Essays

And a bunch of queers

By |October 27th, 2016|Asexuality updates, Essays|1 Comment

I found a tweet while browsing through the timeline of Twitter accounts that maaple follows. It came from GLAAD, linking to an article on TIME’s website.

The article explains that GLAAD have released a new guide for media outlets to refer to people or groups whose sexual orientations, sex or gender identities are considered as marginalised or different from the norm. The article itself triumphantly proclaims in its title that ‘LGBTQ’ will replace ‘LGBT’.

The argument for this change is in itself quite interesting. The TIME article uses the reasoning that the word queer has been successfully reclaimed from being used as an insult. They further argue that queer does not have a precise meaning or connotation, which it may have done in the past, and covers a breadth of sexual orientations and gender identities.

But this line of argument brings inherent problems. First of all, queer is being presented here as a catch-all term, which everyone can identify with. But the abbreviation LGBTQ suggests that Lesbian is a different category to Queer (and likewise for Gay, Bisexual and Transgender). Thus queer is now being presented as “etc.” or “and so on” or, perhaps worse, “and the others”. It places the label queer upon those that do not identify with the other terms in the acronym. Thus if you’re asexual, you’re queer. If you’re questioning your gender or sexual orientation, you’re queer. If you’re intersex, you’re queer. You no longer have a choice: to be a part of this community, if you’re not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you must be queer. I can only speak for myself when I say that I feel that these identities are being marginalised within a marginalised group.

Secondly, the “othering” of a large number of gender identities does nothing to bring awareness to identities that are often forgotten or ignored. It places an implicit importance upon the most common identities in the community which, for me, is deeply hypocritical. The counter argument, which I’ve heard often and is mentioned in the TIME article, is that it is impossible to have a manageable abbreviation that covers every identity. This may be true; but in that case, why is it necessary that it must have L, G, B, and T?

The following excerpt from the TIME article is particularly infuriating:

“If five letters seem onerous, it’s worth noting that it’s more economical than longer acronyms out there, like LGBTQQIA: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (or allies). Being exhaustive is nigh impossible, as new labels are born and spread in a minute. Facebook now allows users to input more than 50 different labels for their gender, including bigender, two-spirit and agender. Sexual orientation has just as many spins.”

The way I have interpreted this paragraph is as follows:

  • Having to look beyond L, G, B and T is annoying.
  • We’d rather just save time and ignore the others.
  • What does ‘A’ stand for again?
  • Facebook can manage it, but we’re just journalists.

I have, hitherto, been using LGBT+ when describing the community. For me, a plus is more inclusive than queer, seeing as not everyone identifies as queer if they do not identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. However, I cannot in all conscience continue to use LGBT+ while saying that queer is wrong. Surely, something like MOGII is by fair better. Everyone in the community identifies as a Marginalised Orientation, Gender Identity or Intersex. So I shall use MOGII more often and I shall endeavour to see it spread!

Review of 2015

By |December 31st, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

This year could be described as my annus mirabilis. There were so many firsts that happened this year; notable events; unusual things and milestones. This post has been badly planned, so I apologise if I ramble, omit things, and generally do a bad job. But this is free entertainment for you…

I suppose I’ll start with the ugly business of personal milestones. I started what I refer to as my first “proper job” — on a contract, decent wage, responsibilities… Proper adult stuff. I turned 30, which is less of an achievement but a milestone nonetheless. I jointly run an organisation (have I told you about maaple?). I went to my first Pride event, in London. I travelled widely this year, visiting Barcelona, Cancún, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Wrexham. I made my first ever contribution towards paying back my student loan. I have achieved much this year.

My office doorSo let’s start with my job. I’m just coming up to the end of my first year working at Oxford Brookes University in the OCSLD. I work as a research assistant and I have been involved in a nice variety of projects that are mainly centred around student experience, but some have been a little bit outside my field of expertise. It has been a great experience professionally so far, and while publications have been lean for another year, there is plenty of scope for something to happen next year.

