Need your opinion please – I am thinking of changing this blog to a photography portfolio


My dear blog followers,

I would like to ask for your advice about the future of this blog and its “raison d’etre”. I am thinking to change it into a blog portfolio of my photography. This blog initially started as a place to write about a number of things: being an Albanian in London, becoming a parent and a mother, learning and practicing photography, writing etc. Perhaps too many things?

SO i am thinking of repurposing the blog to turn it into one single thing: a blog where i showcase my photography, a photography portfolio. The intention being to do more photography in 2017 and build a body of work by photographing friends and family and connections. Once i have practiced more and have a number of sessions under my belt, i could then start thinking about doing it more professionally with clients (and people i don’t know). I am also planning to take courses and learn more on the technical and other aspects of photography.

I would change the name of the blog to Laura Shimili Mears Photography (same as my Facebook photography page). I would also not have the current posts anymore (for which i feel a bit sorry but hey… they’ve been there for a long time now). I would change the domain name too, so the only thing that would be the same (hopefully) would be you.


So i have put together a simple poll to ask you to vote on whether you think changing this blog into a photography blog is a good idea and whether you would continue to follow me?

Please vote below, i would really appreciate your feedback to give me an indication of your acceptance of the change. Thank you all and sending you lots of love.

A Syrian Refugee Support Advent Calendar 2016


Chocolate advent calendars are not a tradition in Albania and I haven’t done them neither when I was a student in Paris. So they are a relatively new thing for me. I haven’t yet introduced them to my children and I am not sure I will anytime soon (I know of many grown ups trying to break away from constant chocolate desire).

Instead of the traditional chocolate calendar I have seen other examples of advent calendars with “acts of kindness” each day in December until Christmas day. I like the alternative ideas on the traditional take and I thought that I would write my own advent calendar in support of something that occupies my mind a lot at the moment.

In the face of the “worst humanitarian” crisis in Syria since WW2, I have been having a full range of emotions about the hundreds of thousands of children and people suffering from this dreadful conflict. Feelings going from extreme sadness, to despair, to feeling powerless and guilty and unable do anything to change the situation. I am sure so have felt many other people.

But one morning on the way to work I decided that instead of “feeling bad” and doing nothing, I would do something each day that can help or contribute in alleviating somehow the situation of innocent civilians trapped in a war between extremist factions of a divided society.

So here is my Syrian Refugees Support Advent calendar 2016 with some real examples of things we can do everyday to help a little. The situation is terrible and desperate for millions of people, and having a comfortable and peaceful life, feels like “the best and the worst thing” we could have whilst others cannot have.

https://adventmyfriend.com/25728/6ee72f87e1/

This is my list of actions:

1 – I decided to help Samara’s Aid Appeal, founded by Samara a mother from Brighton, in 2013 to supply Syrian refugees with items of clothing and shoes to keep warm while living in tents in the winter.

2 – I wrote to my MP Rosena Allin-Khan asking her to support the petition to airdrop aid to starved cities in Syria.

3 – I met with another mum from NappyValleyNet (our local online forum) to talk about solutions and doing things together to help refugees

4 – I dropped off our baby clothes and clothes from a friend at the Balham Vineyard Church in response to Samara’s Aid appeal December collection

5 – Attended Samara Levy’s address at the Balham Vineyard church to hear her talk about how she has set up Samara’s Aid Appeal and has done am amazing contribution for the past 3 years to desperate and vulnerable people in Syria and Irak.

6 – Made a donation to a local Syrian refugee fundraising event at the Tooting Tram and Social although we didn’t attend the event (hope it was fun 🙂

7 – Booked tickets to see Vanessa Redgrave film “Sea sorrow” on the refugee crisis at the Battersea Arts Centre. All ticket receipt will go to the UNHCR

8 –  Registered with Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees email address that updates on local initiatives and activities about helping refugees.

9 – Registered with Refugees at Home on Facebook and email address to register my interest to host refugees that could be matched to us in Tooting.

10 – Called the Foreign Office and wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson to support the safe passage of trapped civilians in Eastern Aleppo.

11 – Shared my activity on the NappyValleyNet forum where a number of local mums are discussing the issues around refugee crisis and how we can help.

12 – Made a donation to Syrian Refugees Blanket Fundraiser that is raising funds to buy blankets for Syrian refugees based in Jordan.

13 – Read about the Syrian conflict trying to understand the parties involved and especially who are the rebels and the Western countries foreign policy in the region in the last 20 years.

14 – Had a hard time sleeping after seeing photos of dead babies, and parents following the intensification of the war in Aleppo. I only calmed down after finding peace in sending prayers and thoughts to those affected.

15 – Called the Foreign Office and the Russian Embassy to make my concerns known about the current crisis.

16 – Helped load the lorry of donations for Samara’s Aid Appeal for Syria and Irak, from Balham Vineyard Church. 1200 packages were collected, next round will be in January.

17 – Considered joining a protest at the (empty) Syrian embassy in London but was confused about who was holding it and when (and didn’t go in the end).

18 – Went to the screening of Vanessa Redgrave’s Sea Sorrow with 2 Albanian friends and spoke in the audience and to organisers afterward looking for ways to do something more. This fundraiser raised £1.5k for UNHCR.

19 – Called Caras, a local charity in Tooting working with refugees and asylum seekers to become a volunteer with them.

20 – I called and wrote an email to a local councillor, Candida Jones who organised the Vanessa Redgrave screening at the Battersea Arts Centre about facilitating a mum’s friend application to foster a Syrian child (she was turned away from the council).

21 – Organised a meeting at work to start “Refugee conversations” with refugees and asylum seekers in our work offices to help with English and general social and cultural understanding.

22 – Donated to the DEC Yemen Crisis Appeal

Looking for an inspirational quote to conclude, “the Ripples of Hope” from Robert F. Kennedy seemed appropriate.

“Each time a man (and a woman I hope) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Urgent: Aleppo, a letter to Boris Johnson, U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs


Yesterday after the shocking reports of 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo i wrote this email to the foreign secretary (after calling and being advised to send my concern by email). 

This morning I was pleased to read that a deal had been agreed but unfortunately it wasn’t long and shelling started again. Seeing photos of dead babies, dead parents, bodies on the streets is filing me and so many of us with sadnes and despair. We are trying to do something, donate, help collect funds, contact MPs, the government but this is a war and the parties involved are not shocked or hurt by the thousands of deaths. What can we do? 

This has been such a traumatic period for these people but also us powerless outsiders who are not able to force our politicians to stand up to Putin, Assad and Iran and reverse a dreadful situation of a war that is killing hundreds of thousands of people. Politics has failed Aleppo abd this is so sad. 
To the attention of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, RT Hon Boris Johnson MP

Hi Mr Johnson, 

I called the Foreign Office this afternoon to make my concern known to yourselves about the situation in Syria. I have been informed by grass root organisations in Syria as well as the general media about the recent violent and deathly attacks on civil populations in Aleppo, perpetrated by the Syrian government forces in an attempt to control rebel-held areas of Eastern Aleppo.

We were warned by the UN of this coming attack last week, as something the Syrian government forces were intending to do in order to gain control of these areas before the change in administration in the US. There were several severe warnings by the UN but nothing was done. And here we are, one week later and people have been killed in their homes, on the spot as reported by the media today.

What has the UK government done to stop these attacks on civilian populations? What has the Foreign Secretary done to make sure innocents are protected?

Furthermore what are the Foreign Secretary’s plans to make sure these attacks don’t continue?

Grass root organisations in Syria are calling for a UN evacuation plan to secure safe passage 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo, including humanitarian workers. I understand that there is a UN plan to get, the trapped people out across the four kilometres of Western Aleppo to safety: with a few dozen buses and lorries people could be evacuated in twenty four hours. However, the international community needs to guarantee their safety.

I am writing to you today to make sure you contribute to this call and make sure a safe passage is provided for these people to flee their deaths.

They need all our support and help, this is a desperate situation in the face of which politicians and the UK government have failed to respond and engage. This will be a shameful legacy for you all.

I hope you can respond to this and help save thousands of lives, to survive in this dreadful conflict that has displaced millions and has caused world wide turmoil.  

2015 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Interviste me Fanfara Tiranen dhe Hysni Zelen pas koncertit te tyre ne Londer


Me siguri keni degjuar te flitet per Fanfara Tiranen. Si? Jo? Zgjohuni menjehere, keni humbur nje nga spektaklet me te bukur te muzikes shqiptare me miksim tingujsh tradicionale e moderne. Fanfara Tirana luan bashke me Transglobal Underground dhe pjese e grupit eshte edhe mjeshtri i muzikes popullore shqiptare Hysni Zela. 

