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2008 diary

Friday 28 December 2007
Been poorly since last Sunday. Great timing, eh? Actually, yes. It's a known fact that self employed people believe they cannot afford to get sick and as a result they often neglect their health when feeling run down. So when we finally relax our struggling immune system stages a go-slow. Tough cookies do crumble.

Friday 21 December
A short flight away from home, yet I'm stuck on the tarmac in a bus. Then the news comes in … My flight has been cancelled due to heavy fog at London City Airport. Crosby's "I'll be home for Christmas" springs to mind. If only in my dreams.

Friday 14 December
Promised to pop over to help somebody I trained recently. So before heading off I look at the organisation's mug shots area to put a face to a name. Confidently I enter her room. But what I see, no lady with blond hair and glasses. "It's me" says one of the specs free employees with a bright smile and an impossible chestnut hair colour. A female's prerogative.

Thursday 13 December
As I work in Germany until 22 December, followed by two duvet weeks at home, I've already switched on my Out of Office AutoReply. I will be out of the office until Wednesday, 2 January. If you need to contact me urgently, please leave a message on my mobile. So while I tuck in my sauerkraut and eisbein my phone rings. A former colleague of mine who had just sent me an email to wish me a belated happy birthday and realised he overestimated my age by a year. Being the gentleman he is, he felt he needed to set the record straight. Urgently. Nice.

Friday 7 December
Crikey. My last seminar of the year was attended by somebody from Spain. Made for a nice change from me having to commute around the world for work. I could get used to this. (But then again, I'd probably miss the chaos that comes with business travel.)

Wednesday 5 December
Move over J.K. The third edition of the Essential Business Guide has arrived. And I've contributed to it. What better day to be told that five complimentary copies are winging its way to me by snail mail ... it's Sinterklaas!

Monday 3 December
The seminar room I'm in today is kitted out with coffee tables and comfy chairs. Great for the staff, but not ideal for me. So when I spot a serving trolley in the back of the room, I use it for the wireless keyboard, mouse and other paraphernalia that come with the job. That is, the job of a trainer even though I feel a bit like a trolley dolly. Ladies and gentlemen, your exits are located here, here and here. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

Thursday 29 November
Working at a customer's site today I found their dinky little keyboards very hard to operate. My constant typing errors were slowing me down no end, which didn't quite work with my tight deadline. Whilst I realised it wasn't as bad as when I'm in Germany where the z is where you expect the y to be (now just think for a moment of how manz y's we tzpe in English) I just knew I wouldn't get used to it within a day, so I asked for a different keyboard. Even though that meant I couldn't put as much stuff on the desk as I otherwise might have done. Or with clutter taking over our lives perhaps that was a good thing?! (Let's just remind ourselves of Einstein who said that "If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?")

Thursday 22 November
Generally, the self-employed have less time off than those who work for an employer, simply because taking a sickie has an impact on our wallet. So when a bad cold struck last week, I didn't have an option but battle on. (With apologies to any course participant who finds themselves in bed when reading this!) Blocked nose, sore throat, mild fever, coughing, headache. You name it, I had it. And to top it all, I woke up this morning with a whopping cold sore. Thank God I don't have any classroom training planned for the next couple of days, so I'm not confronted with people desperately trying not to look at my fat upper lip.

Thursday 15 November
Deep down every trainer knows there is rarely a good reason for finishing a class early. After all, the course participant paid for a seven hour training session, so how would you feel if your class ended early? But what if it's a one-to-one session and you covered all the topics. As well as those things the fast learner wanted to know about the next level up. And the next. You even taught her a great feature in some other software package. OK, fat chance it'll be repeat business, but let's hope for the right reasons!

Friday 9 November
In training we use the term "parking lot" for those questions you jot down on a flip chart because you cannot access that part of your brain that contains the answer. But it's also a great way to create an atmosphere that nurtures and encourages participation as it did this morning ... during the coffee break a course participant came up to me and said "I have another question for your car park."

