Classroom characters

I’m coming to the end of my brief spell teaching the English as a Second Language class in the lovely little home school in town and have been busy writing handover notes for my successor.


Whilst trying very hard to remain professional whilst writing this document, I couldn’t help but think how much easier it would be if I could just describe the children in terms of their animal characteristics and so, that is exactly what I’m going to do for you now.


Mischievous monkey


Often found hanging onto the back of your legs or jumping off furniture, mischievous monkey enjoys tipping boxes and buckets of things on the floor and also wiping his/her hands all over the chalk board before smacking you on the bum.  Permanent ants in pants means mischievous monkey will generally spin/crawl and twist around throughout any activity.  Has a tendency to wear trousers one size too big and therefore needs chasing around and hoisting back into said trousers whilst monkey is all the time trying to wriggle free.


Spaced out sloth


A vague ‘lights are on but nobody’s home’ look haunts the eyes of sullen sloth.  Often seen with mouth hanging open languidly, spaced out sloth finds it impossible to sit up straight and generally resembles a puppet whose strings have gone slack when sat in circle time.  Living in a world of his/her own creation, spaced out sloth will generally find something to do out of the activities on offer and do it they ill, very slowly and over and over again.


Chattering chimp


Prattling away ten to the dozen, sadly most of what chattering chimp has to say is incomprehensible to human ears.  Another character who likes to jump off things they also like to use your left arm as a swing/pull along toy.  Volunteers for everything without a clue what they’re volunteering for.


Stubborn mule


The sulky child in class, stubborn mule likes to get his/her own way and tries to do so by sulking and crying.  Yet to work out that his teacher is the queen of ignoring sulkers, can be seen muttering under his/her breath whilst dramatically folding arms and harrumphing if they aren’t allowed to take part in their first choice activity or ignore an instruction to not put hands up to get a go in a game.  When not sulking, stubborn mule is determined to get their message across – by saying the same thing (only partially comprehensibly) fifty two times in an hour.


King of the jungle


The king of the jungle has self appointed as teacher, criticising other creatures for their slovenly manners, use of Khmer in class or inappropriate behaviour.  Sadly, has also adopted a stance of do as I say, not as I do this creature regularly models the behaviours so unacceptable in others.


Cheeky chipmunks


Those little tiny tots who are sooooo cute you want to squeeze them.  Often pop up from behind a table or chair when least expected or cuddle in groups in the reading corner adorably ‘reading’ together.  Require frequent naps and toilet trips but OMG they’re just soooooo cute.


Sweaty moose

The biggest creature in the class.  This curious creature of a certain age takes significantly longer than the rest of the zoo to sit down in or get up from circle town.  Constantly pushing her glasses up her nose, wiping beads of sweat from her temples and trying not to drip on the children’s artwork, sweaty moose excelled herself this week by sporting not only a salt ring from sweat around her neck but two extremely distinctive sweat circles rimmed with sweat on her boobs.  This creature ages 2 years for every 2 weeks spent in the classroom and has been known to resort to alcohol consumption as a result of such work.


So there you have it, the creatures in my class.  Oh what fun we have!


It’s a Miracle

Laid on his side, eyes rolled to the back of his head and tongue hanging limp out of the side of his mouth there was no sign of breathing in yappy dog’s lifeless corpse that was swarming with flies.


I spotted him just as I was heading out to the spa yesterday morning.  He was at the top of the driveway, just off to the side in front of Jack’s car.


Papa was further down the drive sweeping and so I called to him and indicated via dodgy Khmer and hand gestures that I thought yappy dog was dead.   He seemed non-plussed, only briefly pausing before going back to leaf sweeping duties.


I wander dejectedly down the road, the image of the lifeless animal embedded in my mind, the evidence that life is cheap inherent in papa’s reaction jarring, the internal struggle of feeling sad but at the same time having to admit I was a little bit pleased that my home would in future be surrounded by slightly less yappiness.


The day passed in a haze of pampering, chatting and lounging by the river and after a brief but refreshing storm mid afternoon I headed home fearful that the ‘corpse’ would still be there and wondering how mama would be following the death of here beloved Bean aka yappy dog.


No sign of dead dogness as I wandered in, all was quiet, not a soul to be seen.  I headed in, hopped in the shower and then lay on my bed reading when suddenly I heard an all too familiar sound.


Yep, you guessed it, yappy dog was alive and well, charging up the drive way and yapping at full volume at an imagined imposter.


No wonder papa was non-plussed.  I can only imagine the thoughts going through his head as the stupid foreigner pointed out the sleeping dog to him!


All in a day’s bonkersness in the Kingdom of Wonder.





Apparently there’s some kind of breaking news about Megan Markle and Prince Charles.  I have no idea what it is or if it is significant but in other news:


10 minutes before the end of class today a child, who shall remain nameless, decided to mix 3, 40 piece jigsaw puzzles into one


The frenzied ‘lets sort these puzzles out’ actions that followed resulted in class ending  late


My Friday (super strong made by Jules) G&T after class was interrupted by a parent who rocked up 1/2 hour late to pick up their child and was slightly bemused that said child was no longer at school as had been picked up by ANOther


That interruption paled into insignificance when I headed out to meet my cocktail buddies, with the first step being to  try to find my fitflops.


The help of children and school owners was requested for the search


Eventually, the missing flip flop turned up at the back og the school with the toe post and a significant chunk of the foot cover gnawed away.


It appears that resident puppy had decided my fitflop was an afternoon snack.


Thus followed a one footed bike ride to Jos’ house to borrow her only spare pair of shoes (thank god for felllow live in Cambodia big foots)


I managed to arrive just in time for the end of aperotime at Riki by the skin of my teeth and downed two Tom Collins cocktails like my life depended on it


Quiz night (my second attendance with a seriously committed to winning core team) resulted in super smug Saraness when an answer I gave proved to be correct but was ignored.  Needless to say I didn’t let them forget this fact for the remainder of the evening.


Quiz concluded ( we did actually win (in no small part due to my picture and music round prowess)) I stopped drinking gin and watched as a tuktuk driver secured my bike to the tailgate before transporting me home.


This post comes to you via a pickled liver combined with a real desire to actually make sense.


Who knows if I achieved it – maybe I never will!


My Twenty Firsts

Noodling about on Twitter earlier today, I came across a blog entitled ‘My First Time’ and dove in for a snoop to learn more.  Turns out it was a list of 30 of the author’s `firsts’ and it inspired me to write a similar post today.


So, here you have it, my 20 firsts:


  1. First app you check when you wake up in the morning?

The 1st app I check in the morning is always Instagram, followed by Gmail.  I’m slightly ashamed to admit that, despite having deleted the Facebook app to stop me obsessively checking it,  I check it 3rd every morning, using the web browser version which is second rate and really pisses me off – go figure!

  1. First foreign country you ever visited?

I first went abroad on a school trip to northern France.  I have very few memories of that trip other than the clocks changing mid way through the week confusing the hell out of everyone, eating saucisson et frites from a seaside burger van and throwing up over my coat sleeve on the ferry home and spending the remainder of the journey freezing cold and stinking of puke.

  1. First plane ride you ever went on?

My first plane ride was taken a week before my 21st birthday when I headed off to Egypt to go on a cruise down the Nile followed by a week in Luxor & Cairo.  We sat in the smoking section (yep that was a thing back then) and apart from sitting in a stinky haze for the whole flight that made me not want a cigarette myself (I was a 20 a day girl at the time)  I remember drinking really bad, lukewarm coffee out of plastic cups with an odd handle that wasn’t quite the right size to hook your finger in.

  1. First time I ever got into trouble at home and school?

I’ve no idea of the first time I got in trouble at home (ask Victoria or my mum, they’ll probably tell you).  As for school, I remember it well.  The first time I got into trouble at school was for talking in class (Yr1 primary).  I had to stand on my chair for the rest of the lesson as punishment.  There’s only one other time I remember getting in trouble in Primary School and that’s when I co-led a strike against the dinner ladies, which involved hoisting our cardigans on sticks and marching around the playground waving them and chanting “we hate the dinner ladies”.  I have no idea what brought on this protest but I do remember the humiliation that followed as we were torn off a strip by the deputy head.  As for getting in trouble in Secondary School, my free hosted WordPress site does not have the capacity to hold an article big enough to detail all of those!

  1. My first BF/GF?

My first ‘proper’ boyfriend was a guy called Neil who I met on a joint boys’ brigade/girls’ brigade camp somewhere down south.  We shared a love of The Human League and had an illicit snog on the last night of camp.

  1. My First car?

My first car was a red R registration mini called Ruby.  She was extremely tempremental and so I used to tuck her in under a big thick blanket and say night night to her every night in the vain hope that this would mean she’d start first time in the morning.

  1. My first ever cell phone?

The first mobile I had was some form of flip phone with a pull out ariel.  I bought it when I was on my placement year from uni as I was travelling huge distances everyday in yet another tempremental car, this time a VW Passat called Vernon.

  1. My first heartbreak

That was Neil too.  We dated for a while after camp (he lived in Loughborough & I lived in Shepshed) but then after a while he unceremoniously dumped me, in the process breaking my heart.

