Friday, 30 October 2015

Sometimes life is so complicated! - Episode #79

It has been a difficult few weeks for me so I decided to wait until the end of the half term holiday before writing a new blog entry. 

The neighbour we were “cat sitting” for died in hospital last week. Her son lives on the Kent coast and he came round to my house a few days later to tell me the news. He didn’t want to take the cat home with him and was planning to call the RSPCA to either re-house it or to have it put to sleep. My boyfriend and I were not very keen on either of these ideas so we agreed to keep “Zero” as our cat. Zero is old and rather deaf but seems happy enough. It is going to be a bit tricky when we are all out of work as none of our doors have a cat flap. Luckily the garden shed door has a section of plank missing so Zero can go in there if the weather is cold or wet. 

On the same day as the man came round I received the letter I had been expecting from the County Commissioner about my allegation about the current ladies county cross country champion. The good news is that he agrees that my performance this season should have got me a place in the county team – the bad news is that he doesn’t have the authority to make the selectors choose me if they don’t want to. It is quite disappointing to think that the best runner doesn’t get chosen automatically and that the egos of the selectors count for more than justice! 

The third thing that happened was cross-making rather than disappointing was something I came across by accident in the public library. Nan has been appearing in amateur dramatics and the reviewer said that she gave “an energetic and vibrant” performance”.  This is the same person who was said to be too frail and too mentally confused to face justice for the abuse I suffered at her and Granddad’s hands. She must be laughing that she managed to get away with lying to the Court! 

The best thing that has happened since I last wrote was that I have taken on the responsibility for the Bereavement Group jointly run by several of the local secondary schools. Until recently it was run by a local Methodist Preacher who also teaches in one of the schools but the young people said that they didn’t want the religious aspects about God’s Will and “going to a better place” – in the end my Head Teacher thought of me and asked me if I would be interested.  

After quite a lot of thinking I agreed so I get a half day off once a fortnight to meet with youngsters who have lost a parent or a sibling. It means that somebody has to cover my year 7 and year 8 groups but as they were my least favourite lessons of the week I didn’t mind too much. 

My boyfriend and I seem to coping with our new career as teachers quite well. Much better than one of the new staff in Humanities who has handed in her resignation once she realised that teaching wasn’t for her after all. 

This weekend my best friend and I have an all-ladies life modelling class. They seem to be a group of authors and illustrators  who specialise in erotic literature and somehow we are supposed to inspire them by posing in the nude. We have some reservations about this course but it is particularly well paid!  I will let readers know how we get on.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

My first proper job - in Mum's (RIP) old school. - Episode #78

Well I have now completed my first few weeks as a proper teacher! It feels strange to be working where Mum was working when she and Dad got killed.  

It looks like Fridays are going to be my easiest days so I might try writing by diary and blog then. When you are a student teacher colleagues are quite careful about what they say in your hearing but once you are a member of their team they feel comfortable saying what they are really thinking. I have been quite surprised how many of them don’t like teaching in the 6th form (years 12 and 13) – some prefer the youngsters in years 7 to 9 (generally fewer behaviour issues and less pressure from external exams) while others relish the challenge of years 10 and 11 where pupils can be much harder to manage (especially the girls!) but where exams give a focus to what is being taught and where high quality teaching is more easily demonstrated through exam results. 

One of the reasons that I have more than my “share” of 6th form work is because more senior colleagues don’t want to it and so it is just a lucky co-incidence that it is my favourite type isn’t it!  

There is quite a strict dress code for the pupils that is strictly enforced at the start of the school year and a fairly strict dress code for the staff that isn’t enforced but should be. Some staff show too much boob, belly or bum and I don’t think it creates a good impression that senior staff just sigh and then say nothing. Of course I just keep these thoughts to myself.   

I found myself using one of Dad’s phrases yesterday. I mentioned “stirring up a hornets nest” which would have made him laugh. What happened was that the ladies county cross-country champion got a brief write-up in the magazine that goes out to the various athletics clubs. She has won 21/24 races in the 12 months which is good but what wasn’t mentioned was that all three of her losses were all to a certain Sally Ellis. I mentioned it casually in the club house at the weekend and by Wednesday the County Commissioner was involved, oh dear. 

Our elderly neighbour is still in hospital. They want to discharge her but without a “Care Package” in place they are not allowed to. So her cat is living with us and if I cannot find the cat at meal times I have to wonder along to her proper home to find her. The cat seems happy enough, providing she gets food and a bit of attention everyday she should cope until her owner returns. By chance I noticed some people moving into one of the houses in our street. This happens a lot but what made it unusual was that one of the helpers was a girl who shares the same adult mentor as me. The last time I saw here was in Kidderminster so it was rather a shock to see her so close to my home.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Sorry but Facebook and Facebook Groups are not helping me move on!

I am trying hard not to sound passive-aggressive here but sadly, despite all the hype, Facebook and the associated Facebook Groups don't seem to be what I want or need in my life at the moment.

Most of the bereavement related groups on Facebook are, unsurprisingly, dominated both numerically and in terms of messages posted, by people who live in the USA and who are both older and more openly religious than me. I don't seem to have much in common with the typical group member and perhaps that is the source of my problem?

Recently I asked the members of all the bereavement groups I belong to for information on blogs that might be helpful for me - nobody bothered to come up with a single suggestion. Yet when I posted the same question to a much smaller UK based group I got 7 ideas from three different people. What makes it even stranger was that these 3 were complete strangers to me, none were my so-called "Facebook Friends" 95% of whom never comment on anything I post to Facebook or write in my blog.

I have made a few friends via Facebook and I am pleased and grateful for that but overall my experience has been deeply disappointing.

Monday, 24 August 2015

On the launch pad - ready for take off!

I suppose the most significant thing that has happened in the last few weeks is that Granddad has been moved to a different prison. I don’t know all the fine details or the reasoning behind it – and Nan isn’t saying – but it sounds like he has been sent to an open prison as an experiment and as a “concession to his age”.  

I am amazed that I am still receiving my monthly compensation payment from him. I had felt certain that he would try to wriggle his way out of paying me what had been agreed but so far every payment has been on time.  

After quite a long quiet spell the strange builder from the house at the bottom of my garden has now circulated draft plans for a revised building development to all his nearest neighbours. There is nothing on the plans to say that he doesn’t own the land he wants to build on and nothing to say that the houses he wants to demolish don’t belong to him. He sent his wife round to deliver the letters because he knew that I wouldn’t have opened the door to him!  

I had my strangest ever modelling session last weekend. It was for a group that like to draw science fiction and fantasy people. So I had a number of strange poses to do including wearing a set of wings like a fairy would have!  There were 3 models, Sally and me and a new girl called Davida. This was her first “paid for” session and she was rather nervous before the start but she coped quite well. She lives somewhere over on the west coast of Wales so she had a fairly long trip to the venue.  

We haven’t had any proper summer this year have we? We have had lots of cloudy and quite cold days but not much rain and some of the little streams on the cross-country running courses have no water in them at all which is very unusual. We got back yesterday from a short trip (Monday to Thursday) to Cambridge to see some friends. Houses are very expensive where they live and although they both have quite good jobs they have to live in a small flat on a rather noisy road. They work in industry so they don’t get the long holidays that teachers enjoy.  

The new school term starts on the 1st September and the children will come back on the 3rd of September. Although I am now a qualified teacher I get offered some extra support for my first year – this is called your NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year. I don’t have to teach quite so many lessons and I have an experienced teacher who acts as my mentor. I’m sure that Mum and Dad would be pleased that I have gone into the same job that they both had.  

We seem to have acquired a cat. We offered to look after her for a few days while her elderly owner (and Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator) was in hospital. The first day I went round to the house twice just to feed the cat but then she decided to follow me home. I think cats would love anybody who feeds them. Even a cat is quite a tie so I hope our neighbour comes back home soon.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Another year has gone - life after death

August 2015 - A year ago I was in that strange waiting stage where something I had been wanting to do for years (my PGCE) was on the horizon. Now the PGCE has been, gone and passed and I am ready for the next stage of my life. 

August 2014 - I went across town to clean Mum and Dad's grave this morning (Sunday). It is supposed to be summer at the moment but it was really cold and also thinking about raining. Most unusually there were other cars in the car park and at least four other groups of people either tending or just looking at graves. I wonder if this was because this is a Bank Holiday weekend? 

August 2015 - With every year that passes I visit Mum and Dad's grave less often. It is just the way it is, nobody could cope with the full-on mourning that happens in the early days for years at a time. The wounds heal and you learn how to cope.

