Unexpected reactions…

I’m currently sat in a pub that was my ‘local’ in 2003/04. It’s strange being here for many reasons. 

Most of all because my head is all over the place. Last time I drove back to this town (2 years ago) I came off the M1 and smiled broadly as I headed downhill toward Bedford. 

Today my reaction was so different. 

I became incredibly upset. That sensation that grows in the pit of your stomach until you can’t help but release the feeling via the tear ducts.

To put this all in to context for those who don’t know me, I grew up in Gloucestershire and then, in 2003 aged 20, I moved to this little town called Sandy in Bedfordshire. This was my home for 5 years. 

I developed friendships (some of those people I now love like family and will see this weekend!), lost friends, had multiple jobs, lost love (that’s a long story and one only a few people actually know the truth about) and I found an inner strength I never realised I a) had or b) would ever need. 

I did a lot of growing up in those years basically.

Last time I came here I was kind of in relationship with a guy living in the area and I remember talking to him about me moving in with him and coming ‘home’. As I sit here now I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had followed my heart. The guy in question was flakey and we were destined not to last! I’d probably still be in the area if I had moved back though. Possibly never to leave.

As I write this, I’m trying to work out why I had the reaction I did tonight.

I know for sure it’s not about Mr Flakey. 

This is something I’ve been storing for a number of years I think.

This short section has taken me over half an hour to write… I’m still none the wiser… maybe it’ll come to me while I’m here.

I’m going to carry on with my pint Doombar and listen to UB40’s ‘Kingston Town’ which has just come on the speakers! 

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Food for the soul

I work with some of the most fascinating people. Some are technically gifted and work some amazing magic for our clients. Some have a deep kindness to others which helps to keep us on track, some have a terrible sense of humour which almost makes them funny and some have quite different hobby’s including Hedge laying(!)

But one of the best things about the group of people I work with, is the people I’ve met thanks to them, both professionally and personally.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the first performance of a new show by Kate Dimbleby. I work with Kate’s husband and thanks to him, I had heard a few of her songs which had been pre-released ahead of her new album and I was hooked.

She has received rave reviews from many sources and I couldn’t resist heading to Bath to watch her perform at the Ustinov Studio. The thing that really intrigued me about Kate was the way in which she put her songs together. I knew from what I had heard that she had a beautifully strong, soulful voice, but it was the use of the ‘looper‘ which really pulled me in.

It was my first trip to Bath in a number of years and my first ever time attending the Ustinov. It’s a small intimate venue, with the technical crew (of which there were only a couple) in a booth at the back of the stalls and a small stage, which for Kate’s show, had been setup to consist of just projector screen, two tables (with a few items on them), a chair and a dress.

We had originally booked for our tickets to be upstairs in the circle, however when we arrived, the gentleman on the door said that we were welcome to sit near the wall on Row G in the stalls. We accepted this offer and took our position before reading through a sheet of A4 which introduced us to Kate and the team she has supporting her.

I’m not sure what I was expecting of the show. I knew I was going to be hearing a beautiful voice and I knew that I would hear some powerful lyrics however what I witnessed was much more than that.

Kate was to take us on her journey. A cliche you may think and I admit, I wasn’t sold on the idea of listening to how someone arrived where they are today (and I don’t mean Bath)! But I went along with an open mind.

From her days growing up in London, her move to Bristol and time spent in Canada, she captivated the audience with each word. She was so engaging, I found it hard to take my eyes off her as her performance dragged us in.

From the energetic leaping around the stage to her pensive gaze at the old Radio when reminiscing about her Grandfather, I found myself feeling emotionally involved in her story. When she leaned against the side of the studio toward the end of her performance the projector displayed some images on the back of the set. I can’t tell you what they were. I was too taken by the emotion in her face. Her gentle gaze across the set, the slow flutter of her eye lids as she recalled something from her memory… she had me hooked.

The performance alone was absolutely captivating. But achieving that while operating the looper, playing some music in and building the ‘backing vocals’ live, to then perform the lead vocals… was nothing short of brilliant. Yes, there were a couple of technical hiccups, but she wove them in to the show and unlike other performances where I have started to feel uneasy on the performers behalf, I felt very relaxed and just knew that she had it all under control.

