Travel

World Trade Center

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W is for World Trade Center

MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Not many people will visit New York City without paying a visit to the World Trade Center.

After all it is now boasting a brand new building which has added to the iconic skyline, filling a gap where those twin towers left a space.IMG_4848

A trip to the 9/11 memorial is also a must-visit spot if not for anything else but to pay respects to all of those who lost their lives on that fateful day in 2001.

I would also recommend visiting St Pauls Chapel located at 209 Broadway between Fulton and Vesey Streets in Lower Manhattan.

The Chapel’s rear faces the east side of the World Trade Center site and when the towers collapsed it served as a place of rest and refuge for the recovery workers who were at the World Trade Center site.

It is a miracle that the Chapel survived the impact of the towers collapsing. For eight months hundreds of volunteers worked 12 hour shifts around the clock. It served as a resting place for the New York Fire Department staff, police, construction working and others, and these volunteers provided meals, beds and general care for these workers.

Inside the Chapel you can view the impromptu memorials that the Americans brought to this site. Photographs, teddy bears, posters, letters and prayers which were all displayed on the railings outside, are now on display for the general public.

I was particularly choked by a pair of boots that one of the firefighters left. He had taken another pair to wear while rescuing people, and never returned for them.IMG_4828

A beautiful tribute to everybody who was affected by the events of 9/11.

There also rests the remains of tree roots outside of the chapel which also survived the trauma.

Walking around the site, seeing all of these memorials still made it feel surreal to me.

It didn’t quite sink in that I was standing at the site where thirteen years ago those images that I watched on television actually happened.

Even as I stood next to the foundations of the twin towers, trying to imagine what it must have been like to be part of that day was difficult. Luckily I won’t be haunted by those images like hundreds of New Yorkers are.

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A is for Airways

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MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z CHALLENGE 2014

Or to be more precise British Airways, who were my airline of choice when booking the flights to New York City last year.

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I have already blogged about just how scared I used to be about flying – resulting in never holidaying abroad and getting off two aeroplanes a number of years ago and spoiling family holidays.

Thanks to British Airways and their life-changing Fear of Flying course I was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean last summer and finally visit the one place in the world that I wanted to see more than anything.

New York City.

It was a no-brainer when booking the flights. Although slightly more expensive than other airlines, this didn’t matter to me as I knew that flying with BA meant that I would be looked after throughout the whole flight. If I got nervous I could just tell them that I’d done their course and felt confident that they would look after me.

I flew the eight hours on a Boeing 747 which was my first experience of not only flying long-haul, but also flying on a jumbo. Wow! What a bird.2013-08-03 10.40.28

The eight-hour flight flew by (literally) and I spent a lot of the time walking up and down the plane stretching my back, and looking quite scary to my fellow passengers as I just had the biggest grin on my face for the entire time.

Spoilt for choice with the entertainment system, I had the choice of watching movies, TV shows or listening to music. I watched Les Miserables, Song for Marion and a couple of episodes of Girls. It was impossible to sleep as I was too excited about my destination.

Every few hours we were served snacks, then a main meal following by another hot sandwich. Drinks were available whenever we wanted, and this was in the cheap seats too.

The best part ever for me was as soon as the plane was on the ground and the flight attendant came on the radio to say the words I had longed to hear “Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to New York’s John.F.Kennedy Airport”. The adventure was about to begin.

Thank you British Airways.

If I never travel anywhere again I will always treasure my adventures in the USA and Canada last summer.

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Fear of Flying – Part 2

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I cannot thank British Airways flying without fear course enough for educating people like me in the mechanics of flying.

It was very reassuring that I wasn’t the only person with such an intense fear as the class of a hundred people was full. They educate you with the statistics of how safe flying is, the mechanics of how the plane manages to get off the ground in the first place and stay in the sky. I knew that I was much safer being on a plane than I was being in a car. During the flight there is commentary about every single sound, sensation and experience that passengers feel when they are flying. I felt confident that the next “real” flight I would experience would be a nerve wracking one, but that the safety wouldn’t be an issue for me.

Given how incredibly scared I was at the prospect of getting on a plane I also had a series of hypnotherapy sessions which I found also really helped me in coping with my feelings of anxiety. Overcoming that fear was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and ten years ago I would have laughed at anybody who suggested that I would stop taking holidays to Wales.

