Expect the unexpected

I’m just home on Smoggy after traveling down to the IAM Annual Conference in Birmingham. I enjoyed the conference; it’s a great opportunity to meet like minded folk and have a catch up over a glass (or bottle) of wine. Note to anyone reading this, don’t give me ‘free’ wine; I might drink it.

On Saturday, I rode down to Birmingham, going the direct route. I could have taken numerous diversions onto A and B roads, however, I knew that it was going to take me at least 6 hours, and on top of that, breaks for fuel, food and a pee. (Never pass a loo; always make the most of it)

There have been many changes afoot in the IAM; the biggest one is ‘standards’. I have to say, that’s not a task that anyone takes on lightly and needless to say, there was and potentially still is, a lot of resistance to it. In 2016, all Observers will have a criteria to follow, log books for Associates and boxes to tick. For me, that’s great. Any person buying a Skill for Life package should know what they’re getting. Having all groups following the same criteria is a positive thing, surely? Making sure that we ‘coach’ our Associates in all the relevant criteria is a must.

At the end of the day, it’s all about making riders and drivers safer, that’s what we are all about. By ‘we’, I mean the Observers that give of their time on a voluntary basis (payment in coffee and cake, greatly appreciated – not by my belly, but generally, cake works). I totally admire all the people that I work with that not only give of their time, but also share their experience and knowledge with anyone who shows a modicum of interest.

That’s what’s happened to me.

As you know, I am slightly addicted to learning. It doesn’t matter if it’s work or play, I want to know more. Life is too short not to want to learn. I’m trying to finish a coaching qualification at the moment – I’ve already had a 3 year (yes, THREE year) extension on my ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) qualification. I’ve pushed the boundaries too much already. Some time between now and December, I have to find the time to write my essay and send it in, along with the evidence that I’ve bothered my (ample) arse to do any coaching at all. I don’t know when I am going to find the time, frankly, however, it’s all in ma heed, so hopefully a couple of days of knuckling down should sort it.

Coaching is a brilliant tool. It’s great for life. I have met some amazing coaches and enjoy gleaning information and different techniques from those talented, gifted people. It’s something you can use in life, work and in your hobby. What’s great is when you are able to be comfortable in your ‘coaching skin’ so much that the person you are talking to has no awareness that they are being coached at all. Then they have the ‘light-bulb’ moment. My job here is done. There is no better feeling. Some coaches are natural, inquisitive people, some are taught and albeit ‘clunky’ to start with, but with practice, get there.

My most influential coach, is Annie, who has taken me through the most amazing journey of learning from my Elementary Food Hygiene, to now training for her company TicketyBoo. Tomorrow, I travel up to Torridon to teach Intermediate Food Hygiene. Have training, will travel! One of my team, Helga, is taking the Advanced Food Hygiene Diploma route. She asked me a question the other day. I turned it back on her. I said words to the effect of, “When you find the answer, come and tell me. I don’t have a clue!”

Annie has helped me find my niche; my teaching skill, which is still developing. I totally respect her for that. She’s my rock. She helps me see the various dimensions to the possibilities that life holds.

Then there’s my hobby; my connection with the IAM. When I started my journey with the IAM, in particular with the motorcycling side of it, I had no idea that I was going to meet so many inspirational people. There’s Rory, who gave of his time to share his massive knowledge of Roadcraft with me. It was such an intense moment in time. My readers know that I have THE highest regard for the journey he took me through. Thank you, Rory. Thank you for continuing to mentor me whilst with no road bike (sad day when the KTM wiring loom died) and still having the patience and give of your time to educate me. I totally appreciate it. I know if I have a question, Master Rory will talk and coach me through it. Coaching, you see, is everything.

So, the other coaches that I have encountered, have been at Croft, when I have traveled down to Englandshire to enhance my cornering skills. Every time I have been down there (see previous blogs) I have come home with a massive grin on my face, having learned heaps and met some amazing coaches. Consistently, there’s been Martin and Kevin. The quality, in general of the coaches is amazing. Patient, sharing, talented folk, who still take the piss out of me; reflecting on my ‘loose bolt’. NO comments please!

So, whilst Rory lost (sad day) his road bike, and continues to focus on his track bike education, enter stage left, Kevin who has helped me no end at Croft. Rory set the ground work and got me hooked; Kevin connected with me with his calm, caring demeanor; making sure I got appropriate guidance. How lucky am I to have such amazing input into my motorcycle learning curve?

Along the way, there are many other people I have to recognise: Kenny, Martin, Brian, Roddy, Rennie for the unending input that you give me. This weekend, I have spoken about all of you because you have given your all and shared your knowledge with me. I feel so privileged.