One of the best things was the engagement she had with the audience. It never felt like a performer/audience relationship. It felt like a friend up there chatting away and entertaining us all.

I was lucky enough to be able to say congratulations to her after the performance and even managed a brief ‘geek’ moment with the looper. Safe to say I am not keen on getting in to that myself, I’m nervous enough about the solo operation of my PA for my little gig on Monday!

All in all, if you get a chance, please go and see one of her shows and/or purchase her CD!

Check out Kate’s Website

TV Influence

I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit to, watching TV in the last month. This isn’t out of choice, but more out of not wanting to go crazy while being ill and while trying to recover.

Today I was catching up on some of the programs I have recorded over the last week, as the weather really put me off venturing outside. I found myself particularly drawn in by ‘Happy Valley’. It was a recommendation and I have to confess, I’ll be making sure I catch up on the previous series.

As I was watching Sarah Lancashire’s character sergeant Catherine Cawood, battle her way through a gruesome find, I wondered how many characters of TV have inspired members of the public to take on a career.

There are many who see television, particularly fictional dramas or soaps, as being useless and mind-numbing, but as I was watching the portrayal of a police officer’s work, I wondered about those who have perhaps taken (or will take) up a job in the force thanks to a series such as this.

I remember watching The X-Files (the first time round) and being inspired by the character of Scully. Not simply because she (almost) made having ‘ginger’ hair bearable, but because of the work that she carried out and the things she was able to uncover through science. It was because of this series that I moved on from wanting to be a paramedic (that was the fault of ‘Casualty’) and instead, work towards Forensic science.

Of course, my ability to remain focused in College disappeared when I started working for the BBC and I fell head over heels for Radio, but there was a large period of my life which was almost shaped, thanks to the work of Actors and Actresses on ‘the box’.

I guess it’s one of the only ways we are exposed to these lives as children. Unless friends or family are in a job, how else can we know what one can involve? Obviously, I appreciate that the jobs aren’t exactly how they seem on the TV, but there is a large amount of truth in these shows (The X-Files not so much!).

I am wishing that I had paid more attention to ‘The Good Life’ when growing up though. As daft as it may seem, the self-sufficient lifestyle is becoming more and more appealing as I get older!

York is OPEN!

On 5th February 2016, I turned 33. To celebrate, I decided to take myself to York for the day. Travelling from London after work the previous evening, I had a full day planned in the City before heading back South.

Taking time out from London was much needed and other than the fact that I have a friend who lives in York, I have become very fond of the place and the people of this beautiful City.

Flood gates on Wellington Row by the Ouse
Water reached the top of these gates on Wellington Row by the Ouse

With that in mind, following on from the devastating floods a few weeks ago, I had to go and lend them my support.

Many of the businesses within the City walls were hit when the banks of the Foss and the Ouse broke. The former was an unusual occurrence (in fact one person told me it never happens) and, as such, many locals didn’t believe it would happen. Even though warnings were given.

 

Still drying out
Still drying out

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve been to York after they have been flooded, but it is the first time I have been struck by the extent of the damage. Of course I was aware that this was much more severe than the last trip I made, but I was still surprised.

As I write this, I am sitting in the Fossgate Social (@fossgatesocial) who were one of the many companies who suffered in the floods.

The Fossgate Social
The Fossgate Social
BBC Local TV interview the owner of the Fossgate Social
BBC TV arrive
Chance to relax and watch the world pass by as I write
Watching the world pass by as I write

 

 

 

 

 

The owner is currently being interviewed by BBC Local TV about the impact to her business and her concerns about the long term impact on York.

The Fossgate Social itself, is rebuilding. Replacing damaged equipment which had prevented them from serving beer and welcoming visitors and locals in to the warm, cosy and very relaxed environment that they offer. You’d probably walk on past this little place and pass it off as just another ‘tea room’, but it’s so much more than that and it’s quirky interior offers you so much more than the Costa’s of this World.

Quiet on Coney Street as you walk down to Spurriergate
Quiet on Coney Street as you walk down to Spurriergate

So what about York? What would keep people away or is it actually just paranoia from the locals that they think people wouldn’t want to visit?

