This summer we will have been in our home in Sussex for two and a half years and for this family that’s quite a big deal. In the four years of married life before that, we’d managed five houses in four countries staying in each place for between a few weeks and a couple of years. Constantly moving around is stimulating and exciting, but it also has lots of unwanted side effects many of which I’m only just starting to fully appreciate. If you are one of the many Brits considering moving abroad for a period of time, here are some problems you might encounter and suggestions for how to combat them.
(1) There might be hidden problems for your pets
The UK has surprisingly few hazards for pets, but once you take them abroad you will start worrying about things you never considered before. Frostbite, heatstroke, processionary caterpillars, poison left out by the locals and (if your dogs are small enough) birds of prey! Vet care in the UK is also exceptionally good and not always matched to the same high standard in other countries. It’s really worth doing some research before you move to learn what you need to watch out for. We found expat forums online were invaluable sources of information that helped us be prepared and make sure your pets insurance allows for travel and living overseas too.
(2) People will buy you bulky gifts that you can’t get in your suitcase
Of course it is always lovely to receive gifts from friends and family and none of us wish to seem ungrateful, but it seems that unless they have lived abroad themselves, most people won’t give much consideration to how the things they give you in the UK will make their onward journey. When we lived overseas, one Christmas we received several very solid hardback recipe books (actually more “volumes” than “books”) as well as a bottle of gin and a large china bowl. If you want to dodge having the actual conversation about bulky presents, we found that the next best solution was to travel light, buy expanding bags and always travel with luggage scales so you can pack right up to the maximum weight without worrying about paying extra at the airport.
(3) Your credit rating can be damaged
You might think that your credit rating could only be damaged if you do something “wrong” with your borrowing, but by moving around, having an address abroad, removing yourself from the electoral roll or simply not having any form of unsecured debt you can be seen as a risk to lenders. The advice for forces personnel was always to register to vote at a UK address in order to keep yourself in the system and if possible to tell your bank to keep your home address as the official one on their system and just use your overseas address for correspondence. It’s also sensible to check your credit report ( you can do this via CreditExpert: credit check) to make sure it’s up to date and there are no errors on file.
(4) It’s not just British food you’ll miss
Everyone expects that by living abroad you’ll miss the foods from your home country, but the flip side is that you’ll end up developing a taste for another countries delicacies which you’ll then miss in addition to British cuisine when you move on to another location. Fortunately the Internet is your saviour, not only are there lots of online shops dedicated to selling food from other countries, but if all else fails you can make them yourselves. I really miss Boston Cream donuts from Tim Hortons in Canada, but some cunning person has worked out how to reproduce them in your own kitchen!
(5) You could lose your no claims bonus
The no claims you build up for car insurance in one country might not necessarily transfer to the next one you move to, which can be an expensive and frustrating mistake. We always did quite a lot of research talking to other expats before we took a policy out and only tripped up once. Again the best advice is to use forums online, ask insurance companies before you buy and take out policies with companies that are part of larger international firms.
This is a collaborative post
Yesterday my boy turned four. As a summer born baby myself you have a certain sense of entitlement to a garden birthday party, but this year the summer has been anything but reliable and we obsessively watched the weather forecast all week as the outlook for Sunday wobbled between rain and sun. In the end it was overcast but incredibly muggy and more than good enough for the kids to play in the garden.
After two hours of games, food and cake the party bags came out and the majority of his and our friends headed home. Inside the party bags were some extremely cheap Poundland waterpistols (4 to a pack I think!) which turned out to be surprisingly good and that’s where the fun really started!
Off he went, running round the garden with three pals, drenched through and squirting water at everyone with Daddy in hot pursuit carrying a watering can!
It was glorious and carefree, but on the horizon was a cloud that I kept trying to ignore. Celebrating his birthday with him were four small children who will all be in his reception class next week and it made me suddenly realise that this is it. He’s four. His journey through full-time education is about to begin and our wonderful summer together as a full-time family of three is about to end. A week today he starts school and Jim returns to weekly commuting after five weeks at home and when the front door closes on Monday morning it will just be me at home for the next two months.
I don’t struggle to fill my time, but even so it’s going to be a big shock to the system and I never thought I’d be one of those mother’s who says this, but I’m not ready. The weather’s been terrible, but I want this summer to continue forever with endless picnics and DIY projects, the adventure of a new car, outings, barbecues and family dog walks, but I know it can’t.
