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2006 diary

Wednesday 14 December 2005
What's going on? Does my ruler Jupiter clash with the Sun or something? It's been a heck of a few days ... On Monday morning I was running around the station's car park like a headless chicken, desperately seeking a ticket machine that would accept my credit card. In the end I had to ring hubby out of bed to go and sort it out, but when he got there my windscreen was the proud owner of a fifty pounds fine. (To add insult to injury I got another - sixty pounds - penalty in the evening when parking outside my friends' house, where they had recently increased the Pay-and-Display times.) A good part of yesterday was spent trying to get my money back from a "no show" at a hotel where, upon check-in, I was informed they didn't have my reservation, but, hey, wasn't I lucky as they still had a room available. Then this morning there were only four train coaches and I had to pay £26.90 for the privilege of sitting on the floor. This caused a bit of a row with an Irish bloke who barked at me that "the floo-ahr is fo-ahr standing, not fo-ahr sitting". (Jealous or something?) Thank God I had already decided the lines between work and home life were becoming increasingly blurred ... tomorrow is my last working day of the year! So this page will soon turn into roem-dot-co-dot-uk-slash-blog2005-dot-html and we'll start afresh in 2006. Speak to y'all again then!

Sunday 11 December
Some people collect stamps. Others go for coins, beanie babies, autographs or comic books. I collect countries. I caught the travel bug as a youngster. I stare at globes and maps for hours, read travel magazines and watch TV programmes about places I immediately want to visit. So how many countries are there in the world? Different numbers pop up but, by most accounts, 192 is the best current answer to the question. Well, fast approaching 45 (like, tomorrow) it's more than probable that I'm half-way through my life. So it was only natural to combine my compilation with business travel and try to work in as many countries as possible. (Two birds. One stone.) Having just returned from Croatia I can tick off another one. Anybody looking for a trainer in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan ...? Ker-rist, that's just the letter "A". 152 to go.

Friday 2 December
With the start of December comes another round of office parties. Not so for the self-employed. OK, for some bah humbug people that might be the perfect reason to go it alone. But hubby and I thought it was pretty cool we got an invite to a client's holiday party. How nice of them to include consultants! (The fact that one of the event organisers was a temp herself might have something to do with it!)

Thursday 24 November
Phone Rings. Hello? "I'm outside your house," says a voice on the other end of the line. It's the copywriter I've got in on a project I'm currently up to my neck in. "Where are you?" he continues, clearly annoyed with me not answering the doorbell. I look outside my window, but apart from the mailman, struggling under the weight of the many Christmas catalogues, I cannot see a soul. Betcha he's at number 16 Missleton Court. Even the local taxi drivers get it wrong. It's a wonder we get any visitors at all!

Sunday 20 November
There's an old, Dutch proverb that says "een koekje van eigen deeg krijgen". An awkward word-for-word translation is "to get a cookie from your own dough". Thinking about the best way to translate it (just cannot pass up the chance to educate) I realise it ties in with "Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you". Kind of. It means you treated somebody badly. And now this person treats you in the same way. Well, I got a cookie from my own dough this weekend. Hubby was off to Holland. I was home alone. And I realised it's not fun. Lord knows how many weekends I can guilt myself into having been away. I now know hubby cannot have enjoyed that. Such was the power of the cookie.

Wednesday 16 November
My tummy is making weird noises. I know it's simply the sound of my lunch passing through my digestive system, but it's rather embarrassing when you're in the middle of a consultancy session. "Sorry!" my client says. He then realises he is overcome by one of those inexplicable fits of English embarrassment. He is apologizing for my bodily noises! Which makes him apologize for apologizing. STOP!

Tuesday 15 November
When I travel for work I hate eating alone. Don't get me wrong, I love food. But there is sod-all to do while you're waiting for your meal. I mean, do you look at your nails? Memorize the menu? Scan the room for interesting people? My trick is to bring a book. Even if I wouldn't read any of it, I can look busy and watch the world go by from behind my book. Last year I was hooked on Alexander McCall Smith's books about The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. In the bar of one of the many Holiday Inn's in Houston a man walked up to me informing me his friend is the writer himself and that he would try to get me a signed copy of one of his books. Yeah, well done. That sounded really convincing. But just in case, I gave him my business card. That was more than a year ago. (Now, why didn't that surprise me?) But last week, out of the blue, I got an email from him. He had lost my business card. Could I please send him my address and he'll post the book. Well, guess what? Upon my return today from another business trip (working on improving the art of dining alone) I found an autographed, hardback copy of "44 Scotland Street" A fictitious building in a real street in the author's (and his friend's) home city of Edinburgh. Thanks SO much, Bob! See you in Houston in January. Drinks are on me!

Tuesday 8 November
Silly me. I forgot my purse. Oh no! My train/tube ticket is in my purse! By the time I realise this, I'm almost in London and about to head for the Underground. I might have got away with it on the train (no hit squad this morning) but I cannot jump the barriers, can I? And with no money or credit cards on me to buy a ticket, I'm toast. What now? OK, I love life without a script, but this is pushing it! I look around the sea of commuters, purposefully hurrying along the platform and hope I'll recognize somebody. Hang on, there's that guy that always says hello at the station in Cambridge. I walk up to him. "Hello!" he says. Deep breath now. "Er, I have a really embarrassing problem", I begin, hoping not too many people overhear what I'm saying. I explain that I cannot get to my client if I cannot borrow some money. "How much do you need?" he asks. He gets 4 quid out of his pockets, which is enough to buy a new ticket for the tube. So here's to the kindness of strangers. Thanks, Rudi! (Yep, we're on first-name terms now.) You'll get your money back Thursday week, when I'll be on the 7.12 to King's Cross.

