It’s been a while…

Thursday 10th January

I’m sorry that it’s been so long, I’ve missed you all, although amazingly some of you still log on and check my blog on a regular basis seemingly. Thanks for that! Rarely a day goes by without this digital diary getting any views. I’m not sure how people find it, or what they’re actually looking for (adult entertainment perhaps?), or what the hell they think when they get here, but at least the loyal few and those attempting to surf to the end of the Internet will now have a little something fresh to read, even if it’s completely off topic from the rest of this eclectic blog.

Truth be told I actually quite miss pouring all the randomness out of my head and on to these pages. Some of the things I get up to really do deserve to be commemorated in print, but lack of spare time, having sausages for fingers and feeling like I’m already taking up more than my fair share of the world wide digital filing cabinets, persuaded me to stop, or at least press pause.

However a recent discussion from the world of horse racing, an industry where I worked about three former lives ago, about the “stable staff crisis”, has led me to put pen to paper again, or more accurately, bash my sausage fingers earnestly on my phone for a few hours.

Over the past week, I have been reading with interest as many of the views of the great and not so great of the racing world that I could get my hands on. I certainly wasn’t planning to weigh in on a subject in which I no longer have a direct involvement, but having formally devoted over 20 years of my life to the sport, from teenage Saturday girl to Newmarket trainer, I at least feel qualified to give my tuppence worth, and one particular piece inspired me to do so.

If you haven’t read it yet, please please read Jo Davis’s frank, eloquent and concise summary of the reasons behind the problem and also some of the best advise to advert the potential crisis. Click here to read.

When I read the article, I wholeheartedly agreed with everything that she said. It also reminded me of the reasons why I left the sport and why, while I’m so glad that I was a trainer, that I’m also glad that I’m no longer a racehorse trainer! I had a brilliant time working in racing, from useless work experience kid, to humble stable girl, to assistant trainer, to finally reaching the pinnacle and opening my own yard in sunny Suffolk, amongst some of the finest trainers and best bred bloodstock in the world.

My story echoes Jo’s, no silver spoon, no legacy handed down through the generations, not even a helpful significant other to lend a hand when things got tight (marry a blacksmith or a vet was always the advice given, but I’ve never been one to follow the easy path!). I can only say thank goodness I only had myself to look after, huge respect to Jo for raising a daughter in amongst the other myriad of daily tasks.

I was delighted to see that one of the first responses to Jo’s post on Twitter was congratulatory Tweet from my former Head Girl. Sarah was with me nearly from the beginning, the first few months I went it alone until my numbers got above six and my BMI dropped perilously low, and I’m proud to say that she was still there until the very last day, despite being about 7 months pregnant.

I might not have broken any records in my 8 years as a trainer, but I’m immensely proud of my record of employing staff, consistently having a wonderful team of cheerful, hard working, horse loving staff, who showed up every day, got stuck in and only left when it was time to go on to bigger and better things. If only some of the horses could have taken a leaf out of their ethical books…

Being in Newmarket was a double edged sword, on one hand there was always some waif or stray knocking on the gates during evening stables to see if there were any jobs going, having earlier that day either walked out of one bigger yards, or been gently shoved. On the other side of the coin, it meant competing with the big boys (and girls #MeToo) wage wise.

Pulling out on 2nd lot and seeing the lads drive out of the Godolphin gates in their flashy cars just after 10am, knowing we still had 2 more lots to go, 1 to lunge, 1 to lead out, the spares to muck out, the yards to be swept, waters to be topped up and horses to be fed, was a bitter pill to swallow for me, I can only imagine how my staff felt.

I’ll be honest sending my CV to Sheikh Mo crossed my mind more than once. Writing this now I’m genuinely concerned that my staff didn’t leave me for the lush green grass on the other side of the fence. What the hell was wrong with them the idiots?!

But thankfully I never had to roll the dice and take on one of the aforementioned waifs or strays as I always had my loyal and trusted staff by my side. It certainly wasn’t for the renumeration package that I offered, which whilst well above the official minimums, was far from the best paying job in town. And the hours must have been some of the longest in the country, at least that’s how they felt to me anyway.

The horses were moderate in the main, which meant that the pool money and bonuses were virtually guaranteed to be modest, whereas a job at a big establishment promises the chance of looking after a champion and the windfalls to go with it. So why was I fully stocked with *long-standing/long-suffering staff (*delete as appropriate), while the merry-go-round of riders hoped from one yard to the next until as the expression goes “they’d worked in every stable bar Bethlehem”?

I’d like to think that one of the reasons is because I cared. Sure it’s much easier to do in a small yard when you’re riding out and mucking out alongside your comrades, and I agree if you only need 3 or 4 members of staff, it’s easier to hand pick the good ones, train them and keep them sweet.

What I couldn’t give them in money (my figures were much like Jo’s; where does that mythical £1k go every month???), I tried to make up for in other ways. And afternoon off if we’d finished late, OK extra late because I don’t think that we ever finished on time, but in the unlikely event that we were finished early, I was always at pains to let them go early. I’d worked in yards where we’d sat on buckets in the tack room watching the clock tick by waiting to be allowed to let the horses down and go home.

We also had Team outings, ranging from regular lunches in the pub, to outdoor laser paintballing, from a trip to the Paralympic Dressage to an outing to the roller disco and pretty much everything in between. Even the horses got in on the act as we packed up a big picnic and loaded the lorry for days riding on the beach. I even remember on hideously filthy wet day when I told them all to stop tacking up second lots, put their saddles and bridles away and instead we’d finish doing up the yards, give the horses the day off as it was winter and there were no races for them coming up, and off we went afternoon racing at Fakenham, doing more for moral with one small gesture than you could put a price on, yet still back in time for evening stables, where everyone merrily pitched in.

I always tried hard to encourage training and staff progression too, utilising relevant courses held at the nearby British Racing School, such as the work riding course and NVQ Level 3s. It might seem counterintuitive to train up staff in an industry where there is very limited chance of promotion in a yard due to lack of positions, but in my opinion holding people back is selfish and creates resentment, causing them to leave or at least decrease their work rate due to dissatisfaction.

I’m sure there were plenty of times the staff hated the sight of me and were sick if the sound of my voice, but I tried wherever I could to give them a break, both metaphorically and physically, trying to keep them paired up with horses that they got on well with, letting them miss a lot or 2 to attend an appointment, giving them 2 weekends off out of 3, plus an afternoon in the week wherever possible. It wasn’t always easy for any of us, but our small successes made it very special and I hope that they can look back and remember fondly some of the good times that we had. I really and truly appreciated them and did my best to make them feel worthy and valued. They’re all still speaking to me at least!

One of Jo’s points for racing failing to attract new, young people into the game is the demise of the local riding school. This is one area that I felt very strongly about whilst training and literally accepted any Tom, Dick or Harriet on work experience, regardless if they had ever seen a horse before or could even spell the word.

I was inundated with floods letters, calls and emails, as I became known as the one of the few who would allow them through the gates. Not only did I let them through the gates, I think all bar maybe 1 got to sit on a horse and at least get led around the yard in return for their efforts. Thank you to my wonderful old hack and ex racehorse Piggy or Bold Phoenix as he was known in his Barney Curly days!

More often than not those with the relevant experience got to ride a real racehorse, when a so called “quiet” horse would be summoned into action and proceed to give the kid the best day of his/her life. Either that or they’d behave like Red Rum in that well worn footage off him galloping on the beach and give me and Sarah grey hairs and heart attacks in the process.

Sarah and I always joked that we should write a book about the “future of racing” with a chapter dedicated to each child, but quite honestly I think even the toned down version would sound far fetched. There were those that didn’t last the morning, let alone the week. There were those who spent more time sending selfies than sweeping the yard. Of the few that lived locally, some stayed for years, getting dropped off by bleary eyed but dedicated parents on a Sunday morning until they were old enough to go to the racing school.

For those sceptics thinking that I was just after free labour, well you’re not too far off the mark, at least that was the initial plan. “I haven’t met one that can’t at least fill a water bucket!” was the phrase that I trotted out every time Sarah rolled her eyes at the mention of the next victim to the slaughter on the horizon. But joking aside, they cost us a lot more than they put in, in both time and money.

I would pay for their accommodation for the week if they were from out of town, which they invariably were. Plus there were the “learning costs” involved, like when they failed to remember to tuck the reins away, leaving some fortunate colt to happily chew his way through the most important part of the bridle and saddling me with a lunchtime trip to the saddlers to buy a new pair, or the “lost” hoof picks and dandy brushes that were never seen again after having been discarded in the horse’s bed and then mucked out, before rotting at the bottom of the muck heap for the rest of eternity.

And then there’s the cost of our time. Having some help around the yard might sound appealing but by goodness it’s time consuming. Some were genuinely useful and from Day 1 became an asset. Of the rest some had effort if not aptitude and were rewarded with our patience as we tried to impart our knowledge on them, taking time to explain things that might be of interest, whilst showing them and helping them with how things got done. The ones with aptitude but little effort we attempted to cajole into enjoying the job, rewarding them for things done well and making them repeat tasks that were insufficient or incomplete.

Thankfully there weren’t many that lacked both effort and aptitude, but there were a few and they came close to putting holes in my water bucket theory…

Yes they were painful, yes it was mostly more hassle than it’s worth, but those golden few made it and the ones that didn’t at least got weeded out by us for free, saving the Racing Schools time and money by enrolling them on a course that they’d never finish or train them for an industry in which they’d never work in.

As far as I’m aware, in my time anyway, very few big yards would even reply to their emails, let alone take them on trial. Imagine being a young teenager, wide eyed, full of zest and showing a passion for horse racing, you write to a big racing yard, or DM them on Facebook, and check your inbox waiting for a reply. When you hear back nothing, what message does that send out? That racing is a closed sport and that you’re not included? What if you got a response offering a week’s work in the yard? A day even? Especially in those big yards, the heroes that they watch winning races on ITV every weekend. Give people a chance to give racing a chance. It’s certainly not for the fainthearted but what if we’re turning people away before they’ve even had a chance to get started?

Like Jo’s example of riding schools, extortionate insurance and the fear or being sued is keeping people from opening their doors. But not every 15 year old letter writer is a potential law suit, and maybe I just got lucky, or the pushy parents figured I wasn’t worth pursuing in court, but I honestly never had anything but praise from people connected with what I can only call my “outreach programme”.

Thanks to Jim Wilson, of 1981 Little Owl Gold Cup fame it’s how I started, as a completely pointless 13 year old. I spilt more water down the legs of my jeans than I ever got to the stables in those heavy water buckets that I staggered around the yard with. I was like a clumsy backward yearling, slow to learn, always in the way, forever asking stupid questions, but 3 years of weekends and holidays and I was on my way, from humble beginnings to the trainers’ table.

It’s not going to single-handedly stop the rot, but take a chance and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. This post is dedicated to Sarah, Kelly, Amber, Emily, Liz, Suzanne, Michelle, Faisal, Dave and Maddy. Long live Team Weaver!!

Just Another Manic Monday – Installment 3 (Final One)

Sunday 18th March 2018

Oh my God, I know that it’s been absolutely ages, but I have been super, super busy running my burgeoning Toy Empire. If you want proof, then check out our flashy new website to see our awesome Hippomottie Learn To Dress Toys (which are now live for sale!), and see our ever growing range of related products, that now includes t-shirts, books, videos & colouring books. Plus some other cool toys that we also stock like our wonderful wooden Wekom Stacking Robots.

Looks good doesn’t it? You see I do have a fairly valid excuse for abandoning you all…

But I do know that it is high time that I finished my “Gill Gets Ill Abroad Story” and I really do owe it to you all faithful readers frantic with worry about poor old Gill, to conclude the tale.

I left the story last time, having just arrived at Wythenshawe Hospital, in Manchester, in the middle of the night in search of my sick friend Gill. If you missed installments 1 & 2 of “Gill Gets Sick In Gran Canaria”, or you’ve got serious memory issues like me, then it might be best to catch up with Volumes 1 & 2 of this epic first, to get the background on this very, very long story. Part 1 Part 2

Without further ado, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for…

Part 3

Wythenshawe Hospital is huge. I’d never been there before and I seriously hope that I never have to go there again. Or any hospital for that matter. Unless I actually need medical attention obviously. Anyway, the place is massive. A huge, sprawling complex, littered with signposts directing you to all sorts of strange sounding departments. I didn’t even know in which of the trillion car parks to park the car, let alone set about trying to locate my friend.

Eventually I plumped on a big emptyish looking car park, that was near some ambulances. The ambulances gave me hope that I must be somewhere near the A & E department. After a bit of searching, I came across a signpost for the main entrance and followed it until I got to some sliding doors, which opened and allowed me to enter the building.

Upon entering the building, I saw a large unattended reception desk to my left. I stopped and looked around, but there was no one there. I waited and then coughed loudly a few times to notify everyone of my presence. I waited a bit longer, but nobody came. Clearly a case off the lights being on, but nobody being home, if ever I saw one…

Anyway, I wasn’t an invalid, so I felt pretty confident that I could find my poorly friend without assistance. Oh how wrong I was.

I entered the building proper and was immediately flummoxed by a choice of left or right along the main hospital artery corridor. Reading the words of the signs on the wall made it no clearer for me, but seeing as Gill had come from intensive care in Gran Canaria, I decided to follow that trail, to see where it might lead me.

Anyway, even with this being an NHS hospital, there surely ought to be somebody there attempting to keep those who were circling the drain, from going towards the light.

I walked with purpose, but was acutely aware of how much noise I was making, my trainers squeaking on the lino flooring, in an otherwise silent building. This place resembled a morgue rather than a bustling city medical centre. My hopes of finding my friend at all, let alone still breathing, seemed to be diminishing rapidly.

Having followed the numerous “Intensive Care Unit” signs down a never ending number of twists and turns, I didn’t seem to be any closer to finding living humans. All of the lights were ablaze, but the place was deserted and for the second time that evening I had the surreal feeling that this was all just a dream.

It wasn’t. It wasn’t even a nightmare. This was very real and very bizarre.

Eventually I found a set of large double doors with a sign above stating that I had arrived at my destination. Finally! Only they were locked, and I still couldn’t find a single body to help me.

I spotted a sign ahead for A & E and began to follow a thin line of red sticky tape on the floor that I believed would lead me to the accident and emergency department. It did! Only there I found myself on the wrong side of another large set of double doors, these ones leading to the resus room, where I finally found signs of life.

The only problem being that when I peered through the frosted glass slits, what I saw was people actively trying to preserve some sign of life in a poor soul laid out on a gurney. Oh God! I hoped it wasn’t Gill!

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to disturb these very busy and important folk trying to do their best, with my minor issue of being hopelessly lost, but I really was beginning to run out of options as far as my own welfare and sanity were concerned.

Eventually after a lot of hesitating and a trip back to ICU, which was still deserted, I plucked up the courage to ring the intercom bell. I’d tried pushing the door open a crack to shout hello through, but they were magnetised shut. The intercom crackled and I waited, my heart pumping out of my chest.

No response. I tried again. Still nothing. Beyond caring who the hell I disturbed doing what now, I went back to ICU for the third time and tried the bell outside those doors instead. All I wanted was to find my sick friend in this far away labyrinth of a hospital. Was it really to much to ask? I was weary, wrought with angst about my friend’s condition, and starting to get rather frustrated.

“Hello!” a voice echoed from the box on the wall. “Er, hello!” I replied, shocked to finally make contact with someone. “Can I help you?” came the crackle once more. “Err, erm. I’m, er, looking for my friend.” I stumbled. “She was bought in by ambulance from Manchester Airport.” I rambled, trying to give as many details as possible, whilst remaining vaguely coherent.

“You’ll need to go to A & E.” the lady crackler replied. “Her name is Gill!” I shrieked, afraid that I was going to lose my only hope of assistance. “I said, You’ll need to go to A & E.” the lady crackled once again.

“But I’ve been there and I can’t get in!” I whined. “You need to ring the bell outside the doors.” came the somewhat unhelpful response. “But I did that!” I protested. “There was no one there. And I really need to find my friend Gill. She’s sick!” I added, stating the obvious, but I was beginning to get desperate and I was willing to lose my dignity by begging, if it got me to my friend.

Whilst I was leaning into the white plastic box on the wall, the double doors suddenly swung open, starling me nearly into a heart attack. Maybe they should try that as a tactic in the resuscitation suite, situated a bit further along the hall.

