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Back to School

I had my first day back at university today. It was... strange.

I took Dinah to nursery at 9 and spent most of the day in the library before my first and only lecture began at 4. Time in the library was spent with Mechanics and General Relativity textbooks, trying both to refresh my knowledge and prepare for learning something new. I think it was helpful -- I was not completely at sea during the lecture, which I was afraid of. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to speak to any of my new classmates because I had to rush off to pick up Dinah. The lecture may be moved to earlier in the day, which would be excellent as I would then have none lasting so late that I have to run half the way to the nursery.

I have to do 28 extra ECTS points because of the difference in content between my BSc and the BSc offered here. Hopefully I will get a chance to speak to the course director about this during the week -- I know I can postpone some of my courses until next year, but which ones should I postpone and which should I take now?? Difficult question because of course some courses are prerequisites for others; what makes it even more tricky is that some of them share the same examination, so I have to take them at the same time. I hope very much to resolve this soon.

The extra ECTS points mean I may have to do an extra semester or two -- this is actually a good thing as it would mean that Dinah could stay at the university's nursery until she starts kindergarten, as opposed to going somewhere else for six months because she of course won't be eligible for her current nursery once I'm not a student anymore.

Dinah has been doing great, after a very gradual (re-)introduction to nursery life. The staff's reports at the end of the day have almost always been "she's done really well" and she seems to like going there -- at the weekend she kept saying she wanted to 'go to the peefa' -- ('peefa' = her pronounciation of 'Kita', the German for nursery).

It's been interesting comparing this nursery with the one she went to in England. On the whole things seem much more relaxed. Examples:

No form to fill out to give them permission to apply suncream.
No special form to fill in if I want someone else to pick her up.
No photo of me required so they can properly identify me when I fetch her.
No 'accident at home' form to fill out every time she bumps her head during non-nursery hours.
No warnings not to let anyone in the door with you.
No thumbprint lock on the door -- just an entry code.
No uniform for the staff.
No sheet of paper each day informing me exactly from when to when she slept, how many wet or dirty nappies she had, what and how much she ate for lunch.

A difference I really like is that the three groups of kids they have aren't separated by age. They're all mixed-age groups, from babies to kindergarten age, so Dinah can learn from the older ones and practise being gentle with the little ones :D

And she's picking up some German! I have no doubt that she'll be fluent in no time :)
I last updated over a month ago and I feel like so much has happened since then.

Something which has still not happened is anyone employing me. I am trying not to let this get to me, but sometimes it's tough. I am forever strapped for cash. I have applied to start a teacher training course in September and I really really want to get in. True, it would make me more strapped for cash for a while -- if I don't find a job I'll likely be borrowing from my parents to fund it, even though it's not that expensive -- but I am more and more convinced that I really want to be a maths teacher. So please cross your fingers for me on that front :)

Dinah and I went to the UK for my graduation a few weeks ago. We stayed in Oxford for a couple of days, went up to Leicester for the ceremony and then spent the weekend in London before coming home. From my point of view the graduation ceremony was pretty boring (my BSc ceremony was more interesting), but apparently Dinah had a fantastic time! She was sitting in the back with my dad and stepmum and was dancing to all the ceremonial music and joining in with all the applause. When it was my turn to walk across the stage my dad lifted her up to see and told her that was me. After that, each time someone walked across the stage to get their hand shaken she would point excitedly and say "Mummmy there!" Eventually she got fed up and was taken out to the room specially set aside for fed up children, where my dad read to her and a nice lady gave her a balloon. I think she enjoyed herself more than I did!

Our trip to London was fantastically timed because we got to join in with downybearded1's birthday celebration! We went bowling, where Dinah again had a fantastic time dancing to the music and even scored a strike. I can't believe my little girl is so confident and outgoing. We met up the next day as well and went to Ed's Diner, where Dinah found a slightly older girl to play with. I really need to find more opportunities for her to interact with other kids.

Also, I love London. I do sometimes think I would like to move back someday.

Dinah is growing more independent by the day. When I take her to the playground she makes me stand a good distance away from the slides so she can go on them all by herself. We went ice skating the other day and, after holding onto me with one hand and the wall with the other for about five minutes, she just... let go. And refused to hold anybody's hand anymore. And skated! She has two blades on each skate and did fall over a few times (each time she did she would wait to be picked up, exclaim "Dinah fell over!" and be off again). But considering the last time I took her (only two weeks ago) I had to support her under her arms the whole time, I was amazed. Big girl!

I've been cast in my theatre group's next play! I'm deliriously excited about this -- I haven't been in a play in over three years. It's a small part, but a fun one; perfect, really, since I won't have too many lines to learn. The rest of the cast is great, too. They're mostly people I've known for a while, and I feel really comfortable with the whole ensemble. We met last weekend to record our lines for those who learn better by listening to them, and rehearsals start soon. We're performing at the end of May. I can't wait.

Across from where we live we have communal gardens/allotments. My mum has one almost directly opposite our building. When we got up on Saturday morning all the entrances had been cordoned off and there was a policeman standing guard. More and more police kept arriving, but nobody knew what was going on until that night, when one of the local newspaper's websites was updated with a short news item. A passer-by had seen smoke coming from one of the garden sheds and called the fire brigade. When they arrived to put out the fire they found the body of a man. Today they finally announced his identity: He was a North-African illegal immigrant, probably looking for shelter on a cold night. He lit a fire and then died, likely in his sleep, from smoke poisoning. He was nineteen.

We all feel pretty down about this... As my mum put it, we were asleep in our nice warm beds while he was dying across the street because he wanted to keep warm. It's so... unfair.

I am starting a baking blog (it's going to be here). There are a lot of baking blogs around, but I haven't seen any specifically devoted to baking with a toddler. I bake with Dinah a lot and have been asked how I do it more than once -- so if my blog can help other people to have fun in the kitchen with their little ones, so much the better! Plus it's a good excuse to take photos of Dinah with cake mix all over her face. The only problem I'm having is that I would like the blog to be a little more anonymous than my LJ is -- specifically, I don't want to use Dinah's real name (though I'm totally fine with posting pictures of her... is that contradictory?). I am not sure what else to call her, though. Perhaps just DD, because apart from being the standard abbreviation for Darling Daughter/Daughter Dearest it also happens to be her initials... but I think it would draw people in more for her to have an actual name. Dee? I don't know. Ideas, anyone?

Dinah going on the slide "by self"

(Also? The LJ spellchecker does not recognise the word "blog". Seriously.)

Feelin' Good

Am writing. Whee! :)

(Such a rush once I get going. Have not felt this way for months. Words flowing out of fingertips. Awesome.)

There and back again

Dinah and I flew to the UK on Sunday for my Grandad's funeral the following Wednesday. The fact that it was Sunday is significant because apparently this means that there are no direct trains from Gatwick Airport to Reading on Sundays. Instead, to get to Oxford we were advised by the nice man behind the desk and his computer to get a train to Clapham Junction, change there for a train to Reading, and then finally to get a train from there to Oxford. The journey was supposed to take about two and a half hours, getting us to Oxford at 16:35.

So. We got on the train to Clapham and I called my dad to let him know when to pick us up from Oxford station. Started slowing down when we reached Wandsworth (though we didn't stop there) and then just never seemed to pick up speed again. No announcements or other explanations for the delay offered, but quite a stampede once we finally reached Clapham when half the passengers tore across the station (not an easy thing to do with a pushchair and large backpack...) to the platform where the Reading train was just leaving. Resulting in a large group of people cursing and generally feeling cheated. Next train to Reading departing half an hour later.

I use my trusty free-internet-enabled phone to find out if the best way to get to Oxford is to wait for this next train. Turns out it's not -- the half-hour later train will mean we eventually arrive in Oxford a full hour later than our original ETA. We can instead get a train to Basingstoke, change there for Reading and then get a train which should have us in Oxford by 17:05. I call my dad to let him know what's going on, then we're off to find the Basingstoke train.

(Basingstoke incidentally is where my dad's twin brother lives, and is one of the places my stepdad was offered a job when the company he worked for went bust in 1991 -- the other two being Bracknell and, of course, Bern. B was clearly a good letter for him at that time.)

We arrive in Basingstoke and go to the platform the train we intend to take will depart from, where we find that the preceding train to Reading, delayed by three minutes, just pulling into the station. To my great delight I see that this train then goes straight on to stop at Oxford! We hop onboard (as much as we could hop, anyway) and I call my dad yet again to tell him that we may be arriving a little earlier after all -- my phone is playing up so I can't check exactly when. Instead I wait until the ticket inspector appears and ask him when we are due to arrive in Oxford.