August 2014 - What surprised me the most was that there was somebody tidying the grave next to my Mum and Dad's. In all the many times I have visited the cemetery over the last 4+ years I have never seen anybody doing this to my "next door neighbour's" grave. The old man - perhaps late 70s - introduced himself as Edward. The deceased was his wife but since he moved away to be nearer to his children he doesn't visit her very often. He has decided that he is too old to drive so he came by train, visited the grave on Saturday then stayed at a local guest house before making a second visit to the cemetery on the Sunday. He looked sad and very tired and as it is quite a walk to the station I did my good deed for the day and offered him a lift in my car. He seemed very grateful so I was glad I had thought to do this.

August 2015 - Although I haven't seen Edward again he left me a note under a stone on Mum and Dad's grave. This was in mid June. He says he is still well enough to travel on the train but he phones for a taxi when it is time to go back to the railway station from the cemetery. I suggested this to him in 2014 so I'm glad he remembered.

August 2014 - I didn't get much of a look at the other visitors but I did notice a lady in her 20s in the newest section of the cemetery. From the back it looked like the shape of a child's grave so that was upsetting.

One mixed emotion event that happened this week was the effective “closure of the file” on Granddad by the Crown Prosecution Service. I’m happy that the legal side is finished but I did rely on them for free advice and support.

August 2015 -  There has been no further contact with the CPS in the last 12 months so that part of my life is over. Good!

August 2014 - I now owe my solicitor a fantastic sum – which I haven’t got – so I am going to have sell some of the shares that Mum and Dad left me. I don’t really understand why I as the victim should end up out of pocket and I will have to double check if the solicitor was joking when she said I could claim the money back off Nan and Granddad. 

August 2015 - I took legal action for compensation and they settled out of court so financially I am better off than I had expected to be.

August 2014 - Since Mum and Dad died so many people seem to have assumed that I already knew things that no normal teenager would ever need to know. It has been quite annoying and frustrating when legal and financial people imply that I’m stupid not knowing things that they regard as really obvious or really simple.

August 2015 - This is getting better. Now I have graduated, finished my PGCE and got a fulltime teaching post I feel like a proper grown-up and the emotional and experiential gap between me and other people of the same age seems to have shrunk.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The deceased are frozen in time

Does Mum and Dad being killed still seem like a bad dream to me even after five years?  Yes it does but not all the time. I think if the initial horror had gone on unchanging and unchangeable for years it would have been unendurable. 

These bad dream moments don't usually come on birthdays or anniversaries. They come quite suddenly and so are even more painful. They might come when I'm finishing a race and I look up into the stands to where the two of them used to sit to watch me compete or when I see one of their favourite books on a library shelf or when I visit a town that we had visited as a family years before. 

Now my university life is behind me I'm starting to think that it is those "before the accident years" that are a dream and that my current life is my reality. 

Sometimes a noise takes me by surprise and just for an instant I think that I have heard Mum or Dad coming back from work and that in a minute I will see a familiar loving face again. But I know, deep down, that they have gone for ever. They are frozen in time - locked in my memory as they were when I was 17 and still at school. 

I'm a different person now. I have moved on while my memories of them have not. Five years seemed to have rushed by and yet in the middle of night when sleep is eluding me time trickles passed exceedingly slowly. 

Sometimes it is hard to escape the feeling that "moving on" can only happen by me forgetting the fine details of Mum and Dad. And yet they are inside me, they made me what I am so forgetting isn't an option. The love they gave me so freely became the key to let me back into society once they had to leave this world. When I do something that I know would have pleased them it brings me hope and peace that somehow they know that I'm still living the life they prepared me for.

My first "Iron Woman" sporting event.

I have also taken part in – and did rather well in – an “Iron Woman” event organised by the Armed Forces. Rather like a Triathlon but with some tweaks to the lengths of the three parts. 

The first section was a river swim of 1500 metres. The first part (about 1000 metres) was against the current so it was best to swim fairly near the bank where the current is slower and the second part was after we went round a buoy and were swimming with the current so it was better to be nearer the middle of the river .I was in the first group of 4 that all got of the water within a few seconds of each other. I usually do OK in the swim so this was about where I had hoped to be. 

We came out of transition still together but one the first flat part of the 20km cycling section they started to pull away. I just don’t have the leg speed to cycle as fast as the best athletes. I have the same problem in running, I will never be a 100 or 200 metre sprinter. But when we started up the first hill I noticed that I was catching them quite fast and by the time we reached the top I was in front of them and actually leading in the race. That felt really good. 

