UK farming part 1 : Calves

When I was on a placement in Dorset I became really engaged with farming. I visited some of the best farms in the UK and I also saw standard, average and below par ones. I really saw how different each farm is, met some really dedicated farmers and I want to write about what I know and see as a vet student and future vet.

So I’m going to write a series of blogs about different aspects of farming

My goals with farming is that I believe we should concentrate on the quality of production rather than the quantity. Humans don’t need dairy and meat to survive but I enjoy eating it and think as it’s not going to be stopped any time soon we might as well produce it in the best way possible. I want to stop mass production and bring it back to concentrating more on welfare and environment within farming. If we as consumers change our mindset to meat being a treat rather than taking it for advantage then we’d be prepared to pay more for it. Ideally, more money would go back to the farmers and they can spend more money per animal because they’re getting more for each animal and don’t have to produce so many or so much. It isn’t viable to keep producing at the rate we are. But actually if we shared it around better and only ate meat/dairy, say, once or twice a week then everything would be so much more manageable and hopefully fairer and better for all lives involved.

I don’t want producing as much as possible for as cheap as possible (because that’s what consumers are asking for) but producing a good all round product for the amount of money that it costs to do so.

So as a vet,

Welfare is most important to me. We also need to make sure that a farmer’s business is sustainable and viable for their animals sake and our business with the farmer. We have to find ways to make us useful that doesn’t necessarily mean us getting them to spend money on drugs. Especially antibiotics, we’re all driving away from using them. And the best way to avoid antibiotics is to prevent the disease in the first place. We’re being encouraged to actually use our time and knowledge more wisely. Spend an hour or two on a farm, look for areas that are great, look for areas that could improve or could be causing some of the problems that the farmer talks about.

The calf pens made a huge stir a couple of years ago.  There were  large calves in these pens. I was talking to the vets who knew the farm and they were gobsmacked. Ironically, they said, it was one of the best farms in the area.

http://www.itv.com/news/2017-03-28/heartbreaking-footage-of-calves-caged-in-pens-at-farm-which-supplies-milk-to-marks-spencer-is-released/

The farm in particular had had a recent positive reactor on it’s tb test. This means that the farm was essentially shut down because it has been found to have an animal that may or may not have tb. It is immediately not allowed to remove (sell on) or bring on to the farm any more animals. Therefore these calves were due to be sent to another farm for rearing. But they were no longer allowed to be moved for another 120days at least. (until the next tb test is 100% negative). The farmer wasn’t set up to keep these calves so had to make do. This was the only way he could keep them.

As vets we really like these calf pens. (but yes those calves do look pretty big for those pens) They mean calves can be by themselves while they are really young (and most vulnerable to catching infections) but still see and interact with other calves. Then when they’re older and stronger they can be moved into group pens. Being outside, it means they’re less likely to get respiratory problems and pneumonia which is very common when they’re kept In sheds with little ventilation. The small pen is easy to keep clean and it’s very easy to keep track of each calf and reduce the spread of infection. If one of the calves comes down it’s only a couple that are affected not 25 etc, like you might see being kept in a barn.

A well fed and healthy calf should thrive within this kind of housing. A good bed of hay in each hutch and they’ll easily be warm enough.

A great sign of a happy and healthy calf is when they jump and kick their legs out and run about. And actually, I’ve seen a lot of playful happy calves in these kind of hutches.

Calf hutch / individual / polyethylene / with yard

When calves get old enough to move into group pens they often go into a group of up to five so that they can still be monitored more easily for any health problems. The older and stronger they get the bigger the group they can go into essentially. I loved the farm photographed below. The calves here have collars on that have a specific chip for each calf. When the calf feels hungry it learns to go to the machine (not pictured) which will read the chip and the machine lets down it’s food quota. This way the farmer can see which animals are eating as expected, which need more and which aren’t eating as much as they should be. Those that aren’t can then be identified and checked out to make sure they aren’t becoming ill.

Each calf also had a temperature gauge on it’s ear ID. the thermometers work by reading the temperature of each calf every hour or so. If a calf’s temperature has been repeatedly too high for six hours or so, the thermometer light beams red which will notify the farmer to keep an eye on the calf. Usually the thermometer gauges the very early stages of an illness, so early in fact that there are no other symptoms and therefore we can’t treat the animal! or we just have to guess! But it’s fantastic for being prepared and being able to monitor each animal.

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There is quite a lot of controversy regarding calves and the separation from their mother after birth.

