Saturday, 1 December 2012

December is upon us!

It may not be to everyones taste but I think it's  ok
I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas and all that comes with it. Too commercialised in my opinion and people always spend far too much money things people don't need. Keep it simple and keep it honest is what I have in my head. Advent starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas so in preparation I have made an advent calendar and filled it up with little chocolates. Hand sewn in a rather ramshackle way the whole thing is made out of cheap off cuts of material (about 30p per piece of coloured cloth) and a garden stick. It's not perfect and it's a little rough around the edges but I can use it again and again each year. I may even sew on a few more decorative bits and pieces next year to add something new. But until then,the countdown to Christmas has begun...

This is before I started sewing all the little
pockets on which took a VERY long time!

Monday, 19 November 2012

A Welsh Climb and A Peak Walk

I haven't been climbing outside or indoors for years so it was quite refreshing to go to the Beacon climbing centre in North Wales and have a bash at it once again. The centre is at the end of an industrial unit and from the outside it doesn't look much but once you get inside you see what it's got to offer. There is plenty for children to do and for the serious climber. The have a good size bouldering area, pre roped routes and a funny seat belt type thing with a weight on the end which means you can just carabiner yourself onto it and it belays for you-brilliant! I managed to complete a 6a route so I was happy with that. My muscles did ache as I'm sure I haven't used any of those for a while! The centre also has a cafe so after a climb you can have a well deserved treat and watch the rest of the climbers carry on with their hard work. It's a big centre and great for a morning/afternoon out for adults or children. 

Next up on my adventure weekend was a trip up Kinder Scout. This is the route of the famous Kinder Trespass when in 1932 around 400 people took to the Peaks to protest for their right to roam on the beautiful country we live in. There is a car park near the Kinder Reservoir which has a plaque on commemorating the group that which to many were the people who drove the creation of national parks. From the car park there is well sign posted route up to the top of Kinder Scout and the plateau of silver sand and soft moorland. The view from the top on a clear day is beautiful and you can fully appreciate why the ramblers of 1932 wanted free access to this most breathtaking area. To get up to the top and back down past the reservoir only take a a few hours and can easily be done on a Sunday morning before every man and his dog descends on the area. Luckily the village of Hayfield has plenty of pubs for a post Kinder pint / cup of tea and cake. A lovely day out all within 45 minutes of Manchester, you can't say fairer than that.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A bit of a moan

Being a dyslexic journalist. After graduating from an English and Drama degree I thought the last thing I would become is a journalist. I found it hard enough keeping up with the reading at uni let alone trying to make sure my grammar was correct. I also have Irlen syndrome (apparently) which makes it hard to actually read things because letters go in and out of focus and just become a blur most of the time. So my day to day work as a journalist is somewhat challenging. Working in a hot seat open plan office is the first of the obstacles. To me this is the mother of all evils and I can't think of an environment that would be any worse to work in. It's horrible. Firstly because of all the noise. I find it really hard to concentrate when there is lots of back ground noise around me. I also find it weird that every week I'm sat at a different desk so any kind of software that may help me to do my job better becomes redundant because I move all the time. I miss out words in sentences and don't even notice. As I'm going through the negatives I may as well keep going. I'm not the best at articulating what I want to say either. I'm sure this is not only a problem for dyslexics so I will not dwell on this. 

Things that make life easier? If I could work from home I would. This is a given. My own quiet space where I can actually try and concentrate and have all the nice software that helps me. I have learned to be organised. If i'm not organised, my life swirls into more chaos. I am not naturally organised but because it makes such a big difference by being so I think I'm on the edge of obsessive compulsive! I'm not sure which is worse. 

I guess an attribute of being dyslexic is creating thinking and when working in journalism this is something that comes in handy. So that's alright I guess. I avoid reading, that's a biggy. I also find the actual word dyslexic really hard to spell.We all have challenges in our life we must overcome and we all have our different issues. You have to try and make the most of what you've been dealt. And although it seems very unnatural for someone who is dyslexic to work with words I'm going to give it my best shot. I advise you do the same. If you have any advice for me, let me know.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Where did the summer go?

