Sunday, 27 July 2014

2 Years Ago, Up High In Paris

Blogland, I cannot believe how quickly time is passing at the moment. It feels like only days ago that I was booking our summer trip and it was months away; now, suddenly, we're a mere fortnight from boarding the Eurostar!
The Eiffel Tower twinkling at night
Our last trip to Paris was 2 years ago, almost exactly. We went for my birthday, and we're doing the same again this summer - only for longer. In 2012, we stayed for 3 nights and we spent one full day at Disney - so we didn't have a whole lot of time for exploring Paris. Most of the things we did involved going up things - and let me tell you, that's really not a bad way to see Paris!

On the day we arrived, once we'd checked in to our hotel we ventured across the city to visit the Montparnasse tower. This is the only skyscraper in Paris, and offers 360 degree views across the city. We went late in the afternoon, and enjoyed lazing in the last of the afternoon sunshine on the roof top before watching the sun set and enjoying the amazing views of the Eiffel Tower.
Tour Montparnasse, Paris
Somehow, one ascent didn't feel to be quite enough for one day, so off we trotted for another. Actually, the truth is that one of Boy's friends arrived in Paris the same day we did with his lovely lady, and while we were atop Montparnasse we saw on Facebook that they were headed for the Arc de Triomphe so we thought we'd do the same and see if we ran into each other. We didn't, but we sure did enjoy the views of Paris at night from the top!
Arc de Triomphe, Paris
No trip to Paris is complete without going up the Eiffel Tower, so first thing on our third morning that's exactly what we did. When I'd tried to pre-book tickets online prior to our visit, I'd been unsuccessful (top tip - if you're planning on going to Paris and want to go up the Eiffel Tower, check for tickets really early because they sell out fast! For our upcoming visit I booked 3 months out and even then the choice of times was limited) so we decided that we'd just buy stairs tickets as soon as they opened. In one way this was a great idea - it's cheaper to climb the stairs, and there was no queue; what I didn't take into account was how terrifying it would be walking up stairs that you can see right through! It goes without saying that the terror was worth it - it feels incredible to view such an iconic city from an iconic landmark.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris
Because of our limited amount of free time, we didn't get to any of the world famous museums - but we have every intention of rectifying that next time! We've (or rather, I've <control freak>) got a nice long list of things to see and do, and I can't wait to get started in just two short weeks!

Have you been to Paris? Where do you get your favourite view? Or do you have a favourite viewing spot in any other city?

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Couriers Tell Lies!

Remember on Tuesday when I complained about a particular courier and the terrible "service" they were providing? Consider this round 2...!

I contacted them via Twitter to ask how to register a complaint - their website is extremely unhelpful and provides no details at all on how to contact them. One of their staff replied and we had a nice little conversation, he gave me an email address to give him full details of what had happened and so on, and then said he would rearrange delivery for today. Given that this was the best option available, I went with it. Sure, it meant I was giving up a second Saturday in a row - and an absolutely beautiful summery day at that - but I hoped they'd come reasonably early in the day.

It is now 7.20pm. Has my parcel been? Why no, of course not. I have sat inside all day, I've missed the sunshine, I've missed the air show, and I've missed out on spending time with my best friend and godchildren who are only in the north end of the country for a couple more days. We could still go and see them tomorrow, but it's 2 hours each way and would make for a very long day - which is exactly why we planned to go today and stay overnight.
There is no way of contacting the couriers; I tried to call them earlier but their phone line is basically a robot and I need to speak with an actual human being. Of course there's no option to do that. I am one very unhappy customer right now!

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

6 Things That Are Annoying Me (And 4 That Aren't)

Today, I’m finding myself feeling frustrated and irritated. Why can’t frustrating and irritating things form an orderly queue, and happen one at a time? Do they really need to all accumulate and strike at once?

