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Back of a woman looking at the sea. Via Felipe Elioenay via Unsplash
Journalism, Just stuff, Life in general, Online journalism, what I think

Resolutions (sort of): Looking back, then looking forward

Yes, this IS what you’re thinking it is; an obligatory New Year post talking about resolutions and all that annual bollocks. Sorry about that. Sort of.

Now, Facebook will have us believe that 2016 has been a bad year because a lot of well-known and talented celebrities have died throughout the course of it. This doesn’t constitute a bad year in my books and, without being entirely unsympathetic, people die all the time, famous or not. Bad things have happened each year, we’re just more aware of them because of the 24/7 news and social media cycle we are immersed in. These things do not have the ability to ruin my whole year and undo the personal achievements I and others around me have made.

So, let’s have a quick look back at 2016 – highlights include hubby relaunching his business with vigour and watching him thrive, win awards, do interviews and generally be awesome. Even if that did involve me having to be at the other end of almost nightly conversations about Google search rankings *yawn*.

For me, I am about to run the last leg of my MA in Online Journalism, (which gets a name change in 2017) having restarted in January after a few years off to have the kids. And I’m thankful to my good friend Kate for pushing me back on that track, because I could quite easily have let it go. What the MA has and continues to teach me is that knowledge is power, feeding the mind feels great and working hard (and trust me, it IS hard) to achieve good marks is an unbelievable feeling. When some days I struggle to put contact lenses in, find matching socks and get the kids to nursery on time, knowing I’m working at postgraduate level is both shocking, monumental and addictive. The MA has also motivated me to re-examine my career aspirations and given me the confidence to follow those dreams… so let’s see if 2017 brings them to fruition.

And let’s not forget I have survived another year being mum to Irish twins. At the time of writing this I am the proud owner of TWO three-year-olds (born either end of the same year) and we have all survived the tantrums (theirs and mine), throwing stuff (them and me) and inability to put shoes on quickly (mostly them). They test me every day and make me laugh every day and they’re my proudest achievement to date.

So, looking ahead to 2017, here’s what I’ll be focusing on:

Giving less fucks

My resolution of 2016 was inspired by Sarah Knight’s awesome book which taught me not to give a fuck about everything. If you want the full lowdown, get the book, but in short, not feeling guilty about declining invites, saying no to things and ignoring stuff was truly liberating and freed up a lot of time to focus on the things I enjoy. My resolution also inspired other friends to take the same stance and when you’re a busy parent/employee/boss/wife/athlete/sister/dog walker/creative person it’s absolutely okay not to give a fuck about everything. Sarah Knight also has a new book out about how to get your shit together *adds to Amazon wishlist*

Limiting Facebook time

Did I hear a gasp then? Yes, that’s right… Facebook is great for keeping up with friends I don’t see very often or catching up on a bit of gossip. But it’s also filled with a lot of small-chunking shite. And I don’t have time for it. I should not be a slave to notifications. As thus, I may reduce my Facebook intake slightly and focus on other channels later in the year, like using Instagram to drive traffic to my blog (hmmm, will need to start writing more posts before tackling that one).

Meal planning hell

This is a family related one but I cannot get my head around meal planning and grocery shopping. I can easily implement efficient systems at work and home to get shit done, but the food shop/meal planner thing simply baffles me. Earlier this year I tried meal planning and just found it a huge headache and more expensive than dashing into Aldi and scraping a few things into the trolley. I also want to change up our grocery list a bit instead of getting the same old stuff. If you have any systems that work for you, I would love to hear them.

Graduation

The biggest one for me is to complete the MA. By the middle of May I’ll be all submitted (shit, that means I have A LOT of work to do), should have passed (I won’t hold my breath) a few weeks later and graduate few weeks after that. I literally cannot wait for this. The MA has taught me so much, not just about online journalism, but about me as a person, my capabilities and what I want in the future. I’m also excited because completing the MA will free up a ridiculous amount of time for me to focus on all of the above and new things to boot. This blog, for starters, will get a complete makeover and some regular posts. Bring it on!

Education

The MA is educating my mind, but my body and soul are lacking. The body bit is as simple as eating better, getting some exercise and getting enough sleep. And healthier food shops, better eating habits (which I’ve learned from doing the Clean 9 earlier this year) and going to bed earlier (possibly with some wind down time courtesy of the Headspace app) are all well within my control. I’m not yet sure how I will educate my soul and this will become a focus for me post-May when my MA is complete and I have time and mental capacity to focus on other things. Thoughts welcome – Volunteering? Writing? Mentoring? Watch this space.

