Planes, Trains and Automobiles – work travel

It’s been fifteen years. Fifteen years of intensive work travel.

When I started, I was presented with six A to Z’s. I covered the East of England. My Welsh mentality of all roads leading to the M25 was quickly disproven on a long journey from Luton to Cambridge.

From there I learned the geography of England, covering the country I became familiar with the service stations which had McDonald’s and a map of Tesco petrol stations. I was still at the age where McDonald’s didn’t hit the scales.

From days of racking up over 40,000 miles per year to now, life has changed immensely.Paddington station - Work travelI now drive as a last resort. My preference now is to travel by train. I’ve learned the art of packing an overnight bag. Luggage dependent on how many days I’m working way. Preferred clothes for lightweight packing. 

I’ve perfected the knack of getting through customs on flights to and from Scotland. Fuss-free clothes and shoes for a quick walk-through, not having to be asked to separate electronics and make-up.

Driving now is such a chore, of time wasted. I have timings as to what can be achieved on trains and planes down to a tee. Procrastinating doesn’t seem an option when you’re on fixed time.

I’ve learned to value the time I spend away, rather than begrudging the nights I don’t spend with my family. Remembering to take my camera with me from time to time. Getting to see great theatre.Tower Bridge - Work TravelThere are the journeys I would rather have not taken. The round trip to London for a meeting where the attendee didn’t show. A train destination not reached, left to find our own way from an outer London station, arriving ridiculously late for a workshop. Sat on runways because no-one is available to help us disembark, as the minutes eat away into a meeting I’m supposed to be attending.

Then there are the journeys which affect you, and it takes a little longer to regain your karma.

I’ve written on my Facebook page about my thought that I had developed a fear of flying.
It didn’t make sense, how could I have taken so many long and short-haul flights that now, taking flights to Scotland, I had found a fear of flying.

I rationalised. I’m a weak swimmer. All the airports I use (Cardiff, Edinburgh, London City) all seem close to a large expanse of water.

I found that if I sat in an aisle seat it was fine. If you can’t see it’s not actually happening.

But as I passed my phone to the gentleman sitting next to me on a recent flight to ask him to capture the beautiful pink sunset I realised I had to get to the crux of the problem.The view - work travelAll things said I can’t miss out on the beauty of the world because I don’t want to look out of a window.

As I pondered, I remembered, my worst flight, from where it had all escalated.

29th January 2016. The usual. Taxi pick up 0530, Flight departure 0630.  On take off we were told conditions in Edinburgh were “blustery”. Ten minutes before we were due to land we were informed “options were being assessed. We’re going to go down to investigate. We may divert.” I don’t think I’ve been on a flight where so many white paper bags were opened. Maybe I should just commend myself on using my birthing techniques to breathe through it.

These weather conditions were brought by Storm Gertrude.

And therein lies the problem of flying, the weather isn’t gradual, you can leave one location in perfect conditions and put your faith in someone that you’ll arrive safely at your destination in less than desirable weather.

But you know, that was January. I’ve probably done the journey ten times since then. And yes, there’s a niggle, but it’s not insurmountable. 

Because, if nothing else, when your flying, you have to enjoy the view.The world - Work travel

M by Montcalm Shoreditch Tech City

There are the things in your diary you really look forward to as they approach. Britmums Live was one of them for me, admittedly less so for the event itself and more so for some quality time with friends. Sara-Jayne and I decided to share a room, club our funds together and splash out on a room at M by Montcalm Shoreditch Tech City.M by Montcalm Shoreditch Tech CityM by Montcalm Shoreditch Tech CityI say ‘splash out’, but I doubt anyone can question that you get what you pay for at a Montcalm hotel. I was absolutely devastated to find out as I checked in that I had free access to a spa. I know I overlooked this when booking but I used to hate the idea of a spa, however having recently celebrated a special birthday for a best friend in a spa hotel, I am a convert.
I felt my afternoon was a little less full for not being able to take advantage of the facility.