Friday 4 November
Bet you didn't know that on this day in 1890 the world's first "tube" opened in London. It soon earned the nickname "the sardine box railway". Well, on my way to my client this morning I'm sardined with too many commuters in a packed Picadilly Line, holding on for dear life. So you could be forgiven for thinking that not a lot has changed in 115 years.

Tuesday 1 November
Had to take the car in for a repair. As my garage is an hour's drive away (don't ask) I decide to hang around. Excellent time to prepare for tomorrow's training session, innit? Well, not really. Terry Wogan's Radio 2 show is pretty distracting. So is the Happy-to-Hoover-brigade. But worst emotional disturbance of all is the latest model of my automobile in the car park. Before I know it I take it for a spin. You know, there's nothing a girl likes more than a spontaneous purchase. (Don't even think about it, Roem.)

Saturday 29 October
Today is the first anniversary of Roem Limited. Call me a big softie, but these are fitting times to thank the people who have helped make it happen Maggie Carr for believing in me as a wannabe IT trainer back in 1993. PR coach Paula Gardner for her fresh perspectives and creativity, inspiring me to dig deeper into myself for new ideas. Ruth Brown for her excellent design and no-nonsense approach. Hubby for supporting me to grab life by the you-know-what and go for it and for putting up with my endless babble after his long day at work. And of course, my clients. Thanks, guys! (Sniff.)

Friday 28 October
Guess I'll just have to forget about running one-to-one training sessions until after 5 December ... ten kilo pepernoten (peper what?) just arrived from Holland by UPS courier and are now taking up valuable space in my garage-slash-office. (Prizes for guessing what I'm gonna do with them, folks.)

Thursday 20 October
Yikes! Gotta snitch in my seminar. During the Why Are You Here round somebody reveals herself as an HR undercover of a local chip design giant. "Here to find out whether this program can be of use to our staff." Perhaps the double rainbow I spotted on my way back home from checking out the seminar room last night has a meaning after all? (Pot of gold and all that.)

Friday 14 October
Early Friday morning and I'm at my local Bacon Sarnie Club (otherwise known as the Breakfast Support Club). Running your own business can be lonely at times. So this get-together is a great opportunity to bounce off ideas and learn from one another's successes and mistakes. So what's perceived to be my missed opportunity? Well, apparently, I give away too much for free. Folks can get "enough" from my tips and just don't bother to register for my seminars. Don't worry, I'm not one of these companies feverishly looking for new ways to charge for services they used to provide for free. But my "virtual colleagues" might have a point. (Extremely annoying.)

Wednesday 12 October
Over the past few years I've had a small ad in one of these annually published directories. I won't go into details which one, but let's just say it's usually printed on yellow paper. As I got very little business from it I told the salesperson who tried to talk me into renewing my account the other day, I wasn't interested. So I was rather surprised to find this pushy lady on my doorstep. "You simply wanted to sign today, didn't you?" Uh, well, naah. OK, it was kinda hard to butt in on her selling spiel when I spoke to her on the phone, so perhaps she didn't get the message? But then again, this is probably how they grew to become the UK's leading provider of classified directory advertising. Perhaps that's the way to get more business? Well, let me tell you a secret ... it's not the way I want to do business!

Friday 7 October
Gave myself a bit of a fright when somebody points out a typo in my recent email campaign. Well, guess what. There really is such a word as manciple. It's an old-fashioned term for one of the most important chappies in the College ... the one responsible for food!

Saturday 1 October
Fame at last? Yesterday I received an email with the eye-catching subject "Photo Approval Needed". It had a zipped file attached, indicating it contained a photo and an article. The sender was linked to a useful site dedicated to and written by IT professionals, sharing their tricks of the trade. Thinking they must have found something useful in my News I made a note to look into this today. But when I have another peek this morning, the site has been taken offline and I start sniffing a rat. OK, we all know not to respond to fake banking emails asking politely to send your bank details and password so they can protect your money. But this one surely looked legit! Turns out the email attachment is a known Trojan horse program, tricking gullible people like myself into believing they found fame. How depressing.

Wednesday 28 September
Am I losing it? Just posted my application for voluntary VAT registration and I sure hope I'm doing the right thing. I mean, the form alone caused confusion and I had to ask my accountant advice on 7 out of the 28 sections. OK, I'm sure I could have found the answers somewhere in the ten booklets HM Customs and Excise sent, but which average small business owner has the time (or stomach) to read 497 pages on a challenging topic such as Value Added Tax? So I ummed and ahhed for months, but finally have taken the plunge. Fingers crossed and all that.

Tuesday 27 September
Lady luck decided to smile on me today. This morning I was off to claim my free email campaign, won through a competition I had entered. Fab prize from a local design and marketing communication specialist with an impressive client list. But Fortuna is known to be impulsive and unpredictable, so eventually I had to come off cloud nine. Which - funnily enough - happened by the same medium I was about to embrace ... email. The business editor of our local paper informed me that after having had my own column for a year, they no longer have room for it. So I put on Carl Orff's "O Fortuna", sit back and wallow in it. (If you think you don't know Carl Orff's "O Fortuna", think again.)

Tuesday 20 September
Trolley's first business trip. "Take me to my hotel" I tell the Italian cab driver. I check in, feeling in charge of myself. But the receptionist treats me no different from when I stand there with my backpack strapped on. Verdict: it isn't all about a power suit and decent wheels.

Saturday 17 September
Bought myself one of those silly suitcases on wheels. You know, the sort that bangs into everyone else's ankles as its owner drags the darn thing behind them, oblivious of the havoc they're causing. But these days no self-respecting business traveller seems to leave the office without one and as I feel kinda silly when I check in at expensive hotels with my backpack strapped on, I succumb.