On a personal and social level, this has perhaps been my most successful year. Starting again in Oxford has been very fruitful. My work colleagues have been great in helping me to settle — particularly Simon and Katie who have done a lot to help me get out of the house! Our regular trips to Thirsty Meeples, with Liz, Liz, Fiona, Pauline, Tamsin and Jayne, are always good fun! I have met some people outside of work nearby, too: Jack, Anna, John, Andy and Holly are my regular pub quiz teammates; I quite often go to watch football matches and hang out with Jack, too; I’ve also met up with Chris and shared a love of sushi (actually, sushi seems to be a thing around here…!). I certainly have not been bored here!

Work has not always been a happy place. We were all astounded and devastated when Rauri passed away. He had not long been a part of our team, but he showed great promise and enthusiasm and had already made big impacts on the department. I have been covering the role of DMeLD since, which has broadened my experience still further. Although it has been a temporary arrangement thus far, it may become something more long term. We have not yet decided what to do with Rauri’s allotment, however.

My friends from “back home” are still very important to me, and it was marvellous to have them in Oxford in January for our 2014 Christmas meal (we have accountants among our number…). Sophia is growing fast and there’ll soon be more children in our group. Sebastian has already arrived and his cousin will be arriving soon! Louis and Helen got married this year, and it was such a lovely event. However, bowling at the groom on his wedding day was perhaps the most nerve-wracking thing I did this year! I did my usual annual trip to Silverstone with Nick and visited him and Belle; I went to see Pete and Laura in North Wales towards the end of the year; I stayed with James and Jess, and saw Matt a few times.

Erasmusbrug, RotterdamAnd, though I’m sure you can scarcely believe it, I turned 30. To celebrate, I went to Rotterdam with Pete. I’d hoped more would go, but his company was more than ample. The shower arrangement was a little unusual, but the internet-connected TV made up for that. We had many drinks and laughs, and went to see the live theatrical performance of Ayreon’s The Human Equation. It was a stunning performance and there will be a DVD/Blu-ray release of a recording next year. I’m looking forward to that. Being high-fived by a Dutch guy in the middle of Rotterdam for repeating a spell name featured in the Harry Potter series was perhaps the most bizarre event of the year… but pretty cool nonetheless.

There is a part of me that exists only online and there are some people that I only know online and haven’t met. I hope 2016 changes that. My friends in Norway — Maria, Malene and Peter — are high up on the list of priorities now. We’ve been working on recording a series for Minecraft, along with Phil — who I’ve known for a long time! — and now Otto. We have some videos that we’ve uploaded privately (ask me if you’d like to see, though they are early drafts).

I’ve also chatted a lot with Kasandra, Lisa, Sascha, Racko, Jas and Kirien. I met up with Liam at the tail end of last year and we’ve chatted ever since. Steven sends me a lot of photos on Snapchats and I try to keep up! I went to my first Pride event and met George and Marion. I’ve known Caleb and Mike (“Dodo”) for a while now and are pretty important to me. It was an aim of mine to meet Rob this year and I’m so glad I got a second opportunity to do that. I’d love to meet all of you (or again, if I have already!). I’ve certainly made a good friend in GJ, and I really wish for her to get her belated fair share of good fortune this year.

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And I had an amazing time in Mexico. I could have had a great time on my own: the food was great, the place was wonderful, there was so much to see and do. However, the people were even better. Everyone that went to the workshop (too many to mention, actually!) was simply lovely and welcoming; very encouraging and supportive using in my Spanish, and answering my inane questions of Mexican customs and cuisines! Esmeralda, in particular, was very encouraging and we had some good chats while we were there. Adriana is simply a wonderful person. I hope we’re all able to do it again next year!

As you can tell from this post, people are very important to me. I’ve had amazing times and bad times this year, but the people in it are the most important thing. Stick around for 2016!

P.S. If I’ve missed you out, it’s more than likely that it’s because I’ve been careless!

Doom and Gloom: A brief response to the general election

By |May 8th, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

As we all digest and reflect upon the election results, which put the Conservatives firmly into the seat of power, I reflect upon my experiences with the parties in the run up to the election.

Conservatives

They outlined in detail what they would do, whether we would like it or not. Acknowledged my letter to them about asexuality, and nothing more. Did not expect a response and they delivered on that promise. Did not contact me any further beyond that point: they did not want my vote (and did not need it, either). They’ve made it very clear that they’re not my party and I’m not going to be served by them. No disappointments, then. Offering Scotland their referendum was a master-stroke. Their lesson: apathy suits them.

