Tag Archives: aspiring writer

Thoughts for Friday – 10th July 2015

cliffhangerI left you on a cliff-hanger last weekend, hinting that my week in London was an eventful one and believe me, it was.

I’d had a decent enough weekend, including a raucous day at college on the previous Friday. Fresh from my Fire Theory training, I attended my college course, not really sure to expect but nervous about the fact that I would have to deliver a fifteen minute microteaching session.

A microteaching session is basically a condensed version of a normal teaching session, whereby timing is all important. If you overrun in a microteaching session, you lose more marks than you would for losing your train of thought or even just blatantly giving a wrong answer to a question.

After speaking to my college tutor, I decided to do a microteaching session on CPR because, as you know, everyone likes a good pump and a blow…

Firefighter-uniforms-Fire-002My microteaching session went very well and I also got to take part in the sessions delivered by my college buddies. The great thing was that we all came from different industries and so I got to try my hand at different activities and skills. I learned to play Malteser football, had my eyebrows threaded, attempted to make a braided bracelet and most exciting of all, I got to dress up as a fireman (woman).

Our college group consisted on nine women and one man, who just happened to be a fit and hunky fireman, so you can understand our excitement when he told us that we’d get to feel the weight of his equipment and touch his helmet…

It’s fair to say that his equipment was heavier than I expected, but we had a lot of fun dressing up in all the gear and looked like a female version of the Village People by the time we’d finished.

England_London_House_of_Parliament__2_I was feeling good at the start of the week and dare I say it, looking forward to a week in London. That was until I received a call at 8.30am on the Monday to inform me that there was an issue with my accommodation for the coming week. It turns out that the hotel I’d been booked into was far too expensive and so the room was cancelled, leaving me with nowhere to stay.

Cue a massive panicked scramble and finally a hotel was found that wasn’t at an extortionate nightly rate. I had a look on Google maps and assumed that North Acton (where I was staying) wasn’t that far from Canning Town (the venue I was delivering in). I assumed that everything would be fine.

black_cabI caught the train from my local station and arrived at London Waterloo just after 4pm and, due to the amount of luggage I was carrying, I caught a taxi outside the station and asked the driver to take me to my hotel in North Acton. I had assumed that it wouldn’t be more than about £25 for the taxi fare, and although the driver was a lovely guy and we had a great chat, I was alarmed to find out that the fare was the best part of £40.

The hotel I was staying in was situated literally outside the Tube station and I managed to find a pub walking distance so that I could at least get a decent meal (I was in a hotel that had no restaurant). I slept terribly that first night, probably due to the fact that I had no idea what to expect with my first time delivering in London.

london-underground_00267878It took an hour each way to get to and from my hotel to the training venue and loaded down with bags and battling the rush hour commute both in the mornings and evenings, I was starting to get a little frazzled by it all.

I did arrive at the venue in decent time on the first day and had hoped for a good group and a good week, however, you know that when your first joke of the day falls flat that it’s going to be a long week…

I had a mixed group of people, some of whom were obsessed with the sound of their own voice and prolonged the sessions and then complained at how long the day was. Then there was the pair of learners who turned up over an hour late and whom I allowed to stay and then complained that the venue was too far away for them. That’s an issue for their manager, not the poor trainer who has absolutely no say in where sessions are held, so why leave it on MY feedback form?!

dear-lordPeople on the London Underground are some of the most ignorant and rude people you’ve ever met. Even though I was loaded down with bags, looked in pain (because I was) and uncomfortable, not one person got up and offered me their seat and so I stood for an hour each day, every day with one exception when a group of students from Texas boarded the Tube train. Even though I only spent a few minutes with them, they were the nicest bunch of kids and made sure that everyone made room for me to get off at my stop.

Leave it to foreigners to be the politest people on the Underground…

Somehow I got through the first few days, trudging back and forth from one side of London to the other. I enjoyed a lovely meal on the Wednesday night and felt relieved that that I wouldn’t have to battle the Underground the next day, knowing that I had pre-booked and pre-paid a minicab to get me from the hotel to the venue.

Just one more session to get through and then I could go home and put a trying week behind me. I was over the worst, wasn’t I?

5 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 3rd July 2015

hang-in-thereI rather left you all hanging at the end of last week’s Thoughts post, didn’t I?

How mean of me to tease you with my wares and then snatch them away at the last moment, but hey, I have to give you some sort of reason to come back each week…

After a trying week ‘up north’ (let’s be fair, anything north of Watford is considered to be northern England to me), I was able to enjoy a relaxing weekend at home, catching up with friends and family who had hoped their efforts the week previously would mean that they wouldn’t have to see me for a fortnight or so.

Batteries charged, makeup applied like war paint, I strode toward the new week like Naomi Campbell striking her assistant with a mobile phone. I had a target in my sights, I took aim and I was going to knock them dead in my local area with my delivery skills.