What’s got me all bent out of shape, I hear you ask. Well…

1. Couriers
Yes, Yodel, I'm looking at you. Almost 2 weeks ago I placed an order online. One week ago, a courier attempted to deliver said order, but as we were out at work they left a card with instructions to book redelivery. I booked for them to come on Saturday. We stayed in all day Saturday, and it never showed. They brought it yesterday instead, when we were both at work. I logged on again, and it now says that they've attempted to deliver 3 times - including on Saturday! - so now I apparently have to make a 60 mile round trip to collect it. Which will cost £15 in petrol. Which is almost the same as the value of the frigging parcel! I am NOT happy. They absolutely, positively did not come on Saturday, they have not attempted to deliver 3 times, and you can bet your ass I'm going to complain about this.

2. Cyclists
There seems to be some kind of conspiracy among cyclists at the moment, to be everywhere I go. When we're in the car, they're all over the road - and I mean in the middle of the road, with a huge queue of traffic behind, sauntering along without a care in the world. When I'm walking, they're on the pathways, taking up all the space there and some even yell at me for being on a pathway!

3. People with excuses
I have a colleague who is constantly missing timescales at the moment. Her excuse? Her team is short staffed. What did she spend an hour doing this morning? Wandering up and down the office asking for people to contribute to a collection. Sorry petal, but that's not helping you get your work done any faster is it? The fact is, she's one of those people who'd rather do anything but her actual job, and then when things go wrong she's got all the excuses under the sun and it's never ever her fault.

4. The IT at work
I don't think this ever goes away or gets better. It's just a variable scale of badness. On Monday morning it took me 25 minutes to get logged on! Even then I had to do a restart because nothing would work. If there's anything that tests my patience on a daily basis, this is it.

5. Moths
What is with moths being everywhere at the moment?! Why must there be so many? What purpose do they serve??

6. Negativity towards bloggers
I happened upon a website last night, where it seems the sole purpose of it is to hate upon bloggers and their blogs. I had no idea that people could band together in this way! I don't mind admitting I don't get it. If you don't like someone or something, don't look at it. I was raised to believe that if you've got nothing nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all.

In the interests of balance and equilibrium, there are a number of things over the last couple of days that have made me really happy.

1. I finally got my hands on a Hufflepuff t-shirt!

2. My BFF is up north visiting her family, so we might be able to schedule a trip this weekend to meet up. I really hope so!

3. My American friend has invited us to a party next weekend. It seems like so long since we’ve seen her so it will be nice to catch up.

4. I realised on Sunday that we're only 3 weeks away from Paris - I can't believe it has come around so quickly - and I really need to start packing!

What's on your mind today? Good or bad, tell me about it!

Linking up today with Erica at So Much Sunshine

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Monday, 21 July 2014

The Reading Habits Tag

I managed to fit in some catching up on blog reading yesterday, and I was instantly drawn to this post by Cheriese. We all know I love books and reading, so how could I resist doing this myself?

1. Do you have a certain place for reading at home?
Not really, if I'm reading at home it's usually on the sofa or in bed.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Quite often I find myself using an old train ticket as a bookmark - usually I read on the train, and I have a ton of old tickets lurking so that's the easiest thing! I have collected 'proper' leather bookmarks since I was 5 years old, and although they're hard to come by now I own hundreds and hundreds of them - but they're kind of sacred to me and I'd hate to damage one by using it in a book. Am I crazy? Yes, yes I am.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or a certain number of pages?
I really hate when I have to stop mid-chapter, but unfortunately sometimes on the commute there's just no avoiding it.

4. Do you eat or drink when reading?
Sometimes on the train I'll have a coffee - but I'm always careful to avoid spillages!

5. Do you watch TV or listen to music whilst reading?
If I'm reading at home, the TV might be on if Boy's watching it while I read. I get so engrossed in my books though that I pay zero attention to it. On the train, I might put some music on if I'm surrounded by noisy people who make it hard to concentrate on reading.

6. One book at a time or several at once?
Usually I'm a one-at-a-time kinda girl, but at the moment I've got 3 on the go.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?
I don't read at home all that much, I usually do it on the train to and from work.

