Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pulping the Penguins

I've been thinking about whether or not to write this post for a few days now.

I decided to let my anger subside and then write it with a more open mind - unfortunately, the longer I leave it the worse the situation seems to get.

We are off to Singapore shortly to see the boy's Grandparents and Aunt, Uncle and cousins. Our boys love going to Singapore and they get very excited about seeing their family over there but this trip has already been tainted by the goings on being widely reported in the media and across social media websites.

If you haven't heard the Singapore National Library and Media Development Agency have taken the strange decision to ban all books which do not fulfil the right wing Christian and, to some extent, Muslim groups ideals of a perfect family. These books, such as 'Tango Makes Three', "White Swan Express" and today I heard that 'Lets' Talk About Where Babies Come From" have been removed and pulped for not promoting the family (by recognising that familes of different types occur) and for possibly corrupting young children should they walk into a public space and begin reading such books without parental supervision.

Although it should be noted that "Let's Talk ABout Where Babies Come From" (which in the USA is called 'Its So Amazing' is actually a reference book aimed at parents and educators looking for a child friendly way in which to answer the difficult questions about sex when children bring it up. It is told in a child friendly way but is definately not supposed to be read by the child by themselves. So, in effect, this would be the first adult book that the MDA have removed. Obviously, adults need protecting from corruption as well, particularly as the book contains one page about adopted familes and same sex relationships...

At first glance the whole story seems a bit of a storm in a teacup - even Papa (who is Singaporean) dismissed it saying, "Who uses libraries nowadays?"

And that would probably be true had the Singaporean Government not then lent their support to the ban (bearing in mind that both the Library and MDA come under government juristiction in one of the most censored countries in the world). Obviously, if the government rejected the removal of these books they would be rejecting one of their own organisations policies. The NLB spokesperson stated; "NLB’s understanding of family is consistent with that of the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education."

So, in a nutshell, the Singapore government has blatantly stated that it is now ok to discriminate against any family that is deemed to be not of the social 'norm.' I maybe overstating it but thats certainly how things appear. It would also seem to include single parent families and all adopted families.

So that raises the question then of 'where does our family fit in?". Our boys are proud to call themselves half British, half Singaporean - even though it would appear that Singapore does not want them.

When we go back to Singapore are they to be barred from talking to other children for fear that they may corrupt them. Will Papa and I be able to walk down the street holding our children's hands without being spat upon - seriously, if you read some of the comments the so called 'Christian' and 'Muslim' groups are espousing on their various social media platformsthat would seem to be the next step.

Of course, we know it is just a minority who have these views and our friends and family will welcome us with open arms - but what is worrying is how much weight this minorty view is being given. And what happens if, God forbid, anything should happen and we have to relocate back to Singapore - will our family even be recognised - our partnership wouldn't be so how would that effect the adoption? Thats actually a scary thought.

After our last trip to Singapore and my comments on how much more open it has become as a society this seems to show that Singapore has once again taken a step back into the dark ages.

On a more positive note - just as the anti gambling ads which ran in Singapore showing a  desperately sad, small boy hoping that Germany would win the World Cup as his Dad had placed all his savings on them (that backfired) so, hopefully, this will help me in my quest to sell the book version of the blog - as my lovely agent said on Monday - 'Its all pretty petty what's going on in Singapore at the moment, and very sad, but it will definately help book sales!"

So here's hoping the Singapore governemtn slap a ban on my work as soon as its published!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Finally Forty - Part 3

Ok - this will be the last part, I promise.

I know that reading about a group of forty somethings frolicking in a French chateau pretending to be students again doesn't really float everyone's boat - and it is a bit indulgent but bear with me for one more post...

What was lovely about suddenly not haivng a family to worry about was the freedom - the freedom that we took for granted before children arrived. I know many of you will be saying, 'But you chose to adopt." and you would be right.

But in the three years that we have had the boys Papa and I have only been away from them together for one night and I have never been away from them all - not by myself. It took some getting used to - well, about three drinks and I was used to it... but there is a sudden realisation that life isn't all about routine. Life is also about having some time to yourself - we soon realised that we could get up when we wanted, eat what we liked, drink far too much and then - and this was the heavenly part - go for a nap -in the daytime!!!!!!

