Drone flying rules one year on

*Original posted displayed in October 2019*

Drone flying is great, I’ve had some amazing times piloting my unmanned aircraft, not only because I find flying therapeutic, but the aerial photography that one can capture at several hundred feet is astonishing. You also meet some characters such as dogs running off with your landing mat thinking it is a giant frisbee, and confident parakeets to name a few.  

Nearly one year one from when the UK released further rules regarding drone flying, and the rules seem to be holding, despite rumours that stricter rules are set to be released.  

The rules changed in November 2019 which apparently stemmed from the popularity of unmanned aircrafts, and the speculation regarding incidents that had supposedly occurred at Gatwick and Heathrow airports due to drones, not to mention the common questions surrounding privacy.   

If you have become the owner of a drone, you need to know the rules around flying.   

One of my favourite shots

Drones above 250g need to be registered, which includes an online test, and a fee which transforms into operator and flyer IDs. The operator ID needs to be displayed on the drone, and details available upon request from a person in authority.   

The drone code nicely summarises the dos and don’ts of drone flying, such as do not fly too low over crowds, or in places that are no-fly zones.    

There are numerous apps, such as Drone Assist, UAV Forecast and if you have a DJI aircraft or a Parrot drone, they have their own operating apps too.   

While there is a controversy between drone pilots about the registration, its fee and the test, I took little issue with them. I don’t like adding registration numbers to my drone, I seem to be collecting them the more I travel, but registering my drone means I have nothing to hide. It means I am happy to declare I am a drone pilot and if I accidentally break the rules, then I will take responsibility for that.   

Before the registration rules changed last year, the husband and I were two of many submitting evidence to the science and technology committee at the house of commons, in a bid to emphasize the good points of drone flying, and responsible piloting.  

I believe that the evidence submitted encouraged the reduction of the registration fee, but it is understandable if you have a fleet of drones and you have to potentially register them all.  

We have a small fleet of eight drones, however, only four are over the 250g weight limit for registration so these are the ones that must be registered.  

It does not necessarily mean someone is choosing to act sinister if they do not register their drone. It can mean that they don’t agree with having to register their aircrafts, when they have been flying for years without needing to pay a fee. However, the repercussion of not registering could be a fine of £1,000.   

When registering your aircraft, make sure you know the weight of the drone with prop guards if you choose to use them. iKopta Dylan on YouTube gives an informative summary on DJI’s Mavic Mini, and how the weight of the aircraft is above 250g with prop guards. The Mini was released with the lead up to the news rules coming into force and designed to be the drone that did not need to be registered weighing just under 250g.  

In the last year I have seen an increase in country park and public greenspace websites prohibiting drone flying.  Nature reserves are a given, but general country parks are stating that the restriction is because of the disturbance to wildlife – yet they allow dogs to roam free.    

Surely a dog jumping on a few geese, which I have seen recently, constitutes a worse disturbance than my drone which is being flown at a safe distance from objects, animals and people?  

A digital rendering of my Mavic Pro “Lima”

My husband and I have flown at many large parks, or green open spaces, and our drones have not disrupted the wildlife. Keep in mind that a seagull could take down a drone let alone a goose or a heron, and our main investment drones are DJI Inspire, DJI Mavic Pro, DJI Mavic 2 Pro and a DJI Mavic Air.   

Obviously, the last thing we want is to injure any animal, and that is what responsible piloting seeks to avoid. In my experience the bigger problem has always been parakeets, they are very curious and approachable creatures who appear to be outnumbering the other species of birds nowadays in parks. There has been more than one occasion where a flock of parakeets, or a solo pigeon has circled my drone in mid-flight. A tip if this happens to you, either land or ascend higher than the birds, as they will then see the drone as a predator and leave it alone.   

Dogs have also provided me with humorous challenges. On one occasion a dog got so excited at the sight of my landing mat he picked it up and ran off with it thinking it was a giant frisbee, followed closely by his frantic owner running after him trying to get it back. 

Look at that smile

On another occasion, I had landed my drone and was packing up and this gorgeous big fluffy white dog, similar to a husky or Chow but not quite, came up to me and naturally I said “hello” to it because I’m a soppy person when it comes to animals. I was crouching down at the time putting things back into my drone bag, and it came and sat next to me and leant on me to the point I couldn’t move. It was so funny. Of course, at that point I was also looking around to see if its mum and/or dad were about, and they were across the other side of the field.  

I felt like one of those wildlife photographers where the seal climbs on top of them when they’re trying to take a photo.   

I don’t think dogs find drones or anything like that a problem, nor have I found a massive problem with wildlife in general. I think that perhaps this stigma about “disturbance” has stemmed from a few people seeing drones in flight, while they have been walking and they have been compelled to report it to the council, or air their perhaps unwarranted feelings because they feel they should.  

For pilots it seems that the scope of safe-fly zones is becoming limited. The radius around airports have increased in recent years, and more signs are going up. However, the signs often not only point to drones, but also model aircrafts, so there has been more controversy between drone pilots and those that fly model aircrafts.   

As a drone pilot, I know that a certain amount of PR must be carried out when flying. People will either want to find out more, or they will find a way to criticise it, and unfortunately negativity seems to be the common default nowadays.   

In summary if you want to fly a drone, know the rules, be safe and the fun will come naturally. Also, if you are playing by the rules, then no one will have a substantive cause to complain. 

Happy six-month remote working anniversary! Working alongside children and pets

I have just realised how long it has been between this post and the last! It certainly has been a busy year.

I was told by a colleague the other week that it has been 6 months since we started working from home, and just like that most of 2020 is gone.

Many of us are in the situation of working from home, being furloughed, in the unfortunate position of being let go from work, or having to carry out more work due to its compulsory nature and/or inflexible deadlines.

