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Devon

Wiltshire journalist shares her story to inspire women throughout the UK

Have you ever thought – I’d like to write a book? I’d like to tell my story? Can I write a book? Would anyone actually be interested? 

 

As a person who does a lot of writing as part of my business, it may seem strange to tell you that I’ve often asked myself all of the above. When I was a child I always wanted to be an author but, as I got older I wondered if I truly had anything to say of value. I was also pretty sure I couldn’t sustain a story of fiction for long enough.

After several years of running my own business I realise that I do have a lot to say, and some people will want to hear it.

 

In fact, I’ve learned that we ALL have something to say and there will always be those who want to hear it. All of us have value.

 

Once I truly accepted this fact, I found it surprisingly easy to share one of my stories. I’m now in a place where I’m not worried about those who don’t want to listen – those people will always be around – I’m reaching out to those who are life’s do-ers. Those who at least have a go at their ‘thing’ and those who want to live life with few regrets.

This week, my first foray into writing about myself in a book came to fruition. The book – available on Kindle – is Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00KB2XRYI .

It tells stories from a dozen business women from across the south west who want to encourage and inspire other women to try and to persevere if they want to start or develop their own business. Each story is very different. It’s thanks to my women’s business club – I Am Woman – that I’ve finally taken the plunge. I’m already thinking now about doing an entire book covering many aspects of my professional life.

My story shared in Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game

My story shared in Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game

My story about starting my own business and what I learned in those early days is not what you think. I’m not the business person who nurtured an idea, let it grow and then went into it with rose-tinted glasses and making a million in a month. My story is very different.

I had my dream job – and I lost it. I never wanted to be self-employed, I didn’t want to run my own business and I was devastated that life had thrown me such a curve ball. However, I couldn’t change the fact that this had happened. All I could control was what I did next – and that’s the story I tell. Looking back, I realise my more negative start actually stood me in good stead. It didn’t mean I didn’t make any mistakes – I made loads. But my view was always realistic and I seemed to be able to spot when something wasn’t working. To find out more, of course, you’re going to have to read the book.

Is this being arrogant? Some might think so – but why do we women often feel embarrassed about blowing our own trumpet? Is it because men think less of us? Not in my case – I actually think it’s more because some women think less of us. Some cannot stand the fact that others are more ‘out there’ than they are. Women can be women’s own worst enemies. Truth is, I don’t actually care what anyone thinks, those who are interested will read the book, those who are not – won’t.

So I’ll end on these two notes – the woman who writes thousands and thousands of words each year about others has now written some words about herself. She also remembers one very important lesson in life which has sustained her. It was a saying which a teacher, Christopher Drew, put into my autograph book on the day I left primary school back in the 1970s. It’s always reminded me that life is always a journey of discovery and, thankfully, there’s so much more left to learn:

‘HE WHO KNOWS NOT AND KNOWS NOT THAT HE KNOWS NOT. SHUN HIM FOR HE IS A FOOL’.

 

Swindon PR guru takes time off by visiting Exmoor’s hidden zoo.

Have you ever been to Exmoor Zoo? Have you ever heard of Exmoor Zoo?

If you haven’t I’d heartily recommend a visit. Situated in the Devon countryside, down a little country lane, this zoo has more of a family feel than any I’ve visited. We were spending a weekend in the Exe Valley so this location was less than an hour’s drive away.

While nowhere near the scale of Longleat Safari Park or zoos in Bristol or Paignton, it has a charm all of its own and is suitable for families, or those without children.

We visited over the Easter bank holiday and the cost was less than £50 for five of us. Given that’s close to the cost of a cinema visit for us, we hoped it would offer at least a couple of hours of enjoyment and entertainment. We arrived at 11am and left the premises at around 3pm.

When we arrived it was already busy but there is an additional car park as the one near reception is quite small. One tip is to use the toilet on the way in as there are no toilets around the site. This is due to the site not being connected to the mains (it’s all explained on notices around the reception area).

Immediately on collecting tickets as we’d booked online (be aware a family tickets is two adults two children so, in our case, we had to pay an extra amount for our third child), we were given activities for the children to take part in. For me, this is always a good sign. My children love having to find or discover something. So it was a trail where they could collect stamps of animals and another where they could answer tricky questions and then get an Easter egg at the end.

As my children are a bit older, this meant they often ran off for a short time to fill in gaps on their Easter ‘find an animal’ trail.

The zoo has the sense of being a garden, you move quickly from one animal to the next – but there’s also a feeling that the staff know what you are thinking. There are some spaces where you wonder if that space is big enough for the animal within – then you read the blurb and that question is answered.

There is animal activity all around, so bird, bee and bat boxes which children can look at. I personally love the bigger animals but found myself enraptured by the smaller ones too.  I didn’t get the feeling of there being animals which were just ‘making up the numbers’. Even the sparrows had their own special spot.

On site, there are lots of activities where families can get involved in including talks, feeding the animals and holding animals. We’re not good with this in our family, we tend not to like to stick to any timetable or dictate our time around set events, but plenty of families did take part. As you walked around you heard them saying they had to be ‘here’ or ‘there’ at a certain time.

Anticipation was built up by continuous reference to the Exmoor Beast which intrigued the children, who love a sense of the mysterious. So it was quite magical when the zoo’s own beast, languidly stretched, walked down from its perch and marched around its pen.

Another thing which I enjoyed was the good use of the natural landscape and of look-out points around the site. Some of the site is quite steep and rugged, but the animals seemed to like it. Don’t get me wrong, the site is quite accessible, though some paths will be trickier for pushchairs and possibly wheelchairs.

Somerset, Devon, Wiltshire

One of the pumas resting in the sunshine at Exmoor Zoo

 

 

The only odd point was one small enclosed look-out area, overlooking the antelope,  where there was a picnic table in the middle where a family had stopped for lunch. In this small space, this seemed to have two effects, putting off some people from going into have a look across the enclosure as there wasn’t a lot of wriggle room, or interrupt the family who found themselves being watched closely as they tucked into their sandwiches.

Also one of the children’s Easter egg discoveries was in this small enclosure, so it encouraged more and more eager children to mill around the eating family. If I had one tip, it would be to remove that seating as it did seen to give visitors a confused experience. Families do tend to create a private bubble around themselves so it’s easy to feel like you are intruding on them.

However, further around the site the play area for children is very spacious and there’s plenty of picnic room. There’s a small café on site and the quality of the food is excellent. Much better than in other venues. The price tag for five came to £40 but this is fairly normal for us – and in many places would cost far more.

All in all – it was a good visit, value for money, more educational than expected and lots of fun. Even the small egg given as a reward for the children completing the trail was decent and not a disappointing, tiny, hollow piece of low-grade chocolate.

Find out more here –  http://www.exmoorzoo.co.uk

 

 

 

Am I a special customer? Or am I a pain in the backside?

It’s the Easter holidays and I’ve taken a few days off to spend time with my children.  I’m not alone in this of course.

When I do take time off with the children and we spend a few days out and about – one thing which really bugs me is poor customer service – those occasions when, as a customer (often a customer with children) you are treated as though you are at best an irritant and at worst, a complete idiot.

There are few thing which rile me in life – but one is being treated with disdain when I’ve behaved appropriately and with good manners. I’m not the only one though – these last few weeks on Twitter I’ve seen some of my followers and those I follow, complaining about several companies including John Lewis, Jamie Oliver‘s Bath restaurant, an expensive farm shop and restaurant in Devon and others. I’m just one person – but I can remember these tweets and who tweeted them (and I’m not even trying). So to all of you business people who think social media doesn’t matter – this is one of the powerful reasons that it does.

I’ve said previously that I once complained about Thames Water on Twitter regarding their very slow response to a major water leak outside my house. To my amazement, the tweet was answered, an apology and explanation followed. This company didn’t know I was a journalist, I was a customer who was fed up – and the company responded. Good on Thames Water. It made me feel that they had listened to me – and that counts. Making a customer feel cared about is valuable beyond measure – more valuable than even what you charge for your services.

But my little gripe today is quite different and very specific. This week I went into a town centre car park and took my ticket at the  entrance, ready to pay on foot when I finished. On returning to the machine, it said my ticket was invalid. Great. What now?

Well I know what now because this has happened to me more than once. I had to drive down to the lower floor, park up, go to the ticket office. Have a lecture about how I’ve kept my ticket too close to my mobile phone and wiped the magnetic strip – so be careful next time. In reality, I’d kept the ticket in an outer pocket of my handbag for easy access (I’m like that) and my phone was inside my handbag inside its own zipped case (yes, I really am like that). I said I didn’t think that the mobile phone had anything to do with it – and if it did, where was a notice in the car park to warn people about this design fault? As most people who park there probably have a mobile phone in a pocket or bag. Blank stare followed.

Having handed me a new ticket, I then march off to another machine, pay the money and leave. Thus a simple task becomes a ten minute labour. That was last week and I haven’t bothered with town since – in Swindon we’re lucky and have lots of options when it comes to shopping so I’ve avoided the town as it’s too much hassle.

So a problem occurs – and as the customer I’m made to feel I’m at fault and have to go to extra lengths to sort out this problem. This is a council-run car park and I couldn’t help but feel I got a public service, job’s worth attitude (which seems to be within some public service employees).

I highlight this because the week before a similar thing happened at the Swindon Designer Outlet Village (which I don’t hesitate to recommend as a great place to go). An invalid ticket message came up again – I went to the customer service desk and they checked it out. The ticket machine had failed to print clear data on the ticket. Then, without hesitation and without any blame, they gave me a free pass to get out of the car park. For me, these staff gave the impression that they wanted me to feel good about the place – AND COME BACK AGAIN TO SPEND MONEY!

Treat all customers with respect.....

A little thing, but it shows that making a customer feel good is the best way of getting repeat business. Do you agree?

 

 

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