So this week we shall try to make a few more memories and when next week comes, I shall try and focus on the baby who shall be joining us in October and the million and one things that need to be done before he or she arrives.
Linking up with Katie for The Ordinary Moments and…
My son is three and in just over a week’s time he shall be starting primary school. He was born in Scotland where the autumn term starts in the middle of August and the cut off date for the intake is in February, which explains a little why nobody even thought to mention the date when they admitted me to hospital for an induction a matter of hours before the end of the month.
Theo is incredibly excited about attending “big” school and has spent the last few months complaining that he finds his nursery boring. I’m not for one minute suggesting he is gifted or particularly bright, but he’s tall for his age, confident and enthusiastic and I look at him and think it would be tortuous to hold him back from formal schooling for another 12 months.
As his parents we are in the unusual situation of having done it all before. Jim and I are both August babies and the youngest in our respective school years. My main memory of being born in August is of never having to go to school on my birthday and of always (or almost always) having a party in the garden, I thought I was pretty lucky. Both Jim and I were never really aware of the implications of being younger than our peers until later in life and so never had the chance for the dire predictions about our outcomes to become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Now summer born babies are an annual story and the papers are full of statistics, court battles and gloomy forecasts for our children’s future. Summer babies are apparently more likely to be bullied, fair worse at exams and struggle with physical activities. One study even concluded that by the age of seven they are three times more likely to be regarded as below average by their teachers and 20% less likely to go to a top university. Yet Bill Clinton, Madonna, Barack Obama and Roger Federer were all born in August.
At school neither Jim nor I excelled at sports and I can still barely catch a ball to this day, but both of us came from families that weren’t particularly sporty, so it seems unlikely that our birth months and alleged lack of physical development are entirely responsible. Two decades after leaving education, Jim now plays cricket for our local team and I had a memorable season playing ice hockey when we lived in Canada. Neither of us are great, but we have fun and isn’t that what sport is supposed to be about?
As far as school results are concerned, I was probably particularly lucky that I never felt under pressure academically from my parents and when at some point early in my senior schooling a teacher sent a letter home suggesting I was tested for dyslexia, my parents ignored it and left me to learn at my own pace. I’m sure many will be horrified by this, but my parents knew their child and within a few years I’d knuckled down and caught up on my writing and spelling. I was never given a reason to think I couldn’t do as well as everyone else, but equally I was never pressured to achieve more than I could.
The lottery of birth month is the first of many uneven playing fields that our children will have to face in their lifetime. One of the arguments about August babies is that all children are different and some are particularly disadvantaged, but if we try to even out this inequality there will only be more we can’t control. Divorces, separations, house moves, illness, siblings, differences in income and class size, geography and social status all of which will tip their prospects one way or another.
So what I’m really trying to say is this… If you have a summer born child starting school this September, try not to worry too much about their schooling or to endeavour to smooth the path that lies ahead of them. Your son or daughter has an amazing opportunity. A chance to push themselves to excel amongst kids who are older and more skilled than them and your job as a parent is to stand behind them and to offer gentle encouragement. Don’t let their birth month be an excuse or a crutch, let them find their place amongst their peers and enjoy the experience of school. They’ll be fine, trust me.
A few weeks ago I was introduced to Tribal dog treats, a company that makes human grade healthy dog snacks and is run by a friend of a friend. I loved the idea so much I wanted to share the story of the business with those of you that read my blog and give your dogs the chance to try some of the treats too.
Fatima Maktari founded the company after studying Chemistry at the University of Oxford and she kindly agreed to answer a few questions and to provide a couple of goodie bags for me to give away. I also tested a range of the creatively flavoured treats on our two dogs and as it’s all human grade ingredients and no rubbish, I even tried a couple of the treats myself!
So Fatima, what inspired you to start making dog treats?
Like most owners, when I got my first dog, I developed a strong emotional bond with my dog which was further cemented through dog training and positive reinforcement which of course involved using a lot of treats. It occurred to me that there was an abundance of natural ingredients out there, with proven health benefits, that simply weren’t being incorporated into our dog’s diets. In fact, the more I looked into it, the more I realised that the majority of dog treats actually use very poor quality ingredients – the focus being to create a low cost treat rather than something that is nutritious and good for our dogs.
Some of your flavours are quite surprising, like “apple, mint and ginger” where do you begin with creating a new recipe?
