Knowledge is best gained from experience , and I am blessed that my children get to experience life in very different environments. Once every couple of years, we exchange our city slicker lifestyles in Singapore for a few short weeks with the in-laws in the English West country.
My in-laws settled in the UK over 50 years ago and have been living in Torquay for the last 40. While firmly Chinese (they make their own Char siew, roast duck, fish balls and pau), they’re also very British. MIL Anne is an avid soccer fan, tea drinker and a maniacal gardener. Here’s a preview of just some of the gorgeous blooms in their garden:
Apart from a large front and back garden, they also have a massive allotment at the back of their house. Dating from the first world war, the concept of allotments was to provide plots of land for returning soldiers to grow crops and find means of subsistence. The practice continues today and Anne rents her 1/5 acre plot for about £35 a year. It comes with free water for watering the plants.
My MIL is 76 but she is out at her allotment everyday. She hoes, turns the soil, weeds, and plants everything by herself. She also makes her own fertiliser out of wild comfrey and nettle, as well as ash from cutting back her plants and burning them every year. She also has a large compost bin in the allotment that freaks me to no end because of the family of small adders that live there.
So whenever our family goes over, we turn into farmers, helping grandma with the weeding, planting and pruning. The kids also engage in a healthy dose of DIY as there are always things to be fixed in a household of ageing people. B&Q, the British DIY megastore, becomes our new hangout.
When the work is done, Sean engages in his favourite country pastime, shooting targets with grandpa’s old air rifle.
So when people ask me if I’m going on a holiday, I tell them technically, not really. We won’t be engaging in a frenzied schedule rushing from one tourist attraction to another. We will be going native and working hard at grandma’s, in a very different, and refreshing environment.