The latest stage of our adventure has very much been a case of “getting to know you”. Not just getting to know new people but exploring the area a little more too (after all, knowing where the supermarkets and the waste recycling centre are doesn’t seem quite enough!)
A really good starting point has been getting to know the Maudsley family. Phil was on my Bishops’ Advisory Panel back in May and we struck up a good relationship there, knowing that we had both chosen St John’s if we were selected. It was lovely to find out that he’d been recommended for training too and that our families were able to meet. The Maudsleys have been extremely hospitable and I have been able to repay their kindness by helping to make the tree house just outside their back door a little safer with some DIY skills. I’m sure their sons and daughter will be making good use of the tree house over the next two years.
Last Sunday, we attended the first college social event – an “Afternoon of Fun”, organised by some of the student committee. There were toys and games for the children, while the adults all watched on in glorious sunshine asking the same few questions over and over again:
“Hello, I’m Rich and this is Jenny and Nathan. Who are you?”
“Where have you come from?” or (if you’re feeling adventurous) “Which diocese have you come from?”
“What did you do before you came here?” (Yes, I have already had to answer questions about teeth!)
“Two years or three?”
And, if you’re joining the conversation part way through…
“Sorry, I didn’t quite catch your name…?”
It looks like we have an interesting mix of backgrounds for my cohort. Youth workers and people who have worked teaching young offenders in prisons will be sitting in lectures alongside a former mental health nurse and someone who worked in “Religion and Ethics” with a broadcasting corporation. Unusually for St John’s (which, in recent years, has had a reputation for being very family-oriented), there are more single students than married this year. The ladies outnumber the gentlemen too (which hasn’t been the case in the last few years, apparently). Jenny and I are desperately trying to learn names of the ordinands, their spouses and any children as quickly as we can. I’m told it will be easier when the induction weeks start because we’ll get given name badges.
On Tuesday we were invited to tea at the home of our link student, Adam, and his wife Kim (you’ll remember from a previous post that we bumped into them at church). I talked with Adam about a few elements of the course, while Jenny talked with Kim about being a mother (their son is 13 months old). Adam is off to Sri Lanka for two weeks soon, so we’ve invited Kim round for a meal or two during that time.
Having spent time meeting and talking with lots of new people, it has also been nice to get out and spend some time as a family. On Wednesday, we went to Attenborough Nature Reserve, a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) made up of flooded gravel pits and islands, as a wonderful refuge for migrating birds. Jenny really put me to the test with my wetland bird identification skills – the swans, Canadian geese and mallards were easy, but I was quite chuffed to be able to recognise a great crested grebe and to know the difference between a moorhen and a coot. However, I’m sure I will be making much use of the RSPB bird identifier over the next few years!
Nathan seemed quite happy just to be carted around in the pushchair, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a trip to Attenborough becomes a regular thing and his interest in the ducks increases rapidly. I doubt Jenny will have much objection to these visits, having discovered both the ice cream van and the cafe within minutes of our arrival. It is by far and away our closest attraction, being less than five minutes drive from our house, so we hope our friends and family who visit aren’t afraid of wildfowl!
Aside from that, much of the rest of our time has been spent working on the house – ranging from little things, like sorting out the CDs in the racks, having just dumped them in there when we first arrived, to much bigger things like tackling the gardens, which appear to have been neglected over the last few years and were both full of weeds. I’m trying to convince Jenny that I need one of these, but she doesn’t seem entirely impressed!
I was nearly driven mad on Tuesday by trying to sort out the changes to my car insurance. My (now former) insurers were trying to charge me more than £450 on top of what I had already paid for my cover, which I could only describe as daylight robbery. It was far cheaper to cancel that policy, get a refund and sign up with another insurer. Thank goodness for those meerkats, eh?! I couldn’t quite believe it on Wednesday when Jenny phoned her insurers and was asked for an extra £9 only. Safe to say that one insurance company will not be getting my custom again in the future!