Thursday, 23 February 2012

Writing Workshop: A Bit Fishy

The small, blurry picture is like a window back in time. A 2 inch square window back to my youth. 

Back to a time of innocence.

The picture shows part of a garden. At the bottom left of the picture is a patch of well kept lawn. To the right of it are the paving stones that mark the small patio area. Across the middle of the picture is a small wall that marks the boundary between this garden and the next door neighbours. Right at the back of the picture is the garage belonging to the next door house.
Standing right at the front of the picture is an old man, my grandfather.
He's been out, its easy to tell. He's wearing a blue outdoor coat. His beige cap is at a jaunty angle, a cigarette hangs from his mouth.
He's just got back, and I have a strong feeling about this, from an afternoon out with me. My grandfather is stood there posing for a picture with a trout in each hand. He's been fly fishing and this is what he's caught. Dinner. Not for him, not for us but for his dog Judy. Nice fresh trout for her dinner.
I have a strong feeling that he's been out with me because I think the picture was taken after we'd returned from my one and only fishing trip with him.
My grandfather went fishing for as long as I remember. It was his hobby and something that he taught me a little bit about. He used to go fly fishing and he made his own flies on a home-made piece of equipment consisting of a wooden board with a long metal rod inserted into it. At the top of the rod was a small vice that the hooks were inserted into and held in place while the fly was tied.
Just like he taught me to play chess and even gave me my first magnetic chess set, he taught me how to tie flies. In fact I still have a book he gave me on how to ties flies. I've never tied flies or even gone fishing since then but I bet that I could still tie a simple fly even now 30 years later if I tried.
My grandfather taught me such wonderful skills, things that will stay with me all my life.
If he'd lived a bit longer than he did then I'm sure that he'd eventually have taught me how to drive. Now that would have been something.
As I think about those times from the vantage of 30 years and write about it I realise just how much my grandparents and even my parents taught me.
My grandmother was a strong woman. My grandfather was a strong but quiet man. Industrious.
My mother is the same as her mother. My father is very similar to my grandfather, quiet and strong.
By nature I'm a quiet, person but with a core of steel. As a friend describes me, I'm strong and sassy. I can put up with a lot but when I've had enough then beware. I'm fiercely protective of those I care for and will go out of my way to help them.
Perspective is an interesting thing. Sometimes we are so close to things that we can't see everything. Its only when we are able to step back and take a good, long hard look at things that we actually see things more clearly. Today I've done that and learnt something about myself, something that I hadn't appreciated properly, something that will affect how I see lots of things both now and in the future.

And the picture?

If my memory serves right then it was taken shortly after my grandfather had taken me fishing for the first and only time. We'd gone to the Neuadd Reservoir and spent the afternoon there. My grandfather had shown me how to attach a fly to the line and then helped me to cast it out onto the water. We'd been stood on the Reservoir wall, about 15 feet above the water.
My grandfather caught a trout, removed it from the hook and placed it in the big satchel he used to carry his catch. We'd continued fishing and eventually there was a bite on my line and he'd helped me reel in a second trout. With that one in the bag too we cast our lines out over the water again and settled down to see if we could catch any more.
His satchel was resting by my feet and from time to time it would jerk as the fish within it slowly suffocated and died. This was a bit disconcerting so every time it jerked and while he wasn't watching I gave the back a kick, doing my best to help the fish on their journey to that giant fish pond in the sky. 
We never did catch anything else that day and with the afternoon drawing to a close packed up and returned home.
My one and only fishing trip with him and something I'll always treasure, just like that photo.

This post was written for Josie's Writing Workshop. The task to take a picture and walk around it using words.

Life Circle 2012 – Pushing the Envelope

Life Circle

The latest task was to do something that took us out of our comfort zone.

To be honest I left my comfort zone behind some time ago, everything that I now do is pushing the envelope. Doing the weekly shop, eating in a restaurant, buying petrol and paying in the kiosk, all of the things I used to do I'm now doing for the very first time again.

There are very few things that I can do that will push me outside my comfort zone, especially ones that I could do within the time available for this task. In fact probably the only things that are left that I could do which would actually take me way out of my comfort zone involve heights.

I really don't like heights.

When I was a teenager I quite happily joined in with hurtling down zip wires, I'd quite happily do that now. However, the one time I ever tried abseiling I couldn't do it and actually climbed down a 6 foot wall rather than abseil down even that short a distance.

