Expat – what a useless word.

Following on from Jamie’s “Expat syndrome”, two posts down, I wanted to give my own point of view.

First off, we need to deal with the word expat. It has become a stupid word because it is used to define so many different kinds of people that it is now so vague as to be meaningless. There’s a world of difference between someone like me, for example, and someone who has been sent to Poland for a 2-3 year stint as the head of “Money-R-Us Bank” or indeed anyone who considers any country other than Poland to be ‘home’ (and that includes Polonia).

Then there’s the issue of roots versus home. To most people that some might call expats, their roots AND home are most likely to be the UK, USA, France, Germany or wherever. Poland would claim neither of those rights, it would just be one of those interesting places they visited for a while. My roots are in England, my home is Poland. The Polonia of Chicago et al may have Polish roots (once removed in many cases) but it’s very likely their home is the USA. Roots is where you came from, home is where you are now and/or where you see yourself staying in the future. I’m sure there is such a thing as Polish or English “blood in the veins” but I’m not sure it’s stronger than actually “walking the walk”. Who’s more qualified to comment on modern day life in Warszawa, me or Pan Kowalski of Mickey-Mouse Boulevard, Chicago who’s visited here a few times?

I cringe whenever I’m referred to as an expat. I brings visions of gin-soaked moaners who are here on an all expenses paid jolly and can’t wait to either go back home or be posted to somewhere ‘more civilised’, with better weather or in some way better than Poland. Sure there are exceptions and of course they are all entitled to their opinions about Poland but I object to my opinions being placed in the same category because;

  • I moved here because I wanted to, not because I was told to for the sake of my career or because I was trying to exploit Poland to get rich quick
  • Despite employment problems I stayed here because I wanted to, even though it would have been far easier to give up and go back to the UK
  • I fell in love here
  • I got married here (for the only time)
  • I had my first child here, she goes to a Polish school
  • I’ve lived and worked here for way more than 2-3 years
  • I am fully integrated into my Polish family
  • I’m paid in zloty and I pay normal Polish taxes and ZUS on it all
  • I have no intentions of leaving, save for the same reasons any Pole would leave
  • I’m happy to die here (even have a plot ready for me!)
  • and so on

If the expats moan it’s because they are whining little shits who really should just piss off back home. They have no real stake here, they’ve made no investment, they’re not really involved, this is just a passing phase. If I moan or comment it’s because I want to see improvements, because I’m genuinely interested, because I’m trying to understand the people I intend to live with for the rest of my life, because I care, for God’s sake!

To my mind, that makes me more than an expat, more than “some foreigner who lives in Poland”. I’m not sure what it does make me (other than insane!) because I don’t know if there’s a word that adequately describes my ‘condition of being’. And that in itself is a problem, something that bugs me, because not only do I not know what to call myself, neither of my significant nations (UK & Poland) know what to do with me either. There’s always that awkward moment when you’re trying to do something and you don’t quite fit the mould so you end up feeling like you’re living in a no-man’s land.

I’m Polish in that I have a PESEL and a NIP and a karta pobytu and a meldunek and I live and work here and my family is Polish, etc – but I’m not Polish because I don’t speak the language well enough and I don’t have a dowód osobisty or a Polish passport and people don’t look at me and see a Pole, they see an angol. I’m British because I have a British passport and I was born there and lived there for the first 30+ years of my life – but I’m not British for the all reasons that I’m Polish and I don’t have any National Insurance any more and I don’t have a UK property or bank account or pension and I’ve only really been a tourist in the UK for many years now, and so on. So nobody really wants me, neither the UK nor Poland and to add insult to injury, I get called an expat and some think I have no right to talk about it all!

Pah! I spit on all your hang-ups, I spit on bureaucracy, I spit on borders and small minds, I spit on expats. I know what I am and that’s what matters most.

:)

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49 thoughts on “Expat – what a useless word.

  1. Calm down, Poland wants you:)

    And please don’t spit all around, someone might slip and break their leg!

    You are what you want to be. This is your identity, identify yourself then. You can be a Pole in some part if you wish, you can be a whole-Pole, or a foreigner, or an immigrant, or an expat (as Daily Telegraph likes to say)…
    Keep calm and carry on :)

  2. I’d have to agree with Pawel: you gotta chill out a bit. Stop worrying about it because the sort of people who call you names are the sort of people who bitch about everything, endlessly, and never do a damn thing about any of it.

