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Too much for the National Trust

Yesterday was the day that the National Trust with other organisations designated to be a typical day, and they encouraged everyone to write a blog to be archived for posterity to show typical life in October, 2006. Good idea, yes; I wrote mine, but came to find on submission that there's a 4k limit on post size; great shame to find that late in the day when I had writ 10k Perhaps my life is too much for the National Trust? Anyways ... I'll share some here!

On a typical day - 17th October 2006
I rose at somewhere between 03:00 and 03:30.
Gonna be another looooooong day.

My wife Lisa and I opened a business hotel to add to our open source training company last week and as always seems to happen, the builders were almost done at the right time but there are a few snags to work through yet. By 04:00 our (home) dishwasher was cleared, reloaded, running again and the first load of sparkling clean plates ready to go up the road.

Lisa was home late last night after a meeting to edit the Bowerhill Villager newsletter - I was asleep when she crept in and I didn't here her. A quick early email check even before the dishwasher was loaded included a copy of an email from [her] son Tyler in Florida, telling us that he's no longer living with his Dad but with his girlfriend, and they plan to get married. "Just got internet so I got in touch, Mum". There's a long story that I won't tell here; Lisa joined me in the UK several years after she split with Tyler's Dad ... Tyler was due to come over too, all agreed, but then Dad went back on his word. Pity the kid ...

I post to a number of forums - moderate two, answer questions on another, write my own technical blog. So a quiet hour or so waking up, reading, writing some sample code and posting. Then back upstairs for a few minutes with Lisa before I left. As you can imagine, a discussion on Tyler; on one hand, when you hear out of the blue that your 18 year old is out on his own, with girlfriend, planning to marry it's breathtaking and concerning but on the other hand I think we're both glad he's rather less under the control of the guy we regard as a complete $%^&. Time will tell on the detail, mind you.

And, d'you know, that wasn't the only subject of discussion. A new member of staff joined our team yesterday - now we're five ... and we wish and need to ensure that everyone fits in well with inevitable re-arrangements. Ah - the fun of managing staff. And having to help and reassure team members as things change. Hey - you open a hotel and it WILL change your life!

Lisa has a Food health and safety exam later today (I'm writing this at 08:00 on 17th) and I left at a quarter past five to start on the breakfast preparations, with Lisa doing some last minute revision.

To "The Manor" with a carload of cuttlery, crockery, and breakfast supplies. Crept in through the staff entrance, dropped them off ready for new starter Martin who should be in by 06:30, then off to Tesco in Trowbridge.

"Open 24 hours" screams the sign at the front and I know from past experience it's not usually busy at this time ... but this looks exceptionally quiet. I walk up to the front door. "Hours during refurbishment ... 07:00 to ..." says the sign. Yikes - what am I going to do for breakfast. A solitary chap is tidying trollies. "Not open 24 hours? Why are you advertising it still?"; "We're refurbishing" he says. "Where's the nearest 24 store" I ask and he replies "our petrol station opens at 06:00". I give up as a bad job - I'm getting answers to different questions than the one's I'm asking. Need to find another solution.

I'm home again, via "The Manor" by 6 ((yes, this is going to be a long day)) having picked up a pile of unbaked and semi-baked bread products from the hotel freezer; overs switched on, bread in ... alternative breakfast underway. Thank goodness we're continental only. And a few minutes break - a chance to stroke the cat, discuss the 'trick'yness of some of the Health and Safety questions that Lisa has to answer today, and collect more supplies before joining Martin at 06:30.

Coffee machine serviced for the day. Ah - the smell of real ground coffee and fresh bread, and our guests are coming downstairs in dribs and drabs from 07:30. "Come as a student, leave as a friend" we say and indeed they're all friends - they were delegates on the first day of the MySQL course I presented yesterday, and they'll be on today's course too. So it's a lovely, homely atmosphere here.

We've bought breakfast service / coffee machine / juicer that do NOT need constant attention. We have a used tray / dirty plates rack that people can clear to themselves. So we can actually sit back and do a few other things while breakfast runs itself, with just one ear open to needs. Martin and I review the first couple of days and come up with a few things that we need to do / that will make housekeeping easier. We discuss things like Lisa's specification that the hospitality kettle should always be left empty for new guests (because people don't want to think they have someone else's stale water) and that the lights in the room should be left switched ON (because we have an energy saver system, and we want people to know what's on the controls when they slot their card in).