When I was at university I joined the rest of the sub aqua club throwing myself off a 30 foot quayside into the sea, admittedly while wearing a wetsuit and plummeting into 20 or so feet of water. I even clambered onto a foot for pillar and threw myself off there. I'd not be able to do that now though.

Despite the impression people might get of me I'm actually quite introverted. It takes a lot for me to do things that people might notice or even to be able to talk to people that I don't know.

Getting out in front of the audience at the Pink Kitten Christmas Cabaret took a lot of courage.

A few years ago I spent some time as a Street Pastor helping people who were out and about on a Saturday night, making sure people got home safely, listening to people if they felt the need to talk and offering help to those that needed it, whatever that might be. Talking to people that I didn't know was a big challenge for me.

So finding something that would stretch me was difficult.

In the end I have found something suitable but I'm not going to share that here as there are other people that need to know about it first. It is going to be a challenge and it certainly will stretch me. At the appropriate time I'll share it.

There is one other thing that would stretch me and that is to abseil down the side of a very tall building. Apparently there's a 200 foot one in Bristol that people are abseiling down in March in aid of charity. Now that really would be pushing the envelope but I'm going to have to work up to that one.

To read how other people got on pop along to Kate's blog.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

LifeCircle 2012: Managing your time - the aftermath

Life Circle

This weeks task for Kate's Life Circle was to try managing my time using a To Do list.
I've used these in the past with mixed results. Microsoft Outlook has a Task list which I've used at work to keep track of what I'm currently doing and what I have to do. For the most part I've managed to get through all of the tasks but some simply end up sitting there and I end up feeling guilty that I've not done them. Eventually the tasks become so out of date that I simply delete them.

With this task I went as simple as possible and put together a list of things that I had to do in an OpenOffice document. Each task being tagged with Importance and Urgency. I then focused on those that were highest priority, which were work related.

It was useful, although as I'd done the list at home I didn't actually have it with me so that wasn't the most brilliant idea. However, thanks to Kate I then discovered Tooledo which I can access on my laptop at home, via my PC at work or on my phone. A much better solution and something I like.

I've gone through my To Do list and transferred it to Tooledo, grouped everything according to whether its related to home, work, fitness, social or something else. Each items has then been prioritised as Low, Medium, High or Top. At a glance I can now see what needs to be done in the short term and what I can put off until much later. Having a list of things I need to do has been really useful because I've already gone and completed some really easy tasks which gives me a bit more of an incentive.

I used a similar idea with mytransition plan and it worked quite well.

I'm not sure that the discipline of just writing a list was enough. I'm always writing lists of things that I need to do. What I needed was the motivation to complete items on the list. I got that from the fact that with the work activities the incentive was already there. Having to write this post about how I got on gave me the incentive to complete some of the home activities.

I've not got a huge amount done this week but what I have managed is either very urgent and very important or not as important but something that can be done quickly while doing something else. For instance I've been meaning to pop into a local beauty salon to find out about their laser hair removal so I did this today while on my way to a speech therapy session.

The most useful thing about having a To Do list is that it means I have to think about what really matters to me since I have to give things a priority and so have to actually have to think about things enough to realize if they are important enough for me to want to do or not.

Transition Plan

When I set my date of the 9th January to begin my Real Life Experience I started looking around for as many lists of things that I could find to guide me as to what I needed to do and who I needed to contact. I picked up a few examples online and through people on UK Angels.

In the end I pulled all of these together to produce my own transition plan of the things I needed to do. My Transition To Do List. As Kate has set us the task of using the Importance/Urgency technique to try and manage our time better this week I thought I'd share my plan.

Inform GP                     
Assessment with Psychiatrist and referral to GIC
GIC appointment at The Laurels
Inform friends and relatives
Inform work
Inform church
Change name by Deed Poll
Laser hair removal
Begin Real Life Experience
Voice therapy
Photos for driving license, passport etc.
Apply for new driving license
Apply for new passport
Inform people and companies of name change:
  • Land registry
  • Gas and electricity
  • Water
  • Mobile Phone
  • Television License
  • Car insurance
  • Car registration
  • HMRC
  • Bank
  • Stakeholder pension
  • Dentist
  • Doctor
  • Hospital
  • Optician
  • Council Tax
  • Electoral Roll
  • Tax Credits

Update membership records:
  • Tesco Clubcard
  • Boots
  • Library
  • Gym
  • Blood Donation Service
  • Health Insurance
  • Triathlon Club
  • British Triathlon
  • Bone Marrow Register
This is not the full list but as you can see there are a lot of people that need to be informed of a change of status like this. Some things are fairly easy to change, others simply require you to send a copy of your Deed Poll.