Friday 2 November
These days I seem to be getting the wrong end of every stick with my tips. Within a few hours after sending this week's I receive various email messages from those who think there is nothing more hilarious than me not knowing simple shortcuts. Rumours the weekly tips will be renamed to "weekly trips" remain unfounded.

Monday 29 October
"Maybe this was sent to me in error?" emails one of my clients, replying to a message I sent to the wrong Lisa. Oops! Rather embarrassing given this week's tip where I was taking the mick out of one of my subscribers who sent a party invitation to the wrong Karen. Oh well. Those who cannot laugh at themselves invite others to do it for them.

Tuesday 23 October
First day off in two hundred and twenty seven days. Time to unpack some removal boxes. All terribly exciting until I found the bathroom scales. OK, I know there are three billion women who don't look like supermodels and only seventeen who do, but I guess I fooled myself in believing I hadn't quite reached stage five of a female's life as yet. You know ... 1) To grow up. 2) To fill out. 3) To slim down. 4) To hold it in. 5) To hell with it.

Monday 15 October
Off to the German client to introduce my meticulously dressed trainer, which wasn't as apparent as you might think ... When we met in the hotel lobby last night he told me the airline had lost his luggage and although he had his suit bag he only had the Nelson Mandela T-shirt he was wearing to go under it. Oops. Even though there is no dress code as such these days, on your first day to one of the world's most important central banks you don't want to turn up looking like you are about to go off on an anti-apartheid rally, do you? So last night we asked the friendly bar tender what time the shops would open. He looked the trainer up and down a bit and decided they were about the same size, so this morning three crisp ironed shirts were waiting for him at Reception. If only everything in life was as reliable as somebody who serves alcoholic drinks in a bar.

Thursday 11 October
As I know my clients like our quiet seminar room (let's say, for the sake of argument, that comments such as The lovely peaceful setting made it more relaxing and easier to take information in are a dead give-away) I sent the builder home during today's training. Which made it kind of funny when - half an hour into the session - my gardener arrives to do the two hour job mowing the lawn with a pretty noisy piece of machinery. (Thank goodness it was repeat business!)

Wednesday 10 October
Last night one of my clients left a message on my mobile, asking me to ring between 6:45 and 8:30 AM. (Seriously!) So when I wake up - at 7.15 - I check my Received Calls for the number to dial. One was anonymous. (Cannot be him.) The other one was a number I didn't recognize. (Must be him.) I ring the number. Get connected. Hear a grunt. Then the person on the other line puts the phone down. While checking the number I receive a txt msg from a client of many many moons ago who I lost contact with, apart from those times he tries to get hold of somebody else called Karen. "Sorry Karen." the message reads. "Made the same mistake again."

Friday 5 October
One of the downsides of this computer age is Repetitive Strain Injury - RSI - which is why I always try to wean people from the mouse. But not all of this morning's course participants seemed keen to find out how to accomplish stuff on the computer using nothing but their keyboard. "It's an age thing", one of them says. "He's such a charmer" somebody else adds. Oh no, he isn't! He is referring to me being an old git, who was brought up using mouseless computing. OK, I know my back goes out more than I do, but I'm happy to commemorate Douglas Engelbart who started the point-and-click revolution more than 20 years before Apple. Now stop messing about and press WIN+E to access Livelink Explorer.

Monday 1 October
Yippee! No trip to the airport at 6 o’clock this morning. Instead, the commute was hard to beat as I walked from the kitchen to my seminar room for one of my half day Excel training sessions. So I cherished the moment before heading off for a three hour drive to the client who is still in the process of checking with three recent customers whether I am who I say I am. Just found an email from one of them ... I told them you were completely mad, were not employable and were a total liability. I told them you spent your days talking about "book inspectors" and having difficulties getting round Dublin. I'm sure they'll let me in tomorrow!

