Saturday, 4 June 2011


I'm 31. In my opinion I am still young. Okay, I'm not twenty any more. But I'm not seventy either. I have no real issue with my age as I am now. But maybe I will as time goes by. Sometimes I wonder where the time went so far and know that in another 31 years I will be quite a ripe age.

I think I have achieved a fair amount for the age I am. There will always be someone who has achieved more or taken a more sensible path. As long as I am happy with me, other people's opinions do not matter.

If I could turn the clock back ten years where would I be? Still at university studying my Dip HE, still gawky, still awkward, lacking the confidence that I was okay being me. And still facing the heartache I felt in my late twenties as I had my first experience of depression and felt I would never get better. Realistically I couldn't take off my 31 year old head and plant it on my 21 year old body so I might have to make do with the frown lines.

I may not pass for an adolescent but then if I did I wouldn't have much credibility with my clients.

"A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth. Instead of its bringing sad and melancholy prospects of decay, it would give us hopes of eternal youth in a better world." - Maurice Chevalier

Friday, 3 June 2011

Shared Accommodation

It's not easy living in shared accommodation when you're also trying to be a family. On the whole I don't think we do a bad job. But it's not easy.

We have the same strains and stresses as any other family just trying to live day to day. It is impossible to keep everything that goes on between the three of ourselves to ourselves. Don't get me wrong, we have a lot of fun, but all families have ups and downs.

On the other side of it we are not just a family trying to adjust to daily issues and problems which come up. the majority of people we have lived with have been friendly, honest, entertaining, considerate and, above all, non-smokers. In fact this year our non-smoking house has helped one of our housemates to give up smoking (as a public health nurse I am rather proud of this achievement, even if it was all his own work!)

We have lived with the occasionally difficult person though. A few years ago we had rabbits in the back garden and one of our housemates beheaded them. We didn't replace them, it wasn't fair to risk it happening again.

Another woman tried to get really inside my relationship with my husband. I have no idea why anyone would want to do that. Even now I cannot figure it out. But she had an opinion on everything about us and she made it known.

And someone from Brazil ran out of money so he tried to pay us with his laptop. We had to explain that we couldn't buy nappies with a computer.

Then there was the woman who apparently couldn't write cheques out because every time she wrote one she wrote some part of it incorrectly.

Or the man who told me he never drank but didn't mind that we did. Before a month was up he was drinking night after night and we didn't see him in the day. We realised he was likely to be a recovering alcoholic and had to ask him to leave for the sake of our son.

Still in general these housemates appeared to be pleasant characters. We have lived with about 25 other people since we moved in. I don't think any of them have been really nasty but some of the examples above are quite stressful events. When living as a family in a small amount of space some of these stresses are magnified.

Feel free to share your stories of sharing accommodation with other people in the comments section below.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Thieves at Vauxhall

Our family car is a Vauxhall Corsa EcoFlex 1.3l diesel. We purchased it new in February 2010. Originally I found the gears "sticky" and the clutch to have a lower-than-I-would-like biting point. Friends I complained to told me that it would take a bit of time to bed in. In February 2011 I took the car in for it's first service. I was rather pleased I was able to take it in and sit in the waiting room while it was worked on. A little over an hour later it was ready to go having had no amendments. I raised my concerns about the clutch and was told there were no problems with it.

So I was pretty stunned on Sunday to make the journey to Edinburgh only to break down on the A1 30 miles short of my destination. Someone (who shall remain nameless!) decided I should be towed to Edinburgh rather than London (and it is partly my fault for not having charged my phone properly before setting out on a long journey and being able to get my point across). The man who towed me was very friendly and said he thought it was the clutch. He took me to the nearest Vauxhall franchise: Peter Vardy.

On Monday it was an English bank holiday, not so in Scotland. Vauxhall said they could book us in for Thursday. Not so great because I had to return to work Tuesday, well at the latest Thursday. But we didn't have much choice.

An Edinburgh friend of ours tried to get one of her friends to help us in case he could do the work sooner. He could. He went away and tried to find out what I would be likely to pay him to get the work done. He reckoned that the duel max had burned out the clutch in several cars he had seen and given the youth of our car I should do everything possible to get the work done under warranty.

My mum was helpful: she had a similar problem with a car she had bought secondhand, the clutch burned out after six weeks. She contacted the manufacturer who agreed it should not have worn out so soon. She told me not to give up.

