Compliments and the magic phrase

Has your supervisor said to you, “Well done”, “Fantastic work”, or “Keep up the good work”? What did you say in return?

A mere “Thank you” – the magic phrase –  is enough to show that we appreciate the compliment. Complimenting is not and should not be a one-way street. Some employees complain that their managers do not praise them, but do these staff members give their bosses compliments?

These are some compliments I have heard and read:

You are really good at what you do.

We appreciate your optimism and “can do” attitude.

We enjoyed your contribution during the staff meeting.

You gave an excellent presentation.

You are an indispensable member of our team.

You are a reliable boss.

You are a considerate supervisor.

You are a dedicated employee.

You always perform well, even under pressure.

I enjoy working with you.

Some people find it easier to give than receive compliments. Last year, a French friend commented: “I can’t believe it; I read a novel in English, the first novel in English. It took me only two weeks. You’re a great storyteller”. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “It was a six-month COVID lockdown manuscript. I could have written it better”. Of course, there’s always room for improvement, but I put myself down with that response. I should have simply told her that I appreciated her compliment. After all, didn’t I deserve it?

Being suspicious about a compliment is unproductive and causes misunderstanding. Meanwhile, if insecure and devilish humans give you insincere compliments (bordering sarcasm), be upfront and ask them what they really want to discuss with you.

Three weeks ago, I received a text from someone I didn’t know personally, who is in our Whatsapp Ex-UQ/Bne Lunch Grp, that he had bought a copy of my latest book English Language Lovers and would submit an Amazon review. Many authors find this revelation “not a biggy”, but it’s for me. I consider this a compliment, so I thanked him right away.  

I don’t know about you, but I like giving and receiving compliments when they are due because they make people feel good. A compliment can brighten a day, motivate, and instil confidence and trust. During my lessons and encounters with new acquaintances, I use compliments to break the ice. These are sincere compliments and not done haphazardly. Fake compliments are easy to spot.

Often, I get positive responses to my compliments: “Thanks, that’s nice of you. You came up with helpful ideas, too”; “Thanks, that’s kind of you”; “Thanks for noticing it”; “Thanks for liking it”; and “I appreciate that, have a nice day”.

Let’s continue giving and receiving sincere compliments; these are free and improve performance and relationships.

The death of a dream can unleash creativity and resourcefulness

What’s your life’s dream? Has someone told you to go for your dream? Did you believe that if you can dream it, you can achieve it?

I dreamed (also correct “dreamt”) of seeing my book displayed in bookstores and reaching a wider global audience. After one year of email exchanges with prospective publishers and literary agents, this is now an impossible dream.

The best-selling non-fiction series “Chicken Soup for the Soul” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected by over 100 publishers before it sold over 130 million copies. Canfield had said, “The first time we went to New York, we visited with about a dozen publishers in two days with our agent, and nobody wanted it. They all said it was a stupid title, that nobody bought collections of short stories, that there was no edge — no sex, no violence. Why would anyone read it?” (https://www.flavorwire.com/216086/10-best-selling-books-that-were-originally-rejected).

Unlike Jack Canfield, I can only depend on words of mouth. That’s why I am reaching out to you.

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live; remember that.– From Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

My book “English Language Lovers” addresses mixed-bag adult learners’ different needs and attributes in face-to-face and virtual classrooms. It discusses trainers’ and participants’ qualities, responsibilities, and challenges using first-hand experiences and anecdotes. It showcases the importance of language skills and answers questions on levels, standards and quality; for instance: “Are native English speakers the best teachers for adult learners?”

“I found your manuscript both engaging and very informational from start to finish. At times, it was humorous, and I found myself being corrected on my own grammar which was very humbling being a native English speaker. Also, it was humbling because English has been a strong suit in my academics, but I continue to find out how much I did not learn in school as I read different books such as yours” – J.A. Cox, Beta reader and American writer.

