Review of 2015

By |December 31st, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

This year could be described as my annus mirabilis. There were so many firsts that happened this year; notable events; unusual things and milestones. This post has been badly planned, so I apologise if I ramble, omit things, and generally do a bad job. But this is free entertainment for you…

I suppose I’ll start with the ugly business of personal milestones. I started what I refer to as my first “proper job” — on a contract, decent wage, responsibilities… Proper adult stuff. I turned 30, which is less of an achievement but a milestone nonetheless. I jointly run an organisation (have I told you about maaple?). I went to my first Pride event, in London. I travelled widely this year, visiting Barcelona, Cancún, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Wrexham. I made my first ever contribution towards paying back my student loan. I have achieved much this year.

My office doorSo let’s start with my job. I’m just coming up to the end of my first year working at Oxford Brookes University in the OCSLD. I work as a research assistant and I have been involved in a nice variety of projects that are mainly centred around student experience, but some have been a little bit outside my field of expertise. It has been a great experience professionally so far, and while publications have been lean for another year, there is plenty of scope for something to happen next year.

On a personal and social level, this has perhaps been my most successful year. Starting again in Oxford has been very fruitful. My work colleagues have been great in helping me to settle — particularly Simon and Katie who have done a lot to help me get out of the house! Our regular trips to Thirsty Meeples, with Liz, Liz, Fiona, Pauline, Tamsin and Jayne, are always good fun! I have met some people outside of work nearby, too: Jack, Anna, John, Andy and Holly are my regular pub quiz teammates; I quite often go to watch football matches and hang out with Jack, too; I’ve also met up with Chris and shared a love of sushi (actually, sushi seems to be a thing around here…!). I certainly have not been bored here!

Work has not always been a happy place. We were all astounded and devastated when Rauri passed away. He had not long been a part of our team, but he showed great promise and enthusiasm and had already made big impacts on the department. I have been covering the role of DMeLD since, which has broadened my experience still further. Although it has been a temporary arrangement thus far, it may become something more long term. We have not yet decided what to do with Rauri’s allotment, however.

My friends from “back home” are still very important to me, and it was marvellous to have them in Oxford in January for our 2014 Christmas meal (we have accountants among our number…). Sophia is growing fast and there’ll soon be more children in our group. Sebastian has already arrived and his cousin will be arriving soon! Louis and Helen got married this year, and it was such a lovely event. However, bowling at the groom on his wedding day was perhaps the most nerve-wracking thing I did this year! I did my usual annual trip to Silverstone with Nick and visited him and Belle; I went to see Pete and Laura in North Wales towards the end of the year; I stayed with James and Jess, and saw Matt a few times.

Erasmusbrug, RotterdamAnd, though I’m sure you can scarcely believe it, I turned 30. To celebrate, I went to Rotterdam with Pete. I’d hoped more would go, but his company was more than ample. The shower arrangement was a little unusual, but the internet-connected TV made up for that. We had many drinks and laughs, and went to see the live theatrical performance of Ayreon’s The Human Equation. It was a stunning performance and there will be a DVD/Blu-ray release of a recording next year. I’m looking forward to that. Being high-fived by a Dutch guy in the middle of Rotterdam for repeating a spell name featured in the Harry Potter series was perhaps the most bizarre event of the year… but pretty cool nonetheless.

There is a part of me that exists only online and there are some people that I only know online and haven’t met. I hope 2016 changes that. My friends in Norway — Maria, Malene and Peter — are high up on the list of priorities now. We’ve been working on recording a series for Minecraft, along with Phil — who I’ve known for a long time! — and now Otto. We have some videos that we’ve uploaded privately (ask me if you’d like to see, though they are early drafts).

I’ve also chatted a lot with Kasandra, Lisa, Sascha, Racko, Jas and Kirien. I met up with Liam at the tail end of last year and we’ve chatted ever since. Steven sends me a lot of photos on Snapchats and I try to keep up! I went to my first Pride event and met George and Marion. I’ve known Caleb and Mike (“Dodo”) for a while now and are pretty important to me. It was an aim of mine to meet Rob this year and I’m so glad I got a second opportunity to do that. I’d love to meet all of you (or again, if I have already!). I’ve certainly made a good friend in GJ, and I really wish for her to get her belated fair share of good fortune this year.

And I had an amazing time in Mexico. I could have had a great time on my own: the food was great, the place was wonderful, there was so much to see and do. However, the people were even better. Everyone that went to the workshop (too many to mention, actually!) was simply lovely and welcoming; very encouraging and supportive using in my Spanish, and answering my inane questions of Mexican customs and cuisines! Esmeralda, in particular, was very encouraging and we had some good chats while we were there. Adriana is simply a wonderful person. I hope we’re all able to do it again next year!

As you can tell from this post, people are very important to me. I’ve had amazing times and bad times this year, but the people in it are the most important thing. Stick around for 2016!

P.S. If I’ve missed you out, it’s more than likely that it’s because I’ve been careless!

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!