Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ahoy there! free pasties for lunch!

The shape of my morning after waking up on my sisters sofa and my leftover pizza breakfast, was collecting my new uniform which has printed on the back "pirate booty", realising that the only black shoes I own are knee high patent, metal heel S'n'M jobs (not suitable for new job) and the only black trousers (don't own any and need for new job) I really wanted to buy were called "disco leggings". Then I miss-read the word "ejection" at the car park ticket machine as "ejaculation", came home and had a cuddle with my talking rook... can't decide if I just need to wear my glasses more, am having a dry spell or some kind of mid-life crisis.... Now please excuse me while I phone the tax man, sort out my accounts, change my bedsheets and hoover the floor in attempt to be more adult and glued together.

The following day after this facebook status was delivered saw my first day in my new job in the pasty shop, and I think I did OK. Lots of new stuff to learn, but everyone was nice. Looking good so far...

Good Gracious! I'm getting into it!

I had a fantastic time performing with my carpet python Misha at Step Forward in Soham last weekend. Was nervous as hell at first but the extra training paid off and I'm starting to feel a lot more relaxed on the stage now, had a really good response, and it's given me a lot more confidence and I can't wait for the next time!

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Gym

I find gyms very intimidating places. I've never been brave enough to venture into the actual gym part of any gym before, and definitely don't have enough motivation to work out on my own- having someone shouting at me to keep going is essential. Thus, for a year and a half I have been a dedicated attendee of circuit training classes at the gym in Chipping Norton, where I was living before, and loved it. naturally now I am no longer a full time zoo keeper I am anxious about changing shape and losing fitness, so set about locating the closest gym to my new home, and diligently went down there to start working my way through the classes to see what I liked (as none of them have names that are in any way descriptive of what they entail, for example "20/20/20" or "core blimey" or "fit and functional".

My first experience wasn't the best, as the PT didn't say hi, introduce himself, ask about my fitness and past injuries etc, nothing, even though I approached him to let him know I was new. Everyone else was pretty snooty- why are so many gyms like this?? The PT was sarcastic and obviously thought he was really funny but I didn't like his style at all and found him very unattentive. the other two classes I've done since then were also lead by him!! :(

By chance I discovered a circuit training class in my village, excellent as no spending on petrol! Went down there to try it out last night. When I met the PT I couldn't believe it was actually him! The total opposite of the guy at the gym, not so attractive, not so buff, thick glasses, very camp/limp-wristed, basically the last guy you'd expect to be a personal trainer! But very nice, said hi, asked the right questions, and the other people in the class were all really friendly too, ordinary people of all shapes and sizes- none of those cliquey, full face of makeup, yummy mummy or super fit, not even breaking a sweat student types, hooray! So there I was thinking oh this probably won't be very hardcore, but boy did we get worked!! So much cardio!!! Which I hate, by the way, but badly need. To be honest the circuits didn't contain as many strength and core building exercises as I'd prefer, but the cardio stuff is what I really need to do and I will definitely be back to the class again, and supplement it with some of the weights classes at the snooty gym... Mostly I wanted to blog about the unexpectedness of it, and the contrast aspect, and how I felt about it all. So I guess my parting statement can only be this: #freakshow4life ;)

Thursday, November 07, 2013


Why is it that people get so uptight about interviews? Okay on one hand if it's a good job that you really want of course some butterflies are to be expected, but the way I see it, it's your chance to interview your prospective employer too, find out about the company and if you think they will be right for you, not just the vice versa. I went to a recruitment session yesterday, for a fairly basic job, but one that I think would be good fun, keep me on my feet all day and in a nice environment. I thought I'd be in there about an hour- I knew it was a group session and these days these things often include games or interactive tasks so as the employer can see how you get along with people etc, but we were in there for 2 and a half hours nearly!

One thing that struck me was how shy everyone was. Now I'm not an aggressive type in these situations, far from it,  but I felt like my team members almost forced me into a position of leadership and delegation when it came to the problem solving and brainstorming tasks... obviously this allowed me to showcase my personality the best, but after what I think might have been a little backhanded comment from one of the guys at the end I worried they felt I have manipulated the situation as such so I could get all the limelight? I hope not. Perhaps I'm not so shy because I'm more experienced, and pragmatic about these situations? To be fair, I must have had at least 10 years on everyone else, who were mostly foreign students or college goers, it seemed. I try not to stress over these things because the way I see it, if I don't get a job it's because the employer didn't think I was suitable for it, for whatever reason, which as far as I'm concerned is a service to me, as who wants to be stuck miserable in a job they're not qualified for?

Bottom line, my team made a kickass bridge out of newspaper and sellotape that held the weight of a (full) water bottle indefinitely while still being a sexy looking construction, and if I don't get the job, well I made a new friend, of a girl who only lives in the next village from me and goes to the same gym. SCORE!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Animals in film

A couple of weeks ago I did three film jobs in a row and thought I'd make a quick post about it to illustrate how varied working with animals in film can be.

