust and general winter grime that must coat the lungs of every Tuzla resident?

Hack hack


Dear hacking cough that is sitting in my lungs,

Enough already. You've been here for quite long enough. I'm not a smoker, I don't deserve to sound like a 60 a day one. Now go away.

Yours, overdosing on the cough mixture,


Dear other neighbour,

I know that you lift up a part of the fence, push your dog into our garden, wait for him to do his business before calling him back out. I've seen you do it. It is disgusting. It is also something that you are embarrassed about because every time you see me you look shifty. Can you take you dog to the green area over the road, and, novel concept here, could you pick up his poo when he is done? It's called responsible dog ownership.

Yours, fed up beyond belief of picking up the poo of dogs that I don't own from our garden,


Dear boys,

Um, this wrestling phase? How long is it going to go on for? A friend of mine who is one of two boys says it could last about a decade, maybe longer. Can I suggest that that might be a bit long for me? At the very least, could we learn that Mummy doesn't do wrestling? Or pretty much any other female come to think of it.

Your more into the hugging and kissing,
Mummy xx


Dear Tuzla municipality authorities,

Tuzla is situated on top of a salt mine. There is no way you can ever run out of grit to salt the roads. It is an impossibility. So could you get on with gritting the roads, we're slip sliding all over the place here.

NaCl-ly yours,


Dear self,

The Bosnians are bought up to drink coffee. They don't react to the massive caffeine dose in the same way that your poor, unaccustomed body does. So, they can drink coffee in the evening and still go to sleep. If you drink coffee with everyone else you will be awake all night. It is not as if there aren't a wide range of teas available, and you do know that the rosehip tea is lovely.

How many times do we have to go through this before you learn?


Dear EUFOR (the European military forces in Bosnian)

I was feeling pretty safe in Bosnia. Right up until the point that you plastered the city with posters saying Bosna je sigurnan (Bosnia is Safe/Secure). You see, if you are feeling the need to tell me that Bosnia is safe, then I'm immediately concerned. Countries that are safe don't need to say it.

Yours, wondering if you should be rethinking this poster campaign,


NB: I know that quite a few of the Bosnian words here aren't spelt correctly, any Bosnian readers please put me right.

Fancy a go? Head on over the 3 BedRoom Bungalow in Crazy Town and make sure you add your name to the list so we can come and read them.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Could It Happen Again?

January 27th is the World Holocaust Memorial Day, a day on which we are asked to take the time to reflect on what can happen if racism, prejudice and exclusionary behaviour are left unchecked and unchallenged. Whilst the Holocaust is a specific event tied to Nazi persecution during World War 2, the organisers also ask that we take a moment to remember the victims of subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia as well as the ongoing atrocities in Darfur.

The events in Srebrenica will never fail to shock, particularly if a human face is put to the suffering. I came across this video by the Bosnian HipHop artist, Genocide, on the Srebrenica Genocide Blog. As a young boy Jusuf had to leave his home town of Zvornik, some 45 minutes from Srebrenica, having watched the previously multi-ethnic city filled with mosques and churches be cleansed of the entire Bosnian Muslim population. He became a refugee and today lives in New Zealand. He has given permission for his song to be downloaded for free in order that he can help keep the message about this genocide current in the worlds memory. It is an excellent song in its own right and well worth a listen. Please do so, and in that time spare a thought for those killed and those who remain, so affected, so destroyed.

(further testimonies from Srebrenica survivors and those who were involved in the events of July 1995 were collected and published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and can be viewed on the Srebrenica Genocide Blog here)

Monday, 25 January 2010

There are toys and then there are toys

One of the blogs that I always enjoy reading is Big Beluga Baby. Gail is a mum of 3 (soon to be 4) living in Almaty in Kazakhstan. She came back to the UK recently to await the birth of her baby and has been writing some brilliant posts about coming back to England from somewhere like Kazakhstan. One that I enjoyed the most recently was about the levels of health and safety in the UK, particularly regarding toys (and do go and have a read of it here as it is worth it).

