Sunny days in Scotland – The Isle of Bute

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IMG_0523So Last Monday it was a beautiful sunny day, on a whim I decided to travel out to the Isle of Bute. I’ve been in Glasgow a while and shamefully have to admit I’ve not done a massive amount of exploring. I’ve been to Ayr, Loch Lomond, Edinburgh, St Andrews, and Stirling, but that’s about it.

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The Isle Of Bute takes about 90 minutes in total from Glasgow central (50 mins by train the a 35 minute ferry ride). The trains and ferries are hourly and line up nicely on the timetable. It really is worth the trip. It also seems to be a popular family destination with plenty to do around the isle. I’d read a bit online before going and discovered there are a few sandy beaches. My little monkey hadn’t been to the beach or paddled in the sea so I must admit this was the main aim. I decided on heading to Ettrick Bay, the closest beach to Rothesay. There’s regular buses from Rothesay the main town on Bute where the ferry lands. There was meant to be a tour bus but it didn’t show up so we just jumped on the next normal bus.

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Ettrick Bay has a little café called the Ettrick Bay Tearoom where you can eat, grab a drink and of course go to the loo and get changed – essential things when you have a small child. The bay itself is really beautiful with a gorgeous view of both Arran and Kintyre in the distance.

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The sun was shining but it wasn’t too hot so we managed to spend an hour or two digging and paddling away before monkey got tired and needed a nap. She’s well accustomed to the baby carrier so slept on my back whilst I headed back to Rothesay for a bit of an explore.

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There’s Rothesay Castle to explore which is small but has it’s own moat and an incredibly long history dating right back to the 13th century. I thought it was a tiny bit expensive at £4.50 – there wasn’t much educational stuff set up but it was a quiet break away from the world and I still like the really historical locations as they always hold a bit of a spell over me. Rothesay Castle didn’t have the level of effect the Colosseum had when I was in Rome but it was still a wee bit mystical.

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All together I think the day trip cost about £40 per adult for all the travel and all our food and the castle trip so if you can spare that kind of money and find yourself in Glasgow on a sunny day I’d really recommend a trip out to the Isle Of Bute.

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The Glasgow Tourist Week

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3009_10151063424420064_1378110194_nI had a good friend come to stay with myself and monkey this week and she brought her 2 year old little girl with her. It’s given me a great opportunity to show them both round the city and really experience Glasgow through the eyes of a tourist. It gets a bad rep sometimes but as soon as anyone I know has visited they’ve fallen in love with it as quickly as I did. Now to be honest I do live in one of the nicest parts – the West End;  so I’m surrounded by beautiful parks and within walking distance of lots of major attractions. But I still think Glasgow is a very misunderstood and unfairly represented city. If anyone gets the chance and hasn’t been I can’t recommend it enough.

During the few days my friend and her little girl stayed with us, me (and the monkey) showed them round as many sights as we could. The days started early and finished late – the mums and toddlers were exhausted but in that good way that occurs when you’re on a packed full holiday. The weather was pretty changeable all week but that meant we got to experience a wide variety of kid friendly activities. The following is a little summary of what we did – so if you have young kids you are now hopefully armed with some info on what you can do in the city of Glasgow (rain or shine).

On the 1st day it was forecast to rain so we decided to visit a great little soft play area in the West End called Jungle In The City – it’s on a little side street at 8 Gardner Street off Dumbarton Road. Unlike the huge massive warehouse set ups it’s in a smaller building but still has all the same equipment and ball pits, and big apparatus just on a smaller scale. The bonus of this is you can view the whole room from a chair or sofa and there isn’t that horrible echoey effect either. There’s plenty of stuff available for babies (walkers, bouncy chairs, high chairs for feeding and toys etc) up to about 8-10 year olds depending on height. Also during the week it’s only £4.95 for all day play and a kids packed lunch (soup or sandwich, raisins, yogurt. crisps and a juice). The adult food is also simple and cheap but tasty. I can’t recommend this place enough to let the kids let off steam on a rainy day. A great time is always had by the kids.

