July 26, 2011

the story of the mugs

So, remember the mugs?  They didn't turn out exactly how we thought they would.  We were hoping for delicate, fresh, glassy green, but the first fire turned out dark, dark green mugs - still very lovely but definitely a surprise.  Lavinia emailed me straight away and sent these photos - I think she was as surprised as anyone, and while I liked the dark green, I was gutted they didn't turn out how I thought they would.  So Lavinia made an executive decision to reglaze the mugs, and they turned out blue!  Beautiful... except that one of the mugs got hit by a piece of shrapnel from another item in the kiln, leaving a damn near perfect bullet hole.  Interesting, but not what you want in a mug.

So, one of our customised mugs didn't make it.  I'm gutted we don't have two matching mugs, but Lavinia sent two, unstamped spares and the one mug that survived, so I'm happy for now.  They arrived today and I waited for Will to get home from work before opening the parcel and drinking our first cups of tea.  They are beautiful.

I've asked Lavinia (who should be credited for all the photographs in this post) to let me know when her kiln is set up and ready for action again (it's being moved and won't be available for a few months at best).  I haven't heard from her yet, but if she hasn't been scared away from doing custom orders, I'm going to hope that she will give it another shot.  Excuse the pun.

It has just occurred to me, that this might be some kind of omen, but I only see it as a positive.  We actually now have three beautiful mugs, rather than two, and a story to tell, and one rather gorgeous stamped mug which we will keep safe rather than use.  Yes, I would have loved two matching mugs, but you know, we are so different, Will and I, it kind of works better this way and I guess the unpredictability of the kiln adds a nice vibe too.  There will be more anniversaries and I expect one or more of these mugs might be lost or broken over the many years to come.  And then I'll just email Lavinia again in the hope that she'll be able to put her very lovely talent to use for us again.  In the mean time, we will drink tea.  Lots of it.

July 22, 2011

super mums

Last Friday, I was in the supermarket with Ollie and Max.  It's easier to do that these days, we seem to be in a bit of a groove with the routine of life, thankfully the kids seem to understand how things go when they are at home with me - a mix of chores, quiet play on their own and play time with mama.  It's not that straight forward but it's what we aim for and that's generally what we get, with a few tantrums and brotherly arguments thrown in.

Anyway, the kids were being pretty good, Ollie was insistent on looking at the cars (in the baby stuff aisle - why do they do that?) which is where I bumped into a lady I'd never met before who had no less than four beautiful little boys.  One was at school but the other three were with her, and I was amazed at how she seemed to be taking everything in her stride with four kids under the age of 6.  We got to talking, mainly about the fun of being mum to boys and the similarities between our little kids, especially as her children are 'half-castes' just like mine.

The lady asked me if we wanted any more children and without thinking about it I answered, yes, we would love another baby, but it's so difficult being as far away from family support as we are to know how we would cope.  And then she proceeded to tell me how she is on her own after recently separating from her husband, at which point I felt like hugging her.  This amazing, confident (and tired) mother was relying on the help of her own mum, who she said was a huge support and let's face it, anyone that has children and is lucky enough to be in a loving relationship must think about how bloody hard it would be if you were a single parent with only one child, never mind four.

But she was doing ok.  Just being positive seemed to be a bonus.  And she wasn't taking any crap from the kids, neither.  I'm sure she has her tough days more often than she has her good days, but she was an inspiration, that's for sure and I can't stop thinking of her, this super mum.  She reminded me of the other day, when someone called me 'super mum' because of a particularly efficient morning I'd had.  I'm definitely no super mum.  My own mum, who married and made a life with a man she'd only ever seen a photograph of and with whom she has little in common except for her values and faith, who's English was entirely self taught after moving to England at 18, who is devout and faithful, who has always put her children and husband before any personal ambition, who raised her three strong-willed, independent, wayward daughters in a society she wasn't familiar with, who has stood by her husband's side to work relentlessly with him in the family business to pay a mortgage and school fees for the last 30 years, who lives humbly, with thrift but with absolute generosity, and who has embraced her daughters as who they are with dignity and pride in a culture that hasn't always been accepting of the choices we've made, my own mother, who is a loving, proud and hard working and will always be that way, now she's super mum.  Super mum.

We all have our moments of being good at what we do.  I am not a super mum but I do have super mum moments, essential for motivating me when I have bad days, and my own moments of greatness come from having my mother in my life and the things she has taught me about resilience and what it means to be a good parent.  And then there's the inspiration from seeing mums like the lady in the supermarket.  It startled me how quick I was to answer yes to her question of whether we would have more children because it's always been such a topic of indecision for us (what will be will be), mainly because we just don't know how we'd cope, but she definitely gave me food for thought and I guess the confidence to think we could do it.  She also had a lot of bread in her trolley and I can't imagine how much she was spending on feeding four little men, or how much milk we would start consuming if we have another baby, but it would be amazing.  Wouldn't it!

