Category Archives: lifestyle

Fighting For Ellie: hump day

April 1st marked exactly 1 year since I passed my driving test. It also turned out to be my ‘hump day’ in terms of this whole amateur boxing situation that I seem to have gotten myself into.

me and joeane
Sparring with Joeanne before we were matched!

By ‘hump day’ I mean the day when I temporarily ran up against a fairly unexpected mound of ‘oh shit, I can’t do this’ and was faced with the decision of whether to turn around and run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction or put my head down and throw everything behind getting up the hill and over the top.

I say it was a decision but it wasn’t really. At least not a conscious one. There was no chance I was doing anything other than getting my head down and gritting my teeth above and below the gum-shield that I am absolutely not any sort of friends with (that thing is Lucifer himself inexplicably re-incarnated in a “multi-layer construction, latex free, shock-absorbing” lump of pure unadulterated sadism). I may be exaggerating, but it is taking some getting used to.

Now as you might have guessed if you follow this blog, I’m not a subscriber to the idea that there are some things that ‘I am’ and some things that ‘I’m not’ – or that I can do some things and can’t do others. Not because I think I’m some sort of everything-guru. Or Superwoman. Or Jennifer Lawrence – but because I don’t believe that those restrictions truly apply to anyone, at least not beyond the significance that we give to them ourselves.

Nonetheless I will say that fighting is one of the things on this planet that feels most alien to me. It just hasn’t been a part of who and how I am or what I do right up to this point. At all. A fact which has of course provided a significant extra psychological fence that I’m having to haul ass over to get to where I’ll be able to step into a ring in front of 800 people and not make an undeniable and irretrievable tit of myself and or lose consciousness for the first time (at least that I’m aware of) in my life.

So perhaps inevitably, the day came when the inner monologue that sometimes helpfully but most often irritatingly nags me through all of life’s many and varied experiences, decided emphatically that I was on a head-long collision course with a knock-out punch.

The sneaky pretend-revelation came half-way through Friday night’s Fighting For Ellie class at Millennium, where I felt a little out of my depth and behind the rest of the class. The class is very much mixed-ability and so there are a lot of people in there that I should fully expect to be playing catch-up with at this stage, but not everyone.

me and mac.jpg
More shots of me and my mates punching each other. I smashed Mac in this session, if you ask me!

So feeling like I’m lagging behind just 3 weeks out from the fight wasn’t at all welcome and lo-and-behold the hump jumped enthusiastically up out of the floor in front of me, giving it “why did you think you could fight, you lunatic.”

Like I said above though, there really isn’t a decision to be made at this point. I’m doing this and I’m going to do it well. That’s all there is to it.

Of course I’m not saying that I’ve ignored the experience of that class and how it made me feel about my prospects. Because I haven’t. I think that would be impossible not to mention very, very stupid and probably self-fulfilling. But what I realised very soon afterwards was that the only productive thing I could take from it was the realisation of how much work I need to put in between now and 23rd April.

Training diary for blog (3.4.16)
Doing as much colouring in as possible!

It’s sort of funny that ‘hump day’ should have fallen on the anniversary of the day that I passed my driving test because when I was describing what I meant by the temporary “I can’t do this” hump to a friend I used the example of my driving lessons, the last handful of which were tainted by the feeling that I’d never get good at that thing that’s now almost as easy and as natural to me as walking. That feeling that this was something that I just couldn’t do was what made me put in for my test when I did, so that I could employ the “well I just have to” instead (I passed with 0 faults)! And it’s a feeling that I love looking back on now with the context of feeling like I’ve been able to drive since leaving the womb!

So rest assured, I am going to get this down! (Sorry, Joeanne) 😛

One more thing! We’re all collecting sponsorship for our fights as an extra boost to the money raised by the event. If you can spare a pound or two to help spur me on over the Mother of all humps, I will be forever grateful (link below).

Sponsor me here —> https://www.gofundme.com/ffelaurendoug

Love yas!
L xx

Here’s the closer from one of the recent classes at Millennium, where we all had to kneel down within the pink square on the mats and try be the last one remaining within the boundary as everybody endeavoured to man-handle each other out. It doesn’t frighten me at all that against all of the huge blokes in the gym that night, my opponent Joeanne was last one standing (well, you know what I mean)…

Fighting For Ellie: It’s On!

Today’s a bit of a big day in the whole Fighting For Ellie process, with weigh-ins and the submission of match-up choices at the gym tonight as well as tickets going on sale!

The last Fighting For Ellie event – the 3rd of its’ kind overall and the first outing of the partnership between Princess Ellie’s Trust and Millennium Martial Arts (hence it being christened ‘Season 1’ – was at Newsham Side Club, which is the 350-capacity home to the Punch-Drunk Blyth events. Tickets were to go on sale at Millennium at 5:00pm on a Friday evening and by 4:50pm the queue was so long – and it being September, everyone was waiting in the cold – that they started selling early and were sold out by 4:55!

