Easter, My Birthday and a Crazy Cheese-Rolling Festival: 12 April – 17 July 2009

photomania-ee35175adc50b5f27f64a46b58c01339Sunday 12 April: Easter

I had found a huge chicken roast at my local Sainsbury and had organised for Carmen, Rob and Zoë to join me at my place. Seeing as all of us have family in other countries, I thought that the next best thing to save us from the familyless Easter Sunday doldrums was to spend it together as friends. I did the roast and potatoes, while Carmen and Rob brought roast vegetables and fruit juice and Zoë brought pudding and juice. It was a lovely day and we spend the hours happily chatting, eating and having a good time. I had not had a roast since leaving Cape Town.

I miss having family roasts. Life gets so busy, that we often forget about the small things: like family roasts and chatting with ones mother over cups of tea. I took it all for granted and now, all I want to do is see my family around a table with roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding in front of us or spend a couple of hours just talking to my mother while sipping cups of Earl Gray. I wish I had appreciated those moments more and I wish I had initiated them more often.

Wednesday 15 April

Today, we voted. Off I went this morning to Trafalgar Square and stood in a long line for an hour in order to place my mark on a ballot sheet. My thumb was marked in turn, before I returned from inside South Africa House. I went for a walk and ended up eating lunch on a bench at Embankment, right by the Thames. On my way back, I found a South African shop and bought an Iron Brew. Scotland produce something called Iron Brew, but it is orange and is used as a soberiser after a night of binge-drinking. I’ve tried it, just for the sake of trying it, and have found it awful. No wonders people only drink it when they’re hung-over. How else would you not take note of its foul taste.

So, with a South African Iron Brew in hand, I phoned Sarah and found that she had just joined the queue and was waiting to make her mark, in turn. I stood with her and we chatted for about an hour in the same queue I had already stood in that morning. Call me crazy, but I was not doing anything else more pressing that day and I preferred to stand about chatting with a friend than going home and doing nothing.

After Sarah had voted, we left and went to Foyles Bookshop. It’s huge! I bought a book on Asperger’s, thinking that I could do with all the reading matter that I could find. There’s even a cafe there in which Sarah and I sat and drank some coffee. Exhausted, I left. Satisfied that I had done my part for my country of birth and grateful that I had been allowed to do so. We almost had that privilege denied us.

Friday 17 April

Friday nights, mean going out to a pub. It’s a great way to finish off a hard week of hectic work. Not that I’ve done anything really productive this week, but I still like the principle of going out on a Friday to welcome in the weekend and its liberation. Tonight, I joined Zoë in Richmond and went to an O’Neill pub where I was hit upon by a man in the strangest fashion. He came up to me and told me that I was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen and that he was hopelessly in love with me. He then kissed my hand before suddenly disappearing into the crowd again.

We finished off our night out by going to a great place called Giraffe, where we had hot chocolate and a chocolate pudding.

Monday 20 April

I began work today. I love this school and could not have chosen better. I find the staff helpful and understanding. They are quick to advise and make me feel part of the family. It’s hard to fit into the system as the year has progressed quite far and everyone knows their roles. I must learn all that is required of me and all the policies and so forth.

My principle role at the school is key worker for a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. This I shall do in the mornings. After this, I get two hours in which I have lunch and do some preparation before beginning again with the after-school club. Here, we do things like gardening, crafts and sports.

But, today was a day of meetings. I met with the principal, who gave me some much needed advice on how do deal with the boy and his difficulties. Then, I met with the boy’s parents and the child councillor. We tried to set up plans to make the transition from holidays to school term as less traumatic for the boy as possible (I’ll call him Danny).

Saturday 2 May

My friend, Sian, came to London and I met up with her today. We went shopping along Regent’s Street and I’ve just discovered some amazing shops. Zara and H & M are officially my favourite places to shop for great fashion.

Thursday 7 May

It was my birthday today. Being a week night, I ended up going to watch the premier of Star Trek at my local VUE cinema and then bought a Burger King. The best part of the day was when my parents called me in the morning to wish me a good day. I didn’t tell anyone at work. In fact, it was a rather horrid day with an emergency meeting and bus rides all over the place.

Monday 25 May

photomania-0d118b9b18c6e8db46bb57ab507d5dc1Zoë and I went to watch the cheese rolling competition in Gloucestershire. These crazy people actually run down a vertical hill in pursuit of a wheel of cheese. They literally break bones and dislocate joints. I know, because I saw it happen. I’m the sort of person who would process break every bone in her body. Not to mention that I would probably loose every well placed tooth my parents spent a small fortune on correcting. But it was fun. Zoë and I took the train to Stroud and then we got on board a bus. We had to fight the thousands of people all crammed up along the hill for a good viewing place. And it lasted ages. St John’s Ambulance services and mountain rescue were all there assisting. And they were certainly needed. Every time they raced, people had to be loaded into the waiting ambulances. Then the races would be delayed because they needed the ambulances in case of emergencies. One idiot even had to be brought down the hill on a stretcher by the mountain rescue because he had fallen out of a tree. People were heckling him all the way down. This caused even more delays. It was certainly interesting and eccentric – I had a wonderful day!

