Happy Retirement

This week, after 30 years of being a Police Officer, I retied!

I joined West Yorkshire Police on 15th January 1990, as a fresh faced 22 year old. I was fairly naïve, not particularly streetwise and had led a sheltered life, being the only girl, with three brothers. However I wanted to help other people, do something worthwhile and I honestly thought that I would be able to change the world.

I may not have changed the world over the last 30 years, but I know that I have changed some people’s lives for the better. There will be those that were not happy with the decisions I made, the action that I took, or the outcomes of their reports to me, but on the whole i know that I have always done the best job that I could, have been honest and always done what I thought was right.

I am not sad at retiring and I have been looking forward to it for a while. I will miss my friends and colleagues, the interesting work, the feeling of making a difference but I also am ready for a change and am looking forward to doing lots of new things. I am not going to be completely retired, as I still have various avenues for work, but I will no longer be working full time and I will no longer be a Police Officer.

Lucky or Entitled

Over the last few months I have had some very interesting comments about retiring at such a young age. Lots of people have said how “lucky” I am, how nice it must be to get a “free pension” and how unfair it is that they have to work much longer than me. I do not believe that I deserve to retire more than anyone else, but I know that I am getting what I signed up to 30 years ago and that it certainly isn’t for free. I am entitled to retire at this age because I signed up for 30 years. I have paid a large amount of money in contributions for the last 30 years. I have stuck with a career that has been difficult at times, frustrating and had ground me down to the point of losing my self confidence and belief that I was doing a good job. For all the missed birthdays, Christmas days, school sports days, concerts, late nights, early mornings, long hours and lack of sleep. For being spat at, sworn at, called names, complained about and wondering how I was going to get through, for this I now feel entitled to retire.

A Job Worth Doing

I have loved my job for the most part. Although the above paragraph points out the negatives, there have been lots of positives too. I have spent a good majority of my service as an investigator within safeguarding units, investigating crimes and protecting the most vulnerable people in society. For the last four years I have trained others to conduct those investigations.

I have met some amazing people along the way, both those that I have worked alongside and the people who I have worked to protect. There have been some amazing Court results and some real disappointments. Most of all I know that I have worked my hardest to protect the public and detect some of the most heinous crimes.

So now I intend to take a well earned break, before I move on to pastures new.

Thank you to the people that I have worked with for their support over the years. Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate with me and for the lovely gifts and cards. Remembering fondly those who were with me 30 years ago when I joined the police, or who I have met along the way, but are no longer with us.

Most of all a huge thank you to my family and friends outside the Police who have supported me physically and mentally. I could not have done it without you!

 

A Winter Adventure in Lapland (7)

Unfortunately today is our last full day in Lapland. Luckily we still have an activity booked and there’s also something that we still haven’t tried in Muotka. There’s also still another evening so a possibility that we may see the aurora again.

Husky sledding

Today we were up and out early, in the dark as we were booked in for a visit to Husky and Co. We travelled by mini bus and it was only a short journey.

On arrival, we were introduced to the guides and given instructions on how to drive the sled. Basically the dogs will pull the sled whenever you take your foot offf the brake. Other than this the driver stands on two footrests, whilst the passenger sits in the sled.

Andrew was the driver. The dogs were keen to set off as soon as you got into the sled, so he had to keep his feet firmly on the brake until the group were ready to set off.

Once unleashed they set off on the track through the forest. They go amazingly fast on the flat, too fast down I’ll, requiring lots of braking, but on the uphills Andrew had to step off with one foot and push sling like you would with a scooter.

I really enjoyed it but it did make me a little bit nervous at times, especially on the downhills when even the strongest of braking didn’t seem to slow the dogs that much.

After the sled through the woods we were invited into the wooden building where there were a couple of roaring fires and we were given salmon soup, potato bread, hot juice, coffee, cinnamon buns and biscuits.

We were then taken to see the puppies, some of which were only 4 weeks old.  They were beautiful. All the dogs seemed well looked after and eager to meet people. They seemed happiest when they running and although I had reservations at first, I was comfortable with the set up.

49851856_Unknown

Sledging – don’t remember it being this hard as a child!

The only thing that we had not done whilst we had been here was take the sledges down the toboggan run. This afternoon we decided to give it a go.

