End of an era

Why has it taken me so long to knuckle down and write this final blog?  A million reasons I guess.  I probably should have done a few ‘last posts’ really, charting the build-up to our relocation home but the reality of moving my family and all our belongings 6000 miles around the world, again, funnily enough meant that I didn’t have as much time for blogging as I have been used to!

And now I’m expected to bath my own children!  And cook them meals!  And take them to parties!  And after school activities! And take and collect them from school!  And do the washing and have the house tidy with a meal on the table for my husband when he gets home from work.  A meal made by me!  Yep, this is what I’ve missed so much!

Not to mention the fact that the OCD sufferer who lives not very well hidden inside me is deeply unsatisfied by the fact that I had written a beautifully satisfying 100 blog posts.  With this being the 101st, I am feeling very unsettled!

So here it is.  The one I dreamt of writing, drafted in my head a thousand times and prayed I would one day get to write since the day I dreamt up my blog idea.  But I never dared believe that life would carry me back to a place where I would find myself home from the morning school run, sitting in the study with a cup of tea, silence ringing around me, writing IT.  And after all that dreaming – it’s three months late!  Maybe it was always meant to be written now when the dust, literally and metaphorically, has finally settled.

The question we have been asked the most since we have been back is, “Does it feel like you have never been away?”  And the answer is that yes, it really does.  It is the strangest feeling to know that we had a whole life in Hong Kong for 2.5 years, one that we worked very hard at.  We had great friends there, HAVE great friends there, and it is almost impossible to just box all that away.  As happy as we are to be home, we don’t want to box it away.  It defines us now, all of us.  But where do we put it?  How do we balance it in the delicious hum drum of normal life back home?  I don’t know when or how we will ever figure this out but we’re trying.

And it is so hard to explain this to others.  One of the phrases I’ve uttered the most since we’ve been back is that, “It’s like I’ve been in a coma for 2 years and just woke up.”  My other analogy is that it feels like we pressed the ‘pause’ button on our life on 5th April 2012 and on the 25th June 2014 we pressed ‘play’ again.  But those analogies aren’t really the right ones because they imply that the time in between was ‘nothing time’.  But it’s the best I could come up with.  See how hard it is?  Maybe I’m trying to be too clever and think too deeply.  In a nutshell, to coin a rude phrase that perhaps is the best answer – it’s a real ‘head f***!’

Dan has regular ‘moments’ every time we see something on TV that features Hong Kong, and there has bizarrely been quite a lot of those recently.  He can be frequently heard uttering, “We bloody lived there.”  “We did that.”  “Can you believe we lived on the other side of the world?”  And other such phrases that basically mean he is as mentally unbalanced as I am!

Joshua has slotted back into his old life with such ease.  Back at his old school with his old friends.  There are probably just two parts of his Hong Kong life that he wishes he could blend in to his UK life.  The first is the football.  He has been lucky enough to be accepted into a very welcoming team this year but the opportunities for boys in England just aren’t the same which is very weird.  Isn’t England meant to be the home of football?  Why should opportunities be so much better elsewhere?  I fear it is the privilege of expat life.  Opportunities come at a price and when Joshua looks at his ‘shelf of honour’ in his bedroom where all his cups and medals from Hong Kong now reside, I hope he realises how privileged he was.  He had so many footballing moments that we hope will stay with him for the rest of his life.

And the second thing we know Josh wishes he still had with him, is Joseph, his best friend from Carmel School.  The strength of this friendship was what had Joshua in inconsolable tears as we left the lights of Hong Kong behind us that night.  If it wasn’t for that, Joshua would have been filled with nothing but excitement about coming home.  Of course the excitement was there but the goodbyes were still raw.  And just as Joshua’s emotions spilled over, as if he knew, Joseph called for a final goodbye.  It did Joshua the world of good and really cheered him up.  During our time in Hong Kong, Josh worked very hard to keep up his close friendships in London, always FaceTiming and emailing and making sure we fitted in as many playdates as we could whenever we came home for a visit.  And now he has to do the same with Joseph.  In this age of easy communication, I hope that distance won’t damage the bond between the boys.  They already had a lovely reunion in the summer when Joseph and his family unexpectedly came to England.  That story is definitely not over.

