Category Archives: Life stuff

Swimming for Sport Relief

A couple of days after the event I’m still aching yet I’m incredibly proud of swimming 5k for Sport Relief. It was a challenge but it all took place in a friendly atmosphere and was actually a fun swim. All 200 lengths!

I wasn’t sure what to expect on Sunday. I’d panicked myself that on the day everyone else would be a professional swimmer and I’d be the equivalent of a man in a rhino costume at a marathon. But it was all so relaxed and casual. All of us that were swimming would chat to one another and the staff had plenty of encouraging words. My family also sat and watched me for well over two hours which was the best bit of support.

In my session most people did shorter distances so at points I had the pool to myself, which was so much fun. I went at my own pace and got to enjoy being the only one in a massive pool.


When I first came up with the idea I thought I’d swim most weeks in preparation and have a strict regime, gradually improving until the big day. In reality I commute most days and work shift patterns which gym opening hours don’t tend to take into account. Also sometimes I wanted to sit on the sofa and watch TV rather than head to the pool.

So to be honest I didn’t do a full 5k in the month up to my swim. Thankfully after doing the first 40 out of 200 lengths I knew I was going to do it. It’s strange to explain but it felt quite calming rather than daunting.

There’s a few standout moments (apart from finishing – of course) which include getting to 100 lengths I went back to counting from one to try and pretend I’d just started swimming. Also there was music playing at the pool and I very noticeably sped up when David Bowie’s Heroes came on.

I’m very pleased that my friends and family supported me in all sorts of ways. Between us we’ve raised around £300 for charity. I mean I’m no Eddie Izzard with his 27 marathons in 27 days but I’m quite proud of myself.

Photos: Sheffield at Christmas

While admiring the decorations in London, it’s always nice to appreciate the ones a bit closer to home. These decorations aren’t new but the variety of lights across the city centre are fun. I especially like the projections of snowflakes across the Town Hall building.

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Photos: London at Christmas

It’s always fun to be a tourist in London, especially near Christmas time. I haven’t been to the capital for a while so it was nice to just wander around and take photos.

I went to the store Liberty for the first time and I found the building absolutely beautiful. While in that part of the city I also explored Carnaby Street and went in my new favourite cupcake shop in Kingly Court. While all the time finding lots of pretty lights and decorations.

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Sheffield Doc/Fest

When I moved to Sheffield I decided to get involved with as much as possible to find out more about the city and the people. One of the first things I did, without realising how big and important the annual event is, was to sign up as a volunteer for Sheffield Doc/Fest. To point out how important the event is it included the premier of a film from the Oscar award-winning director Martin Scorsese, who even appeared on Skype at the festival.

I worked in the interactive part of the festival which, from 7-12th of June, showcased interactive documentaries on computers and iPads as well as games and a story on the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. We were based in the Millennium Gallery in the centre of Sheffield, which was a lovely space to work in for the week, and were there to help people understand and show how things worked.

The interactive exhibit at Sheffield Doc/Fest | Photo: Charlotte Reid

My favourites in the exhibit where the two games, Type:Rider and Papers, Please. Type:Rider is a platformer game where you play as two little dots that teaches you the history of typography. In Papers, Please you work on border control and have strict rules about which people you can let in. You also have the opportunity to get bribes as you need more money to look after your family and pay the bills, but can get caught. In the ending I got I was dobbed in by my neighbour for taking a bribe and sent myself and my family to jail.

On a few of the days we had sessions to organise as well, which included setting up the room and looking after the speakers and delegates. These were interesting as some of the talks were linked to the exhibits and you got to hear from the creators and learn a bit more about their pieces.

The lovely room we held sessions in as part of Doc/Fest | Photo: Charlotte Reid

Doc/Fest also has a number of notable people who attend to show their films, do talks or present at the festival at some point. It was good to see them get involved with the rest of the festival too. The comedian Jeremy Hardy came to some of the sessions we held, and I got quick chance to tell him that I love the News Quiz which he was lovely about.

