Friday, 28 August 2009

An intro to SUNY

The idea of being a globe trotter has always intrigued me. I like to travel, to experience different environments and cultures and I like to think that these happenings affect the person that you are in quite a profound way. This may be subjective, but my recent journey to another continent has promises of being a real life-learning experience, in more ways than one.

A three hour car journey, eight hour flight, a further one hour domestic flight, a ferry journey and a taxi ride (and a total of six hours waiting time) later, I arrived at my final destination; the city of Plattsburgh, up-state New York, USA.
Albeit a long and tiring day, I was both excited and nervous to finally be in the States. I was alone and about to register as an international student at Plattsburgh State University New York. My major: Journalism.

I arrived to the campus a week before school was due to start and the dorms, which at first left much to be desired compared to my single room in a six room flat back in the UK. However, I began to adjust to my new surroundings and come to terms with the fact that, come the weekend, I would share the next four months of my school life with someone else living in the same room as me. Upon the knowledge that some people have to share with two people brought seldom comfort to my state of culture adjustment. I chose my side of the room, unpacked, sat back and waited for the American Dream to begin.

I soon met other students who, like me had travelled alone, were nervous, excited, apprehensive and finding a way to adjust to the new temporary lifestyle.

The first stage of my globe-trotting ambition has been achieved, not without stress and difficulty I admit, but now that I am suited, booted and ready for my NY life to begin, I am adamant to enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

True confessions: The high street workout

There's nothing like a bit of retail cheer. I went shopping with my mother's bank card today (she was there too, I'm no criminal) and enjoyed a bit of retail therapy, for the first time in quite a while.

Not only is the joy that is shopping, a joy, but I realised that a good hard day's worth of trawling the rails is just like a workout at the gym (right?) and it is much more enjoyable.

I am not a gym person. In fact, I would probably go as far as to say that I hate the gym. The repetative motions of the fitness equipment and the Clubland archive CDs playing in the background, no thanks. Now, bicep curls with filled shopping bags or speed walks towards the shoe department, that is way more like it.

So, my summer wardrobe is looking much more satisfying and I am ready to show off my new additions with pride. Holiday shopping is the prime thing to be doing right now. The Summer sales are on and if you are brave enough to wait till the last minute to buy your sun-worshipping gear, then now is definitely the time to do it. It is the worst when the dress you love and haven't got round to wearing yet, swiftly appears on the 'half price and under' rail. My advice, hold off till the sales are in swing and then go mad, if that's what your're in to of course. I found one of my star buys, an oversized denim shirt, in H&M men's department sale, Gok would be proud.

My favourite shop of the day: Dorothy Perkins. I rarely go into Dotty P's, but everytime I do I find some really nice things. Hence this is where most money was spent this afternoon.

DP have launched a new range, Dorothy Perkins Collection. It consists of high end fashion pieces, at high street prices. Perfection. The range, including embellished waistcoats (key pice for this season), studded minis and ripped acid-wash denim, is only available in 30 UK stores and online.

One particular piece caught my eye (well I liked them all, but what can you do?). A denim, cut-out body-con dress. At £45 it is high street price, but my recession busted and student loan maxed purse strings couldn't stretch thus far. If anyone is feeling kind, channel the energy here please :)

Monday, 6 July 2009

True confessions: my cyber-space accomplice

Having spent the last week interning at a local newspaper, I became again accustomed to the nine to five lifestyle of early mornings and regular sleep patterns. Now that that particular project has come to a close, I am again faced with dilemmas of how to spend my days.

Today, after a substantial break, I brought myself to do some fitness practise on the Nintendo Wii Fit. The last time I did this, it was the Christmas holidays when chocolate, turkey and Xmas pudding were my friends. Everyone gains weight over Christmas, right? Well, according to my new, more technological friend, I am the objection to that rule. I was told by the strict and bossy cyber-space cretin (for anyone who doesn’t have a Wii, it talks to you and tells you what to do. If you’re nice to it, it is nice to you and vice versa. On this occasion I was a part of the vice versa scenario) that I have to work harder and that I have gained weight since my last visit to Wii Plaza. The tone of the cretin was definitely writhed with sarcasm. And that is not me trying to pretend that what I heard was not true. But if I am seeking motivation, a sarcastic pre-programmed “motivator” handing out fitness tips left, right and centre is certainly not my preferred choice.

Saying that, I did partake in a thirty minute round of virtual aerobics, yoga and hula-hooping, which turned out to be more fun than expected. I later took my non-virtual pet out for a long and tiring walk, which I believe adds up to more than enough exercise for one day. It might not be nine to five fitness, but it is enough to fill up the time in my otherwise free days. The wonders of technology, eh?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Say "I do" and wave goodbye to life as you know it

Imagine the summer sun, sandy beaches, crashing waves and the hustle and bustle of holiday-makers enjoying the escape from their ordinary day to day lives. Then think of all of this and add into it church bells, marriage nuptials and the law-binding "I do's" to the seemingly celebrated occasion. Think again.

Every year, hundreds if not thousands of young girls and boys, often at schooling age, are forced into marriage by over-bearing parents. It happens in the UK as much as it happens elsewhere in the world. Not just in areas of the Middle East as often stereotypically believed. The government's Forced Marriage Unit has launched a new initiative into schools to raise awareness of the situation.

