Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Grateful Christmas charity collecting...Not.

At this festive time of year we're all encouraged to think about others less fortunate than ourselves. It's in December more than ever that I feel almost on the verge of guilty when I walk past vendors selling big issue with bags full of shopping and say, "no thank you".

Now, we can't possibly give to every charity ever made, but which one do you give to and why? Is it whichever one is standing on the street to harass you until you give in and give them the sodding two quid to shut them up? Or do you give to the same one every year out of the kindness of your heart? I had an experience yesterday that I was much appalled at, and I wanted to share it with you all.

Now, before I start, I must state that I in no way am saying that charity is a bad thing. I'm all for charity. You only have to read my previous blog posts regarding my volunteering for Oxfam for two major festivals for the gory details. However, I was some what shocked at the series of events I am about to describe.

I was walking up to the local infant school where I was coincidentally undertaking my own charity work by helping accompany 360 four to seven year olds walk round Wollaton Park lake all in aid of When You Wish Upon a Star (told you I'm not a charity snuffer).

On my way up I'd popped into the shop across the road to buy a bite to eat before the walk and as soon as I walked in was stopped by a charity worker behind a table who started his cause with, "I'm not trying to sign you up to anything". I politely listened to the man drone on about paralympics and sport within the disabled sphere for a good five minutes. You can't say he didn't try hard, however asking me what sport I was interested in was a bad line... "none" I answered.

Anyway, after the spiel the man handed me a little badge that I could buy to support the charity, however doing the charity work of my own I had come with only two quid and a pair of gloves to my name, 50p of which I had spent on a co-op finest quality croissant. Oh how guilty I felt now for that.

"I'm sorry", I replied, "but I have come out without my purse as I'm walking for Wish Upon a Star."

"I have one pound fifty", I said, handing the change to the man.

The man turned to his colleague with a look that can only be described as total disgust.

"Well I don't like to sound ungrateful" he said as I waited for the but. It never came, but he swifty pulled out a leaflet showing me how much wheelchairs for playing basketball in cost.

Ten pounds this man wanted me to pay for that little badge.

Now, I don't mean to sound up myself but if you're a charity surely you should be grateful of any money you get. I didn't want the sodding badge, neither did I really have any interest in the charity (no offence). I was more interested in paying this annoying noise in my ear off so that I could get on and do the charity work I had already arranged to do.

I offered the £1.50 which was politely refused by the man after telling me they're here all week if I wanted to pop back in with my bank card. How much did he think I was willing to give!

I finally walked out the shop with a feeling of guilt and annoyance- and I'd only gone in to buy a croissant. Why should I be made to feel guilty? I was willing to give my last pound to that charity and he turned it down. I'll be donating that pound fifty to the school's when you wish sponsorship money instead.

Safe to say I'll be avoiding that shop like the plague for the next week.






When life gives you bananas...

My mum works in a school and so got given a load of spare bananas to use up over the weekend. No one I've ever met is keen on rotting fruit, and so this banana bread recipe is perfect for making sure it doesn't go to waste. It's also the most simple recipe in the world and creates minimal mess as it is all done in one bowl- perfect! I adapted this recipe a little bit from the standard banana bread by adding a bit of honey which sweetens the mixture a little and I find is a lovely accompaniment to the bake.

Recipe: Honey and Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 100g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas 
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 4 tbsp honey
Method:
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a bread tin with grease proof paper.
  2. Place all your ingredients in a bowl and mix together for a couple of minutes until everything is incorporated into a smooth mixture. 
  3. Carefully pour the mixture into the tin and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 1 hour until browned on top. 
  4. Allow to cool in tin and serve either as a snack or with ice cream as a pudding.
I'd love to know how you got on. Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @efoakden 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Recipe: Christmas Chocolate Fudge

This festive inspired recipe is the perfect treat to give away as a quick and simple present that doesn’t cost the earth. Even better is that the most cooking required is using a microwave! Wrap your fudge pieces in cellophane and ribbon or homemade boxes to place under the tree. They are so delicious you will have everyone fooled as to how quick and simple they are to make. 


Ingredients:
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 400g can condensed milk
  • 120g mixed dried fruit and nuts
  • Glace cherries to top
Method:
1.      In a large microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate and condensed milk for around 4 minutes, making sure to check regularly
2.      Once melted, stir vigorously to combine and then add fruit and nuts
3.      Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and pour the mixture into the tray
4.      Lightly draw lines on the mixture to show pieces and add a cherry on top of each
5.      Refrigerate to set and then cut along the lines to serve
I'd love to know how you got on with your own attempts. Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @efoakden

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

What's Banter Anyway?

If you had to describe exactly what 'banter' was to an alien you'd have somewhat of a challenging task on your hands. In the Oxford English Dictionary it is defined as the "friendly and playful exchange of teasing remarks" which, from my experience anyway, has hit the nail on the head.

Coming from a family who enjoy passing around regular taunts I've had to learn not just to be able to take the affectionate jeering, but be able to instantaneously swoop in with a suitably jocular comeback. However, this set me up well for the introduction to my boyfriend's family whom, from our first acquaintance have slowly but surely turned up the banter-o-meter to full.

For me, banter is a way of showing affection. The best banter, after all, is the sort that is tailored to the persons deepest darkest downfalls, and to do that you have to know the (dare I say) 'victim' extremely well.

However it seems other's don't agree. When I was researching previous comments on the use of banter around the web I stumbled across a Tom Chivers' post on the subject on the online blog for The Telegraph. <http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100141906/if-you-like-banter-you-are-an-idiot/ >

It is not what I was expecting to see, the headline reading: "If you like 'banter', you are an idiot". In his post he then goes on to describe the use of the banter as "the single worst thing in the history of the universe"... well I wouldn't quite go that far Tom.

"Banter is Soccer Am" he goes on to say, "it is not humor, banter is what people have when they lack a sense of humor."

Well Mr Chivers I have a question for you.

My boyfriend's dad has very recently had an accident which has left him in a bit of a state with several broken bones currently recovering in hospital (I'll spare you the gory details.) I can almost hear your sympathy, well no... he doesn't want it. When visiting this weekend, and my boyfriend will back me up on this, he said: "I want the banter! It's what is gonna get me through until I get better."

So, is this just because he has a lack of appreciation for a good old fashioned gag, or does it depend on your personal preference when it comes to humor?

