Tag Archives: journalism

And Just Like That…

The first cohort of students I taught to be journalists have officially flown the nest.

After 18 intense weeks of study in the middle of a global pandemic, 7 students have completed their NCTJ and are setting off on their next chapter.

It’s been a hugely rewarding experience. Getting to know them, monitoring their progress, making memories, and finding new and exciting ways to breathe life into Teeline Shorthand. No really, it actually was exciting for a moment there.

They have completed modules such as Court Reporting, Media Law, Video Journalism and more. They’ve bonded as a group and had their first taste of life in a bustling news room. Some even had their work published in a number of national and international publications which is testament to their work ethic and determination.

Some days we plugged away at three hours of Teeline shorthand drilling exercises, some lessons we did Buzzfeed quizzes, identified the funniest headlines, and who can forget the fiercely competitive Kahoot? Sheesh, they’re seriously out to win!

With E-portfolios finally complete they’re off to write their next chapters. Whether that’s in the news room, comms, PR or elsewhere, I’m confident they’ll all take a host of new skills on the journey. I hope they all keep in touch as they progress in their careers. It’s been a real pleasure.

To the NCTJ Journalism Diploma Fast-track class of 20/21 thank you for coming to this press briefing. My name is Jane Brown 😉

Good luck.

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What The World Thinks I Do

Did you see that series of memes that did the rounds a few years back? You know, the ones that used 6 images to portray how different groups in society view your job/vocation? Like this one….

I mean, it’s not far off the truth.

I quite like this one. I think it’s a fair and accurate representation of life as a journalist from all perspectives. Especially the last one.

In 2018 I was thrown a serious curve ball. No longer ‘just’ a journalist working the entertainment and lifestyle desk. In August 2018 I became a paediatric vascular disease patient expert – almost overnight.

Putting all my investigative journalistic skills to good use, I spent night after night on the small hospital sofa reading research papers in Danish, Zooming Italian vascular patients and their families, and dissecting x-ray, MRI and CT scan results in the early hours, at the nurses station.

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What I discovered shook me to the core. My daughter’s have an incurable hereditary disease that may or may not result in premature death. In the states they call this disease ‘the silent killer’. Some people have symptoms, some don’t. Some have strokes, liver failure and blood clots, some don’t. It’s a luck of the draw type situation.

I’m not one for sensationalism. Okay, I totally am, (I studied sports journalism, of course I love sensationalism), but I was far more taken with the research, how the disease has brought about pioneering medical and surgical interventions and of course, what trials and potential cures my girls’ could benefit from in their life times.

As a journalist, I write stories. I listen to people, I research, I ask annoying questions. I also photograph and record things. I relay facts and figures and sometimes I write a punchy headline or two.

As a HHT Mum, I wipe up a hell of a lot of blood, sometimes on a daily basis. I pick up nose plugs that have fallen out during night bleeds. I prepare my eldest daughter 48 hours in advance of a blood test, which involves a barrage of text messages, ensuring she eats and hydrates on approach, providing snacks for when she comes round, on the floor/in the phlebotomy chair – when it all gets too much.

I hold and squeeze hands and use brute strength to keep her in the chair until the nurse draws the blood she needs to adequately monitor the situation. I wipe tears, mop brows, carry coats and school blazers, wringing with sweat. I provide her with bottles of Oasis for a sugar rush, post blood test. I offer tissues for the inevitable nose bleed which accompanies any stressful situation.

I take calls from school when her blood pressure or iron levels have bottomed out and she faints. Usually in biology. I encourage vitamin intake, sometimes I raise my voice to get the job done. I reassure. I tell white lies. Necessary white lies. I move work and school to accommodate clinic appointments. I ask more questions. Constant questions. Sometimes I panic.

Everything is fine

I am resigned to never having white bed linen or soft furnishings, or clothes. I walk a little slower when she gets chest pains on the school run. I take pictures of her lung scars to show her how well it is healing, two years post surgery. I ask how PE went this week, any pain? I check up on blood results, oxygen saturation levels and chase clinic appointments. I talk to other HHT patients around the globe. I beg my own HHT surgeon not to retire, and swat up on the latest potential paediatric clinical trials. I educate others.