I was hoping August was going to be warm enough to have a few more excursions than I've had this summer. But with a strained purse and poor weather I can only look back with fondness on my one bit of proper sun I've had this year. I was lucky enough to visit Turkey and went to a place called Turunc . It's a couple of hours from Dalaman airport and far enough away from the really touristy parts of Turkey to be a bit cleaner and quieter than places like Marmaris. Turunc still has the all the tourist attractions, boat trips, markets, bars and restaurants, it's just slightly more quaint. The weather was very hot whilst I was there so most days were spent putting on lots of sun lotion to make sure I didn't fry like a lobster. I went on a couple of boat trips that must not have cost more than £30 for the whole day which included a BBQ lunch- great value for money. Turkey is still fairly cheap compared to Europe although you can rack up the pennies if you drink a lot of alcohol! The food is, like with all places, fairly hit and miss. To find somewhere traditional to eat was harder than I would have liked but when I did find one it was lovely. I must have tasted the best salad I think I've ever had at one restaurant and it was served in style. This is the man at Bondjuk restaurant  preparing their very tasty and unique salad.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Racism in the Police

I thought I'd put some Freedom of Information Requests in about racism in the police force for three North West Regions. These results are correct as of June 2012 and this is what I found...


Over the last three years Greater Manchester Police have had 5 racial misconduct investigations - one member of staff resigned prior to their misconduct hearing.

Since 2003 30 officers have been investigated and 7 of them left the force before their misconduct hearing.


No officers at Merseyside Police have been disciplined for any of the 8 racial misconduct investigations over the past 3 years.

A freedom of information request found there have been 8 misconduct investigations and 66 complaints all racially related since 2009.


In the past 3 year years Lancashire Police force has had only one racial misconduct case - the lowest for all three regions.


I think what I find most interesting is the people who leave the force before any kind of trial or hearing has taken place. It makes you wonder what else slips through the net before any action is taken against the perpetrator.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

How big is BIG?

Greater Manchester’s weight problem costs the NHS on average 3 million pounds a year. NHS Manchester, NHS Stockport, NHS Trafford, NHS Oldham, NHS Salford, NHS Bury, Tameside and Glossop NHS and NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale collectively have spent nearly £9 million on weight loss surgery over the past three years according to a Freedom of Information Request I submitted. The exact amount is £8,919,559 from April 2009-2012.

It seems quite a staggering figure but what I guess we have to try and remember is that by carrying out the weight loss surgery it should save the NHS in the long run. People who are obese can suffer many health problems that could cost more over some years. When I look into the obesity figures it’s not the cost of it that really shocks me, it's just how big some of the people are who go in for this surgery.

So how big is big? I discovered the person with the largest Body Mass Index over the last three years to have gastric surgery in Greater Manchester had a BMI of 76.7. Let me put that into perspective. You go to any website, NHS document or health booklet and the definition of the run down of BMI’s is as follows:

BMI Classification
18.5 or less

18.5 to 24.99
Normal Weight

25 to 29.99

30 to 34.99
Obesity (Class 1)

35 to 39.99
Obesity (Class 2)

40 or greater
Morbid Obesity

So someone with a BMI of 76.7 should probably not even be alive. Body Mass Index is a fairly good way of checking whether you are a healthy weight. The calculation is your weight divided by your height squared. So let’s get back to our 76.7 BMI, what does that actually mean weight wise? Well if a 5ft 7”in person was 35stone they would have a BMI of 76.7. Even if the person was very tall or very short- you’re still looking at a weigh in of around 30stone. Okay so 30-35 stone isn’t near the World’s Heaviest Man, which is a whopping 88stone, but it’s bigger than your average, considerably bigger.

I always read the headlines ‘Britain has an obesity problem’ and never think too much of it. But I am genuinely alarmed at looking at the BMI figures for those who have gastric surgery in Greater Manchester. I’m slightly worried if I do the same FOI request in a few years time just what the outcome will be. It the mean time, eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis, that’s an order.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Week Oldham Shook

What a week for the Shaw community of Oldham. Greater Manchester Police are still trying to piece together what happened on Tuesday June 26th and families are beginning to piece their lives back together after the devastation of the explosion.

Prayers are being said for the small boy Jamie Heaton who died in the explosion. The two year old toddler, the innocent victim at the centre of this tragedy.  I still think it's remarkable know one else was fatally injured because of the blast. It's the small reconciliation other Shaw residents have, but it does make the death of Jamie Heaton even more tragic. It's still unknown what exactly happened on Tuesday to cause the blast as the houses on Buckley Street in Shaw are too damaged by the explosion.

It's also unclear how many houses will have to be demolished at the site as inspections are still taking place. The physical and emotional damage will take a long time to heal. However, the Oldham community  have pulled together during this uneasy time and the crisis fund is helping those who are struggling to come to terms with what has happened; the week Oldham shook.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Wet Welsh Waterfall

With all the wet weather of late it was maybe not the best of ideas to go for a walk on the edge of Snowdonia in North Wales but nonetheless it was a lovely walk. I went to visit Aber Falls at Abergwyngregyn  which is nestled in the Aber Valley. There are two car parks at Aber Falls both costing £2 to park for the whole day so not a bad price if you want a morning/afternoon trip out. The path leading from the car park to the water fall is pretty much graveled all the way so it's suitable for parents and pushchairs or for those in a wheel chair. It's only about 2 miles from the car park to the water fall so not too bad really. The path takes you past a couple of picnic spots, wild ponies and an old fashioned coal oven.

