17 random things you (maybe) didn’t know about me, Part One

Written by: Penny Cooke | Posted on:

First off, I’d like to give a shout out to Joanne Munro of VA Handbookers, whose blog “20 random things you didn’t know about me” sparked this one in me!

1. I’m a high functioning introvert

No one ever thinks of me as shy. To be fair, I don’t really come across as anything but confident and assured. But, as a teenager and into my early 20s, I used to be physically sick at the thought of going out. I had so many arguments with my then best friend over this. So, I used to act confident – I would use words (sarcasm mostly, and funny one-liners) as cover. I think I got to about 26 when I realised that it wasn’t such an act anymore, it all came quite naturally. Sometimes, though, that Shy Teenager rears her head.

As you can imagine, as a self-employed Virtual Assistant, I have to put myself out there to meet prospective clients and build relationships. I do enjoy networkers, for the most part, but I still take a deep breath when I walk into a room full of strangers.

2. I hate Brussels Sprouts

I absolutely hate Brussels Sprouts. To the extent that even seeing someone put one in their mouth makes me feel ill. I blame my mother for overcooking sprouts, and vegetables in general, for not liking many of them. I was in my mid-20s when I first ate vegetables cooked al dente, and realised some were quite nice!

Still can’t stand sprouts though. Or butterbeans.

3. Don’t mention the C word

I can just about deal with spiders – catch them, either in tissue, or with a glass – and throw them out the back door or the window – but cockroaches??? [shudder] My first job was as a quality control assistant in a milk bottling plant (Express Dairies – coincidentally, my first ever flat was on what was previously the plant site). So, warmth, milk. All attractive to cockroaches. I can remember one day when I was on early start for the weekend – 6.45, to start the tests so the bottling lines could run – and every damn’ way I turned there was a cockroach. In the sink. Lifting a cloth. Moving a chair. Ugh – the crunch if you stepped on one! That was bad enough, but I absolutely loathed the sectioned underside. Even now, decades later, if a roach appears on a tv screen, I have to shut my eyes or hide behind my fingers.

4. I love sci-fi

Don’t judge me – I'm a huge sci-fi fan, loved Star Trek from the original series (I had such a crush on Captain Kirk!). I’ve even been to a sci-fi convention – in Newcastle – but only because of one particular show (not Star Trek). There was a short-lived sci-fi programme called Space, Above & Beyond and I had another massive crush on one of the characters. I’d met online, and then in person, someone who did her doctoral thesis on that show. She mentioned it – before we’d actually met – and that this person would be going. So that was my first and last foray into the wacky world of conventioneers. And yes, I did get to meet my crush – in a lift 😉.

I did, though, once stay in a hotel that was holding a Doctor Who convention – quite by accident; if I’d known, I think we may have chosen a different hotel. I can’t tell you how weird it is to hear a blue alien ask if he’d had any messages at Reception, or to sit down to breakfast surrounded by Doctor Who lookalikes, and cybermen. Oh, and the bottom half of Daleks.

5. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 26

I was a late starter to driving. I know most people learn in their late teens or early 20s. I had one abortive attempt at learning with my sister. We drove to a local WW2 airfield (it’s now Harwell Science Park) and I drove along the runway at probably no more than 10 miles an hour but felt so much faster (definitely to my sister!). We got to the T-junction and, instead of hitting the brake, I mistakenly stepped on the accelerator – and shot off the runway onto the grass. I burst out laughing. Unfortunately, my sister didn’t find it funny because the grass was about six inches lower than the runway and she jumped out to check I hadn’t done something or other to a mechanical bit. She drove home.

My next lesson was at age 26, when my family – organised by that sister – clubbed together to give me a set of six driving lessons for my birthday. It took a few more than six lessons, but pleased to say I passed first time (only said sister and I did this, my two brothers took a couple of tries) and mine was with the Chief Examiner, although I didn’t know that until after.

6. I hate New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve. Hate it. Full of false jollity. It’s a complete non-event for me. I think the last time I saw it in in company was maybe 15 years ago, with my sister and brother-in-law.

Nowadays, I’ll see the New Year in on my own, with a glass of Something Scottish. The best way to do it 😜

7. I love baking

I make my own bread. I've not bought a loaf in about seven years. Completely self-taught. I would’ve loved to have taken Domestic Science – as it was then called – in school, but I was in the top 10% and had to do Latin instead.

Then I started watching Bake Off in series four, in 2013. And I thought, I could do that – cakes, not bread! Some disasters later – both in cakes and bread – it’s my way of de-stressing. Kneading bread really gets rid of the angst. Some of my first efforts never made the bread bin, nor the bin – I would throw it out for the birds. And you know it’s bad when even the pigeons won’t touch it!

8. Let’s talk about addiction

Shoes. I just love ‘em. I have rather a few of them. At the last count, perhaps 60 pairs. At my last salaried job, I did my usual thing of falling down the stairs (at home, not work!) and twisted my ankle. So, flat shoes. The IT chap there saw me and, apparently, at coffee break later that morning (I didn’t go) he announced, “I’ve just seen Penny in flat shoes!”. Everyone was kinda shocked and three made their way to my office to see if Ray from IT had been telling the truth.

The funny thing is, since leaving that place, starting up as a Virtual Assistant and adopting Bella, my footwear tends to be slippers, loafers or wellies. I still have all the shoes though 😉

To be continued …

Like what you’ve read so far? I’ve not scared you off by ‘fessing up to the weird and wonderful Me? Fabulous – give me a call. See what I can do for you – help you focus on what you do best, and leave the rest to me.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke / Pixabay

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