Can you guess what he said?

Yup. 16:35.

After all that hassle and changing of plans and all those phonecalls to my dad, we ended up on the exact same train as we were supposed to be on from the start -- only that instead of getting on at Reading, its three minute delay meant we could just catch it at Basingstoke.

Ahh. British rail service.


On Monday the weather was dire but a sudden sunny spell happened at around 2:30 so I hurried Dinah down the road to the playground. I had just put her on the swing when it started to pour with rain, which Dinah thought was hilarious (a reaction far more positive than mine was). However the sun was still shining, so I turned around to see if there might be a rainbow... and there was. The brightest rainbow I've seen in years, a great arc across the sky. It made the rain more than worth it. I pointed it out to Dinah, who had never seen a rainbow before, and she was equally enchanted. It disappeared after a minute or so and she was greatly disappointed -- even more so when I told her that we had to leave the playground now to get out of the rain.

On Tuesday downybearded1 visited and we had a lovely afternoon in town trying not to spend money -- this was after my stepmum gave me some to spend on lunch at Jamie Oliver's restaurant. We had the truffle pasta and it was gooood. But now I miss you again, Beardy :(

Wednesday was the actual funeral. Dinah was very well behaved during the service, only interrupting once with a not-that-loud cry of "milk!". I obliged and she was quiet for the remainder. My uncle read Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, my dad's cousin (arguably my Grandad's favourite nephew) gave the eulogy, including the story of how, after my Grandad met Elvis, he bought drinks for everyone in the pub, something noteworthy because, to quote, this was something "never known to happen before or since!" Which is my Grandad to a tee :D

My dad read one of his poems and we went outside for the burial, where my great-aunt complained about the cold. It was quite freezing.

The wake was held in the conservative club just up the road, where the only vegetarian food in the huge spread consisted of sandwiches, cake and chocolate biscuits. This isn't unusual but as my dad is also a vegetarian I was kind of hoping there would be more choice. I guess he was too preoccupied with more important things to worry about the catering.

The chocolate biscuits were right at Dinah's eye level and I couldn't find anywhere to put them out of her reach. Consequently, she helped herself to what was quite possibly more chocolate biscuits than the total number she's ever had in her life before. Thankfully I didn't notice any ill effects apart from a significant lack of appetite when we went out for dinner later.

Dinah had a fantastic time seeing all the relatives. I'm really glad she was so jolly; it kept the day from becoming too gloomy.

We flew back home on Thursday (no train issues this time, thankfully) and awoke on Friday morning to SNOW! :D

Or, as Dinah calls it: "NO!"

(Very confusing!)

14th Nov, 2010

My grandfather died this morning at 3:20AM. I am so glad that Dinah and I got to see him last week.

We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and my dad met us at the station and drove us straight to my grandad's nursing home, where we met up with my stepmum, my uncle and one of my dad's cousins. The painkillers were doing their job and my grandad was pretty jolly, if a little low on energy. He did sing Elvis Presley's Teddy Bear for us -- he loved Elvis and would often randomly break into Elvis songs. We visited again the next day and he seemed a bit more alert. He reminisced a little about the time he met Elvis backstage in Toronto and then gave us a rendition of All Shook Up. My dad's cousin jokingly told Dinah that my grandad's name was 'Beel', which is how most of the non-native-speaking staff pronounce it, and she delightedly repeated, 'Beel!' and pointed at him with a huge grin on her face.

On Thursday they had started him on morphine and he was barely conscious when we visited. Dinah got a little upset and I had to take her into the lounge to look at the fish while my dad and stepmum spent some time with him. Then on Friday we flew back to Switzerland.

My grandad's GP said that he was 'living on borrowed time', but that he couldn't guess at how much would be borrowed -- my grandad had held on more than once before when he wasn't expected to. I think I am glad really that not too much time was borrowed. I'm not sure how much being so drugged as to be almost unaware of your surroundings can be defined as 'living'.

The funeral will be at the beginning of next week. Part of the reason for this timing is that another family member died yesterday: My dad's cousin's son. He was only 31 and just dropped dead getting ready for a hockey match for no immediately discernible reason. His son is only a little older than Dinah and his wife had a miscarriage at six months pregnant only a few months ago. I can't imagine what she must be going through.
His funeral is on Wednesday but we can't feasibly go to that as well as my grandad's :(

I suppose this pales in comparison, but our oldest guinea pig died on Thursday night as well. She was over six years old, which is a pretty good age for a guinea pig, but the timing seems an unfair coincidence.

On the other hand, several good things have happened to me lately. I got a letter yesterday saying we are delighted to inform you that you have been recommended for the award of: MSc in Financial Mathematics and Computation with Distinction. I had to read that more than once before I actually believed it... I had such a hard time getting my dissertation done that sometimes I almost doubted I would pass at all. I e-mailed my tutor to ask if my supervisor for my internship ever did write a report for the university on my performance, which apparently she did not. But my tutor, to whom I had confided many of my dissertation woes, did say this: Congratulations on your "distinction". You were not in the boarder line, so there was no issue for you at all. My exam marks put me just below the mark required for a distinction, so I must really have done well in my dissertation. I am still in rather a state of disbelief about that... surely what I wrote wasn't that good? Yet apparently it was.

Graduation is at the end of January. I don't know yet if I'll go, but I kind of want to :D

Part of the reason I don't know if I'll go is that I've found a job that I really really want. It seems like an ideal fusion of my talents, sounds like I would actually enjoy it, has flexible working hours and would pay enough for Dinah and me to have our own place. I'm in the middle of the selection process right now, so any good luck vibes/crossed fingers/other positive things are very much appreciated!

Having really good things and really bad things happening at the same time is really... odd. I don't quite know if I'm devastated or ecstatic. Maybe both.

Dinah has had a sudden improvement in climbing skills recently and has been climbing on everything, which is slightly terrifying. She climbs on chairs and then can't get down, so she shouts at me plaintively, "Down, down!", and I get her down and of course she then climbs on another chair instead. She also climbs onto the sofa (my brother broke his leg trying to do this when he was little), into bed (I quite like this one) and, most scarily, into the pushchair. She stands in the seat and rocks back and forth, which causes the pushchair to roll backwards and forwards across the hallway. We actually have two pushchairs and I've taken to folding up the one that does fold, but the bulkier one does not, nor is there anywhere to put it where she can't get to it. All I can do is watch her like a hawk and hope the doorbell or telephone doesn't ring at an inopportune moment.

The other evening I was still eating when the rest of the family had finished and I protested when they started to leave the table, saying surely it was bad manners to leave me eating alone. My mother pointed out that I still had Dinah for company, but Dinah was nursing at the time, so I said, "Yes, but she's a bit busy right now." Hearing this, Dinah popped off the breast, looked at my mother and reiterated, "Busy!" before latching back on.

I took this on Wednesday:

My grandad and dad with Dinah.

8th Nov, 2010

My grandfather on my dad's side is really ill. He has an aneurysm in his leg which is cutting off circulation there and a blocked aorta. According to my dad, the doctors say there are three options for dealing with this, two of which are unrealistic:

1) operate to remove the aneurysm and blockage
2) amputate the leg
3) make him comfortable while nature takes its course.

The first two options are unrealistic because, in addition to the risks entailed in an operation itself, my grandfather suffers from Alzheimer's disease, which would make recovery very difficult -- i.e. he wouldn't remember why he was in hospital, wouldn't remember he was supposed to be on bed rest, would likely pull out IV ports and pull at bandages, etc. Additionaly, even if he recovered well from having a leg amputated he wouldn't remember that he'd had a leg amputated. So in addition to the psychological issues that would cause he'd be likely to cause himself injury just getting out of bed in the morning, trying to stand on a leg which isn't there.

So it's option 3. Dinah and I are flying to the UK tomorrow.



Dinah is talking so much now and starting to put words together, as in "Where Mummy?" or "Read book!" She's also started using the word "me" to ask for/demand things, as in "Apple me!", "Milk me!" and, just to remain grammatically incorrect, "Me carry me!" :D

She's at that stage where she has little groups of two or three words that all sound the same to adult ears. This can be both funny and frustrating. For instance, "duck" can mean

stuck, or

"Wower" can be
flower or
fell over

"Bid" is
Bert (as in Bert & Ernie), or
bed (are New Zealand accents genetic?)

Dinah likes to bounce her toys up and down on my exercise ball and shout "Whee! Whee!" Yesterday while she was doing this I said to her, "Are you bouncing Blue Monkey?", to which she replied, "Wee-ing!" Which I thought was a tremendous feat of grammatical logic. While I was trying not to laugh. :D

However my favourite recent linguistic development has been that she can now name her books. The Tiger Who Came to Tea is "Tea!", Here Comes a Bus is "Bus!"... and Each Peach Pear Plum is "Bear Bum!". Which sounds like some kind of weird insult and amuses me every time.

We went to the local waterpark last weekend with my parents and brother. Dinah had a blast playing with the water jets in the kids' area and splashing around in the tiny pool. When we left my mum pointed out that I hadn't been on a single slide or anything... but I had such a great time playing that I didn't care. We did go in the heated outside pool, which is the most bizarre experience when the weather is so cold. If it weren't so expensive I would take Dinah every week.

Instead I have contented myself with taking her to the regular pool again. She is the strangest child and enjoys being splashed in the face. Whenever an older child jumped into the pool near us with a big splash she would SHRIEK with delight. She also enjoyed pointing at men's nipples and saying "milk!" and playing with our locker in the changing rooms. This included climbing into the locker, pulling the door shut, waving at me through the wire mesh and whispering, "Bye..."

This was after she'd shed herself of her towel, pointed at her vagina and declared proudly, "Nana!" (to the amusement of the other ladies in the changing room). She does this whenever she's wrapped in a towel, but for some reason not when she is otherwise naked. I can only hope she remains so proud to have a vagina :D

I've applied for a couple of jobs and have found a few more I still need to do. I'm getting a little restless sitting at home all the time after being so busy for so long, which is motivating me a little. I'm still hoping for something part-time, though.

The other day, after searching through the attic in vain for the Dinah-sized winter coat I know must be there, I gave in to the increasingly cold weather and took her into town to buy her a new one. I found one which was both reasonably priced and not ugly (unlike most of the others), but it is, of course, pink. The entire girls' clothes section was pink, purple and white. Not that I don't like pink, but I would like some variety. Just because Dinah is a girl doesn't mean I should only have a choice of three colours to dress her in. Anyway, we got back to the bus stop to find it would be a couple of minutes until the next one, so I went into the bank to get some cash out and when I was done the bus was there waiting for us. Once on the bus, just after the stop before ours, two men whipped out their official ID and declared, "Tickets please!". At which point my stomach sank because I realised that, for the first time in forever, I had forgotten to stamp my ticket at the machine before boarding the bus. I got out my ticket and my half-price card and stood there waiting anxiously. I was right in the middle of the two inspectors and they were both getting closer and closer. Finally one of them asked the girl standing next to me for her ticket. She looked about 12, and replied, "Oh, I've got a bus pass but I can't get it out right now. Because I need to get off soon. Now, really." So she was getting off at my stop, which was just around the corner now. Unfortunately the bus drivers always drive slowly when ticket inspectors are on board... This particular one said to the girl, "What's the problem with your ticket?"
"There's not a problem, I just can't get it right now."
"I need to see your ticket, please."
So she swung her heavy-looking backpack off her shoulders and began digging in it. I could see why she didn't want to -- it looked pretty full and she was probably afraid she would miss her stop. While she was doing so the other people around us were volunteering their tickets. I was hoping and hoping there were enough of them to keep him distracted from me until the bus stopped, soon, soon... And it stopped.
The girl produced her bus pass and held it out for inspection.
The doors opened.
The ticket inspector declared her pass acceptable.
And I maneuvered the pushchair past him and escaped.

Thank you, girl with the big backpack. You are my hero :)

Getting back into the swing of things...

Dinah and I are mostly settled back in now. I've been slowly destressing and am now at the point where I'm starting to feel a bit restless, which is good because I really need to find a job. Or possibly to be accepted onto a teacher training course.

I really think I would enjoy being a maths teacher, but to become one I would need to do yet another university course. I could do it full time starting next October and it would take a year, or I could do it part-time, possibly starting in February, and it would take at least two. I really, really don't want to be studying full-time again, so I think it would have to be option 2. I wouldn't be able to actually start work until at least two and a half years from now. This means that I would be living off other people's money for two and a half years. I'm really not sure how I feel about that. So my plan is to apply, which I can do next month, and see if they will even take me while I mull this over a little more.

In the meantime I have found at least one job I can apply for. It's part time, it's at the university, its doing correspondence and copyediting and stuff for the marketing department, partly in English. I think I could be perfectly content doing something like that (and I even have editing experience).

Of course I could try to find a job now and then try the teacher training thing a few years down the line, once I have some money of my own again. But for some reason this option really doesn't appeal to me. I think it's partly to do with the fact that if I'm working I would want to move out of my parents' place, but I would have to save forever if I later wanted to be able to pay rent for two (or more) years while I'm training to be a teacher. And I am not moving back in with my parents again once I've moved out this time. I am determined that this is it. I'm moving on, I'm growing up, I am not not not going to keep coming back here over and over. I've moved back here three times now -- that is enough. I can't deal with more.

So I am... considering.

Mainly however when it comes to this job thing I am just determined never to do anything as hard as the last nine months again. I think this is a reasonable goal.

The other day my sister, who lives in an apartment upstairs, gave my brother a bag of rotten potatoes to take downstairs and be put on the compost heap in my mum's allotment. Dinah, my parents and I were still sitting at the table after supper when my brother brought them in to ask what he should do with them. Which was when I noticed that the bag was leaking, and my stepdad wondered what he could smell, and there followed a HUGE PANIC to get the leaking bag of stinking potatoes out of the living room and into a rubbish bag as quickly as possible without letting it drip on the floor too much, followed by a HUGE CLEANUP EFFORT to get every last trace of the smell out of the flat. Because OMG it STANK. If you haven't smelled rotten potatoes, count yourself lucky. Seriously. OMG.

(Thanks for that, Sis.)

I went to the EGM last week but had to leave early because Dinah wouldn't settle down to sleep for my mum -- unsurprisingly, really, as she was probably still associating my mum putting her to bed with not seeing me for ten days (aka an eternity). When the bus I was on pulled up at my stop I saw through the window that there was a guy standing there. He didn't get on the bus, but there is another bus that stops there so that wasn't really out of the ordinary. Besides, he could have been waiting for someone. I was the only person to get off the bus there -- only when I got off the bus, the guy wasn't standing there anymore. Instead, I noticed that he had stepped behind one of the foot-wide electricity pylons at the side of the pavement. Normally I would have walked past there to get to the crossing, but the thought of him lurking there with no one else around was a bit freaky so I crossed from where I was. I looked back when I was on the other side of the road and he started walking away from the bus stop in the direction of the next one.

I have no idea what he was doing there. It could have been something completely innocent and unmenacing. But being out alone in the dark makes me super conscious of other people.

Last night I went to improv for the first time in almost a year. I had fun but am feeling a bit rusty. However, this time when my mum put Dinah to bed it apparently took all of five minutes before she was a sleep so I got to go out for, OMG, a drink! Whee. :)

My little brother had a swimming course last week and Dinah and I took him to the pool twice, so I took the opportunity to take Dinah swimming for the first time as well. She was terrified by the stairs leading from the changing room to the pools, but once they were safely behind us and her rubber duck was in the water she had an awesome time. I must take her again!

My other brother was visiting from London for the last week and a half and while he was here he, my little brother and I took Dinah to the ice rink. Unfortunately my (visiting) brother got his skate caught on some non-smooth ice and hurt his hand so we weren't there very long, but Dinah loved it. She had some two-bladed strap-on rental skates which were a little too big and came off her feet twice, so I think I may buy her her own as they are size-adjustable and so should fit her for a year or two. We used to have some but my mum gave them away when my youngest brother started in real skates. Dinah also preferred sliding her feet out from underneath herself (which would obviously make her fall over if I didn't have a firm grip on her) rather than actually attempting much forward motion, but when it was time to go she sat at the side of the rink and grumped, so I think more skating will be in our future.

Also, more breastfeeding :D I am so glad our being separated hasn't caused any problems, you have no idea.

Well, maybe some of you do :)


I have my Dinah back :)

I also received an e-mail from the NHS in response to my last post. I guess they have some kind of search bot thing that looks for mentions of NHS Direct or something (hi search bot!), so I didn't even have to contact them directly to make my complaint! Which is kind of awesome, but also oddly creepy.