The course has quite hilly which suited me. I kept on expecting other cyclists to overtake me as has happened before on flatter courses but it never happened. I was getting more and more excited because I knew that I was probably the fastest lady over the running section and that if I was leading going into the second transition I might even win the event. 

The second transition came and the 6km run started – 3 km out and then 3 km back in exactly the reverse direction. When I reached the mid-point turn I started counting the seconds until I met the second runner coming the other way. It was about 90 seconds till I met somebody so I knew I was 180 seconds (near enough) in front. Then I knew I was going to win – and I did!! 

One funny thing happened at the finish. I saw the second runner coming down the final straight waving to the crowd. Funny I thought, does she think she has won the event?  The answer was yes she had thought that. She hadn’t noticed me running the other way and she didn’t realise that I was in front of her until it was far too late!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Looking at different career options

The teaching part of my PGCE is over and now I have just got to wait until mid-July for the official confirmation that I have passed the course. The final lecture was rather an anti-climax as the lecturer didn’t turn up until 30 minutes after the official start time and by then quite a few of the course members had given up waiting and had left the lecture theatre. 
On a 1 year course, especially on a course when you spend most of the time away on school placements, you never get to know most of the other students. There were several people that I couldn’t remember ever speaking to. 
Now the PGCE course has finished I no longer count as a student and so I’m not eligible to compete for the university sports teams or to attend the Bereavement Support Group. Both of these things are rather sad as I have enjoyed getting involved in competitive sport and the BSG has helped me quite a lot over the last 4 years. 
As regular readers will know when Mum and Dad were killed I inherited their house. In the five years since then most of it has been altered – everything except their joint study. For some reason changing that was like a final confirmation that they were dead and would never be coming back. Well now the carpenter and the decorator have finished the work I employed them to do and the study has been transformed. It looks much better than it did but emotionally it has hit me quite hard. I think I must be suffering from “post-university blues”! 
Since September I have putting together a massive to-do-list. It is over 2 pages long and will take me ages to get through. A few of them might come as a surprise people as I haven’t mentioned them before – mainly because I was so snowed under with work that I didn’t have the energy to explore all the options myself before asking others for advice. 
I’ve pretty much got to do what is called the NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year and of course I’ve got a full-time position from September to do this. The Head Teacher of my school is the regional co-ordinator for a teacher exchange scheme and I was wondering about doing that from September 2016 for either 6 or 12 months in Canada or New Zealand. They don’t have many applicants so I would have a good chance of being chosen. 
Another option would be doing my NQT year then taking my Doctorate (3 years) before returning to teaching. It is easier to do this at the start of my career rather than later on so I am quite tempted. 
I am still wondering if a career in the Armed Forces might suit me. Senior military staff have encouraged me several times to go in as a graduate and it is a rewarding career in so many ways. It has also been suggested that I could go down the route of full-time modelling. The boss of the agency says I have the looks and body to make £50K a year which is more than I would get teaching.  

Monday, 22 June 2015

Letting go and feeling sad

I’m feeling rather sad at the moment. It is silly really because I have a lot to be thankful for but the fact remains that is how I’m feeling.

I have just finished my PGCE course (1 year full-time) so I am now ready to start on my teaching career. I was warned that it would be hard work and much more intense than my degree – they were right! All the work has obviously left me rather drained and perhaps that it why I’m feeling quite sad about a collection of fairly trivial things?

When Mum and Dad were killed I inherited their house. In the five years since then most of it has been altered – everything except their joint study. For some reason changing that was like a final confirmation that they were dead and would never be coming back. Well now the carpenter and the decorator have finished the work I employed them to do and the study has been transformed. It looks much better than it did but emotionally it has hit me quite hard.

I am also feeling rather let down by a (former) E-Pal. We agreed when we started our regular exchange that if things didn’t work out we wouldn’t just stop writing. We both said that would be rude and cruel and that we would always expect to tell the other person that we were going to break contact.

Well Lisa has stopped writing and she hasn’t done what we agreed so I’m left wondering what has happened to her. Perhaps she found me too boring!?

On the other hand it is quite liberating to cross things off of my to-do list- and not just the things that I had done- but some things that were undone.  For example, I’ve had “blog 500 words twice a month” on my long-term list of goals for years.  I finally admitted to myself that I am never going to do that - so I crossed it off.  It’s amazing all of the things you can let go of if you really try.

Sometimes the hardest thing to let go of is our master plan, our agenda, for the way we’d like to go, or look.  My closest friends are both studying for their Doctorates. I had hoped to go down that route myself but it just wasn’t to be – not yet anyway. I’ll put that one away for now.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Life modelling outdoors!

Ours is a happy house at the moment. Stewart got a teaching job last week. His new school is in exactly the opposite direction to mine so we are still going to need to run two cars which is an additional expense. He was up against 5 others at the interview including somebody who had already been teaching for 2 years in Kuwait as an ex-pat. He was very pleased when he was offered the job and he enjoyed phoning up the other schools where he was due to attend interviews to say that he had got a job so wouldn’t be coming. It is half term in our county so we will be able to have a bit of a rest from lesson preparation. 
The weekend after all this excitement I was away on a 2 day modelling course. It was all very last minute – Sally and I were phoned up on Friday by the agency who were panicking because the two models they had booked for the course had let them down at the last minute. The boss lady was very unimpressed “by their lack of professionalism” but pleased that we were able to take over at such short notice. Models dropping out like this seems to happen quite often but I would never let people down like that. Neither would the other Sally. 
There was 16 artists (plus a few husbands and wives) on the course all from the University of the Third Age. The venue was a fairly posh country hotel in Somerset which the course totally filled up. The organisers had arranged a room for the two of us for the Saturday night so we didn’t have to do too much travelling although it was a bit of a rush to get there for the 9:30 start on Saturday. The paying customers arrived on the Friday evening and had two nights at the hotel – we just had the one. 
Saturday was a nice sunny day which was lucky because we spent most of the day outside not wearing very much! Lots of different poses of varying lengths depending on what the artists had sorted out in advance with the organiser. There was one rather creepy man but everybody else was fine. We didn’t have any full nudity as the clients said it wasn’t required but some of the M&S underwear we wore was almost the same thing. The boys call them “Porno Pants” and tease us for only wearing them when modelling. No normal girl or lady would wear them every day.  
When we went in the bar before dinner we were immediately surrounded by men trying to buy us drinks while their assorted wives looks resigned or surprised or annoyed depending on their individual temperaments. 
Sunday was cloudy and cooler so we were indoors. We tried something new which involved just wearing a nightie that was rather short. When we sat on a chair or stood by the window there seemed to be lots of (male) artists shuffling around to get the best view! 
We got lovely feedback from the boss lady and the clients and a decent hourly rate so we can afford to eat better this month!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Sally's successful job interview!

I am so pleased and excited because I have got a permanent teaching post for September!

There were three other candidates, all doing their PGCE but none of them was from my university. It was a bit strange sitting in the staff room with the competition especially when they realised that this was “my” school.

We drew numbers out of a hat for the order in which we did the observed lesson. I drew number 4 which meant I was last to perform but it also meant that I was teaching a group of year 12 students whom I know. I thought the lesson went well, I managed to use all the different teaching and learning techniques that my mentor (and Mum and Dad!) had taught me and the feedback I was given at the end confirmed my optimism.

There were 4 people on the interview panel – the Head Teacher, the Head of Science, the Vice-Chair of Governors (the man from the quiz) and the long-term link governor for science who I hadn’t met before but who had known my Mum. I used every scrap of interview technique knowledge that Mum and Dad had ever shared with me and I left the interview room knowing that I hadn’t made a fool of myself. I think I had a pre-prepared answer for all of the questions including the old favourite, “What are the characteristics of an outstanding lesson?”

The other candidates had been given the option of going home and being phoned with the result but they had all decided to stay. I don’t think they were too shocked when after about 20 minutes I was called out of the staff room to be offered the job. Naturally I said “yes please” – of course the job offer depends upon me passing the PGCE but the head teacher strongly implied that wasn’t going to be a problem!
The other applicants had all left by the time I had finished the paperwork so I never got to see them again. I expect they were all muttering about the internal candidate getting the job.

I think Mum and Dad, wherever they are, would be pleased with my days work!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Job interviews, athletics and bereavement support!

I think it is about time I updated readers on all my news! 
I have got three job interviews coming up (my boyfriend S is in the lead with 4) for jobs for September. In order that they are taking place: #1 is a 1 year contract at an OFSTED good school that is towards my limit for the distance I would like to commute every day: #2 is a permanent contact at the school where I am doing my PGCE placement: #3 is also a permanent contact at an OFSTED outstanding school that isn’t too many miles away, but difficult, busy miles if you know what I mean.  
I am still doing my modelling. I get booked about every three weeks – always with the other Sally – which suits me quite well. Our very mild and tasteful lesbian poses seem to be what the customer wants so that is what we provide. It is a very good job that I know her so well isn’t it! Now we are well established with the organisers we qualify for a slightly higher rate of pay which is good. 
I’m busy with athletics as well. I’m mainly doing cross-country or hill climb events rather than track races. The county runners for 5000 and 10000 metres have times worse than mine but they still get selected (and come nearly last in regional events) so my club has made a formal complaint. It is of course just co-incidence that one of the selectors is a leading figure in the club where these two are based!
Granddad was supposed to be going to a category D prison but that still hasn’t happened. As I don’t speak to him I don’t know the whole story and I’m not that bothered which sound rather heartless doesn’t it? Nan despite everything she said is now visiting him so my Aunt has been able to stop going. She seemed pleased about that when she told me. Nan’s dementia is suddenly and mysteriously better – now the threat of prison has gone she doesn’t need to pretend any more. 
S is fine. His school placement seems to going better and better so it is a pity that there isn’t a vacancy there as he would be a strong candidate. 
Finally there has been a change of leadership at the Bereavement Support Group I attend. The new boss lady runs it more for our benefit rather than her own ego which is a nice change. It is sad how many students have to face up to parent or sibling death during their 3 or 4 year courses.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

On a brief break from the PGCE

The last week before the Easter break wasn't a typical "teaching block" week. I only needed to be in school for three days with Thursday and Friday supposed to be for working on my PGCE portfolio of evidence. This was a rather boring way of spending two days – in fact very boring. 

The two weeks around Easter are in red on the colour coded timetable all the students were given. Red means holiday! The only problem is that the third course assessment has to be finished by April 10th so most of my so-called holiday will be used up working on that. I now have exactly 42 teaching days in school to survive before the end of the course. 

Once Easter is out of the way I will have to start applying for teaching jobs. One science teacher at this school is retiring in July and another is moving on to a promoted post elsewhere so I am hoping that it might create a vacancy for little old me. Nobody seems to be leaving at S’s school so he will almost certainly have to look elsewhere. Not surprisingly the whole job process is going to be mega stressful

The builder from the end of the garden is still being very strange. He thinks that because he wants to do something that everybody else in the area needs to bow down in front of him and to do exactly what he wants. Well I’m not going to unless he makes it very much worth my while financially, and probably not even then. He offered me £300,000 for my house which is £50,000 less than a house just down the road was sold for in January 2015. He must think I’m stupid. He is just the sort of person Mum and Dad would have disliked (bossy and aggressive) and I dislike him as well.

There isn’t any athletics or modelling this weekend so the four of us are going to go out for a couple of day trips. S has sorted out the details but hasn’t told me anything despite me torturing him the other day!


Friday, 20 March 2015

My PGCE placement - an update

Last weekend I played rugger for the university. I’m not good enough to play for them on a regular basis but the usual winger was injured so I was asked to take her place. We won by one converted try to nil (7-0 in points) so I was pleased about that. We scored in the first few minutes but after that the other team, who seemed enormous, had almost all the possession. Somehow we managed to stop them scoring and I think that by the end of the game they were really frustrated because, if I’m honest, they were by far the better team. 

I am very busy in my PGCE school placement. It isn’t enough to be good, or even an excellent teacher. The bosses expect you to be that. If you want to get promotion you have to do other things apart from classroom teaching. As a PGCE student I was advised to be quite high profile with lunchtime and after school activities. I do some work with the PE department, usually after school and some lunch times I help with the gifted and talented pupils. All this means that I feel busy all the time and once I get home I don’t stop being busy because that is the only time I have to do my lesson preparation. My boy friend is getting on much better now, he has learned to pace himself more and is happier and more confident than he was earlier in the course. 

The man who lives in the house that backs on to my house is a builder and a property developer. He is being rather strange with me at the moment. He has some grand scheme where he would buy, then demolish, four houses including mine. He would then have enough land to build 6 or 7 houses which he thinks would make him lots of money. He was very annoyed when I said I wasn’t interested in selling my house to him. I think he thought I was some stupid youngster who could be bullied into selling him my house far too cheaply!  I’m no expert but some of the things he said were lies and other bits were just stupid rubbish so I wasn’t sad when he left. 