That was brilliant. There is something very decadent about sleeping in the day (when you are not ill, of course) but looking at the light around the curtains as you get into bed just seems really naughty! And no little hands banging on the doors demanding juice or that you sort out their argument with each other. We had a lovely few days - Furry had it all planned out. I'm not normally a fan of 'organized activities' but he had done them well. There was a quiz - boys against girls, the boys specialist subject was trout fishing, the girls tractor management - Furry had brought magazines so we could study. Our team divided the magazine up into sections - one member was very competitive and I was a little scared - so I studied 'Flies' and my question came up and thanks to that we won!

Furry also left a costume for each of us in our rooms - all ready for 'Allo 'Allo night (the eighties BBC show set in occupied France) My costume was that of Herr Gruber, the camp, alcoholic German officer who has a crush on the show's leading man Renee - played by the only genuine Frenchman in our group. (apparently it was typecasting - I tried not to be offended)

Each 'couple' had been designated an evening to cook and Papa and I had gone for a Singaporean menu - except Papa wasn't there, so I followed his instructions and made a Laksa followed by a seafood curry - I gave up on his dessert and made an Eton Mess - which all seemed to go down well.

Th big day came and the birthday girl opened all her presents over breakfast and had a little cry at the many messages people had sent in via their phones. I passed her the presents we had bought for her last year, with a couple more added on - by a guilty Papa - and this time she was allowed to open them.

Then we produced a cake that we had managed to put together despite having very few baking utensils, no baking powder and, more importantly, no food processor - but it went really well.

Actually, the whole few days went really well and it was a shame to leave.

There was only one person who spilled a small can of beans - after a lovely barbecue - which consisted of Furry scorching huge slabs of meat - I asked if we could eat the Vienetta for dessert - I had seen it snuggling in the freezer. Fairy's ears pricked up - "Vienetta' she squealed excitedly... Furry glared at me... 'That was a surprise,' he said through gritted teeth, Fairy politely looked the other way... Sure enough, later that evening as the clock ticked over onto Fairy's big day a Vienetta (complete with sparklers) was handed to her... oops.... still, I had managed to keep everything else quiet - which for me is an achievement! And all kudos to Fairy for still acting surprised when it arrived... (she is a professionally trained actress though!)

When I came back Papa met me at the door - 'Dont you ever go away again," he hissed looking a dishevelled mess whilst the kids seemed to have turned the living room into a circus of some sort...

Its nice to know that you are missed...

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Finally Forty - Part 2

This may turn into a series by itself....

But, continuing from our arrival in Nantes...

Fairy and I sat in the airport with our new french friend, she was lovely and explained that the sports car that was due to collect Fairy and whisk her away had met with an unfortunate demise enroute... the front fell off. Luckily no-one was hurt.

Furry had planned to collect me prior to the arrival of Fairy - but for some reason her Easyjet flight had arrived early (which is unheard of) and Furry was stuck in a traffic jam - but he was on his way and he would collect all of us- in return for the French lady helping him he had offered to give her a lift to her home, which she assured us was nearby.

Furry arrived and quickly ascertained that I hadn't spilt the beans (I'm good at that) and loaded us all into his car ready to drop French lady off and then head to the rendezvous in time for supper.

French lady may indeed have lived nearby.... the only problem was, she didn't seem to know how to get there. Nantes, like most French cities is packed with roundabouts and, if you are the sort of person that doesn't drive then negotiating roads via roundabouts is particulalry tough, especially when you have the world's most untrustworthy sat nav.

We drove for hours in French suburbia - which is lovely, but all the time Furry, who had been driving through the night was getting visibly tired and at one point we actually went round the same roundabout 6 times at which point Fairy helpfully pointed out that if you go around a roundabout more than three times you are breaking French law (whether that is true or not I don't actually know) but either way, it lent a little more tension to the already fraught air.

We eventually found the right exit and headed over to the French lady's lovely little flat where she gave us coffee - which Furry was in obvious need of.

After a short while we left and headed to the chateau - except we had forgotten that not only was it was the first day of the school holidays but rush hour was now in full flow - so we sat in traffic and argued with large French truck drivers.

We got off the moteorway and then sat nav decided she hated us and refused to take us anywhere that Furry could recognise. Of course he was also nodding off at the time and Fairy was keeping him awake by poking him in the face with a pine cone. It reminded me of my own childhood, sitting in the back of the car whilst my parents squabbled.

Then he saw the sign and we drove along a long drive and up to the most beautiful chateau - a stunning building - although to be honest I would have been grateful to have seen a run down shack, as long as it had a toilet! I was busting!

