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Richard and Halle Bateman
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.

Listening to: I don’t get chance to listen to music much, but my daughter’s enthralled with The Muppets so me and hubby often find ourselves singing the songs long after the kids have gone to bed, and even when we wake in the morning. They’re catchy little numbers! “I’m having a me party…”

Laughing at: My kids. They do funny stuff all the time, stuff that no one else would think funny, probably. But I do. They make me chuckle every single day.Richard and Halle Bateman

Swooning over: My husband. We don’t get much quality alone time together but it’s always been him, It always will be. Soppy stuff, I know. Bluergghhh.

Planning: Christmas. Sounds stupid but our last two chrimbos have been total stress fests; moving house and having babies – or both at the same time. This year we’ve booked time off to really endulge in the the run up to Christmas,  buy/make/wrap Christmas presents, glug mulled wine (home made, of course), watch festive movies and litter the house in twinkly lights. December is a busy time for us with out wedding anniversary and my birthday, plus it’s my son’s first birthday this Christmas Eve so there will no doubt be a mini party.

Eating lots of: If I’d written this two weeks ago I’d be saying chocolate brioche. But, along with a handful of colleagues, I’ve signed up to Weight Watchers to shed the last of my baby weight and this week I’ve been chowing down on what WW call’s filling and healthy food.

Feeling: Hungry.

Discovering: What it’s like to be a working mum. I went back to work this month after 18 months of maternity leave following the birth of my Irish twins. Lots of stuff is new but lots of stuff is familiar, it’s quite odd. Aside from the military operation conducted each morning, just to get out the door on time, I’ve had a good few weeks – sitting on my butt most of the day, having adult convo, drinking tea while hot and going to the loo alone. Bliss. I have to do some work too, obviously but I’m still in the induction period and enjoying it; rediscovering that I have more skills than being able to juggle a couple of kids. I’m also part-time and that’s taken the most getting used to. It feels odd on a Wednesday to say ‘cheerio folks, have a good weekend’. I feel like I’m sloping off early while the others slave away for another two days, and that I’m somehow a bit of a slacker. Of course. I get a part-time wage so it’s all relative, but it’s taking some getting used to. I’ve always worked full time and now Thursdays feel like Saturdays. So confused!

Looking at: The National Trust brochure. My mum treated us to membership so we can enjoy some free and fun days out as a family. There are loads of cool places to visit, both locally and further afield, and we hope to make use of the passes one weekend very soon.

Wearing: Right now? Er… I’ll be honest, I’m wearing harem trousers and a maternity top (my son was born almost seven months ago!). The trousers are covered in formula milk and my top (which is comfy and loose in this mega heat) has smudges of a blended chicken/veggie combo down the side courtesy of my son. Did I say glamourous was my middle name? Er… well… it isn’t.

Cooking: Hubby tends to cook our evening meals (he enjoys taking ages to cook a meal while drinking wine) so I cook the kids’ meals. Okay, so today’s was cheesy beans but in recent weeks I’ve made cupcakes (I’m getting better, but still moderately rubbish), rhubarb crumble, cottage pie with veg and salmon and sweetcorn chowder.  So no, I won’t be applying to Masterchef.

Wondering:  What the hell happened to my PE kit. I was supposed to rejoin netball training this week after my ‘baby break’ but discovered the only shorts I have in my wardrobe are big enough to poke my foot through and that’s about it. I did, however, manage to find both trainers, one in the loft and another under the bed. Netball, you’ll have to wait another week for me.

Trying out: This week I went on an InDesign training course, to go over the basics. In my newspaper editor days I designed page layouts and used QuarkXpress for the best part of five years. I haven’t touched the software for a good few years and as InDesign is the ‘new’ Quark, I had a go today. It reminded me how much I like design (and how frustrating it can be to try something new) and I wonder if it’s something I can use more of in the future, both in and out of work.

So, there you have it. During my ‘blog break’ I have written posts for others, so I’ll whack links up shortly. And if you’ve made it this far, thanks SO MUCH for reading.

Journalism, Life in general, Serious stuff, topical, what I think, work

Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums…

Pens in hair by Evil Erin via FlickrWhile the UK trend towards rising unemployment for young people has been building since 2000, I have to confess to being a tad unsympathetic.

“Lots of young people are downgrading their aspirations and taking second best. We’re seeing graduates who take on possibly not the job they hope to achieve,” says Paul Brown, director at the Princes Trust, in this article.

And when I left college I wanted to be editor of the New York Times, live in Manhattan and sip cocktails after an exciting day on the news desk. It was never going to happen.