My shoulder is now better but I got a kick during the game that has left a massive bruise on my thigh. It is purple at the moment and doesn’t look very ladylike!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

I think both Mum and Dad would have been proud of me this week.

Well my book is out there and some people are buying it - that is the good news. The slightly less good news is that nobody has written a review yet so I'm not getting any feedback on any good or bad points about what I have written.

My bruised shoulder is still bruised. It the worst athletics injury I have had for a while so I shouldn't really complain and at least I didn't break anything.

I think both Mum and Dad would have been proud of me this week. 

On Thursday I noticed that the geography department at school was doing a charity quiz at lunchtime to raise money for their favourite charity (pumps for fresh water in Africa). I like quizzes so I went along to watch the fun. At the same time as I arrived so did the Head Teacher and a middle-aged man I didn’t recognise and the three of us stood at the back. The organisers wanted one more team – they had 7 but wanted 8 – so the Head Teacher suggested that the three of us could form a team! Gulp! The man was the Vice-Chair of the school governors and was doing a “learning walk” to see the non-academic parts of the school day. Double gulp! 

We were given 3 sheets of questions. #1 was a map of the world where we had to label various deserts, rivers and mountain ranges. #2 was also a map where we had to label countries and seas and #3 was a list of obscure countries and we needed to identify the capital city. Obviously I let the Head be in charge of our team and she asked the other two of us, “How many of these do you know?”. My answer was, “Err, all of them” – which was true. Thanks to my Dad. 

We used to do loads of quizzes at meal times all through my childhood and one of his favourites was world geography. So I knew all the answers to the school quiz which certainly impressed the Head. We scored 72/72 and beat the geography department staff by 1 mark which was fun, except for them I suppose. The geographers didn’t know the capital of the (British) Solomon Islands but I did. 

Then on Saturday there was a cross country race. I went early to walk the course first, just like Mum and I used to do. It was a muddy course, except for a narrow strip in the middle of the track where the organisers had put down sawdust and wood chippings. I could see that overtaking was going to be almost impossible because it would mean trying to run on the wet, muddy parts of the track rather than the drier parts. Only the first few hundred metres were on a hard surface so I did that part as fast as I could, this meant I was at the front when we got to the narrow section and nobody then managed to overtake me. Since it was an open race some of the runners would have been much better than me so it was good that I dragged them down to my standard. A couple of them were not at all happy with me or the organisers at the end of the race, tough!



Saturday, 7 February 2015

My new book - "I will wait for you. No matter how long."

 Well it took me 5 years but I finally completed my book on surviving parental bereavement!

I have been incredibly lucky in having so many friends who, metaphorically or actually, held my hand as I walked down a long, dark road. Andrea, Caroline (both of them), Jane, Judy, Lisa, Mark, Martin, Sally and Stewart – my debt to you is far too large ever to be repaid.  

My solicitor, the Head of the Sixth Form at my former school and my councillor at the university have all given unstintingly of their time and expertise to help me – I will always be grateful for their support. 

My Mother’s sister and my Father’s brother took on a surrogate parent role with loving patience when supporting me and with commendable restraint when interacting with Granddad.  

I also need to mention the fellow members of the two bereavement support group I have attended. It was you that persuaded me that my story was worth telling and it was my ghost-writer that made my dream come true.

Specimen pages from Amazon previewer.

Buying it on Amazon (US) - click here
Buying it on Amazon (UK) - click here

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A difficult conversation regarding bereavement support.

This week I am going to have to have a difficult conversation.

I attend two different bereavement support group but since late September 2014 they are both being run by the same person. Perhaps unsurprisingly she is running the two groups in very similar ways and the mistakes she is making in one group she is repeating in the other.

The warning signs have been there for all to see. The attendance at both groups has declined rapidly since she took over. At the last meeting of the university based group the numbers attending were only 45% of the number that came along in October. All but one of the lads have stopped coming along and as a result the whole feel of the group has changed. There is far less talking by the young people and far more lecturing, almost preaching, by the group leader.

The problem is that she has made the meeting far too religious. What with a opening prayer and a closing prayer and her quite frequent mentions of "God's Will" the whole affair feels more like a Bible Study class than a support group for young people who have suffered parental or sibling death.

