When life tests you!

Wow what a week this has been.  The last 7 days have certainly been eventful!

Let’s start with the ‘devil scanner’.  If you have seen my video from last weekend, you will know that this machine was certainly testing my patience!   What should have been a quick and easy solution to a problem, turned into a challenge of who was going to give up first – me or the scanner!

https://youtu.be/eMtWuMOL3Lk

My hubby has hundreds of old slides which used to belong to his father.  He decided to preserve them by scanning them onto his computer.  A really good idea, I know!  After a bit of research he had found a company that rents scanners by the week.  The scanner should take 50 slides at a time and scan them direct onto the computer!  Sounds amazing!

We planned for the scanner to come on Friday 3 May so that he would have the whole bank holiday weekend to use it!

On 24 April, I am notified that the scanner has had a failed delivery!  It was arriving a week early!  Even though the lady who looks after my dog was at my home, the delivery man hadn’t made her aware he was there, so it was sent back to the depot.

After 4 phone calls we had arranged a delivery for the following Wednesday 1 May, so we happily went about our business that weekend.  We then realised that on Saturday 25ththe scanner was delivered to a neighbour because we were out!  Eek.

I contacted the company to ask when the rental was due to start and was shocked to know they had started our clock running on 24th!  We had already missed a couple of days of the rental, plus we were at work during the day.  How were we going to deal with all those slides in that time.

The company were great and agreed an extension until Monday 6 May.   We would load it before work, straight after we got home and before going to bed.  That still also gave us the bank holiday weekend.  Well, until hubby realised he was in London for 2 of the days, so it was left to me to make sure the slides were running for as much as possible.

Now in theory that wasn’t going to be a problem as you just load it, set it up and leave it to run for a few hours!  Or so I thought!  Oh no, the ‘devil scanner’ as I have now named it had decided to jam at every opportunity.  To make it worse, hubby’s car had broken down in London and I was on standby to have to go down and collect him.  That would have wiped out my Sunday of scanning!

With the clock ticking away, and still 100’s of slides to get through there was only one thing for it, to work through the night on the Saturday!  

With no sleep, by Sunday morning I was exhausted, but the pile had come down!

Thankfully, the garage got hubby’s car sorted enough for him to get home.  The car is now sat on the drive until we get it fixed.  We are now down to just my car.  You don’t realise how much you rely on 2 cars until you don’t have them both!

We finally finished the slides and got the ‘devil scanner’ back in the post.  I think we were both glad to see it go!  It had certainly taken over our lives during the time we had it!

We decide to have a relaxing bank holiday Monday before the return to work on Tuesday.

Tuesday comes and we arrive at our train station to no trains!  Some bright sparks had decided to try and steal cables to the signals which meant they couldn’t run the trains on our line.  After a bit of research we drove to a different station to get one of many delayed or packed trains.  Oh and for the pleasure also had to pay £12 a day parking!

The one benefit of this new station was that there were more options to get a train back!  Well in theory!  Not today.  Oh no!  A train has broken down on the line preventing trains passing, so the trains were all cancelled or very delayed.

We do eventually get a train home, but later than normal.  We are in the car and looking forward to getting home.  The next joy was to find the road we would take home was now closed for 10 weeks!  Seriously could this day go any more wrong!

After turning around we head down the motorway!  Motorways in rush hour are certainly not fun and very slow!

Finally we arrive home, late but we are home!

I decide to put some washing on!   What else do you do after a day like that!

I hear the machine beep to tell me it is finished.  As I pull the washing out the top clothes are dry, the bottom ones soaking!  The machine drum has not been turning!  Aaaah!  We now have no washing machine, I car and a disaster of a trip home!

I try to get an engineer out to fix the machine but it won’t be until Monday next week!  Thank you to my amazing mum who is going to let me use her machine in the meantime.

We have a reminder in our calendar that we have to do our visa applications for China so hubby and I sit down together to go through them. Him on his computer, me on my laptop!  The plan was to get them done, then go and watch Countryfile in bed at 8.30 pm.

2.5 hours later we still have not completed the form!  If you have ever had to do a visa for China you will know our pain!  You have to put so much information in from your parents, jobs, what your managers duties are, where you have been in the last 5 years, schooling etc etc.  By 10.00 am we decide we have to go to bed.

We finally finished and submitted the form last night.  

Today is Friday and I am now so looking forward to the weekend.  I am praying that the next few days will be far less stressful.  

Tonight, the weekend will start with drinks at my local pub with hubby and friends.  It’s Prosecco night, so that isn’t a bad start to the weekend is it!