Nese kerkoni ne Google emrin e tyre, do t’ju dale faqja Facebook a grupit me datat e koncerteve. Ata jane vazhdimisht ne turne  dhe se fundmi ishin ne Kine, ne veri te Anglise dhe me pas ne Londer. Shikoni daten me te afert dhe sigurohuni te zini vend per koncertin e ardhshem. Kercimi, vallja dhe hareja jane efektet kryesore që ju shkakton ky bashkepunim unikal. Ose blini albumin Kabatronics dhe shikoni videot ne YouTube.

Po cfare muzike luan Fanfara Tirana dhe Transglobal Underground?

Me nje pershkrim te shkurter, eshte muzike tradicionale e jugut te Shqiperise e miksuar me tinguj moderne. Disa kenge jane “Shege e kuqe”, “Xhixhile” te përziera me ritme elektronike, reggae dhe dub. Por ka dhe polifoni dhe hare dasmash.

Si dy zerat kryesore te grupit, Londinezi Tuup dhe mjeshtri i madh i këngës popullore Hysni Zela, mund të duken sikur nuk kanë asgjë të përbashkët por në skenë prodhojnë një harmoni perfekte, në sfondin e tingujve që vijnë nga anë të ndryshme të botës.

Pyetjes se si funksionon bashkimi midis dy rrymave muzikore kaq te ndryshme, Hysniu i pergjigjet:

“Me thoni ju se si ju duket bashkimi?” Fantastik eshte pergjigja e publikut.

Fuzioni midis tingujve të kabasë së Shqipërisë së jugut, klarinetës, perkusioneve dhe kitarës tradicionale indiane, tingëllon si një fuzion organik, ku të gjithë anëtarët e grupit luajnë në simbiozë. 

Por si u krijua bashkëpunimi unikal midis dy grupeve? 

Idenë e vuri në jetë Olsi Sulejmani, themelues i agjensisë World Music Management bazuar në Itali, i cili duke njohur muzikën e të dyja palëve, e drejtoi grupin londinez drejt grupit shqiptar. 

Prania e Hysni Zelës veshur me fustanelle te bardhe, qeleshe e papuce, i fton njerezit per fotografi si dhe pyetje e kureshtje pafund.

“Veshjet tradicionale janë pjesë e mrekullive tona”, thotë Hysniu. “Por mrekullia me e madhe  është polifonia”. 

Edhe pse në pension, Hysniu bashkepunon me Fanfaren. Pjese e procesit krijues per te eshte mbledhja e tingujve dhe e muzikes nëpër fshatra, pasi “kënga është në popull”, thotë ai.

Një anëtar tjeter i grupit Xhemal Murraj na tregon për pritjen e publikut anglez që ka qenë shumë e ngrohtë.

“Bashkëpunimi me një kulturë tjetër dhe një stil muzikor shumë të ndryshëm, ka qenë pa vështirësi”, thotë ai, gjë të cilën publiku e ndjen.

Ndërkohë muzikanti i Transglobal Underground, Tuup, e shijon bashkëpunimin me muzikantët shqiptarë. Në skenë ai kërcen duke ‘lëvizur lehtë shpatullat’, një mënyrë kërcimi karakteristike shqiptare dhe tregon se këtë  ‘e ka mesuar nga anëtarët e grupit’. 

Ai thotë, “3 cilësi i pëlqejnë më shumë te shqiptarët, respekti, ngrohtësia dhe vlerësimi i gjërave të mira ne jetë, ushqimi, pijet dhe prezenca femërore”.

Përballë një përzierje sa të çuditshme po dhe aq tërheqëse, publiku ndjehet i “çarmatosur” dhe nuk mund t’i rezistojë tingujve “ngjitës” që të bëjnë të hidhesh e të kërcesh. 

Kjo muzikë është një nga ambasadorët më të mirë të Shqipërisë jashtë vendit dhe si e tille meriton te gjithe mbeshtetjen dhe pelqimin tone.

Our long-waited home renovation project, 10 things we are looking at now


It has been since September last year that we have been waiting to get our hands on a house. The process of buying and selling in the UK is over complicated and unnecessarily long. So we were caught in it, waiting to complete the purchase of a house for 10 months. What holds the whole process up and makes it lengthy, is the concept and practice of a chain, a number of people buying/selling from each other. Instead of having a one to one transaction, in the UK you are bound to wait until everyone in the chain completes.