A fresh email from Tyler asks us to set up an email account for his girlfriend; easy - done in a couple of minutes and it looks like we might be back and well in touch. I quietly catch up on a few emails - notes to staff on plans, etc, and start on this blog entry having head on the radio on my way to Tesco that the National Trust and others are looking to record a typical day in people's lives for posterity. Well ... this is my day; I don't have a typical day, but you'll get a typical flavour.

Lisa has popped by to grab some breakfast ... we'd co-ordinated that via a Skype chat that we're finding invaluable; she's also brought over course certificates for me to hand out when I conclude this evening, and invoices for delegates who are paying for themselves (as opposed to company placed people)

[[08:30 .... more to come, no doubt. The day hasn't really started yet ...]]

At 08:45, an engineer turns up unexpectedly to check the electrical installation. Funny that ... hadn't been expecting him, and it's going to be great fun if we have a day of power cuts. And at 08:50 my daughter Kimberly pops by on her way to work to pick up an Apple Mac power supply we're loaning her for a few days.

09:00 - and work proper starts. I'm giving a MySQL course - five delegates from four different organisations, in our new "Wilts" training room. Typically, our delegates are men in their 20s or 30s, with the occasional one a little older or younger. Typically, they're highly intelligent, very interested in the topics I cover, and asking superb questions. The course is a mixture of presentations and practicals but the presentations always differ based on feedback I get from the attendees; little point in covering i, j, k where s, t, u are relevant to a particular group.

As with any major change to a venture - and our move to provide accommodation is a major new venture - you never know what's going to hit and how things will settle out in the first weeks. We're a team of five; that's Lisa, Leah, Martin and me full time and Christine part time. Today was the first "capacity" day - all rooms booked last night, all rooms needed to be changed today and prepared for new guests tonight ... not one staying on. Martin and Leah did us proud; it won't take two people to do the rooms on most days, and Leah will be in her more normal bookkeeping and admin role again tomorrow but it's so great to see the effective teamwork, and the looking at issues by both of them, suggesting solutions, resolving issues.

A midmorning coffee break during the course, and a short and unexpected power cut while the engineer worked through his tests. My Dad arrived to take some photos (he's something of an expert and has equipment that's great for photographing rooms too); took some pictures of rooms 3 and 4, done by that stage, and also of the delegates on the course. He arrived and left by bus - with a stop right outside, and now with a free pass, he finds it a convenient way to get around.

Just before lunchtime, two delegates arrived ready for tomorrow's course - we knew they would be checking in early as we had arranged their taxi from Bristol Airport, so rooms 3 and 4 were the first to be ready. I greeted them, offered a hand with bags (not taken up) and they headed up to their rooms. I've seen them go in and out a couple of times since, but they're, again, quiet guests. I could have predicted that, too. We're so lucky with our customers!

If you're on a course, you don't want the same dinners each day. We had Chinese yesterday, and today was a pub lunch. Messages from Lisa at home / the other office told me she was back from her exam, and we all met up down at "The Three Magpies". Tomorrow ... goodness knows ... we'll take a vote on the new course and see what people want.

An afternoon concluding the course - wrapping up all the final questions, making sure that I really had come back to each thing where I had earlier said "I'll come back to that later" .... and directions homewards for guests heading for Oxford, Liverpool, Harrogate and Bedford - a typical mix for us, and one of the reasons that we've opened the hotel; there's simply no-where that would be central for all of those, plus a hundred other, places.

And so I sit and write this day's diary, now at 17:30. In the last half hour, I've been to the station to pick up one of next week's delegates, vacuumed and cleared the conference room, and responded back to a prospective customer looking for a three day course for three delegates. And a few minutes of pause to write up some notes.

Flagging ... yet it's only 18:15. Just phoned in a food order - pizza - for delivery; four out of five guests checked in for the new course, the fifth arrives, well, goodness know when. Driving down from Leeds, and the door buzzer that should ring out at home was installed 10 days ago but we've not been told how to set up our number in it. Highly frustrating, but we're making the most of being here. I'll post this blog now before I Zzzzzz ... Zzzzzzz ... Zzzzzzz

(written 2006-10-18, updated 2006-10-23)

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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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