Monday, 28 March 2016

November 2015

We went (reluntantly as usual, in my case) to the Ward Trunk or Treat on Saturday 31st October. Tom bought his school friend Henry. I managed to find the ghosts I'd made last year to decorate the boot with, plus had the leaf garlands and painted pumpkins which I made for the Multi-Stake Youth dance after Sister Oscarson's visit. I can't get excited about Halloween, but I enjoyed the evening, and ended up being a judge of the chili competition with Scott (Ethan Collings won), and just chatting with loads of people all evening.

November 4th was a big date on my calendar... my assessment day for the Fire Service! I spent a couple of days beforehand intensively studying the Fire Service website, and learning more about the structure of the service and their policies, plus going through the Personal Qualities and Attributes which they look for, and running through interview answers based on them. I just had to hope I'd done enough at the gym to be strong enough for the physical assessments.

I had to be at the Training Centre for 8.50am. I went dressed in smart clothes, with gym stuff in my bag. I arrived in the rain at the same time as another candidate (Matt, who ended up being in the same group of three as me for the physical assessments, later on.) We were shown to a cafeteria area, and sat and chatted while other candidates gradually arrived. Matt was ever so nervous about the interview, but I wasn't too bad.

All of the morning candidates were taken into a room for an introduction to the day (there were about 12 of us) I was interviewed by two officers, and it took about an hour. I managed to come up with something for all the questions, but I had a bit of a slow start - my mind went blank when they said 'tell us what you know about the Fire Service'. Luckily it all came out later in the interview!
I think I came over as being pretty organised and methodical, and as I was walking over to another building with one of my interviewers, he said that that is often seem as a bit of a negative in the Fire Service, but that I reminded him of himself a bit, and he didn't see it as a negative! (I found out later that he would be my Station Commander.)

I then got changed with the other girl - Helena, and she, Matt and I were put into a group for our physical assessments. We had to put PPE on (Personal Protective Equipment - ie. fire gear, including helmet.) Two assessors took us round (they turned out to be Watch Carbis and Watch Fawcett who were our main trainers on the training course!) They said at the beginning that they had to read from a script, and couldn't say much more than that to us. It was a bit disconcerting going round doing everything, and not having the faintest idea how you were doing - if you had passed or failed each thing. The assessments were as follows:

Dummy Drag: We had to drag a dummy round a course in the training yard, under a certain time, though we weren't told how long we'd taken. It felt easy enough.
Ladder Climb: We had to put a climbing harness on, climb up a ladder leaning against the training tower, do a leg lock, then lean backwards with both arms out, and read a letter from a piece of paper on the ground behind us. That was fine too.
Tunnel Crawl: We had to put on a facemask (not connected to air), and crawl up a ramp, through a flap, and crawl though a network of cage-like tunnels. We had to go through the tunnels once, with a door to the building kept open so that we had some light, then come back, come out the building and do it again in the pitch black. I think we had about 5 minutes to do it in. Unfortunately, because of the rain, my facemask steamed up, and so even on the first go I couldn't see anything. The tunnel changed levels and directions lots of times, so you just had to feel around all the time in case there was an opening above you or to one side. About a quarter of the way through the my first run, I was totally tired out, and felt like I couldn't get enough air. I really had to talk to myself and ask if I wanted this or not...and to just get my head down and keep going. At the end, it was all I could do not to rip my facemask off to get some air! It was HARD!! I had gone first out of the three of us, and was really glad to have it out the way. When Helena came out after her first run, she was hyperventilating, and wanted to take her mask off, but the assessor said if she took it off, she would have failed. She calmed for for a few seconds, then carried on.
Manual Dexterity Test: We then went into a room where about 20 parts of some kind of pump were all laid out on a table. An assessor ran through assembling all the parts, then dismantling them again. There were some pictures on the wall to help too. We then had to have a go (wearing gloves) and do it in a set time (not that we could see a clock or know how we were doing!) I managed to remember all the steps without wasting time looking at the photos, and I think I was pretty fast. Right near the end though, I had to unscrew something, and I couldn't get it undone - must have overtightened it earlier. The assessor had to step in and use a wrench to loosen it, then he let me finish. I was a bit worried that I might be failed for that, but wasn't told anything. While Matt was doing the test, I chatted with Helena and told her what had happened. After she'd had her go, she told me she had asked the assessor what would happen if she got something stuck, and he's said she wouldn't fail for that, so I was relieved!
Ladder Lift: This was something I had worried about because Helena had already failed on this at a previous assessment day, plus Lisa and a couple of other female Fire Fighters she told me about had failed this first time too. First we had to pull on a rope to extend a ladder, which was hard but manageable. Then we had to lift up a bar which was weighted down, to a certain level above our heads. I lifted as high as I could go, and simply had no strength to get higher, but I was about 2 inches off the mark. I stood on tip toes, and that gave me the height I needed! Helena had her go then, but couldn't reach it. Matt and I were taken away then, while she was given another go. I felt really bad for her, because she'd joined a gym and got a personal fitness instructor for the past three months to help her prepare specifically for this. When we saw her she said she'd failed again, and would be given a last chance to come back in three months and do all the assessments again. I felt so bad for her, but it also gave me hope that I had passed everything so far, because otherwise, they would probably have told me.
Equipment Run: Finally Matt and I had to run up and down a 25 metre course loads of times, carrying various pieces of equipment, or just alone. It was hard work!! Near to the end I was shattered, and again - we had no way of knowing how we were doing time-wise (it was being timed). The last piece of equipment to carry was a solid metal bar with weights attached at each end. I could barely pick it up, never mind run with it!! I had to kind of hold it below my waist and shuffle along with it as best as possible. Before I even got 10 metres, I thought there was no way I could complete it - I had to go 4 x 25 metres with it, and it was getting lower and lower. I said a prayer right there as I was going along, to ask for help, and somehow I just managed to keep going with it. What my face must have looked like, I don't know, but when I finished, Matt said 'Blimey - you made that look hard!!' IT WAS!!! Helena had a go at this, just to try it, but she gave up half way through.

