Saturday, 6 August 2016

ms-havachat discovering Surrey - French Brothers Ferry Rides, Windsor

My photo, shame about the grey sky.

Windsor is an easy day trip from London. There are numerous coach tours there or you can catch the train, or hire a car for flexibility. London Waterloo train station to Windsor about 55 minutes and about the same by car (of course, this totally depends on time of day etc). Parking can be expensive and difficult to find as locals shop/live in the area.

Once there, tour of the Castle, stroll the shops, enjoy a meal, do the Hop On Hop Off Bus tour and then wander to the River Thames for a relaxing hour or so before returning to the rush of London.

The Thames River starts in the beautiful Cotswolds, flows through London and out to the North Sea for a total of 210 miles. There are 45 locks, an abundance of bird and sea life, and many opportunities to enjoy the river by boat, punt, or simply strolling on the paths alongside it. The section that flows past Windsor is pretty and offers visitors another opportunity to enjoy Mother Nature.

A few weekends ago, I went on a short cruise on the Thames from Windsor with MIL, on the boats provided by French Brothers. Despite the grey clouds, we had a pleasant 40 minutes on board one of the old fashioned boats. I just might have to do the trip again, simply to get better photos!

Google pics photo

The boats leave often enough so there's not much of a wait, tho on a sunny day, in high tourist season, I would recommend purchasing tickets when you arrive so you can plan the rest of they day around the cruise. We only waited 15 minutes for the next cruise so decided to stroll along the river. We were surprised how the pedestrian path had no fencing on the rivers edge, as we're used to that sort of public safety protection in other parts of the world. There were LOTS of swans and ducks eagerly feeding by the river edge from food bought from the ticket office by tourists. Not sure who was having more fun, the swans and ducks or the kids!

Once on board, the audio guide started and it's interesting enough, tho it did you leave you wanting more. At some points, the guide seemed to be ahead of where the boat was which was frustrating. I'm sure there's a LOT MORE history and interesting tidbits of information to be learned about this part of the river, especially when you consider Windsor Castle, Eton College and other famous places along the way.

I recall a story about this bench and concrete wall having something to do with the boys from Eton College but not the details. Thought it made a nice photo even against the grey skies.

The "Chinese Bridge"should probably be painted red for authenticity was still very pretty. I took the photo before the commentary started to explain it.

The riverbanks are home to swans and ducks and numerous other bird life, and also fish. There were several people fishing, and we had peek-a-boo sights of the Royal Windsor Race Course thru the trees.

There are 45 locks along the length of the river. While Oxford isn't that far away, we were told it would take a few days cruising to get there (a) the cruising speed on the river is slow, and (b) the number of locks you go thru. If you're interested, here's a link to The Royal River Thames website.

I loved the various boats on the river. It bought back childhood memories of holidaying on the Hawkesbury River from Bobbin Head in New South Wales as a kid with mum and dad. We'd hire Halversen boat for a week or so and cruise the river. Might suggest something similar to G for our next staycation - a few days punting on the Thames between villages.

Stock photo of a Halverson.

People live on the Thames. Sadly, in some parts of London it's causing congestion and frustration, not the sort of things one would expect an idyllic lifestyle to do. As London real estate continues to spiral out of control upwards, living on the river is proving to be a cost effective way to live IN London.

It was really enjoyable watching the changing shoreline - from overgrown trees to cycle tracks, walking paths, the racecourse and then suburbia. These houses were beautiful!

The finale photo opportunity is Windsor Castle from the river, the way it's been seen for hundreds of years.

I sincerely hope you enjoy your time on the Thames at Windsor,

With friendship

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

ms-havachat Discovering Surrey: Dining at Marco Pierre White, Windsor

Our family LOVES Marco Pierre White. Our 12 year old daughter might be one of his biggest fans, even tho she probably wouldn't eat most of the food he cooks (she has a very selective palette, so maybe, she SHOULD meet him and he could influence a few more foods into her diet)

Marco appears regularly as a guest judge on Australia's Masterchef, and while he's a bit gruff, he's also full of affection for the contestants, and food. He expects nothing less than each person giving 100% of themselves, what ever that might be. We giggle every time he peers over the top of his glasses. He's one of the those people who, when silent, says a lot.

We smiled often at the YES MARCO he would shout to the contestants, and they'd repeat, a tad frazzled YES MARCO.

This saying about dreams is something our daughter really liked.

My husband ate at MPW in Dublin and still, over 12 months later, still talks about it. Still not quite sure how we never ate there.

Thanks again, Google images.

Long story short, there's a MPW in Windsor at the Castle Hotel. We'd walked past a few times and commented how we should go one night .......... last week my husband did something he seldom does. HE made a reservation for dinner without consulting me and we had one of the loveliest date nights we've had in a long time. (Usually I'm the social director. Who's the social director at your place?)

The entrance to the restaurant is just to the right of the entrance to the Hotel and, if you know of Marco's personality (or at least the one he shows on television), it's VERY him. There's a definite presence about the place.

L: Walking thru entrance of Hotel.
R: Restaurant reception, with Marco peering down, watching.

After a warm welcome, we were escorted to our table. The restaurant was busy for a Monday night, with several tables of diners already seated, drinking and looking at menues. G had already looked online and knew what he was  having for dinner, so it was left to me to decide. Even tho it's a steakhouse, I opted for seafood and G had lobster followed by pork (which we don't cook at home).

Entree: Crispy Devilled Whitebait (Delicious)
 Marco's Lobster Macaroni (YUM!)

Mains: Seared YellowFin Tuna with Panzenella Salad (OMG YUM!)
and Pork Belly Marco Polo (SO GOOD!)

Sticky Toffee Pudding - the waiter poured the sauce for us.

We sat and chatted between courses.

We drank wine.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

We are looking forward to going back soon.

There's a kids eat free offer which we'll do before MissM starts school in a few weeks as a celebration of the summer holidays.

If you're local to Windsor, and you dine here, I really hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

With friendship

Monday, 25 July 2016

ms-havachat's Discovering Surrey: Great Fosters, Surrey, UK.

Great Fosters courtesy of a professional photo on Google Images.

Great Fosters in Egham, Surrey is a 17th century mansion house, overflowing with history.  Great Fosters is a magnificent boutique hotel offering a variety of dining experiences and private gardens.

As a Grade 1 listed building, Great Fosters has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or History Interest.  It means it may not be demolished, renovated or altered without special permission form the local planning authority without consulting the central government agency to ensure what work required is done within keeping with the original building (thanks Google search)

Simply put - it ensures the magnificent history of architecture continues to be enjoyed, along with the history of the people who once lived/worked within them.

It's why millions of people travel to the UK, Ireland and Europe - to experience the history the buildings offer.

Great Fosters is also a local icon. It's on the list of places one might go with overseas visitors for a 'special meal' or a celebratory afternoon tea. They are also a popular venue for weddings and offer several private dining rooms for bespoke experiences.

I was so touched when MrsC invited me to lunch there for my birthday recently. I had heard so many wonderful things about the place, and G and I had thought 'we'll leave it for a special occasion' so to be taken there was very special.

Having not been before, I was gobsmacked from the moment we drove into the place. When I saw the building, even thru the rain I could see how stunning it was.

The entrance door is delightful! So tiny, and unique. The porters must have fun schlepping suitcases in/out, but for me, absolutely the most gorgeous door I have ever walked through.


The lobby takes your breath away. I simply LOVE Listed Buidings! I know my BFF MrsH in Sydney would positively love this place. Every nook had something special to offer. The luxurious chairs, the floral displays, antique furniture - they don't make lobby's like this very often anymore.

Lobby, taken with my phone camera.
We were greeted by several staff with simple smiles and a soft 'good afternoon ladies' and at reception told that 'someone will be with your shortly to escort you into the restaurant'. How exciting!

We had a glass of champagne next to the windows overlooking the gardens (which I will definitely need to visit again as it was raining), and then escorted to our table in The Estate Grill, one of several restaurants.

The view entering the restaurant. 

I think I might have gasped out loud!

The light!
The ceiling!
The colour scheme!
The decor!

One of the most serene and beautiful dining rooms ever!

MrsC and I were in awe (she's had afternoon tea here before, but in a different room). We looked like twits walking around ooh-ing and aah-ing and taking photos, but didn't care.

Seriously felt like we were inside an old church. The ceiling
was so high and decorative. This photo does not do the room justice.
My camera didn't capture the room as well as this professional photo

The waiter was so patient with us, and once we were seated and calmed down, he explained the tapas inspired menu, then left us to consider our choices. The sommelier joined us and said he'd be very happy to help us choose wines to accompany our dishes once we'd made our selection, or he could recommend a bottle of wine - we chose the bottle hehehehehe

Lunch is served ........... it was artistic, colourful, delicious.

