Back from Whitby and three weeks to go…

…until I start my midwifery training! It feels so close this side of my holiday. This week is dedicated to finishing tidying up, and then sitting down with my textbooks and doing a bit of advance study. Some of the other students will have just finished a human biology course, or an Access course specifically for midwifery, or maybe worked as a maternity care assistant, so they’ll already know a lot of biology. I haven’t ever studied human biology… eek!

Whitby Folk Week was a lot of fun, and also a lot tiring. The first night I was horribly ill, which I suspect was due to food poisoning from a vegan wrap I bought on the way. Not a great way to start the week. I did a couple of clog dancing workshops, went to several fantastic concerts (and a couple of less great ones – not because of the music, but because the venue was too small and overcrowded, and people talked loudly over the performances), danced at ceilidhs until my legs ached, power walked up and down several extremely steep hills which made me feel better about not going for a single run in the last two weeks, and went to a Harry Potter-themed ceilidh dressed as Hannah Abbott. The other people in our stewarding team were all costumed as well: I particularly liked Fluffy the three-headed dog, as worn by a pair of 12 year old twins and their 13 year old sister, Aragog (who won the costume prize, it was spectacular), two ghosts with unsettling white face paint and a frankly dangerous centaur outfit constructed from piping and string. It was great fun getting ready, and we were quite an impressive sight as we walked through town.

I got back last night and a midwifery friend stayed over, so this morning we ventured out to find a cafe that was open for brunch – all I have in the cupboards is porridge oats. The one I wanted to go to was shut for the bank holiday but we discovered a different one at the other end of my road, which I hadn’t even noticed before but which did an excellent veggie breakfast very cheaply.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly moving towards being vegan. I’ve stopped buying anything which isn’t vegan (with a single exception – on the way home I bought a Burger King veggie burger meal, after a long discussion with the server and two other staff members about whether it was vegan… which it would have been if they hadn’t put cheese in it…), and once everything I already own which isn’t vegan has been used up, I will officially be animal-products free. It’s a lot easier when I’m at home than when I’m away but despite the temptations of everyone else’s food at the campsite, I managed. Possibly I ate too many Ginger Nut biscuits (vegan!) and dark chocolate, but still.

Now that I’m home, I’ve received my provisional uni timetable and started the enrolement process. It’s feeling quite real, and quite unreal at the same time. Three weeks tomorrow, I start.


I think my new town is full of hippies

I move into my new flat for real properly 100% on Saturday. This time, I won’t be dropping by for a few days with a carry-bag of clothes, I’ll be living there for the indefinite future. I’m in the process of changing my official address with my banks, the DVLA, various online shops, and all kinds of other places I keep suddenly remembering. This is it, folks. This is for real!

Because I’m a little anxious that I’ll be lonely for the next six weeks, if not beyond that, I’ve been making plans to keep myself busy. I’ve already got some regular commitments lined up – church on Sunday (twice, if I am really stuck for things to do), running group on Mondays and Thursdays. Today I emailed my tutoring student to arrange restarting his lessons, which will have the additional advantage of providing a steady income until my student funding is sorted out.

I also arranged to meet the family who will hopefully become my new babysitting clients (and, incidentally, emailed my old babysitting clients to see if they’re free for me to pop round and say hello/goodbye before I leave for good), which I’m looking forward to. Their baby is at one of my favourite ages and their requirements seem to fit quite nicely around my timetable, at least until placements start.

If you read my food blog, you’ll know that I’ve also booked myself onto two cookery classes over the next month. They’re based at a cookery school/community store/bakery a few minutes’ walk from my flat, and I’m so excited about it. I’m not making any decisions yet, but in the back of my mind is the possibility that I might volunteer at the community store a little. Quite by chance while browsing their website I discovered that there’s a community market next week so I’ll be heading over to that. It should be a nice way to meet some new people, and by the look of things there will be lots of delicious food on sale!

My optimistic hope is that the community store will sell things like rice, pasta, lentils and other dry goods at an equivalent or cheaper price than the supermarket a half-hour’s walk away, and that the place I’ve scoped out as a possible source of freely-delivered fruit and vegetable boxes will be of good enough quality to be worth a slightly higher price. I intend to start making my own bread if possible, but it’s also nice to know that I can buy totally natural, no-preservatives, freshly-made bread nearby and the prices don’t look too bad.

As soon as I’m back I need to cycle out to the university administrative offices and hand in the paperwork for my Disclosure and Barring Services check – what used to be known as a CRB. I didn’t want to post it while I was away, because I had visions of my important documents being returned to my flat and trampled into oblivion as it lay uncollected on the doormat for a month, but now I’m concerned that if I don’t hurry up and sort it out, I won’t have clearance by the time I start my hospital placements.

Another minor problem that might turn out to be fairly major is that my driving licence is still in my mum’s address. I hadn’t even thought of that – I can’t get my head around the fact that I now have my own official address which will be accepted as a proper address by everyone. After four years of being constantly told “we can’t accept university accommodation addresses” and wanting to cry with frustration as my post was pointlessly sent to Shropshire and forwarded on, it’s hard to adjust. I did try to update my driving licence address last week but true to form, the government department website sent me round and round the houses before crashing and informing there was “an error”. Helpful.

