I feel like I’m living an entirely different life to the one I was a year ago. This isn’t entirely true. I have the same friends, but new ones too. I live in the same place, but with a new housemate. I drive the same car, though I mostly travel by train now.
Almost a year ago I visited London with my now-housemate for her birthday. As we chilled in a cafe on the South Bank, I joked about how we were surveying my future workplace now that I’d applied for my job. At the time I didn’t even have an interview. Little did I know how prophetic it would be. This year we’re going to the beach on her birthday.
Fingers crossed for a house there this time next year.
The ‘Made in Chelsea’/I’ve got a new sun hat/I’m going to work here soon birthday photo
At the same time, my LSA kept telling me ‘I just think you’re going to go and work in London’, which I thought sounded brilliant but incredibly unlikely. I’m now a quarter of the way through a two year contract in the city.
I wondered if by now I might have become a bit jaded by the incessant travel and 12 hour days. Arriving one and three-quarter hours after I leave somewhere does bother me sometimes, particularly the day I’d forgotten I needed to be in, coffee at the ready and at my desk by 8:20, and had to catch the 6:26am train in…that did nearly kill me… Mostly though, I don’t mind.
One option to eradicate the problem is to move to London. I’ve got no current plans to move, but the more I ponder on it, the more I like the idea. Being able to be home quickly would be welcome, but then most of my colleagues stand all the way into work, and have to wait for several trains to go past before there’s space. That’s before I list all the people I would miss – there’s definitely pros and cons. Also my new housemate might have something to say if I suddenly move out, so I’ll give it a little while yet! But the prospect of moving on to pastures new, by myself, has begun to excite me, rather than terrify.
On my travels there have been 2 delightful instances where the morning train has terminated 40 minutes from Waterloo. The most recent time was coupled with the ‘but I don’t know why‘ announcement from the guard. Excellent. At such times everyone tumbles off the train, and mills around toying with the ‘fast train but not for 20 minutes’ or ‘stopping train in 5 minutes’ options. The first time it happened I had to ask for advice from my fellow commuter who recommended not taking the suggested route via Reading into Paddington but waiting instead. Good advice given I’d end up the wrong side of London. I’m pleased to share that on only one occasion in six months have I been forced to stand, in heels, the rest of the way in. On only one occasion have I stood on the way home, and even then not all the way. Snuggling down into a seat, reading my book or watching Poldark on iPlayer all make the journey fly past. I’ve been in Australia, Cornwall, and Metropolitan Wharf in my mind. There’s nothing like watching Masterchef and getting home to cook up a culinary masterpiece. Alright, sausages, egg and chips but still, it’s food.
‘Aren’t you worried you’ll oversleep on the train?’ is still a popular question. Nope! Announcements are so deafeningly loud sometimes that there is little chance of that, and if I wake up 20 minutes from home I force myself to remain awake. It’s transpired to be a remarkably trusting world in the commuting bubble, and actually a pretty friendly one too. I’ve realised my quirky (mad?) side over this six months – I do have a tendency to make faces at myself in the train window if mildly bored. On said friend’s birthday trip, we listened to music the whole way home, to which I did (if I do say so myself) a near perfect lip-sync to all the songs. I have realised that I have a regular and overwhelming desire to sing along to music, and to dance. Foot tapping and mouthing the words at my reflection in the window mostly suffices. I still really struggle when it’s rap or a musical.
Travel aside, one part I do love and am hugely grateful for is the opportunities that abound. Much as I enjoyed my eight Fridays on teaching Maths at Paulton’s Park (yes, we did get to visit Peppa Pig World), it pales in comparison to seeing current and ex-Prime Ministers being grilled by fellow MPs, or going up Big Ben, or attending events in Speaker’s House. Even walking through the building and across the courtyard between Big Ben and Westminster Hall gives me a thrill that I am walking through corridors where Kings and Prime Ministers have walked, talked and altered the flow of history. I might not be doing the same, but perhaps, through me, a young person might be a politician of the future.
Meeting Charles I in Westminster Hall, as you do. I got to put him on trial the following day.
In chats with teacher friends, there’s not a lot I miss about class teaching. I don’t feel like I’m playing a constant catch up anymore – except with sleep. I’m fortunate in my job as I still get to teach, inspire and engage – it’s just now it’s all about Parliament and democracy. And I really enjoy it. I’ve realised how much I love teaching. I did have a small pang the other day, interestingly when people were discussing the teaching of Maths. In some ways, I do miss teaching Maths. I quite like Maths personally and I miss those ‘ooh I get it now!’ moments. I miss the challenges of the top groups and having to work out complex problems quicker than they can. I do not miss trying to think up yet another way to explain rounding to 10…
Sunday blues are definitely a thing of the past. Even on the occasions when I know I’ll be heading back to work on a Monday while the majority of my friends will be snuggled under the duvet for a few more hours, I don’t feel despondent. I am in no small way incredulous that this is true. February half term came and I went to work. This didn’t kill me. I know, I was surprised too. It was different because I wasn’t teaching, and I was being paid to do work in the holidays, rather than (not so quietly) muttering under my breath about having to work while I was supposed to be off. That said, I’m really looking forward to two weeks off. I’ve had only the week of Christmas off since September for the first time in 28 years. I still await to see whether I feel this relaxed about it in the summer when everyone else is enjoying a dip in the pool. How permissible is a dip in the Thames off Westminster Pier?
I have begun to negotiate my love of high heels and the compromise of commuting. On Monday, following a hole in my shoe and very wet tights, I switched to the heels I stash under my desk. Standing to teach for nigh on three hours, shadowing a tour and then showing a friend around the Palace, followed by brisk walks to dinner, the station and home does not a recipe for happy feet make. Four days later I’m beginning to wonder if I have actually broken a bone in the arch of my foot*. (*I may be over-reacting.) My mental fight between pretty pairs of high heels and plain, practical flats hopefully results in a reasonable balance most of the time, although not always sensible choices.
I love being in the bustle of the city, with amazing sights everywhere I turn. My most melancholy moment has been when I woke up on the way in, convinced I was on the way home… It was crushing, until I saw the sun glinting off the Shard, with the London Eye on my other side, and I figured, it’s not so bad after all…