30 Days ’til 40: #10

I can’t quite believe there are now only ten days to go until I turn the notorious grand age of 40, but there you are. It is. Time waits for no (wo)man.

I just glanced at my calendar and realised one of the reasons life is whizzing by at such terrific speed is mainly because I am:

a) a teacher (so never enough hours in the day to teach the ever increasing overloaded National Curriculum, or mark the reams of written work required of 8 year olds) and:

b) I have a child, and having a child means your calendar is taken over and beholden to social events and appointments (especially if you have one through which social services are involved) revolving around said child which sees each week passing you by in a daze. In fact my whole life seems to be beholden to two schools and the systems and routines which dictate a ‘civilised’ society. (Oh I was having a right old moan at the school gates today Haha!) And I was called a maverick by a colleague today (in a good humoured way, but nevertheless she’s right; the older I get the more I want to shout: “STUFF YOU SOCIETY AND YOUR STUPID EXPECTATIONS AND CONFORMITY!” And of course SuperTramp’s ‘Logical Song’ plays on a loop in my head most days…)

All this brings me to number 10 in my ‘achievements’ for the year leading up to my 40th and that is…

#10: I Resigned From my Job, (then didn’t.)

Which sounds like a non achievement I grant you, but bear with.

I have been wanting to quit teaching for a while now. Partly because trying to do a good job at it, and foster my 7 year old nephew and be able to give him the quality time he needs, is quite a juggling act. Now whereas many people do it (raise children and teach full time, whereas I’ve only worked mornings now for four years) I was still finding it too much. I was still stressed and snappy and this is not a good state of affairs. On top of the workload (planning on a Saturday being part of that) and selfishly wanting to pursue writing my book more, there is the added problem of just being me and how I feel about the education system.

It was bad enough when I was simply immersed in its silliness as a teacher; its ridiculous excuse for a system whereby children and young people are shoe horned into a one size fits all education, and expected to conform bugged me enough then. Yes, I know I sound very left wing, but I guess I am. I know a curriculum has to be this way, IE all children get the same, but it is the expectation of the end result for ALL, as well as the enormous pressure put on teachers to make silk purses out of sow’s ears which I can’t climb on board with.

Now I have to deal with the stupid system as a parent (by which enormous pressure is now mounted on me from little one’s school as well as Social Services) I really find it hard on board. Last year, I was slowly starting to feel my life bogged down in school, school, school. (Still do as it happens.) Don’t get me wrong, as with all teachers I love actually teaching, but I cannot reconcile myself any longer to what it asks of my conscience. Testing, testing, testing. Constantly. Labelling children, expecting children of aged 6 to understand the intricacies of fractions. Honestly, I can’t write about it without my blood boiling. The fact is teaching in this education system is no longer a long term option for me. I know that and have known it for a while. In Education, in our education system you have no choice but to conform. I don’t feel able to conform any more. I’ve never been especially good at it anyway.

So by February of this year I’d begun to put a plan of action into place to leave teaching. I planned to work by cleaning private homes 3 days a week and pick up some private tutoring on a Saturday, and some evenings, leaving me 2 days in the week to write.

That was the plan. I knew money would go right down, so I started to make plans to deal with that. I bought myself a Chrome Book (mentioned in my previous post) as I’d no loner have access to a laptop from work, and in March I handed in my resignation. I wasn’t going to leave until the summer term ended, and that would therefore give me 6-7 weeks to start finding work. If work didn’t come readily at first I figured I could always do supply teaching to keep afloat.

Some of my friends and some of my family were concerned. Some were supportive. Colleagues were surprised; others weren’t, but few seemed able to hide their amusement when I told them what I’d be doing instead. But I’m not one to especially care what others think so on I ploughed with my escape plan!

Isn’t it funny though how people can’t grasp how anyone would be prepared to give up what was essentially a well paid part time job (8:30-1:00(ish) 5 mornings a week)  to go and clean other people’s house for a pittance, even if it means more freedom from the rat race and from an oppressive system? How can someone with a profession even think to want to go and be someone’s cleaner? But you know, I like helping people. Being of service, which is kind of what teaching is but on someone else’s terms. Knowing this was the year I turned officially middle aged, and knowing I will never, ever return to full time teaching again, this felt like the right time to take the bull by the horns and just do it.

