So, what are you all about?

I met someone today who asked me the question that’s become this post’s title. We were meeting with a view to me becoming their occasional babysitter, which is always an odd mixture of relaxed and casual, and job interview formality. I have profiles on various childcare and tutoring websites which set out the rough details of my work history and current situation, but without exception I have always been asked to tell the prospective client family what I do (which seems only right, if they’re considering entrusting their offspring to my care).

I liked this turn of phrase particularly, though. Not, ‘What do you do?’ or ‘What’s your real job?’ – I was once asked that, immediately after I’d told the questioner what my jobs were; apparently they weren’t real enough for his tastes – but, ‘What are you about?’ It seems to take the focus away from paid employment and onto purpose. For some people they’re one and the same, and that’s great, but for many of us there’s more complexity to it.

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Who’s the Tutor?

In a recent short-lived but productive panic about money (I have them occasionally, since trading in my smattering of unsuccessful careers for life as a full-time home-maker and freelance child-wrangler), I reactivated my old tutoring profiles on a couple of websites. Within days one of them bore fruit, and last week I trundled off to the same seaside town in which I recently spent a week babysitting an adorable toddler, to conduct my first tutoring class for some years.

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Juggling Act

By Matthieu Aubry, under Creative Commons Licence

Anyone who is reading this blog probably knows me well enough to realise that I like to keep busy. I don’t think I’ve ever done nothing, apart from those awful six months last summer when I almost went out of my mind and drove my family mad as well. I’m just not cut out for having free time. I work harder under a deadline. I need structure, organisation and timetabling.

But I have to admit that it gets a bit stressful. Today I feel like I’m standing at the starting line of a race along a course I haven’t seen yet. It might be bumpier than I expect. It might have more potholes than I’ve experienced before. Maybe the other runners will try to trip me up. So far, I’ve never fallen, and I’ve always had support instead of sabotage – but the fear is always there. What if I can’t do it? What if I can’t cope? What if I fail?

By Oscar Diele, under Creative Commons Licence

This term will be busier than last term. It’s an indisputible and unavoidable fact. Last term my committments were lectures, supervisions, choir, fortnightly singing lessons, and tutoring. Anything else was optional and occasional.

This term I have all of those things, but I also have more committments. I will have speech therapy – it may be a one-off, it may turn into a weekly session. I won’t know for sure until the 30th. Not doing it will mean leaving my vocal cords to potentially suffer further damage as I use my voice badly trying to compensate for the mess they are in. Fixing the problem should make me a better singer, but it will also solve breathing problems, sore throats and muscle issues. I feel like this is something important.

I won’t just be going to the hospital once a week for that, though, because I am also starting (finally!) as a volunteer on one of the wards. This is the new committment with the biggest question mark over it. Clinical experience is vital for my midwifery application next year, and it is like gold dust. I have been trying to get something since September. It will be the first thing to go if I find I’m not coping, but I’m willing to try it because it is so important for my future career. I figure it is equivalent to the other lawyers writing vacation scheme applications, going to dinner with law firms and taking interview workshops.

It might not sound like it but I have said no to several things. I’ve said no to dance classes, trampolining, theatre, childminding, bar work and orchestras. I have made myself a promise that I will not make any more regular committments, because my timetable is starting to stretch at the seams. But I also have to say no to the one-off things. The “that looks interesting” lectures, the “I’d love to see that” films and plays, the “just for an hour” parties that last until the wee smalls and knock me out for the rest of the next day.

My sleep schedule is ridiculous at the moment. As I write this, I am sitting in my pyjamas. I had nowhere to go today, nothing to get up and dressed for, so I didn’t. As a result I have achieved almost nothing since I got out of bed at 2pm. I got out of bed at 2pm because I couldn’t sleep until 4am. I need to do something radical about this and fast – term starts in under a week and I don’t think any of my lecturers are nocturnal.

