Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tuning into the UK

A week has passed since husband left me and our youngest daughter here and had to fly back to Kazakhstan (with his suitcase of haggis!) to be a) at work, and b) with our other two daughters whom we had totally abandoned for five days.

It has been an odd week. I usually enjoy being back in the UK since it is part of a holiday or at least a break from the routine, and I have a long list of things I want to do and people I would like to see. This time, though, it is slightly different. I am not supposed to be here yet. I have a long list of things I need/want to do but they are all in Almaty, not Dorset. So I am having to start from scratch and get some kind of routine in place.

Having our little one with me is pretty much a joy. She has settled down, and despite a few tearful conversations about where her Daddy and her beloved sisters are, she is very happy at "Banny's" house. I am enjoying her company tremendously and she is so easy to look after. We wake up most mornings in the same bed with her hugging my head as hard as her small little arms can go.

We went to Rythmn and Rhyme at the local library on Friday. Daughter was pleased to see some other children even though they were all about half her age, and enthusiastically joined in with her jingly bells and all the songs she knew. There is a playgroup on Monday mornings for mums and tots in hhe local church hall which I will go to next week, and story time at 2.15 on Monday afternoons again at the library. Tomorrow morning we will check out the local swimming pool for swim times for mums and little ones.

It is quite interesting to be making genuine forays into life with small kids in the UK, when I have always done my child rearing abroad, usually in an environment trying very hard to imitate "what we would do at home" (albeit with an awful lot of foreign mums unable to go anywhere without their nannies (!) so with double the necessary number of adults present).

It strikes me, after my 10 day sojourn to date, that the UK is a pretty cushtie place to live. In general people seem to live fairly pampered lives, although they tend to feel that they are all miserable and work far too hard, and spend no time at all rejoicing in their good fortune that they weren't born into a Mumbai slum. There is no comprehension at all of a) the hardships that joe public endures in places like, for example, Kazakhstan and b) how incredibly luxurious (unnecessarily luxurious) their lives are. Everything is such high quality, relatively new, well-maintained and unbelievably safe in this corner of England.

Lots of small things have struck me since arriving. All the toilets are immaculately clean, the public services are quite good (buses etc) and it is all SOOOO easy to understand being in English and not Russian. Scarily, the strength of the "Health and Safety" authorities/lobby is extreme, its depressingly bland fingers reaching into every corner, and I think it has most obviously affected new parents. Spotting potential "hazards" is almost a competitive activity among young mothers. One of the girls at Rythmn and Rhyme, like a pious, goody-two shoes pupil at primary school who knew the answer to a question before the rest of the class, was worried about the kids holding the sets of obviously extremely well-made and clean jingle bells, in case a bell might be ingested by her one year old child. Oh, come off it! The librarian tactfully told her that they were quite safe and washed every week which shut her up, but it was symptomatic of the over-cautious nature of modern western life. Gigantic pushchairs (for added safety???), huge baby car seats (the car seat lobby has been very active in the last decade) and a bunch of neurotic, over-booked, under-relaxed older parents all fretting about keeping their offspring alive, rather than absorbing their new arrivals and carrying on with life.


  1. I enjoyed your reflections on life in western countries and the privileges that we have. Living in Kazakhstan (and perhaps traveling elsewhere), what do you do to raise your kids so that they realize that they are privileged and that they shouldn't take that for granted?

  2. Really enjoyed this post ... there are many things that are great here, this is true. But I have come to realise that unless you are in a good job with comfortable income, it is not always possible to live a great life here and appreciate all that's on offer so maybe that's why sometimes these kinds of things are easy to forget. And my how I laughed about your observations of young mothers 'spotting potential hazards'... Christ it's hard to believe children ever survive in other parts of the world. I too have come across a lot of this and I just roll my eyes and laugh to myself. Wishing you continued happy days in beautiful Dorset :-)

  3. Deprivation and poverty are always relative - Sometimes it's useful to get a proper sense of perspective.

  4. Well said! The UK is a pretty safe place, the toys here are hazardous - the toys in the UK, well, they are not.

    That said, I'm looking forward to a good playgroup and some of the cushty life please! A bit fed up of the nails sticking out of swings and the broken glass in the playgrounds...

    We may even cross over. We're back in the UK the beginning of April (leaving the boys) and then again in the middle. Maybe we could grab a coffee before you go off to the health and safety free zone!

  5. I was so happy to stumble across your blog some time ago. Our 2 youngest daughters are from Almaty. Since the adoption trip, I've been back 3 more times for orphanage work. I've really enjoyed your perspective on life in Almaty and I must admit that I was relieved when you opted to give birth in the UK rather than in Almaty.

  6. 一個人的快樂,不是因為他擁有的多,而是他計較的少。..................................................

  7. Hi Mama Beluga.. I am always brought up short by your posts and sobered by your amazing strength and humor.. For so long I thought there was much I taught yuou about being a mum but now I am an old dottering 55 yr old learning from you.. You amaze me.. YOur insight and wisdom are way past your years.. Let mum and Daddy Murph shower you with love and help as you give them the gift of being mum and Dad and grandparents all at the same time.. Gifts abound..
    The Dempsey clan are raising a glass to the Mowats..
    email me at
    You are a wonder!!!!!!!!!

  8. I also enjoyed your post a lot. Great to get some news from the Mowats. We have our first Burns night on Monday and should have enough Haggis. Cheers, FP

  9. I totally know what you mean - one of our local music classes now hands out anti-bac wipes for use on the bells etc. madness

  10. Thanks Dempsey mom! You are good for my ego! haha
    Hey FP, how is life in Beirut?
    Muddling Along Mummy - I had another one today at playgroup when a woman, in the middle of a normal conversation getting to meet each other, leapt up as a toy rolled across the floor and said "Whoops, Trip Hazard!" - maybe it was my chat! Not sure, but the fact that a rolling toy now has a health and safety name is pretty scary, eh?