‘An Open and Shut University’

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
(Reinhold Niebuhr - 1892-1971)

If you don’t want to read my whinge – look away now.

Back in October 2012 I was 9/10 of the way through my final module for a degree in psychology.  I had only the final exam to go and then the prize that I had spent six years, thousands of pounds and as many hours working for would be mine.

I wanted this degree so much – not just for myself but for my Lovely Mum, who had been interested in psychology long before it became fashionable.

A week before the exam I was involved in an accident that left me in a great deal of pain, with an infection that wouldn’t go away, poor mobility, stress, anxiety, deterioration in pre-existing health issues, the loss of my job and career, and in a horrendous situation where I was stopped from talking to many of my friends and colleagues.

Legal constrictions prevent me from writing any more about that horrific year but those who know us will understand the impact the accident has had on me and on those I hold most dear

I went ahead and took the exam because I thought it was too late to cancel.  The combination of pain, strong painkillers and antibiotics put me on another planet and I fell asleep during the exam. I’d already managed to get Lovely Friend very lost in the middle of a not nice bit of town when she took me for the exam.  Apparently I had the sat nav upside down. I don’t remember much about it.

Not surprisingly I failed the exam and was offered a resit  – for a mere £97.00. My GP didn’t feel that I’d be fit to take the exam in April 2013 and I was booked to take it a year after my original exam  – in October 2013.

I was studying for another course and was relieved when the exam venue was changed to one closer to home.  The exam for that course went well and so I felt optimistic about my resit – especially when I found that I passed, and passed well.

Because it had been a year since I’d studied the resit subject I was told that I would have extra tutorial support.  It never materialised and I had great difficulty getting any information that other students taking the exam had access to. I dug out my books, drew up a revision plan and set to – optimistically – despite all the other hassle that was still occupying my time.

I tried so hard to revise but for the first time in my life, the ability to retain information had gone. I would sit for hours going over my notes and reading the course books but pain would intrude after an hour or so and taking the painkillers sent me to sleep. Subjects that I had found so interesting and enjoyable a year before now seemed to swim on the page in an unintelligible sea of words.

At the time of the resit I was embroiled in the legal wranglings that I’ve been gagged about – so needless to say  – my mind was elsewhere most of the time.

When I went into the exam hall – same place that I been to earlier in the year and successfully passed an exam – I felt nauseous.  Hot, cold, y head began to swim. I turned the exam paper over and my mind went blank. I hadn’t taken any painkillers in case they made me fall asleep in the exam again so three hours of sitting still took its toll .  Halfway through the exam I had to go out to the toilets and throw up.

I did my best. I answered all the questions. I tried to pull every piece of information out of my fuddled head.

It wasn’t good enough. I failed.

I was told that the only way I could get my degree was to take the whole year again. Not only had the fees had gone up, but this seemed so unfair given that I had passed all the coursework and the residential  school section of the course.

There was one other chance to salvage my degree – aegrotat credit.

This is a bare pass that is awarded if a student is no longer able to continue their current studies due to ill-health, are on the last course for their degree and are permanently unfit to study. You don’t have to have a terminal illness – but apparently it helps.

I discussed this with my GP.  We were both of the opinion that the content of the course had become so linked with the stress of the past year that no matter how many times I took the exam, I would not be able to pass due to the physical symptoms I experienced.

I applied for the aegrotat credit and they turned me down because they didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be able to study any more. They suggested that I took the course again.

In desperation I wrote to the vice-chancellor – who NEVER deals with this kind of situation. I was passed back to student services who advised me to get further medical proof regarding the permanent cessation of my studies.

I paid for another letter from my doctor.

They rejected it on the grounds that the phrase ‘for the foreseeable future‘ doesn’t mean permanent.

They offered me the opportunity to progress to a level 2 complaint but said that I would need further medical evidence.

I went back to my GP – who not unreasonably was rather peeved that his wording had been questioned.  We put together a letter that we thought would be acceptable and in it he emphasised that it wasn’t just the difficulty in concentrating on my studies, the pain and stress of sitting through three hours in an exam hall, but it was primarily the fact that the content matter had become so inextricably linked with the accident and subsequent issues that it had caused a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. He also felt that the stress of wrangling with yet another bunch of bureaucrats was having an adverse effect on my overall health and preventing me from getting better.

I sent off the letter.

On Friday I received the reply.

It is with regret that they have turned my application for aegrotat credit down again because they still don’t believe that I am unable to continue my studies permanently.

I can progress to a level 3 complaint if I want to.

