Managing my Workflow, or How I Get Anything Done, Ever

A few days ago I posted about the tools I use to stop my life from descending into disorganised chaos and ensure that I remember to do basic things like feed myself properly, and also stay on top of academic deadlines.

Tempting, in the absence of structure and plan
Tempting, in the absence of structure and plan

Today I’m honing in on how I create a routine for days when I have no externally-imposed structure. I do not do well with unstructured time. Give me an entirely free day without any specified tasks and I am likely to spend it in my pyjamas, eating toast and biscuits and watching catchup TV on my laptop. Obviously that isn’t a very good way to get things done. It’s fine on the odd occasion, but for various health-related reasons I’m currently only going into university for a day and a half each week, so I had to find a way to make sure I actually got round to some constructive studying on the days I was officially “working from home”. My tutors are very supportive, but I think even their tolerance would fail to encompass a month’s worth of vegetating. Plus it would drive me to a pit of stinky, malnourished depression. Continue reading

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Apparently, Mature Students Don’t Drink

At least, that seemed to be the gist of the talk we received from the Student Union rep today! In fairness, he didn’t actually put it that way. He just said that he would try to make sure that there were plenty of non-boozy activities for the mature students. It feels very odd to be classified as mature, but it’s true that I don’t drink. The two are, however, unrelated!

Anyway, I’ve almost finished Freshers’ Week – it’s quite different from my last freshers’ week, which was more like freshers’ two days before lectures started. We weren’t given any information really; we even had to track down our own timetables by figuring out how to get into the faculty website and find them. In contrast, this Freshers’ Week is extremely thorough. Extremely thorough. We spent three hours today being shown how to use the same website by four different people.

On the upside, I have found a group of friendly like-minded people to hang out with, and we’ve all turned out to be based at the same hospital for our placements, and are in the same group when the cohort is divided in half for smaller group work which is nice. One girl, who I met on the pre-course day back in July, is based at the same medical centre as me for community placements and the other two are at another placement together. Obviously once we actually start placements we’ll all be split up and working different shifts but for this period of observation and introductions it’s nice to have a friend around.

I was delighted on the first day when we all went down to the canteen together and almost the entire cohort turned out to have brought a packed lunch. I was concerned I might be the sole sad loner with her lunch box while everyone else piled their plates with hot canteen food, but I suppose we’re all living on the fairly limited NHS bursary and many of the other students have families to support. Incidentally, I’ve ordered a Thermos food flask so that I can take hot lunches with me – I’ve come home starving every day so far, and only the fact that the canteen doesn’t sell any vegan food has stopped me from buying snacks.

Probably the hunger is partly due to the energy I’m expending just getting to the campus! After four years of being able to roll out of bed ten minutes before lectures and meander across the road to the faculty, it’s been an adjustment having to get up early and cycle for 25 minutes with everything I need for the day jammed into my handbag and panniers. On Monday I got thoroughly splattered with mud as I cycled along the boggy canal towpath, so on Tuesday I attempted to get there by road. It wasn’t exactly a resounding success: although I did arrive unsplattered, I was sweaty, red and stressed by traffic and nearly ten minutes late. Fortunately the lecturer hadn’t arrived yet, but I won’t be repeating the exercise. On days when it’s too wet to cycle, I shall get the train.

I have to admit I’m finding Freshers’ Week incredibly tedious. Although I appreciate actually being given information instead of being expected to guess what we’re meant to be doing and where, I wish we were actually doing something. The only thing even approaching actual work that we’ve done so far is draw a picture of our journey to midwifery. I spent quite a long time on mine, with the result that the girls had to help me finish colouring it in at lunchtime today so that I could hand it in before we went home, but I wouldn’t exactly call it art.

We have been given some workbooks to print out and take with us on Monday, but unfortunately my printer paper has mysteriously vanished, we don’t have printer access at uni until after enrollment (which is at the end of the day on Monday) and I forgot the memory stick they were saved on when I went to the city library to try and print them. I could have downloaded them from the course website, except that we need an enrollment key to get onto that, and we will get those next week. Basically it was a ridiculous palaver, mostly of my own making, which means that I’m going to have to go to the library on Saturday and try again. It’s also expensive! The university charges 5p per page (not per sheet of paper – double-sided printing is no cheaper), and the city library charges 10p. Unfortunately even when equipped with paper, my printer isn’t really good enough for printing out anything important.

I also attempted to pay in a cheque today. I’ve been trying to pay this blinking cheque in for weeks now; every time I set off to a branch of my bank I fail utterly to find it. The one near university has mysteriously vanished; the one near the city library is on a street I couldn’t locate. I’ll have one last attempt at finding a third branch and then give up and post the thing!

In summary I’ve not done a lot this week, but it’s been fairly exhausting nonetheless! Tomorrow we are visiting our placement hospitals, which should be interesting, and then next week lectures start up properly. I’ll be glad when things get going!

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.

The End of the Line – for now

Today, I had the last exam of my law degree. I have finished my finals. I graduate in two and a half weeks. I’m almost a graduate. I can’t quite get my head around it.

