Friday, 31 May 2013

Blog Every Day in May - Blog 31 - One Whole Month

Well, I can't believe this is it. Whilst I can't claim to have blogged every day in May, as I'd set out to do, I have at least blogged at least 31 times in May, and completed the challenge, albeit some posts were a little belated. At 31 posts is probably about ten times the normal number of posts I write in a month, I'm rather impressed with myself.

Whilst I've struggled with some of the subjects, it's been good writing about things that I wouldn't normally think of writing about. Similarly, I'd done some photo heavy blogs which I've really enjoyed. Although I went a bit off tangent, I loved writing about my five favourite music tracks, time ran away with me when I was searching YouTube for videos and listening to the tracks over and over.

I've started following a number of bloggers who have also been doing the challenge, meaning that it's really broadened the range of blogs that I read. Similarly, my follower numbers have increased more through doing this exercise than through any other attempts.

I've also found that I can find time to blog if I really want to. I've used the Blogger app to write blogs on the sofa in front of the television and on the balcony at work in my lunch hour. I like to think it's got me into better habits, I even have plans to write two posts tomorrow, I just hope I can keep it up!

I've really enjoyed the experience, thanks to Rosalilium for organising it and coming up with the diverse subject titles. 

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Well, I nearly did...

Blog Every Day in May - Blog 30 - Who Inspires Me

I'm so close to the end of the 'Blog Every Day in May' challenge, but this is probably the subject that's challenged me more than any of the others, so apologies if it's quite brief. There is no single person who inspires me. The best I can do is think of some people who've inspired me in certain areas of my life.

School and career seem to recur in other blogs as points in life at which people have been inspired. However, I honestly can't think of anyone who inspired me to follow the career path I did, nor anyone who's particularly inspired me along the day. I made the decision of what I was going to do and doggedly pursued it. I'm quite self motivating and have relied on that, more than anything else, throughout my career.

I guess I've been inspired by people in my hobbies. I love photography and have met people who have inspired me either with the work they've produced, their enthusiasm for it, or both. Prime examples are Becky Male and Derek Prescott. If I had the talent and wherewithal, I'd love to be a photographer, so I like to take a glimpse into their worlds, even if it is with a tinge of jealousy.

On a more personal level, my husband inspires me with his ability to get on with life, whatever is thrown at him. I'm fully aware that I'm a terrible patient when I'm ill, I don't like company, just want to sit on my own and stew. Andrew though just tries to get on with life, whether he's not feeling well or has other stresses. I honestly think if I had his medical files, I'd spend an awful lot of time feeling sorry for myself, but I much prefer his outlook of not letting anything stop him, well, not since he spent almost a week in hospital after a biking accident. We've both had a stressful year, and again, I don't cope too well with stress, I get run down and ill, which brings on the moping and feeling sorry for myself. He's much more in the mindset of working through things, knowing he'll come through the other end eventually. You'd have hoped this might have rubbed off on me by now!

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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Blog Every Day in May - Blog 29 - Morning Ritual

 As luck would have it, the day I blog about my morning rituals is also the day I oversleep, waking up at 7am instead of 6.30am. From there I sprung out of bed and into the bathroom for a little of this...

and a lot of this...

I then grabbed my Fitbit and jewellery, some clothes and then made myself presentable. It took all of this...

then I dried my hair with this...

brushed my hair through, collected my bag and headed downstairs. No time to eat breakfast or to make lunch as I overslept, so I knocked back a cup of tea, grabbed a yogurt and banana and headed out of the door.

Not quite the way I'd have planned it, but it's not an unusual workday morning! It was only on my drive in that I realised I'd left my shoes at home (I change out of my trainers when I get to the office), plus my building pass, plus my spare building pass which I had to borrow when I forgot mine last week. Bad times!