After soft play fun we decided to head down Dumbarton Road and have a wander round Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This is a real family museum with a large range of activities for everyone and it also boasts a great art collection including the Glasgow Boys collection and the Dali piece Christ of St John The Cross which is truly stunning. But for the kids there’s a lot of interactive stuff for older children and for toddlers there’s all the animals and dinosaur life size figures that both girls loved just wondering round and looking at, along with the fashion items and all the Rennie Mackintosh furniture. At around 1pm there’s an organ player that comes on each day and does a 30 minute show too. After a good run round all the exhibits the girls wanted to see we headed down for a quick look in the gift shop before heading home. It was absolutely pouring with rain when we left so we did end up getting side tracked and nipping into a great New York restaurant called Tribeca (also on Dumbarton Road) to wait for the rain to at least calm down before we headed on – this place does all the real american diner stuff and cocktails and everything in-between; it also has truly American size portions and the great service we hear comes as standard across the pond.

On our 2nd day it was a much nicer day so we headed off and walked to the Transport Museum situated on the River Clyde in a new sparkly building. I love this place – it’s filled to the rafters with every vehicle you can think of. Old fashioned trams, trains, cars, prams, bikes, motorbikes, horse and carriages. If you can name it then it’s probably in there. They also have an historical cobbled street all set up with the horse and carriages on and loads of little interactive shops. More for older kids admittedly but the girls loved running in and out of them – there’s cobblers, a bridle/saddler shop, a pawn shop all that kind of stuff with lots of interactive screens giving loads of information about the history and the time. After we’d exhausted all the stuff the girls wanted to look at and had climbed on the trains and trams we were allowed on we headed out the back door where there’s the magnificent spectacle that is the Tall Ship. It’s free to go on and like the museum has information and general activities for the kids to look at and play with. Most people would probably assume it was for older kids but the girls really did have a nice time running up and down the length of the ship, looking at the ropes and barrels and a replica mast and all the other stuff there. There was also a mini soft play area again and they had lots of fun running in and out of the tunnels and generally going mad. We had a cup of tea in the little cafe too to get some energy back. The ship is fully set up with lifts to every level – I had the monkey in her brilliant back carrier (made by the awesome Madame Googoo) but my friend had her pushchair and we were able to access all the areas and get about very easily. There was also baby change facilities on the ship and in the museum.

Once we’d done all this I decided that they couldn’t come all the way up and not experience the Willow Tea Rooms in town – a real Glasgow institution designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and serving up some great tea and traditional Scottish food, alongside everyday stuff. We went to the one on Buchanan Street as it’s a little bigger and easier with all the kids stuff like the pram etc. Now it’s not overly toddler friendly; you have to get up a big flight of stairs but we folded the pram up and got up there. They do have high chairs and also provide colouring for the kids, I think people maybe don’t expect you to take little kids in so there may have been some sideways glances from elderly people who were wanting a quiet cup of tea (I may have imagined this though!). Either way we just ignored them and enjoyed our tea, tried to stop my monkey from grabbing things off the table etc etc. The only minor complaint I would have is that despite having the high chairs and colouring they insist on serving the kids food and drink in glasses and porcelain plates so it’s a bit nerve wracking in that respect. Still, I’m glad I was able to take them there as I really love the decor and the tea is great.

The sun was still beaming down afterwards so we headed home via the gorgeous Kelvingrove Park (the number 4a bus goes from outside Central station and up Woodlands road where you can get off and access the park through one of the many entrances). We took the kids to go on the swings and slides – there’s a great playground here for kids of all ages and even a skate park. If the weather is nice then Kelvingrove Park is a must; they have also just renovated the band stand and opened it up so I expect more events will be taking place. The other weekend I took monkey to Glasgow Mela; a free event all weekend that filled the park with all kinds of multicultural music, dance, food and drink. It was a really great weekend so it’s worth keeping on eye out for what’s happening.

This pretty much concludes what we managed to fit in over a couple of days. This is just a taster too – I didn’t manage to take them to the Botanics which is another lovely spot, Glasgow Green is also nice and the People’s Palace is there which is a great thing for older kids – telling them all about the history of the working classes in Glasgow; introducing a lot of sociological concepts and themes at an early age which is great in my opinion. Glasgow is definitely a city with a complex and often fraught history.

I hope I’ve maybe convinced some people to come and visit and given an idea of just some of the child friendly activities around – I haven’t mentioned that apart from Jungle In the City and of course the Willow tea room, all these activities were free so perfect if you’re on a strict budget! I think my friend was definitely taken by the city as she was very quickly saying she could easily live here – I think people are always surprised by how much they like Glasgow if they’ve never been.

