Ad Lib House Move

Gosh, has it really been seven months since I wrote a blog post? Part of me can’t believe it’s been such a long time, and another part of me can’t believe it’s only been seven months. It’s been a busy summer and I’ve crossed more than one thing off my bucket list!

So last time I checked in, it was February and I had just had my 26th birthday. I’d recently started a Masters course in Child Welfare, we’d had our anxious rescue dog for six months, and I was rehearsing for the local light opera group’s spring production. We were settled into the cottage and Naomi was in the swing of her clinical psychology training. Paige was still wary of the dog, but we’d put up baby gates and everyone was fairly comfortable. I even remember musing that it would be nice to have a period of stability where I could catch my breath and put down roots after several years of constant change.

But of course such a state of stability could not last! In April, we were visiting Naomi’s parents for Easter when we got a slightly odd text message from our landlady, asking where we were thinking would be a more suitable place for us to live long-term. I assumed this was something to do with the conversation I’d had with her about how we’d like to make the front garden a bit more wheelchair-accessible by returning what had once been a gate but had been blocked up by a trellis to its former state, and a passing comment I’d made about living somewhere less hilly. Naomi wasn’t so sure. Either way, we didn’t reply immediately as we were on holiday.

Two days later we got another text: the landlady had decided to sell the house. She wasn’t going to renew our tenancy and we would have to move out.

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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).

A Running Update

Goodness, isn’t the weather unusually summery? I’ve been telling all the summer school students that they picked the right year to visit England, but to be honest the hot weather has a downside for me: I have to run very early in the morning to have even a hope of avoiding the worst of the heat. I’ve been managing fairly well and the actual running has seemed slightly easier each time I’ve gone, but I’m still only running for short bursts of time. After having run for almost an hour several times last month, my twenty minute jogs feel like a bit of a cop-out, but there simply isn’t time for longer runs thanks to my fairly punishing schedule.

I’m still enjoying this job a lot, but I am very glad to have reached the weekend. We’ve worked long, busy days since Sunday and I’m looking forward to an evening and two whole days where all I have to do is socialise with my friends, eat meals (one of the requirements of the job is to be present at breakfast and dinner in case my students need to ask me something) and sleep. Oh, and run, of course.

Running out of time

As in, I have no time in which to run! My job this month has very long hours (but since we are incredibly busy, they tend to fly by – I looked up today, saw it was ten to five and genuinely wondered whether the clock was broken because it didn’t feel like seven hours could possibly have passed) and the weather is extremely hot. My working day starts at 8am, when I have to be present for breakfast, and finishes at 7pm at the earliest, sometimes later. It’s too hot to run in the evenings until after dark, so my only option is to get up at dawn and run then before it’s heated up much.

Honestly, I’m sort of feeling like I’m too exhausted to get up at 6.30am and go running before working anything between a 9 and a 14 hour day, but then I think about the fact that if I don’t, I will have lost an entire month from my half marathon training plan and I realise that isn’t an option. I’ve switched my training plan back to the slightly easier level I was initially on, not because I can’t physically manage the demanding level but because I haven’t got time to run for 35-60 minutes, four times a week. I’ll kick it back up a notch in August.

I am really enjoying this job, though. It’s very varied, and so far I haven’t managed to mess anything up too badly. I’ve forgotten a few tiny things, but the permanent staff are very on the ball and usually notice before it’s become a problem. I’m getting into the swing of it and I feel like I’m generally on top of things. Tomorrow, however, the summer school classes start and a whole raft of new tasks materialise. My jobs so far have ranged from stuffing information leaflets into cardboard files and vacuuming up flying ants to meeting with the conference manager to discuss meal bookings and making announcements about fire safety.

I’m now off to bed, at an almost unprecedentedly early hour, and hoping that my phone doesn’t ring in the night. It probably won’t, I am not anticipating any emergencies, but if it does I have to answer. Rather concerningly, my work phone has almost no signal in my room, but there’s not a lot I can do about that!

Summer Job Success

I got an email last night to tell me that I have got the summer job I applied for! It’s a month’s role which is the best of both worlds for me – I’ll earn enough to cover my rent for two months but I won’t be leaving my new flat empty all summer. It also doesn’t clash with my week’s holiday in August and although it does overlap with two choir events, I’m hoping I’ll be able to do at least one of them – they seemed to think it should be possible when I mentioned it at interview.