It’s a difficult one and most vets will generally weigh up their knowledge and experience and come up with an opinion. Personally, I don’t think it’s a huge deal taking a calf off of it’s mother within a day or two of being born. Having worked with the animals a lot. A calf will be happy and thrive if it is fed and has interaction with other animals. It’s not very natural I definitely agree but I could argue that it was justifiable. Some people argue that letting a calf stay with it’s mother for a week or two and then taking it away is better. But actually, they have had time to build up a bond, a routine and learned how to deal with the environment that includes each other. To suddenly take that away from the two, i think that could be crueler? But it’s controversial and very debatable. There is also quite a noticable lack of mothering qualities in milking cows. It is believed that they were bred like it. But a beef cow will generally fight off anyone threatening her and her calf yet a dairy cow, though they are generally less temperamental anyway, don’t put up any kind of a fight if you go in and take their calf.

The reason a calf is taken from it’s mother is so that the mother can start producing milk for the milk industry, rather than give it to her calf.

There are a lot of other reasons for why we take a calf away from it’s mother. Disease is a big reason. There are a number of diseases that spread from mother to calf. Milk and faeces are the main way they are spread. Johnes is a great example of a disease and It’s a life long disease in a cow. It’s pretty complicated and long winded but essentially the key to getting rid of the disease is the either kill every animal with it (which is usually high if it is present in the herd and not realistic to kill them all). Or we can stop the next generation from catching it and therefore over a number of years reduce the number of animals in the herd that have it.  Stop the calves from catching it and by the time they are adults they are less likely to catch it. but a calf that catches it off it’s mum will carry it for the rest of it’s life and never grow as well or be as productive or healthy.

Another reason why calves are taken from their mothers is to make sure that they get the right amount and quality of milk.

So, yes, we create a lot of the problems by farming intensively that we then have to solve. Because we ask cows to produce so much milk the quality (so the amount of fat and protein) can hugely vary. The amount can also vary too. Because of this we can’t control how much a calf will get. The first drink for a calf is the most important. The colostrum contains a huge amount of fat, protein and antibodies that will help the calf fight disease until it can develop its own. A calf that doesn’t get a decent amount will really struggle to get on in life, it will probably catch more diseases, probably not grow as well and just not thrive or live as long. And therefore to control the health of the calves, when there are so many calves around sometimes it’s easier to take on the full management and know exactly how much a calf is getting by feeding it directly yourself..

Calves for now

 

I love cows

There will be more to come

Rebecca x

 

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Looking back.

It’s scary how two months have gone since my last blog post. My initial thoughts were that It has just been an empty kind of two months. It has felt like I’ve just been eating, working and sleeping. The eating and sleeping bits have been great! But I haven’t enjoyed them as much as I could have because of the working bit.

I don’t have much to complain about, I’m just being worked hard at the moment. I want more freedom, I want to know what the day is going to bring and when I will be able to go home. I’m quite fed up of being a student and I’d like a job and to stay in one place for more than two weeks is a dream at the moment. It feels like i’m tip-toeing around trying to please everyone and even pander to their whims just to pass each week. I just can’t be arsed anymore. I feel like maybe I don’t need to prove myself anymore. It’s a nice feeling in a way.

But here are some of the good things I’ve been up to in the past two months!

Dorset

I spent a month around Dorset on some farm placements. I explored Chesil beach before spending the weekend with Rosie and her family. We visited the beautiful Sherborne Castle.

I spent two weeks with two other vet students in Shitterton. It was really nice to get to know the two of them. It was a hard two weeks with tons of work to do but we still managed to have fun and visit a couple of pubs while we were there.

I have also discovered Huel, a meal replacement type thing. It’s now what I have for lunch. It is vegan and supposed to have all the dietary requirements needed. I’m usually and was at first against the idea of it. But actually I bought it in the end to make it easier to travel and not to have to worry about lunch, to be able to monitor how much i’m eating better and i think really, i just wanted some control over what I was eating and in my life in general! It has been a blessing regards lunched. Just three scoops and add some water and i’m good to go. I don’t have to get up early or make sure I get to a shop or buy anything. Just that extra thing to not worry about. Possibly lazy, but I’ll take it.

Utrecht

I visited Utrecht university for another farm placement. It was a very long and tiring and sometimes hard two weeks. But it was fantastic getting to spend a decent amount of time in one European city. It was great to get to know a place. We cycled into the campus every morning and evening and checked out a decent number of pubs.. again.

I love stroopwafels! Ah!

Rosie even managed to come and visit at the weekend and we rented a gorgeously cute little apartment looking over one of the canals. It was lovely. We all checked out the gay bars one night forgetting how bad we are at drinking these days.

We did all the touristy classics going up the tower and going on a boat trip.

 

London

But I was glad to finally get home and chill with the Doggo!

I’m working in central london for three weeks and got to stay with Rosie for nearly two of them which was great fun! One Tuesday evening we bought tickets to a book talk with Ali Smith at Foyles. We’re both big fans of her work and just her in general. She is so grounded and fair and honest and sees the world in such an incredible way.