This time around for Season 2, FFE is moving to Blyth Sports Centre which recently played host to the spectacular UK Comics Boxing: Fight For Kian and which can host a colossal 800 people. So this time the tickets might last half an hour or so!

Seriously though, I’ll be at the gym and can’t wait to see how fast 800 of these things go!

The Sports Centre venue is amazing if ever-so-slightly daunting! Fancy having your first ever fight in the middle of this set-up…

FFK set-up panoramic

So it’s a very exciting day in the FFE: Season 2 build-up calendar – but I do wish it wasn’t coming at the end of a week in said calendar that’s looking decidedly blank…

Training Diary for WordPress NEW

The forever-good-intentions of getting into the gym during the Punch-Drunk run faded, as usual, into nothingness and coupling that with less than desirable eating habits over the last week and I’m hoping I’m not going to be weighing substantially heavier than I will be in 4 weeks’ time after engaging full beast-mode tonight.

I promise that the next time you see that calendar, there will be a lot more colour happening because not only am I getting steadily more terrified as the hours go by – but comparing how I feel today to how I felt last Friday is easily motivation enough to get right back into it.

So I’m off to make some eggs and try to resist sticking bacon on too, I’ll check back in on how tonight went down, or might see you down there!

I’ll warn you now, this will be the first of many, many of these… Eeeeeeeeek!

L xx

Tickets for Fighting For Ellie go on sale TONIGHT!
(25th March)
5.30pm
Millennium Martial Arts

Standard tickets are £25 each.

Ring side at table with waitress are £35 each or £400 for a table of 12.

UNFORTUNATELY TICKETS CAN NOT BE RESERVED

Fighting For Ellie takes place on 23rd April @Blyth Sports Centre – check the event page here for further details

 

 

Fighting For Ellie: holding pads and hill sprints

So my first training update – as many of them are likely to be – is all about first time experiences.

This week so far I’ve done my first Pad-Smash session at Millennium (Monday night) and my first Hill Sprints up the very beautiful but utterly sadistic Bothal Bank (Tuesday morning).

Like seriously, my little Phoebe Fiat 500 doesn’t like dragging her arse up that thing and my little legs have substantially less horsepower than she does!

It was also very nearly my first instance of throwing up as a result of working out – something that it would appear is some sort of uber-grim rite of passage for any serious boxing trainee. So I’ll keep you posted on if and when I achieve that accolade. I might even take a picture for ya 😉

As it happened today I narrowly avoided a spewing incident – but it was a close run thing.

The thing about Hill Sprints (Yes I’m giving ‘Hill Sprints’ capital letters. You would too. If you don’t respect them, they’ll kill you) is that your head will keep telling you that you don’t need to stop long after your body has quietly come to the opposite conclusion. This is because just as the uphill sprint gets too much and everything’s screaming at you to stop, you do, returning to the bottom of the hill in what in comparison to the uphill part feels like (undoubtedly doesn’t look like but definitely feels like) a proverbial jog in the park.

So guess what. By the time the short window of time has passed that gets you back to the bottom, the uphill bit now somehow seems like a good idea again. Well not exactly a good one but certainly a not-terrible one. Do 7 of these though and if you’re anything like me your body will eventually ‘put it’s foot down’ and use the threat of impending vomiting to convince you that the uphill bit is very much not a good idea any more. Yes only 7. But we’re talking firsts, here!

On the plus side, the photo below shows Bothal, of Bothal Bank fame. So it’s not the worst of places to visit first thing in the morning, even if it is a bit rainy…

DIGITAL CAMERA
BOTHAL CASTLE, AT THE BOTTOM OF BOTHAL BANK

Yep, Northumberland’s quite nice.

Going back to the other first of the week – Pad-Smash at Millennium on Monday night came directly after I had (if I do say so myself) kicked a Fighting Fit circuit class in the dick. It was super-encouraging to go in there and kick its arse because the last twice that I’d been in, Fighting Fit (a high-intensity circuit class) had unquestionably kicked my arse. The only difference really being that this time I was very aware that I had only 6 weeks until Fighting For Ellie and needed to start training in earnest. So I decided I was going to smash Fighting Fit – and I did.

Now the significance of this lies in the fact that I’m relying very much for the success of this whole process on the belief that by the very virtue of deciding that I’m going to achieve something, I can achieve it. So naturally this small confirmation of the fact that deciding I’m going to do something is the key to accomplishing it, was very welcome indeed.