From my experience banter requires the intelligent use of wit and knowledge combined into a slick and ingenious statement with the intention of mocking someone... all in the name of a joke. And! furthermore, a joke from my experience, can be described as something that causes amusement and or laughter, thus surely underpinning banter as one of the most successful forms of humor guaranteed to make you titter... so long as you know yourself well enough.

Maybe it is that Tom Chivers doesn't quite have the capacity to laugh at his own mistakes which, ultimately, is what banter is. And if you can't laugh at your mistakes, I ask you what is the point in making them in the first place?

Banter is a form of affection that, however harsh it may seem to an outsider, to me will forever remain a certain way to show your closeness, warmth and love towards someone, be it your friends, partner or family. It's not offensive, because something offensive is meant with malice. It's harmless, and if you can't take it, well it's generally because you're not astute or quick enough to conceive a response.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Fantasy Football... What's the appeal?

Somewhat of your stereotypical girly girl I've never really held any interest in the beautiful game... until now.

My on-going love affair with football has been that of a rocky one. Even though I possess absolutely no enthusiasm where 22 sweaty men running up and down a pitch are concerned (okay, maybe a little if one of those men is Joe Hart), I still seem to find myself embroiled into the sometimes, in my opinion anyway, rather extreme passion for kicking a ball around a field.
Reformed: picking this weeks team

With a father and brother who are keen Notts County Football Club supporters and now boyfriend and family that are also fans, there lies little hope in me escaping from Saturdays meaning one thing and one thing only, and the fate of my life forever more hanging in the balance of whether or not Enoch Showunmi scores.

So, when my boyfriend told me he'd set up his own fantasy football team, who may I add enjoys taking the mick out of my minimal football knowledge on a regular basis, I decided to set up my own team... all in the name of research of course...

I signed up on the Premier League website (http://fantasy.premierleague.com) which is completely free to use and allows you to compete against friends and family in your own private leagues. 

Rather daunted at first with the prospect of having to pick my own team of 11 players plus four subs from the Premiership, I decided to tackle the most important (in my eyes) part first... designing my own kit and team name and joining a team full of my boyfriends, also football orientated, friends. 

After enjoying that rather a little too much I set out on the intimidating task of picking out my players. With £100 million to spend on whoever you so wish ( max three players from each team) the only way I could see to best tackle the problem was to pick players by looks... don't have me down for being shallow though, reputation did play a small role, otherwise I'd have never ended up with someone like Nemanja Vidic!

Truth be told I did lose some interest after I'd made the team.... until Saturday came around and I suddenly became strangely excited- an emotion that I never thought I'd be putting in the same sentence as something football related. Gareth Bale was moving to Madrid, and my uneducated self had put him in my team! I had to transfer (a word that wasn't even in my vocabulary up until last week) and quick. 

Ok, so I'm bottom of the league (for now) but starting a week late, and considering my football knowledge can only be described as dreadful I don't think I'm doing too bad. I've learnt which teams are in the Premiership, I know which teams are playing which on a weekly basis, and after revamping my team this week I have high hopes for the rest of the season. Wow... if you close your eyes I sound a little bit like Alex Ferguson giving his comments on the latest Manchester United match... little past it I know but do I look like the sort of person who knows who manages which football clubs!? I'm not quite at that standard yet.



Monday, 19 August 2013

An Alternative Ibiza

At 19 years old I will merely be one in a good few thousand teenage girls visiting the famous party island this summer. However, instead of a party holiday with my girlfriends this is my twelfth visit to the white isle with both my middle aged parents (sorry mum!) and now sixteen year old (not so) little brother.

Why there I hear you ask? Truth is I'm not entirely sure to the answer of that question. My dad has always had a love for house and electronica music for which the island is famous for, but from our first visit we’d all fallen head over heels in love with the beautiful beaches, quaint towns ( yes they do exist), and the general loving atmosphere about the place.

One of my first memories of being in Ibiza is on one of our first visits: I must have been around seven years old and my Dad took us to Bora Bora Beach Club in Playa Den Bossa (one of the more party orientated areas of the island). For those of you who are unaware, Bora Bora Beach Club is a go to bar in the district with resident DJs in a prime position on the beach. Yes, my parents started me young- I blame them for my party animalistic traits! We asked a youngish bloke who was dancing around the bar at the time to take a photo of us all and he replied with “wow... you’re the coolest family on the island!”... I guess we probably were.

It’s no secret that alongside being a popular (and expensive!) destination for party holidays, Ibiza has also captured the hearts of families with many hotel complexes around areas such as Santa Eularia... a world away from the infamous San An!

Each to their own, but what’s the fun in visiting an island famous for its music scene and clubs and not giving them a go!?

When my brother and I were a little older we stopped going to hotels as such and decided to let our adventurous sides out, staying in a Dutch couple’s apartment we had found advertised on Facebook. The rest is history... We return every year, and think of them as our extended family. I can’t imagine going anywhere else.
Joe, Mum, Dad, Me, Peter and Eelco

So how do we experience the best of both worlds while we’re there? By doing a bit of everything.

A trip to Ibiza, for me, would not be complete with our several visits thrown into the mix- along with a lot of sunbathing and some dodgy Lidl Mojito of course! So without further ado here are my musts!

Ses Salines: My whole family will be in agreement with this one. Celebrity spotting can often be a past time here, with crystal clear blue seas and white soft sand bordered by pine woods and three great (some more expensive that others) bars it has everything you could want from a trip to the beach... the best on the Island (in my opinion anyway.)

Los Pasajeros: The best kept Ibizan secret if ever there was one, this tiny first floor restaurant located in Evissa offers not only the best mash potato I've ever tasted in my life but an explosive atmosphere with comforting home cooked food at an extremely reasonable price. We've been going every year since we first discovered the place which speaks for itself!

Cafe Del Mar
Sunset Strip, Cafe Del Mar, San An: Out the way of the usual you’d expect from the typically British seafront of San Antonio the sunset strip is a spectrum of people. With several bars looking out on rocky bay famous for its beautiful sunsets you have the option of spending £50 on a round at one of them... or nipping to the local beer off and sitting in front of them, still listening to the chilled out tunes for
more than half the price.




Cala Bassa Beach Club
Cala Bassa: Just outside of San Antonio this beach is a rival to Ses Salines in the best beaches of Ibiza. A slightly shorter strip with one long bar playing out tunes perfect to chill and similarly clear blue waters with soft white sand it is a must!