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Blog Every Day in May - Blog 28 - Bad advice

Image courtesy of zirconicusso /

I've struggled to think of a specific piece of bad advice I've had, partly because the people around me are quite sensible and rarely give advice, but if they do it's worth listening to, and partly because if it was that bad I'd probably just ignore it and forget about it. 

The worst advice I can remember being given was by a recruitment agent. Clearly now I wouldn't take advice from someone with such a vested interest in my decision, but I was young and naive back then. 

I'd started job hunting and one of the recruitment agencies told me about a great opportunity at a local firm who were well known for the quality of training they provided, and that it would be a great move for me. Taking them at their word, I went for an interview, was offered the job and accepted. 

It soon became abundantly clear that I'd made a horrible mistake. It was like I'd gone back in time. For the first time in my career there were some clients I wasn't allowed to work on as they wouldn't have a woman on site. I was also treated like a first year trainee, despite having five years of experience, as I wasn't following their chosen training route. I spent a lot of time bored and stuck in the office, which was made worse by the fact that no-one talked in the office!

I made myself a pledge that I'd stick it out for a year, but in the end I only managed nine months. I decided that although it might raise questions about lack of commitment, one short spell of employment on my CV would do less harm than spending more time in a job where I was de-skilling on a daily basis. Luckily I found another job fairly quickly. I still remember how one of the partners wouldn't even look at me after I resigned, let alone speak to me. I was so pleased to be leaving that I really didn't care. I had a renewed spring in my step, which must have annoyed them as they only held me to half of my notice period. I still remember literally skipping down the road to my car after I'd cleared my desk. At least it made for a good tale to tell in interviews!

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Blog Every Day in May - Blog 27 - Secret Talent

Image courtesy of  luigi diamanti /
I've been wondering for most of the month what I'd write about when this subject came along as I couldn't think of any secret talents I have. Normally if I'm good at things, they'll be things I do regularly and as a result they're no longer a secret. I'm great at finding anything anyone has ever needed to know on Google, not bad with software, pretty good at managing people and if I drop something, can normally catch it before it hits the ground. None of these could be described as a secret talent though.

The one thing that did come to mind is a skill I had when I was younger and rarely think about. I had perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is basically the ability to recognise (or being able to reproduce) a musical note with no reference. I'm not sure whether I developed it after hours of piano, flute and clarinet lessons, or when it appeared, but it was useful, and made it easy to know when a piano needed tuning.

It's years since I played any musical instrument, so I'm unsure if I still have it. I still love music, but restrict myself nowadays to singing along to music in the car or at home. I'd love to play the piano, but don't want to be one of those people who sits down at a piano only to play chopsticks as it's the only thing they can remember. Maybe one day...

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Blog Every Day in May - Blog 26 - Fantasy Dinner Party

Image courtesy of  -Marcus- /
I've read plenty of these posts in the past, but have never really given any thought until now, as to who my fantasy dinner party guests would be. I've set myself some rules, that no fictional characters are allowed (no Harry Potter or Doctor Who), and everyone must be alive (no Pharaohs or Shakespeare, I'm afraid). On that basis, I think my five guests would be:

David Mitchell
David Mitchell never fails to make me laugh when I catch him on the television. Although I'd not expect him to be in full stand up mode, hopefully my other guests should give him enough ammunition for a few well-placed comments.

Robbie Williams
This could either go really well, and he'd be incredibly entertaining and on top form, or make the whole thing car crash entertainment. Either way, I'm willing to give it a go, just to see what he's really like when the spotlight's not on him.

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry seems to make a lot of these lists, so it's no wonder he's looking so well fed! Stephen's intelligent and knowledgeable and would, I'm sure, ensure there wouldn't be any awkward silences at the table. We'd no doubt all come away from the table having learned something.

Sarah Millican
Sarah Millican really makes me laugh, I love her observational humour and northern references. I also didn't want an entirely male table of guests, although I am a little concerned I seem to be hosting an episode of QI!

