You may have noticed that I was conspicuous by my absence last week when my usual Thoughts for Friday post failed to appear. It was a rather Thought-less Friday, so to speak.
The past couple of weeks have been my most hectic yet this year. At the beginning of the month I embarked on my first solo sessions in Oxford and the realisation hit me like a ton of bricks that I had no one sitting in the corner of the room ready to jump in if my sessions turned into a crisis.
Oxford is a fair distance from where I live and so I decided to travel up the night before (the A34 has never been my friend at the best of times). I made it to my hotel in good time but was rather dismayed to find that they had no restaurant to speak of (this was a Holiday Inn) and was told that I could order in a takeaway if I wanted. I then began to worry that they would point me in the direction of the local McDonalds if I asked about their breakfast provisions, imagining an Egg McMuffin as my first meal of the day…
On my first night in Oxford I managed to find a Frankie and Benny’s restaurant only a short walk from my hotel (which was situated next door to a football stadium, coincidently). Imagine my excitement when I saw a fire engine screaming toward the stadium with lights and sirens blaring!
Alas, my fervour dampened when I realised that it was only a bin on fire and required the attention of one ageing and rather unfit fireman. Shelving my disappointment, I spent that night (and another two besides) making my way through the rather limited food choices on the F&B menu.
The sessions in Oxford went quite well and I was relieved when my first group contained only seven people. The first day didn’t start that well when I drove to the course venue and entered a steep driveway expecting to find a car park but finding nothing. I couldn’t drive straight through and so I had to reverse back down a narrow driveway with brick walls either side and onto a busy main road.
I’d made it to the venue in good time and managed to set up well before any of my delegates arrived. I had assumed that the day would be a good one. It wasn’t to be though, due to my laptop and speakers seemingly unwilling to speak to each other (it turns out that it was my fault for not plugging something in, but I didn’t tell my delegates that). I sorted the sound issue during the lunch break only to find that I’d then lost my computer’s feed to the projector!
It seems as if these things were sent to try me and I think I made the most of what could have been quite a disastrous situation. It only occurred to me later that it could have been a higher power conspiring against me…
The course venue was actually a church that rented out particular areas of their property and I had been given the main church area itself in which to conduct my sessions. Strange things seemed to happen throughout the three days I was there; doors opened of their own accord, signs that I’d stuck onto the walls fell down and the lights flickered on and off. I then began to wrack my mind to think of any times that I might have taken the good Lord’s name in vain but came up with none. Perhaps it was a training colleague of mine trying to send a message that I was being watched…
After my sessions were over for the week I had just enough time to fit in my college course and then I made my way up to Birmingham for what was due to be a six-day stay. I’ve always taken the train any time I’ve needed to go to Birmingham and so driving up there was something new to me. I imagined driving in the city centre would be much like trying to drive in inner-city London.
Turns out that I wasn’t wrong on that front.
I had booked a hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham city centre and assumed that the ten mile journey to my course venue would only take me 20-30 minutes. What I hadn’t factored in was that I would have to drive straight through the city centre itself. I’ve driven some confusing and complicated routes at times, but Birmingham is in a league of its own when it comes to disappearing and reappearing lanes coming out of nowhere. It took between 60-90 minutes each way to get from one side to the other and by the time I’d made it to my destination each day I was just about ready to have kittens (I also would have taken vodka, gin, brandy etc.)
Luckily, I only needed to make the hairy cross-city journey for two days as the rest of my time in Birmingham was due to be spent attending my own First Aid training with two of my colleagues. I hadn’t even met one of my colleagues before our meeting in Birmingham and I was delighted to find out that the colleague in question was from Barnsley and had a deep Yorkshire accent.
I am a proud Southerner and my colleague a proud Northerner, so you can imagine the good-natured ribbing we gave each other about our accents and outlooks on life. I think I spent more time mimicking his accent than he did mine though and I’m not sure if he was impressed or just amused at my attempts to ape his accent.
So there we all were, sitting in a hotel primed and ready to be taught everything we needed to know in order to deliver our own First Aid courses. Surely nothing could go wrong?
TO BE CONTINUED…