STILL Wishing You Were Here? Bruges Throwback

I was having a chat with someone at work the other day and it got me reminiscing about the first solo adventure I went on back in November 2018. Wow, three years has flown by! Since then I’ve been on three further solo trips and I can’t wait for normality to return once more so I can get back into exploring Europe without limitation.

Bruges (by boat)

I loved Bruges with all my heart, as much for what it did to me as much as its physical beauty.

One moment will forever stick in my mind. I’d taken it upon myself to visit a number of the churches in the North of the city, where very few tourists went. Alone in Sint-Walburgakerk church, an elderly volunteer, latching onto the excuse to perform, struck up the organ and began to play the most beautiful music. With every gentle note I started to reflect, thinking about all the things I’d accomplished in such a short space of time. I’d gone from being put down as the timid country mouse studying History and clearing wedding tables at 2am, to a smartly-dressed Financial Services professional, working in the City of London. And in a that I was there, in that church, travelling without anyone’s permission, approval or, indeed, moaning. I didn’t need to justify myself to anyone, not anymore. I was me.

In the same way I’d found myself silently weeping in Prague a year ago, over someone who’d rather sit in the hotel room 50 yards away than be with me, I was crying again. But this time something was different; the tears tracing down my hot flushed cheeks weren’t bitter, nor cold, they tasted sweet. In an empty church in Bruges, I was hit with a sudden burst of clarity. After all this time, I’d finally discovered what my heart had been missing all along. I was proud of myself.

Bruges was just incredible, second only to Arvon writing course (but then, to compare the two experiences would be like comparing chalk to cheese).

Most of you will have seen this already but hell, I’m sharing it again. Here is the Windows Movie Maker video I put together after I got back from my first solo city break to Bruges. Filmed on a (very) humble iPhone 5.

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A Very Happy Alice

I’ve just got back from my writing retreat and, newsflash, it was beyond amazing.

Full retreat cohort, including course tutor/professional author Caitlin Davies (in the red jumper)

I met 22 wonderful human beings (15 other participants + tutors/guest readers + Arvon staff), and there was so much to take in and reflect on, and every night I felt I like I could burst with creativity (which would have been awkward, as I don’t think anyone signed-up to being coated in chunks of Alice…at least not before dessert).

With so many thoughts, feelings and emotions running through my head, it’s hard to put into extacting words what the past week has meant to me. From 1-2-1s with critically acclaimed writers, to long walks, to sitting down at a desk (in front of a gorgeous view) and hitting word to paper, my time spent on an Arvon tutored retreat at The Hurst (deep in the Shropshire Hills) has been an incredible experience.

A group of us prepare for a mid-morning woodland hike. Photographed alongside course tutor/publishing editor Jacob Ross (second right)

I’ll get something more substanial down soon but for now know this; I’m a very, very happy Alice!

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Out of Office

Hi all,

I’m off this week on a super fancy writers’ retreat (very exciting stuff!) After what feels like a century of isolation, I’m very much looking forward to meeting and working alongside like-minded people at a blissfully rural location in the British countryside.

As per the rural comment, I’m going to mostly be off-grid during my time away but I’ll be back with a new blog post sometime next week.

Now, time to be all Natasha Bedingfield for a whole seven days.

I can see the similarities.

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Scrum Retrospective for Diwali

Seeing as most members of our Agile Scrum team are based in India, and with Diwali coming up on 4th November, I wanted to facilitate a Retrospective that incorporated this significant religious festival.

Below is a simple board I put together for our team. It got an amazing response, arguably the best since the team was formed in April this year. For anyone else currently doing similar with their teams I hope it proves to be a useful kick-start.

Diwali: A Retro for Good Over Evil

Credit to The Virtual Agile Coach, who’s Diwali board inspired me to create my own – https://www.thevirtualagilecoach.co.uk/post/7d83be43

And, for anyone wishing to brush up their knowledge on the Festival of Light, check out this short video which brings to life the story in an easy to understand way:

There are lots of fascinating elements and unique celebrations to the Festival of Diwali, so why not take up the chance to learn something new!