Alongside this, many of us have children to entertain or educate (depending on their ages), and this has been the case for our household.

One parent is a key worker, the other parent has a heavy workload with immoveable deadlines, and the third member of the household is a child who is referred to as Monster (to protect their identity).

Due to the nature of our work, my husband and I have been more in more demand, or have deadlines that cannot be moved. This has meant working very long hours, and juggling childcare.

Monster has recently started primary school and through the timing of events, their education has not been affected, but I know many children who were during the stricter lockdown months or have had to go into isolation since being back at school.

Monster has no fear and needs to be watched all the time, but we are lucky that Monster adapts very well to new situations, so starting school was a piece of cake.

One of our many cake creations

However, the months leading up to starting school, presented many difficulties for Monster and myself.

Monster thought it was great having me home all the time, but I couldn’t play with them for most of it due to work, and this was confusing. So, they tried new and inventive ways of capturing my attention. Many of which instantly brought grey hairs to my head (like I said before Monster needs to be continuously watched).

I won’t lie, it has been easier since they started school, but now part of me misses them waving to my colleagues in the background of our work calls, or inserting pens in my purposely holed exercise trousers (seriously, who makes these things), or blowing raspberries on my arm during video calls I am hosting.

I have found that the key to balancing work and childcare is to simply go with the flow. Easier said than done right?

Video calls

My roles have always involved, consulting, educating and presenting. Many of us have been advised by our workplaces to make sure pets and children are occupied during conference calls. Understandably this is to preserve professionalism where possible, however when you have a young child, this can sometimes be difficult. Children don’t always understand or have patience.

I endeavored to train my small human on keeping quiet while I am on calls, in preparation for working from home long term. Not every call has gone smoothly, but people are more accepting at present. On the odd occasion where Monster has needed me while I am hosting a call, I excuse myself for a minute, put my phone on mute, deal with what needs to be dealt with (usually the issuing of food and drink) and then come back. It is always good to have another colleague on the call so they can bridge the silence with perhaps some questions to the audience (or tell some awkward jokes for example).

One thing I will say is to hide the noisy toys before the call if you can. There is nothing worse than having a coding caterpillar whizzing across the floor playing its unnecessary loud music, while you are trying to describe a not so exciting database.

Like many others, I did feel anxiety when I found out I would be working from home for a long time, and since then the time has been extended so I knew we had to get ourselves in a routine at home.

While we define our new normal, for me it is defining my working hours as it is easy to keep popping onto the laptop because it right in front of you, and the hours soon add up. Additionally, the challenge has also been tolerating the many distractions of working from home full time.

Occupying the Monster

I have found some reliable ways to occupy Monster during the last six months.

I created a 10-minute video using Doodly (highly recommended) of me talking directly to Monster and going through numbers, the alphabet, basic maths, phonetics and so on. This worked brilliantly and Monster likes playing the video, mainly because they get to hear my voice.

There are many online games and activities that your child can do on a tablet seated next to you while you work. A good one for 0-6 years is Cbeebies.

Many schools have their own interactive online games and books on their website. If your child is school age then this is something that they can do next to you while you work.

Monster loves learning new things, and as I am a trainer it works really well, but if you have a child who does not like learning, or you feel you are not great at creating learning videos, then there are other ways.

A Monster creation

Another suggestion is to record yourself reading a book, and let your child follow along. I recorded a video of myself reading one of Monster’s books, so they got to see me with the book, and they could also follow along using the actual book as well, helping them learn to identify and read the words as I was saying them.

Additionally, I invested in some heavy-duty educational posters and hung them on Monster’s wall several months ago. I soon learnt not to hang the posters too low on the wall, otherwise they turned from a good distraction to a bad one, particularly at bedtime. For example, one of the posters had a slight dog ear to one of the corners, so Monster kept picking at it when they should have been getting some sleep.

We have also been baking cakes and learning how to cook other foods expanding our palettes and being as creative as possible.

More cakes
COOKIES!!!!!

My husband and I are into drones, we are qualified UAV pilots and have permission for commercial use, and it was good to keep Monster involved in this, as they have a great interest in vehicles and aircrafts. They can in fact, rather seamlessly, manoeuvre a small drone by themself (under supervision of course).

One of our local attractions is Eagle Heights in Kent. When they reopened, we tried to go once a month to help support the organisation and it means Monster gets to see animals in a wildlife setting.

Future COVID19 projects

Over the last few months, I have been keeping a record of how the rules have changed and recording the developments and my experiences for Monster. They will most likely have a project about this at school when they are older, so I thought it might be helpful.

I included in the recordings about me working from home, mask wearing, the behaviour of people at parks and the vast amounts of littering and the way people were around supermarkets. I even Monster in some of the recordings so they could hear themself when they are older.

When the supermarkets raise the prices, make your own lollies

Let’s try and be civil

As this is an unprecedented situation, I think it is important to remember that there is no rule book on this. We need to develop our own ways of dealing with our individual situations, and perhaps post them for others who are not coping so well.

It is also worth bearing in mind that our children are the next generation. So while it is not ideal to put more stress on ourselves, no more than we are already under, I think it is good for us to consider that we are the influencers of the future, but at the same time, if our children miss out on education, or time with us, encourage them to be resilient, and not give up. It may take longer, but there is always another way to achieve goals.

On the topic of missed education, I know a lot of teenagers are feeling despondent with their exam results. When I received my A-level results (100 years ago) I found them to be much lower than expected. We found out we were working to the wrong curriculum, and even though we had been working our socks off, it wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t our doing.

It was an incredibly hurtful situation to be in, but we did not give up, and many of my class went on to be successful individuals.

Work hard and never give up, because it will pay off in the end.

