Greetings from… Cambridge, again! A lot has happened since my last post. First, the family who I had been nannying for all year decided to fire me for reasons I continue to think were unfair and baseless (I won’t go into details, but I felt very hurt and betrayed about it for quite a long time). Then the nanny share fell through, as the first family decided to send their child to nursery instead and the second family, after initially wanting to continue without a share, eventually backtracked and found a childminder.
I carried on looking for nannying work but I also started looking at other jobs, mainly along the lines of being a family support worker. I hadn’t known this kind of job existed! Essentially it combines what I most loved about midwifery (working in the community to support families) with a lot of the skills I’ve gained through nannying, and also uses my law degree a little bit and essentially sounds like my ideal job.
At the start of July, I went down to Cambridge with my friend Nicola to help her get her electric wheelchair serviced, and she invited a few friends to dinner while we were there. One was a woman called Naomi, who Nicola had mentioned she thought I would get along well with.
She was right. We began chatting daily, via Skype, phone and text message. Three days later we started planning a holiday to Ireland. Two weeks later we were officially a couple, although in reality I think we both knew within a few hours of meeting that something special had happened.
July passed with lots of job hunting, audio typing, a smattering of small trips with Naomi, and a bit of paid work clearing out an overgrown and cluttered garden. Then in August I spent ten days in Cornwall working on a smallholding through the Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming organisation (WWOOF). That was a great experience – exhausting, but a wonderful break.
I went home via my mum’s house to collect Paige, who spends my holidays being cat-sat by my parents. The evening before I was due to get the train home to Birmingham and renew the job hunt in earnest, I got a text from Naomi telling me she wasn’t well, and was going to hospital.
Then nothing. No news, for three hours. No answer to my calls. I paced anxiously, sent multiple messages and eventually tracked down her parents’ home phone number on the internet and called them. I’d found them just in time; they were about to leave for the hospital, and were glad to hear from me. I gave them my mobile number so they could update me and also let me know whether my presence would be a help or a hindrance.
Long story short, she had a kidney infection that turned into sepsis and was very seriously ill. I left Paige at my mum’s for a bit longer and caught a pre-dawn train down to Cambridge, where Naomi lives, to be at her bedside by lunchtime.
Eight hours later, just a short time after the doctors had started vaguely discussing the possibility of moving Naomi from the acute care unit to a general ward, she developed double pneumonia and was whisked to the ICU and put on a ventilator.
I think it was around that point that I stopped looking for jobs in Birmingham and started looking for jobs in Cambridge.
Thanks to the childcare website I’ve used for years, Childcare.co.uk, I quickly had several interviews with families wanting part-time child care, but nothing that would pay enough on its own and no small jobs that could be strung together sensibly. Then I found a family worker role and wrote the application in bursts, from Naomi’s bedside, from the families’ waiting room, and from the sofa in Naomi’s room in her shared house, where I was staying. (Side note: Naomi’s housemates are the loveliest group of women I’ve ever met. They fed me, lent me clothes, towels, bikes and toiletries, listened when I needed to vent my stress and frustration, and basically were a vital lifeline for me! I fortunately still have friends in Cambridge who I met as a student, and they were also wonderful at appearing with food and dragging me off for a break from hospitals.)
The interview for the job was the day before Naomi and I were due to go to Ireland for that trip we had planned way back at the beginning of
this post our relationship. By some miracle that I can only put down to the overwhelming number of people praying about it, Naomi was well enough to be discharged from hospital just a few days before we had planned to leave. She was even well enough to drive me to the job interview, to which I wore a dress and shoes borrowed from one housemate, a coat and bag borrowed from another, and tights borrowed from Naomi. It was very much a team effort!
One of the interview questions was “tell us about a time when you had to deal with stressful circumstances which made it difficult to meet deadlines”. I couldn’t help laughing. I’m pretty sure it was my answer to that question which got me the job! They phoned me a few hours later to tell me, and there was general rejoicing.
Then we went to Ireland and had a wonderful few days visiting places in and around Dublin. The most lovely place was a cabin we found on AirBnB at the last minute, to replace the night of camping we’d decided, in view of Naomi’s recent brush with mortality, to forgo, but everywhere was fabulous in a slightly different way. It was just what we needed after a very stressful month where all our time together was spent in a hospital bay with people constantly around us, no privacy and a lot of ridiculous rules not only about what times I could visit, but also where I was allowed to sit when doing so (NOT ON THE BED IT IS A VERY SERIOUS INFECTION RISK ANYTHING MIGHT HAPPEN).
Since we got back from Ireland, I have packed up my beautiful little nest in Birmingham and moved it, complete with Paige-cat, into the spare bedroom of my friend Abha and her boyfriend Kai’s flat. We’ve been here about ten days now, and it’s been so nice to be able to see Naomi every day and just do normal things like shopping or reading together without a 100 mile journey to get there. Moving was as grim as it ever is, but enlivened by the fact that I hired a van and drove it myself all the way to Birmingham. My long-suffering, incredibly generous friend Stumo perhaps foolishly agreed to come with me and help pack and load everything, and ended up driving us back at 2am, then coming over the next day to move everything inside and assemble the furniture. I am fairly certain I would never have managed to move without his help, and absolutely certain that I will never again attempt to move myself, with or without his help – I have already started saving up to pay professionals to do the entire thing next time I have to relocate.
So that is what life is like for me at the moment! While I’m waiting for all the paperwork and background checks to be sorted for the family worker job, I am doing a bit of audio typing and have started the part-time, flexible babysitting which I’ll be doing twice a week or so during university terms. I found a good church a few minutes’ walk from my new home, and have joined their twice-a-month choir. At the moment I’m taking advantage of the incredibly slooooooow process of becoming officially employed and doing The Kitchn’s cooking school from last year, omitting any non-vegan classes, and also spending a lot of time with Naomi. She’s recovered incredibly quickly, considering how ill she was just two months ago, and is hoping to go back to work next week.
I have never coped well with change, even when it has been long planned and eagerly anticipated. Nothing about the last few months has been planned, at least not by me, but I am still absolutely sure that all the choices I’ve made have been the right ones, which is maybe the first time in my life where I’ve been able to say that. There’s a bigger Plan, and it’s wonderful.