Have you made any resolutions?

What are your achievements from 2016 and what are you hoping to achieve in 2017?

Just stuff

Why I love Milton Keynes

#LoveMK and the concrete cowsHappy #LoveMK Day – a whole day of the year dedicated to celebrating Milton Keynes. I’ve lived here for 10 years now and I only caught onto this momentous day in 2016. Yes, I’m a bit slow. Born and raised in the shire, I moved to Leicester for a year and headed south to grace the MK Massive with my presence. And I’ve been here ever since.

Despite the extortionate house prices, and as a non-native, I REALLY love it here. We’ve often talked about moving somewhere else to get more bang for our buck, but MK just has too much to offer. What, I hear you cry? (in my head). Let me spell it out for you…

M is for motorway

Sitting right next to the M1 motorway (I can see it from my house, lucky me), MK is super accessible and it makes hot-footing it up north or down south to see friends and family super easy. Motorways may be grey, noisy and busy but they’re pretty handy if you want to travel.

I is for inspiring

Ever heard of Bletchley Park and the codebreakers? Then you’ll know that Milton Keynes has more to it than a load of dual carriageways and roundabouts; it has some proper history, the stuff worthy of making TV programmes about it.

Milton Keynes aerial shot

An aerial shot of Milton Keynes.

L is for layout

Milton Keynes sits on a grid system, a bit like New York, albeit it named in a more obvious way. We have V roads and H roads (that’s V for vertical and H for horizontal) and they’re numbered from 1 to 10 (ish). They have proper names too, but are always accompanied by the letter and number (V10 Brickhill Street, for example), making it pretty easy to navigate anywhere once you’ve sussed out which direction you’re going in. Newbies will tell you everywhere looks the same, but once you get used to it it’s very handy. As well as the grid system, there’s the city centre, a hub of bars, restaurants, shopping and leisure facilities split into smaller sub-areas like The Hub, Intu MK, Centre: MK, Theatre District and Xscape – you can get anything you want, within reason, here. And then nestled amongst the housing estates dotted across the V and H roads, you’ll find what we call local centres, mini city centres comprising all the basic facilities you need. It’s all very handy. MK is built for convenience and easy access, with loads of parking spaces. I like convenient, therefore I like Milton Keynes.

T is for 10 minutes to anywhere

Generally, it takes no longer than 10-15 minutes to get from A to B in MK. Which supports what I said above – very convenient. I’ll happily take an abundance of roundabouts and dual carriageways over one-way systems and a sporadic sprinkling of speed cameras.

O is for open spaces

I grew up in Shropshire and it’s pretty damn, well… pretty. But I kid you not, from my front door in Milton Keynes I have access (by walking)  to more green and open spaces than I did back in the shire. Ralphie is spoiled for choice on his walks and if we decide to hop in the car and go a bit further, there’s even more. Take a wonder along the canal at Great Linford, for example, and you’ll soon forget you’re not in the middle of the countryside.

Swan on Tongwell Lake, Milton Keynes

And here’s yet another swan – there are lots in Milton Keynes. This one’s having a lovely time on Tongwell Lake.

N is for nightlife

I don’t really know what a nightlife is these days. Having two children kind of killed that off. But in my 20s I spent many a weekend frequenting the local pubs, clubs and restaurants. I never had to walk too far, I could always get a dirty kebab (or equivalent) before calling it a night and never failed to get a taxi home. Now my evenings are more boring civilised there are two big cinema complexes and loads of places to eat – the popular chain restaurants as well as loads of village-y style pubs nestled away in the prettier parts of Milton Keynes or just on the fringes. I’m thinking The Swan, the other Swan, and the other, other Swan off the top of my head.

Willen Lake, Milton Keynes

What we refer to as ‘mini Stone Henge’ at Willen Lake.

K is for kids

There is so much here for kids to do and you can find out more about this on this very handy blog. As the proud owner of two such kids, I’m not short of things to do with them and without having to wander far either. For example, the park on the housing estate where I live looks pretty cool from Google Earth. And it’s free! I think it truly hit home how great MK is for children (and their parents) when we moved to Dorset for a few months while waiting for our new house to complete. Dorset is beautiful and I’m never one to scoff at beautiful countryside and beaches, but… there was very little organised stuff for kids and what was on offer involved travelling a bit.

