An African adventure for lockdown travellers

I think we’re all craving travel at the moment, even a trip to the shops makes me quite excited, while my annual trip to the Scottish Highlands is looking unlikely, and ditto any sailing this year. If you’ve followed my blog over the past few months, you’ll know I’ve devoured the first two of Roxana Valea’s “Polo Diaries” series (and am about to start the third). These are fiction but based heavily on her life, so I couldn’t resist a purely non-fiction account of her African adventure, Through Dust and Dreams. And I wasn’t disappointed. I absolutely love her writing – you can see the journalism training in her engaging, pacey style – there’s not a dull moment in this. Splash an Amarula into your coffee and find a comfy spot in the sunshine, you won’t want to put it down.

Author bio

Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.

As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–traveling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.

Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.

Argentina, polo and a dash of romance

This series is like catnip to me: travel, adventure, horses and a dash of romance. It’s literally my dream combo. I recently reviewed the Sweetbriars pony series for kids, so this time it’s a grown up horsey treat, but I must stress, you do not need to know anything about horses or polo to enjoy this series.

The series is based on the author’s own experiences and as it’s written in the first person and reads like a travel journal, I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction.

The Polo Diaries starts with a list. I love a list, and this one is particularly funny, especially the order of priorities.

I connected with the narrator from the opening lines. She’s very Bridget Jones (it’s always a relief when a big claim in the blurb turns out to be 100% accurate) and I’m pleased she is older (at a mere 41) than the stereotypical mid-thirties romcom character. She’s a typical horsewoman – despite repeated broken bones, she can barely wait to get back in the saddle. Given I’ve skied with my arm in plaster cast, and yesterday was debating with a 9yo who has fractured her shoulder from a fall and is banned by the doctor from riding for a month, how long she really had to take off, I can totally relate to this. NOTE – this should not be considered medical advice – you must always listen to your doctor!!

The second book follows on so I would suggest reading them in order. The feeling of “home” when she lands back in Argentina is so strongly described, I’m practically packed and on the next plane to Buenos Aires.

Now I’m looking forward to reading more books by this author. You know when people ask you which author you’d like to invite to a dinner party, I’m definitely putting Roxana Valea on my wish list. Or perhaps we could just meet for a Campari and orange …

The Polo Diaries

Single in Buenos Aires, The Polo Diaries Book 1

Roxy plays polo… but dreams of love.
 Forty-one-year-old polo player Roxy arrives in Argentina with a to-do list that includes healing from a polo injury and falling in love with a handsome Argentine. From polo boots to tango shoes, the adrenaline of riding horses to glamorous after-game parties, Roxy learns to navigate this unfamiliar landscape with the help of new friends who teach her to take life as it comes. But will she find true love? Over three months in Buenos Aires, nothing goes according to plan, and yet, all the items on her list mysteriously get ticked off in the end. Just not the way she had imagined.

Fans of the Bridget Jones series will love the blend of humor, travel, and romantic comedy at the heart of Single in Buenos Aires, all topped off with the unforgettable flavor of life in one of the most sensual and passionate cities in the world.

A Horse Called Bicycle, The Polo Diaries Book 2

Roxy found love . . . but is it enough? 
In the second instalment of the Polo Diaries series, polo player Roxy goes back to Argentina a year after the events in Single in Buenos Aires, filled with dreams of settling down with the man she loves. This time, once again, Argentina is full of surprises and things are not what they appear to be. Or maybe they’re exactly what they’re meant to be, as a fortune-teller informs her.

Roxy takes a leap of faith and follows her dreams once again. She spends time at glamorous party venues of Buenos Aires and travels to the rough and wild pampas. Along the way, Roxy’s friends support and champion her quest for love, but when things get out of hand, Roxy realizes she needs to listen to her own inner voice and must make a hard choice. Two paths open in front of her, each one with far-reaching consequences. Which will she choose?

Author bio

Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.

As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–traveling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.

Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.