As a result of all the rain we've been experiencing in England and Wales the river was high and the water fall was epic! You didn't have to stand too close to the bottom of the waterfall to become absolutely soaked from the spray. The water was powerful and the noise was amazing. I walked as far as I could into the spray before my face could take anymore of the water pounding against it. I could stand watching waterfalls all day. This is a popular attraction with tourists to North Wales and I can understand why. It's beautiful.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Border Country

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee brought with it some extra bank holidays so with a few spare days in hand I went camping in Northumberland. I've been to the border lands a few times now and I still enjoy the moody hills and the craggy valleys. I stayed at Clennell Hall Riverside Holiday Park which was an experience. I stayed there for its close access to the hills and tranquil setting but I think I may have been the only one with that remit staying their. What I can only describes as 'Chavs in Caravans' saturated the site. I don't whether it was because of the bank holidays that the holiday park was taken over by loud, messy families but nonetheless it wasn't quite what I had in mind for my camping trip.

I guess the good thing about camping in somewhere like Northumberland is that you can just get your boots and start walking which is what I did. The nearby Clennell Street which is an old Roman Road is a good starting/ finish point for a walk around the nearby woodland and hills. A lot of the countryside is open access so as long as you have a vague understand of geography and where you want to go navigating isn't too troublesome. However, some of the paths through the forests are slightly more complicated. This is due to the continuous management of the forests and due to the fact that some paths haven't been used for a while. So be careful if you decide to take a trip through the undergrowth! If you get to the top of the surrounding hills you can see the coast to the East and see Scotland to the North. It's a pretty good view and really worth the slog of getting to the top.

 Like any good days walking you need a good pub to finish at. The Rose and Thistle in Alwinton is a welcoming place for walkers, families, cyclist, just about anyone needing a brew or a pint! They've got some local ales on tap and serve good food. A nice treat for tired legs and feet.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Lakes

I went to the Lake District for the first time at the weekend and what a glorious weekend it was. The sun was looking down on me all weekend which was lovely. I ventured to Patterdale  which is a small village north of Lake Windermere. Patterdale lies on the southern tip of Ullswater and is absolutely breathe taking. The lake is less touristy than Windermere but no less beautiful and tranquil. I stayed on a campsite situated at the back of Side Farm which is just off the main road as you drive through Patterdale. I don't think I've been to a more well placed campsite. Where you camp is right on the edge of Ullswater and there are plenty of little pebbly beaches surrounding the site so you can jump straight in the water for a swim or take a boat in and start paddling. At only £8 a night per adult I think it's an absolute steal and I would definitely go back for another visit. Patterdale is at the foot of the mountains so there are pathways a plenty to start walking along for experienced walkers and for those who just want a gentle stroll.

I think the biggest think that struck me about being in the Lake District is who lucky I am to live in such and amazing country with this kind of colourful scenery. I climbed a near by hill and looked out over the surrounding countryside and couldn't have felt more relaxed and calm about the world around me. It all seems like a bit of a dream now.  I also learnt that shops in the Lake District can't sell take away hot drinks because of the littering it may cause. There may be a few disgruntled people who can't get their caffeine fix, but it is a necessity in this throw away day and age that such rules apply. The countryside is unspoilt and should remain that way. I can't believe it's taken me so long to make a proper trip to the Lakes. Now I have, I can't wait to start planning my next Lake adventure.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Herman the Cake

My sister came to visit the other week and presented me with a jar which inside had some weird beige substance. I was then told it was the beginnings of a cake. Many people have heard of the German Friendship Cake but for me this was my first meeting with the man in the jar called 'Herman'. Yes the cake does have a name.

Even though this cake takes a little bit of work, it tastes lovely at the end of it. I took it into work and it  was all consumed very quickly. Don't worry if you get to step 9 and you don't have anyone else to give some of the mixture to, just keep following the steps you will just end up with enough mixture for two cakes. If you do this make sure you add lots of flavouring otherwise you'll still have that doughy taste left. I added about 8 teaspoons of cinnamon and I still think it could have done with some more. Also, because it is a very moist cake, after 40minutes in the oven, I turned it off but left the cakes inside. This allowed it to be cooked through properly without burning. When my mum baked this cake hers came out soggy in the middle so I think it's best left inside the oven to avoid this.

