How I left my job and changed career

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A year ago today, I resigned from my ten-year teaching career. I remember it well, mainly because it was the day of Trump’s inauguration and I’d had no sleep the night before. I’d been planning on resigning later in the term (Benn and I had talked about me resigning the year before and agreed that the best time would be when D started school- no more nursery fees), but for some reason I found myself pouring out my thoughts to my line manager, who was amazingly supportive. I wrote my letter there and then, although I decided I would stay til the end of the year: this would give me time to sort myself out, but also I wanted to see my students through the year.

I then began to plan. I saved as much money (read: not much) as I could every month and joined agencies specialising in helping parents find work (spoiler: they were crap.) I spoke to people who could help me- one friend gave me really good advice about CVs. I researched, planned and saved. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty terrified- I was leaving a job I’d done since I was 23, with relatively good money for the days I was in work (but not those I was working outside of school hours) and school holidays guaranteed. I had never looked for a job as a parent. Hell, I hadn’t seriously looked for a new job in eight years.

The time went REALLY fast. I took the summer off and started looking for work the week after D started school. I wrote a skills-based CV, which showed what I could do (and is easier to adapt for the skills required by each job description.) I also narrowed down the sort of places I wanted to work- charities, public sector- and signed up for job alerts. I scoured job boards for the NHS, the council, universities and the civil service. I applied for three jobs and was offered interviews for them all (I accepted the second job and got excellent feedback from the first. I didn’t attend the third interview.) I bought a basic black dress in the summer sales, which I wore with a plain cardigan (I felt like a younger Miss Marple, tbh), but it looked smart and presentable.

I was lucky in that I got a temp job for a few weeks, which brought in a bit of money, but I budgeted HARD. I cut all non-essential costs and used the library. During times when I wasn’t working, I kept myself busy: looking after the sheep, learning French, going to a free weekly knitting group.

I started my job in the public sector in December and it’s very different. I’m also working five days a week until the end of next month, which has brought a temporary boost in money but headaches with childcare. I’ll be a lot less well-off once I go down to three days, but better in terms of health. I sleep better, I’m happier and Benn and D have noticed a huge difference.

I have had to deal with an odd side-effect though: losing a sense of identity that was tied up with my job. It’s liberating and less scary now, but it’s definitely taken a while.

For anyone looking to change lanes, I will tell you it’s potentially hard- I was lucky that Benn was happy to pick up the slack, even if it means a change in lifestyle for us for a while- but the rewards can be utterly worth it.

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Where I’m at in December

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I have a new theory- the more horrible the world seems, the earlier people put their Christmas tree up. It’s either that or Instagram and I’m pretty sure I’m not entirely wrong. The boys persuaded me to put our tree up on the first weekend of December, which felt early- but then I realised that, for the last few years at least, I’ve been so fed up and exhausted by work as we sail into Christmas season, I’ve been the one insisting that the decs go up: part coping method, part over excitement. I gave in, the tree went up.

Speaking of work, I’ve just finished my second week in my new job. It’s very interesting (although some of the theory is drrrrry) and I’m feeling confident about working around D- he’s loving after school club, which is a HUGE relief! My new bosses are also keenly aware of the importance of work/life balance; it’s very different to what I’ve been used to. I still haven’t quite shaken off the Sunday afternoon weirdness that comes with not having a huge pile of marking to do.

When it comes to extra time, I’ve been spending it well: I’ve made a load of Christmas presents (all knitted, bar one), read loads, done sheep duty and just actually rested. I’m sleeping well, breaking a well-worn battle with insomnia. My next plan involves more blogging (I have a few blog post ideas: more tea, career-related stuff, writing stuff), although our laptop is so horrendously slow, which is one of the main reasons that blogging has been on the back burner. I’m currently working on our tablet, which is not ideal to be honest. But hey-ho! Onwards and upwards.

Adagio Teas: Christmas Collection*

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I love a Christmas tea! They’ve become a huge deal in recent years (I remember when I wrote a blog exclusively about tea a few years ago, they were few and far between- and often samey. Not so now!) and there’s a tea for every taste.

Adagio Teas sent me a selection of their winter teas and gifts (as well as a cute red teapot to brew them all up in!) to try. Of course, ever the professional, I made it a mission to try them all. It’s a hard life.

