Biting the bullet


I’m not really one to follow trends, I’m rubbish at knowing what’s cool, what’s not, I mostly stick with stuff I like and if it happens to be something that fits with the world’s view of cool then so be it.

Bullet journaling has really taken off – my former boss introduced us to the concept as a way of managing tasks about 18 months ago, but it didn’t really click for me.  For the uninitiated it’s a system of organizing your time, tasks, activities; it’s a to-do list, a diary, a sketchpad, notebook, pretty much everything you can think of and want it to be.  When Jess told us about it it was not really something I needed.  My job was running the cafe and so making plans of what I needed to do took a back seat to actually doing it, but now things are different.

I’ve now got two jobs, volunteering and am attempting to make stuff and have a small social life too.  I work from a small diary to keep track of which job I’m meant to be at when, but now that doesn’t seem to be enough.

At the start of this year, Genevieve at job no. 2 showed me the start of her bullet journal and this, coupled with the fact that I’d got a Paperchase voucher, meant that of course I needed to give it a go because I’m a sucker for new stationary.

An aside: 

Do you still get the urge to rush out to WHSmith’s every September to get new notebooks, ring binders, pens and geometry set?  I really do.  I’ve been out of the education system for 11 years, but every new academic year I feel that longing to get new stuff ready for the start of school or university, as though the old stuff just won’t cut it any more, I’ve chewed through all the pens and pencils, notebooks lie forlornly half filled with ideas and snippets.  I don’t even really need a geometry set anymore, it’s very rare that I can put to good use my set square or protractor.  I couldn’t even remember the name of the protractor, I’ve actually had to just look it up in order to write this, but I know I want, no need, a new one each Autumn.  I know I’ve been conditioned to feel this way, in the same manner that while watching ‘Bake Off’ I’ll find myself suddenly with a mixing bowl in my lap, creaming butter and sugar together without really having realised it….  September for me is changing leaves, conkers shiny shoes and needing to give myself a restraining order for a stationary store.

I started gathering the stationary bits from around my room – collecting the coloured pencils, pens, a mini ruler and bought myself a blank notebook with dots instead of lines and then my mind went blank.  What should I include? What should I write? What would be useful? Can I fit in time to fill it in?  Then I stalled for a week.

Desperate for inspiration I signed up for the official newsletter, I fell into the twin rabbit holes of Buzzfeed and Pinterest – gorgeous pictures of layouts with fancy fonts, doodles, weekly and monthly trackers… It all seemed a bit beyond me.

Some of the ideas from Pinterest

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Back to business…


I last posted in September with big plans for streamlining the blog, actually writing something for a change but then I got confused and distracted.  Writing just didn’t seem to be high on my list of priorities, but some things have happened and I’ve got a new love  and enthusiasm for it.

So firstly, I got two part time jobs, one in Meadowhall and the other at Sheffield University Student’s Union.  They couldn’t be more different, but I’m working with lovely people at both, I have a relatively steady, but meagre, income and I’m feeling happy again.  I’ve also been making some of the felt pictures, more on that in a later post, and trying to build myself a social life again after becoming a relative hermit from habit and poverty.  As part of my self care, building my social life and getting out doing fun things more…

…let me introduce you to The Sparkle Dress:

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The Sparkle Dress was something I saw online one day in September but couldn’t think of obtaining.  I got a job and The Sparkle dress became something I gazed at as I walked past Simply Be on my way to work.  The Sparkle Dress called to me because it had all the colours of my hair.  The Sparkle Dress was something I couldn’t afford because I had to pay for other, less frivolous things, like rent and food and travel to work and Netflix.

 

I bought it on sale, no refunds because it was a bit broken (something I could easily stitch up.  It made me so happy to get it and wear it to Christmas.  At Christmas I got a ticket for Greg Davies’ show ‘You Magnificent Beast’ as a present – thanks Liz and Richard.  I decided that the Sparkle Dress should not just be worn once, but should be worn out and where better to dress as a giant glitter ball from G.A.Y. than a show called ‘You Magnificent Beast’?

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Step back in time…


Ok, so I should admit that I’ve just googled myself. It’s not big, it’s not clever, it’s not something I’m proud of but I’d just seen a facebook post from my cousin Iona who had cut her own fringe and it reminded me of something I’d once written about cutting my own hair with kitchen scissors.