  1. My first internet activity?

This was using Yahoo mail when I lived in China.  The dial up (remember the shrieking sound of the line  trying to connect) was soooooo slow that I would often get up in the middle of the night to try to access my mail and regularly managed to make a cup of tea and return to my desk before the inbox had loaded.

  1. My first job?

I had two jobs when I was at school.  One was a morning paper round and the other was cleaning in the local butchers shop after school.  I’m not sure which came first, but I do know the tips were better for the paper round, but the pork crackling at the butchers was better than any financial compensation.

  1. My first piercing and when did I get it?

I had my ears pierced as a teenager at the same time as I was allowed to have my long hair cut for the first time.  A few years later I got my nose pierced and loved it, but had to take it out as trying to get a corkscrew stud into the hole made me wretch.

  1. My first swear word?

Oh gosh, who knows what this was.  I do know that it probably resulted in a mouthful of Imperial Leather soap which, for those who know me now know, didn’t deter me enough to stop me developing a huge potty mouth now with a particular passion for the F word.

  1. My first tattoo?

At the tender age of 37 I got a ghecko tattoed on my right thigh.  I now also have a Manchester bee on my left ankle and some writing on my right wrist and am contemplating a further addition on my foot.

  1. My first thought today?

Oh damn, I didn’t blog!

  1. The first book I remember reading?

This would probably be either Charlie & The Chocolate Factory or one of the Famous Five books

  1. The first concert I ever attended?

I was a late bloomer on the gig front, only attending my first concert in 2004 when I saw The Red Hot Chilli Peppers in Hyde Park.

  1. The first person I talked to today?

Mama.  We traded niceties and I then told here “have problem, water not good” and made wooshing noises whilst pointing furiously at the filter that was gushing out water

  1. The first thing I do when I get home?

Throw down my keys and purse, click the fan on full, strip off and lie until dry (keeping it classy!)

  1. First time I got in a fist fight?
    This was at secondary school where I had a habit of picking fights with boys which I think was my antedote to being bullied by the girls.
  2. The first film I remember seeing?

Whatever this was it would have been a musical.  I do have very clear memories of the first film we ever video recorded – Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory – which we watched so often that I know every song off by heart.






It’s 730pm, Wednesday evening.  I’m watching yet another prison based documentary on Netflix but my eyes are stinging.  The extreme heat of May means my fan is on almost constantly when I’m home, this combination resulting in my already dry eyes going into meltdown: stinging like hell; hazy blurred vision; and joy of joy occasional stabbing pains.


Shutting my eyes for a few minutes will usually ease the pain (yes I can regularly be seen sitting in cafes and bars with my eyes shut looking like some sweaty, dishevelled spiritual enlightenment seeker) and so I employed this tactic last night.


And the next thing I knew it was 1.30am and I was reaching up to switch off the fan before turning over and not stirring again until 7.30 this morning.


That’s one way to cure stinging eyes I guess!


It’s OK to not be OK

As it’s currently Mental Health Awareness week I thought I’d do something a little bit different on the blog today by sharing some of my struggles and strategies.


There’s two distinct but intertwining elements to my mental health issues.


The first element came into my life as a teenager.  my periods started, hormones kicked in and with them came raging PMT.  Not that I ever acknowledged that was the case.  Too embarrassed to even talk about my menstrual cycle I chose to blame my regular mood swings and vile outbursts on the “idiots” I was surrounded by.    My family and others close to me suffered terribly as every month I became verbally and even, on occasion, physically abusive, along with being moody as hell and self-loathing.  By my 30s I was finally ready to acknowledge that what was going on was actually my stuff, part of chemical switches that occur in my brain as my hormone balance shifts throughout the cycle and now in my late 40s I’m fascinated by how the shift in my hormone shifts as I move through perimenopause into menopause means that new patterns are emerging, but those same depressive feelings are the result.


So that’s my hormones doing their thing, but something else can often be at play in negatively impacting my mental health and that is the situations and circumstances I sometimes find myself in.  These mostly centre around romantic relationships and what I now recognise as my inability to retain a sense of myself when I’m in them coupled with a fear of being alone which keeps me in them for far too long, but have also included a period of bullying at work (that introduced to chronic anxiety for the first time too) and a badly timed move to Poland amongst others.


And you may have already worked out that when I’m in a shitty situation and start feeling meh my hormones start to go haywire too exacerbating the issue.  This mainly happens because when I start to get depressed I stop doing the things that minimise the impact my hormones have on my mood, namely I eat crap; I don’t exercise; I entertain and even actively encourage negative thoughts and basically do anything and everything to send me spiralling downwards.


