Monday, 28 September 2009

One place to call home

My darling Doodlebug

One of the things I find odd is that you and I will have such vastly different upbringings. Because your grandfather was in the Army and then the Foreign office, I spent the vast part of my childhood overseas, moving from place to place every few years. One of my earliest memories involved sitting on top of the wooden packing crates (which I want to call UFOs though I'm sure they had some other acronym. You'll have to ask Granny M.) Mum and Dad would slowly pack them up in the weeks and months before our next move, so that gradually things would disappear from view until we were pretty much left with our favourite toys and some throwaway knickers. Then they'd plonk Uncle 1 and I on the lid to weight it down whilst Dad hammered in the nailsin much the same way as you would if you had too much stuff to fit in your suitcase. Then one day I'd get home from school and it would all be gone and the countdown would really be on to move day. That changed with the Foreign Office as we had the great luxury of others packing for us, but we still had to manage with the bare minimum toys and underwear (and a 'float' set of kitchen equipment on loan from the Office.)

Things were always the same when you got to your new post though: living in temporary accommodation until yours was ready; waiting for your packing to arrive (and hoping none had gone overboard/astray en route); meeting all the people at post who would become your friends (whether you liked them or not) for the duration of your/their stay; getting to know your way around a new place; enrolling in a new school/doctor's surgery etc. The first few weeks were an odd blend of interest and excitement at being somewhere new and the tedium of not really being able to make it home. Of course everyone was friendly and invariably we got invited to lots of parties and lunches and so on, which was nice when you were little but got to be irritating by the time you were a teenager and didn't want to have to follow your parents around ALL the time. I think that's one of the reasons I was so glad to go to boarding school, where I could keep the same friends from term to term. It's not that I didn't mind the change, but there was something reassuring about having a solid base, even if it turned out to be school. I aways envied those I met who had lived in the same house since they were little, and whose parents had an attic filled with their report cards and school projects, ther costumes and toys from when they were little. It's one of the things I envy Daddy. I loved going to the GPs and seeing some of his school work and learning a bit more about what he was like before I knew him. There were massive advantages to growing up in the way that I did though. I got to live in countries other people only usually visit for two weeks' holiday, if at all. I got to see behind the scenes of countries like Egypt and Albania, find out of the way places to visit far from the tourist track in Cyprus and Belgium and the Caribbean, get a truer sense of what made the country special or interesting. I got to meet a lot of really interesting people, locals and ex pats, and attend events that I would never have had the opportunity to had I grown up in the UK. I got to go to boarding school and really make the most of my brains. I have some really interesting and unusual photos and memories. I think I was incredibly lucky to have been exposed to such an interesting peripatetic lifestyle, for all that I envy the filled attic of friends' parents.

One of the greatest gifts your daddy gave me was the chance to live in one place for the rest of my life (although we have moved once already, he is confidence that this is the house you will be married from), the chance to stuff the loft full of the things that you will make at school. I'm excited too that you get to grow up so close to London. Some people think that it is too big and a terrible place to raise children. And, strictly speaking, we live in Kent rather than London (although I figure that we are in Zone 5 as assigned by the London Transport System thereby making us 'in London'.) But I met your Daddy in London- we went on dates in London and we got married in London. Whenever I take the train into London a small smile creeps over my face as we creep over Blackfriars Bridge. It's the best view of St Paul's Cathedral that there is. And it's where I married your Daddy. Crossing the bridge in the other direction, you can see the lights of the Oxo Tower, scene of the second date (featuring the first kiss.) Wander around the A-Z and you will find places we have eaten at, museums we have visited together, places where we partied with friends, the shop where Daddy bought my engagement ring and a whole host of nooks and crannies, landmarks and shops which hold special memories for us. I love the idea that you will see all of these places and know all of these stories. I imagine you will come to loathe it, and move overseas at the earliest opportunity to explore all the places you never got to see when you were growing up. The grass is always greener after all!

All my love

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