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Blog: A rolling series of articles from our correspondents, wherever they are...

Luce Smith

New Commute Route

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sat 30th Apr, 2016 | 5:34pm
subway photo by Geoff
subway photo by Geoff
Oh dear. It's Monday morning, and it's been a great weekend. The train's on time, and I'm lucky enough to get a seat.

Waiting at the penultimate station stop, a passenger behind realises that it's actually his stop, so gets up and makes a mad dash for it. however, he is carrying a drink, which spills out all over the passengers on my side of the train, including me. Ah well, who doesn't need more coffee on a Monday morning?! That's what I think, until I start wiping it off. I inhale, only to realise that my Friday night has returned. It's beer. Grim. How on earth do I explain
this to my colleagues at work, as to why I honk of beer?

Yuk.

I brave my new commute on Tuesday. It starts off with an early 2.5mile walk, then a local train, then the main train to leeds. I allow myself enough time for the walk, but end up freezing on the platform, and being very remote, there's no coffee serving place or machine.

It's ok, will adjust my departure time tomorrow. The train is on time, and we arrive at platform number two. 5 minutes to get under the subway to my final leg of the commute.

It's on time! Hoorah!

Snow? Rain? Hail? I don't have the funds to go on holiday again to escape this bizarre weather, please, let's all be nice to each other and hope that God will send that big yellow round thing up in the sky. I didn't take my chances today, extra layer of clothing, vest number two in the bag, and sensible shoes. Oh, and an umbrella. That should cover all eventualities. If not I will have to trail round charity shops at the weekend for a bigger bag!

My alarm seemed to go off too early today and I struggled to get up. As I had plenty of spare time yesterday at the first station, I braved it and left 10 minutes later. A little ambitious for a new route, and I will admit to doing a bit of a trot where at all possible. Still, I didn't have to break into a gallop so it wasn't too bad.

Sat on the train, I was next to two girls who were sat with their hoods up, playing on their pink mobile phones. They had just got back from Turkey and feeling the cold. They'd also been feeling their new friend's bare feet on the aeroplane, which set them off in giggles. He was a hottie but after checking him out on Facebook, discovered he had over 3000 friends so might be a bit of an idiot. Such fun.

Coming back, I'd forgotten just how rammed the trains got, and stood there in the doorway unable to move my feet. A guy next to me kept apologising for moving, but he had to scratch his nose. He did this several times, and with no additional elbow room, it's no easy task!

Fido has just got on the train. It was Fido wasn't it, the guy from the 7-up advert? He must be absolutely freezing and feel like he has a bird on his head. Or perhaps that's the look he was going for? I feel like I am pretty boring stood next to him. Maybe I need to jazz my appearance up a bit, blue hair maybe? Tattoo on face? I'll have a think.

Today, I had a conversation with a fellow commuter, and you won't believe this, but he started it, not me! Lovely chap, talking about the minus one temperatures and how late the trains get, and how annoying it is when customer service staff always appear to know nothing. Helpful.

All I need now, is to finish the week with another lager spill, and life's complete! Such fun!
Sat 30th Apr, 2016 | 5:34pmmore...
Luce Smith

Graduation Day

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 22nd Apr, 2016 | 12:24pm
Mortar Board photo by David Morris
Mortar Board photo by David Morris
I'm still in limbo in terms of my commute, but next week, it all kicks in. My house is almost done, I now am able to use my bathroom, so long as I don't mind the grouting on the side being unfinished, or the tiling round the window.......

I used to stress over stuff that wasn't finished, but that element of my personality has left me. Just as well I guess!

I am reunited with my Fitbit again, but it's hard not to compete with myself. Last weekend I walked 45km, somehow. It wasn't planned, but the weather was so good, that it urged me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.....I wish every weekend was like that, just walking round country roads, listening to the wildlife, dodging boy racers, and speaking to complete strangers. Happy me. The distance definitely adds up, I've walked 117km this week, and that was just commuting and a few evening sunny walks. I'm horse riding again on Monday, and might ask the horse if he'd mind wearing my Fitbit. Actually, if it's the same horse as two weeks ago, I need to have words. He seemed to think it was ok to just stop.

Abruptly.

No notice to rider at all. Luckily, I stayed on. Next time though.......

What a day for freebies that was! Got off the train and was welcomed onto the concourse with the usual daily print, and breakfast in a wrapper! I love promo days! I got two of these well known cereal makers bars and trotted off on my way.

Coming home, I arrived at said concourse, and it was afternoon tea promo time! He who does make exceedingly good cakes, was sharing his latest flavour and I bagged a very nice cranberry and oat number. Result!

Gosh he was in a rush! Waiting by the train, and the doors open. Passengers leaving the train all pile out and disappear. One very eager person on the platform can't wait. So he gets on with boarding the train whilst others are still disembarking, (I nearly wrote dismounting for some reason? Weirdo me). People look at him and their facial expressions say it all! He
doesn't seem to have any issue with it though, and carries on regardless.

Graduation day has arrived at last! Apparently, it's tradition to wear a skirt. I have followed these guidelines and am wearing a, what I call, dress. Apparently, it's going to be very busy. I might not enjoy it, but will have to go through with it now! I have heels in my bag, and nerves just about everywhere!

I've met with the olds, and we're all aboard the London train. Mum's not talking to Dad, as he was in charge of booking the tickets, and didn't get three seats together. Great, a domestic on the journey down to what is meant to be, a lovely day. There's a lady sat on the other side of the aisle, talking quite loudly to her Mum on her mobile. Dad finds this annoying, so allows himself to get up, go over to her, and remind her it's a quiet coach. I sink further into my seat. Mum looks oblivious to it, but being hard of hearing, I'd say that was a bonus right now! Family are so funny!

Next it's 'show us ya ticket' time. Dad gets the tickets out and Mum rummages through her bag to find her railcard. "Oh dash it". Dad's left his railcard at home. I say it will be ok, and given 10 days to show it at a local train station. No, no, no, Sod's law, the ticket staff member asks to see the
railcard.

I say "isn't it obvious he's a senior railcard holder? (Surely he looks the type). No, sorry, must see it. Can't he bring it to the station in the next day or two? No. Got to pay the difference in fares, both ways.

I'm annoyed. What's going to happen when the number of people with dementia, at any stage, forget things like railcards. You shouldn't be able to buy a ticket without giving railcard numbers. I paid, but will be writing.

Talking of age though, I just had to do the coffee run as we're in coach B, and the coffee lounge is coach H. It takes some doing, walking in a straight line whilst the train's going from side to side! I make it down and secretly hope I will be nearer to reaching my daily Fitbit goal! I ask for a black coffee with two mugs and get a very (expected), strange look. I tell the steward that it's for my parents, and sadly, it's what happens when you reach that 'certain age'. He smiles and goes ahead with my request.

Phew! I look at the wine and decide it's perhaps a bit early, and maybe not allowed to be drunk in the quiet coach? I will be having plenty once I arrive at the ceremony venue though! Bring it on!
Fri 22nd Apr, 2016 | 12:24pmmore...
Luce Smith

Train Spotting

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sat 2nd Apr, 2016 | 6:50pm
Train Spotter photo by Les Chatfield
Train Spotter photo by Les Chatfield
"Av u gots a sweat on eh..? What ya's teckin ya coyte off fo? Eh?"

Brilliant. I am sat in front of two genuine original train spotters. It's confirmed the rumour. They do carry paper notebooks and pens to note engine numbers, times and drivers.

"Oh this must be Richard on the system, can tell is voice eh? By eck ee's steemin' along down ere in ee?"

(Spell check had issues with the last few sentences but I was forceful and took charge).

"No I'm not gonna go ta Derby, there's all gona see t'buses from Wigan, then in Booooolton, n end in Manchester".

"Eye' it wa on radio, her that used to be a cyclist, she's a professional jockey now".

"Is she? By eck how did that happen' eh? Bet she couldn't fix her puncture so's 'ad ta swap. By eck, what times's race then eh?"

I wish I could take a photo, but perhaps the image is enough. It's typical that's for sure!

That's spooky. I'm on a very busy train but due to me galloping through town as quick as lightening, I got a seat. Someone squeezed in opposite me, but had lots of bags. With my eyes, I looked at his rucksack, and then saw it move to the racks at the top of the seating. He then proceeded to get his rucksack from the floor and place it on the racks! Call me Matilda. What shall I do next I wonder? Remove someone's earphones? Force two people to shake hands? Brilliant.

My commutes have been weird. I got to the station last week only to be greeted with a "sorry love, no trains to Leeds, signal fault. You'll ave ta get next 'un ta next station, then swap n get delayed Leeds un".

Why thank you sir, what a fine greeting on such a cold morning and not even 7am. Please don't let this set the scene to my day ahead, as I am already tempted to go back to bed and have a duvet day!

As of next week, drum rolls please, my commute can return to normal. In that my house, dare I say, is ready to move back into. 9 weeks later. I've been reviewing my old routine and decided it was too 'bitty' n time consuming. I'm going to cycle or walk to a different platform, and just get the train. No bus. It's too much! I did manage 3 months of it, but I can't do it anymore!