By Stuart Richards, under Creative Commons licence

I needed to write this blog post because I needed to get things organised in my head. I have to make timetabling decisions and sacrifices. The speech therapy is at the time I normally tutor. To make the two things fit, I will have to miss a lecture in a subject I am passionate about. Thankfully, that passion means that I will do the additional reading necessary to catch up, but I am still hoping that I can shuffle things around so that I don’t have to.

The volunteering is likewise – if I could teleport, I would not have to miss the lecture. I cannot teleport. Hopefully after a few weeks I might be able to move it to half an hour later, but until I have proven myself to be reliable and useful I don’t want to push my luck. Equally I don’t want to miss all the lectures for one of my papers. But if I have to choose, I will choose to do so. It’s the only subject where I feel the lectures are almost superfluous to the reading. I wish I could say the same about all my other subjects – wish I was driven enough and also understood enough of the basics to tear through the additional reading for all my subjects – but at least it’s that one subject I’m confident in.

Sometimes I wonder whether my life will ever get less complex. Earlier today I watched How To Be a Good Mother on 4oD, a documentary about six different “extreme-style” mothers. The organised, to-do list creating, app-using “iMum” reminded me of myself. Two friends visited my room for the first time last night and remarked with surprise on how many lists and timetables I have around. My excuse is that my sieve brain cannot retain enough information for me to trust it not to forget what I am doing when, and that is true. I can’t trust my own memory any more. But also, my life is ridiculous. I am living two full-time lives in the space of one.

But I wouldn’t change either of them.

I Love Mondays

I almost don’t recognise myself! For the last week I’ve been getting up early, always by 8am, doing an hour of work before lectures, working efficiently between lectures, concentrating in lectures, cooking proper food, sleeping (almost) enough every night, thinking about work when I’m not actually doing any, and generally feeling positive and happy despite a demanding workload and a packed timetable.

It’s such a contrast from this time last year. All the worries I had about maybe not being able to cope with coming back have evaporated, because although there still aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the reading I want and need to do, I’m still on top of things. I’m not drowning. I’m not even waving.

I had my first supervision of the term today: Criminology, Sentencing and the Penal System. I think it’s probably the subject I find easiest, with the least demanding workload, but that isn’t so much because it’s an inherently easy subject but because unlike my other four, it’s not about black letter law and learning facts. Instead it’s about current affairs, sociology, legal theory and having opinions. I’m very good at having opinions! It was great to start the term with a supervision I felt fully prepared for. Things will probably get progressively worse from here, due to the structure of my timetable – next I have administrative law, which I really enjoy but which is very complex and involves a huge amount of reading, then international which ditto and is further complicated by the most ludicrously convoluted case law I’ve ever seen, then next week contract (argh) and then land, two subjects I find simultaneously dull and impossible. But maybe that’s the best order to have things in, because every fortnight I can start again on a positive note.

I’m certainly feeling positive today! As well as a successful supervision and two good lectures, I had tutoring with my Korean student. I’m really impressed by how smart he is and how well he retains things, and today I also discovered he has a keen interest and fairly well-established understanding of grammar. We covered the sort of grammar that people my age still struggle with sometimes, such as subject-object identification and the imperfect tense. Teaching him has made me extremely aware of just how many English words have double meanings, and how hard it is to explain something new without introducing half a dozen other concepts which also need explaining, until eventually you’ve both forgotten where you started.

And to cap it all, I’ve done a fair amount of fast, purposeful cycling which I just love. Last summer when I lived in Arbury, which is about three miles away from college, I would cycle into the centre and back several times a day and it was exhilarating. I was there again on Saturday night for my friends Sarah and Henry’s leaving party, which was a lot of fun. Cycling back yesterday morning (I stayed over because it had got quite late) I felt really energised and ready for the day – a totally alien feeling for 8.30am on a Sunday morning, even before I got ill!

