Thursday, 16 June 2016

First two weeks of March 2016

On Monday 29th February (Leap Year!) I started my full week's Breathing Apparatus course at the Training Centre, which I had been dreading for ages. A few weeks ago, one of the Watches had said it would be hard - harder than Firecraft Week (which I had found very gruelling). It turned out that I found this week much better! I coped with the weight of the air cylinder and harness OK, and though going under air and doing an exercise in the Operational Training Building is hard work, it's only for 25 minutes or so at a time.
We spent quite a bit of time in lectures, servicing our Breathing Apparatus (BA), and cleaning up everything afterwards. I found it quite difficult remembering all the aspects of testing your kit, as it is quite technical, and there are a lot of stages.
Donna childminded Harry.

On Tuesday we piled into two fire engines and drove to Marshall's Airport near Cambridge. I sat in the passenger seat and had a nice chat with Watch Olivier who was driving, who has a kid in the same school as mine. The guys on the course showed me some video afterwards of him cage fighting - he is lethal!!
At Marshall's, they have some metal containers, and they'd set the end of one up as a room, with wooden walls and furniture etc. We then sat down the sides of the container in BA, and watched as a small fire was started and spread, so that eventually the entire end of the container was alight, with swirling flames in the gas layer above our heads. We used Thermal Imaging Cameras to see the temperature, which was over 650 degrees! They warned us that our clothes might actually start pyrolising (decomposing due to heat), but it didn't seem too bad!
After a packed lunch, they then set another container alight, and had us go in in two's with a hose, and practice door entry, fire fighting and gas cooling techniques. It was a pretty good day.

I had a pretty emotional day on Thursday - I'd had a really sore throat all night and was tired out, plus my period started. I made silly mistakes setting up in the morning, and felt close to tears, then every time a Watch asked if I was OK, I cried!! I think I cried in front of three different Watches!
We spent the day going into the Operational Training Building (which is a huge warren of burnt, sooty rooms, with mainly metal furniture), doing search and rescue exercises with zero visibility (they smoked out the building, and even set up a large fire on one occasion). We used heavy cloth dummies as casualties which we'd try and find, and drag out the building. Then we'd sit down in our two's with a Watch for our debrief. (One hilarious point was when Sam admitted to carefully dragging an armchair cushion out, thinking it was a dummy!)
I wasn't particularly good (I'd feel totally disorientated and not have a very good mind map), but I found the debriefs really useful.
In one exercise and debrief the Watch was really cheesed off with my partner - shouting and swearing at him. I hadn't done a great job, but the Watch was fed up with my partner's attitude. After the debrief the Watch kept me back and asked if I was OK (he'd heard about me being upset earlier), which set me off again! We had a good talk - I told him my doubts about myself, but he said he'd spoken with the other Watches, and they were happy with the level I was at. He said I was an intelligent woman and he could see me being a Watch Commander myself at some point! He cheered me up enormously, and best of all I felt like I had taken the weight off myself. He said I was too hard on myself and couldn't expect to get it all perfect right now.
Also on Thursday, my friend Scott, had to leave the course. He'd had a hearing on Tuesday about a bad reference he'd received, and on Thursday, other officers made the decision to let him go. All of us including the Watches were surprised and sad.
Also on Thursday, Jack went on a trip to the Corn Exchange Theatre in Cambridge, for a poetry day. He enjoyed being out with his friends for the day, but said the poetry was pretty rubbish!

On Friday we had four assessments. We had a written test first, which was easy enough (I got 38/40), then I was first to go and do my BA wear. It went far better than any of my other wears during the week, and I was happy!
I then did a BA set description with Watch Carbis, where I had to talk through all the details of the cylinder, back plate, harness, Digital Display Unit and face mask. (I'd done a lot of revision in the evenings that week!)
I then did another BA wear as Matt Seymour's number 2, and didn't do a very good job for him, so felt bad. I asked a Watch if it would mess up his assessment result, and he said no, so I was a bit happier then.
I then had my Entry Control Officer test with Watch Carbis, which was straight forward enough. Afterwards he stayed talking with me for quite a while, about 'when' I'm a Fire Fighter, and giving me advice. I felt the shift from 'if you're lucky enough to get on your station' which the Watches have always said, to 'when you're on your station', and I began to feel for the first time that I might actually be a Fire Fighter, and that getting through my assessments next weekend was a real possibility! I'd never really let myself think about it before - it was always too stressful to think of everything I needed to do in between!
So I passed everything (everyone did), and went home delighted, but feeling rubbish with a bad cold. I couldn't get to sleep till 4.30am the next morning with it. I stayed in bed most of Saturday and Sunday, missing church.

Sunday 6th was Mothers' Day. I had lovely flowers, chocolates and cards. The headboard of my bed was a lovely eclectic mixture of stuff!

My card from Lucy.

On Monday 7th, I was still a bit ill, and had Fire Fight training in the evening, which luckily was all classroom based.