Friday 16 September
Great timing. (Not!) Just as I finally kick the jet lag, it's time to fly back home. Thank god the 20 strong team of Implementation and Design Managers all flew in from around the world and most probably also felt jet lag was making this business trip seem impossibly demanding. Anyhow, I got the green light to go ahead and "train the trainers" based on the material I presented. If it wasn't for being in Singapore I could've skipped all the way home.

Friday 9 September
Apart from travelling up to London Heathrow and being stuck on a plane for 13 hours, today is a day without any commitments. Time to do some administrative tasks. After all, I felt pretty embarrassed when one of my customers emailed to check whether I had sent in my invoice. (Makes a change from chasing bad payers though.)

Friday 2 September
My flight back home was delayed by 3.5 hours. I'm just going to repeat that. Three and a half hours!! After a virtual toast with hubby who decided not to wait until 1AM to open the bottle of wine he put on ice, I run out of airtime. Time to top up. "Hello and welcome to Virgin Mobile." the automatic operator says. "We hope your trip is going well." Aaaaah!!

Thursday 1 September
It's like 1980 all over again. Doing some work for my former employer in The Hague I decide to save them hotel expenses and stay at my dad's. So here I am, taking tram 2 to the city and bumping into my former boss. Thank God for lifelong learning!

Friday 26 August
Last week I was approached by a prospective client, who wanted to meet up before committing to anything. Being fully booked until the beginning of October I offered to see her on my way back from my client Down South. So here I was, in a pub in London, waiting for a woman whom I had never met before. At some point somebody wanders in, clearly on the lookout. I walk up to her. Me: "Are you Julie, by any chance?" Her: "I am." But then nothing. No You Must Be Karen How Nice To Meet You-s or other niceties. Clearly not "Me Julie"!

Wednesday 24 August
Hand luggage allowance with Ryanair is a whopping 10 kilos! (22 lbs for those of you who don't speak metric.) Great stuff if you are carrying a laptop, 25 handouts, clothes and toiletries for 3 days, but want to get off the aircraft and to the office as quickly as possible as your class is due to start 55 minutes after the plane's arrival time. When the bag came out of the X-ray machine a clearly annoyed security man grabbed (and almost dropped) it. "Flying Ryanair?" he said, not expecting an answer. He then unpacked everything (and I mean e v e r y t h i n g), swiped all electronics for explosives, placed them in a plastic tray and put them back through the machine. Luckily enough I had plenty of time as all flights across the U.K. were suspended. I couldn't suppress a little laugh as I heard the reason of the air disruption ... computer failure of the Air Traffic Control system, run by the client I was heading to.

Tuesday 23 August
It's taken me a while, but I've placed my first ad. Apparently the magazine I placed the Classified advert in landed on members' doormats this morning. (Not on mine as my membership came to an end last week and that clearly makes me no longer eligible to get a copy.) I hope it wets their appetite, so to speak. And if not, well, it was my first ad in five years and Roem Limited is doing quite nicely, thank you very much.

Sunday 21 August
Working from home is a dream for many people. OK, it sure beats being stuck in an air-conditioned office with goose bumps and blue noses. But working at home also brings its own set of challenges. The toughest one being that you have to educate your family! Some time ago I introduced you to Zakko, who turns into the office cat when he wants to catch up with me after a business trip. Well, apparently he doesn't agree with me working on a Sunday afternoon either ... while on the phone with my PR guru he stands in front of the converted garage, screaming his head off. How can a guilt-ridden working "mum" concentrate on getting more Bums on Seats for the next Hands Off Seminar when her 19 year old wailing cat is around?

Thursday 18 August
Today isn't my day. As I forgot my "Entacard" - proof for the client that I passed their high level security clearance - I have to grovel profusely in the Authorised Personnel Only office to get access to the building. In order to get out of the bunker, I press the release button. Or so I think, until the Ohnosecond kicks in and I realise my mistake. (I swear I've seen these things look like light switches before!) Oh well, if you can't be a good example, just accept that some days you serve as a horrible warning.

Thursday 11 August
"Six Degrees of Separation" is the theory that any two people on the planet are connected by a chain of at most six acquaintances. So everybody will know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows you. Well, last night I told a friend about my upcoming pilot course. (Pilot as in prototype, and not pilot as in somebody who is licensed to operate an aircraft, just in case you were thinking I'm heading for a career change.) The course will be held in Singapore and my friend (link 1) told me his son (link 2) recently got married to somebody (link 3) whose parents (link 4) live in Singapore. Turns out the father-in-law works for the company I'm developing this pilot for and most probably will know somebody in the company (link 5) who knows me (link 6). Guess they don't refer to it as the Small World Phenomenon for nothing!?

Saturday 6 August
Gotta letter from the Inland Revenue informing me they have credited £250 to my PAYE payment record. A little thank you for filing my Employer's Annual Return online. Wow! A refund from the Taxman!! (The euphoria lasted until I realised it was my money to start with.)

Thursday 4 August
A big 'ta very much' to trainee2 ... during this morning's Livelink training session I added a folder and named it "Karen's rubbish". (You know, a folder with rubbish in it, with a name that makes it easy to recognise as being something to throw away after the exercise.) All course participants happily did the same thing on their own computer, using their trainee username. At lunch time I do some housekeeping and spot the folder on trainee2's account ... "Karen'snotrubbishatall". Aaah, the sweet smell of unsolicited feedback.