The way I’m feeling at the moment, things have really turned a corner. If I can keep this up I feel like I can achieve anything this year. My student will be writing novels in English, I’ll get a first in at least one paper, choir will be fabulous and life will be great 🙂

And next time I’m feeling down about something, I’ll just come back to this post and remind myself of all the good things in my life!

The Start of a New Term

Today is the first official day of term, although things got going yesterday really, and I’m doing… nothing.

No lectures (they start on Thursday), no academic meetings by chance, no choir, nothing at all planned except general chores and tidying up. The irony of being totally, completely free on the first day of term amuses me.

Yesterday was quite busy. I had a start of term meeting with my DoS, then we went to a meeting with our Land supervisor (same person as last year and just as lovely as I remembered). I did a bit of shopping – John Lewis appears to be the only place in Cambridge that is not out of stock on coathangers, so I gritted my teeth and paid £17 for 12 coathangers, eek – and then three hours of reading for my first Land supervision. Aren’t I dedicated?!

The afternoon brought with it the world’s shortest meeting ever, for Contract. We went into the room, fussed about the fact that there were 9 people and only four seats, said hello, got given two sheets of paper, swiftly assigned supervision times, and left again. Five minutes, max.

This year I’ll be having one-to-one Contract supervisions with my DoS, which is a slightly intimidating prospect since I don’t remember being particularly good at contract and now I have no one to hide behind! On the other hand, it will a) make me more accountable and b) mean that if I do understand something, we can move straight on to things I don’t understand. In a group situation the pace is never perfect for everyone. We’ll see how that goes. Luckily the time is limited to an hour by lectures either side, so it won’t turn into a four-hour disaster if I get stuck on something!

I also started tutoring yesterday. My tutee is a 9 year old boy from South Korea, and he lives about fifteen minutes away by bike. I set off with half an hour to get there, and immediately got a puncture. Foolishly I didn’t turn round, go back and get my other bike (soon to be given to charity, but currently still in the college bike shed) but soldiered on. The puncture got worse, until I could feel every bump in the road and some that weren’t actually there. Unsurprisingly I was late arriving. I was so angry with myself, it’s so unprofessional to arrive late, especially to the first session! But they were very lovely and understanding about it, and I was only just over five minutes late. Next time I’ll leave even earlier, just in case (and I’m taking the bike to get fixed properly today – my brother did try to fix it over the summer but I have a feeling I need a new tyre).

The tutoring itself went well, after an initial few minutes of awkwardness. I’d made a questionnaire for the boy to fill in, so that I could know some things about him – what he enjoys doing, what his hobbies are, and also what his written english and reading comprehension are like. I was pleasantly surprised, as he reads at a level I’d expect from most nine year olds, without any allowance for the fact that english is his second language. He tried to explain a Korean joke to me, but it didn’t make much sense. I reciprocated with my favourite joke (what’s blue and square? An orange with disguise) and got there in the end.

Next week I’ll have a better idea what sort of things to take with me, but I’d made some lucky guesses. He loved the madlib we wrote together, struggled but seemed to enjoy the simplified version of Just a Minute (very simplified indeed – just trying to get him to speak at all was a bit tricky!) and reading aloud from a story and highlighting the words he doesn’t know went fantastically. By chance I’d picked a story with lots of English idioms, like “spick and span” and “a haze of slumber”, so we discussed what they meant. When he understands something, his whole face lights up in comprehension, which is very useful!

Then I raced back on my poor bike, cooked the world’s fastest curry with more success than I expected, and went to a two-hour choir rehearsal. It wasn’t quite as good as the previous ones. A bit more stressful, and more unrelenting. There were a few new people and frankly if it’d been my first rehearsal I doubt I’d have come back. One girl looked terrified throughout, and another girl who has never sung in a choir before and speaks english as a second language was in tears at the end. I hope they do come back, but I’d understand if they didn’t. It’s the most demanding choir I’ve ever sung in.