One evening we watched a documentary about an anorexia clinic in London. Rosie knew of someone who had been into one. It was a hard documentary to watch. But a very thought provoking one. I have had some issues in the past that could have been a lot lot worse and I watched the people in the clinic and wondered why I seemed able to avoid getting as low as they were. Why i seem able to get by by knowing my signs and managing them yet others can’t and suffer so much more.  This will have to be another blog sometime in the future. It just made us think about personality types and how difficult, demanding, intimidating and out of control our world is at the moment.

Glasgow

Rosie went to Glasgow while I still had work in London. She went up for a concert on Saturday evening. I joined her on Friday evening and we had some of the weekend to chill and explore Glasgow together. Rosie knows the place a little from previous work but i had never been. It was a beautiful weekend which probably made it even better, but I loved Glasgow. It has some amazing places and spaces, parks and museums, shops and resturants. We got a hostel looking over a park and it was beautiful. Crisp air with everyone walking around in scarves, lots of doggies, we could see ourselves living there. Maybe one day!

On the evening of the concert we met up just before to grab some dinner. We went to a Southern India restaurant which was delish! Never eaten Southern before, we tried different chapatis and a lamb curry and it was so yum!

I was a bit of a soppy git and bought Rosie some roses and a keyring with out photo on it before the concert. It was a big deal for her and I could tell she was quite nervous. But she was fantastic and pleased with how it went. She definitely underestimates how good she is, but I feel like most people do when they’re trying to get somewhere. It’s hard to know what people expect and want and are looking for… in many careers i think.

After the concert we checked out a couple of gay bars and got ridiculously tipsy and giddy and no drinks whatsoever (cheap dates) and headed back picking up some  Belgian fries on the way home 😛 nommm

In the morning we checked out one of the restaurants Rosie has been too for breakfast and I had a full English which was FULL ON.

Glasgow

London

Back to London. I Stayed at Rosie’s for a couple more days and we had dinner with some of her friends and made mince pies one evening! We were both doing different hours to each other so often we didn’t have much time in the mornings or evenings but I love spending an hour or two just chilling with her or even just talking about our day in bed before one of us falls asleep first.

I’ve got into crosswords and puzzles again, first time since I was a kid! The guys in my placement group have been picking up the newspaper on the train and we’ve been working on them during lunch. It made me want to go back home and finish them with Rosie. We spent a good couple of evenings working on them. We are rubbishly awful at the cryptic ones though!

I had the first Amnesty talk this week too! It wasn’t very well attended but it was really interesting to hear more about what Amnesty does and make some connections. I feel like our group can only get better and stronger as it’s only early days yet. It’s just a shame that I’m not on campus very often and so it is difficult to meet up regularly or get bits done.

Rosie has gone back up to Scotland for more work so I’m currently staying with my grandparents who live in central London too. I’m so lucky to have family in London.

I went to watch Young Marx last night at the Bridge theatre. It is supposed to be one of, if not the newest theatre in London. It was great, a fantastic theatre with leather seats. Different. Doesn’t have the same detail architecture that the older theatres have. But a nice big stage!. The play was great, really funny, definitely recommend. I got a £15 ticket and it was definitely worth it and I could see most of the stage, all of the action anyway!.

The story outline kind of annoyed me though. Marx in the play was an absolute arsehole that used and was awful to his friends, family and supporters and yet he got away with it because he was a genius. I don’t know. Just rung of ‘boys will be boys’ and that’s rubbish. It was funny and lighthearted but not a great message. There was remorse at the end of course. And it was a comedy but just a bit samey really.

You can see a photo of one of the cuties that I helped look after while being in London. It has reminded me of how much I enjoy small animal work. I really do enjoy both small and farm. And I wonder whether I could just do small animal. It would be quite a lot easier than finding somewhere that has both. Would I regret only going into one and not the other though?

 

So yeah! Actually really an amazing couple of months! Haha! I really don’t have anything to complain about. Just haven’t had a massive amount of time to myself to be able to write a blog I guess! I have basically been working and then chilling to recoup for the following day.

Na, yeah I have nothing to complain about in life.

I do feel used by my university and I am fed up of being a student but diddums! I’ll suck it up and keep going. There isn’t really a huge amount left!

Glad I have written this blog. Need to remind myself actually how great things are for me. You so easily get absorbed into the problems of you’re own life and forget how easy you actually have it.

Write again, sooner next time.