Cycling is going to be a challenge though as I'm not peddle fit. I'm also a fair weather cyclist so will have to rethink on a day that's a bit moist. Now the clocks are kind to daylight hours, I feel there is a need to get outside. Also, without the need to study, I am freeeeeeeeee!

Perhaps I can take up train spotting? Such fun!
Sat 2nd Apr, 2016 | 6:50pmmore...
Luce Smith

Street Markets and Pools

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 21st Mar, 2016 | 12:46pm

It's 34 degrees. It's sunny, and there is no need for thermals or waterproofs. (No, I didn't pack them just in case you're wondering!). The heat is definitely putting a smile on my face, which is needed, as I'm a bit grumpy. Grumpy because I'm not good at being kept inside, and not good at being told I can't do anything on my own. I know it's for my own safety, and I get that, but I'm still grumpy. I have a quick dip in the apartment swimming pool (more like an l-shaped puddle), keeping an eye out for dead rats and pigeon poo (yes you read that correctly), and my grumpy side dissolved. Phew.

I'm taken to the local Street markets, and boy are they different to UK markets. It's chaos, dirty, loud and lots of vehicles just randomly stopping when they see a stall they want to purchase from. They don't have stalls on pavements or any sense of structure, people are selling anything and everything, how and where they want. Many don't have much storage space for their stock, so they stick it in containers and carry it on their heads. Ok, so it's traditional, and normal to do this, carrying stock on heads, but my word, can they carry a lot. It's impressive to say the least. How do they do it in this heat?

The Road sellers/hawkers, take some getting used to. I was glad to be driven round by someone I knew, instead of driving myself. You pull up to a junction or set of lights, and you are pounced on by locals selling goods. Items they were selling included; fruit, bread, mobile phone cases, puppies, groundnuts, ice.....yes, puppies. However, they clearly weren't in great condition so if you got one, it wouldn't be a lifetime commitment. Poor things, I had to look away. It was advisable to keep windows tightly shut, as any chance of persuading you to buy, was taken. It was non stop and they don't like to take no for an answer.

Further into the day's journey, we went along the main road network, the N1. Lots of signs for churches, signs to vote for various MPs, and a road sign reading 'overspeeding kills'. Love it. The church signs are frequent, and they are everywhere. One shop was titled '100% Jesus'. No idea what they were selling! On the back of vehicles you often see 'call Jesus', but no number to call......! On the front of the bus, it read 'in Jesus' name'. Does that mean the bus journey is safer?! Another car must not have done well at school, as the sign on the back of his car read 'God Frist'. Brilliant.

What I didn't like about driving around, were the check points. Police stops were dotted around and you had to stop as the road had barriers. They sometimes just looked in the car and sent you on your way, but they often pulled you over for further inspection. They'd go through your bags, and really try to find something. They just want money, which is really sad.
It didn't help my peace of mind seeing that they had guns in their pockets. If they didn't have guns, they had knives, which weren't for chopping coconuts.

We got to an amazing resort though, so it was worth it in the end. The staff are kind, but the service is painfully slow. This way of working would not work in the UK at all, but might be quite funny to introduce for a bit of a change, to see how the British public would react! I could film it and start up my own YouTube channel. Oh the opportunities. We have the pool to ourselves, and as we have paid £8 each, we of course don't have to look out for dead rats or pigeon poo; this is a quality resort!

I definitely feel like I'm on holiday now, and grateful to get away from the hawkers. For now. Such fun!
Mon 21st Mar, 2016 | 12:46pmmore...
Luce Smith

To Ghana

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Wed 16th Mar, 2016 | 1:16pm
Heathrow photo by Metal Chris
Heathrow photo by Metal Chris
It's only a 7hr flight. However, no direct flights from Manchestaaaaa, so a few options to consider. I opt for an early flight to Heathrow, and then a direct flight. Percy can have another holiday in jet parks, he loves it!

Unusually for me, I don't pack until the night before, knowing my alarm will be asking me to get up at 4am. I've never been this 'lackadaisical' about packing in my life! I've got things organised though, visa, vaccinations, and malaria tablets. I even went to my own home two days ago to collect my summer suitcase items. It wasn't an easy task. With three rooms of things being thrown into one room, it was quite a challenge to find all I needed! Did I succeed? We'll see when I start unpacking and realise I've left crucial underwear pieces at home!

Flight to Heathrow went ok, then a long transit time and I was tired. Must not fall asleep on chairs. Wish I could afford to go to one of the premier lounges and get a shower, that would be bliss! Strong coffee and berry porridge will have to do.

After doing a few laps of the terminal, and plenty of browsing, my gate is finally up on the departure screen, and off I go. I sit in the gate seating area feeling a little odd. I look around at other passengers waiting to go on the same plane as me and I soon work out that I'm a minority. I'm white skinned, and I see only two other white people. I get a very small taste of what it must be like for non white people in England. I have experienced this in a few meetings at work, and think it's great, that we are such a diverse country.

I chat to a lady who has been visiting her Mum in London, and now going back home. I ask if the flight is always this busy, and she nodded her head she smiled. It's always packed when I fly over she says. I'm pleased with this as it must be a good destination. I wonder if it's a tourist spot, or just for locals. As the crew call out passengers for boarding, I guess I'll find out soon enough!

Wooooooah! Everyone starts getting up from their seats, 'doctor, doctor, quick, he's stopped breathing', passengers are shrieking and there's a state of chaos. My heart races and I think the worst, that someone's died. What do you do? The crew rush over, and then one brings the gas canister.

Passengers are told to remain seated and things calm down. The passenger seems to be breathing now, and is taken to the front of the plane. Makes you think though, must be worrying for the crew, you can't just pull over and get an ambulance! I'm selfishly a little bit relieved. For a split second, the thought of it being a terrorist attack crosses my mind. I'm not saying I'm glad there's an ill person on the plane, but I'm just thankful it's not life threatening for all. Ok, maybe that does make me selfish. Oh well.

The plane lands safely, and we are asked to remain seated as paramedics need to board the plane to treat the passenger/patient and get him to a hospital. Fine with me, I sit patiently. But it takes an hour for this to happen, by which point, my 4am alarm seems a long time ago. Was it even the same day?

I finally get off the plane, reunited with my bags, and out into the arrival lounge. Welcome to Ghana. Such fun! Or it will be, after a well deserved sleep!
Wed 16th Mar, 2016 | 1:16pmmore...
Luce Smith

Back In The Saddle

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sun 6th Mar, 2016 | 2:19pm
Horses photo by Brenna
Horses photo by Brenna
I did a horse ride! It's something I planned to whilst in Australia at Christmas, but ironically got rained off. I was driving back to my temporary home last week and had taken the scenic route, and saw a sign for a riding centre. When home, I did some research (ok, I googled), and got the contact details.

I made a call the next day, and confidently booked myself in for a half hour private lesson one day after work. I was asked some very difficult questions whilst talking to them. Are you a beginner, novice, or experienced rider? Would you feel comfortable at a walk, a trot, and canter? How confident would you feel riding without stirrups? If you've ridden before, how long ago was this?

Big gulp. If I'm honest, the last time I did horse riding was whilst at school, so I just said 'oh, a good few years ago'. The truth of it is, when I started to work it out, it had been 20yrs. I don't feel that old though, so did the 'maths' a few times over to make sure no error had been made. No error, it had been two decades. How did that happen??? When it came to my level of skill, I said that after such a long gap, I would no doubt be a beginner initially. Fine, 4 days to go to find out.

On the day of my lesson, I was nervous and excited. What if I get kicked off? The ground isn't so forgiving when you're a bit heavier, and more aware of risks is it! What if I make a fool of myself? Well, I won't know until I try, so here goes. I'm given boots and a hat to try on, and find some that fit reasonably well. I'm then taken to my horse, Alf. I go to the stable with my instructor, and feel quite at ease. I remember the days of mucking out, cleaning tack, and sweeping down the yard until it's perfectly spotless and not screaming at the rats on the muck heap!.

I'm introduced to Alf and told that he will be kind to me. I should hope so! He's a big horse, with a shaved mane, so my options of grabbing onto that for dear life are already minimal. Ah well, come on Alfie old boy, let's see if I can remember how to mount up gracefully!

I lead him into the outdoor arena and I look into his eyes. Alf, it's me and you, be kind and I'll be kind in return. He looks quite placid, so I hop on. Whilst walking round and getting used to the feel of horseback again, I keep thinking of how long it is since I've been in the saddle, so to speak. Where do the years go?! Alf, apparently, has a cheeky side to him. He will be a lazy nose-to-tail riding school horse if he's allowed to be, but, show him you mean business, and he's up for much more. I'm not convinced, but when I use my whip to get him trotting with more 'oooomph' I feel his cheeky side. He thinks that's an invitation to trot off, out of control. No no no, I am the boss, and I rein him in. I don't think about it, just do what comes back to me as natural.

I can't tell you how much fun I had in that half hour. Walk, trot, canter, figures of eight, and not once did I fear I might end up on the floor. My instructor was very encouraging, and kind to me, saying she was impressed with my skills, despite the 'few' years it had been. Half way through the lesson, I had a very bad thought. I'm not going to be able to walk tomorrow am I? Will I even be able to get out of bed? Oh dear, what have I done?