Directly following the 45-minute circuit class and with my “let’s do this” head firmly on, after a brief water-break as the class members changed over, we started to warm up for an hour’s class on pad-work. as I warmed up I thanked the sadistic workout Gods that it was ‘just’ pad-work and not sparring, because I was sodding knackered already.

Now you’ll notice that I put the “just” in inverted commas. This is because since having that thought on Monday night I’ve realised the error of my ways and won’t refer to the pad-work session as ‘just’ anything, ever again.

Now there are pros and cons to doing pad-work with Gav Humphries as your partner. The pros include that he’s bloody good at holding pads (which it turns out is actually harder than throwing good punches, or at least more confusing) and a good pad-holder makes for a good training session.

The cons are simple – when Gav repeatedly punches pads that you’re holding  with the tiny hands on the end of your chicken-wrists for half of an hour-long session. It eventually gets to fucking hurt.

About 50 minutes in (so 95 minutes into my gym session all together) I asked Gav if we ever got to leave the gym again or if this was it. I mean I knew there was a second wind in there somewhere and that I’d finish the class but we did get to leave at some point, right? I needed to know there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thankfully it turned out we were allowed to leave. After a “burnout.” This turned out to consist of what felt like endless consecutive sets of straight punches, right & left hooks and upper cuts followed by burpees and press-ups. My self-consciousness about making a racket whilst throwing everything into a punch was very quickly wiped out. There was no way in hell I was finishing that without a peep! I managed it though and even managed to keep my face almost grimace-free while Gav took his turn at what felt like 7,000,000 punches. Then did star-jumps until everyone finished their own burnouts.

Let’s just say I left more than a little bit exhausted and after talking to a friend in the carpark for 20 minutes – very cold – as the once-warm sweat went cold on the back of my t-shirt.

I have to admit that I decided against a third first tonight by dipping out of the sparring class that I’d been considering. I’ve heard the sparring class at Millennium (where you make your way around the class practising sparring with as many different partners as possible) described as a shark-tank. And after watching one or two of them I can confirm that description to be terrifyingly accurate. But I’ve got to fight – that kind of being the point of this whole thing – so after a few more pad-work sessions and some practice at home over the next couple of weeks, I’ll have an undoubtedly hilarious account of my first sparring session for you.

This feels like leaving it a little bit late to get into those classes to be honest but with the Punch-Drunk gigs running Monday-Wednesday next week, Monday and Wednesday’s classes will be a no-go 😦

Guess I’ll just have to make up for lost time!

944020_10208386147387300_6756751093563779026_n
BEAST-MODE: ENGAGED

 

Thanks for reading!
L xx

6 Things I could Accomplish if I Stopped Falling Asleep on the Bus

I love a nap.

I can be pretty lazy and I’m a world-class procrastinator, so a good afternoon nap is always appreciated. That’s something I certainly didn’t grow out of during 3 years of Uni. In fact I’m quite seriously debating having a quick nap now and finishing this later, but I won’t (or I might have done, how would you know)?

The Uni lifestyle can be an unstructured one, to say the least. There’s no established routine and more worryingly all that work that needs to be done, those thousands and thousands of words – that’s all down to you and you alone. You, your self-motivation and your will-power.

So yeah, lots of naps tend to happen!

In fact I remember clearly, days that more or less consisted of one long nap – often with great remorse that I didn’t bask in their glory more while I had the chance. On these days getting out of bed was done no earlier than 3pm and even then it was for the sole purpose of being sociable, which meant joining the housemates in the living room (duvet in tow, naturally) for a marathon of Jeremy Kyle, Don’t Tell the Bride and Eastenders. The pinnacles of physical excercise for the day consisted of stirring your pot noodle, loo breaks (once they became absolutely essential) and taking turns to reboot the wireless.

At a previously undetermined point during the early evening your conscience would kick in and you’d drag yourself to your room to retrieve the laptop and a couple of books, muttering something vague as you left the room along the lines of “right, I HAVE to do some work, nobody nick my seat.” Then you’d settle yourself back in your carefully sculpted bum-shaped dent in the sofa with the laptop, books and a cuppa – and proceed to google pointless crap, refresh your Facebook timeline and carefully study the IMDB profile of that guy on the TV and figure out which film you know them from. Needless to say the books were usually employed exclusively as a make-shift coffee table and you’d be left wondering as you carried them back upstairs a few hours later, what made you bring them down in the first place.

But anyway, snapping out of reminiscing about the dreamy parallel universe that is UK higher education and getting back to civilised life, where there are jobs to go to and to-do lists to keep on top of, napping is a somewhat dangerous game.

