Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Stopwatch

I’ve inherited a stopwatch. It’s not a beloved family heirloom, it’s a mark of personal progress and I’m feeling the pressure with every second.

September 2020 brought around a whole bunch of surprises. Namely a new path in my journalism career. Having spent sometime during lockdown, indulging in a number of community arts project, I accepted a job offer in the medical sales/beauty industry. I quickly realised that lips, nips and tucks were most definitely not my thing and after agreeing to produce a media strategy for the company, we parted ways amicably.

Nest came the summer holidays, which in reality were nothing more than an extension of the previous two months the kids had been off school. Eat Out To Help Out was launched and we were able to get out and about more, thanks to the good weather and more people wearing masks.

As September loomed, I was worried about affording uniforms and school shoes and winter coats and birthday celebrations, hoping my part time charity job would keep me afloat.

A conversation with my former journalism lecturer lead to a Zoom call, and a flurry of Whatsapp messages and eventually an interview, complete with ‘You’re on mute’ hilarity.

I’ve officially gone full circle. I began my professional journalism career with an NCTJ Journalism Diploma at The City Of Liverpool College, and now here I am, teaching shorthand and Essential Journalism to the next cohort of budding reporters. It’s an incredible honour and they’re a great group too.

I’m now 9 weeks into the job and I’m still loving it and still as overly optimistic about education as I was back in the summer. My students are bright, determined and showing real promise of walking into the industry with portfolio’s bursting with published work. It makes me really proud to have played a small part in their journey. A journey which takes just 18 weeks on the fast track NCTJ course. The days fly by. Between classroom taught lessons, industry work experience and days spent out filming and interviewing, blink and it’s Christmas.

I came into work today, ready to teach a fun filled afternoon of Teeline Shorthand. I was rummaging around in my desk drawer for a white board marker that worked and came across a black box. I’d not noticed it before. I can only assume it’s been there the whole time and I’d paid it no mind.

Inside is a polished, silver stop watch. The very stop watch which ticked away hour upon hour of shorthand practise when I was a student in this very classroom. The sight of it used to give me shivers. Clicking the start/stop button brought all my memories flooding back. The discovery of the stop watch made me a little more sympathetic of my students’ and their battles with shorthand. It’s a real skill, one that takes hours of consistent practise and no bullshit excuses.

We’re hurtling towards a jam-packed exam schedule, which naturally raises the stress levels for all involved, students and staff. We’re also hurtling towards Christmas and hoping for normality. Or maybe you’re looking towards New Year and hoping 2021 will bring relief from the lockdown, Covid and stress? I know I am.

If only we could just stop the clock for a moment, and breathe.

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Saying Goodbye

My step dad died very suddenly last month and now I have an internal rage for every single person I see who isn’t wearing a mask.

I’m well aware that there are some conditions for which wearing a mask can exacerbate a pre-existing health condition. But if the risk of catching Covid was so great to your ill health, I can’t help but think you’re unlikely to be doing the school run everyday or perusing the new season fashions in ASDA.

May be I’m being too harsh? My step dad worked for the NHS for 22 years. If you’ve ever had to go to A&E at Liverpool’s Royal Hospital, there’s a chance it was my step dad you gave your details to at check in. He was a familiar face on ‘the desk’ and more recently worked weekends when the department is usually at its busiest.

He caught Covid and four days after his symptoms manifested, he died. Age 63. My mum realised something was wrong in the early hours of the morning and tried in vain to resuscitate him until the paramedics arrived. He’d already gone.

My mum, also positive with Covid was admitted to hospital three days later. The pressure of the virus, grief, constant calls from the coroners office, funeral directors and GP surgery had taken its toll. All alone in the house, which is now bereft of the constant chatter of Sky Sports and police documentaries. My step dad’s favourites.

It took four weeks of agony to finally be able to plan a funeral service. Only 15 people allowed to attend. Minimal flowers. A drive around his beloved Anfield – he’d followed the reds all over Europe back in the day, and finally to Anfield Crematorium.

A low-flying migration of birds flew over as we exited the chapel, having said our final goodbyes and sang You’ll Never Walk Alone at the tops of our voices.

My heart aches for my mum. She’s in her 60’s. Locked down in a house full of memories, which is all but silent. Thank god for Lola cat, keeping her company. I’m visiting every day, taking her the paper, walking down to the community centre once a week for our Covid tests, always wearing a mask and sanitising our hands.