So young people shouldn’t be defeated when they don’t get the job they aspire to straight away or if they have to settle for second best; we all have to start somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. That’s certainly how it was for me.

What’s missing in this day an age – a time where school sports days are seen as stressful and unnecessarily competitive – is the sense of reality, the bigger picture. That if you want to become a fashion designer, a corporate director, a banker, then you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And you have to start early.

Walking out of university with an English Literature degree and saying “hey job market, I’m reading for that career in publishing now” isn’t going to work. What experience do you have? What qualifications do you have? And best of all, have you got a combination of experience and qualifications that absolutely support the path you’re choosing to take?

I’ve read CVs from people who say they’re desperate for a career in media, yet their qualifications and experience say they’re more interested in marketing and sales. The two need to tie up.

And experience is a must. 14-year-olds should be working in some capacity, whether it’s sweeping up hair in a local salon, serving customers in the mini market or waitressing in a café; it adds to your perception of the world of work and teaches you valuable skills, whatever profession you choose to go in at a later date. And it teaches you the value of money, that sometimes you have to work quite hard for not very much.

Yes, it’s potentially stressful to think about a career when you’re just 14 but if getting onto the job market is becoming increasingly competitive – and figures seem to suggest that’s the case – then it’s so important to make sure you stand out.

This isn’t a an attempt to blow my own trumpet but read my CV and you’ll see that all I ever wanted to be was a journalist. From work experience on the Kidderminster Shuttle when I was 14, to the subjects I studied at A Level and to the trainee reporter job I started out in when I was 19, and everything I did in between to support that ambition. No one reading my CV could misinterpret that I wanted to be anything else – so not only is it about qualifications and experience but there needs to be an element of passion there too.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from very early on – after dismissing the idea of being an FBI agent and then an Olympic runner, of course – and did everything possible to make that happen. And I didn’t see it as stressful at the time, or pressured, or even unrealistic – not even when the careers advisor almost fell off her chair laughing at the fact I thought I could become a journalist, rather than the dog groomer role a useless careers-type survey had predicted for me.

So, I made sure I did my work experience (arranged via school) at two local newspapers and, despite being painfully shy at 14 I asked the reporters there what to study at college, whether to go to university or not, and the best options for getting a job. And that’s what I did.

I also whittled off letters to lots of local newspaper editors and asked them the best way to get into journalism. And I got lots of feedback, from the people who knew, the people who’d already been in my position and were now doing the job. You can’t get any better advice than that! And I’ve been working as a journalist since I was 19 – so it worked.

It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, and I’m not suggesting every case is as cut and dried as I’m making it sound, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance and that means making connections, creating opportunities and gaining experience as early as possible. And social media is a great enabler.

PS I know this doesn’t apply to all graduates and that there are some super talented folk out there who can’t get a job and it utterly sucks. And I’m only referring to journalism here because that’s the career path I chose. It’s tough deciding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and I am lucky, I knew from an early age and followed a path. For those who don’t know what they want to do, it’s even tougher.  So maybe the title of this blog is harsh; my lack of sympathy is only towards those who expect the world for very little effort. If only.

Picture by Evil Erin via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

PS Be grateful for opportunities presented to you, make the most of them and be prepared to start at the bottom. And NEVER get your mum to write your work experience letters for you!

Journalism, Life in general, Serious stuff, topical, what I think, work

Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums…

Pens in hair by Evil Erin via FlickrWhile the UK trend towards rising unemployment for young people has been building since 2000, I have to confess to being a tad unsympathetic.

“Lots of young people are downgrading their aspirations and taking second best. We’re seeing graduates who take on possibly not the job they hope to achieve,” says Paul Brown, director at the Princes Trust, in this article.

And when I left college I wanted to be editor of the New York Times, live in Manhattan and sip cocktails after an exciting day on the news desk. It was never going to happen.

So young people shouldn’t be defeated when they don’t get the job they aspire to straight away or if they have to settle for second best; we all have to start somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. That’s certainly how it was for me.

What’s missing in this day an age – a time where school sports days are seen as stressful and unnecessarily competitive – is the sense of reality, the bigger picture. That if you want to become a fashion designer, a corporate director, a banker, then you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And you have to start early.

Walking out of university with an English Literature degree and saying “hey job market, I’m reading for that career in publishing now” isn’t going to work. What experience do you have? What qualifications do you have? And best of all, have you got a combination of experience and qualifications that absolutely support the path you’re choosing to take?

I’ve read CVs from people who say they’re desperate for a career in media, yet their qualifications and experience say they’re more interested in marketing and sales. The two need to tie up.

