The one with H-Twenty

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This happened quite a while ago now, but I thought that I would share it, as if I’m being honest, although it was extremely frustrating at the time, it is actually really funny. And, well, if I’m being completely honest, the story of my life.

So, it all began the day I got my new washing machine delivered. Having not had one in the house for months, I was extremely excited to get it up and running. (Sad I know, but it’s the small things…)

Anyways, I plugged it all in, attached all the appropriate pipes, made sure there were no potential opportunities for a leak, and set the machine to go on a quick wash, with no laundry in for the first time, as per the instructions (which I had read in great detail might I add!)

I went back into the living room to chill out for an hour whilst it was on its first wash, but after about 20 minutes of deadly silence coming from the kitchen I went back in to investigate. The machine’s display was flashing red, with the words H and 20.

H-twenty, what the hell does that mean?

I read through the instructions again, that was not one of the display options and wasn’t covered in the trouble shooting section. So I googled it; the make, the model and ‘H-twenty’. Nothing. Puzzled, I turned the machine on and off, read the instructions again, text Steve and still couldn’t figure it out.

So I did the only thing I could think of, I rang my mum.

After a 30 minute conversation about her washing machine, my washing machine and jean* from down the road, I admitted defeat and decided I would just have to wait until Steve came home and he can look at it.

Later that day, my mum rang me back and asked if id managed to get it working. Nope, still nothing. I was ready to throw it out the window. No one on twitter had replied, no one on Facebook seemed to know what it meant. It must be faulty.

“Danielle, are you sure the water is turned on” she asked.

“Yes of course I am, I attached it straight away to the pipe and I’ve checked. I’m not stupid you know!”

“Ooh I dunno then, you’ll have to wait for Steve.”

And that is exactly what I did.

Now, I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but as soon as Steve walked through the door it dawned on me… it didn’t say H-twenty, it said H-2-0

It turns out; I’d attached the pipe to the water supply, but hadn’t turned it on after all. H-twenty wasn’t an error code; it was the chemical formula for water!

In my defence, it obviously is a very advanced technological washing machine and as I have said before – I have a degree in English Literature, not common sense!

*jean’s name has been changed to protect her identity!

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The one with the quarter-of-a-century life crisis

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So, I think I am having a quarter-of-a-century life crisis.

The other day Steve went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and I didn’t order (or eat) anything. Instead, I un-wrapped his sweet-chili-chicken deli sandwich for him and held the bag tightly shut around his greasy chips to keep them warm until we got back. Then I ate my super-healthy lunch.

That same day in work, whilst my colleagues ate Kit-Kats and other scrummy chocolate snacks, I drank my diet coke and contemplated a banana.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME??

Where has this new found will power come from I hear you ask. I have no bloody idea. It must be my nearly reaching a quarter-of-a century life crisis. This is the only explanation.

I start healthy eating every single week. Sometimes more than once a week (especially if it’s been a particularly stressful week, or we have something to celebrate) I mean, who can blame a girl for giving in to the super-tempting and yummy draw of a Chinese, or an Indian, or a piece of cake*, Domino’s pizza, or chips and fish – we do live by the sea after all. It would be rude not to. Right?

.. *it’s more a slab of cake as opposed to piece, sometimes its even half a cake, sometimes, if it’s been a particularly awful day, it’s a whole cake. But I’m a lady, so we’ll stick with piece and tell no one.

Anyway, I was so impressed with my healthy eating mantra that I began to genuinely think there was something wrong with me. Maybe if I do something spectacular with my life, maybe go and find myself (somewhere exotic of course) then, maybe, just maybe, I can get out of my quarter-of-a-century life crisis without too much trouble. So I began researching around the world adventures and was armed with a plan to discuss further with my other half that night.

The more I thought about it though, the more I decided that maybe around the world travel wasn’t for me. I mean, yeah I’ve climbed Kili – but that was only 5 weeks ago and I’m not sure I’m in that much of a rush to get back to living out of a backpack for a while. Also, I have experienced my first festival this year and got married. So maybe, what I really needed was to spend some quality time chilling at home. Problem solved. Panic over. Quarter-of-a-century life crisis OVER.

So, I did what any girl would do when she has something to celebrate – went out for an Indian!