They even came out with a heap of sanctimonious claptrap about their compassion and understanding for students with disabilities and that they could make alternative exam arrangements for me should I wish to take the course again and give them some more money.

I don’t understand their logic.

I have no intention of studying with this organisation again – ergo – permanent end of studies.

Both exams were failed by a couple of points and I had done all the work to pass the rest of the course.

I have provided them with more medical evidence than you can throw a stick at – and despite the fact that the people making the decision are not medically qualified – or psychologists even – they have the power to rubbish everything my GP has told them and branded me a liar.

Do they think I am going to sneak back and take another course if they give me the degree I have worked so hard for?

Is it really just about the money or have I come across some petty-minded group of administrators who move the goal posts according to their whims and don’t like giving in?

Hub and I have talked and I think it is about time I drew a line under this farce.

I learned a great deal in the past six years, so the knowledge for the degree is mine and nothing can take that away.

The establishment that I have been studying with has shown a total lack of compassion, understanding and integrity so – is their degree really worth the paper it is printed on anyway?

In my opinion they have moved away from their original ethos and become greedy and grasping in an effort to compete with other educational establishments.

I want no more of it then.

To be honest, I never use the string of initials after my name that I’ve earned over the years.

I need to think about my health, my family and friends – not a bunch of anal retentives wandern amongst concrete cows  whilst they make up rules to suit themselves.

Shut the door  – close that particular book – and move on.

With particular thanks to Paul McGee  – The SUMO Guy

http://www.thesumoguy.com/

Oh and Flower, if you are still reading this and are about to put a another thinly disguised rant about me on FaceAche – don’t bother – just unfriend me please – time you moved on too.

 

 



 

 

 

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‘Pandora – Memories of a free spirit’

 

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Our Lovely Friend and I were talking about the old times yesterday; about people who had touched our lives and left a mark before moving away.

Some of the memories we shared are best pushed aside, for the feelings they evoked were not conducive to happiness and harmony – but anger and an awareness that there are some people who will never be satisfied with what they have.

It is my opinion – and mine only – that they should just do one and stop whingeing about their self-centred and self-imposed lot.

There was one person however, that we both remembered with huge fondness, a person who touched our lives briefly like some marvellous multicoloured bird, who flitted in, wove some magic in our lives and then disappeared again leaving us with only rumours of what had happened to her.

Let’s call her Pandora – for she opened a box of new experiences and ideas that surprised and delighted some of us but irritated and created envy and resentment in others.

At the time we knew her, Pandora was married and had five children, the youngest two from her husband, one of his and two of hers from other relationships.

She was flamboyant.  Tattooed and pierced but not in a way that made you think she was doing it to gain attention or punish herself. They were just a part of Pandora.   Her dress sense outraged the mothers at the school gate but she smiled throughout and rarely expressed negativity about their attitude, nor about those in our little group who did not exactly seek her company.

Like Hub and I, she had lost babies and it was a piece of common ground that we shared almost immediately when we started to talk.  Under the trappings, Pandora was warm. kind and understanding; I think that LF and I warmed to her right from the beginning and were pleased that she wanted to become a part of our ever-extending circle. Our children were of a similar age and we shared the delights of parent and toddler group, and playschool as well as coffee mornings, lazy lunches and girls’ nights in.

Over time,  even some of those who had been put off by Pandora’s style  began to realise that although she was different, she maintained the same core values as the rest of us.  She loved her children and would do anything for them, affectionate and always interested but defensive as a she-lion should anything or anyone threaten to harm her brood.

Pandora was a natural and very funny raconteur.  Her life hadn’t always been a happy one and I think that we knew that although she laughed about her past, events had left their mark on her and there were some issues that she could never fully open up about.

Uni Boy and Pandora’s youngest son went to playschool together.  The two of them flooded the boys toilets by blocking up the urinal outlet ‘to see what would happen’.  They both had enquiring minds and given UB’s subsequent leaning towards scientific research, this early exploration is unsurprising.

Playschool staff tried to put the blame on Pandora’s son – he was a few months older and besides, she was a tattooed biker chick and I was conventional by comparison.  UB could stay but his partner in crime had to leave.

Pandora defended him admirably and once I’d got the explanation from UB, I was able to point out that it had been UB’s idea and that Pandora’s son had just been an admiring audience.  The threat to expel one child and not the other disappeared at this point.  I lost my respectable reputation at that point though and had to washing up and cleaning tables in reparation.