I don’t think they’re paranoid. In all the years I have visited York, this was probably the quietest I have known it. Yes, it’s February, but even by those standards, it was quiet.

 

With that in mind, I decided to write down my thoughts and share some images from this trip to the North.


 

Warm welcome to all
Warm welcome to all

The most obvious thing you encounter in York, is the friendliness. It’s not just because I spend a lot of time in London, that I find this so obvious, but everyone is friendly. You walk in to a shop/bar/cafe/restaurant and there is such a willingness to help, with a warm genuine smile that you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

The offerings from the City itself are vast. You have the obvious attractions of the Railway Museum and the Jorvik Centre, but you can easily fill your days by just walking around inside the City walls (or on them!) and taking in the atmosphere.

York Minster
York Minster

The architecture alone is beautiful. The Minster stands proud and is always surrounded by cameras, phones and those just marvelling at it’s beauty.

If you’re wishing to do a trip on a budget, there are plenty of B&B’s in York which you can enjoy without breaking the bank and if you’re wanting to stay centrally, then I would personally recommend the Roman Baths. Cosy rooms, as ever a warm welcome and a fantastic breakfast all at a bargin price for the City Centre. They often have live music on in the bar too (as do most places in York) so you can be entertained without needing to leave the premises!

Y Street Band get people dancing
Y Street Band get people dancing

Buskers in York are on most corners and in most pubs. One of my favourite bands to watch and listen to is the Y Street Band (@TheYStreetBand). I was fortunate enough to time my visit with a performance they gave in the Post Office Social Club.

Playing a lot of their own material, they filled the Club and the dance floor as their supporters (old and new alike) took to enjoy their wonderful music. Finishing off with a crowd pleasing rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Lets Dance’, they were superb.

Rachel Croft
Rachel Croft

A new found musical delight was Rachel Croft (@rachelcroft27). It was the first time I’d heard her and she has the most beautifully silky voice. Positioned on a stool in Kings Square, near the Last Drop Inn, passersby stopped, entranced by her guitar skills and voice.

As for food, there are many places to eat and enjoy in the City. As a nut allergy sufferer, I find it hard to eat out sometimes. It surprises me that as a Vegetarian or Vegan, you can be promised food that is strictly adhering to these diets, yet something that can kill you, is never promised. Whether that be in order to protect themselves from being sued or not, my issue lies with the stress that gets attached to enjoying a meal, when they say ‘it should be ok’, or ‘you can give it a try’.

Ambiente - Tapas Bar
Ambiente – Tapas Bar

One place that I have to commend for being brilliant for allergy sufferers, is Ambiente Tapas Bar. Located just down from the Fossgate Social, they were incredibly helpful when I was selecting a bite to eat and their allergy menu was superb. Thank you to them!

Another wonderful place to eat was the Happy Valley Chinese restuarant on Goodramgate. Although their menu warned that all dishes may have traces of nuts, when I asked the staff about a dish and the risk of nuts, they were brilliant. They clarified that the dish I had chosen would be fine and I was made to feel very relaxed about it. Not easy when you’re paranoid!

Most importantly, both of these restaurants served wonderful food in a brilliant atmosphere by polite, helpful staff.

At the end of the day, the City has so much to offer. If you enjoy live music, good food and like to meet people, you should give it a try. Served by mainline trains from the South (London Kings Cross and trains via Birmingham New Street) and the North, it’s perfect for a relaxing get away.

You don’t need a lot of money to spend while you’re there. You don’t have to do all of the obvious trips and tourist traps. But I urge you to give it a try and get out and experience as much of the day and night life of York as you can.

So to echo the words of the locals… “York is OPEN”!

Gallery of pics – http://www.jemmaphillipsphotography.co.uk/p707824083


If you have a suggestion of somewhere that I should visit, please get in touch.

I’m always after new places to explore!

VLM16 – Week 1

So here we are. It’s the end of my first week of training for the London Marathon.. go me!

I had to move my long run to today as I’m working tomorrow, but it went pretty well. I took to the gym to give me the chance to do some weights work after the run. The weights were certainly easier than Wednesday night’s Run then Swim… 20 minutes of each were a lot harder than they should have been in all fairness!

