Read on…


Thought I may as well take an opportunity to let you know about some other blogs written by people I know, all about different things, so hopefully something for everyone.   And this is almost exactly a year after the last blog promotion post…
http://talesfromaotearoa.blogspot.co.nz/ – A new blog, just beginning about moving to New Zealand.
http://thecyclingmummy.wordpress.com/  – Stories of parenthood and life from Emma.
http://emmainmwanza.wordpress.com/  
http://suzieinmwanza.wordpress.com/
http://dartfordtomwanza.blogspot.com/   – life in Tanzania
http://thesecretworldofmrsmac.wordpress.com/ – A friend who found she had a bad smear, but it’s all worked out alright now…
http://sunshinysarah.wordpress.com/ – Sarah’s got some news!!
http://tophatandlace.wordpress.com – A blog about planning a wedding.
Let me know what you think!
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I want to explore the light


I think in general I have pretty good instincts but I am pretty crap at acting upon them.  I’ll give you a few examples:

I thought I should have left my job at the homeless hostel within about 6 months of starting there.  But I thought I would be letting people down or that it might not look good on my CV if I was only in a job for 6 months.

After a year with my ex boyfriend I thought that things weren’t working and that I should leave but various things had led me to think I wasn’t strong enough to cope on my own.  So I stayed and he made me miserable and I tried to make him happy but couldn’t.  I stayed for 2 years and for that whole time he was cheating on me.

The week before I moved here I went to visit my dad and told him that he needed to start looking after himself because I wasn’t coming back for 2 years and I didn’t want this visit to be the last time I saw my dad alive.  He thought I was being ridiculous but we still talked about things like wills and getting his important paperwork sorted out.  I don’t know why I said that to him in the glow of a summer afternoon’s sunshine but I just knew somehow that I needed to because my instincts told me he wasn’t well.  And two weeks later his doctor’s visit told him he had terminal cancer.  Four weeks and 3 days later he was dead and that visit had been the last time I saw my dad alive in any real sense.  Of course I saw him for the two days before he died in his hospice bed but by that time he was not really recognisable as my father – the person who told me that I should say ‘May I get down from the table?’ rather than ‘Can I get down from the table?’, the person who would push me on the swing and let me push off his tummy with both feet just to get higher, the person who kept a text message from me saying ‘I love penguins I do’ on his phone for 4 years because it made him giggle.

So I think I know somehow when I need to change things but mostly I’m too afraid to do so because I don’t want to let other people down or disappoint anyone.  But I’m 29 now.  I don’t want to be living to please others and keeping on to see if it will be alright when I know deep down somewhere that it won’t.  And so I’ve come to a decision.

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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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Begin the Begin


“Fresh starts: thanks to the calendar they happen every year —just set your watch to January, our reward for surviving the holiday season is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of new years resolutions, put your past behind you and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance of a new beginning, a chance to put the problems of last year to bed.”

Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy [2.13]

It’s nearly the end of the year, very soon I will be by a beach overlooking the Indian Ocean and so many things have changed.  The Mayans thought the world would end today.  They were wrong but for me, this year, a good many things have ended.

The first, in January, was a three year relationship, I thought that we would get married (mainly because he said we would), I thought that we would have children and that I would live in a cottage somewhere in the North East (he said all that too…).  Last December I sat at my sister’s and then at my brother’s playing with their children and decided that enough was enough.  Enough making do with someone who couldn’t look after himself, enough hoping that if I was supportive and patient that things would pay off and we would be happy.  Enough of being afraid that I couldn’t cope on my own without him, despite him dragging me down gradually with him. So I told him that this was it and he agreed.

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“…you were born in a merry hour…”


“No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born…”

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations.  I think it’s a very accessible way of seeing Shakespeare, which I started seeing live on my 12th birthday.  Yes, it’s a bit far fetched that Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves are brothers and Keanu’s not really worked on his acting, but Michael Keaton is a joy as Dogberry and it has a great pairing of Beatrice and Benedick in Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.  The characters just spark off each other from the beginning of the play/film, trading insults and quips, with equal levels of intelligence. They deceive themselves in thinking that they don’t care anything for each other, but after being tricked by their friends they have an open and honest declaration of their feelings and have one of the strongest relationships in Shakespeare’s plays.  (Sorry to anyone who has actually studied literature, I just really like Shakespeare and that’s my understanding of it, feel free to correct me in the comments….)

Growing up I saw these films and plays, I read books and imagined that one day I would meet someone  like Jo Marsh meets Professor Bhaer, Beatrice and Benedick, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley, you get the picture.  Basically someone who gets me, can put up with my nonsense and give back as good as they get from me.  Someone who I feel completely comfortable with and can just be myself.

Now I know someone like that, in fact my Mum even said he was my Mr Knightley, and I’ve loved him for years.  With all that’s been going on I thought it was about time to tell him, because he might feel the same, or he might not, either way I would know and could either give it a go with him (not sure how that would work in separate continents) or let it go and find someone equally marvellous but who wanted to be with me.  So I told him, I wrote a letter.

I was very stressed waiting for a reply – never post something important over a weekend, it just drags out nervousness – but when I got one, well, it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for but it was good to hear.  Not sure why I was worried really, I knew that he would be really good about it and reply in a way that wouldn’t hurt my feelings.  So, yes, it doesn’t seem like my life is going to be working out as it does for literary heroines, but there you go, it rarely does.  I’ll just have to keep reading things with a pinch of salt and remember that reality isn’t always so neatly plotted – happy ever afters don’t just drop by, you’ve got to make some choices to help you find your own, but if you don’t try you’ll never succeed.  So I tried and it didn’t quite work, but I’m glad that I did.  I’m now back in touch with a really good friend and don’t have to be trying to hide how I feel (apparently I wasn’t so successful in that anyway because he already knew.  Balls)  I know he’ll always be there if I need him and life is much better with him in it, whether we are a couple or not.

So that’s that then, and in 5 days I go back to Africa.  These past five weeks have been a huge mixture of emotions, but I’ve got normal life to get back to…

(For those of you wondering, I know I would be, I let him read this before publishing it, it seemed only fair.  His only comment to add was: “You should mention that I was wowed by your paella.  I certainly was.” So there you have it.)

Travelling in time


I’ve come to my grandmother’s house to clean up before my aunt gets here tomorrow; I pressed play on my ipod – there’s 7144 tracks ont here at the moment (I really should get some more) and the first that came up was this song by Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts .  Jamie is the little brother of Kathryn Roberts that I linked to earlier in this blog, talented family.

Travelling in Time:

I wandered off today, back to the house we lived in then, the sound of voices play, the children are young 5, 8 and 10.

The rooms seem darker to me, but everyone else says they can see fine, shapes are all I can see, your voice calls me back to present day time.

It seemed to fit with what I’m doing.  I’m picking up some cds I loaned to Dad, pinching back the DVD The West that I gave him, and getting rid of the mess I made staying here last week.  It doesn’t seem fair for my aunt to come here to come to say goodbye to her brother and mother with some of my washing up still here.

It’s a different house now.  It has been in our family for 80 years or so – I think my great-grandmother lived here, my great-uncle, great-aunt, my grandmother moved here after her husband died 38 years ago, my dad moved in 9 years ago after he and mum split up.  The house will be sold now, maybe it will stay with another family for as long, but more likely someone will buy it and  build something in the garden, sell it for much more.  I don’t want to stay here now, it was fine when I was staying to visit dad, my cat was here, but now the cat has gone to live with my oldest brother and his family, so nothing living is here now.  It still has its familiar books and pictures, models that dad made, plates, pencils that went towards Gaggy’s collection.

I know that this seems morbid or melancholic, but I don’t think it is really.  People are what makes something or somewhere make you feel like you belong.  I’ve been very lucky, I’ve lived with 18 people in the last 9 years and I’ve felt at home nearly everywhere I’ve been.  I’ve had a good week – I’ve been singing with my old choir, I’ve sat in on some lessons at my old school to see the sorts of things I should be doing when I get back to Tanzania, I’ve bumped into people I’ve not seen for years.  Although I can’t picture myself ever living permanently in Northamptonshire or even in England for quite a while, it’s good to know I can fit back in relatively easily.  And I know I’ll fit back in Tanzania when I go back there.

It’s been interesting watching people since I’ve been back because I’m the only one on my own – in some respects that gives me a fair bit of freedom because I can decide what I want to do without having to co-ordinate plans with someone else, or think about what they want to do.  It’s good to be a bit selfish sometimes.  But it’s also good to see people being able to support each other, being happy, doing silly little things together, I do miss that a bit but for now, it’s just me on my own and it’s time for that.  I’ve completely lost my train of thought now and should probably get back to cleaning things up…

Burt Bacharach and Hal David put it well, Ella Fitzgerald sings it best

(Although, I don’t think you have to have a man around to make your house a home, but that’s not the point of the song.)

Leaving on a jetplane


Two weeks ago I arrived in Mwanza.

I had spent two weeks visiting family and friends, didn’t get to see all of them unfortunately, but still managed a fair few.

My flight from Heathrow was leaving at 19.20, Mum wanted to be there in plenty of time so after bacon sandwiches with my sister, niece and nephew, we set of at 11am.  That should have given us a fair bit of time, but there was a large accident on the M40.  At this point we realised we had no map so called my step-dad for an alternative route, which actually took us an hour and looped us back to where we began again.  Mum found a garage that sold a map of the whole country, not just Milton Keynes or Oxford and we made our way down arriving at 2pm.

Unfortuntely we couldn’t check in my bags until 4.30ish so we stopped for a cheapish 3 course lunch and waited for check in to open.  The night before I had packed and repacked my bags hoping to get them all within the allowed 23kg weight and when we finally got them through to the conveyor belt with built in scales it seemed I had managed to get them about right.  I had left behind most of my teaching books, and I realised later most of my clothes, but who needs them anyway?  I gave Mum a hug and we both managed not to cry as I went through security.

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Because I had tried not to put too many valuables in my hold luggage, my hand luggage was packed with a computer, two hard drives, a jewellery box, torch (not sure why) and spare clothes.  It didn’t make it through the scanner and had to be searched by a Portuguese security man who said it was just because it was so full that it looked dodgy on the scan.  He asked if I minded him searching it then kept apologising when he pulled out pairs of spare pants (clean of course).  With that over I set off through the terminal to meet another new teacher, Suzie.  She said she would wait by Accessorize and I said I was wearing a spotty top.  We managed to find each other within 2 minutes, which was rather handy.

Over the course of the next few hours waiting to board the plane we found a few more new teachers and watched as the storm I had spotted when I arrived moved closer and closer, eventually enveloping the airport.  It was only after we had boarded the plane that the pilot announced that we would be delayed for take off by one and a half to two hours.  Not too much of a problem – I played peepo with the small child in the seat in front.

I didn’t sleep much on the plane.  It got too hot, but I watched ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ which has confirmed my belief that I should be Judi Dench when I grow up.  Or Bill Nighy.  Either would be fine.

When we arrived at Dar es Salaam I managed to take a couple of pictures of the Indian Ocean from the window of the plane…

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and then waited in a gaggle of people for my entry visa.  I was sat at the back of the plane whereas all the others were up the front together and so I met the others we collected on the way.  We now consisted of Suzie, Emma, Emma, Vicki, Phil and Joe.  As we gathered our mountainous luggage, went through the next section of security and queued for an age to check in for our connecting flight we met Sandy and Vlad – Sandy is teaching art and Vlad is a pilot – and Stephan the new French teacher.  We had some minor hassles with weight limits and language barriers, but soon we were sitting waiting for our flight to Mwanza that was delayed by two hours.  Not a problem.  Time to get chatting, have a drink and eat chips with hot sauce.

 

Eventually our plane came and we were flying again, this time with complementary cake and a brochure outlining Mwanza’s night life options.  When we arrived we were greeted by a selection of the school staff and driven to our new homes.

 

Limbo


I’ve started my anti-malarials.  So far, no side effects, which is good, but they are likely to make me feel nauseous, more sensitive to the sun and all sorts of other fun things.  So essentially I’m moving to the sun and taking medication that will turn me into a vampire. 