Tuesday 24 September
Working on the 28th floor makes taking the elevator inevitable. So over the past few weeks I've noticed the Germans have a completely different lift etiquette from the British. Instead of standing as close to the wall as possible, staring at the numbers with a "do I look like a people person" expression, the unwritten rule here seems to be to talk to one another. Being the type of person that actually likes to chat to strangers I don't mind the ritual small talk, but only about acceptable topics such as the weather or today's news headlines. But even that seems to be different up here. Going "home" tonight my fellow passenger looks at my feet, shivers and comments on my footwear. Why, yes, it might be getting colder outside, but I don't want to depart with my comfy (German) flip-flops for the next nine months just yet!

Friday 21 September
Today's "escorted visitor" status means that I'm waiting for somebody to accompany me to my training room. (It also means I'm - once again - waiting to pass the rigorous security vetting procedures which involved various phone calls to my dad about stuff I didn't know about him and had forgotten to keep a record of when I was security cleared back in 2004.) Various phone calls later somebody arrives at the other side of the barrier at Reception ... an escorted visitor herself so back to square one. I'm waiting for somebody to accompany me to my training room.

Thursday 13 September
To cope with the modern day curse of the mobile phone I have a "no-mobiles" policy to make sure those irritating ring tones do not interrupt the training. OK, I don't go as far as make course participants hand in their phones at arrival (now there's a thought). Instead, I ask them to switch their phone to silent. Obviously I do the same. Saying that, this week I've been switching mine off completely. Not to set an example (after all, they still loose concentration when they check their external phone displays) but to save the battery as I forgot to pack my British to European adaptor plug. So when I switch it back on after my morning session I find a voicemail message from somebody who tells me he's interested in my Livelink training. Can I give him a bell. "I'll be here the rest of the day." he says. Well, so am I. But it would have been nice if you'd left your telephone number!

Wednesday 12 September
They say that music is the only language we all understand. Which is great when you train citizens from all parts of the EU and want to set the scene when they enter the classroom. But I can tell you that after six weeks of Moby's churchey tunes I feel like I'm walking the knife-edge between feeling super relaxed and mentally unstable. So I switch off the sound and course participants can símply watch the slide show highlighting the benefits of the product they are about to learn. And you know what? I miss the music!

Monday 3 September
Yippee! The start of a week developing courses, rather than delivering them. Don't get me wrong, I'm passionate about training, but after four weeks back-to-back "performances" my patience was disappearing rapidly. The next person who was going to question why the new software couldn't cut the grass or do the dishes was at serious risk of having a head injury. So if you don't mind I'll moan for another two or three seconds ... there, I'm done. Back to work.

Thursday 30 August
Having done my fair share of working abroad I thought I had a pretty good insight into the cultural dynamics of a country, but when my course participants started to knock on their table when I finished my training session I had to ask what they were doing. Apparently knocking is typically German and is something like an applause. Bless!

Monday 20 August
When I arrive in the training room I notice the normally ever so efficient repro guys did not deliver any training handouts. So I report it to the powers that be and start the session with outdated material we still have left. After about half an hour somebody enters the room and tells me a box was delivered last Friday and that "an elderly lady took hold of it". Elderly lady? Well, that cannot have been me! Or was it? While humming the Alzheimer theme tune I pass around the new handouts I find in one of the cupboards.

Friday 16 August
Phew! Just ended a week of seven training sessions in Germany. And if one of them hadn't been cancelled, it would have been eight! Same next week. And the next. And next ... (Sometimes I wonder whether I fell out of the Stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.) So what was my high point? It surely wasn't German TV! I mean, have you ever tried to listen to German coming out of Horatio's tilted head when watching CSI Miami? Hands up who really wants to see ER's Abbey and Luca communicate in German? Or worse still ... a dubbed version of South Park!? So at night I settle down with a good book in one of the comfy chairs of the hotel bar while the friendly waiter, Apo, serves me a glass of wine from a decanter. I will do the same next week. And the next. And next ...