So with a lot of frustration and anxiety we went through the 10 months, worried every week that it would fall through. But in the end it didn’t and we got the lovely house we were waiting for.

Except that we can’t live in it straight away. The house needs a whole renovation. It hasn’t been changed probably since the 70s, it has had leaks, water marks and damage on the ceiling, the wooden floor is broken, the carpet is so old and has lost the fabric, wall paper is falling off and the paint is colourless. There is mould in the bathroom, the bath tub is broken, the shower’s side glass panels have been nibbled at the bottom. The kitchen is small, with cabinets that desperately need replacing. The garden is massively overgrown.

On top of the complete overhaul of the existing space, we are also going to extend in the loft and in the kitchen.

I have already got an idea of how I want the kitchen to be.

And ideally we’d love to fit 2 bedrooms in the loft extension and a small bathroom. We have parents visitin often and staying with us for a while, so that’d be the perfect space for them. And perhaps a small room for a study or the occasional au pair.

So what are the kinds of things we are going to focus on, in the initial stages of the project?

  1. The overall design of the house, including loft and kitchen extension. We have chosen an architect, she is very nice and she will be drawing the plans for us. We have to make a number of decisions there, about the use of space, the loft size, the details of the side extension, the opening from the kitchen into the garden. I will dedicate a separate blog to this as it’s such an important part of the works.
  2. The architect will finalise the plans and apply for a planning permission at the council.
  3. We had to clear up what was left behind by the previous owner, which was a lot of rubbish, toiletries and other more sentimental items such as a nursery report from 1984. The family who sold the house had lived in it for the last 40 years. Roger felt quite emotional when he read the nursery report, as we are at a similar stage of our lives with our older son just finishing nursery and starting school. And I felt emotional too when he told me about it. We used Junk Monkey, a company that takes your rubbish away. All done in one afternoon. 75 black bin bags, in total! And that is without the garden and a few more things, that could fill up a skip on their own.
  4. Next stage will be to get quotes from builders once we have the plans from the architect, so that the quotes can be precise.
  5. I am keen to include eco friendly features that are easy to incorporate and don’t cost a fortune. Solar panels, wall and roof insulation, smart energy reader and double glazed windows. I would also like to see if we can include, a rain water tank harvester but they require a lot of space and that might be an issue.
  6. Once we have had the quotes, have met the builders and have discussed our specs it will be the stage of choosing the builder. Such an important decision that can ‘make or break’ the whole project and experience.
  7. When we get to the stage of actually starting the works I will be so excited and pleased that we got there.
  8. While the builders do the works we need to have our shortlist ready for the next phase, kitchen appliances and fittings, kitchen tiles, bathroom fittings and tiles, wardrobes, flooring, wooden floor or carpet, colour paint for the walls. 
  9. Moving in – I don’t expect this to be before January next year but if it does, it will be a very good surprise for the start of the new year.
  10. Once we are in, we will have to finish the interior decoration but that is a stage I love taking the time for. I love browsing on eBay for second-hand items. I will have to get familiar with scrapyards that we can go to easily from London. And if there is any budget left, we might buy something new, if not it will have to wait.

We have done a renovation project before but it was very different as it was a flat and also we didn’t have children. This time, we have two of them and it will be harder but we are very excited about it!

This is during our first project, in our flat with the main builder.

This is during our first project, in our flat with the main builder.

What about you, have you any tips for things to consider at the initial stage of a home renovation project? Have I missed anything important?

Multitasking, is that really such a good ‘female skill’ to have?


Everyone today talks about the need to multitask, and the fact that in particular women are natural ‘good multi-taskers’.
In our post-modern, digital society, multitasking is ‘the way to go’.

1. Washing the dishes while supervising children’s dinner and cooking the meal for next day (yes I have done that in the past, with what I have called ‘tremendous speed’)

2. Taping on our smart phones while walking down the street (I see so many people do that, constantly, every day despite it being bloody dangerous!)

3. Checking on google maps for directions while pushing a buggy and frantically trying to hold a toddler in tow (me and many other mums do it regularly, trying to get to a playdate or birthday party in the middle of an unknown common)

4. Talking to family members on the landline while checking emails on the mobile (and loosing track of what is being talked about in the conversation; they didn’t notice, did they?)

5. Doing our online shop on the app, while finding recipes and ordering a gift for a 3rd birthday present (that’s called not wasting your time).

