Tag Archives: trials of a traveling trainer

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?

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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…

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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…

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Thoughts for Friday – 12th June 2015

My resuscitation dolls arrived while I was mid-migraine and so I didn’t really do anything with them until the unbearable banging in my head had abated somewhat. I had only been expecting three dolls and so therefore I was surprised to find another doll stuffed inside one of the bags.

wipes-lMy first job was to thoroughly sanitise said dolls, after all, you never know who’s had their lips round them before I got them…

I gave all four of my Annie dolls a good wiping down and then pumped their chest several times for good measure. Lord knows what my downstairs neighbour thought of the sound of springs repeatedly being put under pressure.

Each of the dolls has a removable face (they are clipped on at the ears), presumably this is so you can remove them, give them a quick spin in the washing machine and then hang them out in your back yard to dry so that you can scare the life out of your unsuspecting neighbours.

I’ll give it a whirl and let you know…

It just so happens that one of my dolls has an issue with its face clipping on to one of its ears and after an hour or so of battling with it, I decided to give up on the latex facelift and left it as it was. I have christened the doll Vincent, for obvious reasons…

301475779664_1It just so happens that my cousin’s young daughter, Molly, is working hard getting her Brownie badges and one of them is for First Aid. I took Vincent, along with assorted bandages and slings, and gave Molly her very own one-to-one First Aid course. I have to say that, for an eight year old, she did incredibly well to remember everything, though her first attempt at chest compressions looked more like she was using Vincent as a trampoline, rather than trying to resuscitate him.

Molly, and her parents, were appreciative of the time I spent teaching her the basics of First Aid, but the truth was that I was glad to have some practice before heading to Nottingham for what would be my very first solo First Aid session. I wouldn’t have felt quite so nervous had I been shadowing my colleagues repeatedly during the last couple of months, but as luck (or not) would have it, I’d only shadowed once during that time.

So it was with some trepidation that I packed my bags (and my dolls) and headed to Nottingham in my car. The venue was 200 miles away from where I live and so I drove up the day before and checked myself into the hotel (which was also the venue that my session would be held at). I left just after midday, expecting to miss most of the traffic. It turns out that every man and his dog must have been coming back/going on their holidays as the traffic on the M25 by Heathrow and the M1 by Luton Airport were horrendous.

It took me nearly six hours to arrive in Nottingham and by that time I was in desperate need of a drink, something to eat, and a wee – but not necessarily in that order.

coffe-nervousI didn’t sleep much that night either, the alcoholic drinks that I’d consumed only served to keep me awake as I went back and forth to the bathroom for most of the night. I woke the next morning feeling tired and nervous and I was quite honestly crapping myself about what was to come.

The first of my delegates began turning up when I was mid-way through trying to tie a sling for my left arm with only my right and I must have looked like a right idiot chasing the end of a triangular bandage around my back like a dog chasing its own tail.

I was hoping that all of my delegates would be new to social and care and First Aid so that I could potentially wing bits of the course that I wasn’t overly familiar with, but it turns out that two of them had already had a great deal of experience in working with paramedics and the Fire service. Rather than letting this bother me, I actually got one of them to show the group how to apply a sling, thus getting out of doing it myself. Who says a trainer has to do all the teaching in the session?

It’s always difficult to take on a group that one of your colleagues has already delivered to as they have certain expectations of what you’ll be like, but I have to say my Nottingham group were good fun, if a little rowdy for my liking.

The group seemed to enjoy my renditions of ‘Staying Alive’, ‘Nellie the Elephant’ and ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ as I showed the group how to perform chest compressions at the correct speed, although it’s fair to say that I won’t be starring on Broadway any time soon.

Considering that I was flying by the seat of my pants for the entirety of the day, the session went better than I was expecting it too and I received some good feedback from my learners. I think they particularly enjoyed my anecdote about how the resuscitation dolls got their face and I also remembered that I’d agreed to share it with my readers too, so here goes:

L'inconnue_de_la_Seine_(masque_mortuaire)The face that is used for Resusci Annie dolls is taken from a mould of a young woman who had been found drowned in the Seine in the late 1880’s who was known as ‘L’Inconnue de la Seine’ or ‘ The unknown woman of the Seine’. Apparently, the pathologist in the Paris morgue who performed the autopsy was so taken with her beauty that he took a mould of it (otherwise known as a death mask) and it is the very same mould used by Peter Safar and Asmund Laerdal who created the Resusci Annie doll in 1958.

I tend to only share this nugget of information after my delegates have performed the CPR routine well enough to pass the course as it tends to freak them out a bit otherwise and I suppose it brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘French kiss’…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to disinfect an unknown French woman’s face…

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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…

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