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.

 

 

 

Saturday shopping trip

I needed to pay a cheque into my account today (successful PPI claim – whoop!) so we headed off to our local shopping centre, Sutton Coldfield, to visit the bank.

We took the need to go into Sutton as the perfect excuse to indulge in a spot of lunch. When I say ‘we’, really I mean ‘me’ because hubby, as with most men, really doesn’t get excited by food. He sees eating more as a necessity and not something to look forward to, or plan, or dream about, or salivate over! How can one not get a little rush of excitement over a perfectly dusted Victoria sponge cake with jam oozing from its middle, or a block of purple wrapped Dairy Milk straight from the fridge, or a ginormous bag of crunchy onion rings with a creamy pot of cheesy dip just waiting to be dunked, or a big, steaming bowl of spaghetti carbonara?

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Erm ….. where was I? Oh right, lunch! I can’t believe my blog is a nearly two months old and I haven’t talked to you about Ted’s Hot Potatoes yet. He makes the best jacket potatoes EVER! He started off with a mobile potato stand in 1980, then he graduated to a semi-permanent hut, and now you can find him in his own shop/restaurant with inside and outside seating. Essentially that means Ted’s has been around for ninety three percent of my life!

When I was in my early teens, my Mum and I had a tradition that involved Ted. We used to pop into Sutton towards the end of the summer holidays to get my new stationery ready for the return to school. I used to love this trip firstly because choosing new stationery is one of life’s great joys for me, and secondly because Mum used to treat us to a hot jacket potato from Ted, who was still in his mobile stand back then. We always had the same topping, and Ted is the only potato seller I know of to do this, and it’s still my go-to topping to this day …..

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Delicious! Cheese and Branston on a piping hot, crispy jacket potato. It’s really (REALLY) not diet-friendly and with less than eight weeks until I have to squidge my lumps and bumps into a bikini, I really should be mindful of such things, but they taste soooooooooooo good!

Anyway, jacket potato happily consumed, we went for a nose around Flying Tiger. I always find something to buy in here. It’s full of me type things. Things that I don’t need, but I do want. Today they had yarn! This makes me happy!

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The blue/green/purple (my three favourite colours) ones I think I’ll make a blanket with. Not sure how big it will be, but if I do a c2c one I can just keep increasing until the first ball runs out, and then start decreasing with the second. It doesn’t say what weight it is, but it looks slightly thicker than DK and says to use 4.5mm needles (hook in my case) so I’m guessing it’s closer to an aran and I think I’ll use a 5mm hook.

I’ve no idea what I’ll do with the fabric yarn. I got it to experiment with because I’ve never crocheted with fabric yarn. It might be good for a basket – watch this space!

I also got another of the surprise bags that I told you about in this post. This time I got all these goodies.

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Not quite as exciting a haul as last time, but somehow the universe was looking out for me. I needed a new lidded drinking cup (severe danger of feline drinkage in this house if you leave an uncovered drink out!) and I didn’t like any of the ones in Paperchase which is where I’ve always got them from, so imagine my glee when I got home, opened the surprise bag and found a cup that is furry girl proof!

I love the lacy ribbon, and I’m hatching a plan to crochet in the holes along the edges so it makes a pretty join. So many wips on the go at the moment so it could be some time before this happens!

Paperchase next. Can’t, absolutely can’t, not go into Paperchase. I got two notepads. One is for work so I can organise my notes from a new meeting that I take part in (if you don’t have nice pretty pads for work, give it a go, they make a good day at work even better, and a bad day less bad) and the other is just because, and why not? It’s got gridded pages so will be useful for designing crochet projects as well as garden ones.

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Final stop WHSmiths. I worry about WHSmiths because they’re up against Amazon and I’d be so upset if they went bust. I’m the worst culprit, for going in there and then buying what I want cheaper on Amazon, and I do feel guilty about it. Our WHSmiths is already smaller than it used to be when I was in there with Mum searching for the best furry pencil case and the least boring protractor for my return to school. The back third of it is now the post office.