What drones are really all about!

There is a lot of stigma regarding drones, especially as new rules are about to be actioned in the UK. For those who don’t understand the fascination with unmanned aircrafts, watch the video below. 

Even though I do not endorse fishing, drone flying to drone pilots, is fishing to fisher-folk.

If you liked the video, then please subscribe to my channel, as there is more to come. 

The Panda made me do it. Using technology during sport events vs entertaining a toddler for 100 miles – Part 2 of 2

Click here to view the first part of this post.

Last year was a long day starting at 04:00 and ending at 19:00 which is when we got home. We, the spectators, drove, used public transport and our legs for the day, and so this year I wanted to minimise the activity slightly as it is a lot of mileage for little legs. I thought that a hotel room would be a good idea, it meant that Monster and I didn’t have to get up so early, and the husband could cycle to the start line.  

I used the Booking.com app to book a cheap hotel, it didn’t have to be 5 star, it was only for one night – how bad could it be?  

Famous last words! 

I didn’t think there would be much availability given that one of the largest sporting events was happening that weekend. However, when we got to said hotel, I think we were there for under 10 minutes before turning around and going home. The reasons for this (yes there were more than one), was the strong smell of cannabis, and a clearly paid venture happening in the next room.  The husband and I would have just put up with it, but we could not subject Monster to that.  

The good luck hadn’t begun there either. Earlier that day, we couldn’t find the husband’s bike lock key and so he had to go to B&Q to find a blade strong enough to cut through it, virtually risking the bike in the process.  

On Sunday 4 August 2019, we left slightly later than the previous year, but I have the feeling that the road closures began a lot earlier. Monster and I got stuck in the road closures and ended up reserving another parking space through JustPark on the fly, as we could not make it across the river to Battersea area. We had to park near Kensington Gardens, so there were much worse places to be.  

Weather conditions 

Last year, even though we experienced immense heat, on the day of RideLondon 2018, there was rain and hail stones. I did not envy the cyclists one bit, at least as spectators we did not overheat.  This year, it was pleasant, and while it was overcast, being an outdoor swimmer for years, I still made sure the sunscreen was applied properly to all of us.  

Nowadays most phones are equipped with some form of weather notification. Since having Monster, I have developed hay fever at this time of year, prior to this I could tell you in advance what the weather would be just by sniffing the air.  

After Monster had had a morning of fun activities, it was on to St James Park which is where the finish line was for both years.  

Looking at the Strava Beacon, at the same point last year, the husband seemed to be making good progress which meant that we would only be in the park for about an hour before he was going through to the finish line, however when we got to the park, the unforeseen and uncontrollable delays occurred and we were there for several hours by the time he crossed the finish line.  

No matter how much technology one relies on, delays and issues within events happen.  

This year, I only had the RideLondon app to rely on as the Beacon was not working for us. Luckily the app was working well, although I think there was a slight delay in the results.   

If you have been to St James’ park before, you will know that it is not a small place. For both years, once in the park, we walked towards The Mall to position ourselves at the finish line and relax in the meantime. Monster being Monster I am convinced will never know when to give up, they have energetic parents so I don’t know why I am surprised. Last year they had some comfort of being carried on my back when they were tired, this year however they did more than their fair share of walking which was around 10 miles. This is a lot for little three-year-old legs.  

So, we stayed near the finish line and I let Monster go for a run around for a bit. 

Quite often at these events, you will find a nice community of spectators. Most of us are there to support family members during the ride and create a friendly environment while we wait. Last year, some nice young men taught Monster how to play Frisbee, this year, we timed getting to the park just right as we were there for about an hour before the husband crossed the finish line.  

While these events are a mass of excitement and positive vibes, it can also be a forum to attract the unsavoury, and this is where I implore that anyone with children attending these events, do not take your eyes off of the them, and keep them with you at all times.   

As the husband was delayed last year, I had to find things to occupy Monster. Typically, children of that age can find their own amusements in things we wouldn’t think of. Additionally, as with many of the London parks, it has some great facilities, like the playground. By the time we reached the playground last year, I thought Monster would be too tired to play, but they then got a new lease of life and there was no stopping them. Everything a Monster could want or need was there as well, including toilet facilities, designed for small humans which was ideal. 

I mentioned that Monster is not the type to be easily fazed, well they are also a daredevil, which meant that they did not abide by age restricted playground activities. This meant that last year, 3 miles before the husband finished RideLondon 2018, I was trying to coax my then two-year-old down from some rather high rope ladders, which I would have difficulty climbing. This year, as mentioned in the previous post I was dragging them out of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, fully clothed.  

Some would say that perhaps there is a discipline issue at play, I happy to rebut this, Monster is just a very intelligent, very excitable and very energetic child. They will be learning how to channel these qualities for the foreseeable, what else would one expect from a three-year-old.  

Both years we nearly missed the husband at the finish line, as with all of this technology at our disposal, you can’t account for a spontaneous increased cycling pace, which is what happened last year, and the need for an urgent toilet break, which is what happened this year.  

As Monster finished up in the playground last year, I could see more people arriving with medals around their necks, so I checked the Strava Beacon again, and saw that the husband was definitely closer. We started to make our way back to the finish line and I don’t know if there was a time delay, or if the husband had recruited the use of a rocket, but I checked the app again to see that he was only 3 miles away, this was nothing in terms of a cyclist who was probably really eager to finish.  

RideLondon 2019 finish line (same place as it was last year)

My response was “Oh sh*t, daddy is nearly at the finish line, quick run!… and don’t tell him I said that word.” 

Monster ran as fast as their tired legs to carry them shouting “quick, quick, need to get to Daddy,” while everyone around us who had seen my slight outburst thought it was really comical.  