Tuesday 26 July
Found an invitation in my inbox to attend an EU Summit. Or rather, I'm cordially invited to nominate delegates on behalf of my country. So who else is on the list? The Embassies of Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Poland ... Wait a minute, it's one of those many emails I get that should have been addressed to roemb.co.uk. You know, those messages I politely send back every time I get them. So let me tell you once more. R-O-E-M-B is the domain name of the Embassy of Romania, a country located in the South East of Central Europe, North of the Balkan Peninsula, in the Lower Danube basin, bordering the Black Sea and not ... oh forget it! Perhaps I should just turn up and eat the Ferrero Rochers.

Sunday 24 July
Woke up this morning from a horrible dream. An hour into a new class and my course participants were still doing a Round Robin introducing themselves. While all the time I was franticly searching for my notes. Was this some sort of subconscious thing, telling me to tackle the mess in my workplace? Whatever I embrace my inner hippie and decide to declutter my office. Even though I decide not to empty out the contents of my converted garage onto the back lawn (though, apparently, that can help) I can assure you there was some trauma and agony as I had to decide what stays (my orange gel pen bought Down Under) and what goes (the battery-operated fish tank). But after some serious hard work I end up with just some items on my desk that relate to my current projects. Yawn.

Tuesday 19 July
Some of you may think of me as "just a freelancer", giving the odd Word course here or there. OK, I am a one-man band. (And like it that way - if only because I get the Employee of the Month award every time!) But Roem Limited is very grown up. So much so that my bank manager nowadays visits me, rather than the other way around. Two of them came to see me the other day and one of them was back today for a couple more signatures. Don't worry - no doom and gloom, asking for loans and what not. Good news! Roem Limited will shortly accept credit and debit card payments to make it even easier to book!

Saturday 16 July
Some time ago a "soft skills" trainer attended one of my classes. Both passionate about learning and with a love for working with people, we got a bit side tracked. I told her about Howard Gardner who identified eight kinds of intelligence, opening up eight ways to teach. She told me about Dr Jung and eight common colour-coded personality types. As I had to get on with my course, she offered I could do a test to find out my own colour. So I answered the 25 questions and sent it off. Today I read Insights' 33 page (!) report and found out there is an equal amount of red (motivator) and yellow (inspirer) in me. So I was dubbed a motivating inspirer. Not bad, eh, for a trainer?
Spooky PS - mix yellow and red and you get ...?

Thursday 14 July
Busy day FrontPage training in Aberdeen. Followed by an upgrade demo in Mumbai. Followed by a meeting in The Hague. And still time to go to my early evening Step class. I love virtual working!

Tuesday 12 July
Man, what happened to summer? No, I'm not talking about the weather. (As a matter of fact, the sun is out.) I'm talking komkommertijd. You know (I doubt it somehow, unless you're one of my Dutch friends who keep on top of my life by reading my blog) the time of year when things slow down. Right! Cucumber time! A period I had set aside for grand ideas. (Such as to see whether I can find a publisher for my tips. Wooha!) Instead, I'm turning down clients left, right and centre. Time to expand? (Don't think so.)

Saturday 9 July
I ring the voicemail in my virtual office of one of my clients. Gotta message from Nick of the printroom. Twenty books will cost me 276 pounds. Great price, Nick. But you got the wrong number! Oh, and you didn't leave your number. So, uuuhm, I hope you read this. (Or the person who is waiting to hear how much it costs to print 20 books.)

Thursday 7 July
Do guardian angels exist? Well, whether we believe in them or not, I feel extremely fortunate I am working from home for my London-based client. My thoughts are with those affected by this morning's terrible blast on the London Underground and bus.

Tuesday 5 July
Last week I went to a TLC event. Don't worry, I'm not swapping to the touchy-feely, seven habits side of training. (Even though I like to engage my right brain every now and then.) The Learning Collaboration (TLC) is a new initiative of the Cambridge Network with a vision to " ... create an ecosystem of organisations across the Cambridge region who are collaborating to learn". And as I know better than to go on about having to compete with the big boys, I just get creative, figure out what I'm good at and run with it. (Told you I like to engage my right brain.) So I put my name forward to join the collaboration and be one of the training providers. And why am I telling you this today? Well, having just said I won't complain about competing with the big boys, I sometimes still do. Especially when I feel disappointed because I don't hear anything. But this morning I got an email. They like to talk to me. If you cannot beat them, join them! (I live in hope.)

By the way, looking for TLC acronyms (Tender Loving Care, Tennessee Llama Community, Tile Linoleum And Carpet, The Lego Company, and many, many more) I found a superb website AbbreviationZ. With 338,994 entries and 117 categories I got 111 results for TLC in 0.01 seconds. (With The Learning Collaboration being one of them!)

Thursday 30 June
Just before I got off to do the final leg of a global rollout last month, I met a woman running her own business, wearing the most beautiful pieces of jewellery. Treats whenever she finished an assignment. Inspired, I bought myself some bling in Kuala Lumpur. Only to get it stolen from my hotel room in Houston a week later. Or rather, "missing" as the security manager wished to refer to it. "We never experience theft in our hotel." Right, of course. And there was me thinking that if you don't report a crime it might distort that figure?! Anyway, just found a cheque in the post as a settlement for my travel claim. Off to the shops.

Wednesday 29 June
There are more endings to Confucius' saying Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day than Boots has toiletries (and that's a lot). Some are funny. (Teach a man to fish and he'll sit in a boat drinking beer all day.) Some are silly. (Teach him to use the Internet and he won't bother you for weeks.) Some I don't want to repeat. But some are as thought-provoking as Confucius himself. Thanks for bringing your blog under my attention, Thomas!

Friday 24 June
Ohmigod. Travelling on the London Underground somebody offers me his seat. OK, nice, especially with the hot weather. But this floaty dress goes to Oxfam tomorrow! (And now to boost my self-esteem I launch my web browser, open the Automatic Flatterer and give myself a virtual pat on the back.)