That had been my intention although I have to admit that it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a good bit of banter with my delegates, but there is having a bit of fun and then there is just blatantly taking the piss. I tried to remain good natured throughout the first day, while wanting to wring some of the necks of a few choice delegates. Had I not kept my temper in check, I fear that Kate Loveton would once again be roped into helping me bury some bodies.

I had much the same group on the Tuesday and I’m not sure whether it was the free sweets and candies laid out on the tables or the fact that I had a small selection of children in adults clothing, but a section of the group were determined to push my buttons.

f39e65adb87bfa2bc769aac2cbb48d4aOne particular delegate kept interrupting me and I had to resort to bitchslapping her (metaphorically speaking, my manager frowns upon actually hitting people during training sessions) and all but shaming her in front of the rest of the group. She seemed to have taken on board that I wouldn’t take any more of her crap and was relatively quiet for the rest of the day.

I have to admit that by lunchtime some of the delegates were just being plain rude by returning from breaks when they felt like it and so I continued the session without them and refused to help them catch up. When I pointed out that our finishing time was dependant on people coming back from breaks on time, lo and behold, everyone arrived back from the afternoon break bang on time!

5c1110542c95ce5cb1ee6ed96fd468b0It’s hard work to remain calm and composed when some delegates seem to have no other reason for attending your sessions other than to get a rise out of you. All the while, you stand there taking it, smiling and not letting everyone see that you could quite happily garrotte the annoying shit who causes as much pain, misery and discomfort as a haemorrhoid on Christmas Day.

kirk-yelling-at-kahnThis is why after-session debriefs are always needed. These debriefs are the perfect opportunity to really let rip about some of the awful delegates you’ve had to put up with that week. My poor other half (and yes, I kept that very quiet!) listened intently as I stamped my feet and shouted obscenities about certain delegates and made disparaging remarks about everything from their hairstyles, dress sense, to which strange planet they came from and how quickly I could reintroduce them into the Earth’s orbit and far, far away from another of my training sessions.

After a couple of tough days what I really needed was a three and a half hour drive to Birmingham, battling some of the most idiotic and dangerous drivers that I have seen for some time. What was it about mid-afternoon on a Wednesday? Is it a special time of the week where you’re allowed to leave your common sense and driving skills at home?

Somehow I made it to my hotel in Birmingham, shaking slightly but still relatively in one piece. This week had been sent to try me, I knew that much for sure, but how much more would I be expected to take?

god-s-love-clipart-Love___Be_Mine_Vector_ClipartGod must have answered my prayers, for who should be on the reception desk but Jermaine, the hunk of burning love that my colleague and I fought over the last time we stayed at the hotel! I think Jermaine was being coy with me when he asked me if I’d stayed before and I answered him by saying that it was my third visit in six weeks.

“You just can’t stay away, can you?” he responded.

Oh, Jermaine, you sexy hunk. If only you knew…

I hadn’t just randomly driven up to Birmingham to see Jermaine, I was actually there for a specific reason which was to attend a Fire Theory ‘Train the Trainer’ course. I had imagined being trained by a fit and hunky fireman while I fanaticised about the size of his hose, but it actually turned out to be a retired, middle-aged fireman who sat and talked us through the theory of fire, how it starts etc.

210201_1Our trainer asked us what we knew about fire, to which I piped up, “Uh…it’s hot?” which definitely raised a few sniggers from my colleagues but probably didn’t win me any points with Mr ‘I Used to be a Fireman’ who looked at me like I was actually as stupid as I look.

I’d had a 300 mile round trip to be trained in the theory of fire, a lot of which I knew anyway, but at least I got a free lunch (sandwiches and crisps) and an opportunity to flirt with Jermaine again. Plus, I got to see my colleagues who joined the team at roughly the same time I did. I think they’ve realised by now that I have the biggest potty mouth out of all of us.

If I thought the week I’d just endured was challenging, nothing compared to the following week in London. Stay tuned to find out what happened next…

8 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 19th June 2015

My brief stay in Nottingham behind me, I was looking forward to spending time somewhere a little closer to home the following week. Unfortunately, due to the horrific design of the A27 (see my previous Thoughts post), I had no choice but to book overnight accommodation for the duration of my stay.

As you already know, the last time I stayed just outside Brighton, my colleague booked us into the most awful establishment and I had decided that I would NOT be staying there again. That meant that I had to find somewhere else to hang my hat for the best part of the working week.

moneyMost of the chain hotels were either booked up or way outside my budget (my company only allows me to spend a certain amount on overnight accommodation and any infringement on this results in having ones fingers broken and various objects inserted in various places – joke!) The truth is that I work for a charity and if I can save some money by keeping to or coming under my budget limit, I am happy to do so, knowing that the money saved will be spent on meaningful projects that will benefit people with a learning disability.

One of my favourite sites to use when looking for accommodation is Booking.com (and no they didn’t pay me to say that). The site allows you to compare prices of overnight accommodation easily and also offers discounts for registered users who use their site regularly to book their stays, which again means that I can get value for money for the budget I have.

