Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 round up

As the last day of 2018 is swiftly moving along, I want to stop for a moment and express gratitude for all that this year has brought. From the work point of view it has for sure been exceptional, I have an amazing team that is dedicated to our research and achieved incredible results. The new job starting soon, what a rollercoaster that was and now I'm nearly nearly the place of my dreams in Switzerland.
From the family point of view it has been very much on the same sort of "chugging along" we have been for a while. I suppose it could be worse. We bought a house in Nottingham we now have to put back on the market after a renovation which was never-ending (still not fully finished), Brexit will not help, but it is what it is, let's hope not to lose too much.
Children have been very good, they are growing and many things have become easier, while new challenges have come to light. We have been through Oliver's saga in school, now finally closed for good, which was extremely stressful for us. I hope the children will quickly settle in Switzerland and we can start our new adventure.
Health-wise we have have been well, I went through my usual round of anxiety of deadly diseases, did all the checks I felt were needed, and I seem to be still doing well.

Tomorrow a new year will start, as always it brings anxiety for me, of the unknown, of the what if this year will be a bad one. I love 19. 19 is my favourite number so this year is loaded with expectations and it's unfair on anything, including a "brand new year" that still has to begin.

To my cyber friends, I wish you all the best for 2019, may it be interesting, full of laughters and adventures.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Next week is the week

The semester is over. I'm wrecked. I got excellent students' feedback on my lectures which is always uplifting and makes it all worth it. But still...I had a gruelling semester because I'm condensing almost all my teaching in the autumn term. And just as well.

Next week I'll be travelling from monday to friday, visiting two cities in Italy where I'm giving a lecture and then I'll go to the dream destination for final negotiation. I am hopeless at negotiation. HOPELESS. I really would pay someone to do it for me. I'm told they want me to have the best stat there as possible but my minimum request is way above the granted offer both for equipment and personnel... let's see how far I get. In fairness, I want this job so much that I'll take anything they give me (which is a terrible negotiating position to start with).

I have started sharing the news with some closest colleagues, they were all very sad to know I'm leaving but they were also so so happy for me and the dream job (which is not just my dream job, but it's objectively a stellar opportunity). I will remain closely affiliated for at least another 2.5 years so it's not that bad. Of course, having said that, it's a mystery what will happen with this damn Brexit the UK decided to bring upon itself. What a disaster.

In other news, FIL had a major accident at home, and after a miraculous recovery, he is now left incapable of feeding (has lost his swallowing reflex) and is definitely not self-sufficient. He is also not recognising his children or anyone. Mike and his sister are looking for a nursing home in Dublin. We will go visiting just after Christmas. Let's hope this situation won't drag on too long, because that is not a life worth living. Even the doctors apologised...but they had to do their job and save him of course.

I'll update on everything next week, send positive vibes on all fronts please!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Major news!

Well well well... in my last post I mentioned about the dream job that was shortlisted for but that unless of a miracle I was just not the best candidate.
Would you believe it, last week I got an email and I immediately recognised the sender of course. I was at a very important meeting in Brussels and thought "oh crap.... I so don't want to read this now..." but then I thought "ah what the hell, I better get this over with and focus on what I have rather than on what I don't have". The email read something like this:

Dear Fran,

it's been a while. I have some good news, unofficial as of now, but better to talk on the phone, can you take a call?

I was completely blocked for the whole day and it was only 9 am!! I could not leave or take a call, it was nerve wrecking..I though Ohhhhhh shit!! This can't be happening, this can't be happening...
I texted Mike and my parents, and of course emailed back to say I could only talk in the evening.
You can imagine my level of concentration for the rest of the day.

The call was amazing. I ranked as top candidate unanimously!! So while there is a set of technical procedures, the job is mine if I want it. IF I want it?? Can I sign a contract now??

So anyway, today I spoke with my group, they were all thrilled (I can take them all with me if they want to move), and I also mentioned it to my Head of School. I know most people will just pretend nothing is happening and they will just resign when the have to. But there are several things going on in work and my HoS is a great person that deserve honesty. He was great, he knew he could not compete with such an offer, it's not just my dream job, it would be a dream job for half the academics I know...

So onwards and upwards, new adventures on the horizon!

Monday, September 17, 2018


All of a sudden is already my birthday. Hello my virtual friends!

I wanted to post a nice update about the house renovation with pics etc, but we are still living in a building site without a kitchen... fun was gone by the time we came back from holidays a month ago and we won't have it for another 2 weeks...but we are nearly there.

Children have started school back again and they are delighted (I promise I will update soon on Oliver's saga which, would you believe it, it's still dragging on).

