Hello, I’m Vivienne McNeny, I’m truly English and you are about to embark on a journey and a half so let me make you a nice hot cup of tea and offer you a couple of chocolate biscuits to tide you over to dinner or whatever meal is coming up next for you! It doesn’t count as snacking because we’ve given these little breaks names like Elevensies and tea-time!
In the Beginning…
My parents were travellers in an organized way, they were seconded to the British Embassy and lived a privileged life hob-nobbing it with the young and beautiful diplomats in edgy foreign cities. I tagged along with them until I could dress and feed myself when I was promptly shipped home to a convent boarding school. My holidays were spent with children of the Embassy staff in the Middle East.
The nomadic bug had to surfaced.
After graduating from University with a degree in Drama and Child Psychology, I popped my official document in a top drawer to go where the wind blew me. The faded document later did time on the wall of my Studio/office for a few years while I raised a passel of children until I found myself back in London on a series of Gap Years while my nest empties. The degree is now in a box somewhere in storage.
Roaming in the Gloaming
My fledgling wings carried me first to an Island off the Northern coast of France, or the Southern coast of England depending on your point of view. Here I learned that the Guernsey patois had no words to adequately express the urgency of putting off doing something until the morrow, so I furiously raced motor boats to enliven the Island’s sleepy culture. After flipping the Phantom 2000 and watching it sink to the bottom of the channel, I turned my full attention to managing a seaside cafe, bar and licensed restaurant with its adjoining frozen food centre. The latter kept an income going during the cold, dark months of tourist-less winters. Alongside a master butcher I found that operating a band saw and cutting off heads, forelegs and hind quarters to be weighed, priced and bagged for the freezers, teetered on the bizarre.
After a few years of Island living I went in search of something more exotic and landed in Southern Andalucia. All time as I knew it ground to a halt. This complete abandonment of the clock could only compete with God. Lunches stretched for hours, siestas were mandatory until 5pm, dinner was taken, with children, at 10pm or 11pm and in August the whole country closed so that everyone could go on holiday. To satisfy my craving for all things water I pursued water ski-ing, wind surfing and lying around getting a tan. I learned the rudiments of the language and immersed myself in Spanish food expanding my culinary skills to include fish cooked on open fires and paellas to swoon over.
When I’d done with swooning, was good and brown and had had my fill of the Mediterranean life my biological clock began ticking and I was ready to pack up my tiny suitcase and snazzy duffel to head across the channel back to London to pick up where I’d left off, which was, well, not teaching!
The Look that Changed it All
I took a job at a car rental place near Victoria station, which landed me in the path of many American tourists. Somewhere among the crowds waiting for their cars, I was spotted by a blue eyed cowboy in a bright Hawaiian shirt. Tired of the stateside drawl I engaged my stiff upper lip and reluctantly upgraded his car from a Granada to an Ultimate Driving Machine (BMW Series 7) for three months and thought I’d seen the back of him. Not to be brushed off so easily, the handsome, blue-eyed Texan returned two weeks later to wash his UBM and secure a dinner date with me where he admitted to being smitten by love at first sight.
My trip to America was meant to be a short visit, just enough to get hitched and return to the buzz of London. Between rock and roll tours the handsome Texan met me at the airport and I was whisked away into the sunset. We set up home in the bible belt and my fortnight, which stretched to years, was spent working for Ticketmaster and adding to the census. After leaving Corporate America to stay at home for a bit, volunteer at the children’s schools and lead a life of joyful domesticity, a well heeled stranger crossed my path and persuaded me to join the homeschool movement while my children were still too young to object and hadn’t started shaving yet. I took up arms against a myth that homeschoolers were odd, surrendered my razor and embraced a lifestyle that celebrated family.
Mother of all Mothers
I became the mother of the year for allowing snakes to shed their skins in my bath-tub, teaching raccoons to swim in my pool, bottle feeding baby squirrels every three hours and encouraging abandoned opossums to cling upside down from my hands by their tails. In an attempt to reclaim my home for the human occupants I single handedly disposed of the snakes by airing them outside one afternoon under the brutal Texas sun. However, no amount of mesh, owls or bee-bee guns have discouraged the squirrels from returning to their nursery and preparing a home each winter for their young in ‘their’ chimney. Happily the raccoons and opossums graduated from a remote re-hab and live independently on their own back 40 somewhere deep in the heart of Texas.
With children under my feet every waking hour I insisted that they pursue one common activity at a time, indoors. Despite my fancy boarding school upbringing where my parents sent me for a better education while they hosted cocktail parties and were diplomatic over dinner I did not become a member of the jolly hockey sticks brigade as a girl, preferring to stay inside dancing, practicing piano, polishing my shoes and debating heatedly.
I chose gymnastics to blaze the trail and with it developed a resistance to crowded, chalk filled gyms, hard bleacher seats and the smell of sweaty gear. These skills stood me in good stead for the next indoor activity, ballet. I soon discovered that a dancer’s bag seriously challenges any other sports bag when it comes to odiferous stenches! With maturity came the final common activity, theatre. Grease paint and dust are the over-riding nasal ticklers here. I still volunteer, perform and work at the local community theatres in both Dallas and London.
For twenty some odd years Wildflower Academy, the one of a kind homeschool, flourished and my children graduated, went on to gain degrees from reputable colleges, forged lives for themselves (despite never once being chained to the kitchen table) and turned out just fine!
As mother to four digitally connected children through no fault of my own, I have been threatened witha variety of consequences: the confiscation of my books if I don’t text them on my way home; having to watch television for several hours if I can’t find time to chat when they show up unannounced or the creation of a Facebook account the next time they catch me sitting in my room alone. I thwarted all of these with my acquisition of an electronic device that allows me to manage my social media networks while appearing to be wasting time on line!
When I am not homeschooling, rushing around with my fellow American citizens, volunteering, walking the ancient woodlands in Beckenham or digitally occupied blogging at Boomering.org and for Vibrant Nation you’ll find me live on Fridays at 12 Noon CT or 6pm GMT on my weekly Internet radio show on Toginet,