Labour

Talked the big game but didn’t engage properly. Gave generic answers to every question posed to them and refused to give specifics. Exactly the same for my letter: they gave a response that did not address my concern at all (but plenty of demands for money). They did not provide a viable alternative to the Tories and there’s nothing more off-putting. Their lesson: don’t just listen to the people, follow them.

Liberal Democrats

Declared that they’d lost before they started. I think they launched a manifesto, but referred little to it. Talked a lot about tethering the Tories in the coalition and how they would do the same in this government. Never said sorry for the broken promises. Did not respond to my letter and sent requests for money. Seemed more concerned about attracting money (to pay for lost deposits?) by arranging celebrity prize draws than talking about their policies. Their lesson: they need to redefine what they’re about and remember what helped them win gains in 2010.

UK Independence Party

Had a much increased share of the vote but one measly seat. They revelled in their negativity, which is why it wasn’t converted into more seats. They did not respond to my letter: they focussed on a few issues to win hearts but didn’t offer much by way of a vision for the bigger picture. Their lesson: be more positive, share your vision (if you dare).

Scottish National Party

Huge gains in Scotland. The Scottish are generally happy by what they’ve achieved through devolution but still feel they are being tethered by Westminster. Their socialist approach is largely at odds with what comes out of the Houses of Parliament and even more at odds with the Tory approach. Tellingly, it took many seats from Scottish Labour, which ought to have been socialist, too — but Labour isn’t socialist enough. SNP promises to look after its own and Scottish Labour doesn’t seem to have the remit to promise that. Their lesson: if you promise to protect the interests of your people, you really must. Else you’ll be gone in 2020.

Green Party

I feel sorry for the Greens. They produced a great manifesto with good, detailed ideas. However, they are fighting against established powers. The SNP made big gains because of the referendum: they had a captive audience for months, which the Greens couldn’t ever realistically gain. They didn’t respond to my letter directly; however, they did address my query in their manifesto. Their lesson: their hard work needs to start now; they need to stay relevant and inform the electorate of how things could have been.

Don’t ask, don’t tell

By |May 4th, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

One thing I’ve noticed over the past few weeks is how difficult it is to ask questions. This seems particularly the case when people want to ask me questions. We all have a natural curiosity, but we also have a natural inclination to kill it as it wakes.

I think this is rather sad, personally. The reason we kill these inclinations is because we have a heightened sense of the possibilities for how it may be received. We are afraid of offending or otherwise perturbing. We perceive in our minds that this is irreconcilable too: ask the wrong questions and you can lose your friends, your jobs, your place in society… Yet asking questions shows an interest and engagement with people, so it is a fine line to cross.

When it comes to sexuality, this fine line is even thinner. I’d say it was taboo. Some people are very vocal about their sexuality (welcome to my blog, by the way), while others are reticent and selective over who they talk to about their sexuality. Asking about sexuality, then, must be broached with caution.

Not least because asking the questions themselves can cause some embarrassment to the inquisitor as well as the respondent. Answers can be unexpected; they may change perceptions and assumptions. This makes it equally troublesome to spontaneously talk about sexuality. My policy then is “don’t ask, don’t tell”, despite the connotations of that phrase from the American military past.

When it comes to asexuality, people are just as naturally inquisitive. For all of us, myself included, there was a time when asexuality was unknown (or, at least, was a biological phenomenon of reproduction that is not performed by humans). There follows a period of learning about what it is — and in my case to establish that I am indeed one.

For that reason, I welcome questions: a quest for learning is a noble one, and to familiarise oneself with other human dwellers on this planet makes it far nobler. Of course, some questions are more intrusive than others (and some may be considered abusive too): in which case, I answer the question more broadly and more generally, rather than the specifics of my own circumstances and experiences. This inquisitiveness and the communication it creates are important. Without them, we are merely ignorant.

Time to Talk, Time to Change

By |February 5th, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

Time To Change is an organisation that aims to reduce the burden of stigma to do with mental health. I felt this was important, as mental health is finally reaching public consciousness. It isn’t always positive though.

