So… the last entry was left on a cliffhanger! A veritable feast of possibilities that left you hanging on the edge of your seat… or maybe not.
Well, to recap… I was one day into my month-long lease in Edinburgh when my recruitment agent told me he had a job that was perfectly suited to my availability (5 weeks), and to my interests (Autism Spectrum Disorder). The only thing: it was a 3 hour train ride from Edinburgh. Doncaster is in the south of Yorkshire and is famous for its horse racing. Despite being steeped in history (going back to Roman times), it is not so hot right now. To quote one of my housemates in Edinburgh – ‘it never really recovered from the slump in industry’. I’m not really sure what slump she was talking about, but I think she refers to more long-term influences than the recent Global Financial Crisis. Plus, the whole city centre smells like various bodily fluids and poop. Typically though, being the North of England, 99% of people I’ve met have been really friendly… even the prostitute who hangs out on my street smiles and says hello.
There is a really strange dichotomy of beautiful, kempt heritage houses on my street, and ones that have been allowed to disintegrate – boarded up and left to die. I thought my area was relatively safe until I went to the kebab place down the road and the owner looked deep into my eyes and pleaded that I not walk around by myself after the sun had gone down, as a girl had been dragged into one of the terrace houses nearby and raped. Today when I went to the pharmacy, I walked past genteel elderly folk tending their perfect rose gardens, and then had to wait in line whilst five twitching junkies did a needle exchange (one of whom was my prostitute buddy). In case you couldn’t tell, I’m still figuring out Doncaster, even on my last day.
In the midst of it all, like a beacon of hope, was The Balmoral Guesthouse. It’s over 100 years old and is the comfiest and cleanest place ever. I originally booked for 4 nights and ended up staying for the whole 5 weeks! The owner Paul upgraded me to a double room with ensuite when I only paid for a single room with a shared bathroom, and right at the end when he had to use my room for someone else, he upgraded me to an entire apartment at the same price! I’ve felt really safe and in the lap of luxury every day I’ve been here, so I bought him a nice bottle of cognac to say thankyou.
In regards to work… although I was quite tired for the first week, I attacked my work with gusto after being a free agent for 3 months. I was working at an Autism-specific highschool about a 40 minute bus ride from Doncaster, and it was really interesting. Despite only being there for 5 weeks, I felt like I made a difference… particularly as the school had not had a permanent Speech and Language Therapist for over a year. A procession of locums meant that the staff were a bit weary and the processes of the Department were not great. My fellow locum and I really tied everything together as well as upskilling staff in a way that didn’t annoy them at the end of their school year but still got the important points across. Win! The Deputy who hired me is now going to be one of my references for my CV which is great. The pay (as with most locum jobs), was awesome… plus my agency paid for half of my accommodation costs. Overall, the last 5 weeks have been totally worth it. I like seeing different places in the UK too.
I’ve relished the solitude/privacy of staying in my own room during the week. I’ve had books, a TV (with a film channel!), and plenty of time to relax and not talk to anyone. After I had gotten used to being alone again though, the novelty wore off and some of the old issues from home came up. I think it’s true what they say; going travelling doesn’t rid you of your demons, they just come with you. And they stay away (almost seem to disappear completely!), when you’re busy and having an awesome time… but during those quiet moments they creep up on you and have to be faced. The benefit of being away though, is that when you are confronted, you are removed from the everyday bullshit and have enough perspective (and quiet self-confidence), to deal with them. I have reached conclusions about certain situations that I never would have if I had remained at home, still grappling to hold onto something that I’m not. You only have yourself to answer to sometimes. This time has allowed me to feel OK about a few things, and to move on.
Anyway, that’s all pretty deep. Over the few weekends I’ve been here I’ve visited: York, Edinburgh (to return my key), Manchester and London. The weekends have provided me with enough fun and great people to prevent me getting too weird and hermit-like. Plus I got to see Portishead in London, one of my favourite bands… and it was the best performance I’ve ever seen.