Lately/almost Halloween

S: It’s hard to actually know where to begin with lately as lately has seemed to merge from the moment we fell off the plane from England in August, to just now when M asked me what we were doing on Thursday evening and I told him we were carving a Jack O’ Lantern and baking 50 squashed fly cookies. That’s the royal we. And that’s the night before our next State visit begins.


M has been away three days each week for the past five weeks. Amalya got a nasty bout of tonsillitis after her first day at school and then she, Indi and I all came down with a horrible virus that floored us all for another week. Our inherited cat has turned into an incurable incubus for a seemingly resistant fungus that is plaguing us to the point where poor Indi is now on a three month course of vile anti-fungal drugs and has a very large patch of alopecia in return for loving the sodding fungus ridden puss. We are all having to wash with a worryingly coloured anti-fungal shampoo and soap and the whole bedroom is being swept, dusted and bleached to within an inch of its life each day. We also have to change all of the bed linen and towels every day too. That’s the royal we.


Our newfound popularity knows no bounds and we have had four lots of visitors in the past eight weeks which has been amazing but has also further challenged my ability to find a rhythm as I have felt like I’m permanently on holiday! Our visitors have come from Cambodia, Western Australia, Scotland and soon England. Indi and Amalya have had playmates galore and quite brilliantly, think that everyone has come to hang out with them. Not us.


The other thing that has been jangling my eyebrows (do you remember when Indi called them eyedrowns?) is the fact that I was tricked into volunteering to be a ‘Class Ambassador’. Feeling more than a little slack for my complete non-involvement at school last semester, I foolishly thought that organising a pot luck breakfast and collecting money for a teachers gift at the end of term would be just the thing for me to squeeze in. Last years’ Class Ambassador assured me that it was a breeze (you know who you are!). Well, this years’ class ambassadors have a job description, have had a half day workshop on how to be a class ambassador and are having weekly meetings to organise social events both in and out of school. Not wanting to feel left out, M volunteered us to hold the first social event at our house. A brunch for 50. Then, when it was organised, he told me that he was going to Bangkok on a work trip. Yes, that day.


M and I have been embracing Friday date nights lately and I got to organise the most recent one. M said that he was feeling really grimy from all of his recent travels and that he’d love a traditional Balinese lulur scrub. His wish was my command and I even booked a table at a cool little warung for a curry afterwards. M says that he isn’t ready to talk about it yet and is still considering some formal counselling but suffice it to say that his massage involved not wearing quite enough (anything), a young lad, yoghurt being massaged into somewhere that he’d have preferred it not to be and a flower bath with water that didn’t fully cover his manhood. Fed up of feeling exposed, M decided that the only way forward was to heap the flowers strategically whilst trying to stop them floating off again and looking completely relaxed all at the same time. He says that he is organising our next date.


And just so that you all know that it’s not just us who invite calamity, one of our most recent visitors got bitten by a monkey on day two of her holiday and ended up having to have rabies jabs. Satisfyingly, I got to give her one of them as a much awaited trip to the beach got in the way of the injection schedule! She also went off at the airport with the wrong Wayan about an hour after they arrived.

To put this into context, Wayan is the name given to the first born son or daughter of every Balinese family and with a population of around 4.2 million that translates into quite a lot of Wayans. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not entirely her fault that she went off with the wrong one.

I told said friend that our friend Wayan would collect them from the airport and that the girls and I would draw a sign for him to hold up, so that they would be sure to find one another. Nic spotted a hand written sign that said ‘Samatha’ (note not even actually my name) and walked over to the guy and said “Hi, are you Wayan?” To which he replied “yes”. “Great” she said, summoning the rest of the family and off they trundled. “You’re Samatha?” he enquired. “No we’re going to see Sam and Matt” she replied admittedly feeling a little confused. “Which hotel you want?” the wrong Wayan asked. “Um, we’re not going to a hotel, we’re going to Sam and Matt’s” Nic replied. “Eh?” queried Wayan “You Samatha?”, “No, I’m Nicola….I think we may have got the wrong driver, sorry”. (Thinking, wow what are the chances of finding two people with the same name in the arrivals area of Bali airport?). They were by then in the car park. So off they trundled back to the airport to find the right Wayan, who was holding up the sign that the girls and I had drawn with THEIR names on, not a wrongly spelled version of my own.