    It’s too bad that the British have such a crappy reputation here. Americans don’t have that same reputation (as drunken yobs) but I do get to hear about how utterly stupid we all are for having voted for Bush and how Poland’s next if we find oil here, etc.

    If I don’t know who I’m talking to and they seem the least bit belligerent I lie and say I’m from Canada.

  3. I guess I’m missing something. Who or what makes you feel like you have to justify anything?

    I read your posts because you have interesting, constructive things to say and you have experiences that are different from mine. Not because you have the “correct” paperwork or CV. Should there be a vetting process for who can post? It’s your blog.

    You (all of you) have a great thing going at Polandian. Far fewer negative comments than many blogs. Maybe because when you do moan, as we all do at least a bit, it’s so often witty or insightful. Keep it up.

  4. It’s not so much a matter of walking the walk in this case.

    It’s what one chooses to write and how one writes it.

    Don’t expect everybody to love everything you write.

    Some of the stuff you write, I like. Some of the stuff you write, I don’t like.

    Maybe you’ll become Warsaw’s own Nelson Algren.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Algren

    I have mixed feelings about Nelson Algren.

  5. Clearly I put a little too much heart into that post, judging by the comments. I do have strong feelings about the “relative value” (for want of a better phrase) and the “intent” of comments from the many different kinds of people who might all be called either expats, angols or whatever and it does annoy me when they are all lumped in as being one and the same. They are not.

    However. I am calm, chilled, unworried and not trying to justify anything, even it may appear otherwise. I certainly don’t expect anyone to love what I write although it’s nice if others get something from it.

    As for being Warsaw’s version of Nelson Algren, I’m going to have to do a bit of research first as I’ve never heard of the guy. Why did you pick him?

  6. Hi there Scatts!
    Thanks for your honest post! I share similar frustrations….

    “I’m sure there is such a thing as Polish or English “blood in the veins” but I’m not sure it’s stronger than actually “walking the walk”. Who’s more qualified to comment on modern day life in Warszawa, me or Pan Kowalski of Mickey-Mouse Boulevard, Chicago who’s visited here a few times?” –

    exactly, you have absolutely nailed it! I have experienced a lot of bullying on an English forum online from some Brits living in Poland for speaking honestly how I felt about some things I experience in the UK… The issue is they have lived in Poland for years… I have been living here in the UK – who is more in touch with the reality in the UK? A Brit living overseas just because they still have a British passport or me, a ‘bloody immigrant’ who’s lived here for a good couple of years….. and, surprise surprise, lived here because of conscious choice not problems with having a good job back in Poland….?
    There is this cliche: the home is where the heart is. There is a lot of truth in it. I feel at home in the UK (even though I may not like everything, but even back in Poland I didn’t see the country as a perfect place or nation!), but I am wondering if the British born citizens will ever stop treating me as the mentioned ‘expat’? I have a permanent residence card here. One of my sons was born here. I work here and my family is here…. One day, I will have a British passport…. but, even then, I will still be a ‘bloody immigrant’…. only a NATURALIZED citizen of the UK…
    So, I am afraid, it works both ways Scatts …. My husband is a Nigerian. He does hold a Polish passport, but he is always treated in Poland as a foreigner with a Polish citizenship… :(

    “Pah! I spit on all your hang-ups, I spit on bureaucracy, I spit on borders and small minds, I spit on expats. I know what I am and that’s what matters most”

    Amen to that, Scatts! I am joining you in the passionate spitting on all this!:)))

  7. anglopole, as they say – thanks for sharing! I’m not surprised you’re getting grief from Brits but it is surprising that they are ones who have lived over here for a while.

    I agree with you completely. You live in the UK and I don’t, so, whilst I may possibly be able to tweak your statements slightly based on a deeper history of the nation, I wouldn’t for a moment suggest you’re wrong and I’m right on issues of living in the UK.

    Same as here with me, I’m quite happy for people to explain things I don’t know because, for example, I didn’t live here during communist times same as you didn’t live in Thatcher’s Britain but to just dismiss comments out of hand is just plain rude.

    The other problem is with people being able to separate an “opinion” from a “fact”. It happens to me a fair bit, especially when I hold a strong opinion and am writing with more force than usual. There’s a tendency for people to assume that you’re trying to “state facts” when you’re not, it’s just an opinion. I’m by nature a reasonably assertive person, I can’t change that, and whilst it is generally a good thing it can also lead to people getting the wrong impression, especially when all you have to go on is text.