Rebecca x

Change and ‘The Power’

I’ve been feeling pretty rotten over the last couple of days. Had episodes of probably what is vertigo, essentially, dizziness and that run down- bleurgh feeling. Feeling sea-sick as I woke up at 6:45 and as I tried to get out of bed the, ‘why am i doing this?’ question came to me and I got back in and emailed to say I wasn’t coming in. I have spent most of the day reading ‘Power’ by Naomi Alderman. I finished it. And i’m quite confused by how I feel about it.

I’ve had a look at other reviews of the book to get some other insights.

It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting and I gorged on the first 100 pages or so because of how inventive it was . I think as the story developed it did lose some of it’s realistic appeal to me. Yes, the story is pretty fantastical but I feel it wasn’t supposed to be just that.

I really enjoyed the first 100 pages because I really felt a lot of aspects were covered by Alderman. It felt like there was a lot of clear messages to be taken from it. How different people coped and reacted to the changes that happened. I think it wasn’t what I thought because it wasn’t actually as nice and successful as I’d hoped. I think the idea that women are more powerful than men, to me, would mean that greater, fairer things would happen. This wasn’t the case and my naivety has been put to shame!  It isn’t power over another that is successful… Ever. It’s not dominance and submission (oi oi) but being on the same level and this is what this book shows. Too much power in any hands can be a bad thing.

The particularly poignant part in the book is quite early on and it is when women start rioting and cannot be controlled and are feared because of their power. There’s a dialect something like “what do we do?”,  “we kill them.”,  “But we can’t kill all the women in the world”

At this point it very is man vs woman. Which actually is totally pointless because both need each other.

And  it makes you think about other riots and wars. And you think, this is pointless too? We are at war against each other. It’s pointless. It’s power not wanting to be lost. But what are we actually fighting for? Those at the top already, what are they actually defending that’s worth defending anymore? Are we asking to be heard or asking to take over and be in charge?

Most minorities just want to be heard and to have fair treatment. That’s what the women’s marches, the LGBT marches that i’ve been on have been about. They were for me anyway.  How can humans be so anti-eachother? Just seems like such a daft concept when you take a step back and look and what we’re doing now and what we’ve done for ridiculous numbers of years. And for what?

I dunno, all I want is to achieve a couple of things that I’ve always wanted to achieve. Do good where I can and use what I have. Power has never been something I have been after so I wouldn’t know! #simplebutcompletelife 

I lost the flow of the book by the end. I don’t think I quite caught the point of some of the character’s stories, maybe I haven’t digested it well enough yet. I thought the book was very honest and fair. There wasn’t an agenda to the book I think apart from a look into power and where we are at the moment. I think I wanted Alderman to talk more about the injustice in parts of the world but she didn’t go into too much detail. Having read a book recently which I reviewed a lot of the countries talk about – India in particularly the reactions really resonated.

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So I’m moving out this weekend back home for the year. I’m on placements all over the UK and in other countries come next week so I’m pretty much going to be living out my car, Betty.

I’ve been in this little room for two years and It hasn’t dawned on me that I’m saying goodbye to it yet. I was reading and it’s been raining all day and with my cup of tea I saw a photo opportunity. My phone never sees what I see but it got close enough.

I’m half packed. It’s going to take a couple of trips. You can see the magazines i’ve yet to read and leaflets about jobs and careers on the side. You can see flowers that Rosie bought me. They’re probably past their best now but i’m not ready to let them go. There’s a half empty box for packing, my keyboard which was fun to play for the four weeks that it fitted in with my routine. My wooden post from one of the marches I went on. I intend to use it again at some point.. It did have a poster on it..

I do and don’t like the idea that I don’t know where I’ll be in a years time. I think I am naturally a home maker and I do want a home or nest of my own. My own nook. Makes travelling all the more special because you have something special to come back to. 

 I suppose I have just been in so many places that I’m just looking forward to not having too much upheaval for a short time. Until I get bored and a wandering eye ;).. 

Rebecca x 

 

 

 

Plastic Free Month: 5 days left!!

I have 5 days left! Although I think I’m so used to what I’ve changed and started doing that I’m going to stick with a lot of it.

I had a big test this weekend that’s just past. It was a vet conference up in Lancaster. Loads of lectures on how /where/when to get your first job etc. Bloody overwhelming but it was really good.

We stopped a couple of times for coffee and I brought my reusable cup which wasn’t an issue and brought snacks to stop me wanting to buy anything!

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I meant to take a photo of all the freebies and plastic stuff that was out and available but totally forgot. But I’m sure you can picture what it was like. There were loads of stalls of companies with leaflets and freebies and sweets everywhere. I was pretty good at not picking anything up! It was so hard though! But it’s crazy how much plastic was there and as a freebie probably used a couple times and then thrown away or forgotten about!

Fortunately we always had normal mugs and plates so I didn’t have to worry about much other than that!