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?
In my head, duh! Who reads out loud? And how annoying would that be for other people?!

9. Do you ever read ahead or skip pages?
Who, me? No, I certainly never, ever, look to see how the book ends. Oh alright, sometimes I do - sometimes I just need to know whether the characters I love (Harry Potter, maybe...) make it to the end. Although at the moment I mostly read on my Kindle app on my phone so I don't have the temptation to do it quite so much.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it new?
I'm sorry, what? Breaking the spine?! Uh, no!

11. Do you write in your books?
No way, nothing must be done to damage my books in any way. Ever. And if you do something to one of my books just once, you will not be entrusted with them any more.

12. What are you currently reading?
Allegiant is still sitting there, waiting for me to pick it back up, and I'm also reading Julia Gets a Life by Lynne Barrett-Lee and I Am The Secret Footballer. If you want to keep up with what I'm reading, you can add me on Goodreads.

I tag all of you! Don't forget to let me know if you participate so I can come and read your answers!

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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sunday Social

It's Sunday, which can only mean one thing! 
Social Sunday

1. What is the most difficult thing you have been through?
Two things share this: the sudden loss of my dad, and infertility.

2. What was your best birthday?
Probably my 29th. We were in Paris for a few days, after having spent a day at the Harry Potter Studio Tour, and the actual day of my birthday was spent at Disneyland Paris. We had such a good time in Paris that we're going back for my birthday this summer!
3. What has been your favourite thing you’ve done in your own city?
I live out in the country, and one of my favourite things to do is walk through the woods and up into a clearing with a view over the village.


4. What is your idea of the perfect date night?
I'm all about the simple things, so some nice food and a movie is great for me. But I wouldn't be opposed to swapping the movie for a show, and if a beach happened to be on hand I'd be happy for a gentle stroll along there too.

5. Have you ever been to a blogging conference? If so which one(s)? If not do you want to?
No I haven't, and it's not something I've really thought about but I'd never say never!


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Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Blogmopolitan Quiz - Round 3

It's been a little while since the last one of these, but I'm so glad it's back! If you haven't already done so, head over to Erin's blog and get yourself in on the action!


If you missed them, you can read my previous answers to Round One and Round Two.


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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Literary Junkies July 2014

I'm a day late, but it's just shaping up to be that kind of week! Time for July's Literary Junkies!
Pink Heels Pink Truck

1. What are you reading? Tell us about it!

At the moment, I'm in the very unusual situation of having 3 books on the go - I haven't finished Allegiant yet, and I'm also reading Julia Gets a Life by Lynne Barrett-Lee and I Am The Secret Footballer.

Julia Gets a Life is about a woman whose husband sleeps with someone else, and as I'm not very far into it that's about all I know so far!
I Am The Secret Footballer is written by The Secret Footballer - a football player who remains anonymous but reveals secrets and truths that occur both on and off the pitch. It's a really interesting insight into the life of a top-flight player - but it is SO frustrating trying to figure out who it could be from clues he reveals in the book. There's even a website dedicated to trying to unmask him.

2. Do you find yourself reading more of a particular genre during the heat of summer?

As most of my reading is always done when I commute, the time of year makes very little difference. My train journey is only 15 minutes or so each way, so I tend to read things that are quite easy to pick up and put down - if something is hard to get into or written in such a way that's difficult to follow, I probably won't stick with it.

3. Who are your favorite book villains (either to love or to hate?)

Severus Snape. I have both loved and hated him, sometimes at the same time.

4. If you could choose one author’s writing powers to harness, who would you choose and why?

Definitely JK Rowling. That woman changed the world! She created a whole world that captured the imagination of basically the entire planet, regardless of age or gender.

5. Do you read one book at a time, or read multiple books at once?

Usually just one at a time, but as I mention I've got 3 on the go just now.