    “Home is where is the heart is” is a phrase I use a lot.

  8. Just wondering…

    Who’s “more qualified to comment” on the War in Iraq?

    An American soldier stationed there or somebody like Patrick Cockburn or Robert Fisk?

  9. Dear Lenin,

    I’m not sure how your comment is relevant to the context of my post?

    In the example you give, they are both qualified to comment on the war. The soldier is obviously part of it so his/her comments would be valuable although no doubt censored. Somebody like Cockburn would also be qualified as he’s been reporting on the middle east for over 20 years. You’re missing, obviously, the comment of an Iraqi resident (unless Cockburn has lived in Baghdad since before the war?).

    I can’t help feeling I’m missing your point. What is your point?

  10. I’ve been in Warsaw for 11 years, being of Polish extraction means I have never considered myself an ‘expat’. In any case, the era of the classic expat in Poland is over; it ended with the economic downturn of 2001-02. In the late ’90s, Warsaw was awash with real expats. Here today gone tomorrow expats posted to Warsaw one day, off to Tokyo, Caracas, Abu Dhabi, Almaty or Beijing the next. They’d spend 90% of their life working, the rest fraternising with other expats at the Pink Club, the Hash House Harriers, events at the British School, and at one another’s houses. In themselves they were OK – it was their British-born wives that were utterly unspeakable. With zero sympathy or understanding of Poland, its traditions or its history, these braying harridans would launch into tirades about how awful Poland was (stupid people, appalling weather etc) and how they couldn’t wait to move to Houston, Paris or Stockholm or anywhere with a Body Shop and Marks and Spencers.

    Most of these expats are long gone; their jobs done by locals. Some of them ditched the braying baggage and acquired Wife No. 2, generally younger, more attractive, more intelligent, more driven, more focused and a better adjunct to the gene pool. They stayed on.

    Most of the Brits I know in Warsaw fall into this category. They speak passable Polish, know what 1918, 1939, 1944, 1956, 1970, 1981 and 1989 all mean, have children in Polish schools, and are here for good. I do not consider them expats in any way, no more than I’d consider a Pole living in the UK for a decade or more an expat.

    However, I would call for a greater understanding among Polish bureaucrats when dealing with someone for whom Polish is not their first language, not to treat them as brain-damaged children, but to offer every them possible assistance.

  11. The “here today gone tomorrow expats” are in fact nopats. (Does it rhyme with “nomads”?) Then there are repats. And tweenpats and midpats.

    Of all these, the nopats would be the best choice, could they abandon snobbery and arrogance. For why have / discuss ‘patria’ anyway? What does “patriotism” mean? — The home (family) is where the heart is? Yes, true. But the homeland (nation) is where the tax office is.

    (Just thinking in writing.)

  12. My point is that “expertise” is not based solely or most reliably on being “based on the ground,” so to speak.

    Let’s face it. Most soldiers occupying Iraq have very little idea, and also very false ideas, of the grand scheme of what’s going on over there.

    Indeed, you brought up the matter of who is “more qualified to comment” in your original post.

  13. After having lived here in Warsaw for almost 5 years, I have a love/hate relationship. I wasn’t really here for love of Poland, but from a Polish wife who wanted to finish University. Now, almost 5 years, and a child later, I’ve found that there are times when I love it, and there are times when I want to get out as fast as humanly possible (usually after Dluga, or any other bureaucracy-type thing), but then I realize that by and large, Poland isn’t too bad, it just gets weary (at least in my view) of having everything here feel like a battle. I try not to bitch and moan too much, especially as I know there is no such thing as a Utopia anywhere. I just keep reminding myself that back in the States, I’d be lucky to get 2 weeks of holiday, and here I get 20 days!!! Good post altogether though.

  14. Lenin, I agree about the soldier’s perspective, but, whilst Cockburn might have a lot of interesting things to say about the war, if he’s not in Iraq then he’s not “walking the walk” in the way I meant when I posted. So, I know what you’re trying to say but it’s not what I was talking about.

    Michael – you’re obviously trying too hard! Relax.

