Innocent Eyes

By |January 19th, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

The past few days have put me in a reflective mood. I do that from time to time. I can’t help it. But a few things made me look back.

I visited an old blog of mine, which had posts that I made from as far back as 2006, when I was in the middle of my undergraduate studies. Of course, like any 21 year old, I posted one heck of a lot of rubbish, but there were some things that I wrote that chimed a little.

I was, and still am, really quite introverted and much of my creativity never leaves the cells that comprise my frame. Nonetheless, I did share a thing or two, so I’ve incorporated these posts on my site and I’m in the process of sorting them.

After talking with a cherished friend, I found myself in a reflective mood. In particular, I was reminded of the songs I used to listen to in my teenage years, which are somewhat embarrassing but I listened to again. Think Avril Lavigne, Delta Goodrem, Backstreet Boys, Dido, Texas, Wet Wet Wet, Hot Chocolate, Hanson… I was never the cool kid!

You might be laughing but, in a way, so was I. It reminded me of a time when I knew I was happy. I wasn’t free of troubles, but I didn’t want things to change. Of course, things do. School ended, university began.

I didn’t find undergraduate study particularly enjoyable. There were aspects of it that I relished, but I never really got to explore myself and who I am. My PGCE study was good in the sense that I spent it with good people and I grew to learn about myself a little more; but the stress of teacher training and effectively failing pretty much ruined it.

My time in Loughborough (which is still going, by the way!) was broadly great. There are (and were!) some amazingly lovely and wonderful people. Inspiring, even. But depression killed the opportunity to enjoy it to its potential. Everything was there for me to fly and flourish, but ultimately my brain was my greatest asset and worst enemy. I couldn’t have had one without the other, I suppose.

Now I’ve found myself in Oxford. So far, things are going well enough. I’m continuing the things I enjoyed with my PhD studies (albeit without the people on such a regular basis) and working on further projects that stimulate me and invoke my interests.

Perhaps now that I know myself a little better, particularly for having had my recent journey through depression, I can rebuild that feeling of contentment that had long since eluded me.

Review of My Year 2010

By |December 31st, 2010|Essays|0 Comments


Following the Christmas holidays I was dreading the New Year. It meant going back to teaching. I didn’t mind the teaching so much – I had successes and failures, good points and bad points; but there were certain things that caused me no end of dread. I recall returning the house in Keele around the same time as Emlyn. Neither of us relished going back. In January, we were doing all five days in a school (whereas we started doing two days at Keele, three days at school) and with the timetable being added to the pressure soon mounted. January also marked the end of my first placement.


The stand-out event of February was getting my first ever car: a Rover 45 2.0TD Spirit S. It was spotted by Andy, a friend from school and relayed to me by Weiran. I immediately warmed to it and after a brief test drive I bought it. I also started my second placement. I was heartened by a lighter timetable compared to others and enjoyed the classes I was working with.


The timetable was starting to increase and it was becoming clear that things weren’t right. I wasn’t as closely monitored as other people, which I took to be a vote of confidence. I did enough to keep on top of what I had to do; I avoided extra work to try to preserve my sanity. Weekends were most welcome and the purpose of the week. When I wasn’t going back to watch the football, I was staying in Keele with Emlyn and Jack in particular. A notable weekend at the end of the month started my foray into golf, a Chinese food buffet and winning a bottle of gin.


Someone turned the thumbscrews in April. Early in the month came in the Easter holidays and it was painfully difficult to go back to the PGCE. I was expecting to go back to be told I was failing. My car was hit whilst parked at the student house in Keele, leaving a large dent (which remains to this day). I took the car to have a puncture caused by a screw sorted and ended up having to pay a small fortune for an MOT and service in addition. Teaching was particularly horrible as my confidence was slowly chipped away and eroded. My sleeping pattern was terrible as I took painstaking lengths to make enticing lessons for them to be ripped apart the next day. Weekends were devoted to catching up with sleep, more work, and more drinking. My eating habits were poor as I ate scraps that required little effort or eating out. Gin, limes, tonic and ice cubes were afforded pride of position at the top of the shopping list; closely followed by cereal bars and cookies.