Tuesday 21 June
Some time ago I was offered the opportunity to do a 2-minute pitch at a networking event. With D-day approaching hubby must be bored to tears and I decide to stop interrupting the cleaning lady to listen to it. But practice makes perfect (or so they say) so I dig out the old dictaphone and hear myself as others hear me. (Like, yuck.) The egg timer variates between 2 minutes, 10 seconds and 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Enough already. Delete that last recording and get back practicing your new vocabulary around Records Management. Cognizant. Spoliation. Disposition ... (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz!)

Wednesday 15 June
Emailed the local paper's Business Editor to see whether she is interested in an article on "Blogging for Business". Within half an hour she replies she is. All I have to do now is write about 300 words on the subject. Gulp.

For those of you who have been living on another planet Blogging has been hailed as the next big PR tool. Blogs are increasingly popular in Britain, with politicians, journalists and now businesses getting in on the act. Blogs are an ideal tool to share your thoughts with others, but don't overlook their capacity to generate new business as well. Right. Only 251 words to go.

Tuesday 14 June
OK, I like the idea of you thinking of me as an expert in all things Office. But when one of the kids of a friend rings because he's told to use Excel to make tree diagrams for his maths homework, I reach the don't know, haven't got a clue stage. I mean, we're talking more than 25 years ago, and even back then I was hopeless at algebra! I know the origin of the word mathematics is in the Greek word manthanein, to learn. My passion. But I've done enough maths in high school to last a lifetime!

Monday 13 June
Wanted: Good home for Samsung ML-1650 toner cartridge. Printed 200 pages (max) of its potential 8000. RRP: £110.41. (No, that is not a misprint.)

Why is it that my laser printer waited to pack up until I had carefully pulled the sealing tape out of the brand new cartridge? Apparently, if "Error", "Manual", "Paper" and "Data" all flash at the same time you have a "system error" and need to contact the service representative, who probably is more expensive than a new laser printer. Smash forehead on keyboard to continue.

Thursday 9 June
When I use my laptop as a virtual classroom I am overcome with one of those inexplicable fits of English embarrassment. I feel particularly ashamed of my messy desktop. The tell-tale sign of a chaotic few months. But just before I hand over control of my laptop in disgust, I remember Einstein's "If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?" Phew!

Monday 6 June
Before starting my next big project developing a course on Records Management (SOX ROX), I decide to have a holiday. Suppose I should have been suspicious when hubby offered to find a place to go. Turned out I was somewhere with no signal on my mobile. And no telephone in the hotel room to dial into the Internet. So if anybody tried to get hold of me last week ... tough!

Thursday 26 May
A dear friend of mine sends me a virus warning. About to embrace my bossy lecture woman genes, I seriously consider telling him how to spot whether or not a virus warning is a hoax. A helluvalot of these bogus warnings are being passed on by innocent users who think they are helping the community by spreading the advice, but he should know better. Mind you, even my dad once thought he was doing the right thing! He later on explained that, because he got the warning from the vicar, he thought it was genuine. Anyway, where was I? Dear Friend. Virus Warning ... the virus is called Worm-Overload-Recreational-Killer (WORK). As always it asks you to forward the warning to 5 friends but goes on that "If you do not have 5 friends you have already been infected and WORK is controlling your life." I think I get the hint.

Tuesday 24 May
Gotta bunch of smartypants in my class today, who answer all their own questions. "See?" I say. "You don't need me!?" "Oh, yes, we do!" one of them replies, "... for the key!" referring to the magic, charged up device that turns the drinks machine into a free-for-all. Deep breath now.

Wednesday 18 May
The last time I was in an office that had a fire drill, we all had to walk down from whatever floor we were on and gather outside. Today, I experience a fire drill Texas style. Just as we are about to start a new exercise the alarm goes off. (A trainers nightmare.) All course participants scurry purposefully to the staircase. Four floors down (16 to go) we get told off for doing so. "This is a drill. Do not use the stair wells." intercom man announces. Turns out they never actually evacuate. All we have to do is stand in the corridor underneath the EXIT signs. (You can stop sniggering now.)

Thursday 12 May
"You're flying back to London Heathrow, ma'am?" the check-in lady says, more a statement than a question. "London Gatwick" I answer, thinking of my car at Gatwick airport. "No, ma'am, tonight you are flying back to London Heathrow." she replies, more firmly now. And although there is a flight to LGW around the same time I travel back to LHR, I would need to buy a first class ticket for the privilege. Ouch. So I fly back to London Heathrow and use the airline's chauffeur drive service to get back to my beloved car. That'll teach me not to check my flight arrangements thoroughly! Smart move, Roem.

Tuesday 10 May
Yesterday I woke up with blurred vision, yukky stuff from puffy eyes and light sensitivity. No, this wasn't some self-inflicted hangover ... the local pharmacist here in Kuala Lumpur suspected an eye infection and sold me antibiotic drops that were taken off the shelves in the UK over a year ago. But in search of a half decent face - and some vision - I take the risk. So this morning I walked into the classroom looking like a four-eyed cross between an iguana and Marty Feldman. During the break one of my course participants explains the likely reason of the manifestations of this unfriendly bacteria ... Malaysia has three seasons: shine, rain and haze. And according to my dictionary the latter is an "Atmospheric moisture, dust, smoke, and vapor that diminishes visibility". Well, it sure diminished mine!