  15. How did you mean “walking the walk” if not to suggest that you are *more qualified* to comment on life in Poland (simply because you now live there) than somebody in Chicago who may well be more learned and knowlegeable than you in Polish history and current affairs, especially if that imaginary individual regularly visits and may originally hail from Poland(as you yourself stipulated in your original post)?

    To be sure, I think Cockburn, Fisk, and others are much *more qualified* to comment on what goes on in Iraq because they have amply demonstrated their familiarity with and breadth of knowledge about what goes on there.

    Similarly, I would tend to rely on people who I consider experts in the history of and on contemporary life in Poland (whether they currently live there or not).

    First I heard: “It’s a black thing, you can’t understand.” Then I heard: “It’s a woman thing, you can’t understand.” Now I’m hearing: It’s a walk-the-walk thing, you can’t understand.”

  16. Ilyich in Chicago,

    I guess it depends on how you define (the length / aim) of the walk. Is it one of the ordinary day-to-day walkers? Or how do you define “the grand scheme”? [Sounds Illuminati-Masonic-Area 51 kind of thing.]

    Cockburn, if he’s not in Iraq, his knowledge must have been borrowing from individual knowledges of flesh-and-blood eye-and-ear witnesses of Iraqi life anyway. So, he had to be “on the ground”, only not directly but through representatives maybe?

  17. Good points, Darthsida.

    The walk-the-walk thingy may have gotten beyond my comprehension at this point. But I suppose you could throw sleepwalkers and Dawn of the Dead zombies in there, too. Folks walking with blinders on, with no peripheral vision. The analogies (or am I referencing metaphors?) abound.

    To be sure, there’s the matter of eyewitness accounts to be considered.

    But wide-ranging bookish knowledge counts for something, too. And yes, books can include multiple eyewitness accounts.

    There’s something such as breadth of knowledge.

    I guess what I’ve been reacting against is too much reliance upon immediacy guiding analysis. Not enough contemplation before writing.
    But that may be the nature of the beast of blogging.

    Blogging as a form of writing seems to dispose itself towards complaining and ranting without substantive consideration of the wider picture.

    Maybe that’s good in some respects. I’ve always enjoyed the gonzo journalism of Hunter Thompson but then again I get a sense of a wider, broader point of view from his work. Same too with the spontaneous prose — flow of consciousness — improvisational writing of Jack Kerouac. But even Kerouac wrote and rewrote and rewrote before releasing something to be published.

    So I’m guilty now of everything I’m complaing about. Nature of the beast of blogging and commenting on blogs.

  18. Can we really let such a simple phrase as “walk the walk” get beyond comprehension?

    Lenin in Chicago, yes, that’s exactly what I meant but it really isn’t the same as your war analogy, is it. Bear in mind please that we’re talking about the kind of material that might appear in this blog, not a general history of Poland and its people over the ages. I’m sure there are very learned people on the subject of Poles and Poland who reside in the windy city or elsewhere in the world. These people may visit Warsaw from time to time, they may have conversations with friends who live here but they are not here. I will spend today (indeed, approximately 340 days this year) IN WARSAW, they will not. I will see that green arrow, the lady with the dog, the traffic, the latest new development. I will talk to the citizens of Warsaw today, they might call an old friend. I do think this makes a difference.

    I’m not trying to say that I am now more of an expert ‘overall’ on Poles and Poland than they might be, but I do believe that my comments on day-to-day life and attitudes in Warsaw are very likely to be more reliable than theirs are being, as they are, from daily first hand knowledge and experience.

    Of course, there are many permutations here so I can’t say categorically that one can’t be knowledgeable about Warsaw without living here. There may be people with a much better breadth of knowledge who live elsewhere but visit Warsaw very regularly and have other, reliable, people feeding them good information on a daily basis. Similarly, there may be people with a breadth of knowledge who are, frankly, out of touch and are just relying on a reputation and sticking to subjects where current first-hand knowledge is not required.

    Whilst I would be happy to read a Cockburn report on the Iraq war even if he wasn’t there, I would be happier reading the background and possible outcomes than I would reading any report of what is happening on the ground today.

    Your points about immediacy, versus books is very valid to a blog. I can’t talk for the others but my posting tends to be very ‘immediate’ in nature in that something catches my eye and then (before I forget what it was) I write something. Obviously there are times when the point of immediate interest develops a past/future aspect and at these times my knowledge is less reliable. That said, I am only at all times giving my opinion and am always happy for those who know more about an area in which I am speculating/postulating to come here and put me right.