The kindly lady, who I’m not sure if she was a Matron, Doctor or Bedpan Cleaner, lead me back along the hall to resus and used her special security card to unlock the doors. “Just keep following the red line on the floor.” she said. “And then ask at the reception desk for your friend.” She added, trying to push me through the doors before I had a chance to embrace her, so grateful was I of the help.

I didn’t even need to go to reception, as when I finally arrived at my destination, I spotted a contorted Gill laying awkwardly amongst a bundle of sheets in an open plan cubicle, separated only from the frail gentleman in the bed next door, by a pale green sheet/curtain hanging from the ceiling.

“Hello my little friend!” I greeted her. “Can you hear me? It’s Amy. A-M-Y.” I repeated, not sure if she was actually conscious or not.

“Mmm.” she replied. And her eyelids flickered. “Are you OK? Is there anything I can do? Oh my poor friend! Look at the state of you. I’ll just be right here by the bed. Let me know if you need anything.” Admittedly I’ve never been renowned as one that’s sympathetic or been judged likely to have a good beside manner.

And in fairness neither has Gill. I can remember more than a few occasions when I fell off a horse, off my bike and even over my feet, in Gill’s presence, and all she’s done is laugh and take the piss. Even the time when I cracked my head off a wall when we’d both unsuccessfully attempted to mount the yard hack (a supposedly sensible horse) at the same time. I broke her fall, and nearly my head, while she landed in my lap as I lay in a crumpled semi-concious position on the floor. All she could do was berate me for pulling her off and blame me for the horse galloping loose around the yard, in between her giggles.

Admittedly she was right, it was my fault, but it was also a very stupid idea in the first place, and one in which I believed we shared equal responsibility in devising.

I couldn’t take too much delight in getting my own back though, as she really did look in a bad way, and in between our brief catching up and her groaning, we were treated to plenty of not so delightful and painfully intimate descriptions of the man next door’s condition. Also I was REALLY tired and didn’t have the energy to relish the opportunity of payback.

After what seemed like a really long time, and a really rather long list of fairly disgusting symptoms from Gill’s neighbour, a porter came to move her onto the A & E ward proper. Now she had her own solid cubicle with walls on 3 sides and a flimsy curtain as a “door”.

After some more blood tests and another drip being attached, we were left to fend for ourselves. The woman in the bed opposite was on one of those machines that kept up a rhythmical beep-beep-beep.

The doctors and nurses shuffled back and forward, marshaling the drunks and frequent flyers to the exit as swiftly as the could.

It was now the very small hours of the morning and it seemed like we’d been forgotten about. I took the opportunity to plug in my dead phone, in between the heart rate monitor and electric shock paddles, and revived it enough to text Gill’s vacation buddies and also her brother, for whom she gave me the number, and update them on her condition: “Alive, but in considerable pain. Doctors best guess is a super-strength migraine having read all the notes and test results from The Canaries, which pretty much rule out everything else.”

Gill was shivering, so I went back to the closet from where I’d grabbed an extra blanket from earlier, to use as a pillow for her as they had none spare, and grabbed a couple more. One for me and one for her. By the way I wasn’t stealing from the NHS, the kindly orderly guy at the desk had said before that I could help myself.

Whilst we waited for Gill to be evaluated, I tried to get comfortable on the hard plastic chair, desperate to close my eyes, I was now shaking with tiredness. A combination of the beep-beep-beep, the uncomfortableness of trying to sleep sitting up and my concern for Gill, made closing my eyes impossible.

Another hour went, by before I thought about ditching Gill and heading to a hotel to get some real sleep. We didn’t actually know what we were waiting for, but Gill decided that she wanted to go to the toilet, so I abandoned my mental plan of abandoning my friend.

“I’ll go and get a nurse to get you a bedpan!” I leapt into action. “I’m not pissing in a bloody bedpan!” Came Gill’s retort. It was the first time that I’d seen any colour in her cheeks. “OK.” I countered. “How about I get you a wheelchair or a commode?” “What’s a commode?” Gill asked suspiciously. “Like a chair, but with a bucket instead of a seat that you can pee into.” I described. “OK, I’ll take a toilet on wheels if you can’t get me a wheel chair.” Gill bartered.

I went back to the counter where the staff seemed to gather, and interrupted the gaggling group to tell that my friend required a visit to the lavatory. They all eyed me suspiciously. “Can she walk?” asked one. “Er doubtful.” I said, “But I’m happy to take her myself in a wheelchair if you have one.”

“We don’t have any.” another woman said. Hmm… a hospital with no wheelchairs and limited pillow availability. If I were a secret shopper I’d be scoring this facility rather low right now. “How about a commode?” I asked cheerfully, feeling anything but. Dreading the thought of returning back to Gill with a cardboard pee pot in my hands.

“Oh yes! We have one of those. Come with me.” said a friendly looking member of the bunch. I took control of the white plastic wheel-a-potty and proudly steered it in through the curtain, which I’d shut to stop the large lady on the life support monitor seeing me glaring at her, as the beep-beep-beep went from rhythmical to annoying before plunging to a depth of serious punishment, the never ending pips beginning to sear into my skull like water torture.

Gill looked less pleased than me with the appearance of the mobile bog, and even less likely to make it safely into the toilet seat chair. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather a bedpan?” I tried once more. No dice. They say when a girls got to go, a girls gotta go. This girl apparently prioritised the where rather than the when.

Struggling to sit up, I put my arms around Gill’s waist, flicked the brake on on the port-a-potty with my foot, and helped Gill to successfully land in the seat (luckily she’s very light). Now all we had to do between us was pull her jeans down. As Gill stood shakily with her hands on my shoulders, I wrestled to wrangle her bottoms off her bottom. Somebody remind me again why skinny jeans are a fashion tend? Not for moments like this I can tell you!

We giggled away and eventually I freed Gill enough to be able to “do her business” scoffing that she bloody owed me one for being such a good friend. “Can I put this in my blog?” I asked. “Sure.” she said “Why not? I don’t even read it anyway.” she said.

“What do you mean you don’t read my blog??” I raged. “It’s takes me bloody ages to write!” I fumed. At that point Gill started heaving, so I passed her the paper sick bowl that she’d been clinging onto since being admitted. “Don’t think this lets you off the hook you little b*tch!” I snorted.

Gill went a strange shade of green, so I helped her get back into bed and set off with my trolly potty sloshing about, looking to find someone to show me where to empty it.

The only person I did find wasn’t overly helpful and told me to take it back to her cubicle. Considering that we were now only one of two patients in the ward, the service was a little inattentive. It was far from a busy night and you could hardly say that the staff were rushed off their feet.

I can only hope that the employees of Wythenshawe were taking a backseat because I was there to tend to all of Gill’s whims. Otherwise it would’ve been a very long and very miserable night for her.

A few hours later, the Doctor that we’d apparently been waiting to see, finally deigned to turn up. Seeing the curtain shut and the light off, she started talking softly to Gill using her inside voice. “Did you turn the light off because the brightness intensifies your headaches?” she whispered. “Er no that was for me!” I admitted. I’d switched it off because my eyes were burning from being open for so long.

After asking Gill to describe all the symptoms of her “headache”, the Doctor suggested that it was just a migraine and that Gill would be better off going home to sleep it off.

A headache? This woman had been in intensive care, nearly caused an aeroplane to be diverted and had been crying in pain since her blue-lighted arrival.

“It’s probably best to get some rest in your own surroundings and then make an appointment to see your GP next week.” was the advice on offer.

Gill looked like she’d given up the will to live. “Can I at least get something for the pain?” she sobbed?

Well we can’t give you any medication, as you already have existing migraine medication from your own Doctor, so just continue to take that as prescribed.

“But it’s REALLY BAD!” Gill feebly protested. Again the Doctor rebuffed Gill’s efforts, with some party line about potential mis-use of medication. Gill gave up and sunk back down in her pillow.

“Are you sure?” I stepped in. I’d been silent for this whole exchange, but now I was concerned that we were wrongly getting kicked out as drug seekers trying to scam strong pain killers to get a fix.

“Yes. There’s nothing much we can do for your friend, she’ll be better off in her own home.” the Doctor said. “You can pick up your discharge papers and medical notes at the desk on the way out.” she said, and left the room.

“Come on, let’s just get out of here.” Gill said, conceding defeat. And started to try and get up.

Within seconds she was green and heaving again and dizzy with the effort of trying to stand.

“This is not right!!” I exclaimed. And burst out of the curtain to confront the first medical person that I could find.