First up, I tried the simply named Christmas on my commute to work. On the surface, this is a traditional Christmas tea, flavoured with spices and orange- but! There’s a surprise! Underneath the usual festive flavours, there’s a smoky hint. I’m not usually a fan of smoky teas, but here it works to balance out the other flavours. It’s a real winter warmer and perfect for chilly mornings.

I was sent the Stocking Stuffer (cute mini tins of loose tea) and Holiday Cheer (30 teabags) sets, which each include six of Adagio’s holiday teas. There’s also a Christmas tea sample box, which I’ve found handy for work tea breaks.

  • Chestnut tea is my favourite of the holiday teas- it combines the nutty flavour of chestnut with a comforting dose of caramel; it’s definitely a sweet treat!
  • Pumpkin Spice is more subtle and slightly sweeter than other pumpkin teas I’ve tried. It’s my current morning ‘go-to’ first thing.
  • Candy Apple is cute! It’s sweet and I love it for my afternoon treat! The Ceylon base is the perfect base for a show-stopping apple and caramel blend (my house also smells of this after I’ve made a cup. Perfect!)
  • Gingerbread tea is exactly as you expect, although a bit lighter than other gingerbread teas I’ve tried- but that’s not a criticism! It’s a warming blend that is a perfect early evening blend.
  • Candy Cane tea is an interesting blend! Black tea with sweet peppermint is refreshing and great after lunch, but don’t add milk. That’d be a bit weird.
  • Cranberry tea- this is great, although I’ll admit I was a bit wary at first! The cranberry works really well with the black tea (although best without milk) and makes a great change to the usual Christmas flavours.

If you’re a caffeine-free fan, I can recommend Yuletide Toddy, a fruit infusion with cranberry, orange and cinnamon- it works very nicely with a quick splash of brandy or spiced rum! I also really enjoyed Rooibos Nutcracker as a bedtime drink; it’s a blend of fruits, nuts, spices and caramel and I’m thinking about how I can mix it up as a latte…

Want to win some festive goodies from Adagio? Check out my Instagram for a great Christmas giveaway!

 

*sent for review

Recipe: Pan Moteado (Mexican-inspired tea bread)

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I always think of tea loaves as a very traditional sort of cake- the kind of thing your great-great grandma would’ve made on a Sunday and rationed out during the week. There’s something quite Victorian about them, and I recently found out that they’re usually associated with Yorkshire. I love them because they’re super easy to make and I’m quite lazy…

This tea bread is inspired by a traditional bara brith, a Welsh tea bread,, but made with a bit of Mexico in mind. Thanks to Bluebird Tea Co.’s Dark Choc Chilli Chai, this has a bit of spice and a richness that I’ve not experienced in any other tea bread. I’ve also added chocolate chips in place of some of the traditional dried fruit; you can play with ratios as you see fit.

As bara brith translates as ‘mottled bread’, I decided to call this ‘pan mateado’- which translates as the same thing in Spanish. It’s a cake that I think represents a lot about me- my Welsh birth, my Yorkshire background and my love of anything Mexican. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 mug cold tea

300g self-raising flour

150g caster sugar

100g chocolate chips

50g raisins or other dried fruit

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Pour the tea into the bowl and mix with the other ingredients until it forms a batter.
  4. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
  5. After the 45 minutes, turn the oven off and leave the cake inside for another ten minutes.
  6. Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Tea loaves are delicious on their own, or toasted with a bit of butter. Enjoy!

 

 

September, September

I love September. I love the change in the air as we hurtle towards October; I’ve already started wearing handknitted socks and my new uniform is cord/denim skirts over leggings, paired with men’s jumpers that I’ve had for years. What’s different, of course, is that although I have the ‘back to school’ feeling- especially as D has started school now- for the first time in a decade I haven’t actually gone back. Although it’s weird, I’m not missing it so much. It’s lovely to still be in bed at the time I would usually be walking to meet my lift.

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Hibernating is cool.