Today I’m going to try and blitz the various left-over jobs from moving in: hanging pictures, pinning up posters, the first load of laundry etc. I’m pretty happy with how my room is looking. It feels like home.

A Spontaneous Week

I can’t quite believe that it’s only been seven days since I was at my dad’s house. Last Saturday I was still there, and the whole family woke up at the outrageously early time of 9.30am to go and look round the parish hall, which is just across the road from dad’s house.

Now that the date has been settled and the venue chosen, I can reveal that on March 31st, my dad, my brother and I will be hosting a MASSIVE PARTY (by which I mean a buffet, ceilidh and concert) to celebrate our collective 99th birthday. I’ll be sending out invites closer to the time, i.e. next year, but I am already excited about it and making guest lists and plans.

Once the tour had been conducted and we’d seen all the rooms in the hall, which we can hire for an incredibly reasonable rate, I had to go back to the onslaught on my room. On Friday night I looked underneath my bed for something and was horrified to see, in the space where a storage box had been, a huge mountain of mouse droppings. My bedroom carpet is a pale brown, but it was a sea of black against the wall. So Saturday morning was spent throwing away anything that was still under the bed, vacuuming up the staggering quantity of droppings and desperately trying to get the carpet a bit cleaner. Next time I go back, I think we’ll need to hire a carpet shampooing machine but for the moment it’s thankfully clear.

After all that excitement I packed up my bags and set off on the train home. It’s not a very long journey if you exclude the wait times at stations, but because there are three changes of at least half an hour it took most of the afternoon.

I was very glad on Sunday morning that it was the first Sunday of the month, which meant that the adult choir weren’t needed for the church service and I could sleep. I should have been at the first rehearsal of the term on Friday night, but I hadn’t realised and was still at dad’s, so evensong (adults only) was my first service back. I don’t remember doing much on Sunday, I think I was asleep for most of the day.

Monday was mum and John’s one year wedding anniversary, although they decided not to do anything to mark it except exchanging cards. I had my last appointment with my counsellor, got a stack of books out of the library and made cheesy lentils – a delicious recipe I got from dad’s partner Gill.

On Tuesday I had a date to meet a friend from sixth form, Claire, at Costa. It was great to chat to her; we worked out that we hadn’t seen each other for nearly two years. She’s at the same university as my friend Lawrence, so we hear each other’s news but it’s not the same as actually seeing someone. We discussed mutual friends – Emma has moved to Australia! – and compared love lives (equally disasterous, although she seems to have the edge), and then I came home to find an email asking me if I was willing to tutor a 5 year old boy in maths and english for 4 hours per week.

I have to admit that I was initially sceptical, and rather torn. On the one hand, £40 a week is not to be sniffed at, I am very good with children of that age group, I enjoy tutoring and KS1 maths and english has a lot of potential for fun activities. On the other hand, 4 hours a week plus travel time (40 minutes each way by bus, although I will try cycling it and see if it is any quicker) is a hefty chunk out of my week, even if I take textbooks to read on the way, and I feel very sorry for any 5 year old who has to put up with that much extra “school”. But I reasoned that if they didn’t take me as a tutor, they’d take someone else so I wasn’t doing him any favours by turning it down. We’ll see how it goes – I’m meeting the family on the 24th when I go down for choir, and I’m just hoping that my supervisions and lectures won’t clash with the times we’ve provisionally agreed. If the worst comes to the worst, I’m sure there are other tutors they could find and hopefully other, less time-consuming, pupils I could tutor.

On Wednesday I had an appointment to meet the vicar for an informal chat, sort of preparation for confirmation but not really. I think it was mostly just for us both to be reassured that I knew what I was getting myself into, and for me to ask questions. He’s an incredibly well-informed and informative man, I learnt a lot and he told me some fascinating things that I hadn’t realised about the make-up of the church.