I found a small B&B listed not far from where I would be delivering that week and found that not only was it a stone’s throw from where I would be working, it also had free Wi-Fi (I never book accommodation that doesn’t include Wi-Fi or breakfast) and even its own gym and indoor pool. It sounded great and so I booked my stay and didn’t think any more about it until I began my journey on the Monday afternoon.

fawlty-towersCall it paranoia, but I began having visions of the B&B resembling something out of Fawlty Towers, with highly-strung owners and bizarre guests. The further I got to my destination, the more fear crept into me, crawling through my veins and placing pressure on my bladder and bowels. Would I survive the week, or would I get eaten alive or buried under the decking in the back yard? Would I ever be heard of again?

It must have been the cheese sandwich I had the night before that had caused me to become convinced that staying in a B&B in the middle of nowhere (it was down a long country lane and off the beaten track) would see the demise of Heather B Costa before she ever made it to Mrs Loveton’s home in the good old US of A.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the B&B and I was delighted to find that, even though it was in the middle of nowhere, the surrounding acres of countryside were beautiful and a sight to behold. From my window I could see wild rabbits running free, deer frolicking across the fields and all manner of wild birds flitting from tree to tree.

2015-06-03 17.41.12The room was pretty good too, with a clean and spacious en-suite bathroom that had hot running water (my last visit to this area of England didn’t) and reliable and speedy Wi-Fi. The only downside was that I had a single bed, and so I had to try very hard (and successfully I may add) to make sure that I didn’t roll off and land on the floor during the night.

The bed, though small, was comfortable and I managed to get a good night’s sleep on each of the three nights that I stayed there and I didn’t once fall out and land on my ass.

Best of all was the freshly-prepared breakfast banquet that I sat down to each morning, although I must confess to being slightly overawed by the 60-piece matching china dining set that adorned the massive dining table. I had a number of pieces of cutlery of differing sizes and I am almost certain that I showed myself to be the cretin that I am by using the wrong spoon or knife at the wrong time.

KC-05267.1LBy completing a menu form the night before, breakfasts were made to order and I enjoyed a bowl of porridge and blueberries each morning, followed by toast, scrambled eggs and baked beans, as well as my very own pot of filter coffee and orange juice. The eggs for breakfast were from the B&B’s very own hens and were collected each morning at 6 am from their hutch. Talk about fresh food!

As for the sessions themselves, they went pretty well and I had a good group of learners. It just so happened that it was also a pretty warm and humid week and that I was delivering my sessions in a room on the top floor of a building and with windows on all sides, which meant by the end of each session I was dripping with sweat and almost ready to fall asleep standing up.

10227067335_03666877bc_zThe delegates who had been with me for all three sessions expressed their disappointment that I would not be delivering their last three sessions, and I found it quite sweet that they’d taken to me so well. It’s always nice to hear that your delegates appreciate the sessions and how much effort and energy is put into each one.

After three long days, I packed up my equipment and my Annie dolls, all of whom got a good pumping and blowing on the last day, and returned home to the comfort of my own bed. It was good to be back by Thursday evening, but the one thing that I missed more than anything was the fantastic breakfasts at the B&B, even if I did use the wrong cutlery…

6 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 5th June 2015

After a week of feeling as if Birmingham was my new home, I took advantage of delivering sessions that were much closer to where I live, and for a week or so I was able to sleep in my own bed.

Happy-and-excited-dogs-Funny-dog-compilationOh the excitement!

As much as I enjoy staying in various cities and hotels, the lure of my own creature comforts is too strong to deny for long. The only downside of not staying overnight in a hotel is that I have to make my own bed each morning, as well as doing all the cooking and the washing up…What was it that I was saying about enjoying being back at home?

The venue I delivered my sessions in was only a 25-mile journey that, on a good day, would take me no more than 40 minutes to get to. Things went relatively smoothly the first day, I made it to the venue in good time to set up and feel relaxed in my surroundings before any of the delegates arrived.

fanikatun2013_074The second day saw things get much worse.

I had left early due to a well-known traffic-snarl that gets exceptionally busy at rush hour and had almost snuck past it when everything ground to a halt. After twenty minutes of going almost nowhere, I soon began to realise that this was more than just a ‘weight of traffic’ situation. It took me nearly an hour to go just over two miles due to a two-car accident in the fast lane that had blocked two of the lanes of the motorway. Once I got past the scene of the accident, I think I might have gone slightly faster than necessary on the rest of my journey!

I had hoped to arrive before any of the delegates and, apart from one very keen person (who must have loved my teaching style), I managed to get there before the group as a whole started arriving, although I’d cut it much closer than I would have liked.

You expected me to find the most phallic-shaped crystal, right?

You expected me to find the most phallic-shaped crystal, right?