In our Tesco delivery on Tuesday 8th, it was apparent that I had ordered 10 bags of apples by accident instead of 10 individual apples. We accepted the challenge with gusto, and got through them in a week. (I think Jack ate most of them!)

I took Lucy for her Retinopathy test after school on Wednesday, which was ultra quick, as she managed to have the photos taken without needing eye drops.

On Thursday 10th, I took Tom to Peterborough City Hospital for an assessment of his teeth in preparation for a brace. I didn't have the satnav, and had no idea where the hospital was, so printed out some instructions and made Tom the navigator. It felt like quite a little adventure, which all went fine. The Orthodontist said he'd like to leave Tom for another couple of years before doing any work, to see how his jaw will develop. I also asked if he could take off the metal band left on one of Tom's teeth, and get the glue remnants off, which was great as that saves us a separate appointment at the Orthodonist.

I had training again on Thursday night, and we were in the yard doing ladder drills, which we'd not done in ages. Nobody else really wanted to, so I went first leading both the drill for the 9m and 13.5m ladders. I managed to remember everything, and got them both spot on, which was a good confidence boost.
I didn't do much studying during the week really. I just tried to distract myself from thinking about the upcoming final assessment weekend.

On Friday 11th, Jo invited me for lunch, for potentially my last free day before being on-call. (I won't be able to visit the farm when I'm on-call because it's too far from the fire station, and Jo is busy on my only weekday not on-call).
In the afternoon, I did a photography job for a LEAF report that Richard needs to submit. It was a nice afternoon - gorgeous light, and the countryside looked beautiful. I took pictures as evidence of different positive environmental features around the farm. 

I love this lane leading to the farmhouse.

Picking up Harry from school on Friday (I still had my camera with me!) He had made a creepy mask.

Also on Friday I made some cakes for Max Coles from my course, as it was his birthday on the first day of the assessment weekend.
In the evening, I got on with studying.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Rest of February 2016

In the last week or so of February, I spent some time taking nail varnish pictures and starting up an Essie nail polish review blog! I thoroughly enjoyed it - I love playing with the cute glass bottles and comparing colours etc, and it was a welcome distraction from Breathing Apparatus Training, which I was stressed about.

I even bought little sample sticks and painted them - highly therapeutic!!

Lucy was around on Thursday 25th February, and I made us both a good breakfast, which I relished!

On Sunday 28th February, President Clayton was at church, and gave Scott and I blessings, setting us apart to our new callings. He called me in for a chat beforehand to see how I was doing, and I said how hard I was finding both the Fire Fighting course, and also the uncertainty I felt about finishing it.
My blessing was lovely, and addressed not only my new calling, but also blessed me generally with health and vitality, and success.

In the evening I drove the older kids to Northampton for a Stake Youth Fireside. I had been asked to speak at it, even though I was released, and I was glad of the opportunity to talk to the youth one last time. I shared my testimony, telling them in no uncertain terms the knowledge I have of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel.
I had the chance to thank Gill and Emma, and give them flowers I'd bought. Emma is the new Stake Young Women's President, and Gill was released from Young Womens.
It was President Hirst's birthday and all the youth gathered on the stage for a picture with him, then afterwards I had my picture with all the Young Women who were there. It was great to be with them, and I felt a lot of love!

Stitches Show, NEC Birmingham (20th - 22nd February 2016)

On Saturday 20th February, I picked up Donna Wright, and drove us to Birmingham to spend a couple of days at the Stitches Show - a big craft trade show. Our American friend Karen Burniston, who designed die cutters for Sizzix, and now Elizabeth Craft Designs, was coming to the show and when she emailed me about it, I decided that Donna and I should definitely go!
Karen was arriving later in the evening, so Donna and I entertained ourselves for the afternoon. After going to the wrong Ibis hotel first, then driving round Birmingham Airport one way system a couple of times, we finally managed to park the car and find the right hotel!
Chilling out in our hotel room for a bit.

The show was open to the trade only, so Donna and I had registered online as designers (which we were, with Karen's products) in order to have access to the show.
After a bit of time at our hotel, we walked across the road to the Airport and caught the monorail to the National Exhibition Centre. We still had a huge walk through the NEC to finally get to the place where the show would be held the next day. The place was pretty deserted, but we were able to use the codes we'd been given online, to print out our entry badges.

We came out of the NEC and spent a couple of hours in a big shopping centre nearby. Donna was just getting into nail varnish too, and was keen to buy some, but no joy. I bought a nice light blue shirt from Gap.
Messing around by the NEC sign afterwards.

We headed back to the hotel (making friends with two women who we bumped into a couple of times over the weekend - fondly known as 'the lift ladies'), and kept in contact with Karen who was travelling from London by train. She'd accidentally caught a slow train, but at last made it to her hotel, also on the Airport complex. Donna and I waited in the foyer for her and I was actually a bit nervous! We've been in contact via blog land and the internet for about three years now, and have got on well, but I'd messaged her saying what if we hated each other's guts in real life?! Happily we didn't, and we walked over to the Airport and had a meal while talking busily the whole time. Lovely to all be together in person! Karen insisted on buying everyone's meal.
We stayed in the restaurant till it closed, and walked Karen back to her hotel, then went back to ours.

