Monday, 31 December 2012

Where I was - 2012

How can a year be so wonderful and so hard all at once?  That was 2012.

I started the year at home, going for walks in my usual favourite haunts - Epping Forest, Kew Gardens, Mum and Dad's house in France, the streets of London.

Kew Gardens
At Kew Gardens
Epping Forest
In Epping Forest
Hiking in France
Life ticked along.

Waiting for the tube
Waiting for the tube - reading my Kindle

Then in June I decided to see if I might be able to apply for a place at University in 2013 to do a post-graduate nursing degree, despite my lack of any science A-levels.  I took Olivia with me to the summer Open Day, and thought to myself there's no harm in finding out. 

By the end of the day I'd had a first interview (with Olivia sitting by my side - solemnly reading her Beano) and had been given a date for my second interview.  Two weeks later I had my offer - for 2012, not 2013.  What I thought might take a year to sort out, took just a fortnight.

Livvy reading her Beano in the lecture theatre at City University
Olivia reading her Beano , as we waited for a lecture on student finance at City University

In August the sportsmen came to town, and we all went to the Olympic Stadium.  Cam went as a performer too.

The Olympic Park with Cam - August
In the Olympic Park with flags - Cam and me

In September I started University for the second time and became a student nurse - the best, most overwhelming, most interesting thing I've done in my adult life.  So many injections, so much work, so many biology workbooks, so many flasks of coffee, so many hours referencing essays.

Smithfield Park - October
At West Smithfield - on my way home from the Health Sciences library
First day at University - lunch and coffee
First day at university - lunch, a bottle of water and coffee

In December I left the comfort of the campus behind and started my first placement - working long shifts in a large London hospital.  On my first day, as I walked to the tube along dark, cold streets at 6am, I thought to myself 'this is the single most scary thing I've ever done in my life'.

Epping Forest with Graham - November
An early morning walk for me and Graham - late November

And before I knew it, it was Christmas.  Two people in the family were very poorly and I was reeling with exhaustion.  I've spent the last few days feeling thankful:
  • for lovely, long-limbed children, who are kind and who make me laugh
  • for my own health - I've learnt this autumn and winter that you can't take health for granted
  • for friends who let me doze on their sofa, and forgive me when I don't write and forget to post their Christmas presents
  • for corner shops that sell Green and Blacks and decent cheap wine
  • for the doctors and nurses who looked after my own loved ones so well - I hope other people might think the same of me one day.

Dad and Graham
Dad and Graham - in France, Easter 2012
New Year's Eve - me and Nigel Slater
Me and Nigel Slater - New Year's Eve 2012
Along the way there were also two new nieces, a second hip replacement operation for my Mum, the arrival of a slow cooker and the departure of the bread machine, a bit of journalism, plenty of sewing, quite a bit of knitting and numerous cakes.  Olivia took up the French Horn and Cam became a teenager.  I don't think there'll ever be another year like it for testing me, challenging me and rewarding me.

Where I was in previous years:

Sunday, 23 December 2012

10 things

It's not that I've become disorganised - it's just that things have simply not been done.  I haven't even written any lists.

  • No cards have been bought - or sent.  No, not made either.
  • Graham has seven presents because I kept forgetting exactly what I'd bought for him already.
  • Some people's presents are still sitting on my desk, waiting to be wrapped and posted.
  • No parsnips have been bought.  Don't tell Cam - they're one of the foodie highlights of his Christmas.
  • Tomorrow I shall be breaking with tradition and going round to a friend's house, rather than making the stuffing and listening to Carols from King's.
  • Graham and the children put up the tree and decorated the house yesterday, while I was at work.  I came home, late in the evening, to a Christmassy house - magical.
  • Cam has made the latest batch of mince pies.  He puts much more mincemeat in than me, which is a popular development.
  • I need to prioritise my nap times.
  • My brain's so fuzzy that I'm not sure what day of the week it is, but I know it's nearly Christmas.
  • All will be well, because the bottles of alcohol in the fridge outnumber the bottles of milk.

Fridge - ready for Chistmas
And there's a bottle of bubbly and two bottles of Aspall's just out of shot

Monday, 10 December 2012

10 things on a Monday evening

    6am, Leyton High Road
    Walking to the tube - 6am on a Monday morning

  • My alarms go off at 5:28am and 5:30am on work days.  I am so worried that I might oversleep that I'm usually awake and waiting for the alarms to go off by 5:25am.
  • I eat my toast in the kitchen, listening to Farming Today on Radio 4.  I love that I live in London, work in a massive, modern hospital, but listen to Farming Today talk about partridge and fertiliser prices when I'm having my breakfast.
  • I wrap up well and set off for the tube station at just gone 6am.  Graham and the children are still in bed, fast asleep. 
  • The roads are quiet, but there is a steady stream of other early bird workers walking to the tube with me.  I don't get a seat; the carriages are all standing-room only by 6:15am.
  • I am wearing no earrings, no watch, no necklace, no bracelet and no wedding ring.  I carry my uniform in my bag and I have my mobile tucked into the pocket of my jeans as a portable watch.
  • I arrive on my ward a little early, and once I've changed I sit in the Doctors' office drinking a cup of coffee until handover begins.
  • I work a 13 hour shift, with two 30 minute breaks.  It flies by.  I talk to patients, relatives, nurses, doctors, porters, phlebotomists, receptionists, a radiographer, and the guy from the IT department.
  • I love every single minute of it.  Truly.
  • On the way home, I get a seat on the tube after just one stop.  I read my book and nearly miss my stop.
  • I get home just in time to see Cam before he goes to bed, but Olivia has been asleep for over an hour.  Graham nobly listens to me witter on about my day and all the amazing things I've seen and done.  He wants to go to bed too, but I'm still wide awake and needing to process my day.  I decide to let him go to bed, and I write my blog instead.

Friday, 7 December 2012

10 things on a Friday night

Tonight I am...
  • Pleased that Graham bought not just a bottle of wine, but also olives, on his way home.
  • Thinking of the patients on my ward - today has been my first day off this week, and I'm wondering how they've all got on today.  They may well be relieved that the student nurse has not been around to put the blood-pressure cuff on the wrong way round again.
  • Bracing myself for a trip to Westfield tomorrow morning, with Olivia, to go Christmas shopping.  Oh my.
  • Annointing my hands with posh handcream.  All the alcohol handrub at the hospital is taking its toll.
  • Considering whether to head off to a farmer's market on Sunday morning.
  • Missing my University friends - one is on the same ward as me, but the rest are scattered across a variety of different hospitals and wards in London and I may not see them until March because our shift patterns are so antisocial.
  • Making a list of cakes I want to bake this weekend.
  • Shrugging off my usual no-decorations-whatsoever-until-the-weekend-before-Christmas-at-the-very-earliest attitude, and wondering whether it might be nice to string up a few twinkly lights this weekend.
  • Wishing I'd had a photographer in the car this afternoon when I was driving Olivia back from school - the sunset was breathtaking.
  • Going to curl up on the sofa to watch some old episodes of Cold Feet - I had forgotten how lovely that programme was.