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.

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.

I’m leaving teaching

In just over two weeks, I will be stepping away from a career that has come to define my life- ten years, my identity, hours and hours of work just… gone.

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There are lots of reasons why, some much bigger than me and others that are more personal. You’ll know of the biggies: the workload (and a curriculum that I feel is deeply, deeply flawed and unfair), the pay and pension issues, the funding issues that mean we can’t do everything we need to do in order to make sure that those in our care are happy and healthy individuals who can think independently and creatively in a world that is becoming ever more challenging. Teaching has changed so, so much in the ten years that I’ve been doing it that I honestly can’t understand why people still want to train- and that those who have trained in the last couple of years seem to be told that it’s normal to be overworked, underpaid and to strive for constantly outstanding lessons, otherwise you’re a crap teacher. (I promise you, that last one cannot be done all the time if you want to have anything that resembles a work/life balance.)

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“A work/life balance, you say?”

On a personal level, I’m tired of the commute. I’m lucky enough to get a lift, so I’m not at the mercy of the railways, but it’s still exhausting. I’m tired of having to work when I get home; it’s not cool to be sat on the sofa when your 4 year old gets home and his face drops because you’re marking again and probably will be when he goes to bed. I’m often exhausted (and/or working) on the two days I week I have at home with him. Teaching is a job that never stops. For example, today I’m finding it very hard to not check my email. We are always contactable in a way that I never experienced early in my career. I have to mentally shut myself off from this if I am to get any work/life balance, otherwise I could drive myself mad- and I have done. I am pretty sure that most of the anxiety attacks I have experienced in the last few years have been as a direct result of work. I’m a good, conscientious worker; I hate letting down my colleagues and, most importantly, my students. I also want to be around to take D to school- leaving at 6.50am everyday isn’t the best thing for this.

So I’m going. I resigned in January (on the day of Trump’s inauguration, as it happens.) I’d had a tearful discussion with one of my bosses about it, (although I’d decided the previous May with Benn, in a Pizza Express on our anniversary, as he had picked up that I wasn’t happy and hadn’t been for a while. He asked me what I needed and said that he would support it.) I knew that I needed at least a break, if not something more permanent, otherwise I would be at risk of becoming one of those horrid, bitter and jaded teachers we all remember having. I genuinely adore most of my students and I didn’t want to inflict that on them. I mean, I’m a tired teacher, but I’m not a horrible one. I also knew that moving to a different school wasn’t an option. I just need to be out of a classroom.

Five months have flown by and I have no plans. This is a deliberate choice, for now. I wanted to keep giving my focus to the kids in my classes without worrying about other stuff. I also have the holidays to sort out my CV and interview skills (teaching interviews are unlike any others I have ever had. My last non-teaching interview was in 2005.) I also need some time to unwind and sort my head out; my identity has been so intertwined with my job that it’s going to take some time to sort myself out. I have been asked if I want to do supply/private tuition, to which my initial reaction is:

tumblr_ml2rlfaQC71s5ipdco1_400.gif At least for now. I need to focus on my own kid and getting him settled in school. Also, I really need a break on correcting people’s spelling. Never say never and all that, and I will miss my students, but for now I’m quite happy to leave teaching to other people.

People find it really hard when I tell them I have no plans. I mean, I’m not going to live off Benn (I managed to save a bit- so if you’ve invited me out recently and I’ve said I’m skint, you now know why…), but I am going to take some time to find something new. I have no idea what, yet, but I’m sure something will come up. And yes, I won’t have the holidays, but I will have my evenings and weekends back- 90% of parents cope with holidays, I’m sure we will too. It also means that if Benn’s office does finally get its long threatened move to Croydon, I’ll be around for D. We’ll just be reversing our roles a bit and I’m OK with that. I probably won’t have the same sort of wage, either, but you cut your coat according to your cloth and I’ve coped before- I’ll cope again. Right now, I’m looking forward to reading, writing, listening to music, all without a deadline.

But if you do see any jobs in Brighton, give me a shout, yeah?

You should vote

Tomorrow you should vote. I wrote this list on Twitter, but I thought I’d put it here as a handy guide too.

IMG_20170607_094950_381 Vote for kids: for schools, for tuition fees, for the 4 million kids in poverty, for the kids in care, for kids who have little hope under this government.

Vote for the NHS: for the doctors and the nurses and the dentists and the midwives and the health visitors.

Vote for the elderly: for the vulnerable, for the lonely, for the dementia patients, for the poor.

Vote for the disabled, who have been so cruelly treated under this government.

Vote for the environment, for us and our kids- and the kids yet to come.

Vote for women: for those in shelters, for the women in NI who have to travel to access safe and legal abortion, for the WASPI women, for the fight for equal pay.

Vote for your council: for libraries and swimming baths, for Sure Start and day centres, for parks and playgrounds.

Vote for the emergency services.

Vote for infrastructure and the economy, for jobs.

Vote for the workers: for your rights, for those on zero hours contracts, for those paid a pittance, for those denied access to employment tribunals.

Vote so we’re not lumped in with bloody Trump.

Vote.

