So the biggest challenge of our impending move back to England was to find a school for daughter #3, who is at that awkward age when primary is turning to secondary, educationally speaking. If we'd known what lay ahead, I might never have accepted that posting back to London.
Expatriates in my position, it turns out, are faced with a perfect Catch-22. Most state-run British schools, especially the good ones, will not accept an application unless you have a local address. But you can't know where to live until you know what school your child will attend. The demand for the better schools is so frenzied, and the competition so over-heated, that late arrivals risk being consigned to the local equivalent of juvenile detention centres where they will be lucky if they are provided with a chair and a pencil.
The easiest way round this conundrum, of course, is a private fee-paying school. Easiest, that is, if you happen to be able to afford $50,000 a year, just so little Jimmy or Janet can learn Greek or Latin with the offspring of the stockbroking class.
Somewhere between these two extremes lurks a more manageable hybrid: a state-run school that also accepts fee-paying boarders at a not quite so exorbitant rate. There are very few of them, but they are often very good and one or two of them specialise in multilingual pupils with an international background. Anouk is bilingual, holds three passports, has crossed the Atlantic more than 35 times, and kids don't get much more international, background-wise.
So we applied to Hockerill Anglo-European College in Hertfordshire and received the forbidding news: we were well past all the application deadlines, and they already had something like 870 applicants for 75 places.
Somehow, mercifully, the Gods smiled on my pitiful pleading, and a surprise email duly arrived. If I could bring Anouk for an interview immediately, Hockerill might be able to offer her a place as a weekly boarder - (ie allowed to go home at weekends).
I could, they did, and she starts in September. I will have more to add about this later, but here's the happy child, imagining her English boarding school future: