The sick student.

Not much happening this week apart from the fact that I am sick! Got up this morning, felt great, went for a run, did some stretching, then yoga, then meditation, felt ravenous afterwards so had a hearty breakfast, and then suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, I had a sore throat, and within an hour I felt unwell enough to decide to stay home all day.

No idea where that came from. I have Monday booked as a holiday for a little me time which I felt I needed and it turns out I was right: I seem to be very good at realising when I need to rest. All that hard physical work both in my job and at college is finally catching up with me and I knew I was due for an illness of some sort any time soon.

So instead of going mushroom picking in the forest today, which I was really very much looking forward to, I ended up staying home, snacking on toasted crumpets and drinking lots of tea, popping paracetamol tablets and feeling sorry for myself. Damn. I had found myself a book on mushrooms and I was all set to go for a nice brisk healthy walk in the autumn countryside in search of edible fungi, all inspired by River Cottage’s series on vegetarian foods. I wanted to find some of these hedgehog mushrooms to make a stew. All part of the student diet of course: foraging for food in the countryside is the most economical, healthiest and interesting way to get food. I no longer have a garden, so I would like to try and take advantage of what is freely available around me.

But Im sick! 🙁 So no mushrooms this week I’m afraid.

And the immediate problem that I spotted when I realised I was unwell is that I didn’t feel like driving, so how do I get medicines knowing the nearest chemist is a 6 or 7 minutes drive from here? Mumble grumble. This is when I wish I had more friends living around me who could pop round to check up on me and bring me tomato soup! I love where I live, but it is extremely isolated.

Anyway. Back to tea and paracetamol. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

The simple pleasures of student life

I realised recently that living permanently on a very tight budget has had for result to lower my expectations about most things to very basic ones. For example, as part of the benefits in my job, I get a pair of steel cap shoes. I was so happy with that small bonus that when I walked out of the shoe shop I did a little dance and just stared at my new shoes while walking.

Because I use my weekly allowance so very carefully, I don’t allow for anything fancy at all. It’s all about food and petrol and other very strict necessities such as soap or toothpaste. So this past week, when I bought a new pair of pyjamas from Lidl with a matching fushia pink gown for £14.50, I actually felt guilty. Thankfully not for too long as I reasoned that I needed new pyjamas. I had been wearing an extremely old mismatched grey pair with the bottom part so out of shape that I looked like I had a bum reaching down to mid-thighs. Since I live in a household with other people, I ended up feeling self-conscious about walking around in those PJs, especially after I realised there is a hole on the left bum side. So I got a particularly fetching new pair from my favourite reasonably priced shop and although this may seem like a perfectly normal purchase, I still feel like I have won the lottery!

I did receive, a few weeks ago, a grant of £200 for buying tools. I now know exactly what kind of tools I need but I am considering waiting for the January sales when all the prices will come down. It is a long time to wait for someone who is so looking forward to owning her tools, but I call it delayed gratification. In January, when I do buy my tools, I will get more for my money, and it will be like a second Christmas.

Saturday, I spent the morning at my exhibition, talking to whoever wanted a chat with me about my work and inspiration which was very pleasant. Then in the afternoon I had planned to have lunch in town. I managed to find the most reasonably priced little café which had the wonderful idea to offer 10% discount to students. I felt unbelievably lucky to be able to have a hot jacket potato with beans and cheese and a cup of coffee for a fraction of what it would have cost me at Café Nero where I was planning on going.

These are just a few examples of my life as a student on a tight budget. It is hard work as it involves constantly questioning whether I really need to buy this or that. Sometimes, I have to spend more money than I had allowed myself to have in a week. Usually, it’s about petrol: I use my car to commute, which I never did before, and I have to fill up every 2 weeks. That’s about £100 a month only in petrol. So I still use my savings, of course, because my job doesn’t pay way as much as I need to make ends meet. And that makes me wonder how the others cope.

I chatted to my fellow students and I learned that most of the youngsters have help from their families who sponsors them throughout their studies; they usually are still living with their parents and they don’t even have a job for the rest of the week because they can’t find anything. Those who do have a job earn even less than me and have car insurances so expensive that I thought they were making a mistake when they told me. These kids wouldn’t be able to cope if their families weren’t there for them. As for the adults, we all have jobs, but it seems I am the only one who is living on her own. All the others are in couples and therefore have another income supporting them. The one other person who is single has enough money to afford not to work. So that leaves me… wondering why life is always more of a struggle when one is single…

Cue sad violins…

The First Project

My first project is finished. Yey! We started it the first week of college in September, and it took us all this time to finish but according to the teachers, we are on target. This first project was a wooden frame with each corner a different joint: a dove tail, a halving joint, a T halving joint and a mitre. It was hard work. I poured blood sweat and tears on that project! Honestly I did: I cut my fingers with the chisels which are sharp as razor blades; I sweated buckets as there is no air con in the work shop and it gets hot quickly when you are constantly moving about carrying heavy planes and sawing energetically; and I was close to tears on a few occasions when I just couldn’t see any kind of progress in my work. Alright I confess: I did cry in the loo when I was particularly annoyed by a T halving joint that just wouldn’t behave.

So here we are, in the third month of my college life and I am very happy to report that my frame is looking good. It isn’t perfect. I commented on a few flaws I noticed and my teacher told me to stop worrying about them. If my frame was perfect, then 1) I wouldn’t need to continue with this course, and 2) my skills could only go downhill from now: if a student realises that their work is good from the word go, then they usually lose the motivation necessary to work hard and make the rest of their academic year a success.

I must say, when my teacher agreed that I could stop working on my frame and that it really was finished, I felt really proud. The matchstick project, which consisted in planing a piece of wood on all 6 sides and making them all perfectly square, was very useful in showing what to do and what not to do when planing. So when I started planing my frame last week, I knew exactly how challenging it was going to be. In the end, I remember feeling annoyed because the sides of my frame were not 100% flat and square. My teacher checked and gave me a funny look. He told me that really, I could spend a long time trying to get this dead flat, but what I did was absolutely fine. He measured the difference on some of the sides to show me what he was talking about. The difference was no more than 0.02 millimetre. Basically, he deemed it insignificant. And that was fantastic because when we started on this project, we were warned that a particularly good student did, last year, manage to plane a piece of wood down as close as 0.01 millimetre of the dimension requested… <<smug smile>>

So next week, our new project will be the tool box. At the same time, I have to start making sure I know all the theory we have been taught since September as we have a test before Christmas. The theory involves all things to do with wood technology: Timber sawing and seasoning, wood diseases and defects, wood shrinkage and other movements due to drying, the different drying techniques, how to grade wood and to calculate its volume… It is a lot already and there is a lot more to come. This is when I wonder if there is an age limit for learning. The youngsters in my class don’t even make an effort to learn. To them, it’s like a game because college life doesn’t have the strictness of the school they left in June. I can see them laughing their way through the lessons, and still remember all of it the next week. I have to put some time aside to sit down with my course work and actually read it slowly and carefully; rewrite, it as I find this method works well for me to learn; and sometimes I do a little research online which helps to remember things.

So between work (3 days a week), college (2 days a week), karate (2 evenings a week) and learning (any time I get a moment), plus this week preparation for my new exhibition (all day Saturday), I can say that I am pretty busy.

However, one must remember to relax and take it easy once in a while, just to make sure one doesn’t start climbing up the walls out of sheer stress. So tonight, it’s home movie time. I may even stretch my tight student budget to getting some microwavable popcorn! Oh! The simple joys of student life!