I’ve been joking to friends that since my week is going so well, I should buy a lottery ticket, but I don’t really think I’m going through a lucky patch. I’ve been working towards these goals – the midwifery degree, having my own flat, getting this job – and although I’m certainly fortunate that the opportunities have come up at exactly the right time, I don’t believe in blind chance. Pity really, it would be nice to win a big chunk of money. Perhaps I’ll buy a ticket just in case…

A Few Updates

I started writing a long post about my weekend a few days ago, but it got too long and convoluted, and even I found it boring to read.

So instead, here is a quick list of what’s going on in my life.

  1. I have applied for a flat! I went to view it on Friday and although it is extremely small, it was recently done up and is in a perfect location two minutes from a train station and ten minutes’ walk from a lovely church, a park and various interesting shops and museums. Assuming all the paperwork is fine, I will be moving in the second week of June.
  2. I have a job interview! Slightly in conflict with the previous point, I am interviewing for a summer job here in Cambridge. It would be either a month or a month and a half, depending on which they offer me, but it pays extremely well and I think I’d really enjoy the work. I’ll probably find out whether or not I’ve got it at the start of next month.
  3. Also at the start of next month, I’ll know about the midwifery course – still no word either way. Hopefully the summer job will give me the flexibility either to find a permanent job or to take a few weeks off before the course starts in September.
  4. I’m over the Easter vacation. Although I still have nearly 4,000 words to write on my dissertation (and two and a half weeks to write them in – I’m not worried, it will be fine, but I’ve dropped my revision timetable in order to concentrate on getting those words out) I have had enough of the endless unstructured days.

And now back to work. I have been sitting on some proofreading for over a month and have promised myself (and my client!) that I will finish it tonight. It has been hanging over my head for weeks but it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to do. One of these days I’ll learn to just get things done sooner.

 

A Quick Update

It’s been a while since I updated anyone other than my parents on what I’m up to, so here we are! I’ve been a mixture of busy and relaxed – busy because I’m working on half a dozen different things, relaxed because I’m spending hours reading, walking the dog, lying on the sofa and playing on Edith’s Wii.

Visiting Chicago was fun, if a little rushed. The train journey out felt a lot longer than the journey back, probably because we left late and the train was full. Stumo and I wandered round the centre of Chicago, went up to the top of a tall building and admired what the leaflet assured us was a view of four different states, but looked mostly like a very big, flat city and a ridiculously huge lake with a nice sandy beach. This time I didn’t go anywhere near any clothing shops and neither did I eat an ice cream bigger than my head, so I’m counting that as a successful trip.

Other than a couple more day trips to Michigan and Indiana’s fine selection of small lake communities, I’ve spent most of my days wandering between the house, the library and the cafe with good internet. I’m juggling my midwifery distance course, which was sadly neglected during term time and is now due in a terrifying two weeks, my personal statement and UCAS application, research for my dissertation, updating the files for my NaNoWriMo support group, Skype tutoring and proof-reading my student’s mother’s dissertation. Today I discovered the wonders of the Wii Fit, and went for a run after a shameful five weeks of lazing. I’ve also rather terrifyingly been driving Edith’s car, sometimes without her in it as well, which has had its hairy moments but to my surprise has been without incident so far. If I get brave enough (and if anyone ever replies to my letters) I might even drive it to visit a prison or two.

Last Thursday I heard from my dad that my grandmother had died. She has been ill for most of my life, in various ways that didn’t seem to put a halt to her gallivanting, but for the last couple of years she has been fading slowly and getting increasingly confused. Last week she went suddenly downhill and now she is gone. I can’t afford to fly back for the funeral, but I will be remembering her and her intriguing, not particularly maternal but very active, life. And then I will be driving to Indianapolis for a gaming convention. I think she would have approved.

Welcomed

Well, I’ve been here for almost a week now (minus about nine hours at the moment) and I’m starting to get settled. I have found a cafe with sufficiently reliable internet for video Skype, which is reassuring because it means I can carry on tutoring – the library’s internet is so appalling I can’t even send emails. I have organised my little nest in the eaves of the house, and made friends with a few of the neighbourhood children, which hopefully might turn into a source of occasional baby-sitting income. I’ve found a church which is a fifteen minute cycle ride away, on a bike borrowed from Edith’s landlady. It is a fixed-gear bike with coasting brakes, which took some getting used to – pedalling backwards to stop is not something that comes intuitively to me!