Monday 6 August
Help Desk: Good morning, how may I help you? Me: Well, I've only been here a week, after which I was off for two weeks and now I cannot remember my user name. Help Desk: We don't do password resets over the phone. You will have to come and visit us. Me: No, I know my password. It's my user name I cannot remember. Help Desk: Now, that's a first. Me: Listen, mate. Over the years I've been known as u22pn16, snkro1, gbkro0, kjr1003, tdkrz, karen.roem, roemka, roemk, roemkar ... no wonder I suffer from multiple personality disorder. Oh, and obviously it doesn't help that I'm over the hill (even though I don't remember being on top of it) and that my joints are more accurate than the Met Office weather forecast.

Thursday 26 July
Broke my tooth last night (on some tortilla chips, in case you are making notes) so I rang my dentist to get it fixed. But with him being on holiday and my nightmare schedule I cannot get an appointment until 17 September. Fingers crossed they have good emergency practices close to my new client's offices.

Monday 23 July
One of my clients has requested course certificates for the members of staff I trained recently. So here I am, with 71 documents, feeling as if I am practicing my signature for my big day. But hang on ... I never changed my name. Mrs T is his mum. Not me. (Tut-tut and tsk tsk.)

Tuesday 17 July
Sent an email to hubby to check whether there was any snail mail or voicemail that needed my attention during my absence. "No. No." was his - typical - one-syllable reply. Not a man of many words (his email signature is longer than his answers) but hey! He is my monosyllabic man! (By the way, why are there five syllables in the word monosyllabic?)

Monday 16 July
Sometimes being a tough cookie pays off when you're negotiating. You know what I mean ... you ask for something. (Say, six thirty.) They propose something else. (Six.) And you end up 15 minutes longer in bed. (Six fifteen.) Three cheers for my flexible taxi driver!

Wednesday 11 July
"Bewleys Central Park, please." I say upon entering the taxi at Dublin airport. This normally causes some giggles about it being a long way to New York, but today's cabbie seemed unaware of my required destination. So I tell him it's normally a 50 minutes trip on the motorway, with a stop to pay for toll charges. So off we go ... to the wrong Bewleys hotel. Wanting to see the good in people I give him the benefit of the doubt and do not want to consider this experienced taxi driver (he had 18 years under his belt!) might have taken me for a proverbial ride. (Gullible? Moi?) And anyway, I still made it in time for dinner with my client so I could share my excitement about the
brocken specter I saw on the plane. Mind you, somehow I think I did a tremendously poor job conveying this awesome phenomenon. "What's a book inspector"?

Tuesday 10 July
I know, I know! Almost a month without any entries. Juggling business trips with visiting friends, going home occasionally for some clean knickers, make for days crammed to bursting. But just so you know stuff has happened since 15 June ... the first in a series of nine Enterprising Women podcasts was launched, featuring "Women involved in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) in the East of England". The first podcast is about women's motivations for going into business for themselves. Be warned! The first thing you hear is moi. (Like yuck!) Another thing that took place was a hotel guest entering my room. Turned out this strange invader hadn't been given the wrong key. Oh no! An overzealous housekeeper had moved all my stuff out of my temporary lodgings, something I hadn't noticed as I was slaving away over my laptop after a day's work. What else? Zakko, the office cat, has passed away. Oh, and I won a big contract that will probably keep me off the streets until March 2009. And finally, Roger Federer won his fifth title in a row, while Venus Williams was crowned ladies' champion for the fourth time in eight years.

Friday 15 June
Lunch time. I'm trying hard to think what the Polish food signs in the canteen might mean. So I'm happier than a pig in mud to spot a list with English translations. I order. I pay. And like everone else I queue at the end of the counter. But unlike everyone else I don't get my food within a few minutes. I'm starting to wonder if I might have misunderstood the way this works and ask one of my course participants. Apparently I had ordered a la carte. Which meant I was not part of the haste cuisine. But just as I'm thinking of taking a Polish crash course, I get my bigos, which would have made perfect eating on a long, cold evening. Hot, sweaty and steamed up I re-enter my classroom. Oh, the joys of not speaking the language.

