1 year in Lincoln: Life, Love and Longing

Hello readers, I’m back after a very long break – last time I wrote the city was frozen over, now it’s swelteringly hot (not that I’m complaining).

I honestly have been craving some time to write but I like to do it when I’m alone, and  – I’m not sure whether to say ‘fortunately’ or ‘unfortunately’ – I really don’t feel as if I have had a lot of alone time this year.

However, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for – I am now facing much more alone time than I thought I would be (but more on that later).

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I’m feeling quite reflective this evening so this blog may help me to articulate my thoughts on what has been a very eventful and “full” year. Perhaps this reflective mood is because we are reaching the end of the academic year, perhaps it is because it is almost 1 year since I made the move from London to Lincoln – either way, these two events are interconnected just as location and work are two significant parts of daily life.

It has definitely been a busy year. I’ve reconnected with old friends and made new ones. I’ve settled into a new school and, as a teacher, I have encountered some of the most challenging behaviours and attitudes that I’ve ever experienced, although I’m not saying it’s unusual in many schools around the country, just not something I’d dealt with to that extent before. In my family life, I am imminently about to become an auntie, which I’m really excited about. My dad is retiring after many dedicated years of military service. In my friendship circle, there are friends who are getting married, there are friends who have their first child; this past year has been full of many happy events, events that fill me with joy to look back on and remember. However, life is not straightforward and as well as happiness, in my family there has also been loss and heartbreak. While some people experience joy, others experience sadness, and that is the way life is. I’ve experienced some highs and lows this year and have been living at a very fast pace, so I’m thinking that it might be time to take stock and slow down for a bit now.

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Joy and Sadness  – credit: Pixarwiki

One of the most significant events of my past year in Lincoln was beginning a long-term relationship. I’ve written on my blog before about dating and being single. Well, when I moved to Lincoln I decided it was a new opportunity to meet people and began online-dating (despite my mixed feelings about this form of dating, it seems like the only way these days). I met a guy, let’s call him A. We had a lovely first date in one of my favourite bars in Lincoln; it’s got a rooftop over-looking the cathedral. We had dinner and cocktails. It was a warm August evening. I felt happy, relaxed, optimistic.

The relationship was a bit of a slow burn. It took us both a few months to fully commit to each other. But once we did, it felt like we were having a lot of fun. I loved how much he made me laugh and how thoughtful he was. Sometimes he would turn up at my house with huge bouquets of flowers for no reason. I had sometimes worried about how a long-term relationship would fit with me being a teacher because I bring so much work home. With A, it was easy and he wouldn’t put any pressure on me. He came over a few evenings a week and he wouldn’t mind if I had work to do, he said that he just enjoyed being with me. A few months ago he met my family and he was so good with them; they all loved him. We were both Harry Potter fans and we had an amazing trip to Harry Potter Studios. We planned more trips together, booked a couple of holidays together for my summer break in August. He told me to clear my diary for the anniversary of our first date and we planned to go back to the rooftop bar where we first met.

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Which is why I was so shocked a couple of weeks ago when he broke up with me. Saying that he didn’t feel the same way as I did, and that he didn’t see a future with me. I asked him why he had made so many plans with me if he didn’t see a future – he said that he had made the plans to try and make himself feel more. He said he had to be honest with me. I guess things were getting too serious for him so he had to break it off now before it became even more serious.

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It feels really weird to write about all of this and pour my heart out, but I also have to be honest about how I feel and this blog gives me the space to do it. I look back on the past year and it feels chaotic, fast, stressful, fun, exciting, and exhausting. However, I can take it as a huge achievement that it’s nearly the end of a very challenging academic year and I’m still in one piece. I know that if I’d had this year early on in my career, I wouldn’t have been strong enough to get through as well as I have done. It has taken everything I’ve learned about anxiety and depression, stress and exhaustion, from my own bad experiences, to set firm boundaries and also to reach out to my family and friends for support when I have needed it. I’m so thankful for all the people who have supported me this year, including A.

