Tag Archives: writing

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 – 26th June 2015

FOUR-DAY-WEEKEND-HELL-YEAHA relatively short break from the weekly treadmill of commuting and staying away from home during the week followed the wonderful stay that I experienced at the B&B outside of Brighton. Not counting attending college, I had a four-day weekend to enjoy myself before heading off on my travels again.

My four days off consisted of Skyping for several hours with the wonderful Kate Loveton, catching up with friends, and showing my face to various family members in the hopes that they hadn’t forgotten me entirely. I know, I know… my face is far too ugly to forget!

As seems to be the way with me, I felt a headache developing a day or two before I was due to travel halfway up the country for a couple of team meetings. Feeling a little green around the gills on the Tuesday morning, I drove over 140 miles in roughly 3 hours, which was pretty good when you consider that I made a pit stop a couple of times along the way (a quick rearrangement of the letters in the words ‘pit’ and ‘stop’ will give you a fair idea of why I needed to pull into a services a couple of times…)

Just as I pulled up at the hotel, I received a call from my manager who I had been scheduled to meet at 2pm, telling me that she was seriously behind and wouldn’t be able to meet me until the early evening. I had no problem with the meeting being put back (these things happen, after all) but I was slightly miffed that the hotel wouldn’t let me check in until 2pm that afternoon.

So I had 90 minutes to burn before I could lay my weary (and pounding) head down for a few hours. I drove to the nearest shopping centre in the hopes that some retail therapy would take my mind off the throbbing of my head, yet even my lust for new clothing could not douse the pain in my head.

It would have been nice if my curry had some chicken in it...

It would have been nice if my curry had some chicken in it…

I picked up a pot of chicken tikka masala and rice in the local supermarket (or grocery store for my American pals!) and slouched back to my car to eat it all the while feeling pretty sorry for myself. To add insult to injury, upon eating the said curry and rice, I was alarmed to find that there were no traces of chicken to be found. The supermarket, in all of their nefarious evilness, had stiffed me on the chicken but still left the flavour of it inside the curry. That’s just cruel if you ask me…

I eventually checked in at the hotel, took a couple of strong painkillers and then had a nap for a couple of hours before a knock at my door woke me. I couldn’t recall ordering room service, although when in the middle of a severe headache, I barely remember anything at all. Alas, it was not a cold pint of beer and steak and fries on a plate, it was just the receptionist informing me that my manager had arrived and was waiting for me down in the bar where, quite frankly, EVERY single meeting should be held.

It started with coffee, progressed to soft carbonated drinks, and finished with an evening meal. After five and a half hours, my meeting with my manager concluded and the only reason we stopped was due to the bar calling ‘time’ and closing for the night. It would be fair to say that my manager and I like to chat a lot and several times went off-topic and discussed most worldly topics that were in no way shape or form related to our job roles.

1349137801913_2973999Perhaps it was fortuitous that I had a nap on the Tuesday afternoon as the next couple of days consisted of back to back meetings. On Wednesday we were all asked the same question about why our best friend is actually our best friend. My immediate answer was that Kate Loveton is my best friend because she knows where I buried all the bodies… This raised a few titters and some alarmed facial expressions from a couple of colleagues who don’t know me that well yet and, after that comment, probably weren’t too keen on getting to know me any better either.

Call it team building (I just call it an excuse for a good night out), my colleagues and I went to the local leisure complex and had a couple of games of bowling. I’m blaming my lack of accuracy on the fact that I was stone-cold sober while playing, although my manager did remark that my technique was pretty good, it was just my aim that was crap.

It would be fair to say that these are the biggest balls I've seen for some time...

It would be fair to say that these are the biggest balls I’ve seen for some time…

I have to thank one of my male colleagues for taking one for the team and coming last so that I didn’t have to, besides he was the same colleague who booked me into that hideous pub outside of Brighton a couple of months ago and he owed me one anyway.

There were some sore heads and bruised egos at the meeting the next day and I think we were all pretty glad when it concluded so that we could all begin our long journeys back home. I made good time until I hit the M25 and got stuck on the damn thing for nearly two hours. It was also a warm and humid day, and so sitting in a massive traffic jam was not exactly an enjoyable experience.

