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Following my 5 week stay back in the UK, I finally made it back to the land of sand late last Friday evening, complete with 4 children, 5 suitcases, hand luggage, a pushchair and a car seat in tow - not bad going even if I do say so myself! The fact that my husband was able to collect us and fit everyone and everything into just the one car to drive us home immediately served as a very quick reminder of just how much larger vehicles are over here, and of course the driving mentality in Doha also quickly came back to me as we drove home!

From the youngest person's perspective, a lot had changed during our time away - not only had his toothless smile been replaced with 4 teeth which had just grown through (not entirely painlessly!), but he was now 'on the move' - no longer staying put where he had been placed, but instead crawling around everywhere at a speed that was increasing daily. He was also pulling himself up to stand at anything and everything, where at some point he would no doubt wobble dangerously, before promptly falling back down again! 

This meant that a few drastic measures needed to be taken as everyone living here will know that Villas in the Middle East are not entirely without risks for babies and toddlers once they are mobile - floors are tiled throughout and there are extra long staircases (we have 24 steps to be exact) that would no doubt prove highly exciting, but exceedingly dangerous,  to an inquisitive 9 month old. It would also quite probably be possible for a baby to fall through the iron rails themselves, judging by the gaps between some of them in our Villa!

Luckily, Simon had been busy preparing for our return during the previous week. We had obtained pressure fit stair gates and extending bars from the UK already, so Si arranged for the fantastic Melvin on our Compound to come and fit them for us. Staircases are wider here than in the UK and due to the iron railings it is very difficult to fit them without having a wooden panel fitted to the top and bottom banister rails - Melvin was the man for the job!

With large open plan living, the hard tiled floors also gleamed dangerously, so Simon took it upon himself to take a trip to the newly opened IKEA and there he purchased an extra 7 rugs to dot around the large expanses of floor space we have - we are therefore now the proud owners of a grand total of 17 rugs throughout the Villa! 

In fact, when I was first given 'the guided tour', as we spoke on FaceTime one day, it felt like the floor was just one big jigsaw of rugs, but the reality is that it is a vast improvement and, if nothing else, stops Ethan's knees from becoming so cold and bruised. I think I will save worrying about him tripping over them once he takes his first proper steps until a later date....! 

After the initial shock of finding himself in strange surroundings again (5 weeks must have been a long time for a baby of his age to be away), Ethan has been gaining in confidence daily and I am starting to find that I keep 'losing' him around the Villa if my head is turned for more than a few seconds. 

Now where did I put that play pen.......?



Rugs, stair gates...and more rugs!

 
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29 Jan 1947 - 6 March 2013
It has been a few weeks since I last published a post on my blog as late at night, on Wednesday 6th March, I received the news that all expats must dread when living so far away from loved ones, to say that my Dad had unexpectedly passed away that afternoon. 

My heart had been heavy when I had seen the Facebook message that came through from my Mum at 10.31pm - 'Darling, please could you phone me as soon as possible xxxx' and, sadly, I instinctively knew what she was going to say before I had even hit the dial button to make the Skype call back to her.

Sitting alone at the desk on the upstairs landing of our Villa in Doha and staring at the faces of my Mum, one of my brothers and my sister through the PC while receiving such devastating news seemed extremely surreal. All I could think was what on earth was I doing over 3000 miles away when I should have been right there, back in the UK, with the family. Why hadn't I been there to visit him in hospital in the preceding few days? Why hadn't I got myself on a flight as soon as he was admitted to hospital 5 days earlier?......because, quite simply, I hadn't known that if I didn't I would never have the opportunity to see or talk to him again.
 
The last time I had physically seen my Dad was during the first week of December when I had made a one week trip back home to visit him with Ethan. You see, my lovely, gentle Dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer in April/May last year. He had surgery to have the affected kidney and ureter removed and had then gone on to have 6 cycles of chemotherapy treatment, which had finally finished by November - I had flown back to the UK soon after, as I had wanted to be there to check that he was ok and starting to recover from his treatment. 