I’ll admit that I also felt quite nervous on that second day, due to a loss of confidence the day before, and so being delayed by an hour was hardly an ideal start to the day. It just so happened that I had been chatting to one of my delegates about my new role and during our discussion she noted that my self-confidence had taken a knock. This particular delegate was a keen study of holistic therapies and healing crystals and offered to lend me her Citrine crystal which is known to be linked to feelings of positivity and confidence.

I held the crystal in my hand in the sessions after lunch and I have to admit that my confidence and positivity had certainly gone up a notch or two. The group also seemed to respond very well and there was lots of laughter and good fun throughout the afternoon. It seems as if the healing crystal worked and I was so impressed by it that I’ve ordered a set of crystals for myself so that I can carry them with me when I deliver my sessions.

After finishing that week on a high, I got hit with the mother of all migraines. I’ve suffered with these debilitating headaches for years now, usually I have at least a month or two in between attacks and so this one took me by surprise. I began feeling slightly unwell on the Wednesday and had a feeling that it could be a migraine, so I took some strong painkillers and got an early night hoping that I could sleep it off before it turned into something bigger.

It didn’t work.

2189803492_8ef3b28667I woke up the next morning feeling worse than when I’d gone to bed, and for the following four days I felt awful, spending most of my time sleeping or just lying very still and trying not to vomit everywhere. No matter how much I slept, the migraine stuck to me like doggie doo-doo on a shoe.

I had hoped to get a fair bit accomplished on my five-day break from work, but four of those days were spent feeling pretty damn sorry for myself. Even when the migraine lifted, I was stuck with what is usually termed a ‘migraine hangover’, whereby I felt pretty worn out and generally quite sluggish. After days of not eating much, I also found myself with an odd craving for anything sugary, which apparently is not uncommon for migraine sufferers.

MjAxMi01NTEwM2U1YWM4NDBhOTc5Another strange thing about my migraines is that after they and the ‘hangover’ have lifted, I tend to feel quite euphoric and full of energy, which is the exact opposite of how I feel when I’m in the middle of an attack. I tend to get cravings for foods that I know are high in sugar, fat and/or calories and I guess that much of this is to do with the fact that I’ve probably lost a few pounds over the course of the attack by eating next to nothing and, now that I can stomach it, my body wants to refuel.

article-0-0D739ED4000005DC-836_468x449There is another, more unfortunate side effect of my migraine attacks, related to bowel movements and high-strength painkillers, but I shall spare you the details and just say that the two don’t mix.

I’m pleased to say that I am migraine-free for the time being and will soon be writing about my return to Nottingham, or as I call it: ‘The Search for Robin Hood Part 2’. I also have a delightful (depending on how squeamish you are) little tale of resuscitation dolls and how they got their face, but that is a story for another week.

Stay tuned as the Trials of a Traveling Trainer continue…

17 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 8th May 2015

My new job role has seen me travel extensively across the country for the last few weeks. My final destination for April was a town called Burgess Hill, not too far from Brighton, a place which is a lot of fun when the weather is warm and the sun is shining and less so when it’s cold, windy, and raining.

5-road-traffic-circle-roundaboutI left early on the Monday and had assumed that the journey would take perhaps 90 minutes by car. I found that I’d sorely underestimated how long it would take to arrive at my destination and this was primarily to do with the fact that the route I would need to take had at least 25 roundabouts to contend with. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against roundabouts (or circular traffic islands, if you like) per se, I just have an issue when 20-odd of the sodding things are within a five-mile radius of each other. Surely the Ancient Romans had the right idea by building roads in a straight line, thus negating the need for wibbly-wobbly, faffy bits of road with hairpin bends and dozens of roundabouts?

Can you tell that these hideous concrete constructions irk me a little?

I arrived at my destination at least an hour later than I had expected and questioned the sanity of my colleague who had booked the accommodation for the both of us when my eyes fell on what looked like a dilapidated old public house (for my American readers: think ‘bar’). It turns out that my first impression was pretty accurate when I finally checked in and accessed my room.

This is how I woke up each morning after a freezing night of sleep

This is how I woke up each morning after a freezing night of sleep

Firstly, the lock on my door was unpredictable at best and only locked when it wanted to, thus sometimes locking me in and/or out of my room. I then found out that the bathroom window did not fully close (allowing the cold air to enter my room), the TV didn’t work, my gas central heating only tended to operate when I was not in my room, there was no hot water in the shower, and that I had a wall-sized mirror in my room that wasn’t actually fixed to any of the walls. I then had visions of the thing falling on me in the middle of the night and this wouldn’t have seemed so bad had the staff at the pub actually bothered to enter my room on a daily basis to do simple housekeeping tasks such as make the bed and remove used cups and saucers etc. At first I assumed that room service was not part of the package, until my colleague gleefully told me that his room had been attended to every single day…