There on the patio were two carefully placed champagne glasses and Furry dutifully took his wife by the hand and they had a romantic moment in front of the chateau - while I watched. I suddenly felt like Kenneth Williams when he went with Barbara Windsor and the Kray chap on their honeymoon. They canoodled and then Furry led Fairy into the castle where the other guests dutifully popped out of their hiding places - I hoped they hadn't been there for hours...

No sonner had they surprised Fairy and tears were shed (mainly by me as I really really needed a wee) than dinner was served...

And so began the main theme of the weekend... food, lots of it and even more drink!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Finally Forty... part 1

It's been an eventful couple of weeks... with a lot to tell you about...

So let's begin...

Last week it was the actual 40th birthday of a very dear friend of mine (and KC's 'fairy godmother' - her hubby is TJ's 'furry godfather' - as we like to call him - sometimes they swop over...).

If you recall, last year we rushed around trying to sort out a celebratory 40th birthday bash - only to discover it wasn't actually her 40th - there's a blogpost about it somewhere - very embarrassing!

Well, this year it was actually the big 40 and 'Furry' had organised an amazing surprise bash in a chateau in the middle of France somewhere, with a few of Fairy's closest friends and... no one else. No kids, no pets, no jobs... no worries! Or that was the plan.

The week before we were all due to travel on our secret mission (and yes, we managed to keep it a secret) - the French air traffic control went on strike. Luckily, that would only really have effected Papa and I as everyone else was driving down - oh, and the birthday girl - who was also in Algeria (of all places) on a business trip at the time. She turned up at the airport to learn that her plane was still in the UK and the chances of her flying home for the weekend were small. She was also then booked to fly back out to Nantes upon her return home - and that flight looked uncertain as well.

Cue distraught panic from all concerned - excpet for the birthday girl who was happily contemplating a few more nights in sunny Algeria at the expense of Air France and was oblivious to the fact that her dear hubbie was on the verge of a very serious nervous breakdown everytime the word France was mentioned!

Then. out of the blue, two friends had to pull out due to a family medical issue and Papa also had to cancel because he was needed at work. The latter part wasn't such a big issue - oh, except that we had arranged for Grany to come and look after the boys, with all animals being put into kennels. It was to be our first proper trip away without the boys since their arrival three years ago. I love my children, of course, but the thought of eating in a restaurant that doesn't have a menu that you can colour in or not having to share a 'family' hotel bedrroom was extremely appealing.

I was still to go though and a plan b was put in place. A plan B that saw me trying to get across the UK by public transport (Mum was using my car) on Thursday night to join the driving party at 2 in the morning - a plan that was never going to work - and anyway, the birthday girl would still be in Algeria. But we all nodded and said we would try, secretly praying for a miracle...

Then on Wednesday the miracle happened. Fairy got on board a delayed plane for the UK and French Air Traffic Control cancelled the rest of the strike - Hurrah!

So, on Friday I headed off by myself into the sun...

I got to Nantes airport and saw that my plane had landed immediately ahead of Fairy's - she wasn't supposed to know I was here - the plan was that she was to be collected and whisked away in a sports car to the secret destination - whilst I was then picked up by Furry to do some shopping (or something like that).

I ran through passport control and ducked in the baggage arrivals area looking, I thought, not unlike Daniel Craig as James Bond - although it was probably more like Russ Abbott as Brooke Bond in his 80's TV show...

I shot out of the arrivals and ran into - no-one. There was no-one there. I stood in a panic. Should I let Fairy see me - would someone else spot me - and why were there three people dressed in Chinese robes, were they part of the plan? Should I ask them? I went over... no they were waiting for their daughter who was coming back from a year working in Shanghai - but they were very nice people. I decided to just stand in the airport...

Fairy evenutally came thorugh and a lady I didn't know went over to explain that the sports car that was due to collect her had broken down (seriously) and that her hubby (Furry) was stuck in a traffic jam. Fairy nodded and then saw me - "You're here!" she cried (to be honest I knew that already). 'Yes," I said, "But I cant tell you anything." - Which was true as I hadn't got a clue where we were going to.

Luckily the lovely lady on the plane turned out to be a friend of a friend of Furry's and he had organised a secret message on the plane for Fairy using the friend  (It all gets very complicated) and, luckily again, when the mishap had happened with the cars the secret lady was able to intercept Fairy and tell her what had happened - she had no idea who I was though, so if I had remained in hiding, as had been the original plan, I would probably still be there now....

Anyway, we went for a lovely coffee and a chat whilst Furry negotiated rush hour on a Friday in Nantes...

And we hadn't even reached the chateau yet...