Was I scared? Well, until I actually did it, yes. And then I handed in my resignation and it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The light at the end of the tunnel was extremely enticing even if the thought of tightening in my belt was a little concerning.

However, it isn’t as though it’s the first time I’ve done something similar. Back in 2010, I resigned from my full time teaching position, earning £36,000 a year, to simply go on supply teaching. It was hard, financially for a while, but having had a stress related depression for over 6 months and knowing that it was the workload of teaching and how I felt about the whole system which contributed to that, the only way I could see was out.

Not completely out, but out a little bit. Then of course at the end of 2011 I took on the care of my nephew, and though I do get paid a fostering allowance for that, in order to foster him I needed to give up teaching (even on supply contracts) full time. So my wage reduced yet again and hence the only working part time for the past 4 years. However, part time work seemed rapidly to involve working (either planning, marking or teaching) up to 35 hours a week. Now sorry, but to me that’s nearly a full time ordinary job and yes, it may not be the 60 hours a full time teacher works, but you know what? We all make choices about work and I don’t want to work myself into the ground just to enjoy a few weeks of the year. I want to enjoy all of my year. 35 hours a week on a part time basis/wage is not part time. I foster my nephew which is a full time job and he needs me to be emotionally competent for him, not overworked. Teaching doesn’t allow for me to be emotionally competent at all times. Others may be able to do it; I’ve found I can’t.

So…the status quo remained, with me working full mornings, until this year when work became increasingly stressful due to building works, and so having to move classroom a lot and having two higher set maths groups to teach (which I found really hard as maths is just not my forte and at upper primary level, the average Joe on the street might be horrified at what a 10 year old is expected to do. I know I have become increasingly concerned).

So yes, I resigned from teaching. I knew I’d be taking a risk, giving up the pension and the sick pay and the holiday pay and the security of regular work, but to me, I don’t see what all this has to offer any more towards my quality of life. So there I was all set to walk off out into the proverbial sunset on July 17th. Nervous, sure, but exilerated and liberated at the same time. My head was in the zone for self sufficiency and finding new work and new challenges and working on my book more.

But then… two weeks from the summer break, my headteacher came to me. They’d not been able to find a suitable replacement for my role and he offered me some slightly different terms and conditions to stay on until Christmas. Highly attractive terms actually to me. It wouldn’t mean more money, it would mean less, but as I’d been willing to take a much vaster drop in wage already then this wasn’t a problem to me. Firstly there would be two lessons instead of three to teach, plus a later start and no other responsibilities like playground duty or assembly (hymn practice) which I used to lead every Wednesday. There would be no subject lead, (I’d just not found any time to do that anyway, and the stress of not doing something can be as stressful as doing it.) There would be no PPA time either, but that was fine to me, as I’d simply be coming in and teaching. Nothing else. I would be allowed to choose the sets I taught. The contract would be temporary, so the light at the end of the tunnel remained, which I think psychologically was important for me. He said I could see how I went and maybe the new arrangements would suit me and perhaps I’d change my mind about going. (I doubted I would…)

So since September started, I now work from 9am (so I get to drop my nephew at school rather than at a before school club so no fees there) and I teach two lower Maths sets from 9:30 until 11:45. I then mark for an hour and go home at 12:45. I plan on a Thursday evening and that takes about an hour and half. In total I work a solid (yet no extra) 20 hours a week in terms of teaching, which is a good job being as my nephew just started junior school and the homework demands are in the realms of the ridiculous so I seem to be doing the day job at night too now! (Tonight has seen me blow my top, yet again as he a) either grapples with something too hard he hasn’t yet been taught or b) he can do, but is too lazy to bother. Grrrr!)

20 hours is a part time job. 35 hours wasn’t. I feel now I have the right work/life balance. At last.

So anyway, here I am, back to partly conforming within the system with my slightly non-conformist new teaching role, and I’ve asked my Head if I can stay in this contract until the end of the academic year as it suits me well right now and I am about 100 times less stressed than I was last year. (I didn’t especially want to leave mid academic year anyway, which is why I’d planned to leave in the summer.) I still get the benefit of doing what I love and am good at, ( I think, I HOPE!), together with a regular wage with decent hours and time for my nephew. (Even if most of it is spent doing the job of his teachers because the curriculum is too overloaded for them to cover it all with him. Ho hum.) The role would only be there for this year and next year maximum anyway as it will become an obsolete role then, so I’d be looking for something else in July 2017  whatever had happened.  I’m still waiting to find out the final decision as to whether I can stay until the end of this academic year, as there is a new Head starting in January and so it’ll be his and the governors’ decision whether to extend my current temporary contract or not. Either way I’m not panicking about pensions and pay-packets. What will be will be. I’ve had a couple of years out of pension contributions and been on temporary contracts now for six years. This might worry some, especially those without a spouse or partner to fall back on as I haven’t, but I just have found the whole thing more freeing, so there’s the achievement, and I’m happier than I’ve been in  along while.

Also means I get time to write more of this meaningless drivel!

Thanks for stopping by and reading, those of you who still do. :)

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30 days ’til 40: #13

It seems my growing elderly status means I can no longer count or keep a daily blog, so let’s just say I’m going to continue with the countdown out of my thirties, but will admit that perhaps I was being a little too ambitious in keeping to blogging an achievement for all 30 days since I started this. As you may (or probably not) have noticed, numbers 15 and 14 have disappeared (just like the final weeks of my thirties) without a trace.

Perhaps spending the final weeks of my thirties blogging about the final year of my thirties really  isn’t a productive use of said final weeks of my thirties. Well no, it’s not and so instead I’ve been making the most of them by going out and about socialising far more than usual. A Bluetones gig last weekend, a curry with friends mid week and dinner at another friend’s last night.

So yes…I have kinda been a bit busy just enjoying life.

This morning though I had to go and take my Chrome Book back to Currys/PC world as (after the broken ‘phone debacle of last week) my Chrome Book decided it didn’t want to charge up any more on Monday. Helpful. Which brings me in itself to another one of my goals for this year…

#13: I Bought Myself a Computer Type Thing.

I’ve been relying on bringing a work laptop home to and from school every day for the last three years, which is nothing but a pain in the backside, but it did mean I could continue writing and not having to pay for a computer.

However, as I resigned from my job in March (only for this not to have happened yet…long story for another post) I knew I’d have to buy myself a laptop of some sort so as to be self sufficient and continue writing. It was my top goal of the year to begin with. To save up enough money to buy one as I knew I couldn’t possibly resign until I knew I had my own means of internet access, communication and most importantly a means to write my trilogy.

So back in June I toddled off one Saturday morning and purchased a lovely white (don’t know why the colour’s important) Acer  Chrome Book, which in all fairness has been great. It was cheaper than a laptop and other than not having Microsoft Office (so having to use Google docs instead) it’s proved a good buy, and as everything is saved to a cloud I can just plan lessons form home and  then go to school, open my Chrome account and there’s my planning and resources. Yep it’s been great.

Until the darn thing decided it didn’t want to charge.

(And yes, I changed the fuse in the plug first.)

Still, the woman at the shop this morning said she felt it’s probably a fault in the machine and they will replace it if that’s the case and replace the charger if that’s at fault.

In the meantime I’m back to lugging the laptop to and from work, but at least I still have the job to be able to do that! :)

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30 Days ’til 40: #16

So I’m keeping this one very short and very sweet because there’s not much to say and if it’s classed as an achievement then I guess I have to put this one down to the passing of time rather than due to any great effort from me. (Though partly there was some effort and restraint concerned.)

Today’s achievement for this year, as I count down to reaching the grand young age of 40 is…

#16: Finally Got Over My Ex.

Yes, at last, this year saw me finally bury any longing, pining, yearning, or soft spots  I may have been housing and nurturing for him. The rose tinted spectacles were lifted and it’s brighter and clearer than at any time in the past two years. It’s happened bit by bit, day by day, though I must admit even up to the beginning of this year (a year after I’d last seen him) I was still regularly checking out his Twitter profile just to see what he was up to.

Well that became, I knew, a habit I had to break, and when, back in April, through my snooping (look none of us are perfect and let’s face it, if you don’t want people from your past to know what you’re up to in this day and age, don’t have an open account. Simple as that), I discovered he had got engaged to be married, something in me clicked and I realised I just didn’t really want to know anymore.

Once I’d gone a whole month without checking in on his Twitter profile, I congratulated myself, because actually it had become a terrible habit and in a way I was torturing myself and it was a big thing for me to let go of. I’d thought I was over him, and I was getting there, but there’d still be times I’d think about him and miss him and what we had and cry myself to sleep. However, I realised after the month of not seeing what he was doing that I hadn’t missed checking up and actually that I no longer cared what he was doing in his life. In some ways that is a little bit upsetting as I used to care a great deal for him, and what was going on in his life, but I think it goes to show, that eventually, time passes and does its thing to help you heal. It has been a hard, long journey to get to that point, not made easier when I had now done all I needed to do to put him out of my mind and move on, then random things or people from the past would crop up at times to remind me.

However…I now rarely think of him and I don’t miss him or what we had. Our relationship, our friendship was a moment in time and that time has moved on for us both. (Admittedly time moved on a lot quicker for him than for me, but never mind!)  If I get lonely now, it’s just loneliness, it’s not loneliness connected to him. I don’t think when I’m lonely “Oh I wish I was with him,” as I did do at the start of the year. That has changed. It’s now “I wish I had someone.”

And that’s the breakthrough, surely?

I believe he gets married this autumn.

I couldn’t have dealt with that knowledge last autumn.

The next step: Getting over what he did and learning to trust  again. AGAIN. How many times have I said that in the last 20 years?

Now there’s a goal for 2016!

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30 days ’til 40 #17

The more eagle-eyed of you will notice we’ve jumped from #21 to #17 and that numbers 20,19 and 18 don’t exist. This is not because my lower set maths groups have been having an adverse effect on my maths abilities, just rather I had a very busy weekend, followed by loss of laptop, meaning I couldn’t post.

Probably a good thing really as it’s proving a stretch to come up with 30 actual achievements from the year!

However, one will try, and with only 17 days to go until the big day (and fittingly until the new re-vamped TFI Friday starts on Channel 4) straight in today with…

#17: I Painted and Decorated Quite a Bit!

(Though not as much as I intended to, but there is a quarter of the year remaining, so never say never!)

The painting and decorating project started off fairly small with re-painting the front door, back in April. I also bought new door ‘furniture’ for it. Ie, a new door knocker and new door handle,as the cheap nasty one the builders put on 9 years ago, looked as though it had seen better days and the brass coating had all but rubbed off. I also purchased a new outside light casing as once again, the one installed at the time the house built had definitely seen better days. I do like the front of a house to look well kept and welcoming. Peeling paint doesn’t make me look at my house and feel proud. What did they used to call it on all those house doctoring type TV programmes? ‘Kerb appeal?’ Yes, I like a house to have ‘kerb appeal’, even if I spend the majority of my time behind the front door!  So all newly spruced up, the painting project (a relatively easy Saturday morning jobby) got off to a flying start.

I then decided to get some fence wood stain and do the back garden gate and fence. This I knew would be a long job, but hadn’t anticipated just how long and actually how hard it is to paint on rough wood, but also how satisfying once you reach the end. Even if it did take three days to complete!

I’d also intended to re-stain the decking after a disaster last year when I didn’t stir the stain enough and ended up with a graduated colour ranging from dark oak at the back to a bright orange at the front! I couldn’t face the thought of doing it again so soon, or after three days on the fence, so I’ll do that next year perhaps!

On the other side of the front door in the hallway, I’ve been wanting to get a nice calming green on the walls for some years now. Green is my favourite colour without a doubt and so one morning in the summer holidays I purchased some pots of “crushed aloe” and set about painting the hallway. The 7 year old ‘helped’ me (where he could reach) but hallways are notoriously small spaces and of course there are many nooks and crannies to navigate the paintbrush round, like the front door and the electricity box so he soon found other things to occupy himself with. (Namely DVDs!) Now, I only emulsion-ed the walls. The spindles on the staircase desperately need doing, but past experience of attempting to gloss or satin wood anything tells me I should save up and get an expert in to tackle that! (Next year….again?!) Anyway, I love my new crushed aloe hallway and also set about one morning painting the feature wall and a little alcove in the lounge the same colour. I intend to use what’s left to do the feature wall in my bedroom at some point. Probably in 2020 as isn’t it always the bedroom which gets left and left and left? Well the adult’s bedroom that is. The little one had his room done last year, along with the kitchen.

I had also intended to paint my en-suite shower room and even have the paint to do it, but the summer ran away from me, (and I still haven’t replaced the broken toilet in there) and so I didn’t see the point in doing that until I’ve got round to having a new loo installed. I’m steeling myself perhaps to do that in October half term. We’ll see!

I do feel I need to finish the other paint jobs within the next year though, (the main bathroom, the rest of the lounge, my bedroom, the stairwell (again need a professional to reach!) otherwise the ones that have been done will start to look shabby again and it’ll feel like painting the Forth Bridge, even though I have a tiny house rather than a mile long iron girder bridge.

Anyway, the main things I had been meaning to do, are done. So that is an achievement! :)

I’m sure come January, I’ll find new painting and decorating motivation and make a new list for 2016… Then start sometime in April!

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30 days ’til 40: #21

Three weeks today and I’ll have passed through the multiple of ten threshold that so many people dread. I’ll be doing that part quietly as I have no plans for my actual birthday (other than go to work and the usual Friday routine), which doesn’t bother some people, but it bothers me! I’m pretty precious when it comes to birthdays. I think they’re important. Yes, I know, I know I’m having a massive party the next day, but it’s always a bit shit if you have to spend your birthday night alone.

Which is why I’ve decided… to have a Twitter party! We’ll spin on some 90’s tunes and I’ll get set to go for the real thing the following night! :) It’s the modern way for single parents I’m sure.

Anyway, back to this year’s achievements. It’s going to be a quicky as it’s Friday night and I want to sit down with a glass of wine and watch some TV (which will probably end up being a DVD because there’s never anything decent on. See I’m getting old, you can hear it in my tone!)


#21: I Booked a Venue to Have a Really Big 40th Birthday Bash.

Right from the end of last year, the conversations started from family and friends: “So what are you going to do for your 40th?” I knew I was going to have a party, (I always do something for my birthday, usually a big meal with family and close friends, and I did have a party for my 30th), and then someone (I think my brother) quite early on suggested a 90’s theme and so every time since when there’s been a family meet up the party idea grew and grew.

I knew I needed to start saving early on in the year for it, as I really wanted to make it happen. I wasn’t sure if I would manage it, you know how money you save has a habit of being swallowed up on repairing broken things, and so I thought “Oh well, it might just be a meal out again.” But I was determined to mark the day in a big way and so I saved like mad (and thankfully nothing broke this year!) until finally in June time I had enough to be able to book a venue and DJ and sort some food. Which I did and the money is still sitting waiting to pay the lady on October 17th.

Since then it’s been a time of doing my favourite thing in the world: Organising! So it started with designing and sending invitations, (complete with 90s poem written myself) then lately sorting playlists, chasing up RSVPs, sorting out fancy dress (as it’s themed and many of us will be coming in costume) and my mind has been racing with loads of other possible things I could do to make it a memorable experience for everyone who is coming and myself of course! There is 90s party paraphernalia galore, and if you hadn’t caught on from Twitter or here, I’m probably too excited about the whole night. Budget means I couldn’t exactly see all my schemes and dreams become a reality and I had to reign in some of my more left field ideas, but no matter what, it’s going to be great to have so many of my favourite people all in the same place on the same night just to be there to have a good time. I see the party as a present to myself. The best kind. The kind which will build memories for the next 10 or 20 years.

Now the planning’s nearly at an end, perhaps I should start saving and plotting for my 50th. I’m sure it’ll come round soon enough! ;)


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30 Days ’til 40: #22

Wow, so there’s only 22 days left now until I hit that landmark age of 40. Is it still classed as middle age? You’d think so, as I’m not expecting to go much past 80. Happily, one of my class today realised the fact I turn 40 soon makes me currently 39, so at least they can count back in ones. Phew. Though they are 8, so perhaps I shouldn’t be patting myself on the back too much.

So anyway, here we are with yet another of my small achievements to mark the final year of my thirties with…

#22: I went on one of those big wheel things. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve not enjoyed heights. Well I say for as long as I can remember, I mean certainly since secondary school, when I became acutely aware of the fact that my knees shook, I sweated and my heart jumped into my mouth any time we were lined up waiting for a lesson on the top floor of any of the three blocks in the main building.

Each of the three staircases leading off the ground floor of the main corridor at my secondary school were made of concrete. No carpet, just three floors of stone staircase with a plastic coated metal banister and railings all the way up. When you arrived at the top, the landing areas outside the three classrooms on that floor (everything in threes – weird being a catholic school you’d have thought 7 would be more their number, but I digress) were small and poky. If the previous lesson had not yet finished, there could be up to three classes waiting to get in to their next lesson. This meant a few people on the landing whilst the rest of us lined the right hand side of the staircase. (You had to always keep to the right, or it might have been left – I’m getting old, I can’t quite remember which.) Anyway, that was the deal. Now if you were at the top, you could look down over the railings and see all the way to the bottom. Of course the favourite trick of the more scum like ‘academics’ would be to ‘flob’ (as I believe the ‘word de jour’ was) down at the poor, unsuspecting geeks below. Naturally the kids in the lower sets would often be responsible for this as the geeks in the higher sets wouldn’t have ever thought to partake in such revolting behaviour. But it is not this act which made me scared of heights. No, it was looking up at people who would be dangling their arms over the railings and pitching their heads forward to have a good look at what was going on down below, which got me all shaky. I used to want to shout “For God’s sake, step away from the railings, pleeeeeeease!” but never did, because I was shy and would have got a pasting (to use another well worn late 80s, early 90s phrase). Instead I felt physically sick any time I stood waiting for an English or RE lesson. And not because I didn’t enjoy those subjects.

To compound this misery, at the top of the third staircase was an altogether more terrifying staircase. (At least for the height phobic amongst us.) This was a metal, spiral staircase which led up to ‘The Observatory’ (not that I ever think in the 7 years I spent at that school did I ever know it to be used as such). This spiral staircase sort of hung , suspended if you will, over the main stone stairwell. There were gaps. Actual huge gaps between each stair which a thin slip of a girl like myself (at the time) could easily have slipped through to her death. I did not have an over-active imagination at all! So this staircase was like my nemesis.

Now one evening, when I was in sixth form, myself and some friends had been given the very important job of being  ‘car park attendants’ on an open evening for new pupils. What a responsibility for a 17 year old. We were given high viz jackets and everything.

Anyway, I can’t think why we were trusted so much, but after we were to have done our duty we were not given any further instructions (none that I recall anyway), and for some unknown reason a few of us decided to go and roam the corridors. It was October time I think and so it was dark. As we made our way down the main corridor the lights automatically came on which of course made us jump as we had no idea there were sensors on them! Luckily no burglar alarms went off as the school was still open and in full swing with its open evening. Undeterred by the mystical light switching on (and so fear of a teacher seeing the main block lit up like Blackpool Illuminations) my friends decided heading up to the Observatory would be a good idea.

This was after we’d detoured into our A level English classroom and drawn a picture of Stonehenge (like the little one Nigel draws on a napkin in Spinal Tap) on our English teacher’s blackboard. (YES! We still had blackboards in 1992/1993 or whenever this was.) They then wanted to do the same in the ‘Observatory’ and me, not wanting to appear a wuss in front of my (male) friends, agreed to go along. Only once we got to the spiral staircase and I put my foot on the first step, I froze. I called up to them that I’d wait at the bottom for them, which I did for what seemed like forever. They appeared soon after, having successfully completed their mission to ‘graffiti’ the school with the iconic Stone’enge image, and were as giddy as well, school children. 17 year old school children, but still. Much to my huge disappointment my nemesis had conquered me that time. The only opportunity I’d ever had or was ever likely to get to see what was up in this mysterious ‘Observatory’ and my fear of heights stopped me. I still kind of regret not following them up there to this day.

I also recall at secondary school doing circuit training during PE lessons and one of the activities was to climb up and over the wall bars as many times as you could in a minute. Again two rungs up and my legs were like jelly. The PE teacher always kindly allowed me to skip that one and do another set of something else instead. Thank goodness for understanding teachers! (Yes, we exist!)

So ever since those days, I can’t remember a time when heights didn’t give me the wobbles. I have been on roller coasters (peer pressure mainly!) and never opened my eyes once. I’ve been on The London Eye and sat on the seat in the middle of the pod, gripping it tightly and wishing the children standing on the metal bars right next to the glass would get down, because you know the glass will shatter and they will fall to their deaths in the River Thames.

Just a few years ago, whilst nearing the top of a Munroe in the Highlands I had a panic attack at the thought of going on up onto the ridge. In all fairness to me, it was so foggy and wet I could barely see my own hands in front of me and so I was absolutely and probably forgivably petrified. We did not go on. I think I cried at being such a failure. But better to be a failure than dead I say.

Saying that about the weather though, I have climbed Snowdown in lovely weather, but still not quite gone up onto the very, very top pinnacle of it as I even felt extremely dizzy on the open exposed part near the cafe. I’ve also been on cable cars up mountain sides which I loathed every moment of.

As you can see, I’ve never actively sought to avoid heights especially, that is until in more recent years when I decided “why put yourself through it, Joanne when you absolutely hate it?” (Though I do love being up on a mountain. It’s solid enough but I do still get the colly-wobbles!)

So yes, I decided some time ago to stop putting myself through this as I know I don’t like heights.

Trouble is, now my nephew doesn’t like heights, in fact he is petrified, and although I’ve never been in a situation with him where I’ve shown my fear, he seems to have inherited the same thing.

Therefore I decided to do a U turn on this previous decision of mine to avoid heights. I decided I really should make an effort to conquer this fear and of course the best way to do this is to just ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’ But…hadn’t I already been doing that, you may well say? Well, no not really, because you see every time I went on something high I worked myself up about it beforehand. I had an internal dialogue that said: “You can’t do this, you know you hate heights.”

So back in the summer, I decided to change this and I decided to go on another of these big wheel type things. A bit like the London Eye, but smaller scale. These travel round the country at various times of year. We have one here in Birmingham every Christmas and when I go to visit my mum and dad in Torquay in Devon in the summer , there’s one there.

Every year I look at it and think, “I’d love to not be scared on heights and go on that, but I know I’d hate it, so what’s the point?”

Well this year I went to Torquay and told myself to go on. I was determined that I would enjoy it and that’s what I started to tell myself.  Instead of “You’ll hate it,” I told myself the opposite. The little one could not be persuaded this time to go on, so one night, whilst he was in bed, I went for a stroll on my own (my parents were looking after him!) and without thinking about it too much more about it found myself stopping instead of walking on by as so many times before and paying for a ticket. Before I knew it, I was hopping on board.

View Over Torquay from the ‘Eye’

Now I won’t say my heart rate didn’t spike up a bit at first. Of course it did, but as I put on the music (so nicely provided at the touch of a button in each pod) I relaxed. I looked ahead and enjoyed the sunset. The pod rose higher and higher, and for a while I didn’t dare look down, but on its second revolution, I did. And actually it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed it and I was kind of sad to only have been able to go round once.

Okay, so it’s probably not *that* high!

Now don’t get me wrong, you’re probably not going to find me throwing myself out of a plane strapped to a parachute or throwing myself off a bridge attached to a bungee any time soon. (I mean those things are just stupidly risky and dangerous, forget the height aspect!) However, I think just a small shift in mindset might well get me braving more of these height type things. It may only seem to be one small achievement to most people, but to me this was quite a biggy.

