Tag Archives: UK

The Great Escape

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When I left Israel at the end of July, I left  sirens and explosions, booms and rattling windows. Now I am back. The sirens have stopped, normal life resumes.
I lived in a bubble for 5 weeks, little or no news, only sporadic social media use, a promise to myself not to read the hate or get involved in the arguments about right and wrong in this age old, never ending fight.

Luckily my bubble was full of parental love, family support, old great friends, gin & tonic at 5.30pm and a bedtime of 11pm. Scattered liberally with picnics, chocolate biscuits, fish and chips, roast dinners and ice cream for the kids every single day. Yes it was a bubble but it was a great big happy bubble (with only a few meltdowns on everyone’s behalf – myself included).

 
IMG_2804I re-discovered a friendship, watched as my kid’s started to converse with one another in English and kept busy, really really busy. As I look back I am amazed by the many incredible experiences my childers had. I could write a guide book to keeping small children amused in Cheshire. Bruntwood Park, Lyme Park, Tatton Park, Torkington Park, Bramhall Park. Styal Mill, Walk Mill, not one but two country shows complete with fairground rides and a pony ride. One trip to North Wales to visit relatives and crab off the jetty, a trout fishing expedition resulting in fresh trout for dinner and a ride on a steam train. A hideous trip to Legoland Discovery (the kids loved it), a walk IMG_2876around Salford Quays, a visit to Jodrell Bank and the Manchester Science Museum and number one son went on a night time bat walk (there are more bats in our garden than he saw). Phew. Where did we find the time? And that’s before we mention the camping trip where they pedalloed and kayaked and slept under stormy canvas, over excitement with the cousins, treasure hunts in the garden after tea, building woodland dens and damning streams.

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All this under the shadow of the situation back home that only the adults were aware of.
This wasn’t real life. It was a holiday, an extra long, extra fun holiday – perhaps I was over compensating for my perceived notion of their fear back home. In reality they had no fear, they don’t understand and even when number 1 son saw a rocket being exploded above his head a day before we flew it was my hands that were shaking, not his. His words, ‘why is it a real rocket?’

The coming back is hard.  Coming back is always hard from any holiday – who doesn’t want to escape reality for a prolonged period? The goodbyes are getting harder and harder.  For a moment at the airport I almost said to my mum, ‘I don’t want to go, don’t make me go’, but the truth is that she wasn’t making me go and I am not a child anymore.  My children and my husband need me to act like an adult and accept real life.  If I want to stay in the UK then not getting on a plane after an extended holiday is not the best way to go about it. But what a great holiday, thanks Mum and Pops x

 

 

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Where ever I lay my hat?

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It’s a big year chez nous, 2014.  It’s the year that husband turns 40, it’s the year that no. 1 son starts school, it’s the year that we will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and it is 10 years this year since I moved to this sometimes not-so holy Holy Land.  How did that happen?  Where did the time go and why after all this time have I still got one foot (and a half) pointing towards home?

Home, where is that?  After all I counted London as home but I lived there only 9 years. While we were travelling I called our tent ‘home’ and I was perfectly happy that we could pick that home up and take it where ever the whim took us.  If home is where the heart is, do I have 2 homes? And more importantly if you have 2 homes do you ever feel truly ‘at home’ in one of them.

This time last year I was 100% going home (to the UK that is).  I was tired of the difficulties of living in a different language, different culture, different religion  I was exhausted.  I was brow beaten and sick of being an outsider.  No longer at the top of my career but instead unable to find work that suited my skills, language or salary expectations.  Most of all I was tired of hearing people say, ‘make more of an effort to settle’, ‘maybe if your Hebrew was better, why don’t you speak it more’, sick of feeling like nothing I did was enough.  Was it all in my head?  Maybe, but I think that as an ex-pat, especially one who moves to a new language and a different culture you always ask yourself, ‘do I fit in?’ followed quickly in my case with ‘why should I have to?’.

So what now?  It’s 2014, a New Year.  Has anything changed?  Honestly I don’t know.  As in the previous 9 years I have good weeks and bad weeks, good days and bad days although the bad is less in occurrence and in intensity. I feel at home here although it is not, nor do I think it will ever be, ‘home’.  I hope to go back some day, whether it’s in 2014 or in a box in the hold of an aeroplane.  If someone would wave a magic wand or give me a winning lottery ticket to set us up in the UK for a couple of years to see how we would like it, I’d go in a shot.  But it’s not just about me.  It’s about my lovely husband who would go where ever I wished if it made me happy (even though he would not really want to go).  It’s about my children, my Israeli children who, like it or not only know this as home and speak to me and each other in a language that I often don’t understand.  As they get older the move gets more difficult, and the looming start of school underlines that fact.

Over on a blog I follow, Expatriate Life,  Judy has often talked about repatriation, about the challenges of repatriating after time away and I think it is this repatriation fear that stopped me from packing our bags and running this time last year.  Really, what do I know about the UK now.  Have I perhaps become too Israeli for England but too English for Israel?  Only time will tell as yet again we write our pros and cons list, we look for options were we to move back.  The key, I think, is no regrets, no looking back in anger, no what ifs or maybe.  When all is said and done as long as our family is together we are home.