Anyway, aside from the bureaucratic issues involved in moving house, I am looking forward to my new life. There are so many parks, all of which seem to have regular community days and parties. I was disappointed to discover that the nearest park’s free community festival clashed with my summer job, but there’s a folk festival later in the summer which is not too far away, and various family fun days and farmers’ markets to attend. I shall put on my best tie-dye skirt and Doc Marten boots and go along to mingle with my new neighbours (and maybe buy some quinoa and weird root vegetables I can’t name).

Live Below the Line Challenge

I’m cross-posting today from my food blog because I want as many people as possible to see this post.

Now that National Vegetarian Week is over, I’m looking ahead to next month. Specifically, to the 23rd-27th June. During these five days I will be taking part in the Live Below the Line challenge, spending no more than £5 on food in total with a maximum budget of £1 per day.

It was quite hard choosing the right time to do the challenge. I heard about it in early May through A Girl Called Jack and was interested, but knew I needed to wait until after my exams. When I flicked through my diary, I was horrified to discover that after the end of my exams I didn’t have a single stretch of five days without a scheduled dinner, ball, garden party, wedding or other meal until after the end of June. The challenge officially ends on June 30th, but even if it didn’t my summer job requires me to eat in the dining hall with the summer school participants every day, so the earliest I could take part would be August. Eventually I worked out that if I took a packed breakfast with me to the wedding, for the morning after, I could fit it in between that and my graduation dinner.

How awful, to “fit in” a challenge to raise money for a food poverty-related charity (I have chosen Health Poverty Action due to their focus on health and sustainability) between extravagent dinners and events which will waste far more food that some families see in a month. It was that realisation more than anything else that made me determined to do this. And how incredibly fortunate I am that my regular, day-to-day life includes so much easily accessible, healthy, delicious food.

I have already drawn up a shopping list, attempting to balance nutrition with cost in a way that won’t leave me climbing the walls for something sweet (I’ve accounted for my dessert-cravings with some fruit yoghurts and a jar of jam). It wasn’t easy to make the list either – I had a perfectly balanced shopping basket on Sainsbury’s Online and I was feeling a little smug, until I realised that I hadn’t got any kind of fat to cook my vegetables with, or to fry or scramble eggs in, or to spread on my toast. Even the cheapest butter cost £1.20, way more than the 21p I had left over in my budget. Back to the drawing board.

In the end I sacrificed vegetable stock cubes, natural yoghurt and pasta in order to have butter. It seems almost inconceivable that I would have to ditch a 15p packet of stock cubes so that I could fry an onion but that’s the sort of decision that people have to make every day.

Please, help me to actually have an impact through this challenge by sponsoring me. A few people pretending to be living in poverty for a few days isn’t going to solve anyone’s genuine poverty, but donating to Health Poverty Action will have a real impact.

Hosting a Vegan Dinner Party

As readers of my food blog will know, tonight I am hosting a vegan dinner party with a friend. I just got back from buying vegetables for it – I was in charge of anything fresh while my friend bought tofu, pine nuts, olives, artichokes, avocadoes (bought at the weekend in the hopes they would be ripe by today) and so forth.

One small hiccup in the plan was that we invited 10 people, and eight of them are coming. That means a total of ten people for dinner, and neither my kitchen nor my room are big enough. I booked a common room, but in the process spotted a sign saying “Absolutely no parties at all this term”. According to the college, a party is any gathering with six or more people. Some other colleges specify the presence of alcohol as making something into a party, and some take the probably more sensible approach of defining a party as a certain number of people plus alcohol. But here, just six people in a room makes it a party.

Obviously the prohibition of parties is because exams are taking place this term, and people don’t want to be disturbed by lots of noise. Our solution is two-fold: firstly, we will instruct our guests not to be noisy. Everyone who is coming is part of the chapel team, so is practised in the art of sitting quietly. Secondly, if someone happens to check the room to make sure that there are no parties going on, the two of us who are college members will claim that we each have four guests, and that our simultaneous presence in the room is entirely coincidental…

Hopefully it won’t come to that. I do think that the college rules could benefit from being a little more nuanced: under the current system, spontaneous and unauthorised parties occur quite frequently in my kitchen when several people decide to cook at the same time, and there’s a non-stop party taking place in the college library. However, five people sitting the gardens shrieking with laughter in front of 200 bedroom windows isn’t restricted at all. Bit daft really.

Welcoming my Food Blog!

For three years now I have had a food blog hosted over at Blogspot. However, I’ve been pondering for a few months now whether I should move it over to WordPress, because I prefer the interface and would like to connect my blog presences to one another. Today I made the decision to actually do it!

I also thought about merging the two blogs, but I wasn’t sure that was even possible and in the end felt it wouldn’t really work. They have separate purposes and separate characters. However, if you’re interested in reading about what I’m cooking, plus occasionally trying out some recipes, then have a look at Faint With Hunger.