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Bucket List

My boyfriend has recently become Karl Pilkington and An Idiot Abroad's biggest fan, and  thus I have some how become embroiled into also watching every episode ever made at every available opportunity since he bought the box set.

If you've ever watched An Idiot Abroad you'll know that it goes a bit like this: Ricky Gervais (my favourite man on earth... not) sends Karl to different places across the globe throwing in a few little twists and turns on the way, and series two of the program is built around sending him to places to participate in activities that may be on someones 'bucket list'.

So! With YOLO in mind (You only live once for those who are unsure) and this new found inspiration I decided to come up with my very own bucket list...


1. Visit NYC: a must really for any girl as obsessed with sex in the city as me- would be rude not to.

2. Beat my boyfriend on Mario Kart: this ones more of a point to be proven, would just be nice to have victory that one time and I'd never let him forget it.

3. Ride an Elephant: I've always liked elephants (not that I've ever met one) and this has been a want ever since I've been a little girl.

4. Go on an African safari: something amazing about going to see animals in their natural habitat... That and I fancy myself as a bit of a David Attenborough.

5. Meet the royal family: anyone who knows me well enough knows that this is definitely number one on the list... I'm a big royalist and think it would be an honor and a pleasure to meet her majesty... And I have a tenner riding on it.

6. See the Northern Lights: Must be a popular one, but again something I've always wanted to see. I know it's all scientific, but there's something magical about it.

7. Go skinny dipping: some where nice and not somewhere trampy obviously...! I do have some decorum.

8. Go to Lapland and go on a sledge pulled by dogs: The big kid in me has victoriously pushed this one to the list.

9. Get married

10. Spend time on a remote island with just one other person: preferably someone I get on with!

11. Learn to not worry what other people think: Probably the hardest to achieve!

What's on your bucket list?

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Review: Despicable Me 2

 After adopting the three little girls who melted the super-villain's wicked heart in the predecessor, “Despicable Me 2” opens with reformed  Gru (Steve Carell) adjusting to fatherhood: his biggest worries no longer revolve around upholding his image of evil, but the likes of throwing princess themed birthday parties for his daughters, and setting up his own brand of jam with the help of sidekick Dr.Nefario (Russell Brand) and, of course, his army of Minions.

Having given up his crooked ways, Gru is reluctantly persuaded by the Anti-Villain League to team up with geeky yet glam secret agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) to capture bad guy, El Macho (Benjamin Bratt) who has stolen a serum that can transform all living beings into indestructible purple monsters.

A notably less clear image than that of the original Despicable Me, the film has been critiqued in other reviews for its lack of “emotional core”, however the film is definitely not missing a heart. The Film touches on the troubles fatherhood can bring when Gru’s eldest, maturing adolescent (Margo) starts becoming interested in the opposite sex – much to Gru’s over protective disgust which is equally heart warming and humorous.  Meanwhile lone wolf Gru discovers his own feelings for secret agent Lucy whose cartoon chemistry and flirtation throughout is both enjoyable and laughable to watch.

It is impossible, however, to talk about Despicable Me without mentioning the expanded role of the hilariously funny Minions. The miniature yellow critters may have their own semi indecipherable language, but their humor essentially lies with the perfect blend of Looney Tunes esque over the top physical jokes combined with pantomime style slapstick absurdity that ensures gags a minute that even the most sensible of adults will titter at.

Fans of the naughty minions will rejoice as they seem to have doubled in both numbers and on screen time, whilst the film ends with the promise that a minion focused third installment will be released in 2014.



Monday, 1 July 2013

Diary of a Glastonbury Festival Oxfam Steward

Day One
Tuesday 25th June 2013

5 am. Abruptly awoken by the sound of the campervan exhaust vibrating as it bellows out thick black smoke. Dragging myself out of the comfort of my warm bed to the cold air of dawn, within the space of five minutes I'm up, teeth and hair brushed, and running out the door in the very same bright pink onesie I wore to bed the night before- surely some sort of record?

Chugging down the M5 it wasn't long before we were in Glastonbury and rolling onto site. You can sit rather smugly when you're in a camper at a festival... as you will know if you've ever attended one in the past, organizers  seem to designate car parks as far away as humanly possible from where you'll end up camping, and so thus you end up lugging a whole weekends worth of clothes (for all weather), food, tent and other optional extras that only first timers bring- people that are blissfully unaware when packing of the five mile trek ahead of them, half an hour into their walk however wishing they'd not bothered and dumping at the nearest opportunity.

Being (and not to blow my own trumpet, but) intrepid and hardened festival goer I have endured my fair share of playing donkey and carrying my own body weight across muddy fields. A family investment in the campervan however has meant this torture exists no more: I can bring as much food clothes and optional extras as I see fit, and trust me, I do.

Taking all of five minutes to set up (another perk of having a campervan) we went and registered where we received all our shifts, wristbands, ID cards, and a lovely bring orange hi-vis before talking a walk into the festival site. My tenth year of Glastonbury festival walking into somewhere which, to me, feels like a second home jam packed with 100,000 other people, it was rather eerie walking through an almost desolate area before the public arrive tomorrow. The same feeling still hit me as I walked through the gate however... I'm home.


Day Two
Wednesday 26th June

You only realize quite how lucky you are when you're thrown into a situation where you have a minimum of a five minute walk to the toilet or nearest water point. So used to it being readily available wherever you are, I feel rather ungrateful cursing on my cold walk to the toilet this morning when in comparison to so many living in third world poverty, a five minute walk to the toilet is a luxury. Our three shifts alone each raise enough money to provide a house for a family in Syria. Yeah, you're doing it mainly because 205 quid for a ticket to a music festival is extortionate and you can't afford it, but that fact is a nice little extra that makes your 8 hour shift seem that little more bearable.

As I fall back into the routine of dealing with horrendous toilet facilities I remember my unwritten rule I've always followed when at a festival... never, wherever possible, chose the toilet a man has just walked out of. Everyone knows they are, even when sober, disgusting pigs, however mix a little beer into the system and not only does their stench become 1000x more pungent, but it means their aim is a little out, meaning for a filthy toilet not fit for a lady to use after they have soiled it. I still firmly believe that without men the festival would overall be a lot cleaner.

Tonight is our first shift, 10pm until 6am... ouch. The festival doors officially opened this morning and people are pilling in making it progressively busier. As we walk to our location, a vehicle gate on the opposite side of the massive site, it's interesting to note the intuition and creativity of methods people dream up to reduce the effort needed to cart across their beer and other heavier items, such as cider and other canned alcoholic beverages in copious quantities. The best I've seen so far has to be a wheelie bin... how did it even get here?! 