I got home several miserable hours later.

suspenseAs much as I enjoy delivering sessions, it was nice to have a week away from giving your everything to a group of learners, day after day, some of who don’t always appreciate the time and effort we put in to our sessions. I was able to meet up with colleagues, catch up on the latest gossip, look at a picture of someone’s prawn (yes, really) and get my ass kicked at ten pin bowling. Best of all, the first couple of days of the following week would see me commuting from home each day. I would be back home in my local area, always something to look forward to. I would receive a hero’s welcome, surely?

You’ll just have to wait until next week to find out!

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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 – 29th May 2015

I left last week’s Thoughts post on a bit of a cliff-hanger didn’t I?

I know, that was terribly mean of me, but I needed to give you at least some small reason to come back this week!

waitingI believe I left the story at the beginning of what was meant to be a three-day training course that would see me become a qualified First Aid instructor. There we were, my two colleagues and I, patiently waiting in a hotel conference room, wondering why we had gotten to the venue before our trainer (it’s always considered bad etiquette if your learners turn up before you do). We sat and waited.

And waited.

Finally, there was a knock on the door and a very apologetic member of the hotel staff informed us that our trainer would not be turning up today. At first we worried that they’d had an accident on the way to the venue and were concerned for his safety. Our concern for his well-being was reduced quite dramatically when we learned that he was somewhere in Essex and had no idea that he was meant to be delivering a session to us in Birmingham.

phone-call-fearsAfter many apologetic phone calls later, my colleagues and I were told to sit tight and make use of the conference room, even though our instructor would not arrive until the following day. Left to our own devices, we could have got up to all sorts of things, but like the good employees we are, we actually spent the day working on course presentations (and filling our boots at the lunch buffet which had already been paid for).

Cadbury%20Webstory1Sadly, our manager had vetoed my suggestion of visiting Cadbury World which was only a few miles away from the training venue. She seemed to think that we were far too well-paid to spend a work day getting our jollies at Britain’s most famous chocolate factory. I used my innate charm and yet still our manager held firm. I even offered to buy her a mound of chocolate but it was no use, she wasn’t budging.

So what do three people who don’t know each other very well do when placed in a conference suite and left to their own devices? Well, we all work in social care and so it wasn’t very long until the conversation turned toward vomit, bowel movements and that kind of thing. No high-end conversations for us, no-siree…

I have to admit to being slightly annoyed when I was informed that my colleagues and I would all have to return to Birmingham on Sunday night to complete our course. We were told that the trainer definitely would turn up on Thursday and Friday but that we would have to come back the following week to complete the last day.

This doesn’t sound too bad until you factor in that it would see me driving 450 miles in three days, which, even for me, is a little excessive. There wasn’t much I could do about it anyway and so I consoled myself with the fact that my mileage expenses would look pretty rosy after all that traveling.

Puppy-LoveAfter a week of staying in the same hotel, I was running the risk of becoming part of the furniture and greeting many of the staff on a first name basis. However, there was one member of the hotel staff that both myself and one of my colleagues had our eye on: a gorgeous hunk of a man called Jermaine. This guy was an Adonis and on our return to the hotel on Sunday, I bet my colleague that Jermaine would remember me. Sensing a challenge, my colleague aimed to do everything he could to get Jermaine to notice him on our last night at the hotel. This may or may not have included both of us gawping at his perfectly-formed derriere as he leant over the bar on the Thursday night…

I ended up the victor when we reconvened on Sunday night as I gleefully told my colleague that Jermaine had personally shown me to my room.

“How in the ‘ell did ya swing tha?” my colleague said in his deep Yorkshire accent.

I would have loved to say that it was by natural beauty and feminine charms, but it was actually a case of my room key not working. Still, I made the most of the opportunity to rub my colleague’s nose in it a little….

nothing-takes-the-taste-out-of-peanut-butter-quite-like-unrequited-loveTo be honest, I think I might have scared Jermaine off with the conversation we had while I was checking in. Jermaine asked me if I would mind an adjoining room and I replied by saying that I would only agree if the door remained locked and no one could get into my room. Jermaine assured me that this was the case and I was happy with that until a thought crossed my mind…

“Actually,” I said. “It depends on who is in the next room. If they’re cute then they can come right in!”