I enjoy the experience and found myself beaming from ear to ear throughout the half hour. Love it. I dismount, thank Alf for being kind(ish), and take him back to the stable. I untack him, give him a big pat on his shoulders, and walk back to reception. Walking seems ok, but my legs are very shaky! I return the hat and boots, pay up, and book a second lesson in a few weeks time. As soon as I'm home, I quickly run a hot bath, and sink into it, praying it is healing all my aches and pains.

My alarm went off, and I had planned to go to the gym before heading to the train for work. However, even though I can get out of bed (big relief), I struggle with the stairs, and decide to postpone the gym. A long walk will be much better!

What adventure can I set myself next? Jet skiing in January, horse riding in February, and as I'm on my way to Ghana as we speak, I can only hope for something like....I don't know! There's talk of a mole sanctuary? And the local polo club? My sister will no doubt have it all planned out. Another week in a temporary home, yippee! Such fun!
Sun 6th Mar, 2016 | 2:19pmmore...
Luce Smith

Delays

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Wed 2nd Mar, 2016 | 1:10pm
Clock photo by Dineshraj Goomany
Clock photo by Dineshraj Goomany
I'll be honest, commuting hasn't been a lot of fun of late. In fact, far from it.

I got to the platform with 12 minutes to spare, and the train was already there. However, with 30 seconds until departure time, and the train still in the dark with its doors closed, it wasn't looking good. There were quite a few of us hoping to get on, but none of us knowing if this would happen. I looked at my watch. It was 36 past the hour, and the train was due to leave at 24 past. Finally, the platform display changed the status from 'on time', to delayed.

Delayed? It's standing at the platform! How can it be delayed? There were a few young members of staff looking somewhat puzzled, and I decided to brave it, and ask if it was likely to be setting off anytime soon. He explained the problem to me. Our train was still linked to the train behind, the Sheffield train, and they could separate the two, but no one was available to test the brakes. So they had to wait.

We couldn't get on, and it was cold.

We waited.

We waited a bit more. People slowly began to leave the platform, choosing another train, or another form of transport.

I hung on.

I asked again, if it was going to be up and running soon. He looked confused.

The LED display status went from 'delayed', to 'cancelled'. Great.

I did some quick thinking on my feet and dashed to the station foyer (it's not a foyer is it, but I cannot think what it's called! It begins with c doesn't it. Oh well) to read the timings of my plan b. I was gutted to read the status of this train being 'delayed'. It was 09 past the hour now, it's been a long day at work, I'm hungry, and I have not got the capacity for hanging around.

I brave it, exit the station, and head for the taxi rank. I don't do taxis, but if my first two plans are unavailable, this is the sure way of getting home. Which I do, at last, no thanks to the lovely railway.

I say home, it's not quite my home. I'm now in week 5 of being homeless. Ok, so that's a bit extreme, but I'm unable to live at my own house still.

However, now the roof has been taken off and I've been able to see for myself, the real structure of the house, it's been a bit of a learning curve! I can happily report back that the roof is now safely back on, and I am told there is light at the end of the tunnel. Light, but still no bathroom, and with that being started this week, I should be able to enjoy a hot bath in my own house, by Easter. If I hear of any storms coming this way in the foreseeable future, I will strap myself to the top of the roof. If it is going to damage my house, it will have me to contend with first. That should be a threat in itself.

If the guy in front sneezes one more time without covering his face, I might have to pull an angry face of disapproval. Don't parents teach their children any cold or flu virus manners?

What happened to 'coughs and sneezes spread diseases'? I know the times of handkerchiefs are over, but they have been substituted by the tissue. Which are fine, so long as you don't buy the mega cheap ones. They're not good, in fact, not worth buying. Where does the word tissue come from anyway? I will of course have to find out.

So funny! The PA announcement told us which station we were approaching, which was mine (my temporary station). When he finished, the system made a peculiar sound, and everyone looked up. Has the train been kidnapped by aliens? Are we having an electrical fault and need to be mindful of where we are? The guy on the PA then simply said, 'Hello?' it went eerily quiet. No sound at all. I honestly thought he was going to come out in song and do the Adele number. I couldn't stop laughing! He didn't of course, and the train stopped and off I went. Imagine if he had have done though?

Oh my, 6 minutes to get over to platform 16. I can do it. I can do it. Such fun....
Wed 2nd Mar, 2016 | 1:10pmmore...
Luce Smith

Spare Change

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Tue 16th Feb, 2016 | 12:36pm
photo by Sigfrid Lundberg
photo by Sigfrid Lundberg
Excuse me, can you spare any change?

Spare any change?

Spare any change?


I want to lower myself and sit next to him and respond like this:

'Spare any change? No, why, can you? Because I've just had to have major work carried out on the roof of my own house. I have worked very hard in life to get an opportunity to be a single homeowner, I have grafted hard. I am going to be struggling myself, so if this is the way to get a roof over my head, budge over, I'm joining you'

I don't though, I smile and say I don't have any. Which is very true. Too true, but I won't cry. Yet. I will no doubt wait for an inappropriate moment and the tears will come down......when I am least expecting them. But not on today's train journey. You see, due to a lovely dentist appointment, I am going into work later than normal, and very surprised to get a lower fare ticket. Why? I thought you were punished for having a lie in? Are you therefore saying that I pay more on the train when I don't even get a seat? I pay more to be crammed in as tight as possible? Another great invention from high profile people no doubt. A bit like the invention of the '50p each or two for £1', who was the brains behind the ingenious idea??!

Commuting this week so far, has been quite exciting. Due to Percy going in for his MOT, I had to leave him in a garage, and make my way to the nearest train station. Easy...ish. I was helped my local people though, who were very kind despite it being a damp morning, and still dark. Thank you, whoever you are!

I got a seat! I got a seat!! Exciting! This is an absolute honour, and I feel that paying for my train fare has been worthwhile! Gosh. I look around and realise, much to my disgust, that it has been weeks since I actually checked out the commuters! I have been so caught up in my own world, that I've failed to be observant. I'll give it a go now.

It appears that there is no "normal" type of person commuting this morning. College students, office workers, people who have run out of the door and not looked in the mirror (I fit this category), those who look like they work at the counter of a beauty salon, and those who look ready to see their working days behind them. I am happy to see someone reading an actual paperback book. Why does this bring me joy? I think it's because I enjoy it so much, and find reading such a relaxing hobby. But it's not a hobby I can do on a short commute. I need to be sprawled out somewhere, be warm, and have a hot drink, or wine, on the go. Ideally, I'd be in the bath with my book, but without such a commodity at the moment, I can just look forward to it!

Trains have been far from good this week. Late, late or packed. I stood on the platform for a 22 minute delayed train, in the freezing cold. I thought about going to get Percy, but it wouldn't have been any quicker. It would have meant I was warm though. I'd already bought and paid for my ticket, so not paying twice to get to work!

I've given up chocolate for Lent, (a typo, I just did suggest I was giving it up for Kent, but having not been there, I don't feel any duty to....), and I have to say, it's difficult. It's not helped by Easter being thrown at me in any way possible. I say Easter, but really, it should be renamed chocster. Do any of the items for sale give any purpose or reason, as to why we acknowledge and celebrate Easter? I bet Cadbury and Lindt (there are more brands of course), never dreamed of getting so rich from a religious occasion. What does the egg symbolise anyway? Jesus's state of being dead for a few days? Are Cadburys and the like going to scout through the bible to find other occasions they can introduce to us in chocolate form?

I get off the train, try not to dribble past the Easter eggs and Valentine chocolate hearts, and pass a guy on the street asking if I have any spare change. I take a deep breath, and decide to just smile and politely say no. Such fun!
Tue 16th Feb, 2016 | 12:36pmmore...
Luce Smith

For A Day Or Two

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Wed 10th Feb, 2016 | 1:02pm
Builders Equipment - photo by Wendy House
Builders Equipment - photo by Wendy House
I am now officially a mess. Why is it, that the days you are feeling less able, are the days which throw all the bad things at you with full force?! I'm tired and it's Monday morning. I had very little sleep due to hardworking boyfriend setting off in the early hours to work away. I got to work ok, and had a very strong coffee. Things seem ok. I get a text from my builder to ask me to ring him ASAP. I don't want to, it's going to be bad news isn't it? They will have found a dead mouse in the roof and decided they can't do the work as it will disrupt the family? I do a bit of pacing. I'm trying to hold it together in an office environment and feel my barriers are about to crash down.

I brave it and go out to make the call. I end up doing circuits round the office car park. I come off the phone shaking. This is not good news and I need to view the house before further action can be taken. Typically, there's no one in the office to ask, so I make necessary arrangements, and get taken to pick Percy up. It's quite sunny, so wearing sunglasses to hide my girly tears is not so obvious. We drive home and my heart sinks.

My nice clean tidy house is now a builders' yard. He explains a few things, and I try to take it all in. He asks about my shoes, and if I want to go up the scaffolding. Of course I do! I'm a country bumpkin! I speed up the scaffolding, then realise I am not sure how I go about getting down. Ah well, there must be a way.....

It's good on the roof, everything looks so different. Looking down into my house, sadly doesn't look so good :(. I keep telling myself it's just bricks and mortar. With news of cancer hitting two people known to me last week, and someone at work sitting with their husband in a hospital following a heart attack, this seems very material, and I need to get over it.