Terry Wogan
I liked the idea of having a member of the older generation present, I'm sure Terry could keep the youngsters under control with his deep Irish voice. Having listened to a Janet and John episode in the dentist one day that was so thick with double entendre that it almost made me blush, I tend to think he's got a wicked sense of humour and would fit right in.

If anyone could call round their agents and set this up for me, it would be much appreciated. Just give me enough warning so I can organise the catering!

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Blog Every Day in May - Blog 25 - Music Love

Although I'm aware I'm supposed to blog about my five favourite albums, I don't really listen to albums nowadays. I tend just to listen to playlists on my phone. Back in the good old days of vinyl, I used to love putting on an album and listening to it, being disturbed only to turn it over. Back then I'd have easily been able to come up with five, but I'll save you from a delve through my vinyl collection in the spare bedroom.

Instead, I've tried to come up with my five favourite tracks. I can't promise these are my definitive top five, they might change if you were to ask me tomorrow, but they'll at least give an insight into my music tastes.

The Day I Died by Just Jack is simply beautiful, full of emotion. The video with James Nesbitt makes it even more poignant for anyone who doesn't listen to lyrics.

 I love Stevie Wonder, I love his voice, the base in his tracks and the feel good nature of his music. Although the lyrics don't quite fit, I had Signed, Sealed, Delivered as part of my wedding playlist. I had to find a way of sneaking in some of his music!

Not the best video in the world, but I love this track, You Do Something to Me, by Paul Weller. Again, I love his voice, it's got real soul in it. I could listen to this over and over.

I used to listen to a lot of early Springsteen when I was younger. I remember borrowing the 'Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ' tape from the library and almost wearing it through from continuous play. Ain't Good Enough for You, is one of Bruce Springsteen's more recent releases. It makes me smile and I love the rhythm. A good feel good piece of music.

Robbie Williams is unashamedly my guilty pleasure. He's a fantastic entertainer and can really capture an audience. Although something like Angels would be a more obvious choice, I love Me and My Monkey, it's such a random track, but at the same time showcases Robbie's vocal talents. It never fails to make me smile. I'm just gutted Robbie's not coming to Cardiff in this year's arena tour.

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Blog Every Day in May - Blog 24 - What's in my fridge

It might be a bit of a blessing that I'm doing this post a little late, as we get our groceries delivered over the weekend and so on a Friday our fridge is generally fairly bare. That said, this looks fairly sparse, but if you think this looks empty, you should see it on a Friday!

I never thought I'd be showing off the contents of my fridge, but here goes!

At the top we've got some bread, a container of fresh coffee, some nutty rice salad, Philadelphia Light (can you tell it was on offer?!) and a few jars of jam and marmalade. The next shelf down has a few yogurts, a bottle of Wooden Hand Brewery beer (I think it made my husband's day when we found this in Morrisons yesterday!), some beetroot, coleslaw and marinade. The shelf below contains some J20s, tomato ketchup, brown sauce barbecue sauce and jalepeno relish, plus some of that Flora Cuisine cooking oil that Vernon Kay advertises. The bottom shelf has a couple of pots of rhubarb yogurt (amazing with some muesli for breakfast), some salmon, a stir fry sauce which I'm hoping to try next week, a couple of bottles of soft drink. This is where the healthy eating collapses. We're both at the orthodontist this week and so need soft food for a couple of days. We've got a Charlie Bigham's moussaka and cottage pie, plus a couple of cauliflower cheese servings. Oh well, it's only once every six weeks.

 In the vegetable crisper there is half a lettuce, some tomatoes, mushrooms and green beans.


 Oh, and a bag of new potatoes. Delicious.

The fridge door is a bit of a dumping ground, with various sauces and purees. There's a lump of halloumi which must be getting near it's use by date and some sour cream and chive dips left over from one of our Dominos binges. There are also a few chocolate bars, we share one at night when we need a treat. My favourite thing is the milk, bizarrely. Sainsbury's gave away these milk jugs years ago, but we've only recently started using them now they're stocking skimmed and 1% milk in milk bags. It cuts down significantly on the amount of plastic recycling we create, and it's somehow easier to pour from a jug than a bottle. Is it odd that this is the main thing I'd recommend in our fridge?

