Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bonding in a Crisis - The Gallery

This photo makes me laugh out loud everytime I look at it. Bonding during a Friday night trapped in your office.

We form so many great bonds, my dogs, childhood friends, distant cousins. But the ones I’ve formed in work are some of the strongest because often they’ve been borne out of adversity. 

It's the connection you form by being part of the same crisis.
What a crisis brings to a team is a strong bond. A deeper understanding of how your colleagues behave in the midst of an emergency and the strength you all take from coming out of the other side. Battered, bruised - but smiling, stronger and much better equipped for the future.

And with memories and photographs that will make you smile (and wince!) for years to come.

there she is again...!
 The 2007 floods tested me and my colleagues to the limit. The challenges were everywhere. Continuing to deliver a service as demand increased, but without computers or an office. Keeping a staff rota running 24 hours at locations across the county when people couldn’t travel. Keeping morale up when staff were spending their spare time queuing for water.

Empathy is a big part of crisis communications, if you understand what people are going through you do a much better job, and we did.
As a result I feel a strong and lasting bond with the staff, organisations and reporters I worked with during that emergency. It improved the way we worked together and turned us into a slick, well-oiled machine the next time a crisis occurred.

Because from that experience we knew who we could trust. We saw the best and worst of people and shared something that would never be repeated.
So I now have a bond with a small group of random people that will stay with me for the rest of my life (mainly built around smelly socks, long nights without sleep and improvised beds) even though many of us don't work together anymore.
 It was an unreal time, working with amazing people and it’s something I never want to forget.
This post was inspired by The Gallery on the Sticky Fingers Blog. Click on the icon to read more blogs.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Scariest day of my life - rafting in Uganda

Have you seen the latest comic relief challenge? A group of celebs are canoeing/rafting down the Zambezi River in Africa.
When I heard what they were doing, a cold shiver ran down my spine. I’ve been down an African river in a boat and it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
We went white water rafting on the White Nile. Not the nice flat wide Egypt part, the bumpy rock filled Ugandan bit with Grade 3-6 rapids.  My OH had booked it but was ill so his sister and I went ahead alone.
Picture: Nile River Explorers
We had two major problems - our raft was for 8 people and there were only 4 of us (plus our guide). So we were travelling light. And the other two people were young, strong, male white-knuckle junkies from Canada. In the armed forces. SHIT.
We practised a boat flip and finding air pockets to breathe in under the boat (gasp). We were warned about whirlpools – if you get dragged under into a whirlpool (HELLO!), count calmly to 20 in your head and it will spit you out. It will then drag you under again, repeat, and you’ll survive. We were assured it wouldn’t drag us under 3 times. Phew.
Anyway – we paddled all day, covering 10 rapids mostly named after people who’d died on them (like the Dead Dutchman), in the scorching heat. We did loads of stuff my head told me not to. Like paddling as fast as possible towards a huge rocky waterfall drop and remaining calm as the water dragged you under and over boulders the size of cars. And then repeating that activity, just for fun.
Despite some close shaves and some very scary balancing acts, we only flipped the boat once. But it was a big one and I thought I was dead.
We approached at speed and almost as soon as we hit the rapid the boat flipped. It flew a few feet in the air and sent us all off in different directions, the boys managed to clear the rapids (they were lighter!) but we both managed to land right in the middle of the raging torrent.
As I was being dragged down the falls I came up for air to see my sister-in-law’s face barely above the water gasping for breath, the look of fear on her face was sickening, before she dissapeared again. Then I went back under. The water was moving too fast for me to safely hide under the boat and there weren't any calm areas to swim to. It was just a matter of riding the rapids, avoiding injury and trying not to panic. We both finally managed to find the boat cord and got dragged back in. I couldn’t believe I was alive. Neither could she.
It was 30 seconds of madness and the rest of the day passed in a bit of a daze, stuck between panic, fear and intense elation after you'd completed a run. And thoughts of 'what the HELL am I doing?' as you headed to the next one.
But I’ve never had fun like it. We weren't ever at risk, it just felt that way. The kayakers supporting us remained calm and made sure we were safe at all times. And it's a shared experience that me and my sister-in-law will have forever.

But that first beer I had at the end of the day - that was the best beer of my life.
We didn't take any pictures but you can get an idea of it here
Follow the Hell & High Water challenge here

Monday, 28 January 2013

Darcy, Austen and Me

“If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged.”

That line gets me every time.

It’s 200 years to the day since Pride & Prejudice was published (is that all?) and it’s still being discovered for the first time by readers all over the world. I still regularly flick through the well-thumbed pages of my copy, or listen to the audio book to lull me to sleep. As familiar and reassuring to me as an old dog.

Looks just like my husband! ?!
I’m not ashamed to admit that I spent my teenage years devouring Jackie Collins novels on a beach, rather than Austen novels in a window seat. I mainly obsessed about Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Rob Lowe in St Elmo's Fire and Kiefer Sutherland in Lost Boys. Then I saw Laurence Olivier play Darcy in the 1940s film version and I was hooked. That was it, Darcy was the man for me.

There's just something about aloof, moody, melancholy men, isn’t there?  I'd assumed I've always been drawn to them, but on reflection (writing this post) I'm beginning to wonder how much reading Pride & Prejudice during my hormone-charged teenage years shaped my taste in men forever.

So over the last 20 years I’ve read and re-read P&P and Austen’s other novels, I even went through a phase of writing letters in an Austen-styley, thankfully that's over.

And then I went and married my very own Darcy - dark, brooding, mysterious - at least that’s how I see him (and he’s not keen on me saying that!). He’s a watered down version, with all the bits I like and none of the bits I don’t.

Anyway, I could never have married a Bingley; there isn’t enough room for two smiley, silly people in this relationship.

Happy Anniversary P&P. Sigh. *dreams of Colin Firth*

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Book giveaway - one night only (for now)

I'm giving some books away, free. This is because I'm not a hoarder, when I've finished with books I pass most of them on.
I don’t have the space for thousands of books and I’m not a big fan of dusting. I keep only the books that really mean something to me, or can be used as reference in the future.
What makes me happiest is forcing the books I’ve enjoyed, on other people. :)
I’m getting bored of my usual routes (I can’t even leave them on the bus anymore as I no longer commute). So I thought I’d give some away to my blog readers – that’s if I’ve got any left, it’s been a while…..
Anyway, the four previously loved books I’m giving away have been lurking, hidden on a book shelf for quite some time. They are:
1. Audrey Niffenegger – Her Fearful Symmetry
(Atmospheric story of silly American twins, ghosts and the beautiful Highgate Cemetery)
2. Peter Carey – Parrot & Olivier in America
(Eccentric adventures in the new world, lots of humour and a bit of history)
3. Andrea Levy – The Long Song
(Slavery and freedom in Jamaica. Great central characters as always and lovely sing-song language)
4. Ian McKewan – Enduring Love
(This book haunted me in my 20s and started my obsession with McEwan. All based around a balloon accident)
To get hold of one of these books, leave a comment below, including the name of the book you want.  I’ll post to UK ONLY and I’ll get my children to randomly select the recipients.  
The giveaway closes tomorrow night (Thursday) at midnight. Any comments posted after that time won’t count.
If you love books, pass them on.