In which my working life changes yet again

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In a situation that I’ve encountered several times before, in just over a week I will be made redundant from my job. Unlike previous times, however, this role was maternity cover so it didn’t come as a surprise that my services would no longer be required; in fact, I’m quite amazed to discover that I qualify for redundancy pay (I’ve done two fixed term contracts back to back which have gone over the magic two years.)

In the past few months I’ve been applying for jobs in the same company, but while I was offered a role, it just wasn’t right, and something was holding me back from saying yes. Hitting ‘send’ on the email where I said thanks but no thanks was simultaneously terrifying and liberating: what if I’d made the wrong decision?

But ah, what if I’d made the right one?

And I believe I have: as of mid July I am going full-time freelance. It was a decision that took a lot of mulling over both in my head and with S, but now that the die is cast I’m really pleased I’ve done it. Going part time freelance in 2010 worked out super well and led onto wonderful things — including my current publishing career — so I have every faith that this will too.

I’ve already got work booked for the rest of July and all of August, which is fab, and the aforementioned redundancy pay will also provide a nice cushion, so for the next few weeks at least I am set. I’ll give it a go until Christmas, and then re-assess, and if my dream job comes up in the meantime then I will apply for it. But I’m excited at the prospect of being able to branch out and try new things, work for different magazines, and also at the thought of being able to go back into working for the third sector in addition to publishing. I am ready. Let’s do this!

In which that was the month that was: May issue

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You’ve gotta love May, with its double bank holiday action. Shame the weather wasn’t playing ball all the time though! So this month I…

Went on another 20s’ themed hen do

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I’m very glad I kept the accessories from my previous 20s hen dos as I had another one this month down in Torquay. I love a few pearls and ankle strapped shoes though, so all good with me, and this one featured a murder mystery which was fun. The bride was challenged to take a selfie with each of us that demonstrated how we knew each other: since we’re trapeze friends, that necessitated finding somewhere to go upside down! We ended up hanging from our hocks on the fence outside the Torquay big wheel — and just got the photo before we were angrily told off by a cafe owner.

Continued working on the garden

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S hired a breaker and filled up an entire 6 yard skip with concrete, which I helped to load, and the absence of piles and piles and piles of concrete means we have more of a blank canvas to start with. A friend from work is training to be a garden designer and has offered to do some sketches for us of what we could do with the space, so I’m excited to see what she comes up with.

Enjoyed two bank holidays

For the first one we mostly lazed on the balcony, which had its glass put in on the Sunday, and drank Prosecco to celebrate. For the second we had thought about going to North Wales but the prospect of bad weather put us off, so instead we did a lush bike ride to Chew Magna for a pub lunch on the Saturday when it was actually sunny, then I spent the Sunday finishing off the painting inside the house (it’s done! Finally!) and visiting the allotment on the Monday. I also tried a Black Espresso Magnum and a peanut butter Cornetto, so the ice cram quota was nice and high.

Knitted more booties

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Two more friends gave birth this month so the needles have been busy with more booties. The next step is to start following more complex patterns and attempt something that’s properly shaped.

Took one of the nicest train journeys ever

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I popped down to Totnes this week after work to see a friend, who’s back briefly from Germany, and got to travel along the stunning section of railway that borders the sea by Dawlish Warren. Looking out and only being able to see water is pretty special, and even more so as this was the bit of line that got washed away during the 2014 floods but was rebuilt within two months. Hurrah for engineers!

Voted

And then got depressed. Let’s hope the next five years pass quickly.

In which there is a house tour

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Our balcony was finally finished over the bank holiday, and so coinciding with S taking some photos of the house with a wide-angled lens, I thought I’d share the fruits of our labours over the past few months.

When we moved in, the house was stuck in a time warp. The electrics all pre-dated the 1977 colour change, there was no central heating and the bathroom still had the original 30s tiles (sadly not good enough to keep). We were only the third owners since 1936, with the couple before us being in there for over sixty years. It was described as “in need of some modernisation”. It definitely needed TLC. A friend of mine called it “retro”, which I think was rather too kind! This is what it looked like before.

Living room

Living room

Dining room

Dining room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Front bedroom

Front bedroom

Back bedroom

Back bedroom

Bathroom

Bathroom

Small bedroom

Small bedroom

There were loads of great original features though — internal doors with Bakelite handles, the leaded glass front door and picture rails in most rooms. S loved the cellar and the garage as potential bike storage/workshop space. And, of course, the view. The view is what really sold it to us, being high up and looking out towards South Bristol and Somerset. We knew there was so much potential for it to be an amazing house.

Over ten months we stripped wallpaper, knocked down a wall and an outhouse, did the bonding plasterwork, dug the foundations for the balcony, put in a lintel, rebuilt a wall, sanded and polished the floors, built shelves and painted. A lot. External contractors rewired it, installed central heating and a woodburner, swapped windows and doors over in the kitchen-diner, did the top coat of plaster, put in a new kitchen and bathroom and built the balcony.

And here’s how it looks now…

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Seeing these photos side by side makes me realise how far we’ve come from that day in September 2013 when we fell in love with the view. Every time I put my key in the lock, I still get a thrill to see it all complete, and I genuinely can’t imagine living anywhere else now.

For those of you interested in the details: all paint Wickes white trade matt with a top coat of Dulux matt soft sheen in brilliant white; kitchen: all units, sink and worktop from Wickes; dining room: tiles in fireplace from http://www.milagros.co.uk; bathroom: suite from Bath Store, tiles from Topps Tiles; living room: floating shelves built by us using batons, tongue and groove and redwood planks; cat: photographer’s own!