I’ve found the perfect nap length is around half an hour. Have a nice half hour nap and you’ll find yourself refreshed, focussed and raring to start some housework/excercise/job applications/writing (or whatever it is you need to do – these are just a few of the things that I expertly procrastinate from on a daily basis). But go any longer, sleep through the alarm or groan at your designated waker to leave you alone one too many times until they think “sod this” and consent to leave you in your pit to sleep away the afternoon – and it will likely result in a solemn pledge to never nap again.

Have one of the latter kind of naps and with cruel, cruel irony you’ll feel like you haven’t slept a single hour in the last 3 months. You might as well concede defeat and kiss productivity goodbye for the day as it saunters out of the front door, leaving you to stare blinkingly after it in an unparalleled state of groggy, disoriented can’t-be-arsedness.

The problem is my bus journey to work at the moment is about 45 minutes, so take off a few minutes at the beginning for getting sat down, getting my phone or Kindle out and fooling myself that I’m going to read a book/write/find out what’s happening in the world – and you’re left with the perfect nap time. Believe me my body has wised up to this and is taking full advantage. Out of an average 10 bus trips per week I tend to sleep straight through 8 of them, and doze through at least part of the other two. Maybe it doesn’t help that it’s usually dark while I’m travelling at the minute but let’s be honest, it could be like Miami Beach in July out there, and I’d probably still nod off!

The whole ‘I can’t possibly fall asleep in public’ thing deserted me months ago, another thing scratched off the list of things I get embarrassed/ashamed about as I get further into my twenties and simultaneously care less and less about what people think.

Although I will admit that there was a short period some months ago when I was traumatised by witnessing a poor teenage guy fall asleep on the top deck of a (very busy) bus from Newcastle. This wasn’t a problem in itself and it could have turned out to be a great little nap, if the bus hadn’t lurched rather violently, sending the guy hurtling to the floor equally as violently. To make matters worse he woke up half way down and yelped like a little puppy, (except much louder). Needless to say the teenage girls sitting behind him couldn’t stifle their giggles. To be frank they were more like guffaws and there was no real attempt made to hold them in.

I do still have some shame and I would expect that I too would turn something close to the shade of crimson that guy did if that happened to me. In fact I’d probably have gotten off the bus at the next stop and waited for the next one, on which nobody would have known of my humiliation. So anyway I swore off falling asleep on the bus that day, but apparently I got over that quite quickly…

Anyway getting to the point, I’ve been re-evaluating my productiveness (or lack of it) again lately. So here is a list I’ve come up wth to try to motivate myself, of things I could (theoretically, assuming some level of productiveness rather than 45 minutes of staring wistfully out of the window) do with the 7.5 hours that I spend sitting on a bus each week. If only I didn’t spend them sleeping…

  • Read a book or two each week – then I could even think about starting to write a book-review blog, which I’ve wanted to do for a while, only I don’t get through anywhere near enough books!
  • Write a new blog post every day – not that I’m under the illusion that I have enough good ideas to write that often, so the quality/quantity balance would be way off!
  • Watch all of Breaking Bad in 8 weeks – I realise that’s not quick for most people but as things stand it’s taken me 2 years and I’m only up to season 3, episode 4 (no spoilers please). Maybe then I could even make some progress on the many other shows that I seem to have stalled half way through, like Supernatural, Grimm, Game of Thrones, Criminal Minds etc etc
  • Read A LOT more news, and be a bit better informed.
  • Listen to more new music.
  • Speak to a fellow bus dweller – sounds weird I know but people must have done this before the days of mobiles, Kindles, tablets and MP3s!

Social Media Cold Turkey – I Did It!! (day 31)

image
Image taken from Keisharocks.com

So I’ve done it, 31 days without using social media!

The withdrawal honestly hasn’t been too bad. I haven’t had to fight against a powerful, primal urge to check my Snapchats. No arguments, bribery or blackmail have ensued as attempts to make my partner give up my passwords; nor have I managed to lock any of my accounts by trying to guess what he might have put. No late night phone calls have been made to friends in a bid to find out what I’ve been missing. It turns out life without Facebook et al. isn’t actually that bad! In fact its been a good excuse to break a pretty irritating habit!

I can’t pretend I’ve been more productive because realistically, I haven’t. The time I haven’t spent scrolling through Facebook whilst on the bus to and from work has for the most part been otherwise wastefully occupied. Mostly by falling asleep. I do that A LOT. Its kind of my thing. I might have caught 20 minutes more sleep per night through not lying in bed of an evening checking social media, but I don’t think I’ve particularly slept better for it – as some suggest you will after disconnecting from always-on-forever-pinging-at-you communication.

So I haven’t become a more productive, more accomplished, better-rested, cooler, more interesting individual through my 4 week abstention from social media. But I have learned that it is easier to live without it than I thought it would be (at least short term), and that those who really want to keep in touch with you (and who you want to keep in touch with) will do that through those long forgotten mediums of text and phonecalls (and sometimes even face-to-face encounters).

