Growing up

20 Jan

When I was little I grew three lemon trees which I named Socrates, Aristotle and Plato (I had just read Sophie’s World). These days I’m teaching their ideas to undergraduates…

A new beginning…

31 Dec


Here is a song I really like at the moment. It’s in German, and its title and chorus can be translated as “believe me, this end will be a beginning, we will start again”. So here’s to hoping the end of 2012 will be the beginning of a great year.

Happy New Year!


So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun…

24 Dec
Holiday, Summer, Mediterranean, Sea

The most blue water I’ve ever seen

This third year as a single mum has been the most busy, and the most successful at work for me so far. My daughter has turned into a proper big girl: life with a 3-year-old is so much easier than with a baby or toddler.

This year my daughter has learned

to dress herself

to put her own shoes on

to recognise her own name

to recognise letters and name them according to what they represent in her letter puzzle

to come to my bed when she wakes up in the middle of the night

to go to the toilet on her own and wash her hands

to cut up food

to use scissors, a hole-punch and sellotape

what the post office is for and how exciting it is to send and receive letters

how to complain loudly about the bus being late and then choose her favourite seat when it arrives

several nursery rhymes and Christmas carols

going to ballet school


My year has brought the following accomplishments:

a tiny semblance of a social life

getting onto people’s radars at uni to be considered for jobs and feeling part of the ‘big people’

my first semester teaching literature to undergraduates

being praised by my supervisor for the feedback I gave my students for their essays

an internship at a small-but-influential literary organisation linked to my university (a particular highlight was attending an event and being told “this is x, have you met?” when x was someone who has written and been mentioned in academic texts I have read, and also an MBE and all-round impressive person)

suggesting a book review to a major journal on the spur of the moment, and having it accepted for publication

finishing a chapter of my thesis

presenting my research at a small conference in London

securing funding to attend as well as presenting my research at a major international conference in a Mediterranean country in the middle of the summer, mingling and networking for 3 days in a 5-star hotel, exploring the island and coping fine with the heat


Next year will bring:

hearing back about my abstract submissions for 3 conferences (2 UK, 1 international), 1 competition and 1 publication

submitting a proper article to a proper peer-reviewed-and-everything journal

my 2nd semester teaching literature to undergraduates

running a conference with 3 other students

hopefully the completion of 2 further chapters of my thesis

saying goodbye to our lovely nursery and its community

SCHOOL! and thus the official end of my daughter’s baby years, going to uni together, doing spontaneous fun things on weekdays, knowing she’s only a 5-minute walk away when I’m working, waiting at the uni bus stop with all the students, etc etc…


It’s been a good year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been majorly hard at times. I still have the feeling that my life has gone down completely the wrong path and there is nothing I can do to change it and direct it towards what I actually want. If you imagine the events that led to my becoming a single mum as an explosion (which is how I still see it), basically I’m still feeling dazed with tinnitus ringing in my ears. But at the same time, I have felt a new level of freedom through finally getting some results from my research, going out occasionally, and generally taking part in life. I feel slightly less ‘needed’ by my daughter. Of course she still needs me and I usually enjoy looking after her, but it’s all so much less intense now that she can do most things on her own, goes to sleep relatively easily, and because she is generally hugely intelligent and lovely (shameless bragging alert). I’m crossing my fingers that at the end of 2013 I’ll be able to report a similar list of achievements, and with my sanity still somewhat intact.


Merry Christmas, if you celebrate, and if you don’t, have a great winter break!

Sometimes nice people can make your day

7 Dec

The lovely GP who daughter and I went to see this morning told me all about her mother-in-law’s sister’s daughter’s wedding in my home city, asked about my research, called me a ‘sensible mum’ in a message to someone else, and told me I’m doing an ‘excellent job’ with my daughter. She gets fed, watered and cuddled most days, but sometimes it’s still nice to hear this. Especially when our circumstances mean that next semester I will probably have to miss out on teaching experience which is vital for my CV. Daughter got a sticker for being very patient during our conversation and not minding the stethoscope, so she’s happy, too.

A Royal Hyperemesis Baby

3 Dec

So the impatiently anticipated royal baby has finally been conceived. While Hyperemesis is no walk in the park for anyone, royal or not, I can’t help but wonder what the circumstances of pregnancy mean for the public perception of Hyperemesis sufferers.