I am sort of at a loss, though. I have six hours a day with nothing much to do. As a teacher, every part of my day, from 6.50am to at least 5pm was accounted for and busy, so this has been a bit weird. I am a rubbish housewife, although I DID manage to clean the bathroom the other day, so…

So what have I been doing? Well, I started applying for jobs properly this week and got an interview for the first job I applied for- although it turned out that the hours were never going to work around childcare for D. However, I got some excellent feedback about my interview and CV (which, FYI, I’m using a skills-based template for, which is much better when you’ve been in a job for a long time. You tailor it according to the job spec/skills they’re looking for, which is much more useful for showing employers what you can do. It is more time-consuming than a traditional CV though…) I’m hopeful that something will come along soon, but I was very pleased that I managed to score an interview so soon into my search. It’s just a matter of perservering.

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I am not this happy when I am job hunting.

I have also been exercising more, which I might write about in a future post, and working hard to get my skin into a happy place- it turns out that I have inherited my mum’s tendency to get acne as an adult. I’ll also probably be blogging a bit more, if only to make myself LOOK busier than I actually feel.

But until then…. roll on autumn!

Bronte Project: Visiting the Parsonage

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The Parsonage (and a a rare photo of Benn!)

I’ve been to the Parsonage so many times (it’s one of the things that happens when you grow up in a bookish family in West Yorkshire…) but I never get bored. I was especially interested in the Bronte 200 celebrations, which aim to mark the 200th anniversaries of the births of Charlotte (2016), Branwell (this year), Mr Bronte arriving in Haworth (2018) and the birth of Anne (2019). I was especially keen to visit after we found Anne Bronte’s grave last year.

Of course, when you’re in Yorkshire, you should really start off your lunch with rhubarb gin…

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One thing that was really exciting was that the Parsonage now has the ACTUAL table that the sisters wrote at. It was acquired in 2015 and it was the first time I’d seen it. Imagine- the ACTUAL table that Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were written on. This was the table the sisters paced round as they discussed their projects. There’s even an E carved into the wood.

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I am aware that this is a rubbish photo. It is actually quite impressive in real life.

Throughout the house, there are costumes from To Walk Invisible, the Sally Wainwright drama that was shown over Christmas. The attention to detal was so amazing- it’s a shame my photography couldn’t do it justice.

This year is all about Branwell, the tragic Bronte brother, who should have been a great success but instead fell from grace. There are dedicated exhibitions: one is a recreation of his bedroom during the last years of his life, which was surprisingy melancholic. Branwell has been painted as a ne’er-do-well, but he was also a bit of an unfortunate soul and the bedroom really reflects this.

There’s also a dedicated area to Branwell’s written work, with new poetry by Simon Armitage. The best bit is seeing stuff in ‘the flesh’ that you’ve only ever seen in books- one of these was the famous Branwell sketch ‘A Parody’, which he drew in a fit of self-pity whilst ill. It was genuinely a bit of a thrill for a Bronte nerd.

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One of the things I was desperate to do was to participate in an art project by artist Clare Twomey, in which visitors to the Parsonage are invited to write a line from Wuthering Heights into a new manuscript. This is because the original, handwritten by Emily Bronte, has been lost. Each participant is asked to write a line from the novel with a pencil (you get to keep the pencil at the end, to encourage you to continue writing.) I was given a line from chapter 27, in which Linton begs Catherine not to leave, or else he’ll die.I was a bit miffed I got a horrible character, but hey ho, that’s the luck of the draw. I wrote VERY carefully, so that a) my writing was legible and b) I didn’t make a mistake. Anyway, I managed it and I’m quite chuffed that my name is in something that’s sort of historical.

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Part of my Haworth tradition is making a pilgrimage to the church where the family are buried (without Anne, who is buried in Scarborough.) Although the Brontes would not have recognised the church as it is now- it was remodelled after Mr Bronte’s death- there is a sense of tranquility and history.

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Note the vase of heather from the moors

It was a lovely day- and to mark it, I HAD to buy something that combined two of my favourite things (there should be more book-based tea blends, IMHO):

21248346_10154868783112267_1111194524416760488_o I’ll report back on the tea ASAP.