The Polo Diaries Author Photo

 

https://www.roxanavaleaauthor.com

https://www.facebook.com/RoxanaValeaAuthor/

https://www.instagram.com/roxanavalea_author/

https://twitter.com/roxana_valea

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07T8C3TN6/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Single-Buenos-Aires-Polo-Diaries-ebook/dp/B07T8C3TN6/

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B082P34YPF/

US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B082P34YPF/

Do I need an English culture coach?

Since I featured the book Bloom Where You’re Planted on expat life, I’ve had people asking me about relocating, so I thought it would be interesting to invite a professional to provide another perspective. Victoria runs Perfect Cuppa which supports people, usually professionals, relocating to the UK with the language and culture. Since my blog is not a corporate blog, we had a chat about settling the family in, which was not covered in great depth in the Bloom book.

Anywhere, here she is with her top tips …

Top tips for settling your family into the UK

Moving to a new country can be a big challenge, even if you have done it previously. In  fact many people I meet as clients believe moving to the UK will be easy, as London is a large, multi-cultural city with English as the international language. This is true to a certain extent, however, relocating to London with a family might not be as straight-forward as it seems, so here are my top tips to help the kids feel settled quickly & you feel orientated & more plugged in.

  1. School gate chat: chatting to other parents at drop off & pick up time, is a great way to have your questions answered about the school, how things are done & where to find things in the local area. Not sure how to kick off? In the UK the weather is a good topic & we like to comment on the weather, even it’s only a little bit warm or cold! But of course anything to do with school is a hot topic like SATS (the national tests in years 2 & 6. The British are quite keen on testing kids, even at early ages), whether people are tutoring or not (can be controversial), homework etc.
  2. Coffee mornings: depending on the school, you may find coffee mornings are organised as socials or information meetings, and you can meet other parents & learn more about what’s going on in the school. Don’t be fooled by the name, yes there is coffee, but tea is still the drink of choice in the UK. Usually drunk with cold milk (not hot milk or cream), the most popular way to make tea is in a mug, tea bag first, then hot water, finally milk. If you have a friend around, you will need a kettle to make a proper cuppa! I don’t recommend making a cup of tea in the microwave, it just doesn’t taste nice.
  3. Lunchtime: School dinners confusingly can be the name of the meal at lunchtime, and every school will provide an option to eat there. The meals are free for school years Reception to year 2, and there is a small charge for the other years. If you prefer your child to have a packed lunch, then this is possible, and they can bring in a cold lunch, usually including the very English sandwich, in a lunchbox. Just check your school’s rules on what you can include, as some schools are very strict about nuts or chocolate, plus sweets & crisps (the British names for “candy” and “chips”).
  4. After-school fun: there are countless opportunities for after-school clubs, inside school & in externally-run groups. If you child is shy or they are trying to get better at speaking English, then they can get to know their classmates in a more relaxed environment. There is a group for anything & everything out there, and if you’re looking for recommendations, then check out your local parenting facebook group, e.g. “Hampstead Mums” is the facebook group to join if you live in Hampstead. Alternatively, I think Girl Guiding & Scouts are another good option for your kids to meet friends, and don’t forget there are a number of day activity camps in London during the school holidays.
  5. Play date rules: Another popular thing for after school in the UK are playdates. We tend to organise these in advance with the other parent, and it can be in a local playground, one of your homes, or soft play. Usually they are quite short, an hour or 2, and the kids will have a snack but won’t have a full dinner, unless you specifically make an arrangement. Play dates with younger children would expect you to go along too, but with older ones, if you’ve arranged for them to be picked up after school by the other parent, then you need to let the school know in advance that you give permission. Occasionally people will spontaneously organise a playdate, especially in the summer when lots of parents might head to the playground, but it’s more unusual.
  6. Chill time: a great way for your kids to understand British life & other children can be as simple as watching TV, and if English is a 2nd language, then this can help them improve. Even at advanced levels, it’s worth watching with the subtitles on to improve fluency & connect British pronunciation with words. I would highly recommend you check out programmes via the BBC i-player app, which is an on-demand service you can access for free if you have paid your TV license fee, and CBBC is the children’s channel. Current popular programmes include Blue Peter, Millie Inbetween, and the 4 o’clock club.
  7. Charity fundraising & dressing up:Whether it’s Red Nose Day, Halloween, or Children in Need Day, you need to know the British are pretty serious about key events in the calendar & charity fundraising. You can expect quiz nights, school fairs & fancy dress or “wear your own clothes” days (very exciting as British schoolkids usually wear a uniform), all ably organised by the school’s PTA (parent-teaching association). You can volunteer to help organise these events, which is another good way to make friends. Also don’t forget that fundraising & school events include lots of cakes, sugar consumption & prizes, all in the name of charity!