It wasn't until we came to Bosnia that I realised how good the quality of the toys are in the UK. For all the warnings about small parts being a choking hazard or toys being flammable, fundamentally the toys are good, won't fall apart immediately and there is a strong legal system which prevents dodgy toys from being widely distributed.

The situation isn't like that here. There are obviously toy shops that sell excellent toys with well known brands easily available. But Lego is expensive at the best of times, add the Bosnian import taxes to that price and it becomes eye wateringly expensive. The average Bosnian income is some 800KM (£300) a month; you can see that most people actually can't afford to buy this type of toy.

So there are the other toy shops, which sell cheaper stuff, but of dubious quality (at best) and often downright dangerous. It makes me so cross, it sometimes seems that there is some big toy maker out there looking at the toys they have in their stock room that are either rubbish or wouldn't pass the health and safety guidelines of the EU and wondering what to do with them. I wonder if they look around and see Bosnia and think - I know what we'll do, we'll send them there, they'll never notice. I'm sure Bosnia has laws to ensure the standards of their toys, but am equally sure these can be easily bypassed. What really gets my goat though is that those Bosnians who can't afford to buy the quality stuff have to buy the substandard toys and that just isn't right. You shouldn't have to be made to buy safety in toys.

To give you an idea of the what I'm talking about I did a quick inventory of the new toys that have entered the household since Christmas to highlight how the toys are dangerous or simply just aren't fit for purpose. It might be helpful to add that at this point, not even a month after Christmas and a mere 3 DAYS after Luke's birthday, not a single present remains fully intact.

1. Electrical Car - present for Luke's birthday on Thursday, already broken. Wires hanging out and circuit board clearly visible.

2. Ben Ten Gun (this is Bosnia, all small boys are given guns, English middle class sensibilities notwithstanding). A laser like light which would definitely damage an eye - so strong that we can see its light on the wall of a house a good 30m away.

(yes, that light on the wall has been through a balloon and is still that concentrated, scary huh?)

3. A train set (interestingly marketed as a Ben Ten train set but clearly Ben Ten actually has nothing to with it apart from being plastered all over the box). The train is only capable of moving on straight bits of track, such a shame that the only tracks that were supplied are curved.
4. Remote Controlled Car which requires batteries. Sadly, a bit of moulded plastic makes it impossible to open the battery compartment so the batteries cannot be put into the car.
5. A gun - (see what I mean about the gun thing?) and when the gun is fired sparks fly out of the gun. Not intentionally either.

6. Two Pirate ships, complete with pirates. They are such perfect replicas of a pirate ship that the keel has not been modified to take into account that it will be played with out of the water, and as such the boats cannot actually stand up on their own. This can, with patience, be sorted out with all forms of plasticine on the base which means the boat will stand up as long as you are gentle with it, not a hope in this household. Here's a picture of one of the boats, plasticine and all (and yes the delicate bit at the front of the boat has snapped off and has a nail sticking out of it).

(You are not dreaming. It really does say 'World Govt' on the sails of this pirate boat. Tickles me every time. Actually there is another sail on which it also says 'World Govt' but it has broken off and I couldn't make it stay on for the millisecond I needed to take the photo.)

By being able to implement strong health and safety laws means that the UK has safe toys. The rule of law isn't so strong in Bosnia, which leads to toy makers being able to dump unsafe and dangerous toys here. As usual, the people most affected are those who can't afford to make the choice to buy safety. Doesn't that just make you seethe?

(PS - for an idea of how toys should be made head over to the Great Toy Guide which has some great toy reviews - and these toys will be made properly and if they do collapse easily will be highlighted by their real life mummy reviewers).

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Thoughts on Aid

One of the best blogs about Bosnia is Tim Clancy's Pure Intent. Tim is the writer of the only Guide Book to Bosnia that I've ever seen, but more importantly is an environmentalist doing his best to keep the Bosnian politicians from destroying the country's most beautiful natural features and writes regular posts sharply criticising the political scene in this country.

