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Five for Friday

Five for Friday: Football and photographs

On Good Friday, hubby realised a dream and took his family to watch a Reading FC match in an executive box which he won in an auction. The run up to that auction was a very stressful time; my husband is a loyal Reading supporter and wasn’t planning on missing this opportunity.

So, we enjoyed a full stadium tour, a three-course meal and a tense game against Leeds United and their VERY vocal supporters. Aside from a top day out – and a very happy husband (at least once Reading were 2-0 up and they left it pretty late) – it was a chance for me to try out Instagram, a cool little app for snapping and sharing piccies, touching them up a bit and posting them to Facebook and Twitter etc. I love photography anyway but this app makes it more fun and I find myself longing for picture opportunities to crop up. Sometimes they don’t though, which is why I’ve ended up with a few pics of my bedside table and lamp. Hmm, not terribly exciting.

So here are a five Instagram piccies from the Madejski Stadium on Good Friday…

Reading FC ticketsReading FC pitchReading FC stadiumReading FC dugoutReading FC changing rooms

Five for Friday: Why I'm peeing my pants in excitement for summer

Highclere Castle, Highclere, Hampshire

I wouldn’t usually wish huge chunks of the year away but I positively cannot wait until June. Here’s why…

1) Bye bye studies (temporarily), and hello life (temporarily)
Once my next assignment is submitted in early June I’ll be free of study for the whole summer, which means I get my evenings and weekends back and complete freedom to… DO WHATEVER I WANT! Whether it’s dinner and drinks with the girls, a day out with hubby or clearing out the garage (I’m itching to get in there and unleash my inner Monica) I can do it. Hoorah! I can even spend a whole weekend in my pyjamas watching back-to-back episodes of Murder She Wrote, eating nothing but biscuits and drinking tea from china cups if I want to. It’s not that I don’t love the MA, I do, but a break will be blissful and hopefully well earned.

2) Holiday!
Usually, as January 1st of each year rolls around me and hubby will be booking a holiday, putting a marker in the calendar to drag us through the bleak winter months when there’s nothing much to be cheery about. Christmas behind us, we always need a holiday to look forward to. We’ve planned nothing this year because we’ve been reluctant to spend any money (having a tight arse phase at the mo – and hubby nearly bankrupted us with his eggnog latte addiction) and free holidays don’t exist – or rather, they do, but are at my mum’s house in the Shire. And while we STILL haven’t booked anything, we WILL be taking at least a week off in June to revel in some Cornish sun, make ourselves sick on rum and raisin ice cream and cream teas, eat in seafood restaurants, explore parks and gardens and generally have a bloody marvelously British time.

3) Writing, writing, writing
It’s really not possible to work full time, do an MA part time and manage to eat, bathe and dress myself daily as well. Throw in time with the family, time to read, watch my fave TV programmes and wind down after a long day in front of a computer, play netball and volleyball and try and salvage some inkling of a social life, and my poor old writing tends to fall off the ‘really need to get on and do’ list. I’ve just managed to enter two competitions which, luckily, only require the first chapter or two of my novel (and I await with baited breath!) but it’ll be lush to get some proper time back to focus on writing projects, my blogging, my novel, some freelance work. Bring it on. I’m brimming with ideas and won’t be fulfilled until I’ve put this creativity into action.

4) Afternoon tea and a slice of heritage
To celebrate the handing in of my last assignment of the academic year hubby and I plan to while away a few hours at Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed. We’ll soak up the history, the grounds, the well thought out camera angles, and revel in a slice of British history and an era brought alive by a fictional place called Downton Abbey. And on the way home we’ll stop for afternoon tea a posh hotel in Marlow, using the voucher my delightful friend Bloater (she’s not fat, far from it, but has been known to eat a whole maltloaf in two bites) gave me for my birthday. A lush present and hubby and I will use it to pretend, just for a couple of hours, that we’re civilised.

5) Sporting highlights
June to September calendar highlights include: car shopping (hoping my current batmobile lasts that long); Buchy and Bruiser’s birthday bash (these are my husband and wife friends, not a comedy duo btw); the Big Doggie Do – the dog show in which Ralphie was crowned cutest puppy two years ago; Mandy’s wedding in July; Olympic volleyball in August (we have tickets!) and topped off nicely by a weekend oop norf and a trip to the York Festival of Writing (need to run that last one past hubby first).


Pictured above is Highclere Castle, Highclere, Hampshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Five for Friday: achievements this week

Hooray, it’s Friday and I’ve made it through the week. Here’s why I deserve a weekend…

1) Last weekend – and I mean all of it – was spent on my latest MA assignment, as was the weekend before, and while absolutely necessary it’s meant I’ve missed out on any relaxtion-recover-from-the-working-week time and fun-stuff-with-my-family time. Last Saturday hubbles dragged the dog off on a big walkies so I could concentrate on my project in peace. While I was beavering away in the office, the two men in my life, Rich and Ralphie, spent three hours on an adventure. They returned covered in mud having fallen upon some Roman ruins, a wood and some open fields we didn’t even know existed. I was very jealous. So this weekend we’re doing three-hours walkies part two and I’m looking forward to wearing my silver wellies very much.

2) On Monday I played volleyball for the first time this year and got player of the match, and a few aches and pains to boot. I’m really enjoying my return to the sport having ‘retired’ a couple of years ago because this time the pressure’s off. No coach, no subs waiting to take my place on court, no pressure to win and stay in a division. Regional league is all about playing with five of my bestest mates – and the fact we’re winning most games is an added bonus.

3) On Wednesday I attended a data journalism course at Birmingham City Univerity. Organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and lead by online journalism guru (and my tutor!) Paul Bradshaw, it offered a basic guide to finding stories in data and displaying it in a cool way. I love the idea of data journalism and some of the visualisations (this one, for example, from a member of my MA class) are very, very cool. That said, I have real trouble getting my head around data and wince when I have to open an Excel file, so perhaps it’s not for me. But I will keep trying and even have some data sets in mind to look at in the future and try to display visually. I certainly don’t want to give up without at least dabbling.

4) As the above was at BCU, this gave me an opportunity to attend the university I’ve signed up with and meet some more members of my cohort. Despite enrolling last September I’d not yet visited campus and wanted to check it out. I even rode the train in from New Street with other students and trekked onto campus with them, so I felt like I belonged. It’s odd being 32 and attending university but I don’t think I stuck out too much. I also got to hang out with some of my fellow students, one of which I’d already met and another , a fellow distance learner I’d emailed several times. The others were new to me but it was great to catch up, swap stories about our backgrounds and ambitions for the future, our journalism careers to date, stories covered, and our shared insecurity over our projects. Have we done the right thing? Will we pass? What will we do if we don’t?

4) The only downside of Wednesday – data-journalism-and-hang-out-with-students-day – was that I almost fainted just before I got there. As I hopped off the station at Perry Barr I had  sharp stomach cramps which made me want to double over and scream in pain. If I didn’t know better I’d think someone was jamming a screwdriver into my middle. But I was in a public place so I came over all English, resisted anything that might have drawn attention to myself, and tried to carry on walking as normal. This resulted in me getting very hot, vision blurring and just before I passed out I managed to prop myself against a wall and take some deep breaths. A lovely student came over and asked if I was okay, handing me her unopened bottle of coke and genuinely being lovely. Whoever you were – huge thanks! 20 minutes later I felt normal again but sharp pains persisted throughout the day and by the time I made it back to Milton Keynes and fell on the sofa that evening  I felt utterly shattered.

5) My dog has more Twitter followers than my little sister. She’s very upset about this but I think it’s quite an achievement :0)

Five for Friday: Why you should check out

Ralphie the cocker spaniel in the carIf you get a spare five mins you should check out, follow Ralphie on Twitter or go and like his Facebook page. Here’s why:

1) Because it’s about dogs and dogs rock. Anyone who has one will know how much fun and frustration they serve up: a joy to be around one minute (cute puppy curled up on lap), doing amusing things the next (like growling at penguins on Frozen Planet) and then tripping you over and licking the sandwich it’s just taken you half an hour to prepare.

2) It’s named after my own dog Ralphie and he’ll get a popularity complex if people don’t like it. Our neighbours have just got a labrador puppy called Molly and Ralphie’s already peeved he’s no longer the cutest dog on the block.

3) It’s part of my Masters in Online Journalism and I desperately want to a) pass it and b) do very well. So the more support I get for it, the better. Pretty please!

4) You can play a part in contributing to the dog walking community of Milton Keynes and beyond by suggesting good walkies to add to the map, flagging up dog friendly pubs and attractions and swapping information and advice on being a dog owner. Comments, feedback and discussion are more than welcome!

5) Just because. Watch these two videos and just TRY not to laugh at the highs and lows of being a dog owner.



Five for Friday: Why I'm looking forward to Christmas

Amaretto and coffee in a snowman mugYes, I know. It’s stupidly early to be saying the C word but I don’t care; I love this time of year, the drop in temperature, the cosy nights and the run up to Christmas. Here’s why I can’t wait for Chrimbo 2011:

1) This time last year me and hubbles were preparing to get wed, so we pretty much missed out on the Christmas build up. We plan on more than making up for it this year though, and have already started taking amaretto in our coffee, watching festive films and planning where to put the Christmas tree. This year (having moved house since last Chrimbo) we’ll be getting a real Christmas tree from the greengrocers down the road, which we frequent every Saturday; taking my parents into town for the switching on of the Christmas lights when they visit from the shire for the weekend; saving our pennies to invest in a whole new set of Christmas decorations to complement the new house; and watching The Hogfather over and over again.

2) Our first wedding anniversary! We’ll have made it to one whole year of happy marriage on December 5th and we’re spending it here. Three days and two nights of just us, some relaxation, some Christmas shopping and tasty food. Bliss.

3) A trip to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. We went a couple of years ago in the pouring rain and while the weather didn’t put a dampener on it – no pun intended – it would be nice to go when it’s dry. We’ll do sightseeing in the morning, lunch in the afternoon and head over to the festivities of wonderland and top up on gluhwein and bratwursts in the German market, browse the trinkets on sale and show off our best hat-scarf-and-glove combos.

4) Ice skating at the local garden centre. I love Frosts – another sign I’m getting older, I love spending weekends in garden centres – but Frosts has a special feel about it and it has its very own ice rink in the winter, I’ve just doscovered. I actually hate ice skating and am beyond crap at it – I think my balance was thrown out at birth along with the placenta – but I’m game for a laugh this year. My reward will be a huge mug of hot chocolate and a few mince pies.

5) A festive baking fest! I make the best mulled wine on the planet, thanks to an adapted version of my mum’s recipe which I may or may not share at some point in the future. But this year I’m going to try mince pies – yes, I’m taking on pastry, how very ambitious, as well as some kind of festive chutney. Cheese and biscuits are going to make an appearance in my house this December and I want to be chutneyed up in preparation. Hubby has also pledged to make amaretto cheesecake and ice biscuits (yes, he’s a metrosexual and takes as much pride in baking as I do.)

Roll on the festivities! Ho, ho, ho!

Five for Friday: Why I'm kissing goodbye to my social life

Five reasons why I’ll be socially inactive for the near to mid-distant future:

1) Just started a Masters in Online Journalism with Birmingham City University. Read all about it at Journo Nest.

2) Have joined the Brew Drinking Thinkings team as one of the wedding writers.

3) The old day job is turning into a day-and-some-of-the -evening job.

4) As well as playing netball twice a week I’m also coming out of volleyball retirement this season. Just wanted to throw some physical pain on top of the mental pain points 1-3 will cause.

5) I have a fantastic husband and crazy doggy I’d like to kick back with when I’m not doing the above.