I managed to hand in my dissertation two days early and then to fly home on Thursday instead of Friday. I arrived home at half past twelve at night. It should have been earlier but the French general strike cause my flight to be delayed by an hour and a half (I was lucky though -- when I was sitting in Departures at 5pm there were a bunch of flights to France with scheduled departure times going back as far as 6am whose notes still just read 'Wait in Lounge'. Flights to Spain were delayed up to seven hours. Many more were cancelled.) As soon as I was there I got ready for bed and picked Dinah up from my parents' bed, where she was sound asleep. I tried not to wake her but of course failed, ending up with a crying, confused little girl who didn't want to be woken up and taken out of bed, even by her long lost mummy, thank you very much, and who kept pointing back at my parents' bed and said NO when I asked if she would like some milk. I got her kicking and screaming into our own bed however and as soon as I lifted my shirt she latched right on and didn't let go until I pleaded with her asked her if she wanted to switch sides.

Apparently my grandmother remarked while she was here that at least Dinah would be weaned now. Haha, I think not :) I'm so happy we haven't had any issues getting her back to the breast.

My mother told me I should have taken the opportunity to nightwean her, but I am really not that fussed. She doesn't usually wake up more than two or three times, which I feel perfectly capable of dealing with. She's teething right now, which means she's awake a lot more, but why would I want to take away the one thing that seems to make her feel better?

She has been eating like crazy as well. I'm not sure if it's a growth spurt or just her recovery from the measles, but I am astounded at how much food she can put away. Some days I'm sure she eats more than me.

The first day I was back she kept asking for biscuits, which I found very strange because I don't give them to her very often. She kept saying 'biggit!' and pointing at the cupboard we keep the biscuit tin in, so I knew that someone must have been giving them to her. Turns out that on her one day of not eating very much my mother had given her one, hoping it would tempt her, which it didn't, but every subsequent day she had been asking for them (and my mother giving her a ration of one a day). So on my first day back Dinah kept demanding biscuits and throwing tantrums when I said no. Apparently she had not thrown tantrums for my mum. I must admit that I caved and on that first day she ended up having a total of four biscuits, which is to my knowledge more than she's ever had in one day in her life. So I decided that such a state of affairs wouldn't do and used the power of Google to find a recipe for sugar-free oat and banana cookies, whose other ingredients are equally benign, and have so far made three large batches for Dinah to have whenever she wants a biscuit (though I am rationing them a bit by asking her to say 'please' if she wants one -- sometimes she does this, sometimes she doesn't). Fortunately she likes them!

Dinah was understandably clingy when I first got back, not wanting to be in another room from me and not wanting to sit in her highchair for meals; she had to be on my lap or both of us had to be sat on the floor. She's been slowly getting back to her usual self though and today was the first day she sat in the highchair for breakfast, lunch and supper. I'm quite relieved -- I had thought the days of eating with one hand while being splattered with Dinah's dropped food were over.

Another landmark today was that Dinah sat down in the bath. We only had a shower in London, and going three months without having a bath, which she used to love, made her scared of them. My mum's best bathtime with her involved Dinah standing in the bath throwing her toys so they went splash while my mum sponge-bathed the rest of her. I managed to get her to sit on my lap in the bath twice, then yesterday we had another standing spongebath occurrence, but today, today she sat down in the bath and smiled and had fun. That's my girl :)

Also today we went to the playground with my brother (the twelve-year-old one). There was another little girl there a bit smaller than Dinah with her parents. When they arrived the little girl wandered over to the sandpit where Dinah was playing, so I smiled and said hello to her. She broke into a big grin and launched herself at me to give me a big hug. I thought this was really cute but her mother seemed horrified and picked her up immediately, apologising profusely even though I assured her it was okay. I tried to prove this by offering the little girl one of our sand toys to play with (she had none of her own), but her mother made her give it back almost straight away.

In this particular playground is a new slide which is not particularly small-child-friendly. To get to the platform at the top you have to either climb a ladder with rungs too far apart for a toddler or climb a 'wall' with rock-climbing-like protrusions and go through an opening at the top. Of course Dinah can't do either of these, but the slide itself is perfectly suitable for her, so when she wants to go on it I lift her up to the top rung of the ladder or the opening in the climbing wall (she chooses which) and, because I can't reach high enough to get her feet over the edge, I help her get her top half in and then use my hands to support her feet as she pulls them in after. I'm sure it looks very precarious but I'm quite confident that she wouldn't fall to the ground during this part of the procedure. Slightly more worrying is when she stands up to walk over to the slide because there are two different openings she could fall out of if she loses her footing in an unfortunate way -- however they're at right angles to each other so I'm confident that if I stand equidistant from the two and watch her carefully I could catch her if she should fall, which I don't think she will. Besides which, today I had the additional help of my brother standing on the platform as an extra safety net. Once Dinah's stood up she walks straight over to the top of the slide and I catch her as she comes down.

So, Dinah goes on the slide a few times and then we go back to the sandpit. The other little girl walks over to the slide and tries to climb up it, which she can't do because it's too high. Her parents leave her to try, obviously not going to help her actually go on the slide, which is their choice and fair enough. Dinah decides she wants to go again, so she walks back over and the little girl's parents take her away from the slide so she won't be in the way. We do the slide routine a few more times. I notice the mother is staring at us. My brother says he wants to go back to the sandpit, so I promise the next time on the slide will be the last. I lift Dinah up to the platform, she scrambles up, loses her balance and falls forward onto her face, making a loud thump on the wood. And in the split-second before she starts to cry, I hear the other mother say in the most amused tone of voice, 'Oh dear'. As if she was just waiting for Dinah to hurt herself to see me punished for my careless parenting.

Now, I could be interpreting her tone of voice wrong -- it wasn't exactly my centre of attention at that particular moment. But it really rubbed me up the wrong way. As if I hadn't carefully considered the dangers before I let her go up there. As if I didn't know what she is and isn't capable of. As if I was a bad parent because I let my daughter go on the damned slide.

I firmly believe that children shouldn't be mollycoddled, that I shouldn't let my (mostly paranoid and irrational) fears get in the way of her having fun and learning experiences, even if those result in a few scrapes and bruises. And I know that many parents feel differently and that almost everyone has a different place where they draw the line between what they will and will not allow their children to do. But I think some parents need to realise that sometimes that line can be drawn in one of the many, many 'right' places and your kid will still get hurt, because shit happens.

In this particular case, Dinah has a tiny scratch on her forehead and had forgotten about the whole thing two minutes later. And next time we go to the playground she will still be allowed to go on the slide.

Ah, I feel better now.

Better from the measles, too :)

I will leave you with this photo, because it amuses me:

Dinah will not sit on the car herself. It has to be Big Pig in the driver's seat (or, once, two other, smaller toy cars... I think I see the logic...).


Last Monday when I got home from work I didn't feel too good. My nose was running everywhere so I put it down to a cold and went to bed.

The next day I felt dizzy just from walking to the bathroom, so I stayed home. I felt really nauseated and could barely bring myself to eat anything.

Ditto the day after.

On Thursday I had to go in to the office to finish my presentation. I did feel a little better, not collapsing on the way to the bus stop or throwing up once I was on the bus, which I had felt sure would happen on the two days before. So I arrived at the office and started work. My brain was a bit sluggish but it was okay. My boss came in and walked over to ask how I was. When I turned around she actually gasped and took a step away from me.

Well, I thought, at least I've proved I'm really ill...

She told me I shouldn't be working and that I should go home, but I reminded her that I had to give my presentation the next day. She told me to go home as soon as I'd finished it, which I did.

On Friday I travelled up to Leicester to give my presentation. I took advantage of being in Leicester by seeing a doctor at the university's health centre. She said my tonsils and the inside of one of my ears were swollen and said I had a 'sinus thing'. She gave me antibiotics, but I had a yeast infection so didn't really want to take them. She also gave me something for the yeast infection. So then I gave my presentation and came home, and cried on downybearded1 because I wanted to be better and finish my dissertation and go home... She promised to come again the next day even though it was Saturday.

Thank goodness she did, because the next day I felt more ill than I have probably ever felt in my life. My brother had to leave for work at 7:30 and the best I could do to take care of Dinah was to turn on Sesame Street, put a drink and some rice cakes where she could reach them and curl up in bed.

I had been developing a bit of a rash on my face but I thought it was just because I was blowing my nose all the time. When I went to the bathroom and saw myself in the mirror however it was clear that was not the case. My face was so red and swollen I could barely recognise myself.

downybearded1 arrived and set about trying to find my a doctor to see. A lady on the NHS Direct hotline told her to take me to the Minor Injuries unit at Guy's Hospital, so we bundled into a taxi and off we went. We arrived there to find that

a) they were closed
b) even if they weren't closed, this was the wrong place for a problem like mine, and
c) they had already had to turn away several other patients sent by NHS Direct that day.

