“Jo, did you want to attend the forthcoming refresher course?”
Irene’s voice inquired on the other end of the ‘phone. “It’s just that this is the last one we’re running for the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health’s Intermediate Food Safety qualification…..” Her kindly voice tailed off expectantly, anxiously.
“What, you mean, before my qualification expires? In June…?”
“No; the last one – Full Stop. There’s a new course in the pipeline; & I suspect that if you don’t take this refresher now, then you’ll have to retake the entire qualification, again.”
This was bad news. With kidding in full swing I could scarce afford to take a whole three days – 8.30am to 5.30pm, to boot – out of the ‘office’; & the refresher would only take a single day. And with the cost of the refresher being £120 – & no further requalification needed for another three years whilst the ‘new’ course was a staggering £265, there really was no competiton. Although I’d be requalifiying several months earlier than necessary, I frankly didn’t have much of a choice other than to attend.
Stifling a weary sigh, I said, “It’s okay, Irene – I’ll do the refresher, please. And thanks for letting me know; it’d have been dreadful if I’d missed it.” We said our goodbyes; & I replaced the receiver with a resigned click.
It’s not that I require the CIEH’s Intermediate Food Safety qualification, to legally do my job. The basic (now mysteriously known as Level Two) course, is all I actually require. However, having originally opted to sit the CIEH Intermediate exam whilst still in the RAF as having not worked in the Food Industry before, it was worth the ‘belt & braces’ approach.
Also, rather than having to do an annual refresher I was assured the Intermediate allowed a resit, every three years; & at the time I was told I’d have the added convenience of being able to do it all, online – & for free.
Unfortunately though, it would seem that (typically) things have changed in the last three years. Not especially in terms of legislation or scientific advancement regarding Food Safety & Hygiene, you understand – only a few minor ‘tweaks’ here & there – but in terms of a complete revision of the original plan to the extent that if I hadn’t taken today’s refresher course, I’d have had to sat through the whole bloody lot again- costing considerable time & expense. At least this way, I can put off redoing the ‘full monty’ for another three years; whilst brushing up on my microbiology & chewing my pencil anxiously in the final exam, which was worded in a characteristically obtuse manner.
So I headed off to Food Centre Wales early this morning, after completing the chores & warning the ladies to keep their legs crossed until I got home. Thankfully the course is an interesting one albeit there is a lot to take in during the refresher because you are effectively cramming three day’s work, into one. But our tutor was both engaging & interesting, with some novel ways of demonstrating the rudiments (I loved the furry microbes – how could anything so fluffy be so poisonous…?!); so the day passed swiftly enough.
And there were the inevitable ‘horror stories’, to catch up on; you really wouldn’t believe what some people get away with, seemingly for years, before they’re caught. An extreme example was a fast food outlet (part of the premises of which had already been closed down, owing to rat & cockroach infestation) where the kebabs were being prepared by the cook whilst another member of staff’s body lay dead on the adjacent sofa…! Apparently the man died of ‘natural causes’ – food poisoning, by the sound of it. Takeaway, anyone….?!
After digesting some further flabbergasting examples (along with an excellent buffet lunch) it was time to take the exam. It wasn’t easy; but then I believe that nothing worth doing in this life, ever should be. And as this is a crucial part of our business – preparing not only delicious but perfectly safe food, I want to get everything absolutely right. Fortunately we have a fantastic example in Food Centre Wales; using their premises has been a great help in designing our own to make them clean, safe & wholly hygienic – as well as developing best practice in the workplace.
Saying farewell to my coursemates & colleagues at Food Centre Wales, I headed for home just in time to prepare the girls’ tea. I was greeted by a couple of particularly smug faces: Wolfie & Thummy had kidded during the afternoon; & their three little kids were already wobbling around the Maternity Ward. After two previous kiddings of twins every time – a boy & a girl – Wolfie had this year opted for an easier time; & had given birth to a beautiful big, dark-chocolate girl (Cymidei – named after a legendary Welsh giantess!), who hopefully will – just like her sisters – grow up to be the image of her Mum: a big, robust goat who is a formidable milker & an equally formidable personality.
Meanwhile gentle, deer-like Thummy had two more delightful little daughters – Ceiriad & Ceinwen – following suit from last year. Thankfully she didn’t appear to have been quite so rigorous in the cleaning department, as previously; last year she licked poor little Buddug’ s ear so rigorously that she caused it permanent damage in the form of a haematoma – so she now has a cauliflower ear just like a rugby player – although that’s fitting for Wales, I suppose!
Thummy was clearly very pleased with herself, & anxious to show me her daughters; nudging them gently towards me in a display of evident maternal pride. I attended to all the exposed umbilical cords & checked that each little girl was well, happy & had a full tum from suckling that all-important, colostrum-rich milk; whilst Wolfie was much more cool about the whole thing, to her it’s a bit more like shelling peas!
So, the perfect, stress-free end to a long & challenging day….let’s hope I can put my feet up for a couple of hours before the mayhem begins again.