P10401021On the second night we drove into Brighton to marvel at its beach (which was full of stones and not sand) and its famous pier. Lets go and have a look around, we thought, until we realised that the pier was closing and that if we entered we’d likely be locked in for the night. Deciding against being locked in on a freezing cold pier, we then went in search of somewhere to eat. The fact that my colleague suggested a ‘gentleman’s’ club by accident shall forever remain our secret…

PizzaIn the end we found a quaint little Italian restaurant and ordered pizzas all round (as you do). The only issue was that we were sat on the table closest to the window which meant that people walking past could see us eating our food. This worked both ways though as we could sit and watch the alarming amount of inebriated people stumble towards the pier and laugh when they tripped and/or fell. The drunk to sober ratio of people in Brighton must have been somewhere close to 5:1 that night and I wonder if this is a usual occurrence for a Tuesday night or just because my colleague and I were in town.

If I thought things at our overnight accommodation couldn’t get any worse, then I was very much mistaken when I ordered an evening meal from their ‘specials’ menu. Well, if serving lukewarm-cold food is a speciality, they really hit the mark with what they presented to me that night. I felt awkward and embarrassed when I had to ask for it to be taken away. The staff apologised profusely but still saw fit to charge me for the meal itself when I settled my bill that night.

I won’t publicly shame the establishment in which I stayed, but it is fair to say that, next time I’m delivering sessions in the local vicinity, I won’t be staying there again…

17 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 1st May

Can it really be a month since I took on my new role?

It seems as if life has been passing me by at warp-speed these last few weeks and I can honestly say that I have woken up some mornings and wondered not only what day of the week it was, but which city I was in, too. If I thought I’d moved fast in the past, the last month has shown me that time waits for no man (or woman).

th_1My more experienced colleagues have been great in getting me up to speed with my confidence and style of delivery to the point that I will be out on my own delivering courses next month. If you’d told me that a few weeks ago, I would have laughed in your face. There was NO WAY that I would be ready in such a short space of time. “Don’t worry,” my colleagues said, “We have faith in you.”

Yeah, thanks for that added bit of pressure, guys…

I delivered my first full session last week and let me tell you now, I have never been quite so terrified in all my life. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but let’s just say that I didn’t need any prunes to aid my bowel movements that week. Even though I had prepared to the best of my ability, my subconscious kept trying to convince me that everything would fall to pieces and the delegates that I was meant to be teaching would laugh at me. A last-minute case of the jitters almost threatened to make me cry and throw up simultaneously. Cue a much-needed mental smack around the face from my colleague who told me to suck it up and get on with it (but in much nicer language.)

Don’t ask me how I did it, but I managed to get through the whole day without making a complete hash of it. For the most part, the delegates were engaged and receptive to my delivery and even gave me a round of applause when I made it to the end of the session, whether that was due to the fact that they were glad that it was over or the fact that I did okay is undetermined at this point.

th_2Just before I began delivering the session, I did ask myself why a woman as shy and awkward as myself would think it a good idea to apply for a role whereby I would have to stand in front of big groups of people and talk with all eyes on me. I had 22 delegates in my session and every single one of them focused on me as I began.

To put it mildly, I was crapping myself.

After the session was over I realised that I actually felt quite a rush standing in front of a room full of people and relaying my own knowledge and experiences in the social care sector. More than that, I was completely exhausted by the end of the day and had underestimated just how tiring engaging a large group of people can be. My feet hurt from being on them all day and my throat was dry from speaking more than usual, but I made it through and that’s what counts (I hope!)

girl with stacked booksNot satisfied with studying on the job with my more experienced colleagues, I have also now started my college course in order to get my first teaching qualification. Without giving away my age, let’s just say that it’s been a while since I’ve been in a college environment. Thankfully, there were ten other ‘mature’ students who were in a similar situation to me when I arrived on my first day back at ‘school’.

The course has a good range of students from differing backgrounds, much of our first session dealt with getting to know one another and learning more about the layout of the course. I will be attending college every Friday for the next 10 weeks and after that time I will have my first accredited teaching qualification to my name which will allow me to go onto further studies and obtain a degree which would see me become a fully qualified teacher.

It will be a case of hitting the books and typing up essays over the next couple of months which may affect my ability to post regular Thoughts for Friday posts, but I am hoping that I will be able to keep up with both. If you don’t hear from me for a couple of weeks then you can be pretty sure that I have my nose stuck in a book, desperately trying to get my written assignment handed in on time.

peeled-bananaMy long-term goal is to become a fully qualified teacher and to be able to work in colleges and universities as a lecturer on the topic of social care. That dream is a long way off yet, but I cannot wait for the day when a student brings me an apple during class. I only hope they won’t be offended when I tell them that I prefer bananas instead…

8 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 17th April 2015

It may come as a shock to some of you to discover that I am a T.I.T.

Miss Loveton, stop that sniggering!