Have a great weekend!

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Why are short weeks so long?

A friend reminded me of this today and she is spot on!

Today is the last working day of our week! Monday was a bank holiday, so why has it taken so long to get to Friday?

It’s one of the mysteries of life? Surely 4 days is less than 5! So on that basis tomorrow should have arrived sooner!

I have some theories! Is it because we are so relaxed from our long weekend that it takes us longer to get back into work? Is it the extra sleep we had that our bodies want more? Or is it just that we enjoy being off more than we enjoy being at work ?

I wonder if people on shifts get the same feeling ?

Whatever the reason, I am so so glad it is Friday!

This said, I do love it when you have a bank holiday! Obviously it means I get more time off, but for me there is another reason!

Bank holidays mean that people are more likely to tag leave onto the break! That then means one important thing – I get a seat on the train to work! Woo hoo!

It might be a small thing, but believe me, it means a lot! No standing squashed up to the person next to you! No listening in to other people’s conversations, being able to write my blog etc etc.

With Easter being late this year it falls only a week before May Day. Then it’s not long until Whitsun! Ooh how exciting! There is hope that for a few days over the next month I will be able to have a relaxing trip to work!

I’ve probably jinxed it now. There will be cancelled trains etc and I’ll be back to standing. Ah well, it’s like the lottery. You have to have a dream and live in hope!

Sometimes it’s the small pleasures in life that make the biggest difference!

Have a good weekend x

What happened to manners !

Well I’ve seen it all now !

I boarded my train this evening as usual. We were one of the first into the train so there was plenty of space. I headed to 2 seats at the back for hubby and I to sit together! Hubby was right behind me so not a problem.

As I had my gym bag with me I decided to place my bag in the overhead rack!

As I reached up a women ducked under my arms and sat in my seat! Seriously! She swooped in like a seagull pinching your chips! She then had the cheek to just glare at me.

Now not to stereotype but she looked on the surface a normal business women. Obviously that’s a good reason not to judge a book by its cover!

I was furious as was hubby! I thought I could argue with her or I could get the upper hand! I decided on the later!

I looked her in the face and said to my hubby ‘if she is so desperate let her have it’! There are plenty of seats down here!’

As we walked away my hubby made a passing remark loud enough for her to just hear – ‘how bloody rude! Does she want to jump in my grave?’

We then walked away and found another 2 seats together!

I cannot even begin to understand what went through her mind to behave like that! It wasn’t as if it was the last seat! Even if it was you don’t steal it! It’s absolutely unbelievable that people can behave that way!

It reminds me of the time I spent 4 months in a cast! I had crutches too! Not once during 4 months of commuting did anyone offer me a seat! If a seat did come up near the window, no-one offered to move up so I could have the isle seat! Oh no! They expected me to climb over feet and bags !

I often offer my seat to people who look like they need it. It’s how I was brought up!

While I’m on one, I should also mention the man who ran past me down the isle to beat me to a seat. Pushing past me on my crutches! Again on that occasion I just said ‘if you are that desperate for it, take it’!

When did we become a world of man eat dog? Where is respect and kindness gone!

Commuting is stressful enough without this rudeness! So come on, think before you act!

How is it Monday already?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s Monday already. How does it come round so fast?

It’s like Groundhog Day when the alarm goes off! While I try to wake myself up to take the dogs out for a walk with hubby, Fido is there jumping all over the bed in excitement! Lola is a bit like us. Actually no that’s wrong. We do get moving when the alarm goes off, whereas she lies there moaning, groaning and stretching! She really doesn’t do mornings !

At least now the mornings are lighter! Chilly but spring is definitely here!

The weekend was good. For a weekend with nothing planned it was fun.

Saturday morning was a leisurely start. An amazing brunch followed by a spring clean! I do love it when you give the house a good going over! Hubby was productive too in the garden. It’s the first time this year he has been able to really get out there! It looks so much nicer now with the spring bulbs coming through and the new shoots appearing. It’s amazing what a bit of sun can do!

Saturday evening hubby had offered to cook dinner! If you know me you will know that rarely happens! He had seen a recipe in the latest Tesco magazine for a Chinese soup! As long as I made sure he had all the right ingredients he would make it for me!

OMG, for a man that doesn’t cook very often it was amazing! I know he followed the recipe, but even his chopping and presentation skills were spot on! Restaurant quality.

You can see what we ate here on my YouTube channel.

We ended a perfect day by watching Bohemian Rhapsody. It was a great film don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure I’d go and see it multiple times. Hubby thinks we feel that way because we already knew the story, and maybe he is right! I’d still recommend you watching it though.