Luckily I came across a sympathetic chap, who agreed to call our skeptical Doctor back for a second look.

Eventually our dubious Doctor returned, looking less than impressed. “I’m sorry to doubt your medical opinion,” I said politely, knowing that hostility would get me nowhere, “But my friend is really ill. She can barely sit up, let alone stand up, and having just spent the last three days in Intensive Care in a foreign country, and then nearly caused an aeroplane to be diverted, I don’t think putting her in a car and driving her 4+ hours down the motorway at 4 o’clock in the morning is a good idea.” I finished firmly.

After a few minutes of the Doctor trying to placate me that there was really nothing wrong with my friend, save a “headache”, I was on the verge of losing my cool.

“We’ve a long drive, and she’s clearly not well!” I persisted. “I’m not stopping at every bloody medical centre between here and Suffolk to try and get her home, just because you want her out of here!” I seethed.

Oh my God! I was becoming one of “those people”. The ones that argue with Doctors and think that they know better. I was mortified. What the hell had happened today? Still I felt obliged to fight my friend’s corner, she clearly wasn’t strong enough to fight for herself, and I didn’t want to be one of “those other people” who ended up selling their NHS horror story to some trashy magazine either.

Luckily Gill stepped in at this point, before things could escalate further. “It’s fine. I’m fine. Let’s just get out of here.” she said wearily. “Well you can stay if you think it will do you any good.” the Doctor finally relented. “But I’m sure that you’ll be much happier at home.” she followed up.

So I gathered all of Gill’s belongings, wrapped her up in my jacket, and we made our way steadily and shakily to the exit. It was FREEZING outside. In giving up my coat to Gill, I was in danger of winding up back in the hospital myself, with frostbite.

Shaking, I propped Gill up on the car, whilst I fiddled with the keys and getting her things in the back. At least there wasn’t frost on the windscreen.

Once we were settled in the car, we devised a plan of driving out of the city and back to the motorway, with the intention of finding a hotel to stay at for a few hours, more for my benefit than for Gill’s.

I was shattered. I’d had less than a few hours sleep in the last 3 days and had been awake for at least 26 hours straight. The prospect of a long drive in an antique car, seemed akin to an expedition up Mount Everest right at that moment. Also I didn’t fancy the idea of getting stranded on the hard shoulder and having to call for an ambulance, should Gill take another turn for the worse.

But first we had to get out of this blasted car park. I had the ticket in my hand and a wad of notes in the other, in preparation. Having not spotted a pay station on our two circuits of the parking lot, I head for the exit. A notice by the barrier helpfully suggested that I should pay at the pay station before attempting to exit. Great! Where was the effing pay station??

Figuring the pay machine must be back inside the hospital, I parked the car up again and instructed Gill not to die in my brief absence. I also told her not to lock the doors in case she passed out while I was gone. Or to get murdered, raped or car jacked because she’d not locked the doors. (I’m not stereotyping, I used to live in Manchester and in my short spell there, had my car broken into (also a Fiesta), my house robbed (whilst I was inside) and was close by when there was a murder on the street that I lived (hence the shortness of my residence there)).

I passed by the group of genuine drug seekers, masquerading as patients, that were still huddled outside smoking fags with their hospital wristbands and drips still attached (now I am stereotyping), and went back to the desk to ask about the whereabouts of the elusive pay station.

Having been told that it was indeed hiding in a poorly lit corner of the car park, I made my way back past the junkies, and eventually located the dam machine.

Inserting my ticket into the slot, the total came to an eye-watering amount. I stuffed my twenty pound note in and the machine just swallowed it up, with the amount outstanding remaining the same.

What the ffffff??! I was livid I pressed every dam button I could find, screaming like a banshee. This was the final straw! I was about to have a meltdown. Forget ICU, where was the bloody psych ward??!!

I got back in the car muttering and cursing and threatened to smash through the barriers. Gill managed to talk me back off the ledge, so I suggested mounting the curb and taking a shortcut across the grass instead.

Both of us came to the conclusion, that the inadequate “dogmobile” was unlikely to be able to mount such a high curb, so we settled for a trip to the barrier to abuse the intercom instead.

The poor man behind the button felt the full extent of my wroth. The barrier lifted up before I could get even halfway through my rant, leaving me wondering why we hadn’t tried this option in the first place. “But what about my bloody change??” I seethed. “You’ll have to write to Greater Manchester County Council giving full details of your experience to apply for a rebate.” he said. “Taking note of the machine reference number and…” with that, I put my foot on the gas and roared off into the night, like Thelma and Louise charging off the cliff. Only not so fast, as we were in an ancient Fiesta.

Feeling a renewed vigor and sense of energy after my little exchange with the man in the intercom, we’d made it half way down the M6 before we thought about stopping. Gill said that she was actually feeling a bit hungry and that eating for the first time in 4 days might actually make her feel a bit better.

“We’ll you’d better not be sick in the car!” I threatened. I’m not driving all the way back to Newmarket with the stink of your vomit overpowering us.

It was enough to scare her into keeping her food down and she did start to pink up a bit as we reached the A14, about half way back.

Soon it started to get light, and as the sun came up, my eyelids wanted to go down. Gill and I caught up on about a year’s worth of gossip, put the world to rights twice, and had nearly run out of conversation by the time we’d reached Cambridge and had to pull over for fuel.

Gill offered to drive the last bit home and of course I refused, but as we went to get back into the car, I relented. 30 hours without sleep had taken its toll. I was beaten and even thought I felt like a totally shit friend, for forcing her to drive in her weakened condition, I had no choice but to sit in the passenger seat for the final 45 minutes.

Eventually we got back to Newmarket. By now it was mid-morning. But at least we were back. We’d both survived and I had to bow to the Doctor lady’s superior knowledge, as Gill did look quite a bit better than she had about 10 hours earlier.

Well that’s where this story ends really, I left Gill convalescing on the sofa, whilst I headed off to work at the horse sales. I really do hope that it was worth the extra long wait to find out that all that was wrong with Gul was a simple headache of epic proportions.

And the good news is Gill’s still alive, or at least she was the last time I spoke to her on WhatsApp a couple of days ago. I also survived the tale too, even though it felt like at times that I wouldn’t. And you? Well you’ll have to log onto my website and buy yourself a Hippomottie to entertain yourself with. Or at least a colouring book, because I think I need a little break from blogging and computers for a while. Unless of course something really interesting or unusual happens. Which means you’ll probably be hearing from me in a day or two… Or I could tell you more about the time I got broken into whilst I was in the house…

OK, that’s all folks. Adios Amigos! #BeExtraordinary.

Smuggling Pineapples & Other Frivolity

Monday 22th January 2018

Firstly, sorry for abandoning you for so long and not completing my “Gill Gets Stuck In Gran Canaria” Story. And secondly, sorry for not completing that the story now. I have been working on it I promise, but I have just been super super busy trying to organise an intercontinental shipment of stuffed toys.

You might think that that is a poor excuse. I mean how hard can it me to mail a few hundred bright pink Space Hippos from point A to point B? Well I can tell you that it’s very darn hard. Honestly launching Hippomottie into Space for real might be easier.

I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account of all the dossiers, documents and dockets that I’ve had to produce, complete and file in the last few weeks, but let me tell you, they have been lengthy and plentiful, and that’s without the completed 41 page toy testing certificate.


I used to ship racehorses all over the globe, and that was a doodle compared with this. The fact that we are importing them to two different destinations (the USA & the UK) has also meant double the work, as both countries require different, but an equally taxing amount of hoops to be jumped through, before they will allow our poor innocent soft toys to set their squishy feet on their soil. They practically need a blooming passport each.

I swear I could cart 1’000 real hippos from Africa in a shorter, cheaper and less stressful amount of time, than it has taken to arrange our Hippomottie Learn To Dress Toy deliveries.


I can totally see why the drug smugglers do what they do. If our Hippomotties were small enough to swallow, I’d be advertising for drugs mules on the dark web right about now.

When I saw a clip about cocaine filled pineapples this week it gave me hope that this might be the best way to populate the earth with Hippomotties, but the “pineapple” importers got caught and probably face a good stretch of jail time plus my shippers finally came good with an acceptable quote, so legal sea freight it shall be.

This is definitely the less glamorous side to becoming a Toy Tycoon. On a more fun and positive side, we’ve also ventured into Videobooks this week. Yes that’s right Hippomottie is now starring in a fully-blown Hollywood style motion picture!!