    Contemplation before writing is something I need to work on! Then again, that might just make me appear to be even more sure of myself than I already do and frankly, I’m never likely to catch up with the amount of contemplation some of your Warsaw non-resident experts have given to everything.

    At the end of the day, this is a blog, not a learned journal or book draft or well researched magazine article or……….. I’m not trying to be the world’s foremost authority on Warsaw/Poland/Poles, I’m saying what I think on a few matters that captured my interest.

  19. U R right, scatts. Apples are not grumpy curmudgeons.

    You are no doubt right about green arrows, too.

  20. BTW Warsaw is a special case, because even the Poles are “expats” in Warsaw. “Real” Warsawians practically do not exist anymore…

  21. Happy Jack, if that was aimed at me, then no I don’t. How could I?

    My wife and brother-in-law are, they were born and bred in the New Town and my wife has never left the city for more than holidays. Teściowa is also a real Warszawian, as was babcia, RIP, who was pretty active in the uprising (Warsaw, not ghetto) and saw most of her family shot in front of her. Father-in-law is from Garwolin but moved to Warsaw when a young man. His family are still in Garwolin. Family friend Pan Janusz is from Poznan but has also been in Warsaw for at least 25 years. Most of the family friends are real warszawians too. My daughter is also a real warszawian, born here and lived here all her short life so far.

    At work it is a different story. I have one guy in my team who’s a real warszawian and the rest are immigrants from places like Bydgoszcz, Bielsko Biała and so on. Compared to most people at work, I am a long-term Warsaw resident.

    So, not a real warszawian myself but plenty of living and breathing research material around me.

  22. I am relieved. People who call themselves “real warsawians” are usually local counterparts of “real Poles”, “real Christians” and so on. Not exactly the most friendly kind of people. Fortunately, not very numerous either. Their criterions of “real warsawianship” are usually rather steep. For instance, in spite of having lived here for all my life I don’t qualify, because some of my grandparents were not born here.

  23. scatts, I’m sorry, it was aimed at the user who rather adequately calls themself “me”. I tend to omit user reference when I reply to the newest comment, which admittedly isn’t exactly the best of habits.

  24. Scatts – Thanks for taking the time for deep thought on this word, expat. Personally I use it often in my relief work job to define international staff from national. I also see the word as reflecting those of us who choose to live outside the boarders of our home country for an extended time. People can dig up all the connotations of colonial rule or high western living on the backs of the poor locals. But in the end just a word that helps describe a living situation, I think.

    Now yourself and others who have chosen to marry a local and settle you may have a different definition. But every country has a word for foreigner, here in E. Africa is the word firengi. As a person living abroad we are never fully part of the culture and when home are fully understood either. Our experience chance us and yet we can never fully integrate into a new home.

    my 2 cents.

  25. Thanks, mocha!

    Wise words from another firengi! I wonder if that’s where the Ferengi of Star Trek DS9 comes from?

    That’s two questions for Jamie now, Asimov and Star trek, and he’s not here to answer either of them. Damn!

  26. Actually there is no such a thing like “Polish blood”. Not according to the scientists or the parliament of Poland. A Pole is everyone who wishes to live here, and no ethnicity claims count, because ethnic Poles have been extinct for centuries. People who left for Chicago or elsewhere were allowed to retain their citizenship for political reasons, but in large they weren’t political émigrés. They left to live their happy lives there, and good for them, but they’re not Poles really. I have a family in Canada and they are perfectly Canadian to us.

    I’d say that everyone is welcome to criticize Poland. Even people who aren’t Polish in any way and have never been to Poland. It’s called freedom of speech.

    Nowadays, Poles aren’t used to foreigners, but it’ll change. We used to have a lot of foreigners for centuries, if, for 60 years, we could stop being used to it, we can get accustomed to it again. It just needs time, as everything. Poland is not a country of social revolutions (did we ever have one?), we just get used to things with time. Once a novelty becomes a tradition, it’s done. ;)

    Isn’t our prime minister ¼ German? Check how many ethnic Austrians and Germans served in the Polish army at the beginning of WWII, as high commanders no less. They’re as good Poles as any.

    In your other post you wrote that the phrase “Stubborn as an ass” should go “Stubborn as a Pole”. You’re on to something here, and you should take your own hint. There are numberless things that we truly hate in Poland, but we’re stubborn enough to love it in spite. If you can get to this point, you’re a Pole!