At the end of term Pandora and I were allowed to take our sons on the playschool summer trip to an adventure farm  – but only if we promised to supervise them constantly.  In the end it was Pandora and myself that were badly behaved as we giggled and snorted at the tackiness of the run down farm. The trailer ride round the farm was smelly and bumpy; perched on damp hay bales you either laughed or cried.  The trip through the trees had us both in hysterics as our straight-faced fellow mummies failed to see why we found the pieces of female torso posed artistically in the branches so amusing.  Well, you had to be there.

I’ve been back since and the trailer ride hasn’t changed, the hay still smells and the tree decorations remain the same. Hub found it highly amusing too.

At one girly night in, Pandora had me convinced (she didn’t have to work too hard) that Glayva (whisky liqueur)  would be very good for my ropey chest.

I had previously avoided whisky-related products since an unfortunate New Year celebration with one of my uncles.  Bad idea to try and match him drink for drink anyway but we were drinking whisky.

I didn’t eat for three days.

On the fourth day I could just about cope with tomato juice and worcester sauce – no vodka either thanks.

But Glayva tasted of honey and slipped own SO easily.

I vaguely remember being transported home in a minibus taxi at the end of the night, and being the last one to be dropped off.

I was very, very drunk but after Hub had helped me indoors and held back my hair as I hurled, my chest did indeed feel better.

My stomach did not,

Pandora was very apologetic and kept the Glayva locked away in the cupboard after that.

I tried to practice moderation in all things after that.

During the summer, Pandora and her family went off to the seaside in a caravan for six weeks.

It was idyllic for the children as their father only came down on the weekends  this lovely gregarious soul was starved of adult company during the week.

Hub and I took the boys down to visit for the day.  They were in their element and soon borne off to the beach by Pandora’s tanned and agile brood.

She was obviously pleased to see us and a good time was had by all but Hub and I both felt that there was a sadness in her that we’d never witnessed before. She clung to me as we left and I wish I had been less distracted by my own children’s bickering.  I wish that I had stayed a little longer and asked her how she really felt.

Other friends went down to visit and expressed their concerns at the effect the isolation was having on her.

They came back at summer’s end.

Pandora had changed.

She was always interested in alternatives, and this curiosity was probably another aspect of her appeal.

When she came returned to us, her talk was of paganism and witchcraft.  She’d become friendly with a group of people on the caravan site who were seriously into wicca.  There was little of the Pandora that we knew and loved left and the two younger children seemed clingy and no longer carefree.

Within a month,  Pandora and her husband had separated.  He moved out of the house and Pandora stated that she was in a relationship with one of her pagan friends, and that she would be moving away with the two youngest children to join them soon.

She left without telling anyone in the end; we were never sure if we had ceased to matter to her or whether it was because she couldn’t bear to say goodbye.

We hoped it was the latter.

There were lots of rumours and who is to say what was true and what wasn’t?

It was said that Pandora’s new partner was involved with drugs.

It was said that he went to jail for a brief spell but that due to the information he passed on to the police he was let out early.

It was said that Pandora and her children became a part of the witness protection scheme as a consequence of her partner’s information, and had to change their identities.

It was said that Pandora had another baby.

Pandora’s boy would be 21 now and her girl would  be 19 – the same ages roughly as our own boys.

I often wonder where they are and what they are doing.

Where is Pandora and is she happy?

Does she ever think of us and does she realise how much of a warm glow she spread through our little community all those years ago?

 

 

 

 

 

‘Oh no, we forgot to get the biscuits’

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Did everyone enjoy the Star Wars stuff?

The most original for me was the following Tweet:

“Why is it that all Star Wars fans have lisps?”

Moving swiftly on – whilst all that jollity was occurring, the kitchen was finally plastered and the beautiful boy with no teeth made an attempt to clear up the mess using much water.

Not a success, but he tried bless him.

Dusty windows,  dusty, dirty doors and a thin layer of plaster dust on everything and everyone – even upstairs.

Wheeze, wheeze, puff, puff.

The electrician came back in to move the meter and finish off the spotlight holes – and turn off the electricity for over an hour – much to Gap Boy’s chagrin.

The chief builder (who calls me ‘Boss’ so I must be a bit important) came in on Sunday morning and delivered loads of flat pack cardboard boxes – astonishingly assisted by a usually uncooperative GB.  He also put the radiator back on in the kitchen so we aren’t quite as chilly as we were.

It was the plastering’s benefit though – not ours.

I mastered the art of washing up in the bathroom – thanks to Lovely Friend who advised me to see this kitchen replacement as a kind of indoors camping trip.