The frazzled nurse strongly urged us to make a complaint.

So we got another taxi to St Thomas' Accident and Emergency department, where, after a lot (a LOT) of waiting, I was finally seen by a doctor. I had a temperature of 40°C, was dehydrated and was probably suffering from measles. So please to remove the small child as I was probably contagious. So downybearded1 took Dinah home and I was admitted to hospital and didn't see her again until the next day.

I was taken up to a ward where a lovely nurse whose name I can't even remember took care of me all night. She kept telling me I had to eat something so she could give me Ibuprofen to help get my temperature down. Finally at 4AM I managed to eat most of a bowl of porridge, took the Ibuprofen and managed to sleep a bit. Most of the night though consisted of drinking (I was so so thirsty) and going to the toilet, over and over... I found it difficult to sleep because I couldn't breathe through my nose (too much snot) and if I breathed through my mouth it immediately dried out and I had to have a drink. I eventually found that I could doze a bit if I was propped semi-upright as that seemed to clear my nose a little.

By morning my temperature was down to 37.6 and I was feeling a lot better. I was released from the hospital in the afternoon and driven back home by my dad, who had driven down from Oxford. downybearded1 had helped my brother look after Dinah overnight and my mum had flown over from Switzerland.

Much discussion was had as to how I was supposed to get the rest prescribed by the doctors with Dinah running around our small studio apartment. Eventually I had to agree that I couldn't, so my mother has taken Dinah back to Switzerland with her while I stay recuperating in London.

I miss her, I miss her, I miss her.

I have been hand-expressing milk so that I don't lose my supply. If I notice a significant drop in what I can get I'm going to need to get a pump. I'm hoping that because I've been breastfeeding for 18 months it won't be that easy for my supply to disappear completely. More importantly, I'm hoping Dinah will remember how to latch when I get home.

I've got an extension for my deadline til the 24th. I've got a flight booked back to Switzerland for that evening.

I haven't been well enough to do any work yet, but I am improving every day so I hope it won't be long now.

I miss Dinah. I've never been away from her for so long before. It's not natural. I need her.

Every time I think about her I want to cry.
Possibly TMI...Collapse )

On a less grotesquely detailed note, yesterday I managed for the first time to get Dinah to stand on a chair at the sink 'helping' me while I did all the dishes, instead of doing what she usually does, which is to complain bitterly. We did it again today. I hope this will continue. (The key seems to be to have lots and lots of bubbles.)

This morning we did one of her alphabet puzzles, where for Y there is a picture of a yak. She spent a good ten minutes afterwards saying 'Yak, yak, yak, yak!" over and over.

I finished reading Otherland! I must admit that I'm feeling a bit lost without it. Reading Unseen Academicals next. After that I shall have to choose between the new Adrian Mole and the new Tiffany Aching book. Decisions, decisions... but I do love having time to read :)

I now have over 2000 words of my girl-meets-dragon novel, which seems like good progress. I also got a random review on one of my old Harry Potter fics, which was a nice ego boost :D

I forgot to mention in my last entry, but I am positive that one of the guys who was up for the trainee thingy with me in June walked past me on my lunch break the other day. He was even wearing the same suit. He was looking at me as if he recognised me, but we had passed each other before it occurred to me that I could have spoken to him. I wonder if he is the other person who didn't get a place?

Dissertation work has turned into a hard, but possible, slog. I can't wait to hand it in and have it all done. Only four more weeks!

I still haven't managed to get the photos off my phone, but here is one I took with my actual real camera:

I used to have a little plastic doll with that exact same expression painted on her face. It made me LOL.

EDIT: Also, apparently not everyone in the world has seen Christian the Hugging Lion. Dinah owns the book. Yes, someone turned this story into a children's book... which my aunt didn't want, so now we have it.

20th Jul, 2010

I put in a chapter from the HP fanfic I wrote last year and got this...

I write like
J. K. Rowling

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I would be impressed, but I imagine it's only because I of course used so many of her characters and settings!

Goodbye Leicester...

Today was our last day in Leicester. Against all expectations I am feeling a bit sad. The staff at Dinah's nursery made her a goodbye card -- reading it nearly made me cry. I am really glad to be moving back to a city where I actually know people, but Dinah's nursery was so lovely and she was so happy there. It's kind of a shame we have to leave it behind. I hope moving to another new place won't be too upsetting for her.

I've spent the day packing and cleaning and still have some left to go. I have also failed to get my mail forwarding order sorted out because they only accept certain documents as proof of address, none of which I have. Haven't got a driving licence because I don't drive, haven't got a council tax book because I'm a student, etc, etc. Such a hassle, seriously.

Landlords have been their usual uncommunicative selves (not contacting me, not answering their phones) so I have no idea if they are coming over to check the flat and pick up the keys tomorrow. My dad is coming to pick us up in the afternoon and I think I may just have to leave the keys and my forwarding address on the counter. Sigh.

Anyway. London, here we come :)

I survived!

I am slowly winding down after taking my last exam on Thursday morning, flying back to Switzerland the same evening and attending an assessment centre on Friday morning.

The exam went alright, I think. Am pretty sure I passed all of them, which is nice, and that I got ninety-something percent on Operational Research, which felt good.

The assessment centre also went alright, I think. I was one of five candidates competing for three positions -- good odds, I think. Only downside is that I think it went alright for the others, too! I will find out next week if I got in or not.

It's only sinking in now that it's over quite how stressful the last few weeks have been. Suddenly I'm feeling... unburdened. Relaxed. Calm. And it is awesome.
Nice moment at Dinah's nursery today:

I arrived to feed her at lunchtime to find her asleep. One of the carers, a lovely middle-aged Indian woman, commented "She's missing the good stuff!" Then went on to tell me how she'd breastfed her son til he was 2 1/2 and how good breastmilk was for Dinah's immune system. Awesome! :)

And by this time tomorrow I will only have one exam left to go, which is also awesome (though maybe not quite so much).
I woke up this morning feeling miserable after a long night of tossing and turning and waking more times than Dinah. My head hurt, my ears hurt, but most of all my throat HURT. Speaking really hurt. I never realised before how important speech is when dealing with Dinah. Especially when she keeps bringing you books to read. I was in agony and she was getting really irritated with me for not being my usual energetic self.

So I dropped her off at nursery early and called the Health Centre to make an appointment.

Then I had an exam, which was more or less okay but which I know I could have done better in if I'd spent yesterday revising instead of slouching on the couch in the café/lying in bed feeling miserable.

I ate a sandwich for lunch, which was difficult, then went to the Health Centre. As I was sitting in the waiting room, I wondered if my sore throat would count as a 'mitigating circumstance' which could lead them to be more lenient marking my exam, or if it was just a 'minor ailment'.

The doctor was very friendly, listened to my symptoms, told me to say "Aaaah", took one look at the back of my mouth and said "Yep, it's tonsilitis!"

The possibility of it being tonsilitis had not occurred to me. Tonisilitis sounds a lot more mitigating than 'sore throat', and the doctor seemed perfectly willing to sign the appropriate form for me. I think I am going to take advantage of this.

She prescribed me some antibiotics but said that I can try taking paracetamol and ibuprofen for a while first and then switch to the antibiotics if I'm not getting better.

Her attitude was a bit "poor you" when she found out I was a single mum. She asked if Dinah was sleeping through the night and I lied and said she usually woke up about three times (it's usually more like four or five). She seemed horrified. She also told me about her sister-in-law who is trying to wean her daughter because "she only wants it for comfort now". I assured her that Dinah was definitely hungry when she woke up at night. I did not tell her that I think comfort is just as basic a need as sustenance.

I went home and sat down to relax for a bit, figuring that tonsilitis was a good excuse for being lazy. I was very carefully (and slightly painfully) having a drink of water when my Swiss mobile rang.

This never, ever happens when I'm in the UK.

I could see that it was a call from another mobile phone. "...Hello?" I answered cautiously.

This woman started jabbering at me in Swiss German -- it took a moment for my brain to readjust. When it did, it turned out that it was a lady from a training program I've applied for. I had a telephone interview for it on Tuesday, which my gut instinct told me could have gone better, and they had said that invitations to the final assessment stage would go out next week. These things, combined with something about her tone of voice, made me think she was going to give me bad news, so I adjusted my tone of voice accordingly.

Turns out I'm still in the running :D

In retrospect, her tone of voice was probably to do with her confusion in response to my confusion.