6. What are some of your favorite non-fiction books?

I don't read many non-fiction books. I do enjoy the occasional autobiography though, and I like books about the Tudors.

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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Easy Decisions

I’m not good at making decisions sometimes, but some are so easy that they pretty much make themselves. I’d just like to say, right now, that I love this kind of decision!

Creative writing prompt #26 says to write about one of the easiest decisions of my life. The difficult decision here is which easy decision to choose...

Do I go for:
- deciding to say yes when Boy proposed to me?
- deciding to move 2 hours north to live with Boy after 9 months of dating? (In a way this was a difficult decision due to leaving behind everything and everyone I'd ever known, but there was no question for me that it was what I wanted)
- agreeing to be godmother to my BFF's children?
- deciding to finally call it a day with my ex when I realised exactly how little I, and our relationship, meant to him? The rose tinted glasses well and truly came off when he decided to go to the gym rather than have a serious talk with me, so I told him, in no uncertain terms, where he could stick it.
- accepting an offer of a secondment at a time when I was extremely unhappy in my work role?

All of the above were some of the easiest decisions possible, but I'm actually going to write about that last one.

Towards the end of 2010, I was approached by an ex-colleague of mine who had been asked to put together a small team with the purpose of improving certain aspects of train planning and reducing delays. We had worked together doing exactly this previously, until the company had decided to centralise this and took all the work to our new National Centre. Since this had happened, the quality of the work had deteriorated so much that it had reached the Route Director's radar and he wanted it resolved. So he called on my mate SB to lead this project.

When SB first contacted me about it, I was torn. I was overjoyed at the offer to work with him, but my big concern was that travelling to York every day would cost a fortune. Boy was already doing it, and the cost of travel between home and York is outrageous - contrary to most people's assumption, just because we work in the rail industry does not mean we get free travel. We do not. It's not even discounted by much. So we certainly couldn't afford for both of us to be paying out for it. I was absolutely thrilled to be reassured that there would be no issue with this - I would be based in York at the company's request, and therefore my travel costs would be taken care of. Win!!

The day I was to speak to my line manager about the fact that I'd been approached was the day I had my performance review. At this particular time, I was feeling very undervalued and underappreciated - which was reinforced when my boss gave me a rating of "poor" despite the fact that he had no evidence to support this. I was doing the equivalent of 2.5 full time jobs, never missed a deadline, never messed up an order... And yet he still said I was "poor". So, at the end (which was his decision, he wanted to say his things before I got to say mine), I told him about the offer. He actually had the cheek to say that if he'd let me have my say first, it might have changed the comments he'd made. How on earth can anything I've got to say have any bearing on his rating of my performance, if he genuinely believes his appraisal to be true? The fact is, HR tell every line manager that they're allowed to dish out a certain percentage of "good", a certain percentage of "excellent", and they must include a certain percentage of "poor". Unfortunately for me, I was the easy scapegoat on our team because I'd had 3 months signed off sick with depression earlier that year.

After my performance review, there was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that accepting the secondment was something I wanted to do. I wanted to work in a team where I was respected, where my work was valued, where people had faith in me that I would deliver quality. I was sick of feeling like I was constantly on eggshells, like people were just waiting for me to slip up - even though I never did. I wanted to enjoy being at work, rather than endure it and go home every evening and cry.

Initially, I was offered a term of 6 months, but SB told me it was very likely to be extended if we proved ourselves - and there was no doubt we would because we'd all done this work in the past and we did it well. I ended up being part of that team for a total of 21 months, and in addition to it being an easy decision it was also an excellent one. I got my confidence back, because after working for 3 years with people who didn't respect me I'd completely lost that - but SB and the other guys knew I was the best person for the job and knew that I would always, always get things done right, on time, and to a high standard. Not to mention that we all actually got on and had a laugh and were genuinely friends. My time within that team saw some really difficult times - I lost my dad only 2 weeks after my move - and I had nothing but unwavering support from them.