Beetroot, walnut, apple and puffed rice

OMG the quail!!!!!!!!!!!! Described on the menu 'hay roasted stuffed quail"

Sumptuous Salmon ..... sured salmon, oyster, gin and cucumber.

Sensational scallops ..... scallops, lomo, fennel


We only had coffee to finish. 

What a lunch. 

A truly memorable and so special birthday treat from my dear friend MrsC. 

If you know you'll be in the area, you absolutely have to make a reservation to dine here, at the very least, enjoy afternoon tea and let me know what you think. 

PS: This blog is totally independent of Great Fosters. They don't even know I was going to write one. 

With friendship

Monday, 6 June 2016

ms-havachats on about volunteering at school

It's that time of year again (in the northern hemisphere at least), when school Parent Committees/Boards transition from one team to another. Our school has already done this, and I am on the incoming Board (parent board/committee not the official Board, confusing, right?)

After a self imposed year's sabbatical, I'm ready to get back to being busy within the school community. I've learn my lesson and didn't jump in right away, but opted to peruse the scene from a short distance and suss things out before thinking 'OMG what have I done?'

I've been on school committees before, and if you've been reading for a while, you know I was VP of the IWCD. I've just taken on a role I've overseen but not done before. It's fun to see the similarities and differences, not unlike starting a new job. Lots of 'why do you do that' or 'have you thought about this' and thinking WT LOL.

Last week, a BF asked me for advice before she nominated herself for a position on her kids school board. She would like to get more involved in the school community, know a bit more about what's going on etc. While I was sending her a reply I thought what a good chat this would make as maybe there are others who are considering the same steps this school year.

So here goes, ms-havachat's guide to considering being on the School Parents Committee (or any volunteer role)


  • Don't rush in! Take time on subcommittees first as a means of sussing out how things are done; what politics (if any) are happening; learn the history of why things are done the way they are and if change is welcome/needed; Interview THEM as much as you can without them knowing. 
    • I tend to spend the best part of the first year attending as many school (or International Women's Clubs) events (that are interesting and relevant) because I wanted to, and because it was a way to meet people (i.e.: organisers) and to observe how things are done. When you're seen to be involved as a participant, people chat with you and you soon have 'friends on the Committee' even tho they may not be Friends (capital F being the difference)
    • If the opportunity to be on a sub-committee crops up during that year, take it! Another easy way to be involved without committing. 
  • Whatever role you take on, the time it takes to do that role may well be way more than you are told. Be prepared, be organised. 
    • I keep the afternoon/evening of the Monthly meeting free for any administration and follow ups needed to be done so they are attended to straight away. 
    • Respond to/write emails and make phone calls during the day; nothing past 5pm unless absolutely necessary and definitely nothing on the weekend.
  • Monthly meetings
    • Follow up meetings
    • Sub Committee meeting
  • Administration
    • Role dependant, but there are always emails (no one talks on a phone anymore)
    • Research/planning/preparation
    • For the first time my Committee email is different to my personal email (as stipulated by school), and I have it set up on my iPad, not coming into my laptop or my phone.
    • So. Much. More. Freedom!
  • Attending/participating in events
    • As a committee member you are expected to participate in most, if not all the events at school
    • In addition to encouraging friends to join in the fun too!
  • The other important consideration is how long are you going to be living where you are? If it's a short contract, maybe you don't want to be burdened with a committee OR maybe it's exactly what you need to immerse yourself as quickly as possible into your new community. 
    • Remember, rule of thumb; first 6-12 months you're really settling in, second year you know the ropes and enjoying life ..... then do you move? extend? How much travel will you be doing? What age are your kids? How much attention/support do they need?
  • Knowing who the President is going to be before you commit, is very helpful.
    • It should never be a committee based purely on friendships, but rather a committee who over time become friends. 
    • Speak with the incoming President and find out their ideas and goals for their time at the helm, find out how open they are to yours.
    • Like a CEO, or the captain of a sports team the President has a lot to do with the success of the Committee (or, the Committee learn quickly how to work around them)
  • Understand the organisational chart 
    • It might 'just be school' and you are 'just volunteering' but there still needs to be structure
  • Make sure the role you are asked to consider is absolutely the one you want. 
    • Know your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes and don't be persuaded otherwise. 
    • I will consider most roles but never ever treasurer or secretary; just not my skill set. 
  • Talk with the incumbent. Listen to how they did the job, and ask questions.
    • It's just like a job interview, just with no income derived.
    • Ask lots of how? why? when? questions 
    • A great question is 'if you were to do the job this year, knowing what you know what would you do differently? Quickly followed by .... 'what would you do differently'

