The one with all the excitement!

Well well, it has been an exciting week!

So, some work-related context first: My manager C (now ex-manager) and I developed two water and sanitation e-learning courses on behalf of several NGOs in a consortium. It was a beasty piece of work that got bigger and bigger, and ended up taking us about 2 years to do.

However, we’re dead chuffed with the final products, which are available online here if you fancy taking a look (the courses are called Technical Project Management for WASH emergencies, and Information, Education, and Communication for WASH emergencies). We also managed to produce them onto CDs, and in French, and the feedback from staff out in the field has been fantastic. However, even better was the fact that we got shortlisted for an e-learning award! We presented our courses to the judges back in September, and were invited to the very swanky e-learning awards dinner to find out if we won. Our category was for ‘Excellence in content production – not for profit sector’, and there were 5 other organisations/companies who were shortlisted in our category. The ceremony itself is all very elegant and formal – black tie, including a champagne reception and a 4-course dinner at the Mariott hotel in London (Ooh-er Mrs!). The e-learning company who developed the courses with us very kindly paid for our tickets to this shin-dig, as well as putting C and I up in a hotel in London for the night.

So, that is how, on Thursday 7th November I found myself sitting on a coach heading to London to get seriously glammed-up, ready for an evening of wining and dining. I got very over-excited, what with all the glamour, and basically couldn’t stop telling everyone at work all about it. And I really really really REALLY wanted us to win!

The evening started off in hilarious fashion. Firstly, as C and I checked in to our posh hotel on The Strand (opposite The Savoy in fact) – we had both assumed we’d be staying at the Premier inn or somewhere a bit cheaper and less central! Anyhow, in the first 5 mins, C had managed to reduce the poor trainee checking us in (Gavin) to a quivering wreck – he made the mistake of asking if she was a Miss, Mrs or Ms (C suggested that perhaps he needed to attend a gender training course to find out why that was an inappropriate question….). Then, after C asked why he required her home phone number, he informed us it was in case of any damages to the room, like if we threw the telly out of the window, Ozzy Osbourne-style. Poor Gavin looked at C and added “But I’m sure it’s fine, you look like your telly-throwing days are probably behind you.”

Oh the humanity.

We finally managed to get to our rooms, after C gave a very contrite Gavin a stern lecture about sexism and ageism. We primped and preened, my hair was forcibly de-frizzed and tamed into a sleek and elegant coiffure, ballgowns were worn, high heels were wobbled into, and then we met up with the others from the e-learning company (Ivan, Alice and Kevin), and all set off together in a taxi to the Mariott.

We got to the hotel, and were directed towards the awards ceremony through a rather complex series of staircases and corridors. We soon joined a stream of incredibly elegant ladies in serious evening wear, and entered “The Grand Room”, an enormous room filled with tables, a stage, chandeliers, champagne, and cocktails.


Oooh! Look how glitzy and glamourous it is!


So we oooh and aaahh over the chandeliers, take some photos, and while Ivan was looking on the chart to see what table we were supposed to be on, C suddenly says “So what does the Q stand for?” I assumed it was a corporate sponsor of some sort, and then we looked at the banner behind the stage and simultaneously realised that it said in rather large letters “The Quality Food Awards”.


Turns out we were at the wrong awards ceremony!

We started to beat a hasty retreat, although on the way out we walked past the novelty pic-‘n-mix cart and the man in the stripey blazer thrust paper bags into our hands and practically insisted we help ourselves to the free sweets…. So we walked out of the Mariott Grosvenor House Hotel and onto Park Lane, sweetie bags in hand, and got a taxi to the Mariott Grosvenor Square Hotel, where our actual awards ceremony was being held. 🙂

The actual e-learning awards in the other Mariott Grosvenor Hotel....

The actual e-learning awards in the other Mariott Grosvenor Hotel….


The food was lovely, and we got our free champagne, plenty of wine, and complimentary sponsored Toblerones (see photo) as well as a £100 of pretend e-learning money to spend in the casino.


P1100301 P1100302

And then, after all the food and wine, they started announcing the winners, and I’m extremely happy to announce that WE WON!!! We got the silver award (Gold went to another company who must have done something amazing cos they cleaned up and won everything). Check out more info on the awards here.


So there we are, it was an evening of epic excitement, a gala black tie event in London, posh hotels on the Strand, Park Lane, and Grosvenor Square, wine, food, champagne, toblerones, slightly illicit pic-‘n-mix, hilarious giggles over the comedy awards mix-up,  a glass plaque thing, and a whole lot of recognition for 2 year’s hard work.

Very very chuffed.


My spoils and goodies from the awards dinner

My spoils and goodies from the awards dinner

Of course, while I was busy planning a ticker-tape parade around the office to announce our triumphant win, Super-Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda was battering the Philippines. So by the time I got into the office we were all systems go, busy organising 40+ staff to get onto planes asap, reading rapid assessment reports, drafting response strategies, funding proposals & capacity spreadsheets, and generally rushing about doing emergency stuff, so there was no time to bask in our glorious e-learning victory.

I’ll admit I didn’t like being upstaged by the weather, and the typhoon really stole my thunder, but on the plus side I got asked to set up a Situation Room at work – and those of you out there who love The West Wing will understand how much I’ve always wanted my very own Situation Room. As for the rest of you who’ve clearly never seen the West Wing, stop reading my blog and fire up episode 1. It’s awesome.

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