The Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast Episode 005: Finding community online with Polly Lavarello

In this episode of the Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast I catch up with Gibraltar based blogger and founding editor of parenting e-magazine Mum on the Rock, Polly Lavarello.

After moving to Gibraltar from the UK, Polly set up her blog Polly Mixtures and soon found herself climbing the UK parenting blog charts as she documented her experiences of having her first child. A problematic pregnancy meant Polly had to be hospitalised in Cadiz, miles away from friends and family.

After her blog took off, Polly decided to turn her attention to the wider parenting community in Gibraltar and created Mum on the Rock. Now into it’s second year, the online magazine is a valuable resource for parents in Gibraltar. It offers a ‘What’s On’ diary for family friendly groups and events along with features written by locally based parents and grandparents.

****To hear the podcast click here!****

You can also listen and subscribe to the Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast on iTunes. I would love it if you would also take the time to leave a review as that means more people will be able to find me in future. This Podcast is also available on the PodOmatic App for Android and iOS devices.

Useful links:

Mum on the Rock

Polly Mixtures

You can find Polly on Twitter as @Polly_Mixtures and on Instagram as @pollymixtures

PodOmatic
Theme music is Happy Me by Twisterium

A Postcard birthday

 

1

 

 

It’s been a whole 12 months since my first blog post on Postcard from Gibraltar and what a fun and busy year it has been. I started out publishing my first post and wondering if anyone out there in cyberspace would actually read it but I soon discovered a lovely community who share my interest in craft and want to hear about this lovely Rock I live on.

Thank you very much for all the lovely comments and likes over the past year, I appreciate you taking the time to leave them. I read them all although sometimes it can take me a while to reply.

I know that an important part of being in this community is that it’s not just a one way street and we should all take the time to read each others posts and sometimes I’m not too great at that as life tends to get in the way a bit. Please know that I always mean to, and I usually get around to taking a look at my fellow bloggers posts eventually!

I’m afraid I’m being very lazy this week with my midweek post and I’m just going to share a few of my highlights from the last year with you. I hope you enjoy this trip down Memory Lane 🙂

 

Expat life:

Moving countries with two small children and leaving all our family and friends behind was no small feat. I have to admit that when I was faced with the prospect of moving here (due to Mr Postcard’s work relocating) I wasn’t impressed. I had my life sorted and was happy where I was, the prospect of having to start all over again didn’t fill me with joy.

Back in September last year the annual cardboard boat race in Ocean Village reminded me of what life was like back when we first arrived and that the warm welcome we received as a family helped us on the road to settling in: Cardboard boats and memories of moving

Apart from arriving here and making a fresh start, one of the hardest things about being an ‘expat’ is that many of our community are transient. For those who come with work or their partner’s job, rather than just making the choice to move here for good, their tenure in Gibraltar can be short.

However short that stay may be, friendships can develop fast. In the absence of family nearby friends very soon become each other’s support network and that makes saying goodbye all the harder: Saying goodbye…

 

Crafty highlights

I love, love, love making things. If you’ve caught any of my Sunday Sevens posts you’ll know that most of my weeks are dominated by crafty things including watercolour lessons, dressmaking lessons and of course, my love of crochet. In May, I was inspired to make a wreath celebrating the wild flowers I’d seen this Spring while I trained for the Med Steps 5 Challenge : Wild flowers of the Med Steps

 

Along with the Med Steps I have become very fond of the Alameda Botanical gardens during our almost seven years here in Gibraltar.  International Yarnbombing Day 2016 proved too much of an opportunity to miss paying homage to the Alameda Gardens bicentennial celebrations.

 

Gibraltar highlights

Last Saturday was the Convent Garden Party, an annual event which the Postcard family usually attends. It’s the one chance in the year for ‘normal’ folk to have a wander around the beautiful back garden which belongs to the Governor of Gibraltar. My post about last year’s event ended up being my first ever blog post based on a walk (a theme which has featured heavily in the last few months): A stroll up the garden path…

As I mentioned earlier, I am a bit of a fan of the Med Steps. So much so that I climbed them five times in the one day last month as part of the Med Steps 5 Challenge. If you have never had the pleasure of climbing them yourself, here’s what you’re missing! The Med Steps: a few facts & figures

 

On 9th June, Gibraltar woke to find itself wrapped up with a blanket of fog. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to climb the Med Steps again (as it had been getting a bit warm to do it in recent weeks). On that walk I experienced the most amazing view (the one you can see above). I had been misguided in thinking that the fog would help me with its cool damp air, as I climbed the steps I soon realised that I had, in fact, climbed up out of the fog and was viewing it from above.