We’re S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G

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Shopping and washing, cleaning and sweeping, dusting and hoovering, washing up and wiping down surfaces.  Talk about groundhog day.  Whether you work, are retired, are a stay at home mum/dad, single or married these are a few of life’s constants.  Hmmm how dreary.

Of these my least favourite is shopping, food shopping that is.  Having had a taste recently of the joy of supermarket shopping in the UK (you can buy other stuff and have a coffee and there’s choice, and it’s clean, and they have trolleys with twin seats…I could go on), on my return to the Holy Land I found myself putting off the dreaded supermarket trip.  I hate supermarket shopping.  Buying shoes is so much more fun and in the UK you can do both, at the same time and cheaply.  So finally I could put it off no longer and dragged myself to the car to enter the time warp which is supermarket shopping in Israel.

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Here are a few things that you should know if you go to a supermarket in Israel (although why would you unless you lived here?)

– On entering a car park at a supermarket in Israel there are very few spaces ie 10.  Even if the store is a mega store and can cater for thousands you will have to follow trolley loaded shoppers to their car and bagsy (not a real word) a spot whilst they load shopping, kids, themselves into the car and drive off – anything between 5 and 30 minutes.

– Before you enter the car park there is an armed, usually elderly, guard who looks at you (do you look a threat?) and if he’s feeling frisky  will check your boot (trunk for the Americans) for unwelcome items, I am presuming explosives.

– Once parked you enter the supermarket to be checked again (handbag search) by another guard.

– You made it, you’re in.  Now the fun begins.

-Do not expect the organic in-store store in the supermarket to sell only organic produce.  In fact you will find many of the items available at a lower price on the main shop floor but they won’t be presented in stylish barrels with scoops and zip lock bags.  Many luxury imported items can be found in this part of the store, for example Weetabix which I have always thought of as luxury (?) and at 42 shekels a pack of 24 (£7.50 or nearly $11) it certainly has a luxury price.

– In an attempt to Americanize/Europeanize the shopping experience there are now more than just groceries available but beware the price tags, first of all they are often wrong and the deals so hard to understand (at least to a foreigner like me) that the price tag is really just a general guide.  Buy 2 get 1 half price – on a hoover – why would you want 3?

– Do expect to find a feast of middle eastern goodies; freezer cabinets bereft of the additive packed ready meals (EVERYBODY cooks here but why no fish fingers?) but filled with borekas, jachnun, malawach.  An olive selection to rival the best deli and a choice of humus and assorted meze to make your eyes water.  Deeelish (probably also additive packed too but what the hell).

– Fruit and veg at a third of the price of the UK and fruit and veg that looks like it was picked from a farm not manufactured by a robot.  None of that washed and shined display here which is actually way more appetizing.

– For someone who’s reading of Hebrew is sketchy anything that requires instructions is an effort. Cue me buying specialist laundry sprays instead of anti-bac wipe.  In fact in the early days I would come home with even the most simple item wrong, butter milk instead of skimmed, tangerine juice instead of orange and that was despite the product name written in English albeit in small writing.

– Check outs from hell.  Why oh why does a ‘superstore’ have 18 aisles and only 2 checkout people.  Insert irate customers, a very uncommunicative teller (no,’how are you today’ and mindless chit chat here), someone with a billion coupons that don’t work and you can easily wait 20 minutes to get to the front of the line.  Feel free to get involved in any argument between customer and staff, everyone else does.

– Expect a 22nd century price for your purchases despite feeling you have warped to 1978 for the shopping experience.

– Delivery – something I have NEVER done because a) I am too scared of pissing off the teller and fellow customers and b) because the crates that you invariably pack yourself and leave on the floor by the check out until the delivery man comes can sit there for hours getting in people’s way and melting – heat + ice cream – freezer = salmonella.

– Customer service.  There is none.  If someone is pleasant to me on the shop floor I am on a high for hours.  Most likely you will be argued with if you question anything and at the very least a few tuts will be aimed in your direction.

– On leaving the store the security guard will stamp your receipt.  This to me is one of the greatest mysteries of supermarket shopping here.  You could pick a receipt anywhere, he doesn’t check what you bought against what’s listed so what is the point?  I know they have a dull job but clicking their stamper onto a receipt surely doesn’t make it any more entertaining.  My kids love it though and fight for who hands the receipt in.

So have I tempted you to try out an Israeli supermarket? I could well be being harsh in my description although remember I am coming from a place of loathing of the whole ordeal and I am only recently returned from the holy grail of supermarket; Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose I miss you.  On the plus side as a visitor the produce is exotic and yet familiar so makes for an interesting trip out, you may get lucky and find a store that believes that the customer is always right (although I doubt it), and if you like sesame you’re in for a treat.  I am due another visit so am psyching myself up.  Positive thoughts, positive thoughts…

Though you may be far away, we think of you

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Granny and Grandpa magically arrive on an enormous aeroplane, we get to screech and jump on them at the arrivals hall of the airport and they bring presents.  Lots of presents.