It’s hard to reach that optimal level between raising awareness and trying to do “a good thing”, and creating a freak show. When Robin Williams took his own life, the media was torn between “how sad” and “how freaky”. Organisations such as Mind were quick to prompt the media how best to report on cases such as his — for example, by not mentioning how he took his life, it was hoped there’d be fewer copycat attempts. Yet these pleas weren’t often heard. But it’s difficult: people want to know what happened to be able to understand, and media companies necessarily have to earn money.

In the papers this morning, we had the case of Clarke Carlisle talking about his attempt at his own life; how his drinking has affected his life and the bad decisions that he made in the past. What filled me with horror was the “I’m going to be late for work because I had to stay up to hear what Ralf Little is about to say about it” comments that were plastered all over Twitter, like it was some kind of “popcorn” moment. Having read what Little said, it seemed broadly sympathetic to those with mental health problems, but its conclusion was that depression was a selfish disease and so it’s hard to have sympathy.

That is only half right. I’ve had conversations with people before when I’ve said, “Depression is a selfish disease”, only to be told, “No, it’s not”. It is a selfish disease. It’s every bit as selfish as being ridden with malaria and requiring round-the-clock care to keep you alive. People with depression don’t have the same level of consciousness as those of us blessed with a clean bill with mental health. When you’re in the depths of despair, your brain is your worst enemy. It compels you to think about awful things. Let me tell you, nothing is scarier than losing the most basic of human instincts to preserve your existence.

Humans are designed to take care of themselves by minimising risk, avoiding danger, and making decisions that keep you alive. Depression erodes that in so many cases. It’s not hard to see that people are fundamentally different when depressed.

People will do weird things when they’re depressed, because their minds have gone weird. Like mine. I did strange things. I was a different person. Some people become reclusive; many become destructive in some way. Many depressed people can’t see a long-term future and do things that seem incredibly selfish: like going on holiday; creating a mess; spending money on meaningless and gratuitous things. These are things that you can fall out over. It’s easy to hate a depressed person. Too easy.

But remember: depressed people feel alone, even when with others. Depressed people feel alone in their thoughts and cannot easily express how they’re feeling. But you need to look after depressed people: nurture their minds and thoughts. Help them through. Worry about forgiveness later and work on understanding now. A depressed person will thank you for it, and say they’re sorry for the things they’ve done, and they’d mean it. The vast majority of people don’t want to do bad and selfish things, and it isn’t really them doing those things.

Your friend, relative, colleague or idol is still in there. Patience, understanding and compassion will help you to see that.

Innocent Eyes

By |January 19th, 2015|Essays|0 Comments

The past few days have put me in a reflective mood. I do that from time to time. I can’t help it. But a few things made me look back.

I visited an old blog of mine, which had posts that I made from as far back as 2006, when I was in the middle of my undergraduate studies. Of course, like any 21 year old, I posted one heck of a lot of rubbish, but there were some things that I wrote that chimed a little.

I was, and still am, really quite introverted and much of my creativity never leaves the cells that comprise my frame. Nonetheless, I did share a thing or two, so I’ve incorporated these posts on my site and I’m in the process of sorting them.

After talking with a cherished friend, I found myself in a reflective mood. In particular, I was reminded of the songs I used to listen to in my teenage years, which are somewhat embarrassing but I listened to again. Think Avril Lavigne, Delta Goodrem, Backstreet Boys, Dido, Texas, Wet Wet Wet, Hot Chocolate, Hanson… I was never the cool kid!

You might be laughing but, in a way, so was I. It reminded me of a time when I knew I was happy. I wasn’t free of troubles, but I didn’t want things to change. Of course, things do. School ended, university began.

I didn’t find undergraduate study particularly enjoyable. There were aspects of it that I relished, but I never really got to explore myself and who I am. My PGCE study was good in the sense that I spent it with good people and I grew to learn about myself a little more; but the stress of teacher training and effectively failing pretty much ruined it.

My time in Loughborough (which is still going, by the way!) was broadly great. There are (and were!) some amazingly lovely and wonderful people. Inspiring, even. But depression killed the opportunity to enjoy it to its potential. Everything was there for me to fly and flourish, but ultimately my brain was my greatest asset and worst enemy. I couldn’t have had one without the other, I suppose.