Every chapter has photographs or memes and information on grammar, vocabulary, and idiomatic expressions presented in an amusing yet educative way.

It is for those who enjoy honing their skills in English communication, teaching, or learning amid a continually changing world. It is a nice coffee table book or a gift for any occasion.

Thank you for reading and sharing it with others.

This is available on Kindle, paperback, and hardcopy.

Where are these children? Will they lose or reshape their identity?

Two Sundays ago, on my way to join my friends at the nearby coffee shop, I stopped at a commercial space under renovation. The newly replaced stained-glass pieces were in blue and yellow – the colours of Ukraine. I believe its owner did it purposely to mark the dark period we are experiencing.

Like most people, every day, I tune in to the news hoping that the Russians have stopped shelling the once-beautiful buildings and fertile soil of Ukraine. Like many aghast humans, I’m critical of how the writing on the wall was ignored and wonder if the statement “since it’s not a NATO member-country, we won’t intervene” nudged the aggressors to proceed with their nefarious deeds.

While sipping our coffee, my French and Irish friends asked me about our sons. In the past, I was always bubbling with joy, narrating the fun they have living in Canada and England. That afternoon, my answer was one word, “fine”, and my thoughts shifted instantly to the Ukrainian children scattered outside their homeland.  About 1.5 million children have been reported to have left Ukraine since the conflict began and millions more have been displaced internally.

Will they ever go back to Ukraine? When? What are the ramifications of this uprooting from their culture at a young age? How can we help them with the psychological trauma of being separated from their families and friends and being exposed to danger and insecurity?

My two sons left home before their majority age, but it was their choice and to prepare for a greener pasture. Yet, sometimes, I worry about their detachment from Down Under. Last March 11, I gave pro bono lectures at Hélène Boucher High School in Thionville about Australia. After I got home, I emailed them my PowerPoint slides with a note, “In case you want to update your knowledge about your country of citizenship.”

Identity is a conglomerate of attributes, qualities and values that define how we view ourselves, i.e. a sense of group belongingness. An identity can be lost for months or years or suddenly following a significant life event or trauma, such as war and conflict.

Our sense of identity ought not to come from what others think about us; we should not worry about being judged or measured by others based on their criteria. Putting a permanent mask hiding our true identity limits personal growth and happiness.

I believe these Ukrainian refugee children long for social and cultural acceptance and reassurance from their admirable host families who care for them and are cognisant of their culture and heritage. Kudos to everyone who has helped these children to be safe, have self-worth, find peace, and be reunited with their loved ones soon.

Are you a toxic optimist?

Recently, someone asked me why I am “always optimistic when some glasses are obviously half empty?” My belief in the silver lining can be uplifting for some people but suffocating for others, yet I am consistently positive. Perhaps it is my birth sign. Those who fancy astrology and horoscope would tell you that a Taurian is stable and determined.

An optimist says, “The glass is half full.”

A pessimist says, “The glass is half empty.”

An optometrist says, “You both need glasses.”

(https://upjoke.com/optimist-jokes)

A positive outlook on life is beneficial for our mental and emotional wellbeing. However, life isn’t always rosy. There are unpleasant events and people that cause us to be sad or angry. Denying ourselves of this sadness can stagnate growth, as it deprives us of the opportunity to face and deal with challenging situations and feelings. Sugarcoating a harsh reality has downsides.

When family and friends are experiencing severe difficulty or even trauma, we can’t tell them to look at the bright side of life. This is because such expression of optimism can be toxic, as it may divert us from the real concerns and issues. Whereas dealing wisely with negative emotions, such as disappointment and stress, can lead to changes that can result in a better situation.

Positive words and deeds that shine externally inspire people. However, pushing optimism into someone’s sore throat is a different thing. It is toxic optimism. For example, when people hold out a hand to us, it means that they are crying for help and don’t need to be told that other humans are experiencing worse.