It has been uncovered in recent years that many young men and women, who go on Summer holidays with family are destined to never return. The end of their schooling career and the end of life as they know it. The reasoning behind these events will differ from case to case, but the utter negligence of the individual's own prerogative remains the same. I find this abhorrent.

What should be an exciting trip abroad, an escape from home life, turns into a scheme whereby young women and men are forced into a commitment for the gain of what? Money? Visas? Quiet satisfaction that the child is off the parents' hands? It is an issue which should be free from cultural sensitivity and should be seen as child abuse. Abuse in the way of taking away the rights of a person and coercing them into a pre-planned map of their lives.

Last year, 1,600 cases of forced marriage were reported to the UK government, but less than half of these cases were intervened. It is estimated that there are 5,000 cases each year, but with so many happening behind closed doors, it is impossible to ascertain an exact figure. Something which really creates a sordid perspective of the situation.

The Forced Marriage Unit has uncovered a new guidance scheme into schools urging the schools to identify signs of possible forced marriages ahead of the holidays.
The possibility that some students may not return to school in September for that very reason is the driving force behind this project. The new guidance calls on teachers to play a greater preventative role. Whilst I agree with this, it seems ironic that one minute teachers are told to have purely platonic relations with their students, while the next they are asked to attempt an intervention into a life of wedded bliss, or rather 'un-bliss'. Next we will surely see an aspect of the human rights movement and health and safety regulations, right? The way of the modern world. Full of moral contradictions.

The new regulations are in place to offer a support system for any student involved in such occurrences. An expert told the BBC that there is no culture and no religion whereby forced marriage should be acceptable or indeed is acceptable.

The next time you enjoy the summer sun, the sound of the crashing waves and hear echoes of distant church bells, spare a thought to the young bride or groom who somewhere is saying goodbye to their future with those two simple words.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Team Meyer!

I wrote of recent events leading to unexpected discoveries about myself and my interests. An avid love for reading is a certain contender in this.

It is bizarrely usual for me to read more in the Summer months of the year, but as seasonally inevitable that it may be, this year has seen a reinvention of this ethos into something which brings me to categorise reading as a hobby.

My recent fiction-addiction wilfully became the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer. A writer who is immersed in undoubted talent and an extraordinary imagination, which easily rivals J.K Rowling and her Harry Potter series.

The four book saga; Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn (my personal favourite, although to choose is a task in itself) is a brilliant encapsulation of what real raw talent and sheer genius is.

One review announces the saga to be hypnotic, dreamy prose, which captures perfectly the teenage feeling of sexual tension and alienation. My agreement on this is assured.

Meyer creates a world of supernatural happenings surrounded by a new twist on the teenage vampire saga, laid upon an inspiring story of true love. A formula destined for success as proved by the best-selling series and one which immersed me and many others from beginning to end.

Rest assured, once you start reading these books, it becomes a temporary way of life, a definite challenge to put them down. A daily fix of the fabulously written prose, which readers can really relate to, is utterly necessary. This, to me is a sure-fire sign of novel-genius.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Selfish Contemplation: What happened to living for the now?

Recent weeks have been of little interest or significant to my big picture. The big picture being the outcome as my life how I hope it to be. I have been on leave from university for just two weeks now and already I am completely overcome with boredom and self dis-satisfaction. A tirade that it is really beginning to exasperate me.

As a Virgo, it is in my nature to worry, to over-analyse and over-think things, a recent addition to this trio, is an aversion to doubt. Self doubt to be more clear. Thus, self dis-satisfaction has becomes the epicentre of my summer 2009 so far.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of things to look forward to in the coming months, but these exciting prospects are being slowly and carefully over ridden by emotions heavily induced by the feeling of being bored. I have ticked off plenty of things off my to-do list (another Virgo trait) and made plans to fill some of the coming days. The question is however, what happened to living for the now? Plans are all fair and good, but once all the plans for the near future are made, I am inevitably still left to ponder on the activities of the present day.

The last fortnight has led me to discover much about myself. I have learned that I am, quite surprisingly, fond of classical music, that I love to read more than my ‘few books a year’ self cared to recognise and that, as the cliché goes, you only really miss something once it is gone.

As a writer, a hopeful, budding journalist, I love words, their power and their meanings and how words can have such resounding effects on any one person. Each person would no doubt favour some over others, just like most things, but the power of words is something which never fails to amaze me. I personally love the quotes found at the beginning of a book, even the words before the preface. A favourite of mine is also the prologue of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Words, which are centuries old, but still astound many who read them. I think it fair to say that I am a regular customer of the Amazon book store. (The best place to buy books if you’re wondering). One day I would even like to write a book of my own.

I believe that the future holds much in the way of the unexpected. As much as my planning self would like to know what the future holds, good or bad, I know that hope is probably my only option. That and more scrupulous planning of course. I would like to think that I believe in myself, my hopes and my words that much. Enough to abolish the feelings of dis-satisfaction in myself.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Reliving the boy band era.

As music goes, I like some of everything.
Last night I went to a boyzone concert. I relived my 1990s days when boy bands with matching cargo pants and pristine dance moves topped the charts. How music has changed since then.