At one of my many rest points on that morning, I witnessed this stunning view of the Rock swathed in fog. It was otherworldly and truly mesmerising. I was also only one of a handful of people who had braved the Med Steps that morning, we were incredibly lucky to see this weather phenomenon from such an elevated vantage point.

As soon as I got home I posted this photo online and got the most amazing response. So far, more than 12,000 people have viewed it on Facebook! I also wrote a post about my foggy walk and featured a lot more photos: A mini stroll in the mist

 

A year on the Rock

IMG_6071

One of the great things about living in Gibraltar is that despite it’s size (which is really quite tiny) there is so much to do. The social calendar includes the Three Kings Cavalcade, the Calentita food festival, the Gibraltar Fair, National Day, the Gibraltar Music Festival, the Gibraltar Literary Festival, and the Christmas Light switch on to name just a few.

Here are a couple of my highlights from the last 12 months: Rock stars & heart throbs: Gibraltar Music Festival 2015 & So many books, so little time… Gibraltar Literary Festival 2015

Looking back at all that makes me realize we’ve packed a lot into our last year on the Rock. I know we are very lucky to live in such a great place and to have the opportunity to experience all we have. 

I first started this blog after being encouraged to do so by friends and family and I’m really glad I did. Postcard from Gibraltar has opened doors for me both virtually and in real life, it’s been a great adventure so far, here’s hoping the next 12 months are as good if not better!

Thank you for dropping by!

 

Saying goodbye…

During the last week one of my friends left Gibraltar for good and I’ve just discovered that another one is planning to leave this summer. We are entering into the time of year which is a rather painful part of being an expat (here at least), the time when families relocate back to the UK or elsewhere because of work or family reasons in time for the new school year starting.

For many of us, when we first arrive we know nobody. For those of us who are parents who don’t ‘work’ we forge a network of friends at the school gates and through contact with other families connected to our partner’s place of work. Because we are all in the same boat, friendships become strong quickly. If you land in a place where you know no one and your family are thousands of miles away, you soon learn that your friends are your support network.

I remember during our first winter in Gibraltar, my husband was overseas with work and I’d had the most uncomfortable night of my life (apart from childbirth) with a dreadful tummy upset. I waited until 7am to call the person I knew the most to ask for help. She dropped everything and came to get my eldest ready for school and took my youngest away with her (we only had two children then) and left me to alone to try to sleep and get better.

Back in England my parents lived about an hour away and I imagine I would have called them had I still been living there, as I had no one else I could call who was nearby. We lived in an area which was chosen simply because it was between our places of work, we pretty much put a pin in a map and decided on that location. We had our first home there but we both worked in different cities so knew very few people locally. We spoke to our neighbours and exchanged Christmas cards, but as we were out working most of the time in different cities we didn’t have any friends there.

Of course I have friends I have known since the first days at primary school, from secondary school and University but we are now all spread out pretty much across the world. As our jobs took us away from friends and family, I found it got increasingly difficult to make proper friends until we arrived here in Gibraltar.

Back in England, I remember my Mum telling me, as soon as the baby goes to school you’ll meet people, and I did, they were friendly, we chatted about our plans for the weekend, birthday parties etc as we waited for the kids to come out at the end of school, but that’s where it ended. I’d moved into an area where everyone else seemed to be established. They didn’t feel the need to take it a step further.

The other mums had their families down the road and knew many of the other parents at the school already. I guess I could have made the first move but I wasn’t brave enough to invite anyone to do anything because they all seemed so sorted and busy. I remember the excitement at being invited on my first  girls’ night out a whole year after my son started at the school. Finally, I thought, I’m in. That was the week we found out we were moving to Gibraltar, needless to say I didn’t want to come.

After much angst and packing we landed in Gibraltar a couple of weeks before the start of term. On the first day at the new school, as I waited for my son to come out of class, a local mum approached me and apologised, saying it was her son’s birthday soon and she hadn’t sent an invitation for my son because she didn’t know he’d be in the same class. The following day he came home with an invitation to the boy’s party and that was our welcome into the community.