But, following the events in Haiti he wrote a post which I found fascinating and am going to quote from here. (and Tim, if by any chance you are reading I hope you don't mind. I can't work out how to comment on your blog to ask permission, and I can't find an email address for you either, if you would rather that I didn't quote please get in touch and I'll take it down)

"Don't know if any of you are following CNN reports....but watch out for Karl Penhaul. On nema dlak na jezik. I love the man for it.

Working in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo over a span of eight years of war I learned some hard lessons. One of them....a hard one to swallow for me....was the utter lack of coordination and disgusting competitive flagwaving of the UN and the NGO's on the ground.

So many times it seemed as if planting the Unicef or Care or Save the Children flag was more important than helping the victims. The amount of time and resources that goes into PR & 'coordination meetings' often dwarfs that of quality time on the ground.

Karl was setting the record straight. Openly talking about the lack of coordination and fierce competition within the Haitian emergency response. Make no mistake, there are many exceptional people with an inspiring level of dedication and passion for helping others. It has, however, turned into a multi-billion dollar business of the years. And it is the most uncoordinated and unregulated business in the world.

I finally quit in protest after having to leave Kosovo after a death threat. But I must say that the whole business has left a bitter taste in my mouth. These feelings are experiencing a rebirth...knowing all too well how the Haiti situation is being handled.

I know its not easy working in those conditions. I know there is no magic wand. But we have been doing this for decades...and keep making the same unforgivable mistakes time and time again.

When will the humanitarian aid world finally clean its own house? Serious self reflection is in order...and has been for some time. Sadly, in the heat of the moment we often forget our purpose and fail to act with 'pure intent.' "

There's been some amazing fund raising efforts going on and the amount of money raised to help the Haitians is astounding. But it is helpful to examine the role of the aid agencies. Undoubtedly they are doing a difficult job in extremely difficult circumstances, but that doesn't mean that all the aid is being used in a useful fashion.

I've not been in a humanitarian situation, but I have spent time in countries that have recently required the intervention of aid agencies, and I totally agree with much of what Tim says. Humanitarian Aid is an industry and there is fierce competition between the different agencies. The flag waving is quite literal, any programmes are well advertised. You know which agency is where. Even today, 15 years after the end of the conflict here in Bosnia, there is a sign (in English) advertising which agency was involved in rebuilding 15 houses in my neighbourhood. It annoys me everyday.

The UN agency, OCHA (Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs) is supposed to coordinate the agencies to ensure that they don't replicate their work, tackle the most pressing issues first, are spread through the country and operate to a certain standard) but they are often criticised for not taking a proactive enough role. With the infrastructure of Haiti non-existent, this organisation has a particularly vital role to play. But it isn't as simple as that, being the UN it will be vulnerable to all the political shenanigans that usually accompany any UN activity.

Aid in this situation quickly becomes a commodity. Those who control the aid have power. Those who control access to the aid have power. These people may not be the ones you want to be in control and having power. The conflict in Bosnia was characterised by the profiteers, people who were able to obtain aid packages and then sell them on at hugely inflated prices. Many of these people remain on the shady side of the law today, contributing to the gun/drugs/human trafficking that occurs which continues to destabilise Bosnia and skew its economic development.

Good aid agencies operate to SPHERE standards which mandate that agencies think through carefully the way in which they operate to ensure that their activities do not contribute to the problems Haiti is facing. As Tim says, it is unthinkable really that such a large industry could be so unregulated, uncontrolled and uncoordinated. I will join his call to those on the ground to keep their original intentions to the fore of their actions, and to think clearly about the way in which their aid can impact Haiti's future. And then, when the immediate issues of this emergency are over, to really think about how this industry can be streamlined and coordinated, so that the money it controls is most effectively used to help those who really need it.

(PS - if anyone is interested in any of Karl Penhaul's reports for CNN, they can still be watched here. I'm not usually a CNN fan, but Karl Penhaul is brilliant)

Monday, 18 January 2010


There were all sorts of things I was going to post about today, but I've just got a bit of the January blahs. But a very random blogging connection made through Mother's Ruin introduced me to Henry Dingle's song January, and I'm loving it: have a listen.