July 20, 2011

french festival

We went with friends to the Brisbane French Festival at South Bank over the weekend.  As someone who adores all things French, it was a bit disappointing.  I was hoping for more food, more music, more stripy shirts, better weather...  But it was free, we ate crepes and the joie de vivre came from the kids having an absolute blast running around like maniacs and now Ollie is obsessed with the 'ferrist wheel'.  You wouldn't guess they had such a good time from these photos.

July 19, 2011

debt free

Anyone that reads this will know that it's been less than 2 years since my husband graduated from UQ with an M.Arch in Architecture.  It was a long, hard slog that's been rewarded with some great opportunities and a year ago, the relief of a steady job, but one (like most graduate positions) that doesn't pay particularly well.  It will be a while before Will truly sees the financial benefit of the fruits of his labour and so it's a lucky situation that we have my modest income to rely on in the mean time.

Before we met, I always had this naive notion that I would end up with someone that would enable me to make a choice between career and family, and I never thought it would be anything but a choice.  You amble along as young students and then graduates, you don't think about mortgages, health insurance, the cost of childcare and education, or where you will be in 10, 15, 20 years' time and God knows I never, ever thought about saving for retirement.  Now that we have children though, things change, your priorities change, suddenly it seems a lot more important to have savings, to have a financial plan, to have security and health insurance.  To be debt free.

I suppose I didn't think much about it but I did think that my own career and financial contribution would just be the icing on the cake to my significant other's income - I never once thought I would have to work so that we could pay our mortgage and I never thought I would be the one supporting my partner through university and his early career.  But just because I never thought it would be that way, doesn't mean I mind it (and I can categorically state that his emotional support of our family far outweighs any dollars I contribute).  I actually feel proud that together with some financial support from Will's mother, we've been able to get to where we are.  It's hard, and there are days when I feel so overwhelmed by the responsibility, moreso recently, when I've been talking about changing direction, something that will come with a huge decrease in family income and a massive change in lifestyle for us - and will be a huge blow to our plan to be debt free within the next ten years.

I concede that we have chosen our lifestyle and this home that we live in.  We knew it would be years before Will would be able to work.  We made the choice to live this way, which is by no means exuberant and our home is modest but it's a lovely little place, especially now, with two extra little people running around in it.  We could have bought a house out in the sticks, somewhere with no green space, character or proximity to the many things we've come to love about living here, we could have chosen to continue renting, taking the risk and financial commitment out of the equation, but we didn't.  We chose, before we started our family, to be here, to extend ourselves as much as we felt was sensible (and maybe a bit more), and take that first, scary step to owning our own home.  And then on top of that comes the bills, the groceries, the insurances... stuff that doesn't go away and gets scarily dearer as time goes by.

But I suppose this is as hard as it should get.  Unless some tragedy befalls one or both of us and I do decide to jack in my career (which seems highly unlikely in the short term) and God willing we have long, happy lives ahead of us, from here on it's onwards and upwards.  We've recently reinvigorated our plan to churn every spare cent into our mortgage, to enable us to then save for the children's education, for our retirement and for all the travelling we want to do.  Every extra dollar we earn is an extra dollar paid off the mortgage.  When it's as big as ours that feels like a very steep uphill battle, but so does everything when there are children involved.  Suddenly every decision is so much more important and so much... heavier.  So yeah, raising kids.  That's the hard stuff.  Paying off the mortgage.  Pfft.  Easy.

July 16, 2011


I'm going through the process of renewing my British passport which expires in August.  I'm amazed I remembered it's about to expire - aren't you supposed to have to travel for an emergency before realising your passport's expired and you have to get a special one issued?  I suppose it's not that amazing really.  I am quite an organised person and apart from the odd forgotten bill (since giving up my study to Max's cot and stuffed toys), I like to stay on top of these things.

But the point is that as I was flicking through the last ten years of my travels, the stamps from places in Europe, the US, India, Papua New Guinea, I noticed that today marks the 8 year anniversary of my arrival here in Australia as more than just a tourist.  Eight years since I came out here to see what life would be like, knowing that it would be better because I was coming here to be with that guy.  You know the one.

At that time I was happy in London.  I had just qualified as a chartered accountant (it is not as glamorous as it sounds), I was loving my job, living in London, finally earning enough money to not have to worry too much about it, the world was my oyster, I was in love, but thousands of miles apart from him, who was back in Australia, studying and waiting to hear whether he'd been accepted into the UQ School of Architecture.  (He was.) So moving... it didn't seem all that appealing (sun and surf has never been a lure for me), except I was desperate to be together again and nothing about staying in London was going to compensate me for that.  So I moved.  For the short term initially, until I landed on my feet with the right job that helped me go from career strength to strength while  he studied and our relationship too, went from great to better than I could have hoped.  Dogs, marriage, house, kids... but the homesickness has never abated.