Complete enormous to do list? Tick!

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I realised I’ve had such a busy week I’ve not had much chance to post for a few days; so I wanted to say a wee hello!

I feel like I’ve had an incredibly productive week. I’ve had another driving lesson (everyone is alive and well), Ive written my dissertation proposal and handed it in (I now have an enormous self-inflicted reading list to get through this summer), I’ve joined a badminton class and a boxercise class (get rid of baby belly and get fitter and healthier, phase 1), I’ve done an enormous amount of housework (not in the name of procrastination, just for its own sake), I’ve joined various new social media platforms including google+ and Facebook (check out my new pages if you have a chance although they are both huge works in progress so please cast a forgiving eye!).

So out of this big list of things I’ve managed to do there’s one glaring black hole (oxymoron? Can a black hole glare? I digress sorry…) I’ve not managed any TEFL since my last post. I’m learning another lesson; I keep thinking that if I don’t have 2 hours to sit and do a full section of the course then I can’t do it. Whereas a much better plan of action would be to just grab bite size half hour sessions whenever I can but just make sure I’ve got a block of time available when I need to actually sit down and do the tests. A handy little tip I have discovered though is that if you’re like me and a bit of a proud pedantic type of personality; the minute I blogged about not doing any TEFL the last time, I was immediately galvanised into action and spent an hour reading up on verbs. Almost as soon as I’d hit the ‘publish post’ button. So I may just try that in future if I’m not getting much done, I’ll just publicly blog about my uselessness.

I have also started what will sound like a very strange social experiment – just for my own personal gain. I’ve always wondered whether the fact that hippies (by hippies I mean floaty, smily types who seem endlessly calm, wear floaty clothes, practice meditation and yoga, eat hippie food, and carry their babies in great swathes of material until there about 3 – I know I’m generalising here but we all know one or a few; in the west end of Glasgow they’re practically an institution!). Anyway I’ve always wondered whether they are very relaxed, chilled out positive people who therefore become hippies who are identifiable by sight, or if when they’re young they kind of get into the fashion and the rest just sort of follows like a self fulfilling prophecy. As someone who is a bit uptight and pedantic and often suffers with anxiety but prescribes to a lot of the hippy ideals without ever jumping in 100% (probably because I met a bunch of heavy metallers at a key impressionable age and went a completely different route), I’ve often pondered over this chicken and the egg question. Do calm, anxiety free floaty people become hippies or do hippies evolve into calm floaty people?

This all no doubt sounds like a bit of an odd generalistic line of thought and reasoning; sorry if I offend any hippies with my shamelessly narrow description – it’s truly in jest and admiration, I really do just want to be in the club! So I’ve decided to give myself a complete hippie makeover. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious I’m forcing myself to smile and think happy thoughts. I’m off to find a meditation and yoga class next week and I’ve hunted out all my floaty comfy clothes and shoes and vacuum packed everything else. I did actually already own an awful lot of floaty, brightly patterned comfy stuff so it’s just been a wardrobe exchange if I’m honest. The bonkers plan is to see if I can make myself into one of those carefree non-pedantic types who irritates the life out of anyone even remotely uptight. I have a feeling that if I’d met different people and been influenced by those more inclined towards Buddhism (or something similar) from an early age then I would be a different person today and would have taken the paths I’m taking now at an earlier point. This is not about regret, please don’t think that – but it is about trying to take control over my life and my thoughts and my anxieties – albeit in a slightly mad way. I guess the idea is ‘dress like hippie, become a hippie’ and float around the world on a sea of positivity, taking each day one step at a time. But most importantly I want to pass some of that philosophy to my daughter. I was raised by highly anxious people and I inherited those idiosyncrasies, so more than anything I want my little monkey to inherit slightly more positive ones. I’d also like her to truly master and gain a love for yoga and meditation as the benefits of these two things are now firmly set in the social stone that is ‘science’. Brain scans of monks who regularly practice transcendental mediation have been publicised a lot recently; they’ve known this stuff for thousands of years of course but now we have brain scans as proof it’s become ‘common knowledge’. I’d really love monkey to be a calm, happy, positive floaty hippy to start with, rather than have to struggle and claw her way to the same place as I have over the course of 20 odd years.