Day Three
Thursday 27th June

First thing in the morning, I've just returned from the night shift. Although the shift went seemingly fast, 6am could not have come quicker, and after giving a cheery wave to our supervisor Ocean (yes, really) we strolled off ready to spend the day in bed. 

I woke up mid afternoon by the rain pounding against the window and stayed in the campervan until 9pm at night when I knew it had stopped. The problem with festivals however is that it only takes a little bit of rain before 100,000 feet walking over the already saturated ground churns it up and lanes turn into mud slides- good job I brought my wellies. 

We took a stroll into the festival once the rain had stopped trudging through the already muddy paths... it is surprising how many people come to Glastonbury- probably the one festival renown for being the muddiest and wettest- without wellies, or even anything remotely suitable for mud, opting instead for flip flops and trench foot.  

The problem with Glastonbury now is, again being the ten year snobby Glastonbury veteran that I am, that the number of punters has dramatically increased whilst the site hasn't particularly. On a Thursday when  the main arenas aren't yet open it means that swarms of people head to those that are such as the dance village and the park... I'm already fed up of walking through annoying drunk people and it's only Thursday night... 



Day Four
Friday 28th June

The festival officially started today: the main arenas are open and, best of all, the sun is back out! 

We woke up and got ready for our next shift at 2pm-10pm... thinking it would be quite this afternoon as most deliveries were made earlier in the week we were in shock at how busy we were. After a slow start the shift soon descended into a star spotting session as we learned we were positioned next to the stars gate! We let in the likes of Greg James, Sinead O'Connor, Chase and Status, Major Lazer, The Rolling Stones (their four huge tour buses at least), Professor Green, Rita Ora, and best of all, Michael Eavis himself-not a bad day all in all.

Seeing Miles Kane, a personal favorite of mine, perform for a short while on our break, for me made the afternoon quite worth while, and finishing at ten to run off and see the Arctic Monkey's even more so.

Stood at the back of the crowd absolutely knackered from a hard days work I have to say I was somewhat disappointed with the Monkeys. Once a band that were full of energy with songs such as Mardy Bum and Florescent Adolescence there seemed to be a lack of it in their set, going through the motions as it were. Although they played their classics I wasn't sure whether it was the 8 hour stint of standing up I'd just endured or the set that was sending me to sleep! 

After getting back to camp we're settling down for the night when the sound of an acoustic guitar and bad singing starts... who in their right mind brings a musical instrument to a music festival?!(optional extra right there... they must have a van).
"Hey up, we've got James Blunt over there", says Dad, shortly followed by the slightly more offensive "shut the f*** up." 

Good job we brought ear plugs. 


Day Five
Saturday 29th June

Beginning to miss my home comforts; running water, flushing toilet, electricity and my boyfriend... all in that order! Today has been our day off and with the sun shining and 20 degree temperatures it couldn't have been better. Having a lie in in the morning we walked across to the far east side of the site down to Shangri La to watch Norman Jay. Firstly I found fifty quid... morals half go out the window at the festival, feeling rather guilty about picking it up with only a quick look round first played on my mind for the next couple of hours, however there is no where to hand it in, and when it's been dropped anything goes right?! Sat on the grass at the Shangri Hell listening to the perfect collision of African vibes and classic tracks. 

Rather sun burnt we went back to camp for something to eat before heading back out to watch Major Lazer. I've never before really been a fan, introduced by my Dad however that the band had tweeted that they ideally wanted a huge basket ball net and a helicopter to drive over and dunk it in during their set, I was assured it was to be an entertaining hour. And so it was. Erratic dancing from all and bopping in the early dusk set up for a great night steering clear of the Rolling Stones. Dad insisted we walk past the Pyramid stage on which they were performing on our way round to the other stage if not only to say " I saw The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury". It turned out to be disastrous. EVERYONE had turned up to see them. The biggest crowd I have ever seen swarming back even beyond the tents. It took us half an hour to shuffle through to the other side, and feeling rather claustrophobic and uncomfortable we got as far away as possible... I feel there should be a tshirt- I saw The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury and almost got crushed to death. 

The rest of the festival site was somewhat quite! So seizing the opportunity we watch a little of Chase and Status and went up to the park before returning back to Arcadia to watch Fat Boy Slim who was amazing. Arcadia never fails to amaze me... the fire, the lights and the music is a mixture which is perfectly combined providing a fantastic atmosphere. It only takes someone as big as Fat Boy Slim to make for a massive crowd pleasing set.

At around 2am we returned to camp in the knowledge that we had to be up at 5 for our shift... 










Day Six
Sunday 30th June

8 hours later... what a killer. Turns out sleep is pretty important... another boring shift but now we're free! Absolutely knackered, but free all the same. We stumble back to the camp, give back our hi-vis' and claim our reward... a green badge. All that work for a green badge!.. and the people in Syria, of course. We went back to bed for a little while however it wasn't long before we were out again, making the most of our time left. We saw a few acts and bought a few bargains in the last knocking sales that always happen on the Sunday before feeling massively drained watching the XX, and decided to boot it home before the rest of the punters had the same idea. Six days in a field, with a seat on top of a wheelie bin for a toilet and no shower seriously takes it's toll on you, and although I massively enjoyed myself I have never been more excited to go home! 

After a panic of the van not starting and coaxing her into life we set off... saying goodbye for another year safe in the knowledge that I'll be back again next year to endure the same emotional spectrum of experiences this week has brought. 


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Terrible Tanning Tale of Woe

I am cursed with the gingery pale gene which means that, like a vampire, I merely need to see the sun before burning to a red sizzley crisp.

Not only is it extremely bad for your skin to sit and allow yourself to look like you've been placed in the toaster on full blast all day, it is even more unattractive, and so thus lies my problem.

How do I navigate myself from pale English rose (questionable), to bronzed goddess? (Even more questionable...)

I've tried most sun creams with a similar effect... Too much time in the sun, with or without high SPF protection more often than not results in the above mentioned toaster effect.

I'm blaming it on the illusion of choice: summer need only poke it's head round the corner before aisles of boots are stocked full of yellow brown white and orange packaging... And by aisles I really mean a good half of the shop. Bottles with carrot extract in, or aloe Vera, extra tanning enhancer or all day water resistant, who really gives a monkeys ?!

Why is the packaging always brown or orange? Why isn't it just red to simply and plainly point out that that, whichever you chose, lobster red is undoubtably the colour you will turn instead of sailing me down the river with the false hope and promise that I'll be hideously brown as soon as my skin comes into contact with the magic liquid.

At the end of the day, if you're going to tan you'll tan without the help of carrots or enhancers, and if you're not, you'll look more like a tomato than a carrot come the end of the day, plagued with the thought of being stupid enough to think a carrot enhancer would help, just because the bottle was orange.

Every year I make the same mistake. I take solace in the fact that "this year will be different because I have a new suntan lotion", and then proceed to act surprised when I inevitably take my bikini off from my first day in the sun, only to find that the outline is imprinted onto me, with my boobs and bum both shining in the mirror back at me like beacons... I can almost hear them laughing "we told you so" back in my growing progressively crimson face.

From now on I intend to accept the pale and sun hating body that God has blessed me with and stick to my factor 50 and the sunshade... Until next year.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Men are from Mars

As a rule, men aren't all that bad... but when it comes writing down all the things that you cannot stand about them, you'd have a pretty extensive list!

It all bottles down to one thing, and that is that females are the elite gender- fact.

1.  Shouting down the phone: why is it that whilst speaking to someone who, on the other end, has their ear splatted against the speaker of your voice being projected at them that you feel the need to shout? They can hear you... in fact, they're more that likely having to hold the phone a good 30cms away from their ear to avoid becoming deaf or hard of hearing, or wiping the spit that's projecting from your loud mouth a long with the ringing decibels that are still retinating through my head nevermind the reciever on the other end of the phone.

2. Empty bottles: it's like it's to some how mitigate the guilt of using that last bit of shampoo or milk. Instead they leave the bottle where they found it, empty or with a little useless amount left at the bottom and tell NO ONE that it has run out. What exactly are we meant to do with a pea sized splodge of milk? Drown an ant?! And even when it comes to the point of asking "whodunit", even though we all know exactly who the culprit is, you deny it.

3. Telling us to calm down: trust me, there is nothing more irritating than being told to calm down after you have pissed us off beyond belief. Yes, in the majority of cases we've lashed out, but you've done something to warrant that emotional reaction... we don't know what yet, but you have.

4. Short attention span: if we were talking about Xbox or FIFA or anything involving kicking around a football, your full undivulged attention would be on us, but come to talking about something that is meaningful to ourselves-say my newly painted toenails that took me half an hour to painstakingly craft- and you don't even know what we've just said to you... and if a programme involving any of the above is on the TV whilst you are talking about something of little or no interest to said boy, then you can forget even being listened to at all.

5. You always THINK you're right: You might be right... infact, 99.9% of the time, annoyingly, you probably are , but why can't you have the common curtosy to let us girls at least think we know what we're doing instead of having the fact we're going about something wrong rammed down our throats... just so you can get on your macho high horse!

The list could go on and nothing would ever change... but if it did we'd have nothing to moan about over cocktails to our girlfriends, nothing to laugh about, and , more importantly, nothing to write about!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Welcoming festival season with open arms!

With the summer months almost upon us, there is one thought on every festival goers mind. The wellies are cleaned, the tent patched up, and dry shampoo is in the bag.
Me at muddy Glastonbury 2011

Only one problem poses...

In the past there was only one major music festival to grace these isles. Now 43 years on, still just as great if not better than the first ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970, punters are spoilt for choice with hundreds of music festivals of varying styles and sizes popping up all over the country.

Contributing over £800 million to the British economy, statistics show that 357,000 international music fans flock to the UK every year to be part of world renowned festivals: a statistic that, arguably, as a country we should be extremely proud of.

From mainstream to punk rock and techno, there is a festival out there catered to everyone's taste... if staying in a tent isn't your idea of a fun weekend away, many festivals now offer a 'glamping' service in boutique tipis complete with private running water, toilets and showers. A luxury which will set you back £3,000 , however.

Unrecognizable from the first festivals in the 70's, Glastonbury has almost quadrupled in both size and profit with a turnover of £22.5 million last year- no wonder Michael Eavis is always smiling!

Make of it what you will, there still lies the underlying fact: these festivals may have jumped  on the corporate band wagon, but they all share one thing: the love and celebration of music which brings may of us from so many different walks of life, together


Gay Marriage Bill

The gay marriage bill which has recently passed to the House of Lords despite the opposition of 133 Tory MPs has been a political movement of great media controversy and discussion.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales, if passed, means that couples who can currently form civil partnerships will be able to marry. Organizations would have to "opt in" to offering weddings, however the Church of England and Church of Wales are banned in law from doing so.

It has been argued in the House of Lords today that civil partnerships between same sex couples and marriage between a man and woman are two completely different ideologies:  marriage is merely a legally binding commitment that protects both parties and any children bore as a result of that matrimony. 

When did we become so cynically scoffing of a term that once meant so much more than legal protection? 

Civil partnership, it can be said, is simply a legal arrangement providing those involved with protections, but marriage is a greater commitment between two people to live publicly in a deceleration and celebration of their love. It is human nature to have a desire to love and be loved, whether gay or straight, and to declare that love in the eyes of society. 

Surely it is politically unjust and condemning to gays to allow this deceleration and commitment to be enjoyed by only those in heterosexual relationships? 

Last week, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey warned that same-sex marriage would set a "dangerous precedent" which could lead to sibling marriage or polygamy. I find this view completely and undoubtedly archaic. It is primitive to think of gay marriage as a sin, and although set out in the Bible as one it is important to remember that it is a script written thousands of years ago.  There is a clear need for an ongoing rethink of priorities of the gospels in light of new developments in and ever modernizing society. 

There are a breath of views within The Church of England, however it should be agreed among all that that love is a gratuity given to all whether you believe in God or not.

The act of legally declaring undying love and commitment should be something that is not  restricted to just heterosexual couples, but should be a right for all.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Review: The Great Gatsby

Many adaptations of literary classics rarely live up to the expectations of the book; often obsessed with every period detail whilst neglecting the need to breathe life into the vintage literature. A need that requires the director to convey the scene created by the saturated description within in the book, on screen.

Many other reviews suggest Baz Luhrman's adaptation has gone too far in the opposite direction. I call it a perfect cocktail of period detail and all that is brilliant in modern film making, from CGI zoom ins to vintage flapper dresses and cloche hats.