As far as easy decisions go, this one was definitely right up there - and making the right decision honestly changed my life. SB is probably the greatest manager I've ever had, and even though this project came to an end more than 18 months ago and he has since left the company, we're still in touch and we're still friends. His attitude to work and people management made for a much more pleasant working day - and don't we all want to work in an enjoyable atmosphere, where we're appreciated and respected and trusted?

What easy decisions have you made in your life?

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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday Social

What do you do when your mobile phone throws a wobbler, tells you that you've got no storage, and makes you delete all your big apps? And then it isn't happy with that, and makes you delete a whole bunch of little apps too? I can answer that, having done it for the last week or so. You basically fall off the face of the earth! That's right folks, everything had to go - Bloglovin, Tweetcaster, Instagram, Gmail, Google Docs, Spotify... You get the idea. It's been a tough week without all my favourite things!

Anyway, let's get down to business and get on the Sunday Social train. Today's questions are all about the important people in my life.

Social Sunday

1. Tell us about the family you grew up in, parents, siblings, grandparents.
Growing up, there was just me, my mum and my dad. I do have a half-sister and a half-brother from my dad's first marriage, but they lived with their mum when I was a baby and they're enough older than me that by the time I was starting school they were both living with partners. I don't think I have any pictures of the three of us together, and to be honest I'm not sure if any exist at all. That makes me sad :( We'll never be able to get any now.

2. Tell us about your husband, fiancé, boyfriend, significant other.
My husband is known around these parts as Boy. We've been together for over 7 years, and married for just over 3. He was definitely a case of love appearing in my life when I least wanted it! But, after having had a couple of wrong 'uns followed by the guy who got burned by his ex so the timing was off, I realised pretty quickly that whatever was happening between us was special and would be long lasting. Heck, I moved a couple of hundred miles, away from all my family and friends and everything I'd ever known, to be with him after only 9 months!


3. Tell us about your children. If you don’t have children, talk about your fur children.
No children to talk about, those of you who have been here before will know that our first attempt at IVF failed. We have no fur children either, as we both commute to work and we're out from before 7am until around 6pm. We both desperately want a dog, but it just wouldn't be fair.

4. Tell us about your best friends. How long have you known them? How did you meet?
My BFF is Z, and we've been friends since we were just one year old. I literally can not remember my life without her in it! Next spring we will have known each other for 30 years, how terrifying is that?! We met when my family moved into the house next door to her family, and we were next door neighbours until her family moved when we were about 13/14. We've done everything together - my first time drunk was with her, I played a significant part in her meeting her husband, we've been bridesmaids for each other, and Boy and I are godparents to her absolutely gorgeous children. We may live at opposite ends of the country now (she moved south, I moved north) but we are always 100% there for each other.


5. Tell us about any other special people in your life.
Probably the most special people in my life not already mentioned would be my godchildren. Z and her husband make utterly beautiful babies!


Who are the special people in your life? Link up and tell the world about them!

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Thursday, 3 July 2014

You Probably Won't Find Me...

...wearing a replica shirt of Man City, Arsenal or Leeds Utd (although I have worn an Arsenal and a Leeds Utd shirt in the past, which makes me feel dirty. The things we do for young love!)

...watching TOWIE, Geordie Shore, Made in Chelsea, or any of those kinds of constructed reality shows.

...drinking a cup of tea.

...driving a car.

...drunk. I can't actually remember the last time I was drunk - and that's not because I was so drunk I've forgotten it! It's because it was so long ago :)

...wearing my hair down. You might, occasionally, but probably not.

...eating cucumber, mushrooms or tomatoes.

...watching a horror movie.

...scuba diving or snorkelling. Or swimming in open water.

...up close and personal with any kind of spider.

...enjoying being around smokers.

...bragging about my sporting prowess. Mainly because it doesn't exist.

...turning down the opportunity to eat chocolate. Although it has happened maybe a handful of times. It usually causes people to worry...

What things won't we find you doing?

