What a lovely day

Every so often you have one of those days that make you so happy that you’re living your life. Today was one of those days.

This morning at ten thirty my good friend, Maria, and I headed off excitedly up the M6, destination: Atlantic Street Business Centre in Altrincham, reason: Little Box of Crochet Grand Sale Event. Ooh ooh ooh! Lots of yarny, crochet goodness, cake and the opportunity to meet the amazing Amanda who lovingly sends out our crochet boxes every month, ably assisted by Emma, Hazel and, of course, her angel Jenny, (check out their website to read about Jenny’s journey – it’s not my story to tell so I won’t presume to do so) and who in person was as lovely and warm as I knew she would be. I hope she won’t mind me putting this picture here for you to see.

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We were a little early so we satisfied the rumblings in our tummies with a lunchtime snack. The cafe was in the same room as the Grand Sale so whilst we munched we gazed in glee at all the wonderful goodies available to buy and take home with us. The room was full of starry eyed women (mainly) falling in love with skeins of yarn, colourful postcards and, of course, Little (and Not so Little) Boxes of Crochet.

We had such a lovely, lovely, LOVELY day. We spent lots of money. I always find spending money is good for one’s mental wellbeing (provided that you’ve budgeted for it, obviously) but today it was doubly good because a proportion of the sales is going straight to the Brain Tumour Charity.

Look at all the amazing goodies that I came home with (including my November box which was delivered to work whilst I was on my epic week of travelling and delivered to me by Maria today).

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I adore the teacup. I’ve seen this on Instagram and wished so much that I could do it …. and now I can!

Donovan Lamb was perched jauntily on the table promoting his box and both Maria and I fell in love with him so he came home with both of us.

I splashed out on my very first Not so Little Box of Crochet. As the name suggests, there’s a bigger project in this wonderful package, as well as lots of extra surprises. This one makes a very patriotic cushion which I’m excited to start.

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Five balls of the minty yarn also ‘fell’ into my bag! I haven’t the faintest idea what I’ll make with this, but I couldn’t resist the colour. Maybe I’ll investigate the braided cowl that keeps popping up on my Facebook feed.

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I’ll be sure to keep you updated with my project progress – I’ve a feeling that Christmas will be crochet-filled – but for now, must dash so I can try to make number two from my Little Box of Crochet advent calendar. I think I’ll save up my reveal for when I’ve finished all twenty four.

Toodle pip!

 

 

Busy busy bee

Oh my goodness! Where has November gone? One minute it was October, then I blinked and it was December! In a way this is a good thing because I’m not keen on the dark, dull days of November, and once we hit December we’re in the same month as the Winter solstice so I know that soon the days will start getting longer again, even if only by a couple of minutes each day.

I’ve just worked out that I’ve only been in my office for seven out of a potential twenty two working days in November and I’ve slept in my own bed for only seventeen out of the (thirty days have September, April, June and November) thirty nights in November! I have to say, I feel as though I’ve spent more than the normal amount of hours at work given the amount of travel and concentration that’s been going on, but I feel like I’ve spent even less than seventeen nights in my own bed! I am exhausted.com!

However, I’m back now, the only travel I have to do between now and the big day is within the UK, Christmas can now commence!

So what’s been keeping me busy this November? I’ve already told you about our holiday to Mexico and my trip to Frankfurt, and this week I had to go to Gijon in northern Spain for training as part of my new job. Gijon is approximately a thousand miles away. Mexico is nearly five thousand miles away. It took us fourteen and a half hours to get to Mexico, door to door. On Monday it took me thirteen and a half hours to get to Gijon, also door to door. An extra hour and I could’ve been back in Mexico!

It’s a nightmare journey to Gijon. There are no direct flights and you can’t even go from Birmingham. So, my day started with a two hour drive to Heathrow. So far so good! I’ve always loved Heathrow, and now it has a Harry Potter shop so it’s even better!

I couldn’t resist a few purchases! Some of them are Christmas presents so I can’t show you.

