Trying to find a new home

Story of my life at the moment...
Story of my life at the moment…

When your landlord tells you “you cannot live there any more” because they are unable to deal with the mould problem without completely gutting your flat, then you know your living situation isn’t great.

Since June we’ve tried to find somewhere, with very little success. And the reason is contained in the above graphic. If you want to rent in London, you can only choose two of the following three options:

  • Within your budget
  • Within reasonable commute of your work
  • Meets your needs

There are any number of flats within commute of my work which fit my needs, but which I cannot afford. There are plenty that I can afford which are within reasonable commute of my work, but which don’t fit my needs. If I want to be able to afford somewhere that fits my needs then I have to be so far away from work that the extra travel costs mean I may as well have picked one of the unaffordable but closer places!

Landlords, being rapacious scoundrels (and that’s me being polite), hold out for the mythical ascetic tenant who wants to drop £5000 per month on a cardboard box under a motorway flyover. They are less concerned with real people, their real needs, and their real wages. Over the past 8 years house prices have risen by 28% in London, whilst wages have risen 12%. And that’s just going back to 2007. In 2007, house prices were at their most unaffordable. The situation has got worse since then, even accounting for the dip in property prices caused by the financial crash.

How much longer can this situation go on? Something has to give.

A distinct lack of comments…

I wondered why so few people had responded to my last post, as it got quite a bit of traffic.

Then someone mentioned in passing that they tried commenting twice, but got error messages each time. I checked the site, and my own test comments on multiple devices had the same result. Turns out Bad Behavior, a plug-in I use to combat spam bots and brute force log-in attempts, was doing its job a little too effectively!

I think I’ve fixed it, and the test I tried seems to work, so if you did have a comment then please do try again!

What scares you?

Asking for a friend…

And that friend is me.

Hallowe’en may be past, but I have been thinking about fear, terror, horror and all the associated synonyms. I’m thinking about fear because of a thing I want to do, which I don’t want to publicly commit to, because if I wind up not doing it I’ll feel guilt and self-loathing like I always do when I publicly commit to something then fail to do it (see my long history of postponing my Tough Mudder entry – now delayed to May 2016). It’s not NaNoWriMo, just before anyone starts thinking that.

I am a very fearful person, and I don’t know what about. When I entered counselling at LSE during my PhD year, the counsellor mentioned that I constantly spoke in the language of fear, was drawn towards fearful things, and was studying a fearful topic (international terrorism and war crimes). She told me that fear drove me. Towards what, or from what, I’ve never figured out.

I don’t get scared by horror movies, and it is rare that any story unnerves me (House of Leaves and The Thing on the Doorstep being notable exceptions). There are things that do scare me though.

But what scares other people? I’m curious, because the thing I want to do involves scaring others. What are the things that unnerve you, make your heart stop then begin to pound furiously, cause a sinking dread in your stomach, raise the hairs on the back of your neck and begin the voice in your head that says whatever you do, don’t turn around, don’t open your eyes, don’t open that door

Given how hard it is to unnerve me, maybe if I find something that scares me it will be guaranteed to terrify others…

What I did(n’t) on my half-term holiday…

Ah, half-term. An opportunity for reflection and relaxation in a busy teacher’s life. A short week where you can catch up on all those little tasks, socialise, chill out, and prepare yourself for the second half of term.
This half-term I had planned to do the following:

  • Correct the homework I set my classes (a short story about Malvolio’s revenge for the Y1 Lit students, a model answer on the Anthology for the Y1 Lang & Lit students);
  • Write two model answers to the Y1 Lang & Lit homework so that students could compare their work against mine;
  • Plan the first few weeks of lessons with resources so I’m ahead of myself for the next half of term;
  • Catch up on some reading I had wanted to finish over the summer (I need to read the relevant parts of Cupcakes & Kalashnikovs before my A2 Lang & Lit students start on it);
  • Start a running training program in preparation for winter running;
  • Relax, catch up on some TV shows, go to the cinema, see friends, sleep in, read for pleasure.

Life, however, had other plans… What I actually did over my half-term was:

  • Spent Friday night to Wednesday morning howling in pain, screaming into pillows, stamping my feet and hitting my head all to distract myself from toothache. Emergency visits to both an emergency dentist and my own resulted in x-rays which showed nothing obvious, a prescription for Amoxicillin in case it was sinusitis, and a prescription for dihydrocodeine since ibuprofen, paracetamol, codeine and topical benzocaine gel were doing nothing;
  • Spent Wednesday morning to now, gingerly avoiding chewing on the left side of my mouth as while the toothache has gone, there is clearly something wrong, and biting food causes sharp pains;
  • Spent Wednesday morning to now, cursing the fact that my lower back and legs have started to develop sciatic pain.

I’m seriously wondering whether extreme pain everyday during half-term is enough to qualify you for a second week off, since I really didn’t get to enjoy this week…

Tags :

It was good while it lasted…

And so Scotland exit the Rugby World Cup at the quarter-final stages. The home nation that lasted the longest (due to scheduling of matches) and the last Northern Hemisphere team in the contest. Despite previous performances, this was a Scotland team that showed up and played 80 minutes of rugby, and largely avoided silly basic errors that have punished them in the past. Australia entered the tournament as one of the favourites, and to lose by 1 point due to a penalty in the dying seconds is no shame.

The Scotland squad, like the fans, were gutted. In his post-match interview Scotland captain Greg Laidlaw couldn’t keep eye contact with the interviewer and looked like he wanted to be any place on earth other than in front of the camera. Meanwhile Scotland coach Vern Cotter sounded as if he was about to break down at any second.

Whatever your opinion of the refereeing decisions—and former England international Matt Dawson is leaving no-one in doubt about his opinion—

it was an exciting, hard-fought match and Scotland need to pick themselves back up, and get back out there playing, improving, and winning.

It’s about resilience. Scotland were not fancied to do much, especially in light of the way Australia beat teams like England and Wales, both of whom are above Scotland in the world rankings. They certainly weren’t expected to take the lead, keep hold of the lead and almost win, let alone only lose by 1 point! Resilience is heading out there in the face of everyone telling you, “you can’t”, and showing them “you can”. And it’s taking a loss, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and not wallowing in what may have been, but focusing on what will come in the future.

In Kipling’s poem If… he writes

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

It’s a Stoic attitude to loss that will serve many well. Resilience in the face of adversity. Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations said

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

In other words—this too shall pass.

I am now a personal tutor at college as well as an English lecturer. This thrusts me into a day-to-day pastoral role for more than just those I teach, and more than I meet as a Safeguarding officer. As part of the tutorial scheme of work we are spending 5 sessions on mental health, an increasing problem for young people in these troubled times. I have had my own issues with mental health, and have found some things that have helped, and one of these is the concept of a taught resilience. For a long time I believe, in all honesty, that resilience could not be taught. You either had it, or you didn’t.

As I have encountered, then explored, Stoicism, I’ve come to realise that this is simply not true. Resilience can be taught, and Stoicism is a possible means to doing so. After all, it is through Stoicism and mindfulness meditation that I have managed to come off my own antidepressants and come through a trying few months without ill-effect.

The week of November 2-8 is Stoic Week which I am participating in for the first time this year. As part of it, I shall be attending Stoicon 2015 at Queen Mary University in London. I’m hoping that there will be a range of sessions which I can adapt for use in tutorial and classes, or at the very least opportunity to meet others in education and discuss our ideas for (re)introducing a Stoic element to education.

And as for the rugby? Well I guess I’m an Argentina fan for a week…

Tags : , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: