Saturday, 2 February 2013

My Final Blog

With very mixed feelings, I am sitting here on Saturday morning writing my final blog.  On Thursday 31st January I ceased being a University of Greenwich graduate student.  My student work contract ended, my student email account closed and I woke on 1st February ready to start my new staff contract.  At the end of the day, as I reddened with embarrassment, I was presented with a gift from the Enquiry Unit to mark the submission of my 100th blog.  “Actually it is 103” was all I could manage to stutter as I was left almost speechless.

 Bananagram good bye

I posted my first blog 2 years and four months ago on 1st October 2010. I wanted to challenge the fear of writing that caused me so much angst whenever a deadline loomed.  I thought that by committing to the discipline of writing a short piece on the subject of ‘Student Life’ (which covered pretty much any the topic I wanted), I would learn to relax.  My other reason for writing was that I would be paid for two hours work per month for two blogs.  Although I have written twice that number, and often spent many more than one hour on a blog, that has been my choice, and the more than £500 I have earned has come in very handy.

My blog journey has covered a wide range of topics and I have spent an enjoyable couple of hours rereading some of my earlier work and reminiscing. 

I read about:
  • battling with the injection bum at Higher Education fairs and serving 500 cups of tea to stressed visitors on university open days
  • coming to grips with technology as I conquered my fear of Ipods, blogs, Facebook, Livechat, Twitter and the new computerised phone system
  • working through two summers of Clearing, the second to the sounds of cheering from the Olympic Equestrian events
  • working with Cherie in our Pedants’ corner of the Enquiry Unit finding all the greengrocers’ apostrophes in the weekly updates and exploring the more arcane aspects of the English language by browsing through such wonderful blogs as the ‘The Inky Fool’.
  • completing stained glass panels for the front door and three windows of my house
  • spending time with my daughter in West Sussex while bidding farewell to my son who moved to Perth in Australia
  • finally marrying my lovely Him-at- Home last March after twelve wonderful years together
  • Losing my lovely scooter Valerie Vespa when she was stolen but replacing her with Patricia Piaggio who has proved to be a very trusty steed.
  • Sharing my favourite family recipes including Welsh Rarebit, vegetable soups, and Satsuma cake
  • My favourite festivals – preparing for Christmas, my belief that new year should be in March, and my steadfast refusal to make any resolutions while bears are still hibernating in any part of the world and Australia Day
  • My vegemite blog – I wrote it just because I wanted to and our blog statistics indicated that it was my most popular.

..and finally, with great sadness, I read my tribute to my beloved little sister who died so suddenly and so tragically last November just as I received the news that I had had been awarded my MSc Therapeutic Counselling with Merit. 

Writing my student blogs has enhanced my university experience immensely.  When I studied my first degree while running a full time business, raising two teenagers as a single parent and putting a wreck of a house back together, I did not have time to focus on much more than the bare minimum to achieve my 2:1 and it is so hard to remember much of it. My 104 blogs represent a wonderful record of my three years as a post graduate student and I will treasure them.

My goal of curing my Writer’s Angst has not been completely achieved when completing each piece of my academic work felt like pulling teeth, the last resembling an un-anaesthetised extraction of all four wisdom teeth simultaneously. 
However, I learnt to write the blogs from my heart, and in so doing learnt that this is the form of writing I enjoy the most and the form at which I am best suited. I will never be an academic writer but so many people have told me how much they have enjoyed reading my blogs, I feel confident to go on writing in some form yet to be explored.


Without my blog, I am already searching for another excuse to stop Him-at-Home for yet another photo opportunity. I cannot even end piece this with a graduation photo because our ceremony will not be held until October 2013 when, if all goes to plan, I will have left for Australia.


Good bye to you all and thank you for reading.

*Thanks to Bananagrams for tiles in photo

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Fun in the Snow and Master Plans

As an Aussie who had never seen snow before coming to the UK, I still get really excited when it snows in London.  Everything looks and feels different as the light bounces off its brilliant whiteness and, with less traffic rushing past, no trains or planes and the muffling effect, the peace and quiet is quite lovely. The sky is a completely different colour; quite strange and yellowy grey, while the air feels cleaner somehow.