As the days are brighter we decided on Sunday to take the dogs for a longer walk. We opted for Earlswood Lakes. I haven’t been there for years. I printed a walk off the internet and off we went!

Now, I have to point out that today it wasn’t our fault! I know whenever we go on long walks hubby and I will always take a wrong turn at some point, but today wasn’t down to us!

The route we picked didn’t include a map! The instructions looked clear when we started, but soon they didn’t make sense. We had to ask directions a couple of times. Well I did! Hubby wouldn’t ask lol!

Eventually we gave up on the route and did our own thing. We didn’t mind. It was nice just to get out!

As we headed back to the car it dawned on me! We went the wrong exit out of the car park at the beginning! No wonder it didn’t make sense!

At least it made us chuckle!

The afternoon was relaxing with a visit from my wonderful parents.

As with every Sunday in our house we had a lovely roast to finish off the weekend.

Next thing I know the alarm is going off and it’s Monday again.

As we arrive at the station the car park is more full than usual! I’m dreading the train now. I’m expecting to crush my way on!

As it pulls onto the platform I look through the windows. A few people are standing but there is still daylight! I’m shocked but pleased. What happens next shocked me even more ! I got a seat! Woo hoo! I can’t believe it! Maybe Monday isn’t going to be so bad after all!

Have a great week!

Let the train take the strain!

 

Does anyone else remember that advert from 1988? It was launched to encourage us to take the train, instead of blocking our roads up with cars!

I was commuting by train back then. Whilst it was 30 years ago, from personal experience, public transport hasn’t improved!

I don’t know whether it’s the demand that has increased, or the fact that the rail companies haven’t kept up with the demand!

Back then, I used to do a 45 minute trip into Birmingham. I always got a seat, and in fact, there was a group of us that used to meet up along the journey, and still be able to sit together.

We had quite a little community going on. We would do crosswords, competitions and in cold days, the guard used to share his tea flask with us!

I may be seeing those days through rose tinted glasses, but I don’t remember it being late or cancelled that often at all! Certainly, not that busy either!

After a 19 year break, where I used to drive to work, I once again in 2012, joined the thousands of others commenting by train!

So why should we all ‘be letting the train take the strain’ still some 30 years later? Well the simple answer is, that the Climate Change Act of 2008, set a long term framework for us to reduce greenhouse gas within the UK.  The Government needs to reduce it by at least 34% by 2020, and 80% in 2050, based on the levels in 1990.

To achieve this, they need more and more of us to ditch our cars, and take public transport.  As a commuter, that is easier said than done!

I for one, cannot get to work without some form of car travel.  Where I live, I would first of all have to walk about 15 minutes to the nearest bus stop.  From there, I would have to catch 2 buses, which takes just under an hour to the train station.  I then would catch a train for a 45 minute journey.  In total, to get to work it would take me over 2 hours, including then the walk to the office from the station.

I currently drive to the station, which reduces my travel time to approximately 1.5 hours each way per day!  To add an extra hour each day on an already 3 hours daily commute, just isn’t practical, or good for a work, home life balance.

Cost is also a factor.  At the moment, we are paying each day to travel by train to work.  It is £7.30 each day.  This is with us driving 14 miles to the station.  Thankfully, the car park is free.  It is not so at other stations!

If we went from our closest station, we would face £1000 a year more in train costs, plus £8.90 per day to park the car!  We would still have to drive there, so there is a petrol and emission cost!

When you get the train, there is certainly no relaxing for us either!  It definately doesn’t take the strain for us!  Wherever we catch the train, the following factors come into play:

  • Is the train on time?
  • Is the train running
  • How busy is it going to be?
  • Will the journey be terminated part way?
  • Who will I have to sit next to, or stand next to?
  • Am I going to pick up any coughs, colds etc from fellow commuters

Sadly, all of the above will come into play more frequently than you would think.

Our morning commute is on a 4 carriage train.  It is packed everyday.  You don’t get a seat, unless you are very lucky to be standing next to someone who is getting off at another stop!

When you are standing, you are being pushed against the next person also standing.  You often don’t have anything to hold onto, so when it hits a point or goes round the corners, you are thrown into the person next to you.

If you have got a seat, you are also not always lucky, as the persons standing will be on top of you, falling on you occasionally, or treading on you!  Then there is the size of the seats.  On the 6 seat section, space is extremely tight for the average size person.  You struggle to move your arms in fear of knocking the person next to you!