Excuse the Politics

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Well, this is nice, isn’t it? The world all over the place politically, everyone either angry or disengaged; yelling at each other about Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn or whatever. And now Theresa May is saying she wants to bring back fox hunting- like grammar schools, it’s a puff piece to distract from the barrage of warnings about Brexit. Hurrah for Macron etc.

But I do want to say something about voting. It is so important. Especially now.

I teach. I am definitely feeling the effects of this government in my job. Belts are being tightened, people aren’t being replaced, resources are running low. You might think that, because you don’t have kids, it doesn’t affect you- but it does. Because those kids might be the doctors who treat you when you’re older, or the scientists who find a breakthrough that you might rely on, or the journalist who uncovers corruption- every one of those kids has potential to be something amazing and they are potentially being robbed of this by this government’s policies. The ministers peddle the same lines about more money than ever- but there is a lot of money going into free schools and local authorities are not allowed to open new schools any more to meet demand. Grammar schools are a smoke and mirrors exercise. Academies are being run as businesses. Education should not be for profit.

They’re also scared by Brexit (disclosure: I am married to a Leave voter)- a lot of their parents work in and around a large national airport. They’re worried that their parents might be sent home, that they might be separated from families. I’ve had some hard, hard conversations with kids in the last year about things that are way too grown up for them.

The NHS is in trouble. You only have to look at the utter shambles going on across the pond to see how precious the health service is here. Yes, it could be better and it needs more investment- but I am unsure how, when the government is going to be tying itself in knots over the EU, it will be able to keep its eye on the NHS too. Hospital staff are using food banks and leaving to get jobs in supermarkets to make ends meet. This is not right in the world’s seventh economy, especially when there are people who have got rich from the post-referendum chaos.

If you don’t need the NHS now, great! But don’t forget, you’ll probably need it down the road: a filling, your kid’s broken toe, your nan’s dementia care. If there’s no money, there’s no healthcare. Health should not be a for-profit business.

I have been so blessed by the NHS- my mum is a type 1 diabetic. She wouldn’t have made it past childhood without the NHS. I have experienced excellent audiology care, dental care, mental health care. My son was treated in a matter of months last year and now has perfect hearing. I couldn’t have afforded that.

I’m not telling you how to vote, but I want you to vote and consider who you vote for- and to consider how precious it is that you live in a democracy.

You might not want to vote for Corbyn’s Labour and that’s your choice- but consider the alternative if you vote Tory. No party is going to be perfect; if only! Think about what your vote means for you and for those around you- and it does mean something. Please don’t think that your vote is worthless. Don’t just think that nothing is going to change- you can vote and maybe you can bring change about.

REGISTER TO VOTE. You don’t have a voice if you don’t register

Live in a safe party seat? Find out who came second last time and read their manifesto. If you’re still not keen, check out vote swapping. If you’re passionate about a party or a candidate, offer your time to help them.

Think past the idea that this election is about the leaders. It’s not just about that (although Theresa May wants you to think that this is a her vs Jeremy Corbyn contest. It’s not. Well, not entirely)- it’s about the MP in your area, about the cuts to your council services, about who will stand up for you. Don’t be blinded by the headlines about personalities.

Educate yourself. Vote. Please.

Easter fun!

Ahh, the Easter break cannot come quickly enough. I am exhausted. However, spring is cheering me up, as are changes that are afoot (no, I’m not pregnant. I did nearly buy some guinea pigs today, before my senses reconvened. They were SO. CUTE. though.) Although we’re off up north for a few days, I’ve started to get into a spring-like, Easter-y frame of mind…

Easter bunting from @klinakloen! So cute!:  My friend Carolina sent us this super cute bunting which is now up in our front room. Even D is very taken with it- and he finds Easter a bit baffling. I think the sheep is my favourite (naturally!) with his cheery little jumper.

How much fun is this Easter bundle from @bluebirdteaco?! 🐰🐇🐥🐤🐣 Thanks, guys! #tea #easter:  I’ve also been spoilt in the tea-drinking department- Bluebird Tea sent me a bundle  of their Easter treats- aren’t the little egg box (containing four reusable plastic eggs with different flavours of tea) and carrot (full of Hot Cross Bun flavoured tea) CUTE?! The parcel arrived on a day where I’d almost walked out of a class, I was so stressed- it cheered me no end. I especially love Easter Egg Nests as a morning tea. Available in both vegan and non-vegan blends, it’s a sweet, slightly nutty tea that doesn’t overdose on the chocolate, but quells my sweet tooth and steers me away from sugary cereal. I’ve been drinking rooibos in the evening, so Carrot Cake is perfect. It’s so warming- it’s like a spring update for those who love a spiced tea, but don’t want to heaviness of the winter blends. I wish it was a permanent addition to the range.

In the rock garden. "Mummy, do fish swim for many moons?":  I’m hoping to recharge my batteries and catch up with friends- as well as this little dude, who is keeping me on my toes. We find out in two weeks’ time which school he’ll be going to! Madness, right? I swear he was only a baby five minutes ago- but today he was asking me if fish ‘swam for many moons’, as if he was some kind of little old man from the 13th century. Life goes by so quickly that it’s important to slow down enough to actually spot the fish in the pond as you hop over the stepping stones.