E is for enterprise

Did you know that Milton Keynes is the 22nd best place to launch a startup? Or, if you read the 2016 Cities Outlook report, MK has the second highest number of startups per 10,000 population. To me that says MK is good for the economy, offers job opportunities, is creative, enterprising and innovative. This is good news for me and good news for my kids – I want them to grow up somewhere full of opportunities. I was pretty much laughed out of Shropshire when I told the school careers woman I wanted to be a journalist. I think much more is possible in MK.

MK Storm netball team

Lovely ladies: Me and members of the awesome MK Storm netball team, playing in the Milton Keynes Indoor Netball League.

Y is for…

Okay, so I’m struggling with Y. Read on peeps, nothing to see here.

N is for netball

I’ve been playing netball since I can remember and have always found teams to play in wherever I’ve been living. We all know when you put competitive women in a sports hall and throw a ball in the air it can get a bit bitchy. But I have the pleasure of playing for and with the nicest bunch of netballing ladies ever. And it just so happens that they’re pretty awesome at netball too. Go team MK Storm!

E is for education

Milton Keynes is home to The Open University, making education accessible to all, wherever you live and whatever your circumstances. I know this because I work there (and I won’t get flowers for writing this) and see first-hand the impact it makes. It reminds me every day that education is really important.

S is for smart

Milton Keynes is a smart city. Officially. And because I can’t be bothered to write anymore, you can read all about it here.

Journalism, Just stuff, Life in general, Marriage, Media, Motherhood, Online journalism

2016: It’s all about me

2016, it’s all about me. Sound a bit selfish? Abso-fucking-lutely. But there’s more to it than that; it’s about looking at things from a different perspective, making the most of the year ahead and doing things that make me happy, and that I enjoy. Not because I feel obliged. Life is too short to make other people happy by making yourself unhappy and I must accept that I can’t do everything.

For me, 2016 is about being honest, liberating myself from the constraints of the ‘must do because you should do’ and being mindful. A happy me, generally, means the people around me are happy too. That all sounds a bit gushy and deep, but I’m keen to tackle this year in a different way; I’m bored with the same old shit approach. So… I’m writing my New Year blog post in February…

Collapsed gingerbread house

This year I’ll say no to the kids if they ask to build a gingerbread house. Here’s why.

1) I’m saying no and I won’t feel bad about it

I’m actually pretty good at this anyway, but this year I’ll be better. No more agreeing to go to works dos/family parties/events if I won’t enjoy them/don’t have time/can’t afford it/or just don’t feel up for it. After reading this Guardian article, it reinforced something I already knew: it’s okay to say no to things and not feel bad about it. I can’t make that leaving do but best of luck in your new venture. I can’t make the family party but send love and hugs to Uncle Bob. I can’t make training tonight but I’ll see you at the game tomorrow. I’m not up for that cinema trip, but maybe next time. And you don’t even need to give a reason, just saying no is fine. I’m saying goodbye to obligation and it feels liberating.

 2) Only working for me, myself and I

No more crappy freelance. I’m being harsh here, freelance isn’t crappy but helping other people out leaves no time for me. It means that my notepad full of ideas and personal projects get left right there in the notepad and never put into practice. Whenever I get a surge of motivation I’d think ‘Gah, I don’t have time, I need to finish something for someone else.’ As 2016 is all about me, not taking on anything outside of my day job (apart from point number 4 below) frees up time to focus on these projects. No more displacement activities, or whatever you want to call them, means I can crack on with my ‘me’ projects.

Robyn Bateman3) Making an effort

Last year was about family really and I think, like a lot of parents, I let a little bit of me go. This year, while time is and always will be an issue, I want to make the effort to wear earrings, paint nails, buy boots with heels instead of flats and trainers, and occasionally pop on some red lipstick (thanks to my Secret Santa!). They’re small things but they make a difference. I’m currently writing this post in knee-high boots… (not JUST boots, you sickos, I’m fully dressed!).

4) Return of the MA
The year I fell pregnant, I was part-way through an MA in Online Journalism with Birmingham City University. I was awarded a scholarship and supported by my employer; opportunities like that don’t come around every day to degree-less, non-academic bods like me.