I enjoyed it. The singing was good, the songs were nostalgic and the performances were satisfactory. Amongst the crowd favourites there was a Queen medley, which had the crowd singing along to the cheesy renditions of the rock classics, solo performances and a nerve bending performance of Beyonce's single ladies by Steven Gately. This particular part of the show focused my attention on the dancers rather than Steven himself, who incidentally looked like he might pass out at the pace.

Despite this not so successful cover of a chart-topper, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the individuals of the group can sing. They all have very good voices and I'm sure would deliver successful solos (unlike some bands who rely on the lead to carry them to success). The boys of boyzone have, surprisingly, real talent.

Although the Metro Radio Arena was not sold out, the crowd's energy was fully intact. One lucky member of the audience even got the chance to meet and greet the boys on stage. The five boys delivered an enjoyable performance complete with stunts and a visually pleasing stage set, even if the cheese factor was a bit high at some points.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

I'm not a feminist, promise.

There are few categorical things that get me annoyed. Or more specifically, frustrated. The usual suspects, ignorance, arrogance and plain right rudeness are the universal culprits, but recent events have me to find a new hate. Men.

Hate is a strong word. In this context, maybe too strong. I have yet to meet a woman who truly means it when she says she hates a man, myself included, but there are times in a girl’s life when men just cause way too many problems. The aftermaths of occurrences with the opposite sex for women everywhere leaves me pondering whether the excitement of the odd fling is really worth it. Should women simply condemn themselves as celibate just to prevent themselves from getting hurt? I think not. That is a bit too extreme, even for me at my current stage of male frustration.

The problem, it seems, with me and with many other women, is that we expect too much from our male friends. Not a bad thing I may add.
Personally, I rarely favour the ‘no strings attached’ proposal, as I believe that it is a concept which entirely contradicts itself. No matter how distant you try to make yourself from whoever you “have fun” with, there is always something attached. There is always some afterthought and often a few “what-ifs”.

I have yet to realise if men understand this concept. Some do and some don’t. It may be possible that they all understand it, but some choose not to practise it and instead choose to pass themselves around like a treat at Christmas. This being when the ‘ego’ problem arises. A man with a big ego leaves a lot to be desired. This type, in my experience, see ladies as bait. A gender that irresistibly throws themselves towards the egocentric creatures and mostly get nothing in return on a long-term scale. (Unless you count 10pm till 8am long-term).

This is the core of the problem between different gender expectations. Men, stereotypically at the adolescent stage, fear commitment, preferring to lure out their prey in night-time activity and spit them out come sunrise, whereas women often fear this as disrespect and rejection, opting instead for the hope of a possible exclusivity.

Sex is not a game. A term that may cause further confrontations amongst men and women, but fundamentally, sex is a strings attached sport, carrying with it hopes of commitment, emotional connection and an adverse vulnerability towards the partner as solid team players.

I repeat, to women, sex is most definitely not a one-off game played for the thrill of scoring as many points as possible. Notches on the bedpost are not an enticement, much the opposite. A man that considers his notches, may indeed need some careful consideration himself.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Now is not the time for the old fashioned

People-watching is a popular pass-time. Sitting in a public place watching the world go by is both lucidly interesting and satisfying. Spying on people going about their day-to-day lives in ways which are so different to your own is alluring. But how different are people from one another, really? Do people really know what others are truly thinking, what social ideals other individuals have and how far they would go to prove them. The world is indeed an interesting place.

In 1865, the first organisation of the Ku Klux Klan originated. An organisation, which first resided in the Southern states of the US and gradually became a national terrorist group. Most of the stories of the KKK are not frequently heard today, mostly because the group's activity is much reduced since its post-war peak in the 1920s.

In the 1930s till the end of the second world war in 1945, Hitler was a major influential dictator in Germany, across Europe and a large span of the globe. His "cleansing" ideas were on a similar tangent of the KKK. White supremacy. Ideas, which aimed to alienate and intimidate black people, Jews, Roman Catholics and many other social and racial minorities.

Western society, today, is deemed to be free from oppression and open to equal rights. White supremacy is something which is graced with little attention in this day and age. Mainly, probably, because it is something which our equal society is past considering.

With this in mind, it came as a surprise to find that from Southern America in the 1800s and Nazi reign in the early 20th century, that a white supremacist has been found operating near my home in Newcastle. It seems like such an unusual, old-fashioned, yet very serious crime to be committed for.

Ironic that something like this happens so close to the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, where Hitler's plans to dictate the world came to a steady and abrupt close.
White supremacy is intolerable. History shows this and the present day echoes the past satisfactorily, I would like to think that the policy of equality for all is a successful one, but many would argue, myself included. The policy is a much needed one and in the future I hope it to be successful in its entirety. The journey to this milestone most likely faces many hurdles, maybe even, but not hopefully, a few more white supremacists. Those who still practice out-of-date ideals.

I see the idea of supremacy and nationalism of any ethnicity as despicable. It would be nice to think that this type of warfare will soon become obsolete. The recent election of a BNP member to the council in Burnley may wish to take this into consideration. Times change. They have changed and will continue to do so. Equality is the new supremacy. Here's hoping.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Waiting for a songbird yesterday

Oasis played their first hometown gig in four years to a disastrous kick-off in Manchester Heaton Park last night.