I go for a long walk the next day and put things into perspective. I then try to erase the quote out of my head too. It's irrelevant. It has to be fixed. I decide to head to the gym. I'm on the treadmill and really not enjoying it. There is a guy next to me and we're banging down at the same pace, left right, left right. I turn to look at him and ask if we're nearly there. He smiles and politely says 'no love, got another 20 minutes yet!' End of conversation.

I instruct the builders to go ahead with what's needed, and hurry away. It's too much to see, and I'm a wimp, so I drive off. The plan was to stay with said boyfriend for a week whilst my bathroom was being overhauled. It's now going to be a month or so. That's a lot of thank you ironing I am going to have to do!

Another guy gets on the machine next to me, and starts running with his gym buddy. I'm quite envious, it must be much better to natter and exercise. However, I nearly fall off my treadmill whilst earwigging into their conversation. He is sharing what he has for breakfast. 'Oh I have a chocolate bar'. His partner is shocked. What? A chocolate bar for breakfast? 'Yeah well it's better to have it first thing, then burn it off straight away. I have an apple and orange juice too'....and that makes it better? I shake my head in disbelief/entertainment. They continue to talk about food and I switch off.

I walk home just as the heavens open and whilst a tad annoyed, I have to be grateful to have a roof over my head, because I haven't at home! I hope the builders are courteous enough to clean up after they have made so much mess. Or do you have to pay more for that?

Busy commute train tomorrow so I shall ensure I am on top form and don't look at my phone for texts from my builder. Such fun? No, but I know I am lucky, so I shall stay positive! For now.....
Wed 10th Feb, 2016 | 1:02pmmore...
Luce Smith

Mod-cons At Home?

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 8th Feb, 2016 | 12:59pm
Television Detector Van photo by fairlightworks
Television Detector Van photo by fairlightworks
I wasn't expecting that. How can such a simple, everyday task (for some), be turned into a major structural job, which means I can't live at home for two weeks? This was not in my financial budgeting forecast at all! They say save for a rainy day, but what they hadn't calculated (whoever 'they' are), was for the damage that rainy days can cause to old buildings.

Note to self, I'm a girl, therefore have limited building knowledge (fact, not sexist). I would actually forget the word limited, I have zero knowledge in this subject area.

As I have had my bathroom ripped out, and I'm not posh enough to have two toilets in my house, I now am unhomed. Lucky for me, (unlucky for my boyfriend), I have to stay with him until my house is habitable again. This does not mean I get to come home after work and sit and watch the soaps. We must be one of few couples who live in two separate houses, and neither have a television receiver to watch. How many people live without such a thing, are there many? Students don't count, or old people who get let off on grounds of years of good behaviour!

Talking of televisions, at Christmas time, instead of getting a Christmas card from the TV licensing team, I got a rather snotty letter. Dear miss, it has come to our attention that this property is not registered with a TV licence. Blah blah blah, it then reads to say that they will pay me a visit. Oh good, that will be such fun. They can come round to my house, with or without a bathroom, (I don't think that's essential), and sit down to tell all the latest on the television programmes that I'm missing out on.

I, in exchange, will share what it's like not to have to go and make a cup of tea during adverts, I can do this at any time. Such fun! I then got a letter from them, saying I will be going to court! I can't believe you have to declare you don't have a TV. See you in court!

Talking of knowledge earlier, I'm not sure I shared with you, that after all my hours spent studying during out of office hours, and every Saturday morning in libraries, I have finally completed my degree and got my qualification! Wooohooo! I now get to go to the ceremony in London, wear a silly hat, beam a big grin, and wave!

Funny how you expect a typically dressed business person to behave, or eat certain things. I was walking past a headquarters of a large bank, and there was a very well dressed man standing by the gates, waiting for his car. He was eating a packet of crisps. Not just any crisps. A packet of Monster Munch. It made me laugh! I know there are other crisps on the market by the way, but it was such a funny sight! I expected him to be eating a packet of roasted vegetables, or a packet of finely chopped potato crisps with a hint of rosemary. It kept me grinning until I got to the train....

...where I found more people waiting to board the train than normal. I found out that the previous train had been cancelled, so there were two trains-worth of passengers trying to fit on one train. This could be fun. We got everyone on, and we were packed so tightly, that there was no chance of falling over! Only two stops to go. The only thing I kept thinking was, apart from health and safety, I hoped and prayed that no one was going to let off bottom wind! I know, it's not a very mature thought, but I'm being honest! I made it off the train at least, and was I relieved to breath, or what! I wasn't expecting that. Should the ticket price be the same when you don't get a seat? Or should you be charged a supplement if you want a seat?
Mon 8th Feb, 2016 | 12:59pmmore...
Luce Smith

This Week I Have Been Mostly....

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 21st Jan, 2016 | 9:40am
B & W Alarm Clock- photo by tripplehelix
B & W Alarm Clock- photo by tripplehelix
Oh my days. The alarm goes off and I have to get up and out of bed. I've done something unheard of in the history of my life. I've left the heating on low, intentionally, right through the night. I know, like, what's happening to me?

Actually, if I'm honest, I should really say that I have in fact had the heating on all night before, but usually because I've had a few vodkas, got home, thought how nice it was to have a warm home, and not turned it off! This time, I went to bed without any alcohol inside, and decided that it was far too cold to turn off the heating.

This is for a few reasons.

My house has been empty for two weeks, through the winter, and despite having people call round to make sure storm Desmond/Frank hadn't created further damage, I never requested the heating on. Also, after having two weeks of sun on my skin, I'm really feeling the cold now! It's ok, I don't expect sympathy, I know I was lucky to be able to flee away to a hot country. However.......goosebumps aren't attractive and I want my small attempt of a tan to last as long as possible! I know, I'll man up soon and re-acclimatise, too soon probably.

The following day, my lovely energy supplier sent me an email saying my bill was ready to view. Yippee! I can hardly wait, so I open the email, only to wish I hadn't bothered! Can anyone on the train see how disappointed I am? Or shocked? It feels like the fact of leaving the heating on overnight on one occasion, has added £180 to my bill. In reality of course,that night of indulgence isn't even on the bill. It will be a nice surprise for the next quarter!

What has happened, did I pay for the town to have its Christmas lights on? Has my electricity cable been hacked? (Is that even possible?!) I look closely at the bill, and see that the reading is an estimate only. Phew. Well, I say phew hoping that the reading will be a lot less than estimated. I look around. Do I look like someone who is extravagant with her energy usage at home? Do I? What about people who have to put heating on 24/7? What must their bills be like?

This is the first energy bill of my new house, can I afford to live there? I want to ask my fellow commuters what they pay for their energy bills. I want this to be a fair comparison though, so should really ask single people only, or single cohabitants. I look around. Are there any? They can't all be married with 2.4 children surely. They look like that, or students still sponging off Mum and Dad.

Help me?

Nothing, just a hood shoved further up my nose, as the train stops to add more people to the already overcrowded train. This is not a humane way to travel, surely. I see a couple next to me. It's ok for them to be up close and personal. It may not be their choice at this time or place,but at least they know each other! I, like many others, get a hood up my nose, my foot trodden on by a canvas shoe wearer, get bashed around when the train stops, and wonder what the person behind me is reading, as she tuts loudly looking at her phone. Such fun?!

Today, I got on a train, that had a seat for me to sit in. Such a luxury! I don't pay more for this luxury of course, but I totally embrace the moment, and feel very grateful. I don't even have to share the seat, I get two all to myself. Not because I've eaten all the pies, or forgotten to wear deodorant, just because I worked late so got a train that didn't hit peak travel time. Peak travel, in case you're wondering, only means that you may pay more, but you will never get a seat! Unless perhaps if you're pregnant. Which I'm not, I hasten to add, but do give up my seat for those carrying a smaller unborn person. I also do this for those who are unsteady on their feet, or who look like they deserve it. This doesn't happen a lot. Not because I'm a grumpy mean person, but because I don't normally get a seat to give up!

In the morning, I will be getting a train during rush hour. I will pay for my ticket, and I will get to stand all the way. I love watching those board the train who are non commuters. The look on their faces when they see that they can of course get the train they want to travel on, but to get a seat, is a whole different ball game; that's entertainment in itself! Bring on the alarm!
Thu 21st Jan, 2016 | 9:40ammore...
Luce Smith

Travelling Long Haul

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 21st Jan, 2016 | 9:08am
Manchester Airport Information Screens - photo by Buh Snarf
Manchester Airport Information Screens - photo by Buh Snarf
Once you have saved enough pennies in your piggy bank, you can then take it to the travel agent and make your travel plans and say goodbye to the pennies. Hello long haul flights!

You make sure you have all the vaccinations and immunisations recommended, and apply for the correct visa to enter the country you are visiting. You also need to make sure you have a good travel insurance, never skip this bit out, as what happens if you arrive at your destination, but your bags decided to take a different flight? Do it!

Once all the paperwork and planning has been done, it's time to pack. I am very good at packing my suitcase on the outward journey, thanks to my Mum, who was the teacher in this! Sadly, for some reason, when I pack to come home, my packing skills go out of the window. Perhaps because I don't want to come home. I always pack some underwear in my hand luggage, just in case my suitcase goes astray, a tip my a granny gave me, and one I will do every time!