I decided to interrupt study to enjoy the last months of pregnancy and birth of ‘Bean Child’. And I use the term ‘enjoy’ loosely.  I then popped out the Boy Child, endured a period of mania, lack of sleep and resettling into work. Now is my last chance to get on and finish the MA and I’d be an absolute idiot to ditch it now. Hard work is ahead but it’ll be so rewarding and challenging. I know I’ll love it, moan about it, get excited, swear a lot and other contradictions but it has to be done. I work at The Open University and see, firsthand, the amazing educational achievements of our students who complete qualifications while spinning many plates. And I see their proud families, their new careers, their sense of self-achievement and I want me a slice of that. Distance learning makes it possible and BCU have been really accommodating, putting more flex into flexible so I can work at my own pace. When I get my arse in gear, you can read about my progress here.

Cocker Spaniel Ralphie in trainers5) Pass the endorphins
I’ve started running. It should be noted that I am not a runner, and I don’t really like it that much. However, given time and budget constraints lack of time and cold, hard cash (MUST shake off the work jargon!), running can be done anywhere, at anytime and is completely free. I walk the dog every other evening anyway (me and hubby take turns) so I might as well run a bit, even though Ralphie’s not so keen because he likes to stop and sniff. I now say I’m taking him for a drag, not a walk.

Also, and this is important, I’m setting limited expectations (there I go with the work jargon again). What I mean is, just doing it is enough – the time/distance/pace/calorie burn etc doesn’t matter. I’m not working my way up to run 5km and I’m fully accepting of my run/walk/run/walk approach. I can only run in short bursts and that’s okay because it’s better than nothing. And if it gets easier and I can go for longer, great. But if it doesn’t and I can’t then that’s okay too. Secretly, I’m kind of enjoying it. I feel great and smug that I’m excercising beyond my weekly netball match and thanks to my new running trainers (Christmas motivational present from hubby, modelled by Ralphie over here ——->), I’m positively bouncing off those pavements. Well, almost.

6) Recognising those who support me
Being truly selfish requires help. And there are lots of people I could mention, I thank them all, but there’s one who needs naming. Richard Bateman. Our time together has been a whirlwind of romance, marriage, kids and juggling all the things we love to do. And it’s because we’re really good at the sharing, supporting, balancing act of being responsible adults that I’m able to do all of the above as well as raise two children and get to work on time Richard and Robyn Bateman(dressed and washed, too). For me, the juggling of our family life is split between us and I recognise this is not the norm: mums often play the lead role and make more personal sacrifices when it comes to raising a family. We are not traditional in that sense and take an equal role in family, work and social stuff. And it’s not easy. It’s not easy for me that the kids often run to their dad when they’re ill, instead of me, or for him to manage running a business when he’s expected to be flexible. Yay for us!

So, here’s to tackling 2016 in a different way. But I’m not totally selfish… if you’re stuck in a rut, I can offer you this: read Thrive. It’s an eye-opener (how to reprioritise and emasure success in different ways) and this book by Sarah Knight, if for nothing more than the fact is has a swear word in the title.

Books, Just stuff, Life in general, Motherhood, what I think

Bateman is back blogging in 2015. You heard it here first…

New Year’s Resolution number one: to blog more. Well, to actually blog at all. Given that much of my husband’s Christmas break was spent firefighting the billion hack attempts on this site, I owe it to him, at least, to put up some content.

I won’t blather on about why the last couple of years have been a bit thin on the blog side (two kids born in 2013!), I’ll just get on with it…

This is what I’m up to as we break into 2015… Continue Reading

Books, Food, Just stuff, Life in general, Motherhood

What I’m doing now…

It’s been a while since I blogged, and even longer since I blogged regularly. Somehow, having kids and all that that entails, has seen my writing slip to one side and I fear I’m not as good at it as I once was. I’m out of practice. So, stealing inspiration from this post, here’s one to ease myself back in…

Reading: Well, I’m not actually reading anything at the moment, in anticipation of the publication of The Atlas of Us – tomorrow! It’s author, my good friend Tracy Buchanan, had two dreams: to have a baby and to get a UK publishing deal. Typically, both arrived at the same time but she’s so super talented (and a bit bonkers) that she’s managed to write a book and raise a lovely little girl all at the same time. Hats off to Buchy! The last book I read was The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult and it’s utterly amazing. I urge anyone to read it and not want to change their life for the better afterwards. It’s just fantastic. Continue Reading