The ones that was simplest and provided the least trouble was informing Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue. All that took was to complete an online form and let them have a copy of my Deed Poll. 
The one that has proved to be the source of the biggest embarrassment to me is changing my name on my hospital and doctors records. I've now found out that this has to be done via the NHS Central Register as I have to be issued with a new NHS number. I'm sure that there is a good reason for this but I don't know what it is. 

My full transition list split some of these, such as informing family and friends down into individuals or couples. On top of that I added comments for each activity and an indication of whether it had been done, was being done or had been completed.

Its certainly been one To Do List that I'm glad that I put together.

Now I just need to work out another To Do List of things that I need to do during my transition and work through that. Now lets see:

Pick up some bits and pieces at Asda
Do weekly shop at Tesco
Fill car with petrol and pay at kiosk
Go out for coffee with friends
Go out for a meal
Do everyday things.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Life Circle 2012 - Progress Report

Life Circle

This weeks task was to look at the tasks that we set ourselves to work on over the last couple of weeks.
Life, or rather work, has certainly got in the way of me achieving all of the goals I'd set myself. Even so I managed to make some headway with them.
Developing C# Programming ability
No progress on this. However, as far jobs and career goes I was told about a recruitment event being run locally by a company from Dorset. Its a similar line to what I already do so I filled in an application with my CV and got invited along to the recruitment event. It was my first interview as Jenna. I got to the hotel that it was being held at, put on my jacket, picked up my bag and a folder with my CV and went in. The receptionist directed me to where I had to go and a nice young lady looked over the details she had for me and we chatted briefly before she found someone for me to sit down and go over my CV with. We chatted for about 15 minutes and he said he'd be passing my CV on to their software manager as software wasn't his area but he was the best person to interview people about software that was there.

Get fit
At the moment I'm working late shifts, starting any time from 11am to 1:30 and finishing at 10pm. Things are busy at work. The advantage to this though is that I've got more time in the morning and so have been able to get to the gym first thing on several occasions and still have enough time to get myself ready for work. Its been hard work but I realised that I needed to do it when I found doing some leg work at burlesque class really caused my thighs to hurt.
I've also managed to get a couple of runs in which has helped with a challenge that I've been taking part in on a running forum that I'm a member of.
Running or cycling over the weekend was difficult as I needed to sort out the garden and bedroom on Saturday and also had to go into work on Sunday, I'll be so glad when we reach the middle of February as work will be back to normal, although I've got to get it agreed with my management that I'll come in a bit late on a Tuesday and Thursday and work on, so that I have time to get to the gym in the morning for an hour.

Decorate small bedroom
Sadly I've not made any progress on this. I did manage to take two of the big boxes that needs sorting downstairs so that the rest of the family can go through them. There's nothing really in them that I want to keep, other than a few videos that I want to copy to DVD.

Tidy garage and garden
I spent Saturday afternoon moving all of the rubbish that was stacked in the garden into a pile and sorting it into so that it can be taken to the dump. The 18 bags of rubble that were stacked in the garage have been moved to an out of the way spot in the garden until they can be disposed of.

The stuff that has to go to the dump has been piled up for a while, taunting me. I eventually placed it in the back of the car and low and behold the entire lot will only take one trip to get rid of! OK, the entire boot and back seats are full but it is still one trip. I really should have done this ages ago.

There's still some garden waste to get rid of but that will be another quick trip, the garden will almost be tidy then, anything else that we have to get rid of can go out with the general household waste when our bin men come later in the week.

So hopefully by the end of next weekend we'll have a garden that just needs the grass mowing and weeding when the weather picks up again.

I think that the reason that I've not managed to make progress on some of these is because work has been so busy, I'm averaging between 9 and 10 hour days and also working a Sunday. By the time I get ready for work in the mornings I've not got any real time to do anything. When I get back from work its gone 10pm. By the time that half term is over things will be a lot easier, I hope, as I'll have more time on the weekends to do these little tasks.