 

Thanks Victoria, I could do with some help on school gate chat myself! Hope you have found the tips useful and if you have any further questions do comment below or get in touch with Victoria directly: Victoria@perfectcuppaenglish.co.uk,www.perfectcuppaenglish.co.uk.

About Victoria

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Victoria Rennoldson, Founder of Perfect Cuppa English, was born in & has lived most of her life in London with her young family. After a first career in brand marketing, she re-qualified in teaching English, and took the plunge to become an entrepreneur. She set up her company, Perfect Cuppa English, in 2015 to offer private English language and British Culture courses for adults, in Everyday & Business English, for greater speaking confidence. She regularly gives talks and writes articles about British language, life & culture.

You can regularly find her zipping between client meetings on the London underground, and she’s now pretty fast on the escalators. Her favourite things include tea (of course);  a good pair of flat shoes to maximise speed up & down escalators on the speed dash between meetings; beautiful notepads & a great selection of coloured pens. If you’re making her a cuppa, she prefers Twinings English Breakfast tea.

 

 

Local author, with a touch of Tasmanian devil …

I’m really excited to introduce Rosemary Noble to you today. Now, she’s not a kids book author, so I know I risk straying off here, but I just read Sadie’s War, the third book in a historical saga which is based on her own family’s true story of being transported to Australia. She now lives locally to me and we’re in the same writers group, Chindi Authors, so how could I not share! She’s just back from a tour of Australia, all in the name of research – remind me to write a book set in Fiji soon – but skipped Sydney Opera House in favour of convict factories and orphan schools.

Over to Rosemary …

 

I’d like to thank Lexi for inviting me to her blog today. I know Lexi is interested in travel and sailing, so come with me on a journey to the far side of the world. To an island no bigger than Ireland, with a beauty that one would go far to surpass, empty beaches of bone, white sands, topaz seas, stunning mountains and lakes, roads you can drive down without seeing a passing car – a veritable paradise – but one that has a terrible past.

Tasmania, off the southern coast of Australia, was settled by the British in 1802. At that time, it was called Van Diemen’s Land and that name struck terror into the hearts of the thousands of men, women and children who were transported there, often for minor crimes. Take a young Irish girl during the time of the famine. She found an egg in a hedge. She was starving and placed it carefully in her apron pocket. Later she was accosted by a policeman who searched her and finding the egg, he arrested her for stealing it and despite her protestations, she was transported twelve thousand miles from her home and family.

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That’s not to say everyone was innocent. There were plenty of villains too. This was a time when Britain preferred to send their miscreants far away rather than have prisons. They used to send them to America but after America won its battles for independence, Britain needed another prison and they chose Australia. Terra Nullius, James Cook called it – an empty land. Only it wasn’t a land without people, not at all.

It is estimated that there were five hundred or so separate nations of native Australians who had lived there for almost fifty thousand years, each with their own language. Imagine their land invaded and their horror as they were turfed off their native hunting grounds and watched their sacred lands desecrated. On my last visit to Tasmania in October 2018 I came across this sign in the museum in Hobart.

Around that time the aboriginals were attempting to fight back and some of the new settlers were speared. The government responded by hunting down all the native Tasmanians and sending them to a smaller island where they gradually died through disease and neglect. It’s a shameful tale.