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A Song For Every Day of the Week

Monday

The Boomtown Rats – “I Don’t Like Mondays”

Tuesday

Burak Yeter – “Tuesday”

Wednesday

Macklemore – “Wednesday Morning”

Thursday

Knapsack – “Hey Thursday”

Friday

Katy Perry – “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)”

Saturday

Twenty One Pilots – “Saturday”

Sunday

No Doubt – “Sunday Morning”

Notable Mentions:

New Order – “Blue Monday”

The Cure – “Friday I’m in Love”

Sam Fender – “Saturday”

Whigfield – “Saturday Night”

The Commodores – “Easy”

Craig David – “7 Days”

Less Notable Mentions:

Rebecca Black – “Friday”

Deary me.

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Alice’s Signature “Three Ingredient” Cooking (Alias “Stodge Dinner”)

A couple of videos that showcase just the level of my culinary abilities. I’d caveat it with something like, “it had been a long day in the office and/or it was 23:00 in the evening”, but it wasn’t. It was 19:00 and it was me, being me.

Part One – Preparation and Cooking

Part Two – Finishing Touches and the Taste Test

Oh, and here is the pastry I mentioned in the video, the free one.

I think it was a citrus tart. It tasted of lemons. It was going out of date that day, so someone came up to me and asked if I wanted it. Five days after said expiry date, I ate it (because that’s the kind of classy girl I am).

So, who wants to hire me as their private chef?

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Photo of the Week – “Fish Eyes”

Well, seems Marlin has been enjoying himself down the local aquarium.

From the makers of Finding Nemo, “Finding Marlin…in the gentleman’s club”

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You’re Welcome

I sent a thank you card to one of the restaurants I frequented when I made a solo staycation to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

(God knows what I wrote inside, I can barely remember what I ate for lunch five minutes ago.)

Whatever its contents were, The Northern Whig clearly enjoyed them enough to prop it up on their fancy bar and share it on their Instagram story.

Caption reads: Such a thoughtful thank-you card from @aeb.thewriter

You’re welcome guys, hope to visit again soon. x

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Geology, Politics and Guinness: My Week in Belfast

Just back, having spent a week in the lovely city of Belfast (capital of Northern Ireland, UK).

I had a wonderful time visiting The Giants Causeway, drinking Guinness, admiring political murals, drinking my weight in coffee, absorbing the industrial significance of the Titanic…getting through a lot of local gins. It was a cultural whirlwind. Best of all, it was unbelievably sunny; it didn’t rain once!*

* – apart from the ten minutes it pelted it down, but at that point had just paid my entrance ticket to spend some time inside Belfast’s notorious Crumlin prison. (I swear I’m a normal human being deep down.)

Hopefully there will be a video coming up soonish (when I get a spare day to pull everything together), but in the meantime here are a selection of choice snaps from my staycation.

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How I Got Free Stuff From Innocent Drinks

Ah, the great immortal question; how does one get free stuff from large companies?

Over the years, I seem to have developed a knack for getting free stuff, whether it be from Jordan’s Cereals, who sent me a crate of snack bars and breakfast cereals, down to vouchers from an independent coffee house.

My most recent acquisition? Innocent Drinks. Namely, a bumper bundle of blue spark smoothies.

So, how did I get all this for free, I hear you cry.

How I got free stuff from Innocent Drinks

The honest, simple, answer? I was a nice human being.

I sent a note to say how much I enjoyed Innocent Drinks’ online content, also to say thanks for the continued efforts of those in the supply chain who have continued to through the pandemic.

About four months after my first contact, I got an email from a delightful member of the customer services team.

Electronic email exchanges ensued. Before long I was telling them about my former mermaid housemate and then conversations quickly unravelled into our favourite scenes from the film Splash.

I say “our”, there were multiple customer service personnel involved.

Several weeks later, Innocent asked if I’d be interested in getting some freebies to say thanks for lightening their collective days (and for reminding them of Tom Hanks at his 80s finest).

This is what I got delivered:

Perfectly insulated in a compostable protective layer. So very green of them.

There was also this lovely little note:

It reads:

Hey Alice,

Here are some of your faves to say thank you for your top-notch writing skills.

Enjoy,

Innocent

So there you go. My experience of getting free stuff from the Innocent Drinks brand. Don’t be a jerk, be kind and be prepared to sit through a lot of mermaid-related media to ensure your banter game is on top-form.

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