I also found these in Waitrose! Binliners have been an issue this month. But as I’m not throwing a huge amount a way these little paper bins are pretty ideal!

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I got a voucher for doing some bits at uni. AND WENT SHOPPING. Swoonnn

I was hoping I would be able to avoid, magically, my period this month. But that didn’t happen and actually it’s been a pretty grim one. I get really bad stomach pains and back ache. Usually for the first 24hrs which is usually well managed with ibuprofen and heat packs. I’ve had to take the odd day off sometimes just because of how bad it is. Not only the pain, but the emotional ups and down and actually how knackering it is. Bit of a mess basically!

Fortunately being on research I could take it slow. This time the pain wasn’t as bad as it could be but it lasted for three days -_-  and ibuprofen just didn’t really seem to cut it. So this was me in the library… haha. ..

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I’ve eaten so much chocolate.

God I begrudge periods so much. Ugh. Because I know that I’m fine and that if it wasn’t for the mood swings and the pain I’d be really productive and this happens monthly. ugh. At least everyone gets colds so you take it when it’s your turn to have one! Not just 50% of us. ugh! But I think I’ll need to write another blog to rant this one out! 😉

I did take some ibuprofen this week which was cheating as it was in plastic. I spose i didn’t actually buy it, i already had it and tried to take as few as possible?? but ultimately i cheated on being plastic free.

With regards to what products I use. I have used a mooncup for years and have reusable sanitary towels too. Love both!  https://ecofemme.org/ … This company sells them and for everyone you buy they donate to girls in other countries where they haven’t got access to them! Definitely recommend.

And on that note! 😉

Rebecca  x

 

 

To the older me 

Rebecca,

Lots of aspects of your life will change in the next few years. You have no idea what you will see, do and where you will end up. But the way you think now feels right and fair but still you have so much to learn and figure out.

Remember that you will never be able to second guess someone else’s story. Before you go to judge and put them into one your ingrained default stereotypes talk to them, learn about them. Realise how similar and different you are.

Remember where you grew up and what you saw. Remember the people you met and the situation.

At the end of each month, ask yourself if you’ve helped anyone, volunteered or donated your time or skills or donated money. If not, why?

Remember how you still want to change the world and still think it’s possible. Remember that you can still be settled and curious and explorative. Remember that if you are not happy with something you can change it.

Remember that you can’t just look out for yourself, you need to be able to see the bigger picture. Not everyone is in your position. Remember to practise being in other people’s shoes.

Remember that the world is not finite and that you simply can’t have everything you want. Compromise is good and healthy.

Remember to do the things you love and inspire it in others. Remember that you don’t have to be pushy or competitive. Grow at your own pace and don’t over do it. Take breaks and analyse.

Remember to be the best person you can be, because then your time will never be wasted.

Rebecca x

Relationships and Gender roles

This blog post has been brewing in my mind for a while. It’s quite a hard piece to write as I don’t want to come across badly, judge-y or stereotypical or like I’m speaking for everyone.

So as far as LGBTQ+ goes I would associate myself with bisexual the most. It doesn’t really work and I don’t really like categorizing people or myself because it’s so rigid, and however hard you try not to there are usually certain characteristics/traits that become associated with them.

So I grew up fancying boys, then men and I only remember a couple of bouts of ever even considering fancying girls. Looking back on it now It was pretty clearly a crush on a girl but at the time I put it down to just being in awe of them. I had just met them and thought they were great. I was also happy to move on and very quickly got over whatever it was.

I had a successive run of unsuccessful dates. Met some really great guys who I got on really well with and fancied like mad but they never came to anything. I just put it down to not meeting the right one and that being that. But it was sad and It was hard that nothing seemed to stick or be able to work. I had a particularly bad run in with a couple of dates and some of the men in my life disappointing me.  Without actively thinking it I went a year or so with being happy to be single and not really looking. Then summer 2015 hit,  I spent a lot of time with quite a few number of friends and mostly girls.

I don’t think there was ever really a point where I thought, I fancy you or I want to be more than friends but I started to think slightly differently about relationships. I started to think that If I could have such a great time with another woman would it be that bad if it became a relationship? Over the summer I remember thinking of it as a woman companion. And I began to realise that that’s really all I was after. Just someone to spend my time with, someone to be there for support and comfort. It took a bloody long time for me to consider it also being a romantic thing too. Definitely resisting the thought that I could be attracted to another woman. It was not a road I wanted to go down.