I was the first person out of the exam hall, partly because of where I was seated and also because I didn’t take a bag, so didn’t have to go and collect it after we were released. I walked out of the doors of the faculty building and was confronted by a bank of people (at least twice as many as had sat the exam) waiting with bottles of champagne and sparkling wine to celebrate with their friends. We were the very last exam for Finalist law students, so most of the rest of the year were there.

No one for me, though. I slunk out of the door and slipped round the side to avoid any possible splashing with champagne – a rather wasteful and ridiculous tradition is to spray the examinees who have finished their last paper with wine as they exit, which creates quite a lot of mess. I’ve managed to avoid ever being soaked, partly by always being one of the first out and also by not having the sort of friends who meet me after an exam with a bottle of wine.

Or who meet me at all, actually. I hadn’t expected it to upset me as much as it did, but as l walked back towards college I found myself welling up. It wasn’t just that it was a total anti-climax, it was also the fact that after almost four years I have reached the end of my law degree. This place has been incredibly formative for me, and now I’m facing the very real and immediate prospect of leaving. No matter how excited I am about what the future holds, and I really am excited about it, leaving is scary. Change is scary.

I was just browsing through my blog posts from two years ago, just before and just after I returned from my year of illness, and two things struck me. The first was that I am so much healthier and more physically able to keep up with my life than I was back then. And the second is that I am no longer as thrilled and enthused by studying law. A couple of months ago a friend said something that struck a chord: at this point, we’re nearing the end of the marathon and all we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope we don’t fall over.

It’s been a long, hard slog, mostly uphill with the occasional brief but exciting downward freestyle. I’ve gone from being a nervous, arrogant, lazy teenager to (hopefully) a slightly more thoughtful, focused adult. I still make bad choices about how to use my time, I still leave piles of dirty dishes sitting around for weeks, I still discover something I didn’t even know I didn’t know every single day, but I’ve done a lot of growing up since I got here at age 18. And now, in just a few days, I’ll be leaving.

Today has been a weird day. Even if I hadn’t woken up in my new flat several hours’ journey away from here, I would have found it strange. I think in a way spending the morning travelling helped to lessen the oddness – instead of sitting at my desk for one last morning of cramming, I reviewed my flash cards on the train and gazed out of the window at the passing scenery. Once I had made it back to my college room I had only half an hour before I needed to be in the exam hall, so I gathered my stuff together and headed over early to collect my thoughts (plugging my ears so I couldn’t hear the other students having last-minute recap discussions of things I haven’t even heard of before – the only thing that causes me to feel panicked before an exam). The exam itself actually started out hilariously, thanks to a minor delay while we waited for some extra copies of the exam materials. The invigilator kept saying things that he didn’t realise were funny; in fact they might very well not have been, but we were all tantalisingly close to finishing and the mood was generally upbeat. When someone asked if it would be possible to move the clock from half way down the side wall, where most people couldn’t see it, the invigilator said he would make an additional time announcement to warn us that we were 45 minutes away from the end – they already always announce 30 and 5 minutes. Someone pointed out that a 40 minute warning would be more useful and we all laughed – in a two hour exam, with three questions to answer, 40 minutes is the golden standard – but he didn’t seem to understand. We eventually started four minutes late, and I gazed at the questions for several minutes before my brain finally engaged and I realised that I could answer them after all.

As I’ve said, once the exam was over it all felt a bit of a let-down. I came back to my room, gathered up my textbooks and returned them to the library. Our librarians are all lovely, and although my particular friend wasn’t there, the woman who took my books was sufficiently nice that I ended up crying all over again.

Fortunately the mood didn’t last long, and although I teared up a couple of times during Evensong (weirdly, when the sermon preacher mentioned the excellent poem Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart, as well as more predictable moments like when it was announced that there are only three more services left this year) I cheered up considerably thanks to the wonderful music we were singing. Only one girl still has exams – I thought I was the last to finish but she is carrying on til the bitter end on Thursday – and the atmosphere was almost party-like. Afterwards most of us went to formal hall together, which was fun if a little overwhelming in terms of noise. I was sitting right at the end of the choir’s section of the table, and I laughed until I cried at overhearing my neighbours’ conversation – they were attempting to teach a girl from Ireland how to pronounce her vowels “properly”, and it just seemed hilarious. They found my hilarity equally amusing, and I made some temporary friends.

Everyone decamped to the bar afterwards but Heidi and I decided to come home instead and spent an hour chatting over cups of tea and reading amusing blog posts and looking at pictures of cats (my favourite social activity). And now I am off to bed, because tomorrow morning Amelia arrives for a 24 hour visit! I’m so glad she’s coming, tomorrow would have felt very flat otherwise until the choir rehearsal in the evening. Thursday will be busy with my last ever singing lesson, babysitting, choir, and another formal meal. And Friday? On Friday I must start packing.

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.

 

Revision Motivation

Term has ended, and in its place revision has started (I’m easing into it gently this week, since I have some 7-10 hour choir days to work around). This year is, at last, my finals year which means that I am a little more interested in getting good grades – not stressing about it, but motivated to work. It helps that of my six papers, I am interested in five of them and only finding one of them impossible to follow… and oddly, those exceptions apply to different papers, which will hopefully help me not to fail either of them.