We ran and got to the finish line 30 seconds before the husband did, and he came through quickly, to the point I didn’t get a good enough picture.  

After the husband got his medal, we walked back to the car, got Monster changed into pyjamas as it was likely they were going to fall asleep on the way home (I know I wanted to), gave them more food and a drink, and the final leg of the journey was in motion, using, yes you guessed it good old Google Maps to get home.  

This year we got home earlier as the husband managed to shave at least an hour off of the time. Getting home was also quicker. Monster was still awake when we got home this year, so I packed them off to bed, and cooked a few pizzas, even though the husband had eaten several wraps on the way home.  

In summary, if you have an event coming up and a toddler that needs to be entertained for a long period of time, there are a few tips to note: 

(1) Pick your technologies wisely, it is never good to completely rely on technology, but they are amazing aids.  

(2) This kind of day is extreme, it is not for everyone and it is not to be done regularly. If you can’t do it, don’t do it.  

(3) Planning beforehand is crucial. Know the sport route, plan any activities in advance, have an idea of food outlets (as mentioned before there are plenty in London), know where the toilets are, and play areas.  

(4) Pack light and only the essential essentials. 

(5) Lots of snacks, food and drinks throughout the day. Routine meals and calorie counting should not be on the menu for days like these. 

(6) Motivation. Monster knew the whole time that we were going to see daddy at the end of the race, so this kept them motivated.  

(7) If you are delayed, or stranded at a finish line, try and make a game out of your surroundings, even when you are so fatigued that you can sleep standing up.  

A lot of people forget that while the event is an admirable achievement for those taking part, depending on the circumstances, it can also be an endurance adventure for the spectators too.  

Overall try and have as much fun as possible, and while planning is important, do not put unnecessary stress on yourself. The planning is to make life easier, not set unrealistic expectations.   

One of the fundraising ideas for both years was to guess how many sweets there were in a jar. Last year it was a demijohn, this year it was a water dispenser jar which Monster and I painted a happy panda on. The husband has supported WWF for the last two years (hence the panda). 


The Panda made me do it. Using technology during sport events vs entertaining a toddler for 100 miles – Part 1 of 2

The Panda made me, or should I say, made the husband do it! Damn that panda, it has a lot to answer for, especially this post which is likely to be a short novella, so please do get comfortable.  

In the lead up to the husband’s second RideLondon 100 mile cycle this year, I reflected upon my use, or perhaps the more accurate term is ‘reliance’, of technology during the events.  

Like others, I incorporate technology within my day to day activities to ease productively, acquire stats efficiently, and generally to try and make life easier (that is the aim anyway). Some technology gurus may agree that the latter, can sometimes yield a frustrating result. I’ve said once or twice at work that relying on technology can set one up for disappointment, yet we all do it. 

However, using technology during high mileage events such as RideLondon, meant that tracking the husband’s progress was one less thing to concern myself with, which meant that I could concentrate on navigating my small human around London.  

I have been on the other side, I used to be a long-distance swimmer and take part in extreme events, so not only can technology be used to plan your day as a spectator, it also takes the stress off of the event as a participant too. I know from my point of view, I always used to feel guilty dragging people to events, as it meant a lot of waiting around, at least with trackers the spectator can either stay and cheer you on, or go about their day and come back for the finale. 

Garmin and Strava Beacon 

The Garmin bike navigational computer has a lot of great features. Teamed up with Strava, which provides a handy feature for participants and spectators known as the Beacon, provides a cyclist with most of the tracking technology they need. The Beacon works via a text message, which is sent to the athlete’s nominated contact(s), containing a link that can be clicked on to check progress of the activity they are taking part in. 

The husband has not only used this in events, but also in training and it allows us to plan our schedules at home. 

This year the Beacon has been rather hit and miss. The husband took part in a “warm-up” Sportive event a few months ago, cycling 69 miles in the New Forest. Unfortunately, the beacon was not working that day, so I had to base my calculations on his average speed and expected time of completion. He helpfully sent me texts at rest points, and of course, it was not the end of the world, after all we survived without technology before in these events, but they do have a habit of lulling you into a comfortable sense of security, so that when you don’t have the option, you kind of feel a bit lost. 

In RideLondon 2018, the Strava Beacon app worked well, and I was able to click on the link several times throughout the day to track the husband’s progress. Given the hot weather we had last year, of course it was the only day where it actually rained, so this meant the route was subject to last minute delays and closures. But, we went about our day without worrying about whether we would miss him at the finish line.  

It was a lot to ask from a toddler, but luckily Monster is adaptable, and having worked in London for nearly twenty years, I know that when an event happens, once you leave London, do not try and get back in later on in the day, it just won’t happen. Therefore, if we were going to support the husband we had to be fully committed.  

JustPark 

It wasn’t just the Beacon that played its part on that day, there were also several other devices, most of which are standard everyday items that we probably take for granted.  

Last year, the phones alarms were set for 04:00am, with a departure time of 04:45 to get the husband to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is where the start line was. Android Maps was used to check the route to the Olympic Park in case of road closures, and delays. I had also carried out a lot of research to ensure our day went smoothly. 

Monster and I then drove across to Victoria Station and parked in a reserved space through Justpark[, near the finish line which was near Buckingham Palace.  

However, I wasn’t anticipating the sea of cyclists arriving for strangely enough a cycling event during the journey to the Olympic Park. This year, I dropped the husband off on the other side of the road to avoid any awkward moments with bikes, and we then drove to a reserved space in Kensington (special thanks to the new ultra-low emission zone restrictions for that).  

For both years it meant a lot of walking, and the use of public transport to get around.   