As the flakes came down and the view out of my back window transformed into a winter wonderland, I began to itch to get out in it. We set off for a walk, suitably rugged up and, much to Him-at Home’s horror, armed with my camera.  He gets so bored when I photograph everything that takes my fancy, and grumbles away but when I respond with a plaintive “..but I need pics for my blog”, he rolls his eyes and patiently succumbs to my request for a pose.

There were very few people out and about, but those who were seemed in such a lovely festive mood and strangers were even talking to each other – quite something for London! The snow sculptures I enjoyed the most were the random ones that appeared in the street like this one.


This snowy couple was built by children and their parents and seemed so friendly I couldn’t resist shaking hands, or rather sticks.

But this snow dog was my absolute favourite.

I am sure when I wake up tomorrow morning and have to make my way into work with icy roads, and the usual London snow chaos my mood will change somewhat.

I have not really written much about my plans for using my masters qualification and it was my intention to do so in this blog, but I just couldn’t resist writing all that lovely snow first.

…so back to my original topic …

 I have been working so hard this year to rectify my rather depleted bank account that I have had to put post graduate counselling practice on the back burner for a few months to focus on full-time work with the university recruiting team. This work has been a quite a life saver for me. With my beloved sister so ill last year and then losing her so suddenly in November, it was inappropriate to take on counselling work while grieving so intensely myself. I had been working with the uni team part-time for two years and through three summers of clearing and got to know everyone quite well.  Their support through this very difficult time was invaluable and very much appreciated.  Now that I have been able to take time out time to gently ‘just be’, I feel ready to begin the work I trained so hard to learn over the last three years. During my final year of my masters I had a practice placement in the counselling services of a GP practice in a very busy inner city GP practice.  I loved this work and although I am unable to return there due to lack of space, my wonderful supervisor has recommended me to some of her contacts and I am now waiting to hear back about various opportunities.

The challenge with counselling work is that to achieve full accreditation with the most recognised professional bodies, either the BACP or UKCP, you need to take an accredited training course (my masters is accredited by the BACP) and complete a certain number of clinical hours.  After completing the course you then have to acquire an extra 150 clinical hours and apply for full accreditation – a lengthy process requiring writing case studies and reflective pieces. It is very difficult to find paid counselling work unless you have full accreditation and even then, it is very difficult.  So may organisations rely on volunteers working to ‘make up their hours’ or to meet the requirements of their training schools, that they do not need to pay counsellors.  This is fine for those who have another form of income or but a challenge to those who, like me, don’t.  I do not agree with this policy as it really undervalues the profession and prohibits many from joining.

My plan is to work four days per week with the uni team and spend each Monday volunteering in a counselling practice to gain further experience and build up my hours.  I also plan to begin taking a small number of private clients to start building a private practice. Private clinical hours cannot be counted towards accreditation, thus the need to be part of an organisation as well.  This is how many newly qualified counsellors work so that the income from the private practice helps subsidise the voluntary work.

Now that I have completed my studies I can only work on a student contract until the end of January after which I will begin my staff contract, a temporary position for two, maybe three months.  I will be working with the Education Liaison Unit and travelling around London and the UK promoting Higher Education and the University of Greenwich.  I will also be organising school groups touring the campus and giving presentations on various topics.

I have lots of learning to do but the challenge keeping me awake at night more than anything else is my wardrobe situation. After the freedom of wearing pretty much what I liked for three years, I am going to have to look respectable and professional. Sadly, my budget does not extend to employing a personal shopper.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Happy Julian New Year! (14th January 2013)

14th January 2013
Happy Julian New Year!

I am not late in sending you New Year’s greetings...  It just depends on which calendar you are using.  Today is the first day of the old Julian calendar which was replaced by the present Gregorian calendar.  Those of you who have followed my blogs will know that I consider a much more sensible start for the year to be later on; well clear of midwinter and when the natural world begins to wake up.  Until then I hibernate, eat well, sleep lots, catch up on reading and films (nothing too strenuous though) and stay wrapped up warm.  I make no New Year’s resolutions until around the time of the Iranian New Year which falls so sensibly on the first day of spring – the 21st March - which is also my lovely daughter’s birthday. I have not started starving myself to drop a stone or two, taken out a year’s subscription at the gym or resolved to work my way through the one hundred free classics on my e-reader.  I feel wonderfully guilt free with no unrealistic resolutions to break and no need to beat myself up.