So I’ll keep you all updated – can I reinvent myself as an anxiety free, carefree, happy, positive hippie? I really hope so although I suspect it’ll take a bit more than that such as a true commitment to serious ideals of buddhism and some serious practice of mediation and yoga. Which will serve me right for such blatant and insulting stereotyping won’t it?

 

Verbally challenged!

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I finally finished my TEFL section on verbs!!!! This probably shouldn’t warrant so many exclamation marks but F*@! Me that was difficult. OK, so the verb section is much more complicated than the noun section (kinda obvious when you look at how complicated the English system of verbs actually is); but there were some glaring gaps in the teaching and the odd question was completely ambiguous. I mean, I sat looking at one question for about 30 minutes and I’m still not sure what it was asking of me… This was the section on the present participle of verbs. In the exercise book I’m told that one way in which verbs can inflect is by having an ‘–ing’ on the end, and that we often use these verbs to describe an ongoing action. There are various examples given: ‘I’m watching a TV program’, ‘they are building a new hotel in my street’, ‘I was cooking spaghetti in the kitchen’. I’m then told that all the verbs have 2 things in common, firstly, unsurprisingly, they all have an –ing on the end and secondly they all have an auxiliary verb in front of them. This auxiliary verb is always the verb ‘to be’.

So far so good. This is all the information I’m given about present participles. When we get to the exercises at the end of the whole section I am asked the following:

“Write in the present participle of the verbs in the order they appear in the passage. Only write the participle, for example: 1. going 2. reading

I’m then given a passage and there are two boxes after the passage to fill my answers into – giving the clue that only two verbs are required. This is the passage:

“The three of us were sitting around the dinner table during lunch break. “I like Wendy McMinn,” I ventured. I was hoping that revealing my own secret would encourage Michael to start opening up about who he liked in the class.”

Now I happen to think that the instruction given to me is incredibly ambiguous. I initially take it to mean that I should write any verbs that appear in that passage in their present participle form. However I quickly realise this can’t be the case as I’m only given 2 boxes to fill out. I can immediately spot the verbs ‘sitting’, ‘liking’, ‘hoping’, ‘revealing’, and ‘opening’ – although I think maybe in this sentence ‘opening’ isn’t a verb but I’m still not sure on that one.

This is the major downside of an online course – there’s no one to ask. I was sent a snappy, friendly message from ‘Tim the Tutor’ when I electronically handed over my £215; that informed me the grammar section was a self taught section but he’d be around to answer any questions on the next bit. So basically “don’t email me stupid questions about grammar”. I looked on the TEFL.org forum – no luck for this particular question.

So despite what the question says I start to think that it is asking me to identify the actual present particples of the verbs that are used in that sentence in that form, rather than what I think it actually asks which is to write the verbs, as they appear, in their present participle form. By the way, at this point I have genuinely wrung my hands through my hair and possibly growled at my computer. So if the request is the latter then I think ‘sitting’ and ‘hoping’ are the verbs that are already in their present participle form, so I put these down.

There’s 9 more of these….

The next one has me even more flummoxed:


“Yeah, we know,” replied Michael. Both he and Pete were grinning wildly. “Speaking of whom …” He was gesturing behind me and as I turned I could see that Wendy and her gang of friends were wandering past, carrying trays. I caught her eye and she smiled ever so slightly before turning away.”

What do I start with? Grinning? Knowing? Gesturing? Wandering? Carrying? Turning?

There’s only 4 boxes – the other problem with these exercises is if you get the first one wrong, you basically get them all wrong because it has a knock on effect. I think I started with ‘grinning’ and I got all these wrong…

The rest of the test isn’t too bad – comparatively – and I eventually get through about 12 exercises on various forms of verbs in about 2 hours. I hand it in and find out that although I got the ‘grinning’, ‘gesturing ‘ section wrong I actually did OK on the bit that had me pulling my hair out. However I did incredibly badly on transitive and intransitive verbs – still, I managed an overall 90% as I got full marks for nearly everything else. Present participles frustrate the hell out of me but intransitive and transitive just plain don’t like me…. More work needed there then!