The 70,000 strong crowd were left waiting when the sound generator failed and caused the performance to be delayed for almost an hour.

Sound teams apologised for the delay and fixed the problem quickly, but the crowd continued to chant in waiting for the band to return to the stage.

The band returned to the stage apologising to the audience and offered refunds to all ticket holders.

Despite the delay, Oasis delivered an incredible performance, performing songs from their recent album ‘Dig out your soul’ as well as crowd favourites; ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Songbird’ and ‘Champagne Supernova’. The Gallagher brothers played past the sound curfew of 11pm promising the audience that they would finish their planned set list.

Once underway, the gig was well worth the wait and the singing crowds seemed to definitely agree. The atmosphere was electric and no one was left disappointed.

The overall show also included performances from Twisted Wheel, Reverend and the Makers and Kasabian, which warmed up the crowds for the main attraction impeccably.

Members of the audience can apply for their ticket refund online through the Oasis website.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The return of the shoulder pad

Fashion is a cycle. Trends start off on the catwalk and slowly begin to emerge on the high street where the fashion conscious pick them up and advertise them to the masses.

I'm sure many girls, myself included, have heard their mother's say: "I had a pair of them in my day". Each time I come to hear this or something along those lines, my reaction is more or less the same. It is highly laced with disdain, disbelief and a thought of "Yeah right!".

As I get older, I realise that mothers usually know a thing or two about what they say. As hard it is to admit, a mother's advice is worth listening to. When I get older still, I should be able to admit that without any haste.

My mother often tells me to wear a jacket when I go out with less than appropriate clothes on, but I always think I know better. Later finding myself freezing cold in a taxi queue, I wish I had listened.

In the true nature of fashion, this season sees a throwback to the eighties and the return of the shoulder pad.

As shocking as it is true, the shoulder pad has made its timely return. It may not be a universal trend like in the eighties, but designers have been parading their models up and down the catwalk complete with protruding shoulders.
Designers such as Balmain have debuted their S/S 2009 collections and the fashion troops have taken their picks. Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss have recently been seen wearing shoulder enhancing Balmain pieces - some more fashion credible than others, you may agree.
Nevertheless, daring designs get noticed. It may mean that the shoulder pad trend could find its way onto the high street and onto the radars of the high fashion troopers.

Personally, I might give this one a miss. First time round in the eighties, it left much to be desired and this time, although more structured than the removable shoulder pad, this S/S trend is where I think I will draw the line. If I get really desperate, I could always find one of my mother's authentic 1980s cast-offs.

Monday, 18 May 2009

A state of panic and humour

With every sniffle, cough and sneeze comes the inevitable jibe about swine flu. A serious matter at heart, but not surprisingly, it has become a target for jokes and unecessary panic.

I have heard more than a few jokes about the current worlwide health situation in recent weeks. Some more funny than others, but fundamentally, I wonder, should we all be more worried? Or are these jibes simply a cover up to the sincere panic felt across the nation?

I wouldn't say I was particularly worried about swine influenza. I have thought about it and I am aware of the symptoms. But my day to day life is not spent in confinement worrying about the possibility of contracting the illness.

It is times like this when people begin to question society, the state of mind of its citizens and whether perspective is something which is taken a bit too lightly. Do people get into a state of panic too easily?

Swine flu has been confirmed in 37 countries accross the world. There have been deaths in four countries; Mexico (where the illness is said to have stemmed from), Canada, Costa Rica and the US. There are currently 101 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom, none of which have resulted in death. The NHS advises people to maintain their personal hygeine by thoroughly washing their hands at various intervals throughout the day. Anti-bacterial hand gel gains extra brownie points. Although there have been many pictures of people wearing face masks, the health service in the UK says that this is not neccesary unless you are treating a patient in a hospital who is showing the symptoms of the flu strain.

The first cases of the disease stemmed from Mexico, which is currently still the worst affected area in the world. As the name suggests, it is usually an illness found in pigs, but a recent development of the virus has become accustomed to human dwelling. However, reports show that the death toll there is "less than feared". Good news as far as good news goes in this case. Although the severity of swine flu hasn't yet been established, health and government officials in Mexico have ordered a five day shut down in an attempt to contain the disease. Countries outside of Mexico have not experienced effects as extreme as those found in Mexico, but the risk is still there and warnings that every precaution should be taken in prevention are imminent.
People should be cautious, but should not let the potential infection of swine flu rule their lives.
The possibility of a pandemic still stands, but a state of national panic is not in order. Although the jokes which circulate rapidly via text and email could seem uneccesary and crude, they could actually do some good in the current situation as a diversion therapy, a temporary cure for the fear of swine flu.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Je t'aime Blackpool?

Think sophisticated culture, a tasteful ambiance and a place where class, elegance and poise are all regular phrases used amongst the inhabitants.

This is what Blackpool will have to offer by 2021, according to a new video posted on YouTube as a promotional tool to attract tourists to the area.

The video shows Blackpool's finest landmarks and people speaking with French accents. Well, there's not that much difference between Blackpool tower and the Eiffel tower, lets face it. Throw in a Parisian drag queen and we are good to go.

Blackpool is a feature of the Fylde coast, which plays host to about ten million visitors per year, but the local council wants to increase this figure and is doing so through the 90 second video entitled "Je t'aime", meaning 'I love you'. How many people really love Blackpool, I can't help but wonder.

A place which is great for a dose of tack, sugary snacks, a ride on the waltzer and a cabaret show, but a place where the affluent dine and come for regular holidays? Only time will tell.

Blackpool council has launched the Talbot Gateway Project to drastically improve the areas around the North Pier and Blackpool North station. The project, which is currently in the planning application process is due to start in 2011 and is anticipated to be completed by 2021.

Having been to Blackpool on two occasions, I feel that the classic British holiday destination may be stuck in a bit of a rut. A revamp of the area might do some good and indeed attract more visitors, but the tacky charm of the promenade might be what people are really looking for.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Jamie to tackle wieght issues across the pond:

I just came across a rather interesting and timely article in The Independent. Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef turned healthy food ambassador is putting his work with school dinners on hold and travelling across the pond to the US to focus an the hearty appetites of the Americans.

The "obese" city, which has yet to be named, will receive Jamie Olivers' treatment with thanks to the ABC Network which has hired Jamie to cast his healthy eating spell on the unbeknown residents.

But does he know what he's let himself in for? Jamie could find the citizens of small town America a bit different from his recent projects including 'Jamie's School Dinners' and Jamie's Ministry of Food'. The USA is the fattest major nation in the world and with obesity being the most significant social health problem, the challenge looks set to be tough. In the US alone, 119 million people are classed as obese, that's about a third of American adults, compared to 24 percent of adults in the UK.

However, Oliver isn't a nobody in the States. He is quite well known as his British TV shows are screened there on the Food Network. And his books haven't done too bad over there either, not that I have ever took interest in reading one.

It has been said that Jamie's inspiration for a show in the US at this current time came from the election of "slim line" President Obama, who has reportedly planted a kitchen garden in the grounds of the White House. So there you go. Obama grows veg and Jamie Oliver bids to tackle the overweight population of the nanny-state.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Choose university living:

Life moves fast. In no way do I see myself as a philosopher, but as my first year of University comes to an end, I find myself pondering the future.

These are the best years of your life. One of which is nearly over with a mere blink of the eye. This year has been eventful, filled with cherished memories that reduce me to fits of giggles just at the thought. No one will take that away.

The scary thing is how fast it has all happened. It seems like five minutes ago that I was moving into my flat as a Fresher, not knowing a soul and fearing what might come next. Now, I move out of the same flat in a matter of weeks carrying with me many more things that I came in with (an expanded collection of clothes included).

University changes people. Myself included. To a certain extent anyway, and I believe that these changes are usually for the better. I have met some exceptions, however. No one's perfect.

So, as I was sitting in my friends bedroom, Lily Allen playing in the background, I found time to think about my first year of University coming to a conclusion. I noticed a poster, a rather amusing and 100% true poster about life at University.
It presented a list of things, which I now know to be inevitable activities for the average student and after a year of living under this stereotype, I can admit to doing a few of the things mentioned. Some of the included being: 'choosing to sniff-test clothes to see if they are wearable', 'choosing left over take-aways for breakfast' (gross when you think about it afterwards, but so good at the time), 'choosing a new lover to replace the one you left at home' and the most stereotypical, 'choosing to increase your alcohol tolerance level'.

Amongst the many that I have experienced, there are others that I haven't and some that I never will. Choosing to sleep with a lecturer to get top marks being a firm "no".

University is a way of life. It is different to anything that I have experienced before and to anything that I probably have yet to experience. It's a time when you can do things, get away with them and put it down to being a tear-away student.

Personally, I would recommend University to the masses. Going past the major occupational benefits, Uni is the the time in your life when you will discover more about yourself (and others; good and bad) than ever before.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

A victim's world

Sitting on the train on a return journey to University recently, I found myself thrust into the vicinity of domestic abuse.
Wishing I had sat in the quiet zone, my late-night journey became corrupt by a male, whose constant abuse towards his girlfriend was as shocking as it was anti-social. Threats, vile language, demeaning comments and an overwhelming sense of a controlling attitude caused me increasing concern and aggravating annoyance.

Upon witnessing this sort of behaviour first-hand, it led me to think about the growing nationwide trend that is domestic violence. Many may believe that domestic violence comes only in the form of physical abuse, but verbal threats warped with condescending comments fall under the category as much as any form of actual bodily harm.
Alarming as it is, domestic violence is a fact of life in many households in Britain. The key to help is to speak out.

One in four women are affected by domestic violence and two women per week are killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. These figures are extreme and the realisation of them immediately sends minds into over-drive about the amount of women known to you and the number of which could experience domestic abuse, relative to these figures being true.

The police receive one call per minute from a victim of domestic violence, but the statistic that less than half of cases are not reported through fear of the consequence still stands. The vast majority of victims are women and children. One victim is likely to experience repeated assaults at the hands of their abuser. One of the main resonating reasons for domestic violence is that the abuser thrives for control.

The motive of male domination is a large part of why domestic violence may occur. As a consequence of inequalities, many males feel that they have the right to instigate the actions of a woman by controlling what the woman does, where she goes, who she socialises with and what she wears. However small the aspect of control may seem, it is control nonetheless and it must be treated as unacceptable. Criticism of appearance and weight are the smaller things that, emotionally, hurt the most. Belief in oneself is key.