Long haul flights require you to check in 3 hours prior to departure time. That's when the fun really begins, and you feel you are off on an adventure! You arrive at the airport, get to the correct terminal, and find the right check-in queue. I always wish I was travelling first class and able to go straight to the counter, passing all the queues of people. So unfair. But we Brits are good at queuing aren't we? The queues seem to go quite quickly this time, and I'm soon showing my paperwork to the lady who has spent her last 3 hours applying make up and doing her hair. All credit to her, I'm just jealous that I don't have the ability to do that, and even if I did, would never come out looking like that!

I get my boarding cards for each leg of the journey, and ask to have a window seat where possible. I do this, so that I don't have to get up each time someone on my row of seats want the loo, or a stretch. It does mean however, that you have to have full control of your bladder, as if your neighbour is asleep, you may find yourself having to hold it in for 9 hours or so! Note to self.

I say goodbye to my suitcase and hope it will reach my final destination, even though I am getting three different aircraft. Why don't you spell aircraft like aeroplane? What's the difference between aer and air? Please advise, it's bugging me! I want to say aercraft but spellcheck isn't liking it at all!

I leave the check-in desk, and venture to the area where only passengers are allowed. I prepare for a very long queue, a zigzag queue, waiting to have hand luggage and body checks. I'll be honest, I look at each person, wonder how they can wear so few clothes when the aircon is blowing a cold chill through the queues. Don't get me wrong, as I am visiting a hot country, I don't have a coat on, but I do have last year's Christmas present, my fleece hoody, as the cabins get so cold and whilst blankets and socks are provided and used, when you're tired and have no idea where you are, it gets freezing. The return flights aren't so bad, as you still have the sun glow feel on your skin.

I don't chat to anyone, which is unusual for me, but I feel it's a vulnerable queue to be in, and the staff give me the wobbles. It finally is my time to declare my keys, devices and remove my shoes, putting my hand luggage on the carousel. That all goes through the scanner and I am called to go through the bodyscan. I go through, and all is good. I decide this is a good point to start breathing again. Phew.

Manchester Airport - photo by eGuide Travel
Manchester Airport - photo by eGuide Travel

Shopping time now, and I do a good mooch of all the shops. Despite it being 6am, I feel I'm in the holiday mode, and that a celebration is needed. I've saved all my pennies, been careful with expenditure (this was booked before I even thought about moving house!), and am off work for an extra week after the festive season. I find myself at the bar, with a holiday lager. I'm not really a lager lout, but if I had vodka at this time, I may not get to the departure gate on time!

Time goes quite fast, and I check the departure screens and see my flight now reads "boarding, please go to Gate 74". I gather my things, and walk to towards the gate. Passing a gate for another flight, I am shocked to see two policeman each holding a big gun. I've never seen this before and never been so close to a gun. I got goose bumps and felt very uneasy. Is this what our country is like now? I know it's good and I should feel safe, but I don't, in fact I feel the opposite.

I get to my gate and try to forget about it. There are lots of people ready to board this flight, and I feel excited again. The crew are well dressed, and smart, and call people in seat row orders. When mine is called, I join the queue, show my boarding card, and start walking down the corridor to the plane. I step onto the plane, and am directed to the correct side of the plane. The first seats you walk past, are amazing. Spacious, and appealing. Oh good you might think, 11.5hrs on this won't be too bad at all. However, you keep walking towards your seat, and see that the seats change. You are now looking at seats with no leg room whatsoever. Welcome to economy class!

Once I find my seat, I get all I need out of my bag, and put the bag in the overhead store. You have inflight entertainment screens and can watch the movies they have, TV shows, listen to music, play games, and keep track of the flight path. You get your own set of earphones, a menu card, and magazine. I sit down and prepare for the long time I will be here. I make small talk to my neighbours and they ask to swap seats. The husband fidgets and will need to get up during the flight, so would prefer an aisle seat. Sure thing! I set my watch to the time of my final destination. This is key to avoiding any feelings of jetlag. Fact.

We take off in good time, and are soon thousands of miles above the ground. Wooooohoooo! After a while (my knowledge of time goes out of the window at this point), drinks come round. Next is breakfast/brunch, and it smells yum. I watch a movie, novelty for me, and I watch another after that.

Singapore Harbour - photo by Kiran Jonnalagadda
Singapore Harbour - photo by Kiran Jonnalagadda

We touch down in Munich, but only get off for an hour. Refuelling and boarding more passengers. Back on the plane, and 11.5hrs later, the pilot makes the descend to Singapore. I look out of the window and have never seen so many ships coming into the port. In fact I haven't arrived in daylight to Singapore for a while! We all get off the plane, taking our bags with us, and go follow the transit transfer signs. I need to change terminals, so hop on the very overcrowded sky train. Luckily it's only a 2 minute journey, so breathing isn't essential......

I wonder around the airport shops, just trying to pass time, and have a look in the butterfly house. It's nearly outside! I then settle down with a......beer. Two hours later, the departure board shows my next flight is boarding, so I stroll down the airport to the gate. I get to security again, and feel a bit scared. The crew don't smile, and I feel uneasy. My stuff scans ok and I wait in the lounge. By this point, I just want to get on the plane and sleep! We all board a new plane, and I settle down and try to get as comfortable as possible. I read my book. I read more of my book. By the time the pilot begins his descent to Brisbane, my book is almost read, and I'm ready to get off the plane, out of this seat!

Once off the plane, I get excited and forget I have spent nearly 24hrs in the air. Off the plane, queue through immigration, and sit by the carousel hoping to see my bag. Mine takes a while, but I grab it and head to the exit. Outside, I feel the heat of the sun, even though it's 7:30pm, I relax immediately.

Travelling done, it's time for holidays.

Long haul.........
Thu 21st Jan, 2016 | 9:08ammore...
Luce Smith

Australia vs England...

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 14th Jan, 2016 | 2:59pm
photo by Richard Rydge
photo by Richard Rydge
... and not just the weather. The weather is an obvious one, but not just because Australias see the sun and blue sky a lot more than we do! Rain occurs too, and when it rains, you know about it. You can't do any washing, as you have no drying area. You can still go out in the same summery clothes with flip flops, and feel warm. However, like the rain in England, you still get soaked to the skin! It's funny to be out in heavy downpours as it's not all doom and gloom, things dry out pretty quick once the rain has passed.

A difference which was highlighted on this particular visit, (after the UK began charging 5p for carrier bags) was the check-out experience in food shops. Not only do you get free carrier bags in Australia, but they also pack your bags for you, as standard practice. You don't get that question that really annoys me in the UK, of 'would you like any help with your packing?' When they clearly don't look like they care, or want to help. It's brilliant, and perhaps a reason why more men do the grocery shopping for their household over there, it's pretty easy!

Car parking is another difference. I mean, the Australians drive some big vehicles and many with trailers for their boats/jet skis/caravans. This means that the length of car space in car parks can be 3 times the length of ours in England. Charges for these car parks are often FREE, yes, free, especially during the holidays. As if! We have high parking prices for normal days and am sure they would double during such busy times in England, if they could!

Also in car parks you find toilets, public toilets, for free. They are well maintained, well stocked up, and clean. You do not get that luxury in the UK! Not only are they near car parks, but all along the coastal paths, miss one, and you don't have to walk cross legged for long before you see another. Brilliant!!! Why can't we have more of that in England?

Another facility along the coastal paths and kids play parks, are drinking water taps, and yet again, these are free, and plentiful. I did go to one and ask for it to be a gin and tonic with a slice of lemon, but I really was pushing my luck ;(

Bright ale photo by Lachlan Hardy
Bright ale photo by Lachlan Hardy
Talking of alcohol, you can't buy it in supermarkets over there, but in bottle shops, which are all pretty close to the food shops. They too pack your shopping for you. Luxury! They don't have the pub culture like England do, but they do have some. I haven't been to one this time, as you can get a beer in most cafes along the coast. What I did go to for the first time this visit, was a drive thru coffee shop. It was a highlight of my trip, and I'll definitely go again just for the novelty!

In England, the drive thru places we have always mean litter lying around nearby. Not the case in Australia, as they have lots of public rubbish bins, and also recycling bins to use. Recycling bins are great in Australia. If it's recyclable, it goes into one bin. Not like us, who have to separate the paper from the cans and the bottles...... Easy.

It's also a country that's not littered with cigarette stubs either. People smoke, but not as much as us Brits, unless there's a smokehouse I missed where they all hang out, in their cloud of nicotine. Like the smoking room they have in some airports, just a room of smoke into which you enter at your own risk!

The beaches of course, are like the pictures you see. White sands, blue skies, and crashing white waves. No litter, again. Unlike our beaches, which are beautiful.... if you are lucky enough to live near one, but most of us Northerners have a bit of a drive if we want to paddle in the sea. I did lots of paddling in the sea in Australia, swimming in it, and walking in the sand.

However, I have a lot of respect for the sea, and know that the waters are dangerous. The current was quite strong in places, and the waves can crash down on you unexpectedly! Which is fine if you are dressed for swimming! If not, you soon dry out in the high temperature of the sun....sorry.