Now, I’m not a fast runner by any means, but I’ve started the training at a steady pace which I’m pretty pleased with. I am finding the mental challenge the hardest of the lot and this is going to be a massive test for me.

I always judge myself against everyone else and with friends of mine clocking up 8, 9 or 10 minute miles, my 12:30 pace makes me feel really down. I won’t quit, but it’s tough. I need to get over this and remember that the only person I have to beat, is me.

In the meantime, I have some new additions to the fish tank in my living room in a bid to aid my relaxation.

On that note, I should really finish getting my kit ready for work (photographing Oxford United v Swansea tomorrow), so I will add some more thoughts soon!

Thanks to everyone for your support!

Challenge 2016

Wishing a Happy New Year to all my readers. 2015 was a quiet year for me on here. I’d love to say it was because I was so busy living it up, but I wasn’t. I just got side tracked with other things!

Well 2016 is going to be a busy one for me which I want to start writing about. It’s going to be a tough one as I’ve committed to two main challenges and I have several others in the pipeline as well as a house move in May!

The first challenge is to be part of PACT2016 with some wonderful people on Facebook. The challenge is to exercise every day and to log all the miles you do. If you miss a day, you pay £1 (up to £10 a month) and the aim is to make 500,000 miles in the year. The money all goes to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and their research and treatment of Child Brain Tumours. The cause is one that I have supported before and I’m excited to be helping, albeit only a little bit, again in 2016 (https://www.justgiving.com/PACT2016/).

The second challenge is one that will help with the first! And that’s to run my first ever marathon. This isn’t the first one I’ve signed up for as some of you may remember, but it will be the first one I ever do. And possibly the last.

Previously I have trained for a marathon but haven’t taken part on doctors orders, but this time, I am eating right, sleeping right and have been training for the training plan!

I will be running the London Marathon for two charities. I couldn’t make a decision between the two that I have most wanted to support so it’s a 50/50 split.

The first is the ‘Fishermen’s Mission’. They do a wonderful job supporting our Fishermen (those who work tirelessly to provide you with fresh fish every day!) and their families. They do a stunning job and this charity supports them through times of injury, illness and helps their families in times of bereavement.

I have become more and more fascinated by the effort put in by those at sea, ever since I got to know a few of the people of Brixham, in Devon. My visits there, coupled with watching programmes such as ‘The Catch’ brought home to me the troubles they face and I want to help in any way I can. Brixham itself has such a wonderful spirit and they put on two of my favourite events of the year – BrixFest and FishStock – where they celebrate the town and it’s Fishing Heritage. Worth a visit if you want to experience a working seaside town with some fabulous characters and a great community feel.

The second charity is much more personal to me. EDS Support UK help suffers of a little known condition, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It’s an inherited condition which causes a lot of pain and discomfort to those who have it. I have seen the pain it causes, as my sister has the condition. I was tested for it a few years ago and I was given the all clear. Ever since, I have wanted to help raise money and awareness for the condition.

So tomorrow, 4th January, I start my training plan. You know the biggest problem I’m going to have? Not snacking on things that are just going to make me feel lethargic and not revved up for my training!

The killers for me are chocolate and crisps. Both of which are still in my house and willing me to eat them. I did attempt to do some good cooking today, but that didn’t work too well as my Venison pie was a bit of a let down… Needs more practice some may say. I think I might just admit defeat and stick to what I’m good at… Stir fry, steamed fish/chicken and curry!

Anyway, here’s the begging bit… If you can spare some money, even 50p, then I would be very grateful. I know that it’s hard for many to part with any money these days, but it will help me get round that course and it will make a different to both of these charities http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=jemmaphillips

Yellow socks and a crush

Commuting. You have to love it. No, seriously, you have to. If not, you leave.

I pondered this earlier when wedged between the armpit of a rather handsome man (he smelt of lovely aftershave too – would it have been wrong to mention this to him?), a middle aged lady, two young men (one rather smiley and the other behind me so I could only hear him) and a young woman. How we all managed to occupy a space of about one sq meter I don’t know, but it’s some special magic applied to the likes of the Jubilee Line at London Bridge.