Wednesday 13 June
According to the hotel concierge it will take me about 25 minutes to walk to the office in Krakowska Street. It's a lovely, sunny day and I have 1.5 hours to spare, so this would be a great opportunity to see a bit of the city. Half an hour later I stroll past number 50 Krakowska Street, whereas the office is at number 280. So I continue my journey, crossing the river, only to find that the street on the other side of the bridge has a different name. So where the hell is number 280 if the last house on the corner is number 50? Turns out Krakow Business Park is in Zabierzow, rather than Krakow. Confused? I was! Especially when it turned out that Zabierzow is the home of Krakow airport, where I landed last night and from where I took a taxi to my hotel in the city. What happened to common sense?

Saturday 2 June
Back in March my accountant sent me a letter informing me I have to complete a P11D. One of these bureaucratic nightmares, about which there seems to be a lot of confusion. What are benefits in kind and who needs to declare them? So I put "some" effort into getting to the bottom of this ... I sent a dozen or so email messages. Posted a question on a forum. Rang HM Revenue & Customs (but got fed up hearing the engaged tone). Discussed it with fellow hard working, tax man persecuted, buck stops here small business owners. Considered applying for dispensation. Even tried to blame Gordon Brown. But it was no good. So with the deadline looming I sat down today and found what the red tape and over-regulation was all about ... 15 minutes to create a pivottable report based on my - meticulous - bookkeeping. (And yes, I am available for one-to-one Excel training!)

Friday 25 May
On the way back to Islamabad airport my driver enquires why I'm not married. "I am married" I reply. "How many children, sir?" he asks. So when I tell him I don't have any he makes a big point about the fact that Mr Karen wil be in his Friday prayers. "Next time you're here, sir, you'll have a baby. Inshallah." Help!

Wednesday 23 May
I'm not the cinched-waist-skinny-jeans-cropped-jacket type of person. Neither do I buy Heat magazine to stay on top of the latest celeb styles. Instead, I know real comfort when I see it. So last night one of the ladies in the office took me to her favourite shop in Islamabad and helped me choose two shalwar kameezes, one of which I'm wearing today. When the driver spots my comfy pajama-like trousers and tunic in his rearview mirror, we almost have an accident, with him swerving into the wrong lane and cars honking their horn. (He spends the remainder of the trip into the office trying to teach me Urdu.) In the office the outfit is a big hit as well. Free from the fashion tyranny and no nip and tuck required. What's not to like?

Monday 21 May
When I left Pakistan in March the IT manager asked me to look into creating a training video for their field staff. As soon as I see him today he picks up where we left off and before I know it I'm sitting down with a producer. When I explain what it is I do in a standard classroom session the IT guy suddenly interrupts and addresses the film chappie. "Can you hear her accent?" he remarks, not expecting an answer. "I think we need to subtitle her." he continues. Guess everything is relative!

Wednesday 16 May
Let me start off by saying that I'm the kind of person who always arrives unfashionably early. Some might tell you I'm almost compulsive when it comes to being early. Never (ever!) in my life have I been late for work. That is, until today ... When I woke up it turned out it was one and a half hours later than (I thought) I had set the alarm. Aaaaaahh! I had only one and a half hours left to get dressed and make my way from Cambridge to the North of London to get to my seven course participants. An impossible task, even on a good day. But we all know that when it rains, it pours. And then it pours some more ... when I got to the station an announcement helpfully added to the stress by apologizing for the delays to the train services this morning. Bring it on.

