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.

 

 

 

Green Girl Gardener gets a promotion

I have been waiting to write this post for ages, but I couldn’t because my news hadn’t been announced at work until this week.

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This still from Friends perfectly illustrates how I’ve felt for the past few weeks, not being able to share my exciting news properly. This is the moment when Rachel arrives home after being promoted to assistant buyer at Bloomingdales but Monica and Phoebe start to have a disagreement and exit the apartment, leaving Rachel to celebrate her promotion on her own.

I’ve worked for the same company for sixteen years and whilst I’ve had a few new responsibilities added to my job description over the years, I was essentially doing the same job as I turned forty that I was doing when I started with the company at twenty five. I talked to you before about how I loved being forty and how reaching the big four oh gave me a confidence that I hadn’t had before, but it also made me realise that I needed to step it up at work if I wanted to fulfil my potential and progress in my career. So, over the past year I have worked really hard and applied myself in a way that I had never done previously. I didn’t know how to before, but it all seemed to click into place in my head, and it’s paid off and I have been promoted to Account Manager.

The hard work starts now, but I’m excited to get going in my new role and I’m determined to make a success of it.

On the day I was given the good news, I decided to go and treat myself to some goodies to celebrate, from the little craft shop in Notcutts.

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The panda is a stitch counter and the little green octopus is a tiny pair of snips that I can attach to my project bag so I always have them handy when I need them. I’m going to use one of the coasters on my desk at work as a reminder of the elation I felt at having my hard work recognised.

Last night I attended my first work event since my promotion and although I don’t have new business cards yet, it felt amazing to be able to introduce myself as an Account Manager to people that I met during the evening, and to share my news with a few customers and contacts who also attended the event.

The event was the NASS (National Association of Steel Service Centres) annual dinner held at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham.

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My company is one of the sponsors of the dinner (although not Liberty as shown on the invite) every year and hosts a table. I was lucky enough to be invited this year by the lovely Karen who organises the event which meant I got to meet and chat with a couple of people that I’ve never met before.

It’s a black tie event, so I treated myself to a new LBD from Next.

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Excuse the loo roll in the background. I took this in my hotel room as I was leaving for pre-dinner drinks.

The hotel was the Best Western Manor hotel. I’ve stayed here a couple of times for work events and it’s a nice hotel. Comfortable rooms, good breakfast and WiFi that actually works.

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My new Therapy bag was the perfect accessory to the LBD and I used my new purse which was a birthday present from my sister-in-law.

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Allegedly it’s bad luck to gift an empty purse, so my sister-in-law had put a shiny pound coin in it, and it really came in handy because there were Breast Cancer Care pin badges on sale at the entrance to the venue so I bought one.

Every year the NASS president nominates a charity to sponsor, and Breast Cancer Care is one close to his heart. He spoke passionately about the work the charity does and how appreciative he is, and guests were invited to donate to the charity. People did give generously and more than £3500 was raised. One lucky benefactor was picked out of the hat to win a magnum of champers.

I didn’t win, but I can console myself with the memory of this bottle of Moët which my Dad bought me to congratulate me on my promotion. We all enjoyed this on my birthday night out.

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The dinner itself was scrummy. Having had experience of organising events on a large scale, I know how hard it is to get great quality in mass catering and also to please all, but everybody I spoke to thoroughly enjoyed their meal. We had four courses starting with mild tomato soup flavoured with tarragon followed by an amazing hot pastry parcel filled with Boursin, leeks and mushroom. The main was fillet of beef which was cooked perfectly for me. I know some people like beef to be bloody but if I’m going to have a steak I prefer it not to be running round my plate. Dessert was a pastry tart filled with vanilla custard cream and seasonal fruits.

I so wish I’d taken some photos of the food to show you because the presentation was beautiful, but I was too busy chatting away to the guy next to me about travel and festivals and a little bit of steel stuff and enjoying the yummy flavours to whip my phone out.

One thing that was on the table that I can show you a photo of was the table gift given by the company NLMK.

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Wireless headphones. I shouldn’t really praise them because they’re from a competitor, but what a great table gift! I must remember this for next time I’m asked to come up with ideas for customer gifts.

Anyway, after being coerced into staying up until 2am by my colleagues at the risk of turning into a pumpkin, and then going to work this morning, I’m yearning for my bed so I’ll apologise for any sleep deprivation induced spelling or grammatical errors and make my way up the apples and pears to my slumber chamber.

Have a great weekend!