The people at the church were incredibly welcoming when I went yesterday morning. All the churches we visited on the choir tour were thrilled to have us, but I hadn’t expected such a warm welcome when I turned up as an unknown congregation member. At least a dozen people came to welcome me, and every single one of them asked why I would leave England during the Olympics. Apparently it’s a huge deal over here! One lady offered to take me to the ballet, another said I should call her and we could have lunch with her midwife, and everyone seemed thrilled to have a strange English girl turn up out of the blue. I was asked to carry the Communion wine up to the altar, which is an honour they grant to visitors and new members apparently. I also made instant friends with a little girl who turned eight two months ago, and who looks about five. We bonded over the fact that everyone thinks we’re younger than we are – I was IDed to eat pizza on Wednesday. I hadn’t realised you had to be 21 to do that…
On Saturday Edith and I drove up to Michigan to visit a friend from the forum we originally met through, who lives in a lovely house on the lakeside in the middle of an Amish community. He was a very interesting man who I believe is in his early seventies; we’re planning on visiting again this weekend with a few other friends. I might take the opportunity, finances permitting, to head on to Chicago for a night to see Stumo, who is coincidentally spending a few weeks in the States in August. Perhaps this time I’ll enjoy Chicago a bit more than last time I was there – Stumo, if you suggest spending four hours in American Apparel and Urban Outfitters I will abandon you without a flicker of guilt.

Well, I’ve been in this cafe for two and a half hours so it’s probably time to head home for lunch and to take the dog for another wander. My exciting plans for the afternoon include uploading some photos (I promise! I have been hopeless at photos but there are lots of them coming soon) and reorganising the kitchen cupboards. I’m really enjoying actually having a kitchen which stays clean when I clean it and isn’t full of other people’s dirty dishes. I also need to re-read my draft email to the prisons I’m hoping to visit for my dissertation; I’m putting off sending it because I’m terrified of miswording it and ruining my chances, but I need to get a move on because I’m only here for another month and a half.

Home, Temporarily

I have reached Indiana where I’ll be spending the next two months and I’m settling into the cutest little attic nest – it has sloping ceilings which I can just stand under, and a huge walk-in closet which is almost as big as my room was in uni this year. I have acquired a canine friend to keep my company while my friend Edith is at work (it’s her dog – I didn’t just steal a dog from the street) and tomorrow I’m going to scope out the neighbourhood for places to Skype from, since the only internet here is via Edith’s phone.

The choir tour was interesting; several times I got sick of having people around all the time and I think I was also pretty tired a lot, so I just got ratty. But we sang in some amazing places and I got to hang out with my friend Christie before she moved back to Canada at the end of the tour. I’m starting to adjust to the ridiculous heat – some days it has been approaching 40 degrees, and almost every day it’s been over thirty. Boston in particular was really hot and pretty humid too. We’re having thunderstorms here which is clearing the air nicely.

Jet lag was almost completely a non-issue thanks to our flight being timed during the evening US time, night UK time – we arrived at about 10.30pm local time and fell into bed exhausted. Then I woke up at 6am the next day totally over any body-clock confusion. But it does mean that I’m forgetting there’s a time difference; anyone who would have expected to see me on Skype by now, I keep logging on at what would be 2 or 3am in England. I’ll get into a routine soon, not least because I have to start video-camera tutoring on Thursday!

Guess what I’m doing today?

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My favourite activity…

I have to be on a train at 3pm on Tuesday. Before then, everything I own must be divided up according to whether I will need it next week, the week after, in America, or not until October. The final category must be put into two 1m cubes of storage space, and the other three packed into various bags and suitcases to be put… I haven’t actually figured that part out yet. Somewhere.

Thank goodness for friends, I guess. Stumo has generously agreed to hire and drive a van for me on Tuesday, and a couple of other people have offered to come and entertain me while I pack. Packing might be one of my least favourite activities I have to do on a regular basis (except possibly chasing flies around my room, trying to get them out without killing them, which I have spent more time doing for the last three days than I would care to admit).