    To Jacek: You are just propagating the stereotype of the ugly warszawiak. I am one and have no problems with admitting it. Everyone is from somewhere.

  27. Sylwia, the problem is not people who think they are from Warsaw (or wherever), but people who think nobody else is. I use the term “real warsawian” ironically, because I prefer inclusive group mentality over the exclusive one.

  28. Scatts
    you know when I heard the Ferengi word first used I thought the same thing… those ugly traders from Ds-9 fame. Will leave it to Island to figure out and maybe put in his next book. With this comes the knowledge I no longer blend in with my local population like I could in the Middle East… lot more stairs and hands out for money…

    on another note my new Cannon is taking awesome pictures out here.

    Cheers

  29. Scatts,
    don’t ask me about the Foundation, I found it boring a decade ago and lost it. (So, there goes the only Asimov I enjoy going back to.)
    Reading Mocha on Africa – Resnick (Kirinyaga) comes to mind, some Dukaj, maybe Gene Wolfe, while water shortage and the ferengi thing bring Dune to mind, huh?

  30. scatts – u can hit up my blog for 4 pics… Truly back in the stone age internet wise so can not put many good pictures up. Also need to watch what I post as have to assume all email etc monitored to some extent here. Is what we call Africa style democracy.

    cheers

  31. Anglopole:

    “exactly, you have absolutely nailed it! I have experienced a lot of bullying on an English forum online from some Brits living in Poland for speaking honestly how I felt about some things I experience in the UK… The issue is they have lived in Poland for years… I have been living here in the UK – who is more in touch with the reality in the UK?”

    The Brits living in Poland.

    Much of the time you claim to be an authority on things, particularly linguistic matters, that you don’t really understand, such as how English people speak their own language.

    You are unable to accept you might possibly be wrong on even the smallest point, which makes you a comic, pani Olaesque figure on GL.

  32. Hopefully, this comment is on a thread so old that it will just disappear into the ether, but I wanted to add some thoughts.

    I woke up this morning here in Warsaw feeling depressed and lonely. I felt self-conscious about my blogging posts from the weekend, and had a twitchy, niggling feeling at the back of my brain. Something was begging to get re-remembered, after the black-tie ball experience from Saturday night. In a fit of unhealthful navel-gazing I googled “braying expat” because I knew it would make me feel even worse. Lo and behold, I didn’t just get “braying” and “expat”, I got “braying harridan”. Damn, I’m good.

    Without looking too carefully at the rest of the expat-related commentary, I am really sad about the misogynistic tone of some of the remarks here. Sure, there are some expat wives who complain about life in Poland and how uncivilised it is. But there are others who genuinely love it here and try, as best they can, to learn the language, appreciate the culture, and pitch in.

    The company my guy works for has moved us 14 times in almost 30 years. Even though it seems like I should have absolutely nothing to complain about, I can tell you that be transferred hither and yon is flippin’ hard work. As the trailing spouse, you end up doing the same thing over and over and over and over again. New doctors. New dentists. New schools. Closing old bank accounts. Changing addresses at the post office. Again. Trying to manage your finances from half-way around the world. It feels like Groundhog Day … every frackin’ day of the year.

    Not to mention being continents away from aging parents and grown children and old friends. What would it be like to have lived in the same tight community for 30 years? Hell if I’d know. It sounds really delicious though.

    In my experience, what human beings mostly need and want is contact and community. As an expat, you have to do the best you can with what you’re given. I just hope that my husband doesn’t trade me in for Wife No. 2 (the younger, more attractive, more malleable version). That would truly make all the hard work and the loss of friends and the sacrifice of my excellent career just unbearable.

    Whatever. Maybe this morning I’ll go to Coffee Heaven and have a latte and laugh much too loud. After all, it’s only what’s expected of me.

    Perhaps I should sink to meet expectations.

  33. expateek, there’s no such thing as an unnoticed comment!

    I’m going to assume (probably wrongly) that if I had not been in London and had my wife not had training the weekend gone, we would have been able to dance with each other at the Caledonian Ball?

    Maybe next year, eh? Unless you get packed off to yet another country. The amount of moving around must be really draining. I thought it was only the army that moved people around that much, perhaps diplomatic staff too I suppose.

    I suggest you let yourself sink to whatever level you’re comfortable at! :)

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