I can remember doing it, sat in my bedroom, 39 Curtis Road, Newcastle, with its rag rolled golden walls with one brown striped wallpapered room before one wall of wallpaper was cool. I’d propped the mirror up on my desk and started cutting in some layers and hoping for the best. I did a similar thing about 2 weeks ago – my graduated bob grew out about 3 months ago and the African sun combined with bleach and repeated coverings of red hair dye had left the ends frazzled. I had wanted a professional hairdresser to fix it but couldn’t get hold of her so one Saturday afternoon, whilst avoiding doing some actual work I switched on the bathroom light, took the kitchen scissors in my hand and started to hack away. The result wasn’t that bad.

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An aside to promote various friends…


A blog.  To be honest, I never thought I’d write one.

But then one afternoon, bored at work and obviously being highly productive, I spotted an advert for a teaching job in St Vincent and the Grenadines.  A tiny island with 2000 inhabitants was looking for a vaguely musical teacher for its primary school with 15 children.  I decided to apply as the worst that could happen would be that they didn’t reply at all to my covering letter and CV.  Scanning down the other international jobs (I’d had no luck finding teaching work in Newcastle after all) I thought to myself that I could take the shotgun approach. Fire off one generic covering letter (lightly tailored to fit the region/school I was applying to) to as many interesting looking places in one go and see what happened.  So I did.  I applied for 22 jobs around the world including Santiago, Prague, Hong Kong, Valencia, Madrid, Milan, Budapest, Rome, Moscow and Mwanza.

And then I waited.  And waited.

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One week.


There are things that I really hate doing sometimes. I hate washing up if it’s hot outside. I hate running. I hate feeling like I’m not in control. I hate having to walk dogs – it really stresses me out after a bad experience when I was little, I hate writing job applications. And I really hate asking people for money that they owe me. I’m now in my last week in England for a while and I still have lots to do. I’ve got a shopping list of about 20 things I still need to get but I’m running low on cash.

My ex boyfriend has had plenty of warning of when I would need the money by and he’s been off work (his choice, not sickness) and so hasn’t really got it to give to me. I’m getting paid a little from my old job, but not until I’ve gone. I’m getting some money from the school, but not until I’m there. I don’t want to borrow more money from friends or family that I’m not going to be in a position to pay back for a while when he knew he had to get this money to me.

It’s making my last week really stressful. I’ve got family to visit, packing to do. I’m not sure if I’ve got to much stuff for my weight allowance, I’m coming to terms with the idea that I’ve seen my grandmother for the last time (she’s 99 and ¾, so that’s not just being pessimistic, it’s a very strong likelihood), that I’m going to miss a big chunk of my nieces’ and nephews’ lives, that my dad needs more support than he is willing to admit and I’m leaving my siblings to sort that out without me, that I may not have the opportunity to go to my best friend’s wedding, that I’m heading to somewhere that is completely alien with no one I know and now I feel guilty because I’ve told my ex boyfriend’s mum that he owes me lots of money and would she be able to help out?

I know that he’s been trying to pay me the money and he has given me some of it, but I had budgeted for him giving me the rest, as he said he would. And now that’s gone wrong and I’m not in control of what I need to be. As I mentioned before I hate that. His mum is probably going to help out and then I don’t have to worry about it any more, but I still feel guilty, like I’ve betrayed him by telling her.

I also feel guilty that I’m storing lots of stuff at my mum’s house and so it’s a bit chaotic for her at the moment. I know she doesn’t really mind too much and she now has access to a substantial DVD collection, but when you move 9 years of your life into boxes in cupboards, you can’t help but feel that you are infringing on someone else’s life.

There have been some positives in this past week – I’ve spent time with one neice and nephew and am going to see the others on Tuesday, I’ve had a good day with the ancient grandmother – she recognised me, looked highly irritated when I suggested she was 120, told her everybody’s news and she told me she loved me before I left. I’ve started the ball rolling for the support for dad (with the help of some of his very lovely friends) and he’s already sounding better than he did before and apparently feeling so. I’ve spent a lovely day with the best friend who I’ve not seen for a stupid amount of time and it was like no time has passed. I’ve even given her some centre piece ideas for the wedding and have called upon a standby date for the wedding in case I can get back over for it. I’ve been to my little brother’s housewarming bbq, made some chocolate orange brownies, seen a shooting star and looked after some chickens. I’ve also been in touch with three of the other teachers who will be in Tanzania with me, so hopefully that will ease the way.