Podcasts you should be listening to

Well, that last blogpost was a bit of a mic drop, wasn’t it? I announce I’m leaving a ten year career and then… nothing? Well, I did and I got my P45 yesterday and it’s all official. But I haven’t been sitting doing nothing for the last four-and-a-half weeks! I’ve been VERY BUSY (if you don’t count the time I’ve spent re-watching seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race I’ve done to take my mind off the upcoming nuclear war etc.) For me, being very busy means lots of walking and lots of walking means listening to podcasts. I often discuss my favourites on Twitter and I am often asked about my favourites, so here they are in no particular order…. (This blogpost is not brought to you by anyone at Squarespace/Blue Apron/Audible)

  1. You Must Remember This

YMRT-Clean I’m obsessed with the history of Hollywood, particularly the first half of the 20th century; this podcast is a goldmine of information. Split into seasons, there is definitely something here for you. Each episode is brilliantly researched and wears the learning lightly- it might be detailed, but it’s hugely accessible with a gentle sense of humour: Karina Longworth has a great voice to listen to and her performances of some of Hollywood’s greatest characters are fun. If you’re looking for a way in, I’d recommend the Charles Manson’s Hollywood, MGM or Six Degrees of Joan Crawford seasons, although the Blacklist season feels eerily relevant to today’s politically charged days.

2. All Killa No Filla

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I’ve written about this one before, but it’s the podcast that really started my whole obsession: two female comedians talking about serial killers, whilst going off on tangents about Liam Gallagher and Tebay service station? I’m IN. (I recently spoke about this in a job interview and genuinely said “I don’t think southerners really understand serial killers like northerners do.” I was actually invited back for a second interview despite/because of this.) This one will genuinely make you guffaw- the Fred and Rose West three parter is a bit of a blinder.

3. Lore

Lore_Podcast_logo Lore is great- stories of folklore, hauntings and legends from around the world in episodes that last about half an hour. It’s a real mixed bag of stuff and there is something for everyone (I particularly enjoy the episodes about ghosts and hotels. It’s surprising how many there are…) although at least one has made me wince. This is the one podcast that will lead me to the internet straight afterwards to look up the stories and cases. The good news is that there are books and a TV series planned, which pleases the obsessive twelve-year-old X-Files fan in me. However, I would like to caution you against listening to the episode about Spring Heeled Jack whilst walking to your lift in the dark at 7am on a December morning. It’s creepy.

4. Small Town Murder

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I *promise* I’m not plotting a murder (I realise that two of my choices in this list are somewhat murder-y), but this is my latest binge-listen. Two comedians look at murders committed in small towns across the world (their amazement at how old a British village they look at is genuinely cute) and they discuss the demographics of each place, as well as the circumstances around the crimes they feature. Less meandering than All Killa No Filla, but no less funny, this has been my constant companion in the last three weeks.

As an aside, apparently Maine has a really low crime rate. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I am a rabid Murder, She Wrote fan and I dispute this fact. EVERYONE dies horribly in Cabot Cove. That’s why Jessica has to move to New York.

5. Welcome To Night Vale

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Probably one of the most famous podcasts outside of Serial and This American Life, Welcome to Night Vale is a bit of an acquired taste. I tried listening to it last year and gave up; recently, though I’ve been binge listening. I love how it’s paranormal mixed with magic realism and surreal humour. Also, Cecil’s voice is like honey on toast. This is the podcast I credit with helping me train my brain to follow a story and retain information (I have a mild hearing impairment called auditory processing disorder, which means that I can struggle to connect words straightaway- audiobooks were a no-go for me for a long time, which means that the free Audible books offered at the start of every bloody podcast were moot. Anyway, following this has really helped, so… yay!) I am determined to own a cat called Khoshekh in the next few years and I am very over-invested in the story of the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home.

All hail the glow cloud.

(I would also recommend Alice Isn’t Dead, by the same people. You need to start at the beginning though, FYI.)

6. Very Odd Pod

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Two disclaimers off the bat:

  1. My mate Scott (also known as @GalacticKeegan or @Flying_Inside on Twitter) makes this podcast with his brother, Cal.
  2. I am in an upcoming episode. (Scott finally recognised my inner Judi Dench. And needed someone with a Leeds accent.)

However, it is a very funny and surreal podcast that has had me GENUINELY laughing out loud in the last couple of weeks. It’s also convinced me that my hair may actually be trying to kill me and my loved ones and that the Spice Girls changed the whole of human history. It’s in its early days, but if you want to say you liked something before everyone else did, this might be for you. At least start listening before Scott gets so famous he ends up on Strictly.

I’m always after new recommendations for podcasts (and also noise cancelling headphones), so let me know what you’re listening to here or on Twitter: @wuthering_alice