However, I’m sad to have reached the end of the academic year and be facing six weeks of holiday without the person I had made plans with. I’m back to being single. Ok, I’ll probably be fine. I’ll go on holiday. I’ll go to my friend’s wedding. But now I feel as if I’ve got to do it as a “confident single person” when all I really want is to share these events with someone I love. (But – they should really love you back, shouldn’t they?)

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So I guess, the end of one year is the beginning of a new one. And from now begins my reintroduction to single life. My new trials and tribulations of online-dating and please, God, some real life dating if possible. It’s goodbye to a very challenging class and hello to a lovely mature one. It’s a chance for me to stop the fast, exhausting pace I’ve been living at and reset. Give myself more space and alone time to write and to relax. Build my confidence again so that I can become even stronger.

If you’ve read all the way to the end – thank you. I really appreciate people’s support for my blog and I hope in some way, it helps the people that read it as it helps me to write it.

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Credit: makingitlovely.com 

 

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Thank you, Beast from the East

As a teacher in the UK, I often feel as if I am on a treadmill where the setting is slightly too high and I just keep going and going, a seemingly never-ending cycle of planning-teaching-marking, of getting up early, working a full day where an uninterrupted break time is a luxury, coming home and doing more work, and repeating the cycle the next day. On top of this, I don’t make it easy for myself when it comes to my home life. I put far too much pressure on myself to keep up with cleaning, tidying, washing, and find that I feel stressed when my home environment is chaotic. I also care a lot about my family and friendships, prioritising them too, but if I’m honest, do I prioritise them above my work? I really try to, but striking a balance is hard. I consciously make an effort to set myself boundaries of when I’ll work and when I’ll see friends and family, but I also find that I need time for just me to be on my own, and that is very difficult to fit into my busy schedule.

Considering all this, I very often feel myself wishing and hoping that if I could just have one day off, if I could only stop for a moment, that I would get some much-needed breathing space, that I could get off the treadmill. I often get up in the morning, longing for more sleep and wishing I could stay in bed. On my days off at the weekend, I have often packed so many plans in, almost trying to make up for the all the work I do, that it isn’t really a rest. Work hard, Play hard.

So you would think that this morning, when I got a message through from the Assistant Head that our school was closed due to the snow, that I would have been rejoicing. A day off? My prayers had been answered!

Wrong – my initial feelings were worry and disappointment: disappointment, because Wednesday is usually the “easy” day in the week for me, where I get 2 hours or so of Planning time, less contact time with the challenging members of my class and generally less marking; worry, because I left my laptop at work yesterday, as well as the fact that to complete planning at home I need access to the medium term planning on the school system and I can’t get onto that at home. A day off school, unable to do work, unable to use this time to prepare for next week… I felt like I should be happy about the free day ahead of me, but instead I felt anxious.

Feeling worried, I shared my feelings with my family, who told me to just enjoy the day. I knew I should feel like that… but I still felt underlying guilt that I wouldn’t be able to work. It wasn’t until our boss sent us an e-mail that actually told us all to enjoy ourselves (don’t do any work, and don’t check your work e-mails again!) that I started to feel better, that actually it was OK not to do work today.

So, with my gift of a free day, I did the kind of things that I usually long for – simple pleasures that made me feel much more relaxed and happy. I went back to bed, slept, caught up on some TV, chatted with family, met friends for a coffee… and we ended up making snow angels and having a laugh, walking like penguins huddled together under an umbrella as the snow came down around us.

It was a fun day, which made me embrace my inner child, playing in the snow, taking pictures of the pretty scenes, and finally just letting go. The roads here are also far too dangerous in these weather conditions, so it comforted me that by staying off school, we were keeping ourselves and others safe.

So, thank you Beast from the East, for forcing me to relax and to realise that the sky doesn’t fall in if you get off the treadmill for one day! (Even if there are huge snowflakes falling from it).