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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Humpday Confessions

Vodka and Soda

It's Wednesday again (really, is that all?!) and you know what that means...!

Today, I confess...

...I haven't told my mum yet that we're not planning on being around for Christmas. I think she's going to be upset, and I don't want to upset her... I know I need to tell her, but it's just figuring out how...!

...I'm secretly relieved to have a couple of days off from having the World Cup all over my TV. We might even be able to watch some normal TV... I can hardly remember what that feels like!

...I'm a bit miffed that I had planned on dying my hair last night, only to find at the last second that the Borrowers have hidden my hair dying t-shirt. So alas, my hair is not a different colour today. Sigh.

...I am really struggling to find my motivation at work this week. I think maybe the Borrowers have taken that too.

Why not join in the fun and link up with your own confessions? Happy Humpday folks!
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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Month That Was June 2014

June was a pretty busy month, looking back. There's been a whole lotta fun going on – no complaints on that front!

At the beginning of the month, we decided that the time had come to get our own car. Boy had been driving his mother's car on a weekend as she doesn't use it, but it was getting to a stage where that plan just didn't suit us any more – so we now have our own! (I say it's ours even though I can't drive it… I am the official navigator and entertainment operator :) )

The day before the car was delivered, we had another exciting delivery – a Tassimo machine that was an exceptional bargain at 75% off RRP. We did already have a coffee machine, but because it's a barista-style one it's a bit faffy to use and as a result, doesn’t get used all that much. I love the Tassimo, and I've used it every day since it arrived.

The big event this month has obviously been the World Cup. I somehow managed to get myself the job of organising our office sweepstake – but I wasn't complaining as it meant I got to spend an afternoon cutting strips of paper, putting them in envelopes and sealing them rather than doing actual work. Our sweepstake was a blind one, which meant that people paid for an envelope, wrote their name on the envelope of their choice, but none of the envelopes were allowed to be opened until they'd all been sold. We liked doing it this way because it meant that people weren't put off participating after the big teams had gone. I got Italy, which seemed quite good at the start but they ended up not progressing past the group stage. Boooo!

Essential TV this month has been Nashville, Criminal Minds and Penny Dreadful. We haven't had a whole lot of time to watch TV, what with all the football going on, so that's a short list this month!

On the first weekend of June I met another blogger for the first time ever, which was exciting! We went to a concert, and enjoyed an evening of nostalgia over our first boyband love – and the fact that we went together saved both of our other halves having to accompany us, which is a total win-win for everyone! You can read about this on Nicola's blog, because I still haven't gotten my act together and written about it myself. Oops.

My only movie trip this month was also with Nicola, we went to see The Fault in Our Stars. And we both cried a little bit, as did everybody else in the cinema.

Before going to see the movie, I finally got around to reading The Fault in Our Stars. I also read Sierra by Taylor Dean and Peach Blossom Pavillion by Mingmei Yip in June. You can keep up with what I'm reading on Goodreads.

I took my mum to the theatre to see Wicked for her birthday, which was such an amazing show and I'd love to go see it again!

We've taken full advantage of having our own car this month and been on a couple of road trips. On the first weekend after we got it, we set out on a random drive with no pre-planned destination (which also happened to be one of the goals on my 101 in 1001 list) and ended up visiting High Force, and driving around Teesdale, Weardale, and even briefly ended up in Cumbria.
High Force waterfall, Middleton-in-Teesdale

We spent last weekend in Blackpool, which I wrote about yesterday so I won't repeat myself!

June was rounded off by having our follow up appointment at the fertility clinic to discuss our failed IVF cycle and discuss the next steps. We have 3 frozen embryos, and we could have started the frozen cycle immediately had we wanted to, but we decided to wait until after our summer break to Paris. This way, we get to enjoy our summer and not have to be thinking about the time, injections, pills, scan appointments and all the rest of it constantly. So now we can put it all out of our minds for the next 2 months and just enjoy living life!

How was June for you? Are you excited for July?

Linking up with Leigh Kramer

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