Peter Vardy rang to say it would cost £306 to strip the car to diagnose the problem. They would see if they could waive the fee if it was a warranty job but it looked like wear and tear. Given that they had not been able to look, I did not believe they could offer such a judgement. They did promise to take pictures or keep the components.

Our usual mechanic in London called me and reckoned there was nothing wrong with the clutch on old car (which we had to get rid of at 5 years old due to other problems). He gave me some advice on checking out prices with Evans Halshaw where we bought the car.

Evans Halshaw told me how much a clutch would cost but would not tell me how much labour would cost.

After realising the bill was going to be pretty steep and that my pleas about being an advanced driver were not going to cut the mustard my husband and I decided to come back to London. It removed the vibes of urgency Peter Vardy were getting from me because I am stuck in London without a car regardless of whether they fix it today, tomorrow or next week.

They rang today stating that the manufacturer cite "driver abuse" or "pilot error" - a stock answer I am sure to prevent me from trying to get the work done under warranty. Apparently our duel max has nothing wrong with it. Warranty on the clutch for our car specifically only lasts for 18,500 miles and by some strange coincidence that happens to be roughly the number of miles on my clock (thanks work for adding an extra 150-200 miles per month to my clock). I have checked with Vauxhall Customer Services and apparently the information given to me by Peter Vardy is correct. But then why would Vauxhall admit fault when they would have to stump up over £900?

As some sort of mitigating statement the man I have been speaking to about all this told me that clutches just aren't made the way they used to be. Not particularly comforting. He also cannot guarantee that another clutch would even last 15 months.

I have also been in touch with my driving instructor who is not of the impression I am rough with the gearbox. I do a very similar job I did when we had our previous car. My husband doesn't use the car nearly as much as me so it shouldn't be his fault.

Tomorrow I am going to try Vauxhall Head Office and try making a complaint. Beyond this I am not entirely sure what to try. Answers on a postcard please!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

NLP with JCI

Tonight Lorraine Warne came to talk to us about Neuro Linguistics Programming (NLP).

Every day we interact with people through our daily lives. A lot of our communication is unconscious. The words we speak are just the tip of the iceberg. Did you know that only 7% of our communication is through words? The skills used in NLP help us to access the rest of the communication iceberg.

Some of these skills include mirroring and matching so we did a few exercises where we mirrored and matched, or didn't mirror or match, someone else in our group. It was funny trying to disagree with our partner while matching their body language. It was also difficult trying to agree with our partner while not matching their body language. It made me realise these would be quite good skills to use in negotiations. They might help you:

At work to -
  • smooth workplace politics
  • reduce levels of conflict in the office
  • improve communication with patients, clients or customers
  • increase sales
  • help you be a better teacher

Personally to -
  • help improve your family relationships
  • help you overcome fears
  • help you achieve your goals
  • build your confidence

A two hour surface was enough only to let our group scratch the surface of NLP but it was a toe worth dipping!

JCI London

Monday, 23 May 2011

Some Time on My Own

All is quiet. My son and husband have gone to bed - in a tent outside no less. I finally have the chance to sit down and reflect.

The day has been busy, weekend tasks were disrupted and I have managed to achieve many of these during the evening. Recently I have been too exhausted to make use of evenings in this way so I am pleased with tonight's gains.

I am enthusiastic. I am trying to slow down ready for a good night's sleep. And I think I will achieve that. But I have a lot of energy. Today I have tried to focus on my son's chores too. It is important that he learns to be independent to an age appropriate level. We concentrated on reading and his cleaning hamster cage. It is challenging for me to do these important tasks when I have so much on my own agenda.

Emotionally I am much lighter than I have been for several months. The weather is good. Things I turn to seem easier. My list is easier to tick. Positives are easier to see.

Now I am feeling like I can at least see the top of the world I need to maintain myself. I need to find a balance between achieving as much as possible and looking after myself.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Final Day as a Student

Today is my final day as a student. Feels a bit weird. I have been a student almost all of my adult working life, bar a couple of months here and there.

This afternoon was the final part of my two CPAD modules which I took in order to undertake my current role as a practice teacher. My student was very kind and joined me so that I could be observed teaching her. I managed to find a gap in her knowledge so that she would find it beneficial to attend the session. The topic was eyes. We discussed the anatomy and physiology of the eye, common eye conditions in children, looked at the difference between screening and surveillance eye tests, the advantages and disadvantages of Snellen and LogMAR, referrals and recording, practise with the LogMAR book. And then the 45 minutes was up and it was time to critique my performance.