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New Year, New Decade

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Welcome to 2018, my first blog post of the year and I am very much looking forward to what this year may have in store.

I skipped my usual Christmas/New Year posts when for the past few years I have found that I become very reflective at this time, both about this blog and about wider life in general, and have tended to set myself new goals (usually writing more frequently features on my list… sadly I never manage to write as often as I want to).

However, this new year period I found myself feeling very resistant towards the “happy new year” attitude… and after wondering why I felt this way (so grumpy!) it dawned on me that there was more going on… in fact, the “new year” was being dwarfed by an impending big birthday that was making me feel very apprehensive – the big 3.0.

Having a January birthday does mean that after Christmas the celebrations don’t stop – you get to prolong the eating and drinking a little bit longer; you get a second load of presents and you get a little bit of joy in what would otherwise be a dreary winter month.

But this year I was approaching January with trepidation. The big 3.0. seemed looming and I had an urge to become invisible and let it pass me by without a word. A couple of weeks before the big day, I deleted my birthday off Facebook in the hope that people might not notice my birthday and temporarily removed the ability for people to post messages so that no one could send me a “Happy Birthday” message – for me it wasn’t going to be a happy occasion.

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This feeling of wanting to hide from my birthday was made harder by the fact I have a twin sister, who didn’t seem at all bothered by turning 30 and wanted to celebrate like any other birthday. Our different attitudes towards the day made me think about where my feelings were coming from. It’s just that, when we were younger, we would often talk about what we would have done by the time we were 30. We had ambitions, we had goals. We would think about where we would be living, what our jobs would be, we’d be married, we’d have children. The dream was of a stable, happy family life.

This is probably a dream that most people have or at least that most people of a certain generation would have, perhaps things are different now. But as children of the 90s and from quite a traditional family, these were our goals.

Comparing my real life now with these goals – they didn’t happen, not for me. I’m not married; in fact I’ve never been in a serious relationship. I have no children – and I do feel as if time is ticking. Whether it’s true or not, the notion of the “biological clock” does play on my mind because I would love to have a child (if the situation was right). I feel as if I should have progressed more in life than I actually have, that 30 is a truly “grown up” age and that I’m not mature enough; throughout my 20s I’ve been childish and now I’m falling short of social expectations. Where these expectations come from and whether they are right or wrong is a debate in itself – but feeling as if I’m not achieving what I should be makes me feel inadequate and that I’ve got some “catching up” to do.

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Many people have laughed when I suggested that I was sad about turning 30; saying that I was taking it too seriously, that the day after your 30th birthday you would wake up just the same and nothing would have changed. One friend did share my feelings and perhaps she also feels as if she hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Well, of course, the day came and my feelings had mellowed towards the day slightly. Having a twin who wanted to celebrate ended up rubbing off on me and I had a lovely day which was filled with love and good wishes sent to me from friends and family. My sister and her friend have also organised us a joint party happening next weekend, and I know it will make me happy to share the special occasion with my family and friends.

As I enter a new decade of my life, it’s time to set myself some new, more modern goals. I do dream of a stable, happy family life and I dream of being in a relationship, but you cannot force or rush these things. It’s easy to be hard on myself for all the things I haven’t achieved but I should really think about what I have achieved – and that is recovering time and again from stress, anxiety and depression which plagued my 20s, as well as travelling and living abroad which gave me amazing life experiences and made me a stronger person. In my 20s, I learnt the hard way just how important it is to look after yourself and I’m going to try and use all that I learnt to make my 30s as healthy and happy as can be.

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From London to Lincolnshire: Part One – From City Commuting to Country Cycling

Hello friends. It’s been a while. I’m going to blame it on dodgy Internet connections which meant I struggled to find a private space to write for about a year. But I’m back and ready to fill you in!

I have recently moved “home” to Lincolnshire from London and as a teacher I have kind of a luxury in that I have the six week summer break to settle in to my new place, refamiliarise myself with the way of life “up here” and generally relax before the September madness begins.