  • Every committee reimburses in their own way for money you might spend on it's half. 
    • Be very clear on how you are to be reimbursed
    • I have heard of horror stories of people spending huge amounts of money only for it to be challenged ........ make sure you absolutely understand this aspect of the committee and don't be scared to suggest alternatives if you don't feel comfortable. 
    • Do you need to provide a number of quotes beforehand?
    • How long does it take for the money to be repaid?
    • Cash or direct transfer (yes! I've had to bank cheques as no online transfer option was possible)

  • If school or International Women's Clubs don't interest you, or you've been-there-done-that, think about volunteering at:
    • Hospital
    • Disadvantaged kids
    • Senior Citizens
    • Community Centres
    • Charity groups (too many to name)
    • Art galleries, museums, libraries 
    • Community sports clubs
    • Church, Synagogue, Mosque
    • Youth centres
    • Community Arts groups
    • Animal shelters

  • Great way to get to know people quickly
  • Knowing what's going on and being in a position of influence at time of change is enjoyable.
  • It's a great way to 'pay it forward' 
  • As an expat, it's possibly the only way you'll ever get to use your skills and experience if you're visa is stamped in such a way you can't be gainfully employed
    • Looks good on your CV if/when you return 'home'
  • Meetings, activities etc quickly fill up a diary and helps give your weeks meaning
  • Good role modelling for your kids

Personally, I really enjoy my time on Committees. The friendships have been great, my diary has direction, my skills are being used, it's fun to give back to your community.

Please share if you have anything else you'd like to add.
What's been your favourite volunteer role and why?
Experiences - good'n'bad? 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

ms-havachat Discovering Surrey, UK - Packhouse for Shopping and Lunch

Thanks Google Images for the professional photo

MrsD and I have wanted to come here for a while but things kept cropping up and another week would pass and we'd not gone. Today, however, we had planned to catch up and with nothing in particular in mind and the sun shining she suggested PACKHOUSE!

What a hidden treasure trove Farnham has to offer.

This place oozes history. Housed in a beautiful, large Grade II Listed historical building, Packhouse is 'a fine example of clutch stone work' according to visitsurrey.com

The Packhorse is a 400 year old building that was used as a hop kiln is now a vibrant, interesting home decor shopping centre of sorts. A hop kiln for those of you who are wondering as I was, is a building designed for kilning (during) hops as part of the brewing process to make ale/beer.

Today, it houses beautiful old and new, unusual and quirky, preloved and new things from a variety of individual retailers who source unique items for you, your home, the garden and unusual gifts. It's rather eccentric and chaotic in layout as you meander p'n'down staircases, some short some long, but somehow everything flows beautifully from one theme to the next. Suddenly, at the top of once staircase and to the left, there's clothes! I tried on several items and bought 3. A rare, successful clothes shopping day AND summer clothes too! Very happy ms-havachat.

The car park is a good size, tho by the time we left around 1pm, it was packed! Mind you, the weather was glorious and the outdoor cafe was buzzing with patrons.

My photos
Curious to see Buddha's, with claw foot baths, bird feeders and stone bird baths and I knew we were in for some wonderful surprises.

We were greeted so warmly by the ladies behind the counter, and given a map (yes, this place is so big, there's a map)

My photos

From silverware, glassware, antique or reproduction furniture, pillows, throws, silk flowers, candles, hurricane lamps, lights, chandeliers, crockery, cutlery, kitchen scales, pantry cupboards, kitchen tables, cook books, toys, kids furniture, paintings, prints .......

Chairs (there's so much on the floor, they have creatively used the walls to display the stock)

Grandfather clocks of all shapes and sizes. Wall clocks too - art deco, retro, contemporary designs. Which one to choose??????? While we were there, a gentleman was testing the settings with a small bag of tiny tools. Imagine the houses these grand clocks would be in ....