So that made me feel a whole lot better about my day (I really really want this job and now there's only one more hurdle). I basked in that feeling for bit and then went to the post office to send my letter of notice for the flat.

As I entered the post office, the lady at the till was being subjected to the following rant:

"What do you mean you don't do it? I do this all the time! Fucking ridiculous! All post offices do it! Is it because I'm white? I've done it at all different post offices and now you're telling me you don't do it? Fuck that!"

I don't think "moron" even begins to describe this.

(I think the "it" was foreign currency exchange -- he said something about Egypt.)

I did my best to be as friendly as possible when it was my turn to be served, but I couldn't speak very well and I fear my smile may have looked more like a cringe.

While I was out I picked up some less painful food (porridge, ice cream), but stupidly forgot soup. Must remember tomorrow.

I picked Dinah up from nursery, got her ready for bed, and found myself utterly incapable of singing her a lullaby. She didn't seem to mind too much though, because I let her watch her favourite video instead:

Seriously, she LOVES it. When she was ill she made me play it over and over and OVER. It is, apparently, THAT AWESOME.

Off to attempt some food now :)

Writer's Block: Mind reader

In three words, describe what's currently running through your mind.

Risk Exam Monday.

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

(Really looking forward to having this one over with.)

Today's Tales of Dinah

During my lunch break today I dropped in to feed Dinah as usual. She fed for a while and then sat up on my lap and we chatted a bit. Then she peed, and her nappy leaked on me, and I had to go home and change my trousers.

When we were home and I was getting her ready for her bath she ran out of the room, as she often does, and came back making a face and spat something out of her mouth. I picked it up. I wish I hadn't -- it was a dead woodlouse. No wonder she spat it out! I've had to redefine my interpretation of the word "disgusting" several times since she was born, but still, "Eeeeeew!" doesn't quite cover how I feel about this particular incident. I'm trying not to shudder just thinking about it. Eew. Eew. Eew.

In less disgusting news, I think she may finally be getting another tooth! She's had four on the top and two on the bottom for half a year now, but tonight while we were brushing her teeth I'm sure I saw a new bottom one starting to peek through. This would explain why she's been chewing on her fingers so much lately.

And she's got a new word -- "star". Well, "dar", as she says it, but it's darn cute :)



I got the internship! Whee!

It's 12 weeks, end of June til mid-September, at a Japanese bank in London's City. I shall have to wear a suit to work. This will be odd.

I am terrified that I'll make a mess of things and not understand what they want me to do, but am trying not to think about that at the moment. No way to know what it will be like.

I maybehopefully will be staying with a friend-of-a-friend in Hammersmith, which would be great because of easy half-hour commute to Bank and one of my friends living sort of in the area.

Biggest worry is childcare. My brother will be able to do most of it as he works mostly evenings and weekends, but he gets one or two random daytime shifts a week where I'll have to find someone else. Hmm. No chance of a nursery place at such short notice, no childcare at the company. May possibly be able to find a childminder. Will have to see.

But London! Yay! Next best thing to home :)

In the meantime, am desperately revising for exams. I hate exams. But by this time next month they'll be over -- am clinging to that fact!

Leicester -- weeks 8 & 9

Two more weeks of lectures then we get to go home for two weeks. I am looking forward to it so much. I will be cooked for and have laundry done for me and will have other adults to talk to, OMG :D

I ended up staying home with sicky Dinah for two days the week before last, which was sort of nice but now I'm definitely behind on my work. I've done okay in handing stuff in, but my 'independent study' is not going like it should :/ I'm hoping that as it's the end of term it won't matter too much and I can catch up during revision time. I'm quite confident that I can do well in two of my exams and pass one with okay grades. Who knows about Financial Risk. I'm sort of hoping that everyone will do so badly that they'll grade on a curve. I think I'm just going to try and learn as much stuff by heart as possible and hope that regurgitating it all in the exam will be enough to pass...

Still no word on internships.

Group effort on the workshop is not going too well either. I've done as much coding as I feel I can on my own -- there are a couple of things I'm not quite sure about that I could really use someone else's input on. I e-mailed 'my' half of the group yesterday to prod them and say 'hey, isn't this due next week?' and got one reply saying 'sorry, am out of the country til Sunday but will try to do some coding' and one saying 'yeah I don't really understand what the task is'. The fourth guy hasn't responded at all. I can only hope that the other half of the group have done better. I have a feeling some of the internship positions may depend on our performance in this task so I want to do well! It's pretty frustrating trying to do group work on your own. I feel a little like I'm the only one even trying to take some initiative. Not much more I can do right now, though.

Dinah and I went to London this weekend, which was lovely. We saw some friends and family, Dinah showed off her walking (and ran around in some restaurants getting in the serving staff's way) and was incredibly well-behaved on all the public transport. I want to go again :D

Dinah is so big and grown-up now. It's really hit me in these last few weeks that she's been walking that she's really not a baby anymore. She walks, she says "dat" ("that"), she understands so much of what I say to her... when I tell her I'm going to pull her arm out of a sleeve she switches whatever she's holding in that hand to the other hand. It's so cute :)

My girl:

My girl is one :)

My mum went on a course in London last week and stayed in the UK for the weekend so she could come up to Leicester to see us. She brought my brother with her too and we had cake and presents two days early :)

Today, Dinah's actual birthday, was spent as usual -- nursery/university all day :/ Apparently Dinah had a good day though and enjoyed everyone singing Happy Birthday to her.

Happy Birthday, big girl.


Leicester -- week 7

Last week was a bit crazy.

I had very little appetite for most of the week and felt nauseated a lot of the time. I think it was stress-related. I need my Wednesday afternoons off!

I didn't get Wednesday afternoon off last week because we had an obligatory workshop with a guy from CitiGroup. It was... intense. We were split into groups of eight and had to work together to write a C++ program to solve a swap option valuation problem. I don't think any of the groups actually even began to do any programming; we certainly didn't. However, we got our heads around the problem and, I think, worked out how to solve it. We have to have the program written by the 24th, as well as a report each on what we did. We'll be given a pass/fail mark for the report -- if we fail, we fail the Financial Mathematics II module. No pressure, right?

I am mostly feeling pressure because we need to find some time to meet as group and write our program. I really don't have much free time. I can't work on weekends and I would really prefer not to have to do so on a Wednesday afternoon again. I may have to, though. The annoying thing is that none of the other group members seem to be taking any initiative to help get this thing done. I guess they think we've got plenty of time. I plan to write a possible program in pseudocode and then stop stressing about it.

What I am really stressing about is this damned Financial Risk course. I don't understand anything, and the only person I've found so far who does is a super-smart Chinese guy with an accent so thick I can barely understand what he's saying. So he's not really much help. I really don't know what to do about it, and neither does anyone else. Complaining has had no effect whatsoever. Also, we have yet to receive any of our homework back, which doesn't help matters at all. Reading through the lecture notes just leaves me with a growing sense of horror as to how much there is to learn and how little I know. His lecture notes are long and rambling and so far I've had very little success in distilling important information out of them.

In conclusion, I hate Financial Risk and want it to die. Especially its ever-closer-looming exam paper. My only consolation is that last time I felt this way about a module (which I complained about at the time) I actually ended up getting a B in the exam (though I'm sure this was due to it being graded on a curve as I felt sure I'd failed, as did most other people). Here's hoping I can pull that off again :D

Anyway. Back to the workshop. I actually kind of enjoyed it. I don't think I've used my brain that much in ages. But if that's what the summer internships are going to be like... well, I think I would be okay.

Speaking of the internships, I've made it into the preliminary pool of students who will be considered for them. They're not telling us how big this pool is, but I have to have my CV ready tomorrow and will probably be attending interviews sometime this month. Two internships each at two international banks in London are up for grabs. Wish me luck!

On Saturday I took Dinah shopping for her first pair of shoes. Turns out her feet are too small for their smallest pairs of walking shoes, so for now she's got some "cruising shoes" just in case she wants to walk outside -- which she doesn't, so far. I took her to the playground yesterday and she protested vehemently when I tried to put her down. So she had a swing and then I took her home.

Today I'm home with Dinah attached to the boob because she's got a fever, as a result of which neither of us slept very well last night. I'm missing five lectures, but three of those are Financial Risk so I'm not too bothered. Am going to try and work on this code for the workshop.

Healing vibes appreciated :)

Leicester -- weeks 5 & 6

Dinah is walking :D

She's been taking a couple of steps at a time for the last few weeks, but since Thursday she's really got the hang of it and has been doing more walking than crawling. She's very pleased with herself; she keeps walking to the other side of the flat with a big grin on her face as if to say, "Look what I can do!"