I’ve found a role you can’t roll into six humorous images. It’s almost a shame. If there were more awareness and chat about HHT, maybe I could make it more fun. For now, it’s back to the nurses station at 3 am, armed with more Garibaldi biscuits and a stack of lung x-rays.

Find out more about HHT, here.

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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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Perplexed

“Honestly, people never cease to amaze me, mum. He’s just never going to change, is he?” Ellie huffed down the phone to her mum.

“If I hadn’t have seen the odd photo Elle, I wouldn’t believe he existed the way you two carry on. He doesn’t deserve you, I told you that when he didn’t bother to send you flowers on Valentine’s Day.” Her mum replied. Holding a grudge was a family trait.

“Oh anyway, I’ve told him that actions speak louder than words. I can’t be doing with this anymore. I’d almost rather be back on Tinder you know.” Ellie thought about redownloading the online dating app, again.

She’d deleted it after a few weeks of dating Nick, and had toyed with the idea of checking whether the grass really was greener. A friend had spotted Nick on the app a year or so later when he was away with work and they’d been arguing. It crushed Ellie. 

Maybe she’d give him one last chance. “Right, I’d better get going, I’m covering the council meeting at 9, will give you a buzz tonight.” Ellie rang off and packed up her day bag.

Life as a journalist is a slog, but no two days are ever the same. It’s what kept Ellie in the job. One day it’s match reporting from the press box or interviewing footballers, the next it’s charity bake sales, next it’s documenting military veterans stories and there were the late-night calls to crime scene, fire or bomb scares.

Today was a run of the mill council meeting at the Town Hall. Laptop, pen, pad, and a Kinder Bueno should do it. She picked up the note Nick had left on the kitchen worktop, and folded it into her pocket making a mental note to text him later.

The long, unpredictable hours left Ellie’s personal life lacking. The on/off thing with Nick was once full of promise. But her erratic work life, his all-encompassing job and study schedule, made actual dates sporadic at best.

Friends had long given up asking to meet Nick. The time they got together was sacred to Ellie and she was reluctant to share him. Although after almost two and a half years, their tiny social bubble seemed odd.

Add to that a lack of any family introduction on either side and Ellie was often left feeling perplexed as to who and what they were? They hook up, they have dinner, they go for cocktails, they have fun, they stay over, they go their separate ways.

Why was she so obsessed with labels? Anyway, the note said he needed to talk and that’s never ended well.

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Homeschooling – Take Two

It’s day 34 for us and I’ve made a real effort to get back into the swing of things after the Easter break. Here’s what I’ve got lined up for the kids this week and some handy links if you want to give any of the activities a go. 

I gave the kids (and myself) the Easter break off homeschooling.

I won’t lie, it’s pretty exhausting trying to source new ideas and activities every single day, especially if you have kids of different ages. Now that we know lockdown is being extended until at least 7th May, I realised I was going to have to up my game.

Having created back garden artworks, livingroom motorways, made our own pizzas, did PE with Joe and worked on our footy skills, it was time to get back to English and Maths. I have three kids, aged 14, 8 and 5. All the previous activities we’ve done can be found here. 

 

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Luckily, the 14-year-old has a full online learning program which is monitored by her teachers. She’s also a complete legend and I know I can trust her to crack on. Which leaves me the task of organising fun/educational stuff for the younger two.

They have an hour a day of TT Rockstar, Mathletics and Purple Mash, which again is monitored by the school. Aside from that, it’s up to me. The purpose of these worksheets – the majority of which I have ‘borrowed’ from Pinterest, is to do something fun together. It’s quality time. It’s family learning.

So, to keep me off the chocolate and the kids’ brains stimulated, these are the sheet work ideas I’ve come up with, plus a couple of handy online learning sites to break them up.

Read All About It

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Independent learning is an important step for all kids. I’ve devised this idea that my 8-year-old is a reporter and she’s to fill her newspaper front page with an exciting story and picture. Once I’ve explained what she needs to do, and the time frame, I know this is something she can get on with while I do some maths with her little brother. The exercise covers handwriting, research and a little bit of art.