Wednesday 4 May
Agreed. It should be OK if you don't check your email for a day. Or two. So when working at companies' premises that have cracked down on staff misuse of the internet by using filters to control access (apparently up to 40% of internet usage at work is unrelated to business, so fair enough) I use sheer willpower to kill the cravings. But back in my own office I struggle to fight withdrawal symptoms when the team who hosts my email has been unable to deliver hardly anything for a week now. "We hope that the service we are currently providing exceeds your current expectations" the blurb on their website reads. " but if you are unsatisfied with any aspect of our service, please contact us straight away." Which I did and I was told that they are taking steps to block the ports that are causing your problem, the ports that used on the connection(s ) with the mail server, are to many to mention that need to be identified and barred which in turn your issue will become resolved. [sic] Can somebody translate that into English for those of us who don't speak anorak?

Monday 2 May
Since last week's return from Shanghai I have tested a new software release, prepped a course I'm due to run tomorrow and trained 15 Super Users. To me, however, this means I have nothing to write about. So kindly stop emailing to tell me my blog is out of date.

Saturday 23 April
Most folks I meet seem to have a problem pronouncing my name. Here in England it varies from ro'em as in poem, Rome as the Italian city, or ro'wan as the first name of the British actor, writer, producer, whatever, known for his roles as Blackadder and Mr Bean. But when I checked in to the Seoul Plaza Hotel last Sunday, there was no reservation under the name "Roem", no matter how I pronounced it. Turned out Reservation Confirmation Number 705202 was made for a "Mrs Loem". The start of a week training in Korea and China, during which most course participants were struggling with my name. I know - pot, kettle, black and all that. But let me explain once and for all how to pronounce my name: Kaåäãren but spelled without all the fancy symbols. And Roem like Room but with a rolling R.

Thursday 14 April
Right. Todays priority is sorting out a dedicated business line. Not that I worry about my professional appearance (fortysomethings are way past caring what other people think) but I don't want to get another phone call at 3AM from a client in Kuala Lumpur, getting their global times wrong.

Tuesday 12 April
Friends often say to me "I wish I could be my own boss like you." Ha! Little do they know just how much harder they'll have to work. OK, I do occasionally work from home in my jimjams. But for every day I'm working for a client, the rest of my work piles up. Well, that's why I'm on strike. Sort of. When the assignment to Brazil scheduled for this week fell through (don't ask) I decided not to take on any work. And I can assure you that, with not knowing where your next pay slip will come from, this isn't as easy as it may sound. But at some point I learnt to say "no" by simply putting the word NO on the days I wanted to keep for myself. It being the first thing I would see if a client would enquire about my availability on that day, it did the trick. But NO soon became NO-ish and before I knew it, I was working 70 hours per week. Which is why this time I've written ON STRIKE. And having only accepted 1.5 days work this week, it kinda worked. So I'm joining the Be Your Own Boss Week in spirit and celebrate the decision I made to go it alone and be my own boss. With a morning swim. A facial. A reflexology session ... When the going gets tough, the tough go on strike.

Wednesday 6 April
Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment ... Due to the parking nightmare in Cambridge I just missed the opportunity to catch up with a bunch of like-minded women, running their own business. Fair enough, I found some parking spaces, but they turned out to be for residents who were all out, and obviously took their car with them. Pay and Display machines in the few streets where on-street parking was allowed, accepted cash only. And the shop I rushed into to change my tenner, didn't have pound coins. OK, Cambridge is a historic city and its medieval streets were not built to cope with today's traffic. But because of the lack of decent cycle paths, unreliable bus services and the car parks often full (and outrageously expensive!) I didn't feel I had an alternative but to drive back home. Thanks for the soapbox. I'll get off now, thanks.

Tuesday 29 March
Mon dieu, what happened to my high school French? It starts with problems getting into Lyon's Tour Suisse. The security officers don't speak English and don't seem to understand who it is in the business centre I come to see. Once inside (thanks to a member of staff walking past) I meet my course participants. After the ritual handshakes and kisses I soon witness what seem to be rigorous arguments and skilled debates. To make matters worse, all ten of them are happily clicking on things they're not supposed to click on. I wonder whether it's my English - accent, moi? - or whether I just don't have enough eyes, ears and hands to monitor and control what they're doing. I suddenly feel the frustration of the waiter at the packed restaurant on Sunday. (Speaking like René Artois, the café owner in 'Allo 'Allo! ) "Unfortunately, my mother did not sleep with an octopus."

Friday 25 March
Ever had to report a problem to an IT Help Desk and just lost the will to live? Well, this morning I emailed the Help Desk of one of my clients as I was having problems logging on to their system using my smartcard. Assuming I wouldn't get an answer until after the Easter break, I was pleasantly surprised (read: flabbergasted) to get a phone call only minutes later. It's Keith from the Help Desk. And Keith turns out to be one of those unsung heroes who take pride in sorting things out. Three hours, various phone calls and a NetMeeting session later, I'm finally logged in. So here's to Keith, the Help Desk Team Treasure.

Wednesday 23 March
At the end of one of my surgery-type support sessions I do a tour around the office. "Anything I can help you with?" "If you can tell me how I can use my computer to win the lottery, that would be great!" one of the members of staff replies. Listen, I wouldn't be here if I could answer that one, would I? Well, the sad thing is that I probably would. I think I have taken the Work Like You Don't Need The Money bit just a bit too far! I am even thrilled with my seat on the way home on the train ... on the luggage rack! The hardest part is to ignore the jealous looks of my fellow commuters.

Friday 18 March
Up at 6AM to attend a seminar in Berkshire. I won't go into details, but highlight of the day was the 4-hour drive home. And that wasn't just because it was the first day of the year it was warm enough to drive with the top down.

Thursday 17 March
Today's training session takes me to a veterinary school. Before we start, one of the course participants tells me he has to leave half way through the day. "They'll bring a mouse with a lump on its back and I'll need to examine it." Well, I've heard some excuses in my time but this is probably the best!