Take some advice from me. Don’t wait until Covid has taken your loved one, before you start taking this seriously. Wear the f*cking mask. Not under your chin, or under your nose. What’s the point in that? Find one you prefer, you can get them online or in any of the supermarkets, and WEAR IT! Wash them regularly and stick a couple in the car and in your coat pockets.

Wash your hands, stay the hell away from people wherever you can. The rate may be coming down, and yes, we are making good progress, but only if we keep at it.

I’ll say only this about the people gathering in their hundreds to protest wearing a mask. You’re f*cking idiots and very much part of the problem. God forbid you get sick and need the NHS. Go home.

RIP Ste, we love and miss you so, so much.

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I’m Published!

A Spray of Hope is now available on Amazon with proceeds from sales of the anthology go to NHS charities in the Merseyside area.

Writing in lock down as followed the same roller coaster pattern as my mental health. Some days I’ve battered out 100 or more words, other days I can’t even remember my WordPress log in details. I’ve been flooded with inspiration and so lacking I’ve turned to Pinterest blog prompts. There’s no rhyme of reason.

However, a tweet from The Literature and Science Hub at University of Liverpool sparked an idea, and now, just a few months later, I am bursting with pride to say its grown into an actual published work.

A Spray of Hope, poetry and prose from lockdown 2020 is an anthology comprised of works from NHS staff, key workers and self isolating members of the public. We all took part in a ‘Writing for Wellbeing’ initiative which offered us a chance to connect nature and technology to our every changing situations. We wrote about family, community, love, loss, mental health and hope for a brighter future, post pandemic.

It’s a moving read.

My own submission focused on a place in my family home, where I spent most of my teen years. Before mobile phones. The soundtrack to my after school free time was dial up internet and the early showing of Neighbours. I’d hog the house phone, talking to friends I’d left just moments earlier at school. Forever being stepped on or over, as I took up position on the third stair. The house phone stretched just far enough to wind the cable around my fingers. Simpler times, yet devastating news still found a way to reach us and change our lives forever.

As you will read in blog posts to follow, October was the catalyst for a truly devastating time for my family. The NHS is an organisation very close to my heart. I’m proud to say that something I have created will play a very small part in supporting NHS staff and volunteers in their daily lives for the incredible work they do.

A Spray of Hope: Poetry and Prose from Lockdown 2020 is now available on Amazon, here. It’s just £6.00 and will make a lovely wintertime read.

I hope you like it.

Huge thanks to Bernadette, Sam and all involved in creating this fantastic snapshot of real life in 2020. It’s such a privilege to have been involved.

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A Whole New World

Today marks the beginning of a new dawn, (ooh sounds a bit Avengers that, doesn’t it?) it’s 08:12 and I’m on the bus to work. The first day of the 9-5 beckons.

It might sound the start of millions of other Monday mornings too, but this one is pretty monumental for me. I haven’t worked a 9-5 job in almost ten years. The freelance life has afforded me the school run, leaving dishes and bed making until mid morning. Leisurely making random lunch combo’s such as Heinz Oxtail soup with a sprinkling of grated cheddar, three snack size sausage rolls and a CapriSun – it’s a winner!

I worked 9:30 -2:30pm most days, then picked up the laptop again from 6ish and worked until I fell asleep in the chair. Usually with Brooklyn Nine Nine on in the background. Then I started picking the laptop up at 4pm, the kids ensconced in front of Cartoon Network. I started forgetting spelling sheets and our regular reading routine abandoned.

I would jump up at 5:45am to put uniforms in the tumble dryer on the day they were needed. I’d begin to order in more during the week, instead of a just a Friday night treat, Pizza Hut was becoming a staple. I was failing my kids.

So something had to change. And it has. I bid farewell to freelance life. Juggling work at all hours of the day and night, trying to make ends meet and feeling like my professional exams were a complete waste of time.

This morning I was up at 6. The sun is shining, which is a great start. Weekend washing done and out on the line. Uniforms ironed, day bags packed, and everyone out the front door to breakfast club by 7:45am.

My little son shine (that’s his nickname) she’s a few nervous years going in to breakfast club with his sister, but I know in a few minutes he’ll be totally fine. In the long run, I will be too. I know that regulating my working hours, income and career expectations will benefit us all. We’ve just got to tough out this first week or so. Corona Virus pending!

