Saturday, 23 September 2017

Scottish Road Trip: Day 1

Maybe it is just the Scottish blood running through my veins but I love Scotland. It is a land of great history, stories, culture, and beauty, which I just can't stop visiting and exploring. This is my third proper road trip in Scotland in just as many years. This time however we chose to book hotels as accommodation can be expensive and hard to find in the height of summer. We booked 1 hotel via it's website and the others on a booking website.

Day 1 consisted of driving up to Scotland, it was a slow journey, we hit some bad traffic, and encounter a mix of weather including thunder at one point.

Bucketing it down on the motorway

Blue skies in the Lake District

We spent our first night in Gretna, staying at the lovely friendly and welcoming Hunters Lodge Hotel. We were greeted by the owner of the hotel who asked about our travels and plans, and was kind enough to give us some suggestions of places to visit along our way. She even brought us the name of a place that she could not quite remember at the time of check in, when she brought us our To Go Breakfast in the morning.

I would definitely suggest this hotel to others wishing to stay in the area. It was cosy, homely, welcoming, and a lovely stay. Our room was a twin situated at the back of the hotel. It was a large room, with a ensuite bathroom, with bath and shower in the bath. The hotel also had wifi in the rooms, guide books, and in their vary informative information pack the owners had put together a selection of different drives that they felt might be of interest to guests, copies of the drives could be picked up from reception.

Frontage of Hunters Lodge Hotel, Gretna

Twin room, Hunters Lodge Hotel Gretna

After settling in to the hotel, we ventured out to explore Gretna. Gretna is right next door to Gretna Green, because of their proximity to each other they are seen by many to be the same. Gretna Green is the older of the two and famed as a destination for young couples to elope to. Gretna Green and Greta are just over the Scottish border, a perfect and easy place for young couples to marry due to Scotland's lower legal age of marriage. The famed history of the two places can be seen in Gretna's wedding themed shops. On the road with the famous register office are shops offering all your wedding essentials from flowers, hair dressers, barbers, and even a one stop wedding shop.

Gretna One Stop Weddings shop
Gretna is the younger of the two settlements. Gretna was built during World War 1 to house the workforce of the nearby HM Factory, the biggest munitions factory ever built in the world. The Hunter's Lodge Hotel played a part in this history originally being built as a 'Staff club' for the factory. 2015 marked the 100 anniversary of the town.

After our walk around Gretna including a sweet wee circular park, we grabbed a bit to eat from one of the two local convenience supermarkets and headed back to our hotel to bunk down for the night.


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Scottish Road Trip: Day 2 - COMING SOON

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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Raggy's Travels: A week in sunny Tuscany, Italy

Italy is a beautiful place; rolling hills, greenery, sunshine, wine, beautiful buildings and villages, and plenty of history. There is so much to see and do in Italy, I really must go back. One my list of places to visit are Rome, Venice, Pompeii, and Florence.  

This summer my family and I went to Tuscany. We flew in to Pisa, where I have been before, but this time we drove out to the countryside, staying in a villa just outside Chianni.

Chianni is a comune (community) in the Province of Pisa, in Tuscany. It is small with approximately 1500 residents, a few shops, pharmacy, cafes, church, library, and sports centre. The area is fairly unspoilt by tourists, with buildings dating back to the 12th century.

Houses in Chianni

The church in Chianni (Chiesa di San Donato) dates back to at least the 1270s, when first recorded mention of it appears. However, in 1812 it was completely remodelled. It was expanded and the main alter was added. The alter dates back to the 17th century and had been at a church in Massa which was sadly destroyed. The two statues either side of the alter where added in the 18th century, they depict Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Outside the entrance to Chiesa di San Donato (Chianni)

Inside Chiesa di San Donato (Chianni)

Chianni has a very authentic Italian vibe, possibly because it does not seem to have many tourists, or not obvious ones. We ate at an incredible restaurant on our last night in Chianni, La Locanda Del Gallo. It is family run, and authentically Italian. The menu is in Italian but the owners are prepared for none Italian speaks and will translate the menu for you on arrival. The food was incredible and the staff were very friendly. I would suggest booking though, as they are not always open throughout the week, and they are very popular, with locals and tourists. The price is not to bad, with €8-10 dishes, €5 puddings and €7-8 for a litre of wine.