World Wide Word Search

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I’ve made a word search for both of the kids. 8-year-old Cleo will focus on countries of the world while the little dude gets the months of the year, something he’s still not quite got in the right order yet. Cleo will also fill out an additional sheet with a fact about each of the 12 countries. Something she can use her Ipad for.

What’s The Time Mr. Wolf

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Parenting fail o clock! Well, they’re still young but, time is something my eldest daughter didn’t grasp until much later than most, and she’s pretty good with maths. So I’m making an effort to start early with the younger two.

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We’re making a spinning clock together (a la this one above from Mum in the Mad House blog) and we’ll fill in these super easy sheets with terminology such as: quarter past, half past, quarter to and the hour. They’ll number them, cut them out and add them to a bigger display. I’ll then routinely ask them what time it is throughout the day. I’ve bought them both a Lego watch each to wear too. Get them on Amazon, here.

Dollar Bills Y’all

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Money is another concept that took a little while to catch on in our house. Well, they’re all bloody fantastic at spending it, less so at appreciating its value (not unlike myself, ooh shoes).

I’ll use these basic sheets to lay-out the coins in order (how I’ll chuckle when they ask why we don’t have a £20 or £50 note!) and then move on to some good, old fashioned money questions: If you have £1 and you buy 3 x 10p sweets, how much change will you have? Playing shop at home is equally effective!

Aquatic Maths

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I hate, actually hate those sheets of sums in long rows that the kids are given at school. They’re so uninspiring. With times tables taken care of online, I’ve tried to be a bit more creative with Logan’s sums and drawn them into either fish or octopus shapes. I made some Sudoku puzzles for Cleo to get to grips with. More ideas welcome.

Eggsperiments

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Awwww man, I love a bit of science! I told the kids I could make square eggs. They think I’m nuts but it’s a really easy and fun science experiment you can do at home. Providing you have eggs! Give em a boil, peel them and while they’re still warm, stick them in a square container or box (use the Youtube Kids app here to learn how to make an easy card/paper box). Once they’ve cooled, they take on the form/shape of the box! SCIENCE!

The sheet I’ve drawn out gives the kids a space to write down or draw what we did, what we think will happen and what was the result.

The Jolly Post Girl/Boy

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We’re really lucky to have two besties living just around the corner from us and as part of our daily 30 min bike/scooter/rollerskate exercise, we’re going to play The Jolly Postman/boy/girl. The kids are missing their friends and while they know they must abide by social distancing rules, they can write and draw letters and pictures to post to each other. Exercise, English and Art! Winner. You can buy The Jolly Postman book here. It’s a classic.

Lockdown Locks

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Bit of fun for all the family this one. We’ll be lining up all our fave Lego figures and seeing what we can style a new hairstyle out of. We’re hearing great things about grapes, raspberries, playdough, Blue Tac, mashed potatoes, Nutella and more.

Feed The Birds

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As part of our daily 30 mins government-approved exercise, we pass a whole load of pine trees and so we’re planning a little nature activity too. Collecting a few up on our next route, we’ll be slathering them in peanut butter, dipping them in birdseed and lashing a ribbon around the top to make bird feeders. Ta dah!

BBC Bitesize Daily

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This week sees the launch of BBC Bitesize Daily. A handy 20-minute programme, covering a number of different subjects for kids of all ages – each day. On days when I’ve failed to prepare any worksheets or maybe they’d rather be out in the garden playing, 20 mins and pen and paper isn’t a big ask. Check it out here. 

Pinterest

21 September Pinterest

Pinterest is a free website/app which essentially details all the cool stuff on the internet. It’s an online project book/pinboard/mood board. Simply type in key stage 1/2/3 worksheets, fun art ideas, spellings, how to teach the 7 times table, whatever and the internet shall reply. It’s visually more fun that just googling and you’ll be surprised at just how many ideas there are.