Unfortunately neither Nick or Andrew we’re feeling very well, so Julie and I braved the slippery slope whilst Andrew took some photos.

its amazing how things that didn’t feel very scary as a child make you feel really nervous as a grown up. I was too wary to go from the top of the run so managed half way down. The hardest part was getting out of the sledge at the bottom and walking back up the hill with the sledge once you reached the bottom.

After a couple of runs, with lots of screaming on the way down and hysterical laughter at the bottom, covered in snow and very hot, we decided to give in. It’s definitely a pastime for children, but was great fun!

Aurora lights the skies again

On the way for our meal this evening, the aurora made another appearance. It was very faint at first but during our meal the sleet kept going off so we were in and out looking up to the skies.

The light display was amazing for several hours this evening and was brighter last night and was even dancing at one point. Apart from Andrew and Nick not feeling well it was a superb way to end the holiday.

So now we are on our way to the airport after an early start. As we head for home I am so glad that I had this experience. The hotel has been wonderful, the staff amazing and it’s been worth every penny.

Goodbye Muotka,  thank you for a wonderful holiday

A Winter Adventure in Lapland (6)

Today we were up bright and early as we had an activity booked at 9am. When I say bright and early, that’s not entirely true, it was 730am and still completely dark. The temperature was still at +1 degrees and the snow had melted off the porch are and from the overhead cables as well as all the trees.

Snowmobiling to the fells

At 9am, still in the darkness we again donned all our layers, balaclavas and helmets, ready for our trip to the fells on snow mobiles.

The group was small, consisting of 3 snow mobiles and the guide on another snow mobile pulling a sledge. The really good thing here is that if you want to get out on the excursions, but aren’t mobile or old enough to drive a snowmobile, a large sledge is attached to the guides snow mobile so you are still able to go along.

We drove for a couple of hours on the ski mobiles to Kaunispaan ski resort which is approximately 50 km from the Russian border.

The landscape today was much bleaker. There was barely any daylight and without the snow on the trees, The area looks quite stark compared to the last few days. In the forest there is little wind, but as you get out onto the fells, you can feel the temperature drop and the wind blowing across the open space.

Although it s a bleak landscape but there is still something very beautiful about it. The air is clear and other than passing the occasional group of snow mobiles or crossing main roads, it is quiet and peaceful.

At Kaunispaan we climbed the observation tower for the maximum view and to take photographs. There are no real mountainous areas in northern Finland, so this is one of the best places to get a good view.

We then went into the restaurant to have lovely hot soup (vegetable, reindeer or salmon) with bread.

It was then back on the snow mobiles to the hotel, which took another couple of hours. In all we had covered 60km on the snow mobiles. By this time, once again it was completely dark and the snow had just started to fall.

A magical night

At 9pm we set off as a group in a sledge tower by a snow mobile driven by one of the guides. We were driven to a clearing in the forest to the aurora camp.

It was. Clear night and the moon was brightly shining. We were ever hopeful that we would see the aurora. Andrew set up his tripod and camera and we waited. I lay down in the snow to look at the stars as it was a stunning sky. We were treated to a display of numerous shooting stars.

After a short while one of the guides went into the little wooden shelter and built a fire. People started to drift inside, but as it wasn’t really that cold, we persisted and stayed outside.

Suddenly a small area of unusual light appeared in the sky, which began to grow and as we started to get excited everyone else came out of the cabin.

it was an unbelievable sight and quite emotional. We had hoped that we would see the lights, but there was never any guarantee. Andrew began snapping away and then one of the guides kindly took a photo of all 4 of us together which was stunning (not us, the lights!)

The lights brightened and faded a few times before the guides sadly told us that it was time to go back. During the journey back to the hotel a couple of reindeer decided to trot along the path in front of the snow mobile. They seemed to have no fear of being pursued by the vehicle and trotted on regardless until finally veering off back into the woods.

Back at the hotel we stopped for a coffee when suddenly the chef shouted “lights”. Everyone got up and ran outside. After falling down the steps and wiping out Julie in the snow, we were again treated to the display of lights. We watched them from the hotel and then went back up towards the cabins where they continued on and off for another hour or so.

When we went into the cabin to go to bed we opened all the blinds, just in case they appeared again. Whether they did or not, I don’t know as I fell asleep.