One way I decided to get acquainted with my new adopted city of Lincoln and the surrounding area was to get out on my bike to explore. I found a cycle route called the Water Railway, so called because the tracks follow what used to be a railway between Lincoln and Boston, which seems to have been finally closed around 1980 (although don’t quote me on that… I’m no expert). If you do the whole thing from Lincoln to Boston, you will cycle 31 miles – not something I think I could achieve even if I wanted to. Luckily there are many stopping points along the way and I decided to choose Bardney as mine, which is 9 miles from Lincoln, making it an 18 mile round trip (and slightly more to get back to my house which, I might add, is right at the top of the hill near the Cathedral).

I started the main route from Waterside South and it was pretty straightforward… all you have to do is follow the path. It runs alongside the River Witham and is more or less flat, perfect after navigating some of the steep streets of Lincoln to get there. Along the Water Railway there are also many places to stop and rest, as well as historical signs, some of which I read, and some of which I just cycled past as I was keen to get to my destination. However it would be good to take more time over it if you were particularly interested; there was information about each place along the path (including Washingborough, Fiskerton Fen, the Five Mile Bridge, Bardney Lock) as well as information about the old stations and ferries that would travel along the river to Boston (taking six hours each way – according to one of the signs I took the time to read).

It was a great place to see wildlife and, along the way, I saw (in no particular order): a hedgehog, a heron, some swans, cows, possibly a kestrel, some martins, dragon flies… this might not seem that special but it was to me, after cycling to work in London and not seeing anything natural (except perhaps an urban fox if you’re lucky).

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There were also several artistic sculptures and pieces along the path which I suppose are there to add interest, as it could otherwise get quite dull; after all, you are more or less cycling miles along what seems to be a straight and relatively even path. One of my favourites was some metal cows, and when I passed it on the way back, there were real cows on the opposite bank.

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One of the most interesting parts of my venture along the Water Railway was my stop in Bardney, particularly at Bardney Tearooms. I admit, I really didn’t know much about Bardney before I cycled there, but I knew I would find a cafe there to stop at. What I didn’t know was that Bardney Tearooms appears to be housed in the old station building and there are what seems to be the original station signage on the front and the old gate which would have been opened out at the level crossing. Inside, the tearooms were very quaint and had a kind of 1940s feel (possibly there was some wartime memorabilia but I might be making that up).

 

 

After stopping there for a cheeky ice cream I decided to head back to Lincoln. I found it somewhat easier on the way back as I had more of an idea of the distances involved, but I was also cycling into the wind which made it harder. Finally, when I came off the Water Railway at Waterside South, I had the ascent to the Cathedral Quarter and admittedly, there was one street where I got off and pushed (but according to the map, the gradient was more than 1 in 7, if you know what that means)!

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After being used to cycling in London alongside the traffic, it was really nice to get out into the open and cycle for a long stretch. In London I would always cycle with a high-vis jacket and helmet and I’m not going to stop doing that as I think they keep me safe, however at points I did feel a bit silly wearing it all, because you could probably get away with not doing that on the country paths. The advantage of London is that it has properly marked cycle paths and I was worried initially that it wouldn’t be as safe in Lincoln, however to my pleasant surprise, some of the busier roads had off-road cycle paths and crossings that you can cycle over when the light goes green. At Bardney Tearooms I also picked up a detailed map of Lincoln which has a key for each road according to its safety for cyclists.

So hopefully before I return to school in September, I will get another chance to try out a cycle path in Lincoln. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and I look forward to writing many more now that I have Internet 🙂

Alternatives to Online Dating: Part 2

Following my venture into Speed Dating described in Part 1, here’s another instalment in the series involving… a Cooking Class for singles.

These seem to be trendy at the moment and I’m picturing the slightly cringe Match.com advert for this kind of event, where a nerdy guy is making two prawns talk to each other and finds love from a girl who doesn’t judge him, but joins in… (isn’t he just living the dream…?)