Luridly blingy with more sparkle than a six year old let loose with a glitter pen, the behemothic parties at Gatsby's (Leonard DiCaprio) fairytale esque castle are by far the most impressive. Thousands of actors fill the set in 1920's glitzy fashions dancing not to classic jazz of the era, but the likes of Jay-Z, Kayne West, Lana Del Ray and Fergie: an aspect I feel builds a bridge between the could-be unaccessible classicly entangled plot and the younger audience.

The film follows would-be writer Nick Carraway's (Tobey Maguire) adventure to New York City in 1922. Loosening morals, glittering jazz and boombing stock markets galore, Nick finds himself neighbour to enigmatic millionaire, Jay Gatsby living across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her aristocratic pedigreed husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).  Their illusions, loves and deceits all play part to the capturing story line that evokes every feeling in the emotional spectrum.

An enjoyable and impressive adaptation living up to the expectation of a great literary classic covering all platforms, this film will make you laugh and cry whilst experiencing a cardinal urge to dance along to the prestigious and awe- inspiring soundtrack.


Friday, 10 May 2013

The Big Reunion Tour

Double denim, scrunchies and Nike air max trainers are not the only familiar faces making a come back from the nineties in 2013.

If you are a TV junkie like myself, you will know that for the past few weeks the likes of B*witched, Blue, 911, 5ive, Honeyz, Liberty X and Atomic Kitten have reunited after going through dramatic band breakups for our entertainment.

Yesterday, The Big Reunion Tour arrived in Nottingham ( cue screaming female Blue fans), and I was lucky enough to not only attend the concert, but interview some of the band members taking part for the Nottingham Post which will appear in the paper next week.

All seemed very enthusiastic to be back together and on the road again.
(Left): Antony Costa, Vicky Muxlow, Lauren Lee
Lee Ryan, Emily Oakden

Lee Ryan, Blue, joked: "It's a bit like going back to school and reliving the fun years"

Whilst Liz McClarnon, Atomic Kitten, laughed about getting in shape for the tour.

"I haven't even attempted!" she laughed.

Natasha Hamilton added: "I got dressed for the gym this morning and then went... ahh, I'll just have a steam room."

The show itself was a massive blast from the past and a must for anyone with even the slightest love for 90's nostalgia.

The perfect combination of cheese and catchy song lyrics had the whole of the Capital FM Arena on their feet and singing along- for me breathing life into the distant memory that is old school discos from my early teens.
Blue on stage at Capital FM Arena 

Each band performing  a few of their top hits meant that there wasn't the normal lull in the concert when bands often play some of their newer or less known tracks, and the electric continued to buzz around the arena throughout the evening.

Liberty X prove they still have it in their original catsuits 
Particular highlights include 911 break-dancing on stage... there is something strangely enticing about someone old enough to be your dad doing a head spin in front of thousands of screaming women, and Liberty X shocking all when returning on stage after the interval in their original catsuits.

The atmopshere was still resounding as everyone piled out of the venue,and it seemed that even the staff had enjoyed the performance, one security guard even saying "You can make me whole again ladies" as we left.





Finale




Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Is our criminal justice system too soft?

After the announcement that prisoners would no longer have the privilege of watching sky TV, (a commodity many of the population live without due to the expense) I cannot have been the only member of the public questioning the seriousness of the UK prisons.


Often described in the media as a 'cushy' lifestyle is it any wonder we have so many re-offenders? In 2011 44% of prisoners reoffended: the highest ever rate.

The question posed is how the government deal with this increase. As prisons are becoming overly full private companies are being looked to to offer additional prison services and space, and it is these that were offering their inmates the luxury not only of TV, but Sky Satellite as well.

Is it morally correct that a criminal should be able to watch the latest football match, whilst the majority of the public do not have that opportunity due to cost set backs of the service?

It would be unfair to say that prisons are a walk in the park, and it is sometimes hard to remember that, although having committed an offence, these criminals are still human.

After a discussion earlier in the week with family regarding the punishment of criminals, however violent, and coming up with such radical penalties as sending them to mars, chopping off fingers and even the death penalty (a joke of course) I couldn’t help but think of the morality behind all of this.

Our neighbours across the pond still use and implement the death penalty: it arguably doesn’t eradicate the additional cost of keeping and looking after violent inmates until their execution date, but does it deter others from committing crimes in the first place?

It is arguably unmoral (from my perspective at least) to kill people purposely, whether lawful or not. It is an irreversible act.

Whilst I don’t agree with some of the rights a prisoner maintains, including the argument that they should be allowed to vote, I do agree that prisons are an effective form of rehabilitation for many.

It is important to look at the positive statistics alongside the negative ones; 55% of criminals in 2011 did not reoffend, and surely this is a figure that shows even with cushy insides with perks such as Sky TV, our criminal justice system does work in deterring offenders.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Review: Darwin Deez, Rock City Nottingham

It's not every gig you attend that you can close your eyes and allow the music and atmosphere to take you somewhere completely different.

As a crowd member at this seemingly under populated Rock City gig you could easily believe you'd some how time travelled back to an awkward teenage boy's bedroom as Darwin Smith (lead singer) and the rest of the band began the show with a slick and well rehearsed hip-hop style dance routine.

The guitar melody of You Can't Be My Girl broke the excited and surprised cheers of the mixed crowd, who must have all felt the same need to stop in their tracks and start dancing- complete with glow-sticks.

The humorous band dance routines, to the crowds glee, became expected brief dancing interludes filling the normally awkward gap between songs.

Smith did, however, indulge into a few guitar solos boring the crowd a little for which he apologized: "I've fallen in love with playing the guitar, sorry". It seems everyone attending wanted the same thing from the gig: to dance and sing the night away to the quirky tunes.

Finally the highly anticipated and catchy first few bars of constellations began, and the crowd was alive again, transforming the barely half full venue into a massive sing-along.

Surprisingly the band didn't save the chart topping Radar Detector for the encore, choosing some of the tracks from their new album, Songs From Imaginative People instead.

Smith grinned and gushed with thanks as it was time for the band to leave, " We've made it to Rock City!" he said.

Darwin Deez, Rock City,Saturday 27th April.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher Dies

You could compare her to marmite: you either loved her or you hated her. Whatever your opinion, there's no denying Magaret Thatcher was, and still is, a massive figure of female empowerment. The first female Prime Minister with a strong will and equally strong sense of style to match.