Ok, it’s more of an animated version of her books than a blockbusting special effect extravaganza. But it does have music, words and I will be sending a copy to the Oscar nomination folks just in case Spielberg has decided to take the year off in 2018. You can watch the full version of it here on YouTube

So that’s what I’ve been doing. This is what Hippomottie has been doing.

And next time I really will try to finish my Gill story…

Just Another Manic Monday – Installment 2

Monday, 1st January 2018

After neglecting you for a few weeks, here’s the second part of the “Gill Gets Sick In Gran Canaria” as a way to wish you all Happy New Year. Better late than never…

So last time I told you about my frantic rail journey to meet my sick friend that was flying into Manchester Airport, if you can remember back that far. Here’s what happened next…

(Oh and if you didn’t read the post Just Another Manic Monday Installment 1, or need a memory refresher, I suggest you take a quick look now so that at least this part of the story will hopefully make some sense to you.)

As the train pulled into Manchester Airport Railway Station, I could feel my heart jumping out of my chest. I was waiting by the doors of the train for the flashy light to illuminate the “OPEN” button and also waiting for one of the many people that I had text to please, please, please, send me the requested number of the friend that Gill was travelling with.

The second of Gill’s potential flight had landed 5 minutes earlier and I still had no word from her. When I called it went straight to voicemail, so I suspected that she had’t got a single one of my multiple messages that I’d sent, begging her to stay put and wait for me.

It was looking anything but good at this stage and I pleaded with my mind to stay far away from all of the dark places that it kept trying to creep off to.

Finally the irritating little door bleep sounded that it was time to alight the train, and I looked for the exit and followed signs to Terminal 2. My last hope of finding my friend.

As I was scaling the sedentary escalators that seemed intent of hindering my journey even further, my phone vibrated with life to alert me that someone had sent me the friend’s number. Result.

I copied the number and pressed call, my blood pounding in my ears as I heard the dial tone ring out.

“Hello?” Said an exhausted and unhappy sounding voice.
“Oh, er, Hi!” I stammered. “It’s Amy Weaver here, Gill’s friend. I’ve just arrived at Manchester Airport to meet her, and am making my way to the terminal now to take her home. Where are you? Are you with her?” I gabbled and garbled breathlessly.
“You’ll not be meeting Gill. She’s gone straight to hospital in an ambulance. It doesn’t look good. We’re still on the plane, waiting to get off.” came the reply.
“Oh my God!” was all I could manage, my worst fears now a reality.
Silence as I tried to figure out what to do or say next.
“Well I’ll meet you guys in arrivals and then I can collect her bags and car and go to the hospital.” was the best that I could come up with.
“OK. We’ll meet you there.” came the reply.

I felt sick. A combination of a 3.30am start, a day of travel, a lack of any real food save half a tub of chocolate roll crumbs, and a seriously sick friend.

“It doesn’t look good.”
Those words went round and round in my head.
That’s what we say when a horse has an unsurvivable injury. Or an elderly relative nears the end.

What the f@#k was going on? What was I doing in Manchester Airport at close to 10pm at night? And why by the way was it completely f@#king deserted? I suddenly realised that the whole place was completely devoid of people.

Since leaving the train platform, I’d seen no-one, the escalator had not been working and there was still not a soul in sight. Apart from the lights being on, there was not a single sign of life. And I’d walked miles. Where was this bloody terminal? I’d been following signs, but this now all seemed like part of a bad dream. How had I wound up in a maze of fluorescent lit walkways and empty check-in halls in Manchester Airport in the final few hours on a Monday night? And where was Gill, what the hell and happened to her and the question I didn’t want to ask, was she going to be OK? If this was a just dream please, please let me wake up in a hot sweat in my bed right now.

I didn’t wake up, but I did finally come to the arrivals hall, where I paced up and down, checking the TV monitors, that displayed the Las Palmas flight as having landed, and one more jet from Greece that was still in the sky.

There was a smattering of semi excited friends and relatives waiting in the Costa Coffee, plus one bloke with a hand written sign saying “Mr Garibaldi” which I wondered aimlessly if it was his real name or some kind of “code”.

Finally, the automatic sliding doors burst open and the first few sunburnt Brits started making their way towards the small crowd, grumbling about the delay to their flight and being back in “Bloody Britain”.

Waiting for someone at an airport, is not something that I’ve done much of thankfully, normally I’m the one doing the arriving and I always hurry out purposefully as I feel totally awkward with the gallery of eyes starring at me, knowing that none of them are waiting for me.

Airport Arrivals

Today I was part of that gallery and to be honest I felt even more awkward than when having to do the “no-one is waiting for me walk of shame”. I vaguely knew one of the girls that had been on holiday with Gill, I had no idea who the other person was at all.

Eventually I recongnised the friend of Gill’s that I knew, who was accompanied by another woman and two airline personnel, who were wheeling Gill’s humongous suitcase.

“Hi!” I said. And took control of the large bag that must’ve contained Gill’s entire wardrobe, cupboard and all.
“We’re staying at an airport hotel tonight, where our cars are, and have a taxi voucher to get there.” said Gill’s friend.
“OK. So should I come back with you? I can pick up Gill’s car and then go to the hospital.” I suggested.
“Ok great. We need some sleep.” she replied.
“And I need a fag!” piped up the other lady.

After thanking the airline personnel for all their help, we left the arrivals hall and set off in search of where the taxis were located.

Honestly, I was too scared to actually ask how Gill was, subscribing to the ignorance is bliss methodology, and asking if they’d had a “good holiday” seemed kind of pointless and frankly quite crass. Instead I opted to become navigator to the taxi rank, which happened to be all the way back over by the train station.

When we got in the taxi I fell back on my defense mechanism of making jokes, even though it was clearly quite a serious situation. I just didn’t know what else to do and I was also crammed underneath Gill’s giant suitcase, as the taxi driver evidently thought that an old Ford Escort was an appropriate vehicle for airport collections, so to me, making light of the grave yet bizarre scenario seemed the appropriate thing to do at the time.

It was somewhere on the drive to the hotel, through the winding lanes of Cheshire, in the pitch black, with the weight of all Gill’s clobber compressing my thighs, that I remembered what car Gill drove when I last saw her. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so snobbish about the Taxi man’s choice of wheels. But she surely couldn’t still have the same old “Dogmobile” could she? With the poor pooch was sadly no longer with us, I hoped that she upgraded for something a little more roomy and modern. Anyway, there’s no way that old thing would’ve made it as far as Manchester. I doubt it was even legal to take it on the motorway.

When we pulled up at the hotel, it was the first vehicle that I saw. Gill’s 17 year old Ford Fiesta proudly parked right outside the front door to this posh hotel. I couldn’t believe it. We collected the key from reception and as I hauled her luggage into the tiny boot, I mentally added “calling the AA” to the random collection of events that had somehow taken place over the last 24 hours.

Ford Fiesta 2001

The “Dogmobile”!

Surprisingly it started straight away! I just hoped that its owner was as resilient as the feisty little Fiesta.

The kind lady at reception, printed me out directions to the Wythenshawe Hospital, which was great as my phone was flashing only 2% battery, and I said goodbye to the others, promising to update them by text as soon as I had any news.

I was cold, alone, it was dark, my friend was clearly very sick, I was in a “vintage” car and I not ashamed to admit that I was scared. The printed directions weren’t really of much help in the pitch black, and the only saving grace was that the heating in the car was working and there was lots of fuel.

I kept pulling over near the occasional street lights that I came across, checking my map, as the torch function on my phone was no longer alive. It was by now fast approaching midnight, I wasn’t insured, I hadn’t a clue where I was or how to get to where I needed to be, and I was driving seriously erratically owing to the narrow lanes, huge puddles, sticky gears and general lack of driving practice in recent years.

At this stage, I wasn’t sure if getting pulled over by the police would be a blessing in disguise or add insult to injury. I pictured myself sobbing into the arms of an understanding copper, who would escort me to the hospital blue lights and all. Either that or I’d be spending a night in the cells, whilst Gill withered away in her hospital bed.

My map said that I should be nearly there. Left at the end of this road and then the hospital should be located a short way down the first right turn. I’d nearly made it! But then I came around the corner to find the road completely flooded. If I’d have had the energy at this point I actually would’ve started crying. But I was drained, completely devoid of emotion, so I sat there, the car quietly ticking over while I contemplated what to do.