For starter we shared two nibble dishes of breads topped with different things, such as paté, caramelised onions, and a tomato sauce dip thing. It also came with some cold meats. It was very tasty.

1 starter plate of tasty food already been consumed a little

I then had the stuffed pasta with onion and sausage sauce as a sort of second starter. It was also very tasty. The pasta was perfect.

Stuffed Pasta with onion and sausage

For a main I shared the slow cooked pork with my sister, with a side of roast potatoes. This was incredible, so light and tasty with a wee bit of spice.

Slow cooked pork main

I also tried one of my brother's snails which was good. I have only had a snail once, years ago in France and I didn't really like it. This one tasted nice, chewy like muscles, though I don't think snails are really for me. I also tried some of my mum's chocolate (70% dark chocolate) cake pudding and lemon ice cream, and my brother's girlfriend's crème brûlée, they were both amazing.  

This holiday was all about relaxing and exploring a little. The villa we were staying at was nice, it was a converted farm house. It had 5 bedrooms, a living room, huge kitchen, a study with portable wifi, a veranda with large table out back, a balcony with seating, a large salt water pool, table tennis table, volley ball court, and a authentic stone pizza oven (which we didn't use). One of rooms had a damp issue, but it is an old building, we just didn't use that room. Also being in a farming area a tractor drove past twice a day, the next door farm has horses and chickens, and we did find a toad stuck in the pool, which we saved. I thought the farming life added to the relaxation, as you feel truly away from the city, and its all authentic, people are just going about their daily lives.

Relaxing by the pool

As well as exploring the local village and relaxing by the pool, we also explored the surrounding area. Tuscany has many a vineyard. I had never been wine tasting, but we decided to take a girls trip out to a local vineyard, Castelvecchio. The Castelvecchio Agricultural Estate has been owned by the Pantani family since 1956. In 2002 the youngest daughter and her siblings and cousins decided to restart the grape cultivation and winery on the site, opening up to the public as well, previously the family had just produced for themselves. 

Castelvecchio is set up for tourists with leaflets in different languages. They do advise booking, however we just rocked up and they happily gave us a tour and wine tasting. It was interesting learning about the wines and fun tasting them to. We tasted 5 wines, II Picchio (Tuscan White), II Tocco (Tuscan Rose), Le Balze (Terre di Pisa Red), Le Colline (Terre di Pisa Sandiovese), and Armida (a desert wine). They also provided bread accompanied by their own Olio (Extra virgin olive oil), which they don't sell as they don't make much of it. My favourite wine was the White, which I purchased a bottle of to take home.

Castelvecchio logo

Castelvecchio wines

Wine tasting

Wine tasting in the Italian countryside

Further afield we visited Volterra, which I came across when researching places in the area. Volterra is a walled town in the mountains in Tuscany. It is a medieval town, which actually featured in Twilight as the home of the Volturi. The history of the town dates back to before the 7th century. When researching the town I discovered it had some Roman ruins, which whilst in Italy I felt I must see some Roman ruins.

My sister and I thought Volterra was rather quiet at first due to the entrance we came in by, but we rounded a corner and found everyone else. Volterra does attract a number of tourists, but it is an interesting and pretty place to visit.

We went to the Roman ruins, which were rather quiet compared to the main shopping streets. the Roman ruins are just outside of the town walls. It costs €5 to enter but that also gets you into 2 other historically significant places, the remains of a Tuscan temple and a Roman Water Cistern (water tank).

The main roman ruins are of a Roman baths and theatre. The baths date back to the 3rd century AD, and the theatre to the 1st century AD. Unfortunately you can only view the ruins from up the top of the theatre. Much of the site was destroyed when a town football pitch was built without consent, it wasn't actually until they attempted to enlarge the football pitch in 1941 that they discovered the Roman ruins. Some of the site has been rebuilt so that you can see what it would have looked like, and there are plenty of informative information boards in both Italian and English.

Roman baths and theatre, Volterra

The archeological areas of the Acropolis that houses the remains of the Tuscan Temple are found within Volterra's walls, adjacent to the park. The site has a long history spanning 3 major periods; 15th-8th century BC - Occupation prior to the founding of the sanctuary,  7th century BC - 3rd century AD -  The sanctuary from its founding to its abandonment, and  13th-15th century AD - Post-sanctuary: the late-medival quarter. This area was attacked and destroyed by Florentine troops in 1472 and nothing was ever built here again, though a nearby fortress was built to protect the area, which is located at the other side of the park and is now a prison.