And experience is a must. 14-year-olds should be working in some capacity, whether it’s sweeping up hair in a local salon, serving customers in the mini market or waitressing in a café; it adds to your perception of the world of work and teaches you valuable skills, whatever profession you choose to go in at a later date. And it teaches you the value of money, that sometimes you have to work quite hard for not very much.

Yes, it’s potentially stressful to think about a career when you’re just 14 but if getting onto the job market is becoming increasingly competitive – and figures seem to suggest that’s the case – then it’s so important to make sure you stand out.

This isn’t a an attempt to blow my own trumpet but read my CV and you’ll see that all I ever wanted to be was a journalist. From work experience on the Kidderminster Shuttle when I was 14, to the subjects I studied at A Level and to the trainee reporter job I started out in when I was 19, and everything I did in between to support that ambition. No one reading my CV could misinterpret that I wanted to be anything else – so not only is it about qualifications and experience but there needs to be an element of passion there too.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from very early on – after dismissing the idea of being an FBI agent and then an Olympic runner, of course – and did everything possible to make that happen. And I didn’t see it as stressful at the time, or pressured, or even unrealistic – not even when the careers advisor almost fell off her chair laughing at the fact I thought I could become a journalist, rather than the dog groomer role a useless careers-type survey had predicted for me.

So, I made sure I did my work experience (arranged via school) at two local newspapers and, despite being painfully shy at 14 I asked the reporters there what to study at college, whether to go to university or not, and the best options for getting a job. And that’s what I did.

I also whittled off letters to lots of local newspaper editors and asked them the best way to get into journalism. And I got lots of feedback, from the people who knew, the people who’d already been in my position and were now doing the job. You can’t get any better advice than that! And I’ve been working as a journalist since I was 19 – so it worked.

It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, and I’m not suggesting every case is as cut and dried as I’m making it sound, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance and that means making connections, creating opportunities and gaining experience as early as possible. And social media is a great enabler.

PS I know this doesn’t apply to all graduates and that there are some super talented folk out there who can’t get a job and it utterly sucks. And I’m only referring to journalism here because that’s the career path I chose. It’s tough deciding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and I am lucky, I knew from an early age and followed a path. For those who don’t know what they want to do, it’s even tougher.  So maybe the title of this blog is harsh; my lack of sympathy is only towards those who expect the world for very little effort. If only.

Picture by Evil Erin via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

PS Be grateful for opportunities presented to you, make the most of them and be prepared to start at the bottom. And NEVER get your mum to write your work experience letters for you!

Just stuff, Life in general, Six for Saturday, what I think, work

Six for Saturday: ways to shake off 'office aches'

Man stretching at deskAs those of you who spend your time chained to a desk will know, it’s not terribly good for you. Human bodies weren’t designed to sit down all day, in front of computer screens and with tensions building up in necks and shoulders. We were meant to run free, extend our limbs and relax. But in the real world that’s not always possible.

As someone with bad posture, this applies to me more than most; my body works against me most of the time, just because of the way I hold myself.  I spend all day at a computer; most evenings involve the laptop and inbetween I’m on the iPhone, texting, calling, checking emails or fiddling with apps. And it’s not healthy.

So my six for Saturday are tips to survive the ‘office ache’, the uncomfortable feeling you get from spending too much time at a desk.

1) Get in position. This is the most obvious, but if you have a desk job, make sure you’re sitting properly. Your eyes should meet the top of your computer screen, your chair should be straight backed and high enough so your arms sit comfortably on the desk. Don’t cross your legs under the desk and domake sure everything you need and use regularly is within easy reach, no stretching. And if you’re not sure if you’re in the right position, get an occupational health bod in to tell you.

2) Be smart when using the smartphone. Next time you’re texting from your phone, stop, hold your position and take stock. Are you hunched over, shoulders forward, eyes straining to see the screen? Bad, bad, bad. Think of your posture at all times, sit and stand up straight when you can and if you get numbness in your hand from texting, work harder on your posture and try to limit it.

3) Stretch and be limber. Get outside and get some air. Walk tall, open your chest, hold your head high and breathe in the air. Relax your limbs, stretch yourself out and try and ease away some of the tensions of the day. I take my dog for a walk every lunch time – not always convenient on busy days when I have loads to do but it forces me to take a break, get some exercise and unwind. Think of your body as one of those slinkies (the toys you used to get in your Christmas stockings as kids, that cleverly slink down the stairs). Your body is supposed to move fluidly, be light and not stiff and clunky. Take some time to stretch out, roll your neck from side to side, roll your shoulder blades and loosen up.

4) Massage and/or reflexology are often seen as luxury treatments. For me, they’re essential. Years ago, job stress manifested itself in the form of neck and shoulder pain and the only way I could get rid of it was through massage or reflexology, the latter being the most relaxing treatment ever! If the desk job causes you tension – through the nature of your job and the position – physically – you find yourself in for most of the day – then get a massage, once a month, every other month or as often as you need. It’ll help, promise. I use someone who comes to the house, which is more convenient and less time-consuming for me, and means I can chill out at home straight after, rather than undo the therapist’s good work by driving home in traffic.

5) Take time out. The best way to avoid office ache, is not to sit at a desk all day and give yourself time off from computers, smartphones and laptops. It’s not always possible but try and take one weekend a month off – no technology, just relaxation, books, walks and whatever else you enjoy. Leave the computers, phones and emails on  Friday night and ignore them until Monday morning. It’s hard to do, but good for you. To really break the habit, head somewhere with no internet access or phone signal so you have no choice but to be offline for a while.

 

Picture by Chirag D. Shah via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

Journalism, Life in general, Media, Online journalism, Serious stuff, work

To what degree do you need a degree? My next challenge…

It’s not like I don’t have anything else to fill my spare time but last year was pretty monumental… got engaged, moved house, got a dog, celebrated someone special’s 30th birthday, got married, honeymooned and spent my first Christmas as a wife surrounded by a lot of snow after only just making it home from New York in time thanks to an icy runway at Heathrow.

So this year, apart from another house move, has been pretty tame in comparison and I do like a challenge. And this one’s pretty huge too – in a couple of weeks I start an MA in Online Journalism with Birmingham City University (distance learning).

What’s so big about that I hear you cry? Well, I work full time in a busy job as it is, have a pretty active social life, sporting commitments and a family who occasionally like to see me (go figure) so there’s the time angle. This MA will take up around 18 hours of my week and when you factor in everything else in my diary, that’s not going to leave a lot of time for lazing around reading crime novels, watching my Murder She Wrote boxsets or scoffing curries after work with my colleagues.

But there’s anther angle too… I don’t have a degree and a Masters is what you’re supposed to do after the degree. Luckily for me my experience ‘in the field’ has made up for my lack of degree and not only did they let me in, they also gave me an advanced scholarship. So I don’t want to let them, or me, down.

Journo Nest logoI say lack of a degree like it’s a bad thing but I have to say that not having one has never ever held me back. I’ve always applied for jobs which are for graduates and got interviews; and, of course, got my current job that way. Yes, my current employer – a university – questioned my lack of degree but I answered with: “I have three years experience working full time in the industry instead of a degree. That makes me three years ahead of anyone else my age with a degree, it would be impossible for them to have as much work experience as I do.” And that did the trick.

And in newspapers, the industry I worked in before my current job, it was never about qualifications, it was about experience, ability and enthusiasm. That’s not to say qualifications aren’t necessary, they often are and I’ve endeavored to do any qualification offered to me while also working – some NVQ Levels 4s, a CIPR Diploma in Public Relations etc – so on top of experience, so far, that’s stood me pretty well. If you can gain experience AND work towards a qualification, grab the opportunity with both hands. It’s one of the reasons The Open University works so well, it offers people of any age and background the chance to do both. But don’t underestimate the power of experience, it’s what says you can actually do the job.

When I did my journalism training at just 18, my mentor confessed to preferring to take on 18-year-olds than 21-year-olds grads – we were youger, keener, easier to shape and the full-time college experience was much more a replica of a working day than the traditional university lifestyle which made graduates a bit lazy. His words, not mine.

So, not only am I worried about the time it will take me to complete the MA – which is over three years and done from home – I’m also worried about the academic side of it. Am I up to it? I screeched and moaned my way through the CIPR Diploma because it was tough (perhaps because I was a journo sitting in a room of PRs?) but if I had my time again I’d still do it.

And this is a small worry but my peers are likely to be a decade younger than me, probably a lot cooler and grew up with online tools where as I’ve had to actively learn them. But this is minor league, I’m down with the kids and looking forward to swapping knowledge and views and experience.

But all of those worries sit beneath a bubble of excitement that I get to study the subject I love under the guidance of a well respected and talented tutor (see Online Journalism Blog), and that will boost my career and my qualifications. I’ve reached the point where I’d like to be academically more able and have some theory behind what it is I’ve been working at for more than a decade.