Monday 14 May
Started off my work day with an eventful taxi ride to the station. The cab's windows were plastered with posters about a do at one of our local pubs. When the driver saw me looking at it (not that I stood a hope in hell to avoid looking at it) he took the opportunity to say he was one of the singers of the advertised swing band. Did I like that sort of music? Well, yes. So before I knew it I was listening to a recording sung by Paul himself. Think I might pop into The Rock on Cherry Hinton Road on Bank Holiday Monday.

Thursday 10 May
At work in London - familiar territory rather than thinking I was on the set of "Taggart". For the last three days I was training in Glasgow and I was surrounded by people who spoke like Jackie Reid and Stewart Fraser. There was even a Robbie who sorted out the network connections on Monday. (Thank God, there was no murrrderrr!)

Friday 27 April
Freedom Day is a South African public holiday celebrated on 27 April. And as I couldn't get any flights home last night I have to stick it out after four days work. (Mustn't grumble.) Plans of sitting at the pool with a good book are shattered as it's raining. So I head to the empty office to do some work. But I seem to have mislaid my entry fob and cannot get in. Freedom Day after all.

Wednesday 25 April
Who needs a watch when you have a mobile phone? So when my training room turns out not to have a wall clock, I'm not too fussed. The digital time on the outside of my stylish (orange!) PEBL is clear enough for me to keep an eye on the progress of the training day. That said, next time I look, the time has been replaced by a message telling me I have a voicemail waiting. Thank God the Noon Gun has been a historic symbol of time-keeping since 1806. Who needs a watch when you're working in Cape Town?

Friday 20 April
Over the past few weeks we've been trying to get our SCORM-compliant computer based training to talk to our client's LMS. (Don't ask!) This meant lots of emails flying around between the test chappie and me. So when I woke up - early - this morning I replied to one of his latest reports. "What sort of time is 5.17 for goodness sake? Or are you in another time zone again?" was his response ... at 06:43AM. Pot. Kettle. Black.

Thursday 12 April
Back from lunch and I let the course participants do their own recap by asking what one thing they liked best about the morning session. "Restricting cell entries to specific entries in a list" responds one. "Naming ranges", answers another. They frantically flick through their handouts, reminding themselves of what it was they particularly enjoyed. Lookup functions. Workbook templates. So far so good. Then somebody says "An hour for lunch." Who says training cannot meet the needs of everybody?

Wednesday 11 April
Remember I recently goofed up writing on a client's SMART board with a permanent marker? And me wondering whether I would get invited back? Well, today I was sent to their campus in London. In January 1792 its first four students arrived and I can tell you ... not an interactive whiteboard in sight!

Tuesday 10 April
Sent a payment reminder to one of my clients this morning, but got a reply that a cheque was sent out on 8 March. Betcha whoever lives at 16 Bullen Close in Longstanton, Cambridgeshire has been sitting on it for the past month. After all, I kept getting her mail. Even though the full, correct postcode was used! Didn't Royal Mail introduce these letters and numbers so that - and I'm quoting now - mail could be sorted more efficiently and effectively, cutting down on delay and incorrect deliveries? On a positive note, this means there are more benefits to moving to the orange and white Sun House other than matching my premises to my business cards!

Saturday 31 March
The computer based training module I'm co-developing requires a voice-over for our cute and cuddly subject matter expert character, so my sound chappie suggested one with a Dutch accent. "Dutch or Asian" the client replied and as we happened to have a Dutch one handy, that's what we went for. So here I am, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, trying not to stumble over my script. Slide 18. Take four. Walt Disney, eat your heart out!

Friday 23 March
Oh yeah, I could get used to this! While the contents of three departing Jumbo Jets are fighting their way into Islamabad's terminal building, somebody gets hold of my passport and before I know it I've queue-jumped everybody at check-in. Hectic security screening scenes turn out to be a doddle for me. I'm escorted to the VIP lounge. I don't have to get up for my own coffee. And when it's time to leave, my personal guide ensures I get safely on the bus to the plane. Yeah, I'm embarrassed. I don't think I could get used to this!

Wednesday 21 March
The temperature in my classroom in Pakistan is boiling. But even though the airco is fully operational, I'm asked not to switch it on as my delegates are feeling the cold. If thermometers sometimes rise into the 40s (that's up to 110 for those of you who don't speak metric) your perception of heat changes somewhat, I guess.

Friday 16 March
Help! I messed up big time ... I accidentally wrote on the client's SMART board with a permanent marker. Wonder whether the next session, planned for 27 March, will be on.

Thursday 15 March
First training session in the Sun House. When we return from our pub lunch I cannot get the darn key to work. Thank God my determination and perseverance prevailed, as the delegate was already deciding on which period window to climb through.

Saturday 10 March
Gotta letter from the national chairman of the FSB (that is the Federation of Small Businesses, not the Federal Security Service, formerly known as the KGB). "I am delighted to advise you that your business has been selected to go forward to the next stage of judging in the British Small Business Champions Awards." The news couldn't have happened on a better day ... the converted garage is being swapped for the most beautiful premises in Cambridge (or so we think). Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!

Friday 2 March
Got some repeat business from a person who attended one of my hands off seminars. This time I was summoned onsite to spend the day with her colleague who was tasked with building a database. Upon arrival the receptionist is clearly busy on the phone and I am gestured to take a seat. So here I am, trying to be as quiet as a mouse for her to continue her conversation. "At the end of the road, turn left." says a voice from my briefcase. Embarrassed, I hunt for my beloved TomTom to switch it off, while hearing the receptionist explain to the person on the other end of the line why she almost hurts herself laughing. Great start, Roem.

Wednesday 21 February
When I arrive at the client's training room ten shiny computers are waiting for its respective delegates. In the corner sits my device. Wait a minute! I'm with my back to the audience. "Some people prefer it that way." says the person who set up the room. I search his face for a sign of humour, but can see nothing except firm belief in what he is telling me. I wonder whether to mention the study that shows that the impact of our message is for 7 percent determined by the words you use, 38 percent by voice quality, and a whopping 55 percent by nonverbal communication. I want to tell him I listen with my eyes. How else am I supposed to notice whether I've been going on for too long? Or when someone else wants to speak? How on earth can I check the crowd's reaction to what I'm saying? But I think he gets the message and helps me turn the table side-ways so I can slide behind it, giving me plenty of room as long as I keep my legs folded.

Tuesday 20 February
Can somebody please fill a hole in the market and manufacture quality products in small containers? It's the third time in five weeks that my favourite products get confiscated from my hand luggage at the airport. Somehow my beloved hair gunk, indispensable volumizing shampoo and essential contact lense cleaning stuff all come in bottles over 100 ml. Not allowed under the new rules for taking liquids through security. Not even if they are partially full. So my new After Check-In Ritual is to find a Boots and purchase the items seized. And guess what? They all come in 125 ml bottles.

Wednesday 14 February
Logizomechanophobia is the fear of computers. Apparently symptoms are breathlessness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to speak or think clearly, fear of dying, becoming mad or losing control, a sensation of detachment from reality or even a full blown anxiety attack. OK, I know that error messages such as "Bad command or file name" are about as informative as "If you don't know why I'm mad at you, then I'm certainly not going to tell you" (which is why some scientists say a computer is female) but I can never quite understand why somebody would be reduced to a nervous wreck by their PC. That is, until today. For some reason my CD caddy seems possessed and keeps opening itself - what feels like - every five minutes. Beware of the curse of the evil computer spirit.

Wednesday 7 February
Tried to get a rather rowdy group of Capetonian course participants to drop the topic we had beaten to death. Clearly we were not going to tackle the issue there and then. So I put it on the "parking lot", promising to take it up with the project team. But these pitbull terriers weren't having any of it. Oh no. "Parking is always difficult in Cape Town" one of them said, cleverly comparing the near impossible task of maneuvering a vehicle around this beautiful city with what I was trying to achieve.