Monday was for a BBC programme, Natures Weirdest Events, so I was lucky enough to work with one of my childhood heros, Chris Packham, while he presented a walking catfish, lobster, ducklings and giant snails, to illustrate some unusual news stories from the natural world. Fish jobs are always hard work as they are nearly always up several flights of stairs with no elevator (sods law), and to keep the aquatic animals happy, we must bring with us all the pretreated water we require, especially in the case of marine animals.

Tuesday saw me taking a lot of rats into London to the set of a comedy/magic/quiz panel show presented by Matt Edmondson. the rats had to wait inside what we call in the game a "fear box"- unwitting contestant puts hand into box and has to guess what's inside or retrieve some object, a la "I'm a celebrity". It's these types of jobs that we have to undertake with great care as they are high stress risk to the animals and high bite risk to the contestants, so we use experienced animals and high levels of control in order to keep everyone safe. We also popped a rat down a chaps leotard which went really well and was very funny. The rat was well practised and performed exactly as I thought he would,  crawling around a bit and then poking his head out of the top to have a look around, very cute.

On Wednesday I took our bullfinch Rosco to the set of a feature film about the life of Stephen Hawking. The finch had to hop about in a certain spot on the outside of a hospital window. Luckily I'd always been on a recce a few weeks previous and had instructed the team to net off the outside area of the window, so I was able to safely work with the bird from the window ledge inside a safe area so I could cue Rosco and get the shots we needed.

Quite a nice selection of jobs I thought, showing some of the variety of work we do with our animals.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I'm aliiiive!!

The alligator swim happened! It was about as fantastic as any experience can be, a little scary at first what with it being a different environment and style of handling animals than I am used to, but once I got in the swing of things (and Battle the alligator got used to me) it really was incredible. I feel so privileged to have had such an awesome predator tolerate me in his own environment, and the support of my friends, colleagues and family, and even friends of friends, in supporting me in my fund raising challenge has been fantastic. It's not too late to give support to the crocodile conservations charity I chose... Follow the instructions below!

It was a pleasure to finally meet the lovely Mr James Hennesy at the Reptile Village, and we talked about some field survey work in Guatamala next year... watch this space!!

As for now, this afternoon I will leave Llandudno where I've been for a couple of nights with family, and head for the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to meet my friend Paul Rowley, who is a venom extractor- I've been wanting to snoop around his snake collection for a while now so am very excited!

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Swimming with alligators!

As I type I am sat in the cafe on Holyhead ferry port. Not the most plush of venues, but the hot chocolate is doing the job after my 5am start and 4 hour 40 drive to get here. The reason for my journey is my latest mini adventure and a cause that is very close to my heart- this evening I will swim with alligators in a bid to raise as much funding as possible to support the in and ex situ conservation work of Crocodiles of the World, who are the UK's only crocodile zoo and have recently been granted charitable status to aid in their work. One of their most exciting in-house triumphs recently is breeding and hatching American alligators, only the second time this has been achieved in the UK, and the father of the babies is Albert, a big gator to whom I was primary care taker for at Amazing Animals for many years. I miss him terribly, but when he transferred up the road to be set up with his now mate Daisy, and I saw how happy he is, I couldn't be more pleased for him. Here is one of his babies:

The conservation projects around the world that COTW support include the Crocodile Specialist Group, Tomistoma Task Force, Gharial Conservation Alliance and the Chinese Alligator Fund.

I will be doing my swim at Ireland's only reptile park, Reptile Village, who also support a variety of excellent conservation projects globally. if you are in Ireland, check out their webpage for listings of all their awesome Halloween activities and encounter programmes, they have tons going and and doing some really worthwhile work!

To sponsor me and help in the conservation of corcodiles, alligators and caiman, it's easy! All toy have to do is text CROC13 followed by wither £3, £5 or £10 to 70070 and it will come out of your next phone bill. 100% of your donation will go to the charity. Thank you so much for your support!!!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Where is the time going?

Yesterday I turned 30. Some of my peers are terrified or hung up about this day coming around for them.. I'm not so bothered. Had a fabulous day with my sister and family. Indoor skydiving for starters, followed by a cheeky whiz round IKEA, unplanned shopping spree in Cambridge (a bit more Xmas shopping in the bag, result!! Almost done now- pretty much the only thing I am ever organised about), then I had a belly dance lesson in the evening, which I particularly enjoyed- must get practising for an event my alter ego, one Good Gracious is performing at in November... how to find the time!

Since I last blogged have been busy doing cover work and film jobs for Amazing Animals around trying to settle into my new digs, get Eddie Rook settled in, and plan my next move...

Have had an awesome day today working for Inspired Life on their role models programme. I'm really enjoying taking the time to work with kids in schools to help them to see their lives and futures from a different perspective, and share the natural world with them, it sounds cliché but it's really so gratifying to see those "light bulb moments" and most of all help people overcome their apprehensions of reptiles and bugs and such. And of course hanging out with the other guys involved with I.S. since I got involved earlier this year is great, a really interesting mix of people doing awesome and inspiring things, the kinds of people I'd always hoped to meet at college or uni but never did... and then I get chatting to the company's founder on a random flight back from Morocco... funny how life works.