I’ll be honest with you, whilst I’ve never thought about committing suicide there have been times when I wished my life would end and I’ve had extended periods of time where even getting out of bed every day was a major challenge and actually getting showered and dressed was beyond my capabilities.


But it’s not all doom and gloom.  Most of the time now I feel mentally well and when I feel it starting to slip I have a fabulous toolkit of stuff that I use to help me get back on top.


Before I share with you what those tools are though I want to be totally honest with you.  I currently take, and have for a long time now, a daily antidepressant – the SSRI, Fluoxetine to be precise.


I started taking them during my infamous divorce which in the end took longer to get through than the length of the marriage itself (18 month marriage versus 2 year divorce in case you were wondering).  A long conversation with my doctor convinced me that

  1. I wouldn’t have the reticence to taking drugs if it were a heart condition we were managing and…
  2. The level of depression I was experiencing was too severe to climb out of without a little push (this was deep in the not getting dressed and wishing I was dead phase).


After the divorce was settled I slowly came off the tablets whilst at the same time working really hard on improving my physical health and diet.  I was at my physical peak, eating in a way designed to boost hormonal health and yet once a month I still sloped down into a pit of despair that made going to work difficult as I often couldn’t stop crying and was exhausted all the time and managing unjustified outbursts towards my nearest and dearest and their aftermath was a daily struggle.


Another conversation with my doctor and we agreed that I’d try going back onto a low dose of the fluoxetine and low and behold, within three months the psycho Sara who jumped out of the closet every month for a week or two was firmly locked away.  And that’s why I to this day take SSRIs.  Because for me they help.  They turn my normal hormonal pattern into a socially acceptable hormonal pattern and allow me to function daily.


At times I have, with the agreement of my doctor, upped my dose temporarily to manage situations when I could feel myself sinking and I also had to switch to a different type of medicine when anxiety struck to stop me chewing my nails to the bone and avoid having a nervous breakdown over my failure to watch everything I’d recorded on the TV!?!?!


But the tablets are only a small part of what keeps me sane, so here’s some of the other stuff I do to help me be ok:


  1. I talk to people (both professionals in the form of therapy and trusted friends/family). No longer ashamed of my periods or my mental health foibles I recognise that talking about this stuff serves multiple purposes.  It helps me reduce the problem to a manageable size rather than being an insurmountable obstacle, it helps me reframe the issue and sometimes even reveals that the problem isn’t there at all.
  2. I meditate. I have a free app called Insight Timer on my phone and I use it daily (sometimes more than once).  Even when I’m sinking into a CBA phase I make sure that I at least put on some meditative music when I turn off the light to go to sleep at night and regularly turn to it during periods of insomnia.  For me it helps that this app tracks how many days in a row you meditate for and awards stars (gotta love a star chart) and there’s also a HUGE variety of stuff on there to listen to.
  3. I eat right. Part of the reason for doing the pickle workshop was because I know how important a healthy gut is to ensuring a healthy brain (something like 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut) and after having strep throat and taking antibiotics to kill the infection my gut needed all the help it could get.  The pickles have now all gone and tomorrow sees me starting off a new batch of what will now be a regular feature on my plate along with lots of fresh veggies and fruit – this is the year that, if I don’t discover my Nutribullet at the bottom of a box in my storage unit, I will buy myself a blender and become the smoothie queen of Kampot.
  4. I laugh. At other people, with other people, at stuff on the internet but more often than not at myself.  Life’s too short to take yourself too seriously.
  5. I employ the mantra of not my circus, not my monkeys and I encourage others to do the same.
  6. I’m grateful. Grateful for my health, for my beautiful family and friends, for sunshine and rain, for mangoes, coffee, good red wine and gin, for the simple things and a lot more besides.
  7. I exercise. Not a gym bunny and don’t want to be, but I do have to admit I always feel better when I’ve been for a walk or a bike ride or a swim so it needs to be part of my routine.  I also love meditative exercise such as Qi Gong and try to combine some with a bit of stretching when I’m on a mission to be well.
  8. I listen to music – creating eclectic playlists with quirky names to match my mood or needs and adding to them when I hear a song I love is a favourite of mine. As is listening to radio two while I’m pottering about at home (though obviously not outside as my intolerant neighbour is likely to shout at me if I do).
  9. I make stuff. Creative stuff makes me very happy and is one of the reasons I am actually really enjoying teaching the tinies at school.  Every day we do some kind of craft activity and I think I generally enjoy it as much if not more than the kids do.
  10. I write. My blog is a way of making sense of what happens in my life and also a way of connecting with the people who read it.


So there you have it, my mental health wrapped up in a blog. It really is ok to not be ok.


