Kelly McLachlan

Kelly McLachlan
Life As It Is...

Saturday, 18 February 2017

London On A Budget

Ok, so we're probably thinking about ironing school uniforms in preparation for Monday morning, half term wasn't all that bad.  We had a day out in London for not a lot of money.  Which is fab if you're trying to watch your pennies.  It doesn't have to be expensive.  It IS possible!  My sister and I took our three kids on the train, it was my girls' first time in the 'smoke' and the train journey wasn't stressful.  Southern Rail must have known that we would be travelling that day.  As the kids are all under 16 they travelled for TWO QUID each.  That was there and back, plus buses and underground.  But that was only the first part of the bargain.  All we had to do was fill out a voucher on the back of a leaflet from the train station for fab 2 for 1 offers!  Everything is on there, from experiences to river cruises to food and drink.

Armed with said vouchers and after only catching one wrong train on the tube, (well, it was my first visit to our capital in about 15 years) we arrived at our first destination, Kensington Palace, Queen Victoria's childhoood home.  We only paid 16.50 entry, (2 for 1) and the kids were free.  All we had to do was flash our rail tickets.  We wandered around for ages, admiring the history before heading to the gift shop where the kids bought a couple of souvineirs.

We strolled back up Kensington High Street to catch the tube to our next tourist destination.  The Monument.  This was so easy to find from the station and just steps from Pudding  Lane, where the great fire started back in 1666.  We paid 4.90 for 2 of us, and the kidds went up for 2.30 each.  We managed to ascend (I don't know how!) 311 spiral steps but the view when we arrived at the top was pretty spectacular, if a little smoggy!




Now I've been back to London, I can't wait to go back again.  We'll wait until the weather is a bit warmer, it was bitter at the top of the Monument!

So yes, you can do London "on the cheap", and yes, it is definately worth it.  The kids were impeccably behaved and the most money we spent the whole day was at the Burger King at Victoria Station while waiting for the trian home.  We couldn't catch a train before 9 in the morning or before 7pm, but that's fine because when you go to London you want to maximise every minute!

Until next time,

Kelly x

Thursday, 12 May 2016

From the Costa Blanca to the Sunshine Coast

Having lived in Spain for more than a decade I was used to the Spanish way of life, of course.  Moving back to the Costa Del Sol of good old England was indeed a bit of a shock to the system, and I'm not just talking about the weather.  The differences are HUGE. 
I'll start with everybody's mate, Joe Public.  While it has been amazing to catch up with old friends I had left behind all those years ago, not everyone is so friendly.  In Spain, I'd wander along the street and  say "Hola" to random people and was usually greeted with a warm "Hola" back.  Here, at first, if I'd say  "Good morning" I was glared at, like a stranger in my own town.  There are of course a couple of women at the school gate who I went to school with, now dropping off the next generation at the very same school we went to.  Even now, five months down the line, there are only one or two mums (previously strangers) who will actually say hello...and the occasional dog walker.
On the other hand, us Brits in Blighty say "sorry" an awful lot.  To the point where it was starting to get right up one's nostrils.  I was at the train station one morning, and from out of nowhere a man just said "Sorry!"
"Why, what have you done, mate?"
And  I was glared at like I was strange?   
I'll move on to my next favourite subject...food.  Good old fashioned pub meals.  Proper milk in your PG Tips.  A pound for a loaf of Kingsmill.  That's what I'm talking about.  Eating out is cheaper than I thought it'd be, actually.  The restaurants around here don't take the mickey with their prices and the kids are always up for a lunch out.  The pubs in Spain are cheap too, but everybody who said that moving back wouldn't be easy haven't tried it, obviously.  I know of lots of people who have moved back to the UK who are doing all right, some more than all right. 
I'm not saying it's the easiest thing I've ever done, but no way is as hard as some tried to make it out to be.  Those  expats who are happy to pay through the nose for their teabags and loaf of Jackson's bread in Iceland in Torry should ask themselves: how can they justify charging THAT much for a loaf of bread when the cost of fuel hasn't been as high as it once was?
Of course it was a struggle at first, you can't claim jobseekers allowance for 3 months, fair enough, but, the claims I made for my children all went through ok, and thankfully I didn't need jobseekers allowance because after about three months I landed myself a little part time job, the girls are happy and settled at school, I'm close to family and friends and I have all the help I need.  I'm rebuilding my social life, I'm going away for the odd weekend, and I'm really glad I'm back.  I made some fantastic friends in Spain and I didn't have a massive 'adios' party, I didn't even say goodbye.  (I'll even bet that some haven't even noticed I'm gone!)
Do I miss it?  I don't miss the mozzies, Spanish drivers, the sweltering nights or the crowded beaches, so what do I miss?  Well,  I miss the people, the Spanish and the expats, for all their quirks, the fiestas, the sun?  Well, you can't really compare the weather, different kind of heat, and all that, but all in all...
No regrets.
X

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Feel Positive

When you've not written for a while...and you rediscover something like this :)

Friday, 22 January 2016

How To Spot an Ex-Pat at 10 Paces

How To Spot an Ex-Pat at 10 Paces http://kellybmclachlan.blogspot.com/2015/08/how-to-spot-ex-pat-at-10-paces.html