In the years that have followed I have flown to Dublin, Barcelona, Paris, Menorca, Portugal, Amsterdam, Stuttgart, Munich, Nice and Rome. I’ve seen a lot of places, experienced different cultures and can quite honestly say that I am richer in life because of the travelling.
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However, I still hadn’t made it to New York yet, or managed to fly past three and a half hours. The flying was becoming comfortable but I knew that I had to step it up and do a long haul flight.

I don’t do things by halves that’s for sure. An offer came at the start of this year for a holiday to the USA and Canada with family. I immediately felt nervous about the flight, and doubted whether I could sit in one place for so many hours with only my thoughts to drive me to panic. The only way that I would get on a long haul flight would be if the first flight was New York bound. This was in our budget so it was something to look forward to.

Anyone who is scared of flying will sympathise with how anal you can get when booking these things. I must have spent hours looking at the routes to New York from Manchester. I would then look to see which size planes they were, and which seats were available. Crazy I know, but a lot of the fear is about staying in control so I needed to control all aspects of this. It wasn’t like flying to Portugal where I knew I would be airborne for only a few hours.

Thank goodness that British Airways (my saviours again) allow you to view the aircraft type, the seating arrangements and give you control of most aspects of the journey. Back in April 2013, I finally booked the tickets. First stop London Heathrow, then to New York, then a short flight from Boston to Toronto, then a long flight from Toronto to Vancouver and finally flying home to London from Vancouver which was the longest flight.

I didn’t really think about the flying in the coming months. I was getting so excited about going to New York that it was merely a means to get from A to B – right? Wrong. The anxiety that I had experienced a few times when I first started to fly kicked in again. It was horrendous and I couldn’t seem to shake it off. What should have been an exciting build up to the holiday of a lifetime was turning into a nightmare – although I would have welcomed a nightmare as I sure as hell wasn’t able to sleep much.

Again though this was the product of my visualisations and the fact that I couldn’t ever imagine myself in Times Square or seeing the Statue of Liberty. Only a brave person could get on a plane and be up in the air for eight hours, I’m not that brave!

The week leading up to the flight I was a nervous wreck. Thankfully my mind was preoccupied with work and a script idea to try not to think about the eight hour flight that was imminent. I got really cross with myself given that I have flown so many times in the past five years, so I know what to expect, I knew I would be fine but for some reason it was really was a huge anxiety with it being long haul. I visited my hypnotherapist again for a top up session and downloaded his mp3 onto my iphone so I could at least listen to him should I have feelings of panic on the plane. After all, keeping calm for three hours is a lot different than eight hours.

The night before the flight I ensured that I had a bag full of activities to keep me occupied. My ipad was loaded with some movies and TV shows that I could rely on to entertain me should the inflight entertainment be dull. Wordsearch, audiobooks, kindle with a selection of easy reading chick lits, notebook and an elastic band. Anybody reading who suffers with panic attacks will know that distraction is a key thing for getting through an anxiety attack. For me flicking the elastic band when it is on my hand firstly takes my mind off the feelings, plus it’s a non-verbal signal to my other half that he may need to distract me.

First flight was a short one from Manchester to London Heathrow. Apart from the ham and cheese snacks smelling vile and making me heave this flight, although bumpy was fine. It was only forty minutes long – a walk in the park.
On arrival at Heathrow passengers on long haul transfer to another terminal by tram. At this point my levels of fear were increasing and I recall saying to my husband “No matter what happens, you get on the plane and make sure @#### has a fantastic holiday (@#### is my youngest child).

Then something happened to me when I saw the aeroplane at the gate. I looked at the sign which gave the flight detail and that it said NEW YORK, and I got incredibly excited. Oh my goodness I was about to fly to New York.

New York! This was what all of this hypnotherapy and tackling the fear was all about – New York. “Do one thing every day that scares you” is an affirmation that I live by. Today was no different, except I was heading to Lady Liberty and the Big Apple.

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So I did. Once on board the fear went away altogether when I saw how huge the plane was. Not the most leg space considering we would be sitting for eight hours but there was plenty of room to walk around and do you know what? That flight went by so quickly. At one point I wrote in my notebook a reminder to myself that I felt calm, the flight was smooth and I shouldn’t be afraid of the trip back to the UK in three weeks’ time.