Tuesday 15 March
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Not that I have an Aunt Sally and she probably has no excuse either it's a mnemonic to help me remember the mathematical order of operations. (Parenthesis, exponents, multiply, divide, add and subtract.) And one I bring up when - like today - explaining Excel formulas that contain more than one "operator", for example addition and division such as 3 + 4 / 2 (3.5? Wrong! 5, unless you enclose the appropriate "operand" and "operator" in parenthesis. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.) It never fails to amaze me what course participants come up with when split in groups and asked to develop some type of memory aid about any of the topics learned. (Typically an after lunch exercise to raise energy levels.) Rhymes. Drawings. But my very favourite must be that F11 looks like a column chart (come on, use your imagination!) and is the keyboard shortcut to quickly
create a chart. 

By the way, isn't it ironic that the very word, describing the technique intended to assist the memory, is almost impossible to remember?! (Oh, and the Dutch equivalent for Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is Meneer Van Dalen Wacht Op Antwoord.)

Saturday 12 March
This week I've been mainly working "Down Under".
To be precise, I was only training on Thursday and Friday. Tuesday and Wednesday were for my brain to turn up like lost luggage ... excellent opportunity to travel the Great Ocean Road, discovering the breath-taking coastline of South West Victoria. And with a 7 hour stop-over in Thailand on my way back today, Bangkok beckoned. But even with these two extra days, it seemed bonkers. Bruce Willis' character in Armageddon springs to mind ... "6 billion people on the planet, why'd you guys call me?"

Monday 28 February
I'm on my way to catch the 07:45 to London King's Cross to do some more work for a client I once met at an airport. (Who needs networking events? ;-) Among the many commuters with their coffee and a newspaper is a man with two huge suitcases. "Looks promising" I say, whilst walking past him. "I'm sorry?", he replies. I look at him properly now and, oh my God, it's Bill Bryson! Why didn't I a). keep my mouth shut or b). think of something a bit more exciting to say? Before I know it I'm one of the sad characters in his next book! Memo to oneself to stop talking to strangers in busy public areas. But then again ... I wouldn't be on my way to catch the 07:45 to London King's Cross to do some more work for a client I once met at an airport if I wouldn't have struck up a conversation.

Thursday 24 February
Love it or loath it, networking is a way to build relationships that can help grow your business. Suffice to say I'm not a fan. Not that the very thought of walking into a room terrifies me, but I don't think you can build a relationship that way. OK, it's not as bad as in the States where 2 minute "speed networking" is thriving (a concept they're now trying to introduce in the UK), but still. However, as my local Chamber of Commerce had organised an informal Networking Evening at "my" Health and Fitness club, I thought I'd give it a go. Still lots of Chaps in Suits, but on the bright side one of the women networkers asked whether I was a member of the "junior networking group" (18-40's). And if that alone didn't cheer me up, I feel I might have drummed up some work from a local telecom business. Me, gloat? Never.

Friday 18 February
Last day of one of my contracts. About time too ... the hotel receptionist remembers I want the (complimentary!) Times. Same sort of thing at the breakfast table. ("Coffee, no toast?") And while shopping for forgotton toiletries at the local supermarket I bump into people who greet me. Mind you, the project leader just emailed ... "Your involvement (providing you are not fed-up with us!) is not at an end and I will no doubt be seeing you in the near future." Ahh ... I love happy endings!

Tuesday 15 February
Not sure whether to laugh or cry. It's 5.30 AM and I've just sent off a couple of email messages in an attempt to stay ahead of the game. Within minutes I have answers from Australia and India. Thought email was supposed to be asynchronous. Don't they know that that does not require users to be logged in simultaneously?!

Friday 11 February
Do you remember a time without the "world wide web"? My god, what did we do before Tim Berners-Lee came up with his hypertext program in the early 1990s? Well, thanks to his invention I just had dinner with somebody I used to work with at the Computer Lab some nine years ago. Her ad in the February Newsletter of Women at Work was just underneath mine and a quick email confirmed she was the Kate. But that was only one part of today's successful use of the web. When I got back in the office (aka home) and checked my email, I found a message confirming my suspicion about an official looking letter I received earlier this week from the Data Protection Enforcement Agency in Blackpool. "Final notice" it read, claiming that despite previous correspondence my business was still showing as not having registered its activities as laid out in the Data Protection Act 1998. Having no recollection ever seen previous correspondence I got even more suspicious when I got to the end of the form and there was a demand for £135. So I searched the Internet and found a warning on the Information Commissioner's Office (the old "Data Protection Agency") website, listing my guys on their bogus list. Turns out the statutory fee for registering under the DPA is £35 a year, so if a letter demands more you can be certain it is a scam. So I threw the letter in the bin and didn't pay the fee! Sir Tim. My Hero.

Thursday 10 February
Look me up in the yellow pages; I will be your rock of ages ... Not quite, but I've just received my copy of the Business Pages - Yells (red!) business directory - and I cannot help but think of Robbie Williams' lyrics. The Business Pages directory has been "... specifically designed to help businesses find each other more easily". And I'm in it. (Or, as some of you might see it, I've fallen for it.) So if anybody sees me walking down the streets with a "we're in the Business Pages" branded umbrella, you know why!

(An innocent "google" and I'm sitting here listening to music by Thomas Hastings rather than Robbie ... http://www.cgmusic.com/cghymnal/others/r/rockofages.htm. I warned you! (Let me entertain you! ;-)

Friday 4 February
Next week Cherie Blair (aka Cherie Booth QC) embarks on her lecture tour of Australia. Next month I'll be a guest "down under" but I can assure you my fee won't be a 6-digit figure, nor did Gulf Air donate first-class flights. As it happens, I was just emailing the client to say that I really felt I couldn't accept the fact that they "... will book the most economical ticket" for this 2-day (!) training session in Melbourne. Turns out I missed the crucial part of the sentence which reads "... will book the most economical business class ticket." So I know it won't make me feel like dancing at Melbourne Airport after a 24 hour flight (or whatever time the most economical flight takes ;-) but it will cushion the blow a bit.