Empathy is the magic word – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others – i.e. compassion and care. How? Firstly, by being a good listener. While doing so, we should avoid assumptions and judgment. Then, be ready to offer support and help, which may be in the form of advice, goods or services, but only after you have heard all sides of the story.


	

Feedback and Evaluation are Different: Should they be anonymous or not?

Last month, I received feedback by email that included this sentence: “You gave verbal explanations of each point and systematically wrote any new vocabulary or expressions in the chat or as annotations in the documents to help the participants memorise them”. That feedback had only positive points and a strong nudge to continue the good work. It was her first time observing my online class. In previous years, the former “quality enforcer” always had “one thing” added to “continue the job well done”; I philosophised that she was making her position more worthwhile.  At least, I knew who provided the feedback, and I had the opportunity to explain the whys of what I did.

Training participants are always encouraged to fill in anonymous online forms to rate the “quality” of their trainers. The original intention is to help improve the learning or training experience. However, it can become a revenge tool. Positive ratings and comments are rare from participants or students who have failed or received lower-than-expected grades. Non-constructive feedback derails progress and jeopardises “room for improvement” efforts.

At work, “evaluation” is a more appropriate word than “feedback”. The former is an assessment or judgement based on evidence, data and observations. A regular (i.e. once, twice or thrice a year) work appraisal is an evaluation and cannot be anonymous. Whereas the latter is about giving a message to help receivers shape behaviours that will assist them to improve their skills and performance.

Even with the enforcement of anti-harassment legislation and policy, some feedback continues to include comments about appearance (untidy hair), attire (scruffy), insults (trash, senile), and blaming.

Results of both evaluation and feedback affect one’s well-being, mental health, and personal and professional relationships. Therefore, should those involved hide under the blanket of anonymity? How about when there’s a power imbalance and threat of reprisal or punishment?

The basic fundamentals when giving feedback and evaluation are sincerity, sensitivity, truthfulness, specificity, appropriate language, professionalism, and timeliness. They should be prepared and not given haphazardly.

At work, honest and meaningful feedback and evaluation can motivate employees to perform better in their tasks and open lines of communication, resulting in productivity and contented employees.

An evaluation should be a two-way street; thus, it should not be anonymous. Managers and supervisors should be told the right and ineffective things they do, whereas feedback can be anonymous.

If we want to know whether such feedback is true and sincere, we should consider it positively. Then, ask ourselves if we have received similar feedback from other people (Oh, this comment sounds familiar). How can we use it in a constructive way even though we don’t agree with it? Since it rings a bell, it must be valid and important.

By Raffaella Cetrulo  (Instagram raffainviaggio)

Feedback doesn’t have to be formal. Upon completion of my course, I often receive emails of appreciation and thank you from participants. One of these included two paintings; the artist – Raffaella Cetrulo – has given me her permission to include them here. I have chosen the painting of owls because my late aunt-in-law, who had a handsome collection of owl figurines and statuettes, had said she liked them for their big, wide eyes that give an impression they were watching her. Unlike her, I associate owls with evils because they are awake and active at night. In some cultures, they are considered guardians for a safe morning to come.

Whatever we do these days, there are owls – “walls have ears and eyes”. When we are stressed because someone is looking over our shoulders, let’s think of Athena of ancient Greek mythology. She kept an owl on her shoulder believing it was a blessing that revealed truths and wisdom.

The sandwich approach is often used when giving feedback, i.e. the negative statement is placed between two positive ones. Bear in mind that constructive, negative feedback can get lost in the middle of praises. Likewise, it is likely that only negative comments are remembered, and the receivers become bitter and disillusioned. They might philosophise using this adage: “When I’m right, no one remembers; when I’m wrong, no one forgets”.

All the best when giving and receiving feedback.

I hope you’ve time to read my story “Tongues wagging over Freggy” in https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/8wrcja/  (I can’t wait to have your feedback.  Clicking “like” will go a long way. Thank you.)

Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022

In January 2021, I wished my family and friends good health and success. I thought the COVID pandemic would be over before December. How wrong I was! The Delta and Omicron variants arrived swiftly and worrisomely.

We’re still in the pandemic; consequently, restrictions have been reintroduced or tightened. COVID passports and tests have become pet peeves for travellers. They have hampered many people from being with their families on two of the dearly celebrated occasions of the year: Christmas/December and New Year.

So, what is an appropriate wish for our family and friends in 2022? Is it the usual “good health, peace, prosperity, and happiness”? Which of these is the most important thing to have? Can someone be happy when suffering from poor health? Many poor people in developing countries are naturally happy. Peace is not easy to attain when you’ve poor health. Prosperity contributes to happiness and peace of mind (i.e. not worrying about food, shelter, medicine, etc.)

What is a good New Year’s greeting or wish? What does a sincere message do to us? For family and friends afar, it’s a way of letting them know that they have not been forgotten. Greetings and good wishes bring in positive feelings. They translate into smiles and nods. 

Yesterday, at noon in France, I wished friends in New Zealand a happy New Year (They were the first ones to welcome January 1, 2022). Then, at 3 pm, I rang my family in Queensland, Australia (midnight there). From 12 pm, my mobile phone and e-mail box have been busy with greetings from France, Luxembourg and Belgium. This morning, at 1 am, I greeted our son in London; at 4:30 am, our other son in Canada; at 9:00 am, our friends in the USA. (The difference in New Year times made it possible for me to greet the lovely people in my life. I’m going to bed after posting this).

Aside from texting and phoning, I looked at the photos of my sister’s birthday party in Australia held a fortnight ago. One of them is a table with a copy of the song “That’s What Friends Are For”. I imagined myself singing along, particularly the chorus:

“Keep smiling, keep shining

Knowing you can always count on me for sure

That’s what friends are for

For good times and bad times

I’ll be on your side forevermore

That’s what friends are for”.  

Some friends become family in real terms. Some family members are friends forever. Some colleagues are friends to lean on during tough times at work.

I wish you sincere and lasting friendships. Marvellous New Year! Bonne Anne! Feliz Ano Nuevo!

Coincidence? Globality!

What happened last October 30 overawed me. Was it a desirable coincidence? Was it pure luck? Was it the work of what my Polish student calls an “angel” (a word she uses when a fortunate situation passes my way)? Whereas, my French friend said: “C’est magique”. I have no way to test these suppositions, so I have decided to share this story with you; you might have ideas about it too.

I was scheduled to be interviewed by the co-founder of the podcast “Qui a peur du feminisme” (Who is scared of feminism) at 7 pm. At 6:25, I got a text from a former student’s daughter saying they had left something outside our apartment door. When I opened the door, they had gone.

I put the paper bag under my desk and resumed practising my pronunciation of French words that I was likely to use during the interview. (Though I live in France, I hardly use this tricky language). The interview was on Zoom; at 6:50, I started to have a mixed feeling of anxiousness and boredom. So, I opened the bag and was surprisingly glad to see a beautifully wrapped t-shirt with the phrase “Excuse my French”. I put this t-shirt on right away, just on time for the interview.  How appropriate for the occasion!

My former student’s family saw this t-shirt while shopping in Metz and thought of me. They decided to go out of their way to drop it in my place. Only my husband knew that I would be interviewed that evening, and he didn’t tell them.

Coincidences are ubiquitous; I am sure you’ve experienced these too. What do you consider a coincidence and not? A coincidence can be described as a remarkable concurrence of events without a visible causal connection.  Can you explain coincidences?  I can’t, so there’s nothing more I can say here. Instead, I’m going to translate the first and last questions of that interview.

Rolade, hello and welcome. Could you explain to our listeners why you define yourself as a citizen of the world?

