Flying? Yes, hypnosis works!

So anyone who’s friends with me on Facebook will know that I survived the flight and am now in Sydney.  That sentence amazes me – Sydney!!  More about that in my next post, but today I thought I’d just extol the virtues of self-hypnosis.

One of the key challenges of this trip (apart from raising the money to get here) was getting on the plane – two planes, actually.  About a week before I was due to fly, I started listening to a lovely self-hypnosis app, handily titled ‘Fear of flying’, every night when I went to bed.  People were asking me what was on it, but I have no idea, as I seemed to fall asleep within the first couple of minutes of putting the soothing voice into my brain.  I say soothing, but probably I mean hypnotic, obviously.  I did hear ‘3,2,1 and awake’ a couple of times, but that was pretty much it apart from the very beginning where I was encouraged to relax, relax, relax…

On Wednesday, I made my way (very early in the morning) to Manchester airport, and noticed that I didn’t feel exactly terrified – at least, not to my normal level of pre-flight panic.  After a fabulous amount of queuing and waiting, I finally made it onto the plane, and found myself with a window seat, just beside the wing.  Normally, this would have been a terrible thing – seeing a plane wing and an engine is not the best way to induce calm in someone terrified of all the things that might go wrong!  But this time, I felt okay about it.  Take off was good (always happy to find that even big planes can make it into the air) and then it was drink/lunch time (at about 11am, for goodness’ sake – my poor body clock!).  I managed not to keep one eye trained on the cabin crew, as I normally would, and I even watched some films!  And I was taking pictures of the mountains somewhere over Iran/Iraq without any sense that I really shouldn’t be looking down there.  Then it was feeding time again, followed by a landing in Abu Dhabi.  Under usual circumstances, I’d be really, really hacked off at the thought of having to go in another plane, but again I was fine.  Most amazingly, on the second part of the journey I managed to go to sleep!!  By now, I was realising the amazing brilliance of that hypnosis app – honestly, ask anyone who’s had to endure a flight with me before, I was like a new woman this time.  At the end of it all, as we made our exciting landing in Sydney, I even had the bizarre thought that I’d quite enjoyed the experience!

Happily, I’ll have time to listen to the app plenty more before I have to get on another plane.  For now, it’s Sydney, and then the exciting train journey up to Byron Bay – no hypnosis app required for that one!

Getting there…

Crocheted squares

The ever growing pile of blanket squares!

What a busy time I’ve been having – I’ll need a little sit down after all this.  Oh, hang on, I guess that’s what the immensely long plane journey will achieve…

Anyway – the generosity of friends has enabled me to complete my plans for this epic trip of planes, trains and conferences.  I feel like I’ve blogged, baked and crocheted my way to Australia.  Baking has proved a fantastic way of raising money, but in all honesty I don’t want to see another cake tin for a very long time!

So to crocheting: my final fundraising venture has been to get friends to sponsor me to complete 100 baby blanket squares before I leave the country next week.  At the conference, there will be a ‘yarning table‘ (love that play on words), where delegates can bring the squares they’ve knitted or crocheted and we’ll sew them all together to make baby blankets that will subsequently be sent to Papua New Guinea.  I loved the idea that I’m sitting in Newark-on-Trent making squares, and they’ll end up literally on the other side of the world!  Several of my friends have pointed out that my suitcase will look a little odd should anyone in customs happen to open it, but I think it will make a great story.

Happily, I love crocheting, and I’ve discovered that you can do it ANYWHERE!  I’ve crocheted on the train to work, while having coffee with friends, in my lunch break in the Tower of Doom, in the car (while being a passenger, obvs)… I’m currently on square number 76, so I feel very optimistic that I’ll get to my target.  And I’m enjoying crochet so much, maybe I’ll try and use it as means of remaining calm and collected on the plane.  Better than alcohol, really.  Perhaps I’ll produce a little photo album of places in Australia where I’ve crocheted – I might look like a crazy lady, but at least I’ll be producing something useful along the way.