Now I’ve found myself in Oxford. So far, things are going well enough. I’m continuing the things I enjoyed with my PhD studies (albeit without the people on such a regular basis) and working on further projects that stimulate me and invoke my interests.

Perhaps now that I know myself a little better, particularly for having had my recent journey through depression, I can rebuild that feeling of contentment that had long since eluded me.

Own Worst Critic

By |May 8th, 2011|Essays|0 Comments

A lot of people claim to be their own worst critic, but what does it actually mean? I happen to think I am my own best critic: someone that tells me I’m getting by but capable of so much better.

My self-criticism happens in-house. I’m not gushing with self-loathing as that often happens within. I allow it to manifest itself sometimes, largely in order to quantify and qualify those thoughts with my peers and those interested in how I’m doing. I largely keep it under wraps though. I think that’s good; people don’t really like being heaped with the responsibility of meddling with someone’s enthusiasm, drive and confidence.

This brings me to David Mitchell’s article curiously entitled I couldn’t watch footage of Bin Laden’s death. And as for The Apprentice… in The Observer. I’m not entirely certain what the article is about, but it mentions the over-inflated egos of the contestants and the waffle they produce when they are presented with an audience. This is what happens when you give the responsibility of meddling with someone’s enthusiasm, drive and confidence to the wrong people.

Who applies to go on The Apprentice? Are they the most enthusiastic, driven and confident people in business in this country? Nope. They are relatively unsuccessful and are looking for a shortcut. TV exposure with immodest and uncomposed gushing of self-praise surely negates lack of success elsewhere…

If I had been selected as a contestant on The Apprentice, I would be asking the question, “why?” Producers survive by making “good television”, which now means throwing together seemingly obnoxious, argumentative and auto-elating freaks of human nature to complete frivolous tasks. I certainly wouldn’t necessarily believe that some television executive saw a spark untapped business acumen and exciting new potential within me; nor would I feel that anyone connected with the show had the confidence that I was fully composed and attached.

So where am I aiming for as my place in society? I’m going for the middle ground: someone that won’t get featured on television, but also someone that doesn’t take the rest of the world down with them.

In a Quandary

By |May 1st, 2011|Essays|0 Comments

In the United Kingdom a referendum will soon decide whether we change our voting system. Currently we use the common and established “first past the post” system; what is being proposed is the “alternative vote” system, where candidates are ranked according to preference. These ranks come into play if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote from first choices alone.

There is a case for change — I believe that almost purely because we are having this referendum in the first place. I remain unsure how I will vote, however. Much of what is being argued is being lost in the frivolous and the usual infantile inter- and intra-party mud-slinging.

The biggest problem with this referendum, in my view, is that whenever politicians offer us a list of choices on a sheet of paper, we are trained to pick our favoured choice, but this isn’t really what it should be about. This referendum is asking us, “which system is the fairest way of deciding how our MPs are selected?”.

What irks people about first past the post is that an unpopular candidate can win amongst a large number of candidates. For example, in a vote with ten candidates, it is possible to win with just 10% of the popular vote.

The alternative vote selling point is that unpopular candidates don’t get in (in theory). As a selling point, is this relevant? One might suggest that, in the previous UK election, voters may have opted to vote for Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates in order to bury the Conservative candidate’s chances. My accusation is, therefore, that one might choose the alternative vote in a hope that they will be able to eliminate their least favourite candidates — and less because they think alternative vote is fairer.

Everything is, however, muddied by party politics anyway. Things have been said and written about tactical voting to decide which party sits on which side of the House of Commons. It would be naive to suggest that voters allay any thoughts of national issues and party connections when voting for their local MP. The biggest impact occurs at national level and I expect this is how many people vote. Out of interest, the Conservative Party “won” the vote with 36.1%; Labour received 29.0% and the Liberal Democrats got 23.0%.

I wonder how this would have changed if the alternative vote was in place. I also wonder whether this will influence the result in the upcoming referendum.

An Experiment That Went Badly Wrong

By |January 30th, 2011|Essays|0 Comments

The theory was fairly simple. I wanted to change my sleeping pattern. Instead of going to bed at, say, ten o’clock at night and waking up at around seven o’clock in the morning, I wanted to go to bed at seven in the evening and wake up at three or four in the morning.