Heading into Autumn I did start to fancy a girl I knew, big time. And it was the same kind of light obsession I’d had with men that I fancied. I kept totally shtum about it for the next 5/6 months because It wasn’t something I wanted to think about. But it did upset me and it was really difficult to come to terms with. A big part of me was entirely up for it, there was nothing strange about how I was feeling, it was natural, it was growing love for another person. The other half of me was like,

It means you’re a lesbian,

how can you be a lesbian now?

how can you be a vet and a lesbian?

how would any of this even work?

what would people think?

I bet they wouldn’t even be surprised,

but you’re not butch or like a boy or even that much of tom boy.

I had every stereotype and prejudice of lesbians and LGBT people going.

I’m not sure what made me take the first steps. I think hearing of people in university coming out made me think about starting to get some answers. The reception to them coming out was not a negative one.

I’d been on Tinder since the summer, hadn’t gone on any dates though and don’t actually remember really talking to any guys that much. One night over Christmas I just swapped the option around so that instead of looking for men I was looking for women. First, I was really quite excited by the number of women I found on there that were at uni. Lots of surprising ones, girls that weren’t butch, some that were, some that I knew had had relationships with men too.

I didn’t contact anyone from uni and turned off my account whenever I wasn’t using it so that no one would find me.

But flicking through all the profiles I actually started to realise that there was a bit of a pattern in who I seemed to like the look of or wanted to chat too.

‘But is this just me looking at who’s friendly and who I might get on with.’ I often thought but then.., ‘well yes, but a companion is what I’m after isn’t it?’

So yeah, the weeks went on and I chatted to a couple of girls. I felt a bit of a weight off my shoulders as I got used to the idea of it all. In this time, I started chatting to Rosie too.

I got to the point where going on a date and confirming that these feelings might actually be a thing was what I needed to do. I still wasn’t convinced that I was actually attracted to women. It was all very confusing and I wanted an answer.

It took quite a while to build up guts to meet anyone, Rosie was my first date. And I said right from the start that I have no idea what I’m doing or I might just freak out and run away. I really thought that these feelings I have now might totally disappear when I wake up the next day. That feeling continued well into dating Rosie but it became more a concern that I would end up messing her around. But ha, no, the feelings haven’t gone away.

I still have a huge part of me that regularly tells me that what I’m doing is wrong and unnatural. But the other half of me has doubled in size and strength and pushes it down. I see the relationship that I’m in and how I feel and there just can’t be anything unnatural about it at all. I also, no longer really care if it is wrong or right because I’m not prepared to change anything. I don’t spend so long thinking and trying to answer everything because I don’t think there is a clear one.

I knew within the first couple of dates with Rosie that I was onto something really good. It wasn’t just how much I was starting to like her but actually how our relationship with each other was.

A big issue for me, that I’ve always been uncomfortable with is men paying for meals and the first date and second and third sometimes! I really didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, I was over the moon with having a night out and not having to spend any money, I was grateful and thankful too. But I always from then on felt like we were not on the same line or wave. Like I now owed them something and then If I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to buy the next round and I essentially got into more debt with them it made it worse. And I think it’s feelings like this, looking back on it now that I’m in a relationship where there isn’t this almost competition to spoil.

I think this is where I can get into the realms of stereotyping and judging but I’ll say it anyway. Pretty much 100% of the men that I dated and more were definitely keen to be the more dominant, they wanted to spoil me. (1. Maybe I just chose my dates badly and 2. I was always very grateful!) But I think I just never wanted or needed that. What I was looking for was someone I could have a proper no bars held conversation about anything. I wanted to know someone really well. I didn’t want someone who wanted to look after me. And I don’t have the interest in looking after someone else either. There’s support and there’s being there and listening but then there’s also being someone’s parent. (when they’re perfectly capable of caring for themselves!)

I know of friends in relationships who would be given flowers by their partners on a regular basis for what appeared to be a thanks for reminding them to have a shower or wash the dishes or finish an assignment. And they were very clearly head over heels for each other and in no doubt their relationship was great, it just wasn’t what I was after.

This relationship with Rosie suited me perfectly because obviously being both women, it was always going to be splitting meals, we’re both driven to achieve our ambitions, we’re both able to look after ourselves but when one of us is having a bad day we’re able to talk it through.

Women are known to be better at speaking about emotions and experiences but personally, I think it’s not a feminine trait it’s the way we bring up males and females.

I know I was just very lucky to meet Rosie as soon as I did, but equally I know that If I’d have dated other girls I’d have met some that liked to be spoiled and treated and protected. I also know that if I carried on dating men I would probably find one at some point that wasn’t so keen on the protective side and was able to talk to me like I can talk to most women.

I feel very much like it’s the culture that we’re in regarding how we raise children so differently because of their sex that makes me more likely to be in a relationship with a woman than a man. If Rosie had been a Robert I’d be with him now. It’s an interesting way of thinking about it. I find that there is a difference between most girls and their willingness to be helpful and useful and most men and their not. I just think it’s the way we’ve been brought up. Maybe girls are more willing to help and be useful from a younger age but maybe also boys should be taught a little bit harder how to help.