We make lists. We use apps. We work hard. We entertain ourselves. We read a lot (blog posts, social media updates, ebooks, books). We have a social and family life. We have kids. We commute. We write blogs. We take photographs. We have wider interests.

The list can be even longer, if I was to include the whole range of tasks I complete most days.

This is the kind of fast-paced life we live, where our attention is continuously divided between numerous tasks, presented to us in rapid succession and sometimes even simultaneously.

While women perform better than men at multitasking and prioritising in particular ‘in stressful situations’, as numerous studies have reported, women tend to downplay their multitasking abilities while men tend to overplay them.

However, the truth is that the more we multitask, the more we make mistakes.

Our brains are not that well equipped to deal with constant interruptions and distractions that take our attention away. It even seems to be counter-evolutionary.
My husband regularly reminds me that I am ‘putting too much on my list’, an inflationary process that ends up with some randomly selected items, dropping off my list. And the ‘to-do’ list becomes a ‘wish-list’. What was the point of the list, in the first place?

Concentrating and completing one task at the time, can sometimes be much more efficient than trying to do, three other things at the same time.

For example concentrating on pushing the buggy and holding the toddler in tow, without also holding the phone and causing it to fall and break (that would be a disaster, right?)

So in fact I think, multitasking can sometimes be unproductive, especially on competing tasks such as checking email while on a phone call or walking. But for certain tasks it can work, such as commuting and reading, or pushing the buggy and running.

Personally I am growing tired of multitasking. 

I am going to start scanning my lists for competing items, remove them from today’s list and add them on to a new list. This way I will end up with a number of lists, based on priorities, but at least, I will lead to completion one list at a time.

Good at multitasking? Maybe, not so much for me finally. How about you? Are you good at it? How do find the right balance?

Some visual examples

Multitasking, is that such a good 'female'

http://youbabymemummy.com/the-list/the-list-45/

http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-16th-july-2015/

My Little Star Is 1!


This is the first video on the blog. What a better occasion than my little boy’s 1st birthday!!!

He had the most incredible birth, in a relaxed environment at home, a great way to start a life’s journey.

He has been an amazing little baby to have and to cherish.

And now he is 1! He can walk, has 8 teeth, he can throw balls and he loves his brother, Edward.

This is a snapshot of Elliot’s last 6 months’ journey.

http://youbabymemummy.com/vlog/moving-pictures-3-home-movie-linky/

The devolution that matters for housing 


I have written another work related post, during the three days I attended the CIH housing conference. 

I have been going to the conference every year apart from last year, when I was heavily pregnant with Elliot. 

This year’s conference was by far the one I enjoyed the most, as I made good use of my time, going into sessions, writing 2 blogs for CIH, one quick news article for Inside Housing, took lots of notes to write other content. I also enjoyed the sessions, had chats with some delegates at the conference, met some of the exhibitors and enjoyed getting to know CIH’s staff in Coventry more. 

Here is the piece on housing and devolution, the hot housing topic in town. 

The devolution that matters for housing

This year’s general election reignited the debate surrounding the devolution of powers away from Westminster. CIH policy and practice officer Laura Shimili shares her thoughts on this divisive topic following Housing 2015’s masterclass session: ‘Is the UK on course for a break-up – and what impact for housing?’.

In recent months, the sealing of the Greater Manchester deal – and other potential city deals to follow in Leeds and Sheffield – has hit the headlines. Devolution has become another ‘hot topic’ and is much debated, perhaps most of all as a result of the Scottish referendum which, despite not achieving its intended objective, managed to give the Scottish independence legitimacy.

Read more

Why housing needs to be talked about by everyone?  


Housing became a political issue during the 2015 election campaign but it needs to get even bigger with the general public. 

The reason why people don’t talk about housing is because it sounds complicated and difficult to tackle. 

But it isn’t necessarily. Housing can be as simple as:

everyone needs a home 

we all need to be able to live somewhere we can afford

we all should be able to have some form of asset (housing is one of them) or skills that enables us to participate in the economic activity 

some people cannot afford rents or house prices and they look for help. They register with local authorities and wait for a long term to have a subsidised house 

some people can only afford a portion of their house and they look for a product such as shared ownership 

some people can afford to buy and they do 

a supply of different products and types of housing is needed to cater for all the different needs. 

So all these situations are about housing. Something that affects everyone. 

However not many people talk about it in these terms. 

The housing sector which is all the social landlords, including councils as landlords and all the people that are employed by them, together with housing charities, think tanks, pressure groups, social activists are passionate about housing. 