Option a) Drive through the water at a slow yet even speed, hoping not to flood the engine, as my phone battery was now completely dead, so there would be no way I could call anyone to rescue me if the river proved to be deeper than the low slung vehicle.
Option b) Make a “U” turn and find another way to this godforsaken hospital down these damn country lanes.
Option c) Floor it and hope for the best. Even though I know that this is not the correct way to drive through water or fords, such as this lake seemed to be.

I chose a cautious, yet potentially foolish Option A, and then changed to option C about halfway through, unable to control my trigger foot that just leapt on the gas. Somehow I made it to the other-side, despite creating a mini tsunami in the process. This was it, the home straight! And in another 5 minutes, I was pulling into a brightly lit yet massively confusing modern hospital complex, wondering which of the many signposted departments they might have taken my friend to…

To be continued…


Sunday 24th December 2017

First of all apologies for not giving you the rest of the “Gill Story” yet. It is nearly finished, and maybe I’ll have it ready for Boxing Day, so that you can read it in between the sport on TV, classic movies, leftover turkey, too many sweets and arguments with the family, if they’re still hanging around. We’ll call it a belated Christmas present to my many faithful readers.

In advance of Christmas though, and in absence of the conclusion of my Gill induced Manic Monday, here’s a little free something for you to read instead. Click to download for free for UK or click here to download for USA.

It’s Hippomottie’s Christmas Story, an enchanting, rhyming, festive read, and it’s FREE to download on Amazon & Kindle on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.
I really hope that you enjoy it, and if you do, then please take a moment to leave a review on Amazon. If you hate it please feel free to troll me on any/all social media.

Now don’t forget to leave the mince pies and milk out for Rudolph and Father Christmas and no peeking at the presents under the tree until everyone’s awake.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that you all get what you wished for!

Just Another Manic Monday – Installment 1

Wednesday, 13th December 2017

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, but honestly not much has happened that you’d be interested in. Most days I’ve been very busy looking at horses, horses and more horses. I’ve seen practically every thoroughbred with four working legs in both Ireland, England and France, and even some with only three and a half. I won’t bore you with all the details, so instead I will pick up the story from where I left it last time.

It was Monday 28th November, and I had landed in London Heathrow after a short flight from Dublin, and head straight into the centre of the City to pick up my new nationality credentials.

After gaining my shiny new ID card, I took a couple of trains and arrived in Newmarket a few hours later. It had already been quite a long day, and I was ready for a rest, but unfortunately, I’d had a phone call from my Newmarket host the day before.

The call went like this:

Me: “Hello?”
Gill: “Hi, it’s me.”
Me: “Hi Gill, how are you?”
Gill: “I’m in hospital.”
Me: “Oh my God what the f#@k have you done now?”

(If Gill wrote down her life in a similar way to this memoir, I swear we’d all be wearing incontinence pants when reading it, as she is very amusing, a touch clumsy and is one of the few people in his world that manages to get into as many, if not more, misfortunate situations than I do. Like one time when she was driving the horse-box to the races and she got a call from the office to say that she’d left her grooms stranded in the petrol station after filling up with petrol some eight miles back. You couldn’t make up half of the stuff that she gets herself into, so I wasn’t entirely surprised that she was calling me from a medical institution.).

Gill: “I’m not well, but you can still stay at mine tomorrow, just call Nicola and get the key.”
Me: “Well are you alright? What’s wrong with you? Where are you? And what happened?”
Gill: “I’m OK. I’m in intensive care in Gran Canaria. You can still stay at mine though.”
Me: “WHAT THE F@#K? Gill what the f@#k are you doing in intensive care in Gran Canaria? Why do you care where I’m going to sleep tomorrow? And what can I do to help.”
Gill: “No I’m OK. I’m on holiday out here, but then I got ill. They thought it was meningitis, but now they don’t think it is.”
Me: “What the f…”
Gill: “Don’t worry, you can still stay at mine though. Just get the key. Gotta to go I don’t feel well.”
And with that she hung up.

I was stunned. Gill is one of my oldest friends, and by that I mean that I’ve known her for twenty odd years, not that she’s an octogenarian that is residing in God’s waiting room. She’s only a few years older than me and although I hadn’t seen her recently, she’s a non smoking, non drinking, fairly fit vegetarian.

I didn’t quite know what to do, so i googled “flights to Gran Canaria” and then sent her a few texts.

(Michael is a fish by the way.)

She insisted that she was “fine” and told me not to come out to the Canary Islands to meet her, even when I said that I’d be delighted to come out just for the weather, even if she really was “fine”.

By the time I got to Newmarket, the latest information that I had on her condition was that she was so “fine” that the Doctors had discharged her and she’d still be making her intended flight some time later that day.

I called Nicola (the keeper of the key and Gill’s best friend) to see if this was true or if she’d gone delirious, and found out that indeed Gill had gone straight from intensive care to the airport without passing Go or collecting $200.

Now I knew that Gill was flying into Manchester airport, which is a good (or even bad) four and a half hour drive home to Newmarket. I also knew that the two friends that she’d gone with lived in the opposite direction and that Gill’s car was at the airport waiting for her to drive it home.

I also knew that Gill was equally as stubborn as me and would attempt to drive it home no matter what state that she was in.

Things I did not know were a) What flight she was on. b) What time her flight was due in. c) What terminal it came into. d) Where her car was. e) If her brother has gone to collect her.

Despite being in the dark about all of these things, I suddenly found myself back on the platform of Newmarket train station, buying a ticket to Manchester Airport train station, but not before attempting to fill Gill’s fridge full of food for her pending arrival home.

This was a nice gesture in theory, but seeing as I haven’t been to a supermarket in about 4 years and have no idea what vegetarians eat except vegetables and Quorn, it was a bit of a lame effort.

After agonising in the bread aisle for about forty minutes, I ended up at the check out with a basket containing a half loaf of white bread, a block of medium cheddar cheese, some semi skimmed milk and six large free range eggs. Probably not the kind of convalescing food that the Doctor ordered, but seeing as she was most likely ignoring his instructions, I figured that I could too.

And being that by cooking skills are limited to toast, French toast, cheese on toast, cheese sandwiches, boiled eggs and toast, or omelettes, then I think that the ingredients were more than satisfactory to fulfill my scarcely rehearsed culinary repertoire.

Plus after the bread dilemma, I’d manned up and decided that I’d be safe and pick the middle product in each category, hence the mediumness of the cheese and semi skimmed milk. I know nothing about milk, skimmed or otherwise, but I’d heard of semi skimmed milk and it seemed a popular choice with the other shoppers in that aisle.

Anyway, I digress. By now I was on a train inching its way towards Cambridge (the Newmarket to Cambridge line is more of an upmarket tram and goes about as fast as a pushchair with the brakes on).

Once I got to Cambridge, it was express all the way, but unfortunately it did involve going the wrong way, as I had to go South back into London, to where I’d been only a few hours earlier to pick up the high-speed train North to where I wanted to be.

For sustenance I’d managed to pick up a couple of tubs of Marks & Spencers mini rolls in London and ended obliterating them into chocolatey crumbs by running at top speed through the underground tunnels, to catch the tube to my connecting station.

I should mention at this point that I’d left in rather a hurry and only had the two round tubs of chocolate mini rolls to keep me alive and my small handbag for company.

I never ever carry a handbag anywhere, so I surprised myself that I had found it and taken it with me. I had no book, not enough clothes on, and my handbag contained 14 hair grips, an empty tube of lip balm, two pieces of very stale chewing gum, 1 out of date condom and my bank card. Awesome. There’s nothing like being prepared for a five-hour train journey that included 5 changes.

Thankfully though my odd collection of belongings were reasonably light, so my being unencumbered during my sprint through the subway corridors, meant I managed to shave a bit of time of the arduous trip and got a slightly earlier train to Manchester.

This was great, as on the way down to London, I’d checked the incoming flight arrivals and found that there were two planes arriving from Las Palmas that day, and I was now due to arrive in only 40 minutes behind the second one. Which after baggage reclaim give me a good shot of being able to catch Gill.

With the Manchester train being my longest of the day, I contemplated what might happen when I actually got to the airport.

