Pullman Liverpool Hotel

I’m in the middle of a quite hotel-heavy month – for one reason or another, I’ve spent more days away from home than normal, and whilst I don’t mind it, I’m very grateful that they’ve all been good hotels so far.

First up – the work stay.

I travelled to Liverpool for a conference a couple of weeks ago and stayed at the very lovely Pullman Liverpool.  It was perfectly placed for the Arena and Convention Centre next door, and only a 10/15 minute walk away from town so there was plenty of opportunity for me to visit Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar and the rest of the Liverpool One.

I loved this hotel – everyone was super friendly, the furnishings were beautiful, and most importantly, the toiletries were Co Bigelow.  My favourite brand ever (which I have talked about a lot).   I’d definitely stay here again.

Admittedly, it was very weird being in Liverpool.  About a lifetime ago, I spent a few years in the city but it has changed so radically since then.  I really struggled to find my way around, and I was so disorientated for most of my visit.  It was genuinely like I was visiting for the first time.  I popped in to town a couple of times for emergency coffee and an even more emergency manicure and I really enjoyed it (I don’t remember enjoying it that much a decade ago…).

The area around the Pullman was very quiet but I’m sure that was mostly because it was freezing down by the Mersey.  No one was riding the Liverpool Wheel and the Albert Dock was almost empty.  That suited me fine!

I was of course there to work so spent most of the time in the conference centre (to be fair, it was nice conference centre) so I couldn’t get away with sneaking off too often.  There’s always a new government regulation to grapple with, always colleagues to catch-up with.  We were lucky enough to be treated to an epic gala dinner at the phenomenal St George’s Hall – what an amazing venue.

All this followed by a painful train journey home, which made me remember all those times I hated travelling to and from the North West (although that did make me learn to drive so there’s a positive spin!).  I’m sure I’ll be back one day though.

SACRAO 2017

SPB3We’ve established that I managed to get myself to St Pete Beach and back on my own, but what was I doing there?

For the past 4 years or so I’ve visited some genuinely lovely towns and some even lovelier university campuses on the conference circuit.  All very much UK based though – I don’t work in a role that offers any international travel, and I’m ok with that.

However, one of the yearly conferences I attend (the incredibly valuable SROC) offers two bursaries to attend the American SACRAO, which in 2017 would be held in Florida.  As a recent Florida convert, I thought I’d try my luck again with the bursary and what do you know – I won!

From the start, I was under no illusion that this was a holiday.  The conference schedule was pretty full on – Pivot table training on Sunday afternoon, 8 am starts, and over 100 seminars to choose from on a huge variety of topics.  Just figuring out what I wanted to attend was pretty much a full time job – I had project management software set up just to manage my schedule to start with (fortunately, SACRAO uses the Guidebook App which is dream).  All this plus a presidential reception (special treatment for us Brits) and a beach party.

Admittedly, I may have just undermined my “this was hard work” by mentioning the beach party.SPB4There were three of us from the UK, and we bonded really quickly.  We all work for different institutions and in different areas, so whilst there were a couple of sessions that we all went to, most of the time we chose different things and compared notes afterwards.

One fun thing about being one of three British people was that as soon as we started chatting, Americans would flock to us.  We.  Were.  Popular.  I don’t mean to boast, but everyone wanted to talk to us, find out about how things work in our sector, where we lived, our TV shows.  I even offered to job swap with a hilarious guy from Georgia (still thinking about taking him up on that for reals).  We felt like the centre of attention, and to be honest, it’s going to be really hard to attend our next conference just as ‘normal’ attendees.

And I loved the Americans just as much as they loved us.  Every person I spoke to was friendly, every presenter was amazing.  I came out of each seminar wanting to work in their sector because it was all so inspiring, including:

  • A Wonder Woman themed open discussion on how to be more confident at work (WONDER WOMAN!)
  • An LGBTQ student panel which made me want to hug everyone that spoke. What an astonishing group of students.
  • A seminar on communication styles where we all did a quiz and I apparently am very similar to Einstein.  I’ll accept that
  • Many other nerdy things that I LOVED because I am a nerd

Although the US University system is different to ours, there was still lots to learn, and plenty to take back to my job.  I always love finding a new way to manage or a new way to process, and there were so many opportunities to do this.  Comparing notes with my American counterparts was fascinating, and I like to think some of them learnt a lot about our system from me as well.

We visited exhibitors who graciously spoke to us (and gave us free stuff) even though they knew we wouldn’t be able to buy their products.  We attended the SACRAO town hall meeting where we found out about the huge level of organisation that goes into running the conference each year.