Anyway, I’m just happy I’ve done that section – I have learned a big lesson though… it’s maybe not a great idea to do some intense verbal workout just before bed – I lay there wide awake until about 3am, totally pumped up with all that new knowledge flying round my head and the frustrations of the TEFL instructions. You’d have thought an English language course would be able to articulate in a less ambiguous way wouldn’t you?! I’m still annoyed actually!

On a side note – any help or advice from some Verb Masters would be very gratefully received!

Who knew verbs could be so exhausting? And paradoxically insomnia inducing.

Just as a little positive but unrelated end note before I sign off. I found a lovely blog today that I think will prove extremely helpful over the next couple of years so I wanted to share the love – I suspect any well seasoned bloggers/travellers will have heard of them already but if not take a look!

http://www.goatsontheroad.com

Thanks again for reading!

Do yourself a favor and buy that damn plane ticket already.

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backpacksandbabygrows:

This really resonated with me today – it sums up, so very eloquently a lot of my thoughts. Particularly the bit about thinking up all the reasons you can’t do something….

Originally posted on infinite satori:

“Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.  I spent a large part of my youth traveling the world as a hippie. And what money did I have then? None. I barely had enough to pay for my fare. But I still consider those to have been the best years of my youth.The great lessons I learned has been precisely those that my journeys had taught me.”

-Paulo Coelho

I know you. You look through countless of travel blogs, browse through the travel section of the bookstore, read Lonely Planet guidebooks, and National Geographic magazines. You’re in love with city maps, atlases, and globes. You get shivers down your spine when you run your fingers down the tiny blood veins on a map as if it was breathing and coming alive. And it says to you, “Buy a god damn ticket and explore me.” But you don’t, because you…

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Pedants need not apply!

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and musing the last few days about my plans and the things that I want for my daughter and myself. I’m one of those people who gets completely motivated and excited about something straight away. My mind starts firing off in all directions and I just run with it. I’ll start researching all the little steps I need to make and how I can make them and then I’ll start trying to solve all the little hurdles that are arising. Now this can be in the 1st hour of getting an idea, and already I’m trying to solve hypothetical problems. Then I find I can’t solve the hypothetical problems and I kind of crash psychologically and get all demotivated. COMPLETELY forgetting these are my own imagined hypothetical problems!

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m learning really fast that I’m just going to have to let this bit of my personality go somehow. I think if my friends were to describe me then the words ‘organised’ and ‘pedantic’ would come in there pretty fast. Now being organised has some huge advantages but when it comes to making these big decisions, pedants really need not apply. I mean, I’ve found myself worrying about problems I might face to do with my daughters schooling when she would be high school age (she’s 19 months old!), I’ve been worrying about whether she, as an individual will mind travelling or living a slightly location-less life. Again, these are just massive hypotheticals, I can never know the answers to these worries until I’m actually dealing with them. But I end up letting it demotivate me because that pedantic side of my personality is demanding answers and it wants them now!

I forget that if I’d thought about every tiny step I was going to have to take to achieve any of the things I’ve done then I probably would never have done anything – for that matter nobody would get out of bed! If I’d thought about all the stuff I would have to do and all the problems I would face when doing a degree or having a baby or moving to Scotland or when i moved to London I probably would have cried and then curled up into a hedgehog ball for the next week so…

I’m thinking I need to start chanting out some clichéd mantras – you know the ones… I need to take a leap of faith, cross that bridge when I come to it, yadda yadda. But these really do apply, I don’t think doing this is possible without just jumping feet/head first into the unknown, safe in the knowledge I can always come back if it doesn’t work. But worrying about whether my daughter will take GCSE’s or do the International Baccalaureate is proper crazy time! I’ve been panicking about disadvantaging her, I can home school her through the primary years or most of them I’m confident of that; but I’ve been worrying about creating someone who has no qualifications at all and how this would affect her depending on her own life choices later.

I’m not saying these aren’t valid things I should be thinking about, I’m just realising that these decisions are possibly 10 years away and I need to calm the fuck down!!! :)

 

 

A productive start….