The next morning we met in Karen's hotel again, and went to the NEC together. Karen had to go off then, and meet the people responsible for the stand she was part of. Donna and I had to wait a while before the show opened.

We met up with Karen again once inside, and chatted a while, but we didn't want to hog her, as there were quite a few people around. 
Here's Donna and I doing a 'Make'n'Take' with Richard Garay. He's another craft product designer, who I'd not heard of before, but some of the other women around the place thought he was quite a big deal, and were doing a bit of fan worship.

We also met up with Caz Counsell, another of Karen's Design Team Members (not that Donna and I are on the Design Team any longer). It was great to meet her in person too, after years of being in the same Facebook group etc!
I love this picture of the four us all together!

The same supplier who was representing Karen was also representing Tim Holtz, and I saw him milling around and asked Karen for an introduction. She knew him from their days both working as Designers for Sizzix. Tim is one of the biggest names in the industry. I was chuffed because he'd once featured one of my cards on his blog, as part of a 'blogworthy' post. It made the number of visitors to my craft blog absolutely sky-rocket!

Donna and I spent the rest of the day wandering around the show, picking up a few freebies, watching demonstrations and looking at the products. I had wanted to go to the giant CHA craft show in Anaheim, California, in January, but couldn't because of my Fire Fighting course. This show wasn't as good as that one, in that Stitches also included fabric and wool suppliers, but didn't include all the big papercraft companies, plus it wasn't the time of year when companies are revealing all their new products. It was still fun though, and nice to wander around with Caz for a bit too.
We also watched quite a while, while Karen demonstrated her products to people. It was fun seeing all her sample cards, which we were familiar with from the internet!
Donna and I grabbed lunch at the show, but later on Karen managed to get away from her stand, and came for a wander with us, and we had afternoon tea with her and Paula Pascual, another die designer, who I knew by reputation only. We all chatted like mad, and it was such great fun hanging out with craft celebrities!

In the evening, Karen was supposed to be going out for dinner with Tim Holtz and the other people represented by her UK suppliers, but she said she'd rather hang out with me and Donna, so we went back to her hotel and had a very nice meal in the restaurant there.
We went up to her room afterwards and just talked for ages. She'd also bought us gorgeous scarves. It was great hearing about all the behind-the-scenes goings on of the craft world! Karen also facetimed Els (who owns Elizabeth Craft Designs and who I know a little from the internet) and it was nice chatting with her too!

Back at the hotel, I spent some time on the internet. During church that day, I had been released as Stake Young Women's President, and Scott and I had been called as Stake YSA Couple. I received some lovely messages from people, and it was touching getting back and reading them.
A message from one of my Young Women:

''Thank you for being such an incredible young women's president!! Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into the young women's program. Thank you for all the love and light you share, at every camp, fireside or a simple pass by. You are my role model, such kindness you have, Christs light shines through you. Thank you for everything! I'm going to miss you!! x''

And from another friend:

The vote of thanks unanimous but of course unspoken, so for every young person's parents, whose children you have blessed, thank you both for your service and example. I feel sure you will bless many in your new calling too, so glad you can do that together. Helen, you may never save a life in a fire fighters suit but I think you could in this calling!

On Monday morning we met up with Karen again and went to the show together. Donna and I spent part of the time on the stand with Karen, and part of the time wandering round again.
Here's a picture of me and a lovely guy we met who owns a paper company. He was interested to hear about the blogging world, and said we could take as much paper and card as we wanted for free, and that he'd happily send us more free stock as long as we wanted, and in return we'd mention his company on our blogs.

At one point, I returned to Karen's stand, and Karen said something like, 'Oh here's Helen now', and a couple of women wanted to talk to me, because they knew my blog and were fans! It was pretty cool!
I enjoyed helping Karen out for a bit on her stand, and just chatting with people interested in her products.

Donna and I had registered too late to be able to attend Karen's formal classes in another section of the building, but she got us making some of her card kits up, to time roughly how long they'd take. It was so much fun to actually be crafting with Karen - and even seeing things like her famous glue bottle from her craft videos!
(Donna and I have our fabulous chunky rings on in this picture, which we made at the WOW! stand with a couple of hilarious people!)

Saying good bye to Paula, before we realised just how little time we'd allowed to get back to the hotel, check out and get our car out the car park before the cost went up astronomically!
We said a hurried good bye to Karen and then had to run the 2 miles back through the NEC and Airport to our hotel! Afterwards Donna said she might need to work on her fitness! We made it to the car just in the nick of time, and then drove back home. We were both pretty worn out, and had a quiet journey. 
I had Breathing Apparatus training at the Training Centre that evening!

My Facebook post from that afternoon.