There are flags to signal areas which are watched and staffed by the lifeguard crews. I still see David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, even though Baywatch is now very dated! The theme tune always pops in my head, and I want to run along the sand in slow motion :). I know, I'll grow up one day!

On the topic of the water, I decided I wanted to go on a jet ski, but not as a driver. I wanted the thrill, not the responsibility, so found a local jet ski company, where you could "ride with the guide" and figured that would be the safest option. I went on a tour for an hour, with two families of 4, so 5 jet skis altogether. My guide was Ken, and we had such a laugh!

He complimented me on my inner thigh strength, which I thought was odd, how else are you meant to hang on, when he is going 40mph crashing over waves, and not indicating which way he was going next?! I held on to the handle at the back, and clung on for dear life! It was so much fun, I loved every minute, and managed to come back without falling in the sea, which he said was what normally happens. I will definitely hop on a jet ski again!

There was no BBQ meal, sorry to disappoint. No tan either, as when staying with young children, the shade is the safest place to be, and with a family member having a skin cancer scare recently, I want life to be for a few more years yet. With Queensland having the highest rate of skin cancer, you don't mess around.

Water in cafes is free flow in Australia, which in England, scarcely happens. Why give free water when they can make a profit I guess. It does make coffee much better somehow, with an ice cold glass of water. Very refreshing indeed. As are there bottles of beer/lager. It's ok, I didn't do the traditional pommie thing and get totally off my face before 4pm and make a fool of myself.

Not at all, I did manage to get to 12 noon at least, before my first chilled bottle of beer. It really is good to be away from normal routines and be relaxed, even my friend was impressed with my drinking skill. Everything in moderation. Everything but ice cream - one night, I could have done the Bridget Jones routine and eaten a full tub of the stuff! Novelty more than anything, as i don't have a freezer at home. It's ok, I'm aware houses in England have freezers too, but maybe I'll brave buying one later this month. Maybe.

You won't go hungry in Australia, like the UK there are hundreds of places to eat. However, it's quite normal for them to have a BYO policy. BYO is 'Bring your own". Not BYO food, that would be silly. It's obviously "bring your own booze". They provide glasses and there is a small surcharge, but nothing like our UK corkage charge. It's great, what you don't drink you take back home with you. Brilliant! But only if you get to the bottle shop before closing time.

I'm now heading home and my relaxed state is slowly disappearing. Not intentionally, but I must get back to the real world. Where I have responsibilities and chores. I'm hoping that Storm Frank you had whilst I was away, hasn't followed Storm Desmond, in doing damage to my property. That won't be a nice welcome home present.

One thing you can depend on in England, is that the weather will be poor. To be expected though in January I suppose. It hits you harder when you've had the sun on your skin for 10 days! I know I'm lucky though, to be able to get out there and see more of the world.

Back to remembering to take my own carrier bags shopping, and having to pack them myself at the supermarket. I can hardly wait :)
Thu 14th Jan, 2016 | 2:59pmmore...
Luce Smith

Off We Go!

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 7th Jan, 2016 | 11:06am
Manchester Airport photo by DFSB DE
Manchester Airport photo by DFSB DE
I have less than 24hrs to pack, clean my house, and prepare myself for the long haul ahead. Easy. Banging tunes on the radio definitely aids the packing process. I even begin to get a little excited! But the heavens have opened, and many flood warnings are around. Not just rural places either, but city centres too. It's terrible, and I really feel for people affected by this. I selfishly check my route to the airport on traffic live, to see if there are any closures or incidents. Nothing as yet.

My alarm is set for 3:45am and I snuggle down listening to the rain in my attic. Camping memories are brought up, and my Postman Pat telling stories to keep the family entertained. No story tonight though, full sleep is needed! I wake up and look at my clock, wondering if I have slept through my alarm. 3:01am. Yikes! Not long now!

Up, showered, breakfast on the passenger seat, and off Percy and I go bound for jet park 3, Manchester. It's a lovely drive over the tops. It's stopped raining, and it's dropped to 4 degrees. The heating is on full blast. I get to the jet park with the skill of google maps, only to discover that in the pre booked car park, it is 90% full. How difficult can it be to find a space? In the dark, for a blonde, and in the early hours of the day, it's difficult! It takes me over 10 minutes to find a home for Percy, but it felt longer. I take a photo of him, with the car park area code, so that it's not a maze when I come to drive home in two weeks, and walk to the bus stop. I wait, and look at my watch. Well, I arrived at the airport 3 hours prior to departure, but not at the check in. Will it matter? I keep waiting and know that the bus runs every 15 minutes. I see one coming, but as it gets nearer, read with sadness, 'dropping off only'. This is a situation where I feel my Granny's swear word is completely appropriate, 'oh knickers'.

A few minutes later, the same bus has done the loop, and is to my right. The driver calls me over, and I do the ever so attractive 'run to the bus like a girl with a suitcase on wheels and big hand luggage bag' run. Which is nice.

Phew, I am at the penultimate stage of checking in, and still got 2.5hrs to go before departure. My patience is tested though. There's a guy on the bus, who can't remember where he left his car. The driver shows good customer service to this poor man, but not to me, the 'itching to get to the terminal' customer! The driver gets off the bus. I have to take a very deep breath, and wonder if now is a good time to practice the 7/11 rule my Dad told me about yesterday? Breath in for 7, out for 11. I question it momentarily, but decide to get going regardless of my thoughts, just to stop me from jumping behind the steering wheel and driving myself to the terminal! Typically, (and I knew this would happen), out of the 3 terminals at the airport, the driver goes to mine last. I dash off and wonder how big the check-in queue is, knowing I haven't even printed off my boarding pass.

Just three people ahead of me! Wooohooo! This is good! I say goodbye to my suitcase, and am told I will be reunited at my final destination. I have two other airports to arrive into, and change planes once. Hence me packing underwear in my hand luggage, just in case! It takes forever to get through the checks for hand luggage, and I do what I'm sure everybody does and wonder where each individual is travelling to. Finally through to the waiting lounge, I have a mooch around, and grab a beer. It's thirsty work, and I have a long day ahead!

My gate is called, and I queue up with my passport and boarding pass at the ready. I, like the other economy class ticket holders, are walked through to the back of the plane, past the business class seats, and past the first class lounge seats. I'm not jealous. I don't think they are any better than economy class. They don't make the plane go faster, and they still have to queue. I am shown my seat, and realise that the last sentence is now a lie. I am jealous. Their seats are much better than cattle class seats. Unless I get an upgrade for free, I shall make do with being lucky enough to fly long haul, and make the most of it.

This always makes me laugh. They advise that to fly safely in terms of health, to keep hydrated. Why then, do they bring water in tiny plastic cups, and serve tea in a 5 year olds teaset cup? It's not like you have to buy drinks onboard, they're all complimentary, soft drinks and alcohol. Why isn't alcohol known as a hard drink, when apple juice and the like, are known as soft drinks? Anyway, that's how it is. The entertainment system is poor in terms of music selection, but I do find myself watching a film, which makes me both laugh, and cry. What will the couple next to me think?!

We hit turbulence a few times on the first stretch of the flight, but it doesn't faze me, it's quite exciting! I'm almost at the penultimate stop and am ready to stand up and go to the loo. The trouble with a window seat, is having the balls to disrupt two passengers twice in order to get out. If I don't eat or drink anything else., I should make it without needing to go. Should.......
Thu 7th Jan, 2016 | 11:06ammore...
Luce Smith

Ranting After Christmas

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 7th Jan, 2016 | 8:46am
Santa Claus painting by Gustav Klim via Flickr
Santa Claus painting by Gustav Klim via Flickr
What to do when you over hear a young father, tell his 6yr old daughter, that Santa is fake. At first, I thought I had heard wrong, it was rush hour in the city. He repeated it though when the little girl asked if it was true. I think my jaw hit the pavement. Is this what happens when parents tell the Christmas story? Or was he saying it so that she will be extremely excited when she wakes up on Christmas Day, to find a stocking at the end of her bed? I gave him 'the look' regardless of his reason. He saw it too, but didn't seem bothered. Who am I to judge anyway, I don't have kids so he's one up on me.

I had a thought today, does sat. nav. dilute arguments about the best way to get somewhere, or does it make things worse? Is map reading a good team building exercise of communication between man and wife in the car, or does it just fuel navigation based arguments? Sat. nav. vs. map reading for good relationships, which one wins? I am uncertain at the moment, generally due to the fact that I only argue with myself, or with sat. nav., so neither wins!

I finish work for Christmas, and still find it a little odd, that I am meant to wish people a Happy Christmas. I drive away listening to Christmas music, in the hope it will inject some spirit of Santa and festivities. I meet up with a friend, and discover that they too have yet to get 'a- christmasised'. Hoorah! It's not just me being a Scrooge! We discuss this matter, and decide to accept, that at this moment in time, we want to engage and embrace Christmas, but aren't planning to, it will just happen, if it happens.