I went for a dream job interview during the holidays but while I would sell a kidney for it, I was not the perfect match and two other candidates fit better the job description, so unless of a miracle that is gone (but the process is very long, I won't hear for while a definite no). There's another good position going that I will apply for, and I'm also going for promotion this year. Work has gone quite well, one of those years where planets align and several very ambitious things have succeeded. So I'm going for it because it was really what I should have been offered 2 years ago when I joined this new Uni. I am telling myself that if I'm again caught in the bureaucracy of a broken system (not enough budget for the School, too soon to be promoted, etc), I'm packing up and enrol into a medicine degree which is what I should always have done. But that's not without other major consequences (assuming I'm not too old already and eligible).

My feelings in general are still very troubled. I feel very conflicted with Mike (who is his usual self, great person, great with the children, but zero ambition or drive to do much at all), I feel stuck, I day dream of other lives most of the time, but at times I dream of moving back the clock to when I felt happy with what I had. I need projects and plans...I'm one of those.

Health-wise we are all doing well, I had my usual anxiety about whatever, did all my checks, all is good. Till the next bout of anxiety. I am doing much better from that point of view but when anxiety strikes it's a beast. The one who is doing worst is Carlito the cat, who has not settled much in this new neighbourhood, the other cats are giving him a hard time, and on saturday he was hit by a kind neighbour took him to the vet where we found him today. He should have (one very expensive) surgery tonight, poor pet he looked miserable...but should be ok.

I read all your blogs, you that are still writing, but sometimes my messages to you don't get posted and I don't know why. Know that I'm there for you.

Friday, May 11, 2018


I am sorry to have left you without updates for a while, I know this is not nice, specially when there are children involved.

So things have gone quite well since the visit, we went to speak with the Head Master who was very nice and said he was going to follow up with the other children and let us know. He never did really and we should go back to him again.

Oliver is no longer playing with those girls and would you believe it, there has not been a report since of bad language or overly sexualised behaviour... which to me it says it was just them.

We received yesterday the report from the social worker (effectively closing the case), so now we really would like to know what has happened with the school and the other children (I suspect nothing at all, which annoys me a good bit given what they put us through). But Oliver seems very happy and is playing with other children which is very nice. In fact he seems to have taken it very seriously the not playing with the girls and he was told off by a teacher for being too dismissive of them... seriously....he is seven...7!! anyway...

In other news, we bought a house! Yes I know, totally not what we were planning, but rents are higher then mortgages so that decided it for us, even if we move in a couple of years it would be worth it. It's a bit of a project which we love.

I will be back soon, I promise!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The social worker visit

All in all it went great. I wasn't in the Country actually but Mike gave me a very detailed report. We had talked together a lot about how to best explain how it all developed.

The SW was a young girl and Mike said she definitely didn't have any bias one way or another and that was great. First she spoke with Mike while the children were playing in the garden, he told her how Oliver never had a problem in Dublin, how his introduction in this school went, how the isolation was really affecting him etc. She was listening and taking notes, she asked about his access to the internet and television (virtually none, certainly never unsupervised) and she seemed very happy with that. She disclosed to Mike a few more phrases the school had flagged to her (apparently Oliver said to someone what he will do on the the first wedding night, with words worth of a sailor...) Mike was doubly shocked...first of all Oliver never would have had that type of conversation at home, and second, how did the School decided not to tell us!!! We are going to have a meeting set up asap.

Anyway, she then spoke with Oliver (alone, but then told mike) and asked him if he new the PANTS rule which he knew by heart, and also if he knew what words should not be used (he listed a few). She asked him also where did he hear those words and Oliver admitted for the first time we think that they came from a girl in school.

She also spoke with Martina (again alone and referred back), who is as happy as possible and the most upsetting things she could come up with about Oliver was if he pushes her. So all good there.

She said she will talk to the school and get back to us next week (school holidays are finished).

In relation to this we discovered that it is in fact a cultural thing here to constantly tell on people. Whether it's in school or in work, that's how people deal with even minor issues with friends or colleague. I assure you for us this is a major shock and we were raised with "do not tell tales" and "try and talk it through and solve the problem" approach. I see it here even on the playground, if we are out with friends with children...those children are back to the parents every 2 minutes with "Oliver said thiiiiiisss.." "Mark did thaaaaat" it's absolutely unbearable, the most ridiculous things are being reported and the parents have to intervene. So obviously our children and certainly Oliver don't have this approach. Martina is totally laid back and just at the end of the day doesn't give much of a crap about what people say or do if she can still have fun, but Oliver suffers and feels constantly under punishment and judgment. We just have to leave this Country, this is no way to grow up happy.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Children will be children, right?

I'm back! can you believe this? It's only been a few weeks!

So I want to talk about Oliver and school. I said everything was well but in fact two days later or so I got a call from the school that the school principle wanted to have a meeting with us about Oliver's behaviour.

Background: when we moved here, Oliver started after the summer in year 1 (which is the second year in school in the british system). He had done the foundation year back in Dublin and we never had so much as problem, he was the perfect child, very well behaved (not so much at home at that time but in school he was an angel), the most the teacher ever said to us was that Oliver should try and not to intervene if two children are arguing (to help settle the argument) and call an adult instead. I thought that was pretty amazing as a complaint actually...that's my boy I was thinking.
Anyway we move here and Oliver joins a class of children who have all known each other for at least a year, some of them two years. Unfortunately the teacher in charge of his class was completely incapable of dealing with young children (she always taught older children). Within 3 weeks we knew he was not happy, his behaviour at home had changed, never seemed to play with anyone, nobody was including him in their games, and his break time were spent climbing up metal structures....alone. He had abs that would have made a professional athlete envious. We of course immediately mentioned this to the teacher, that we were concerned he had not settled and children were not really helping. She said she will keep an eye on it. Three more weeks and the situation got only worse. At that point Oliver started becoming "that child" in school, the one that pushes you in the line, that throws something at you, that kicks another boy for looking at him the wrong way...come on...I'm no expert but to me this is a clear sign that he is tired of being lonely and is trying to get any sort of attention the wrong way. We started getting reports from school that Oliver did this and said that, I'm not exaggerating...probably weekly if not more frequent.

By Christmas the situation had escalated, despite us talking to the teacher again, there was no action on her part, I was devastated. Oliver started wetting the bed again, acting out at home again, everyone was miserable. I posted on a local facebook page for advice and I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the community. Many people had of course children in the same school, they organised play dates and birthday invitations, we started to see some light. But in school they had at that point initiated this behavioural chart: every day Oliver was assessed for his behaviour EVERY HOUR, with a sad/neutra/happy face. The stress of it all was unreal. We had taken him to the doctor, in case this was a sign of something more sinister, but no, the doctor thought he was absolutely a normal child. Thankfully the teacher changed and the new one was a life saver. She understood Oliver, established a good relationship, and by then Oliver had a few friends in the class. Mostly girls.

A few reports still arrived but of a different nature: we were told a couple of times that Oliver was "touching girls inappropriately" that he tried "to kiss a girl" etc. When Oliver was questioned on this he would say that they were playing a game of catch and that he had tapped a girl on the bottom, and the kissing yes she was her friend, in fact this girl was saying she was his girlfriend (at the age of 6), was kissing a girl on the cheek forbidden? Girls seemed to be doing this the whole time and nobody ever made a big deal. We talked to him, explained these are the rules in school etc.

Summer came, we thought we had moved on from all of this. Back to school in september, all is good, he is still playing only with a few girls because the Alpha-male in the class does not let him in his circle of friends but he is ok with this. He plays these games with the girls like mom and dad and children and cousins and even though it seems a bit odd we  don't say anything. After January reports start again: Oliver tried to kiss a girl (the same), Oliver was lifting a girl's clothes (same girl), Oliver tried to go in the bathroom with a girl (same girl), Oliver called a girl "big bum" (the girl didn't hear but apparently that is not important and still this is reported). We are also informed that there is now a file on Oliver in school, with all the things he said and did "wrong" since he joined the school. We are told by the good teacher that he is a lovely child in class, that she thinks he has a target on his back and people are just waiting for him to do something wrong to report it. The teacher also said that some of the girls seem to use a language which is inappropriate (one girl was seen bumping against Oliver and apparently said "oh I might be pregnant now"...thank god it wasn't Oliver who said this).

But then a big incident happened. I tell you how we were told and also will tell you that Oliver has quite a different version of how things went. We got a call that Oliver had threatened to bite a girl on her nipples and privates. This was reported to the school as an official complaint from upstanding parents (though we don't officially know this but we had very little doubt about who would go to the school rather than picking up the phone and call us) and there had to be an investigation. Where is "Oliver getting this language from?" I don't know, I speak to him only in Italian but I'm sure you can imagine Mike shouting these things at all hours, it must be it (FFS). We had a meeting with the school where we described all the events the way we lived them since joining the school. We said we have never had a problem till joining this school and we felt the school did very little to help Oliver actually. And now here we are, with a folder on him, a very distressing situation and no idea how to get out of it. On one thing we all agree: if there are rules they have to be respected and Oliver has a serious problem with this. There will be a visit with a social worker next week, I think the plan is to have something in place for us and the school to make sure this is resolved.

We already spoke with the social worker, we told her that at home the children have no access to internet at all, and they watch television only supervised (movies or cartoons from netflix which are age appropriate) and that we have no idea why he is acting this way in school. We are quite confident that Oliver just thinks that boobs and bums are funny, and says things to make someone laugh, only does not realise that children are reporting these things to the teachers and this is noted down. We have no problem with nudity at home (children shower with us regularly), we have the rule of not touching and that what is private is private. But this has gone unreal really.

I will update next week after the visit with the social worker.