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Well today has been an exciting day! I’ve had my 1st driving lesson and I opened up TEFL online and completed the section on nouns – clearly it was those nouns that really got the adrenalin pumping :)

A bit of background might be good (again) … As may be clear by now, I’m trying to best qualify myself to live and work abroad. I think at the moment my opinion is that the best way to do this is to become a bit of a Jack of all trades so I’m going to build up a CV that will allow me to do anything and everything whilst travelling as a single parent. Of course the biggest tool in any workers box when travelling would arguably be a qualification to teach English as a foreign language so… I decided to do the TEFL this summer because I looked into CELTA (the Cambridge qualification for teaching English as a foreign language) and I’d missed the deadline to do it at the University this summer. However, as I looked at various forums and whatnot online to see what the difference is academically (CELTA is significantly more expensive that TEFL for starters); I was reading quite a few things saying that CELTA is really tough in terms of the teaching and the grammar knowledge you’re expected to learn. So I thought it might be a good idea to give myself an introduction to the grammar side of things and get a lot of lesson planning advice via TEFL first. There’s also the handy fact that on completion TEFL gives help on tailored CV’s and there’s also their jobs section that you get lifelong access to. But I can’t deny that by the sounds of it CELTA really is the more prestigious certificate to get. They give you 150 hours face to face teaching and you get actual experience everyday in the classroom teaching a group for small periods. I also figured that getting it from the University will look better on paper too; unfortunately over life you quickly realise that keeping up appearances has more weight that it should. I don’t like it, but sometimes it’s prudent just to play the game!

I’m doing the 120 hour TEFL course because there wasn’t that much difference in the price – It should be £269 but as a student you get 20% off so it’s £215 – also it’s worth noting that you get that discount up to a year after graduation. I reckon TEFL will be great for just familiarising myself with the grammar and structure of language so I don’t feel like I’m thrown in at the deep-end when I apply to CELTA. That being said it is a stand-alone qualification as well so it really can’t do any harm – that’s been my thinking anyway. It felt worthwhile to dip into the savings for.

So… on to my 1st experience of TEFL:

I’ve discovered there are a few gaps in the teaching of the noun section in comparison to what is asked on the test; so it really did require me to think outside of the box. For example it really wasn’t clear to me whether day, night, days, hours and words along these lines were abstract or concrete nouns even after going through the lesson and watching the little video tutorial (on a side note – hilariously weird voice-over on the video!). Anyway, I did some investigations online and ‘concrete’ seemed to be the view although my instinct was ‘abstract’ I put concrete and got it wrong.

Lesson 1: don’t trust Google too much.

Lesson 2: trust my instinct a little more!

Despite this I still got 91% on the test so I’m pleased with how today went.

Driving was great fun though. It was nerve racking to start off. I think I’m going to make my instructor demented by apologising for every tiny mistake. Hopefully she’ll learn that this is an unfortunate side effect of my upbringing and I may struggle to swallow the ‘sorrys’. I should also work on this though; I’m one of those people who constantly apologises for apologising!

I had about 11 driving lessons a few years ago and I thought I’d forgotten it all but quite a bit just kicked in naturally so she let me drive for the full 90 minute lesson and said I should be proud of how it went. It’ll be same time next week now and I really need to boot myself up the bum to start revising for my theory test. I’ve set myself the limit of 4 weeks to sit it; once that’s done I’ll push up to two 90 minute lessons a week to try and get the driving test done by September. I want to go back to Uni with two new qualifications under my belt (driving and TEFL) as I think it’ll be such a nice little boost to the ego before entering the final year of my degree.

Today has definitely felt productive. I always find that once the first few steps are made I find my motivation just keeps coming. I can procrastinate with the best of them sometimes (that washing up looks so damn attractive when there’s academic work to be done); but once I’ve sat down and started I hit a flow pretty quickly. Tomorrow I’m going to start the online revision tool for my theory test and maybe tonight I’ll start reading the TEFL section on verbs – it’s a lot bigger than the noun section unsurprisingly so it’ll take a couple of sessions to read through that I think.

As always, thanks for reading!

And so it begins…

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I’m one of those people who has thought of starting a blog but has had a multitude of reasons as to why it was never a good time. I’ve felt horribly self-conscious about blogging in the same way I did about keeping a diary. It feels so public to finally put such private thoughts into print and even more so to then publish it. I always cringe at the thought people will laugh at the ridiculousness of what goes on in my head. However, now I’ve taken the plunge I should probably start somewhere near the beginning if nothing else.