For both events, Monster’s meal times were suspended, and they were kept fed and watered throughout the day, so they were in good spirits and had good energy levels. Last year they were even happier when they reaslised that the back of the headrest on the car seat in front, had turned into a small television, something that had not happened before. Thank you tablet holder from Amazon. 

Last year, Monster and I arrived at the parking space at the back of London Victoria station at 06:10. Of course no attractions were open at that point, organisation foul on my part, and they wouldn’t be open until at least 09:30 given that it was a Sunday. So I used the time to pack up our bags, get Monster changed as they were still in their pajamas and find somewhere for breakfast.  

Tip, McDonalds is always open at that time.  

On this occasion I also had a backpack which was a carry on for Monster, so I could transport them around on my back if they got tired. Buggies or push chairs in London during an event like this, was asking for trouble. You never know what roads are closed, and you don’t want to be carrying a buggy around the subway in heavy people traffic. 

Activities in London for a small person 

The aim of our day was also to keep moving otherwise fatigue would set in, the attractions we went to were the Sea Life Centre and Shrek’s Adventure. I had purchased some saver tickets online so we were able to skip the queue and walk right in. One thing I didn’t realise was that you walk over the shark tank to enter the Sea Life Centre building, and I had put Monster in light up shoes! Perhaps not the smartest move. 

This year, to save on costs, we visited the Science Museum, which is a fantastic facility, not only because they do late night drinks for adults during the week, but for children they can get up close to science, and engage the senses without the parents continuously having to say “don’t touch that,” and so on. 

Last year, we spent an hour or so at the Sea Life Centre, and it was great watching Monster get up close to sharks and large sea turtles as well as other creatures. Normally I do not condone any form of captivity, but the exhibits were educational and informative, especially around the import of shark fins.  

After the Sea Life Centre, we went for lunch next door, the great thing about London is that there is always somewhere to eat, and by this time, it was mid-morning, which judging by the time we got up would equate to lunch. Going by the husband’s frustrated texts and his Starva Beacon, he hadn’t got that far around the route. This was due to a later start time, and the weather hindering progress throughout the day as some of the route had to be closed. 

This year, before we reached the Science Museum, we walked through Kensington Palace gardens and Hyde Park. As Monster was older this year, they certainly engaged their independence, and a great thing about the London parks is that you can let your offspring stretch their legs without the worry of them running into traffic, however I wasn’t expecting to pull a fully clothed three year old out of the Princess Diana Memorial fountain.  

It is just as well the lady it was dedicated to loved children! 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Part_of_the_Princess_Diana_Memorial_Fountain,_Hyde_Park_-_geograph.org.uk_-_746094.jpg
Source: Pam Fray / Part of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park / CC BY-SA 2.0, geograph.org.uk

For all events, I kept an eye on Monster and how they responded to the long hours and mass exercise. Nutritional professionals will recommend that at this age children need to be active to the point they sweat, with adults it is not the same, but there is such a thing as overdoing it.  

Last year, after lunch we went to Shrek’s Adventure, which was absolutely fantastic. There was a large 4D screen, and interactive tasks with the actors. I was skeptical about taking Monster due to their age at the time, but I read some reviews online from parents with children of a similar age, and the trick was to keep them close the whole time.  

The show was rather loud, but it meant just putting Monster on my hip at times and they were fine. Monster has never been the type to scare easy, so I was not concerned, but I would not recommend the show for children of that age who are sensitive to sound, and/or prefer more quiet settings.  

Shrek’s Adventure can take around 1.5 hours to go around, unless of course you would like to meet Shrek at the end, then that takes a bit longer. By this point Monster was fading fast, so it was another stop at a food generating venue. Monster is quite good in the sense that so long as you feed and water them regularly, they are happy.   

I seem to live and die by Google maps and utilize this feature especially when I am with Monster. To ensure that my concentration is spread evenly, I connect my earphones and only use one earpiece so I can speak to Monster but also listen to the instructions from my phone. This is something I am used to being a drone pilot. 

Please visit the second post for a continuation of this story

Drone pilots submit evidence to parliament and receive reckless threats

The recent Heathrow and Gatwick airport “drone issues” have undoubtedly raised awareness of drones. Some of it however, it not welcomed popularity, especially by those of us who do not think that drones were in any way responsible for delaying recent flights.  

Pending a probable ‘Drones Bill’ in 2019, Parliament’s Science and Technology committee have released an inquiry, where drone operators and enthusiasts, can submit evidence regarding the commercial and recreational use of drones in the UK.  

For those of you reading this who have a keen interest in drones, this is your opportunity to submit evidence to parliament, and detail how you feel about the ethics, public privacy and the commercial, as well as recreational gains, when drone flying. While we already have an understanding of how much it is going to cost to register drones in the UK, and if you are like our household and have more than one, if the negative opinions surrounding these unmanned aircrafts are minimised, then the rewards may come in the form of minimal fees to pay by the owner.  

The husband and I provided separate written evidence which has been published. 

So far, universities, recreational pilots, commercial pilots and law firms to name a few, have submitted evidence and recommendations. If you would like to submit evidence please do so by clicking here

Drones have had a range of positive impacts across a variety of industries, from commercial photography and aerial surveying, through to crop spraying and parcel delivery. 

The summary of my evidence is clear in that with any device, craft or vehicle, you have good and bad operators. Those that are good will follow the rules, apply common sense, identify risks and appreciate that they are operating a machine, that can cause damage in one way or another. But of course, there will always be the bad ones that have to ruin it for everyone else.  

On that note, regarding “reckless threats”, last week the climate change group Extinction Rebellion were again featured in the press stating that they will bring Heathrow airport to a standstill, by flying drones in restricted airspace. This is in a bid to cancel plans to build a third runway at the transport hub.  