I feel very humbled to have seen the northern lights. Looking up to the sky with all the stars and the vast darkness it reminds me that I am only a very small part of the world and that we are a tiny part of the universe.

An absolutely magical experience!

E2713268-B27F-40FF-9878-35EBA35E49BF

A Winter Adventure in Lapland (5)

This morning was slightly overcast, but the snow had stopped and the temperature had raised overnight to a much warmer just below freezing. The heavy snow overnight had left another couple of inches of soft powder on the paths and it feels a little bit like the buildings are going to disappear completely if it continues. We are told by the staff that so much snow is unusual for this time of year, but it is amazing to see.

A snow mobile journey

Todays activity was a journey on the snow mobiles, to a reindeer farm. We all donned the layers, along with balaclavas and helmets. We looked a bit like the riot police in the full gear.

Being on the snow mobiles, in the dry slightly warmer weather was an amazing experience. The snowy landscape is so beautiful and a little surreal, more like a painting or a storybook. I chose to sit on the back, rather than driving as Andrew loved the driving and I was comfortable and probably safer on the back. We followed the guide along the snow mobile tracks for about 16k.

Reindeer farm

The reindeer farm we visited was a traditional Sami reindeer farm. On arrival we were introduced to the reindeer and were then taken for a short ride in a sledge pulled by one of the reindeer.

We then had a demonstration of reindeer lassoing (using reindeer horn on a block on the floor and thankfully not a real reindeer!), then people were allowed to have a go.

Afterwards we went to the hut where we were treated to hot tea and cake and one of the Sami ladies talked to us about the reindeer and the Sami way of life. She showed us reindeer antlers, which are naturally shed and passed them round for us to look at. She explained her traditional beautiful bright coloured dress and how different areas will wear different colours. The jewellery that they wear is handed down through generations. The ladies also wear a traditional hat which we were told, depending on how you wear it, indicates whether you are married or single.

The best soup in Lapland

It was then back on the snow mobiles to travel to Savottakahvila restaurant for lunch. We were told they serve the best soup in Lapland. It was definitely amazing soup. I had tomato and vegetable whilst everyone else had elk soup (it was so good we all had second helpings). There was bread, rye bread or crackers. This was then followed by hot coffee and Jaffa cakes. Absolutely lovely food and a warm and friendly atmosphere.

After lunch we were back on the snow Mobiles to make the journey back to the hotel. It was just starting to get dark as we returned and just after we got back inside it began snowing again.

It was an amazing day and an experience I will remember for a long time, made even better by the great company and the lovely guides, who kept everyone safe and laughed along with our banter.

What’s happened to the snow?

After our evening meal we stayed in the hotel for a few hours, having a few drinks and playing cards. At about 1145pm we decided to go to bed as we are getting up earlier tomorrow. When we came out the temperature had risen to +1degree. The huge piles of snow on the trees had completely gone and if you looked at the trees you would have not known it had snowed at all. There is still tonnes of snow on the ground, but it is now much wetter underfoot.0F179D56-9B3D-4E54-893D-B82729B4F056.jpeg

A Winter Adventure in Lapland (4)

New years day was another bright day, once it became light at around 10am. It’s was a freezing cold morning, at -16 degrees. We went to the hotel and had breakfast and then booked out the skis for the morning.

Skiing to Kakslauttanen

Once we had all got our skis on and the required layers of clothing, we set off on our cross country adventure to Kakslauttanen (or Klatterslappen as we keep mistakingly call it).

This is another small holiday village approximately 3km from Muotka. We managed fairly well in the tracks, but when it comes to crossing the roads, or areas where there are no tracks, it’s a little more difficult and there were a few falls along the way. The hardest part for me was going down hill as it feels like you build up a tremendous amount of speed. I resorted to coming down them sideways, to avoid quite some much speed. I did manage one hill, but screamed coming down as if I was skiing down a mountain off piste, when it was actually just a small hill.

It was so cold that ice crystals formed in any area where you were warm, or where yo were breathing. We had ice crystals on our hats, on my eye lashes and when you breathe through your nose the hairs in your nose freeze. However with all the effort of skiing you still remain warm inside all the clothes.

Once we reached the village, we called in for a hot chocolate and a look around the gift shop. We then put all the layers and skis back on and headed back for lunch. The ski home didn’t seem to take any time at all.