For the trip I flew six times including three long hauls, and coming home from Vancouver I experienced my first real turbulence over the Atlantic Ocean which occurred when my son and I were queuing for the toilet. We were knocked off our feet and managed to stagger back to our seats, but it didn’t phase me at all. I won’t be a prisoner to my fear, and being able to visit different countries and build memories and adventures makes it all worth while.

My travel blogs will be following this post in due course.

Thanks to British Airways for not only delivering their Flying without Fear courses, but for always being courteous and professional to all of their passengers, even the nervous ones.

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Fear of Flying – Part 1

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fear of lfyingApparently one in ten of the population suffer with aero-phobia, also known as fear of flying. Fear of flying is mainly linked to the fear of aeroplanes or other problems such as panic attacks and claustrophobia. Sufferers have in increase to anxiety and panic attacks at the thought of flying.

I am one of these people and I want to share my experiences with whoever is reading this post.

People suffering with fear of flying commonly fall into one of two groups. The first group are people who fear an “internal loss of control”. For such individuals, their fear of flying stems from a fear that they will lose control of their emotions during flight and therefore embarrass themselves in front of fellow passengers. These people may express concern about suffering a panic attack, loss of control of bodily functions or become hysterical. For others, the fear is associated with external factors such as turbulence, bad weather or a fault with the aeroplane.

I suffered with both of those factors. Like many people my childhood didn’t involve any air travel. I vaguely remember a family holiday to Spain when I was five, but since then nothing. At the age of twenty I began suffering with panic attacks which at one point were so crippling that I wouldn’t leave the flat that I lived in, and if I did I had to be accompanied by my boyfriend. Flying was something we had discussed when talking about holidays, but I knew how terrified I was when a panic attack happened at home, let alone at 36,000 feet with hundreds of other people.

So, then came the holidays to Devon, Cornwall and Wales because I couldn’t even begin to imagine that I would ever be brave enough to fly anywhere in the world. Maybe one day I would wake up and be brave enough to see Paris and New York (the two places on my list of places to visit before I die).

With parents who are very nervous travellers, perhaps this was a lot to do with my psychological barrier into the whole flying thing. If my parents were scared then there must be something to really be fearful of? In a space of three years, I did try to be brave and booked two holidays but ended up for the first holiday having a panic attack at boarding and not being able to proceed onto the aircraft. The second time I didn’t even get to the airport. The latter was in 2003. That was my last attempt (in my mind). I would forever be a regular at Haven, St Ives and Ilfracombe.

That was until August 2006 when my eldest son who was ten at the time went to the USA with his granddad. I recall standing on the aviation viewing car park at Manchester Airport crying as I was worried that if anything happened overseas I couldn’t get to him.
And you know those moments in your life when you will meet someone, or have a conversation with another person that will change your life forever? Well I’ve had a couple in my life and this was one of them. I was sitting in a board meeting at work when for some reason myself and a senior colleague were talking and I told him about my son being in America, my fear of flying etc. His wife had the same fear and he recommended to try the hypnotherapist that helped his wife.

At that moment I decided that not only would I try a hypnotherapist to help with the fear of panic/flying but I would also book onto a Fear of Flying course. The only person I told about this was my best friend at the time, because if I didn’t go through with the flight that was part of the course then nobody would know any better.

Let me tell you that flying was the biggest worry in my life. It took so much courage and guts to get on that plane for that course. Right up until the moment I boarded I didn’t think I would go through with it. Firstly, because I didn’t think I was that brave a person and secondly because I couldn’t ever visualise myself looking out of a window at 36,000 feet and seeing the world below.

In the end it was only 19,000 feet as we flew to the Isle of Man. That moment, right there when I sat on the runway shaking and just wanting it all to be over was the moment that my life changed forever.
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Education / Self taught : Challenge 24

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self taughtLast night I logged onto the #scriptchat conversation on twitter and asked the same question to the panel which were @Bang2write and @Julie_Gray. As I anticipated they didn’t favour one over the other, it is entirely a personal choice.

I’m an advocate of education – just as well as I work in a university. Having undertaken many courses over the years to build up my qualifications for work and also as a personal goal. I’m a firm believer that it’s important to have qualifications, but just as important to have relevant experience, skills and knowledge.