The route is then Heathrow to Madrid and Madrid to Asturias, and the same in reverse. Unfortunately two of the flights were delayed. On the way out they discovered that the plane had been hit by lightning so we sat on the plane for two and a half hours before we finally took off.

They checked all round the plane before we were given the all clear.

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It felt like that scene from Liar Liar when Jim Carrey is chasing the plane.

The delay did give me opportunity to indulge my inner plane spotter! There are BIG planes at Heathrow. I was on a Boeing 777 which is pretty sizeable, but I saw a few jumbos and A380s.

Flying into Madrid was quite serene thanks to a spectacular sunset ….

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…. but then it was panic stations! The delay meant that I had to go careering through the airport at top speed in order to make it to my connection. Madrid airport is humongous. My connection was from the same terminal but I still had to get a train from gate S to gate K and had to go back through passport control and security. The security guard had stepped away from the x-ray machine so I had to wait for her to get back and ready herself. I have never seen a person sit down and put rubber gloves on so slowly in my life! My entire insides were screaming ‘hurry up’ but obviously you have to keep the frustration internal in these situations lest they decide you may have a bomb secreted about your person and delay you even more! I made it with seconds to spare!

The two days of training were full on and tiring, but were really useful. I have to admit, some of the technical aspects were very complicated and I’m not sure I completely took them in, especially towards the end of the second day when my brain had reached its saturation level!

I got to look round the factory in Aviles which produces the slabs which are then rolled into the heavy plates which I, and my colleagues, sell on.

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Unfortunately the steel shop wasn’t working while we were there so it was somewhat of a theoretical visit.

The next day we were shown round the reversing mill in Gijon where the plates are rolled according to specification, and happily, it was working.

It’s really quite impressive to see it all working, and seeing and understanding the process helps me in my day to day job. It is also very helpful o meet and spend time with colleagues from other countries. It’s always good to put faces to names/voices. It did occur to me while watching the plates being rolled that the amount of energy and resources being used are mind blowing. Having said that, within my company there is a massive focus on sustainability and responsible steel production. I won’t bore you with talk of steel, but suffice it to say, steel is the fabric of life, and if you are interested, there is a fabulous corporate video on YouTube produced by my company which gives me goosebumps, and it makes you realise why steel is essential to all our lives.

The journey back didn’t take quite as long, just eleven hours (or to put it in practical terms, forty minutes less than it takes to fly from London to the Maldives!) There were no problems between Asturias and Madrid. Asturias airport is one of the smallest airports I’ve travelled through. The arriving passengers come through the throng of waiting departees and disappear past the smallest duty free shop I’ve ever seen. The planes have plenty of space on the apron due to the low traffic and the way they are parked brings to mind the parking of soccer moms in 4x4s in Sainsbury’s after the school run!

I had a couple of hours in Madrid this time so it was a much more leisurely transfer from gate K to S. As I was lounging exhaustedly on a seat at the gate, I even had time to wonder whether the ceiling had been modelled on aliens from Area 51 or perhaps John Lennon!

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I was delayed again on the flight from Madrid to Heathrow, this time because of a discrepancy between the numbers on the paperwork and the actual number of passengers. It was only an hour this time, but an hour is a long time when you’ve got a two hour drive home ahead of you, and you just want to get home to your husband, the cats and your bed! There’s nothing like being away on your own to make you appreciate what you have waiting at home. Even if it’s a good and worthwhile trip, in the words of Dorothy (and countless homeware stores), there’s no place like home.

Foreign trips over, yesterday brought a domestic trip to London. This was for the annual ISTA (International Steel Trade Association) lunch. This is normally on the first Friday of December, but this year it fell on the last day of November.

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Several of us caught the train from New Street to Euston, which gave me the opportunity to catch up with some colleagues whom I hadn’t seen for a while because of all this travel, and also to get a little bit of crochet done.