Just eight days until I fly, and I’m getting a teeny bit excited now.  I’m able to envisage being in Australia, so it’s just the small matter of getting on the plane.  Self-hypnosis app is ready and waiting…

On, off, and on again: I really am going to Australia!

Image showing Gold CoastWell, this is fun, isn’t it!  I was going, I wasn’t going, but now I REALLY REALLY AM GOING!!!

A senior colleague suggested that I email the conference organisers to see whether my paper could be changed from a poster to an oral presentation, and a couple of weeks ago I got the exciting news that they’d been able to do this.  Of course, this meant I could re-apply for funding from my home School, given their criteria for supporting conference attendance.

Lots of last minute preparation of applications, and some working out of dates and annual leave and study days and needing to get back in time for my eldest’s 18th birthday… But yes, the School has given me enough money to cover my air fare, so it seems rude not to try and raise the rest!

I’m allowing myself a tiny bit of excitement now, although I still can’t believe I’ll actually be going.  Happily, I have two super friends who have each offered to put me up during my visit (Pete in Sydney, and Val in Gold Coast), so I’m feeling very lucky about that.  My research mentor has supplied me with some contacts in Sydney so I can go and talk all things midwifery while I’m there, and then the conference looks really great when I get to Gold Coast.

I’ve been considering a couple of fund raising opportunities.  My cakes seem awfully popular at the moment, and I’ve identified at least four places where I could do a little cake sale.  And then I’ve been thinking about a sponsored something.  Friends have come up with two ideas: silence and tap dancing!!  Although clearly not at the same time, because that would be like a horse wearing those muffler things on feet, and deeply pointless.  And I should say, I tap dance on a weekly basis, so it’s not as random as it might sound.

A sponsored silence sounds fun (probably to everyone around me, actually), but tap dancing would be a very different challenge.  I’m thinking of joining every tap class in the school where I dance, over the space of a week, right from the toddlers to the ones who are a lot more brilliant than me!  These are things to think about over the next few weeks, but for now I’m just really happy that I can get to Oz after all.  Although, I guess I have to start seriously considering the flying thing again…

A related post from my other identity as social science correspondent at Piirus

Piirus logoHere’s a post that’s just gone live over at Piirus, where I write on the subject of making research links and exploring the world!

I think Piirus is going to be central to my exploration of Australia, as it’s a great place to begin making connections: you become a member (for free, hurrah!) and add your research interests and areas in order to connect with other researchers who share things in common with you.  As it’s a global network, I’ve already found some researchers in Oz who might be perfect for me to become friends with..!

The Joys of University Funding

monkey confused about funding

Here’s a funny thing: according to the Research Staff Travel Prize rules, you can apply for their funding if your presentation at a conference is going to be through the medium of a poster.  That’s great, because they’ll fund up to 50% of the costs, to a maximum of £600 for an overseas conference.  By my calculations, that’s most of the flight covered.  However, they expect you to show in your application that the funding they offer will be matched, preferably via your home school – in my case, Health Sciences.

Apparently, I have a budget of up to £1000 per year for such things as conferences, via my school.  However – and here’s the nonsense – according to my line manager, that budget only covers PAPER presentations at conferences, not posters.  Which suggests that posters are not as valuable as papers.  I’m not sure I agree with this, and here’s my logic: if I present a paper, I get around 20 minutes, and I’m one of many presentations going on at the same time.  So only the people who happen to come to hear my presentation will know anything about the study.  If I present a poster, it’s up in the conference venue for the whole time (in this case, four days), I get to hover around it at break times, I can leave a little version of it along with my business card in case anyone wants to contact me, and – this is my favourite bit – I get to do a tiny version of a presentation on the daily poster round.  Seriously, does that sound less exciting than presenting a paper?  I think not!