The Gibraltarian people are lovely and welcoming of us newbies. They didn’t  mind helping me with my endless questions about where to go to register for this thing or that class. Or how to find birthday party venues which don’t feature on any maps and have just a string of initials for a name. But the people I forged the deepest friendships with were other incomers.  

Over time, I soon realised that many of the other expats here were in exactly the same boat as I was with no family nearby and we looked after each other. If someone was ill, had a sick child or was without a car, we’d chip in and do a bit of shopping or help with the school run. Gibraltar was the first place since being away at University that I had true friends. Like University, the nature of our lives here meant that those friendships were on fast forward and developed very quickly.

Also, because we have all been in the same situation, arriving here and knowing no one, if we spot someone new outside school or are introduced to a new arrival, we invite them to join us for coffee or to meet up at a later date. We introduce them to our other friends and soon (hopefully) they settle in and feel more at home.

As with any friendships, we are there for each other at the births of children, the deaths of loved ones and relationship breakdowns. We help were we can and if we can’t help, we may know someone who can – the community here is so small there’s usually a friend of a friend who we can call on. You may think that sounds perfect, and it is, kind of but then come the goodbyes.

Gibraltar seems to be a pretty transient place for many non-locals. Some people are here for the long haul, setting down roots and with no intentions of moving back, but lots of folk arrive here with the aim of doing a few years in post to improve their careers and then move on. Perhaps they want to live a few years in the sunshine before returning ‘home’ to the UK or heading off to their next exotic destination.

That of course means that we lose friends at a much faster rate here than we would at home in the UK, and that’s really not nice. Two years ago, my best friend and her family moved back to England after about 4 years here. We were very close. We were on a similar wavelength, with similar arty interests and with children of similar ages. When she left it was really hard, I feel emotional right now thinking about it.

Last summer, another good friend left and returned to her home town. That left another empty seat at our coffee mornings. Then, over the Bank Holiday weekend another friend, (who is one of those responsible for me taking up this blogging lark), got on a plane to the country of her birth to set up a new life for herself and her family. She is a mum who has great confidence in what she can achieve, she also has a magical gift of making you think you can achieve great things as well (she’d make a great boss).

She is the first person who suggested I should take up blogging (there were a few believe it or not), so I did – but I didn’t tell her. Afraid of looking stupid if the whole endeavour flopped I decided to blog anonymously (and to spare the blushes of my kids). Despite her not knowing it was me, I was thrilled to see she was liking my posts on Facebook and even shared one. Once I came clean and admitted it was me, she was so encouraging of my blog – and I value her views as she’s very smart.

So I guess this post is dedicated to this lovely lady, thank you for your friendship and encouragement, it’s meant a lot. I wish you every success and happiness in the next exciting chapter of your life. Please don’t forget us coffee morning girls, we’ll raise a cappuccino to you at our next gathering!

 

 

Review of 2015 … well half of it!

 

2015 was the year I took the plunge and decided to have a go at blogging. For several years I have followed blogs including Attic24, The Patchwork Heart, Bunny Mummy and  Just Pootling and I have admired the beautiful photography, their ways with words and their beautiful crafts. A couple of years ago I decided I had a long way to go before attempting my own blog but set myself the challenge of taking a photo each day and writing a bit about it. Obviously on some days (like holidays, trips out & special occasions) it’s incredibly easy to snap away and you’re spoiled for choice, on others you are forced to think hard and be a bit creative about what the daily photo might be. This turned out to be good practice for  my blog posts, especially Sunday Sevens.

  Convent Garden, Gibraltar June 2015

Since I gave up (paid) work on the arrival of my first child, I have struggled to find something to entertain my brain, I’ve dabbled in crafts & craft fairs, done a bit of voluntary work and tried and failed to get a job which can work around my main job as a Mum.   

July 2015 (Manchester, Cheshire, Berkshire)

Recently, I guess my friends have picked up on my need to stimulate my brain and a few have independently suggested I try blogging (I hadn’t told them that I had previously considered and discounted it). I guess the planets came into alignment as when the most recent suggestion was made, I thought ‘why not?’ and set off on my Postcard from Gibraltar journey. In order to protect my boys from future ridicule, I decided to keep my blog anonymous for now.

August 2015 (Algarve & Gibraltar)

And so my Postcard from Gibraltar adventure began in June, hence the review of only half a year! We are very fortunate to live in a vibrant and interesting place, so there is never a shortage of things for me to write about, I also now have an outlet to talk about my various crafty fascinations of crochet, watercolour and sewing (friends and family heave a huge sigh of relief).