The archeological areas of the Acropolis
After you have visited the Tuscan temple ruins, the people in the ticket hut will guide you to the Roman Water Cistern, which is from the 1st century AD. It was the largest water tank for Volterra and the main water supply. It is divided into 3 large sections, measuring approximately 16 x 12 metres, and has a maximum height of 7.10metres. It is quite cold down there as it is cut into the rock. It is well worth a visit as it is quite impressive. In its heyday it would have provided water for 1000 people.

Roman Water Cistern, Volterra

Roman Water Cistern, Volterra

I had a wonderful trip to Tuscany, Italy. I enjoyed relaxing by the pool and soaking up the local culture and history, all whilst having a lovely time with my family. I would certainly recommend it as an area to visit.

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Saturday, 2 September 2017

Raggy's Reviews: Michael McIntyre: Work in Progress

Michael McIntyre: Work in Progress tour

I recently went to see Michael McIntyre preform his Work in Progress tour, which is a warm up to his upcoming Big World Tour (2017). He was hilarious as usual, and had me chuckling and head back laughing throughout. He is still brilliant at observation and story telling jokes.

My favourite joke was probably the urinal story, but I also found the glasses joke funny, and it was added to by the man sitting behind me saying he wears the reading glasses round his neck on a string seconds before McIntyre stated that those type of glasses wearers aren't very sexually active. My sister and I also had quite a chuckle at the car wiper joke, especially having recently returned from a road trip in Scotland.

There were a couple of jokes that I had heard before, possible ones that didn't make the arena tour previously, but I still found myself laughing again, especially with the hotel light story, which I feel had been adapted a little since I heard it previously.

I'm not sure how many of these jokes from the work in progress tour will make it to the world tour, but you will be in for an excellent show whatever happens. Some of the jokes did have some swearing, but McIntyre is still quite family friendly otherwise.

Another brilliant show from a very funny man. An enjoyable night out.

Raggy's Rating: 10/10

The Work in Progress tour is sold out but for details regarding the Big World Tour (2017) and future tours see http://www.michaelmcintyre.co.uk.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Great Big Job Hunt: Part 4 - The Hoops

What are we all doing with our lives?
What is our path?
What will be our story?

If only applying for a job was as simple as sending off an application, CV or cover letter. Unfortunately now a days not only may you encounter an interview, but there may also be tests, especially if you are applying for any graduate schemes. Tests, interviews, telephone/Skype interviews, assessment days, and group days are what I call The Hoops of the Great Big Job Hunt. Sadly you have to pass through all the stages of application and interview before you might get a job offer, but it's a game that must be played to succeed. But don't be disheartened I have some hints and tips for these pesky hoops.

Tests

These come in many forms. They may be given on the day of interview / assessment day or they may be taken beforehand online as a way for the company to sift through applications. They can come in the form of tasks related to the position you have applied for, such as conducting a short literary review, prioritising a fictitious workload, giving a presentation, or taking part in a role play. On the other hand they may be standard sifting test such as numeracy and literacy tests.

Key Tips:
  • If you have a disability that entitles you to extra time or other special arrangements - get in contact with the recruiter as soon as possible to seek adjustments.
  • Carefully read any instructions that you may have been given.
  • If you can, usually only if you are completing online tests for sift purposes, practise - you can practise for other test at interviews / assessments though it is not always clear before hand what these might be. There are books available and online sites to practise numerical and literacy tests.
  • Ask for more information if you are unsure or worried - recruiters and HR will help as much as they can.
  • Stay calm, you can only do the best that you can - if this doesn't work out, keep hope and keep striving because you will find your place soon

Interviews

Interviews can be tricky things for some and wonderful things for others depending on your personality. I personally am not fond of interviews as I can become nervous, but the more I do it and the more practise I have, the more confident I become.

The most important thing to remember is to be yourself. An interview is not only to see whether you are capable and knowledgeable, but also that you would fit in with the team, so just be yourself.

