It really does feel like the summer vacation now. Despite the fact that I finished exams almost two weeks ago, I wasn’t really in the holiday mood until I went away for the weekend. When I got back, everyone else had finished their exams too and suddenly the university was in party mode. I fell asleep last night to the faint strains of a party taking place at a college five minutes’ walk away. I feel slightly sorry for anyone who lives in this town and isn’t a student, at this time of year. It’s a noisy week.
I’ve done a whole bunch of things in the last ten days. The day after I wrote my last exam, I went off to a National Trust property for the day (preceeded by a delicious breakfast at a cafe I had never been to before – the best French toast I have ever tasted!). I wandered round for several hours, took lots of photos with my not very good phone camera, because I never remember to take my actual camera anywhere, and ate lunch sitting on a damp bench in a constant drizzle. A man came past and joked that I was determined to have a good time whatever happened, but he was right. This was my celebration of freedom day, I had been planning it for weeks, and I was determined that a bit of rain wouldn’t ruin it. And it didn’t!
It wasn’t just a bit of rain though; there were gale-force gusts of wind blowing from the moment I woke up, so I decided not to risk trying to cycle. Instead I caught the bus, which I haven’t done for a long time here. There’s no need for buses when you have a bike, so I hadn’t realised that bus fares had gone up. I was 40p short of the price of a day return, so I got a single and simply assumed that I would find a cash machine later. I didn’t. But in order to strengthen my faith in the goodness of humanity, the women working in the National Trust gift shop gave me £2 out of the petty cash in order to cover the cost of a single ticket back into town. I popped the same amount back into an NT donation box the next day and was very grateful not to have had to walk 8 miles in the rain.
When I got home I snuggled up with a DVD and some toffee-coated popcorn and white chocolate. Bad move; at least, the snacks were a bad move. I have finally started to come to terms with the fact that processed sugar makes me ill. I don’t know why, I don’t know the technical medical details, but eating too much chocolate, toffee, cake, even fruit at particularly bad times, makes my stomach cry. An extra level of motivation to eat more healthily, I suppose.
On Saturday I hadn’t got much planned, but a friend invited me out for breakfast and another invited me to her recital that evening. In the middle I spent an hour or so chatting to a very hung-over friend who was sheltering in her dark cave of the-morning-after, and then spontanously went out for coffee with yet another friend. It felt very odd, but also wonderful, to be able to say “sure, I’ll come into town with you!” and not have to worry about an essay I should be writing or a book I was meant to have read.
Just to top off my day of spontaneous socialising, I decided to go to a party I had initially thought I would miss. I’m glad I did, it was great fun and I met a bunch of new people. We sang karaoke (appallingly badly) and I had my first taste of vodka (also appalling, I won’t be trying that again). My plan to head home at 11 didn’t work out and I ended up only getting about four hours sleep.
Sunday was spent with the choir, with a very unfortunately early start, singing at a flower festival in a lovely local parish church. The flower displays were beautiful, the sermon was entertaining and thought-provoking, and they plied us with piles of delicious food to keep us going. Nevertheless, I was glad to get back home at lunchtime in order to grab a couple of hours of sleep before heading back to chapel for the usual Sunday routine.
Monday decided to get itself off to a good start by pouring with rain. I still decided to haul myself into town for a special morning prayer service, in Latin. Apparently it is illegal to read the daily offices in Latin anywhere else in the country, but we have special dispensation which is exercised occasionally. I spent the middle of the day with a friend who had finally, after a long and tiring haul, finished her last exam of her degree, and then taught my usual english lesson before coming back to go for a run, watch a film and eat dinner with the same friends. In case you’re wondering, The Princess and the Frog is the best Disney film I have ever seen. Also Indian food is delicious.
On Tuesday yet another friend decided to claim my company for the day. Initially we were simply going to go into town to buy some shoes, but somehow it spiralled into spending the entire day together, having lunch and chatting and wandering around a whole lot. I had to dash off briefly in the morning to meet with one of my supervisors for some advice about my dissertation, and to send several rather panicked emails in response to a message from the course organiser basically telling me that I would not be able to write the dissertation unless I went to the meeting on Thursday – which I couldn’t attend. Thankfully it seems to be sorted now, and I’m hoping I’ll be fine.