Reports of drone sightings between 19 – 21 December 2018, forced Gatwick to cancel 1,000 flights leading to disruption for thousands of passengers. In January 2019, Heathrow airport also confirmed that some of their flights as a “precautionary measure”, were halted due to a drone sighting.  

Firstly, and as mentioned above, there was never any clear pictorial evidence recorded of drone sightings at these airports. Please also bear in mind that a seagull can take down a drone, so while I wouldn’t want to bet money on this, I can’t imagine a drone would take down a commercial jet. A helicopter, or a very small manned aircraft perhaps, so the fact that this group are perpetuating the stigma and hearsay, basically states that they have found common ground with these airports rather than going against them.  

Since the disruption occurred, both airports have invested in anti-drone technology, which leads me to question why this was not already in place.  

While Extinction Rebellion are actually making headway regarding publicity for climate change, having been a marine conservationist for over a decade, I know that there are ways to get your point across, in a non-threatening manner and also influencing people in the process. However, many of Extinction Rebellion’s methods will push people away rather than pull them in.  

They have already disrupted people getting to work in several cities across the UK, which ensured that some individuals lost money. Now they are looking at disrupting people’s holidays. Again, I stress that this is not the way to win people over, and if they go through with flying drones in restricted airspace, well, I predict that this will only go against them as well as the responsible drone pilot community. Their actions could very well cause consequences, and the part I find ironic is that the ramifications would involve a device that does not affect climate change whatsoever, and could be used as a replacement for some manned crafts that are contributing to the cause of climate change.  

While it has not been confirmed yet if the group plan to use drones in this irresponsible fashion, I think it is safe to say that this is one example of how they do not think through some of their concepts.  

If you would like to submit evidence regarding the expected forthcoming “Drones Bill”, please do so by clicking here

Below is a recent flight from my Instagram page. If you are curious about drones, then please go and have a look at some of my footage. There are no aerial theatrics yet, but watch this space, I’m just getting warmed up.

“LIMA” my Mavic Pro

The cake conundrum

It is obvious for those who are in the industry, that the legal sector is a very stressful place. I have (mostly) worked in law in London’s city centre for nearly 20 years, and I would like to say that the stress improves, but really all that happens is that one’s mindset of stress changes.  

This aside, I have in the last year been dubbed as having a problem with cake. All I did was make a few cake-related comments, and the next thing I know there are rumours circulating that I disappear off into the stairwell at work to secretly indulge. Ok, there was that one occasion when I could hear cake being cut, but that was a happy coincidence. Of course it doesn’t help when our firm has birthday cakes every month – I have to ensure that I am not the first one there.   

In any event, if this was all true, then I would be the size of a house.  

Don’t get me wrong, like many people, I like food, I like food a lot, and it is one of the reasons why I have so many nutritional qualifications. I am a very active person so it makes sense that I burn a higher number of calories quickly. However (and again this is coming from someone with 5 qualifications in nutrition), while moderation and portion control are key factors, I do on occasion overindulge in the sweeter things in life to ensure my day is not completely filled with good old stress. 

Some might say why not try and control the level of stress to begin with. My answer, if I could do that, then I would, but many times my daily stress is out of my hands. It took a long time to finally admit that one. Also, as I am being completely honest here, I would more than likely still eat cake! 

So, back in April when we seem to have every birthday in the year (yes, I am exaggerating there), we had a cake conundrum. My monster turned 3 years old (yay we made it this far), and my husband is very adamant that every child should have a cake on their birthday (no complaints here). As we had been away on a short break, and there were lots of family related things going on, I did not have the time to make one, so he went and purchased one from Cakebox. It was a lovely fresh cream Victoria sponge cake (personally not my favourite, but it wasn’t my birthday), and one thing I love about their cakes is how light weight and soft the sponge is.  

As with most post toddlers, or post toddler pre-child type in between age, Monster will misbehave on occasion, and then throw a hissy fit especially when they are overwhelmed or overexcited, or just generally not getting their way. Imagine lots of presents for a small person, playing non-stop with new and cool toys and then is told to eat their lunch promptly as we had to go on a rather early Easter egg hunt at Granddads. Of course, most post aged toddlers will want to continue playing, and eat at their own pace.  

This therefore put my husband in a bewilderment. Does he enforce the usual rules of pudding only after you have eaten all of your lunch, or as it is Monster’s birthday allow them to have cake when they want. I knew my husband really wanted the cake also, hence the conundrum, so that kept us occupied for a while.  

However, the previous day, the husband decided to ban peanut butter for a week, as Monster was only licking the filling off of their bagel, and not actually eating the bagel itself aka another session of acting up. I don’t see why I had to be punished in the process, but again the conundrum was there, as at the same time when I did find out where the peanut butter was hidden, I was not going to take a spoon and my porridge up to my husband’s sock drawer every morning for a week.  

The fouls and follies of parenting I am sure many can relate to.  

P.s. In conclusion we did have cake in the end, and then the following week when it was the husband’s birthday, we had more cake. Our anniversary was also at the beginning of April and I am sure by now I don’t have to articulate that there was cake! 

Nutella Cake by Funky Hampers

Parenting and career, mental health and happiness – you can have it all, honest!

I have been a parent for just over three years, and like many I find it challenging trying to maintain the best of both worlds, and by that, I mean spending time with my child and my work. Like many, I also don’t have a choice. I have to work, and while many can argue that I could take a less exhaustive role, I still have a mortgage to pay.  

I love being a mother. I always find it entertaining and somewhat intriguing, as to what toy I will next find wedged in a compartment of my car (though not when they are wedged under the car seat playing the same jingle over and over again). It makes me laugh finding stickers on my work phone during a meeting, discovering selfies on my phone, comparing character/novelty plasters with my colleagues who also have children, and generally the things my child comes out with.  