What's great about 'Herman' is that you can add any ingredients to him at the end to transform him into any cake you want. Apple and Cinnamon, Pear and Ginger, Choc and Nut-anything. I give the recipe 7.5/10. Have a go and see what you think...


Hello, my name is Herman.
I am a sourdough cake. I'm supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days without a lid on.
You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.
  1. You get Herman and put him in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.
  2. Stir well
  3. Stir well
  4. Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well.
  5. Stir well
  6. Stir well
  7. Stir well
  8. Stir well
  9. Hungry again. Add the same as day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the 4th one.
  10. Herman is very hungry. Stir well and add the following:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • half tsp (teaspoon) salt
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2/3 (two thirds) cup of cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 cooking apples cut into chunks
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 heaped tsp cinnamon
  • 2 heaped tsp baking powder
Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with a quarter of a cup of brown sugar and a quarter of a cup of melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes at 170-180C. When cold cut into finger pieces. Cake freezes well and is also delicious warm with cream or ice-cream.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Go Jeff!- Ellen and the Escapades in the North

Ellen and the Escapades  hit the North over the weekend. When I say the North I mean Newcastle at The Cluny and Manchester at The Castle Hotel . The Cluny is a great venue just outside Newcastle city centre. You have to go down a few flights of stairs to get to the gig setting but it's spacious, cool and dark; all the things you want for a night of music! Ellen and the Escapades were as good as ever. The haunting, hypnotic voice of Ellen Smith backed by a tight set of guitars, drums and keyboard. They played a mixture of songs from their current album keeping some of the older tunes in to keep the die hard fans happy. Their more current songs show how the band have matured and become more confident about their own sound. I must say, I do like a dance so I'm always happy when 'Without You' comes on. You can tap your feet and pretend you're surrounded by hay bales-amazing! But then on another song you can be swaying by the beach with a bottle of beer. Enough of my imagination...

At The Cluny in Manchester it was a slightly different vibe. Mostly due to the hot sweaty back room of the pub everyone was crammed into and the £4.50 pints of Peroni. But niggles aside another cracking set by the band. In my hast I tried to record their closing number 'Cast'. Nothing can quite capture the essence of being at a gig but I wanted to try and share a little bit of it.


Ellen and the Escapades have built up a loyal fan base and it seems electric guitarist Jeffrey Schneider has adopted the anthem "GO JEFF!" which has begun following him from gig to gig (well maybe just the ones I'm at).  One day it will be trending on Twitter. The band carry on touring throughout the year, so if you can catch them, I would.

Saturday, 31 March 2012


I was lucky enough to make a little trip to Paris at the end of March and oh how lovely it was. The winter sun was shining and the red wine was flowing. I do like Paris. You can amble along the river, stop off in as many cafe's as you like and digest the wonderful architecture in the city. But my upmost favourite thing about being in the French capital is just getting baguette, some cheese and a bottle of red wine and laying on the grass in front of the Eiffel tower watching the world go by.

This was my second visit to Paris so this time I ventured to Pere Lachaise Cemetery which is the one thing I didn't get to do last time I was in the city. It's a short walk out of the centre of Paris and many metros and buses can take you there too. It's a big place so be sure to take a picture of the map at the entrance before you set off otherwise you risk getting horrendously lost like I did!

However I did manage to find the graves of Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde so I was a happy bunny. Near Morrison's grave there is a tree with lots of chewing gum stuck on it and for some reason I did the same. His actual grave has fencing around it to try and stop you walking on it but it's not too sturdy. Oscar Wilde's has a clear plastic wall all the way around it to stop people kissing his grave. I'm glad I got to spend time walking around admiring the tombstones. I find cemetery's very relaxing and beautiful- a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Quays

I had a proper walk around Salford Quays at the weekend and decided to have a look round the Imperial War Museum North. The actual physical presence of the museum is striking. It's modern streamlined architecture stands out along the Quay front and you're immediately enticed to go in and have a look inside.

It's free entry which is a thumbs up in my book. I think all museums should be free and if you want you donate something. This gives everyone the opportunity to learn and experience what museums have to offer.

The Imperial Museum North is very different to it's sister in London. In the North it's very open and modern and takes you on a journey through all the wars since WW1. There are lots of 'action stations' which allow a more hands on approach to learning. I think my favourite interactive learning post was trying to 'guess the war smell' and know the difference between mustard gas and smelly soldiers feet.