Don’t think you can get on, and pull your laptop out and work, or read a book!  Oh no, that would take space and comfort.  The best you can hope for is to play Candy Crush or read the news on your phones!

And don’t get me started on some of the behaviours of some commuters!   My most annoying is the person who walks through the crowded train, looking for an empty seat!  Of course, there must be one free with hundreds of us standing. Not!

What about the person wearing the headphones, whose music is so loud, we can all hear it!

Then there is the person who can see we are all like sardines, but still shouts into the train ‘can you move down please’!  I feel like shouting back ‘would you like us to get into the storage shelf’ as that is usually the only place where you might find a gap!

Even on crowded trains, some people don’t have volume control when talking either on the phone or face to face!  I have over the years heard many conversations, from whether someone should have sex with their boyfriend, or more recently,  a school girls asking her friend how to get him to have sex with her, to someone telling their friend about the guy they were having an affair with them.  Unfortunately for them, the friend of the women he was married to was also on the train!  I’d love to know how that story ended!

Long distance travel is no better!

Last year, I decided to take the train to Darlington for work. It’s about a 4 hour drive for me and takes a tank of petrol, so about £60.  Everyone said to me, I should take the train and relax, rather than the stress of driving!  Never again!

I had a 1.5 hour trip to the station to get the connecting train to Darlington.  Then a 3 hour train trip.   Yes I had a reserved seat, but the table was too small to even contemplate getting my laptop out!  My suitcase was miles away, so anything of value had to be at my feet, as the overhead shelf was too small.

I did a vlog on the experience at the time.  You can see my experience here!

The cost of the fare was about £140.

I had a reserved seat on the way back too.  When I went to my seat, it was taken by a pushchair.  The whole trip home, I had a newborn child crying next to me!

Was I relaxed when I got home – NO!  The next trip there I drove!

If the government wants us to use public transport more, they really need to start working with the transport companies.  Everyone I know who commutes, wherever they live, all have the same issues.

We need more carriages, competitive pricing, more trains and please keep the parking free!  Or if they do need to charge, again at a reasonable price!  Oh and it they could be on time that would be even better!  Maybe then, we may be more likely to let the train take the strain!

 

Getting around Krakow!

The best and easiest way to get around Krakow is on foot.  Its also free of charge, and a great form of exercise!

Krakow is flat so you don’t need to worry about any hills, well in the centre that is!

One of the great things about Krakow, is that the centre is pedestrianised!   You can walk around, relaxed, without worrying about cars.  It makes getting around so much nicer!

It also feels very safe!

There is so much to see around the city, that it would be a shame not to put at least a day aside to just wander!  Whilst the square is pretty in itself, as you explore the streets, you will see so much more on foot.

Don’t forget to look all around you, both in front, side to side, and upwards.  Many of the buildings have beautiful paintings or statues on them.

DSC_0160

You can’t really get lost if you keep to the rule, that all things end up back in the square!

When you visit the castle, take a walk over the river to view it from another perspective!  Its such a unique castle, with different types of architecture, it would be a shame to miss it.  If we hadn’t done this, we may have missed the fire eating dragon!

The parks are small, but again worth a walk.  You will fall upon different sculptures along the way.  Many of them hidden amongst trees, or on benches.

There are many churches in the city.  If the doors are open, pop in and have a look.  I was blown away by some of the decorations inside.  Remember to have your shoulders and thighs covered though!

If walking isn’t your thing, don’t worry.  There are a couple of other options.  How about a tour in an electric car?  Prices will vary depending on where you are going and for how long.  I would say no more than £20 per person.  Ask the driver and agree a price in advance.   We took one of these for the short ride to the Jewish Quarter, for dinner.   It was only £2.50 each for us, as it took probably only about 15 minutes!

Here you will find a square of chairs, dedicated to the Jews who lost their lives.  Its situated just over the river in the Ghetto, and worth a visit around sunset, where the chairs are lit up!

You will also see many horse drawn carriages.   They leave from the square, and take you for an hour ride around the city.  Again agree a price before you start.  They are usually around 400 PLN (£100) and can seat 4 comfortably, but if you negotiate you may get it cheaper!  On a sunny day, it is quite a nice way to explore the city.

Trams are plentiful.  At under 4 PLN (£1) each way, they are a cheap way to get around.  They run from 5 am to 11 pm.

If you want to go further afield, I would certainly recommend the train service.  We used it to go to the Salt Mines.

To go into the Salt Mine, you just have a 5 minute walk up a slight hill.   The cost is 89 PLN each plus 10 PLN if you want to take photos or videos (£25 in total).  Certainly a nice day out and well recommended.