Isn't it great? Really hitting the spot for me today. If you want to hear more of his music there are a few tracks to listen to here, his debut album 'The Boy who Never Learned' is coming out soon.

Now if I can just put off going out into the sleet, mud and general January misery for a bit longer...

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Bloggers for Haiti

There is very little more that can be said about the awful situation in Haiti, but to encourage anyone who is thinking of donating to please do so (The Disasters and Emergency Committee is a good place to start, they are an umbrella organisation for 13 of the best known and most able humanitarian agencies from the UK).

If you want to donate for something more specific then please consider contributing towards a shelter box at the Bloggers for Haiti Just Giving Page. Even just a small amounts helps, for added together it all quickly adds up. Set up only yesterday this page has already raised enough for over 3 shelter boxes (at £490 each).

More info:

At the heart of every ShelterBox is a ten-person tent. It is custom made for ShelterBox by Vango, one of the world’s leading tent manufacturers, and is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, high winds and heavy rainfall. Internally, each tent has privacy partitions that allow recipients to divide the space as they see fit.

A smile
Every box contains a children’s pack containing drawing books, crayons and pens. For children who have lostmost, if not all,their possessions, these small gifts are treasured.

Warmth and protection
In addition to the tent, the boxes contain a range of other survival equipment including thermal blankets and insulated ground sheets, essential in areas where temperatures plummet at nightfall. Where malaria is prevalent mosquito nets are supplied, as well a life saving means of water purification. Water supplies often become contaminated after a major disaster, as infrastructure and sanitation systems are destroyed, this presents a secondary but no less dangerous threat to survivors than the initial disaster itself.

Self sufficiency
A basic tool kit containing a hammer, axe, saw, trenching shovel, hoe head, pliers and wire cutters can be found in every box. These items enable people to improve their immediate environment, by chopping firewood or digging a latrine, for example. Then, when it is possible, to start repairing or rebuilding the home they were forced to leave.

Fit for purpose
Every item is durable, practical and brand new. The box itself is lightweight and waterproof and has been used for a variety of purposes in the past - from water and food storage containers to a cot for a newly born baby.

A heart to the home
A key piece in every box is either a wood burning or multi-fuel stove - that can burn anything from diesel to old paint. This provides the heart of the new home where water is boiled, food is cooked and families congregate. In addition, there are pans, utensils, bowls, mugs and water storage containers.

We keep a broad range of equipment in stock so we can adapt the contents of a box to a specific disaster. For example, following the Javanese earthquake in 2006, when some resources were available locally or could be salvaged fromone storey buildings, the overwhelming need was for shelter – so we just sent tents, packing two in each box.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Homeward Bound

Everything has changed now we've made the decision to move back to the UK. Having resisted talking about England as being home, we now talk endlessly about when we go home, being back at home, what it is like at home, what we miss about home. Just making the decision to leave has changed us, from being a part of the country, its cultures and people to being outsiders.

I'm not sure whether it is because of this but suddenly Bosnia is really starting to get on my nerves. Those little niggles of life that irritate are now really winding me up. The on-going bureaucracy and trips to various ministries, handing over the same piece of paper with ever increasing fees is driving us even more demented than usual. I'm sure that the UK has its own labyrinthine bureaucracy for those who aren't UK citizens, but we are so we don't have to experience it. I'm fed up with coming across lost, forlorn stray puppies and dogs all over town. The broken glass in the parks which is just perfect for shredding a dogs paw takes away an awful lot of the enjoyment of going for a walk. The idiots who dump rubbish, car loads of the stuff, in the woods and forests around Tuzla also spoil the afternoon (not to mention the damage that is being done to the environment which will have to be a whole other post). The lack of things to do with children indoors during the winter is stressing me, combined with the fact that the only decent playground in the whole city appears to be permanently shut, and is patrolled by a particularly jobsworth man who won't even let you sneak in to have a swing. Always having to always have large amounts of cash around, because that is usually the only way to pay for anything, whether it be rent, bills, nursery fees, everything is also feeling debilitating, I'd like just to pay by card please. When we arrived we were so positive about Bosnia, so full of enthusiasm for this vibrant country, but suddenly we're feeling ground down by it.