Many people have commented on the Duchess of Cambridge’s thin figure, and one of the first reports of her hospitalisation mentioned that it is often women of slight stature who suffer from Hyperemesis. This is true, of course: women who are not overweight, under 30 years of age and non-smokers have the highest risk of developing it.

However, I can’t help but predict that media coverage of Kate Middleton’s HG will imply either that she brought it on herself by being thin, thus suggesting that she’s too concerned with her appearance or not strong enough to be a good mother, or that over-sensitive women insist on going to hospital when others just power through. Well, just to be clear: HG just happens, particularly in a first pregnancy when many people don’t even know it exists. Hospitalisation is usually the result of several weeks of eating and drinking very little.

Perhaps I’ll start a ‘royal pregnancy watch’ to see whether my predictions hold true.

How to make Honda’s ‘Fit She’s’ even more feminine

16 Nov

With such a ridiculous marketing ploy, it didn’t take long for The Internet to come up with a spoof .

My favourite:


Via Sociological Images

Schools and Portuguese rockstar babysitters

14 Nov

Today I went to my first British primary school open day. My daughter went to her nursery friend’s house. His mum is also a PhD student (researching poverty eradication and how to stop deforestation! Putting my namby-pamby irrelevant literature PhD to shame), and his dad is a member of, from what I can tell, a fairly popular Portuguese band. They are on Wikipedia and have tens of thousands of ‘likes’ on Facebook, so it was tempting to call this post ‘A Portuguese rockstar took my daughter to the toilet today’. Apart from the occasional trip to Portugal and mentions of his booking agent, you wouldn’t know though, he’s a lovely hands-on dad. We all went to watch the big fireworks a couple of weeks ago, and it was lots of fun. The little boy is just under two weeks older than my daughter, and they really get on like a house on fire. We seem to have established a bit of a reciprocal occasional babysitting deal, which is great, and completely new for me. It is unfortunate that they will leave the UK in the spring after their second baby is born, sadly such is the nature of friendships struck up at a university nursery.

Looking at schools was a surprisingly emotional experience for me. I was very happy at my small German village primary (not so much the secondary in the next town), and I really want my daughter to have a similar experience. But with so many things being different here, plus the fact that she’s growing up!, it’s causing a surprising amount of anxiety. I started reception at age 5, my schooldays lasted from 8.30 to 1.10 (from what I can remember), and school uniforms are still seen as a funny British (read: overly formal) quirk. So it’s a bit different, to say the least, to imagine my tiny daughter in a uniform spending 6-7 hours a day in a class of 30.

The two schools I looked at today couldn’t have been more different: school A is on the outskirts of our small town, has 2 classes each from Reception to year 3, a bit of outside space with a vegetable garden for each class, and has taught a couple of generations. School B was set up by parents 2 years ago, has a beautiful building in the very busy centre of town for their Reception to year 5 classes (1 per year), an outside space the size of my kitchen, and takes the pupils to the local (premiere league? First division? No idea!) football ground every week for their PE lesson.

At School A we were shown around by a very enthusiastic parent governor, at School B I was shown around on my own at breakneck speed by a year 4 boy who got thoroughly bored when I quizzed the music teacher on the methods used in the extra-curricular violin lessons. I know it’s cute when pupils show you around their school, and when I was asked to do this at my British secondary school, I found that it added to my feelings of pride about my school. But today I couldn’t help but think of the pupil in his brand new shiny uniform as a tiny robot, programmed to point out the school photos and ‘school dog’ (stuffed and propping open the principal’s office door!), linger for an extra few minutes in the dyslexia unit and then deliver me back to the principal in the foyer who rattled off percentages in reply to my no doubt completely random-sounding questions. School A does not have a dyslexia unit, they simply have a couple of rooms (the same number as School B) which are used for identical purposes, as far as I can tell, but they don’t make a big deal out of it.

The governor at School A made a point to explain how happy the pupils are. The principal at School B put a big emphasis on the school’s superiority compared to other local schools, even encouraging a pupil to confirm this.

Needless to say, I felt a lot more comfortable at School A! I still have to find out about our catchment school’s open day as that one will have to be one of our choices on the application form. Several people from my university department have sent their children to the private school which is ca. 10 minutes’ walk from our house. They offer bursaries and are particularly keen to enrol more girls from a non-standard background at the moment, I’ve been told. As the daughter of a penniless non-British lone student parent my daughter seems to fit the bill, and I have been intrigued by this school for a while. But where I come from, private schools are quite rare and the preserve of the snobby.

So, basically, this school business is just as agonising as I thought it would be!