The greatest part of the week was seeing the editor of the Guardian Alan Rusbridger in our interactive section. He quite happily pottered around looking at the different exhibits and then he got a chance to experience the Oculus Rift. Naturally as he was tackling virtual reality we grabbed our cameras and snapped this frankly amazing but bizarre moment.

Alan Rusbridger on the Oculus Rift | Photo: Charlotte Reid

What I learnt from Doc/Fest

I don’t know if I learnt these things or they were ideas that I had reinforced throughout the week but it definitely gave me something to think about — warning they may sound a bit clichéd.

First of all always expect the unexpected. The interactive section was open to delegates and members of the public and we soon discovered that the Millennium Gallery was a popular place for school trips. So on a couple of occasions we had to quickly get ourselves ready for lots of school children visiting our exhibit. It was excellent to see their interest in it, and also it was great because young children understand computers, games consoles and iPads better than anyone else.

Also the questions that people have are always far more out there than you expect. This included in-depth conversations about the exhibits (some quick revision beforehand always helps) or just general questions. We fielded so many questions about toilets, wifi, the rest of Doc/Fest and where you can get passport style photographs done in Sheffield. This then leads me to my next point.

Be honest and friendly. If you don’t know the answer to something don’t make something up, ask someone else who you think might know. It’s also just more fun if you are friendly when chatting to delegates, the public, other volunteers and staff members and try to learn names as well. Doc/Fest has a reputation of being the friendliest festival, and I think Sheffield as a city is pretty friendly too.

It works the other way round too, be friendly to volunteers. These are the people who will help you out or know the people who can help you out. Also it makes the day more fun when you have silly chats. All delegates had to have their passes scanned when walking around the festival and one lady liked to think of herself as a grocery item each time she was scanned. So when we saw her we had to quickly think of new items to describe her, which varied from lemon curd to toothpaste.

Overall it was a great week. I had no idea what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s reassuring to know that Sheffield is so friendly and inviting, I learnt a lot and I’ve got a few interesting stories to tell.

All closed down | Photo: Charlotte Reid

New Year, new projects

Looking towards 2012 I am thinking about new projects I want to start to keep me amused throughout the year. And with that I mean take up New Year resolutions that have a journalism theme to them.

I do, for the moment, have a job that is based in journalism, but these new projects would be extracurricular and a chance to try out some new things too.

My first resolution is to keep a One A Day blog. I did it last year with photos and hosted it on Tumblr. I lasted until October when a number of things happened in one month and keeping it up to date slipped out of my mind. But I enjoyed it and it has made me take more photos, and some of those are even in focus.

This year I am planning on being more ambitious and I am going to do something different each day. One day a blog, another day will be posting a photo and so on for the whole week until it comes back full circle for the start of a new week. So this will make me be creative, do something different and it will all be for fun. Hopefully a few friends will join in as well.

Last year I used Tumblr, which was great and is a nice little blogging tool but I should have made separate accounts because my oneaday photos got confused with me reblogging silly pictures from the internet. So this year I am using Blogger, here is the currently empty site. I am already regretting that decision because it took an hour to figure out how to customise it and not use one of their horrible preset themes. But I have about five WordPress sites already and by using Blogger I can get to grips with another blogging site.

Secondly I have a little television review site called TV Talk, that I set up with a friend. It is a site used to review television programmes and in 2012 I would like to focus a bit more on it.

We get a regular group of readers each week, nothing spectacular, but I want to write for it regularly and be able to show it off as something to be proud of.

And lastly, I want to find a use for this website. It was set up as a way to get my CV and work online and this year I finally got it to a stage I like. But the posts are random rants and interviews that I am proud of and I want it to become some sort of professional blog, but I have a whole year to think what I can do with this place.

So fingers crossed this is what will happen in 2012. I have written it down now which means it is a bit more permanent than just a thought, nevertheless wish me luck.

Where do you turn to when you need help?

For the past 21 years I have been sheltered away from times when I had to start relying upon myself. I had parents looking after me and then a few grueling years of education. After that, with a degree and as much as experience I could get, I am supposed to be going out on my own.

Unfortunately it is not that simple as unemployment figures keep creeping up and even the most experienced and over qualified people are finding it difficult to keep their jobs.

To add further woes even when you are sitting in your living room watching daytime TV and browsing job sites this still costs money that you don’t have thanks to the wonder of bills.

The state have thought of this in terms of unemployment benefit, namely job seekers allowance which is an adequate sum of money to help with rent, food and other bills as long as you prove that you are looking for work.

There is a stigma attached to this though. That anyone who is claiming job seekers is screwing the system over as they are trying to get disability benefits as well as getting help to pay the council tax or you can’t hold down a job because you are an alcoholic nipping to and from prison every other week whilst you ignore your children.

This entire notion is ridiculous, but something did put me off from claiming benefit once I had no job to go to. I think an element of it is pride, you want to prove that you can do this on your own and that you won’t have to wait long for people to be calling you saying that there is a job in London that only you can do out of the whole population.

Eventually I realised I should start claiming just in case I need the extra money for anything, or unemployment becomes a long-term venture. Plus it made sure I would have to get out of the house every now and again.

Somehow this is a decision I am beginning to regret as after six weeks I still have not received any money and I am not entirely sure I will.

So after taking the plunge and filling in a form that was one step away from asking what my children’s children were going to call their pet goldfish I sent it off and expected to hear from then in a couple days like they had said would happen.

I did get some correspondence saying that they had tried to get in touch with me but I had not responded which is news to me. So this meant I was not taking the claim seriously and they would stop all this now unless I called them.

Only mildly annoying.

So I called the next day and explained what had happened for a poor woman to explain that my name was on the system but it had not saved any of my details including things like National Insurance number. So we started it all again on the phone and she backdated it all for me, we had a few problems like the computer crashing twice but we got it done. Appointment booked to prove that I was real at the Job Centre.

Here I learnt that my records had been lost again, so we started from scratch once again and many pieces of paper that equal me were photocopied and stored away.

There was only one small hitch. I live with my boyfriend so I had to fill out a form claiming job seekers for the two of us. But he is not job hunting because he is a student, so there would be a small delay in my application because we needed to make him exempt from my claim. We provided them with all the evidence that they needed and were told “no news is good news” and that money should appear soon.

I went to sign on next time and was told I no longer needed to go to the Job Centre, and it was not because they had found some elusive job for me but just cocked up a lot. Somehow a “decision maker” had seen that I had graduated recently and was looking for work whilst living with my boyfriend who is a full time student and accepted this as I was a student and my boyfriend was looking for work.

On top of this I was supposed to be meeting my personal adviser who was going to help me with my CV and have a general chat about employment prospects, but this had been cancelled because I was no longer on their records as a person wanting to claim job seekers allowance.

A few apologetic phonecalls later I was told it would be sorted out straight away and I would receive my money in the next few days. Until about the tenth person to look at my claim realised that it was missing evidence and forms that should have been filled out by the office so it wasn’t going to be completed for a while unless I ran in with evidence that minute, but I was on the way to a job interview which was just about reason enough not to be at the Job centre for them.

The reason I was told as to why this has not gone right for me in anyway is because the Lincoln office is not trained properly, but even this doesn’t make sense as people in the Lincoln office have told me that they are part of the new training scheme for the more human approach to benefits.

So in a way I have been wanting to prove that I can do it on my own and I have been as I have had many job interviews and sent off many applications without a single ounce of help from the Job Centre. In fact all they have done is cause more harm than good, but again at least it means I do leave the house now and again to find out the next stupid thing they have done with my claim.