They are passionate because they believe in the purpose of their work. Which is to manage homes and communities and give their tenants, who need some help, support for a better life. 

The housing sector needs to talk passionately about housing outside the sector. 

“We want people to be enraged by the education issue”, said during the CIH Housing conference 2015, Jo Denye from Teach First. 

Teach First have managed to become the leading graduate recruiter in the UK in the last 12 years. They attract and retain talented, high flying graduates who want to give something back to the community. 

Housing needs to be able to talk to students about housing with passion and have a leadership programme in place for the talented students who want to make a contribution. 

The social and economic case is there. We just need to shout about it and have a strong offer and clear language in place for everyone. 

  

  

http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-25th-june-2015/ 

Why I love children’s birthday parties?


Since having children this has become an area where I feel my expertise is growing year after year. Although it can be tiring and stressful I enjoy the excitement in the build up to the party and the immense gratification when it is over. Phew, we don’t have to do this for another year!!!

But there are some really good things about children’s parties. I am not talking about the money you spend on them, neither the most impressive act you organise. My birthday parties are simple, in a venue or at home, with some music, entertainment and cake. And some crazy, excited kids. And they are the real stars of the show.

This is what I love about them.

1. You meet parents of the children, your child keeps talking about often

2. You compare notes with other parents (not that you need to..)

3. You gain new skills. I was the entertainer at my son’s latest birthday party with about 18 loud and screeching kids. I realised that I actually need to be louder to be heard, who would have thought that one?

4. You improve your skills in planning and organising

5. You create lovely memories

6. You get to invite your own friends and their kids

7. You give joy and receive a lot of it in return

8. There is always a star child, who is easy to talk to and ready to take part in activities

9. You give party bags, children adore them

10. Presents are so well thought and they always surprise me. They give me inspiration for presents and make my life easier when I have to choose.  Last year, when my son was 3 the presents opened new doors for us, puzzles and games. This year at 4, the new doors are, quite good fun, with action figures and all sorts of superheroes but I guess it is a phase…

Why I love children's birthday partiesWhat about you, is there anything in particular you enjoy when you organise a birthday party? Or when you are invited as a guest?

http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-17th-june-2015/

9 sure signs that you live in Britain


There are a few things which are definitely British, things that you are not likely to experience in other countries. As an Albanian expat living in London I have been through them, in the last seven years of my life.

1. You know for sure you live in the UK if you still cover yourself at night, with a duvet in the summer.

2. You call the summer season, summer, just because that’s what called generally, but you feel cold and you go to work wearing a blazer and a scarf. Something you also do in the autumn and in the spring, so where is the difference?

3. You wear lovely summer dresses with leggings. Leggings were invented for the British summer. You would not need them in the Albanian summer.

4. One particular British habit seems to cause uproar in among fellow Albanian expats, sending thank you cards. You send thank you cards after birthday parties, when you or your children receive presents, when you receive greeting cards or thank you cards. To which you respond with a thank you card. And then what happens to all these cards? The cards industry goes from strength to strength in Britain but it’s something we used to do during communism in Albania and people feel allergic to it.

5. The summer solstice (21 of June) is not celebrated in Britain. Well it is but only at Stonehenge by some disciples of the sun. It is one of the best things they do in France; they celebrate it as “la fete de la musique” with gigs in public squares with a jolly atmosphere, drinks and a lot of “camaraderie” (read friendships).

6. When you start fretting about your child’s success in life at the age of 4, is definitely a sign you live in the UK. That is the age when they start primary school and there are many, many studies that show a direct correlation between your child’s future profession and earnings and the school they attend, of course private schools, feature highest.

7. There is only one country in the world where people are so polite, they don’t tell you what they think. In all other countries, people die to tell you what they think. But not in Britain, you can try but you will never succeed and you will always wonder what people really think of you, for ever.

8. British people are so protective of their land that they have all sorts of planning rules that discourage building on land. So it’s only about 10% of land in England that is built on. On the other hand, they have one of the most expensive housing markets. No wonder as they don’t want to use their land for other things, other than leaving it empty.

9. Green spaces and lush countryside is another sure sign you are in the UK. It’s great for the eye and for recreation purposes but does create huge imbalances between those that own and those that don’t (see above)!

Have I missed any other definite signs that you live in the UK? Have you got any others I have missed?

9 Sure Signs You Live in Britain