I am being quite broad here and I’m not including everyone by any means but there is a trend. And again I’m not saying any relationship is more valid than another but I just can’t stand gender roles. Men can still treat and spoil women if they want too and women can look after men if they want to but to assume that that’s the way things are and should be I don’t like… to the extent the boys and girls are brought up differently I don’t like.

So basically I look back on the guys that I really did get on with and wonder if we could have made something of a relationship if either one of us wanted the same thing from a relationship. I feel like most of the guys must have sensed that I appreciated but didn’t really enjoy it. It almost seems like a really big shame that it was something kind of simple that stopped any progression. Obviously, it’s unlikely that they would have all worked out well long term etc etc but I wonder how many might have been a few more dates or a relationship had I been not so keen for conversation and he not so keen to treat me like a princess.

I also actually do wonder why some women like to be spoiled and why some men like to spoil. Is it what they are used to? Is it the best thing?

I’m totally biased and I know it. I obviously feel that my side of the grass is greener. I just feel that relationships are more likely to be healthier if we’re not demanding and depending on the other. But if we see the other person as a companion rather than (a cleaner lol) someone who needs to fit a traditional and expected role. How about just knowing naturally how to work as a team because we’re human and not because we’re either male or female?

But saying that, every relationship is different and people do want different things.. but why do we want different things?

Gender roles is a big no in my books at the moment. It has so many consequences to it.

I do wonder if men in gay relationships find that they are just more comfortable in the kind of relationship created by two men rather than with a women?

I think I’m always going to be able to add more to this, and discuss more!

Rebecca x

p.s

I feel there were often times when I would feel there were things appropriate and inappropriate to say. Being a vet student you do build up a bit of book of stories. I felt some guys responded badly to me talking about gross things, like it’s not they were expecting of me. I mean, also, fair lol, probably shouldn’t be talking about poo on a first date. Yeah, actually, maybe it wasn’t particularly nice of me ha. But there were times when a guy would say something a bit gross but I could be them and suddenly I wasn’t so womanly any more. Ugh. Go home. anyway!

I feel like most people can be really untidy, But leaving a mess knowing full well and happy to do so that someone else will tidy up the mess is more a male trait I think. Shoot me down if I’m wrong. But I feel most women are messy but know it’s their mess that they’ll sort out.. at some point. Men, I don’t feel are the same. More happy to be cleaned up after. That’ll be an upbringing thing too I bet. And I ain’t go time to be cleaning up someone else’s mess. Ugh. Go home.

 

Veterinary Medicine

I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon from about the age of 14. A bit older than a lot of the students I’m studying with. I wanted to be a field archaeologist up until then. What drew me to both careers was the discovery and logic needed to solve cases. Not knowing what I was going to find and having to go on my knowledge and problem solving ability.

When I realized it was what I wanted to do I worked so much harder at school. I’d always done pretty well, usually in top handful of achievers in school and it carried on until a-levels. But a-levels was a really really tough two years for me. I had a lot going on in and out of school and struggled to stay positive and keep on track. I flunked my first year, spent the summer cramming for resits, got the pieces of myself a bit back together and somewhere I found motivation and determination. None of my teachers believed in what I was doing. Immediately I was fighting a battle but I think it made me fight harder.

I applied to university, but I knew I’d get nowhere on the predicted grades that I had except the gateway course at RVC, London. I’d been planning on my application and interview for essentially years. I remember being 15/16 and looking up how to get into vet school,  I had all the books too.  I remember lying in bed at night and coming up with possible interview questions and how I would answer them.

I applied and got the interview! This stunned my teachers, suddenly they were all over me and asked if i needed help with preparation. I spent so long preparing for my interview, the possible questions, what I thought, what i had learned from all the experience i had had to get and how I wanted to come across.

I look back on my interview now and I’m genuinely so impressed and proud of how I did. My nights imagining the interviewers questions seemed to pay off!  I got a conditional offer a couple of months later. I even then managed to beat my predicted grades by two.

They say getting into vet school is the hard bit. It is indeed very hard. I was lucky in being able to apply for the gateway course. I don’t think the application system is particularly fair, but I’m not going to talk about something I don’t know much about!

The gateway course is essentially for anyone from a less privileged background who is less likely to achieve the high grades and get all the experience needed. You spend an extra year doing Veterinary Bioscience which is a way of trying to build up general science knowledge before moving into the five year VetMed course. It was an extra year but entirely worth it. It was a small group of us so we got to know each other really well, the stuff we learned I was really interested in and I wish I could go back to studying the hours I did then now.!