How are you getting through lockdown with your little ones? Any bright ideas to make learning more fun? Drop me a line, like, please, share your ideas! I can’t help but think the kids aren’t going back to school any time soon! KateJamesBlogs@gmail.com

Good luck everyone, have fun and enjoy. Plus, there’s always gin. 

 

 

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Five More Years

I have every intention of writing a St Patrick’s Day piece today, given it’s the celebration of all things green, white and orange, but having logged into my website, poised to type, something way more important was brought to my attention.

It turns out that I started blogging 5 years ago today. I’m mega chuffed about this coincidence for a number of reasons. 1 – because I will never forget this anniversary ever again, given the date, 2 – I have another excuse to go for a drink, and 3 – its been FIVE years….wow! I’m absolutely chuffed to be able to confidently say that I love writing now even more than I did back in 2012.

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Yep…..it’s goosed!

Having launched myself into the passenger seat of my car, one sunny spring day back in 2012, I slipped and ruptured two discs in my lower back, and thus a writing career was born! Actually it was more like the following 9 months of daily agony that encouraged me to write as there was little else I could do while I waited for neurosurgery to fix it!

Who’d have thought that my humble, little Geordie’s Girl blog, and the comfort it gave me to get though months of insomnia, waiting around in hospitals, and the early days of recovery, would blossom into a year at college to gain my NCTJ qualification, a junior writers job, many freelance roles, radio broadcast opportunities, my first ever hosting gig and of course my beloved editorial position with The Guide Liverpool. All that from a slipped disc, not bad going huh?

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If I’ve learned one thing from this rollercoaster journey its that luck, Irish or otherwise can only get you so far. Hard work, determination and integrity are the real stepping stones to the top.

Here’s to St Patrick, and five more years!

x

 

 

 

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Adventure Time

What a week!

From a stint live on Radio City Talk to meeting entreprenuieral legend, John Drysdale at Liverpool Loves Business and finalising my plans for a bank holiday adventure thanks for a great PR event at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
Since writing my last piece, ‘Focus’ I’ve adopted a policy of just saying yes to things, and this week it has really paid off.

I’m pleased  to report that I’m joining Radio City Talk on a more frequent basis as Liverpool Live Producer, Lizzi contacted me on Thursday to chat live on air about my digital detox. 

I’ll be chatting to Mick as a panel member and newspaper reviewer over the coming weeks and as we all know I love the sound of my own voice, there’s bound to be some hilarity going on. Catch me on Monday between 12 and 1pm. 


I’m also working with a brilliant Liverpool designer, Coco & Veve as owner Ria launches a brand spanking new concession with Rex retail, Bold Street. More on this after I’ve tried on her entire collection next week! 

Liverpool Loves Business inspired me to push on with my freelance dream this week as the line up of influential speakers at this years festival was better than ever!

It was standing room only at the Crowne Plaza conference rooms and I’m over the moon to have finally met Noguru MD, John Drysdale. 

Huge congrats Josh and the team at Orb CIC for another hugely successful event.

The Liverpool Loves 2016 festival continues today with a superb line up of culture, music, well-being and food, down on the Pier Head.

It’s completely free and geared towards the whole family. All you need to know in one handy 3 min video from The Guide Liverpool here

I’m heading on down for an afternoon of local bands, great food and to sample the prosecco bar! Perfect Saturday right?! 


My bank holiday adventure is set. Well at least the first flight is and I’m free-wheeling it from there!

As a single mum of three the vast majority of my days are planned down to the very last minute, so having the opportunity to just book and flight and ‘see what happens’ really is the ultimate adventure for me. 

On Thursday 25th August I’m Paris bound. The rest is up to fate!

If anyone has any suggestions on what connecting flights to catch or what attractions to see, things to do, drop me a line katereillyjames@gmail.com 

Have a fab weekend! 

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Best Foot Forward

I have set myself another challenge this weekend and the nerves have officially kicked in, big style.

I’m struggling to eat and that nervous, butterfly stomach feeling just wont leave me alone. Alright, so I’m not skydiving or bungee jumping or doing anything physically dangerous, but my self confidence is taking a real beating.

