All in the Game

It’s not just the Little City adults who’ve become more adept at planning ahead recently. The bug seems to have infected the kids, too

Every time I start to write something positive about my kids I read it back through my self-effacing English eyes and think: bleurgh.

King stay the king

Some pawns about to get capped quick

Any praise tips so easily into the worst kind of parental bragging (“…and then Tristram counted backwards from 100 in Greek, missing out every seventh number! And he’s only two!”) It’s boasting of the worst kind – the kind designed to make other parents feel bad.

In order to counteract any possible threat of smugness, I then feel honour bound to point out that, for every one thing my kids are better than yours at, there’s two they’re worse at.

So much guilt, and I’m not even Catholic.

Then, I worry that my kids will read all this one day and think I did nothing but write about their shortcomings and failures for the amusement of the world.

Eventually, having contorted myself into knots with all that mental gymnastics, I usually end up cutting the entire section out, leaving anyone wandering by these parts none the wiser, and my next post precisely zero words nearer completion.

Let me tell you, writing nothing is exhausting.

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Escape Hatch

A newbie no more: I’ve reached a tipping point in my expat life

Writers of any stripe or flavour will recognise the transcendental bliss of hitting ‘send’ or ‘publish’. It’s a state of euphoria which lasts all of a nanosecond before we set off chasing it all over again.

Return of the king

As reward delivery systems go, this one’s simple but effective

But one of the perennial perils of publishing – aside from little stuff like typos, factual errors and potentially libellous comments – is the nagging feeling that you forgot to include something. An authorial FOMO, if you will.

So it was with a post I wrote recently about Plan Bs.

The version I ended up publishing (I make a lot of edits when I’m writing) was about rolling with the punches of daily life, like finding a different route home when the brand new Salwa Rd underpasses flood because they don’t have drains.

But I had started out with the idea of writing about the importance of actual plan Bs – things like writing a will, getting your money out of the country and what to do in a genuine emergency.

Because expat life in general seems to hang by a thread at the best of times, easily ended with a change in job status here, or a serious illness there.

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I am Qatar

I’ve just finished a week editing the @WeAreQatar Twitter account.

It’s a rotation curation project – where a different guest editor takes charge every week, bringing their own perspective and personality to a shared account.

You Are Not Alone

You’ll never guess what this is all about. Read on for the answer…

The idea started with the egalitarian Swedes (@sweden) and has spread round the world, making its way to Qatar last summer*. It’s a great way to boost interaction across the already wildly diverse demographics of Doha.

There aren’t any rules as such (bar common sense guidelines around inflammatory or offensive remarks) and no one is “in charge” beyond drawing up a list of volunteers and issuing the account’s password.

You put aside your personal proclivities for a bit (so all mentions of Reading’s fluctuating season stayed where they belonged, on my personal timeline) and whilst you might start with a few things that you want to point out, or get off your chest (like why people who complain about QF Radio every day don’t just listen to something else, or why q-tickets only lets you book online for that day and not actually in advance), the week quickly takes its own course.

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Plan B

Four things no Qatar resident should leave home without: keys, phone, wallet and a backup plan

Educating kids is a tricky business. There’s the obvious academic subjects like reading, writing and maths. Social skills like sharing, taking turns and not licking your knife.

Oscar winner Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B – see what he did there? – produced this year’s Oscar-winning Best Picture, 12 Years A Slave. This image has nothing to do with placating my female readership, nor rigging my SEO stats. Whatsoever

Then there’s future-proof skills like coding, behavioural skills, a different language, or a musical instrument.

Every parent will have their own priorities, based on their upbringing, passions and the environment they live in. For my part, I didn’t learn many* culinary skills or receive even the most basic financial education, so these are two obvious gaps I’m determined to ensure my kids avoid.

One of the other lessons I’m really keen to teach my two – particularly Kid A, who gets an idea stuck in her head like gum sticks to your shoe – is that plans change.

As an expat this is an easy lesson to learn; adaptability is supposed to be one of our core skills, after all.

The expat’s world changes all the time: countries, schools, friends, languages, traditions, cultural norms and taboos, which side of the road you drive on…the possibilities and permutations are endless.

And then there’s the kind of micro-level day-to-day changes, the kind at which Qatar excels. Because life here forces you to have – and use – Plan Bs every day.

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The Running Man

“Run until your arms are sore, until you cannot feel it anymore…”
Radiohead, Cuttooth

For a few weeks now, my mojo has been if not actually AWOL, then at the very least sulking in its bedroom.

The quest to find work is slow, unpredictable and frustrating. Hearing your son optimistically asking his mum “Is Daddy working today?” is more than a little crushing.

View from a hill

On a clear day you can see…only a little bit further, as the hill really isn’t very high

This alone would be enough to occupy my mind fully of late, but life being what it is, we’ve also had to contend with the death of a close family member on Mrs LC’s side and all the short notice trips, exit visa stress and emotional burden that comes with being far away from loved ones.

It would be easy to wallow and overthink all of this, but instead I decided to use the employment-free limbo I currently find myself in to my advantage.

To clear my head. To stay in shape.

To start running again.

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