As the museum has an array old tanks, cars, jet engines and more on display you can't get tired as you walk round. It strikes a good balance of information, artifacts and interaction. One of the most astounding pieces of war history on display is a section from the Twin Towers destroyed in the September 11th attacks. Very surreal. It may be this is most significant to me because I remember it happening. You learn a lot at most museums, but when you visit one which reminds you of the atrocities man, you leave feeling slightly subdued and thoughtful. The Imperial War Museum is definitely worth a visit, even if it's just to remind you that we're actually quite lucky considering what other people in history have been too. I will make another trip to the museum.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Theatre of Dreams

Today I watched my first Premier League game. I saw Manchester United versus West Bromwich at Old Trafford, otherwise known as the Theatre of Dreams. Getting to the match wasn't as troublesome as I thought it would be. I walked from my current residence which took about 30 minutes. There didn't seem to be a lot of people making their way to the match by foot but the crowd there was I followed because I didn't really know where I was going.

As I got closer to the entrance I began to acknowledge just how many people were around- a lot! I think everyone must have left earlier than me as there were so many people buzzing around the stadium waiting to go in. I rapidly drunk my can of pop before entering the stadium and finding my seat in the northern stand. A great view and a great atmosphere.

There were about 75,000 people watching the game which was amazing. The number of people slightly overwhelmed me. But what made the occasion even more surreal was Rooney and Scholes came out onto the pitch! All the times I've seen them on television and know they are here playing in front of me; fantastic.

Te game was a pretty slow match with Man Utd. not making the most of their possession in the first half. Both teams came on more spirited in the second half which lead to a goal by the home team. A dirty foul in near West Brom's goal meant Man Utd.'s second goal was from a Rooney penalty. Once Man Utd. were 2 goals up there was not a lot West Brom could do. The final whistle gave the home crowd what they wanted, a win.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Behind the scenes at the GWH

Last year two 'never' events occurred at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon. They included putting a tube in the wrong kidney and putting the wrong implant in during a cataract operation. The hospital was advised to make sure the World Health Organisations surgical checklist should be done more thoroughly. In a nutshell it's a checklist that should be carried out before surgery to make sure everything is in order for the operation to go ahead. At GWH this wasn't being done on a consistent basis resulting in mistakes.

A Care Quality Commission Report on the GWH came out in January 2012. It showed that whilst things had improved more could be done to make sure the WHO surgical checklist was being done properly. So now, the Great Western Hospital have decided that the surgeon should be ultimately responsible for completing the checklist properly.

I was granted behind the scenes access to the hospital and observed a hip replacement. Everything was in order, the checks were carried out properly and the operation was a success...

Monday, 30 January 2012

Military Money

Schools across the U.K can receive a share of a 3 million pound pot of money that's been put aside by the Ministry of Defence. It's part of a grant scheme provided by the M.O.D to help schools that have children whose parents are in the armed or reserved forces.

At the moment 11 schools in Wiltshire are to receive a total of £175,000 between them. The lowest grant around £600 and the highest £40,000 going to Colerne Church of England Primary. I went to visit the school and find out what they were planning to do with the money.

The money the schools get is on top of and separate to the pupil premium military schools get anyway. The M.O.D grant will be in place for another 3 years. At a time when the M.O.D have just announced their next round of cuts, it does seem odd this money is being protecting. Having spoken to the M.O.D they say it's all to do with the military covenant and the duty of care Britain needs to provide for its armed forces.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Artist

I went to watch The Artist at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle. It's the first time I've been to the Tyneside and what a lovely experience it was. Apart from the lengthy march to the fourth floor screen and the endless streams of people in the corridor my trip to the cinema was great. Blue chairs with lots of leg room, less adverts than a typical screening and a proper bar where you can buy drinks and take them into the showing. But I didn't go to the Tyneside to critic it's decor and functionality, I was there for The Artist.

It's always slightly strange when you go and watch a film that has had so much hype and praise preceding it. Luckily The Artist lived up to all my expectations. A beautifully crafted black and white silent movie. The right combination of an emotive story line,comedy and tragedy. Watching a silent movie really makes you appreciate the mis-en-scene and captivates you in an entirely different way to 'talkies'. You have to concentrate, you have to watch and engage. Without the help of speech or natural sound your imagination works in overdrive as you compensate for the things you are used to getting a film. As a result you become more involved in the film. Feeling every tear and smile.

The Artist is a great film. he main stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are brilliant. They bring back the glamour of the era and give an excellent tribute to the silent film form, reminding us of the art form it is. But for me, the biggest star of the show is the dog. What a performance. If you want to know what I mean. go and watch it.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Years Day!

I jumped in the North Sea on New Years Day. Yes it was cold, but well worth it!
Enough said.