englishman abroad, freelancing, parenting

Keeping last year’s resolutions

It’s January 1st, 2017 and I’m looking at my Dad-belly in the mirror.

“This year will be different,” I tell myself

“This year I’m going to go jogging every couple of days and heave weights and eat right”

… and heave them I temporarily did! I didn’t go jogging though, and when the weather got cold I considered it a good excuse to stop lifting weights. And cycling. And even pretending to eat right.

But the best thing about 2017 was that my real resolutions, the ones that have borne fruit, weren’t an arbitrary, date-based invention; they were a series of small, incremental ones I made throughout the year.

  1. An important client of mine stiffed me on a bill back in February 2017. It wasn’t much, just a few euros. But the principle of it really irked me and I asked them for the difference – no sale.

“Ok,” I told myself, “this is going to be the most expensive money they’ve ever saved”

  1. I got ill in the middle of 2017 and had to take some days off work. I previously wrote about how terrible zero-hours contracts are in the UK; freelancing positions with German language schools aren’t much better: No sick pay. No insurance. Some contracts actually have you pay for lessons you miss (even when ill). After being pressured into attending work late at night with the flu, I told myself:

“I need to get a job that treats me right”

  1. Watching my daughter, Aurelia, grow up is my pride and privilege. She’s really turning into a little lady these days. Well, part lady and part tomboy: she’s riding bikes, zooming about on her scooter, sword-fighting with sticks and climbing trees. Yet we still live in a modest apartment with no garden and just a small balcony in a horribly expensive town. She wants to play football, she wants to run free,

“She deserves better than this”

These are the resolutions that mattered. These are the resolutions that got done. I didn’t just pull them out of the air because it was January first, Present Year; I meant them.

It’s January 1st, 2018 and I’ve got my new job at a university working as a researcher on a project. It has holiday pay, sick pay and proper insurance. I’ve also got two lucrative side projects which don’t stiff me on the bill!

It’s January 1st, 2018 and we’ve recently bought a house with a huge garden in a peaceful village. Aurelia is going to love it when we move in later this year.

It’s January 1st, 2018 and I’m still looking at my Dad-belly in the mirror.

“This year will be different,” I tell myself.

englishman abroad, stories

The strawberry who didn’t listen

I previously mentioned that I make up a lot of fictional characters for my daughter, as well as some short stories. What follows is a bedtime story that I made for her a little while ago, it’s called The strawberry who didn’t listen. This story really needs to be read aloud, it doesn’t work quite the same otherwise. Here we go:

There was once a little strawberry who lived with his family in a flowerpot in the garden.

One bright, sunny day the strawberry was looking around the vegetable plot and saw round, red things (they were tomatoes). He saw long, green things (they were cucumbers). He even saw pointy, orange things (they were carrots). But the little strawberry couldn’t see anything that looked like him.

So, the little strawberry went to his mummy and said “Mummy, what am I?”

“that’s easy,” said Mummy Strawberry “you are a strawberry!”

“a sore belly?” asked the little strawberry

“no, a strawberry!” said Mummy

“a snore jelly?” wondered the little strawberry

“no, you silly little strawberry!” said Mummy Strawberry “go and ask your father!”

So, the little strawberry went to speak to his father.

“Daddy?” asked the little strawberry “what am I?”

“That’s simple!” said Daddy Strawberry “you’re a strawberry!”

“a claw deli?”

“no, a strawberry!”

“a raw telly?”

“no, you foolish strawberry! Go and bother Grandpa strawberry with your questions!” said Daddy Strawberry.

So, the little strawberry went to see Grandpa Strawberry, the wisest and oldest of all the strawberries.

“Hello, young strawberry!” said Grandpa Strawberry “what are you up to?”

“I’m trying to find out what I am!” said the little strawberry.

“haven’t your mummy and daddy told you? You’re a strawberry!”

“a poor smelly?”

“no! A strawberry!”

“a jaw Shelly?”

“No! you confounded little strawberry!” said Grandpa Strawberry, who was also a very grumpy strawberry

“you are wally! a twit! a twerp! a nut!”

“OH!” said the Little Strawberry “a strawberry! why didn’t you just say so?”

 

 

 

 

englishman abroad, parenting

Home-grown Fairy Tales

It’s not easy to get a child to behave themselves sometimes. In an ideal world, a parent would always have the patience and temperament to sit the child down and explain exactly why certain behaviour is unacceptable. In an ideal world, the child would have the inclination to listen!

But this isn’t a perfect world and I’m not a perfect man. I have, however, discovered a way to avoid yelling too often. The answer is fairy tales.

It all started when my then-three-year-old daughter had to give up her dummy, which is called a ‘Schnuller’ in Germany. No matter how long her mother and I tried to explain that all Big Grown-up Girls of Three give up their dummy, no matter how rational and simple the argument for better teeth was, no matter how tempting the bribe was, my daughter simply wouldn’t countenance giving up her dummy.

Then my mobile rang and I received a telephone call from none other than The Schnuller Fairy herself, what are the odds of that? The Schnuller Fairy had a word with me and I passed the message on to Aurelia. Job done, dummy surrendered.

I have employed similar tactics recently. After the great success of Santa Claus’ omniscience for the last two Christmases, I decided to invent a new character. The Birthday Hen.

The Birthday Hen is male, by the way. Aurelia’s never questioned it. The Birthday Hen is from Australia and spends all day flying around the sky looking for naughty children. If he finds one, that child has their birthday postponed for a year and the child remains 4 (or whatever) for two years. If the child is naughty on their birthday then woe betide them! The Birthday Hen would swoop down and dive-bomb the party with rotten eggs and peck people on the ankle. Sometimes the Birthday Hen himself would telephone me and enquire as to Aurelia’s behaviour:

“Oh, no Mr Hen! I’m sure she’s in bed right now. I’ll just go and check!”

Lo and behold! Aurelia was suddenly and very convincingly asleep!

She’s had her fifth birthday now and I’ll admit it, I’m running out of ideas. Just today we were in Wilhelmshaven visiting The Pirate Museum when she became somewhat piratical herself. I very nearly invoked the April Eel, a wrathful eel who lurks omnipresently and sneakily nips the ankles of kids who don’t listen.

Not every story I’ve invented is of some omnipotent babysitter, however. I made up a story called The Little Strawberry Who Didn’t Listen, it’s one of Aurelia’s favourites. It’s a little bit long for this blog entry though, so I’ll share it with you next time.