I did really well in my first year, but saw a steady decline in my grades over the years. I met people and started enjoying more of social life in the first year of the VetMed course. I was also commuting to university every day and living at home. The commute was fine once I was used to it. My third year at university was probably the hardest year. Mentally I was struggling to cope again. The workload and hours was huge and intense. I missed doing other things, being a student and felt really isolated. I have never really been great at the work-life balance. Living at home was beginning to take it’s toll too so things were hard. I did the worst that year regarding grades, I was knackered.

Looking back, those years were hard because there was so little to look forward to. We still had three years of education and I would go months without seeing a living animal. It sounds funny but most of us are in our happiest place around animals. Being in London on a 9-5 course + the hours of studying in the evening, there was nothing to remind us of what we doing there and trying to achieve.

Fourth and fifth year, we moved up to the second campus which is a bit more green. I moved into halls on site. A lot of aspects of my life greatly improved, the lack of commuting gave me more hours, it was more sociable and I got more involved in university stuff. I did resent university a lot though. I still had two and three years ahead of me, still in masses of debt and nothing to show for it. We were starting however to learn about how to actually save and treat and help animals rather than the body systems and physiology.

I put my heart and soul into my last set of exams just before christmas 2016.  It’s such a balancing act knowing how much to do and when to take a break. But I was determined not to stress too much. I kept telling myself that If i was on track to covering all the material, then why stress? It’s definitely expectations and reality that need balancing. I was able to take the odd night off and go to a concert with Rosie or something. Something to totally break away for a few hours, a good sleep and then start fresh in the morning. This absolutely worked. I boosted my grade by 10% from the previous exam. So on that I’m hoping to increase my grades by another 10% at finals. I think my fear is qualifying and literally not knowing enough.

But veterinary is a career where you are always learning and you can’t know everything. .. even if you want to. We’re definitely a group of perfectionists in a job where we will never be perfect. Lose-lose really!

So I have now been at university for five years and am nearing the end of my fourth year of the VetMed course. In a years time I will have sat my final exams and will be waiting to see if I can qualify and graduate as a veterinary surgeon.

The next year consists of usually two week placements in different environments picking up skills and improving knowledge.

When I first started university I hadn’t really thought about the type of animals that I wanted to work with. I liked farm animals but didn’t really know much about farming so I guess I assumed pet animals.

I’m now pretty keen to do a bit of everything when I qualify. I’m hoping to find a truly mixed animal practice somewhere in Britain. Right now, I don’t know if it’s a job that i’ll stick with forever. I can’t wait to have my own clients and regular routine and have emergencies in the middle of the night. The idea of doing a morning of consults before heading out to farm to check on some calves sounds perfect to me.  But there are a huge amount of downsides to being a vet. There is a huge suicide rate amongst us. Probably put simply because we set out to do the best we can but doesn’t always happen and can’t happen.

Meeting Rosie was such a fantastic idea of mine (haha lol) .. We have such different careers and jobs that I’m able to release myself from the veterinary grip and explore elsewhere. I definitely got stuck in the rut of only learning vet related things and not making sure that I had other interests elsewhere. Exercise is absolutely important, even though I’m feeling like a flump today as I haven’t done anything significant in quite a while.  Jumping from air-bnb to hostels doesn’t fill me with the energy to run every evening.  I am pushing myself to read more, and take the odd 30-60mins out to read for fun. I’m trying to learn a bit more French, I’ve started a blog! And i love drawing when the mood takes me too.  With Rosie, i think about new things, meet new people and learn about different worlds. I once assumed my life would be all veterinary.. I’d have a vet husband and vet children and I’d work all hours saving animals. It can’t be done. I will still save animals, still lead a veterinary life but we have to remember to take time out. It’s not plain sailing when suddenly you have a difficult owner on the phone, you’re thirty minutes behind on consults and have a ton of paper work to finish before you leave.

I must say, alcohol has been a close friend to me in these past years and I have no intention of breaking off ties. 😉  Ha. A glass of wine after a couple of long and knackering shifts is one of the most beautiful offerings. not. even. joking.

But actually, this career is an amazing one, I’m really excited to get going. I could end up anywhere. I’ve had endless strange encounters with vets, clients and farmers and i’m sure they’ll continue to happen. I don’t regret at all where I am but it has been difficult. I’m in the stage now where I’m close to being treated like a vet by many and so it’s becoming so much more enjoyable with an end in sight!

You can see by my post how easy it is to get caught up in the negative and difficult times but looking through my pictures and writing this piece has made me realise how amazing my journey so far has been and how amazing it could be. I just have to take the odd step back and think – is this right for me?

Look out for yourself sometimes.

Rebecca x

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