We’re getting close to the end of the week now, don’t worry! Wednesday heralded the taster lectures for the papers available next year. I was fairly certain which papers I was going to choose, but I went along to three of the lectures just to be sure. Next year I will be studying for six papers; five exams (two of them half papers, which are apparently more like 2/3 papers in terms of exam questions but only 1/2 the content to learn) and hopefully a dissertation. I’m excited, but I’m also nervous. The half papers are not supervised, and the dissertation is not lectured, so I will have to be extremely organised about working on each subject without being given a list of things to read and write about.
I also went to the cinema to see What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which I enjoyed but which wasn’t funny enough for my friend – too much sentimentality, I think. It wasn’t as funny as I had thought either, but it was full of cute babies and that is enough for me. Then a mad dash evening of tutoring, curry with the choir and choral compline, before packing up some clothes ready for the next morning.
I spent Thursday on a coach to Eastbourne. It was a long and not particularly interesting journey, and I was glad to arrive despite the inevitable drizzle and strong winds. My hotel was a bit scuzzy – the curtains were inexplicably made of pale blue fur, as was the base of the bed, and after walking into the bathroom barefoot once I decided not to take my shoes off again. But it was cheap and extremely convenient for the course I was there to attend, which was taking place just downstairs. I ate a packet of instant cous cous and watched documentaries until 10pm, at which point I gave up and went to sleep.
Friday was great! I was in Eastbourne to attend a training course for applying to midwifery, which was really helpful and reignited my enthusiasm which had been waning a little lately. It was lovely to be with a group of women who understood why I’m interested in midwifery, and who all had passion and drive towards the career. The two women running the course were incredibly informative and really supportive. I’m looking forwards to re-writing my personal statement after hearing their advice, and my confidence has rocketed.
Then I had to run to catch a train, because I had a long journey north to my dad’s house. It took six hours, but the journey was blissfully uncomplicated and other than an obnoxious little boy and his drunk dad making a rucus on the platform it was quite enjoyable. My dad and Gill picked me up from the tiny little train station and we sat up chatting for a while, but sleep was calling our names.
Saturday morning was another early start, because I needed to get to a university open day in time for a midday talk on midwifery. I arrived in the town thinking I was not at all sure about applying to live here, and got to the university campus with an even more certain no in my mind. The talk did little to convince me otherwise; it wasn’t until I reached the clinical skills teaching classroom and saw the incredible facilities they have that I started to change my mind. After chatting to three of the lecturers and also talking to the accommodation team about my chances of getting a flat to myself (pretty good!), it shot up the list to take first place. So it just goes to show that you shouldn’t be convinced by first impressions, I suppose!
Back to my dad’s house again and it was really nice to sit around the kitchen table with my family, chatting and eating Gill’s amazing soup and bread. They have an Aga at the new house, which means that the kitchen is always warm and Gill is always cooking something delicious. I have added an Aga to my dream kitchen. I spent the rest of the evening looking at photos of the university accommodation and exclaiming over how cheap it was – I can get a self-contained single flat for less than I’m currently paying for one room with a shared kitchen and bathroom – and making everyone else look too. It felt so odd that I would be back at uni twenty-four hours later. I’m glad I managed to spend that time there, though: I won’t be able to visit again until at least the end of September.
A very early start on Sunday morning to get back in time for choir at 1pm, although I got stuck in Stevenage (of all the places to be stuck…) for over half an hour, before being held up further down the line for some unexplained reason. I felt fortunate compared to the people whose train to Leeds was cancelled outright. The poor railway man was still fielding panic and anger when the south-bound train finally arrived, and I managed to get to choir only fifteen minutes late.
After the service we had the chapel garden party, which was a nice relaxed affair full of cake and strawberries. I finally came home in the early evening and watched another film before becoming suddenly inspired to go to the library and fetch some summer reading. My bureau is now full of 8kg of textbooks. I think I might have to return one or two of them, or my suitcase to America will not have any space for clothes.
Finally, we’ve reached today. I slept in with some difficulty, waking up three times before finally getting out of bed at half past nine. Today I’m tackling the mountain of washing up, as well as attending an orchestra rehearsal for a concert on Thursday, and tutoring as usual. The reality that I am moving out a week tomorrow and must have everything packed away and ready to go into storage has fully hit me, and I think that is my cue to get back to the washing up. Wish me luck, there’s a whole term’s worth of crockery to wash…