This past week I got an insight into the life that travelling salesmen and countless other businessmen get. Life on the road, away from my family. Sunday-to-Thursday. Stuck in a training centre in the middle of nowhere in Staffordshire for four nights - here's how I coped.
I arrive at Edinburgh airport for my flight to Manchester. At the very same time I could be at home watching the Brazil vs Argentina game that's taking place in London. D'oh!
The flight I'm on is a BA Connect flight. I suspect this is just a flashy title for a regular domestic flight. Unfortunately for me it turns out to be a really old plane, complete with propellers! Taking off is bit worrisome as the plane ascends and then feels as if it comes to a halt. Thankfully the plane levels off and the flight carries on as normal.
Unfortunately for some reason there wasn't any free in-flight food. Not good when a) You were expecting some, and b) There are restrictions on carrying food and drinks through security. I arrive in Manchester thirsty and starving, but forget about it while I enjoy the CD player of my hire car.
I finally get to eat at the training centre I was staying at. It was 9.45pm, about seven hours after I last ate. I tried not to eat like Silas did in the classic badly dubbed children's TV show, although I'm not sure I succeeded.
When I arrived on Sunday night I was quite surprised to find that there wasn't any sort of alarm clock in my room. As a result of this I had to use my new mobile phone as my alarm, and as a result of worrying about whether or not it would wake me up I didn't sleep particularly well. Even more worryingly I wake up to a text message from my wife saying "night night". It reached my phone at 7.33am.
My day's training finished at 4.15pm - class! However it isn't much use when you can't get a reception on your mobile phone. Even worse, the CD player in my hire car decided to stop working for some reason. That would be fine if local radio stations in the area were vaguely passable, but frankly they weren't.
At least I could see Neighbours in my room for some comedy. They seem to have adopted some Russian characters who get words wrong (e.g. percussion instead of concussion) - it's like Rentaghost twenty years ago. Sank you darlings!
Things got even better later - Rocky was shown on Sky One. Pity is that for some reason the reception was terrible and as a consequence the sound was totally garbled! Can nothing get a decent reception around here? (Would anyone risk having a wedding in Staffordshire if this information was widely known?)
Had a frighteningly early night for me. Asleep at 11pm on Monday, I wasn't used to the solitude. No wife, no baby, not even Cookie letting out the occasional bark from his bed down the stairs. Very weird.
No opportunity to wander around the house with my breakfast either, or watch a random dvd, listen to a random cd or take a thumb through a random book or magazine. Ugh. There really isn't any place like home.
A shortage of TV channels doesn't help either. At the end of the day's training I return to my room and pick up the end of a cheesy film on Five. It features Denise Richards and Dean Cain - it's a made for TV chick flick! Yikes, as if regular chick flicks aren't bad enough. (Apparently the film is called "I Do (But I Don't)", should anyone out there wish to avoid watching it by accident in future.)
Following dinner I have another night with the TV and a laptop for company (no wireless network on site though, sadly). A really old edition of Airline is shown on ITV2, and I end up noticing that one Easyjet member of staff has a head which looks like an upside-down traffic cone. As you can tell, I was desperate for Lorraine to call. She did eventually, via my room number - we gave up on my mobile while I was in my room. It was a pointless exercise even trying to get a reception there.
I try to get a second consecutive early night, but BBC1 decided to show "Remember the Titans" instead. As I hadn't seen it before I decided to watch the start of it. Before I knew it I'd seen the end of it as well. Enjoyable, but perhaps not the best idea.
(Incidentally I kid myself that if I wasn't married I'd go to bed at sensible times, clearly forgetting the all-nighters I used to have watching baseball/playing Madden/writing e-mails. Ah, selective memories!)
The good thing about your job sending you around the country? Every now and again it gives you the opportunity to catch up with friends who have scattered around the country. At the end of my day's training on Wedneday I meet up with Pat, before the two of us head down the M6 to the Black Country to meet up with another friend of mine called Euan.
The intention was to find somewhere to watch the England game, but given that Euan is Scottish and had arranged to join us at the last minute it wasn't that important any longer (just as well, really - the 1-0 win in Macedonia looked far from interesting). It was the first time I had seen either without Lorraine since Chloe was born, so it was a good opportunity to go into parenting from a father's perspective.
Certainly the most enjoyable night of my trip, but before I knew it I was heading north on the M6 with the time being well past midnight. Ouch.
Not just the final day of my course, but also my fifth wedding anniversary. And little did my wife know, but I was coming home that evening.
Being away from home does have some advantages, but on the whole it is a pretty miserable experience. However it does give you a greater appreciation of home, and everything that you find and enjoy there.
Have a good week!