She divided opinion, but this is not to say that I agree with every policy she implimented during her time as Prime Minister.

She also arguably did very little in her time as our leader for women: she froze child benefit, refused to invest in affordable childcare and the rest, however it is not the where she placed the governments investments or the benefits she froze that should be remembered, it is her remarkable journey that proves anyone can reach their goals with hard work and determination.

The journey from daughter of a greengrocer in Grantham to the highest position in British politics.

Not only did she break through the class barrier to reach her position, she broke through the gender one too, and this is what makes her such a great female role model.

She may not have done all she could for women's rights when she got to number ten, but she drilled into both men and women's heads that both politics and leadership are gender neuteral.

This is what we should remember when we think of Lady Thatcher. The legacy she has left, an inspiration to strong women everywhere and not the problems she may have caused.

It should be remembered that she was an elderly lady. An elderly lady that has died, and she should be respected for what she undoubtably did for Britian, despite her flaws. 


R.I.P Maggie Thatcher.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Chocolate Brownie Cake

I came across this recipe whilst reading back issues of Good Food magazine, and have been wanting to give it a try for a while... and what better opportunity than to use my boyfriend coming round for dinner tonight as a guinea pig !

The recipe is pretty much the same as a normal brownie, however the seperation of the eggs and whisking of the egg whites used in this one, however faffy, certainly leads to good results.

So! Without further ado... 

 

Ingredients;
  • 175g butter
  • 225g chocolate (broken into pieces)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs (seperated into whites and yolks)
  • 65g plain flour
Method;
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and then line your cake tin with grease proof paper
  2. Place the chocolate, butter and sugar in a saucepan and stir over a low heat until melted. Leave to cool
  3. Whisk the egg yolks into the mixture (ensuring it is properly cooled) followed by the flour
  4. Whisk the egg whites in a seperate bowl until they form soft peaks, and then add to the chocolatey mixture 
  5. Finally pour the mixture into your cake tin and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes (the deeper the tin, the longer it'll need)
 Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or cream- perfection!




Thursday, 4 April 2013

Philpotts: Fault of the welfare system?

The Philpott case has been that of a dark and emotive one which has unfolded in the public eye over the past year and finally come to an end. Justice for those children at last some may say... but what is justice when those poor innocent children are gone?

Left in the wake of the horrendous and selfless crime carried out by Mick Philpott, his wife Mairead and family friend Paul Mosley are not only angry family and friends, but a shocked country looking for someone or something, so it seems, to blame.

A serious case review is now to be taken place into the deaths of the six children by Derbyshire Safe Guarding Children's Board, and today Chancellor George Osbourne visited Derby sparking a political debate.

He questioned whether the state should pay for the lifestyles of people like Mick Philpott: arguably what we have all been thinking, is it not?

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls however condemned the comments made as a "cynical act of a desperate chancellor."

I'm with George on this one. 

Labour may argue that the Conservatives are making the rich richer and the poor poorer, but what about those in-between. What about those just over the cusp of receiving benefits because they work hard to achieve the lifestyle they desire? Surely this isn't how it should be, and surely it can be argued that it isn't fair that hard working people should have to pay taxes to fund lifestyles like Mick Philpott's.

This is not to say Mick Philpott is  representative of all on benenfit: this was a freak case. However, it has dug up issues within the welfare system. A system where people are rewarded for not working and having more children, and a system which punishes those who do work.

I ask you this, Ed; what about the tax payers who fund these lifestyles, those who are on the borderline of paying for other peoples benefit whilst not receiving their own, and those who are "punished" economically for working?

Surely this isn't fair, and surely a reform is not something that will make the rich richer and the poor poorer, but encourage people to go out and work instead of opting for the easy option.


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Blast From the Past

When I spoke to a family friend over coffee earlier this morning, I uncovered an untold secret she had been keeping.

Peggy has been one of my auntie's closest friends for as long as I can remember, and we got chatting when I told her I was studying a degree in journalism.

Canadian born Peggy grew up in Vancouver, and aged fifteen left school during World War II to work in a busy newsroom in the city.

"Of course it was all done on typewriters then" she recalls, "The tapping of the keys is something that will always remain synonymous with that newsroom in my mind."  

A far cry from today's papers, hers was churning out five a day, one in the morning, several throughout the day and a final edition in the evening.

As a copy writer her job involved supplying the reporters with paper when they needed it, taking copy to the editor, and generally running around.

"I was a slim size 8 back then!" she jokes.

After working her way up and learning the ropes Peggy became a reporter for the paper. She still remembers her first headline story.

"There was an armed robbery at a local jewelers that was down the road from the newsroom. I managed to get the phone number of one of the customers caught up in the incident meaning I could do a phone interview and get some great quotes before the police even got to the scene!" she tells me.

Peggy tells me about her favorite parts of the job which surprisingly happen to be surrounding the celebrity interest of the industry.

"There was the same obsessive celebrity culture then that there is now. I remember always being incredibly excited to see where all the heart throbs of the era had been on their yachts."

"It was an exciting job and fast paced." She says.

Shame I wasn't training to be a reporter back then!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Animal Cruelty

My Dog, Poppy 
After reading on Sky News online this morning that a dog had been found in Sheffield tortured, burned and tied to a tree, I felt sick.

What heartless people find this animal cruelty entertaining and furthermore, socially acceptable?

Police are appealing for witnesses after the male Staffordshire bull terrier was found on a path off a main road in Sheffield. It is believed that after being severely beaten the dog was tied to a tree and set alight.

A dog owner myself this story disgusted me.

This brutal, barbarous and bloodthirsty attack on an innocent animal makes you wonder what goes through people's minds to drive them to commit such an offence. Revenge? What could an innocent dog have done to deserve this treatment.

I only hope that whoever is responsible for what can only be described as a savage offence is brought to justice and given what they deserve for taking a defenseless life in such a sickening way.

For me the conscience of what has been done would be enough to drive me to insanity although, for the killer who has committed this offence it is merely more than a gruesome joke. 


Monday, 25 February 2013

GSMA predictions- data will have overtaken voice by 2018

Kevin Bacon, EE advert
What’s wrong with good old fashioned face-to-face conversation? This was my reaction this morning when I read predictions that mobile data will have overtaken voice by 2018.

Mobile data is the transmission of  information between devices and includes texting, and a surge in this has created a recent new demand: it seems people just don’t want to indulge, or more likely, simply don’t have time for a man-to-man chat anymore.

