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.

 

 

 

Busy week

I’m writing this without a title at the moment because I’m not actually sure what I’m going to write about!

I haven’t posted for nearly a week, which I think is the longest I’ve been away from my blog. In my defence, it’s been a very busy week, at a time when I could’ve really done without it, but hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, isn’t it?

I’m not feeling quite myself at the moment, partly, I think due being such a busy bee this week. This was my first week back at work after our lovely break in Mexico. For anyone who missed the posts, here’s the best of our trip in pics (arachnophobes don’t worry, I won’t traumatise you with the tarantula again!)

 

It was only a four day week back too! I’d booked Monday off to try to get over the jetlag. Massive fail! Tuesday back at work I was a complete zombie! Wednesday I had to fly to Frankfurt for a business workshop on Thursday, which meant as well as not being over the jetlag from Mexico, I was now another hour in front of myself!

I flew Lufthansa which was a reasonably pleasant experience. I know geographical stereotypes are generally to be taken with a pinch of salt, but German efficiency isn’t one of them. This was the first time I’d been to Germany, but I have many German colleagues, and they are always super efficient. In my experience they make you feel reassured and confident because their efficiency shines through. They get annoyed with themselves if anything causes them to be anything less than spot on the mark, so they work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen. The whole Lufthansa experience was the same. Everything happened on time, not a minute before or after. Frankfurt was the same. Shuttle bus turned up when and as expected, hotel check in and out was a breeze and service overall was commendable.

As this was a business occasion, I couldn’t take as many photos as I would normally. Remember I’m new to this job, and I don’t want my new colleagues to think I’m some sort of weirdo who takes photos every three seconds (whether that, in fact, is true or not!) I did manage to sneak a couple though when I was on my own.

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This was when I got to put my head down after a team dinner. It was really nice to chat with my colleagues that I don’t see often, and some I met for the first time, I’m part of a really great team, but the old jetlag means I needed my bed, or rather, the NH Frankfurt Airport’s bed, but you catch my drift. At first I thought it strange that I only had a singe duvet, but then I realised it was another example of German efficiency. Why provide a double duvet for a double for single occupancy room? Less washing, less space, less carbon footprint.

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Treats in the breakout area during the coffee break. I’ve found it’s common on the continent to provide sweets in the coffee area, and I have to say I wholeheartedly approve of this practise. Hours in a meeting room with no fresh air, often on not enough sleep and trying to concentrate for long periods often leads to that feeling in your head as if your brain’s doing slow backflips and it can feel as though you have lead weights attached to your eyelids. What better remedy than oodles of processed sugar? The little glazed profiterole was labelled up as a mini windbag! After a quick peruse of google I have discovered that windbag is indeed what Germans call profiteroles. I love learning stuff like this.

 

The meeting started at 8am and overran somewhat, so I didn’t get back to the airport until after 6pm, which wasn’t a problem timing-wise because my flight wasn’t until 21.55, but was a problem for my mental state. I was feeling completely exhausted and burnt out and as a result my brain was playing tricks on me, so, I decided what I needed was some familiarity so I took myself off to McDonalds. I don’t care what anyone says about the (lack of) nutritional value of McDonalds, it tastes wonderful and as I sat scoffing away and reading my kindle I could feel my woes dissolving and my rational self taking over again. Just to complete the process I did some crocheting. This was nearly a disaster. I’d remembered to pack the yarn and hook  but forgot the pattern and a stitch marker! Thank goodness for technology. I asked hubby to WhatsApp the pattern to me, which he did straight away, bless his heart, and I improvised with a piece of yarn for my stitch marker.

This is as far as I got before I needed stuffing (which I hadn’t brought), but the lights you can see in the background are UK lights so it was all good.

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Exhausted as I was, I could still appreciate the beauty of flying in the dark. I love the lights of the airport (the carbon footprint concerns me, but I appreciate the obvious safety necessity). This was Frankfurt from the air.

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Difficult to take a non-blurry photo when you’re in the process of being accelerated to 500mph!

I was so so glad to get home to my own bed, not that I was in it for long because I had to be back on the boards for a conference call at 8am! No rest for the wicked eh? I’m not complaining though (ok, I may have done a bit in the height of tiredness). I’ve fought for this opportunity and I’m determined to make it work.

I actually made it to 9pm last night before I collapsed into bed with the cats (hubby was out for the night). I read my kindle for a bit (fab book I’m reading at the moment – Kate Morton’s latest) but then this happened.

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Somehow I still don’t feel recovered. I’m still in a bit of a daze! Maybe I had too much sleep!

If I did then it’ll stand me in good stead for next week because on Monday I’m globetrotting again! This time I’m heading for Gijon in northern Spain for training on heavy plates (big bits of steel cut into a big rectangle that can be used to make the JCBs making a building, or the fabric of that building, or even a luxurious cruise ship). Gijon is difficult to get to. I have to drive to Heathrow, fly to Madrid and then catch a connection to Asturias and obviously the same in reverse on Wednesday to come back. I get back to Heathrow after 10pm so won’t be home before midnight. People think travelling for work is glamourous and exciting. Well, whilst it has its moments and sometimes you get some free time to explore, it’s generally the opposite of glamourous. I can now say I’ve physically been to Germany, but all I saw was the inside and outside of an airport and a hotel and a bit of road in between. It gave me a taster though and I’d like to go back for a mini-break with hubby because it looked nice as I flew in. I did once go to a convention in Barcelona and as part of the day the company organised a whistle stop tour around Barcelona so I did get to see Sagrada Familia and some other Gaudi works so that was closer to glamourous.

I haven’t had enough umpf to get out in the garden since we’ve been back from Mexico. I was hoping to this weekend, but I’m still not with it. Hopefully I’ll be back to my normal self next weekend and I’ll be able to get out to do a bit of pottering. I satisfied the gardening urge this morning by tending to my houseplants.

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I’m sad to report that the succulent in the flamingo (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d utter!) is the only one that I’ve managed to keep alive since my brother’s wedding. I think I must’ve over-watered the others. Succulents don’t like too much water. The cacti seem to be happy enough. The Venus Flytrap not so much! Not sure what I’ve done wrong there. It’s still alive so I’ll google for some advice.

 

My mantlepiece is doing well. Either end are my airplants which just need an occasional spritz of water. I’ve managed to keep the two succulents in the typewriter and the floral mug alive so far. The owl and the bounce mug contain the cuttings that my friend gave me. In the mug is a Chinese money plant and in the owl (it seems I don’t really do conventional plant pots!) is my chain of hearts. It’s not so much a chain of hearts as a sprig at the moment, but it’s alive and growing slowly so I’m happy with that.

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My roses look a little sorry for themselves. I’m still working out their watering needs, and I think it’s slightly more than I’ve been doing thus far. These were a birthday present so I’m doing my best to keep the, going in the hope that I’ll be able to plant them outside.

Right, best think of a title and then get ready for a night at our good friends’ house. Hopefully they’ll trigger us out of our jetlag haze!