Friday 2 February
It's been a heck of a week. And today wasn't going to be any different. At least, not until 3 o'clock when I was off to the airport for an eleven hour flight, swapping rain and wind and wooly jumpers for training in flip-flops. But when I reached the client for my morning session, the two candidates had pulled out and I suddenly had a few unexpected hours on my hands. Guess I have written this in spare time I didn't have.

Monday 29 January
We could do with a few more bums on seats for Thursday's Time Management seminar, so guess that's why I'm pretty disappointed when somebody requests further details about the baby yoga thing I mentioned goes on in the venue we're hiring. Come on, guys! What's more important? Bending your newborn into a dog pose or feeling less overwhelmed and stressed by your workload? Go figure.

Friday 26 January
Guess the grass is always greener ... Whereas last week I was having a good ol' moan about the fact that I hadn't seen a classroom from the inside for ages, this week I was back in action for four days and part of me just wanted to get outside. I mean, how often do you teach from an office on the 24th floor set against a backdrop of magnificent views over Table Mountain and the harbour with a "discomfort index" of 39 degrees Celsius? The world of IT training can be a tough place!

Thursday 18 January
It's been exactly a month since I've last seen a classroom from the inside. Not that I'm sitting around, twiddling my thumbs. No, I've been stuck in my converted garage, developing computer based training. And I can assure you this can be lonely at times. So messages from the client about the sandwich man being in the breakout area are always welcome. (If only as a reminder to go to the kitchen to "remove outer packaging and pierce film lid".) But today I was in for a treat ... I got a message to go home early because of weather warnings for London and the South East of England with severe gales between 60-70mph. We were told to begin our journey and take extra care when travelling home. Better not trip over my 20-year old cat when I'm commuting from my office to the kitchen.

Wednesday 17 January
Following the success of my Hands Off Software Training I registered handsoffsoftwaretraining.co.uk and handsoffsoftwaretraining.com with the idea to - one day - advertise my seminars on it. That was two years ago and I never did. In the thrall of my tightfisted Dutch female genes I decided not to waste further money and did not arrange for the extension of my parked domain names. But apparently the telco I was with at the time automatically renewed the darn things, obviously charging for the - unauthorised - privilege. To add insult to financial injury they handed over the open account to a debt collector. Hardball tactics for an outstanding amount of just £17.60! Seventeen pounds and sixty pence!! So I wrote a polite email message, but it was no good. I then followed it up by registered snail mail, providing proof of posting, signature on arrival and online confirmation of delivery, kindly requesting them to cease all efforts to collect the money. Well, this morning I got a letter from a solicitor about my "seriously overdue account", informing me that unless full payment would be made within 14 days they are instructed to issue proceedings against me in the County Court. Remember common sense?

Friday 12 January
Time out for an appointment with my mortgage broker. Hubby joins us for the necessary signatures. "Are you OK for time?" the homebuyer matchmaker asks, addressing my other half by name. Good grief! Why is it that everybody always thinks the self-employed can take breaks when they feel like it. Sit at home waiting for deliveries. Have an afternoon nap. Shop when the supermarket is empty. Pick up the - imaginary - kids from school. Etcetera. Etcetera. (Neat, eh?)

Friday 5 January
The last two days were spent as an observer during a usability test to see how intuitive some prototype software was. Could people use this newly to be installed program without any training? Well, pigs won't fly, so next week I will continue with my training development task.

Thursday 4 January 2007
You know what really bothers me about train travel in the UK? Not the above-inflation new year price hikes, but the fact that - after having paid a small fortune to get to a client - I won't even have a seat! Which is why this morning I pay my increased fare, but take the slow train into London. OK, it meant getting up even earlier than normal and I had to remind myself not to get annoyed by the fact that it stopped everywhere, even in towns nobody lives in, but I could sit down and read the book my dad gave me for Christmas. Happiness is.

2006 diary

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December 2007