First stop was the Jugged Hare on Chiswell Street. This is a common meeting point for attendees of the lunch so it gets ridiculously busy. The owners must love it, not so much the bar staff! I sampled an orange gin and a pink grapefruit gin here – all before lunchtime! This is one of the occasions where a work event is actually a bonus (although it does mean a day out of the office and lots of work to catch up on!)

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The Jugged Hare has very rural decoration considering its in the middle of the capital! I struggle with this stag. As a general rule I prefer animals to be alive. I just hope this magnificent stag wasn’t killed just for its head. It’s bad enough if it was killed for meat and then its head taxidermied, but being a meat eater, I can’t take the high moral ground on that (although I absolutely would not eat venison – it’s Bambi for goodness sake!)

Lunch is always at the Brewery which is just a hop and a skip from the Jugged Hare. It’s a great venue, and this year seated approximately six hundred and fifty guests.

There are various speeches, culminating in a comedic act. This year we were treated to a very amusing turn from Marcus Brigstocke.

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He was really very funny. It must be so hard at an event such as this to know what level to pitch your humour at, but I think he got it spot on. He centred a lot of his jokes around the impending disaster that is Brexit, making it obvious that he is a remainer. Incidentally, the organisers ran an informal poll on whether, if given the opportunity to vote again, the guests would opt to remain or leave the EU. The result was overwhelmingly remain with seventy six percent of the vote. While this is not necessarily representative of the country as a whole given that the room contained many people working for European companies who could be adversely affected when we leave and people for whom trading with Europe is an essential part of life, I did find it strangely reassuring to be among kindred spirits (as well as frustrating that, despite this opinion, we’re stuck with Brexit).

Anyway, let’s not get political!

Tomorrow I have a lovely day planned. I’m driving up to Altrincham with two friends in order to attend the Little Box of Crochet Grand Sale Event. Hopefully I’ll return with lots of lovely goodies. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

 

 

 

Underwater World

We are jet lagged! I imagine this is what it feels like to be on mind-altering drugs. Earlier we went to Tesco (through necessity certainly not desire). I generally avoid supermarkets. Life is just too short when you work full time to be faffing around in supermarkets in your free time, wondering how the human race hasn’t become extinct. If it can’t even handle a shopping trolley how on earth does it undertake more complicated activities such as, oh I don’t know, crossing the road or raising a child! Anyway, somehow today, in our multi time zonal state it suddenly became more bearable. I’m pretty sure I managed not to leave my trolley horizontal across the end of an aisle whilst I wondered off to (at length) ponder the virtues of Cushelle over Andrex as is the want of your seasoned supermarket goer, but I was definitely less spatially aware than usual and (joy of joys) pretty much unaware of the irritating foibles of my fellow shoppers. Maybe that’s as a result of post holiday relaxation, or maybe the jet lag. Either way, I shall return to online shopping next week because I’m sure both will have deserted me not to return until our next holiday, leaving me open to the possibility of committing hara-kiri with a carrot should I attempt to enter a supermarket.

We landed back down on earth with a bump today (and not one of a Dreamliner!) As well as braving Tesco, I’ve emptied both suitcases and my beach bag, put the passports away, hung up everything that didn’t need washing, filled and emptied the dishwasher, watered the plants, cleaned the kitchen and straightened my hair (but I drew the line at applying make up – one thing at a time, eh?) Hubby has emptied the bins, cleaned the cats bowls and changed their litter trays and between us we’ve done two loads of washing (including hubby’s uniform ready for his return to work on Tuesday) and now we’re cooking tea. There was a fairy for all manner of domestic chore whilst we were on holiday and I was hoping it might have popped in our suitcase to continue back home, but no such luck!

So, I’m going to live vicariously through my past self this evening and tell you about our excursion last week. We decided we’d just do one excursion while we were away, partly because they were flipping expensive but mostly because we really felt the need for copious amounts of lying, relaxing, snoozing and general nothing doing. We looked at the options and toyed with a trip to Chichen Itza, but ultimately we realised that this would’ve just been a box ticking exercise and we weren’t all that desperate to see it. Impressive as I’m sure it is, you can no longer climb the pyramid, the pick up was at some ungodly hour and it would’ve meant spending several hours of our precious holiday on a coach. So, we opted for Underwater World.