Overall not so bad: got the facts across and used a range of diagrams and practical equipment to help show what I was talking about. I incorporated the student's learning needs by questioning what she already knew and building upon that. It was a great help that she and I already have such a good relationship. But I could have used more styles of teaching and maybe have set a quiz to find out more about the student's knowledge.

So now I am no longer a student. But that is not the end of the story - mark my words I will be back!

Big day tomorrow
Next step on the educational ladder
Three weeks in
My First Blogged Essay
My Second Blogged Essay
My Third Blogged Essay

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Autonomy at Work

I have been taking my autonomy as a practitioner for granted the past few years. I didn't realise this. Until today.

I have just had two weeks off sick. I left in haste and, unlike when I go off on two weeks planned leave, I did not get time to sort out my in tray and make sure I had finished all those little stray jobs. You know, those niggly little jobs which make your list really long but only take a few moments each.

While I was off my team and manager tasked themselves with sorting through my outstanding work to make sure there was nothing urgent. Understandably, because of the way I left, things were more untidy than usual. I am fortunate because I am part of a lovely team. But I still feel threatened.

I am unaware of anybody checking through my tray on a regular basis. No one checks the work I do. I have a yearly appraisal, I attend clinical supervision, I speak to colleagues when I come up against a problem outside my scope of competence. But I am not micromanaged and I own my clinical decisions. Usually if I am off people will sort through my post, field my calls, liaise with my schools. We have a joint folder where we keep information on our main clients - this really helps when the caseload holder isn't in. I would happily sit there and talk my way through my caseload with my manager (if I had time!) but I feel distinctly uncomfortable about my work being sorted through in my absence.

On the one hand I was glad of the time off, I badly needed it and I wasn't fit to be in work. It is great that my colleagues made it possible for me to leave and that they supported me. On the other hand, I feel protective of my workload. I control it. My colleagues have not done anything wrong. They have not stepped out of line. But it challenges me. It challenges my perceptions of myself as someone who can cope with pressure. It makes me feel exposed, for example: what if one colleague finds my clinical decision to be wrong and I am not there to defend myself? What if my being away from work has changed my colleagues' perceptions of who I am and how I do things?

I have received some positive criticism as a result of the way my team found my work when they checked through it. It is making me question myself and my clinical actions. I haven't done anything outright wrong or dangerous but I have discovered things I can improve on. It has been a good experience from that point of view. But I have not enjoyed it. And I do not feel liberated by it.

Monday, 4 April 2011

My Third Blogged Essay

Well, I have one more essay blog to go. I have enjoyed writing shorter pieces and learning a little a week. I have also enjoyed writing in a more reflective style. I am not sure I have got the style completely right yet and I am not sure if I have undertaken enough critical analysis. Still awaiting feedback - seems my tutors have forgotten point 4 from Chickering and Gamson (prompt feedback!). I feel I cannot move forwards on improving my style until I receive this feedback. It's a shame they didn't do it earlier because I think I would have learned more about reflective blogging as I went along.

My First Blogged Essay
My Second Blogged Essay
Final Day as a Student

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

My Second Blogged Essay

I am starting to see by looking at my peers' blogs that this style of working is enabling me to learn from my peers and them from me, almost without me even realising I am learning. I am reading about other people's perspectives on similar topics and finding out how other practice teachers or university lecturers approach their students and apply the Professional Standards Framework.

Still not received any feedback yet so unsure if I have got the correct style of writing. This blog was easier to write than the first though - I didn't feel as stuck at the outset.

My First Blogged Essay
My Third Blogged Essay
Final Day as a Student

Sunday, 20 March 2011

My First Blogged Essay

I found it strangely challenging to write a blog instead of an essay. I had been expecting it to be a relatively easy piece of work. I knew it was supposed to be more reflective than an essay and less academic than an essay but I found it extremely difficult to articulate my thoughts and feelings at postgraduate level without sounding "fluffy" (for want of a better word) since I felt my usual structure had been removed. I didn't feel able to express half of what I wanted to in 500 words. My feeling is that I have not gone into enough depth or been critical enough. I do not feel I managed to analyse myself in this blog. I did not reach a natural completion of feel fulfilled the way a completed essay usually feels. Although I did have the sense of relief that the deadline had been met and in plenty of time. I was also told to only provide 2-3 references which I went over. I don't really know which ones I could have removed but I sense that is a bit of the old me. At eighteen I would go out and collect loads of articles. Then I would try to find a reason to include an article in my work even though it did not belong as if to prove I had done the research. It takes a lot to let go. Even after studying at postgraduate level for nearly five years I still struggle with that habit. All in all though it was quite a relaxed assignment and I am looking forward to receiving comments from my tutors. I have 3 more essay-blogs to go so I am hoping to up my game from here!