I was a late starter when I undertook my degree. It was something that niggled me throughout my twenties as there were many jobs in the public sector that looked like something I could do, but the person specification always requested “educated to degree level”. Early 2005 I did a magazine journalism course, which followed by me signing up for a degree at the Open University.

After I graduated in 2009 I had a burning ambition to then study for a masters, but I was adamant that it would be in something that I felt passionate about. Scriptwriting ticked both those boxes, so I was ecstatic to be offered a place on the course.

Now I am at the end of the postgraduate diploma part of the course, I must admit that although I could have just bought a lot of books about scriptwriting, and if it works for people then that will save them a heap of cash. However, for me attending a class every week, listening to lectures, masterclasses and then receiving feedback from my peers has been invaluable.

I have experienced aspects that I never would have if I was self-taught. The best experience was during my radio drama module where I was present at the drama being recorded in a radio studio with a group of talented performance students. Hearing your words and characters come to life is really valuable. With the medium of radio too, it is easy to spot mistakes that have been made with the script which don’t work in an audible medium.

Being part of a small community of like-minded individuals has kept me motivated during some difficult times over the two years. There are times when you wonder whether you can actually do this, especially when those rejection emails come from the writers room and other script calls. Personally without my class mates I’m not sure I would have got to the end of the course,and I’m hoping that my dissertation will give me the calling card I need. education

I know other writers through twitter who were entirely self-taught, and this goes to show that it is a personal preference. I absorb information if I can hear somebody talk, and for me to take notes. But, it’s also reassuring for any future writers that there are a lot of very good text-books out there that can do the trick as well.

How about yourself? Do you favour education or think that self-taught is just as effective.

This is a post for http://www.writesofluid.com blog writing challenge. One blog post a day for all of June.

On your marks, get set….Munich

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An unexpected adventure has arisen this summer for myself and my husband. Our boys have been taken on holiday with their grandfather. Not ones for letting a rare opportunity go to waste we decided we needed to make the most of the situation and do something that we can never do with kids around.

So, we decided to have an adventure around Europe for 17 days.

Apart from the odd weekend away, we have never had a holiday together given that we had our first child when we were young. That, and my crippling fear of flying which left us holidaying in Cornwall and Wales each year.

Thanks to an abundance of air miles that I’ve been saving up, we had a plan, a schedule of cities and we were ready for the off.

Day One
The adventure began on the number 19 bus to Manchester Airport. The journey had me concentrating like a mind-reader as I was trying to hold in a much needed pee and boy did that bus go round all of Wythenshawe before it got tot the airport. I was almost singing when we finally disembarked and got into the airport terminal.

A short flight to London Heathrow where we changed to our connecting flight to Munich. This was made entertaining by being part of a group of passengers sat in front of the tv screen watching Mo Farrah going for gold in the 5000 metre race.

We didn’t see the finish as we got the final call for boarding.

Once in Munich we were treat to a couple of laps of what felt like a journey in a formula one car as our taxi driver- think he was called Franz Schumacher (Michaels brother) dropped us at our hotel. A nice hotel NH Airport-Munchen, a welcome couple of beers and then off to bed we went.

Day Two
The morning started with the husband skidding into the bathroom – a leak in the bathroom made having a shower almost like an obstacle course. However, we got a free shuttle bus ride back to the airport for our troubles.

I had booked us into a very cheap pension which is basically just a no frills room. It was very no frills and was opposite a nice lap dancing establishment which reflected the glow of red lights into our room in the evening.

We spent the day exploring beautiful Munich, taking in the churches, Oktoberfest venue and ended up in a picturesque park in the centre. The park was magical, so different from the parks here in Britain. The major difference being the scattering of middle aged, naked men who were sunbathing in the area. I was a bit shell shocked by the sight – not by naked men, but it was a bit surreal them being within a few metres of children playing football……

After the shock of the naked park, the rest of it was great. Young people surfing in the vibrant, rough area of the river that was running through the park. Mesmerising to watch and certainly nothing like that available to the young people in Wythenshawe – not a whiff of wkd, wacky backy or general anti-social behaviour in sight.

We stayed that night in the city centre in a pension. I couldn’t help but think of Bates Motel that night as I watched the closing Olympic ceremony, thinking that the freaky owner may let himself into our room dressed in his mothers clothes.

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