I’ll also admit to feeling dressed in the wrong attire. Anyone who knows me well knows I am an ill-informed goth. On this particular Friday I chose to rock up in my coral sweatshirt with gold font ‘Winging It’ emblazoned across the front. To a hotel where guests and employees all received the memo about black attire- it feels that stylish.M by Montcalm Shoreditch Tech CityAs I inspected my room all qualms about not spending my afternoon in the spa were quashed, for I spotted the pièce de résistance of the room, the place to while away some time without interruption. M by Montcalm Shoreditch Tech CityAnd it was lush. I read. Answered emails. Wrote a blog post. Chatted on the phone. Perfect.

And then Sara-Jayne rocked up. And I had to come clean. Her dream of an evening away from the family relaxing in a bath was over.

We only had a shower. It was a great shower. But yes. That’s me- lover of a great shower, hater of the bath talking. It’s true, our room didn’t have a bath- and that’s a bit rubbish.M by Montcalm Shoreditch Tech CityThe good news is as well as the fandangled technology which is explored a little in the taster video at the end (but not half as much as I found out- the curtains close at the push of a button, you have numerous colours for your mood lighting, the room fragranced to your preference… the list really does go on), most importantly, the bed is fantastically comfy. M by Montcalm Shoreditch Tech CityYou do pay for the luxuries you get. And when I phoned the hubby I joked that all I ever need is a good shower and a comfy bed.

But I admit, every once in a while, we’re worth the luxury, I’m worth spending a little extra on.

The evening away with a friend catching up.
The morning spent taking the time with our appearance.
The day spent just being a person, without immediate responsibility.

Would I do spent this sort of money all over again?

Definitely.

Heacham Manor, Norfolk

I was looking forward to staying at Heacham Manor in Hunstanston. We have accommodation on-site at work so the chances of escape at slim. Many years ago I worked on-site Monday to Wednesday and the days you were told it was fully booked were cause for celebration – the bid for freedom. 

And so I thought the stars were aligned, there was no room at the inn, and Heacham Manor popped up on the booking system. It wasn’t somewhere I had stayed before, and the name implied it would be a good stay.

As it was I didn’t get to really enjoy it. This is the photo I took as I was leaving:Heacham ManorI had need to work until 5pm which meant the drive on South Wales would mean a late arrival. I contacted the hotel in advance to let them know. When I arrived, slightly ahead of time I was warmly greeted. After the long, non-stop drive I was of course at my most conversant:

Hotelier: “Please could I take your car registration number?”
Me: “Oh. I’m sorry. I don’t know it. I’ve taken my husband’s car. It’s silver.”
Hotelier: (Nodding understandingly) “That’s fine.” (Reads notes) “Oh, and you’ve arrived in good time.”
Me: “I know. I didn’t hit anything on the way here.”
Of course I was referring to traffic.

Obviously appreciating who they were dealing with, they kindly offered to show me to my room.

I guess this was the bit where I was caught off guard. Heacham Manor has a wide range of accommodation. I think (from talking to colleagues) all their deluxe rooms are within the main building, standard rooms (mine) are a short walk from the hotel itself, and they also have pet friendly accommodation as well as self-catering. I was really impressed with the diversity.

I wasn’t as impressed with my room- although it was perfectly fine and more than for the budget. It had a smell to it- again, nothing offensive, but I had come to think of it as the ‘Bircham’ smell (the next day colleagues nodded, for the first time the acknowledgement that that was what it was), I thought the ‘Bircham’ smell was solely restricted to our on-site accommodation, and it made me uneasy. I did appreciate, it’s the little things, that along with a good range of teas, that there were biscuits. I sense budget constraints have meant a lot of hotels have stopped, having missed an evening meal for the non-stop journey, I was overjoyed and allowed them to represent my well-balanced diet.Heacham Manor roomI was really impressed with the bathroom. If you know me you know I don’t function without a shower. I was really happy to find, despite any initial misgivings, that the bathroom was wonderfully kitted out. With a shower and a bath, and a really good shower. Well I was happy.Heacham Manor showerAnd whilst I had brought my new camera in the hope of visiting the beach the next morning, which I understand to be a short walk across the golf course, it was absolutely weeing it down. Which was around the point I realised I had left the house without a coat. 

Again, colleagues who have stayed have commented on how good it is to leave the office and enjoy the fresh air and views. I believe them. Criticism comes easier than a compliment.