Scenario a) Gill was on the earlier flight and would now be half way back to Newmarket. I’d be forking out for a hotel in Manchester, before buying another extortionate rail ticket to get home some time the next day.
b) Gill’s brother had turned up to collect her, and like a wally I’d wasted half a day and a hundred quid chasing all over the country needlessly.
c) My sick friend finds me waiting in arrivals with two tubs of smashed chocolate mini rolls and think’s I’m a good friend albeit one that brings inappropriate gifts for invalids to airports.
d) Gill ends up in Portugal or similar after being so ill that they have to divert the aeroplane.

After this my thoughts started to wander to some rather dark places, so I gave up wondering what might happen next and spent the rest of the journey willing the train to go quicker, whilst texting her again NOT LEAVE THE AIRPORT, hoping that at least one of the 27 messages that I’d sent her would get through when she landed and turned her phone on.

I checked the flight arrivals once more, and saw that the first flight from Las Palmas had landed 45 minutes earlier. I was still 12 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly and had to catch another train from there to reach the airport.

The second flight was now showing a 52 minute delay. Either way this was not good news. If she was on the early flight, she’d be gone well before I could run breathlessly across the airport like some kind of demented movie buff recreating their favourite love scene. And if she was on the second flight, why was it now delayed? Had they had to divert to drop her off? Despite the freezing temperatures I was starting to sweat.

In Piccadilly I caught another break and got on the a late departing airport train meaning that I would arrive there exactly at the time that the delayed flight number 2 was now due to land at. I still couldn’t obtain a working number for her brother, and I didn’t have either of the phone numbers for the two friends that she was travelling with.

This had all the hallmarks of something that was bound to end badly. But I decided whatever the outcome, I was glad that I was there. I would like somebody to do the same for me if the situation was reversed and despite silently cursing her for not booking her holiday from the local airport of Stansted, the worst that could happen to me was having to spend a night in a low-budget hotel in Manchester and another day of inter-railing it around the country to get back to my origin. In the grand scheme of things, looking like a wally, a bit of spent cash and time meant nothing compared to the health, well-being and comfort of my little friend…

To be continued…

Back To Blighty

Monday 27th November 2017

I used to travel a lot. During my days as a racehorse trainer, I was catching and also missing flights on a regular basis. Now, despite the fact that technically I’m perpetually on the move from one place to another aboard my floating home, I feel like an airport outsider.

I used to be enjoy catching up on the gossip with the Louis who worked behind the counter at Yo Sushi in Stansted Airport, who was always delighted to see his only customer that ever ate full on sushi before six in the morning.

I was also on first name terms with Bill, who used to handle the check in counter for Delta Airlines at Heathrow Terminal 4. He’d always ask me “Where are you off to today Miss Amy?” And wish me a safe and pleasant journey when he’d finished checking in my bag of riding boots and other essential accessories.

I used to be a bit of an aviation geek. OK I still am one, albeit an out of practice one.

Now there isn’t even a Yo Sushi in Stansted Airport at all, which makes me wonder what’s become of Louis… And BTW Stansted, you’ve missed a trick there as I used to relish overpaying for raw fish early in the day and now keep my hard earned money in my shallow pocket, because instead you’ve filled the place with overpriced boutiques and designer department stores like Harrods. Seriously, who buys a four figure Parker pen *other brands also equally overpriced, when you can still nick perfectly good pocket sized writing implement from any upstanding High Street bookmakers office?

I must also have matured a bit in my absence from regular flying, at this morning I was one of those crazy folk that gets to the airport early. By early I mean 1 hour and 10 minutes before my flight left (I’d online checked in and had hand luggage only.). I didn’t even have to run through the airport at all. Nor did I get to express it through security in the “Late Lane”. Honestly I didn’t really know what to do with myself.

The only circumstances that I spend any considerable amount of time in an airport is when I a) Have a long layover. Or b) Have missed my intended flight and have to wait three hours for the next one.

Except one time when I slept in Dublin airport on New Year’s Day morning as I was to tight to pay for a hotel room, but that’s a story for a while other occasion.

So today I’m doing my usual, hanging out, re-packing my carry on so that I have all I need in my hands, as I know that they’re going to check in all the bags anyway due to lack of space, and generally just passing the time until all the wallys that have been queuing for the last 40 minutes have got onboard. Indecently the plane only turned up 20 minutes ago, so for half the time they were queuing for something that didn’t even exist yet.

When the last few stragglers wandered up to the helpful ladies dressed in Aer Lingus green, I gathered my affairs and approached them, just as they were making a final boarding call for the flight.

Now with these new fangled e-boarding cards that you download on your phone, I’d decided to do something which I thought was rather clever, as I’m always left flailing about with my big fat sausage fingers trying to get my old slow phone to show the correct page, and in the process creating a considerably large queue behind me.

What I did today was, to save my boarding pass photo as my lock screen so that I’d have it at the click of just one button.

It worked excellently passing through security and the immigration guys, but now the little laser barcode scanner flatly refused to accept my genius plan. So much so that the next announcement that was trilled out to the entire airport was a call for “MISS AMY WEAVER TO GATE 408 IMMEDIATELY PLEASE!”.

“That’s me!!” I shrieked to the poor woman who was trying to help me work my modern technology not so smart device. “Right here, trying to check in!” I continued mortified that I’d still somehow managed to get summoned like a naughty school girl despite being extra on time today.

Wait for me!!!

Eventually, after changing the brightness settings on my phone, I managed to prove that I had actually paid for a seat, and they let me through, to shuffle sheepishly up to the queue of wallys, who were by now congesting the aisle whilst trying to sort their belongings and find their seats. You’d think they could’ve done all that instead of standing aimlessly in a line for three quarters of an hour.

Still who am I to judge, I’m the one who got their name announced over the pa system. And not for the first time either…

Upon arriving at London’s Heathrow airport, I got another example of my lack of recent air travel, as I didn’t have the faintest clue which terminal that I’d arrived into. Before I could’ve told you all about all of them, where the nearest convenience was, which were the best shops with the shortest queue to buy a soft drink from, and when and where to get the best snacks. I could’ve guided myself through one blindfolded.

Today though, I had absolutely not a clue where I was. It didn’t actually matter as I was catching the underground into Central London, so just put my head down, fought through the crowds and followed the signs to The Tube. I still have no idea which terminal I arrived in. I guess I could Google it to find out but I’ve decided that I’m not that fussed.

Anyway that’s pretty much it for my opinions on air travel. Nothing much else to report from last week, everyday followed pretty much the same pattern; Look at 300 odd horses, consult my Magic 8 ball to see which ones of them might be future champions (Ask Again Later), and then assist my very knowledgeable new boss on which ones looked the least wonky-legged and encouraged her to throw in one more bid on the cute shiny ones. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

I did manage to do some damage to my shoulder/back somehow though. After years of falling off fast horses with barely a scratch, I manage to severely injure myself by sleeping in an awkward position and have been in some quite considerable pain for the last few days. Go me! So whoever has the voodoo doll with my face on it, please kindly take the knife out of my back. Please please please.

Oh and why was I going to London in the first place? To claim a new Nationality. But more about that another time maybe…

My Mental Life

Monday 20th November 2017

My life has always been very strange. And honestly, if anything, it just gets weirder. I’m sure that regular readers will know that I used to be a racehorse trainer. A passion that I thankfully grew out of, after years of brutally hard work and an unequal struggle to make ends meet. Instead I ran away to sea to become a casino dealer on a cruise ship, something I’d dreamed of since my flirtation as a card dealer in London’s prestigious Mayfair district, many years earlier.

Once aboard the cruise ship, I met a guy. Not in the romantic, he swept me off my feet kind of way, but one that dragged me into an altogether unfamiliar world of children toys, e-commerce and crowdfunding (Like I said, my life could never be described as conventional.).

This was a huge surprise to everyone. Not  least myself. For I have never been what you’d call a fan of the little people. Quite honestly I’m petrified by their freakishly small and constantly sticky hands. Their near translucent fingers make me heave when stretched out in search of a hug or my bar of chocolate, that I’d never dream of sharing with them in a month of Sundays.

But it seems I might be mellowing slightly, largely I’m sure thanks to Hippomottie, the incredibly cute and popular Space Hippo Learn To Dress Toy that my business partner and I invented together in a cabin on a cruise ship. I even picked a child up the other day. And we then spent a whole afternoon grovelling around on the floor playing together. Don’t worry though, no need to ring the Child Welfare Services just yet, I still have absolutely no inclination to have my own one…

Currently I’m on vacation from the cruise ship, which after working 7 days a week continously for the last 6 months, would make you think that I’d choose a relaxing break on a beach, or even just laying on a comfy couch in front of a television somewhere, but no, in line with the rest of my life, I chose a not so relaxing selection of things to keep me busy in my downtime. If nothing else you could describe me as consistently eccentric.