I’m quite a fan of challenging things if I don’t think they’re entirely fair, so I feel a carefully worded email coming on.  If that doesn’t work out, it’s back to plan A: convincing friends and family that they love my cakes so much, they’ll pay me actual money to eat them.  And maybe a sponsored silence – anyone who knows me will understand the challenge there…

Time flies, but people really shouldn’t

image of Gold Coast beachI’ve realised that it’s less than six months until this epic journey happens.  And it does feel like it’ll happen, now, because I’ve been talking about it to lots of friends – apparently I’m one of the last people in the world to visit Australia (or so it seems).  Talking about things often makes them seem more real, I find.

The downside of these conversations is the inevitable question: ‘But what about your massive fear of flying?!’  It’s been a long-standing joke, my aversion to getting on a plane, and I’ve been trying to deal with it for a lot of years.

Back in the mists of time, when I was not a parent, I flew to Saudi Arabia a couple of times, to visit my Dad who was working there.  I also flew to the Czech Republic, Greece and Paris.  Bizarrely, I can’t remember being utterly terrified in those days – I mostly just enjoyed the food-in-a-tray excitement, and the biggest dread was about having that toddler playing peek-a-boo for THE ENTIRE JOURNEY over the seat in front.  I do remember not particularly liking taking off or landing, but there was no gripping of the arm rest, or hawkishly watching the cabin crew’s faces to make sure I knew the minute something might be wrong.  I know, I sound like a mad woman.

Anyway, somewhere in the mire of having children, I developed a proper, full on fear of getting on a plane.  I think it’s something about being a responsible grown up – several of my friends have been able to relate to this idea.

So in 2010, I had to go to Belfast for a conference.  Believe me, I looked at every possible way of travelling that didn’t involve planes – a combination of car and boat, or train and boat, or train, boat and car… But they all took too many days, and I decided I should face my fear.  I heard Chris Moyles talking about how he’d used a self-hypnosis app to conquer his fear, and thought this sounded like something I could do to help myself.

I have no idea whether the app worked – I never managed to stay awake long enough to even hear what was on it.  I always woke up to a lovely, calming sound that told me it was over.  I think I may be worryingly susceptible to hypnosis… Anyway, I got on the plane, and I felt as okay as someone who’s terrified of flying might feel.  But I did find myself tapping my arm rest part way through the flight, and tapping is not something I’m usually prone to, so I wonder whether it did work in some way?

Since then, I’ve continued to avoid flying.  I’ve only been once to Amsterdam (with my son, who told everyone when we got home that I was so scared, he had to hold my hand…), and twice to Dublin.  Each time, I feel a little worse, and I’m beginning to wonder whether I might soon turn into one of those people who demand to get off the plane mid-flight?

So, coping strategies for a massively long flight: I’ll probably try the self-hypnosis app again, and I’ll perhaps combine it with some kind of sedative – given the length of time in the air, maybe I can sleep the whole way there?!  One thing I’m very sure of, however, is that no alcohol will be involved.  I’m a cheap date at the best of times, and I don’t know whether you’ve seen ‘Bridesmaids’, but there’s a hilarious cautionary tale there about not mixing sedatives with alcohol…

Finding Friends

My youngest daughter had some interesting statistics for me the other day, on the subject of how many people live in Australia and how immense the country is.  I’ll be visiting a tiny part of it, but already I’ve discovered that two of my Facebook friends are nearby (that’s you, Val and Sairose).  This makes me happy, because it means I can visit them (if I survive the flight, obviously) like a proper tourist!  Also, it makes me wonder whether the entire population is crowded into the tiny part I’m now calling ‘Goldie’ (got that from the horse’s mouth, so to speak!).

My next job is to find people over there who have an interest in midwifery leadership.  If I’m going to travel that far, I’d really like to meet with like-minded researchers or policy bods, and I always find it super interesting to explore different systems of care.  And let’s face it, leadership is a worldwide obsession, so there are bound to be people with similar research interests to mine.  I’m thinking narratives of identity might be a good pitch, too…

So my first step is to go exploring in the world of Australian universities – well, the ones somewhere near to where I’m planning to visit – and hunt down some poor, unsuspecting researchers.  Then at least I can begin to put a plan together, instead of just doing blank face when my family ask me how long I’m planning to be away!