I do try to make sure I get my magazines from WHSmiths and, although I read the majority of my books on my kindle, if I want an actual book, like an autobiography or a cookery book or something else with pictures that doesn’t translate brilliantly to a digital form then I will take myself off to WHSmiths to try to support them and keep them going.

I just love browsing books. I resisted a kindle for a long time because I love actual books, but I succumbed and now I love love love it. Pre-kindle I hated having to give books to the charity shop, unless it was one I didn’t particularly enjoy, because if I felt a connection with a character or a storyline, I felt it with the physical book too, but space was at a premium so keeping them all became impractical. I also do most of my leisure reading in bed, so when they brought out the kindle paper white it was like a dream come true. Proper relaxation, chilling out in the dark but still able to read. The kindle is obviously great for holidays too because you don’t have to cart heavy books around. So, I’m a kindle convert, but I do miss actual books and have to have a nose around them frequently.

Looking at the children’s books makes me smile. It makes me think of Christmases and birthdays when I would always receive at least one book. It reminds me of the complete worry-free time of being a child, when I had so much more time to sit and lose myself in a book. Children’s books have really stood the test of time. There are now the wonderfully colourful covers of David Walliams and Claire Balding books, and the ever popular Wimpy Kid, but there are also so many books still on the shelves inWHSmiths that I read as a child.

You already know about my Pooh Bear obsession, and I read all of these other books too when I was growing up, but these photos were taken today in WHSmiths. I was pleased that there were several children also browsing with their parents. All too often the aisle for young readers is empty. Many children nowadays prefer to be staring at a screen (and not a kindle one) blowing things up rather than losing themselves in a book, developing their imagination and educating themselves by reading. This makes me sad. I wish I could make explain to them the pleasure that I got as a child, and still do now from reading.

These books are in the children’s section …..

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….. but I first read Michael Morpurgo as an adult. His most famous book is War Horse, which has been adapted into a hugely successful play and film. We’re going to see it next month at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I’ve also read another of his books called Wild Running. It’s a brilliant read. I highly recommend you pick up a copy (maybe from WHSmiths!)

I spotted this book whilst I was meandering through the aisles.

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I read To kill a mockingbird on my very first foreign holiday in Menorca when I was twenty one and I loved it. It has a very powerful message, but is written in plain English. This copy has the same cover as the version I had. It makes me remember sitting in the sun, on the harbour (on my own for some reason – can’t recall why) reading it and realising how lucky I am but that not every one is. The film adaptation with Gregory Peck is very good, but I’d advise reading the book first. That bit of advice goes for pretty much any novel to screen adaptation, including these next ones.

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They even have the Tinkerbell seal of approval! The film version of the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone I believe in the US) was pretty good and the films got better and better as they went on, and I love them, but they still don’t come close to conveying the magic of the books.

I was late to the Harry Potter party and the Prisoner of Azkaban was already out in hardback when I started reading the series, so I read the first three tomes straight after each other. I will forever be disappointed that I somehow managed to pick up the adult version of the Philosopher’s Stone (see the different style cover?) because it doesn’t match the rest. Ho hum, can’t be helped now.

I was hooked after the first chapter, in fact probably halfway through it, and was then torn between wanting to read quickly to find out what happened and a desperate need not to finish because I couldn’t bear not to be in that wonderful, magical world.

After I finished Prisoner of Azkaban, I then, along with half of the rest of the world, had to wait somewhat impatiently for the release of each new book. I ordered each one from Amazon because they promised faithfully that each book would be delivered on the release day, and they were as good as their word. My sofa used to sit in the bay window of my flat at the time, and I remember getting up early and kneeling on the sofa, chin cupped by my hands, staring out of the window willing the postman to come trotting round the corner, his big red bag bulging with Harry Potter goodness.

If there’s anyone who hasn’t read this amazing series, I really really REALLY implore you to because it is just magical. I used to dream about Harry Potter when I was first reading the books, and they were such blissful dreams from which I was sad to wake.

Go go go! Amazon has them, WHSmiths has them! Every bookstore in the world worth its salt has them! WHSmiths is your best bet – you can go pick them up tomorrow, even Amazon prime won’t get them to you by tomorrow now!

Go!