Matt and I then sat in a waiting area, with others who were at various stages of the assessments, plus more people arrived for the afternoon assessments, including a lad called Jason, who I'd got friendly with at the written exams, and was really happy to see had made it this far too!
We then were given various items of clothing (working rig - smart uniform) to go and try on for size, so they could order it for us.
After a while one of the office girls came out, and just said to Matt and I well done - we had passed! She thought it most likely we would get onto the next training course in January. We were both totally delighted, but kept a lid on it, because Helena was still with us, as she'd had to try on all the uniform too, for if she got through next time.
We were free to go then, so I walked back to the car park with Helena, then got home by about 3pm.

I went to school to collect Harry, and it turned out they had been trying to contact me during the afternoon because Harry was ill. I didn't really get the chance to tell anyone I'd passed (though I did on Facebook!) - just got Harry home. We had a family dentist appointment at 4.45pm, which Harry and I missed.

On Thursday 5th November, I went to Northampton for a Youth Committee Meeting, and Lucy came too.
After the meeting, Lucy wasn't back yet (she and Ben had gone off for a YSA Bonfire party), and I sat chatting with Emma Corre about a couple of concerns of hers. Lucy and Ben turned up, and then I got talking to President Hirst who'd come out of a meeting too. We talked about a couple of specific challenges I might face in the Fire Service, and also about my concern of being seen as not being an advocate for stay-at-home Motherhood any more. We ended up chatting in the car park for ages, while Lucy and Ben did too, and I went home feeling cheered.

In the evening of Saturday 7th November, I took Lucy and Tom to Northampton for our Stake 'Night of Music'. Each Ward had been assigned a decade, and had to represent that decade through music. It was a good evening! It's lovely knowing so many people in the Stake now, and cheering for them all!
Our Ward had the 1950's and Lucy, Tom and loads of the youth took part. (You can see Tom on the far right hand side below.) It was great fun! Meg and Dave were also there!

Andy Collings, Brian Russell, Robert Watson (with wig!), Eric Davis and Shane did a rather out of tune version of 'Blue Moon'. It was so bad it was great! (To be fair - their voices were good, it just got out of tune!)

On Sunday 8th, Mum and Dad came to ours for church, then came back for dinner (slow cooker pork). They finished their three years of Dad being 2nd Counselor on the Preston Temple Presidency at the end of October.
Dad was in good form, telling the kids his 'joke' where a tea towel gets made into a chicken along the way! Harry was very impressed and made endless chickens out of tea towels/blankets for days after.

Tom being less impressed with the chicken!

Exuberant Dad!

And Harry!

Some of Mum's photos: Eileen Connolly, Mum and Aileen Murray.

John Connolly, President Doug Murray and Dad.

On Saturday 14th November, the youth committee I'm part of organised a day's Youth Convention at Northampton Chapel. In the morning there were various workshops on the theme of 'Self Reliance' run by couples in the Stake. The kids all seemed to really enjoy them.
Here is some of Lucy's group making fortifications as described in the Book of Mormon, in the Thiess's class.

And Jack's group.

I spent most the morning getting stuff for the afternoon organised, though I made it into one of the classes with an ex policeman who worked in armed response. He and his wife were very entertaining, and I had a good chat with him afterwards. He was delighted to hear I had got onto the Fire Service training course, and was incredibly supportive of it.
Marcia Smith from Kettering had kindly taken on all the food for the day, and did nice packed lunches for everyone, then Richard Malachowski and I took half of everyone for some team games, while the other half made videos, then we switched the groups.
One of our games was making and racing newspaper human hamster wheels! (Lucy is at the back in the wheel!)

We also had a paper aeroplane competition, a game of 'ants', a kind of balloon volleyball, and a short basketball tournament. Lucy had been fed up at the thought of having to play games, but Richard and I tried to make everything fun and easy to get involved in... it worked - Lucy cheerfully joined in everything, even the basketball!

