End of an Era

Yesterday I ended my tenancy at my flat.

I won’t lie – it was very emotional. For the last couple of years I have loved living there. As I’ve said before, it really is the flat of dreams.

Was it the great location that made it so amazing? Or the beautiful finish and light, spacious airy rooms? Was it the dishwasher even? Well, yes. It’s all of those things. But mostly it was the memories created there.

In that flat I spent hours planning and working on my career. In that flat I cried tears over silly boys. In that flat I fell in love.

The thing that I’ll miss the most about the flat? Housemate. Housemate is a genuine legend. She loves trash TV perhaps even more than I do. She is more than happy to sit quietly on an evening chatting, working, and watching TV. She bought me supplies of chocolate and diet coke when I was working 14 hour days. She is a very very good friend.

After a couple of hours of frantic hoovering, having poured the entire contents of a bag of carpet powder over my old bedroom ready for the new incumbent, I locked up for the last time.

To my Housemate’s new Housemate – enjoy the flat. Love your new room. But above all, value Housemate. She is one of a kind.

What do you think makes a great Housemate?

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The Ballad of Ofsted

All is quiet – even 9j4 are dedicated to their task, murmuring to each other as they work. Outside in the corridor doors bang as a student walks past on an errand. A colleague stops by my classroom to ask a question as I keep a wary eye on the exploits of my class. Spontaneously up and down the school our emails bing – an emergency staff briefing at the next available break – what could it be?!

The rumours and whispers are rife, but like a chain, the word is heard: Ofsted, Ofsted, OFSTED.

The briefing confirms what many colleagues had guessed – tomorrow morning they will be here. Some colleagues roll their eyes – they’ve seen it all before and adopt a studied nonchalance of ‘what will be will be’. This is a thin disguise for the horror and sick feeling in the pit of the stomach of all teachers who hear the word: Ofsted.

Your SLT will urge you – ‘don’t change anything.’ Hmmm. This will not stop you spending several hours after school getting together all the info you need for the next two days, and spicing up your lessons to include whatever it is Ofsted will be looking for this time – rolling plenaries, mini plenaries, three part lessons, five part lessons, six part lessons, meta cognitive learning, literacy, numeracy, group work, independent learning, PLTs…the list is endless, contradictory, confusing.

At 6:45am the next morning the car park is already filling up. A usually unflappable colleague runs past main reception as I sign in screaming ‘THERE’S NO MORE PRINTER PAPER! WE CAN’T PRINT ANYTHING OUT!’ The admin office is ransacked, we even attempt to break into the reprographics office.

Another staff briefing – morale boosting, SLT smiling tightly to try and hide their worry and their sleepless night. Then to the day: Ofsted.

The baited breath as someone in a suit walks past the door – the sigh of relief as you realise it is a member of SLT giving a reassuring smile. The poorly concealed nerves as you try not to snap at a student for talking. The ache as you think ‘oh just come in already!’ The blind fear when finally, finally they come in, and look through your data. The annoyance when they speak to the one student in your class who never, ever listens. The enormous pride as even the most reticent student in your class puts their hand up to answer a question. The smiles of the students at you as they demonstrate progress (you think – but as always it is unclear exactly HOW Ofsted want you to demonstrate it).

The speculation on your corridor – ‘have you been seen? So and so has been seen TWICE.’

And then the walk to an office to receive your feedback. The group of anxiously pacing colleagues as you all wait, asking each other how you think it went – no-one seems confident enough to say.

The ballad of Ofsted – or 48 hours of fear. Being judged as a teacher, and as a school, on a 25 minute snapshot of one lesson with any one of your classes they have chosen. The scrutiny of your data to see whether the students have made enough progress. The feeling of being ill-prepared.

The ballad of Ofsted – is there a better way?

WeightWatchers Wednesday

So with my new focus on health and weight-loss I decided to talk you through my new eating habits (I’m not calling it a diet as it’s a positive change for good!)

Yesterday I cleared out the spare room, previously a dumping ground for EVERYTHING we hadn’t found a space for (cough*allPedro’sthings*cough). It took FOUR HOURS and several instances of me cursing Pedro for his hoarding habits (why does anyone need 4 different duvets?!) This, combined with me catching up on the entire of last week of Eastenders (we now have wi-fi people!) took up the majority of my day. As you can see, I have my priorities straight.

For breakfast, I had 0% fat free Greek yoghurt with some low sugar granola and lots of lovely fruit – strawberries, bananas and even the first ripe flat peach (certain bloggers have been raving about them for weeks so I thought I’d try them!)