While parenting can be a battle of the fittest, I find that my child helps me to help them. I would like to see more of my Monster, of course I would, but I feel it is also a good example for them to see me work. Gone the days where a woman has to stay at home, and while the gender pay gap is still present, we have more flexibility now than we ever have.   

Working and parenting is different for everyone. To truly succeed, there has to be compromise, there has to be research, what works best for you will not work for other people. Also, if you are career minded, like many of us, it needs to be remembered that compromising hours, and roles are not forever, when you have given your children the building blocks and the support they need, then they will naturally become more independent. Though, they will always need guidance.  

It can be hard when you are tired, and all you want is for your child to go to bed so you can have some ‘me’ time, we all want that, but anxiety in this situation comes from putting unnecessary stress on ourselves. There are many things I have learnt over the last few years, and I think the unnecessary stress stems from the following questions that we either ask ourselves, or get asked:  

“What are people thinking of me?” Everyone thinks this about a number of different topics whether they are parents or not. It’s social pressure, and has got worse since the digital age exploded.  

“John and Jane don’t have these problems!” John and Jane do, they just hide it better. 

“Why am I so tired?” You can’t completely obliterate fatigue, but if you are excessively tired all of the time, check your diet, exercise and your schedule. Are you overdoing it? Again, find out what works for YOU. By all means gather information from other people, but cherry-pick your solution. 

“Why don’t I want to be, or can’t I be a parent?” As above. Check your diet, exercise, and your schedule. “Can’t” and “don’t want to” are two different things. It is not compulsory to be a parent; and it is not compulsory to have more than one child. Be a parent because you want to be, not because of social convention or social/family pressure. Also, and as a woman speaking, remember that despite what medical professionals say, I am a firm believer that it is not in every woman’s blueprint to have a baby. While I have had one, I have also had failed pregnancies and I am going through several medical issues now, that have been brought on by those pregnancies. If you are having trouble having a baby, and there is no medical explanation behind it, just try and relax. Many have found that if they just relax and not care, then it naturally happens. Of course, this is way easier said than done.  

“Why am I so depressed? Why don’t I love being a parent?” We all have those moments of “What have I done?”. This is natural. The questions to ask yourself are:  

“Do I feel like this all of the time?” If so, talk to someone, a friend, family member, health visitor, GP, the family pet etc. I have had some of the most meaningful conversations with myself in the car. I don’t like sharing my problems with people, so I find this is the best therapy. I also prepare for presentations and meeting on car journeys as well (before anyone suggests I might need committing for talking to myself).  

“Do I feel like this at certain times of the day (e.g. in the evening before bed).” If so, change your routine. Mix it up, colour outside of the lines, what is the worst that can happen. Find your happy place, and if you have a partner or relative standing in your way, you need to explain the gravity of the situation. You are entitled to monitor your mental health. You need to take care of yourself, and in turn you will be a great parent with happy Monster(s).  

“Stress cannot kill me!” Tell that to my mother and a former colleague. The former colleague died of a heart attack, while my mother survived hers, but this was all caused from erratic eating which was caused by workplace stress. Small inconsistencies on the body tend not to be a problem, but continuous is a recipe for disaster. What keeps my stress at bay is swimming (yes, it is my sport, but it helps), drone flying, and things to look forward to. For example, I took my mum to a Cat café recently and it was good therapy as well as helping a worthy charity.  

There is a clear focus in this post and that is mental health. Fortunately, and this is excellent news, people are feeling more and more comfortable coming out and speaking about it. It is not a taboo any longer, you have to be the lower end of the ‘decency scale’ to criticise someone who is going through anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. So, don’t fear what others may think. Remember it’s unnecessary stress that you are in control of.  

We have seen a number of celebrities take their own lives in recent years, whether accidentally or on purpose, and that is incredibly sad – so I echo the recent message of the Prodigy, don’t suffer in silence, speak up and get the help you need and deserve.  

On a final note, regarding depression and anxiety, there are of course different levels, and the most unhelpful things people can say is “What have you got to be depressed about?”. An extended family member also commented to another, who was going through mental health issues and was signed off work, said that they should be ashamed for taking time off work while others were working. People like that normally go on my black list very quickly, while I am not an advocate of wrapping someone up in cotton wool, I certainly will not begrudge someone help when they need it.  

It doesn’t solve all problems, and I know we have all heard this before, but look at what you are eating as not all foods agree with people. Research your own body, if you have to, get some blood tests, sugar levels and cholesterol done, there may be something underlying.  

Also, try and be active. This does not mean do so much exercise so you can run a marathon (not unless you want to), but just be active. Go for walks, do your 10,000 steps, do yoga, keep fit, anything that moves you. The problem with most people who hate exercise is that they haven’t found one they like doing.  

Also, don’t think that you have to exercise with someone. Many fitness programs can be done in the home. For example, I don’t like doing classes, I don’t like exercising with other people, so I have always been a swimmer and I do yoga at home. I thoroughly recommend YogaBurn by the way. 

There is normally an answer out there for everyone, it does take research and it does take time, so please do not think you are going to climb a mountain in a few hours, because it could take a few months before you find that answer. But keep going, find out what works for you, if you have barriers, either go around them or knock them down, and remember if you need to talk to someone, do it.  

You can have it all, but it does come with compromise and research. Learn about yourself and don’t rely on what you could accomplish 5 years ago. Learn what you can achieve now. 

If you need to speak to any to anyone you can speak to Samaritans, SANE, your doctor, or family and friends. 

Tech translation meets the Happy Tree Friends

We are already in March, and I feel like I have blinked and missed most of this year already.