The Earth is my home; it is the same Earth where everyone lives. This Earth is our world – the world of all peoples and countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the interconnectedness of nations. It’s like being in a boat: if one part sinks, the other part will also sink sooner or later. We have the right to be in this boat (our world), but we also have the responsibility to keep it floating. What can sink this boat are: environmental degradation, war and conflicts, poverty, illiteracy, injustices, crimes, and other societal ills. As a world citizen, I think globally but act locally.

(If I were to answer this question now, I would include positive identification and belongingness).

One last question. In this podcast, we like to highlight women. Can you briefly tell us a woman who is a role model for you?

The first one that comes to mind is my former work supervisor, who became a friend. Barbara Young was an Australian who dedicated her life to helping non-governmental organisations, especially those caring for children (such as Save the Children Fund), refugees and women.

My model is not a woman but women. I wish I could put all their exceptional traits together. All women who think globally but act locally, like you, Marie Pierre. You and your friend started this podcast to advance women’s causes, and that’s admirable.  (Of course, there are women on the international stage who actively combat poverty, inequality, illnesses, environmental concerns, etc. They are many and commendable)

My late mother’s my model for her kindness and forgiveness of those who had hurt her.

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Maria Ressa from the Philippines, caught my attention. A courageous, intelligent and humble woman, like her, is my model.

I admire generous female bosses and managers and those who help their fellow women progress in their careers.

In closing, I would like to say that I believe there is something precious in every woman, in each of us, in all your listeners. We have to dig the wonders in each of us. With these wonderful attributes, we can be better global citizens.

Kindness

Last month, I requested information from the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (known here as CEDIES). I was surprised to receive a response at 11 in the evening, just when I was about to switch off my phone. At first, I thought it was a scam or something, but it was the help I needed. Hence, I thanked the male sender and added, “I hope you’ll receive a trophy for working very late”. He answered, “Thank you for your kind words. We have been receiving many enquiries due to our move to online application and sometimes there’s a bug in the system, so I have to work longer”.

Was he only doing his job, or he is a naturally kind and helpful person? His kindness was evident in our email exchanges afterwards.

Two weeks later, I received an email from an EU public servant at 9:08 PM on a Sunday. I thanked him for the list I requested and said, “You deserve a gold medal for working on a Sunday evening?” He wrote back explaining that he would have meetings all day on Monday and didn’t want me to be inconvenienced for not having it.

Another kind and considerate public servant! Has work ethic, mentality, or behaviour been impacted by the COVID pandemic or teleworking? I hope this doesn’t jeopardise their personal relationships.

Are these two public servants exceptions to the rule? How many kind and hardworking people stay under the radar every day? I believe such dedication and kindness at work should be recognised.

Kindness makes our world a better place – this sounds clichéd; however, the reality is kindness builds trust that develops into meaningful relationships online or in person. At work, staff who stomp on their colleagues do not last long in the same office. Unkind superiors attract disloyal or disengaged subordinates.

Several days before receiving acts of kindness from the above-mentioned civil servants, I heard on BBC that they, in collaboration with the University of Sussex in the UK, have launched a huge online research project called “Kindness Test”. Many thousands of people from all over the world have already completed it, and they will publicise their analysis early next year.

In the meantime, my Internet readings have yielded the same conclusion: acting kindly can improve one’s wellbeing and reduce or eliminate anxiousness. One of these articles mentions a neuroscientific finding that when we do something kind to another person, we experience a sense of reward comparable to receiving a present or eating chocolate.

An act of kindness has no age, gender, cultural, professional, economic and political boundaries. My friend, who’s between jobs, donated cooked meals to health workers during lockdowns. Other acts of kindness that I have witnessed are:

A colleague mentoring a new joiner in their company;

A lady picking up trash at a bus stop;

A child giving used books to a classmate;

Neighbours and acquaintances helping someone move home, bring the furniture inside a building, or tend their gardens;

People saying the magic words: “I love you”, “please”, “Good morning/afternoon”, and “thank you” (and mean it), and “I’m sorry” when they’re at fault.