Obviously England is taking on an image of perfection which is going to be cruelly shattered the minute we get back. In the meantime, I am off to try and locate the bits of Bosnia that we love to jolt myself out of this fug of bah humbug and winter blues.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Stories and Songs Meme

I absolutely love hearing the stories behind the songs that people love; the places it reminds them of, that moment in time that that song will forever bring to life for them. Obviously I have more than a mild obsession with Desert Island Discs and the Inheritance Tracks that they do on Saturday mornings on Radio 4 but I also harbour a secret dream that for my 40th birthday (years to go, people, note the plural) my Mum and Dad will do their own Desert Island Discs for me. I long to hear of the songs that they love, why they love them and what they remind them of and to have those moments bought to life for me.

Anyway, here I am in a blogging blah and needing inspiration. So I thought I'd start a meme. If Tara can goes the reasoning... What I'm after is a song that reminds you of something, that has a story for you. Not necessarily your favourite song or a even a song that you love, but a song that instantly takes you back to that time and place.

To start the ball rolling, I'll show you what I mean:

The year: 2004.

Dave and I were moving back to England from Bosnia, driving back across Europe with our worldly belongings stuffed into the back of our little Renault Clio (this being the pre children era we could get away with a small car). It was April, but still cold. We'd been camping all the way along the coast of Croatia, and had been rained on constantly. The previous night in a campsite across the water from Korcula, we'd put the tent up in a howling gale and Dave had insisted upon cooking dinner on the campstove. I'd been up for a local pizza, but camping mush it had been. The next morning everything was wet. Everything. Tent. Sleeping bags. clothes. The duvet was starting to smell damp and distinctly unpleasant and the car had that musty smell mixed with wet garlic and onions. It was cold. It was chucking it down with rain.

We packed up and set off on our drive in the pouring rain again. About 10.30 I ventured that I would quite like a coffee please. Dave, who well knows what happens if I don't get some caffeine early in the day, concurred and immediately turned the car right. I was impressed. The man obviously knew where a coffee place was. It wasn't looking promising, the Croatian inland was looking pretty bombed out and not like there would be a suitably marvellous coffee place, with sofas, fresh coffee, papers. You know the kind of place I was thinking of. But he had confidence so I believed.

Oh, foolish, foolish girl. We pulled over beside a wall on a very exposed hillside and Dave leapt out, lighting his trusty camping gas stove. The rain was sleeting down, the wind was howling, but that was not to deter him, out came the gas stove windbreak to ensure the flame didn't go out. The water duly boiled and a cup of instant coffee (with powdered milk for good measure) appeared just as a single lonely ray of sunshine hit the car. There was really only one song that could be the soundtrack for that moment and Dave started to sing it. Those of you who remember the Maxwell House Advert in the 1980s will not be surprised to know it was Johnny Nash's - I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone.

We sang it the whole of the rest of the way from Croatia to Calais. I had to laugh, there was no other option even being the coffee and cafe snob that I am. As Dave said, I do remember this rather disgusting coffee for far longer and with much more fondness than any other cappuccino in any other Croatian cafe.

I married the man for a reason. His addiction to the windbreak for his calor gas stove.

I know there are a few memes going around out there at the moment. But I'd love to read the other stories people have behind some of their favourite songs. Hopefully one or two of this lot, my very favourite bloggers, are not too memed out and have the inclination to take it on and then pass on to a couple of others.

Fanciful Alice
Insomoniac Mummy
Diapers and Dragons
A Modern Mother

Sticky Fingers
Nappy Valley Girl
Not Wrong Just Different

Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em

Not Supermum
Paradise Lost in Translation
You've Got Your Hands Full
Home Mum of 2 (3 if you count their Dad!)
Perfectly Happy Mum
Motherhood - the Final Frontier
Is there a Plan B?
Moaning Mum
Angels & Urchins
The MadHouse

I keep thinking of more people to add but the list is getting out of control. If you fancy taking on the meme then consider yourself tagged! Just leave me a comment so I can come and read your post.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Not clueless

English is a funny old language. There are so many phrases that are grammatically correct, but we just never say them.