After lunch we had a restful afternoon and as it started to come dark around 2pm, it makes it feel really late. Afternoon naps are definitely required, especially if you are going out in the evenings.

IMG_0248IMG_0253

Aurora hunt by car

After our evening meal, we were then booked to go out aurora hunting in the mini bus. By this time it was snowing heavily and we knew that there was little chance of seeing them.

The trip out was worth it, just to see the amount of snow falling and the amazing drier, who seemed undeterred by the blizzard and carried on regardles, stopping just once to clear the ice from the wipers.

We stopped at a couple of points to get out and look at the sky, but due to the amount of snow there were no auroras to be seen. The temperature reached -21 degrees at one point.

We were provided with the customary hot chocolate and cookies and then returned home at midnight.

We have a couple more trips out to look for auroras, but as it’s a natural phenomenon there are no guarantees, but perhaps that means we have to come again if we don’t see one

8682f3ce-90f0-4ffa-a849-99798b797766

A Winter Adventure in Lapland (3)

New Years Eve day dawned (at about 10am), bright and crystal clear and a slightly chilly -14 degrees. It was so lovely so see the daylight. Although it’s light, I am told that the sun never really comes above the horizon at this time of year, but it has a beautiful twilight type glow.

We had a lovely breakfast and then made our way to Our first activity.

It has really great health benefits – honestly!

We made our way down to the smoke sauna, where the intention is to sit in the sauna and then run out in the snow and plunge into a hole that is cut in the frozen river. Apparently it has great health benefits.

Andrew was full of cold, so decided to be official photographer. The rest of us egged each other on to be brave enough to have a go.

We got changed in a draughty wooden hut and then went into the sauna. It was so dark it took a while for  your eyes to accustom, but once they did it was fine.

After sitting in the sauna, we then bravely ran to the river, wearing swimwear, hats and socks. I was first to dip in but wasn’t brave enough to go all the way in. Running back up to the sauna in wet socks was an experience as ice cubes form underneath as you run. Nick and Julie both managed a full plunge and back into the sauna. Once back in, we were grave enough to give it another go and this time I managed the full dip.

It was a really invigorating experience. You would expect that coming out of a sauna into the cold would feel horrendous, but you are so warm that it takes a while for your body to feel the cold. As you dip in the pool it numbs your body, but you feel so lively and awake once you get back in the sauna. Afterwards your skin really tingles and glows. I would definitely recommend it if you are brave enough to try.

A cosy afternoon

After a warm shower and a change of clothes we went for a short walk around the hotel grounds before going for lunch. As the sun started to set, the sky began to glow a beautiful red.  By 2pm it was almost dark again and we spent the afternoon keeping cosy by the fire.

My first experience of snow mobiling

Our late evening activity was an aurora hunt on a snow mobile. After putting on an extra couple of layers of clothing and donning the new correctly fitting snowsuit, we set off for our instructions in driving a snow mobile. Needless to say I chose not to drive and decided to sit on the back whilst Andrew drove.

It was pitch dark driving through the forest and icy cold. The guide said that it was probably about -22 degrees as the temperature in the nearest tow, Saariselka was -12 and it can be up to 10 degrees colder in muotka.

Through the headlights you could see the snow glistening on the ground and when we came to a clearing and turned the engines off, there was no sound at all. The sky was amazingly clear and the stars were vivid in the sky.

The guide lit a fire and boiled up a kettle of hot water, then made everyone a cup of hot chocolate. It was then back on the snow mobiles to the hotel, in time for the New Year celebrations.

A New Years Eve to remember

Back at the hotel, there was a glass of bubbly for everyone and a buffet of snacks. At just before midnight we all went outside, where there was a firework display. After wishing everyone a Happy New Year, it was back inside to warm up.

Just short of an hour later, one of the staff members wanted us all to share in a Spanish New Year tradition and gave us all a cup with 12 grapes in. At midnight Spanish time, we then all had to eat a grape at each chime. This is supposed to bring you look for the next year. I managed to eat the first few, but then ended up putting them in my mouth and not chewing them quickly, so looked a bit like a squirrel storing food for the winter.

At this point we decided that we could probably spend the next few hours celebrating New Year for every nationality in the hotel, but decided to call it a day at 2am, when it was New Year in England.

Definitely a different way to celebrate New Year and one to remember!