Monday, 24 September 2012

Seen on the tube

Central Line - South Woodford to Mile End

  • A husband and wife, both tired and sleepy.  Him with his arm around her shoulders, drawing her closer; she picking lint off the knee of his trousers.
  • A young lady with long purple fingernails, reading a Kindle in a purple suede cover, and with a purple handbag tucked tidily between her feet.
  • A pregnant woman in a suit eating her way determinedly through three apricot cereal bars.
  • A woman with wet hair frowning in concentration at the oven manual she was reading.
  • A young man in a beautifully tailored charcoal grey suit, with chunky rings on every finger.
On top of the tube
On top of the tube at South Woodford

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The new breakfast routine

Of all the new routines that are emerging, one of my favourites is my picnic breakfast, sitting on a bench in the square in front of the main University buildings.

Picnic breakfast

I have a flask of hot coffee, and a foil parcel of wholemeal toast and peanut butter.  There's no time to eat at home - and it's too early anyway - so I bring it with me.

Early morning at the University

I watch the squirrels and the pigeons pottering around the square, and see the other nursing and midwifery students starting to arrive for early lectures.  I admire the beautiful old windows in the terraced houses around the square and turn my face to the sky to soak up a little of the early morning sunshine.

Friday, 14 September 2012

The force of goodwill

Today is my last ever day of being a stay-at-home Mum.  Almost exactly three years ago I left my job as an accountant in the City; although I didn't know what I was going to do next, I suspected that I wouldn't ever go back to accountancy or banking.

I was right, because on Monday I start a whole new life as a full-time student nurse.  The impact this change will have on the whole family is enormous.  Olivia will no longer have me waiting for her at the school gates, and reminding her to go back and get her lunchbox/horn/coat/homework; Cam will no longer have me putting the kettle on for a cup of tea for him when he gets in from school or from a friend's house; Graham will no longer have someone willing to wash yesterday's stinky running kit at a moment's notice.  Instead, everyone else will be joining in with the cooking, cleaning, tidying and looking after the hens.  Once I've tested Cam on his French vocab, he will have to test me on my biology in return.  Graham will have to listen to me discuss essay plans rather than sewing plans.

The change for me is, of course, enormous too.  I will have to get better at delegating jobs around the house to others (the hardest one will be delegating the supermarket shopping to an online service, because I really love doing the supermarket shop), and I will have to be ruthless at carving out study time for myself.  I won't be able to go to any more class assemblies at school, and appointments for the hairdresser, optician, orthodontist or gas man will all have to be squeezed into the weekends.

But despite this impending domestic earthquake I am not stressed, nervous or doubtful - just incredibly excited and full of anticipation.  This is mainly because there has been an overwhelming surge of goodwill and incredible support for what I am doing - from everybody: friends, family and complete strangers.

Student nurse
The Ladybird book of nurses - a present from Tess

So many of the mothers at school have offered to pick up or look after Olivia for me - "If there is anything I can do to help just let me know!" has been the generous phrase I've heard most frequently since term started.  It's so reassuring to feel that there is an army of mothers behind me, whom I can call on if there is a childcare crisis (and of course there will be - and of course at the most inconvenient times, like when I have to be in University for an exam by 9am).

My card from Gill
A wonderful handmade card from Gill
Friends and family have been delighted for me and have sent me so many sweet cards and presents and offers of childcare.  Each week this summer the postman has brought me new surprises - the most recent one was yesterday from my dear friend Janine who is embarking on her own new beginning this autumn.
Alpaca from Janine
Alpaca yarn - a present from Janine
My new basket
My new basket - a present from my parents

So many blog readers, many of whom I've never even met, have sent me touching emails and comments expressing their support and delight - frequently letting me know about their own experiences of nursing.  Thank you all - it truly does mean so much to me.

This force of goodwill has been overwhelming and very moving.  It means that I leave behind the domestic world of a stay-at-home Mum with very little sadness or regret, even though I have loved (almost) every minute of it.  What comes next for me is even more exciting.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Blackberry hunting

We had to search very hard indeed  just to find this paltry amount of teeny-tiny blackberries in Epping Forest today.  The weird weather this year has not suited the blackberries.

A very poor year for blackberries

The sun is HOT here right now - it has been nudging 30 degrees for the last few days - and Epping Forest did at least provide plenty of shade this morning while we foraged for our berries.

Dappled sun in Epping Forest
Searching for blackberries

September skies in Epping Forest
I think we've gathered just enough for a crumble, if I bulk it out with the apples from the fruit bowl too.  There won't be enough for blackberry jam, though, which is a great sadness.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Notes on La Rentrée

The French have a useful word for this time of year: La Rentrée, which literally means 'the return'.  It encompases not just the start of the new school year for children, but also the return to regular routines and work for the adults after the long summer break.  The latest Marie Claire Idées, which arrived this week, is all about la rentrée and autumn.

Marie Claire Idees and handcream
Marie Claire Idées celebrates the start of autumn
Here, the return to school has gone smoothly - as much as it can with adjusted school hours for Cam because of the extra traffic caused by the Paralympics, Olivia's molar falling out on a packed tube train on the first day of term, a request for a one-piece swimming costume (named) for the following day, a broken pair of glasses and a missing calculator. 

Everybody needs some familiarity with so much newness and busyness going on, so I made beef and onion pie for tea on the first day of term, lemon buns on the second day, and it will be plum crumble tonight.

Back to school - pie
Pie in progress
Back to school - buns
Back to school buns
Plums from the park
A sink full of free plums from the local park - destined to become a crumble

I needed that comfort as much as the children did.  As always, I felt bereft on the first day without them - the backpacks, PE bags and instruments disappeared from the hallway and the house felt too quiet and empty with no children in it.
Back to school - bags
Bags in the hallway on the second day of term. Only the green one is mine.
But we all find our rhythm soon enough.  The children were ready to go back and came home from their first day chattering enthusiastically about their freinds, their teachers, and the new things that are happening at school this term.  I found that it was rather pleasant to have some quiet time for studying, and have been pushing on with my own pre-course homework from the University.  I start in just over a week's time.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Tastes of the moment

Good things to eat at the moment:
  • Strangely shaped tomatoes from the garden - finally ripening.
  • Garden tomatoes
  • My brother-in-law's strawberry salad: spinach and rocket leaves tossed with strawberries cut into quarters, cashew nuts roasted with black pepper and maple syrup, and a light vinaigrette. Completely delicious.
  • A freshly baked loaf of wholemeal bread.
  • Wholemeal loaf
  • Marquess Grey tea, from Waitrose.
  • A teenage boy friendly supper - one that has large portions and is full of both meat and carbs.  Tonight it was chicken, bacon and peas, with orzo pasta, a splash of chicken stock and a dollop of creme fraiche.
  • Chicken, bacon & peas with orzo
  • The last few squares of a bar of my favourite Green and Blacks chocolate, after dealing with just one too many enormous spiders today.  The best sort of comfort food.