Our pick up was scheduled for 7.55am, but by 8.15am we were still lounging in the sun on the front steps of the hotel. I have to admit I was starting to worry, but there was no need, the minibus had got held up getting into Playa Carm (as the locals call Playa del Carmen). There’s a checkpoint to get in and every vehicle is checked. This must be irritating for people coming in for deliveries and hotel staff etc. but it’s for safety reasons and did mean that the hotel felt super secure.

Soon we were on our way down the highway to our first stop which was a cenote, which is an underground lagoon. There are over six thousand cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsular and as there are no rivers in the area, they provide the primary source of drinking water. The water filters through the rocks when it rains and it is crystal clear (until, that is people go in and stir up the silt on the bottom).

We entered the uunderground world down a very steep staircase.

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Please excuse the swimwear! I promise I won’t make a habit of posting pics in such attire! You can see the steepness of the stairs and the concentration on hubby’s face to make sure he doesn’t fall down them!

There is absolutely no natural light down there once you’ve moved away from the entrance so for most of the time we had to follow our guide Ricardo’s torch as you can see in this photo.

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Luckily nobody asked what would happen if the battery died until after we’d got back to the stairs! Apparently it has happened and they all had to hold on to each other and feel their way around the rocks until they got back! Argh! When we were in the depths of the cave Ricardo turned the torch off and you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face!

The cenote is filled with stalagmites and stalactites which are thousands of years old, formed by the water dripping through. You have to be really careful not to touch them because they are very easily damaged.

This is one of the most special things I’ve ever done.

After we scrambled our way back up the stairs we headed back to the highway down the bumpiest road I’ve ever known. Halfway down we suddenly stopped to the cry of ‘tarantula!’ Somehow our driver had spotted this little (big) fellow crawling around at the side of the road.

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I’m not the biggest lover of spiders, although I’ve got better since I’ve been gardening more and coming across all manner of creepy crawlies, but I was very impressed by this guy. Now, I’m not saying I want to find one of these in the bath, but I find them a lot less shudder-inducing than the common house spider, because they don’t scurry. They’re too big for scurrying! You can see some scale in the next photo.

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Another minibus was heading towards the cenote and they pulled over when they saw the commotion and the driver picked the tarantula up!

Brave guy!

We carried on and headed to our final stop, a beautiful beach where went snorkelling. Unfortunately I don’t have photos because we had to leave our belongings in the minibus because there were no lockers, but imagine Caribbean paradise and you’ll be part way there!

We suited up in our life jackets and snorkels and followed Ricardo into the water. There’s no guarantee of seeing turtles because they’re not in captivity, they’re free to swim wherever they please. Apparently ten years ago you’d be likely to see close to a hundred on a good day, but now you’re lucky to see five or six.

We were reasonably lucky, we saw three.

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These aren’t the actual turtles that we saw. Well, they might be, but I didn’t take the photos, they were in a photo package that I bought of the day. They’re pretty close to what we actually saw.

It’s very serene when you’re floating around looking down at turtles, not able to hear anything because your ears are below the water. Very calm.

Sadly some of the turtles are getting cancer because of the chemicals that we, the human race, are putting into the sea. I couldn’t see any evidence of it on the turtles we saw (apparently they get white tumours) but it really makes you realise that we need to change our ways for the good of the animal kingdom, and the planet as a whole. Obviously we need to wear sun protection, but there are animal safe products available. There are alternatives to many plastic consumables.

As well as the turtles we saw two sting rays, an adult (mummy?) and a baby.

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Again, not my photo, but a good likeness.

This was an absolutely brilliant day! I’m so glad we chose this over Chichen Itza, we have amazing memories that we can cherish forever.