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For lunch I had that much maligned health food – salad. Lots of people dread salad, but I think it’s all about what you put in it to make it tasty! So I had iceberg lettuce, cucumber, some delicious vine-ripened tomatoes, green olives, a bit of feta and loads and loads of freshly ground black pepper and balsamic vinegar! My lunch clearly looked so delicious that Whiskeroo tried to have some, despite my assurances that cats don’t like balsamic vinegar:

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What I haven’t mentioned is that to get me through the sheer horror of the spare room (believe me it was grim) I had a can of diet coke. Not particularly good for you, but low in calories at least. Diet coke has always been my go to when I’m flagging at work, and it certainly always perks me up. I don’t drink anything else with caffeine in and only have diet cokes occasionally,
so hopefully it isn’t doing me much harm!

For dinner I made Pedro and I some fish tacos from the recipe in the recent WeightWatchers magazine. I was unsure about it as I’m not very confident cooking fish, but as it turns out it was mega easy! I grilled the fish which were covered in a fajita mix coating, then we made our own out of taco shells, some rice and salad:

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I was really pleased with the result! I also have to say that I didn’t feel hungry all day, and I already feel a bit more energised from eating so much fruit and veg.

So what do you think of my healthy day? Any good recipes I could try?

Me, my weight, and I

Yesterday I started my health kick. I should explain, this was in no way prompted by the men who were so rude to me the other day, but it was prompted by my reaction to it.

The truth is, if I didn’t consider it an issue myself, I wouldn’t have been so upset and hurt. Weight is something I’ve struggled with for many years. Even as a child I was never confident about the way I looked. In high school I was bullied by my friends, made to feel like an outcast from a social group I’d known from primary school. I started to take advantage of the freedom of walking to school to buy sweets from the local shops. One friend casually remarked one day that I was ‘always eating’. At a party when I must have been around 13 I remember two of the girls we hung round with (definitely not friends) holding my plate above my head and laughing at me. Even then I think I used food to cheer me up.

In high school I never thought I was attractive – looking back at photos now from sixth form I can see that wasn’t the case! I was curvy but slim, and finally when I joined a local youth orchestra I became more confident and my bubbly personality started coming through – and with this I started to get attention from boys. Nowadays I’m ashamed to keep up contact with my friends from school as I don’t want to see their shocked faces when they see how much I’ve changed.

It all changed when I went to uni. It wasn’t the experience I had hoped for, I found the lack of structure to my days difficult to deal with and would spend hours in bed watching tv and eating takeaways instead of going out, meeting new people and enjoying myself. I know this word is overused, but I think I was depressed. Inevitably, the weight piled on, and at the end of the three years at my graduation I was almost unrecognisable.

During my PGCE I was so busy and really threw myself into everything that the weight started falling off. I was happy and confident again, and felt great.

Now, 5 years into teaching, my weight is still too high. I’m beginning to notice that I’m tired a lot, and when I go out to a social event I feel anxious that people will judge me for my appearance, that I’m not wearing the right things. The worst thing is when I think I look good before I leave the house, then I compare myself to everyone there and feel hollow in the pit of my stomach. Or I catch a photo of the night – and I just think how disgusting I look.

So yesterday was a good day. I felt more in control as I’d decided what I was going to eat for the whole week the day before. I made a healthy lunch and tea, and it was all delicious.

It will be a long time I think until I feel like my old self again – any advice on how to keep this going long-term?

Happy List

I won’t lie, this has been a tough week. Pedro and I have been closer to arguing than ever before with the stress of moving house and both our exhaustion as we tried to cope with disasters and difficulties. However, this week has also had its brilliant moments:

1. Breaking up for the school holidays. My first full year in my new role at work has been so good but I’ve worked incredibly hard – it’s so nice to be able to have a break now and recover!

2. Receiving new home cards from friends and loved ones – so kind of people! Also it made me laugh that every single one of them were addressed to Lucy and Pedro – even the one from our landlord!

3. Going to a friend’s BBQ and being able to catch up with everyone on a lazy evening, including cloud watching, and seeing his lush new house!

4. As a result of friend’s BBQ buying our own BBQ (Nessa – from Gavin and Stacey fame) and firepit (Smithy) both at bargain prices. LUSH.

5. Buying Pedro a moving-in present of a new computer chair for his geek room (we pretend it’s his office to do work in when we both know it’s where he can escape to to play games while I watch trash tv)

6. FINALLY reaching the day we get Internet! Should be connected later on today hurray – dreading my phone bill with all the 3G I’ve been using!