Yesterday afternoon, I was musing over (ok, I was being dragged by the arm and being encouraged to think about) what had happened to the playmobile pirate's sword. The boys were looking for it and I was muttering darkly that I didn't have a clue what had happened to the sodding thing but it would be certain to turn up piercing my foot shortly. Luke stopped me in my tracks, excitement filling his little face.

'Mummy! I have a clue!'

Why do we not say that more often? Why do we never have a clue, but seldom have one? I think I prefer the toddler take on it. I shall be endeavouring to have a clue more often. It is much more fun that way.


Victoria, over at It's a Small World After All, is planning a round the world trip with her three children, they have just bought the tickets and everything. Getting into the swing of this travel thing, she is hosting a travelling with children carnival, complete with the horror stories of getting children from a to b with sanity far from intact, clothes vomited on and not enough time to go for a pee without small people opening the cubicle door. There are some brilliant reads, in an oh please let that not happen to me kind of way.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The Great Work Confidence Trick

An interesting opportunity has appeared. A chance to apply for some short term consultancy work that would be interesting, very useful on my CV, relevant to my own studies, fits into our time scale and pays pretty well. In fact that rare sort of job that ticks every single box.

In the pre-children era I would have been thrilled. I'd have been chomping at the bit, frothing with excitement and desperate to get the job. But today I'm not so gung ho. It would be full time for a few weeks, so the boys would have to go to nursery all day rather than just the mornings. It involves three weeks of being away from home Monday to Friday. Dave has said that he will do the childcare, I am indeed married to a saint, but it is a big ask from me - I'd not be all that happy if he trotted off for that length of time leaving me on my tod. I'd have to miss Luke's 3rd birthday and am having internal debates with myself whether it would be wrong to just move his birthday a few days so it falls on a Saturday rather than a Thursday.

These are all issues often faced by working mothers, and the to work not to work debate seldom seems out of the headlines. Kirsty Young's article in the Telegraph has attracted the most ire recently, but Liz at Living With Kids, Plan B, Blooming Marvelous and Used to be Somebody often muse about the issues of working vs not working and how to achieve some form of balance. It isn't my intention to add to that particular debate here.

What I do want to talk about is a slightly different issue. It's been five years or so since I had a job where someone paid me to do something for them. Since then I have been doing my own research for my studies, but that is all on my own time, effectively for myself and to my own deadlines (although my supervisor may choose to dispute that one). I could be quite flippant and talk about how I'm worried that if I worked in an office now I might try to send colleagues that disagree with me to the naughty step, or how I might hoist anyone foolish enough to raise two hands in the air at the same time onto my hip and wipe their nose for good measure. But the reality is that now I'm being confronted with the possibility that I might have someone paying me to complete some work, I'm scared. I don't know why. The job is well within my capacity. I can do it, not in my sleep for it is more interesting than that, but I have done very similar before. Somewhere in the past couple of years I have lost my confidence in myself outside my role of mother. If truth be known I don't have that much confidence in my role as mother either, but that is best left for a blog post another time.

Pre-babies I had a career. A good one, lots of repsonsibility and decision making. I have degrees (multiple) from excellent Universities. I am doing a PhD for Chrissake! I know that I am totally capable of doing a job. But I do know that most jobs are a confidence trick. Go into them thinking that you can do them and you usually can. Now my confidence is lost, abandoned somewhere between the odd nappy mountain and Annabel Karmel mush making and I am really worried that I won't be able to do a job worth doing anymore.

A big part of me is keen not to go for it, but to take away a warm fuzzy feeling of being asked to apply and then say thanks but no thanks. Childcare and birthdays missed aside, we have a lot to do before we leave in April, without me being pretty much absent for six weeks of that. It would be nice to really enjoy our last few months here, rather than have them whirl past in a manic haze of trying to stay on top of things. But the other part of me is going 'stop being such a wuss! Get your act together and apply for it! It is a fantastic opportunity for you, you won't get another like it'.