The station is clean and everything is easily signposted.  It cost us around £0.85 each way for a single trip lasting about 20/30 minutes.

The trains were clean and spacious.  They have ticket machines on board if you don’t have time to get one before boarding.  Alternatively, there are ticket machines on platforms, if there isn’t a ticket office.  It is also a nice way to sit back and take in the scenery.  I do love looking at other peoples lives.  The houses, streets and countryside always interest me.

Taxi’s are also plentiful.  A ride from the airport is around 90 PLN or £20.

We also took a private hire to Autschwitz as there were 7 of us.  It was all included in the price for the tours.  The cost was 160 PLN each (£40), but well worth it.

There are so many options to get around the city, there really isn’t any excuse not to explore.

 

 

The Salt Mine – Krakow

Today we headed off to the Salt Mine. Instead of booking a formal tour, we went solo!

We headed off to the main train station in Krakow, to catch the 8.51 am.

We initially tried to buy the tickets through one of the many machines, but not speaking the language and being a little unsure, we opted to go to the main ticket office!

As you walk through the station, it’s all very well signposted. It’s also very clean!

At the ticket office the cashier speaks English, so it’s very easy. You can’t get a return ticket so we buy just a single! I can’t believe how cheap public transport is here. 3.50 PLN each, which is about £0.85 each!

We head to platform 1. The train arrives on time. Again, it’s clean and modern. There is also a ticket machine on the carriage, so if you don’t have time to get one before boarding, you can still buy one!

I’m also impressed with the seats. They are comfy and have plug sockets underneath? Plus a bin for each set of seats!

Above is a screen which shows you the trains route, and where you are on that route. For foreign travellers, it’s perfect to make sure you get off at the right stop. Which we do!

The Salt Mine is only about 5 minutes walk away from the station, up a slight hill.

As we have arrived early, there isn’t really a queue! Entry, for a 2 hour tour is 89 PLN, approximately £22 each. If you want to take photos or videos, you have to pay an additional 10 PLN (£2.50), which of course we do!

The tours are in different languages, so we head for the queue for the English one. We are given headphones and receivers, so we can hear our guide better!

You then start the tour. Be warned, we will go down a lot of steps, so sensible shoes are a must.

The tourist books say to take a jacket as temperatures fall to between 13/16 degrees, although we were rather hot in ours!

To descend to the Danilowicz Shaft on level 1, you walk down 380 steps, taking you 64 m underground!

In total you will descend 800 steps, taking you down to 135 m underground to level 3! There are a total of 9 levels to the Mine, so the tour only covers about 1% of it !

In total, there are nearly 2400 chambers in the Mine, with 245 km of corridors! Reaching to 327 m underground! I’m amazed, just thinking of what lies beneath us! All this is supported by wooden beams! The Salt hardens the wood, so it’s perfectly safe!

Don’t worry about the way back, there is a lift back up!

As you walk through the Mine, you will be blown away at its natural beauty! If you touch the walls and lick your fingers, you taste the Salt!

As you pass through chambers upon chambers, you will see many sculptures carved out of the Salt! The chapel of St Kinga is said to be the largest underground temple in the world!

An emerald lake sparkles in the light.

Due to the darkness in places, it’s difficult to video, although, I have tried it on my GoPro, so I will see when I download it at home.

I’ve take many photos, so I’m hoping they too will show it’s beauty!

There are plenty of toilets on route, and a couple of places to buy gifts and have a drink or snack!

The highlight of the tour though has to be the chapel! You can get married there too! What a magical place to take your vows!

The tour takes a nice pace, but I was very thankful for the lift back up!

If you are scared of enclosed spaces, please tell your guide! The lift is very small, and they will fill it to capacity! It’s certainly not for anyone who needs space!

The trip back up only takes about 20 seconds.

Outside, there is a kiosk which sells food and drink! I highly recommend the sausage! You get the sausage, a roll and a coke for 15 PLN (£3.75). It was delicious!

After a feed and rest we head back to the station. There isn’t a ticket office here, but now as seasoned travellers, we buy our return ticket from the machine! You can’t pay cash through the machine only card though!

The train arrives on time and we do the 20 minute journey back to Krakow!

It’s been a great trip. Here are some more photos.

https://youtu.be/Zu4QsSfdx7A

As we head to the main square, it’s hard not to notice how much busier it is. Obviously the locals must come out on a Sunday. There is a lot going on! Musicians are playing, people are making bubbles or balloon animals! It’s absolutely lovely!

The sun is out, so it’s a perfect afternoon for a stroll!