Many people do what I do and that is juggle a career with family, with hobbies, and it does take military precise organisation. For example, at the moment I am training for my first 15k swim since having the small human (almost 3 years ago), I am also studying hard (though that is nothing unusual), and this is alongside juggling a demanding career and other active interests.

Enough on the swimming, I will post again about my progress (which I am happy to say is coming along nicely) another time. The point of this post is to give a little more detail regarding my techie dark side.

My “day-job” is not normally something I broadcast online, mainly because of the work I deal with, and the firm I work for. Like me, my company doesn’t like a lot of attention. However, there will be times when a good outlet is required. This is where my like-minded friends who are also colleagues in the field, and I, have a good liberating chat about the pros and cons of working in technology.

There are many things I have learnt over the years, being in a co-technology-legal environment, most of which I can relate to, as I am a technology consultant with a legal background (best of both worlds). During our chats, my friends and I agree that there is one topic that repeatedly comes up, and it is one that we all relate to when taking on a new project. The middle individuals, or ‘the tech translators’ as I call them are key. These people are not limited to just being “in the middle,” they may also get involved in other areas as well, but they are important, as without them expectations are not set, and communication may not be conveyed adequately. Think about this the next time you are the customer of a new project and it is not going quite right. Perhaps the tech translators are doing way more than setting the expectations.

It is important that these people are not overwhelmed in their role, as this can impact establishing timelines and communicating updates. These individuals are able to translate legal (in my case) requests, and transcribe them into a language that the technology experts can understand, and vice versa.

I am one of those ‘middle people’, I am happy to say, and while there are some ‘dog days’, as with all industries, technology in the legal world has always been innovative and challenging, in the good sense. We are in exciting times, watching how technology evolves in particular sectors and how it is integrated into other industries. But we need to monitor its progression, otherwise we risk getting caught up in the whirl-wind of technology competition (like in the consumer sector with Apple and Android), releasing upgrades and new systems before the old ones have even been broken in. What we really need to ensure is that the end-user, as well as those behind the scenes are happy with the decisions made. After all, they are the ones using the new systems/project.

I will be posting more about this as time goes on, but for now I will park this topic on a note of frivolity, and that is, when in a room where half are filled with technology boffins, putting the world to rights, if you are not in that industry, or that way inclined, then just concentrate on something else. On one occasion, my husband (not a tech boffin) and a female friend (definitely not a tech boffin), watched the Happy Tree Friends, rather than listen to myself and the female friend’s husband rattle on, and on and on into the wee early hours of the following day.

Above is one of my favourite conversions, it is also Marmite to technology experts. When people say they cannot use touchscreens to send work emails quickly, I recommend this handy device. 

Have dermatitis and can’t use touchscreens? Use the Google Gboard

I know that swimming prevents my migraines, I know that false nails help with my dermatitis, as they minimise the water traveling underneath the nails, but I have yet to find a keyboard that rivals the BlackBerry for speed and accuracy. Until now.

Being a writer and a serial BlackBerry user for many years I have, unknowingly, been spoilt. Suffering with long-term dermatitis, meant that the mainstream integration of touchscreens, was going to impact my work greatly. We all know that BlackBerry (and the hard keyboard), has seen its day according to society, but what about those who cannot use touchscreens, even without the hinderance of dermatitis?

Countless times people have said to me; “you’ll just get used to touchscreens.” Well I (and my fingers), have proved them wrong on a number of occasions. In fact, many times I was prepared to throw my phone under moving traffic in anger and/or frustration, because I found my productivity decline.

For those who prefer statistics, please see the following:

  • Sending a one lined email with a BlackBerry = under one minute;
  • Sending the same email using an iPhone and touchscreen = six minutes on average.

At the time of the above analysis, I was receiving, on average, 80 emails per hour, so the extra five minutes (roughly), was putting me back considerably.

I was asked why I didn’t use voice recognition software, and this was simply down to confidentiality reasons. I can’t just start talking about the information I am privy to out loud.

I am now at a stage where I cannot feel anything in at least three fingers. I have been to several doctors over the years, none of which have referred me to a dermatologist, so the condition is severe, to the point where on some days the skin looks burnt.

The technological answer however, is the Google Gboard. But before I describe this, in my mind, miracle app, I will also mention that I have been using the Samsung clip on keyboard for the last year or so on my Galaxy S7 edge. 

Samsung clip-on keyboard

The advantages of this add-on piece is that you have the flexibility of it being a clip-on so you can remove it any time. It also works in the same way as the Blackberry hard keyboard. The only downside is that the keys do not have a backlight, so if you get up in the middle of the night and want to input your password in the dark, you have to guess where the keys are. 

Gboard is a virtual keyboard app developed by Google for Android and iOS devices. It was first released on both systems in 2016.

Google Gboard

Gboard features Google Search (including web results and predictive answers), searching and sharing of GIF and emoji content, predictive typing suggesting the next word depending on context, and multilingual language support.

It does take a little getting used to, but it is amazing how it is able to keep up with my typing speed, and the rate my mind works. It is triggered by dragging a finger across the letters to spell out the word. If you slide over the right number of letters in sequence, it will predict either the word you are looking for, or a selection of near-to words. There is no need to add a space after each word, as soon as you pause it knows to add the space.

So far, I have noticed an increase in productivity, there is no additional pain or discomfort using the tool, and overall it is actually quite fun.

One thing though, it can be quite distracting when you are on the train in the middle of your morning commute, and you feel eyes looking over your shoulder at what you are doing. This does bring me back to the confidentiality issues, but this can be easily rectified by adding a privacy screen to your device. Also, there is the reassurance that people get bored easily nowadays.

PS: Another handy device is the foldable Bluetooth keyboard. An example of which can be found below:

Dermatitis at its best, or worst!

*An excerpt of this post may be contained on the blog for SOCLI with permission