Next week I’ll see more relatives, hopefully some school friends and finish packing. Then seven days from now, I’ll be heading to Heathrow, freaking out a fair bit no doubt, taking travel sickness tablets and wondering what on earth I’ve let myself in for.

Something’s Coming.


Something’s coming.

It’s my last Friday in my current job, we are having a paper aeroplane contest in honour of the Olympics and I have built a cracker.  Preliminary tests showed it to be a good flyer, with a slight tendency to curve to the left after about 12 feet.  Since the initial testing phase I have given it a decorative all blue Union Jack design, but I think this may have compromised the aerodynamics a little.

I’m feeling a little bit odd at the moment.  I had a health scare earlier in the year and yesterday went for my 6 month check up.  Although they said everything looked fine there were a couple areas they biopsied to be sure, since I’m going away.  I’m not too bothered about that to be honest, I’m sure it’s all fine but it’s just another thing to add to the list of current unknowns.  For example, I know I’m being booked 3 suitcases for my flight but I don’t know anything about the size of bags or total weight I’m allowed, whether one of those counts as hand luggage.  I know I need a visa to travel, but I don’t know how to get this yet.  I know that my ex boyfriend owes me a fair amount of money that would cover a lot of things, like my anti-malarial tablets, but I don’t know if he’s going to pay me any time soon.  I know that I need to finish packing, but I don’t know when I’m going to get the motivation to do that.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I’ve got a day off tomorrow, Sunday morning and a whole day on Wednesday, but I do have a lot of stuff and I’m not sure that I want to keep it all.

The unknown that is going to be revealed soon enough is my surprise leaving party – yes I know you’re probably thinking that it’s not a surprise if I know it’s happening, but other than the fact that I’m getting collected at 7.15 this evening and delivered to the venue, I don’t know much else.  I’ve bought some fake nails to try out (mine are bitten down to an almost embarrassing length, a habit I’m yet to break even after that rank tasting nail varnish that’s meant to put you off – I started biting the skin around the nails instead and so thought the nails were the lesser of two evils at that point.)  Never had fake nails before or nails of a normal length so it might be a bit odd. Still, thought I should make an effort as people are making an effort for a party for me.  I know 6 people are going.  Hopefully we can push it to 10!

I think the oddest thing is that I’m starting to feel the same way I did this time 9 years ago – I’d been accepted on the Newcastle University Folk Degree roughly a month before and it had suddenly dawned on me that I was leaving the home I had lived in for 16 years and the area that I’d lived in all my life.  It wasn’t happening the way I’d planned, I was planning on working for another year, then travelling for a year before heading off to university, but then circumstances changed – I’ll leave that story for now in case I need to get £500 for my story from a weekly woman’s magazine – and suddenly I was heading north.

It wasn’t the thought of leaving my family all those years ago, but more the fear of being found to be a fraud.  I’d had a good group of close friends at school and had been friends with quite a few others in different groups, but somehow I always felt like I was on the outside looking in.  Also, I was joining a course for a type of music I loved, but didn’t really know a lot about.  What if I was laughed off the course? What if I didn’t make any friends?  I’ve got the same concerns now I suppose.  I’ve been out of the classroom for a while and although I know I’ll be good at the job, it’s big thing to start with a new class, in a new school, a week after I arrive in the country 4500miles (ish) from home? I’m sharing with someone new – my 17th flatmate in 9 years – what if we don’t get on?  What if the school decides after a term that they’ve made a horrendous mistake and send me home?

I know that these worries are probably unfounded but as I spend 6 more days in my adopted city I can’t help but ahve them playing on my mind.

Still, loads of entertaining things have happened in the last few weeks, won the pub quiz twice, been to Olympic football matches – Mexico vs. South Korea, Gabon vs. Switzerland – seen an amazing production of Julius Ceasar by the RSC, developed a crush on Tim Roth (don’t judge), been given a lock by a stranger so that I ‘don’t get the AIDS’, been to see the Dark Knight Rises, been to see my friend perfoming at a local gig – Kate Edwards, look her up, you’ll be impressed – watched lots of sports on the TV and soon I’ll be off to the ball.  Or something. And I bought a hat.

