Saturday, November 26, 2005

A friend in need

Changing your life isn't easy. Leaving a high-pay, high-pace lifestyle to work in the charity sector and to go back and re-train requires some painful adjustments. The financial implications are severe and the isolation of being a student when most of your friends still work full-time in and around The City can sometimes leave you very low. Having said all this, I wouldn't have done anything differently.

Every downside has its upside. I may earn pittance compared to my previous salary but I get home every evening knowing that I've made a very real difference to the lives of some very distressed people. That feeling is worth more than any pay cheque. My course is demanding and so the isolation is important to focus on my studying. Even the demise of my last relationship has played a huge role; I might never have decided to go back to university and do something that was so wholly and utterly for me if I hadn't been forced to put the peices back together.

The thing is, I'm lucky. I have the most incredible support any person could ask for. Recent discovery of dry rot meant that all my savings had to be diverted from my kitchen to replacing my bay windows. My lovely dad stepped forward and plugged the financial holes, which was amazing of him considering he's paying for my fees until I'm at last eligable for a Career Development Loan.

The disaster left me thoroughly fed up. Cooking off a camping stove in a kitchen comprised of an Ikea table and a set of B&Q shelves is a thoroughly miserable exprience, especially during the cold months when all you want to do is come home, put a pizza in the oven and curl up with a good book. The misery is heightened when you know it may be that way for three years.

But everything changed on Thursday. Babs and Hope surprised me with something so spectacular I still can't quite believe that it happened. They took me to a wine bar only to break the news over a bottle of champagne that eighteen of my friends have clubbed together to buy me a cooker for my thirtieth birthday. I cried like a baby. So did Babs and Hope.

So now, every time I stick a pizza in the oven, or cook up a roast, I'll be reminded of how much support I have and how important my friends are to me! I'm not quite sure how I can ever repay them. I guess I can start by having them over for dinner! Thanks everyone!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Statistical Nightmare

It's been, in all honesty, a miserable couple of weeks. The cold weather seems to curl itself round me in the night and I don't think I've thawed for days. The double glazing installation is going a bit tits up and won't be finished for another couple of weeks and the radiator for my bedroom still hasn't arrived. I'm sick of getting dressed and undressed by the gas fire in the living room and waking up in a building site every morning.

But, you see, these are things that I was prepared to deal with. I knew that by changing my life I'd be broke for a couple of years and that work in the flat would take a lot longer as a result. The course I'm doing has been a major upside bringing balance to these difficulties. I love it. Training to be a counsellor is such a great experience, a journey into the unknown. Mondays at college make my week worthwhile, make the cold bearable and make the endless beans on toast palatable.

But this week's day at college brought with it a rude awakening in the form of statistics. Three and a half hours of statistics, to be precise. It's difficult to describe my relationship with mathematics except to say that I was the kid that was taken out of class for "special" help and suffered panic attacks at the thought of long division. Fifteen years on, things haven't changed. As the lecture went on I found myself feeling more and more agitated. Terms like "Standard Deviation" and "Mode" circled round my head only to slip through my fingertips and flutter away when I felt I was getting a grip. All the old feelings came back. The frustration, the inadequacy, the blind panic.

Even the guys at Amazon think I need all the help I can get. I ordered a copy of Statistics for Dummies the other day. They sent me two!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Now is the winter of my discontent

Winter is upon us. I know this because my flat is absolutely freezing. Ducking out of the rat race without actually completing the necessary renovations was in many ways a tad foolish. Sarah Beany would have a few words to say about it as my planning and hard work has resulted in a camping stove to cook from and one radiator to warm three rooms.

When I first bought this place my family came to visit and before I could say DIY SOS they'd pulled up the carpet and torn down all the wallpaper in my bedroom. Sadly, they never put anything in their place and, well, neither have I. Two years on and my bedroom is still bleaker than Bleak House and colder than a witch's tit. There is no radiator, the floor boards allow the cold air to seep up from through the air bricks and the secondary glazing installed by the twat who lived here before leaves alot to be desired in terms of craftmanship (staple gunned) and functionality (cold air whistling through in a somewhat ghostly manner). The radiator was pulled out about 8 months ago and won't be replaced until the week after next.

The long and short of it is that it's absolutely freezing. Will I ever feel my toes again?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Walk like a panther

It was cold, wet, muddy, dark, windy and thoroughly miserable, which makes sense because I was on an astroturf pitch in the North of England at 6.30 on a November evening. Brrrrrrr!

I'd been asked up to Chesterfield by some family friends to coach their daughter's under-11 football team for a weekend and here we were about to start our training session. Helen was introducing me to some of her team mates until she was abruptly interrupted by Kelly, a tiny, blonde wisp of a girl.

"NO, Helen. You've got to use the code names!" She turned to me. "I'm Sponge Bob, Helen's Square Pants, that's Mole, Patrick, Plats, Eric and Titch."

"I see. Shall we start?"

Sponge Bob looked shocked.

"But we can't start until YOU have a code name!"

They put their heads together, whispering amongst themselves in what appeared to be a very serious manner indeed. Eventually Sponge Bob broke out of the circle and led her friends over to me.

"Why have you got the word "Panther" on your training top?" she demanded.

"Because that's the name of my football team in London," I replied.

"Well, your code name is now "Panther". Everyone has to call you Panther from now on!" she declared.

It was all very cute indeed.

The next morning was a different story. It was match day and the pitch was lined with dedicated parents in wellies sipping tea out of thermos flasks and huddling together for warmth.

The match kicked off and I shouted over to Helen to push up a little, which she did. A few minutes later I shouted "great header!" to Kelly. She ignored me completely.

Ten minutes into the match and Kelly had the ball at her feet near where I was standing.

"Run with it, Kelly! Go for goal!"

Sadly, the ball went out and Kelly glared at me, hands on hips.

"Panther!" she hissed. "My name is SPONGE BOB!" and she turned on her heel, running off to chase the ball.

Seconds later she had the ball again and her shot sent it inches over the cross bar. I swallowed my pride:

"UNLUCKY SPONGE BOB!" I yelled across the pitch. "NEXT TIME TRY NOT TO LEAN BACK!"

"THANKS PANTHER!" She beamed and I turned to put on an extra layer. 20 parents were looking at me, their faces riddled with kind amusement.

"Well, if you can't beat em, join em," I declared and Sponge Bob's mum winked at me.

They won seven - nil!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bedside manner

I stood there half naked, wearing a robe that showed a little more than I was comfortable with. He walked over.

"Follow me," he murmured. I obeyed and a shiver ran down my spine.

He led me through a door into a bare room. A bed stood at its centre.

"Lie down", he ordered.

I hesitated and then did as he said. He put his hands round my waist, the robe falling to reveal my underwear. He rolled me over and looked into my eyes.

"Don't move." His voice was cold, detached as he retreated out of sight leaving me there alone and exposed.

He returned a moment later. I closed my eyes and held my breath.

"That's all Miss Jerram." He clasped his hands together jovially. "If you'd like to go to Suite Three, Dr Doodah will look over your xray results with you. Sorry about the chill. The heating's down again. Toodle oo"

I shuffled down the corrider clasping the hospital robe behind me lest the whole world should see my bottom.