As for questions there are many sites and books out there with interview question examples. You will never be able to prepare for ever question ever asked, but some good tips would be:
  • Go through the job spec and come up with examples for each aspect, that way if you get asked skills based questions you will be able to offer a good example of your skills.
  • Questions should be answered with a story like style beginning, middle, and end - some call this the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique - this makes it easier for interviewers to write notes - it is annoying sometimes, but all part of the game, especially if you are looking to work in a university or for the government.
  • Consider and have an answer ready for 'Why do you want this job?', 'What do you know about the position?' and 'Why do you want to work for the company?' These questions or equivalent come up frequently in interviews. They are looking to see you know what you have applied for and that you are passionate about it.
As well as being asked questions you will also need to have some questions prepared at the end of the interview, 1-3 should be sufficient. Things such as 'What is the work environment like?', 'I hear you are relocating soon, when and where might that be too?', and 'When might I hear from you regarding an outcome?' - Again there are websites and books that can help with suggestions for this questions' just Google 'questions to ask employers at interview'.

Finally, it important at interview to dress appropriately, and make sure you smell nice. I have heard of people being discounted due to their smell and future employers being worried about that being in the office.

Unfortunately as much as we would like to think that the an application is all down to our skill and experience, it is also down to our fit with the company and a bit of luck.

Telephone Interviews / Skype Interviews

These are similar to normal interviews except for you are not in the room with the interviewer. Prepare the same way, however,  also:
  • Find a suitable quiet location to take the telephone or Skype call.
  • With a Skye interview or other video interview make sure you are dress appropriately and that your background is suitable for the interview. Websites suggest to have a plain background behind you.

Assessment Days / Group Days

I have been to one assessment day which consisted of 3 tasks, 2 tests and an interview. 3 people were at the assessment day at once. rotating tasks.

Assessment/Group days can be slightly intimidating as you are competing for the same job or a limited number of spaces. Remember to be polite to everyone you meet including your fellow job seekers, and stay true to yourself, don't compare yourself or try and be someone different. Being you is the best plan of action to find your perfect job and right company fit.

Chasing

Another hoop that you may encounter in chasing. You may have to chase up a response after making an application, or after an interview/assessment day. Usually employers will give you a window of time to hear back from them say 1 week - 6 weeks for application, a few days - 1 week after interview. If you have not heard from the employer within a suitable amount of time you can chase them either by phone or email.

If you are chasing after an interview: make sure you thank the interviewers again for the opportunity and then enquire about when you might hear back from them.

If chasing an application: Give them as much detail as possible, your name, and when you applied for what job, and ask politely when you may hear from them, or whether the position has already been filled.

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If you have any questions regarding any part of this weeks topic or anything else, feel free to leave a comment.

Part 5 - COMING SOON

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Raggy's Travels: A flying visit to Amsterdam

My dad I are had a flying short visit to Amsterdam this year to see the Piano Guys. They were due to perform in the UK on their tour, but we were on holiday over those dates. I had seen them before in Birmingham, but my dad had missed out due to work. He felt it would be a nice unique experience to see them in Amsterdam this year.

I had never been to Amsterdam. We weren't there very long but I really enjoyed my 24hrs in the city. The first thing I noticed flying in, was how flat Amsterdam and the Netherlands are. Due to this flatness, the other thing you will notice very quick into your visit is the popularity of cycling in the city, with thousands of bikes and lots of cycle paths and routes.

Cycle track outside Amsterdam Central Station

An Amsterdam residential street with pretty architecture and hundreds of bikes.

We landed at Schipol (Amsterdam Airport) which is a huge busy international airport, serving 50 million passengers a year, and an important transfer hub for many. From the airport we caught a direct train to Amsterdam central.

As we were travelling light we decided to explore a bit before heading to the hotel. My dad has been to Amsterdam before, so suggested we take a fee ferry to NDSM, an arty district of the city. The journey only takes 10-15mins but is a lovely way to see some of Amsterdam.

View from ferry looking back at Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam architecture 

Amsterdam Film Museum

Swings at the top of Amsterdam Film Museum

NDSM was once the largest shipyard in Amsterdam. Around 1984 it was abandoned, squatters moved in to the area which was in decline. To revive the area the City Council gave subsidies to artists, craftsmen etc who were settling there. The area is now rather quirky with a boat hotel, abandoned submarine, and crane hotel, but it also has cafe's and art studious.