It’s just an experiment. There is a rationale behind my decision to try it, namely that I thought it would improve my productivity. And there is a good chance that it could. However, as the title suggested, it went wrong.

It started well. I fell asleep pretty soon after 7pm. I certainly achieved REM sleep. I know this because I awoke from one of my savage nightmares. The countries are irrelevant and such an occasion would (I should hope) never occur. These happen to be the nations starring in my nightmare, which perhaps indicates a deep-seated xenophobic attitude towards China to which I am completely oblivious. And disagree with. It went thus.

Alice, young British child is on death row in a Chinese penitentiary. Her crime was a misinterpreted translation of a typically childish and empty threat to kill her father. She was eight when she was informed of her death sentence and she is now eleven. In the three years since her incarceration, she worked admirably and diligently in the on-site mine — much to the praise and humbled admiration from her fellow inmates and the prison staff, whose exultations won her renown, publicity and support from outside.

Such was her hard work and efficiency, Alice had every opportunity to escape her fate. The combination of her speedy work and her methodical clearing of the mines had produced an escape tunnel that she never used. The guards were aware of this and were more than hopeful she would take advantage, yet she never did. She became the epitome of diligence to her supporters. She was a good girl.

Meanwhile, tension was escalating between the British and Chinese authorities. On the one hand, the British government seeks to secure the release of Alice from her plight and bring her back home. The Chinese administration, having initially used Alice’s sentence as an empty threat to acquire fair diplomatic outcomes, were under increasing pressure to carry out the execution to save face and enforce new agreements.

Alice was not wholly unaware of the political tug-of-war taking place with her at the middle. Though she was naturally troubled that two leading nations were apparently bickering over her, she remained selfless and calm. It was as though she accepted that hers was the sacrifice that was needed to being the two countries closer.

British diplomats visited Alice regularly. But what does one say to an eleven year old child, facing her own mortality to appease the conceit of two behemoths? They would provide her with updates and messages of support from around the world.

Alas, she was informed that this would be the final time the diplomats would come. One had a message for Alice, from the prime minister. It explained that nothing further could be done. The British people were united in their support for her and that he, himself, was desperately humbled in admiration for her courage, strength and determination. Her sacrifice could never be forgotten.

She looked down slightly. A single tear rolled down her cheek. The diplomat was at a loss, not knowing how to react at first. He hugged her, apologised, and took a step back. She smiled back at him as the guards came.

There was nothing now that could be done. The two guards each took a hand and escorted her up a long flight of stone stairs. The diplomat was inconsolable, yet Alice seemed very calm. Just before they reached the doorway, the three of them stopped. She turned her head and looked back — not a tear, not a frown, not a quiver. Her face was devoid of any discernible expression, yet she looked steeled and determined. They continued up the stairs and through the door. Once out of sight, the door gently closed.

I woke up at bloody 8pm.

Review of My Year 2010

By |December 31st, 2010|Essays|0 Comments

January

Following the Christmas holidays I was dreading the New Year. It meant going back to teaching. I didn’t mind the teaching so much – I had successes and failures, good points and bad points; but there were certain things that caused me no end of dread. I recall returning the house in Keele around the same time as Emlyn. Neither of us relished going back. In January, we were doing all five days in a school (whereas we started doing two days at Keele, three days at school) and with the timetable being added to the pressure soon mounted. January also marked the end of my first placement.

February

The stand-out event of February was getting my first ever car: a Rover 45 2.0TD Spirit S. It was spotted by Andy, a friend from school and relayed to me by Weiran. I immediately warmed to it and after a brief test drive I bought it. I also started my second placement. I was heartened by a lighter timetable compared to others and enjoyed the classes I was working with.

March

The timetable was starting to increase and it was becoming clear that things weren’t right. I wasn’t as closely monitored as other people, which I took to be a vote of confidence. I did enough to keep on top of what I had to do; I avoided extra work to try to preserve my sanity. Weekends were most welcome and the purpose of the week. When I wasn’t going back to watch the football, I was staying in Keele with Emlyn and Jack in particular. A notable weekend at the end of the month started my foray into golf, a Chinese food buffet and winning a bottle of gin.