But what sparked my interest in Tasmania? It was discovering that my husband’s three times great grandparents were transported. They met there, married and raised a family. For them it was a huge success because they thrived. They had the determination, grit and endurance to survive and they helped populate Australia. It wasn’t always the case. A recent study has discovered that those convicts who had not grown up in a close family unit were the least successful. Now consider what the system did to the children of convict women, still under sentence.

A visit to the ruined Cascades Female Factory in Hobart and watching the performance ‘My story,’ tells the heart-breaking truth. The children were taken from the women to be weaned at six months. If they survived weaning, and many did not, the children were sent to the Orphan School until they could be apprenticed to a master or mistress around the age of ten, if their mothers had not claimed them. Some did, some were not in a position where they could. They may have married, and their new husbands refused to take their children. The matron of the Orphan School was the subject of a very harsh report in the 1840s. Cruelty, starvation, neglect – you get the picture. But this was thought to be better than leaving them with their ‘criminal’ mothers.

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So many stories. Thirteen thousand women were transported to Tasmania, twenty-nine thousand to Australia in all – each have their own story. The wonderful work of the Female Convicts Research Centre volunteers in transcribing the records and following up on all the women, together with so many descendants reaching out to find the truth, is testament to our craving for knowledge of our history.

When I attended the seminar in October at the Orphan School, three separate women told me that their female ancestors had been transported from Sussex, from Boxgrove, from Oving and from Horsham. Did I know these places?

Since returning, I have thought about these three women from Sussex. I knew the story of one because I had researched all the women on her ship some years before for the FCRC. You see I was one of the volunteers. Charlotte Ayling was unusually fifty years of age, a washerwoman, sentenced in Chichester. Why unusually – because mostly they sent out young women able to marry and bear children. Charlotte was too old to take her children with her, but, and this is what strikes me now – at least one of her adult children must have loved their mother so much that they followed her out. Charlotte died only three years after arrival. I hope her son or daughter got to see her before she died.

Bio

Rosemary Noble lives in West Sussex and worked as an education librarian. Books have been her life, ever since she walked into a library at five-years-oldand found a treasure trove. Her other love is social history. She got hooked on family history before retirement and discovered so many stories that deserved tobe told.

Her first book, Search for the Light, tells the story of three young girls transported to Australia in 1824. Friendship sustains them through the horrors of the journey, and their enforced service in Tasmania. The Digger’s Daughter tells of the next generation of gold-diggers and a pioneering woman who lives almost through the first hundred years in Victoria. The third in the trilogy, Sadie’s Wars takes the reader to the fourth generation and into the twentieth century. The trilogy is based on the author’s family. It tells of secrecy and lies, of determination and grit and how all can be done or undone by luck.

Rosemary is a member of CHINDI authors and is involved in literary events in and around Chichester. She also loves to travel, especially to Australia and Europe and not least, she loves spending time with her grandchildren, one of whom is a budding author herself.

Links to Books

Search for the Light myBook.to/SearchFTL

The Digger’s Daughter myBook.to/DiggersD

Sadie’s Wars mybook.to/SadieW

When the kids are old enough to drive

DS: “Mum, I can drive at 15.”

Me: “No you bloody well can’t.”

DS: “I can. I’ll prove it to you.”

Quick Google later, and he shows me that you can get a license at 15 years and 9 months. Who knew that? Why so early? His excitement is already unbearable.

I learnt to drive in my parents’ diesel estate car. I took my driving test at rush hour in London. We sat in traffic most of the time, pulling into a side road to do the three point turn and emergency stop before rejoining the traffic jam. The most exciting part was the cyclist lurching across a pedestrian crossing. At the end the examiner asked if I knew where third gear was. I pointed it out to him. I passed.

I still remember the registration number of my first car, A764 CPH. A very sporty silver Metro City.

My first car

Anyway, whilst DS dreams of a sports car, I enjoyed this blog from Fraser’s Fun House

I realised recently that I rarely talk about the girls despite them accounting for two thirds of the Fraser clan – this is partly because they would most probably die of shame – so today I’m going to dedicate a whole post to them! A recurrent topic in our house lately is the length of […]

via Growing Up: Learning To Drive — Fraser’s Fun House