Sadly for any men reading my blog, I am not going to write a post on breasts (that may come later…) I am, for want of a better acronym, a ‘teacher in training’.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my life had just got a whole lot busier and it is my ‘teacher in training’ status that accounts for most of that (neither Chloe the baby nor Barney the puppy are mine, so I don’t have to care for them 24 hours a day). Ever since I received word that I had been selected by my company to become part of their teacher/trainer team, life has whizzed past faster than I might have liked.

From taking delivery of a printer that is almost as big as my flat, to first aid kits and course literature, I am now only able to freely move in approximately one third of the area of my living space. I will soon also have three resuscitation dolls and am currently thinking of names to call them. Any suggestions on a postcard please…

image

Be glad that I didn’t pose on my chaise longue….

My new role started on April 1st (perhaps not the best day to start if you’re into all of that April Fool’s malarkey) and my first few days were spent relatively close to home. The real fun started on Easter Monday when I had a long drive up north to a place called Peterborough. I arrived in the early evening and checked in expecting to find a tiny little box room, imagine my surprise when I discovered I’d been put in an executive suite!

Gazing around my luxurious quarters, I discovered a beautiful en-suite bathroom, a king-size bed and the mother of all luxuries….a chaise longue!

Placing my travel case on the floor, I had visions of laying on said chaise longue and being hand-fed grapes by an Adonis in nothing but a loin cloth. It was only after I checked out that I realised that you had to pay extra for that little ‘luxury’.

photoThe room I stayed in had more light switches than I knew what to do with and may have accounted for my inability to drop off to sleep initially. It was only after I flicked a dozen or more switches that I managed to turn off the purple glowing light around my headboard. While this would have been great for an impromptu rave in my room or perhaps something a little more amorous, it wasn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep.

The breakfast the next morning was pretty decent too, apart from the male server who kept calling me ‘sweetie’. On the fifth occasion he called me it I almost dumped the rest of my bowl of porridge over his head, which would have ruined his neatly coiffed hair which had been styled to within an inch of its life. NO ONE calls me ‘sweetie’ before I’ve had at least half a gallon of coffee in the morning.

That afternoon I had to drive to Nottingham where I would be staying for the next three nights. Judging by my Sat Nav, it seemed a fairly easy journey that would take no more than an hour. Cue major traffic jams on the motorways, a Sat Nav that clearly didn’t have a clue where it was going and Nikki Minaj performing at the city’s arena. A 60 minute journey took me nearly two and a half hours and by the time I got to the hotel I was badly in need of a stiff drink.

training-sign-300x300I’ve been fortunate enough to be working alongside an experienced trainer this week who has somewhat taken me under his wing. We spent two very enjoyable and slightly raucous evenings in the hotel’s bar and restaurant giggling like a pair of schoolchildren. My colleague is from the North, while I am a southerner which meant that we had a few mis-communications throughout the week and some very humorous stories to tell. Perhaps the hotel staff will best remember us for our ‘said the nun to the vicar’ response to every statement anyone made. I convinced my colleague that adding the statement to the end of any sentence is guaranteed to make it sound ruder than it actually is. For example:

“Can you butter my toast….said the nun to the vicar.”

“I’ll park my car in your driveway…said the nun to the vicar.”

“Does that come with cream…said the nun to the vicar.”

I’m sure you get the drift.

I had traveled to Nottingham with the intention of watching a master at work (i.e. my colleague) but he ended up throwing me to the wolves and asking me to deliver part of a course that I hadn’t even seen. The next day he made me present 85% of a course that I’d only ever seen delivered once. Talk about throwing me in at the deep end!

You’ll be delighted to know that both training sessions went pretty well and I didn’t die on my ass when confronted with a room full of people all looking to me to teach them something. Once I got over the initial nerves, I actually found that I enjoyed myself and only tripped over my words a couple of times. I think I did OK, taking everything in to consideration.

Who knew that Kevin Costner doesn't actually live in Nottingham?

Who knew that Kevin Costner doesn’t actually live in Nottingham?

I drove back home on the Friday morning, only slightly disappointed that I didn’t see Robin Hood or any of his band of merry men. I made pretty good time considering that I had to drive nearly 200 miles. The whole week was exhausting but also extremely enjoyable and I now even have a couple of real-life training sessions under my belt. This week I am in Luton with another teacher/trainer and so I’m getting used to living out of a suitcase, the plus side being that I don’t have to make my bed or cook any of my own meals while I’m away.

It’s hard work being a T.I.T but there are also a lot of perks, so maybe being one isn’t such a bad thing after all….

16 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 3rd April 2015

christian-wellness-blogs1As anyone who runs a blog knows, keeping a regular posting schedule, dropping by and commenting on the posts of others, as well as answering comments left on your own posts is a time consuming business. Most of us have busy lives and/or full time jobs as well as trying to keep up with everything happening on WordPress, and unless you’re very lucky, keeping your blog alive takes time and commitment.