Yes, this is a beautiful country, the weather is amazing, Stradbroke Island is like nothing you'll find in Europe, it's deluxe to live in something more than a flat in a terraced house, it's nice to have a seat on the train, I like wearing flip flops (they are not thongs) and yes, it's liberating to live with our windows and doors open but something has always been missing.  I've said it before that love hasn't always been enough for me.  I need that anchor, to feel that I belong somewhere - something I have struggled with at my core.  As a second generation Indian born in the UK I'm not sure I've ever really felt that sense of belonging.  I don't belong in Australia (I will never become accustomed to the lack of seasons, Christmas in summer?), I don't belong in India, I know that much, and the UK is my home but do I belong there?  Now this is the question, one which I can't justifiably answer right now, but all too soon, we will pack our bags to find that place of belonging and for now, we have pretty much concluded it is England, Blighty, that place I hold in my rose tinted vision as being the awesome place I left behind eight years ago.  And so, as I fill out Form C1 and choose a photograph that doesn't make me look too boss-eyed for the record of my next ten years of travel, I'm proud that I will soon have that little maroon book that belongs to HM Government, I'm proud that I gave it a shot here, but I'm happy that soon, we might going back home.

Coincidentally, it's eight years ago today, on the same day that I arrived here in Brisbane that Lola was born.  She became a part of our lives when she was 10 weeks old.  Little Lolsie, she's an old lady of 56 now.  Almost pensionable.  Definitely certifiable.  Always trouble. Happy birthday little Lolsie.

July 6, 2011


We didn't really do gifts for our anniversary this year.  I thought about buying Will an iPad, but much as he would love one, we really can't afford it and we have enough screens to stare and point at in this house.  We talked about buying a new camera body as a gift for each other and for us both; we have a Nikon D70 which is fine and all but it's 7 years old and temperamental and since we take so many photographs and use it every day (and sometimes all day), it might be time to upgrade.  But again, we might just have to wait until we've saved a little more in the coffers... maybe we can do it to mark what I think is our real anniversary, the one that marks the day we first said more than a shy hello to each other, the one that marks our 10 years of togetherness later this year.

That said, I didn't want this milestone to go unmarked.  Five years of marriage.  It sounds important and I do think that anniversaries allow you to reset somewhat, take a step back to consider your life and what makes you happy (and sad, I suppose) and pull yourself out of the day-in-and-outedness that I'm prone to complaining about here, so it's right that they should be celebrated, in whatever little way.  We've had some trying times in these past two years in particular, and it's not always been easy, and God knows it's harder for Will than I think it is for me.  We've been challenged by our ever evolving relationship as we became parents and questioned what we really want out of this life now that we have two boys to consider first and foremost and yet still want to fulfil aspirations for ourselves and our family.  The shift of going from doing what we wanted whenever we wanted to having to put our little boys and responsibilities as parents first has taken its toll at times, and there were moments when it felt that we barely knew each other any more.  So it was important to me that we should mark our five years of togetherness as man and wife - it's been the biggest five years of my life so far.

So how did we mark our anniversary? We had a quiet evening, didn't go out for a lavish dinner or anything like that, but after the children were safely tucked away in their little beds we did drink some good wine (I see no point in drinking any other kind).

As for a gift, I wanted to give something meaningful but useful, something for us to share and something for us as individuals too...  For a while now, whether it's been at breakfast when one cup of coffee just won't cut it, or after dinner, when we've wanted that mug of hot chocolate to never end, or a Sunday afternoon when we've needed more tea than is good for us, every time we put the kettle on, one of us will complain that our mugs just aren't plentiful enough.  So, with our affinity for tea, and the ritual that we share every night after dinner, I decided the best thing for us was to order two customised, hand crafted mugs, stamped with the date and location of our wedding, made by this lovely person, who is firing them as I write this.  She's been kind enough to send photos of their progress along the way and already, they are beautiful.  I have a good idea of what they will look like when they are glazed but I'll save those images for another post.  Suffice to say, I can't wait to receive the finished product and drink our inaugural cup of tea in them, whilst sante-ing to the next five, ten, fifteen... fifty years of marriage.

And as for resetting, taking that step back?  Well, it's a good view from back here.  As these days go by and we continue to discover talents and shortcomings that we didn't know the other had, and we've no idea what tomorrow will bring, I feel secure in the knowledge that I chose the right man to do it all with. It might be retrospective to celebrate the five years just gone, but there is a feeling that the best is yet to come.  We're a heck of a way away from any sense of calm, that dream holiday to New York, to owning the cottage in North Cornwall or the winter chalet in the French Alps, but we have each other, our children and our aspirations.  And soon, mugs.  Big ones too.

July 2, 2011


Ollie:  What are they?
Me:  What do you think they are?
Ollie:  They're worms.
Me:  Almost... they're caterpillars.  When butterflies have babies, they start out as little caterpillars and then they grow into butterflies... they're baby butterflies.
(Ollie contemplates this for a moment)
Me:  Ollie, are you a baby?
Ollie:  Yes
Me:  Are you mama's baby?
Ollie:  Yes
Me:  What about Max?
Ollie: (pauses)... He's a caterpillar.

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