Sexual jealousy and possessiveness are the most common factors relating to serious domestic problems. A male might feel that a woman cannot wear certain clothes or go to certain places at the risk of attracting other males’ attention. This often resides back to the abuser’s own insecurities rather than anything else. On the most part, the male seeks to gain authority. Even when women officially did not have the same rights as men, men never had the right to exploit their partners. One factor of society that has never altered.

With disregard to the standard stereotypical definition of domestic abuse, such action can be in many forms. The violence can be psychological, physical, sexual or emotional. It can include 'honour-based violence', female genital mutilation, and forced marriage. It spans the range of cultures and is not isolated to one type of person or one area of the world. However, women under the age of thirty are considered to be at greater risk than those older. Not surprisingly, domestic violence is a mass problem and one that is often kept quiet.

Bullying is usually surveyed as something which happens in the playground, but physical, verbal and emotional abuse behind the closed doors of the home is just as frequent. There are many organisations which a woman can turn to for help. The first step is admission to what is happening being wrong. Admittedly, the most challenging part of getting help is the first step to escape. The empowerment from the moment aid is sought should ease the remainder of the journey back to true self-discovery.

For the males who entangle themselves in the world of a domestic abuser, there is often no change. The moment an action of domestic violence occurs, the male is tarred with this brush and a true revelation is rarely a feasible preference.

Although you should rarely judge a book by its cover, whoever said that first impressions count, created a worthwhile philosophy for everyone to take note of. My short-lived experience of domestic abuse on the train is nothing compared to the experiences of thousands of women who suffer at the hands of their partner. A snippet into the life of a victim was enough for me, not to mention more than enough for the young girl who reluctantly became a victim of domestic violence.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Notes on the medical profession.

I am a healthy person. Someone who rarely gets ill. A person who rarely gets injured. So it came as a surprise to find myself in A&E twice in the past four months. That's two times more than in as many years. Why you ask?

The injuries weren't anything major. Small injuries. Only one of which was mine. The other belonged to a friend.

Since then I have come to the conclusion that accident and emergency is not a very nice place. I'm not a person who necessarily hates hospitals. Before I wanted to be a journalist, my dream career was to by an obstetrician: a doctor who looks after babies. Big difference to a writer, I know. But, apart from the obvious reasons why a person might not like the hospital, I have found my own.

The A&E doctors that I have recently experienced leave much to be desired where bedside manner is concerned.
Yes, I am a young woman and a student, but by no means am I an idiot.

Student. Along with many stereotypes to this term, came the one from a lovely nurse who I had the pleasure of meeting on my trip to the hospital. "you've got intelligence, but no common sense" is what she told me. Charmed, I'm sure.
Not the kind of treatment I was personally obliged to experience by any means. A bit of respect please. Surely it comes in the job description. Treat people the way you wish to be treated, as they say.

My second excursion to the emergency department of the NHS facility wasn't much better. Again, young woman, student, must mean that any injury or ailment is due to excessive alcohol consumption. An ideology so immersed in contrived stereotypical views that I would be surprised if it ever changed.

The treatment was standard, medically, probably good practise, but the attitudes of the staff was something else: rude.

I am not tarring all NHS staff with this view. I am faithful that there are some fantastic medical staff out there, ones which have the bedside manner to coincide with their impressive skills in their remedial practises.
The National Health Service is a great facility in Britain. Health care at no extra cost. Something which many countries should aspire to.

Complaints may be made, myself included, but when it comes down to it I approve greatly of the service. Hopefully my approval will span to the conduct of the staff in future.
NHS associates take note.

Spring/Summer: It's showtime.

As an aspiring writer, it has come to my attention that this whole blogging thing is something that I actually really enjoy doing, something that I am proud of and something that I wish to continue for a while. So far, my posts have been few and far between and the topics have been as varied as a box of Nestle Quality Street. This is going to change. Well the topics may remain spur of the moment rants or subjects of discussion, but I am pledging to make my posts more regular.
Not only does it give me something enjoyable to do, but I feel that it also helps to mould my writing skills into something which is hopefully ever-improving.

A Spring/Summer resolution if you like.

Now that lent is over, chocolate is again my friend (to much enjoyment) so my chocolatey-filled days can have some creative company in the form of Blogspot. This is my pledge and I will do my best to keep it so. My relatively new-found entrance to the blogespere awaits my complete arrival. Say hello, I am in for the long haul.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Better than new shoes? I'll get back to you...

Life isn't measured by how many breaths you take, but by how many times life takes your breath away, according to yet another item of clothing which has recently found its way into my wardrobe anyway.

It may be a cliche, but this phrase has had an imminent lasting effect on me over the past week. This may, in fact, have something to do with throwing myself out of a plane last weekend suspended only by a parachute, which I endlessly prayed would open itself successfully.
It might sound bizarre, as I rarely imagined myself succumbing to this sort of activity, but I have learned recently that there is more to a person than meets the eye.