I have a real passion for food and nutrition and love to read up on the latest food-based therapies for inspiration on ingredients for our treats. We also talk to a lot of dog owners and try to understand their experiences and concerns, and try to marry our food-therapies with what they are looking for in a treat. In the case of the Apple, Mint & Ginger dog treats, we spoke with a lot of owners whose dogs had extremely sensitive tummies – to the point where they couldn’t eat any treats at all, as well as owners whose dog’s had very bad breath! Interestingly, bad breath is also linked to poor digestion so we developed a recipe that had a dual action formula which used ginger oils to soothe sensitive tummies and mint to freshen the breath.
How do you test your recipes and have you ever had to abandon an idea for something that should be good for dogs, but didn’t prove popular with their taste buds?
Well first things first – we actually try all the recipes ourselves to give us an idea for flavour and texture, before we try them on my own dogs, black Labrador Alpha and German Shepherd Una. If it doesn’t pass their taste test then it doesn’t go any further. Outside of that we have a “tasting panel” of approximately 50 dogs across a variety of breeds and sizes, including shar peis, boxers, west highland terriers, poodles, cockapoos, pugs, retrievers and shiba inus! It’s not quite an exact science but we typically look for an “approval rating” in the region of 85-90%. We did begin to develop an “immune-booster” recipe that incorporated citrus fruits such as oranges. However in that instance we found that the sharpness of the citrus fruits only resonated with approximately 50% of the dogs on our tasting panel, so we did not develop it any further.
Have you ever thought about making human snacks? I can’t believe I am going to say this, but I did actually try the coconut, banana and peanut butter and it was nothing to do with pregnancy hormones!
We have no immediate plans to develop human snacks although all of our dog treats are made with human grade ingredients and we try them all ourselves! I must point out though that our treats are designed for dogs and as such are baked to be quite hard so do be careful if your nashers aren’t in tip top condition. My personal favourites are the Apple, Mint & Ginger and the Cheese, Carrot & Sunflower Seed which are particularly tasty with a cup of tea!
You can see the range of Tribal dog treats and find a stockist on their website tribalpetfoods.co.uk
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Back in May when I announced we were expecting number two, I think I vaguely mentioned that I planned to do regular pregnancy updates. Three months later and here’s the first one, so that went well!
Partly the absence of posts is because I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say about this pregnancy and yet I read other people’s posts about their growing bumps with great curiosity, so I have to remind myself that sharing our everyday can be fascinating depending on the angle you view it from.
So here we go then, 31 weeks in and comfortably into my third trimester. About a month ago I booked myself a doctor’s appointment for a blood test for anemia as I was constantly fatigued and plagued by restless legs. Unfortunately my doctors were useless and to cut a long story short it took them 10 days, repeated phonecalls, visits and appointments to get the prescription for iron and two weeks before they could actually give me the test results… Yes you did read that the right way round, prescription before results!
Now I’m on the iron I’m gradually starting to feel better, but if I miss a couple of tablets I slide back into tiredness quite quickly. Other than that the bump is measuring bang on the right size and I’m also the right weight for this stage. Sleeping is ok, but not brilliant. I miss lying on my front so much!
We chose not to find out the gender of the baby so we’ve been mulling over name options for both sexes and when I say mulling over, what I really mean is that I make suggestions and Jim either says an outright “no” or “h’mmm… maybe.” We have two strong contenders now and a couple of outsiders, but I keep wavering! Please share name ideas if you have any brilliant ones!
As far as nursery preparations are going, our spare room is filling up with goodies and tomorrow we shall be hanging a beautiful wallpaper mural we’ve been given. Meanwhile I’m stalking eBay looking for a chest of drawers and hoping we can get the whole room sorted before Jim is back at work in a fortnight.
I’m still hoping for a home birth as to be frank, nothing about Theo’s hospital birth is worth repeating (it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great) and I’d just like to be in my own environment, with all my own stuff on hand and able to relax. I just hope everything conspires to help me achieve it as I realise it’s dependent on the baby arriving at the right time and my health continuing to be good.
I haven’t noticed too many significant differences between this pregnancy and the last, the same side effects and complaints, the same shape and positioning of bump, but possibly a little more movement and wriggling from this baby than I had with Theo… I don’t want to think about the implications of that too much, Theo was and always has been a very laid back little chap, perhaps his sibling will be more feisty!