After quite a bit of faffing, I did apply for the job (they did ask me to after all). I should hear whether I get it next week. I feel like I'm waiting for the executioners axe to fall.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Favourite Photo of 2009 Meme

The boys on a beach in the Isle of Wight in May 2009. This photo has been my wallpaper on my computer for a long time and I love it because it is so indescribably English. It makes me think of going paddling in rock pools before heading back to the beach hut for tea and lemon cake. Which is exactly what we did.

I'm really sorry but I can't remember who tagged me for this meme but it started with that Tara from Sticky Fingers so blame her. I've also lost the blogging mojo today and can't find the energy to tag a load of other people to do it so if you fancy participating then consider yourself in.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Skiing in the French Alps vs. Skiing in Bosnia

Many of you may be unaware that Bosnia has some really great skiing. Olympic standard skiing in fact. Remember Torvill and Dean in a cloud of purple skating to gold medal success in that sea of perfect 6.0s in 1984? That Winter Olympics was in Sarajevo. There are 2 mountains within a 20 minute drive from the centre of Sarajevo that have some excellent skiing.

Having spent Christmas skiing in Sarajevo last year and New Years in the French Alps this year, I feel fairly qualified to judge the two. And as this is my blog and I can do what I want to, that is exactly what I am going to do.


Bosnia: Really very nice. Newly refurbished, all the mod cons, plenty of living space. Exactly what I'd expect on the French Alps. (Ledena Krajlica in Jahorina).

France: Well, ok I guess. Not sure if I expect more from French accommodation, but really it was quite cramped, nowhere near enough living space having crammed as many people as possible into the chalet. Lots of covered over bits (spare beds and mattresses piled into our room, that sort of thing). Kept running out of hot water. More what I'd expect on the Bosnian slopes if I'm being brutally honest.


France: Its the Alps. The skiing is amazing and extensive. Les Gets was good for beginners, with some small nursery slopes with small child friendly ropes to pull up slopes (even a not yet 3 year old Lukey managed this one). They also have a few 'magic carpets' to help save parents arms from dragging really quite heavy boys up the slopes.

Bosnia: Not as extensive, but still good. Jahorina also has a nursery slope with a rope lift to hold onto which small children can manage. Recommended that you stay on the slopes if you don't have a guide though, not all the mountains have been fully de-mined yet.

Ski Lifts

Bosnia - rumoured to be having a much needed update. Last time we went they were the old style 2 man, take out the back of your knees, no padding, freeze in the winds as you head up variety. Probably best described as character building.

France - someone told me that some of the French ski lifts are not only covered but are heated! The Bosnians would fall about in hysterical laughter at such levels of wussiness. Not in Les Gets though, but they are padded making it much more comfortable on bottoms and make for an easier getting on and off procedure.

Ski School Teachers

France: 'You want to be taught? By me? But no, I am here so you can follow my pert bottom down the slopes and zen I can look at you with disdain as you do not know how to ski. I might condescend to wave my hand at you to tell you zat was so so. You want actual instruction? Pah (complete with shrug). But come on, you have more admiring of me to do before the end of ze lesson.'

(actually I am being a bit mean. The ski school for the kids was brilliant, once the boys got into the idea of being left there for a morning they learnt a lot and loved it. I'm really talking about the schools for adults here).

Bosnia: Ski school is cheaper. You can afford one-on-one lessons with the lovely Dragan. This is much better for learning. Dragan's sister (a fully qualified nursery teacher) is also available for teaching small children. Don't know much about the group lessons but judging from the ability some of the groups we saw, put money on a Bosnian skiing star emerging in a few years time.

Apres Ski

I have small children. What do I know about Apres Ski? But, the French bars and restaurants all looked pretty great from the outside. The Bosnian ones have very funky cow hide covered benches and welcome kids. And serve homemade blueberry juice.

Celebrity Spotting

France: None that we noticed.