Christmas Eve. I feel a buzz of excitement. It is a now or never opportunity to feel festive, and I decide to grab it with both hands! Despite the awful rain, I walk into town, and get shopping. Brilliant, no queues, no worry about parking, no 'out of stock' and no fuss. There are some lovely little shops, which help me buy gifts that are different, and a bit special. I end up going into town 3 times, getting drenched twice, but loving it none the less.

For this, ladies and gentlemen, is Christmas!

I start wrapping, and the radio station I'm listening to, is adding to the festive feeling. Bingo!

On Christmas Day, I am asked if I am packed and ready for my holiday. I tell them the truth, in that I've got the suitcase out. I then get a bit fidgety, and begin packing in my head whilst devouring a lovely bit of turkey to sort out my need for food. Yum.

Boxing Day soon arrives, and people feel more relaxed in that the big day is over, and according to shops I went into today, Easter is just around the corner. I kid you not, it's everywhere. So we're a nation of fat people, who annually overindulge and need to get to the gym in January, but then are encouraged to get eating more chocolate, to.....increase the waistline a bit more. I mean, are chocolate businesses in partnership with women's magazines and leisure centres? Like it's a vicious circle? Please, do me and you a favour, don't fall for either, don't be ruled by what you're told by people you don't know, who are out to gain profit from your weakness.

Rant over.

Rant back on, why oh why, do we not learn to not fall for the same tricks every year. I think I wrote this 365 days ago, but I will repeat to confirm its importance. Don't eat rubbish and be lazy. This only then fills magazines the first few months of every year, with which diet works, what to eat, what to wear, and what to cook. Surely you remember this from last year?

And the year before. And the years before that.

Why not shock the editors, and encourage them to be more creative in the first few months, and work harder to write articles that will sell to us clever peeps? Simply, by not buying into their thoughts, and having strong will. It will also encourage us to be much more creative when it comes to New Year resolutions!

No more 'I m going to lose weight' or 'I'm going to go to the gym 20 times a week'. Perhaps we can be a bit mindful, and gave resolutions such as, 'I'm going to smile at the first person I see who I don't know, every day this year', or that 'I'm going to take time to live for the moment'. I know it won't happen, but it would make me smile if it did.

Rant Over, I promise.

Santa isn't fake. He didn't eat the carrot or the fortune cookie I left out for him, but I know he wants to watch his waist/health line for next year. He's leading by example. Jingle Bells!
Thu 7th Jan, 2016 | 8:46ammore...
Luce Smith

Approaching Christmas

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 21st Dec, 2015 | 3:15pm
Mulled Wine photo by Karen
Mulled Wine photo by Karen
I can't christmasise. I'm not sure whether I'm happy or sad about it either. I've written and sent my cards, that was easy. I've thought about gifts I'd like to buy people too. I've even done browsing in an actual shopping centre, but still no festive feeling in me.

Is it because I'm going away after Boxing Day? Is it because I'm skint so can't afford what I'd like to buy if I could? Or is it simply that I don't like what the shops are selling? I haven't even had mulled wine! It's normally so well promoted in shops that I can't go past without buying, but I haven't seen it. I could look for it, but haven't, as I haven't fallen into the 'ah well it's Christmas ' mood just yet.

Will I get the festive cheer before Friday? Think Christmas Eve will help? I don't want to leave it that long though as stores will be very over crowded, and shelves no doubt looking depleted. There's still time I guess....

My house isn't even Christmas-like this year, and it's not because I can't find my tree and decorations. I know exactly where they are, but can't bring myself to set it all up. Am I getting lazy? I think I need some heat from the sunshine. I know it's a mild December, but we won't get a warm spring will we, this is England after all.

I'm interested in the guy that's commuted to space, by rocket space shuttle. Did he have to buy a ticket? Will he get a daily paper? Will he have snotty passengers next to him? Will there be an announcement over the system to inform him of his next station stop? These are all things I feel I ought to know. He will surely be writing a blog. Which will turn into a novel, which will in turn allow him to be very wealthy, meet celebrities, and never have to buy value kitchen roll again. I'm not sure my life will go in that direction, but hey, each to their own.

Maybe I'm not festive because I haven't had any sort of advent calendar? My Mum asked if I'd like one, but I thought no, at my age, I, sure it's not essential. But perhaps it is? Perhaps it helps to bring a bit of festive cheer each day, which then builds up and hey presto, welcome to the ready-for-Christmas stage. I could try to find one today,and zoom through the doors to get to the 21st. It would also mean I get to eat 21 small pieces of no quality chocolate, but chocolate none the least.

I think that will work! I'm going to try it regardless, I can't get any less Christmassy!

I've given in, and with advice from solicitors, have paid Percy's £100 fine, and sent my licence off for them to add three cruel points to it. However, that won't be the last they hear from me, as I have a follow up letter in my head. I want the police, council, and highways to focus on the section of road I was speeding on, and see how clearly it is marked. I won't suggest that it's a quick money earner for them but.......

I shall, of course, request a response in writing, and look forward to it very much! Jingle bells! I shall 'a-christmasise'!!
Mon 21st Dec, 2015 | 3:15pmmore...
Yorkshire Times

Storms

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Yorkshire Times, Mon 14th Dec, 2015 | 1:09pm
storm - toulouse V, photo by Andre Delhaye
storm - toulouse V, photo by Andre Delhaye
Desmond, you are so brave and strong, that you have accidentally blown my nice wooden gate off its hinges and snapped off two panels of wood. I know you will be keen to tidy up any damages, so if you could send me £100 I can fix it?

Storming, norming.

I love it. You're driving along, and you indicate to join a lane of traffic. You are kindly flashed to join the lane. And in return, you give them a double hazards. Why does that make me smile so much, I've no idea, but it does! It seems to be a relatively new technique for cars, unless I have been driving with a bucket on my head. Which I haven't, in case you're wondering.

Commuting is weird, I used to have such a set routine, but now, there are too many options and for a person as undecided as me, it makes it way too difficult! Back in the day I'd walk to the station, train to town, walk to work, then in reverse at the end of the day. Now, I can walk to get the bus, then the train, or drive to then get the train, or walk to the station and walk to work....argh!!!!!at least I am travelling in the same travel zone now and not crossing any dodgy borders.

Such decisions!

I'm going to get very angry in a minute. Whilst walking for my train, I end up behind a suit-wearing gentleman. He's carrying an umbrella and swinging it as he walks. Whilst swinging it, it stabs me in the knee. I think about my options, and wonder which to do. I see them as a) lie on the floor and scream loudly, b) do nothing, c) stand in front of the man and ask him if he is licensed to carry a weapon of knee destruction, d) throw my bag at him and shout about his violent actions.

I actually end up tutting loudly and saying excuse me even louder. He pays no attention. Fine, I shall remember him each time I see the bruise which will appear on my knee in due course.

I may write to all the large umbrella companies and suggest that on the tags of the umbrellas, they add a safety instruction on how to carry it without injuring a neighbouring citizen. I don't know.

My sister called me a weirdo today. She is buying a car, and I asked what the registration plate was. Normal question. I then reeled off Mum's first Volvo registration plate, and the second. Why do I remember them? Absolutely no idea! The information storage space should be emptied and filled with something I may need one day. I mean, what is my brain thinking? When are those details ever going to come in handy? It is hardly going to impress anyone! I shall make a mental note not to remember them from now on.

Unlike my own poor Percy. He has had a letter from the Police as he was going too fast on a road. He got flashed and the letter was sent to me. I can either go to court (does Percy come too? Or is there a good car park? If there is I bet it's a £1 a minute), or, pay £100 and get 3 points on my licence.

Percy has nothing to say. I mull it over. I don't think it's a fair penalty at all, and feel it should be challenged. Where does the money go anyway, is it given to charity? That wouldn't be too bad. Anyway, there doesn't seem to be a mitigation point. Court, or skint and high insurance.

I email them, and ask what my options are. It would appear I don't have many! What's really annoying, is that they say costs are involved if you go to court, but they can't tell you how much it is, or even a rough idea. So how do you know if you can afford it? Do you then pay the same fine on top? I know Percy did wrong, and he is sorry, but really? When you see what others get up to and don't get charged, it seems terribly unfair. I know I'm ranting but I wasn't going a million miles an hour. I shall sleep on it. I've never been to court, does that get put on a 'record' somewhere and I have to declare it every time I see someone in uniform?

It's all a bit much.

Christmas hasn't sunk in.

My trip to Australia hasn't sunk in, and both will be happening very soon!

Maybe Storm Desmond has blown away my Christmas Spirit? Bring it baaaaaccccckkkkk!
Mon 14th Dec, 2015 | 1:09pmmore...
Luce Smith

Emergency Aid

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sun 29th Nov, 2015 | 2:46pm
Car entering high water photo by State farm
Car entering high water photo by State farm
I wasn't expecting that. You sometimes hear stories of it, but never seems to be something you witness or experience. I had trotted up to the bus station from the train, as I had used up all my gallop power at 6:44am. I queued up like a real Brit, and sat in my usual seat, after showing the driver my valid ticket to travel.

I was just checking some emails, when I heard someone a few seats behind me struggling to catch their breath. I turned around to see a lady and her daughter sat looking a little surprised. The lady wasn't able to get any breath, and I must have paused for a second or two, wondering where all the first aiders were. I also wondered during that brief time, why no one was helping her, it was a very busy bus, and many heads were turned, but no one moved.