I found the event I attended on Speeddater.co.uk and my main reason for doing it was that I love cooking and I love food, and I thought it would be a great way to meet like-minded people. Included in the event was a glass of Prosecco on arrival, the meal you cook as a group (chicken saltimbocca) and a chocolate brownie dessert cooked by the chefs. I sort of thought that if I didn’t meet anyone, at least I would get to learn a new recipe and eat a (hopefully) delicious meal. At £38 I did think it was a bit pricey (compared to Tinder for example which is free!) but when I thought about what was included: the drink, the meal, the cooking class, and the opportunity to meet other single people, I thought it was worth a try.

The event was hosted at L’atelier des Chefs near Oxford St and it was a really nice venue. I enjoyed the glass of bubbles on arrival and all the staff were really friendly. There was quite a big group of singles (about 20) but I have to admit I was disappointed to find that there were quite a few more women than men. We were split into groups for cooking, and in my group there were 3 women including myself, and 1 man. This frustrated me, as I spent a lot of time interacting with the other women, and although they were all lovely and it was fun, meeting other women is not exactly what I had come for.

The cooking class itself was run by a professional chef who was good-humoured and coped well with quite a rowdy bunch of people in his kitchen, as well as our (collective) ineptitude (e.g. not following his instructions as exactly as he had hoped). It was a good laugh and I enjoyed learning the recipe; it also revealed to me that the way someone approaches cooking can tell you a lot about their general personality. For example the woman next to me seemed very meticulous in that she chopped things very slowly and finely, and was anxious about following the recipe exactly to the letter. Some people are more laid-back and if something doesn’t quite go to plan, they just brush it off. In general, the entire group seemed to really enjoy the cooking class and it was pretty straightforward, with every group member being involved.

We dished up our own meals, following the chef’s instructions, and we had also individually prepared our own chicken breast, which we then ate ourselves. I liked this as I don’t know how comfortable I would have been eating meat prepared by someone else in the group. I know that might sound really paranoid but it just made me a lot more comfortable that I was eating my own food.

We all sat around a table to eat, men on one side, women on the other, and then we could enjoy the fruits of our labour. It was nice to get a chance to meet different people in the group, and after the main meal, the men moved along one or two spaces so that we got to meet more members of the group. However, I still felt bothered by there being more women than men and I feel like I did spend too much time talking to women rather than men, facilitated by where we had been grouped for cooking and sitting down to eat.

After the event, which finished around 9.30, we had to leave the venue but it was suggested that the group could continue their evening at the pubs nearby. I, however, decided to call it a night… I just didn’t really want to spend any more time chatting to 20 people I didn’t know, and I hadn’t met any men who I wanted to spend more time with. Overall it had been fun, but it really is hard spending a long time with people you don’t really know. Although maybe it’s easier for some people, I’m not sure.

So should you try a dating cooking class? If you like cooking and you want to meet other like-minded singles then, yes. I did enjoy it and I would be keen to do it again, were it not for the lack of a 50:50 ratio and also that towards the end, I did feel like I ran out of steam a little interacting with a large group of people. On the plus side, I did eat a delicious meal AND I got to keep my apron!

The search for love continues…

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Alternatives to Online Dating: Part 1

When my sister got married in November, I suddenly felt truly inspired in a way I never had before. Love is real, love is possible, love is something we can all find (and already have no doubt, in one way or another).

I had reached a point where even the thought of an online dating app made me angry. I just found them really boring, full of profiles that all looked the same after a while, and most of all, it felt that people didn’t even want to meet, that they would prefer to interact behind a screen, and then dispose of you when they lost interest (because it’s easier to do that with someone you haven’t actually met). After trying a number of formats over the years (Okcupid, Lovestruck, E-harmony, Happn, Tinder, Once), I joined Bumble and that really was the last straw… a totally zero date success rate, and I felt as if there were a load of unwritten rules that I wasn’t following and basically felt like a failure.

So I decided to delete all of them. Be free. But then I thought… how do I meet someone now? Is it possible to meet anyone the old-fashioned way? (What even is the old-fashioned way?!)