The One With the Irony

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So, today in work I had to email a document over to somebody important. I was supposed to do it yesterday but ran out of time* (read couldn’t find it). This morning when I decided I really did need to send it, could I find it still…NO. I literally spent an hour and a half going through every single folder on my desktop and the shared drive looking for it and it is nowhere to be seen. WHAT THE HELL HAVE I DONE WITH IT!!

Let me take you back to Friday; Friday afternoon to be precise, the hot summers day before the bank holiday weekend and an extra day’s lie-in. Being the only one in my office that afternoon I was terribly productive (the downside of having no one to talk to about Christmas, Marc Jacobs or my most recent fave topic…Paris!) Anyways, on Friday I decided that in order to spend less time searching for documents, I should have a better filing system, with appropriately named folders and titled documents. One hour later (at 5.25pm on a Bank Holiday weekend, might I add) I had finished and was extremely proud of myself. “That one hour has saved me so much time in the future” I boasted that evening. HOW WRONG WAS I?

Ironic really isn’t it.

I mean, this is my life. Do something to save me time, only to spend more time the following week trying to undo the mess that the supposedly time saving task has caused. So, this has been me today. Frantically searching and trying to undo everything that I did in my one hour of filing productivity last week. The day is over now and I still haven’t found what I’ve been looking for – if you sing that it makes me feel better about the whole situation.

So today I made some decisions.

  1.  I should definitely NOT file things appropriately – chaos and badly named files obviously works for me – and if it’s not broken; why fix it!
  2. I should quit, move to New York City and become a writer or open a cupcake café*.

*Either/or really.

I’ll probably pick the one that pays the best to be honest – that way I can afford to buy more shoes and hopefully not have to use my credit card. Ha. No, in all seriousness, I must reprimand myself for even daring to think like this. After all, isn’t that what credit cards are for? Shoes.

The climb: day 1

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Considering all the drama with flights and airport closures I was really happy to reach day one of the climb but absolutely bloody petrified about what was to come. I had done my research, so I knew that day one wasn’t anywhere near as hard as the remaining days. I had a friend who had climbed with his family a few years ago, and although we weren’t doing the same route, he assured me that day one was just like walking up Snowdon and nothing at all to worry about.  So I was feeling positive about the day ahead and was ready and rearing to go.

The coach took us to the start point and we arrived ready to sign in mid-morning. A quick toilet stop and water collection, we gathered together for a couple of last photos and said goodbye to life as we know it (well at least for the next 6 days) The first part of the climb was pretty ok, we walk walking at quite a steady pace, up a hill, all chatting a way about our interests, books we had read and music we liked. We had a toilet stop after about an hour and a half and then were told we would be stopping for lunch shortly. When we arrived at our lunch stop, I expected to be handed a butty and maybe some crisps. What we were actually greeted with was a long picnic table, complete with a cloth, a carton drink laid out for each of us and camping chairs. This was totally not what I was expecting, but boy was I pleased. We really were going to be looked after on this trip.

After lunch we carried on with our journey and the route became steeper. Not unmanageable but it wasn’t always the easier to have a full scale conversation with people whom you had only really known for a day or 2. It was a good opportunity to have a chat and walk alongside some of the guys I hadn’t spoken to that much and find out a bit about them. Unfortunately, doing that meant that I found myself towards the back of the group, meaning that if I did have to stop for a minute, I didn’t really have anyone to fall back with. This became problematic about an hour away from our first nights camp.

Left in my own thoughts, I began to doubt what I was doing and if in fact I could do it. One of the other girls must have been thinking the same as me and I could see she had a few tears in her eyes. Less than 5 minutes later, I could feel them starting to fill up in mine too. Frantically I tried to stop myself, particularly as I was very near to the rest of the group and the last thing I wanted them to see was me crying when we hadn’t even finished the first day. What a wimp! It was all too late though, even though I turned myself away, I knew I’d been seen and then it was my turn to set someone else off, as I could see their eyes filling up too.  Thankfully we all managed to pull ourselves together and continue on with the journey.

Unbeknown to us, we actually were very near to the first nights camp, and once we have arrived, we were allocated a tent and all met in the mess tent to trays of popcorn, and steaming flasks of tea and coffee. An evening meal soon followed, and despite the dark and unknown area, I found myself enjoying my evening and really confident about the next day. Following a briefing by our head guide, Herman, we made our way back to our tents, ready for an early night and an early start the next day.