  September 2015 (Gibraltar)

I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far, I am thrilled when I look back at my old posts and see photos of things we have done and seen as a family, it’s almost like an online journal or photo album (both are things I have started many times but failed to complete).

  October 2015 (Gibraltar)

I have met some really supportive and kind people through the magic of the blogosphere and found inspiration for future projects and positive criticism for my own crafty endeavours. I used to think I was just a frustrated crafter who never had the time to create the things I want. While I admit I still get a bit frustrated at times as there are so many ideas in my head of what I want to do, but looking back at the makes I have documented I can see that I do churn out quite a bit as it is!

  November 2015 (crafts) 

Away from the world of the internet, blogging has also helped me build some networks in real life here in Gibraltar. There are some very talented people residing on this great Rock and I am pleased to have met some more of them during the past six months.

  November 2015 (Gibraltar & Marbella)

I won’t ramble on any more, but will leave you with my thanks for taking the time to stop by and read my blog, I’ve had a great time with it so far and very much look forward to what 2016 holds. Happy New Year!

  December 2015 (Gibraltar)

Wow… An award nomination!

  
Something quite unexpected happened to me this week – I was nominated for a Blogger Recognition Award. The nomination came from Mrs P at the Craft Odyssey blog. Thank you so much for such encouragement so early in my blogging journey Mrs P. It’s greatly satisfying to know that there is someone out there in cyberspace actually reading my ramblings let alone feeling it worthy of an award!

I am now supposed to mention why I started blogging:

I have been an admirer of several very talented craft bloggers for a few years now and although I liked the idea of having a go myself I never thought I’d be capable of writing something people would be interested in reading. Over the past  couple of years, as my boys are growing up a bit, I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous career in journalism which I gave up on the arrival of our first baby. I used to really enjoy writing pieces and loved the process of being able to tell a story, however I’ve not done it for over a decade. When a few people recently suggested to me that I actually start a blog I gave it serious consideration as a way to get back into writing.

After a couple of false starts I took the plunge early this summer and haven’t looked back. It has given me an outlet for my photo taking addiction and for my need to chat to somebody! We live in a rather amazing place too, Gibraltar is a hive of activity and we’re often involved in great events here as a family so there’s never a shortage of things to write about. My blog is a way for me to be creative which fits in perfectly around my life as a Mum but gives me a chance to be ME again! Hopefully, if it continues, it’ll be something that we can look back on as a family to remember all the little things which are so easily forgotten in the passage of time.

In my very short time blogging I have been bowled over with the support I have received not just from friends and family but also from people I have never and most probably will never meet – my very generous fellow bloggers, Facebook page likers, Twitter folk and Instagrammers who I have come into contact with so far. Thank you all very much for the warm welcome you have given me.

Now I  have to nominate the next Blogger Recognition Award recipients:

Mariana at The Copper Kettle Blog thank you for all your advice and for inspiring my cooking! 

Sharon at Creativity and Family, one of my first followers. Thank you also for your encouragement especially early on!

My fellow Gibraltar based bloggers:

Brit on the Rock

Gastro Rob
Nadia’s Cupcakes
Polly Mixtures
Rough seas in the Med

Doodle Mum for her witty cartoons about life with kids

 Zeens and Roger for giving me a green garden to look at and admire from afar

Ambosia Stitches a fellow expat with a passion for crafty things 

Nana Cathy a great blog about life and crafting
For inspiring me with beautiful crocheted creations and making me wish for more hours in the day to make beautiful things:

The little room of Rachell
The Twisted Yarn 

Yarnya

Off the hook for you

The original idea for this award came from the Edge of Night blog you can read about it’s creation here

1. Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to. Do some digging if you must! Find those blogs. You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you.

2. Write a post to show off your award! Give a brief story of how your blog got started, and give a piece or two of advice to new bloggers. Thank whoever nominated you, and provide a link to their blog. List who you’ve nominated in the post. Make sure to also attach the award itself! (You can do this by right-clicking, saving, and uploading the image above).

3. Comment on each blog and let them know you’ve nominated them. Provide a link to the award post you created.

4. Provide a link to the original post on Edge of Night . That way, anyone can find the original guidelines and post if needed, and we can keep it from mutating and becoming confusing!