The word I dreaded reared its ugly head in the middle of May: remediation. I was given a list of things I needed to do in order salvage a year’s work. It was immediately clear in my head that I would not be able to overcome those issues. My confidence was in tatters; I was tired and clearly stressed. My only escape was football: seeing Newcastle United win the Championship was the clear highlight for the year until that point, but even then I was ever-troubled by the lingering dread of having deep, cutting criticisms and close scrutiny of my ability to teach.


I had wanted to quit but I couldn’t describe myself as a quitter. I tried. It came as a relief in some regard that I was told that I had failed the placement though the fact I had made it to within three weeks of the end was not lost on me. Yet I stayed until the end. I had every right to go home at that point but I did not. I wasn’t teaching, but helping out where I could.


It was heart-wrenching, not least when participating in the final week in Keele. My last act was to rewrite the lyrics to YMCA (which we performed for year’s cohort of PGCE students and uploaded to YouTube (with some naughty words) which provided some light relief! The final session – a “farewell” gathering – was particularly bittersweet seeing some people for the last time and knowing that if I wanted a share of their success, I would need to do another 16 weeks the following year.

Mum and Dad celebrated their 50th birthdays in July. I went to Wiltshire to celebrate with Dad for his birthday and at the end of the month I went to Barcelona with Mum to celebrate hers. Both provided escape from the torment in my mind and I enjoyed myself. It was great to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time and to see Mum have her first flight.


August was a void. I was unaware of my situation at Keele having gone home. I started applying for jobs almost indiscriminately. The football season started – with defeat, naturally – but soon picked up with a comprehensive defeat of Aston Villa at home.

Matt came and visited. It was most welcome. We talked, drank, ate and visited Hexham.


I was summoned back to Keele for talks of my future on the PGCE course. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes, having driven for four hours to get there. I had been looking over the summer for somewhere to live with little success (and no help from the accommodation office) so I was not in a position to agree to do my placement starting in October. The other option was February, but money was an issue too.

Pure chance led me to find an opportunity for paid PhD study at Loughborough University and I applied in a heartbeat. I was offered an interview and thought I have completely screwed up. I wasn’t offered the place but thankfully one was made for me. I felt truly wanted and of value professionally and gladly accepted. I hadn’t thought too much about the practicalities, but the apparent belief in me warranted some effort to overcome them.


The notable event of October occurred on the last day… a 5-1 win over Sunderland. It certainly wasn’t expected but was most welcome. For me, I was looking at places to live in Loughborough without any success. It was also a time of a minor health scare. It’s something I have to just live with now and get on with.


My car took a battering from a falling fascia board and aerials. Another bit of damage that no-one will take responsibility for. I got quotes for both pieces and it comes to around £800. With additional damage to the windscreen, a broken headlight, and a broken tail light the damage mounts up quickly. I have repaired the lights (cheaply and easily).

In November I eventually got my accommodation sorted and moved in.


I started in the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University and settled in very quickly. The snow caused some problems over the month, but I was generally high in spirits (not necessarily the alcohol stuff, either!) and the snow was easily overcome. Emlyn came to stay, which was generally good (but we don’t talk about the cloakroom staff incident) and it was great to see the old crew in Kent.


2010 got better as it went along. I’m very optimistic for 2011 and looking forward to it! Happy New Year everyone!


By |August 25th, 2010|Quick thoughts|1 Comment

I’ve received an invite to visit one of my lecturers in order to "discuss [my] final placement". Aside from the date, that is how much I know.

It’s progress, but I’m still no nearer to being able to commit. I don’t know where or when this placement might be. I am struggling to find accommodation available for three months, and not knowing dates or location does not help. Amidst this uncertainty, I have not applied for a student loan. It seems pointless to apply when I am doubtful I can make this work. I’m quite angry and upset, quite particularly at myself as had I passed first time there would have been no problem.