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A Wedding – Gwada style

The original aim of our trip to Guadeloupe was to celebrate Bertie’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, however, his sister took advantage of the presence of all but one of her siblings (when they number 12 that is no mean feat!) to get married.

I have heard many stories about Guadeloupean weddings from Bertie, mainly how 300 plus people will be invited to the evening do and yet still more will come sneaking in, hearing about free drinks, but I had never actually attended one, so I looked forward to filling this gap in my cultural knowledge.  And a learning experience it was! Lessons learnt:

1. How you look is SO important. Hours are dedicated to finding the right outfit and accessories. Evening dress is probably best for women, though men seem to get away with less formal attire. Further hours are given to preparation of hair, nails etc on the morning itself. Even a slight matter such as making the official ceremony in the town hall is not to get in the way of being ready!

2. Being on time is a very relaxed concept. See above (very few people did make the town hall!).  We waited 20 minutes in the heat for the priest to arrive at the church celebration.  The evening meal, hopefully announced on the invitation as 7.30pm to eat at 8.30pm, was in fact served at 10pm! No matter, most the guests didn’t arrive till then!

3. After the ceremony all the cars in the bridal party will drive around town with lights flashing and horns beeping. Just because. Onlookers – feel free to join in and beep back!

4. One can never have too many cakes. There were in fact 20 to choose between that evening. The highlight was the one shaped like an island with a fish swimming around underneath it!

5. Nor can one have too much food or drink.  In fact, there should be enough for everyone to come back and enjoy the next day. And quite possibly the day after. And the day after…

6. Early birds beware, it will go on late!

7. The bride and groom get a marvellous throne to sit on/stand by whilst they welcome their guests. I guess if you have 300 there a place to sit is not a bad idea!

8. A lot of work is done by family and friends, so your holiday will be taken up by plenty of wedding preparation. Perhaps Bertie’s other sister had this in mind when she arrived on the evening of the big day, rather than two weeks in advance like the rest of us!

9. If you wear heels double the height of your highest ever pair, get practising in advance!

10. There will be a lot of dancing and loud music. The aforementioned sister told me that she generally loses a couple of kilos just from dancing!

All in all it was a very successful event enjoyed by all the family.  I must admit, by 1am I was happily back home in my bed, glad to kick those heels off!

Here is a very small selection of the many family photos I took that day!

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Death In Paradise

Today I am going to shamelessly plug the BBC’s entertaining detective show that is Death in Paradise – Tuesdays at 9pm and then on iPlayer, no excuse to miss it, especially as it was filmed in good old Guadeloupe!

When we went last summer I cherished a small hope that we would see it being filmed, but I had no idea if they were filming and with our lack of car, couldn’t see how we would get over to its location in any case.

Well, after two weeks of waiting, a car finally became available – note to self, book in advance in future! To say it was no object of beauty would be an understatement, but at least it moved – though its habit of stalling meant that I was very nervous on any hills! We then got a slightly better car the following week, phew!

On Ascension Day (bank holiday for the French) Bertie’s sister invited us to les hauteurs (literally ‘the heights’, and believe me, they are high!) of Deshaies on the west side of Guadeloupe to meet an in-law, and hope sprang in my heart, just maybe….!  Having finally found the house (road names are significantly lacking in this land, our direction for one house we visited was “by the breadfruit tree hanging over the road”!!) and somehow having made it up the incredibly steep drive that so many Guadeloupeans manage to deal with on a daily basis (thank goodness we were in car no. 2!), we enjoyed a quick visit then set off down into Deshaies to investigate.  As you can imagine, we were thrilled to discover that the quiet beach we usually visit was overrun with lorries, cars, people, cameras – all very positive. A quick look at an official document stuck up in the car park confirmed that yes indeed, filming was going on there that day. We were amused to see that they had taken over a usually rather elegant beachside restaurant as the mess room, and from previous experience, we wondered if they too had to pay nearly five euros for a cup of tea??