Instinct took over, and I got up and the lady came towards me showing her back and pointed for me to start hitting. That sounds like violent behaviour, but I don't know how else to describe it. I began whacking her back. After what seemed like minutes, but would have been seconds, she started to get her breath back.

We all then sat back down and the bus carried on its journey. How surreal was that? Felt so strange, did it actually happen? That was bizarre. After 15 minutes, the lady walked past me when it was her stop, and thanked me. No problem I said, are you ok? Yes thanks.

And off she went. I still couldn't believe it. Weird. Why was I the only one who made an attempt to do anything though. Did I imagine it? Are you not meant to touch anyone due to health and safety?

Anyway, it won't happen again, it can't! Way too weird. In any case, Percy was in full use at the end of the week, so I couldn't play Super Woman again. What I did do though, was on my way to the swimming pool, let Percy go for a swim as well! It's no surprise the amount of rain that fell from the sky, that there was surface water on the roads.

There's water, and there's pools though! The road was flooded, and it wasn't a road I was familiar with, so I didn't know how deep it actually was. Luckily, there was a 4x4 coming the other way, so I let them come through first, so I could see if Percy would make it. It did, so off we went. It came right up to the radiator, but we made it steadily in 2nd gear. Poor Percy, when parked up at the pool, the radiator and tyre trims were covered in leaves, he looked a right mess!

Wind, rain, and now snow? How can that happen in such a short space of time? Ah well, the dark nights will soon be becoming lighter....as for the Christmas spirit, that will begin around the 20th December and not a moment sooner. Apart from mulled wine. that will get started as soon as I buy it, to the run up to the Christmas spirit!

Ok help me out here. A weekly pass using the bus and the train, equals £28.90. That's 7 days of travel. I know it's a good deal, but on a daily rate, it works out to be £4.13. However, when you only need to travel by public transport for a day, it costs a whopping £10.90! That's ridiculous! Even with my blonde brain and poor mathematical skills! How is that even possible? I'm suggesting immediately that people who often buy weekly passes are granted a discounted rate if paying by the day.

Goodness me. I'm going on a big sulk and taking Percy to work tomorrow to save some pennies, and yes, I will be following the speed restrictions on the roads! At least I won't be called to do first aid to a commuter whilst driving in, or have I just jinxed it? Oh my days, what a week!
Sun 29th Nov, 2015 | 2:46pmmore...
Luce Smith

Travel Tickets

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Tue 10th Nov, 2015 | 1:09pm
Gibson Ticket Machine photo by RV1864
Gibson Ticket Machine photo by RV1864
I've been commuting for exactly two years. Two years! Wow, it seems a lifetime ago when I used to walk to work, no travel required. How odd. In all my two years, I've never been told off by a train crew member like I did today. It's a good job I'm in an emotionally stable mood this morning, otherwise I would have embarrassingly enough, let out some eye tears. Yes, the crying motion you never want to do, but if you're feeling weak, they inevitably show.

I had got the first bus into town, as there's a big event at work, so I want to be in on good time. There was an earlier connecting train, and I managed to stroll onto it, and grab a seat. "Tickets and passes please". I get my weekly pass out of my bag, ready to show the nice man in uniform.

It's my turn to be scrutinised, "sorry, you can't use that pass on this train, it's a different company". What? All I did was ask for a pass to get me from home, to work and back again. I didn't say which company I wanted to use, I just needed a travel pass! I said that all I asked for was my journey, and that I hadn't got this particular connection before. I apologised and said I wouldn't get the return journey on this train. I looked at him. Was he going to say I needed to buy a single train ticket to work, even though I had a valid pass to travel on this journey?

Silence.

I told him that I didn't know it was selected trains only, or that the ticket had route conditions. He looked at me. "Well, you're not supposed to get on this train". I apologised and asked what I should do. He said he would let it go this time.

I feel like a criminal! Like I want to pay for a valid ticket for this train, but I don't. My bank wouldn't like me too much. I shall sit like a naughty school girl and hope he doesn't report me down the radio airwaves.......

Brilliant. This convo just happened in front of me as I was boarding the bus home. "How much to the village centre mate?" "£1.60". "I've only got £1.30 though?" "Well it's £1.60". He reversed and got off the bus. I almost opened my purse, but didn't. Smiled with the bus driver as he shook his head. See if that had been me, and I had been 30p short, I would have have simply said, "ticket for £1.30 please Mr bus driver", would have got off when he told me to, and walked the rest of the 30p journey. What is it, three quarters of a mile? Not far at all, especially as he was a young one. Bless him.

I am so glad I drive this morning. I was later informed that trains weren't running 'til at least 9am due to a technical fault, not a staff issue this time. Phew. I would have got slightly annoyed to say the least and would have had to indulge and buy a coffee from the station vendor. I might also have looked at getting the bus all the way. What is it with public transport these days, it's meant to be reliable isn't it?

I don't hate it that much I suppose, as it's good to give Percy a rest, and it does mean I can read on the commute. It also saves me a lot of money. I'm not proud of it, but yesterday, I got flashed. I don't mean a naked body type flash, just the one where you wish you'd smiled and wished the accelerator pedal hadn't got carried away.

However, when the letter comes through my letter box (I know it will, I am just waiting for the dreaded thing), I am going to write back, and ask that the fine is shared with the 3 cars behind me. As I got flashed, they all decided to give Percy a lot of breathing space and dropped back at least two car's distance! Bet they were feeling smug about it too. The annoying thing is, I did 30mph in the 30 zone, 40 when it changed, and back to 30. However, I thought it changed again after the bridge, to a 40mph. But am guessing the flash wasn't for them to capture Percy driving along looking mighty shiny. Ouch. More expense that I wasn't budgeting for this month.

Commuting is the way forward. So please Mr train driver. Turn up to work tomorrow......and electrics, please work 100% so that I can have some faith in public transport again?!
Tue 10th Nov, 2015 | 1:09pmmore...
Luce Smith

This Is A Scent...

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 30th Oct, 2015 | 8:55am
Deodorant roll-on photo by Iwan Gabovitch
Deodorant roll-on photo by Iwan Gabovitch
This is a scent I do not recognise, nor is it a scent that is favourable. I'm being polite. The guy in front of me on the bus honks, there's no other way of saying it. I want to feel sorry for him, but I can't. Why do people think that smoking is a priority over personal hygiene?! Maybe he isn't aware of his personal aroma, can you smell it on yourself?

There should be an app on your phone that monitors your personal hygiene and when it reaches a certain level, it forces you to buy deodorant or shower immediately, depending on your location. Maybe I should create that app and be one a leading appists in this region. It could be a money earner, and I could work from home, which, now I'm in a different house, would be absolutely fantastic! I could definitely look into this. I think I ought to actually thank the guy in front for coming out on the bus this evening!

The bus was late, by 10 minutes, which means the chances of me getting home and out again to the pool, are pretty slim. I braved the Aquafit class this week, it was superbulous, a midweek treat that I will make a permanent feature in my empty diary. There was music, laughter, water weights, giggles, and concentration! The latter mainly from me, as what the poolside instructor was doing, wouldn't happen quite the same underwater!

Some swimmers wore socks, which I thought was a bit weird at first, but then I realised it must help with the grip. I may go a step further next week and wear my reindeer slipper socks, with actual rubber grips? Yeah, I will look a prat, but I won't slip over quite so much......

I haven't managed to locate any regular rail users yet but it's only been two weeks, so early days I know. Yesterday's train was funny, there was a delayed train and a cancelled train. Reason being? No driver. Well that's it, back to college to learn how to drive a train. Where does that happen, train school, I've never seen an advert for recruitment? Maybe they need drivers and HR staff.

I wonder what skills I have that are transferable or which I need to acquire! Customer service won't be necessary, perhaps a keen eye for detail, knowledge of which leaves create the biggest rail track risk, and a passion for time keeping? I wonder what the day in the life of a modern train driver looks like. Is it shown on a television apparatus that I still don't have? I know they did a programme on the tube, and am guessing there are heaps on steam trains, but regular commute trains up north? Is that another item to add to my to do list?

I'm learning to sit quietly on the bus, and not stressing over how long it's taking. It amazes me that a double decker does the route it takes as there are often some very tight squeezes and I'm grateful it's not daylight! It would be a journey of breathing in and not exhaling till you get off! Thankfully Percy is off any bus route, so is safe from that. Not safe from other vehicles though, I will choose a south facing house over a house with parking!

Never again do I wish to have a journey like that. Due to needing the car at work, I drove in. Fine, was early morning, busy, but traffic moving. Left at 4pm. Took over 90 minutes to do 28 miles. I was not amused, but I still made it I time for Aquafit no2! I had to drive again yesterday, and left at 6pm, to avoid traffic, and took a different route. Much better, but there was a sign on the edge of the motorway which read 'sign not in use'. What might I ask, is the point of that? I didn't learn it in my speed awareness course. I shall use my trusty friend google, and report back......

Bus 6 minutes late today which will mean an anxious me until I am safely on the connecting train I am aiming for. Just hope it's freshly scented, as my mood may not cope! Such fun!
Fri 30th Oct, 2015 | 8:55ammore...
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