But wanting to do well this year isn’t sufficient motivation to get me to sit down and concentrate for hours at a time. No, what I’m relying on for serious encouragement is a sticker chart. Yup, I’m six years old again, and I have no shame. I’ve drawn up a fairly ambitious but still achievable schedule that has me focusing on each subject for 24 hours in total over the next six weeks. The plan is to tackle them in two three-hour sessions on rotation, and for every completed hour I can add a new coloured dot to my chart. So far I have four dots and am currently on a tea break mid-way through earning a fifth.

It’s funny how it seems to help. Even when I’m genuinely interested in what I’m doing and even enjoying the process of revisiting and summarising my notes, or researching and writing my dissertation, it can be tempting to get distracted by something else. Having a goal to aim for, even if it’s something as simple as sticking a small coloured sticker onto a piece of paper, helps me to stretch out my attention span for a little longer.

And on that note, time to wash the remaining bowls soaking in the sink, switch off Shirley Bassey and get back down to work.

My Hypothetical Book Collection

I went to the Cambridge Book Fair today, run by the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association. I wasn’t expecting to find anything I really wanted to buy. I’m a fan of books, I like looking at and being amused by old books, I’m impressed by fancy, rare or unusual ones, but at the end of the day I go home and read a paperback or an ebook on my Kindle without a sigh.

But today, my hypothetical shopping list would have set me back at least £3,500. The first book which tempted me was a history of Newnham College, published in 1921 and priced at only £25, and I took the man’s card because that is not so much money that I couldn’t possibly envisage myself buying it. I’ll think about it – it’s not likely to be high-demand, I can wait a couple of weeks before deciding.

Then I found a first edition, Hogarth Press version of The Years. I have a £2.99 paperback copy sitting on my table right now, but the lure of the beautiful, rare, historical book was strong. Not quite £1,500 strong, sadly. But I have to confess that I was very, very close to deciding that I don’t need to eat for the next two years. (I have since looked on the bookseller’s website and discovered they have another copy, identical apart from the fact that it is signed by the author… and therefore costs a cool £25,000. Gulp.)

And then I found a copy of Million Dollar Month by Sylvia Plath. Only 155 copies were ever printed, five of which were special advance copies. And this was one of the five. Oh, my goodness, I wanted to buy it. I still want to buy it. It would set me back a further £1,250. Perhaps if I bought the two together (they were both being sold by the same bookseller), I might get a discount, but it’s unlikely to be a £2,700 discount which would be what I needed to afford them!

And then I found another book for £350, and one for £40, and one for… you get the picture. Some of them were just particularly nice versions of books I could get for 5% of the price elsewhere. Some, like the Plath, the Woolf and the history of the college, are unlikely to ever enter my life again.

I do have the beginnings of two small book collections. One is a collection of collectors’ editions of children’s classics: Beatrix Potter, The Wind in the Willows and a couple of other favourites. The other is the one my wishlist from today would have joined; the books are all loosely based around Newnham’s alumnae authors and their associates. I’m sure they will both expand over the years, but I did wish that I could justify expediting that expansion today.

Ready for the New Year

Term starts in the first week of October, and I’ve been making arrangements for the last few weeks. I had to figure out when I’d be moving back into college (in fact I rather messed up – I’m moving in two days before my rent officially starts, so I have to pay extra) so that I could give notice on my storage unit. Choir starts up tomorrow for one service and then into a busy schedule the following Saturday, and I got my lecture timetable a couple of weeks ago.

This year’s timetable is pretty good. I have one 9am lecture (on a Monday, of course…), one 10am and the rest are between 11 and 4. Nothing that will clash with choir or tutoring, only one slightly inconvenient gap between lectures  and a couple of two-hour lectures which is new for me. Choir is on the same days as before, and I’ve got a new tutoring student for Mondays and Fridays. Somehow I let Louise talk me into going to a dance class on Monday nights, and I’ll be a chapel warden which means an extra service most weeks. So much for doing less this year! But I say that every year.

My research for my dissertation has gone pretty well this summer so far, despite the failed trip to the prison in Wisconsin, and I just downloaded Scrivener to organise it. I spent the evening working through the tutorial and it seems even better than I hoped. Is it a bit sad that I’m looking forwards to organising my notes because of a new piece of software?

Early train tomorrow. I only seem to have been here for five minutes – mum stayed in the hospital overnight yesterday so we went to see her in the late evening after I’d had a nap. I intended to go with John to pick her up this morning, but after waking up naturally at 8 and having  breakfast I fell back to sleep until lunchtime. Hopefully it’s just about the end of the jet lag. It will have to be!

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.

It’s Summer, Apparently

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!

Anglesey Abbey
Apologies for the awful photo quality, I did my best!

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.

Same friend, different spontaneous day out.

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.

This chicken is wearing glasses & a fake nose.

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.

He’s the Best Dog, and I miss him

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…