April

Someone turned the thumbscrews in April. Early in the month came in the Easter holidays and it was painfully difficult to go back to the PGCE. I was expecting to go back to be told I was failing. My car was hit whilst parked at the student house in Keele, leaving a large dent (which remains to this day). I took the car to have a puncture caused by a screw sorted and ended up having to pay a small fortune for an MOT and service in addition. Teaching was particularly horrible as my confidence was slowly chipped away and eroded. My sleeping pattern was terrible as I took painstaking lengths to make enticing lessons for them to be ripped apart the next day. Weekends were devoted to catching up with sleep, more work, and more drinking. My eating habits were poor as I ate scraps that required little effort or eating out. Gin, limes, tonic and ice cubes were afforded pride of position at the top of the shopping list; closely followed by cereal bars and cookies.

May

The word I dreaded reared its ugly head in the middle of May: remediation. I was given a list of things I needed to do in order salvage a year’s work. It was immediately clear in my head that I would not be able to overcome those issues. My confidence was in tatters; I was tired and clearly stressed. My only escape was football: seeing Newcastle United win the Championship was the clear highlight for the year until that point, but even then I was ever-troubled by the lingering dread of having deep, cutting criticisms and close scrutiny of my ability to teach.

June

I had wanted to quit but I couldn’t describe myself as a quitter. I tried. It came as a relief in some regard that I was told that I had failed the placement though the fact I had made it to within three weeks of the end was not lost on me. Yet I stayed until the end. I had every right to go home at that point but I did not. I wasn’t teaching, but helping out where I could.

July

It was heart-wrenching, not least when participating in the final week in Keele. My last act was to rewrite the lyrics to YMCA (which we performed for year’s cohort of PGCE students and uploaded to YouTube (with some naughty words) which provided some light relief! The final session – a “farewell” gathering – was particularly bittersweet seeing some people for the last time and knowing that if I wanted a share of their success, I would need to do another 16 weeks the following year.

Mum and Dad celebrated their 50th birthdays in July. I went to Wiltshire to celebrate with Dad for his birthday and at the end of the month I went to Barcelona with Mum to celebrate hers. Both provided escape from the torment in my mind and I enjoyed myself. It was great to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time and to see Mum have her first flight.

August

August was a void. I was unaware of my situation at Keele having gone home. I started applying for jobs almost indiscriminately. The football season started – with defeat, naturally – but soon picked up with a comprehensive defeat of Aston Villa at home.

Matt came and visited. It was most welcome. We talked, drank, ate and visited Hexham.

September

I was summoned back to Keele for talks of my future on the PGCE course. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes, having driven for four hours to get there. I had been looking over the summer for somewhere to live with little success (and no help from the accommodation office) so I was not in a position to agree to do my placement starting in October. The other option was February, but money was an issue too.

Pure chance led me to find an opportunity for paid PhD study at Loughborough University and I applied in a heartbeat. I was offered an interview and thought I have completely screwed up. I wasn’t offered the place but thankfully one was made for me. I felt truly wanted and of value professionally and gladly accepted. I hadn’t thought too much about the practicalities, but the apparent belief in me warranted some effort to overcome them.

October

The notable event of October occurred on the last day… a 5-1 win over Sunderland. It certainly wasn’t expected but was most welcome. For me, I was looking at places to live in Loughborough without any success. It was also a time of a minor health scare. It’s something I have to just live with now and get on with.

November

My car took a battering from a falling fascia board and aerials. Another bit of damage that no-one will take responsibility for. I got quotes for both pieces and it comes to around £800. With additional damage to the windscreen, a broken headlight, and a broken tail light the damage mounts up quickly. I have repaired the lights (cheaply and easily).

In November I eventually got my accommodation sorted and moved in.

December

I started in the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University and settled in very quickly. The snow caused some problems over the month, but I was generally high in spirits (not necessarily the alcohol stuff, either!) and the snow was easily overcome. Emlyn came to stay, which was generally good (but we don’t talk about the cloakroom staff incident) and it was great to see the old crew in Kent.

Conclusions

2010 got better as it went along. I’m very optimistic for 2011 and looking forward to it! Happy New Year everyone!