We need a clock in the kitchen. Well, we don't need one cos we all have our phones, but I'd LIKE a clock in the kitchen for when I don't have my phone tied to my hip and need to tell the time. There were lots of clocks for sale here, but they were either too big (needs to be small so we know it'll fit where ever we live), too heavy (can't bang nails into the walls to hang it, too heavy to move without worrying about it being dropped by removalists), or not a neutral colour/style (ideally, needs to be modern but contemporary to 'fit in' with where ever we live) ..... of course I could have bought one and sold it when we move on but why??????????????????????

So even a simply purchase of a clock becomes a frigging drama!

We even found a naughty step! How cute is it!!!!!!!!!!! Think the kids might muck up just so they could enjoy sitting on this sweet stool.

How stunning is this 1920's travel trunk! The drawers opened so smoothly and it's in pretty good condition for it's age. I thought it would make a stunning addition to a bedroom as the drawers are a good size for underwear or small items, and the hanging side (covered by the throw) could be a valet for pants.

We just kept walking and looking and stopping and looking and walking, talking about the things we were seeing and commenting on how frustrating it is to be an expat, packing and unpacking the contents of our homes, always in rental accommodation, yearning to be able to buy 'that' piece for 'that' place in our home knowing it'll never move, not even for the vacuum cleaner.

There's also a Secret Beauty Room offering a range of beauty treatments and a hair salon! The tough decision is whether to do all that before or after lunch.

The Packhouse also offers craft workshops. Check out the website for all the information. Sign up to their newsletter, I did.

After I'd purchased my clothes, we had lunch at the Fig Cafe, on the grounds of Packhouse in glorious SUNSHINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Delicious salad (mine) and MrsD fish'n'chips (there's a reason she ordered this which I won't go into here as it's not appropriate) which she savoured each mouthful of.

We sat in the SUNSHINE and chatted, not really wanting to get into the car to drive home but we did.

I am very happy to recommend Packhouse for a day of shopping and lunch. A perfect Girls Day Out!

With friendship

Saturday, 21 May 2016

ms-havachat ponders village life, wives and friendships when someone's unwell

My friends foot post-surgery

General statement alert:

If expat dad was to break his ankle it would be tough but the kids would still get to school, the house would still be well maintained, shopping and meals would still happen and dad would probably work from home.

If expat mum breaks her ankle to avoid things coming to a halt, the cavalry is brought in.

We all know that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, let me tell you, the expat village is alive and well too and takes care of everyone, regardless of age.

Two Fat Expats maintain if you put the word expat before anything - marriage, kids, divorce, illness, travel etc it's automatically different. And they are right.

Expat simply complicates things simply because you are not in an environment you understand, even when in the same language surroundings. Navigating the UK medical system for example, when not brought up on NHS is frustrating, as would be working out Australia's Medicare system, or the French one if it's not in your DNA. (An American friend living in Paris reeled when she spent time in the French medical system. We bolted back to Sydney from Japan when the specialist there wanted to 'wait and see' about a lump I had).

But getting sick or hurt throws you into another stratosphere of angst. Expat mums simply can't afford to be unwell. Poorly (love that British expression) is acceptable as you can still kinda cope, but sick, unwell no way.

How will the kids get to school?
Who'll do the shopping? (Believe it or not, online shopping does not exist everywhere)
Can hubby or older kids cook meals?
Is hubby able to cancel meetings or business trips and be around to help out taxiing kids after school?

Depending on how long you've been an expat for, you might have romantic ideas about what everyone else back home would do in the same situation. If you've just arrived in your new country  (or even if you've simply moved interstate) you might not yet have made that connection with people where you have established rapport, trust etc.

Getting sick, or discovering your child needs support at school, or you are depressed, or your marriage is going thru a rough patch and not having the support of people around you who absolutely know you and love you is really tough. There are some things brand new friends are happy to chat about while other topics stay unspoken.

There's so much to be done, and when you can't do it there's no choice but to ask for help and accept offers of help. When you're an expat, and your partner is working they aren't always able to be around to help, and that sux but it's a fact of life that you simply work around. Without a small army of loved ones close by to help out, you sometimes don't have a choice but to just get on with it OR open up to someone you barely know.

Those of you reading this who don't have immediate family to call upon for all sorts of reasons know what I'm talking about. The social isolation can be devastating. In expat life, one partner is working/away on business so the day to day running of the house and kids is yours and yours alone (unless you have home help), so it falls to your friends to be your support while you are recuperating.

That's what friends do. They support and help one another.