We had a quick chat with the director, wandered around a little, and were told filming would start in an hour, so off we went for some food.  Unfortunately for us (but good for them!), Guadeloupeans take bank holidays seriously so we arrived at the Supermarket just as they shut the doors for the day.  We ended up with some odd assortments of food from the only open shop in town, including rolls that turned out to be mouldy, but at least they were stocked up with magnums on a special one euro offer!

Back to watch the filming, and we were delighted to receive a warm welcome from the cast members we met, Fidel and Dwayne, also Londoners.  Then we were as silent as we could possibly be once the cameras started rolling…. Actually, watching filming in the boiling sun with three children is not that fun, who would have known it such a long, drawn-out process? Soon they were clamouring to be going in the water, not simply watching random policemen who weren’t really policemen being pushed in! So after an hour or so we set off for the next part of our trip, looking forward to seeing it on screen in the not so distant future.

I mentioned this visit to my brother-in-law that evening and he told me that he had actually been employed as a driver for their huge vans lugging all their equipment up into the mountains during series one.  He had even been offered a part as an extra but had turned it down as other work came up – what a pity, he could have been gracing our screens!

Thursday night we were catching up with this week’s episode and there it was in the advert for next week, the very scene where Dwayne takes his dive! We were there! Recognise any of these?

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A Bit of Warmth

I know that some of you readers have reached the warmth of summer (enjoy!) and some of you perhaps never leave it, but here in the UK it has turned cold all of a sudden.  After a disturbingly mild Christmas (didn’t feel right singing “on a cold and crispy morning”…), the ice alert has started to flash on the car dashboard and the snow has arrived!

So as a change of scenery for my fellow Brits, I thought this was as good a time as any to (finally) post some photos from our month in Guadeloupe last summer.  Certainly a cheaper way of warming up than all these holidays to Australia that the radio keeps advertising!

Our first week there was pretty calm, mostly spent at home or in Bertie’s local town as we were car-less, so we were very excited to get an invitation to stay that first weekend in a holiday apartment by the sea with his sister and her friends. Highlights – being right by the sea with an air conditioned bedroom, not to mention a tv to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics back at home. Lowlights – I got my first (and only!) really bad sunburn, sigh, and practically fainted – I was very glad for that air con! The sea was a bit rough for my liking although it didn’t put the kids off! And why did French tv not show the home nation during the opening parade?? I sat through two hours of other countries….for nothing!

Birthday Girl!

This dear girl turned 7 (SEVEN??!!) today and it was a great day of rejoicing indeed.  Out came the ‘throne’ as she excitedly opened her various presents.  I was very impressed that her list was so short – a Barbie VW car, a new quilt, a colouring book and an activity book – either she is learning restraint, or she is learning that her mother is quite frugal!

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We also honoured another special tradition that CassCass herself started a few years ago – a bouquet of flowers from Daddy! How nice that they even match her princess dress!

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CassCass exceptionally enjoyed snow for her birthday (as a friend commented, you can’t order that from Amazon!) and the three of them spent the morning in and out trying out their new sledge and throwing snowballs at the windows (my job was to look cold and horrified on the other side of the glass!).

Bertie treated us to crepes for our lunch followed by his highly reputed galette des rois in place of a birthday cake (his fourth and final one of the year!).  He thoughtfully ensured that the birthday girl got the feve, making her Queen for the year. Grandma and Grandpa braved the snow and popped in to join the celebrations then the day finished with CassCass’ choice of tagliatelle carbonara for tea.

Tomorrow we are having a small party of 8 girls here (our house doesn’t do big, and besides, the party plates come in packs of 8!) so we are looking forward to more joy and merriment then!

Celebrating…

It has been a busy few months! A month in Guadeloupe, enjoying catching up with the in-laws and gloating over Team GB’s marvellous performance in the Olympics, then straight back into London life and our most structured homeschool year yet – after 12 weeks of following (and keeping up with!) my finely crafted schedule, not to mention a week in France in the middle, I am looking forward to a quieter December full of Christmas fun.  Perhaps I will even find time to post some photos from all the above events?