Then I got on a train and went to Smethwick Galton Bridge, to meet my friend Tom, his boat Spey, and her cargo of singersongwriters who were pootling around the canals seeking inspiration for a new album. Travelling by narrowboat is totally different from travelling any other way – calm, relaxed, and in the case of Spey, who was built in 1937 and still has her original (tempremental) Bolinder engine, very noisy and smoky.

We took a detour on our route to Wolverhampton to go through the Netherton tunnel (it took 32 minutes – I steered her on the way through, which was a very odd experience as it’s pitch black and the other end of the tunnel starts out as a tiny little dot of light) to go to a pub which turned out to have closed down. So we went to a much less exciting pub, met some tipsy men who challenged the boys to games of pool, exchanged bad jokes, laughed at a Carling’s advert, and then set off back through the tunnel and on to the Black Country Museum.

Thursday was spent at the museum as a temporary exhibit, because Spey’s sisterboat Stour (built at the same time and originally identical, although they’ve grown apart in 74 years) is a permanent fixture there. By some lucky chance a dedicated volunteer who cares for Stour, Dave, happened to be there that day. He and Tom swapped stories about the two boats while Tom fixed a leaky oil pump and I passed him cotton rags and got covered in grease and soot.

The museum is amazing, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before. As well as Stour and a collection of similarly interesting canal boats connected to the history of the Black Country, there are houses, shops, a church, a school, a mine, a cinema, a fairground, a tramway, a pumping station and probably lots of other things I didn’t get to see, all representing a typical Black Country town at different points between 1890 and 1930. Hordes of schoolchildren came through while we were there, and the lady in the bakery (which sold me a cherry bakewell and a bag of broken biscuits) told me that most of their visitors are from schools. I wish I’d been to a school close enough to visit! Hopefully I’ll go back again, although at £13.40 for adult admission I’m very glad we got in for free on the boat.

At about 4pm we gathered back on Spey again and set off for Wolverhampton, with Dave and another of Spey’s joint owners, Alan. I found it quite funny that I had gone from Wolverhampton to Smethwick Galton Bridge by train in about 10 minutes, but that it took us more than 24 hours to get back. Even considering the detours and stops, it’s much quicker by train! But not half as much fun. The others started writing songs, poems, tunes etc and I polished the brasswork on the chimneys and looked out for ducks.

In Wolverhampton we moored up in a rather rough-looking area, near a British Waterways facilities building (toilets, running water, showers, rubbish disposal – very luxurious compared to a tar boat with none of those things), and went off to find a pub with the dubious aid of Gren’s girlfriend Julia, who led us first to a bar that had closed down the previous week, and then to Wetherspoons. It was a very lively, very alcohol-filled evening and we played Animal Grab, Irish Snap and a weird fusion of the two called Irish Animal Grab/Snap which dissolved into anarchy and a lot of drunken merriment.

Friday morning dawned and there were an awful lot of hangovers, but we somehow made it down the 21 locks between Wolverhampton and the start of the Shropshire Union canal. When we reached the SU, everyone except Tom and I went off in a taxi back to Wolverhampton to catch trains home, while we continued on up the canal for a few more hours. It was probably the best bit of the trip – the weather was glorious, the canal was remarkably free of lager bottles, shopping trolleys, old clothes etc, the banks were tree-lined instead of factory-lined and it was nice to just glide along, saying hello to passersby (many of whom were delighted to see Spey – she’s a very recognisable boat and the SU is her home canal).

Then we reached Wheaton Aston, where Spey was left very firmly moored and Tom drove me home. It was odd going at 60mph after several days of moving at little more than walking pace. I got home just in time to change my clothes (which were filthy and rather smelly), eat some tea and get to choir practice. A very odd change of gear in a very short space of time!

Then I slept solidly for ten hours, and now mum and John are out at some kind of church meeting/lunch/discussion group thing, and in the next hour or so I might think about having a shower (bliss!) and getting dressed, before beginning the last remaining big job before I go back to uni: packing.