18 months ago I had a baby – nothing new there I know – but there’s probably nothing new in anything I’m about to say. I was halfway through a philosophy degree in Scotland so needless to say it wasn’t exactly planned. I’m now a single parent to a baby girl; I took a year out from my degree and went back last September. I’ve just finished all my 3rd year exams and now have one final year to go before I have to face the real world. I came to university later than most for various reasons – I may chat about those a later date, I may not. But suffice to say, it’s taken me a while to find my adult feet and I’m not sure I’m quite there yet. I’m pretty much just winging it to be fair.

I’ve always had the travel bug. I’ve managed to get to a few places for holidays but never quite had the means to really do the full on gap year or backpacking type stuff. I’ve been to Australia, Egypt, Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Amsterdam, Sweden and a few others. Enough places to know I’m at my happiest and best when away, seeing the world. I’ve always had an aim to learn another language fluently and I have a desperate love affair with Japan and Japanese culture although I’ve not yet been. I know that if I get to my metaphorical deathbed and I’ve not substantially travelled and lived and worked abroad it will be a massive regret for me. So knowing this in advance means it would be an even bigger regret if I allowed it to happen. I actually had a 3 week holiday to China booked when I became pregnant and I had to cancel due to the departure date being at the end of my pregnancy.

So, with all this in mind I’ve struggled back and forth in my head with balancing my hopes and dreams for myself with becoming a single parent. A lot of my thoughts are undoubtedly irrational and not based in fact; but there is no escaping from the fact there is a societal pressure and stigma attached to my circumstances that is hard to shake off. There is also a similar societal pressure just attached to parenting – I spend an enormous amount of time and energy worrying about parenting. Whether I’m doing it right, whether my child will be a delinquent, whether it’s right or wrong to put my own life needs 1st occasionally, whether I can avoid the sometimes grave mistakes of my parents and so on. And if you even dare to peek at the enormous deluge of information on the Internet it’s enough to cause an immediate panic attack. EVERYONE and I mean everyone (!) has an opinion on how everyone else should parent. So far despite the gnawing (and I assume normal) worries that pervade my thoughts at night or when left to my own devices, I still feel I should be proud of how I’ve navigated this minefield (often a self-inflicted minefield I know). My child is happy and confident and apparently, so far, emotionally stable. I’ve got the hang of all the stuff I’m supposed to without having a nervous breakdown; I’ve gone back to university and completed 6 essays and 6 exams and I’ve managed to not fail anything. The results aren’t out but I expect to achieve fairly highly.

So what the hell is my problem?

I guess I’ve spent the last 18 months convincing myself I must have the life I think I should have rather than the life I want. I’ve veered back and forth between telling myself I need to follow my dreams to soundly convincing myself that as a single parent I need to get a ‘normal’ job and just follow a ‘normal’ path – put aside savings, get a house, get a pension, blah blah blah you get the picture. Now, I have never been the kind of person to settle into ‘normal’ jobs well. I don’t survive long. I’m disagreeable and become demotivated easily if I don’t have a positive experience. This is why I came back to university to finish my education, the plan was to go the post grad route and try and succeed in Academia. The problem now is that there is very little funding for Masters degrees and the reality of childcare costs, mean that the post grad route looks incredibly unlikely financially. I won’t go off on a rant about that just now but safe to say I’ve investigated a lot of options and childcare costs is the biggest hurdle on top of the years living costs and the £6000+ needed for the Masters course. So…. I’ve ended up looking at other options. Graduate schemes for the civil service, NHS management, graduate schemes in the non-profit sector. The whole time I’ve been pushing all the doubts to the back of my mind about whether these things would actually be suitable for me, whether I’d love or even like my job, whether I could sustain these positions in any way in order to build a promising career. I’ve also been desperately searching for jobs that could allow me to work term time hours for a few years so I can care for and lets face it, see my child for the duration of some of the holidays. But like I said, I’ve just been ignoring the fact that I don’t think any of these jobs would make me happy or would even play to my strengths.

I’ve not had a ‘normal’ life up to now – again I won’t elaborate just now but I really haven’t. I had a disruptive unusual childhood and very disruptive teenage years. My twenties were spent getting to grips with and coming to terms with this fact. I left a very good school early with no qualifications and was flung unceremoniously into a life I struggled to cope with. It’s taken me until I went to Uni to really have a handle on who I am, what I’m doing and the fact it’s my life and it’s me who is responsible for the choices I make and the direction I go. So when I say that a ‘normal’ job path isn’t really what I expected to do I honestly mean that it’s like shoving a square peg into a round hole!