So why the celebrating?  Well, our week in France ended rather sourly, when someone smashed our car window and stole the laptop we had loaned to us from our church, just weeks after my own one gave up the ghost (and most astonishingly, hoards of creatures crept out of it when my techie brother opened it up to investigate! Ugh!).  So having been computerless for quite a while, I decided it was time to choose another one.  I never realised what an overwhelming choice there was out there, but thanks again to Big Brother Ali whose incisive comments (“go for the  smallest numbers…”) proved so helpful.

And so today, a day early, we returned home in the dark to find….our brand new Dell Inspiron laptop sitting on our front door step in full view! Dear me!  After recovering from the sheer miracle of it being safely there, I have spent the evening trying to understand Windows 8 and all the weird and wonderful things they have done with it – why can’t it just be like before?? I was heard to cry on numerous occasions.   But I think I have finally got the hang of it and found everything that matters whilst disposing of everything else.  Now I am just waiting to visit that marvellous brother of mine to get him to install all the documents from my three non-functional laptops  (yes, we work them hard in this house!).  And after all that plugging, if anyone would like their own visit from my highly talented brother, I will be delighted to point you in the right direction, commission-free of course!

 

Homeschooling – Why on earth?

We have been homeschooling for nearly three years now. LissaLou went to nursery in the UK for 6 months and Ecole Maternelle in Guadeloupe for a year but the others have not attended any school.

People often ask why we homeschool, and I often reply how long have you got? Sometimes a very simple answer is all that is wanted, and I would hate to bore people with too many details!  If that’s you, probably best stopping here!  However, there are times when people are interested in the journey that brought us here, so this post is just for them!

It began with lots of reading about homeschooling in blogs and books, hearing about it from my sister with many homeschooled friends in the US, and then one of my closest friends choosing to educate her son this way.  However, I have to admit that although I thought it sounded like a marvellous idea and completely in line with my philosophy of life (the major influence of children being their parents, the importance of the family as a unit, the too early rush into school for little children, the lack of individual attention and development in classes of 30…) my reaction was, I could never have the patience to do that! I couldn’t spend all day with my children, they would drive me mad!

My other reaction was related to being someone who doesn’t really like standing out from the crowd. In my younger years things like putting God first, being a model student, liking reading, working hard and enjoying classical music all made me something of an oddity in my inner London state school.  As I grew, things like being in a mixed culture relationship, going grey early, choosing not to buy a house and being interested in healthy living only added to the mix.  Why on earth would I choose to do yet another thing so obviously strange and different as homeschooling?!

Then came our year in Guadeloupe.  At the age of 4, LissaLou was at school from 8am till 4.30pm. So long!  Thankfully I was able to collect her for the two hour lunch break, otherwise I felt that I hardly saw her.  I also felt slightly frustrated that she seemed to spend her days colouring in pictures.  Meanwhile, CassCass was either having a wonderful time with her Papa running loose on his father’s piece of land in the countryside, helping him grow fruit and veg, or reading lots with me and playing with JoJo at home.

During our year there, the island ground to a halt with six weeks of strikes.  No school, no anything in actual fact.  But that’s another story!  It was actually really delightful to have LissaLou at home with us, and we were able to do all sorts of interesting things as part of our “school” at home.  Thus the seeds were planted, and I realised that not only could I do a reasonable job of teaching my children, I could spend even spend the whole day with them!  That is, after all, exactly what I had been doing since they were born!

And so it all began to fall into place as we prepared for our return to the UK.  We didn’t know for a long time where we would be returning to, let alone which school we should apply for.  Beginning to homeschool therefore didn’t seem such a strange thing given our exceptional circumstances (schools in our borough are hugely over-subscribed and several people told me I probably wouldn’t get them a place quickly anyway!) and it gave us time to try it out and decide if it worked for us.  “I’m just taking it year by year” was my favourite phrase then!  Three year later, I can say it has definitely been working well for us!