And yes, there was a beach party but how could there not be.  The sun set as we networked, and I had one of my favourite moments of the event.  Earlier in the day, I was scrolling through Facebook  when I noticed a friend who I haven’t seen for 10 years had posted a photo of his Mother receiving an award.  An award which I had witnessed in person a couple of hours beforehand.  Of all the places I could meet a friend’s Mum, I would never imagined it would be at an American work conference.  It was so lovely to meet her, and a really fun coincidence!

I’ve only been back at work a couple of weeks, but it feels like SACRAO has had such a positive impact on me already.  I wish I could do this every year – 2018 is in Nashville and I want to go so badly!  I’ve already told people that I want to retire and just do the conference circuit.  Sadly, I think I’m many years away from that.

It’s one of those experiences which I don’t think I’ll forget any time soon.  Plus I fulfilled a lifelong ambition – my very first S’more!  And it was absolutely delicious.  SPB5

Can’t remember the last time I saw an international business man with an untucked shirt

SPB_1You guys, I’ve finally travelled internationally for work.

I’ve been to a lot of conferences over the years, but whilst colleagues in Recruitment get to leave the UK, all of mine have been squarely in country.  But not this time.  This time, I got on a big plane, then a much smaller plane (that technically I wasn’t booked on – I’ll explain later) and eventually, after 14 hours of travel, I ended up on a beach.  The beautiful St Pete Beach to be more precise, where I would spend 4 days learning from Americans.

I loved it.  I loved it so much that I almost cried when I had to go home.

I’m still sorting through my photos and thoughts from the trip, but I thought I’d blog about it in a bit more detail as it might be something colleagues in my sector would enjoy reading (equally, it might not be, but blogging in detail about my trips is what I do) .

Oh, and on the way home from the conference, I got to stay here.  I thought I’d blog about that as well 🙂

NYC_2017_1

The lattes go from vanilla to pumpkin

Campus autumnIt’s been a bit of a quiet Autumn for me so far, with not much planned until our Scotland trip in a couple of weeks.  It’s even featured a weekend spent at work which is most unusual for me.  Other than being so very cold, campus was a dream with no one about and an entirely silent office – it’s almost worth considering trying to do all my hours solely on weekends.

With my weekend taken up by testing, I took Friday afternoon off to do a bit of dress shopping for an upcoming wedding.  Didn’t actually find a dress, but I did buy some dream shoes from the Irregular Choice store in Carnaby Street.  LOOK AT THEM!

They’re so glittery!  They are the Irregular choice Kanjanka shoes and I love them so much.  Even the soles – LOBSTERS!!

Now I just need to find a not-black, wedding appropriate dress to match.

I’ve been spending most nights on Google Flights planning for my next trip to America.  Not a holiday, but for a conference.  I was incredibly excited to find out I’d won a bursary from a professional group I’m a member of, so I’m off to Tampa in February – I’m going to be able to geek out in a work capacity for four days on the beach!

I say that this isn’t for a holiday, but I am planning on going home via New York.  I’m a bit sad that Husband won’t be able to join me, but also secretly thrilled that I’ll have my first solo trip.  I used to spend all day on my own in Copenhagen  with Husband at work, but we’d always go out together in the evening.  New York will be just me all day and I cannot wait – no whinging outside Sephora!

I’m currently deciding on a hotel – I want to be more towards lower Manhattan than we we’ve been before, so I’ve bookmarked a bunch of places and I might need to do a bit of spreadsheeting before I finally decide.  The only thing I’m a little nervous of is solo dining but I’ll take my Kindle with me and see how I go.

Also, it’s going to be flipping freezing so that’s something to look forward to!

Celtic Manor Hotel, Newport

CelticManor_8Onto my second hotel stay of July – a conference trip and overnight stay at the Celtic Manor in Wales.  I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this one, as I’ve felt a bit of conference fatigue this year, and I’d made an assumption that the hotel wasn’t going to be that great.

I was way wrong.

To make it clear, I was actually working for the two days I spent there.  There were a whole bunch of seminars about our records database and I learnt a lot.  Many exciting (if you’re me) developments and lots of things to look forward to (again, if you’re me) in forthcoming updates.

But there was also a bit of downtime, which allowed me to spend a significant time in the spa.  YES!

When my manager and I arrived, we were told that the actual conference was three escalators down.  Whoa, this was a big hotel.  Crazy Vegas size.  There was an insane amount of space downstairs, and I’ve just read that they’re building an even bigger centre which looks very impressive.  In a break, a plan was made to visit the spa, just to see if they had any availability at the end of the day.  And what do you know, they had time for us both to have a Elemis facial.  At £20 for 25 minutes, it was ridiculous value for money and left my skin feeling zingy.

After the facial, I said goodbye to my manager as she wasn’t staying overnight, and checked into my room.