Even if the friendship is relatively new, people know what it's like to be far away from loved ones and reach out to help. They also quietly sign with relief that it's not them in the predicament (c'mon, admit it!)

We had just arrived in Japan and a young mum at school broke her leg. I didn't know her but I'd heard over coffee one morning what had happened and people were putting together a meal schedule, a visiting schedule (her husband travelled a LOT for work and could only reschedule so much), and a roster to help ferry the kids to/from school and playdates. As I didn't know her, it wasn't appropriate to visit or ferry the kids, but cook a meal, count me in.

When we first arrived back in the UK, I hurt my hip. We were still living in the hotel waiting for the lease to be signed; G was in Sydney sorting out visa's and working UK hours; we'd been at school less than 3 weeks. MrsD took over. We had no GP, no chiro, no home. You can only imagine how alone and isolated I felt, in addition to a burden on my new 'friends' and a tad foolish with my bunged up hip.

MrsD organised for MissM to go home with the mum of girls in her class. I'd met the mum a couple of times but nothing long lasting. I had no idea where they lived but MrsD assured me all would be fine. Heck, I'd only known MrsD for less than a month! She drove me to A&E to get me checked out. She rang her hubby who just happened to be in town and sorted out the kids so she could stay. We were so long in A&E, that she organised for MissM to sleep over where she was (again, I had no idea exactly where my daughter was). She drove me back to the hotel and organised for MissM to be brought back to the hotel the next afternoon and sorted pick up and drop offs for the next few days.

I felt so sorry for myself. I missed my mum and brother and SIL. I yearned for best friends of 20+ years to be able to help ..... and then thought while Mum would drop everything, she's not really able to run around and 'do' stuff these days (we're all getting older, right?), friends work. Who'd be around during the day to help like MrsD and the other expat mums?

Do you think you could rely on someone that much that you'd known less than a month?

But that's what you do.

MrsW has broken her ankle. That's her foot in the pic.

Friends have rallied around and have cooked meals (fresh and frozen), done a bit of shopping for her, pop in for a chat and to keep her company while kids and hubby are at work/school. She's more foruntate than most of us as her in-laws live a couple of hours away and have stayed a few nights to help with the kids and cook a few meals and keep her company during the day. Naturally, they needed to go home and get on with their lives and commitments, and are back'n'forth over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile a group of us have cooked meals, pop in for to make lunch and have a chat during the week, and two mums offered to host her daughters birthday party so it didn't have to be cancelled.

I'm not sure being an expat makes our actions unique, but what does make us unique is that her network not even one year old. Yet our actions and concerns are those of a comfortable old friendship.

Expat life does make you hit the ground running. Who has time to fluff around when your contract is 2-3 years?

This morning on FB, a friend shared that her husband has hurt himself very badly, so badly that it's a 6-8 week recovery period before physio! Naturally the comments of OMG, and what happened followed, as did the 'let me know if I can do anything' ones.

She and her family will be looked after, but as she's still well able to do the things she always does, work, run after and with the kids, manage the home etc, not much changes other than being there for him. I wonder if people will cook meals, or offer to do a few school runs, or pop by for a chat to break the day for him while he convalesces.

So I'm wondering - is it an expat thing or a gender thing?

Is it when the female head of house is out of commission people rally around OR is it a bit of both?

When both adults in the house are working and one is ill, under what circumstances are friends needed to help out?

When my back goes, G can do the school runs, and he can cook. We shop online and have groceries delivered. The washing might not be done as efficiently, and the ironing might be outsourced, but we can and do manage. However, in this community I know that he doesn't have to do those things because there's a small army of friends waiting and wanting to help.

I've flipped back and forth while chatting to you about this ..... it started being about the village expats live in and how we all help each other, regardless of how long we've known each other, then I realised that it's not that unique cos my friends back home drop things to help out when needed ....... so is it a gender thing? Is it when 'mum' falls ill or hurts herself that 'we' are needed to rally around, cos if it's 'dad' mum still functions.

As Annabell Crabb wrote in her book The Wife Drought, maybe women do need to get themselves a wife. Has the word become an adjective?

This chat started as one thing and ended up another. I've spent too long writing and rewriting to delete it, so here goes ........................

Saturday, 14 May 2016

ms-havachat - Rental Properties Whinge

Cheers, Google Images.

As you might gather, expat life is pretty normal once you've moved, unpacked, sorted the kids into school, settled, made friends, found your way around the suburbs, worked our where to shop, get your hair done, settled with a GP etc. 
However, like most things in life, to every ying, there is a yang. 