That day I overcame my fear of long drop toilets, peeing in a bush and well, y’know, going the toilet on a mountain. Oh and I’d survived the climb: day one.

Childreach International Project Visit to Kirefure Primary School

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When I signed up to climb Kili in January, the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most was the visit to one of the school’s in Tanzania that the project helps. Once I had arrived in Moshi though, I became slightly apprehensive about it all as I had no idea what to expect; will the children like us, what if it’s worse than what I thought it would be, will I cry?

The night before the visit, we had all speculated about what it would be like and how actually being able to see and understand how the children benefit from all our fundraising will really help to put things into perspective and gives us the motivation to carry on climbing when things got tough!

I guess it would be helpful at this point, for those of you who don’t know, to explain the reason why I decided to climb Kilimanjaro in the first place. It was a challenge that I had always wanted to do, but I always felt like, if I did it, it should be for a reason and not “just because”. So I decided to use the challenge as an opportunity to give something back – and raise some money for charity.

I decided to support Childreach International as I had heard extremely good things about their work and I am very much in support of charities for children. Childreach in an international children’s development charity that works to break down the barriers that stand in the way of children’s most immediate needs. Development charities are quite hard to explain, and this was something I struggled to do very well when I was fundraising as unlike more traditional charities, they don’t see a problem and send aid to fix it; it’s more of a longer term strategy. (This was actually something that we discussed in detail on our trip.) What the charity actually does is work with local people in order to help give them the skills, resources and knowledge they need to develop and become self-sustaining so that they can achieve their vision of “a world where all children have the opportunity to unlock their full potential in life.”

So, there I was, in Tanzania, driving down a dirt path, fast approaching a school which in my eyes was in the middle of nowhere. My first thought was how on earth did children manage to get here every day, and even if they did, what would the school be like.

I have to admit; when we got there I was really surprised. On arrival the children sang us a welcome song and were all smiling happily at us. The head teacher explained to the children why we were visiting and then they all went back to their class rooms to finish their lessons before play time began.

The head teacher took this opportunity to take us on a tour of the school; showing us the recent renovations and how the classrooms had been improved, the toilets blocks which were now separate for girls and boys and the new kitchen which meant that every child received at least one hot meal a day. It was astounding to think how much we take for granted back home and how little they had here; yet at the same time how much had been improved.

Now, we all know what goes on in the world, I watch the news, I read the paper – but seeing these children with my own eyes put it all into perspective. In the UK children play truant from school all the time, not because they don’t have enough books to learn, or because they can’t go to the toilet, not because they have to walk for miles and miles to get there, or because if they did, they would be so tired they couldn’t concentrate; it’s because they can’t be bothered or don’t want to go. Education is taken for granted, food and water isn’t a luxury, it’s just something we have each and every day. None of these children have any of those luxuries, or they didn’t until now. Even with all the improvements, there was still a long way to go. It really did bring a tear to my eye and I cherished every moment I get to spend in the company of these children.

We spent the next hour playing games with the children such as football, skipping and singing the hokey-cokey (which I have to admit was probably my favourite part.) The children loved having their photographs taken and playing at being the photographer. One little girl did a much better job at taking photographs on my camera than I did! I ended that day with about 900 photos – all of which I still haven’t had proper chance to go through and look at.

On the way back to the hotel that day I was quite lost in my own thoughts. Originally I had said that if I made it to the top, I was going to treat myself to the Marc Jacobs handbag that I had been after for ages – use it as my mountain motivation. But now I had all the motivation I needed to get to the top. It really hit home the reason why I had spent the last 6 months frantically fundraising and promoting my trek. Yes, I knew I was going to return home having had an amazing experience, but I didn’t quite realise how much seeing the project would affect me. One thing was for sure, whether I made it to the top or not, this trip, this day, was something I was never going to forget.

 

 

African Adventure: Day 2

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When we had arrived in Kenya on the first day, it was past midnight, so we were given some food and shown to our rooms pretty much straight away. I thought I had fallen lucky as I was offered a room to myself – little did I know this ‘room’ was actually a wooden hut outside the actual hotel. Now, it was pitch black, I had been in Kenya for about an hour, we had been travelling for an entire day and it had been far from plain sailing. The last thing I wanted to do was sleep in a hut, by myself, away from everyone else with no toilets or running water. I wanted to cry. I didn’t though, I took swift action, informed the guy who had shown me to my room that I didn’t want to stay there, and told myself I will bunk in with someone else and it’ll all be ok when I wake up in the morning. One mattress move later, I was on the floor, tightly wrapped in my sleeping bag, covered from head to toe in insect repellent and ready to drift into the land of nod. The morning was going to make everything better. I HOPED!!

Waking up in Kenya the next morning felt great, for a whole load of 2 minutes, until I remembered that it was another entire day of travelling to get to Tanzania! 2 seconds in the freezing shower I realised I could wait until later to wash, so I quickly got dressed and made my way down to breakfast. Thank god there was tea.

Travelling to Tanzania wasn’t so bad in the end, the views were quite nice and we even got to see some zebra’s in the distance. Getting off and on the bus at the border was a bit of a hassle and every man and his dog was there wanting to sell you something and even tried the old ‘put it on your arm/in your hand so you can’t refuse’ trick! Thankfully I didn’t succumb to the peer pressure and managed to gain entry into the country pretty much hassle free, which considering the previous days problems, was no mean feat!

As we got closer to Moshi – the town in Tanzania we were staying in, Kili started to appear in our sights. My god, it was huge!! You could see it for miles and it just kept on going higher and higher and bigger and bigger the closer we got.

Now, I had done my research, I knew it was about 5.5 times bigger than Snowdon  and a million times bigger than the hills I was use to walking up in Bangor – but nothing could have prepared me for this. I went pretty quiet for a while after that, until I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Don’t worry Danielle, we’ll conquer this together.”  “Yeah, yeah we will.” I replied, as positively as I could! In all honesty though, what I was actually thinking was “WILL WE???”

Flight Fiasco!

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I have been back in the UK for 2 weeks now and I finally feel like I am human again and able to put pen to paper about my time climbing Kilimanjaro. The biggest problem I have is knowing where to begin. It’s probably simpler for everyone (myself included) if I take it day by day…

The plan was to travel to my mums on Thursday night, spend a bit of the day with the family on Friday and then travel down to London at 9pm that evening to catch the 6am flight to Nairobi. But that was all waaaay too simple… and the God’s, well, they do not like simple.

To be fair, things were going great until about 6pm that Friday evening. I was in Nando’s enjoying a butterfly chicken with spicy rice and garlic bread (yum!) when my sister called to say Heathrow had been shut due to a plane fire. From this point onwards chaos ensued. Yes, Heathrow opened shortly after but the flight I was supposed to be on was cancelled and nobody seemed to know what was going on. Thankfully some phone calls and panic later, we found out that we would be on the same flight the following day – so I had another 24 hours to wait. Problem was, now I had no one to take me to London and so more chaos ensued, with my beloved husband stepping in and saving the day by cancelling his plans to drive me down to the good ol’ capital city. There was one condition though; we had to stop in Birmingham for a steak and the Branded Bull. DONE.

On the hottest day of the year, after a few hours of driving and one 3 hour stand still on the M6 later, we arrived in Birmingham for our steak. Firstly, the starters and main meals were served at the same time, now I like my food, but even I think that’s a little excessive! Thankfully the kind waiter sent our mains back. Unfortunately what he didn’t do was make sure they were re-fired (Gordon would not be happy!) so Steve’s steak was well, well done, hard and cold; and my ribs, well they were pretty much the same. £68 lighter, we left Birmingham and continued our journey south.

Skipping a few hours, I finally arrived at Heathrow at 3am ready for the big adventure. After nervously kissing Steve goodbye I introduced myself to the group and plonk myself on the floor to wait for the others to arrive and the check in desk to open. Just after 4am it finally opened and we started to check in…or so we thought.

To cut a looooooong story short, what actually happened was 9 people checked in and the remaining 8 didn’t – as we weren’t on the flight! Many phone calls, shouts and negotiations later, 4 of us were on a flight with Brussels Air and 4 with BA. We parted ways at the bag drop and I continued my adventure with 3 others, via Brussels.

Approximately 12 hours later, after a change in Brussels, 3 movies, a jumbled conversation with a French guy, a stop in a place now known as Bujumbura, and a fight with the man at customs to not rip me off on my visa fee – we finally arrived in Nairobi. We had made it to Africa!!!

All I could think was, technically getting to Nairobi wasn’t part of the challenge, so what on earth did the next 10 days have in store, and what the hell am I doing here!!!