By writing this I’ve stopped myself from eating my packed lunch. Although, I fear it may not make it til 12pm! To everyone starting their first day, or planning a fresh start today, best of luck to you!

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This Is Me

If your CV isn’t an A4 paper version of The Greatest Showman, how can you expect to get noticed by recruiters? Finding a job in December is a case of survival of the most creative. 

This week I gave my CV an overhaul for the first time in 4 years. I’m applying for roles all over the country in a number of industries. Recruiters are telling me I should have a variations of my original CV to suit each vacancy, which in itself have given me a whole new role. I am now officially a Job Vacancy Researcher. It’s knackering. It also feels like some kind of mad game show.

This new full-time occupation is compounded by the fact I’m open to a relocation. Media jobs in Dubai look much more appealing than copy writing in Swindon (no offence Swindon) but if I’m going to pack up and jet off for a job, there has to be more than just the 9-5.

Apps have also revolutionised the job application process. So far I have applied for a grand total of 156 jobs across three different apps. From London to Edinburgh, Speke to Southport, there’s a whole load of work out there. And even more job seekers.

I’ve read every article on how to make your application stand out from the crowd. How to craft the perfect letter of application. I’ve even rejoined Linked In. (Thanks to all who have connected with me, had some lovely introductions and its fab to meet new people.)

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of learning all these new lessons. Game show rules. Don’t mention the skills that aren’t related to the job role. Highlight, elevate, bold your strengths, don’t mention any weaknesses, references aren’t necessary, don’t add a photo to your CV – it puts people off – snorted laughing at that one, and was only mildly offended!

At some point I’m hoping to go home with a cuddly toy or hostess trolley and bag the job I really want. Even if it’s in Swindon. I just have to perfect my show tune CV that will catch the eye of recruiters and HR bosses around the country. Won’t be long.

 

Sorry I’m Late…..

Slightly disgusted that it’s taken me until March 9th to post my first blog of 2017, but in all honesty, I’m late for most other things too.

Hello! Happy New Year, Happy Australia Day, Valentine’s Day and whatever else I’ve missed in the last few weeks. Assume you’ve all completely abandoned any New Years resolutions by now and are, like me, pretending to have a go at Lent instead? As well as being late for stuff I’m also incredibly undisciplined.

Moving swiftly on….

Global Scouse Day

2017 has been epic so far. I’m rushed off my feet with work as The Guide Liverpool goes from strength to strength. I’ve stepped in front of the camera on a number of occasions and (thanks to our ridiculously talented videographers) it looks like I did an okay job! Check out all the action from Global Scouse Day here. (Ps, scouse pizza is the bomb).

Lord Mayors Fashion Show

I’m (just about) still on course to show a capsule collection of military chic couture at The Lord Mayor of Liverpool’s Charity Fashion Show on March 30th at the Devonshire House Hotel. I’ve absolutely no idea how I’ve pulled this off because there really aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up!

Titanic

I did manage a little trip over to Belfast with my curly girl a couple of weekends ago. We had a ball exploring the city together and spending the best part of £50 on tacky gifts to bring back home. You can read our very serious review here.

Radio City Cash for Kids

Looking ahead, I’ve just become ‘Face 38’ in the Radio City Cash for Kids 1000 Faces Campaign. The charity are looking for 1000 local faces to sign up and raise just £100 each for local children and their families facing hardship. It’s an incredibly worthy cause, I’ve pledged my support and you can too here. Alternatively just give me some change or you know, like £100 the next time we meet up. That would be great thanks.

mathew street

Aside from work I’ve been back on the dating scene, which let me enlighten you, in your 30’s is an entirely different ball game to being 21 and full of confidence! Luckily Liverpool is an amazing city for a night out and any place you can dance your little heart out to an 80’s covers band until 2am on a Tuesday morning is alright with me….and him.Eric’s Mathew Street – You guys rock!

mcm comic con

I’m ridiculously excited to be reporting on MCM Comic Con Liverpool this weekend (March 11-12) and cant wait to be surrounded by passionate people (including my curly girl, mad RWBY fan) who nail their cosplay costumes every single time! How many Jokers do you reckon I can get a selfie with? Check out all the details of which TV stars are attending here.

mib awards dress

So lucky to be working with designer Alice James again after she ‘dressed’ me for last year’s Merseyside In Business Awards. This time I’m attending the James Bulger Memorial Trust Black Tie and Tiara Ball in support of my lovely friend, Jay Hynd as he hosts the star studded event, and Alice James has stepped in to help me update a vintage gown I fell in love with over a year ago…..all will be revealed on March 18th at the Crowne Plaza, Pier Head.

There’s tickets still available and if supporting the charity isn’t enough to make you snap up a ticket, boyband 5ive are headlining the entertainment! Tickets here.

Just don’t be late!

 

 

 

 

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I’m a Story-teller, whats your superpower?

It turns out I don’t have super powers in the traditional sense, I mean I can’t fly, nor can I become invisible, although I can turn into the HULK when my kids really try my patience!

I do have some super skills though, in the form of being able to turn my hand to a number of jobs which over the years have kept me afloat and helped me to turn situations into stories that engage with readers.

When I was studying to be the next Stella McCartney, I cleaned toilets at Broadgreen Hospital at the weekends to afford bolts of Calico for my first ever clothing collection. I’ve been a call centre operative, a kitchen assisant, a merchandiser, a sportswear sales assistant, a facilities manager, an administrator, a auditor, a receptionist and an exectuive PA.

Throughout all of these roles, I’ve stored the memories and drawn on them when looking for inspiration for characters and searching for examples to give to clients. Plus interviews no longer phase me.

pigeon

I’ve also juggled full-time parenting during these roles as my little brood expanded from 1 to 4 in just 10 years. Being a mlti-tasker comes as standard.

Being a Journalist is all I ever wanted to do. I worked hard during my NCTJ course, juggling classes, work experience and my children. Just a year since I started out I’ve picked up a tremendous amount of experience, some incredile contacts and ultimately my dream role.

What I love about freelance work is that its so unpredictable, the absolute opposite to how my home life works. Everything is regimented at home. From packed lunch boxes to bedtime routines, it’s all done to the letter……because it’s the only way I can get us all out of the house by 7:45am.

The other aspect of freelance work I like so much, is the relationship building. Some clients I work with on long projects that involve developing and implementing strategy over a number of months. Some I work with for just a day. No two days, nor clients are ever the same.

I absolutely love hearing people’s stories. How they came to be in business, what they sacrifice for the sake of providing a service or developing a product and being their own boss. The long hours, taking work home, never being able to switch off. It’s an exclusive gang that only those who are self-employed, or closesly related to those who are, really understand.

Helping people is second nature to some, and being able to support businesses with their admin, marketing, social media and advertising makes me happy. Whether its turning my hand to tax preparation or writing advertorial articles……or even hand writing 100 company Christmas cards, to know I’m relieveing a little of the workload gives me great job satisfaction.

Can I help you? Drop me a line katereillyjames@gmail.com

 

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Cineworld Edge Lane: A Tribute

The Guide Liverpool sent me to Cineworld, Edge Lane yesterday as the cinema prepared to close its doors for the last time.

cineworld pic

I’ve made so many awesome memories at Cineworld over the 20 years I’ve been going there and I’m slightly gutted that I ended that rein having to watch Ghostbusters as my last film, but hey ho! Having a chat with the staff and wolfing down a huge bag of popcorn made it worthwhile.

You can read my full review on The Guide Liverpool here.

Thank you to Megan, Vicky, Ian and all the staff, past and present as you are the stars of this show.

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Spare Parts

This weekend I sat in a caravan in North Wales writing about a Barrow in Furness engineering company. This my friends is the future of journalism.

I’ve officially finished 6 months of NCTJ exams and studies and submitted my e-portfolio for marking. In the same week I’ve weathered the EU referendum storm, submitted 12 months worth of personal documents to HMRC who seem to think there is someone else living in my house who claims tax credits and met with Carole, my business mentor, who is hopefully going to help me set up as a freelance journalist.

It’s safe to say I’ve been under a bit of pressure the last few months which may go some way to explain the weekly bouts of sickness I’ve been experiencing. I’m not pregnant, just thought I’d make that abundantly clear. But low and behold, mid Sunday roast yesterday, the mystery illness made an unwelcome return and I’ve been living in the bathroom ever since.

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Despite the crippling stomach pain and inconvenience of living in the bathroom two days a week, the worst thing to come of this situation is my deteriorating relationship with food. I swing wildly from small amounts of granola and ‘safe’ food, to absolutely nothing, to a boneless box from KFC…..and a tango. I’m getting to the point where I’m too scared to eat. During my last week of exams I ate just over 2000 calories in three days because I couldn’t afford to get sick, no where near enough sustenance for a busy mum of three.