My Second Blogged Essay
My Third Blogged Essay
Final Day as a Student

Monday, 14 March 2011


I find myself exasperated at recent events. I cannot distil them into meaningful occurrences or explain why the feelings I have felt have been so strong. I feel as though my brain is squashed flat inside my head and I cannot think in a logical or rational manner. I have lost a piece of myself somewhere. I am frantically searching for it.

The things around me which I thought made sense do not. I am trying to fit them into the world I know or thought I knew. People are cruel. Some of those people are close and some more distant. I know no cruelty from strangers.

Sometimes it's all just too much!
The spiral

Friday, 18 February 2011

Giving something up isn't always a failure

It's a month since I gave up my MSc. It was a strange night. My brain felt like it had been squashed flat inside my skull and I had no idea how I was going to carry on with any part of my life. I was supposed to be revising for an exam. During a break I sat down next to my husband and complained that I didn't know any of the material for the exam. Like any supportive partner he rubbished what I was saying and told me that I could do this or anything else I put my mind to.

Still completely committed to the MSc, which is my stance on the majority of my life, I told him how bored I was with some aspects of the course. I said that I was worried about my future: "if I don't even find the course interesting how can I possibly find working in this field interesting?"

I am lucky. Incredibly lucky. I absolutely adore my job. Sometimes on a Friday night I sigh as I leave the office wondering where the week has gone and, despite enjoying my family for two days, I look forward to the following week. The people I work with are great. NHS politics is a challenge for me to get my head round, to muse over but it doesn't get me down. (As the serenity prayer goes: "...accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.")

So I concluded to my husband that I didn't know how I could give up working in an area I was so passionate about, that I was enjoying so much and that was allowing me progression and stretching me for something that would pay more money but I was beginning to think might bore me. Though I recognised we all need more money and we all need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. I was about to stand up and get back to my revision when my husband asked something I had not been expecting: "Would you like to give up your MSc?"

Now I am no quitter and I thought I was just having a bit of a moan. Sometimes a person just needs a moan to get perspective on a situation. I don't spend my whole life moaning but on occasion it can be very cathartic! The two of us had been planning for me to do this MSc, or a similar one, for a couple of years so it did not feel right to even consider stopping.

My first thought was about all the time and money I had already sunk into it. My husband's favourite quote came in handy as a counter argument, "No matter how far down the wrong road you've gone, turn back."

So what about all my plans? I had already answered my own question because I was beginning to question whether life really would be as rosy in the new career I had been planning.

But I have been wanting to complete an MSc since before I completed my PG Diploma. But that means you have three quarters of an MSc in a subject you love - so why not complete the other 25 percent instead?

And what will people think of me if I can't even complete a part time course? Well if they don't support you in your decision it's their problem. It's a part time course alongside a full time job and you'll get back the two evenings a week you've been running off to central London before you could even eat dinner.

So where will I go from here if I drop the course? When one door shuts another one opens somewhere you never even expected.

It's going to be so embarrassing to admit I failed. But if you decide not to continue you have taken control of the situation and you won't have failed. To change your mind is not to fail.

After thirty minutes of being convinced my husband was playing devil's advocate and that any minute now he was going to suggest I get back to my revision I realised he actually meant what he said. He had listened to my moaning, seen my point of view and recognised what I needed in a matter of seconds. So I turned the whole thing on its head and considered what it would be like to give up my MSc.

It felt good. All the reasons were the right reasons and the more I thought about it the less I could find a reason to continue. Since our son was born I have complained about work and coursework keeping me away from him but usually the strain was worth it. The MSc strain wasn't. And it would also free up time to spend with other people who matter to me - such as said husband!

That was a month ago, 18th January. I haven't had a single regret. Not even one. I feel a lot happier and no one has made me feel bad about my decision. Am I a failure? No. I made the wrong decision when I decided to partake in the course in the first place. Will I complete an MSc? Time will tell!

Equality in the home