I love my little house. We've lived here for three months now and we've really made it homely. Not home, it still doesn't feel quite like home, but homely.
But dear lord, sometimes I'm bored. Not a passing Sunday wave of boredom that can be fixed with a distraction like a dog walk or a few chapters of a book; my Mum's always told me that only boring people get bored, but a deep, heavy weight of restlessness in my stomach that will only lift when we leave this tiny village.
I don't suit village life. It works for some people and I'm not slamming on their life choices but it makes me feel claustrophobic and flighty. When we first moved in, the owner of the local wine shop knocked on my door and asked if my mother-in-law could move her car from the space outside his store. I apologised profusely and joked that it must have taken him ages to find the right house. He replied that he knew most of the people and their cars around here so he knew to try our house first.
I knew right then that I wouldn't stay in this little town very long. But I kind of knew that when I saw that the local corner shop was called Snooty's Groceries. I shit you not.
I lived in a lot of places when I was a kid, and went to 13 different schools. My family and I lived in Munich, France and Sydney along with a few towns in the UK, before settling in the south of Spain back in 2010. The idea was to go for one year and and then seven of them happened. It's now where I consider to be home... even if you do get the odd herd of goats congregating by the garden gate.
Travelling so much at such a young age taught me some invaluable life skills, like how to make friends and how important your family is. How showing a little confidence, even when you don't feel very confident, can go a long way. How, if you're not happy with where you are or what you're doing, you have the power to change it for the better if you set your mind to it. Life's too short to accept second best and fall in line with everyone else.
A constant point of contention in our house is when would be a good time to move country. The way I see it, there's no time like the present if you're stubborn enough. I know money doesn't grow on trees and we need these tedious little things called jobs, but if you want it enough to work hard for it, you can do it.
Sam's a lot more measured, I'm more of a jump in and figure it out as you do it kind of a person. A combination which, had we not known each other for a very long time and come to accept these little nuances, would probably implode on itself. But then, every boat needs sails and an anchor.
Two years ago, I casually suggested that Sam and I move to Berlin for a few months because we were in our twenties, childless, mortgage-less and could really do whatever we wanted. A few days later, I'd had a few replies to emails I'd sent out for job interviews and apartment viewings. It really wasn't difficult but if you say to lots of people 'Go find a job and a place to live in Berlin.' and the daunting prospect of the task stops them in their tracks before they've even tried. I hope my son tries. After a few 'sails and anchor-eqsue' discussions, we decided that it wasn't the best time for us to move to Germany and we ended up renting a lovely apartment in a church in Farnham for the next two years. It wasn't Berlin, but had a bloody good time. More on that flat another day.
There are people that will call you barking for considering the idea of leaving everything familiar for something alien. There are people who dream of moving to Bali that won't do it. I'm determined that my son isn't going to be one of those people.
The majority of things I say I'll do, I'll bloody do them. Through sheer grit and force of will, I won't take no for an answer. Once I set my mind to something, it's like a Staffy with jaw-lock; I'm not budging or wavering until I've achieved it. The people who tell me I can't do it, or the people who point out why it won't work or the problems I'll face do nothing but spur me on. If anything, I thrive on those comments. I even have a little reminder on my desk at home:
You're not even meant to have that many letters on the second line but goddammit, I made them fit.
That attitude and focus is something that I've learnt from my parents, along with the knowledge that sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. It's something I will drill into my son with each passing year. Don't give up, don't settle for second best and for the love of all that is holy, don't think that because someone says you'll struggle that they're right.
It isn't easy living in another country.
It wasn't easy in Paris, trying to fumble my way through primary education in another language before I was home-schooled, and it wasn't easy in Australia when we lived a 24 hour flight away from our extended family. You face challenges that are more difficult to overcome in another culture or another language. You miss little things like Walker's crisps and English radio. Supernoodles were the holy grail when I was seven.
But my god, does it give you endless experiences that you'll carry with you forever. The best thing my parents ever did for me was squish me into the back of a Fiat Punto with all our worldly possessions and drive from West Yorkshire to Munich. Prior to that, frankly, I'd been a little bit of a twat - tantrumming at every verse end and constantly having my Disney videos neatly stacked on the stairs ready for the 'bin men' to come and collect as punishment. And then politely return them three days later when I'd been better behaved... indeed, as far as I was aware, the waste collectors of West Yorkshire doubled up as a disciplinary Blockbuster in 1996. But there's nothing like plopping a child in an alien country to kick any bad behaviour into shape. (Don't mention the war.)
I'm half-joking of course. I'm not sitting here like Supernanny in a travel agency saying if the naughty step is failing then take your offspring to Krakow for six months... I'm saying that when you're a child in a foreign culture, you have to mature a bit quicker, adapt to your surroundings and understand things that perhaps you wouldn't need to back home. Your attention shifts from bawling over being sent to bed to learning to count in another language. It sharpens you up a little and bonds you tighter with your family.
We're pretty sure that Spain will be our next chapter. I want my boy to spend some time there; I want him to soak up another language from a young age and immerse himself in a totally family-oriented culture. I want him to make the best of what he's got, and by no means live with a 'grass is always greener' mentality but to never be afraid to push boundaries (except the ones I set *evil mother laugh*), challenge expectations and sometimes just go ahead and jump and see what happens.
Of course, we have to lead by example. I'm more than happy to take a 'do as I say, not as I do' approach when it comes to a glass of wine but I think when it comes to showing our offspring exactly what he can do if he sets his mind to it, we have to show ourselves what we're capable of too.