How To Integrate

How To Integrate http://kellybmclachlan.blogspot.com/2015/10/how-to-integrate.html

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

My Struggle To Speak Spanish

Being able to converse in another language is an amazing achievement, and anyone who can do so fluently definitely deserve a huge round of applause in my humble opinion.  You see, I'm never going to be fluent in Spanish. There were times when I thought I'd NEVER get to grips with the language, and just trying to comprehend the verbs is in itself another language!
But, it CAN be done.
I have a bit of a head start because my kids go to non English speaking schools and just have a couple of English classes a week. Helping them with homework has helped me learn new things too.
For example:
There are lots of words with more than one meaning. I know it's the same in English, but here's a couple to think about: somebody may be talking about a broken doll until you notice the plaster cast on their wrist. I also thought it unusual to call the marca blanca (own brand) in the local supermarket 'four stations', then I realised that estación also means season. Yes, four seasons sounds better.  'Cola' is another one, not only is it the popular fizzy drink down this way, it also means the following: are you ready? A queue of people, a tail (of a cat or a dog, for example) and glue, you know, what I would  call 'gloopy' glue.  And there's carrera, which is a race or a journey, and of course, there's the caña, which is, as we all know, a small beer, but it's also a fishing reel! Same words, VERY different meanings! My favourite things to say in Spanish are things like "Como se llama" and "que es la palabra yo busco" because even after all this time I STILL can't speak fluent Spanish. I say "OK" a lot instead of "vale" and "right" instead of "claro". I'm not even sure why I say these things. It's no secret that I'm one of the few foreigners on town. We watch English TV in the house and always speak in English to each other. The kids read stories from English books and make up stories to tell each other in English. My eldest has been to the doctor with my husband to translate before now!
Speaking Spanish fluently at a young age is such an achievement for my girls and I am so so proud of them both, but, English is also very important. My eldest insists she knows it all when of comes to learning English at school so doesn't really pay attention in class, but as I found out when I was studying English to teach as a second language, there is so much of it I take for granted and I tried explaining to her that actually English is complicated! As I mentioned earlier, I have the greatest of admiration for anybody who speaks more than one language, but sometimes the struggle is real.  I say "hello" to the kiddies at the school gate, because I'm known as the 'English' lady. I love to speak in English and there are lots of people around these parts who are studying our beautiful language, for work etc, and I've said to all those that I know of, "si quieres hablar en inglés, puedes hablar conmigo"
Always happy to help!
Can anybody relate? Or is it just me?
K
Xx

Monday, 18 January 2016

Returning "Home"




Returning "Home"


Due to unforeseen circumstances in Spain, I have been forced to return home to the UK at short notice with my two young daughters.  We are all British passport holders, I have registered with the local doctor and to vote with the council, my kids have already started school at the local academy, I've opened a UK bank account and have strong family ties in the local area. Naturally, my family are beyond happy that we have returned.

Now, this is how it REALLY is...

Recently, when the floods hit Cumbria, David Cameron boldly said something along the lines of "we must look after our own first" instead of send millions abroad in foreign aid.  Except, of course, if you're a returning British expat.

I had to sit the Residential Habitual Test, which I was expecting.  Of course, I had previously done some online research about this, and I found out that if I did all of the above, I may be able to have my "residency".  Unfortunately, this was not to be, I failed simply because I have not been in the country long enough.  This means that I am not entitled to ANY benefits for myself or my kids.  As UK passport holders I feel that this is grossly unfair.  I have had many phone calls with several departments and the Citizens' Advice Bureau and I have been informed that "ALL those entering the UK are treated the same".  Not true.  I feel I am being discriminated against because I am a British passport holder as are my children.  I am NOT "entering" I am returning, and I believe that my rights should be slightly more than those who claim benefits and send money abroad and those who are already abroad and WRONGFULLY claiming for their children.  I even used the word "discrimination"

I have been in touch with my local MP who kindly offered me food vouchers so I can feed my children at my parents' house and, grateful as I am, these food vouchers will not pay for public transport to attend meetings at the local job centre for advice on how to find work (I am not entitled to this OR any kind of child benefits for my kids) nor will food vouchers pay for school uniforms for my daughters.  The eldest is 10 years old and is not entitled to school dinners, which I of course cannot pay for out of my non-existent income.  I was told that after 12 weeks I will become eligible for all the benefits but three months is a very long time when you have no money.

I have had to register as homeless with the local council who will try to find us a home.

The flat I was renting in Spain is being sold and I have to return to sort out the paperwork on that, so I have had to call the job centre to cancel my "claim".  That I am not entitled to.  I am so confused, I have never had to deal with anything like this before. 

I know I was lucky to find places at the local school, there are several who need to travel from all over town and I can walk it in 10 minutes.  I am thankful for that.  I am also thankful to my fantastic family and friends for keeping us going for the last few weeks

On my return do I have to resit the HRT?  Will everything have to start all over again? Will I have to wait for ANOTHER 12 weeks with no money?  I know nothing about any of this and I say to everybody I meet "talk to me like I am an idiot"

I think this policy needs a serious rethink, and the politicians should do more to help their own, and maybe, just maybe, Britain will one day be "great" again.

(THIS IS JUST MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND MAY NOT BE THE SAME FOR ALL RETURNING EXPATS).