Minimal crockery and cutlery, and dump the dirty stuff into a washing up bowl to wash in the toilets when you can’t possibly eat anything else off it.

Hub and I decided that putting sherry trifle on the plate that you’ve just eaten steak and salad from was maybe roughing it a bit too much.

Hub does not like washing up bowls so we had to purchase one specially.

Carting the dirty crocks around in the washing up bowl was rather like being back at work  – although the five steps to my bathroom sink are far more acceptable than the route march I used to have to make up and down the stairs from our bijou office to the communal office sink.

At least I was allowed to wash up at my last two jobs.  Prior to that I worked in a team where people fell over themselves to make hot drinks and wash up – as a more palatable alternative to talking to the public and doing some work – I preferred the latter.

Our diet since the Krappy Kitchen disappeared has been – alternative.

GB has been on protein only so that he could slim down and wear the American football costume for his friend’s party.  After falling off the protein wagon spectacularly by whizzing up to BK and filling his rucksack with burgers, he now seems to be existing on packets of cooked crispy bacon (not from Sainsburys as it is far too flaccid).

Hub continues to eat healthily and has barely deviated from his normal routine – smartypants.

I grew tired of cold chicken – yes really – one can you know!

The weather wasn’t good enough for the disposable barbecues and you can’t live on double cheeseburgers – or KFC  or kebabs  or Chinese or Indian or fish and chips – for very long 🙂

After rummaging in a nearby open box – I found it  – the answer to my dreams of  freshly cooked flesch!

The old GF Grill came up trumps.

So far we have cooked steak, bacon and sausages on it.  Cleaning it is slightly problematic and entails the (now) much used washing up bowl and at least one kitchen roll.

It was very nice to see Builder Boss anyway and even more wonderful to see my kitchen bits arriving.

He then advised that the lads were going out on the lash on Sunday night but quite fancied coming in after lunch on the Bank Holiday Monday to put the units together.

I made a note to myself to pick up some more biscuits for them.

We went shopping and I left the note at home.

KRAFT moment.

The builder boys (two of them) turned up after lunch as arranged and I was back on tea-making duties (bleurgh) – they aren’t as self-sufficient as the plasterer who brings his domestic effects with him. They looked a little delicate – it was a good night apparently.

No biscuits 😦

Luckily Hub and GB decided to take the Scoob for walkies and obtain biscuits and bin liners en route.

You can’t take Scoob to the shops on your own.  I doubt if he would  get stolen but his aggressive wuffing might damage his reputation as our loveable soppy dog.

And – we are back in the present.  The lads are cracking on and I saw my Belfast sink this morning.  Haven’t had the opportunity to stroke it yet though.

The worktop is being sorted today, tiles and paint ordered and a painter and tiler lined up.

We may have our new kitchen by the weekend – fingers crossed.

The washing pile is beginning to look rather scary but that is probably the worst thing about having the kitchen replaced.  GB wasn’t particularly impressed by my attempts at hand washing his underarmour.

“Why is it still wet?”

“Because I can’t get as much water out of it as the spin cycle can.”

“Hmmm. Are you sure you tried?”

Reader – the air turned blue and GB was left in no doubt as to who will be doing his hand washing in the future.

His solution to most kitchen-related issues has been to retreat to his man cave with R Whites lemonade and the aforementioned crispy bacon.

Hub has  been at work through most of the trauma but has done his best to pat and sooth me and the Scoob when he comes home.

Scoob has probably been the most traumatised of us all really but his ranting wuffs are now limited to the first half an hour of the day. He is sleeping peacefully by my feet right now, and earlier on, was quite content to watch the chaps through the garden gate  – provided that he knew where Hub and I were.

Dare I say, he has even become attached to a couple of them – not my poor toothless boy however, who has learned to give Scoob a wide berth and not put his hoodie up when working outside.

I was particularly touched this morning when one of the chaps invited me into the kitchen and explained that if they put the cupboards at the level of the tower which will contain the oven and microwave, I – being a mere 5’5″ – might have difficulties accessing them.

I have a little red stool because I can’t reach the windows.  I had assumed that I would need it for the cupboards too.

Not so, they did a quick reccy about my height and have micro-adjusted accordingly.

So glad that we went out for the biscuits.

‘I couldn’t stay away’

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I confess.

It has been two days since my last blog in the April Showers section of my life and I couldn’t stay away any longer.

Here we are in the merry old month of May when lovers sing, hey ring a ding a ding,and Gap Boy (dressed as an American football player) went off to a party last night so we had peas and carrots all night long :-).