In my experience such extremes in behaviour during the darkest, most miserable time of the year just lead to tears, frustration and disappointment.  After a lovely Christmas and New Year break with my sister and son over from Australia I have packed away all the decorations, chopped up the Christmas tree and taken it over to the recycling point in the park, hoovered the house from top to bottom and washed all the floors.  We have almost finished all the Christmas treats.  It is hard to select my favourite highlights of my wonderful family time over the last three weeks.

However here are a few:

Walking from Hither Green to Greenwich via Blackheath we followed a literary trail – very apt as my sister had received a book on London literary walks – perfect for an editor and author!  Although it was freezing, we were well rugged up and regular fuel stops helped keep us cosy and energetic.

We ended up wandering through the university (always so beautiful at night) to the Trafalgar pub nearby – a favourite haunt of Dickens and Thackeray.

We travelled to West Sussex to spend a week over New Year in a rented cottage in a tiny hamlet called Byworth, near Petworth.  Although the nearest shop was a mile away, the Black Horse pub with a roaring log fire, congenial company and great food was only 30 yards from our front door.  We spent New Year’s Day (the Gregorian one!) on a two and a half hour walk through the 700 acre Petworth Park.  The sun shone and the views were fantastic.  Trees hundreds of years old bare of leaves silhouetted against the soft winter sky.  What can be more beautiful?

Nearby is the picturesque village of Lodsworth. They have the best little shop which is built as a temporary structure in the car park of the local pub.  It is staffed by local volunteers and is a great place to catch up on all the gossip.

It was also the place to ask about EH Shepherd, who illustrated The Wind in the Willows.  One of the locals remembered him, describing him as a lovely gentle man and a great artist.  We located his house marked with a blue plaque and then his tombstone in the local cemetery.  If you look carefully you will see a scene featuring Mole from the book.

We spent a day in Brighton but after all our slowing down in the countryside it came as a bit of a shock with all its busyness.

I loved walking along the pier.  I am not one for noisy slot machines but when I noticed the stained glass windows in the main building I just had to wander through the slot machine hall to see them all back lit by the daylight.  My sis and I were the only ones wandering through looking up at the windows while everyone else was head down feeding the money consuming monsters.

We visited the free Museum of Brighton and I was quite undecided about which chandelier I would like for my lounge room.

We were planning to visit the Pavilion but were rather broke and also rather visually over stimulated by all the wonderful stuff in the museum so we settled for walking around it at sunset.

On our return to London we had more sightseeing to do.  I love it when I have visitors because I get to see all my fave places again and also discover new places.

The Harrod’s food halls are always wonderful to wander through.  I go for a look and then pop out to eat my much cheaper packed lunch!

On my sister’s last day we caught a train into Charing Cross, walked across the Hungerford footbridge back to the Southbank.

Crossing the Millennium bridge we headed towards St Paul’s Cathedral.  On the way we were quite horrified to spot the greengrocer’s apostrophe in full view of the cathedral.  There was nothing for it- my sister just had to get out her editor’s red pen.

We were not prepared to pay £15 to look inside St Paul’s so we contented ourselves with walking around it.  After all we have the beautiful domes in the university to admire free of charge.  They are designed by the same architect – Christopher Wren.


..and then onto the Museum of London which is free entry.

This was my first visit and I will be back.  It is fascinating to trace the history of this glorious city although I must admit my favourite bits are the plague and the great fire!

Speaking of such things we spent a morning totally enthralled by the exhibition entitled Death: A Self-portrait ( showing in the welcome collection.  I would thoroughly recommend it.  It is also free.

The next day we met my other sister Gabrielle who had arranged flights for us on the cable car known as the Emirates Air-Line.  She had worked on te town planning for it and was able to give us a very comprehensive tour.  She was quite insistent that we flew it three times – during daylight, at sunset and at night.  The weather was perfect and the views stunning.

It was pretty grim saying goodbye to my son and my sister who headed back to the warmth of Melbourne and Perth. While we are shivering over here Australia is suffering heat waves and horrendous bush fires so I am hoping they settle soon before there is any more loss of property and loss of life.

Photos: Alice and Jackey