My next conquest is to do the new high up walkway they’ve installed at Kenilworth Castle, as the little one point blank refuses to go up any time we go. So I’ll have to make a trip soon without him!

Mind over matter? I think so.


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30 Days ’til 40: #23

It pleases some weird pattern spotting thing in me that number 23 of my countdown to age forty happens to fall on the 23rd. This ‘symmetry’ pleases me! (It will happen again on October 8th! How geeky is that?!)

More OCD-ness in tonight’s post on this year’s achievements with…

#23: Sorted out my Garage. (Sort of)

One of the things I finally got round to doing this year was to have a great big clear-out of my garage.

Once upon a time my garage did actually house a car along with a few gardening implements and not much more.

How things change…

By the beginning of this year it was beginning to resemble the local tip. (Partly because I had a HUGE house de clutter!)

In recent years it has of course become home to numerous toys some of which are just there because they are outdoor toys (ie the bike, the scooter etc…) Most of which are no longer age appropriate for the 7 year old, (or actually more accurately there’s no space left in his bedroom). We have to have a regular turn out otherwise I get tetchy. There’s also the huge recycling bin of all the stuff he’s junk modelled as he insists on keeping it all for posterity. At least it’s all handily in a recycling bin, so one day in the future I can just wheel it out and leave it for the bin men. Oooh I’m so mean!

If that’s not bad enough I have also hoarded all my old teaching resources, of which about 0.1% are ever used or referred to, what with everything being on line these days. They’ve been there (very well organised and boxed up, but still there) since 2010 when I gave up ‘proper’ full time teaching and decided to ponce about on supply before going part time. Up until this year I still had the mentality that they ‘might’ come in useful. Hmmmmm.

And then there’s all the other stuff.

There’s a huge box of books for a start. (I say ‘a’ I mean at least 4). A few years ago I’d taken a load to a charity shop and then a week later a friend was having a ‘clear-out’ and very thoughtfully gave me this huge box of books that I didn’t have the heart to turn down. Now that box has been added to as I’ve sought to de clutter the house and oh..I’m having palpitations just thinking about it.

So anyway, I planned this year to de-clutter the garage once and for all. The teaching stuff could go. The Numerous CDs and DVDs and old VHS’s could go to Music Magpie and the toys could go to charity and all the junk boxes and broken rubbish could go to the tip (as since having the new car last year, I’ve not dared loaded it up with rubbish for the tip) and yes, the old bike and scooter (as at Christmas he’d had new ones) could go along with any toys unsuitable for charity.

I hired a Hippo bag. (A bit like a skip only it comes through the post. You fill it and phone them up to take it away when you’re ready. Highly recommend!)

I threw in the junk, the scooter (though the old bike I planned to clean up and sell). The 15 year old garden furniture went in, as well as the shrub I’d cut down which had been sitting on the decking for two months. I cleared, I de-cluttered and all was clean and lovely.

To be honest I’d not got rid of everything. Mainly because I just didn’t get round to it. The book box was still there, Music Magpie only take certain CDs and DVDS so some CDs and all of the VHS’s still reside. None of the well preserved toys are gone, because I am loathe to throw them out, yet haven’t got round to finding them a suitable home. (This is before the 7 year old even has a say on “what happened to my Teletubbies house?” on the once a year occasion he goes rummaging around to play with it.)

Then he had his birthday in June and that meant more boxes of rubbish going in to the garage. I got rid of my old duvet and pillows and they are now in there awaiting me to to take them to the tip. There are new tins of paint in there (that’s another story) and I only managed to get rid of a fraction of the school stuff, though more than any of the previous years I’ve sorted through that stuff. So yay!

So the upshot is. In April I felt like I’d achieved garage nirvana. (Or as close as I was going to get.) Now in September I realise de-cluttering the garage may well need to be an ongoing goal, or perhaps the goal should just be for me to be far more ruthless than I have been thus far.

(I’d go to the tip on Saturday, but everyone knows that’s lunacy!)


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