That was a year, that was

End of year reviews. The lazy way to file a blog entry. But I’m on holiday, don’t feel like doing anything original and what better way to get back into blogging than a lazy review post. That and the fact I only made 8 posts in the whole of 2013 means anyone who follows the blog has virtually no idea what I’ve been up to this year.

So here was 2013.

I returned to the new term to two classes of students wholly unprepared to do the poetry assessment we had to do. This 4 hour assessment took the whole of the month to do, and by the end I still had students saying they hadn’t read any poems. We had been working on this since November… In and around all that, I signed up for the Virgin London Marathon, having stopped my marathon training in October after I initially failed to get a place. Still, four months is plenty of time, right?


What the hell did you do to your eye? ~ My father, August 2013
What the hell did you do to your eye? ~ My father, August 2013

February saw me join the University and College Union (UCU), something that would have a rather large impact on the rest of the year. I also “enjoyed” a half-term consisting of gastric flu, an eyebrow piercing and 90 controlled assessments to correct in 3 days, courtesy of losing days to the previously mentioned gastric flu. Lovely.

Meanwhile a resignation at work opened up a managerial position in my department which I speculatively applied for…

…and subsequently got an interview for! Given I wrote the application under the influence of the gastric flu of February this was a surprise. As well as the usual tests, I had two interview panels: one with two of the managers, and one with a panel of students!

I was delighted to find out that I got the position, and would assume managerial duties in May.


About 15 seconds before I burst into tears...
About 15 seconds before I burst into tears…

The Easter break saw me dealing with rescuing students stranded at the NUS National Conference. Because those in education only work 9am to 3pm, 5 days per week and not at all in the holidays…

The defining moment of the month however was when I crossed the finish line at the Virgin London Marathon. It was gruelling, I felt awful the next few days, but I did it, and it is probably what I’m most proud of in 2013.

I took up my managerial position (part-time) to allow me to finish off teaching, as with one month before the exam it was felt it was too disruptive to the students to change teachers. This gave me confidence that if I could handle 12 hours of teaching plus the managerial job, then 6 hours the following academic year would be manageable. This misplaced confidence would come back to bite me later in the year.

It’s not a bottle opener!

I hadn’t run since the Marathon, and almost forgot I also had an entry for the BUPA 10,000! A 10k run is a walk in the park after 26 miles, so what had previously been a challenge was a nice little stroll around London.

For my birthday, Julia and I visited The Magic Circle headquarters in London for an evening of close up magic and laughter. It was incredible, and something I’ve wanted to do since childhood.

If you work in education, December isn’t the end of the year, it’s June. And in June I finished the first year of my PGCE, and saw off my classes for the year, most of whom sat the GCSE, and many of whom did so at Higher Tier, the first time I’d entered students at that level. Needless to say I think I was more nervous than some of the students.

Winter is coming…

I had only been a member of UCU for 5 months when proposed redundancies at my place of work threw me into frontline union work and I became part of the committee who responded to the paper. Then a funny thing happened at our AGM. Despite not even attending, I found myself elected Branch Chair. Which was unexpected, but rather flattering.

I celebrated the end of the (academic) year with a new tattoo. Shortly after The Red Wedding aired. Great timing Paul…


Yeah, these seats will do.

July saw me wrapping things up at work before going on annual leave. Further meetings with members and management about redundancies and restructuring, setting up for the Freshers’ Fair in September and generally getting to grips with the role.

I also undertook Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, which was emotionally difficult but very worthwhile. Three days after completing the training, I had to put it into effect.

My annual leave started at last, and began with a trip to the Anniversary Games, courtesy of some tickets generously provided by my father-in-law.

August was all about family. We travelled to Scotland for a gathering of the clan to celebrate my grandparents’ diamond anniversary. Then soon after we were off to Nottingham for Julia’s parents’ coral anniversary, then only a week later my mother-in-law’s (*significant*) birthday (21 again, for those interested).

And all too soon it was straight back into the firing line of enrolment and a new term…

A second AGM of the branch saw my election to Branch Chair confirmed. The Freshers’ Fair I organised was a great success, so I passed the first public assessment of my abilities in the new job. I also successfully negotiated resumed teaching (but only 4 hours per week), continuation on the PGCE and secured how I would carry out my union duties. Because I would easily be able to do all of this, and more (for those paying attention, this is foreshadowing).

The rest of the month sucked great big sweaty donkey balls for reasons I cannot go into. But trust me. Sucked. Donkey. Balls.


Game on!

A significant amount of October was concerned with the last bit of September, and after an incredibly long and stressful term, the half-term break arrived, which saw me, Julia and two dear friends heading to Wembley to see my beloved San Francisco 49ers steamroller over the Jacksonville Jaguars. With Wembley so well attended, how long before London gets a permanent NFL franchise, and can they play at Twickenham instead (since I can walk there!).

October also saw the tenants of the building where I live informed that the whole place was being sold, raising the question of whether we could afford to collectively buy a £2m listed building…

Union politics returned to dominate with a ballot for strike action called. I of course set an example as Branch Chair by voting yes.

The answer to the question about buying the building was no, and for some time the whole sale was in limbo as a cavalcade of surveyors and agents turned up or got in touch purporting to be handling the sale.


You don't get me I'm part of the union...
You don’t get me I’m part of the union…

The month started promisingly enough with a nationwide strike by UCU, and some nice local press coverage of the day.

From there, December sort of slid rapidly towards the end of term. I’d been struggling all term to try to get through to the majority of my students. I put it down to the length of time I had with them, that they were a far worse crop than previous years. But breaking down into tears at my desk for no reason in November signalled that something wasn’t quite right, and my inability to face going into work the following week really should have put me on notice, especially after my antidepressant dosage got increased.

I wasn’t coping, and the quality of my teaching, and my attention to the PGCE, was wavering.

I received another increase to my dosage and informed my employer. The side effects of the medication includes memory problems in general, and remembering words in particular – not something you want to combine in teaching and management.

After an occupational health assessment, I came to a conclusion that others had made before me, but that I had argued against for half the year. I simply wasn’t coping. I was doing too much. And the teaching was what had to go. This freed up time for my main job, removed the requirement for prep time and the associated stress.

And with that the term – and the calendar year – came to a close.

Oh yes. I had root canal work done on Christmas Eve. That was a very special Christmas treat.

So that’s a potted account of significant events in 2013. There are other things that happened of course, but these are things that it is inappropriate to talk about in public, unwise to discuss publicly, or are simply far too boring to mention. Apologies for the lack of salacious gossip, but y’know… stuff.

What is ahead in 2014? This term sees me freed from teaching commitments, and a sense of relaxation for the first time in a long time. And I can see myself having time to get back into doing the things I love.

Like reading. I haven’t really read things in 2013. I want to change that in 2014.

And writing. I’ve written so little recently that I’ve actually excised most of the references to being a writer from my social media presence. Since the whole “being a writer” requires “actually writing”. But now I feel I have time, and energy for it. And ideas. Oh yes, there are ideas…

And sport too! I got a bike in September. It’s really nice. And gathering dust in my basement. As is my unworn running gear. So to rectify this, and get rid of the waistline I’ve developed, I’ve done something rather silly…

Oh crap…

At the end of April I’ll be taking part in a Tough Mudder. Go follow the link to see what that’s about. Then come back and tell me you think it’s a good idea.

Hopefully, I’ll post a little more here. But we’ll see.

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