White Houses

I grew up in a pretty noisy household. Five kids will do that. But there was also always music. If the radio wasn't on, it would be my mother singing (and often, us groaning), or my dad playing guitar. We each had a stereo in our rooms. We did drama, music, dance, singing classes and we all have some level of performing arts experience. Music was just an assumed part of the environment. We never stopped to think about it. It just was.

When I moved out of home at age 23, the silence was... an experience. I shared a small flat with David and, for whatever reason - probably lack of space - we had no stereo. David is a TV person, so we'd usually have that on in the background. And when that's the case, there's no space for music.

Not that I realised it. I put the silence down to not having my noisy siblings around me. It was about four years and three house moves before we bought a stereo, and even then with that TV on most of the time, there was little use for it. I listened to music on my ipod on the train on my way to and from work.

In Malta the situation was pretty much the same, not helped by the fact that our UK-bought radios didn't work in Malta (technology too old apparently). So then we listened to music in the car. But I'd been on and on about wanting to buy an iphone dock. The only thing that held me back was price. I didn't want to spend a ridiculous amount on something that would once again be drowned out by the TV.

Then one random day a few weeks ago, we bought one. It wasn't cheap, but it's been worth it. I'm not sure what's different, or what's changed (the TV is still on most of the time when David is home!) but during the day, the kids and I often have dance parties. Emily asks me for Lady Gaga specifically (slight obsession ongoing), and The Dancing (also known as the Bride and Prejudice OST which I had almost no choice but to download because of Her Royal Highness), and sometimes, when I have a say about what we listen to - often over dinner - I put on some of my favourites.

Vanessa Carlton's White Houses inevitably plays at some point or other. And it takes me back, to Summer of 2004, driving from San Gwann to Ghajn Tuffieha, windows down, music barely audible on my portable speakers (I couldn't afford a car stereo), singing along at the top of my head. It wasn't a great summer, but that's not what I remember. The music brings with it a sense of freedom and youth, and makes me want to close my eyes and sing along at the top of my voice.

And sometimes I do. And I'll open my eyes expecting looks of horror, but Emily and Adam will look at me in awe, like they've seen something new, a part of me they've never seen before. And I feel somewhat rejuvenated, and grateful for the music, and for the environment I'm creating for them. Hopefully a lively, musical household they can smile back on for years to come.


Pass

Three long months of not being able to drive. Three months of needing to plan my entire day in advance to be able to let a driver know what I have planned and when I need to be where. Impossible with two young kids. "How posh," you might think. Well, I'd happily have swapped having a driver for being able to drive myself and the kids around anytime.

Two months of driving lessons. (Maltese licenses are not yet eligible to be exchanged for UAE ones, so we need to go through theory and practical lessons, as well as testing of course, from scratch.) Two months of trying to fit in an hour of lessons around the children's meal and nap times, as well as around David's schedule - he would be the one looking after them while I was in lessons. And ladies are not able to have lessons after 17:30... don't get me started on that one!

One month of eyeing up my brand new car and not being able to drive her. One month of David telling me what a beautiful drive she is, and well done on my choice of car. One month of wondering: will I ever drive her and be able to still smell that perfectly new smell?

Today was D-Day. After a series of botched bookings by the driving centre (I believe I've walked in to one driving lesson that wasn't met with the likes of "Your lesson is tomorrow." "Er, no it's not." "Oh oops we've made a mistake." They even managed to book my final test for the wrong day and time...), I had my final hour of lessons this morning with a fantastic Pakistani gentleman who did an excellent job of killing off any nervousness I may have been feeling. "You'll pass first time," he told me. I hoped so. 

An hour and a half later, some nerves had built up again, I was in the car with another lady who completely messed up her parking test (poor woman), I then got behind the wheel and despite not having an entirely eventless test myself, my examiner seemed willing to give me the benefit of the doubt: "You've passed, my dear."



I still can't drive, of course. It will be a couple more days before I have a physical license, and then comes the fun of training my (very, very shocking) sense of direction on Dubai roads. It's going to be interesting. But I can't wait. 

This bird is finally about to be set free. 

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