I got back to dozens of emails, mostly adverts from supermarkets for things I wouldn’t want and can’t afford anyway, but one of them was the college choir’s itineary for the next year. We’ve got all kinds of concerts, extra services and recitals all over the country, but the most exciting thing is the choir tour to the USA next July. I’ve always wanted to go to New York and Washington DC, and I’ll be seeing both and also Philadelphia, Long Island and Boston! The music list for next term also looks great; I’ve even sung a couple of the anthems and masses which is encouraging. The idea of joining a college choir, even though it’ll be wonderful, is a bit scary since I imagine almost everyone else will have much more choral experience than me. Eek.

It’s been a good week, not just because I’ve had a lot of fun and done a lot of things, but because I think it’s the first week for a very, very long time where I’ve done something spontaneously and not regretted it. I have been getting out and doing things this summer, but they have been planned a long way in advance – the Bath course, Whitby, visiting my dad and so forth. I suddenly thought of asking Tom if I could join the boat for a couple of days on Monday, and by Tuesday night it was settled. It’s good to know that I am back to being able to do that sort of thing without paying for it through a week of exhaustion and anxiety (although we’ll have to wait and see about the exhaustion I suppose!).

Time Warp (Again)

It does feel a little as though I’m living in a time warp, at the moment. Days are rolling past without much distinction and weeks just keep vanishing when I’m not looking.

I didn’t get that job. The interview was very relaxed, very informal, and very short. We got on well and I think I gave a good impression but the agency who called me (apparently everything had to be routed through them, since they handled the application) said that another candidate had more experience than me.

I was a tad irritated, although not really very energetically, because during the interview not a single word was said about experience. They didn’t ask me anything about the kind of work I’d done before, or want me to enlarge on the details in my CV. So really, if they were going to decide on the basis of experience there wasn’t actually any need for an interview at all. But I suppose it would have been possible that the more experienced person was obnoxiously appalling, and then I might have got the job instead.

Ah well. I’m still searching and applying, although there are far fewer jobs around now – I guess the summer rush, such as it was, is over. The cleaning agency tried to contact me about a one-off holiday cover job, but by the time I called them back it had been taken by someone else. Next time I will get it!

My friend Lawrence has been staying here for most of this week. He was here for a night last week and then went home for the weekend, and came back on Monday. He left this morning because he’s working this weekend. It’s been great to have someone around every day – John has gone on holiday and mum is working full time so I would be alone and without transport otherwise. We haven’t done a whole lot; I went to the doctors, we both went to the big town to shop and see a film, I had the job interview and then we drove around a bit, we’ve watched lots of DVDs and cooked meals and generally hung out. It’s great to have a friend I know so well that he can just come and stay without any kind of pomp and ceremony. He comes over so often that he has his own bed in the office – other people use it too when they come to stay, including my brother, but we refer to it as Lawrence’s bed.

Speaking of my brother, he and I and our dad and dad’s partner Gill are off to Scotland on Wednesday. Our granny isn’t very well and has moved into a home, so we’re making the long trip up to see her and hopefully fitting in some day trips on the way. Then lil bro will come back with me and spend the week here, hopefully with a trip to see Harry Potter and maybe some other fun things. When we planned it I had been worried that I would be working, and therefore he’d be left on his own, but no such problem has arisen. Silver lining?

This weekend is the final proper church choir weekend before the summer holiday, although we do have our patron saint’s festival at the start of August. So I’ve got choir practice tonight, I’m at the hospice tomorrow (I’ve been ill with bronchitis all week, so completely unable to go) and then on Sunday it’s the last morning service. It will be very odd to go to a church service and not sing in it. I have only done that about five times in the last ten years.