I did a search on singles events in my local area… surely there would be other people who had also lost faith in dating apps… surely I wasn’t the only one?

I soon found out that there was a regular Speed Dating event about 10 minutes away from where I live. The thought of speed dating made me a bit nervous (remembering a really cringe lock-and-key event I went to a couple of years ago) but I figured there would be no harm in trying it out. January – the time for new year’s resolutions. The time to try a different approach to dating.

On the night it was snowing and I thought about not turning up. But the thought of trying it out was intriguing and the fact it was only a short walk away made it easier to go along. I figured that if it was rubbish I just wouldn’t do it again.

It was a bit awkward on arrival and I shouldn’t really have been surprised about this, but most of the other women there had come with at least one friend for moral support. I hadn’t really thought much about the fact I was going alone until it was actually happening. I tried to strike up conversation at the bar with a guy who had arrived at the same time as me, but he seemed really shy and unfortunately it was like getting blood out of a stone.

Luckily, during the actual event, the conversation flowed much better. There were numbered “stations” at different tables and that was where the women sat. I chose a seat at a sofa and stayed there for the evening while the men rotated round every 4 minutes. It’s surprising how long a 4 minute conversation is and it is definitely enough time to make a judgement about whether the person you’re talking to is someone you’d like to know more about – or not, as the case may be.

In total I chatted to about 13 different people; some I was disappointed when the 4 minutes ended, others relieved… there was also a mix of people, some I fancied but the conversation just didn’t work, others I enjoyed the conversation but didn’t fancy them, and others that I did fancy and wanted to chat to more. One guy seemed panicked by the 4 minute timing and frantically asked me quick-fire questions in a crazed way… one guy kept nudging me coyly throughout the conversation, another guy told me he could decide on the 2nd date if he wanted to marry a girl, then proceeded to ask me to the name the time and place of our next date. There were however some other nice, normal guys who I got on with and could have chatted to longer.

When the speed dating finished, we were invited to stay longer and have a drink, although most people just left. I stayed and talked a bit longer with the other guests, which it was nice to do without the time pressure.

As an alternative to online dating, it definitely has potential. For a start, I met about 13 new people on one night; you instantly find out if you have chemistry, or are able to hold a face-to-face conversation (which might not always be the case if you have only ever talked  on-screen). The downside was that it did get a little boring and that the host company only gave you from 9-5 the next day to upload your score card info (whether you wanted to keep in touch or not, to find out who you matched with) and I didn’t upload my information in time (as I was at work the whole day without much of a break).

However you don’t have to rely on the score card info, you can always be brave and exchange numbers with someone you met on the night and take it from there… 😉

So… my search for true love continues… watch this space!

 

 

 

Home and Away

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Yes… I’ve borrowed the name of the Australian soap opera for this blog post, which fits nicely because I very much intended to write about my trip to Australia on my return, there are so many photos, a couple of videos, and so many experiences I could write about (and probably will, when the time is right). However, since my return I have very much enjoyed all the simple things I missed when I was away and all the things about being at home.

In the couple of weeks since I got back from an amazing trip away, I have actually enjoyed just doing normal things like sleeping in my own bed, and enjoying living in a new area of London, where I do feel a lot happier.

I have also enjoyed spending some lovely days with my family (there is a wedding to prepare for!) and some lovely catch-ups with friends. A few days ago, our family also said a sad good bye to our beloved dog Jet, who had a long, happy (and crazy!) life.

When I get a little more time to reflect, when I can give these things my full writing-attention so I feel I am doing them justice, I will write more about Australia and also I am planning to write a little tribute to Jet.

But for now, I just wanted to write this post to say that whilst I had an amazing time away, I am also happy to be home, and happy that I feel so at home in my new flatshare. I feel that I have returned with a refreshed, invigorated outlook.

Watch this space for the upcoming blog posts… possibly featuring a video of some whales 🙂