It's her first birthday in two weeks. Craziness. I think among her birthday presents there will have to be a pair of shoes...

She's settled in really well at the nursery, for which I am eternally grateful. There have been a couple of times now when she hasn't even cried when I left, and when I pick her up she's usually playing quite happily. I've been going in every lunchtime to feed her, which is easily the best part of my day. The staff are very nice and incredibly accomodating and Dinah clearly likes them too.

I miss her though. Especially when I'm sitting in one of Russian Lecturer's lectures wondering if I wouldn't be better off studying the material on my own in the library.

Somebody (or possibly multiple somebodies) went to our tutor to complain about him. I know this because the next lecture was spent with him reading the complaints off a piece of paper and telling us that they were completely unjustified. In other words, he's not going to change a damned thing. Sigh.

I saw him in town yesterday. He did not seem to notice me. I was carrying Dinah on my hip and walking along next to my dad and stepmum, who came up to visit for the day.

Dinah LOVES her grandad. Many giggles were had. And I was given cake. It was a good day.

I've got five weeks left of lectures and then we're going back to Switzerland for two weeks, followed by a week at my gran's house in the country. I will need to get Dinah some wellington boots before then, because the best adjective that can be used to describe my gran's place in the spring is 'muddy'. I hope I can find some small enough.

Exams in May. Then a project/dissertation from June til September. There is a possibility that, given good enough grades (or rather, as I already know my grades are good, given bad enough grades for the rest of the students...), I could get an internship as part of my project. Possibly in London. I would love to go to London... but of course even if I got the internship (so far it looks like there will only be three or four available, for the best of the 30 students on my course) the logistics of organising childcare, etc. may make it impossible for me to do it.

Oh well. I can dream :)

Leicester -- week 5

My second week of lectures definitely went a lot better than my first. I didn't miss any of them, for one thing! I was still feeling pretty crappy on Monday, but have slowly been getting better since then.

I have four lecture courses, as usual. Two of them I'm really enjoying, one of them is mostly okay and the last one is ghastly -- which is roughly what usually seems to happen.

The courses I'm enjoying are Operational Research and Computational Methods for Partial Differential Equations. OR is taught by English Lecturer, who reminds me of Wilf Noble. PDEs is taught by Greek Lecturer, who is incredibly enthusiastic about everything. That kind of attitude tends to rub off on me :)

My okay course is Financial Mathematics II, which is a continuation of my least favourite course from term 1. It's taught by Japanese Lecturer, who makes cute pronounciation errors like 'brackboard', but who cannot make me like the material, which makes my brain hurt. However, Financial Mathematics I made my brain hurt as well, and I still managed to do okay in the exam, so I'm trying to remain positive.

Remaining positive about the course taught by Russian Lecturer is, unfortunately, a lot more difficult, and I feel like this is mostly due to Russian Lecturer himself.

The course is supposed to be Financial Risk, but so far we've mostly been told
a) that in order to work in finance we need to be able to program
b) how amazing Russian Lecturer's kids are, and
c) how crap we are

Seriously. This afternoon he basically told us that because we're here in Leicester instead of somewhere like Stanford, we must not be very clever. Which most of us found rather insulting. (As if I could afford to go to Stanford even if I wanted to, for one thing...) What I wonder is, if he's such a fantastic mathematician, what's he doing in Leicester instead of Stanford? He's certainly not a fantastic lecturer. Every lecture, he puts his (hand-written and scanned) lecture notes on the overhead projector and scrolls through them while telling us
a) that in order to work in finance we need to be able to program
b) how amazing his kids are, and
c) how crap we are

On Wednesday he also sent us this e-mail:

Homeworks: read carefully

Dear all,

since many of you (unfortunately) will not write programs unless being pushed to,

I decided that you will have the deadline for each computational homework; the deadline will
be each class on Tuesday. I will try to arrange the homeworks so that each week, you will have to master a small number of computational pieces - but they will repappear in the following homeworks, so that if you miss just one week, it will be 10 times harder for you to catch up. The students who work each week will learn how to program automatically and will be able to get 10 computational point before the final, and write codes during the final (you will have to write some variations of the codes that will appear in homeworks so that if you simply copy the homework codes you will clearly demonstrate that you cheated on the exam and you will get 0)

The first homework is: the portfolio problems and an additional simple plotting problem (graphs of the payoffs and prices of the European put and call for different time to maturity in the Black-Scholes model). You will get the detailed statement and an explicit guide today or tomorrow

Which... well, could have been phrased more politely, I think. And I have no idea where he got the impression that 'many of us will not write programs unless being pushed to', because we hadn't been given any work to hand in up to that point. So this assumption is based on what, exactly?

It wouldn't be so bad if I felt like I was learning something (anything!) from his lectures, but even reading through the notes is confusing at best. I am seriously beginning to dislike him, and so are many of the other students.

Although, speaking of the other students, I think I like the other people doing the masters degree better than I did the ones last year. They're a lot more friendly, and I'm already starting to feel like I belong :)

And at the weekend downybearded1 visited! Whee!

Leicester -- week 4

At the weekend my dad came up from Oxford and drove Dinah and me up to Lancashire for a cousin’s birthday party. It was actually a joint party for my dad’s cousin and his son, turning 40 and 1 respectively, so there were many babies for Dinah to play with and many older relatives for them all to be admired by. Apart from the birthday boy there was also a 14-month old there, and Dinah showed off by being better on her feet than both of them. I really think it’s likely that she’ll be walking soon -- she’s perfectly willing to try to walk to me if I hold my arms out to her, though at the moment I think it’s more momentum than balance which is keeping her upright for those three or so steps. It’s really quite funny to watch – she launches herself at me (and, occasionally, at the furniture) and then tries to put one foot in front of the other as fast as she possibly can. No careful first steps for this baby... we’re both having so much fun with it, though.

We stayed overnight in a really nice B&B, and I was woken in the morning not by Dinah demanding to be fed, but by her climbing up so she could lean over me and look at the window. She spent at least twenty minutes just sitting there staring, which I thought was a bit odd because the curtains were closed. Funny baby :)

We went for a walk with the cousins and their dog, and fed some ducks. Dinah was on my back and kept leaning from side to side to look at the dog, and the ducks, and the dog again... which was quite amusing, but made it a bit difficult to keep my balance! I made sure to stay well away from the edge of the water, just in case...

The cousins drove part of the way back to Leicester with us and we stopped off in Manchester to have lunch with Dinah’s Great-Great-Auntie Grace (catchy title, right?). She was horrified that neither baby had been christened, but that didn’t stop her from tickling them both and making them giggle. Great-Great-Auntie Grace is one of three surviving siblings out of the twelve my grandmother belonged to – twelve who lived to adulthood, that is! Their mother gave birth at least fourteen times; some relatives claim it was sixteen in all, including a set of stillborn twins.

This is why we have so many relatives.

When we got back I realised I had littered the back seat of my dad’s car with used tissues. My nose has been continually running ever since.

The next day was my first day back in lectures. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but I think that was mostly because I had a stuffy head to go with my stuffy nose. I felt better on Tuesday, pretty good on Wednesday and Thursday... and really awful on Friday. Dinah hadn’t been feeling so good on Wednesday, and on Thursday evening I noticed that she had conjunctivitis. They wouldn’t take her at the nursery without eyedrops on Friday anyway, so instead of going to lectures I took her to the health centre, got a prescription for some eyedrops, and we both spent the rest of the day at home feeling miserable.

We’re both a bit better today, but I am so sick of being sick. Can’t we be better now, please?

Dinah fell asleep playing with a toy drumstick on the way to Manchester:

Leicester -- week 3

This week has (mostly) been so much better than the first two. The “mostly” being due to the fact that I spent most of Saturday night sitting on the toilet and throwing up, but I called my dad on Sunday morning and he drove up to look after Dinah for me while I lay around feeling miserable. By Monday morning I was just feeling a bit shaky and by the evening I was okay again.

Monday was also Dinah’s first full day at nursery. I was really nervous about leaving her, but in the end it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. She did cry when I left, but she wasn’t crying when I stopped by at lunchtime to feed her, and she wasn’t crying when I picked her up. The carers said she’d done really well for a first day, and she ate most of her lunch, which I know she wouldn’t have done if she was really upset.

While she was there I was waiting at home for the internet installation people. I cleaned the bathroom while I waited – it really, really needed it, and I thought I would take advantage of Dinah not being there to try and play with all the poisonous chemicals. It’s so much better now, which is a relief; I didn’t realise until I’d finished cleaning how much it had been bothering me. The place is actually starting to feel like a home now.