7. Feeling loved by Pedro’s cat, Whiskeroo. An old softy totally devoted to Pedro but this week has been coming over for cuddles with ME!

8. Sorting out the front room so it isn’t completely covered in boxes has made me ridiculously happy (control freak? Me?!)

9. Making the decision to try and be more healthy not as a result of what some horrible men said to me but as a decision of my own.

10. Well it has to be seeing Pedro every day – even though we’ve both been shattered (and at times right old grumps) it is great to see him all the time.

What has made you happy this week?

Teething Problems

Since moving in with Pedro there have been a few…teething problems. Oh, nothing major. Just a few little niggles that I need some advice on how to handle!

Too much STUFF
Pedro has moved from a full house of stuff, whereas I have moved from a flat. It was inevitable that Pedro would have more things than me – however in our relationship he has hidden something from me. Pedro is a secret hoarder. He keeps EVERYTHING. The first I knew of this was when hanging up our clothes in our wardrobe. His t-shirts took up 3/4 of the space – many of which I had never seen before. His DVDs took up 4 out of 6 shelves. Yesterday I gently persuaded him to cull some of his collections – which to his credit, he did. I made it clear that he could keep anything he really wanted and that we would find space for it – but the amount of THINGS that neither of us had any room for, both in our home and in our lives, were making me stressed out!

Damp things on the bed
(Not a euphemism) So Pedro has put damp washing and damp towels on the bed a couple of times. I pointedly, but quietly, removed them. Eventually I knew I had to say something, and so carefully (so that Pedro wouldn’t suspect I was a seething ball of incandescent and unjustifiable rage) I let him know that the bed was not a place for wet clothes or towels. So far, so good.

The toilet seat
Before we moved in together, prompted by a blog post, Pedro and I discussed the toilet seat issue. Pedro argued that he would always have to lift the toilet seat up, so where was the problem in me having to put it down? AH-HA! I exclaimed, like a villain in an old film, for three out of four of our toilet functions (soz to be crude – not soz) the toilet seat needs to be DOWN! And with that I thought the argument won. No, no, NO. The seat is always up.

The positives of living with Pedro far far outweigh these little niggles. So I need your advice:
How do I go about making these changes? Or do I need to just calm down and let them go?

Are you hungry?

Yesterday I spent a lot of time in the car driving around – it was a warm day, the kind where you can’t get cool, and you feel sticky and flustered and tired from the heat. I had the windows wound down to get a breeze through my car, which has an unwelcome tendency to smell like cumin when it’s warm…

There are a lot of roadworks near me, and as I was returning home alone in my car I was held up. Two men in a car were trying to cut in front of me at some temporary traffic lights, and it was my right of way. They were really pushing to get in, so I held my ground and kept moving forward with the cars in front of me. We drew up almost alongside each other as the lights went to red. ‘Are you hungry?’ the driver asked. ‘Is that why you’re in such a rush? Because you’re hungry?’

I was absolutely shocked. I am what many would say is ‘curvy’, or a ‘larger girl’. I am fat. Yes, I don’t eat as healthily as I should. No, I don’t exercise as much as I should. But am
I wrong in thinking that my health and my appearance are no-one’s business but mine and the people who love me?

Perhaps the driver wasn’t talking about my appearance, perhaps I was over-sensitive. Well you could be right – however he then went on to ask me how many babies I was having. Charming. When I told him in no uncertain terms where to go, he started to lecture me on my language, and my driving. The lights took an excrutiatingly long time to change to green. I sat there, tears forming under my sunglasses, in silent mortification and fury, until I could drive off and away.

Did I over-react? This is a sensitive issue for me. Yes – I know I can do something about it, and believe me,
I intend to. But I just don’t understand why it is acceptable for anyone to comment so casually, and so cruelly, on someone elses’ appearance.

It got me to thinking – we all judge, and gossip about others’ appearance. I include myself in this, although I try not to. Is there any difference between doing it when the person isn’t there, and doing it to intentionally hurt?

Either way, yesterday hurt. I often pretend it doesn’t hurt when people make comments – and they are never as blatant or as cruel as the ones that driver made – but the truth is, it stings every time.

I was so ashamed of what happened that I told Pedro about it via text because I didn’t want a conversation about it – too sore a subject. I also then went to a friend’s BBQ and even with my closest friends there, said nothing. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not something that makes me upset all the time, sometimes I never even think of it at all. However…

Perhaps time to take a leaf out of my friend Emma’s book, who is doing the 7lb in 7 days juice diet, (see her blog here) here and become
more healthy.