IMHO, one of the downsides to expat life is always living in rented properties. There's always compromises.

We've lived in numerous rental properties in several countries and it's pretty standard attitudes. Japan was absolutely unique in as much as you never ever ever had your bond returned. It was always kept and invested back into the property after you left so that the new tenants benefited from an exceptionally clean and fresh place, just like you did. It's super annoying if you don't know this beforehand ... but once you do, it's weirdly accepted as 'the done thing' 

Two of our homes were former residences of the landlords. The moved out for personal reasons and were not completely happy about having tenants so they really bumped up the rent compared to the suburbs they were in. The real estate agents brief was to find a corporate family, no pets, older children (we've only one, so that usually helps), and a short lease in case it didn't work out. Needless to say, we fell in love with both properties and moved in. They were lovingly renovated, with great colours, and modern appliances. You could TELL it was a 'home' and not just a building people lived in. They were house proud and so were we. 

Get a group of expats together and we all have a few things we wished our respective landlords would fix or consider doing to make our time in their home more enjoyable. It's not that we are fussy, tho some of us probably are, it's just that we are living in the property that they have possibly never done. Most landlords have the property as an investment so their attention to details is not as high as if they lived there. They don't know the stair creak, or there's a constant draft. They might not know the place needs painting, or the carpet is dead, or there are cracked tiles in the bathroom, or the water pressure is non existent. 
What usually asked for is not over the top. It's usually stuff that, if they lived in the property or indeed, the tenants were the owners it would be attended to. 

I will never understand the lack of owner pride or the uneconomical thinking of letting things go til the last minute then having a huge job to do.
They know they have a captured audience as the location of their property is usually close to school, or train stations. These attributes contribute to high rents anyways, but add the pressure of moving internationally and needing a home to put your stuff in when it arrives and you'll pay anything!

More often than not the answer to request is no. Sometimes they might agree but you pay for it and then pay to have whatever you've done reversed. That's when you and your partner discuss just how important the thing you want done really is for the time you live there.

Friends have painted their kids rooms and then paid to have them repainted the nondescript creme when they left; others have landscaped gardens, or repaired fences/side gates, or had tradesmen in to fix the draft/water pressure etc. 
Our current landlord is OK. He's explained he's not paining the place or recarpeting as we negotiated a good deal on the rent. He did repair the water sodden cupboard in the laundry when I asked him to as it was a health hazard (so much mould). But he won't attend to the creaky stairs as it's a major rebuild job, which I guess is fair enough but OMG it's so annoying every-single-time we walk p'n'down.

We are currently having a conversation about one important (to me) alteration that landlord has said we can do but won't pay for and it's the backyard. 
I would like something solid under the table n chairs ... Hubby doesn't think it warrants the couple of hundred quid for what a amounts to a few sunny days a year. 
We put said table n chairs on grass this morning and will wait and see if they sink into the grass and/or aren't comfortable to sit on (can imagine a slow sinking feeling while enjoying a long lunch)

I'm kinda complaining and kinda not.
I get the landlord not wanting to invest in concrete slabs or commissioning a huge patio but a few decking squares would suffice! 
Hubby really doesn't want to spend the money on something that he sees we'll use a few days a year and then have to get rid of before we move on.
My argument is that over the long school holidays it'll be nice to sit outside and read a book, or have lunch and that it's only a couple of hundred quid to which he reminds me of all the couple of hundred quid we've spent on temporary things. That leads us to talking about our expat life, and how much longer we'll be here before we move to where ever we move to, and what large items we'll sell (probably the outdoor setting and definitely the BBQ, which we scored for free) amongst other things. 
But now I'm rambling and whinging. 

Bet you read this with a vampire voice!

Just thought it might be interesting to share what really amounts to a ridiculous situation but confronts us often, to often.
Compromising on the way we like to live, in a house that's not ours, creating a home environment to be proud of.

Think that's why when friends renovate I get so damn excited for them!

I will never be able to decorate our home with the colours we want. We will never spend months looking for that one piece of furniture for a specific place. I will always make do from the homes available when we move and turn them into our home. We will spend money on things for the time we are there knowing we will (a) sell, (b) give away or (c) trash before our next move.
So, for now our table n chairs sit on the grass and we'll see if we need to invest in temporary decking.

How about you? What compromises do you make when it comes to your home?