On the downside – the artex dust has made me wheezy  – so I have inhalers – and caused a rash – so I’m on itchy cream and antihistamine, I’m on antibiotics again and – oh well, that’s it really – except to say that my GP is an extremely nice man and a very good doctor.

So – mustn’t grumble  – because the sun is up and shining very beautifully over the rooftops, Hub is catching up on much-needed sleep, Scoob hasn’t realised I’m awake yet and the kitchen I have longed for and dreamed about for years is slowly taking shape,

No sign of a text from GB asking to be picked up from the party/police station/friend’s house, so I assuming – perhaps foolishly – that all is well there.

Uni Boy will undoubtedly perform his duty call this weekend; he knows that I worry far too much and that the only way to shut me up is to make a call once a week to catch up on life here in the slow lane.  He is very busy at Uni on his final year exams, but is also aware of the fact that his bedroom is full of the Chilly Twins and a number of large cardboard boxes.

We all love the Chilly Twins.  They sit there very quietly in their Manhattan Silver glory, still pristine despite the layers of brick and plaster dust that cover everything else in the house.

GB very kindly filled up the water dispenser for me – forgetting to check that it was totally empty first  – so we have a very soggy instruction manual for the water filter.

“What a stupid place to leave the instructions!”

I sniggered quietly at my roaring boy.

The facility to get chilled water instantly pleases me extremely and I look forward to the day when the Chilly Twins are in their permanent home and I can pour myself a quick glass of icy water whilst doing the domestic goddess bit in the new kitchen.  I particularly like the fact that a little blue light comes on when you press your glass against the thing that makes the water come out. I’m easily pleased.

It is good to delight in simple things.

Continuing with the kitchen theme  – and if you are bored by my obsession kindly take the easy way out and stop reading now.

The inspector came and pronounced the RSJs very satisfactory (rolled steel joists – wit woo), the acro props (oh how au fait am I with builder-speak! Not really – Bezzie Mate told me what they were called – he knows such stuff) have been removed and are lying outside on the grass.

All the rubble and kitchen detritus has also been removed.  A very sweet elderly man in  a flatbed came and took it.  I was a bit concerned that he was doing all the heavy lifting whilst the two young chaps on the flatbed were pointing out what he should pick up and pass to them next.  Younger generation eh! Mock Tsk.

The electrickery is almost finished now – which is just as well because yesterday saw the arrival of the Plasterer!

He brought with him the sweet boy who has no front teeth but a beautiful face (until he smiles – at which point my maternal heart goes out to him and wants to whip him up the road to the friendly dentist who has done such a great job of keeping the teeth of this family on the straight and narrow).

They are very self-sufficient.  Not only do they have their own ghetto blaster, they also bring their own kettle and tea-making facilities – I was allowed to make the first one but after that the boy took over domestic duties.

I have a new box of biscuits for them today.

I thought the plastering would be quieter than the demolition and the channelling but the banging of the lump hammer has been replaced by the frequent sound of the metal stepladder being dragged across the floor.

These are small things in comparison with the revelation that the Plasterer and his boy sing like angels – well angels singing along to Radio One and covered in plaster dust. If I thought that the builders were tuneful, then they are knocked well and truly into a cocked hat  by the glorious abandoned trilling with which my plastering is accompanied.

I am delighting in their happy noise and anyway – I’ve found the button that switches on the subtitles for the TV now.

When the chaps leave for the day Hub and I have been wandering about in the echoey vastness that has replaced the Krappy Kitchen.  We both have daft looks on our faces as we remember parties in the past and look forward to finding out just how many lovely friends we can get in here for the kitchen-warming.

Enough of all this.

I must find the itchy cream, get dressed, sort out the Scoobs, enjoy the sunshine and the flowers in the garden whilst he wees, open up the kitchen, boil the kettle, make my breakfast, wake Hub (much later) and smile like a loon as the singing starts.

I also need to acknowledge that without the careful planning and shrewd investments of our much-missed Ronnie, none of this would be possible.  So Lovely Mum and Ronnie, if you are up there watching the chaos, listening to the singing and laughing at my cack-handed attempts at making tea  (bleurgh), thank you for making sure that we are all so well looked after.

I wish you – and all the other beloveds up there in the clouds – could be here in person to join in the kitchen party but it is never very hard to conjure up your smiling faces – we will raise more than a glass or two to you in gratitude and know that you will always be with us.

In the words of a friend – Happy Days xxx