Thursday 3 February
Yesterday I helped a local charity troubleshoot their mail merge problems using Works Suite 2004. For over four hours we were sitting in an office slightly larger than a broom cupboard, but we cracked it and we felt pretty good about it. Today, my hubby sent me a text message to say that yesterday's customer rang to tell me "I was absolutely brilliant". This was unique in two ways ... 1. that the customer rang to give unsolicited feedback. And 2. Because my husband is using a mobile phone to stay in touch whilst I'm away on business. Apparently I managed to convince him that mobile phones don't turn you into a loud mouth phone user travelling by train ... they just point out where they are sitting!

Saturday 29 January
Just got a letter from my friends Sue and Nara, on behalf of Children of Nepal, a small British charitable organisation that has the aim of extending and improving educational opportunities for children living in Nepal. They've just returned from a visit to the country to review the progress of projects and establish new ones. "There is so much need in the government schools in the rural area in which we work - when we arrived, there was a list of 28 schools asking for help. We were able to visit about 10 of these and have agreed to fund four projects initially and another four or five after these are well under way." So the money you are helping me to raise (remember my pledge to donate 3 pounds for every completed evaluation form?) is really needed and helps making a big difference to the schools Sue and Nara are working with. Since mid October the "happy sheets" have raised 129 pounds, all of which has gone directly to the Children of Nepal - and I mean: ALL of it ... when Sue and Nara go over to check the progress of past and current projects they pay for their own flights and accommodation etcetera. So even though Godfrey Parkin in his recent column on TrainingZONE urges us to "... acknowledge that the smile-sheet is only a token gesture at quality control ...." and a bunch of followers even challenges us to ditch them completely, you know that your feedback makes a real difference. Thanks!

Monday 24 January
Today has been pinpointed as the worst day of the year. According to a psychologist at Cardiff University by now our Christmas holidays have worn off, we realise how much we've overspent and we've broken our New Year's Resolutions. Funnily enough, today is the first day I'm sticking to my New Year's resolution having decided that when I'll go away for business I'll give myself an extra day to see a bit of the area, I'm off to Sweden tonight where I'm planning to do a day of sightseeing in Gothenborg before meeting my Livelink Super Users on Wednesday. Who said misery is peaking today? I even noticed that none of the flights seem affected by today's snow. OK, BAA plc shall have no liability for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relying on flight information on their website, but for me 1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA doesn't spell misery. (If anybody is interested to read more about this complicated formula see BBC News.)

Wednesday 19 January
A girl's gotta keep up with technology ... When I got to the client's training room this morning it was still locked. As usual I was way too early, but I like to have plenty of time to set up the room, test things out and allow for the (inevitable?) last minute panic. So there I was, on the look-out for a man with a bunch of keys to open the door ... Turns out they released it remotely. Welcome to the tech age!

While we're on the subject (we're not, but I don't want to say "by the way" again) - my halo is choking me. I've just turned down the nibbles the waiter in the hotel bar brought with my glass of wine. After all, it is weigh in night and even though I'm 150 miles away, I'm attending the meeting in spirit.

Friday 14 January
Ten days after I sent out my mailshot and I'm still receiving feedback on the fun liquid mouse mats I sent. Today I even got an email from a colleague of one of the happy "few" "... I don't suppose you fancy letting me have a complimentary one too?" I must admit the constantly changing appearance, as the two non-mixing liquids inside move, is fascinating (told you I'm tactile! :-) Just hope that by now they've all removed my picture from the mouse mat's "window" and are showing off their family photos or holiday snaps instead. Finally, apologies to those of you who feel it is very compulsive to keep moving the liquid about and as a result find themselves distracted from doing any work. (Sorry, Marian!)

Thursday 6 January
Help! My presentation seems to have a mind of its own! Without pressing n, the spacebar, ENTER or whatever else PowerPoint normally needs as an incentive to move to the next slide, my slide show seems to be self-running. There it goes again. Turns out that I'm using a so-called "SMART Board" and that one of its selling points is that "... you can simply press on its large, touch-sensitive surface to access and control any application". No mouse needed! Well, nice, but not for the sort of person who talks with her hands and touches the board to make a point. ("Tactile" is my middle name. Actually, its Jolanda but that's a different story.) They seem to use them everywhere at primary schools, but when I went to school we still wrote with ink pens. (Honest!) Uh-oh. Outsmarted by a SMART board! (Perhaps I should practice what I preach and get trained.)

Saturday 1 January 2005
Happy birthday to me! No, not that birthday ... The first day of January is the start of a brand new calendar year. It's also the beginning of my 5th year in business. But how about 29 October 2004? What the heck, why not celebrate two birthdays?! After all, "your" queen does it. And so does "mine". So happy birthday to me and a happy New Year to us all. May all our personal and business dreams come true!

Going back to that birthday ... that was only a few weeks ago and hubby gave me a luvvly pressie: a TomTom GO, a portable GPS car navigation system. You see, ask me to travel back from a client in Norwich and I will come home via King's Lynn. Or tell me to drive from Southampton to Coventry and I go via Bath. So when he gave me the beautiful TomTom gift box he said he hoped that, in future, I'd be home sooner. (Who said the guy isn't romantic?) New Customers I Don't Have A Clue How To Get To, here I come! ("After 200 yards turn right at the roundabout, third exit. You have reached your destination.")

2004 diary

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December 2005