The submarine, is an abandoned Soviet Zulu Class submarine, purchased after its decommission to be turned into a night club, but it has now been abandoned, presumably due to planning issues of a night club on a submarine.

Soviet Zulu Class Submarine, Amsterdam NDSM

Hotel boat, Amsterdam NDSM

Ship ramp remains, and tables from Europe's largest Flea Market

Abandoned Crane, Amsterdam NDSM

Crane Hotel Faralda, Amsterdam NDSM

Abandoned Tram, Amsterdam NDSM


Inside Large boat house where artists and startups based 

After catching the ferry back to the station we then took a tram to the hotel. We purchased 24hr tickets from the Amsterdam gift shop at the station, but you can buy tickets on the trams too.

We stayed in the Hilton Amsterdam, which was very nice. It actually is a bit of an attraction in itself, as John and Loko, staged their Bed-In for Peace in room 902 (now 702) between March 25th - 31st 1969. They knew that their wedding on March 20th 1969 would draw large press interest, so they used their honeymoon to promote peace. They invited the press daily between 9am and 9pm to discuss peace. The hotel has been refurbished since 1969, hence the change in room number, but guests can still stay in the John and Yoko suite, which is decorated with memorabilia.

Hilton Amsterdam

John and Yoko Suite, Amsterdam Hilton

In the afternoon we headed to the Rijksmuseum. We didn't have very long as it was closing at 5pm and we had arrived at 4:15pm. You really need a lot of time to really explore and appreciate the museum, as it has 3 floors and a basement, but I enjoyed what I saw on our flying tour round.

The museum is an arts and history museum, covering the Netherlands from the Middle ages to present day. It holds many fascinating objects and artwork including the famous Night Watch painting by Rembrandt, which was painted in 1642. It is a large painting  363cm x 437cm. As well as this world famous painting, the museum also holds such objects as a piano which King Louis Napoleon ordered to be created for his wife Hortense in 1808, an impressive Doll's house c. 1686-1710 which belonged to the wife of an Amsterdam merchant, and a Crown for the king of Ardra, gifted by the English in 1664, the crown never reached the King as it was seized by the Dutch who were expelling the English from Dutch fortresses on the African coast.

King Louis Napoleon's wife Hortense's piano



Doll's House of Petronella Oortman

Crown for the King of Ardra


After the museum we heading back to the hotel to get ready for the concert at the AFAS Live venue. The security was very good at the venue, with bags being checked and everyone being patted down. Due to the security checks the show did start late, but it is better to be safe especially in the current climate of todays world.

The venue sells drinks and snacks by tokens which are silver, however some are blue which is a competition. The lady at the bar told us that with our blue token we were entitled to 2 free cocktails, which I took full advantage of in the interval.

The venue was very good, it was busy and at times difficult to get served, but everyone was friendly and helpful. The show was amazing as usual.

AFAS Live venue

The Piano Guys performing Fight Song / Amazing Grace with Bag Pipers

The Piano Guys enjoying life


I had a wonderful flying visit in Amsterdam, but I definitely need to go back and explore more sometime.

*Word of caution for any fellow hayfeaver sufferers, the Netherlands are known for their tulips. My hayfeaver was rather bad whilst I was there due to the pollen in the air, so make sure to pack any hayfeaver tablets before you go.

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Great Big Job Hunt: Part 3 - The Application

What are we all doing with our lives?
What is our path?
What will be our story?

The Great Big Job Hunt: Part 3
The Application

Hopefully you have been able to find 1, 2, 3, or more positions which you are interested in applying for. Application methods vary, but I will try to cover as many that I am aware of. Most of my experience is in sending CVs and Cover letters, and/or filling in application forms online and offline.

CVs and Cover letters:

This is one of the most common ways to apply for a job. I have included CVs and Cover Letters together because I was once told to always send a cover letter with a CV, even if not requested. The cover letter gives space to mention things that you can't in a CV, such as why this position, why this company. My tips for Cover Letters and CVs are drawn from a number of sources, from talks at careers fairs, speaking with a careers advisor at university, and through searching for advice on the internet. The method I use is not the only way to write CV and Cover letters, it is important to create your own style so your personality can come through.