However, one of the things that you can’t do effectively without it is to spread the word about your new blog. And get people to read it. So I’m back! Hey, I never said it didn’t have its uses…

What I’d say I’ve really learned from the whole experience, from sitting down and thinking about social media, and writing down my hopefully not too mind-numbing ramblings about what its like to use it and to not use it – is how powerful it can be. How huge a part of our lives it is and just how much of ourselves we put out there when we use it.

I’ve read, looked at and watched some of the most heartwarming things imaginable, right on Facebook and Twitter since I started using them. I’ve watched a terminally ill young man use social media to raise huge amounts of money in record time, for people in similar positions to him; seen a simple hashtag help a nation to show their compassion for an entire race of people and stand up against racial hatred in the wake of a terrible crime committed by one hateful radical.

And recently I’ve also read the constant and growing outpour of racial hatred from people that I grew up with, went to school with and have worked with – resulting from the government and the media’s use of social media to spread their hateful message about how Muslim’s are “destroying Great Britain,” in order to distract us from the actual root of our problems (them) in the run up to a general election.

So really what I’ve learned is how great social media can be, but also how dangerous. Really stopping and thinking about social media, which we’ve let into our lives in such a massive way, has made me think more about how I use it; the size of the pinch of salt with which I take everything that I read online; how I view others when I’m reading their posts or comments; and what I put on there about myself, for all the world to see.

My Anaconda don’t want none unless you Read Books Hun!

First of all, thank you to Sophie Jordan for letting me use the genius lyric of her creation above, as a title for this one. Soph has come up with some right gems in the time I’ve known her and that one has to be one of the best! It inspired me..

So its no secret that I’m not a Nikki Minaj fan. For me, she’s one of those ‘artists’ that there are far too many of now, who have no concept of their responsibility to the public that makes them so incredibly rich. Minaj, Cyrus and co. are quick to defend their soft-porn music videos and even worse lyrics by saying that they’re free to express themselves however they want, but think about it this way – these days no business would dare neglect to have a ‘corporate social responsibility’ department, and their PR and customer service teams are forever answering to anyone and everyone in the press and over social media. And quite right, the people at the heads of these companies are becoming very, very rich on the money that consumers are paying them for their products and services. So they should be answerable to the public.

So why then, does this not apply to pop musicians? Personally, I can’t see why they don’t have a responsibility to make their products appropriate to the people that they are peddling them to? If you want to be able to be overtly sexual and swear heavily in your live shows, then make your tickets subject to an age limit that reflects that content. Of course this won’t happen because the ability to sell out arenas and stadiums for 50+ shows would definitely suffer.

Of course, there is also a lot to be said for the fact that it is up to children’s parents what they allow them to go and see. And if those parents want to, they can check in advance what the content will be like, from previous shows.

But what I really can’t get my head around, is that those performances are being allowed on TV, on family shows such as awards ceremonies, and that the songs are all over the radio. It is becoming almost impossible for parents not to let their kids see and hear it, and swearing aside, the messages behind a lot of these songs are questionable, to say the least.

For example – when did it become OK for very young kids to be singing along to songs on the radio, with lyrics like this – “I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches in the motherfucking club, fuck you if you skinny bitches. What? Yeah!”

Maybe the swear words are beeped out, but it still gets the point across. And the point is that the only power that young girls have comes from the way that they look. Yes its good for young girls to know that they don’t need to be skinny, but its not good to teach them to insult girls who are. And its definitely not good to tell them that the reason they don’t need to be skinny is because its alright, men do actually find curves attractive! How about telling them that they don’t have to be skinny (or curvy) because, wait for it… the percentage of men who want to have sex with a woman, is not the only way to measure that woman’s value!

To look at another majorly annoying example, Beyonce is an incredibly talented singer, songwriter, businesswoman and Mother. So why in the video for Drunk in Love, released not that long after she gave birth to their daughter, does she spend half of the video draping herself mostly naked over her husband like a groupie, while he raps away, making no eye contact or any recognition that he knows she’s there? That doesn’t say ‘strong woman’ to me. And I realise that if anyone wears the trousers in that relationship, its probably her (and that in terms of their private life, it actually has absolutely nothing to do with me). But when it comes to their public image (which they are making their millions from) they do need to think about the images they’re projecting about healthy/unhealthy relationships.

Anyway I’m done ranting, so to turn this entry into something a bit more productive, here’s my list of a few women in the public eye at the moment who I think are really worthy female role models (and not just because men want to see them naked)…

1. Maryam Mirzakhani

Image from telegraphindia.com
Image from telegraphindia.com

Maryam Mirzakhani this year became the first ever woman to receive the Fields Medal, a major mathematics award nicknamed the Nobel Prize of mathematics, after it has run for 50 years!

2. Emma Watson

Image from theguardian.com
Image from theguardian.com

Emma is a successful actress of course, and is well known for being absolutely smokin! I think she deserves a mention for using her celebrity status to become a UN goodwill ambassador and for her involvement in the HeForShe campaign, encouraging men and women alike to consider gender equality issues.

3. Shonda Rhimes

Image from tvguide.com
Image from tvguide.com

This one isn’t just because she’s the writer behind the cinematic genius that was the Britney Spears/Zoe Saldana/Taryn Manning/Dan Aykroyd/Kim Cattrall/Justin Long 2002 movie Crossroads (maybe that’s a bit of a niche one, but it basically made my early teenage years). No, she’s also responsible for Grey’s Anatomy – which she first created after watching lots of daytime TV when she first adopted a newborn baby in 2002 – and is basically taking the world by storm as a writer and producer.

4. Gemma Mortensen

Image from linked in.com
Image from linked in.com

Still only in her mid-thirties, Gemma is Executive Director of Crisis Action, an international non-profit who bring together organizations across the world to help ensure that governments uphold their obligations to civilians during conflicts. She has won numerous awards in recent years for herself and for Crisis Action, and is seen as a real leader of change in what started out to be her own small way, but is now hugely effective across the globe.

Social Media Cold Turkey – photographic evidence (day 21 – 09/11/2014)

I was out with my family the other night and I got to thinking about something (dangerous, I know).

We were walking around the Sunderland Illuminations at Roker Park and I was taking photos on my phone, mostly of the kids who were all excited and happily posing in front of the displays. Well, 7-year-old Nicole was happily posing, 3-year-old Ethan took a little more convincing and Kenzie, who’s almost 2 – well you just have to catch him on the odd occasion that he stops and stands still.

Anyway, we were wandering around and I was snapping away on my phone, until I realised that I hadn’t really seen any of the displays for myself (as in, not through my camera). I hadn’t really been taking in and enjoying the displays, but instead was more focussed on taking photos so that I could remember (and show others) how much we had enjoyed them! This got me thinking about how much of our time we spend taking photographs when we’re doing something that we enjoy, whether it’s having days out with family or going on nights out with friends.

If something interesting or funny happens and nobody managed to get a picture of it, we’re genuinely disappointed. Or if we’ve taken a load of photos on a day/night out or on holiday and we somehow lose them (lost camera/corrupted memory card/swimming pool incident – I have previous of all of these) it feels like a big part of the experience is lost. It’s as if we don’t trust our memories to keep the information for us to enjoy in the future, we need photos to jog our memories and help us to reminisce.

Which is fine and we’ve always done this to an extent, with lots of embarrassing photos taken on birthdays, at Christmas, at school plays and sports days, and our first day at each school. And nothing was better than getting a disposable camera for your birthday and taking (28?) pointless but awesome photos of you and your friends which would later be blu-tacked to the back of your wardrobe door.

I guess it just feels like now, with good quality cameras on our phones and the ability to immediately share an unlimited amount of photos on social media, taking photos (and especially sharing them, to as many people as possible) has sort of become the focus of our social lives, rather than just a way to remember them. Instead of taking photos that we can look back at on our own or with the small group of people who are in them, we’re using them as a way to prove to others that we have active social lives and lots of friends; that we’re interesting and spend our time doing interesting things.

When we really think about it though, with photos becoming a bigger and bigger element of everything we do, we can’t be surprised that people are becoming more and more (and more) pre-occupied with how they look, at all times. Countless times I’ve heard friends (as well as myself) say that they need to make sure they’re looking their best tonight because such-and-such is coming out – and they always take loads of pictures. But photos aren’t confined to special occasions anymore and it can feel like they’re being taken (and shared) all of the time. Worryingly, a quite natural reaction to this is for us as a society to become more conscious in our day-to-day lives, of how we look.

What I find more worrying though, is that we’re starting to concentrate on this stuff at a much younger age. When I was 10 years old, I’d wake up in the morning and get washed, brush my teeth, pull a brush through my hair and get dressed. Then it was either out to school or off to knock on my friends, in which case we’d spend the day playing on our bikes or climbing trees (they would climb trees, I would usually sit on the bottom branch a few feet up, scared to go any higher); or playing computer games at someone’s house. I realise this sounds like a bit of a “things aren’t like they used to be” lecture, but the point is that 99% of the time, taking photos of us doing whatever we were doing, was the last thing on our minds.

Now, many young girls of the same age are getting up in the morning and whether they’re off to school or to knock on their friends, they have to consider how they look. They feel they have to apply make up to hide what they think is their horrible skin which doesn’t look good on the countless pictures that they and their friends take of each other every day. They have to put proper thought into what they are going to wear and how they’ll do their hair.

I can’t imagine having felt that way at 10 years old and I find it pretty scary – and such a shame – that kids have to now. There are so many other things they could be thinking about – and enjoying – but instead they’re spending most of their time convincing each other that they are in fact, beautiful. Or worse, battling their insecurities about their own looks by insulting each other. What scares me is that, at 9/10/11 years old, children aren’t emotionally developed enough to be dealing with such complex issues and feelings!

“Don’t Tell me what to do!!”

For a long time now I have found myself getting very frustrated by some people’s massive overuse of the term ‘political correctness’.

Now this is not because I feel that a situation in which my kids could grow up not being allowed to keep long-lived British traditions such as having Christmas parties and plays at school, is fair and just. It isn’t because I don’t recognise that there are still many taboos in our society which need to be broken down, and that getting around entrenched stiff-upper-lip-syndrome is an essential part of making cultural progress with issues around, for example drug use, mental illness, abortion, homelessness, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy… the list goes on and on. It isn’t because I am a wily politician who is terrified of voters thinking about and discussing real issues which may lead them to question my carefully cratfed election strategy, and consider voting for a ‘revolutionary’, ‘new,’ party such as Ukip. (The fact that a vote for Ukip is in my view the exact opposite of a vote for change or a protest against the establishment, is a topic for another day).

The point is, I don’t like being told how it is ‘correct’ for me to think, feel or behave, any more than the next person.

But what I also hate is to see people rolling out the old cliche that something is “just political correctness gone mad”, along with a big sneer, as a barrier to conversation and debate. What I hate is when that cliche is thrown into the mix as an excuse to refuse to discuss the way in which we do things, our attitudes, or really anything that means anything.

Today I was reading a post on Facebook where a guy was asking parents to consider signing their childrens’ more extravagant Christmas presents from Mum and Dad, and signing a more modest collection of them as being from Santa Clause. The idea behind this was that the children of parents who are less wealthy (or less willing to amass huge amounts of debt) can be left wondering why Santa thinks they’ve been naughtier than Jack down the street who got 2 new consoles, 26 games, an iPad and a whole new wardrobe for Christmas.

The idea is that splitting the credit between Santa and the parents shows children that their Christmas presents are determined by the wealth of the family rather than by who Santa likes the most or by how well each child has behaved (which, lets face it, tends to have very little effect these days, on how much stuff they get).

Now of course, there are many arguments before and against this. I can totally see the point that many parents work very hard to provide chair-fulls of gifts for their kids at Christmas, and don’t see why they should have to spoil the magic by admitting they’re not all from Santa. I can also see the argument that the only important thing is to teach your children to appreciate whatever it is that they get, and not compare it to what other’s have received. I know that’s how my brothers and sisters and I were brought up and we continue to be very none-materialistic people and appreciate anything that is given to us or done for us.

Another comment that had me nodding as I read, was from a parent who wholeheartedly agreed with the post and elaborated that she thought it was extremely important that children grow up from day one knowing the value of money and that nice things don’t just appear out of nowhere because they are owed to you, because its Christmas.

I could see the points of people who pointed out that we all have a responsibility to society and its other families, and the happiness and welfare of their children as well as just our own.

The post and its comments made a really interesting read and there were so many varied opinions that I can’t honestly pretend I know how I will approach this when the time comes that I have my own family. But I really enjoyed reading the discussion and thinking about the points that were made.

I also saw a blog about much the same subject but discussing the impact of posting photos of mountains of gifts on social media, if you have time give it a read and check out the comments, people obviousy feel very strongly about this issue.

The only comment that angered me to read was on the first post and it basically ranted about how this is just another example of ridiculous political correctness, and “them” trying to tell us what to do.

No. No it isn’t. It is simply a heartfelt post written (from my perception) with the intention of encouraging parents to think about something a little differently. It was intended to start a discussion and it did just that.

So why is it that some people are so terrified of that? Why are they so quick to become intensely defensive of themselves and the way they live their lives? Why are some people so closed to debate?

As I said above, I don’t like being told by our government how to think, feel and behave, just like everyone else. But I also hate being told just that, by people on the internet. I hate reading memes and posts on Facebook which agressively proclaim to rally against ‘political correctness’ and encourage individual opinion, yet include words along the lines of “re-post this if you have the guts”.

Is this not also trying to tell me how I should think, and shaming me for having an opinion which does not comply?

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there is nothing wrong with questioning the way that we do things as individuals and as a society, and that crying “political correctness” every time someone tries to do that, probably says more about you, than the person you’re yelling it at.

Social Media Cold Turkey – Feeling Left Out (Day 14 – 02/11/2014)

There have been a couple of things recently that have made me realise how much of our lives we live on Facebook.