If you'd have asked me a couple of months ago what I would have been doing on the 4 and 5 of April, the answer would most probably not have been "Oh, you know, I thought I'd clamber into a plane and at 3,500 feet jump out of it... just for laughs".
Having done exactly that, it still has not really registered what the hell I did and why I came to do it. Crazy, I know. My new T-shirt is only one of the memoirs remaining from the event.

After a day's worth of training at The Black Knight's Parachute Centre near Lancaster, I was relatively familiar with how to get into the plane, which on first impressions was a pretty sight of green and baby pink stripes, how to jump out of the plane, how to land and most importantly: how to open my reserve parachute, if my main one failed to do the job (gasp!).
I think it is fair to say that at this point, my confidence levels were not high. Truthfully, I was frequently asking myself why I, a girl with a fetish for shoes and all things "girly", was becoming a member of extreme and hazardous sports.

However, as the day went on I psyched myself up as much as possible ready to do my first solo skydive. My first skydive at all.
Weather permitting, my first day at the parachute centre ended with disappointment as the heavy winds meant it wasn't safe to jump. Tired and still nervous, I waited rather patiently till the following day when I would finally do the crazy deed. The weather was much better second time round you'll be pleased to know.

Over the tannoy came my name and I was escorted off to a short refresher training brief to make completely sure that I was ready to take the plunge. My sense of embarrassment and indeed dignity had been lost the previous day after hanging from a not-so-flattering harness and shouting at the top of my voice the safety drills. Modesty lost, I was ready for the off.

Kitted out in a jumpsuit that was more practical than Prada, a parachute that I am sure will have done my back more damage than good, a fetching red helmet and a comfort blanket that came in the form of a radio, which hopefully would have an instructor on the other end, aiding me in directing my parachute, I was as ready as I would ever be.

I was nominated second to jump. The plane took off and within minutes (which seemed more like seconds) it was at its destined height. The door slid open and all I could see was fields, fields and more fields. Buildings were mere specks and the only people I could see were those in the plane with me. The air suction was phenomenal and worryingly I could hardly hear a thing.
It was my turn. I sat on the edge, terrified, swung my feet out of the plane and waited for my command to go.

"GO!". And there I went. I pushed myself off saying goodbye to sanity and fell at more than one hundred miles an hour. Seconds later I looked up and my parachute was beginning to open. I thanked the Gods, took many deep breaths and enjoyed the ride.

My landing was less than graceful, but at this point the fact that I had landed in the designated landing zone and wasn't suspended up a tree was a mere luxury. I had done it. Done one of the most unnatural things known to man and really felt what it was like to live on the edge - no pun intended.

It has now been a few days since I done the unthinkable and I have already started planning my next descent. Amazing isn't the word and at the risk of again sounding too cliche, I will refrain from using it.

I would say I have definitely got the skydiving bug, even possibly found myself a new hobby. I am sure I could spare a few pennies on skydiving instead of a new pair of shoes here and there. Well, maybe not too many, a girl's got to get her priorities straight after all...

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Democracy: A Student's Perspective

Walking through the Students Union in recent weeks is a far cry from the scene that usually meets the eye. Banners, posters, flyers and a hefty load of determined campaigners have been endlessly waiting to promote their electorate messages to the masses of un-be known student passer-bys.

Now that the elections are over, the final votes have been cast and the winners claim their new titles within the SU, the question that is on many students’ lips (journalists and others alike) is; have the elections really been a success?
The short walk through the SU is only the tip of the elections iceberg, if you like. Many don’t really understand what the candidates do on a day-to-day basis and what the individual campaigns have really meant to the candidates and their campaign teams as well as the mass of attractive voters that is the student body.

This year’s elections were voted for online. The second year using this method proved to be a success as many people took time out of their day to vote. Results showed that this new-age voting system reached out to many people, with the Education Officer post being the only one that had to be taken on to a second stage in order to define a winner.
The Chief Executive of the SU showed his enthusiasm for the still relatively new voting system. He said: “If you’re going to have a properly conducted election that is fair, which enables potentially 30,000 people to access it, you can’t do that for nothing”.

Many students did, in fact, use their vote, including Matt Richardson, 20, a second year Product Design student. Although he didn’t vote till late on in the process he still managed to ensure his voting voice was heard. He said: “I think it is extremely important to hold the elections, we live in a society where every person has the right to vote and we need to make sure that every person can voice their opinion and make themselves heard”.

First year student in Public Relations, Antonia Murray, 19, also got involved in the elections by casting her vote to good use. She experienced much of the campaigning first hand whilst around campus. She said: “I wanted to get involved and I wanted to hear what everyone had to say”.
“If everyone voted it would be fairer, people who don’t vote might complain [about the outcome]. I think everyone should be made to vote so that it’s fair” she added.
It seems that the responses from those who did vote, are mostly positive. However, for those who did not vote, the importance of the elections did not fall to the way side, the priorities of university life were simply elsewhere. Kirsty Hunter was one student who didn’t vote. She explained that due to a large workload at this time of year, there is not much time for much else. However she expressed that the elections are an important part of life at the University of Central Lancashire.

The democratic structure within the universit’sy elections was easily seen both in the Students’ Union and all around campus. The idea that every student matters and every vote counts encouraged many to have their say in the future of the SU. There is no doubt that the elections were a great success, socially and politically.
Student Union Chief Executive’s enthusiasm for the event shined through as he said: “People will learn a lot from it and develop skills from it and getting involved can be a life changing experience for people”.
“It’s fantastic”.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The time of 'The Jade Goody Effect'

I was watching the news and I was pleasantly surprised that Jade Goody hadn't yet graced my screen. I thought too fast. "Coming next...Jade says goodbye to her boys" was what i heard and saw Jade herself getting out of her wheelchair and into a car.

The media is in a frenzy about the reality TV star, who made her millions by doing Big Brother and many work-out DVDs as well as a few spin-off documentaries, the latest being a fly on the wall documentary about her coping with her illness.

Amongst my disagreement about the constant media attention that she is subjecting herself too, I had a slight change of heart after I saw an episode of Tonight with Trevor McDonald, which shone a whole new light on the situation.

I realised that apart from the most part of Jade's appeal (ie: making more money for her children), there is an angle which is very worthwhile indeed.
'The Jade Goody Effect' is the new term used to label the media frenzy, but it is also used as a tag to a more serious note. Figures have shown that since the beginning of the media marathon describing and analysing Jade's every move, more women have been going to get checked for cervical cancer. Upto 20% more in fact.

Smear tests may be a bit of a taboo subject, but they are nevertheless an important part of any woman's well-being. In the light of it all, maybe what Jade has done, or what the repercussions of her publicity has done, is raise awareness to all about the dangers of cancer and the hidden symptoms that it can have.

'The Jade Goody Effect' may be a debated topic, but for those of you who moan about her constantly being in every media outlet possible at present (myself included), just remember maybe this is a case where the positive aspects of publicity definitely out-weigh the negative.

Whether she's loathed or hated, Jade Goody sells the news and more recently promotes health awareness. There is certainly nothing wrong with that.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Me, A victim of the recession. Who'd have thought?

Whilst at secondary school I learned how the First World War, once it was over, led to a massive recession in Germany and how the Wall Street Crash of 1929 in America caused the world to spiral into a state of economic uncertainty for many years.
Little did I know or understand, that similar things could and would happen to the world in my lifetime.
Certainly, no one could have predicted back then that today we would be facing the world's worst state of recession since the times gone by, but at some point in the last decade, governments must have realised that the financial situation of the globe was gradually declining.

Today, in the year 2009, we are overwhelmed by a recession, which just seems to be getting worse. "Credit Crunch" is the buzz word of the moment and it is rare you go through a day without hearing those two small yet powerful words or seeing evidence of the recession on the news or in everyday life.

As a full-time student, my main priority is my studies. Recently however I, along with many others became a victim of the credit crunch when I was made redundant from my part-time job in a retail store: Principles.
Who would have thought, that before I had even reached the age of twenty I would have been made redundant. I am not the only one though, thousands of employees were thrown out of a job in the Principles company alone - not to mention the thousands of people who have suffered the effects of the sordid economic climate and those who are probably still to become victim.

Upon losing my job, I realised that you don't really realise how serious the "Credit Crunch" is until you actually experience it for yourself. I have seen numerous news reports over the past year on the downwards spiral of the world's economy, but watched it as an observer, not as somebody who knew how it felt or really understood the effects.
I suppose it is like most things, unless you have experienced something for yourself, you don't really know how it feels.
Well, losing your job and your source of income doesn't feel too grand. For me, it was bad, but not half as bad as it was and probably still is for the employees who rely on that source of income and those have built their careers within the high street brand of Principles that is no more.

Luckily and rather surprisingly, I have found another job more or less straight away. I haven't yet started it, but fingers crossed it isn't the next victim of the recession.

All we, as a society, can really hope for is a brighter future. Let's hope that the government has learned from past mistakes and that it can solve this problem for us, the public.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Good Evening Blogespere!

As a child of the late 20th century, the digital revolution, girl power and the Spice Girls and the Millennium, I have, at the tender age of 19 lived through monumental times in the modern history of the world. Let's see: the first decade of the 21st century is nearly over and what a decade it has been. I remember celebrating the millennium, I remember shaking my shimmy to the Spice Girls 'Wannabe' and I remember seeing the Twin Towers collapse on the news on September 11th 2001.

A broad range of memories, you may agree.

Amongst many more social, economical and political moments of significance, the most recent developments include; Barack Obama becoming the first black president of the USA, the looming of the worst recession since the fall of the Weimar Republic and the Wall Street Crash of 1929, continuing conflicts in Gaza and the Middle East and the threats of global warming forever gracing the news.

The digital revolution has brought us the Internet, which has changed the way the world communicates forever. Letters and telegrams are a thing of the past as email, texting and social networking sites take over.
My early teens were a thing for MSN Messenger and MySpace, having never entered into the Bebo network, I transitioned onto Facebook, which is still at the peak of the social network popularity. The new craze of the moment is Twitter, but I have never created my own account simply because I don't wish to be "followed" and I quite frankly waste enough time endlessly searching Facebook for God-know's-what and I don't need another Internet portal to keep on top of.

The next step for me is to start blogging. As a trainee Journalist at University, I thought it would be a good idea to practise my writing skills as well as have a place to vent about current affairs and areas of interest.

So as I enter into the next step of my own digital revolution, wish me luck!