Friday 17 July

It has been a long time since I wrote. I’ve just been so busy and everything has been tied up with the boy I call Danny. I am not able to write about him and nothing much has happened in my life that does not revolve around him or working at the school. I think life in London has become more normalised. I earn money to pay my bills and see my friends.

What I can write is that sometimes I love London and sometimes I just want to escape it and it’s claustrophobic hold on me. All windows look into other windows and the buses are loud and the people are always there and I can never escape the cloying feeling of humanity in all its demands upon my senses. I end up running to other places like Brighton and Dover. I explore these little places and only then do I feel free. The best was when I went to St Margaret by the Cliffs which is about 15 minutes from Dover. It was beautiful and quiet. I sat below the huge white cliffs and just relaxed in the sun on the fallen white boulders and enjoyed the sea and the waves splashing on the stone beach. There was no one close to me and I was in complete solitude. I look forward to moments like these and it’s why I work long hours to afford such luxuries.

Travelling in and out of London is so much easier than back in Cape Town. Here, I have the independence to just hop on a cheap bus and go anywhere. I would even go over to Europe, but that requires a visa. What annoys me, is that I’ve been so consumed by my job. I worry and stress about it and what I really want in life. I’ve become so embroiled in Danny’s life and his issues that I cannot break from them. But just when I came to a stand in the road where I could not see the way, so a light was shone. Danny will not be coming back to this school. I therefore am no longer someone’s key worker and that decision has been decided for me by fate. I have spoken with the headteacher and I shall now be the new private singing teacher – a job I have been craving for the past few months. I just had to nag and nag until finally I got a meeting with her and had it confirmed.

This past week was amazing. Julian came over for six days and London was a blast. We travelled by train to Oxfordshire and stayed with my landlady’s parents in the country. They looked after us so amazingly. I have not eaten like that in months! They took us into Oxford and we explored some of the colleges. We managed to get into see St John’s College which is one I particularly wanted to see. I saw the St John’s College Choir sing when Mum and I were in Grahamstown a few years back and it has always stood out in my mind. We were able to walk about the grounds and see inside the church. It was magnificent. I wish I could study there. If I had a wish, it would be to study a Masters in Philosophy (Musicology). Oxford is a dream I may yet achieve. But there are so many more dreams to live that it is not possible to realise them all. Sometimes dreams are not achievable. So when they are not, then it is time to move onto the next one. That’s the thing about Music. You learn to shake the dust off and get on to the next thing on the list.

Julian and I saw a number of musicals: Priscilla, La Cage Aux Folles and Avenue Q. They were all amazing and such great choices (well done Julian). Each night, Julian and I would hit the town. We walked along Embankment and just chilled while the rain poured. I’ve never experienced London like that before. For the first time, I was experiencing London as a wild tourist and not as a practical and responsible teacher. One night, we just sat on my scaffolding and talked and talked while catching up on the four months we’d not seen each other.

One evening, we could hear a woman screaming from an apartment close by me. I did not take much note of this as my neighbours tend to be quite loud and I am often hearing the council-flat occupants at night. The children here are particularly loud and shrill. As we looked out of my lounge window, we saw a police car arrive. The officers were admitted into the apartment and the screams stopped. While we watched, some of the council-flat occupants exited their homes and stood talking in about how they had been listening to the woman’s screams all day. The police finally exited the flat and left. About half an hour later, the screams began again with renewed gusto. After about an hour of unabated noise, I phoned 999 and told the police that the screams were still continuing. It sounded as though she were being tortured. Within ten minutes the police had arrived. They entered the house and I went to bed. Neither Julian not I heard the woman again.

One last thing I should write about: My staff day out – We all arrived nice and early at Liverpool Street Station and waited to be told which train we would be boarding towards some undisclosed destination. While waiting, our head mistress arrived and was quite pleased with herself for having arrived so early when she is usually always late. But she stood around talking instead of collecting the train tickets that cost her £300. At the last minute, she dashed off to collect them and told the gate guard that he needed to let all 27 of us through. He could not do so without tickets. So, she collected the tickets, ran straight onto the train and we watched it depart with our head mistress and all 27 tickets in her hand. Having no idea of what we were supposed to do now, we milled around the train station in complete confusion while our head mistress realised her error on an express train towards somewhere unknown. Finally, she was able to phone the powers-that-be and organise for us to get another slower train. We finally met up with her at a small deserted train station in the middle of nowhere. It was like a purgatory station and she sat in the middle of it, knees crossed on a bench with no one else in sight.

The surprise was amazing! It was a Tudor mansion called Kentwell near Bury St Edmund in Sussex. We picnicked before converting our pounds into ‘groats’ and entering a dark tunnel. On walking back into the light, we were transported into the 16th Century. The estate is privately owned and had employed 300 volunteers to act as real-life representations of that 16th Century life. They spoke and dressed in that century’s fashion and even carried out work about the estate. They beat cream with their hands and made tallow candles. They wove and slept, played music on historical instruments and made their own ales, beer and cider. It was truly an amazing experience.

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