BTW, if stress is an issue for you, you might be interested in this article that I wrote a while back and now sits on my site: Address your Stress


Today is one of 26 public holiday days here in Cambodia.  The reason for this particular holiday is the celebration of the birthday of the current king.   In honour of this we get two days off, and when I say we I mean anyone who works for a Cambodian government organisation or a private business which currently includes me in my temporary capacity as a primary school teacher of English as a Second Language.


Every Cambodian with a job in a Cambodian institution and access to a vehicle or a space in/on one has been on the move.  The road outside has been bumper to bumper for most of the day and news from social media reports traffic jams across town and on the main routes in and out of town too.


Each group of travellers following the same rituals.  Set off early having packed every available space in/on the vehicle with food, then stop at a popular spot for breakfast before heading to the chosen beauty spots via stops at various snack stalls en route.  Those heading on the road out past my house are on their way to the waterfall.  Their journey through town to this spot will most likely have included a visit to the main market and a stop at the railway track to take pictures as well as the breakfast break and snack pickups.  Some families do buck the trend and stop for a picnic on the way.  The criteria for selecting a spot to sit and munch appears to include being as close to the open rubbish heap as possible and potentially edged out into the actual road itself.


Whilst all of this makes for entertaining observation it’s actually not much fun to be a part of – name me one person who enjoys a bank holiday traffic jam back home.


And so, In honour of such an auspicious day, I rose early and engaged in a period of meditation followed by 20 minutes of gorgeous stretchy yoga.  I ate a ripe juicy human head sized mango with natural yoghurt, drank good strong Cambodian coffee and spent a few hours reading my latest book (Gone Girl in case you’re interested).  A lunchtime wander down to the spa was timed impeccably to avoid the huge storm that rolled in this afternoon, disturbing my Netflix binge viewing thanks to the din of the rain on the roof.


Nothing much else has occurred in my day apart from the eating of pickles straight from the jar and brewing up a second batch of Kombucha, the first being absolutely delicious once flavoured with ginger and served over ice.


That and listening to the increasing impatience o those on the traffic lined road and thanking my lucky stars I’m not part of it.


Night turns to day

Sleep was slow coming last night.  The intense heat of May means the fan needs to stay on when I turn in, it’s gentle whir usually lulling me into oblivion but last night it failed to do the trick.  An hour or so after the lights went off and my nightly meditation was a distant memory I finally nodded off.


It was a short-lived sleep.  The long overdue storm finally arriving, its approach bringing a series of short power cuts, the break in the whirring of the fan stirring me from my dreams just as a huge flash of lightening lit up my room, a roll of thunder not far behind.


For an hour or so I lay once more unable to sleep.  Listening as the thunder rumbled, then banged and then the clouds broke.  A metal roof means storms are not a peaceful experience at the best of times and this one was a corker, the rain so heavy that the dripping from the hole in my ceiling turned from a gentle pitter to an ominous plopping.  Would this be the night that my ceiling finally gave up its fight against the nightly rambunctious tumbling of scrapping rats and cats coupled with the water seeping into its layers.


It held firm, the rain lessened and ultimately sleep arrived again.


The next time it was the neighbourhood dogs.  Howling at god knows what for the longest time before our family of hounds decided to join in the fray.  I tossed and turned, I dozed, the dogs refused to give up their howling.  And then I saw it, a shadow passed my window.  There was activity in the yard.


Two men, mango thieves at a guess, snooping around.  Papa was woken, shuffling out in his boxers only to chat to the men and wander up to the road.  Our dogs quietened down, the neighbourhood ones not so much so.


The monks chanting, a death overnight maybe.


By now all thoughts of sleep erased I lay and listened to the sounds of the approaching morning.  Watching as the sky turned from black to a deep rose pink outside my window.


Opening the door to a post storm morning, the faint smell of over ripe slightly fermenting mangoes drifting on the breeze.


Yoga time maybe? Or how about a bike ride?


The latter decided upon and off I went into the cool of the start of Sunday, in my mind likening the temperature and feel to a UK summer morning.  An impromptu selfie to Snapchat back home put paid to that idea – my idea of a ‘cool’ morning registering as 26 degrees on the app.


A bovine roadblock, same place as last time, probably the same cows.  Kampot waking up, going to get coffee and breakfast, the ice man doing his rounds, reaching the end of the road and turning back, bridge painting still going on (sadly the yellow and black have made an appearance), beauty in the simplicity of a lotus flower opening.

Post bike ride I sit for coffee, the lack of sleep making it a three Americano morning, the end of my book signalling that exciting time of which one to choose next.


All is well in my world and despite the lack of sleep I have a good feeling about today.