On October 14, I wanted to use the photocopier in the staff room but couldn’t remember the password, as I didn’t use it for almost two years. I sent a Whatsapp message to my colleagues; one of them responded right away (i.e. in less than one minute). That kindness contributed to making my one-hour lesson more engaging. If he had waited 15 minutes, it would have been useless for me.

Kindness is contagious; spread it around because it makes us more humane and our world a better place to live and die.

(Two nights ago, I was interviewed in French; it was my first serious conversation in this tricky language.  As you’ll hear (link: https://anchor.fm/quiapeurdufeminisme/episodes/Interview–Rolade-Brizuela-Berthier–citoyenne-du-Monde-e19hmv3), there’s room for improvement in terms of pronunciation. Since I live in France, I thought I didn’t need to do the latter. However, like most skills, if you don’t use it, it stagnates or even becomes rusty. This podcast is also available on Apple podcast, Spotify and Google Play. Kindly pass on this information).

You are coaching or being coached!

Two weeks ago, I received an email with this phrase: “If you’d like me to coach you to confidence and self-belief, reply to this email and let’s talk”. This had made me think about the essence of coaching and the talents of coaches. I don’t need coaching on confidence and self-belief; but, perhaps, in some areas. There is always room for improvement, and I’m perfectly imperfect.

What is coaching? Cambridge Dictionary defines coaching (UK – kəʊ.tʃɪŋ/ US -ˈkoʊ.tʃɪŋ) as “the act of giving special classes in sports, a school subject, or a work-related activity, especially to one person or a small group” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/coaching). Collins English Dictionary’s definition of it includes “training staff in business or office practice” and “giving a person special teaching in a particular subject” (HarperCollins Publishers, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/coaching).

When I was young, I associated coaching only with sports. I have since changed my understanding of it. Coaching applies in every professional and personal area and in every aspect of one’s life.  

According to the International Coaching Community (https://internationalcoachingcommunity.com/what-is-coaching), coaching should help a person change how they wish and go in the direction they want, supporting them at every level in becoming who they want to be, and building awareness that empowers choice and leads to change. This is the definition that I relate to. My ex-colleague has converted into a wellness coach. She is not an expert in her clients’ field of work and does not transfer knowledge and skills, unlike when she was teaching English, but helps them cope with their personal and professional challenges. When she speaks about her newfound profession, her eyes glitter. Is it because of money?

With an annual salary of AUD 1,11,895.60, Ravi Shastri of India is the highest-paid cricket coach (https://www.australiaunwrapped.com/how-much-do-cricket-coaches-get-paid/). Diego Simeone is the highest-paid football coach (US $50 million with a current net worth of US $130 million (https://briefly.co.za/106878-20-highest-paid-coach-world-2021-top-paid-coaches-worth.html). Non-sports coaches, however, earn anywhere from 20 euros an hour to … The rest of us are unpaid coaches. We help family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours and friends of friends change in the way they wish, supporting them at every level in becoming who they want to be.

Should you spend money for academic, business, finance, professional, or relationship coaching? That depends on several factors. I think the answer is no if it is just a way to feel like you’re doing something about a problem that you can solve on your own. Wouldn’t you rather find time to figure out what and how you want things should be?  Unless your goal is to fully optimise an area of your life (e.g. financial investment) or you are passionate about improvement (e.g. more healthy and fit), you might not need a paid coach.

On the other hand, if you decide to have one, remember that you won’t get value for money, even how good the coach is if you don’t have any direction or a clear understanding of the intended outcome. As such, define your desires, goals and ideas before you engage a coach.

“Who, exactly, seeks out a coach? If you ask a coach, the answer is usually the same: Winners who want even more out of life”. – Abigail Pickus (seen on https://positivepsychology.com/coaching-quotes/ article by Kelly Miller).

Like most professions, there are good and bad coaches. Like most services, there are trade-offs and downsides in coaching.  It’s for you to do the weighing.