Last night mum had her monthly Ladies’ Guild meeting. They always have a little competition which members can enter; this month it was a decorated cupcake. Mum nearly always enters, because you get a point just for entering and most people don’t enter everything, so it is possible to win the overall prize even if you never win a monthly one (and she often does). So we were all experimenting with decorating cupcakes – I’m not sure it was quite Lawrence’s kind of thing but he gamely smeared some icing and stuck on some chocolate swirls. Turned out that piping butter icing through a cheap piping bag is hard! And very greasy. Mum finished a nice one and went off with it (she won by being the only entrant, although I suspect she would have won anyway), and I made up some strawberry icing from a packet mix, and tried out different designs. My conclusion? Cupcake design is not my calling, but it is fun.

Of Jobs and Swallows

I realised that I didn’t write anything about my job interview at a National Trust house! It all happened quite quickly; the closing date for the application was Thursday 23rd and they rang me on Friday, asking me to come in on Tuesday morning.

I might as well say now that I didn’t get the job (I was second on the list, apparently, from a shortlist of nine). I was very disappointed because it was a really great job, but it would have meant giving up all three of the weeks I’m meant to be away this summer, so there is a small positive.

It’s the first time that I’ve actively enjoyed a job interview! Not so much the interview itself, although the two people interviewing me were friendly and pleasant, but once the interview was over they gave me a free ticket to the house and got me booked onto the first tour of the day. Tickets cost about £10 usually so it more than made up for the cost of getting there.

The house was great! And the gardens and grounds were nice too, although not the best ones I’ve seen. I was there before the place was officially open, so I wandered around outside chatting to the staff who were working – gardeners, grooms, tour guides and volunteers, and they were all happy to chat. I would really love to work for the National Trust, but it seems that now is not the time to start.

I took some photos while I was outside, and one inside, but there is no electrical light inside so there wasn’t a lot of point taking more.

There was a nest of baby swallows in the barn roof
One of the beautiful old cars
This red Rover had been rebuilt, I think
The last two owners of the house both rowed for their Cambridge colleges

I also heard back from the cleaning agency again, after the interview a couple of weeks ago. They had found a client for me, but unfortunately when I told them that I’d be returning to uni at the end of September (I’d told them that before but it hadn’t been passed on) they decided not to give me that client after all, but to put me down for holiday cover and one-off cleans. So I might not get any work at all from that. I’m trying to be Zen about it all.

Summer Weather is Over

Well, looks like Tuesday was about all the sunshine we’re going to get. It’s been grey and drizzly ever since, with a few patches of blue sky in the early morning. Maybe it’ll get nice in September this year.

On Thursday I was at the children’s hospice again but I walked into town afterwards to get some money out, and then got the bus back. It’s about the same amount of walking in total, since the bus doesn’t come up the hill, but I had to get some cash for the weekend and there’s no cash point in our village.

Rather stupidly I caught the bus at 3.20, which is the bus that all the local school children catch so it was noisy and very full. The kids sitting behind me kept whispering “who’s that girl in front?” and eventually started poking me and pulling my hair, which of course is the accepted behaviour when you meet a stranger. I ignored them for as long as possible but they started to actually hurt so I turned round and told them to stop. They were rather shocked to discover that I wasn’t actually someone from their school but a “grown-up”, although I noticed no one apologised for the hair pulling… One of the girls asked me what the Pied Piper was (I was wearing my panto hoodie), which made me rather sad. Why don’t schools teach obscure German fairytales any more?

Anyway, on the way into town that afternoon I’d got a phone call from one of the jobs I’ve applied to, and they wanted to interview me on Friday morning. I explained that I had to be in town on Friday afternoon for another interview (a volunteer role) and it was awkward to come in twice, so he agreed to see me in the afternoon. In the event the volunteer interview was cancelled, so I could have gone in the morning after all. It’s a good job it was cancelled because I’d been planning to go straight from one to the other with ten minutes to spare. It was supposed to be a 20 minute walk, but it took me an hour. I wasn’t late, but it was close!