Bosnia: Paddy Ashdown (who is a really, really good skier) and the ex-Chelsea footballer, Mateja Kezman (I appreciate this may only be of interest if you are actually a member of my family but we found it exciting, although he wasn't that pleased to be reminded of his Chelsea days which were not what you might call covered with glory).

Either way, we have been spoilt. Skiing has proved to be a real hit with the small ones. Adam throws himself down the slopes and can't wait to get back onto skis. Luke, still with that toddler belief that everything will be alright and someone will catch him at the bottom, just stands there as his skis take him down the slope, and amazingly enough someone does always does. It's nice to be 2. Now, just to work out how to afford to take them again...

First carnival of the New Year is up over at A Modern Mother's and I strongly advise grabbing yourself a coffee and heading over there to see what the rest of the British Mummy and Daddy Bloggers have been up to over Christmas and New Year.

Monday, 4 January 2010

2 days, 6 countries, 1 car, 2 small boys, 850 miles and 1 secret to succesfully enduring the ordeal

We're back. The house is officially a catastrophe and buried under piles of laundry. The dog is furious with being left behind and sulking by the front door. The boys are back in nursery. I'm having my first proper (i.e. sludge at the bottom) coffee in weeks. And, finally, a chance to sneak back into the blogosphere whilst ignoring the colossal number of things that I should be doing to take a chance to wish every one a very Happy New Year.

We had ever such a lovely time. Christmas was filled with great food, good wine (so exciting), excited children and tipsy adults playing games very competitively. Perfect. The boys raced around with their cousins proving the bizarre theory that the more children there are, the less work it is. Secretly wonder whether we should have more children to try and reduce my workload before remembering the exception to the rule, which is that the other children must not be siblings. New Years was dominated by skiing, and having put the boys into French ski school in the mornings, Dave and I had plenty of opportunity to blow the cobwebs away racing each other down the slopes before chasing the boys all afternoon. Somewhat surprisingly, the boys took to skis like a duck to water and Adam was already heard to say to my Mum 'Come On! Catch Up!' as he pegged it down the nursery slope executing a couple of nifty turns on the way. It won't be long before we can't catch them at all.

We drove back last night. 6 countries in 2 days is not to be taken lightly. In no particular order they were

Switzerland: Used to Bosnian prices, Switzerland was quite a shock. We had bought with us a huge stash of Bosnian meat (which is excellent by the way!) which probably halved the cost of the holiday.

France: France. So lovely. So many cheeses to take home with us. Such a smell radiating out from the back of the car. Wonderful. We might have sneaked in a bottle or two of fine red wine and some champagne to offset the pain of going back to drinking Croatian Vranac (red) and Krstic (white) until we go home. Now we just have to decide whether to ration ourselves or to blow the lot in one evening of excess.

Italy: Italian drivers have made me rethink my assertion that Bosnian drivers are dangerous. The Italians take it to a whole new level.

Slovenia: Definite candidate for where we would like to live for when we embark on that dream of buying that old wreck in a spectacular setting to do up. European (in the Euro and everything, with really good motorways too), beautiful, skiing, lots of spectacular national parks, not much coast, but plenty of lakes. Kind of like the best bits of Bosnia without the pain. Yes, we like Slovenia.

Croatia: Sadly not the pretty coast bit, but the bit that goes across the top which is rather flat and not all that interesting.

Bosnia: Hitting Bosnia after spending 2 days driving at 120km/hr (80 mph) was like sticking the handbrake on. The motorways disappear. The top speed is 80km/hr (50 mph) but most of the time is spent at 60km (40mph) trying to avoid the plethora of traffic police out with their speed guns. Seriously, it must have been their New Years Resolution, they were everywhere.

And the secret to success? I've always been against them in a we didn't have them so why should they, it is good for them to get bored, we'll do so much else in the car without them kind of way. But, there is a big difference between a 3 hour drive and a 15 hour one. So, In Car DVD player with screen for each boy, I fall worshipping at your feet. For you kept them happy, not fighting (much), not hitting each other (much) and allowed us adults to do a couple of the 'what do you remember of the last decade quizzes'. It turns out that we don't remember all that much. That's what parenthood and sleep deprivation do for you.