Either you’re a paid or unpaid coach or being coached, keep in mind:

1.       The goal is not to solve a specific problem

The purpose of coaching is not to fix problems. Therefore, avoid providing a solution before hearing the views of the person being coached.

2.       Manipulation has no place in coaching

Nudging the person being coached to come to the same conclusion as the coach by asking condescending and obnoxious questions is unethical.

3.       Avoid interruption and distraction

Interruption and distraction can sweep away vital information. Silence is part of communication and can encourage the person to think more profoundly about the issue at stake. Do not be in a noisy or messy place as it is not conducive for coaching.

4.       Be patient

A coaching process is longer than seeing a physiotherapist or dentist. It is about building self-belief, which takes time and patience. 

 “Good coaching is good teaching and nothing else.”  – Pat Conroy (seen on https://sharpencx.com/blog/quotes-for-coaching-inspiration/ article by Veronica Krieg).

Unavoidable travels

You might have read, heard, or experienced the hustle and bustle of travelling abroad during this period of the pandemic. If you had an annual leave last summer, you probably checked every day where to go, which destinations were on the green and amber lists. In addition to being fully vaccinated, there were travel restrictions and sanitary “must do” things. 

We were in England for a week for a family reason. From July 19, France has placed the UK on its amber list; the UK has ended its quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers from amber countries, like France. However, there was more to comply with.  We had to present our EU or French COVID certificate.  Additionally, we had to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken a maximum of 72 hours before our departure. Then, we must complete a passenger locator form, which could only be done after purchasing a 1 x COVID-19 travel test that cost about 50 euros (PCR Test is free in France). Those from red countries and not fully vaccinated must book and pay for 2 x COVID-19 travel tests before arrival; once in the UK, they must quarantine for ten days and take a COVID-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight.

The few days before our departure was a race towards getting COVID-tested and filling in the required locator forms (had to be completed individually).  The locator form asks for information on where you will stay in the UK.  In our case, it included five hotels in Ashford, Oxford, and London.  Typing the names, addresses, postcodes, etc., took time.  Then, deciding where to buy the post-arrival test was another challenge (the order reference number was needed to complete the locator form). There were more than one hundred providers on the UK Government website.  We ordered our Day 2 tests on August 18, but they were delivered to our nominated address on the 28th (two days after we had left). 

Today, at 6:07 AM, the global COVID statistics are 217, 632, 545 confirmed cases and 4, 518, 377 deaths (Source: CDC, WHO, ECDC, The New York Times, Wikipedia – Microsoft/COVID-19 Widget). Even if vaccinated, we must continue wearing masks, hand sanitising, and social distancing.

Was the travel worth the time, energy and expense? Not if it were just for the hotel pool, steam room and gym; breakfasts were substandard. I’m for “prevention is better than cure” and won’t argue against packed or home-delivered breakfast. However, my jaw dropped when four-star hotels handed us industrial (commercially processed) pastries and artificially flavoured juice. An apple, banana or any fruit would have lessened the financial blow.

It was worth it when it came to family in-person interaction. There are ample online articles on the importance of face-to-face socialisation. Research “shows that young people who have strong family connections are far more likely to be well adjusted and make a better success of their lives in terms of getting better education and jobs” (https://www.finglobal.com/2019/06/20/importance-of-family-gatherings/). Although we Skype with our sons every Monday evening, being with them physically was more superior. Their stories and reactions to our jokes were more nudging. It was fun playing the “guess the bill” during restaurant outings.  The loser (the one whose guess was the farthest from the actual bill) had to pay. Since I always forgot to add the 15% service fee/surcharge that we don’t have in France, my wallet was almost cleaned up.

When a family gets together, memories are made, especially when we live far from each other and in situations like the COVId-19 pandemic.  Many years later, we will be reminiscing about these times we had with our parents, children, and relatives. We will soon forget the logistical and financial hurdles. However, the beautiful moments are preserved in our brains, iPhones, computers, or albums, which can gift our grandchildren and future generations.