I’ve been telling myself all the things you tell yourself as a parent – that sacrifices have to be made, I can’t just go off and travel the world (I’m not a secret millionaire with endless funds sat about). I play that horrible game where I tell myself I’d be completely selfish, it’s my needs I’m thinking about not my daughters. I need to give her stability and good schooling in a good area and a stable home. All those things the Daily Mail screeches at you via obnoxious headlines designed purely to create a moral panic every other day of the week. As a single parent I’m also one of the Daily Mails favourite moral panics and it’s hard not to eventually absorb some of that vitriol spewed out in my direction.

But another part of me is desperate to show my daughter what strong, intelligent and confident women are capable of. I truly believe a 1st hand global experience would be of immeasurable worth during a childhood, especially in this day and age. To step out of the box that is education (no matter how good that education is) and experience the world and really see what you normally only learn about via books has got to be one of the best experiences you can give your child surely? And I know that if I was part of a 2 parent family I wouldn’t even hesitate at taking or making those opportunities. The problem is, the minute I start to research or look online at the realities of doing this or even to think about what I have to do to achieve this I’m just engulfed by either waves and waves of negative comments from forum users or worries from friends and family or I reach big hurdles on a practical level and it whisks away the idealistic hopes I have so fast it leaves me cold. But that little voice remains, whispering at me telling me “why can’t you do it? What’s really stopping you? If you want something bad enough you’ll make it work”. And over time that voice gets louder until I suddenly tell myself I can do it, so I start searching on the internet and the whole stupid process starts all over again.

So, what’s changed? Where I am now? Why I am telling you all this?

After a long conversation with a positive friend I’m back at the beginning – the positive beginning – I’m entering my final year of Uni this September and facing up to the fact that this time next year I will be staring Life full on in the face, eye ball to eye ball so to speak and I need to decide. I don’t know if what I want can be done but I’ve stopped searching online and asking the question and instead, I’m just going to do it, or I’m going to try and do it. That is what this blog will be about. This is my 1st step on the journey to living, working, travelling, doing anything abroad with my child as a single parent. I’m plunging headfirst – I know it will be difficult. In 24 hours I’ve ranged through every emotion, I’ve gone from totally pumped and excited to completely demotivated and convinced I can’t do it or shouldn’t do it.

There are still worries that I have. I do want the best for my child. I don’t want my decisions to impact on her negatively in any way whatsoever. I want this to be our experience. I want to know that she is having the childhood that will develop her into the amazing person I know she can be and that it is doing what a ‘normal’ education couldn’t do. If at any point I feel this isn’t happening I’m also willing to come back and give her whatever it is she needs. But I can’t live a life saying ‘what if’. I need to try. So this blog will be all about that journey; I hope to provide a source or information and maybe even inspiration to other single parents who feel bowed under the societal pressures and stigmas (real or imagined). I hope to be a source of information on the routes that can be taken to achieving that dream, no doubt there will be options I don’t take that would still enable someone to live and work abroad with a child but here I will log how I try to do it. I also hope to be able to provide any information to help others who follow in my path, practical information on surviving in other countries with a child – but for this, only time will tell as it will be at least 18 months until I’m on the road so to speak. One thing I’ve learnt from the internet is that there are a lot of single parents (mostly mums) asking the questions, there’s a lot of response in the negative from people who aren’t single parents and who haven’t done it (so just opinions) and there’s not much else. I hope to be that something else – I want to be a roar (not a whisper) in the sea of negativity, a roar of encouragement, to tell people to try. If it doesn’t work then that’s OK, at least I can say I tried.

This is the base line – you’re up to date (sort of) in my life and my other posts will hopefully be a bit more bitesize than this!

So… where I am I up to today? I’m trying best to qualify myself to live and work abroad so I will of course finish my degree to the best of my ability. But this summer I am learning to drive as I’ve not yet done this and I have also enrolled on an online 120 hour TEFL course with a view to doing the more difficult and more prestigious CELTA course next summer at the Uni too. In fact I shall leave this mammoth 1st blog post here and my next one will be about those decisions and how I find my 1st day at home doing the TEFl course.

Bye for now and thanks for reading!