Two of my good friends from Uni have recently gotten engaged (YAY Emily and Nathen!), and last night was their engagement party. Most of my housemates from my second year at Uni travelled to Sheffield to celebrate with them and it was amazing to all get together again. 5 of us drove down from Sunderland and the time flew by as we caught up about everyone’s goings on post-Uni. Everyone has exciting things going on – starting careers, buying cars and what-not. Basically doing a lot of scary grown-up things! Let’s just say the car journey down to Sheffield, free of any hangovers, was a lot more lively than the return journey today.

Anyway, the point is that we had a fantastic night with plenty of catching up, ill-advised shots, food, and general idiocy! The only sticking point is that a huge part of all of our nights out throughout Uni was the photos – looking at them the next day and mercilessly reminding each other, despite how much they begged, about the stupid things (and ridiculous dancing) that had happened the night before.

So I’m feeling a little left out as I know we took LOADS of photos (including who knows what when we took over Becca’s camera for 10 minutes while she was at the bar) and I’m betting they will all go up on Facebook over the next couple of days. Seeing as we don’t live in the same house (or even the same city) any more, I won’t get to see anyone else’s photos until I’m back on social media. I think this is the first time I’ve REALLY wanted to log on! I’m not going to, of course, but I do really want to!

The other thing that’s getting to me a bit is that I caught up with one of my best friends recently and we caught up on loads of stuff, one being the impending Motherhood of one of our mutual friends. Before I came off Facebook we had a group message where we talked about all sorts, which is still ongoing, and I think the topic has recently turned very much to the late stages of Danielle’s pregnancy. Not everyone’s idea of a great conversation topic but to me it definitely is! So I’m finding myself feeling a little left out (not intentionally of course) from the group conversation. I feel a bit guilty as well for choosing now to come off, as I’m not allowed back on until a while after she’s due to be born. Of course that’s silly because Danielle can still reach me on the phone or by text but our Facebook message has become pretty central to us keeping in touch so it’s definitely a miss, especially with such big and exciting things going on!

I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve missed social media or thought about wanting to log on until now, but I do feel like I’m missing out on some things. I can do without scrolling down my newsfeed when I’m sat on the bus or sitting hitting refresh because I can’t be bothered to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing on my laptop at the time – but the last few days have definitely highlighted how much easier and convenient social media can make it to keep in touch with people (especially in groups); as well as how much we rely on it to do so.

Social Media Cold Turkey – are we all ‘keyboard warriors’ these days?

I was sitting talking to my Stepdad in front of the telly (the Blyth Spartans v Hartlepool football match) tonight and we got onto the topic of social media.

Gary (my Stepdad) has a Facebook profile but he very rarely uses it and he doesn’t entertain the idea of other social media. But he does livein a house with 4 other adults who do use social media regularly, including my Mam. I think this gives him an interesting persepective on the whole phenomenon and some of the things he had to say got me thinking.

Of course living in a house with his wife, son and two daughters who all use social media, Gary’s heard his fair share of “eeeh look at that, I wonder who she/he’s talking about?” In response to the classic “some people” ranting statuses that crop up all too often, particularly on Facebook. This in particular is something that he can’t understand about the whole culture and I have to say I really can’t either. What satisfaction do we get from describing what we dislike or what has annoyed us about someone to all of our Facebook friends, with no intention of telling anyone what has actually happened or who is involved? Is it simply enjoyment from knowing how the person concerned will feel when they read it and know that it is about them? After all, it can’t help to resolve the problem or get to the bottom of why the person has acted the way that they appear to have, because it doesn’t initiate a conversation, only more tension.

When I hear people saying that Facebook causes more problems than it’s worth or that it makes friendships and relationships more difficult, I find it hard to agree. Mainly because there are real people behind everything that goes on there – and we can treat each other with respect online, if we really want to. What I think it does do though, is allow us to broadcast very widely our frustrations and bad feeling towards people instantly and (importantly) before we have had time to think things through, to calm down or to try to see things from someone else’s perspective. After unpleasant events happen it can keep people in a weird, distant contact who, without social media, would probably have just gotten on with their lives and not thought about what each other were doing. It also gives us the confidence to say things that we sometimes wouldn’t dream of saying in a face-to-face situation.

In a similar veign but on the other side of the coin, social media means that we can see tiny snippets of people’s lives, events and conversations, often taken out of context. And we react to these (as people naturally do). What’s missing is face-to-face, two-sided conversation in which two or more people are able to discuss and try to understand each other’s perspectives.

So whilst I don’t believe that Facebook can cause problems between people, it has definitely changed dramatically the way we interact and it throws up lots of new considerations in the ways that we treat each other.