I made the HUGE mistake of googling my symptoms around 2am when I got bored of courting the bathroom tiles. Stomach cancer, ulcerative colitis and acute pancreatitis and a tearful call to NHS direct later………..and it looks like my gallbladder is broken. Which isn’t so bad because it turns out you don’t need one!

Awaiting a scan at the moment to see what my options are.

On the positive side I’ve lost almost a stone and my work productivity rate is through the roof. Silver linings eh?

 

 

 

 

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May I?

I’ve failed my exams this month, spectacularly. I’ve so much respect for print journalists who can knock out 100 words per minute in shorthand, especially when dealing with sensitive subjects, noisy environments and random accents. You people are like, magical or something.

Sadly I’m not sure I’m cut out to join the elite, despite my brilliant shorthand lecturer persevering with me, I have hit the 80 wpm wall and cant seem to block out all the nonsense long enough to hit that coveted centenary mark.

I bowled into college, 12 minutes late last Friday morning, amid a flurry of phone calls that wound me right up, only to realise I had no pen (not even my trusty Army, Be The Best biro) or paper to transcribe on to, urgh.

shorthand

One emotional meltdown and four and a half minutes later I had failed my 100 wpm exam. Undeterred by the fact I was busy trying to concentrate, the drama continued through-out the break and into the 80 wpm re-sit exam an hour later. Plus some kid was sitting in MY seat. Failed again, head was most definitely elsewhere and not in the world of Teeline.

I’ve stressed myself out so much this month that the stomach ulcer I cultivated back in October decided to make an unwelcome return resulting in horrendous sickness for three long weeks. I didn’t even lose any weight, no need.

My daily diet of strawberry laces, Costa and cake wasn’t helping. I routinely resort back to the usual excuse; single mum of three, studying, working to build contacts, reputation and an attractive portfolio, plus running a home…..oh and my cat popped four kittens out on Sunday morning. I’m a bit busy to say the least and I’ve survived for too long on nervous energy and sugar!

So on to the positives! I now eat food, proper grown up food, and the biggest surprise is…..I actually like it! (munching porridge with grated apple and banana in it right now in fact). I feel so much better in just 4/5 days its remarkable. If you see me loitering around KFC, you have permission to kick my ass.

And because I feel better I’ve been able to get involved with some awesome events. I spent four idyllic days in Barcelona and sat in the press box and conference room at the Nou Camp. I’ve solved a murder mystery at the The Empire Theatre with Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap.

I’ve (unsuccessfully) tried to nick a lamb from Farmer Ted’s ( they’re so bloody cute) and held an Amazonian tree frog! I’ve rocked out with a bunch of ten year olds at a disco party and ate my (substantial) body weight in Army field kitchen chicken jalfrezi at the Liverpool Food & Drink Festival, Sefton Park.

I had a bit of a snog with Paddy McGuinness (sorry Woernee) at Madam Tussauds, Blackpool and tickled a stingray at Sea Life Centre. Watching the Kop come alive at Liverpool V Chelsea a couple of weeks ago was phenomenal, I’ve never experienced anything like that atmosphere, and the die hard fans tell me it was rubbish at that game

I had the privilege of cuddling brand new baby Elliot and feeling so much love for my wonderful friend Lisa who brought him into the world in a convenient 20 minutes! The same day I had root canal, two fillings and a cocktail for lunch…..and a 3 hour mid afternoon nap as a result!

My little dudes have had a blast in Blackpool, 518ft up in the air at the top of the Blackpool Tower, gasped at the awesome acrobatics at the circus and built their very own tower replica from Lego. We went back to school and walked the corridors of Broadgreen International school, 17 years after I left, whole separate blog post on this shortly.

I’ve photographed my own fantastic city from the roof of the Hope Street Hotel, had a brew with the new Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Roz Gladden and begun work on my first ever complete fashion collection, ready to show in Autumn 2016.

Ulcer schmulcer. Thank you so very much to the Alice and Greg, Jay Hynd and Amanda Moss for your continued support and thrilling opportunities to write. There are tonnes of new photo’s in the gallery here and check out my most recent work with The Guide Liverpool here.

Bring it on June!

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