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Blog Every Day in May - Blog 23 - Compliments

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol /

I used to be terrible with compliments, I'd blush and brush them off, so I'm genuinely surprised I ever got any. I'm now a little better, I still find them a bit uncomfortable sometimes, but have at least learned to accept them graciously.

Most compliments nowadays are along the, "I like your shoes", or "your dress is cheering the office up today" lines. I get compliments from my husband, often when I'm feeling pretty rough and clearly need a confidence boost, and often retort that he only thinks that as he's partially sighted. I've still clearly not completely got the concept of accepting compliments graciously!

The best compliment I've ever received was in my first professional job. I'm not sure how it came up, but I remember the whole team sitting round in a meeting room. I guess we'd each been asked who the cleverest person we knew was. I can't even remember who I picked. I was however gobsmacked when another member of the team mentioned my name. Now, I'm fairly smart and switched on and good at my job, but I did horrendously at my A levels, and got an unimpressive degree from an even less impressive institution. The idea of me being the cleverest person anyone knew was literally beyond my comprehension. This was back in the days when I didn't know how to accept a compliment, so I think my response was to laugh and say they clearly didn't know many people; not very gracious. It was only when another member of the team waded in in back up, saying they thought the same, that I realised I'd probably been incredibly flippant and rude and apologised profusely. It probably taught me not to be so flippant with compliments, but I'm still not quite sure how they came to their decision!

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Blog Every Day in May - Blog 22 - 13 Year Old Me

If I could speak to my 13 year old self, what would I tell her? I guess it would go a little something like this:
  • You're not half as spotty, chubby or unattractive as you think you are, really don't worry about it. Oh, and smile, honestly, your teeth are fine. That said, if you'd like to get a brace, do it sooner rather than later if it will help your confidence.
  • Don't worry about being shy, you'll come out of your shell when you need to.
  • Curly or wavy hair may look good, but it's not for you. Avoid the perm lotion, your hair will be back to poker straight within a week, unless it's left on for so long that bits of your hair break off.
  • Learn to study. I know it's boring and it's a technique that needs developing, but it'll be worth it not to break your heart over your A level results.
  • Similarly, there will be other football World Cups. The year of your A levels is not the right time to be watching all the matches, even if Steve Bull has made the England squad.
  • You'll make a few good friends in your life. No-one is universally popular, so don't let it get to you if sometimes you feel like Billy No Mates.
  • If you go for a dog walk with a friend, stand well back when she's throwing sticks for the sake of your nose.
  • Older men, not a great idea. Certainly avoid anyone with whom you have a sixteen year age gap, it's not worth the pain.
  • Have courage in your convictions, when your gut feel tells you it's time to leave a job, it is, whatever people may say.
  • When you're buying a house, just check it's locality, like whether it's right next to a motorway for example.
  • Drink more squash, eat more fibre and less chocolate and exercise more. It'll be worth it in the long run.

Basically, I know that you're a stress-head and overthink everything, but try not to sweat the small stuff, everything always works out okay in the end.

This is thirteen year old me, not sure why I'm gurning, obviously bored of waiting for my photo to be taken. Oh, and Cath, if you ever find this blog, apologies for dragging you into this, but this was the only photo I could find without going into the loft!

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Blog Every Day in May - Blog 21 - Dream Job

Image courtesy of  Rosen Georgiev /

 I don't really know what my career aspirations were when I was younger, but think I wanted to be a nurse or a private detective at one stage. I've always wanted to be a singer, as I love music, but would only do so if I thought I could get away without intervention from the auto tune machine. How I ended up as an accountant is anyone's guess.

What I really want to do, is work in a wedding dress shop. Well, knowing me, I'd probably like to own my own wedding dress shop.

