During lockdown the Blakesley family wrote blogs for us about being stranded in the UK, unable to return to Kuwait. In their final blogs, Nathaniel, Paul, and Karen share what it was like to get back to Kuwait, what they read while in quarantine, and the impending move to Turkey…
It took us over four months to get back to Kuwait. But we are back now, and there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed surrounded by your own belongings – especially as that means access to all of my books.
I’ve been selected to be in the scholarship set for when I return to school in the UK in September. As part of this I have lots of additional work to complete over the summer, I made a start on it during my two weeks of quarantine in Kuwait, and will do more during my two weeks of quarantine on return to England.
I selected and read these books from my school reading list: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, The Wall by William Sutcliffe and, for history, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I liked the Book Thief best as the main character is also a child and I find stories of bravery and courage during the war interesting.
With quarantine now finished, and a good part of my work complete, I can read a book that was a Christmas gift – A Yorkshire Vet Through the Seasons by Julian Norton. It is a humorous, honest and insightful book about life as a vet. I’m finding it interesting reading about his varied cases as I want to be a vet when I am older.
In my down time I have chilled by watching You Tube videos from Mark Rober, an ex-NASA scientist. He helped make the Mars rover. His videos show fun activities which explain every day questions using physics and mechanical engineering. He’d be the best Uncle ever as he can make giant water pistols and fun gadgets. He recommended a book that I think I’d enjoy, it is written by the man who proved that Pluto was not planet. How I Killed Pluto and Why it had it Coming by Mike Brown will be on my Christmas list.
As we prepare to leave Kuwait for school, I am are clearing out my room and selling old books I have read to fund buying more new ones. I prefer the feel of a paperback to a Kindle. Selling them at £2.50 each I’ve made almost £100! That’s plenty of money for my next trip to the bookstore!
Karen’s father’s illness meant I found myself with the boys covering home schooling, dealing with work both from Kuwait and also from the UK MOD (I was attached to them for our period in the UK). But I still made sure to find time for reading, which included some GCSE maths and physics!
Moving homes is always time consuming, and our planning for leaving Kuwait and moving to Turkey has been no different. Yet in my experience it appears that while the Army is set up well for family moves to, from and within the UK, for whatever reason it seems to find the more complicated moves (i.e. overseas to overseas) just that little bit harder. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to seek clarity on conflicting policies, or to have to submit briefs explaining why I need something a little out of the ordinary, so I’ve had to swap Sci-Fi in favour of reading the many rules and regulation booklets and publications as well as reading up on everything to do with NATO, both in terms of its development and aims, as well as understanding the strange language that large organisation has. But I still manage to fit in the odd few minutes here and there on something just for me, and I am currently reading Norman Stone’s Turkey: A Short History.
Our return to Kuwait was relatively smooth, and as I type we find ourselves just about to end our 14 days of quarantine (thankfully all conducted in our own home with an excellent support network to keep us stocked up with essentials). I was hoping for some down time, but it’s not happened. We’ve not been idle – after having been stranded in the UK for 142 days we have had a lot of admin to catch up on, and have also taken this opportunity to clear out our wardrobes and cupboards ahead of the freight assessor arriving just after Eid.
I’ve also flicked back to a paperback for bedtime reading – I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes – and although I am only 270 pages in (it’s a long one for sure, circa 900 pages!) I can report it is a gripping read so far. I’ve also been given several recommendations by friends should I have any down time. These include The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma, and Armies of Sand by Kenneth Pollack to name but two. Whatever else happens this summer, I’m not going to be short of a good read; that’s for sure!
After my father passed away in late June, I found it hard to get back into a healthy sleep routine which meant that I found myself reading until past midnight every evening. It didn’t help that the book that I was reading, Map of Bones by James Rollins, was gripping, and, as a result, I finished it quite quickly. A quick rummage through the Neston village book swap cupboard proved that the only ones left in there were by authors I did not know, so I chose a couple of new books and authors at random: The Moses Stone by James Becker (which I finished will still in Corsham), and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Both were good reads, with the latter being a light-hearted and amusing novel and just the antidote to the drudgery of opening and dealing with almost 5 months of mail that had accumulated in our absence.
Eventually (15th July), we managed to get back to Kuwait, and our focus switched immediately to our impending move to Turkey. While sorting through which belongings to keep and which to pack I realised we, as a family, had over a hundred books that we’d read and could now pass on, freeing up much needed space in our limited freight. Most of these were Nathaniel’s (he prefers the feel of a book to using a Kindle) so I offered his books for sale first. As access to British books locally is minimal, other military families snapped them up in quick time, and he’s now planning to use the money to buy more books when we get to Turkey!
Looking ahead I reckon I’m going to have quite a bit of time for reading. In mid-August I have to take the boys back to the UK (so we can spend our 14 days in quarantine in the UK prior to the start of their school) before returning to Kuwait (straight into another 14 days of quarantine) before packing up and then heading to Turkey (hopefully without any more quarantine). Somewhere after the UK trip but before we move to Turkey I need to host my yearly September Blind Date Book Swap. I do this as it helps the new wives who have arrived over the summer get to know everyone else, talk books, and maybe try a new genre or author. I’ve always held it at our home, but I suspect COVID19, curfew restrictions, and Kuwaiti limits on the size of gatherings will all still be in force in some form or another, so I’m going to have to get creative and look how I can do something similar, probably over Zoom.
Looking back, 2020 so far has been difficult and challenging for my family in so many ways but, in a world of change and uncertainty, escaping with a book will always be a constant for me. Having finished The Rosie Project last night I’m already thinking what will be on my beside table tonight. Any recommendations?