The interview went well, I think. It was for administrative support for 12 weeks in the office of a cold storage transport warehouse place where they mostly ship out raw meat and other frozen foods. The man interviewing me wanted to make sure that I’d be alright with the fact that there’s sometimes blood on the warehouse floor and that you can smell the meat. I was actually fine; it was interesting to hear about the process that meat goes through to be packed and processed – it has to get down to below -24 degrees within 3 days of being slaughtered, so there are some huge freezers which bring the temperature down (and up again) safely. I’d never really thought about that kind of thing before.

Not sure if I actually want the job, because the hours are 6am-2pm five days a week. It would be good money and I wouldn’t turn it down if they offer it to me, but the early start combined with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to take the three weeks off that I’ve planned means that I’d really prefer to get a couple of part time jobs. If I’m working one day in one place, two days in a couple of other places, then it’s full time hours but not as much of a problem to take off a couple of weeks. But we’ll see. If I have to miss Whitby Folk Festival or the choir course then I’ll just have to cope. I’m not prepared to miss going to Scotland to see my granny though.

This weekend I’m on my own because mum and John have gone to London, so I’ve been walking a lot and getting lifts from people in the choir to get me to and from church. I quite like having the house to myself sometimes, and doing things on my own timetable. I don’t actually do things all that much differently to usual, but it just feels different.

Tomorrow morning I’ve got another job interview, this time the cleaning agency and they’re coming here to see what state the house is in. I’ve been doing little bits of cleaning here and there, and I’ll vacuum in the morning – there’s no point doing it beforehand because the cats will only come and shed all over the place as soon as I’ve finished!

Summer Essential: Sun Cream

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Oh boy it was hot today. The temperature wasn’t all that unusual – it was about 22 degrees – but I wasn’t really expecting it to be quite so warm, so I wore a thick t-shirt and jeans. Definitely time to investigate my summer clothing options (which are alarmingly limited – I just noticed my favourite, and only, pair of shorts has developed holes that make them unsuitable for public wearing).

I would have been warm anyway because I spent the day at the children’s hospice and cleaning is warm work! We cleaned bathrooms, vaccuumed floors, washed down the tables and chairs in the dining room (not just the surfaces but the legs and underneath as well), cleaned the paintwork, swept the floor of all the kitchen areas and store rooms, and generally wore ourselves out. Time goes past really quickly there, because everyone chats and jokes and just gets on with things. I’m really enjoying it (and the wonderful lunch I got was exactly what I needed after four hours of cleaning!).

It is actually an even brighter red than this

I finished at half past two and walked home. It’s about an hour from there to our house, mostly flat until I reached the hill we live on, which is a twenty-minute hike on steep and winding roads. I don’t mind walking long distances if I’m actually going somewhere, but I’d foolishly forgotten to put any suncream on and my pale-as-milk covered-all-winter skin is now bright red. Ouch. There wasn’t really any shade anywhere on the road and that might account for how exhausted I was when I got back; I fell asleep on the sofa within ten minutes, and once I’d got into my bed I slept for three hours.

Now I’m slathered in aftersun and well-rested, but I won’t be making that mistake again. Sun cream if I’m venturing out of the doors even for ten minutes. After seeing my brother suffer from second-degree sun burn in a French holiday resort when we were little (he had to be taken to hospital, which was not how I’d choose to spend my holiday) I’m determined not to suffer the same fate. A pox on our Scottish/Irish heritage!

I’ve been preparing for my choral scholarship audition, which is two weeks on Friday. I’ve never sung solo classical music so I had to ask for advice on what I ought to prepare – I think the director of music interpreted my email as saying that I’d never sung classical at all! She seemed relieved when I assured her I have sung in several choirs. I’ve chosen “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion” from Handel’s Messiah, which I really liked as soon as I heard it, and which requires some pretty good breathing. Hopefully the leaders of my church choir will be able to help me practise it. My proud Northern vowels aren’t really in keeping with classical music so I’m struggling to remember how to sing them “properly”.