I wiggled my eyebrows salaciously at Jermaine and it was probably at this point that I lost my chance with him.

Still, I will be back at the very same hotel next month and have another chance at getting Jermaine’s number. I just hope he hasn’t gone running scared and quit…

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Thoughts for Friday – 10th April 2015

car-service-icon-3d-button-16008614In preparation for my new job role, I booked my car in for a service at a local garage. I asked them to make sure that the vehicle was in good condition and would get me through another 10,000 miles of motoring. I made it clear that I will soon be driving up and down the country on a regular basis and that I simply MUST be able to rely on my car to get me from one place to another.

I’ll admit that I was somewhat surprised when the garage rang me to tell me that the only thing my car needed was a set of wiper blades and a new set of spark plugs. I asked again if the vehicle would be fine until its next service (in 10,000 miles time) and the garage once again assured me that it would. I drove away from the garage confident that my car would be fine.

Things ran smoothly for the first couple of days. My brakes appeared more responsive and the car drove as well as it ever has. Even though a massively long drive, I was looking forward to my first overnight stay at a hotel in my new role. My line manager had appeared to take pity on me last week when she scheduled me to work somewhere relatively close to home for the first few days. A 60-mile a day round trip would be nothing compared to later weeks in my schedule…

It was while driving back from the relatively local location that my car began to make a strange noise. At first, it made the noise only intermittently and so I carried on driving. In less than a mile, the car began to sound awful and I knew then that I needed to pull over, the only issue being that I needed to crawl past a slip road first while not causing a multiple-car pile up. Unfortunately, my tyre gave out before I could pull over onto the hard shoulder, blowing out with an almighty bang.

2010-05-02 14.14.40

My tyre looked something like this

I will forever be thankful that it had been a rear tyre that blew and not one of the front tyres. My car is front-wheel drive and, had the tyre blown out at the front, I could have easily lost control of the vehicle entirely. I limped my car lopsidedly as far off the motorway lane as I could, switching on my hazards and all the while panicking as to what to do next.

I’m the first to admit that I did panic at this point. I was stuck on the side of a busy motorway, just past a slip road with traffic zooming past me at 70mph. Stupidly, I sat in my car for at least five minutes trying to decide what to do, completely ignoring the fact that another vehicle could have smashed into me at any given moment. Visions of what had happened to my cousin filled my mind and only served to increase my panic.

‘Get out of the Goddamn car!’ I screamed silently, before realising that I would be opening my door straight on to the flow of traffic. I climbed over the centre console and got out of the passenger side instead. ‘Ring the recovery company,’ I told myself, only to ring them and realise that my cover with them had expired and that I had neglected to write the number of my new service down and keep it with me. I began panicking that I would have to call the police and that they would fine me for having insufficient breakdown coverage. As it turns out, my previous roadside assistance company offered to send a unit out (at a cost) and I had no choice but to accept.

breakdown-347x199Cue nearly an hour of waiting on the side of the motorway for a recovery vehicle to arrive. At this point, I wasn’t sure if my shaking was due to the fact that it was cold or that I was still in shock at what happened. It certainly didn’t help my blood pressure when the recovery technician cheerfully told me that I couldn’t have picked a more dangerous piece of road to break down on. Well, it’s not like I bloody well chose to have my tyre explode right then and there!

The technician put my space saver spare wheel on and instructed me to go no faster than 50mph for the rest of my journey home, which is all well and good if you’re NOT on the motorway. Even the articulated trucks were giving me a hard time for driving so slowly and I honestly felt like sticking my arm out of my window and pointing to my temporary wheel. I’d become one of those dawdling drivers that everyone hates…

As is my lot in life, I chose the Easter holiday weekend to have my tyre blow out, which meant that most garages were closed for the long weekend. I needed to drive to Peterborough on Easter Monday and there was no way I could do that on a temporary wheel and tyre. After much phoning around, I managed to find a tyre centre open and so I took my car there, fully expecting them to change the damaged tyre and tell me everything else was fine.

They didn’t.

Summer-TyresNot only was the rear tyre beyond all repair (that was pretty much a given, seeing as it exploded and all), but both of my front tyres were barely above the legal limit and would have lasted me less than a couple of thousand miles. It was at this point I realised that, in couple of weeks time, it could have easily been one of my front tyres that blew out, and could have resulted in much more serious consequences.