This was a little world that was alien to me until about five years ago, but they can be wonderful little places. I'm thinking here more about the owner managed stores than the large chains, one visit to Pronuptia was enough. I went to a number of shops, but eventually got my dress from a small shop in a nearby town. All of the staff were lovely and friendly and made me feel really welcome and comfortable, which is important when you're standing around in your underwear being squeezed into a dress a size too small! Nothing felt like too much trouble and it felt like they were really interested in me, rather than me just being another customer.

What appeals to me is that all the customers are keenly looking for their dream dress, so on the whole you have a store of excited, happy customers. Your aim as a wedding dress employee is to find the perfect dress for them, whether or not it's the one they have in their mind, and hope you have it in a size you can fit them into well enough for them to get the idea. Although I went for a straight dress, I did try on a meringue at one point, encouraged by the shop staff. I have to admit it looked so much better than I'd expected, and if I hadn't been getting married at the top of a narrow staircase I'd definitely have considered it.

I'd imagine it's really rewarding, knowing that you've helped a bride find the perfect dress for her, so she can be confident on her wedding day. Much more rewarding than signing off an audit file!

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Blog Every Day in May - Blog 20 - Newsflash

Image courtesy of artur84 /

I'm a day behind with this post and the leading national news stories today are really too depressing to comment on, when I've had a bad enough week myself. I thought instead I'd comment in the leading story on our local newspaper, the Bristol Post.

Residents' Parking Zones seem to be taking up the front page. This is due to our recently elected Mayor deciding that Residents' Parking Zones should be rolled out across central Bristol and surrounding areas in an attempt to cut down on congestion. The aim is to introduce these schemes in a phased rolling programme by September 2014. The affected area would be vast, as you can see on the map here. This would mean that to park on previously uncontrolled streets in these areas during the working day, you would need a permit, or pay and display if such facilities are available.

I live outside the area to be targeted, but there were attempts to introduce a Residents' Parking Zone on our estate a couple of years ago. All residents were invited to vote for or against the scheme, with the idea that it would be implemented only in roads where the majority of residents voted in favour. As it turned out only one road met the criteria, so in an estate of around 600 houses, only one road of fifteen houses has a permit scheme. It goes to show that it's not necessarily a popular move.

The proposed scheme would allow up to three permits per house, the suggested annual costs are £48 for the first car, £96 for the second and £192 for the third, with higher costs for businesses. It's clear to see why the council is keen on this idea. In areas where commuters grab every available on street space and residents are unable to park outside their homes during the day, I can see the appeal. However, there are already murmurs coming from areas which don't have a problem with commuter parking, where residents will see no benefit from the additional cost. Households would also be given fifty visitors permits a year to allow friends or tradesmen to park in their zone, but there are rumours that these permits are being sold in areas where the scheme has already been rolled out, or residents are unwilling to give visitors' permits to workmen. It's hardly practical for your plumber to turn up on the bus with the equipment he needs to do whatever work you've asked him to do.

That brings me to my greatest concern with this scheme. We don't live in London, this is Bristol. Our public transport provision is expensive and unreliable. That is exactly why people commute using their cars. I think in this area the Mayor is running before he can walk. The first step should be to improve the public transport system into the city centre from outlying areas, then attempts can be made to dissuade people from driving into the city centre. Until then, my concern is that these anti-car schemes will do no more than stopping people from wanting to work in the city centre as it becomes more expensive and less convenient to do so. Whether this would then drive businesses out of the centre and into industrial or business estates on the outskirts, only time will tell.

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Blog Every Day in May - Blog 19 - Favourite Tradition

I found this a really challenging subject. National holidays / celebrations immediately sprung to mind, but I've been a bit blase about Halloween since I turned ten, we don't really do Valentines' Day, Shrove Tuesday is good but nothing to shout about and as for Christmas... Last year we didn't even put our tree up. I wanted to do it in early December, but didn't and by the next time we thought about it, it didn't seem worth it. We made do with a little eight inch high tree on a coffee table.

