Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mud glorious mud: my English holiday

I am back in Cambodia and finally getting my act together. It is hard to discipline myself to sit down and write again after a month’s holiday - well, if you can call carting two children around England a holiday. Actually, in retrospect, I can. Chronic exhaustion aside, I had a brilliant time and so did the girls. Crisp blue skies and freezing winds, what a perfect break from our life in tropical Phnom Penh.

I loved watching Jemima run up and down the Herefordshire hills with her gaggle of cousins, jumping and cracking through icey puddles to squidge around in the mud beneath. Ah! Call me a romantic but this is my idea of a perfect childhood. Hot sun and outdoor swimming pools may sound glamorous but surely, for a child, it just doesn’t get better than mud.

Every day I was amazed at how much energy Jemima had and how much more exercise she could cope with than she ever gets here in PP. She only ever wanted to leave the swings/hills/woods when she had lost all feeling in her hands and feet, and only then she had to be lured with promises of thawing her nose over a cup of hot chocolate and a plate of hot buttered crumpets. As a friend remarked yesterday, the English don’t half do Winter well!

In Cambodia we often sit around the table at 4pm and have a traditional English tea with cake, biscuits or toast and marmite. It feels good because it reminds us of home but really, in the sweltering heat, it just adds to our lethargy rather than fuelling us for our next venture into the bracing winter weather. And that is what it is all about, for me anyway. When people ask what I miss most about home the answer is easy: ‘Weather!’ I know we are famous for talking about it all the time, but if you go there you really will understand why. There is just so much to say about it!

In England one’s entire emotional and physical state is quite likely to be largely ruled by the weather. We complain about it but without it I somehow feel only half alive. Be it battered by winds, drenched in a down pour, depressed from days of drizzle, uplifted by a much awaited glimpse of the sun, baked on a rare scorcher of a summers’ day, or tingling with tummy butterflies when the Autumn rain brings the smell of wet leaves and the new school term… I miss being at the mercy of the weather. Here it has taken me two years to notice the changing of the seasons, so imperceptible are they. (Not that this stops people talking about it actually – weather chat is not particular to the British after all. Here I find my Khmer friends say one of two things every day, each time with varying degrees of astonishment: “Oh it is so hot today!” and “Oh, it is not so hot today!”)

So yes, England was great. But I am very happy to be back. Not least because… it is not so hot today, and has not been since I arrived. And this is important because unfortunately in Cambodia it is not so much me but my poor family who are at the mercy of the weather. As April looms, the hottest month here, I can see James is already preparing himself and the children for the inevitable onslaught of foul language and a total intolerance of any kind of physical contact unless attempted immediately after a cold shower, or in the stream of a powerful fan.

But until April comes at least, we are happily reunited and I am extremely grateful for the extra pair of hands that comes with having a partner. Every day in England I said a silent thank you for James. Once again I have been made to feel awe and empathy for single mothers or fathers. The energy I loved seeing in Jemima also drove me completely crazy several times a day – conveniently when anything had to be done. Getting dressed/undressed/ready for bed was fraught with negotiations and physical grapples as I dared interrupt my frenzied, bed-bouncing daughter from ‘just having fun, Mama!’ Leaving the house required more patience and positivity than I could muster without the help of my weekly Kundilini yoga practice (this I badly missed - it makes me a much nicer mother and far more effective negotiator… but more on that another time). Suffice to say trying to catch a toddler who needs to put on roughly ten different items of winter clothing - the novelty of which wore off on day one of our 25 day trip - while staying in a house with four floors is not an enjoyable experience, however much you are in touch with your third, naval ‘power’ chakra. I am a lot fitter as a result though, to look on the bright side.

I have lots to say about the trip – how the trusty sling and baby-led weaning made the whole thing possible, some airport and London underground adventures and how right I was about my health visitor fears, – but it will all have to wait… Bella summons.

If you liked this post read this.


maddy said...

Oh Georgie, talk about making one pine for ('proper')wintry weather...not for me but for the kids. Herefordshire hills and Welsh hills are not that dissimilar and how I long for my kids to play on them as I did as a kid - only yesterday as we barbecued our dinner in the park, slathered in suncream, sporting wide-brimmed hats did I concsiously think "I'd never get to do something like this in the UK" (not least cos you don't get free gas barbecues to use dotted around the parks there!). It did make me appreciate here but reading your post not 24 hours later made me long for there! x

Anonymous said...

This post made me smile as I try to get my 3 year old and 3 month old into their winter gear pretty much every day. Unfortunately our Canadian winters are not quite as lovely and mild. Just to give you an idea our snowbank outside our window is currently 4 feet tall from all the shoveling of our driveway. I pine for the sunshine and weather that doesn't require 3 layers:) But kids do love it. On another note though - I read about your recommended Ergo and got one with our second son. I so wish I knew about it with our first son. Same as for you, it has been a life saver. Today I walked to our local library with our 3 month old in his snowsuit snuggled against me in it fast asleep, holding my 3 year old by his hand (suprisingly I felt so light without our stroller). I could never have made that trip with a stroller because many people don't shovel their sidewalks and the road is full of ice. There was a magic show at the libary and as I stood there I looked around me and was slightly annoyed at all the strollers taking up space in the crowd that could have been used by kids and parents to watch the show (because it was insanly busy). Anyway, thanks for the recommendation in your book. Keep up the good work. Kasia

Georgie said...

Ah Kasia I wish I was in the snow with you! But I can imagine your mornings are bit harder than mine - as I satin the Tuk Tuk with J on my lap having our morning cuddle and brushing her hair and drinking my cup of tea i did think I was a very very lucky woman and should jolly well stop complaining about the weather!

Just think how much space those darn buggies are taking in the land fill!!!

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is sad - I haven't thought about all the buggies in the land fill. Thats a lot of wasted plastic/metal. That's why I really like HAve you heard of it? Great to give away and pick up stuff especially for kids and prevent it from going to the land fill.Kasia

Georgie said...

Yes it is great!