Back to school at the age of 42

"Sleep with one eye open" was the quickly emailed advice from my Dad the night before Jake, my internet procured van driver, turned up on my doorstep along with my younger brother.

My parents were freaking (as parents do)

but I...

a) knew everything would be alright because statistically life usually is
b) trust the MyHammer website
c) had his email details and the van number
d) hitchhiked my way across Sumbawa on the back of an onion truck when I was 25 - if nothing happened then...

Of course, when Jake and Martin actually turned up, all of Jake's mates were furiously emailing and texting, worried that he'd arrived in Stuttgart and had his liver and kidneys taken out.  Ah, you gotta just love the way that television and general overhyped media resources have created such a nervous world.

My adventure did have its ups and downs, more because a jinn attached itself to my journey, probably attracted by all the worrying family members and friends.

He, the jinn that is, decided to infiltrate my bank account and managed to stop it from working on the very day I was leaving.   Despite frantic calls to the bank at 9am on Saturday, being able to view my money but not touch it, it was a no-go and all information given by the call centre pointed to an apology on Monday (which I got but seriously, it doesn't help to know that technical problems happen).  I was worried and stressed out enough that day, already nervous about packing up my whole life and cancelling numerous jobs and contacts and saying goodbye to students and friends and throwing out garbage bag after garbage bag of stuff not needed anymore... and trying to fit the rest of nigh-on 7 years into one van.

I recounted and recounted the pounds and Euros I'd taken out during the week, crossed my fingers that my budget based on GoogleMaps information was correct.

It wasn't... 

The jinn, you see, he'd also managed to persuade a neighbour to park his Ford 4x4 in front of the van, thus blocking the driveway.  Manic calls at 2am put me in touch with the efficient German police who promised to tow it away if they couldn't contact the owners.  They turned up bleary eyed and in their pyjamas, leaving us an hour off-schedule.

Jake tapped on some keys on the GPS which then prompted "Do you want to avoid tolls?"

We clicked no - we had to try and make the ferry in time - we left, speeding away through Germany and into France.

Sure enough, it was a badly clicked decision, as French toll after toll after toll ate away at those Euros in my pocket, in trickles of €3, €6, €24, €36 and thus, fearing not having enough to pay the final toll... a quick math calculation at the last gas station on the European side to get us just enough until we were in Ole Blighty, proved to be our undoing... 10 minutes away from Calais, 25 minutes away from our afternoon ferry, we wound up with the van parked on the side of the road and a whopping bill to pay for.  No gas.

Also, of course, because I had been super-super careful to tie up all loose ends, I'd remembered TWO DAYS BEFORE to report that I no longer knew the PIN number to my credit card (because I use it only for emergencies and internet transactions)...they'd said no problem and that they'd get a new one sent to me in the UK...

I hadn't reckoned on the jinn...

and thus, I didn't even have a credit card to take care of the breakdown on the side of the road.  It took some persuasion and desperation to convince the French-uber-expensive-fix it man (€186) to take the British currency.  He huffed, he puffed.  It's money.



Finally, after paying a fine for missing the right ferry and making our way through the south of the UK with nary a pee-stop, we got here around 10 in the evening and were met by my friendly landlord who'd brought round bread, tea and cookies in case we were hungry.

And so, oh-my-god, I am here.  In Manchester,  in a super-super-super friendly city where people talk to me for absolutely no reason.   I am sharing a flat with lovely young postgraduates who, so far, don't mind/know that I'm an old lady.

I am sleeping on the floor because I was outbid on e-bay on the bed I wanted.

There are still boxes which haven't been opened and unpacked yet.

I'm relearning how to cook soup from scratch, put together spaghetti bolognese, tuna-fish pasta and other cheap dishes (send me your student-food recipes!)

I've met my tutors and some of the onsite participants and they're all very friendly and interesting.  I'm also looking forward to hooking up with the off-site distance folk.

The University is amazing, the library is wonderful (although lots of the books I want are on one-week-only-loans so will have to reach deep into the coffers to purchase some).  

I have a student card and can get cheap tickets to movies and stuff.  Yippeeee! Lars von Trier here I come.

My course modules look RIDICULOUSLY UBER COOL (for an edtech tesol geek like me) and it's hard to decide for sure which ones to do, but I've worked out a good plan for the next two years and I am ridiculously, ridiculously excited to learn.

So, tomorrow, at the age of 42, wearing jeans which have already been laid out plus brand-new-shiny polished up DrMartens, me, after 15+ years in the classroom, I shall be walking in not as teacher but as learner.

p.s. Thanks Anne Hodgson for introducing me to MyHammer!
p.p.s nervous as all get-out, so wish me luck!
image credit:Photograph by Mike Peel ( [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Responses to “Back to school at the age of 42”

  • Chiew says:
    September 26, 2011

    Good luck, Karenne! You're a brave lass! Do you know Amazon has a textbook rental service for Kindle? Not sure if you can find those that you need: Amazon Textbook Rentals

  • theLingoGuy says:
    September 26, 2011

    Having said I would never go back to being a student, your story kind of piqued my interest.Probably cause I studied at MMU myself back in the late nineties. Manchester is a great under appreciated city. And Mancunians are hard not to love.
    In such a city I would luv to hear if your music taste changes due to Mancunian exposure. Lets not forget the Indie scene started here. And the Hacienda in its day was one of the biggest cult club scenes in the UK.

    On another note an economical recipe I swear by today, and found an apt example while googling:

    with fresh baguette of course.

    Also you will find Falafel to be of good quality and reasonable price from ASDA.
    The aforementioned supermarket being the one I would choose for good variety at a reasonable price.

    Leave you with a bit of tongue in cheek comedy with a Manchester flavour;

  • Brad says:
    September 26, 2011

    Sounds like an exciting European adventure.

    Best of luck with your new direction. VERY excited to see what you'll be posting about. Cheers, Brad

  • Sean Banville says:
    September 26, 2011

    Lucky you Karenne,
    Would love to be a student again.
    I hope the other students know how lucky they are to have you as a classmate.
    If anyone asks, Arsenal play the best football in England.

    All the best for happy student life Pt. II.


    PS - You won't need luck :-)

  • seburnt says:
    September 27, 2011

    You're doing the same MA program I am and at the same time, Karenne? How did we not know this?

  • Anonymous says:
    September 27, 2011

    Hi Karenne

    Welcome to University of Manchester (though I've never been there myself!). I'm just starting my 2nd year of the Digital Technologies and Communication in Education (DTCE) distance learning MA which shares several units with your MA. I am sure you'll find it as rewarding as I am.


  • Eva Buyuksimkesyan says:
    September 27, 2011

    Good luck Karenne with your new life. Being a student again sounds sooo cool. (I don't know what my sts will say about being cool but for me yep, verrry cool)

  • Leahn says:
    September 29, 2011

    I'm sooooo jealous! Not about the trip but about being in Machester and doing an MA.

    I did my undergraduate degree in Manchester. It's a great city and a fantastic place to study. The library is so lovely and it def helps to get you in the mood to study.

    Don't worry, on my underaard course there was a woman who was 42, she had forgotten more things than we'd ever known!

    Have fun!
    from a very envious Leahn.

  • Fiona says:
    September 29, 2011

    Hi Karenne
    How funny that we're both at Manchester! However, I'm not actually 'there' but 3rd year distance. Nice to see photo of the university building. All the best

  • Saeed Mubarak says:
    September 30, 2011

    your story makes me remember my dreams of getting MA in teaching Methodology .But actually, I didn't have chance .


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