Cover Letter Tips:

  • Write a new one every time - I find writing from scratch helps tailored the application for the position and company. You may be desperate for a job and applying to many positions, but if you don't tailor your applications it will show. If you were a hiring manager who would you prefer to interview; someone who has taken the time to research the company, or someone who has generically talked about their interest as they have sent the same cover letter to 10 other companies?
  • Layout:
    • Date: top right hand side
    • Opening: 'Dear Sir or Madam' if you do not know who to address it to, 'Dear {name}' if you are given a contact or have been able to find the name of the right contact
    • Reference number: (if applicable)
    • First Line: Explain why you are writing and what position you are applying for, include where you saw the position (don't lie)
    • Background: Explain a wee bit about your background e.g. if you have graduated, from where, when and what you are currently up to.
    • Main body: Explain why you are applying for the position and the company. Pick out some examples of your career and personal history that relate to aspects they are looking for, and refer them to your CV.
    • Closing: Say something equivalent to you are looking forward to hearing from them.
    • Sign off:  Yours Sincerely 
  • Save as a PDF (unless otherwise specified)- easiest format to upload 
  • Keep it short - no longer than 1 page

CV Tips:

  • Top: Name, Telephone number, email address 
    • You don't need to include home address
    • DO NOT include age, sex, date of birth, or a picture of yourself
  • Personal Statement: A short 1 or 2 sentence piece about yourself and what you are looking for (but don't worry if you can't fit this in, especially if you have a cover letter)
  • Educational Background: In reverse chronological order - if you have Alevels, Masters, PHD etc. you don't need to list GCSEs individual you can just put e.g. 10 GCSEs A-D 
  • Other Relevant Qualifications - eg/ if you have done an online course
  • Career History: list in reverse chronological order
    • Company
    • Job title
    • Time worked there
    • underneath highlight skills: with litttle examples
      • Refer to the job spec. to include as many of the skills they are looking for
  • Other Activities: that you feel are relevant eg/ Duke of Edinburgh - and an example/s relevant to the skills required
  • Hobbies
  • References available on request (you don't need to put this if ask for on application form already)


Speculative CV and Cover Letter:

This is an application to a company you are interested in, but that may not be currently hiring.

Tips:

  • In these situations do your research about the company and possible positions
  • Be honest and straight forward - state what you are hoping to gain from this application
  • Find out who the best person to address this email to would be. In very small companies it will most likely be the director. If you are not sure who to address it too put 'Dear Sir or Madam', or phone to enquire.
  • If you are emailing the speculative application, use your cover letter as the email and mention that your CV is attached. 
  • As there is no job spec. have a think about the skills you feel the company may require or the skills a particular job may need.



Application forms:

These are very common things especially if you are not going through a recruitment agency. They can come in two forms; online or offline.

Many companies including Universities and Government Organisations will send you through an online system, that you do not have to complete all in one go, you can save and come back as long as it is all completed by the closing date.

Some companies will use forms but not an online system. You can send off for or download a word document or pdf which you can fill in on your computer, or print off and do by hand. With these you can send them by post or email them back. By post you will have to factor in the cost of postage and the time to deliver the item before the closing date.

Application forms are usually quite standard:

  • Job Information: Job title, reference number of the job you are apply for - this is especially if you are completing a offline application
  • Personal information: Name, phone number, address etc
  • Job History: Where, when, how long, why you left, and a short description of the duties you had
  • Educational History: Where, when, what 
  • Application:
    • May be upload CV and Cover letter
    • May be answer some questions eg/ Why do you want this job? Tell us about a time you have worked in a team.
    • May be write about your skills and experiences
  • References
  • Declaration and signature - Declaration that you have not lied - you could be let go or not offered the job in the first place if you are found to have lied in your application
  • HR equality form - you do not have to fill this in - the hiring team does not see this, but it is used by the company to monitor its employee makeup

Tips:

  • Application forms can be repetitive, it may be worth keeping a file on your computer of reference details, previous employment and duties summaries, and qualifications so you can copy an past where necessary
  • Some applications will ask about your current salary or previous salary - you do not have to fill this in
  • When completing the questions sections some companies such as universities and government organisations like people to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method of answering, basically a story way (beginning, middle and end) of showing your skills with a specific example. 