For some fortuitous reason, I had been given a Signature Room – new decor, Elemis toiletries, complimentary wine and chocolates, HUGE bed, and access to the Signature Lounge and restaurant which I visited for breakfast the following morning.  I even got a signature smoothie with my toast.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I was there alone, I didn’t fancy going to the conference dinner but they were all booked up at the Forum Spa so I was preparing to curl up on the HUGE bed and read. On flicking through the brochures, I suddenly realised they had a second spa up in the Golf Club and managed to get a massage appointment.  YAY for the Ocius Spa!  I trekked up the hill, spent a wonderful 25 minutes getting my back pummelled, and then wandered back down the hill in time for some room service.

CelticManor_6
My yummy burger arrived at the same time as the turndown service, another treat that comes with the Signature Room.  I should have said yes for curiosity sake, but I got a bit flustered so said I didn’t need it.  I did get a free Elemis lip balm though which was AMAZING.

Lots more work followed the next day, but I snuck away at lunch to have a manicure.  It was possibly the best conference/spa break I’ve ever been to.

CelticManor_7

Sniffle sniffle snuffle

Loughborough UniversityNormal blogging service will resume at some stage. Probably when I start doing things again (believe me, I’m going to blog the shit out of my Miami trip).

I get a week off work for Easter, and it was mainly spent watching American Crime Story, eating Hotel Chocolat sale eggs, and window shopping for holiday clothes. A trip to Loughborough University followed for some work fun, and whilst they had a very pretty building or two, I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to visit the town any time soon. Although I did discover the Costa Mint Choc Chip Cooler there, which is AMAZING and I plan to drink a lot of over the summer.

One bit of excitement over the Easter break was winning a prize in a Present and Correct competition.  P&C is one of the best shops in London (I am surely due another visit there) and whilst my win was mainly down to being on Twitter at the right time, I was still a bit giddy.  I never win anything!

My prize?  A beautiful set of Dutch stamps from 1967.  I have genuinely no idea what to do with them, but I love them!  How cute is that hedgehog?!?

P&C prize

It’s just busy work to make you feel like you’re contributing

Advent Calendars

My poor neglected blog.  I don’t want to fall into the trap of always having to start a post with an apology for not posting more frequently, but here we are.

Work is exhausting and when I’m not working, I’m sleeping.  I did manage to get to the cinema twice over the passed few weeks – once for Bond (meh) and once for Mockingjay (KATNISS!).  Mockingjay was as good as I wanted it to be and was better than expected.  I’d seen a lot of reviews saying it was dull but it wasn’t – it did keep me on my toes.  I re-read the book two days before which nicely refreshed me and they kept it fairly faithful.

Speaking of books, I’ll be doing my annual book review next month but I think I have my book of the year.  I recently finished the epic A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and it broke me.  Husband regularly looked up to find me sobbing, and I was left emotionally stunned by the ending.  Jude St. Francis might just be my most loved character ever.  If it wasn’t am insane number of pages, I’d go back and re-read the whole thing again.

So with December almost here, I have been told that my workload should suddenly drop once we get this statutory return done next week.  I’ve got BUG 49 in a couple of weeks, which will be followed by a screening of all three Richard Linklater’s Before… films giving me a very BFI weekend.  And then it’ll be time for us to go to Copenhagen for our holiday.  And then 2016!

Most importantly, it’ll soon be time to open up my two beauty advent calendars – one from Liberty and one from Marks and Spencer.  I have been waiting a long time for 1st December.

Every single night, the same arrangement

Last three weeks

I haven’t had the internet for over a week.  Sadly, with my tech support/Husband overseas, I had to make do with just my data allowance on my sparkly new Nexus 5X, which I very quickly blitzed through.  So what have I been doing without my beloved internet?

Working
I started my new job on Monday and so far, so statutory.  I’ve been reading insanely long government documents, and trying to decipher wordy guidance.  It has not been the most fun ever.  It’s also very daunting that I now have 8 people working for me.  8!  I can’t even count all of them!  Next week, I move desks and do yet more reading, and maybe one day I’ll be able to finish something I start without having to go to a meeting or getting distracted by a Very Important phone call.

Shopping
My parents took me to the Ashford outlet last weekend where I compulsively bought some new Skechers.  I don’t even need them.  Ashford was actually a bit disappointing and in no way matches up to my trusty Swindon outlet, but it was good to have a change.  I’ve also bought a lot of Tatty Devine, including two wishlist items.  Ooo, and the Liberty beauty advent calendar which is tempting me from the bedroom as I type.  When is it December?

Brunching
Like the trendy, young people we are (ahem) Tim and I went for brunch at The Refinery at Bankside.  We’d been there once before for his birthday which was most enjoyable then and brunch was equally enjoyable.  I was very surprised that it wasn’t really busy – my pancakes were delicious and not expensive so it’s surprising to me that we walked straight in.  I’ll definitely be going back for yet more pancakes.

Culturing
After brunch, we visited the Tate Modern to see the World Goes Pop exhibition.  I hadn’t really considered that most of the Pop Art I’ve seen and appreciated is American and British, and this exhibition showed stuff from all over the world – Asia, the Middle East, Latin America.  It was political, feminist, folksy and all very mind-expanding.  Many vaginas with mirrors, including some in a beautiful room byJana Želibská that I really liked.  The final room was really disorienting – repeat pattern wallpaper by Thomas Bayrle which made my eyes dizzy, sexually explicit films which a bunch of gay men seemed really into, and a radio advert on repeat which almost drove me insane.  Lovely bit of neon by Chryssa Vardea in there though.  We then had a lovely walk down the river, and sat outside the Oxo Tower until we were frozen having one of our legendary conversations.    

More shopping
As we made out way into one of the Tate’s shops, I told Tim a fascinating story about how one of my biggest regrets was the day I didn’t buy a Tatty Devine/Tate necklace that I saw in the shop years ago.  I could see the jewellery cabinet was still in the same place it’s always been in, and thought I’d have a look at their current selection. AND SAW THE REGRETFUL NECKLACE!  I hesitated for a moment – originally £160 and now at half price, it was still more than I’d budgeted for the day.  But Tim’s wry knowing smile gave me all the encouragement I needed, and I snapped it up – the last one they had.  He really is a bad influence on me.

Buffy-ing
I’m now done with my Buffy rewatch, having watched almost 2 and a half seasons in the last three weeks.  Angel’s on hold for the moment, mostly because I couldn’t be bothered to chop-and-change the DVDs in the drive.  I forgot how ridiculously melodramatic season 6 was, and how season 7 all runs into one.  I could never remember the difference between “Bring on the Night”, “Showtime”, “Get It Done”.  The whole middle of season 7 was just pointless.  However, I do still think “Once More With Feeling” is one of the best episodes of television of all time.  And 7 improved dramatically when Eliza Dushku turned up.  God bless Faith.

Waiting
But the waiting is now over, as a very jet-lagged Husband has returned.  I got to the airport way early as I was far too excited, and then burst into tears when I saw him walk through the arrivals hall.  The relief at finally being able to see him, be able to talk to him, is almost overwhelming.  He crashed a couple of hours ago as the time difference has broken him, but hopefully we can quickly get back back into our happy routine.

We are in this job for one reason – to say yes

Surrey1One of the most hated things to say to someone in my line of work is “it must be so nice to have the summer off with the students”.

Yes, it would be nice to have the summer off with the students.  But that just does not happen – in fact, the past two weeks have been some of the hellish weeks of my entire year so far.  The sigh of relief I breathed on Friday afternoon as I put one of my projects to bed was heard across the county.

July has essentially been a write-off, and it feels like I’ve been hibernating through most of it.  August is going to be when I start to come back to life including birthdays, a wedding, days up in London.  I’m still not going to be 100% back to normal as there is still quite a bit to do at work – including an office move in the next week or so which is going to put me in a mood – but I’m getting there.

However, there is one benefit to summer on a university campus – quiet lunch breaks.

Surrey2

 

We are international businessmen, on a very important international business trip.

Wokefield2Life was very disconnected this week in the Untold Blisses household.  Husband was away in Sweden for his first major project in his new job, which I was very jealous of.  I’ve been desperate to add another country to my Scandinavian bingo card for a while, and had plans to go with him.  Unfortunately, I was away on work as well.  In Reading.  Not quite the same as trendy Stockholm.

My colleagues and I were staying in a purpose built conference centre, which is not the photo above.  That’s the main mansion house, which was very pretty and had amazing grounds.  Our part of the hotel was around the back.  It was lovely to walk around on our lunch break though.

The conference itself was fairly full on, with barely any breaks between seminars.  I have a lot to follow up on when I’m back in the office (I’m feeling quite tired just thinking about it).  Everything was centred around  “The Street”, which had a proper Mini and some kind of BMW parked up at one end (I’m assuming that you could buy), and a Nintendo lounge at the other.

Wokefield1Not that we had time to play any Nintendo, but it was quite weird.

Wokefield4This was at the end of the first day, as everyone was getting ready for Mexican food night.  That was a fairly odd evening, with us all taking part in a Mexican-themed quiz.  At one stage, we played the Intros round with 10 Mexican songs, most of which I had never heard before.  It’s not really what you expect to do on a Wednesday night.

The three days we spent in Reading were pretty tiring, and I was pleased to get home to normalcy on Friday night.  Conference season is over for 2015 so time to put new knowledge into use.

Wokefield3