Suffice to say, I will be giving the garage that carried out the service a piece of my mind and I will tell them in no uncertain terms that I am less than pleased with the fact that they did not pick up on the state of the tyres. I know that I had a lucky escape and that things could have turned out much worse for me. I’m just thankful that they didn’t.

If you take anything from this post, let it be this message: If in doubt, get your tyres checked out.

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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.

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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…

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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…

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Thoughts for Friday – 20th March 2015

exhausted-womanFear not, I am not about to subject you to a post about back passages (as suggested by Snakes in the Grass), mainly because I have not had enough time to research the topic this week. That doesn’t mean to say that I won’t find time in the next few weeks to cover such and interesting subject…

Lack of time has been something of an issue for me over the last couple of weeks. Why does life always have a way of throwing everything at you at once and then expecting you to deal with it without breaking a sweat? Why doesn’t life just pace itself a little more sedately so that I don’t feel as though I am running around like a dog chasing its tail?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whinging that my life has become hectic of late, far from it in fact. I interviewed for a position last month that I had always aspired to but had never been able to attain. I gave it my best shot but returned home doubtful that I would be the successful candidate who got offered the role.

Well knock me down with a feather, I only went and got the job!

Believe me, no one was more surprised than I was to hear that I’d beaten the other applicants (through a mixture of sabotage and sticking pins in their effigies) to the job of my dreams. Not only was it a role that I had always wanted, it also meant a hefty wage increase and the chance of a company car later this year.

I’ve been walking around with my head in the clouds as far as the new position is concerned, but it has also meant that I’ve been extremely busy as I prepare to transition from my current role into one that is going to no doubt be a steep learning curve for me. My superiors have shown faith in me and now is the time to repay that.

work-hardAs well as working out my notice in my current role, I am also in the process of enrolling myself in courses for the qualifications I will need in my new position. All in all, it’s been a hectic few weeks…

Far be it for Heather B Costa to do things by halves, I’ve also had to deal with two new additions to the family: my mother’s new dog, Barney and my cousin’s newborn daughter, Chloe.

Barney is a King Charles Cavalier puppy who loves nothing more than chewing anything he can get his tiny little mouth on. He’s only a little guy, but he already has the heart and courage of a dog ten times his size. Barney often gets put in his place by my mother’s other dog Tig, but the little rascal will shake it off and then come back for more. Tig, it seems, can’t be bothered to put up much of a fight anymore and often lets Barney get on his bed with him during the day, either that or the little tyke has wormed his way into Tig’s affections too…

nappy-420x0Chloe arrived almost two weeks ago now and is the most gorgeous bundle of joy. She loves nothing more than a good cuddle and fell asleep on me the first time I held her. I have to admit that this is a marked improvement on when I first held Molly and Connor (they both screamed their heads off). I am taking it as a compliment that Chloe neither cried, threw up on me or pooped in her nappy when I held her – these are all good signs for when I come to babysit her in the coming months.

Barney and my sister Louise

Barney and my sister Louise

So I have a new job role to contend with, a new puppy and a new baby in the family, so if I miss a Friday post every now and again it will be due to one of three factors: I’m snowed under with my training, I’m clearing up puppy poo when visiting my mother, or I’m being thrown up on by a newborn baby. I see late nights, puppy training pads and wet wipes in my near future…

Kate Loveton once likened me to the Duracell Bunny and I have a feeling that I’m going to need to find some extra energy from somewhere in these next few months….

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Thoughts for Friday – 13th March 2015

Apologies to my regular readers who might have been expecting a post this time last week from me, I had some things to attend to outside of the blogging sphere which meant that I wasn’t able to put together another rambling post about the meandering nature of my life. Truth be told, it’s a wonder that anyone finds my wittering interesting at all!

super-nerd-intervieweeSome of you who have had the misfortune to know me well will be aware that I often spend far too much time in the left side of my brain, the side that deals with logic, sequences etc. ‘Analytical’ is a term the could be used to describe me, mainly because the first two syllables sum up how I come across at times – a bit anal.