Kitted out in our new clothes we listen to them reading us the new books (in English), play with the new toys and slowly but surely weave our magic grandchildren charm on them so that they are soon unable to deny us an ice cream or a pair of shoulders to sit on when our legs get tired.

At bath time they take it in turns to get a soaking, Mummy doesn’t let us throw buckets of water out of the bath but surely Grandpa won’t mind.

Their bark is far quieter than Mummy’s during a bit of good-humoured food throwing at dinner time .

At bedtime we fight over who gets to read us a story and have been known to manipulate an extra bedtime cuddle.

Grandpa knows all about gardening and space telescopes.  He’s funny and he always draws brilliant pictures on the etch a sketch.

Granny plays picnics and drinks special tea from pink cups.  She says she is stuck when she sits on the floor and Mummy has to come to help her up.

When Granny and Grandpa come we don’t go to nursery.  We go on trips to the beach or to lakes and waterfalls.  Every day is special treat day and an ice lolly is part of the schedule.

It’s extra nice for Mummy when Granny and Grandpa come.  She doesn’t have to do everything in the house.  Granny is always doing the washing and Grandpa brings her gin which tastes horrible but she likes it.

Granny and Mummy are always talking and sometimes we have to really shout so they shut up and listen to us.  Grandpa likes us shouting, he says he can hear us when he can’t hear everyone else.

Mummy says that one day we will all go to England to visit Granny and Grandpa.  We’d like that because we can’t really remember our last trip.  Daddy says they have horses in their back garden and a canal at the end of the road.

By the end of a visit we get a bit confused. Mummy gets sad and when we wake up in the morning we can’t find Granny and Grandpa. We see them on the computer but we don’t really like talking to them like that.

We like to tell people that Granny and Grandpa went on a big plane to England but really we’d like it more if they could go home by car and then we could drive to see them at their house all the time, then maybe Mummy wouldn’t be so sad when they leave.

 

 

 

Remember this?

Si Si San Miguel

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When I think of expats I think white vests strained over burnt bellies sipping San Miguel in an English caff in the Costa Del Sol. Definitely not the reality of the millions living away from their birth country for most expats.
Flag_of_Israel These days so many Brits seem to be intent on leaving Britain with its rain and recession or have already made the leap to a new life; I have as many British friends scattered around the globe as I have left in Britain.  But why?  Is Britain today so bad? I watch A Place in the Sun Home or Away and yell at the TV “Don’t do it”; don’t think because it’s sunny and you can buy cheap run down property that your life is going to magically become a Disney movie. Or maybe that’s just me, or the place I chose to live. No nuclear threat in Disney, right?
Soon my neighbourhood is closing down for an evening to do a missile attack training exercise. Oh yes we will be going through the motions of what to do if/when we have a 2 minute warning to get somewhere safe. (If I remember my reading of Z for Zacariah in High School, no safe room is going to save us). Armed with pamphlets, gas masks and jolly faces for the childers we will be doing a dummy run for the unimaginably possible. Although one half of me is considering doing a runner to a friend’s house out of my area, the other half is thinking we should really be prepared. But how do you explain it to a 4-year-old and 2 x 2 year olds? Hmmm. Must try to refit the bomb proof door back on our in-house bomb shelter.
Since day 1 I have had a love/hate relationship with Israel. It’s got so many benefits; the weather, the outdoor living, the beach, desert and mountains, the child friendly family oriented culture, the can-do attitude and the fresh, dynamic perspective to life. Of course if you’re Jewish it comes with a billion other benefits.  However the downsides to living in Israel are in a class of their own:
Always being the bad guy no matter what the truth
Living under threat
Being surrounded by difficult neighbours
Not an island but no way out except by plane (or a really long booze cruise to Cyprus)
New language (to me at least) – new alphabet and back to front (to me).
Its not just the books but even some of the doors to fridges, washing machines, rooms, open back to front (to me)
The lack of savlanoot
Having said all that Israel has been my home for the past 8 years. My children were born here, many of my friends are here, our home and life, not to mention the mundane bank accounts, insurance policies, health care etc is here. So when I am reminded with a bang of all the bad stuff in the form of a leaflet handed to me in the park by a soldier, outlining our missile training, it makes me wonder if I am up to the challenges of living here. It ain’t easy. Maybe a bit (OK a lot) of rain is better.
Recently in a store at 9.30 on a Friday night I met a 19-year-old buying a packet of Turkish coffee (or botz as it’s called here), he asked for a spoon and some cups because him and his mate were heading down to the beach to hang out for the evening where they would cook their coffee on their camping gas and pass the time. That in a nutshell is what I love about Israel; no 20 pints and a kebab, no hair gel and pant revealing skinny jeans, just  knowing at 19 how to enjoy the simple life. Pas me a  San Miguel, I’ll get my gas mask.

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