We finished off with a short meeting in the chapel, a meal (chili), then we started the dance. We had opened this up to other Stakes, though it did clash with another dance. We were a bit worried though because we purposely hadn't told anyone it was a barn dance with a live band, and weren't sure what the reaction would be! Sure enough some of the visitors from other Stakes weren't very impressed (though some absolutely loved it!), but I was so proud of our Northampton youth because I think virtually all of them joined in!
Emma Corre had arranged for some hay bales to be on the stage, and I had made red gingham neckerchiefs for everyone, and before long, everyone was getting into the swing of things. The caller was very good too at getting people involved.
It was pretty exhausting dancing!! A lot of the youth danced the whole night as well! I'm sure there were a few people who didn't like it as much as a normal disco, but I had so much positive feedback from lots of the youth saying they loved it, that I was happy we'd done it! All in all, a really good day, well worth all the planning!

On 17th November, I had another Hepatitis B immunisation (for the Fire Service), and the next day, Lucy had her Flu jab. She took a 'matching plasters selfie'!

In the evening of the 18th, I went to Northampton to watch the Europe Area Council Devotional Broadcast - for all Ward and Stake Council Members. (They had shown it at individual wards the evening before, which Scott had been to.) I thought it was brilliant, and really felt the spirit.

Harry's school friend, Callum, came for tea on 19th, and I made pizza dough for everyone to decorate their own pizzas. Later that evening we found a nice little message from Lucy!

That evening, the kids found out that Scott had eaten one of his advent calendar chocolates, so confiscated his calendar. Not quite sure how Jack reached up there!

Also on the 19th, I got conformation that I'd got onto the January On-Call training course. I loved the 'Welcome to the Service!' bit!

On Friday 20th, Scott and I picked up Richard and Jo Blackhurst, and went to The King of the Belgians for a meal. Seated at the next table were the Davises and Linnea Ericson from church!
The food was good, and we had a great time.

On Saturday 21st, the boys all went to Ethan Cryer's birthday party - playing football at the Leisure Centre. It was horrible weather though, and Scott bought Harry home early because he felt really ill. He got worse after that and was ill all the following week, with a bad cough. I stayed off church with Harry on 22nd, not feeling brilliant myself either.

Harry off school on Monday 23rd...making a catapult from an idea I'd saved on Pinterest.

On Tuesday 24th, I took Tom to the orthodontist in Peterborough. We didn't have the satnav or address, so we had to go by memory, which for me was pretty impressive! Got there fine, but had to drive around a bit to find parking, and only ended up being in the orthodontist for a few minutes. They want to check something out with the hospital before giving him braces, so the next appointment will be there.

On Wednesday 25th, I got a load of paperwork through from the Fire Service. I was invited to attend the 10 week training course starting on 4th January, and received a Conditional Offer of Appointment to the service (conditional upon passing the training course), but I will be a paid employee, as of 4th January. There were a load of forms to fill in, and pension stuff too.

That evening Harry wanted to make caramel shards. We Googled a recipe, and they turned out pretty well!

A rare selfie, that I sent to Scott for some reason on 26th November!

We had had to cancel the Butikofers coming over for dinner the week before, but they were able to come over on Sunday 29th. Lucy and I went to Kettering Ward first.
The Butikofers are in our Ward for a second time with the military, but are leaving after being here only a few months because Jessie's Dad back in America is very ill. This was the first and last chance we had to have them over - they left a couple of days later.

The Butikofer and Cryer families! Very sad to see them go - we have a lot of fun together!

On Monday 30th November, the older kids had the day off school. Lucy said the grass to her cabin was getting muddy, so we went to the local builder's yard, and I ordered some paving slabs. I got talking to the guy there (and must have come across as a complete wally - my purse had fallen out in the car, and I was acting like a right thicky - something to do with trying to buy jump leads - I'd run the battery flat on the Chrysler), anyway, it turned out he was a Fireman on RAF Molesworth, and he looked rather incredulous when I said I was going to be doing the fire training course!
He dropped the slabs off a bit later and we talked some more. He said the training course is hard, and basically was I prepared for the job? I said I wouldn't know till I tried, but that some people in our community must be capable of it, so I didn't see why not me. It did leave me feeling a bit worried though.
Anyway, I laid out the slabs to Lucy's cabin, which will do for now - we can sink them properly later.

That evening for Family Home Evening, everyone (except me) wanted to do the Christmas Decorations. I had never felt less Christmassy, so let them get on with it!

Scott untangling fairy lights...

At one point, when tree was decorated with a pair of socks, a candy cane and an Ocean's 11 DVD (don't ask me why...) they all decided they needed more Christmas lights and deserted me to go to Tesco for some!!

The boys took great delight in sticking crackers all over the tree, much to my disgust!

Even worse was Scott's attempt at putting lights on the front of the house. He said there was no point trying to make them neat, because I'd only re-arrange them afterwards. He had a point, but there was no need for him to actually turn the lights ON looking like THIS!!

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