The rest of the week I mostly spent at the library, trying to remember everything I learned in term 1. I think I’ve done okay with that. I don’t understand everything, but the things I don’t understand I didn’t understand when I took my exams either, and they turned out okay.

I get Wednesday afternoons off, so I picked Dinah up at 1:30 on Wednesday and spent a few hours being silly on the floor with her. That felt good :) Then I cooked; I figure if I cook on Wednesdays and at the weekends we can have leftovers the rest of the time and still be eating all home-cooked food.

Thursday was also spent at the library, wrestling with MATLAB. I have not missed MATLAB. I would not miss MATLAB if all copies of it were to spontaneously combust. I wish we were using Mathematica. I understand Mathematica. Mathematica likes me. MATLAB is stubborn and, I am sure, plotting against me. Still, I am hoping to one day beat it into submission…

Also on Thursday I went to see the course administrator to make sure the department knew I was back and that the timetable I had was correct. According to her I am not the only person who had to take a year out, which is something of a relief. I’m not quite so apprehensive about starting back again now. She said there are at least two other people ‘hanging around’… and then told me two names I didn’t recognise at all. Perhaps I will recognise their faces when I see them, though.

On Friday I decided there wasn’t anything more I could do to prepare for next week academically, so I prepared for it culinarily instead: I made two pasta sauces and a pasta bake and stuck them all in the freezer for emergencies.

Hopefully, I am now prepared for anything :)

Dinah and I in our new flat:

Leicester -- weeks 1 and 2

Dinah and I haven’t had the best of starts here in Leicester.

When we arrived, all ready to move in, we found out that the previous tenants had left a bunch of their crap here, including food in the fridge and paper cups on the floor. The landlord hadn’t been able to check on the flat’s state beforehand because he had the flu. So our first night in Leicester was spent in a hotel. It was quite a nice hotel, and some cousins took us out to dinner, so that wasn’t so bad.

We moved in the following evening. The landlord had told us that he would get the ‘professional cleaners’ in and that the flat would be ‘nice and clean’ for us. Well. It was okay, not filthy anymore, but if I was a ‘professional cleaner’ I would have done a lot more. There was still junk behind the sofa, for one thing. And the bathroom light didn’t work, so the cleaner and the landlord both tried to get up on the stepladder to change the bulb, but neither of them could reach. ‘Tomorrow’, I was told, and they left.

I went to put some bedding on the sheets and noticed that a) the mattress was half-dead; and b) the space behind the bed, conveniently hidden from view for someone taking a casual glance, was covered in mildew.


I mentioned both these problems to the landlords the next day (while they were telling me someone would come to fix the bathroom light that evening, which no one did), and was told that they would contact me about it ‘tomorrow’.

Yeah, right.

The light was finally fixed on Wednesday evening – they arrived just as I was bathing Dinah, when I had already given up again on them coming as they were half an hour late. So that problem is solved, but the ceiling in the kitchen has been leaking and I have yet to have an opportunity to mention this to the landlords...

Apart from all that, everything else is going fine. Dinah seems to be adjusting well. We visited her daycare on Monday and Tuesday and she spent most of the time crawling around playing and grinning. She cried when we left both times (though that might be because it’s freezing outside at the moment). I have yet to leave her alone there yet, though.

On Wednesday we went to a La Leche League meeting, which was nice. We were given mince pies and a shopping bag with the number for the National Breastfeeding Helpline on it and were generally made to feel very welcome. I’m a bit put out that I’ll have lectures on Wednesday mornings when the teaching period starts, but perhaps when I’m working on my project I can take Wednesday mornings off. My current timetable allows me Wednesday afternoons free though, which is nice too.

Speaking of periods though, I have a sneaking suspicion that mine might be returning. Boo. Very inconvenient timing, if you ask me... can’t it just stay away until I want it back?

On Thursday I waited in most of the day for my internet package to arrive. It didn’t. Instead I got a letter saying ‘Good news! Your home is already connected to Virgin Broadband!’, addressed to ‘The Occupier’. Virgin was the company I’d ordered the internet package from (and who I’d received an e-mail from weeks earlier confirming 7 January as the delivery date), so I phoned the number on the letter. Apparently because I’m renting they couldn’t send me a Quick Start package – someone was due to come and install it on the 18th. According to the man on the phone, they had sent me an e-mail.

Yes, despite having my address and my phone number, the medium they chose for communicating to me when my internet connection would be connected was e-mail.

In fact I never did receive an e-mail from them; a letter arrived the next day telling me that yes, someone would be here on the 18th.

On Monday I strapped Dinah to my back and went to the internet café across the road to check my e-mail. It was full of middle-aged Asian men who stared at me for the whole ten minutes I was there. I suppose Dinah and I presented quite an oddity.

Also on Monday I went to the university to re-register for my course, with Dinah in the pushchair because I planned to go shopping after.

It started out seeming simple enough – I showed the nice lady at the desk my re-acceptance letter, she typed something on her computer and then told me I could use the computer at the desk to register.

I entered my student number, name and date of birth as requested, and the computer told me I hadn’t paid my fees yet this year.

This was because I had already paid in full last year, I explained to the lady. She told my I would have to go up to the Cashiers Office on the second floor to get it sorted out.

“There’s a lift, right?” I said, gesturing at the pushchair.

“Do you know,” she said, “I’m not sure that there is.”

She asked me to follow her back out to the main reception desk, where she asked the receptionist if there was a lift.

“No. No, I don’t think there is.”

I was eyeing the staircase warily, but thankfully the lady took pity on me and told me to come back to the office and she would see if she could sort it out on the phone. Which she did.

So. Second try. Student number, name, date of birth... Aha! “You may now enter online registration. Proceed/Cancel.”



This was followed by more phone calls made by the nice lady on my behalf, as well as several log out/log in agains because there was no way to navigate away from the page and all the short cuts were disabled to make sure no one could use the computer for anything other than online registration.

Finally, the error message went away. A screen showing my course details came up:

Course: Financial Mathematics and Computation MSc
Mode: Full-time
Expected end date: 27 September 09

Are these details correct? Yes/No.

Which, of course, they weren’t – or I would already have my masters degree and not need to bother with any of this online registration business. No, I clicked, resisting the temptation to just click yes so I could get it over with.

Online Registration Cancelled. Please contact the registry.

I contacted the registry by once again waving at the nice, patient lady and getting her to fix things for me.

Fortunately the computer had run out of protests and actual online registration took about a minute.

Even more fortunately, Dinah had been asleep the whole time.

Perhaps most fortunately, things have generally started to look up since then.

More later :)

21st Dec, 2009

We have a flat! Yay! It's five minutes' walk from Dinah's daycare, another ten from the university, is furnished, comes with access to a shared garden and is reasonably priced. And it has a really nice kitchen! Downsides are that it's on the ground floor and consequently a bit gloomy, especially the bathroom, but I've decided I can live with that. Dinah and I also went to a La Leche League meeting while we were in Leicester and we met a lady and her daughter who live just round the corner from our new flat :)

So thanks for your good luck wishes, all -- they worked!

We're moving in in less than two weeks. I am excited, if apprehensive.

Anyway, we're back in Switzerland for the moment, which I have taken advantage of by sorting through some of Dinah's newborn clothes for some friends who are expecting a baby due nine days before Dinah's first birthday. All the clothes are so tiny, even the ones it seemed like she would never grow into only a few months ago. It's weird.

So, I packed a few things up and was taping up the package (near some candles -- oops) when it caught fire! Which was quite scary, especially as my first instinct was to blow on the flames, which was stupid. Thankfully I quickly realised this and stifled the flames with a piece of cardboard -- which, in hindsight, may also have been a little stupid. It worked though, so I assessed the damage: one pair of socks mostly melted, the best vest ruined by two gaping holes, and everything else stinking of smoke.

Out of the parcel, into the washing machine, next to the dryer overnight and I finally got it all in the post this morning (though not before it'd been splattered with snow).

Dinah had her nine-month check-up today. All is well except the doctor heard a "small whispering over her aorta". Which he says is probably nothing to worry about and he'll check up on it at our next visit in the spring, but... well. It's unnerving. I don't like it.

I love her so much.

6th Dec, 2009

Wish me luck finding somewhere to live in Leicester -- the search starts tomorrow!
I've just found out that my least favourite lecturer, whose social skills are awkward at best, is going to be my personal tutor when I go back to Leicester.