KEEPING RECORDS!!!

The MOST important tip that anyone can ever give you, is to keep records of your applications. Print out or save a pdf of the job description on the site you saw it on, and on if applicable the job description from the company's own website. Also keep a copy of your application CV, cover letter, or application form (online application forms let you print a version). The more information your keep the more likely you are to remember what you have applied for (you may be applying to many things at once), also you then have evidence to check if the company decides to change an aspect of the job such as salary or the hours. The information is also handy to re-read before interviews to prepare for questions and questions to ask them.

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If you have any questions regarding any part of this weeks topic or anything else, feel free to leave a comment.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Raggy's Travels: Another Adventure in Wales

I love going on mini adventures with friends and family, discovering new things and having fun. My sister, a couple of her friends, and I took a trip to some castles in Wales. It was a bit of a chilly grey day, but still perfect for exploring and enjoying a picnic outdoors.


The three castle we visited were all free and all part of a collective known as The Three Castles. They were all founded by Normans around 1100, built to dominate this area of Monmouthshire. In 1201 all three were granted to Hubert de Burgh who rose to become the King's Justiciar (administrator of justice). They were abandoned in the 16th Century, changed hands a few times (including to separate owners), but eventually they all ended up in state ownership where they still are today.




1. Skenfirth Castle



Free

Skenfirth Castle is owned by the National Trust but managed by CADW. It is located in the small village of Skenfirth in Monmouthshire, the village used as 'Upper Leadworth' in the 'Doctor Who' episode 'Amy's Choice'. The Castle is free to visit. It stands in ruins and open to the elements, but large parts of it still remain. Hubert de Burgh rebuilt much of the castle in stone in 1228-1232, replacing the earth and timber that originally made up the castle. 


Prominently standing in the middle of the ruins is the remains of the main tower which was a stronghold and residence. The height of the tower allowed archers at the top to fire over the outer castle walls.


Not far from the castle are fragments of a huge dockyard wall set on the bank of the River Mannow. This dock and river would have supplied the castle and been a source of communication. Looking at the remains and river today it is hard to image this, as silt has built up over the centuries making the river no longer suitable for barges. 

Whilst we were visiting the castle their were some people having a picnic by the river and swimming in it. It is a lovely area, with space for picnicking, though there are no toilet facilities at the Castle.


2. Grosmont Castle



CADW
Free

Grosmont Castle is situated in Grosmont, another film location though this time for the 2007 film 'The Baker' (also know as 'Assassin in Love' - USA), a British comedy thriller in which an ex-assassin retires to a Welsh village and opens a bakery. 

Grosmont town is described, on their town website, as having a 'vibrant community spirit and warm welcome'. It has a 13th century church which unusually has a eight sided tower, and the town is also home to Grosmont Castle.



Grosmont Castle, was also originally a defence earth and timber Norman structure, which was re-built in stone by Hubert de Burgh. It has a huge ditch around it. When it was completely rebuilt by Hubert, he created a rectangular hall-block and high curtain walls that remain today. In the 14th century more additions where made to the castle by other owners. The Earls of Lancasters influence can still be seen in the tall chimney that remains. They also extended the gatehouse including the drawbridge.


The village and castle are picturesque and a suitable place for lunch or picnic. The castle doesn't have any toilets but their are pubic facilities available in Grosmont.



3. White Castle



CADW
Free

White Castle is the largest of the three castles, with perfect picnic spot within their outer ward walls (protecting you from any cold wind). This is actually where we stopped for our picnic, and others were picnicking too.


The Castle's name comes from a coat of white that used to cover the outer walls. The castle is made up of two parts, the Inner Ward which would have been the heart of the castle with the key buildings, and the Outer Ward which would have been suitable as an army base. 







We visited all three castles by car, but there is a long distance circular walk of 19.4miles (roughly 9hrs 20mins) that connects all three, and connects the Offa's Dyke path (White Castle) with the Monnow Valley Walk (Skenfirth and Grosmont). 

Just outside White Castle there is a sign for the Offa Dyke path that tells of how Hitlar's right hand man Rudolf Hess come to the area to paint during World War II, as he was allowed visits for health reasons to walk, paint, and sketch, whilst we was in prison near Abergavenny. 

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