I’m the first to admit that I’m pretty lax when it comes to some aspects of blogging and I feel bad for that. The simple fact is that there are only so many hours in each day and by body has a habit of demanding a full night of sleep every now and then. How I curse the frailties of my corporeal shell when my eyes slam shut in the middle of reading a blog post. My physical self just doesn’t understand that a writer’s life is one fueled by caffeine and very little sleep.

There are aspects of blogging that take longer than others to complete, such as writing the post and finding suitable pictures/graphics to accompany your wise and witty words. Personally, I think a few well-placed photos or graphics can really enhance a post, it also helps to break up the text and make your posts appear more visually appealing. As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words (and that’s 1000 less words that you have to spend time writing – yippee!)

After carefully choosing your words and pictures/graphics, then comes the taxing part of deciding which tags to add to your post. I have lost many an hour debating over tags and which well-chosen words will enable me to hit the WordPress jackpot and put me on the Freshly Pressed page (I have yet to find the right key words, so answers on a postcard would be much appreciated.) Bar bribery and/or blackmail, I have yet to catch the eye of those Fresh Pressers, so the chances are my tags aren’t quite what they should be.

th_56

I was just looking for an excuse to post a picture of some balls…

Tags sorted and fingers crossed, you then have to decide which category to place your post in. Again, hours have been lost as I debate as to whether a post about balls should be placed in ‘Silly Stuff’ or ‘Thoughts for Friday’, after all, my thoughts about balls could have conceivably fallen into the latter category…

Now that the finer details are sorted, all a blogger has to do is figure out when they’ll schedule their post to publish, choosing the right date and the correct time for optimum publishing splash. A savvy blogger will also provide links via social media networks such as Tumblr, Twitter, Google+ etc.

Twitter is perhaps the easiest social networking platform to keep on top of, considering that you can only post tweets in 140 characters or less. Retweets are just the tap of a button, the same for replies. Why, oh, why then am I so damned bad at keeping up with my Twitter feed?

picture_1dac3a5bbc6ae4647bd5d70a91a0801557ab7434_XLAnyone who follows my Twitter will know that I am appalling at keeping up with new tweets, follows, retweets and replies. In fact, I only ever tend to venture toward my Twitter on very rare occasions. I have no excuse either, Twitter takes only seconds to keep up with, yet I never seem to find those seconds in my daily routine.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Twitter is so quick and simple to keep up with that I fail to do so. Whereas I set aside specific time to write my blog posts, I don’t afford myself the same luxury when it comes to Twitter. I keep telling myself that I’ll check Twitter later, the only problem being that I never do.

twitterPosts everywhere encourage writers to use Twitter as a way of promoting our work, but I’m afraid the only thing my Twitter feed promotes is my criminally lax attitude to answering anything on it. There are odd times where I will veer close to being suspended for breaking Twitter’s rules as I madly rush to retweet as many of my followers tweets and blog posts as I can, and it is then that my followers wonder just what the heck has gotten into me. A spurt of Twitter activity usually signifies that my guilt has reached its limits and I have no choice but to repent to the social media Gods for being such a wayward child.

So, if any of you do follow me on Twitter please do not be offended if I go weeks (possibly months) before replying or retweeting you. It is not personal, it’s just my complete and utter inability to find a few seconds during the day to sit down with my iPad and pay my neglected Twitter feed a little love and attention. I feel guilty each time I see that little blue bird and curse myself for not being a better friend to it.

14483321623_73a7f4a0f9_zPerhaps that’s why there’s always a new dollop of bird muck on my car each morning…

21 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 27th March 2015

This week’s post may be shorter than my usual weekly contribution, due to the fact that I have been struck down by a humdinger of a cold.

Those of you who have followed my blog throughout the last few years or so will know that, almost two years ago, the mighty Heather B Costa was felled by a flu-related virus of mammoth proportions, and all due to the fact that some butt-scratching, beer-bellied builder coughed in my face while I stood in line for my morning coffee at McDonalds.

mcdonald-s-coffee-coming-soon-to-grocery-storesFear not, I have learned the error of my ways and from that point forth, I have only ever used the drive-thru to get my morning java. Who would of guessed how much easier it is to NOT get out of your car and walk the 5 or so yards to the restaurant – if one can call it that.

What I had forgone on daily exercise, I’d gained from the fact that I remained cold/flu-virus free for the best part of two years.

Until now.

It might have something to do with the hectic month I’ve had, but I must have not been paying my immune system sufficient time and respect as it has now decided to all but abandon ship on me. I have been reduced to nothing more than a sorry-looking, wheezing, red-nosed, coughing, spluttering ruin of a woman. Strange fluids emanate from all kinds of orifices, and my lack of control over any of them is quite alarming.

I only wished that I looked this good right now...

I only wished that I looked this good right now…

Kate Loveton will tell you that I’m a pretty bad patient and not the type to let such an inconsequential thing as a little cold or flu knock me down. No, I struggle on through it and make the damn thing end up sticking around much longer than I wanted it to. The devil makes work for idle hands, as they say, and I find it hard to sit down and convalesce (even if it is the best thing for me).