It feels as if the group is being run for her benefit rather than for the benefit of the young people.

So the problem is what should I say to her?  I have been a member of the group for over 3 years now and for almost all of the time it has been a secular group. It hasn't always been perfect but most of the regulars were satisfied enough with what was on offer to keep on attending. But now some of the familiar faces have disappeared and when I see these former members around the campus they all say the same thing. "I don't want to be preached at by that woman". 

So can anybody suggest what needs to be done?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

How would Mum would have rated my performance?

5 years after she was killed I wonder what Mum would have thought of how I have turned out? 

Relationships - She would certainly have approved of Stewart - my long-term boyfriend - and if for some reason she didn't approve of us living together she would have kept her views firmly to herself. She would also have liked both my house-mates. They feel like the brother and sister that I was never lucky enough to have and Mum would have known exactly why that would have mattered so much to me. 

Family - She would be shocked that her Dad was in prison but not shocked at what he had been sentenced for. Sexual predators like leopards don't change their spots! Mum would be pleased that I now have a close relationship with her sister but probably would be surprised that I see so little of my cousins. 

The house - This was always Mum's domain and her responsibility. There have been a lot of cosmetic changes and a few structural ones since I inherited it but the basic arrangement of the rooms has stayed the same. It probably isn't quite as tidy as she would have kept it herself but by student standards it is amazingly good. Mum was never a particular fan of "cooking from the raw materials" so she wouldn't be stressed by how the four of eat most days. She would have approved that we always eat at the table and that we almost always eat together.  

The garden - Neither Mum nor Dad were interested in gardening. Both the back and front gardens were low maintenance affairs - and they still are. The only significant change is that in the back garden there are a numbers of plants and shrubs that were donated by people in memory of the two of them. I keep this section tidiest of all and if I do ever move away all these gifts will have to come with me. 

The neighbours - Mum always felt that it was important not to get into arguments with people living near by and especially not if they were next-door neighbours! When Mum and Dad were alive our family never regarded the neighbours as friends but they certainly were not enemies either. And I think that still is where I am. I don't think the neighbours were thrilled at the thought of having four students living in their mega respectable street but once they found out that we knew how to behave they seemed to accept us. There seems to have been a lot of coming and going in the houses closest to mine; with several of them being rented out by absentee owners. Most of the incomers are on 6-month rolling leases so they don't seem to bother much about integrating with the rest of us.  

Career - Mum would be pleased that I am training to be a teacher and so following in her footsteps. She would smile that I am doing my major teacher training block where she used to work. 

Mourning her death - Above everything Mum would be relieved that I am not still in deep mourning for her and for Dad. I have indeed found closure which is exactly what she would have wanted and what she would have expected to happen.  

Saturday, 3 January 2015

5 years on from the accident

This month will see the fifth anniversary of Mum and Dad's fatal accident. Five years is a landmark that I sometimes thought that I would never reach so I am feeling quite proud of myself. I was 17 when my "first life" ended and so much has happened since then that it is difficult to know where to start.

All the people I'm going to mention have a pretty good idea of what I think about them so I don't think that I am being naughty when I put it all in writing.

Dad's parents - They are still going backwards and forwards between the UK and the USA on a regular basis. They have never wanted to get involved in the train crash that was my life after my Dad, their son, was killed. They love me in a fairly casual hands-off manner and that pretty much describes the way I feel about them as well!

Dad's brother - He has helped me so much that nothing I could write here would do him justice. He is shocked and disappointed by the casual approach of his parents to all that has happened and there is something of a falling out between him and them.

Mum's parents - They abused me emotionally, financially and physically and both ended up in prison. Granddad will probably never be released since his current life expectancy is less than the number of years he still has to serve!

Mum's sister - She too has helped me an enormous amount but the "elephant in the corner" is that her decision to allow me to live with a man (her Dad)  with a proven track record of abusing teenaged girls without even warning me first was a bad, bad call.

My boyfriend and my housemates - The emotional and practical debt I own them can never be repaid. Between them they have helped me to repair almost all the damage that Mum and Dad's death caused.

Facebook "friends" - with a few honourable exceptions they have been a waste of time and energy. I always try to comment on their family news or latest crisis but they never reciprocate so I reckon that it is time that most of them were deleted from my life.

Pen friends - one or two have been stars, one of two have been a complete nightmare and large numbers have been totally unreliable with the result that our exchanges of letters have lapsed.