The articles regarding this new prediction boast the benefits of mobile data connection including that of the developing world. Last time I checked their main concerns were clean water and cholera not texting and accessing the internet.

The unveiling of 4G in the UK late last year has supposedly left the world feeling more connected. Although with Kevin Bacon playing a one man game of word association on their adverts to prove this, I can’t help feeling an unfillable void where conversation used to be.

Quick and effortless, texting is undoubtedly a convenience the human race have become both reliant and dependent on. In fact, many have argued they would rather starve than go without their beloved mobile phone. Sad really.

In a world where this form of “communication” is branded as acceptable as a heart-to-heart chat, I ask whether we really understand what monster we are creating. A heartless generation who find it socially acceptable to spend a night in sharing their feelings with Facebook rather than with their friends… God help us.


Friday, 25 January 2013

Alcoholic Brownies!

I discovered this recipe just before Christmas, and I think it is fair to say they are they most delicious brownies I have ever tasted: no modesty intended!

I have always found when making brownies that if over cooked a moment too long they can lose the stereotypical gooey inside which makes them so gorgeous and moorish.

I used brandy in my first batch of brownies, but found that whisky was just as yummy. Similarly the cranberries are also optional, if you aren't using them skip step 2.

I tried adding walnuts to my recipe which were lovely and added a crunch to the sticky gooey insides of the brownie.

This recipe is to make enough mixture to fill a 30x20cm tin.

Ingredients;
30ml brandy/ Alcohol
100g dried cranberries (optional)
300g chocolate
200g butter
4 free range eggs
300g light muscovado sugar
200g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
Handful of crushed walnuts (optional)

Method;
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and then grease and line your designated tin with grease-proof paper

2. If using cranberries gently heat brandy and add cranberries to soak while you prepare brownie mix

3.Melt chocolate and butter in bowl over simmering water

4. In a large bowl whisk eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy

5.Whisk chocolate and butter mix in and gently fold in flour, mixed spice, brandy, nuts and cranberries

6. Pour into tin, smooth surface and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until firm to touch

7. Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack until cooled completely to cut into squares

Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

Instead of the nuts you could try chocolate chunks to add a little extra decadence.

Em x

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The War Against Cancer


In a world where the word “cancer” is becoming increasingly vocalized in our day to day lives, I find out just what some people are doing to ensure in the future we can help find a cure.
Melanie Lancaster(right) with challenge
partner, Michelle Thompson 

It was a cold winter's morning when I spoke to Melanie Lancaster over coffee about her fundraising plans this February along with her friend and rock, Michelle Thompson.

Melanie, 41 from Darlington, is married to husband Tony and lives with her two children Adam and Jordan.
This February she will be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, all in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

 “The first time I heard the word cancer was when my friend, and life and soul of the party was diagnosed, and subsequently died, of Bone Cancer aged 40 leaving three children behind” she recalls.

It is a rare occasion for anyone in the UK not to have known someone who has been affected by cancer, given that the current statistics show one in four people contract cancer.

John Reed, Macmillan Cancer Support representative for northern England said: “Cancer causes more deaths every year than those caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. It is important that people like Melanie continue to not only raise money for the cause, but more importantly awareness.”

The second time cancer made an appearance in Melanie’s life was when her Mum, Pam, was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. Pam unfortunately later lost the battle which left Melanie and her family devastated.

At the same time as all of this, along with the diagnosis of two more of her friends, Wendy and Alison, Melanie was also told herself that she had Breast Cancer and her world went into a spiral.
Fortunately after undergoing all the treatment Melanie made a full recovery, and now she feels it’s time to give something back.

She said: “I thought I must have been left here to do something after my cancer and not just sit around, but to make a difference.”
Melanie with her daughter Jordan

Her challenge partner, Michelle, also suffered from thyroid cancer ten years ago and overcame it, but her sister died age 16 of bone cancer which is the main reason she fundraises for Macmillan Cancer Support.
“It was from that point on I knew I wanted to give something back” Melanie told me.

Melanie saw the advert for the African Challenge organized by Discover Adventure on the Macmillan website back in January 2012. She spoke to Michelle and they decided they should go for it, giving them a year to train and fund-raise.

 “My challenge is in memory of my beautiful, brave friends and mam, but also to prove to the thousands of people who hear those dreaded words ‘I’m afraid you’ve got cancer’, that you can get better and it can change your life in such a positive way.”

Melanie was initially just going to take part in the African Challenge but told me she thought people would forget. Instead she decided to embark on two more challenges which she hoped would help her towards her ambitious fundraising target of £4,500.

Melanie started her fundraising by taking part in the three peaks challenge in Yorkshire with several other members of her family back in July, followed by the Great North Run with her daughter Jordan in October building up to the African Challenge in February.

The Challenge consists of a 500km bike ride starting east of Nairobi in Kenya and ending at the largest intact volcanic crater on earth, the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

As Melanie showed me the itinerary for the 500km cycle spread over twelve days I was in awe at the courage she and Michelle have to take on not just this challenge, but those leading up to it and the emotional challenge it also poses.  

“I have had to do a lot of training leading up to now. I started by walking up Hamsterly Forest adding two miles on every week until I got up to 18 miles and doing three gym sessions a week whilst also cycling to work. Once the walk and run were both over I began concentrating more on cycling.”

Melanie has dropped half a stone during her training which she says has built up her muscles and stamina which is important as she will be cycling 50 miles a day when in Africa.

She said: “It has been tough, but it is all worth it. I just think of all the people I have lost, and how lucky I am to still be here, and that is my inspiration.”

Melanie’s Dad, Keith Hillard, Nottingham told me how proud he is of his daughter.
He said: “It is a fantastic cause, and I am extremely proud of Melanie’s fundraising efforts. We are all behind her as a family supporting and cheering her on.”

To date, Melanie has raised £4,508.11 from this year’s fundraising efforts for a cause that is close to many people’s hearts.

She said: “It is fab that people have been so supportive and I have been able to raise so much money for such an amazing cause.”

Melanie and Michelle will fly out to Nairobi Airport from Heathrow Airport on 2 February.

“It will be hard; I’m terrified about all the bugs and spiders! I just want to help raise enough money to go towards helping people in my region who have cancer to live a bit of a better life, and so that when someone tells you ‘ you've got cancer’, there is always someone there to help you and your loved ones through the trauma.” 

You can donate to Melanie's fundraising page at http://www.justgiving.com/MelLancaster