In which that was the month that was: April issue

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April is one of my favourite months: blue skies and blossom popping out everywhere. It’s been pretty warm here, too, so lots of meals have been eaten on the balcony and the first falafel of the year in Castle Park.

This month I have…

Upped my culture quota

I saw a contemporary circus show at the Old Vic (Under the Dark Moon) and comedy at the Tobacco Factory (Tom Stade), although neither were amazing. But of note was that even after a large glass of wine prior to the former, I didn’t want to fall asleep  in the darkened auditorium, so I’m taking that as a win for the MAD.

Celebrated Easter and a friend’s wedding

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My ex-university housemate got married on Easter Saturday at a rowing club in London where the Prosecco flowed, the favours were Mini Eggs and the youngest guest was just five weeks’ old (my other ex-housemate’s baba who received a pair of last month’s knitted booties). We took advantage of being in our nation’s capital by going on the Eye the next day (which S has never done) and wandering around Westminster in the sunshine. We then sat on the balcony for pretty much all of the Easter Monday, eating a lot of chocolate. The stash is still holding out, however.

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Treated my mom to afternoon tea

We headed to the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath to celebrate her birthday, and the weather gods smiled on us too, so we got to sip our Champagne and eat our cakes and scones and Bath buns in the magnolia-filled garden. Can highly, highly recommend this place: the food was delicious, the fizz dry and the service impeccable.

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Celebrated six months in the house

We marked the occasion by buying and framing some new prints, getting a proper vase (as I was constantly nicking S’ specialist beer glasses to put flowers in) and continuing the destruction of the garden!

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In which I finally have a proper night’s sleep

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been tired. Most of the time I could deal with it; there was just a nagging sense of fatigue tugging at the edge of my consciousness, and if I didn’t focus on it then it would be fine. But every morning I would wake up wanting to go straight back to sleep, and no matter how long I slept for, it was never, ever enough. Offer me a nap and I would take it. Put me as a passenger in a moving car and I would zonk out, no question.

I just thought this was me, though: that I was sleeping too much, or not sleeping to the right patterns of time; that I drank too much coffee, or not enough water. A few years ago I went to the doctor to see if he could come up with something, but while he was very sympathetic and nice, blood tests showed nothing and all he could suggest was reading Frank Lipman’s book Spent.

It wasn’t until S was having trouble sleeping last summer and noticed that I had very erratic breathing — I would gasp and sputter, he said, as if I had been holding my breath, and never seemed to have the regular, deep breathing you associate with sleeping people — that something clicked, and I started to Google symptoms, putting two and two together (plus the Darth Vader-esque heavy breathing/snoring I did) and thinking that the answer of apnoea could well be the magic four. Convincing my GP (a different one) wasn’t the easiest: when a 32 year old womansays she might have apnoea, it’s not the typical overweight middle-aged man you’re expecting, so it’s understandable that there was some scepticism. But after completing an Epworth sleepiness test, which I’d already done for myself, the doctor realised that I may well be a candidate and I was referred to the sleep studies unit at the hospital. For two nights I wore a pulse oximeter strapped to my finger, which measured my pulse and breathing, recording these onto a USB so they could be mapped out as a graph on a computer. I saw the consultant two days later, and was fully expecting her to declare that I was a malingerer, a fraud, and not to waste her time anymore. Instead, she told me that there was no doubt I had apnoea, and she could diagnose the reason why straightaway – my very narrow jaw, which when relaxed in sleep closed off my airway, restricted my breathing and caused my brain to come out of deep sleep in order to get more oxygen. This was happening 6 or 7 times an hour – I was never getting enough of the deep sleep my body and brain needed and craved. Finally, the mystery was solved and I had an official diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).

Treatment options were discussed – I’d read about CPAP machines, devices which blow constant pressurised air down your throat, which didn’t sound appealing, but the consultant said a mouth device would be the best thing to try first. An appointment was made at the dental hospital for me, and now five months later, I’m the proud owner of a Mandibular Advancement Device, aka a very large gumshield. I wear this at night, it pushes my jaw forward into the correct position, and voila, I sleep properly.

The first week was tough in terms of jaw pain, but no worse than when I’ve had braces in the past; a few days of softer foods and ibuprofen did the trick. And any pain was cancelled out when I woke up and for the first time in over twenty years, I didn’t want to go back to sleep again. It’s a miracle.

There was a blip: on Monday morning, for some reason, I was exhausted again. I could have fallen asleep straight away (and in fact did), and had to have a nap in the afternoon. I panicked that the magic had worn off; that now my jaw had adjusted to the device and it wasn’t hurting, that it somehow wouldn’t work. But luckily it seems to have been just a one-off (touch wood), possibly because I lost an hour of sleep when the clocks went forward on the Saturday.

After finding a forum for apnoea sufferers, I feel incredibly grateful that mine was diagnosed so quickly and easily, and that I was referred to a sleep consultant without having to fight for it. Being told not to make a fuss, come back when you’ve lost weight, you’re just depressed seem to be common themes when people ask for a diagnosis. I am also extremely lucky that I didn’t have to pay for any of my treatment; having to pay for the MAD seems to be a normal thing too. And my OSA is classified as mild, which is great as it means an MAD is suitable for me and I don’t have to try more extreme measures such as the CPAP or surgery.

I think I will always be a ‘sleepy’ person who loves a lie-in and given the opportunity, will always steal a snooze on the couch. But the relief of not being tired is so unbelievably sweet. I feel like a new person, and it’s great.