Perhaps this is a case in point of my habit of over-sharing, but I have twice had to clean my laptop and tablet screens of the spittle projected from my mouth during a particularly violent coughing fit. If computers could contract human viruses, I am pretty sure that I could take down the FBI, MI5, and the Pentagon with this vile bug.

The virus isn’t really as bad as I am making it out to be, it’s just that I get a little grumpy when I feel under the weather and like to bitch and moan about it to anyone that will listen. I need hot tea, sympathy, and chicken noodle soup. I need pandering and pampering so that I can feel ever so slightly less dramatic about my sniffles.

stingI think I’ve used enough tissues in the last couple of days to end up on Sting’s hit list when it comes to those at fault for the decline of the Brazilian rainforests, swigged more cough medicine than a hard-up alcoholic on a binge, and coughed up enough weird-looking stuff that I could create a species of outer-world creature that wouldn’t look out of place on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

If I drop by your blog in the next week or so, please make sure that you’re wearing suitable protective gear as I am likely to cough, splutter and sneeze over everything within a 20 feet radius of me at the moment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m pretty sure that’s Sting at my door…

21 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts for Friday – 27th February 2015

article-2018500-0D27940F00000578-464_468x400I’ve been delighted with the response to last week’s post in which I complained (in detail) at how complex a task it is to book flight tickets. Although I was saddened to hear that many of you have also experienced similar issues, it makes me feel slightly better that I am not the only person who has been left thoroughly confused by airlines and the illogical manner in which they price their flights.

Through trial (and much error), I managed to narrow down a date and time that was moderately cheap for my inbound and outbound flights from Baltimore International. Kate had agreed to move the dates of our schedule to accommodate this, and everything seemed rosy at this point. Eager to get one of the last remaining ‘cheap’ seats, I add the flight to my basket and proceeded to the checkout section of the site.

Again, this was a fairly simple exercise (it seems that companies are eager to make it is easy as possible to take your money, rather than help you save it), my card payment went through quickly and painlessly.

Then I got the booking confirmation.

I scrolled down to the Taxes/Fees/Charges section and was alarmed, and more than a little miffed, to find out just how much of my air fare was for actual flying.

According to the information provided, I have to pay every man and his dog some sort of fee to get from one country to the other and back again. UK Air Passenger Duty for example, it’s a well-known fact that here in the UK that you can’t even die for free these days. Everything in this country has a tax rate associated to it. The British government charging one of its citizens to travel is pretty much a given: to be British is to be taxed, I say.

convoselfservice£42.06 seems a little steep for a ‘UK Passenger Service Charge’ and I’m not entirely sure if that is a government sanction or one placed by the airport itself. If it is an airport charge, then I find being charged over £40 obscene. There are now self-service terminals in Heathrow that allow you to check yourself in, without the aid of one of their employees. In fact, the only thing that the airport staff need to do is put your luggage on the right flight (and you wouldn’t believe how many times they don’t) and announce over a tannoy that your flight is being called. There must be thousands of people who pass through the airport each day being charged £40 (possibly more) for essentially doing the job of the airport staff themselves. I’m sorry, but if I am going to be charged £42.06, I don’t feel as if I should have to print my own boarding passes and check myself in!

There are also a number of smaller charges levied by the US Government and these seem much more reasonable to me, although the ‘Animal & Plant Health User Fee (Aphis) – USA’ one seems a little unfair considering that I am not planning to use either a plant or an animal while visiting the country.

thromby-fixedpriceThe total amount of Government, Authority and Airport charges comes to a whopping £155. Who knew that you could be taxed so much just to fly to a particular airport and back?

At least the above mentioned institutions/agencies had the good grace to clearly lay out their charges (no matter how absurd they might be), but the airline charges are decidedly unclear. The only information given is that they are ‘carrier imposed’ charges. What the hell does that mean?!

I really do hope they are not charging me £185 for my drinks and meals while on board their planes. As anyone who has ever tasted it can attest, airplane food is not something that anyone would ever pay for the pleasure of experiencing. Nor am I demanding extra leg room (even though I have pretty long legs). I am slightly underweight and so my heft isn’t going to slow the plane or make it use more fuel than it needs to. I’ll have a personal TV screen in front of me (which I didn’t ask for) and a few air hostesses walking up and down the aisles every once in a while to close my mouth when I fall asleep and start to dribble.cartoon sleep

The fact of the matter is that half (if not more) of the cost of my tickets are made up in extra charges levied either by governments, airports, or the airline itself and yet clear guidance on why these charges are added is extremely hard to find. If I had a full breakdown of charges and why they are being placed, I think I might be more inclined to accept them.

Honestly, I think I’m going to need a vacation to get over the exhaustion of trying to book my vacation…

14 Comments

Filed under Thoughts for Friday