My comfort zone

We talk quietly in the kitchenette because today I’m not the only visitor. There is some insurance assessor here, sat on one of the sofas with a large laptop on his knee. He is taking statements about a car accident in which they both were slightly injured. Seems they were travelling back from his brother’s wedding ‘do’ and were hit by another car, which sped off.

It’s been over a month since I’ve seen Frances. I’m looking forward to catching up on her news and seeing how much Mia has grown these last few weeks.

“And can you describe the car that hit you?” the assessor says to Hassan as I ask Frances about her grandma who was critically ill.

“We all rushed to the hospital when they said she only had 12 hours but she pulled through. She’s still in, but she’s much better.”

“Is that your mum’s mum?”

“Yeah. And my mum has been out of hospital for a while now. She’s been doing okay.”

“Has she had her prosthetic leg fitted?”

“Not yet. I haven’t seen her for a week or so, I’m going over later.”

For weeks Frances has been planning Mia’s first birthday party. It’s now less than a month away and I assume preparations are well advanced.

“What are you going to get her for her birthday?”

“I’ve already bought her loads of things,” says Frances excitedly. “I’ve bought her a wicked little pair of trainers called Toms. They’re like pumps but they’re hard at the bottom – like proper shoes – so they’ll be good for walking. I was buzzing when I bought them. I never had anything like that. I had Reebok Classics from the charity shop.

“And I’ve bought her one of those plastic things with the different colours that you bang with a hammer. I’ve got her a blow-up Mini Mouse chair and a big keyboard thing, and what else?”

I follow Frances into their bedroom where she shows me the presents, all wrapped up in pink paper. She tips out plastic bags full of party poppers, decorations, prizes for games.

“I need to get a piñata,” she says. “They’re £5 at Asda.”

The assessor is still questioning Hassan – “And what is the name of your GP?” – and so we continue our catch-up in the kitchenette where Frances describes how she has transferred to a closer campus of the same college, to continue her course.

“I’ve opened up my comfort zone, stepped out and now I’ve made it bigger.”

I must have pulled a puzzled face.

“I just walked in on my own and said I’d come to enroll. I was chatting to everyone. I wasn’t even bothered. I was like, ‘You don’t know me. So how can you judge me if you don’t know me?’”

“Why do you think they would judge you?”

“Because that’s what I always think when I go into somewhere new. I think they are staring at me and thinking I’m a bad person. But this time I wasn’t even bothered. And I even walked it back. I was feeling well confident.”

The Wythenshawe campus is just up the road from Dunbar Street. It’s only been opened a couple of years but I can’t understand why she was not referred there when she enrolled last year at the campus across town. Maybe at that time they didn’t offer the course.

She’ll do six weeks here and then, if she progresses well, she’ll start Level 2 at the Northenden which is a little further away but still on this side of town.

“But you passed Level 1, didn’t you? Why can’t you go straight to Level 2?”

“One of my tutors marked me down on her reference because of poor punctuality.”

“Did she not realise you have a baby, had to get up at six and had a series of bus journeys that took nearly two hours!”

“And what about Mia?”

“She’s going to nursery!” Frances exclaims, clapping her hands together. “I’m going to send her to the Forum Nursery. But I need to get the forms first so she can get funding. She can be there from 8 o’clock in the morning all the way until 6 o’clock in the evening while I’m at college.

“It’ll be good because she’ll be playing with other kids and she’ll start making me pictures. I can’t wait! I’ll just put them all over the walls. Everywhere.”

Continued in ‘Like a diamond in the sky’…

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