Fear not, I am not going to subject you to a post about back-passages, although now I come to think of it, I’m sure I could come up with some puerile humour on the subject…

This week’s post is actually something far more exciting, I am going to talk to you about the wonderful new addition to my living space – a smart meter.

What do you mean that backsides are more interesting?!  What I shall speak of is of great importance when considering my own carbon footprint, as well as my electricity bill.

Although we’ve had it fairly easy compared to my fellow blogging pals in the US, the winter months in the UK aren’t exactly the warmest time of the year. It’s cold and it gets dark early, which in turn causes temperatures to drop even further.

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Condensation running down my wall

I moved into my current property in the summer of 2014, it wasn’t until the temperatures started dropping in late October/early November that I realised I had a big problem. The front door to my property is on ground level, while my living space is on the upper level with no door to separate the two areas. This has left me with a significant cold spot in the property and an open invitation for condensation to take up residence in my hallway/stairwell.

For those who are unfamiliar with this most annoying of phenomenons, listen closely to Heather B Costa’s science tutorial:

Condensation occurs when the physical state of matter changes from a gas phase to a liquid phase. Condensation typically occurs when a vapour is cooled or condensed to its saturation limit. In terms of condensation in properties, condensation is most often caused by warm air meeting cold surfaces, the water created by the change of vapour into liquid (i.e. water) causes the droplets to settle on these cold surfaces (i.e. your walls, ceilings, windows etc.)

*End of science lesson*

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Mould spores caused by condensation

I’m pretty sure that even the least scientifically minded of us knows that heat rises. When air vapour gets heated and then hits a cold surface (such as the coldest area of my property) its molecular properties are changed into water droplets that just so happen to love clinging to my walls and ceilings. Not only does this look unsightly, it can also caused real damage to the property and the spores created by mould can also by harmful to a person’s health.

Like any good tenant, my first port of call was to complain to my landlord that I had an issue. To give him due credit, he sent a roofer to my property within a couple of days. I had been convinced that the issue was a leak in the sloped roof, the specialist was convinced that the water running down my walls had been caused by condensation. I shall save us all a lot of time and trouble and cut to the point – the roofer was right, it was condensation.

My landlord agreed to pay for extra insulation in the roof and once the work had been carried out, I assumed that my condensation woes would be nothing more than a bad memory.

It turns out that I was wrong.

Cue another visit from the roof specialist who advised me that I needed to keep the stairwell at an equal temperature to the rest of my living space. This is easier said than done when you have no central heating to speak of. That only left me with one option: buying electric heaters instead.

This seemed like an easy fix to my condensation issues and also had the added bonus of keeping me warm and comfortable throughout the winter. The freezing temps be damned, I had overcome my condensation woes and fended off the cold. Victory was mine!

electricity_bill_182371cUntil I got my electricity bill through a few weeks ago.

I had racked up a frightening amount of usage and yet I couldn’t work out why. Just what was it that ate up electricity like a cop in a donut shop?

Thankfully for my bank balance, my utility company were offering to install a smart meter in my property which would enable me to actively gauge how much energy I was using, when I was using it, and how much it was costing me. I had the meter and monitor fitted last week and since then I have been like Donatella Versace with a cosmetic surgery brochure.

Imagine the fun I had walking around my property switching appliances on and off and watching the monitor spike wildly. I was alarmed to discover that the light bulbs in my property cost more to run than my TV and games console combined. Appliances such as the microwave and kettle also use an alarming amount of electricity compared to my cable TV box and wireless hub.

smart_meter_2I counted the amount of bulbs I would need to replace all of those in my property and decided that the initial outlay was worth it when compared to the amount it would cost me to keep the old energy-guzzling ones my landlord had provided me with. I have literally spent the last week skipping around (walking, actually) my property with my energy monitor in one hand and a pen and paper in the other, determined to save myself every last penny.

Where I had racked up nearly £100 worth of charges each month for the last three months (that’s electricity alone), I have now spent a measly £6 this past week in electricity usage and this will save me the best part of £65 each month compared with those previous. Bizarrely, trying to scrimp and save on every watt of electricity is actually rather fun, believe it or not. I think this may be the start of a new obsession for me – I can see spreadsheets and graphs in my future…

And yes, it was those damn electric heaters that cost me so much money. Next winter, I’m becoming an Eskimo.

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