I guess then there are British traditions. One of my friends lives in a town where there is an annual folk festival. I love a good wander round, taking a few photos of the Morris dancers (a prime example below!), but I wouldn't say it was my favourite tradition, any more than fish and chips at the seaside. I have fond memories of country dancing and maypole dancing at school, although you can bet I didn't have fond feelings about it at the time. I can't imagine many schools do such things any more. Whilst I'd love to live in a traditional village which had a summer fete and such things were practised, again I don't think they're my favourites.

That brings me to thinking about the traditions we create ourselves, daft things like we always have a second Christmas dinner for New Year, we have our own way of serving up fajitas and have curry the night before we get the ligatures changed on our braces. I'm sure there must be more. I guess that's what I love; these little traditions that are specific to us.

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Blog Every Day in May - Blog 18 - Best Friends

I've lost my momentum with these posts a little after the issues I had uploading Friday's post As a result, I've got three to catch up on.

Ever since I met my husband I've been telling him he's my best friend. He wrinkles up his nose in distaste, probably thinking that best friends are things that are best left to teenage girls. Over the years he's softened a little and I think now accepts the fact.

It's not that I don't have other friends. It's just that at the age I'm at, people drift apart, whether it's due to fallings out, relocations, getting married, having children... Suddenly your friends' priorities and time availability don't match yours, or they'd just rather spend their free time with their family rather than friends. Despite these occurences, I'm lucky to have a few good friends, who I think if everything fell apart would drop work / their day with the family / hit the motorway to check up on me.

I think that brings me to why my husband's my best friend. He knows me better than anyone else does, and still likes me. We both like to play the fool and laugh until bladder control is almost compromised. We're smart enough to understand each other and discuss anything from accounting standards (yawn!) to IT issues (well, I try). We generally get on very well and might have a big argument once a year, the rest of the time we've learned to compromise or walk away and let things calm down. We have similar priorities in life and just genuinely enjoy each others' company. What more could you ask for?

It's hard to get a good picture of us, we love a bit of face pulling.
Often I try but it's not until I see the photos that I realise I was the only one.
This was at the IMAX, but still, we laughed until we cried when we put on these glasses.
It'd be rude to go to a gift shop and not try on the merchandise.
New cycling glasses? Why not try an Ali G impression.
Ah, boys and their toys!
We put the face pulling on hold for our wedding day.
And I tried for a photo session, but got the giggles.
Seriously, who else would put up with us?!

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Saturday, 18 May 2013

Blog Every Day in May - Blog 17 - Walk to Work

I live about five miles from work, the drive in takes me about twenty to thirty minutes depending on traffic, followed by a five minute walk from the car park. After trying various routes over the years, I think I've now found the optimum journey into work, opting for back streets rather than a blast down the motorway. My route takes me through a nearby town with a private school and parents causing chaos by parking on double yellow lines, under a motorway, along one a notorious street (Google it and you'll see claims that it's the most dangerous road in Britain) and then into the city centre.

I took a few photos on my way in (the car ones when I was stopped) to share my journey.

Traffic starting to queue back due to parents dropping their little darlings off at school
At least now I have a nice view of our local church
Heading past the mosque and onto the most dangerous road in Britain; it looks quite peaceful
Into the city centre and outside the building I used to work in
Car parked and now on foot, taking a glance down Welsh Back
Pausing on Bristol Bridge whilst I wait for the pedestrian crossing
A quick look down the cut on the other side of Bristol Bridge
A look back over Castle Green
Getting closer now

Outside my work building

Waiting for the lift

On my way to the top of the building to start work

Today was a very dull trip in, with nothing exciting to photograph or comment on, but at least it wasn't raining. The photographs above, taken in rush hour, do make me query whether Bristol really is the second most congested city in the UK as a recent survey reported. I think my journey's really quite stress free!

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