I’ve nearly packed – two suitcases of clothes, books, toiletries, dvds, shoes, staplers, staples, snap cards, hand blender, etc. and one more to fill with vitamin tablets, sunblock, stationary and pictures.  Little gifts that have come from my chims at work – Hello! – are going in there too.  I think I may have to repack some clothes to pad it out a little and take some of the rattling about out of it.

We’re leaving at 12 tomorrow for my 19.20 flight, better to be there waiting than in a queue on the M25 waiting.  Not sure how my mum is doing with all this going on, she’s storing all my stuff and driving me down, but my little brother is already trying to claim the dvd collection. Git. He’ll soon find that I’m actually taking all the good ones with me and leaving the empty cases for him to cry over.

It’s been less stressful, the irritating ex *finally* gave me some money today, so that’s my US dollars sorted.  Family members have also donated some so I now have a waterproof jacket, batteries for my torch for when the power cuts out and 6 bottles of sunblock.  Ta very much to them.

Not sure how I’m feeling about things at the moment, I think I just need things to be done now.  I’ve visited people, but not enough of them, I’m missing a festival that I’ve been going to since I picked up my GCSE results 12 years ago – Towersey Village Festival if you’re interested, it’s good, go next year if you can – and I’m feeling like I’m in limbo.

The next one of these I’ll write I’ll probably be sunburnt. I’ve got some Aloe Vera so don’t worry.

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.

Wide Open Spaces


Sometimes in my current job we have a bit of quiet time and have to entertain ourselves with questions and games. 

A recent question that was set was ‘What song would you use to sum up your life or personality?’  Most people struggled to think of one, but mine sprung to mind straight away.  I’ll post the lyrics below:

Taking the Long Way Around
 
My friends from high school married their high school boyfriends.
Moved into houses in the same ZIP codes where their parents live
But I, I could never follow. No I, I could never follow.
I hit the highway in a pink RV with stars on the ceiling.
Lived like a gypsy, six strong hands on the steering wheel.
I’ve been a long time gone now maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
But I’ve always found my way somehow
By takin’ the long way. Takin’ the long way around.
 
I met the queen of whatever, drank with the Irish and smoked with the hippies.
Moved with the shakers, wouldn’t kiss all the asses that they told me to
No I, I could never follow.  No I, I could never follow.
It’s been two long years now since the top of the world came crashing down
And I’m getting’ it back on the road now
But I’m takin’ the long way, takin’ the long way around.
 
Well I fought with a stranger and I met myself
I opened my mouth and I heard myself
It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself
Guess I could have made it easier on myself
But I, I could never follow. No I, I could never follow
Well I never seem to do it like anybody else maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
If you ever want to find me I can still be found
Takin’ the long way, takin’ the long way around
 
The Dixie Chicks
 
 
When I first heard this song it reminded me of a conversation I had in a pub with my best friend from school in 2004.
I was 20 and had gone home for Easter.  I’d met up with Clare and other friends and we were discussing what we wanted from our lives.  I had a plan (as people tend to do at 20ish) of what the next ten years would probably bring.  I would be 23 by the time I finished my degree, I would work and take a part time Masters in Music and Education, train as a primary teacher, work for a few years and hopefully start having kids at about 30. 
Clare baulked at this idea, saying 30 was pretty old to start having kids, she wanted one as soon as possible.  My mum had me at 30, although her first child was when she was 21 and the 5th at 34, so 30ish seemed a good time to get going.  We were at different stages in our lives – Clare had been working since she left school, was settled with her boyfriend and either had just, or was just about to, buy a flat.  I was part way through my first year of university and had almost had a relationship with someone who liked to dress as an elf.
 
Eight years on from that night in the pub and Clare has a lovely little boy, has been married to that boyfriend for about 6 years and is still very settled.  I finished the folk degree, started the masters, dropped out because I didn’t get a job I was relying on.  So I ended up working in a homeless hostel for two years before finding the careers advice job. So I’m still no closer to having kids unless someone hands them to me, but I’ve mostly achieved what I set out to do.  Still taking the long way but sometimes that can be a bit more interesting I guess.
 
What would your song be?

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.