So, it starts in a couple of weeks and I’m desperately trying to get ahead by preparing, doing some background reading and trying to conjure up some kind of study plan. And seeing my friends because I won’t have so much time to do that when the MA kicks in.

And until it does start, I am full of excitement, nerves and questions. I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and the plan is to blog as I go at Journo Nest, the sister blog of Robyn’s Nest.

Journalism, Media, social media, Technology, what I think, work

Can you successfully split your online identity in two?

Split personalitiesI’m not a particularly private person but neither do I hang my dirty washing out to dry online. I’m happy to share snapshots of my life with those people I brush shoulders with professionally but I won’t be letting any skeletons fall from the cupboards and into the internet. But equally, I’m not two people. So I can’t separate the ‘at home’ me from the ‘at work’ me because where does one end and the other begin?

I recently conducted a little experiment to see if I could split my professional and personal online personas into two – so one for work stuff and one for the out of hours stuff. I didn’t even realise that it was an experiment until it completely and utterly failed; I was somehow expecting it to be a simple step. Uh uh. So while it took me ages to create a new Twitter account, it didn’t take long to find out that I can’t split my personality in two.

Maybe, in part, it’s because of my job. From the day my career began, just because I left the office at 5pm that wasn’t to say I was off duty. I had to live on the patch of the newspaper I worked for (twas in the contract, so it was) and I’d get shot if I walked past an arson attack and failed to call it in just because it was Sunday. Now things have moved on… smartphones, for example, mean I can check email before tea, after tea, before the 10 o’clock news and just before bed, and swap tweets with stakeholders, so I’m never really off duty.

So, back to this experiment. A couple of discussions had led me to believe that maybe, just maybe, there should be a clearer divide between my personal and professional identities online.

Facebook isn’t an issue, for me it’s for friends only – and that does include colleagues I like – but it’s not for people I barely talked to at school, people I meet in bars or those who feel the need to friend request me because we share the same surname. Nope.

Talk a bit of shit

My main issue was with Twitter… should I have a professional account AND a personal one? So, let the experiment begin… I decided to use my established account as the pro one and set up another for spouting utter bollocks. Yes, tis true, I like to talk a bit of shit every now and then, who doesn’t?

But I hit an immediate problem: the people I follow and who follow me under @robynbateman didn’t automatically follow me back on my new personal account. And why should they? They already got what they needed from my initial account, the personal/professional issue was mine, not theirs.

And I found it pointless tweeting from my personal account when not very many people were listening. It was harder to start conversations because people didn’t know me as @personalusername they knew me as @robynbateman. Networks take time to grow and become of value and by hopping over to a second account I’d given up an established network of followers I know (although not necessarily in person).

And managing two Twitter accounts needs a bigger investment of time. I found myself wondering which to tweet from. If I only tweeted work stuff from my pro account, wouldn’t it get a bit boring? And if I only tweeted personal stuff from the personal account where would  the context be? The who I am, the what I do? It really would be just me spouting bollocks. And what about my writing and journalism and book reviewing stuff, which strays into both personal and professional territory? Could I tweet the same from both accounts? Not really. So which one should miss out? Tweeting was becoming a process I had to think about. less organic. And so it became a chore.

Stand by your tweets

Friends also struggled to know which account to contact me on. Conversations I wanted in the professional arena came to the personal one and vice-versa (some followed me on both) so I missed stuff. So soon – and without really realising – I found myself only using my original Twitter account. And that realisation prompted me to hold my hands up, say ‘I tried this folks and it didn’t work’ and stop using the account I’d labelled as personal.

It just didn’t work. I tried it and it didn’t. It really didn’t.

I cannot split myself into two people. And while I know when to be professional and when I can let loose, for me, Twitter is about networking and two accounts, two personas, makes it tricky for those networks to deal with you and know who you really are.

As BBC’s Andy Cunningham once said, stand by your tweets. And I do. I am more than capable of talking crap, tweeting jokes in semi poor taste and winding up friends and colleagues. But that’s me and nothing I tweet (or at least I don’t think) would reflect on me in a super bad way (er… I may need to take back that tweet about Harry Potter having a big wand). I’m just me, one person, doing a job, enjoying what I enjoy, and sharing it with the people I love and (occasionally) loathe on Twitter.

What about you? Have you tried to split yourself in two? Please share…

PS Oddly, even though the account is inactive and my last tweet says something along the lines of “this didn’t work, follow me at @robynbateman) I still get new followers on what was my personal Twitter. Pay attention peoples!

Picture by Lisa Brewster via Flickr under Creative Commons licence