So, why expect the unexpected? Because you should. Simple. Sometimes, when you least expect it, you find someone that you click with. I miss riding on the road with Rory. Until I lose about 3 stone and can bear the thought of even contemplating fitting into a set of one-piece leathers, I am stuck with skills days and road learning. I realise though, that I am needing to step up to the next level of learning. Road work is all well and good, but some get the itch. I’ve got it. Apparently, according to Rory, there’s a cream and pessary for that. I laughed until I cried when he wrote that.

Then there was the conference. I was booked for two nights, the Saturday and Sunday. Kevin, Croft Mentor, drove down in his van (light weight) however, he suggested that we stuff Smoggy into his van after the conference and I stay with him and his family in Whitley Bay. That sounded like a plan. Will Smoggy fit? Hell, we’ll make him fit. Slight alteration to his wing mirrors and removing the top box and ‘BOOM’ we stuffed him in – Smoggy-taxi. This is a first. I have never, ever put Smoggy in a Taxi.

We spent the whole way up the road last night, testing each other on roadcraft. Asking all sorts of awkward questions, trying to catch each other out. The last time I had a grilling like it, was from the Three Observiteers in preparation for my Observer qualification. I even had to send a message to Eric, regarding the difference between chevron signs. Those that are large, single signs and some that are small, individual signs. What’s the difference? It was very, very educational and entertaining indeed. Then we had the debate about STOP signs. Not that there’s actually a debate. We MUST stop. End of. We discussed the shape, the fact that some irritatingly annoying riders can ‘stop’ whilst not putting their feet down, but we agreed that as a matter of good practice, we should put our foot down. End of.

So, we stopped for a coffee. Wetherby services. Kevin parked the van (with Smoggy) at the furthest point away from the coffee, so we could get some (for me) much needed leg-stretching. I’m sure he thought about it. (Yep, I’ll get the bitch walking, to work off that lasagne and chips at lunch time.) It was good. The leg stretch, worked off a chip, and enjoyed a double shot americano and an unhealthy packet of prawn cocktail crisps – go me! I can say, that in my defense, Kevin had at least 2 crisps out of the packet, after scoffing a chicken pastry (I was jealous, but conscious of my gluten issue). That made me feel slightly better, the fact I had ‘shared’ my poke of crisps. One calorie less for me.

So, leaving Wetherby services, there was a STOP sign. The van stopped. The next thing, Kevin put the handbrake on. Seat belt off. Jumped out the van. Got back in. WTF??? “Wondering what I was doing?” he asked. “Aye!” I said, “I was making sure I put my foot down at the stop sign.” Well, I was crying from laughing. Meanwhile, the car driver behind us, was keeping a wide berth, wondering what complete and utter nutter was in front of him. I was wondering what complete and utter nutter was in charge of transporting my beloved to Whitley Bay. It was brilliant. Bravo, Kevin. I will dine out on that story.

We arrived at his house, and his family and labradoodle (sp?) were very welcoming indeed. I did suggest that Smoggy should be left out on the driveway, after all, I had a disc lock and an alarm. Kevin and his lovely wife, Sharon would have none of it. Neither would Lauren, their lovely, talented daughter. Of course Smoggy would go into the garage with Smoggy’s girlfriend, Kevin’s GS1200. Sadly, they didn’t breed during the night.

Thank you Sharon, for the most amazing breakfast this morning. Oh boy. It’s fueled me all day. Apart from the meringue I just had to have at Jedburgh. That wee bitty of sugar was the energy I needed to get me through bloody rush hour in Edinburgh, where I did a filtering masterclass as soon as I got onto the by-pass. I left the Newcastle area at about 1.30pm. I got home at 7pm. Bloody hell. A stop at Stirling services for a pee (was starting to feel cold – it’s always a pee that’s needed…..)

In the meantime, between breakfast (fabulous) and leaving to head north, we had a wee hurl in the countryside. It’s gorgeous – the countryside, of course. I was aware at one point that I was enjoying the horses in the field when I was meant to be focusing on Smoggy’s new girlfriend in front. Bad Fi. I had a great day.

Cheers, Kevin. A wee ray of sunshine. Your family are just fabulous. Thank you for your hospitality. I had a ball and will be back to collect my fleece…. Soon!

So, expect the unexpected. You never, ever know who will step into your life that may influence you or help you. If that happens, embrace it. Enjoy it and make the most of it. There’s some amazing folk out there.

3 comments on “Expect the unexpected”

  1. Craig says:

    An interesting read Fi – its amazing who you meet when you least expect it!!!
    You are proof!

  2. Fiona says:

    Yes, indeed. Who’d have thunk!!

  3. Rennie says:

    As always Fi, a cracking read which fits the bill as “edutainment.” Keep us the good work.

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