I’m signing off at 10.20 pm on night two of M’s trip away this week. I’d like to be going to bed, but instead (in my role as class ambassador) as I’m co-organising an early years Halloween shindig on Friday morning, I’m off to look for recipes and write a shopping list and work plan! Our trick or treat station involves a spooky dark hollow, leaves, incense (if it doesn’t contravene fire regulations), cobwebs, a bowl of slimy worms to dip little hands into, a (kind) witch, some spooky snacks (said squashed fly cookies-Indi was hilariously appalled when I told her it was likely they would be getting carrot sticks) and apple bobbing, except it’s not apple bobbing it’s rice cracker catching.




And to top it all off, the head of the parent’s association just sent an email out asking all of the class ambassadors for the entire school to be at a meeting on Friday morning so that we can have a chat about how things are going and can look at an updated roles and responsibilities document. They are apparently providing a school counsellor for the session, which I find more than a little concerning! Anyway, I sent my apologies and said that I’d be lurking in a shady hollow dressed as a witch somewhere down in early years if anyone wanted me.










T-minus four hours until family Nath descend their fabulous selves upon Ubud and the Leggett hoose.

In trying to do some advanced planning for their first few days I emailed Mama Nath to ask about food preferences: no suckers for her, no shellfish for him, the big boy will eat anything even frogs legs and snails and the small one is so fussy that he is even distrustful of chocolate cake. Right. Cheese sarnies and a Victoria sponge for his birthday tea on Tuesday afternoon then. I toyed with the idea of making some vanilla ice cream as the birthday boy apparently likes that, but decided that all four kids will be way happier with cheap Indonesian stuff!

In the midst of this, Indi and Amalya had a playdate with a new friend after school the other day and I got a message from the husband who was on the school run, telling me to bring stunning costumes. “Bloody hell” I messaged back, “I’m at work, I’m not sure that I can rustle up a stunning costume. I’m supposed to be meeting you there in 15 minutes”. Perplexed as to what on earth I might be able to rustle up from a birthing clinic but not wanting to fail my children at a crucial moment of new friendship, I was mightily relieved to get M’s next message which read:

“I meant swimming costumes”.

Captured: camping in the Lake District in August.





















Sailing on Smiles

Our three week summer holiday in England felt like so much longer for all the very best of reasons and sent us sailing our way back here to Bali on the biggest of smiles. We packed in a wedding, a festival, a visit to the circus and two separate camping trips with nine different families in some of the most extreme weather that one should ever be expected to camp in! Our comrades showing nothing but enthusiasm and grit in the face of gale force winds, epic rain and sub-zero temperatures. In August.

We hiked the Lakeland fells, paddled in streams and rivers (in fact some of us swam in them), picnicked in ridiculously beautiful places, slept in a barn and four small cousins all climbed their first outdoor rock routes with not-inconsiderable panache and much more grace than me after a 5 year break from climbing! We built natural shelters, ate way too many sausages, drank too much red wine and talked and laughed until we dropped. We cooed over new-born piglets, danced until midnight, toasted marshmallows, cuddled our friend’s babies and hatched cunning plans. A surgeon learnt to open bottles of beer with a chisel and chop logs with an axe, while his wife rapidly learned to meditate. We had sociable and leisurely breakfasts in several different locations. One morning as Indi was breezing out of the cottage door she was asked where she was going. “I’m off to play Princesses with the gays”, she replied.

We celebrated Amalya’s third birthday three times, and spent a beautifully sunny day in a pub garden by the river in Oxford with dear friends and their babes and bumps. Two teeny mermaids watched Finding Dory in 3D glasses, we visited the dinosaurs at Pitt Rivers and ate pizza with superheroes twice. Indi and her friend A got married in a meadow in Gloucestershire, all planned by them via Skype. The bride sported a ‘tousled’ look, while the groom was in his pressed finest. The bride carried freshly picked ferns and cowslips and kissed the groom over after she said “I do”! The congregation were mostly in their pyjamas and the celebrant very cleverly sealed the vows with “until camping do us part”!

From the bottoms of our hearts and the tips of our toes, thank you comrades, compatriots and co-conspirators. Thank you for your adventurous spirits, your generosity, your culinary talents and for your enthusiasm in the face of M’s cunning plans and need for the outdoors and my propensity to hold birthday parties in ‘alternative’ locations. Thank you for being ours and for loving us, for sharing your precious time with us and for rejoicing in the Leggett sublime to the gale force ridiculous.

There is one problem with all of this fabulousness though: it makes us miss you even bloody more.

Captured: two weddings/a festival/camping in Gloucestershire