As it turned out I was actually there to rejoice with the rest of the family as he was in fact given the all clear for cancer during my stay. I was therefore able to return to Qatar a much happier daughter (I had struggled to settle back in Doha after returning late August due, in the main, to the fact that Dad was ill). Subsequently we spoke to him on Skype on Christmas Day, but after that had only communicated via Facebook messenger services (neither myself or my family are particularly big fans of staring at each other through Skype video!). However, suddenly he would never be there sitting chatting to us through the computer screen with his large glass of red wine in hand again - how do you begin to reconcile yourself with that?

My Dad's death was unexpected, although there were indicators that all was not well in the month before he died. He had started suffering from nausea and sickness, completely lost his appetite and started to lose significant amounts of weight. As a result, he had had an endoscopy on 24th Feb, where they had found some inflammation to the lining of his stomach and duodenum. A sample was taken and it was believed to be a type of bacteria that could readily be treated with antibiotics, so he was reassured that it was nothing sinister and he returned home to wait the 7-10 days it would take for the results to come back.

Yet, on Sunday 3rd March, my Mum contacted me to tell me that Dad had been admitted to hospital on the previous Friday. The endoscopy had came back as negative for 'helicobacter pylori' and she had taken him to A&E on the Friday, as he was becoming increasingly breathless on exertion and feeling very weak and unwell. He had started off on the Medical Assessment Unit where they had run some initial tests, took bloods etc. but was then moved to the Acute Dependancy Unit because they were concerned about his kidney function. The blood results had also revealed that something wasn't right with his liver, but the doctors wanted to try and sort his kidney function out first before worrying about that. They intended to allow 7-10 days for his kidney to try and kick start into working normally. 

I was obviously extremely worried and had daily conversations with my Mum. In my mind I was aware that the school Easter holidays were coming up so I thought that I could fly back with the children to see him just a couple of weeks later (My Mum and sister had actually got a trip to Doha booked for the first week of April but I had told them to cancel it). As with all these things you don't know what the next day will bring and so I sat waiting for news not knowing if I should be jumping on a plane and heading home immediately.

As it turned out, Dad was transferred to St Helier hospital at Carshalton, where there is a specialist Renal Unit, on the evening of 4th March. They planned to give him dialysis the following morning, as his kidney function had deteriorated. They also planned to give him an MRI scan at some stage to get a better idea of what was going on with his liver, etc.

My Sister managed to get some time off work and went to visit Dad on the afternoon of the 6th along with my Mum, who had obviously been seeing him daily throughout. It was while they were sitting chatting to him that he actually suffered a huge heart attack and was subsequently unable to be revived by medical staff. (It was suspected, but never actually confirmed, that Dad probably had cancer secondaries in his liver - I can therefore take some comfort knowing that he passed away so quickly and with Mum and Charlotte by his side).

When I received this terrible news later that evening I was in Doha alone with the children because Simon was away on business over in Houston. After speaking to my family I therefore had to get in touch with him and together we had to try and sort out the logistics of how he was going to get back to Doha, how I was going to get back to England and what we were going to do with the children regarding schooling and taking them out of school in order for all of us to return to the UK. 

Needless to say I did not sleep at all that night and I even felt a bit of a fraud when I took the boys to school in the morning just as if nothing had happened - I didn't want to break the news to them until they were back home from school that afternoon for obvious reasons (my daughter already knew as had woken the previous night when I was talking on Skype) and just how do you actually go about telling friends that your Dad has just died without bursting into tears and making them feel uncomfortable?  

However, after lots of offers of help from many of my wonderful friends in Doha over the next 24 hours, I was able to return to the UK on 9th March with Ethan, where I have remained ever since. Simon and the other 3 children returned a week later. The last 5 weeks here have been a complete rollercoaster of emotions, full of funeral preparations, the funeral itself and long hours of helping Mum with paperwork. Most importantly though I have been able to spend precious time with the family, something you almost forfeit when taking the decision to move abroad.

I was lucky in that I did get to go and see my Dad one last time, to plant a kiss on his forehead and to tell him that I loved him, but not in the way I would have liked to, for he was no longer breathing and full of life - it was my Dad physically laying there in front of me in the Chapel of Rest, but he, the man I knew and loved, was no more and I know that my life will never be the same again.

As I prepare to head back to Doha for the next 3 months, I just want you all to stop and think about when you last spoke to your families, and if perhaps it's been a little too long, please just make that call to them today and tell them that you love them!