How did we get there from here.


This year has been somewhat of a trial.  I qualified as a teacher last June and although I applied for a few full time teaching positions I wasn’t keen to take one on immediately.  The PGCE has been one of the most difficult years of my life – as I’d been warned – but this hadn’t been helped by having a turbulent personal life.  I probably should have taken the hint when I was dumped on my first day at university, but after a few weeks we worked things out knowing that things weren’t going to last forever.  I’d found out that I’d been cheated on, I lived 250 miles away from my family, most of my university friends had moved away and I’d drifted out of touch with others because of three years of anti-social shift work.

I spent 9 months getting up at 6am, going to university or school, working solidly until 10pm, letting myself watch a couple of TV shows and then off to bed at midnight.  I worked nearly every weekend and holiday between September and June.  My boyfriend was by no means perfect but was someone who I could mostly rely on to keep me going.  By the time I came round to applying for jobs I was burnt out and unhappy at home.  I’m not saying any of this because I want to portray myself as a martyr, many others were in the same boat with difficult circumstances, but just to give a sense that it’s an exhausting thing to do.  Grey’s Anatomy and Community were my lifelines and may well continue to be.

Luckily, during that time I did have my part time job as a careers adviser that kept me in touch with other people, gave me an escape from the simmering tensions at home and gave me some spending money.  After a couple of unsuccessful interviews I decided to sign up for teaching agencies and stay with my current job until a teaching position came up.  When September came there was not a lot of supply so I opted to go full time again with the careers advice. 

By December I’d still not had any supply work and I’d come to the realisation that my relationship was pretty much over after nearly 3 years.  It was something that I’d known for a long time, but hadn’t been brave enough to voice, mainly because I didn’t think I could manage financially without his support and also because I’ve never been on my own before.  I’m 28, I’m the third of five children and in the last 9 years since starting my first degree I’ve lived with 16 people.  I’m not really used to my own company. 

Making the decision to end things was actually quite liberating.  Although we continued living together in a one bedroom flat for about 6 months, he’s been on a lot of night shifts so I’ve had more time to myself. Had I not spent the last couple of years mostly being miserable then I probably wouldn’t have developed the confidence to apply outside the UK.  I probably also wouldn’t have discovered that the lyrics to the Umbongo song fit pretty well to the tune of Rolling in the Deep (try it) or remembered that my Heather Small impression isn’t too bad.

It starts.


My phone pinged its ‘message’ tone (craftily stolen from the postman in Don’t Be a Menace..) alerting me to an email. Expecting another update from the Trainline pointing out how amazingly expensive it would be to visit my family, or Travelodge highlighting that they are the only hotel chain I can afford, I sighed and checked the inbox. Instead of these, I found an email from one of the schools I’d applied to at ten to midnight two days before saying that they were very interested in taking my application further and would I like to set up a Skype interview?

Now I’d never used Skype before, but on that Thursday I had two interviews – the first with Mwanza, the second with Valencia.  I hastily tidied the section of room behind me that could be viewed by the camera and waited for the bing to let me know they were calling.  To be honest, I needn’t have bothered ‘cleaning’ as the connection was crackling and I sounded like a robot so we had to scrap the video and then the phone conversation and just resort to land lines instead.  The interview with Valencia was a bit more successful with a stop start video thing going on, but when I was asked if I would accept the job I tentatively said yes, thinking I’d really rather go to Africa.

Thinking back, the bad line may have been a result of the triple storm that hit Newcastle that night, our entrance hall was quite flooded but I’m on the third floor so all good.  I would hear from both on Friday, so I had to keep myself busy.  I bought a book and finished it that day – Private London if you’re interested – I went for Jack Daniels shrimp for the first time in about 4 years and I sat in the bath, avoiding my phone.  When I decided I would venture out, influenced highly by the shrivelling of my feet I found the message – ‘you came across extremely well and we would like to offer you the job’ from the Tanzanian school.

I can’t deny it, I actually gave a smallish squeal and then my feet did what my younger brother refers to as ‘happy feet’.  I did want to accept straight away but thought I should probably ring my mum first to warn her that I was leaving the continent for two years and would she like to look after some of my stuff please?  So I emailed back ‘yes please’, probably a fraction more elegant, but not much, and started sending out over excited text messages.