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Greetings from Arran

Well, we made it… just. It’s been one of the hardest weeks of our lives and I never, ever want to go through it again. Having an 18-month old makes everything so much harder. Plus we had too much stuff. And all the lost weekends when people would invite us round during the only real packing time we had meant that, even after staying up the whole night before leaving, we still couldn’t do it. Lorraine left with the kids on Tuesday morning at 6.15. It should have been 6.00 and, thanks to the Tom Tom, we missed the train in Arlon. Thankfully she still made her flight, but barely.

Then I was back to the apartment to wake my brother up and try and get everything into the neighbour’s garage. My brother had slept from 3 a.m. so got a good 4 and a half hours. I, on the other hand, hadn’t slept at all and had been up and down to the garage all night long, all 43 stairs, carrying box after box. The landlord came round about 10 as scheduled and by this time I was close to collapse. Just the exhaustion, the stress and not eating properly at all. I ended up laying on the kitchen floor while my friend, whom I’d called in for some urgent help, tried to communicate with the landlord for me. He ended up having to call his wife to talk to the landlord on the phone to interpret into the landlord’s native Italian. We agreed that I was going nowhere that day – I wasn’t fit for anything. Then we decided that my brother would still be able to make the ferry and take the cat, providing we could get the cat out from behind the kitchen units. If he couldn’t get her out, he could still make the ferry but then I’d have to get the ferry too, and have to take our car, which means we’d spend a fortune and not be able to leave the car behind to sell it (because the Brits like to be different and drive on the other side, have different electrical sockets, different currency, etc.) Anyway, we knocked the bottom panel off the cooker and managed to get the cat out, get her to the vet’s before the 11.30 deadline (she needed tick and worm treatment between 24 and 48 hours ofin the UK – not easy to arrange).

So, with my brother departed, I went to my friend’s house and collapsed for a few hours. Then back to the apartment to see the mess and start shifting it all to my friend’s. We did about half, then I started sorting it the next morning to see what to throw, what to ship and what to bring on the next morning’s flight. Another dear friend of mine met me at the apartment at lunch time and we got the rest of the stuff to our friends. Then she fed me a really good meal at her mum’s and we went back together to sort out the rest of the stuff. Then a trip to the recycling centre with all the stuff we were not taking or shipping and then back to box up what was left ready to ship.

She then fed me another good meal at her mum’s after we’d shifted all the boxes for shipping to her parents’ garage. And we were done! I flew out at 11 the next morning, got the ferry to Arran that night and have been here since Wednesday night.

The whole ordeal has taught me two things, one is that I love my wife, and the other is that friendship is one of the most valuable things in life. I really could not have done it had it not been for my two friends in my hour of need.

The new house is nice but full of old furniture and we have to try and fit around it. So far it’s working out but it’s taking a long time. And now that we’ve got all the furniture pretty much where we want it, I can’t even start unboxing as I’m heading out in a few hours for two weeks’ training on the mainland. It’s quite frustrating. Still, I guess it’ll work out in time. I have to learn how to be patient.

And so ends my first post from Arran. It really has come to pass!

Freya’s last day at nursery and the crèche

Walking home from précoce

It was a sad day yesterday. Freya had her last day at the précoce (nursery school) in the morning and then her last afternoon at the forest crèche. She’s been going to précoce only since September but is already a favourite of her two teachers. I haven’t really got to know them so well so it wasn’t so terribly sad for me and Freya seems quite oblivious to the emotion of it all. Well, she is only three!

The forest crèche was quite another matter though. I’ve been driving her there every day, Monday to Friday, for almost a year and a half now. When she first started going, she hadn’t started to talk yet and then I would listen to podcasts or my Robert Ludlum Bourne audiobooks. Soon she started talking and then we started listening to music in the car. I remember one of the first things was the Yellow Submarine, and she would come home and tell mummy “rine, rine” – that was all she could say to say that she’d been listening to the Yellow Submarine. It’s funny to think that she couldn’t say those words back then. Fast forward to her last day and she’s now fluent and able to express herself very well not only in English, but in Luxembourgish too.
The music grew and she soon had several playlists strung together. Then I rediscovered All Aboard, a tape that I had when I was a youngster and the Laughing Policeman soon became a firm favourite, along with the Hippopotamus song, Goodness Gracious Me, the Bee Song, Granddad, My Brother, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, etc. And, of course, the last week has been taken up with Christmas songs.

Forest Crèche

The forest crèche is such a wonderful concept and she has learned so much there. The building itself is right in the middle of the forest, right off the beaten track, and every day they go out into the forest, rain, hail or shine. You should see them all dressed up in their snow suits, gloves and balaclavas or their boodlebox and raincoats (boodlebox is Luxish for waterproof trousers – no doubt I’m spelling it wrongly but I really must write it down lest I forget as I’m sure I would very soon!) And in summer it’s t-shirt, had and sunscreen and off they go. She’s learned a lot of confidence by going there. I remember after her first week Lorraine telling me that they were throwing rocks off a sheer drop and laughing, but I thought she was exaggerating. She stayed with Freya for her first few weeks you see in case she got upset at being left on her own at the tender age of two. I went along with them one day, and, sure enough, the drop was as sheer as could be. They would climb trees and slide down muddy slopes on their behinds. You should see the state that their clothes got into. It must be great to be so carefree and be able to have such fun.

She’s made a lot of friends there, one of whom we’re spending the morning with on Sunday as it happens – a little boy with a Russian mother and Lux-ish father, so Mikhail is one of the few other kids there that I can actually talk to!

It was terribly difficult saying goodbye to her teachers, well, difficult for me and the teachers anyway. One of the teachers was in tears and I admit that I was having to fight them back myself (and am now, as it happens). We’re so fortunate to have got a place there and that Freya was able to go for so long. It’s such a pity that Hamish will never know such a place, but when we move we’ll have the beach and mountains on our doorstep and an au pair and mum will be home every day too, so, although it will be different for him, hopefully it will be just as good. I must say though that I’m feeling terribly sad about it, but nostalgic and happy for the memory of taking my little girl to crèche every day. Once we move I’ll be working every day and not even home for lunch so I won’t get to spend the afternoons with my little boy at home either. It’s all going to change and I know that we will all be much happier being back home and being by the sea again.

We’re lucky parents to have such great kids and their whole lives ahead of them. I can imagine now how my mum and dad must have felt when Brian and I were that age, but it’s something one can never really imagine until one becomes a parent. I’m grateful to have found out the secret of true happiness and the love of a parent. I couldn’t be without it now.


So thank you everyone at the bëschcrèche!

Notice Day

The day has finally come when Lorraine hands in her notice at work, so I no longer have to make my Arran posts neighbourhood only! We were waiting until the very last day with bated breath to see if Lorraine would get her year-end bonus before she handed in her notice. We’re kind of relying on it for the move you see and it would have made things difficult if it had gone wrong. So you can imagine my elation on checking the bank today to see the bonus had gone in! A mere few hours before she gives her letter of notice to the boss!

 Everything is falling into place. We have to be out of our flat by 1 January so the packing will need to move up a gear after the weekend. It has been difficult because our weekends are filled up with farewell visits to friends and that’s really the only time that we can get any proper packing done.

We’re staying at a friend’s after 1 January and leaving Lux on the 7th. My brother is bringing a 7.5-tonne truck over on the ferry from Rosyth on the east coast of Scotland to Zeebrugge in Belgium, leaving on the 3rd and arriving on the 4th. Then we leave on the 7th, arrive on the 8th and then go straight to Arran to our new rented house. It’s going to be hectic, no doubt stressful and difficult but ultimately worth it.

I then have two weeks’ training in Glasgow from the 14th and I take over the Post Office on the 30th. The dream is getting close!

Our Leaving Do

We have three more weeks left in Luxembourg before we head back to my native Scotland. My good friends and playing partners threw a farewell bash for us at a friend’s house in a little village down on the Moselle river that forms the natural border between Lux and Germany (and whence some very nice wine comes!)

We made the event to be similar to the open mics (or speakeasys) that we have in an Irish pub in Lux City regularly. The host had a PA that sounded really good and there were several players. It was a really fun day and it was great to have it in the afternoon so that Lorraine could finally get to hear us play. She’s normally home with the bairns while I’m out playing you see, so it was a real treat for me to have her there. Of course the compliments she paid me on my performances were more than welcome! It’s been literally years since she last saw me perform and it’s not quite the same thing as playing at home.

The highlights for me were playing two duets with a friend of mine. Our we had some nice vocal harmonies going down and it was a treat for me to find someone to play the Beatles’ The Two of Us (from Let it Be). I did record the whole thing on my iPod but I was coming out of the headphone out on the mixer to a line-in feed on the iPod and the volume on the headphone out was maxed out, so the whole things was clipping all the way through and sounds pretty dreadful. Shame.



Quick update on the Arran move

Just a quick one as I haven’t written about the move to Arran in ages and I know that some of my hoodies were interested.

I start the new job at the Post Office on 30 January. That’s the day we take over the business. I’ve got two weeks of training in Glasgow before that. We’re moving from Lux on 7 January. My brother is bringing a 7.5 tonne truck over and we’re doing the move ourselves. He’s bringing it from Rosyth (Scotland) to Zeebrugge (Belgium) on 3 January, arriving in Zeebrugge on 4 Jan (it’s an 18-hour crossing). Then we pack the truck and leave on 7 Jan to arrive in Scotland on 8 Jan and then the ferry to Arran on the evening of 8 Jan. We’ve got the house on Arran all sorted out pretty much. I got the phone line installed (that was fun, trying to get that done when nobody was in the house – thanks to our soon-to-be-new neighbours it worked out). Next thing is to choose an ISP (I’m going with one of the Entanet resellers as they have no restrictive fair-use policies and plenty of bandwidth and a good reputation for 20 quid a month). Got to order a phone and a modem and some filters.

The au pair is also sorted out and has booked her flights. A nice French girl called Rachel. She’s staying until the summer and we’ve almost chosen her successor (a German speaker).

I’ve scanned LOADs of paper into my SnapScan and shredded. We’re selling/chucking lots of stuff. Some boxes are already packed. We just got an Epson V750 scanner to scan boxes of old photos so we can chuck them. Freya is enrolled for nursery.

Now we only have a few weekends left and they are filling up fast with farewell visits. It’s tough as that is the only time we can properly pack anything. Just one of those things I suppose.

Lorraine STILL hasn’t handed in her notice and will not be doing so for a few weeks yet. We’re worried that it would jeopardise her end-of-year bonus so we’re leaving it until the last possible minute (20 Dec, or Dec 20 for our American readers ;)). So this will still be hood only.

Hamish has awoken. I’d better go. Not long to go now and we’re getting excited!