It all started on Sunday morning, as I tend to get myself involved in all manner of random things when I’m up at 5am with no school run to distract me.

I’m reporting on the, sold out BMD Law Liverpool Fashion & Beauty Awards this Saturday and I’d emailed organiser, Amanda Moss to see how prep was going, at the same time runway manager, Natalie put a call out for a model size 12/14 as she’d had a late cancellation.

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Being naturally helpful, I offered up the contacts who had walked for Natalie before, but at late notice they had prior engagements. So, yep, you guessed it. I uttered the immortal words: “I’ll have a crack at it” and so a catwalk challenge was born.

Firstly I thought this would make for great viewing for my social media accounts. Reporting live from backstage at catwalk show, showing viewers the real prep, the models and of course, the collections. Actually walking the catwalk would give me extra scope to write about the industry and its age-old size issues.

Secondly I’m more likely to do a Carrie and fall on my face, like fashion road-kill while a pro steps over me which could create a YouTube vid that goes viral, adding to my social media presence, but for all the wrong reasons.

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It’s now Friday morning, and the nerves have really kicked in. I’ve had my nails done and hair coloured, but I’ve not magically dropped two stone and toned up in the five days since I agreed to take part.

In real terms I can walk from one place to another with relative ease, but I am the most accident prone person in the world so there’s a good chance of a trip. I’m not a natural scouse princess either, tan doesn’t suit me and my brows are just my own, but I’m hoping Emma Lampkin’s MUA team can help me blend in for the occasion.

I am coming to terms with the fact that this is me, and after watching what feels like hours of ‘How to Walk Like A Runway Model’ tutorials, I’m going to walk from one side of a room to another, exactly as I am. Head up, shoulders back, one foot in front of the other.

One thing that has to be said for fashion shows in the North West, and kudos to the organisers far and wide, is that fashion is accessible here. It’s not about pretentious shows for frowers and celebrities. The events are about celebrating talent and creativity in all its forms.

I just hope Saturday’s guests bear that in mind as I sashay all Phoebe-From-Friends-Running-like.

Catch my live updates from 5pm on my Facebook & Twitter accounts http://www.facebook.com/katereillyjames and  @Katereillyjames

Wish me luck!

 

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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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Friday Night Disco

It’s Friday night, its 9:30pm and I am busting some serious moves…..sat at my desk….listening to Itunes shuffle…..in my running kit….despite only going as far as the wheelie bins in my front garden today.

It’s been an absolutely manic few weeks and I’ve racked up a good few miles just dashing from meetings to interviews to catch up coffees and lessons. I love that step counter app thingy on my iphone, you know the heart icon one that tells me how many bars of Galaxy I can have after my tea….I mean how many steps I’ve done.

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Proof that I got off my ass in 2008.

Despite all the dashing (I sound like a bloody reindeer) I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time sat on my arse consuming sugar-laden Costa coffees which has done my summer body prep no good whatsoever.

It would appear that journalists spend a lot of time sat in meetings, in pubs, coffee shops on trains, buses and cabs. Journalists do not tend to carry out meetings while generally moving, at all.  And the last time I checked, talking (even the sheer amount that I do) does not burn body altering amounts of calories, nor does it tone bingo wings or create Victoria Secret model-esque body types. This is bitterly disappointing news.

It’s now March (silent scream) and I’ve not really made any effort whatsoever towards my dream goal of being a perfect size 10 for Grand National weekend, panic has set in.

So, as per my usual knee-jerk reaction to pretty much everything, I’m lacing my Nikes up first thing tomorrow and heading to the park with my sister to rack up some miles. Also typical me, I have signed up for Hellrunner which is a half marathon distance with obstacles (muddy bog, freezing river, big-ass hills) dotted through Delamere Forest in Cheshire. It’s either train for these type of events or live on dust for the rest of eternity, and my god I love cake, so that’s just not an option.

Wish me luck!

Edit- forgot to mention that my friends have now renamed me Cake Reilly. Sounds like Kate….its just that Cake is more me….or just is me. Yep. 

 

 

 

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