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

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The best time to hand over your keys

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

Why glamping is the best solution for muddy hooves

I used to camp loads when I was younger. I had a little tent that I backpacked round the world with, free camping by glaciers and lakes. Then when the kids were younger we got a family sized tent with a carpet and I shouted “shoes off” every 15 minutes in an attempt to keep the mud out, only to be defeated by a New Forest pony with very muddy hooves that popped in to say hi.
But, as I’ve got older, I find it harder work, and the tent has been in the attic for a couple of years now.
So when I left it too late to book a hotel or B&B for a big family gathering during Victoria week in Ballater, I googled campsites a little nervously. Then I stumbled across a nearby glamping site that actually had spaces, Howe of Torbeg. Camping with a bit more luxury and less mud. I’ve never glamped. I’m not a camping purist, I just never got round to it.
It’s actually only been open two months, and, as it turns out I was one of the very first people to book. Although the owners have lived here for five years, levelling the steep slope enough to build the huts on was a massive construction project. And they’ve done it beautifully. Four cute as a button domed wooden huts.
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Ours even had a proper, very comfortable, bed. And I used to think my tent carpet was luxury.
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DS was on the floor on a midget sized mattress. His feet stuck over the end, but he slept like a log anyway.
Each hut has its own fire-pit and picnic bench with uninterrupted views over the valley. They sell baskets of logs and charcoal, plus you can hire crockery and cutlery sets for a few pounds which definitely beats paper plates.
Having said “we’ll never use all these” as we collect the huge basket of logs, we do. It’s too lovely an evening to retire early. DS collects fallen branches and twigs from the woods.
If you worry about campsite facilities, don’t. The shower block was immaculate, better than many hotels I’ve stayed in. Again, for a few pounds we added a towel pack rather than bring our own.
Even my non-camping sister, staying in a nearby hotel with her four-poster bed, was impressed. Next year I think I could persuade her to join us. Even if just for one night. My tweenage nieces are definitely up for it. At worst I get “best aunty/ sister” points for taking them for a night.
The positives?
  • Fun
  • Beautiful setting
  • Spotlessly clean
  • Far easier than camping
The downsides?
  • Literally none from my perspective.
  • There was virtually no internet so I expected some teenage grumbling. I was wrong. I confess I was surprised by that, but not going to complain.
  • In future, I predict a downside will be getting a space. Book early!
I’m now tempting myself with a treehouse and DS fancies staying in a double decker bus … Why are there never enough weekends in a year?
But does glamping still count as camping? Even allowing for the glamorous bit, our little hut is so close to being a holiday cottage I’m not sure. I’ve decided glamping is where you still need to walk outside to get to a bathroom and may encounter patches of mud. Does that mean our grandparents glamped all year?
outside toilet glamping
Have you glamped? What did you think of it?

Why the kids packing has hilarious results

“What? You’re packing for him?” My mother is outraged. “You packed all your own stuff for a holiday from when you were nine and it was perfect.”

Perfect? Really? I have no recollection of ever packing myself, or being praised for it.

I’m always puzzled when I see people dragging vast suitcases at the airport. What have they got in there? I can’t imagine taking so much stuff for a week on a beach? Skiing, yes. Camping, yes. But a week in Spain? I’m not actually sure I own that much summer clothing. I’ve even packed my espresso machine and my bag is still smaller. Actually I would trade a pile of dresses just to make space for the espresso machine if it came down to it.

I’m a member of a great decluttering group on Facebook who were lamenting the challenges of packing. They were shocked when I said my last trip was ten days and I travelled hand baggage only and that included my horse riding helmet. And a pair of boots. And my espresso machine. So I guess I pack light.

Anyway, it’s all granny’s fault that the kids are packing for themselves this year. I’m off duty.

“Everything’s packed mum.”

DS Trip 1

  1. One t-shirt
  2. A quill pen and bottle of ink
  3. A wooden treasure chest

It’s all very neatly packed in a 5 inch metal dinosaur tin. Even by my standards, that is extremely light packing.

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Apparently this is enough for a week.

DS Trip 2

  1. Chopsticks
  2. Mouse for the home computer
  3. Pillow. Apparently this is not negotiable, it is coming with us. Does it count as an item of hand baggage itself? Otherwise I’m going to be impersonating a pregnant lady through check-in.
  4. Flip flops. We’re off on a family trip to the north of Scotland. I add a raincoat.

Niece 1

  1. Cropped vest top – striped
  2. Cropped vest top – ribbed
  3. Cropped vest top – sparkly
  4. Denim mini skirt

Yup this is for the Scotland trip too. The midges are going to have a field day. I almost comment on the scant size of the clothing but then realise I am turning into my mother, so bite my tongue.

Top tips for light packing

My three top light packing tips would be

  • Pick a colour scheme so you can mix and match.
  • Throw things out/ give to charity when you finish. I don’t bring flip flops home at the end of summer as they are inevitably on their last legs by then. Ditto t-shirts and sun dresses that I know I will replace next year.
  • Accessories allow you to change the look. I love my jewellery pouches. I actually have two – a larger one for city breaks and a smaller one for outdoorsy trips.

 

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Large jewellery pouch from Stella & Dot. I love the separate compartments.

 

Would you trust the kids to pack for themselves?

What’s the strangest thing you (or they) have packed? I once took an anchor instead of a suitcase on a flight. That got strange looks when it arrived on the luggage belt in Turkey.

The Alcina Is A Stunning Boat In Real Life

Top advice for authors usually includes “Write about what you know” – well I know nothing about smuggling, but I do know a lot about sailing so that’s where the whole idea for The Relic Hunters started.

Finn and Aria’s boat is based on a real boat, Indianna. We anchored next to Indianna in a small bay in a Greek island and started chatting to the owners, Roger and Anne. They lived aboard Indianna with their two dogs, Indi and Sollie. The story is that one day, after (quite) a few lunch time drinks, they decided to quit their jobs and buy a boat. Sailing round the UK while they were learning the ropes seemed a sensible idea given they were both novices, but this was in January. Unsurprisingly, a couple of hundred miles north, Anne announced “if you don’t turn this boat and head somewhere warmer, I’m getting off.” And that started a nine year trip through the Mediterranean.

Indianna is a lovely ketch – solidly built, with beautifully varnished woodwork down below and a deep cockpit.

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The truth about the locations in my books

Sailing gives a wonderful freedom to choosing your location. The first book, Eternal Seas, starts in a lush tropical island, passing through some ports with bustling bazaars, before returning to the rugged islands off the north west coast of Scotland via London.

None of the locations are real, but they are all based on actual places.

 

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