Middle aged lady and I couldn’t help but laugh as we pulled into Southwark and no one wanted to get off. All we could hear was ‘for godsake’ coming from the equally crowded platform.

Eventually, as we pulled in to Waterloo, someone wanted to get out of the tin can and I had to force my way off, pushing smiley man out and to the platform, moaning as I went that I probably wouldn’t get back on. Smiley did what he obviously does best and smiled back at me. Encouraged by the eye contact of a fellow commuter I asked why we do this. He laughed and agreed and then, when the people had finished exiting the train, he waved me back on before anyone else. Thank you Mr Smiley.

I found this brief mutual appreciation of our hell from a fellow passenger rather soothing. Two stops later and I was even granted the gift of a seat! When I departed my train, I followed a rather jolly man with squeaky shoes and the most amazing socks. Yellow with black dots. I was mesmerized by these and quite disappointed that they weren’t there to entertain me while I was trying not to launch my bag into the sensitive parts of Mr Handsome from the Jubilee line. It’s these little things my friend, that keep you sane when wedged in a train/tube.

I found myself apologising profusely to another gentleman when I squeezed (ok, pushed) myself onto the Bakerloo line. I can’t help but apologise. It wasn’t his fault there was no room. Although having to spend one stop on tiptoes in order to not stand on some other poor man’s feet was, perhaps, a bit too much.

The other dilemma when commuting is hair. Men don’t tend to have this problem, but as a woman with long hair, it’s a nightmare. When you are squeezed between people, you are trapped. If the hair is down, you risk overheating. If the hair is up, you risk everyone around you getting a taste of your latest shampoo and/or hairspray when you turn. Or in my case, the latest frizz controlling product.

I was feeling rather pleased at Paddington having survived the tube part of my journey. More smiles headed my way as the guard at Platform 11 was trying to herd people to their correct trains.

The problem of knowing where your train will leave from, is when things change. He saved multiple people from missing the right one and mostly because he recognised them! Good work that man!

Worlds away

A holiday should be just that. Time away from the day to day experiences and a chance to recharge the batteries which are always taking a hit by the 9 to 6. My time in Devon has been all that and more.

Arriving on Saturday morning, we quickly unpacked and headed over to Brixham for their annual Fishstock festival. The event celebrates music, the sea and the Fish it offers to our plates. From the tasty demonstrations by the Chef’s to walking around a Trawler and seeing the conditions they live in when at Sea.

Smiles all round as Andy is declared the winner
Andy and Richard compete in ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’. Smiles all round as Andy (Right) is declared the winner

It was the walk around the Trawler which really got me thinking. These (apparently) large vessels, take to the sea with the aim of bringing back food for the tables of the likes of you and me. It’s the perils they face that make it an expensive business, both for the equipment they have to maintain and the injury/loss of life that they face in the harsh unforgiving depths of the Ocean.

Climbing aboard the Barentszee, we were able to walk around the kitchen and living quarters of the crew. For anyone who has travelled on the Northern Line in London, imagine living in one carriage, the seats replaced with beds (two of them to one row of seats), a Kitchen and Bathroom and sharing with several other people(!)

As we made our way up some narrow and very steep steps, we found ourselves at the helm of the vessel.

The Trawler
At the controls of the Trawler

The screens above the Skipper’s seat dancing with data and maps to help them locate their treasure, keep them safe and warn them of incoming weather fronts which may be of concern.

Radar on the Trawler
Screens on the Trawler

The boat gently swayed as more and more people walked on and around the boat, some venturing on to the RNLI boat moored next to it. I couldn’t help but stare at the giant rig’s on the Trawler. Seeing them up close was a surprise, as they always looked huge, but you can’t appreciate them until you have been stood next to them.

Today, the wind is blowing and the sea is creating waves that are crashing on the rocks in the distance. I can’t help by think of those who are still going out to work though. The waves are nothing compared to what you can face in the open waters of the English Channel, but they still look impressive.

Our Fishermen go out, whether it be for the day or a week, in all weathers. No option to ‘pull a sickie’ if they don’t feel like it. They have bills to pay and families to support.