Eden was the one we were the most unsure about.  She was only one year old when we left, she had no real friends as she hadn’t started nursery and she was obviously too young to require the explanations and rationalisations that Joshua needed.  She had no memory of our house but was thankfully very familiar with grandparents and cousins homes thanks to our frequent London trips.  She didn’t seem to question why we lived in a random flat in Barnet for the first 6 weeks.  She knew we were waiting for our shipment and was always talking about all her things that were coming on the ship.  It wasn’t hard for her to settle into our house.  For the rest of us it was a homecoming and I worked damned hard to put everything back exactly where it had been before we left.  But for Eden it was yet another different place to live.  However, it wasn’t that hard for her to settle into her big pink bedroom and enjoy running around in our garden and playing in the playroom.  She has more space than she has ever known!  She spent a confident summer in camp without a single tear or clingy moment.  And then she finally started school.  My big girl in uniform taking the school place we fought so hard for.  Again, no caution, just total confidence.  It hasn’t occured to her for one moment that she’s a latecomer and that her classmates have all been together for a year already.  Probably best that way.  One day she’ll realise but it won’t matter by then.  Every now and then she will reference her life in Hong Kong.  She’ll say to me, “Mummy, do you remember so-and-so?”  As if her four year old brain still remembers something that I might have forgotten.  Like Josh, she had a gorgeous group of friends in Hong Kong but because she is too young to fully comprehend the enormity of what never seeing someone again means, she didn’t suffer the outward emotions of leaving them.  I know she misses her HK friends.  Over the summer she would play games with her ‘pretend friends’ as she called them.  They all had the names of her HK friends.  I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with that!  But as I hoped, over the past few months and especially since she’s started school, the ‘pretend friends’ don’t come to play as often. It’s sad to think that they will soon be forgotten to her.  Who really remembers a lot of detail of their life between the ages of 2-4?  Maybe one day she will find them all on Facebook.  Or somewhere.

And as for me?  I’m at peace again.  I feel balanced and steady.  We are home.  Every box is unpacked (almost), everything is organised and in place.  Apart from all the Asian art on our walls and a shed-load of fake handbags, it really is as if we never went away.  I might have had no real job for two and a half years but I have never worked so hard in my life.  I’m tired.

I think I will always fear the day that Dan might once again come home with the whisperings of an ‘opportunity’ somewhere else in the world.  He promises he won’t.  I don’t think he wants to either.  But that’s not going to stop opportunities rearing their ugly head.  I just hope that next time he won’t just see what it’s all about, what they want, what the package is etc.  I’ve been on that escalator and I’m not riding it again because you can’t get off.

When I first decided to write this blog, all I wanted it to be was my diary that contained highlights of our life in Hong Kong.  It was just for me, or rather for the four of us to be able to always look back on.  I didn’t want to bombard my entire email address book with constant updates of our goings on.  I couldn’t assume everyone would be interested.  So I let close friends and family know about my blog at the start, inviting them to tap in whenever they wanted an update.  I’ve tried to keep pretending that I’m just writing to myself but I can’t ignore 7500 hits and they can’t all be my mum!  I have never written for the benefit of others, only myself.  I love my blog and I’m very proud of it and perhaps this is the final reason why this post took me so long to face.  Because I’m sad to say goodbye to it.  I am so flattered that so many people have enjoyed some of my ramblings.  A lot of people have asked me if I will carry on with my blog. Every time I have answered without hesitation that I will not.  This was just for our time in Hong Kong. Who would get excited about my life in Mill Hill?  Just me.

8 thoughts on “End of an era

  1. I’ve loved your blogs, and am also very sad for them to be over! You should definitely be finding a job over here blogging about something or other, even if not about your more-than-mundane life in Mill Hill!!

  2. Blimey! What an emotional final blog!
    I completely welled up , not only because I was caught up in all the emotion, but also because I felt so proud !
    Mummy x

  3. Beautifully written Neene. Loved every one of your blogs and I for one will definitely subscribe to your Mill Hill one too!!

  4. Have just re-read THE THE final blog and finally have a moment to comment (albeit belatedly!).
    Super emotional!
    You all achieved so much during your time away – professionally, educationally, socially and culturally.
    Extremely proud of the HK Soloway attitude and particularly of you, Neene, for settling the crew in so well over there and then slotting you all back into Mill Hill life so smoothly. That role was made for you!
    And don’t think that just because you are home you can get away with not giving us blow-by-blow accounts of your daily life! The more mundane, the better!
    We love having you back!

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