At the start of week 3 of my vacation, I’m already onto the third “job” of my break. Not that I’ve been fired from my previous two holiday jobs, you see this eclectic mix of vocational pastimes was all part of the plan. A change is as good as a rest and all that.

I mentioned last time that I’d been filling my days shredding in a friend’s stud farm office, like a demented ancestor of Edward Scissorhands. But having run out of ruined paperwork to tear to shreds by Friday, I assumed my second role of the holiday, as a bookmaker’s assistant at the races at Punchestown this weekend.

I hadn’t exactly picked the warmest day of the year to make my betting deputy debut, but at least the rain stayed away, and wearing every item of my entire wardrobe, I just about staved off pneumonia.

It actually wasn’t a million miles away from my job on the ship as a croupier, taking bets, smiling at the punters, offering a bit of cheeky banter and praying that people lost. Despite the icicles forming in my bloodstream, it was actually a fun day and thankfully I wasn’t a bad luck doll, as my bookmaker boss turned a profit on the day, despite lots of winning favourites.

Place Your Bets Please!

The very next day, I switched hats once again, this time wearing my bloodstock assistant bobble hat. All vacation I’ve progressively been regressing closer to livestock, and Sunday and today, I’ve been getting up close and personal with horses of all shapes and sizes. That’s because this week is the Foal, and then the mare sales, at Goffs in Ireland.

When I was training horses myself, I used to buy most of my stock based on their previous racing form, so judging teeny tiny foals and trying to assess the likelihood of them winning races in two years time has been an uphill struggle.

The oldest ones are 11 months old and the youngest are only 6 months old, so there’s a wide variety of physical specimens on show, and some of the smallest are fairly adorable looking.

Still, defacing the catalogue aside, I’ve been trying to remain professional and it’s been an interesting week so far and hopefully later in the week my new boss will be buying some of the models that we’ve been critiquing.

Well that’s about it for today’s update, I’ll see what mischief that I can get up to, to entertain in my next blog, but it’s goodbye for now.

Back To Earth With A Bump!

Sunday 12th November 2017

Ouch! Upon touching down in Dublin Airport a few days ago, I had a sharp shock. It was bloody freezing! Had I taken the wrong plane leaving Palma? Was this Antarctica? When did it get so cold?

I soon realised that this lowly temperature was actually “normal” for the time of year, and quickly calculated that I hadn’t experienced winter since 2014. Although I’ve been known to complain on occasions when sailing around the tropics that it’s too hot, I certainly hadn’t missed winter. Next stop the nearest department store to buy a big jacket, woolly hat and some thermal undies…

It seems like I’ve been off the ship a month already, although in reality is only been a matter of days. It didn’t take me long to get homesick though and miss everything bar the boat drills. Thankfully I’ve been staying with my good friend Sally Ann, so she arranged a little trip out on a friend’s craft to make me feel more at home.

2 days out and I’m already back in a life jacket!

It might look like I’m wearing all of my entire wardrobe at once, but I can tell you that I was still bloody freezing. The Lough Derg in November is not a warm place and after bombing along it at full speed I now have wind burn on one side of my cheek that actually makes it look like someone punched me in the face!

M/S Marella Inflatable

When not skiving off larking around on dinghies, I’ve actually been working quite hard in my new rule as temporary “office assistant”. In reality I’m far more like an inept work experience girl and my starring role has been at the shredder, destroying documents that I’ve incorrectly typed. It’s actually the second shredder already as the first one I accidently destroyed with the sheer volume of mistyped sheets of paper. Woops!

Despite my incompetence, I’m really enjoying my new role and am learning lots of things. After 36 years of dodging it, I’ve finally learnt to make a cup of tea. And I haven’t managed to break the photocopier. Yet… Lots of positive things to add to my CV.

In between times I’ve still been hard at work Toy Tycooning. The Hippomottie Toys are still undergoing their rigorous testing. There’s been daily correspondence about the amount of Newton’s that the zip tag can handle and I spent Friday night reading a 16 page document on the presence of Nickel in metals and the definitions of prolonged contact with skin. Rock ‘n’ roll sista! The good thing is these toys will be virtually indestructible by the time our third party testers are finished with them.

The second Hippomottie book is already on the shelves and the Hippomottie Christmas Story is written and awaiting illustration. Honestly I think it’s the best one yet!! But I’ll yet you good critics be the judge of that nearer the time…

Talking of Christmas, I was lucky enough to actually enjoy Christmas Day for real the other day, as Sally Ann and her family kindly invited me to their “Fake Christmas”. Held on the 10th of November.

The date was selected because all the family were going to be away on real Christmas. It was great fun getting ready the few days before and by the time the turkey and ham were in the oven, it actually seemed like Christmas for real.

Ready for the feast!

The food was beyond delicious. I believe the official description was “Off The Charts!”. I think my favorite but about Christmas was “fake Boxing Day” where I got to spend the day hanging out on the sofa watching all the sport, and the racing which was hosted by non the less than my awesome host Sally Ann. How great to be sitting at home doing nothing whilst she was out in the cold doing all the hard work!

My celebrity friend!

So today it’s another easy day, blogging and dog walking in the sunshine to burn off all those calories, before getting back behind my desk tomorrow. Until next time peeps!

It’s Nearly Holiday Time! 

Saturday 28th October 2017

Well my vacation time is coming up soon, which is fantastic because I’m running on fumes right now. A nice, long, relaxing break it exactly what I need. Somewhat questionably though I’ve decided to take some “work” during my vacation time, which starts the day after I land back in terra firma. I believe the expression is that there’s no peace for the wicked, which would definitely appear to be quite apt.

I’ll be fitting my new “job” around my existing part time role of Toy Tycoon, and even though I might be seriously doubting the wisdom of waving goodbye to my peaceful time off in exchange for hard labour, I’m trying hard to think of the positives; namely being less bored during my holiday and also hopefully being slightly less poor also, as I’ll be earning money instead of spending it. Well that’s Plan A anyway.

I just hope my future “employer” didn’t read my the recent blogs detailing my lack of people skills and compulsive sarcasm/sharp wit…

In preparation for sign off, I’d arranged to sell my wonderful white €99 bicycle (from Carrefour #bargain) to one of the Nepalese security guards. As they say, the course of bicycle selling never does run smoothly, and true to form Jenny’s return from vacation was delayed this week and instead of arriving back at the ship on Thursday, to take possession of my beautiful two-wheeled charger in exchange for a crisp €50 note, her flights have been changed and she’s now scheduled to arrive in 10 days time in Funchal, Madeira, when I will have already departed.

This means that I’ve got to leave my bike in the cabin for the new occupants to get acquainted with, and hope that they won’t mind too much, and hope and pray that Jenny still does want the bike when she finally gets back.

Otherwise my options are a toss up between donating it to the crew welfare for all crew members to access (generous & useful), or asking my super wonderful boss Shane to lock the bike up to a palm tree in Barbados once they cross the Atlantic, and tell me where he’s hidden the key, so that I can collect it when my new ship arrives a few days later (genius & risky). Remember folks there’s always a Plan B in life, and even Plans C, D, E & F if needed…

In other news the eagerly awaited second Hippomottie Book is now out AND is FREE to download on IPad, Kindle, Smart Phone, Tablet, Device, etc. THIS WEEKEND!

So if you want to take a flick through the critically acclaimed Hippomottie Learns To Get Dressed (Hippomottie Adventures Book 2), click HERE for the UK version or HERE for the USA version.

Just Click the BUY FOR FREE but on Amazon or Kindle to download.

Of course you can always just Goggle “Hippomottie” on Amazon and there are some fantastic paperback versions for sale on there too. *Don’t forget Christmas is just around the corner and they make wonderful and practically unique gifts!!!

This one is actually quite good if I do say so myself. It even rhymes. Well mostly. Ok it’s supposed to and fails in parts, but I’ll let you good people be the judge of that and afterwards you can all leave me a lovely 5 star review ☆☆☆☆☆ even if you hate it, because you’re all good and lovely people.

Right I’ve got to go, I’ve got 6 months worth of clothes to wrestle into a suitcase that must weigh under 20kgs. Thanks Ryanair!