When I face the train pain of my commute or wake up feeling sorry for myself because I don’t want to go and sit in my office all day, I’ll remember them.

And to any Fishermen reading this now, stay safe and good luck for your next trip.

The little things

It’s strange what can bring a smile to the face of a weary commuter into the capital.

Having faced regular train delays getting both to and from London, I found myself on my usual train this morning staring out of the window. My usual routine of doing some work or listening to music interrupted, I gave myself the chance to just, look. How often do I forget to do that? It’s actually quite relaxing watching the world fly by.

As we sped past Slough, I glanced up at the dappled sky and watched as two swans gracefully flew over the train and I couldn’t help but smile. While sat in my office over looking the Thames, I forget about nature. The glass buildings and concrete jungle masking this beautiful, giant beast which continues to live no matter what. I’m starting to understand why so many of my fellow City workers go on retreats!

If you can spare 5 minutes from your day today, stare at the sky/grass/tree or whatever nature has to offer near you. Just appreciate the free anti-stress experience she offers us everyday. I think I’m going to try and make it a regular thing.

Have a lovely day everyone.

Walking and walking… and more walking

It has been a beautiful day here in South Yorkshire. The perfect day for a walk. Luckily! I had planned the day for doing a site survey ahead of the software launch next weekend and was hopeful the rain would stay away.

The software is to be used for the Angling Trust’s Winter League final and as such I had 3 miles of the Stainforth and Keadby Canal and Lindholme Lakes complex to check and ensure it had adequate mobile signal. I opted to head for the Canal first as it was the biggest bit of walking. I was pleased I did as it was lovely. I parked near Staniland Marina in Thorpe and walked down from the pegs in the 280’s. A barge going through the lock gave me time to watch a couple of local anglers, one of which was catching a few small Roach.

Barge in a Lock

The walk down from the lock saw me get a bit lost in the long grass. Now, I’m not the tallest of people (a struggling 5 foot 5), but the grass was taller than me. There were a couple of guys fishing but I daren’t have a chat with them as I wasn’t too sure I wouldn’t stand on something. There was a moment when I wondered if that was going to be my entire 3 miles, but soon the grass cleared and I was faced with a brief walk along the road.

When I got to around peg 180, I encountered another group of anglers. It  transpired that several teams had made their way up to Thorne to get in some practice on the Canal ahead of next weekend, some of whom were staying to fish the Open tomorrow. A team from Oxford/Reading were very friendly and they were doing ok. I informed them of my mission and they wished me well.

By far the chattiest, was a gentleman at about peg 120 who was with Maver Image. He was sat behind one of his team mates and we had a long chat about the matches, travel, London and technology. By this point I had been walking for 2 hours and was starting to feel it. I had plenty of water with me luckily and I made my excuses and carried on walking. Other than a couple of other gentleman, there was then no one until I reached peg 20, where Ossett (forgive the spelling!) were fishing ahead of their League match tomorrow.

Canal

On my walk back, I filled in the guys with as much info as I could and again had a nice chat with the Maver Image guys. I saw quite a few fish caught, the highlight of which was a nice Tench of about 4 pound. Beautiful fish.

4 hours after I had started out, I arrived back at my oven of a car and headed over to the Lindholme complex to check the signal there. After several missed turns and spending 20 minutes messing about with EE (I really do not enjoy dealing with them!), I managed to get out and have a walk around.

It’s a wonderful place and is very well managed. Most of the guys were weighing in and as I rounded one corner, a group of chaps in fine voice, were handing over the brown envelopes of cash to the winner. As I walked past, a very cheery gentleman of advancing years, who I believe was called Lesley was holding the envelopes with a beaming smile. He asked me for a kiss to celebrate his win and, encouraged by several others and despite my first attempt at saying no, I gave in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. His smile broad and his friends cheering away, I carried on my walk around the lakes.

Lindholme Lakes

So now I am faced with a need to input some data into my system and look at one minor issue ahead of Friday. I’ve had an amazing day, but 18000 steps and over 7 miles later, I think for now I will enjoy my dinner and well earned beer… or two!

Best of luck to the guys fishing in the Open tomorrow on the Canal! Here’s hoping the rain isn’t as bad as they are predicting.