Monday, 29 December 2014

NEW YEAR, NEW ME?

The age old question; “have you got a new year's resolution this year?” is about to propel back into our lives. Just as you can rely on an over enthusiastic countdown, a drunk family party and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne during the festive period you can depend on people asking you this faithful question.



With so many past experiences of failed promises to yourself the thought of making another resolution may seem a little daunting, and maybe even pointless. However, if done in the right way they can positively enrich your life, everyone has room for a little improvement... even Beyoncé. The key is to make them realistic, very few people are going to be able to uphold “I will never drink alcohol” if every weekend of 2014 involved a bottle of wine and a drunken critique of Saturday night TV or “I will work out 5 times a week” is unlikely to succeed if you haven't visited a gym since Will Young won Pop Idol. However, by making them achievable such as; reducing the gym to twice a week, or by including exceptions to the drinking rule such as special occasions then there is no reason they can't work. 

If I've convinced you that new year's resolutions can be a good thing (pat on the back for me) but you're still struggling for ideas then here is a little inspiration:

  1. Do something exciting/different every day. You may be thinking “what? Doesn't that go against everything she has just said”. No because I'm not saying go and organise yourself an extreme sport or momentous voyage into the unknown every day. Just simple things like baking a cake, taking your kids (or family members') on a day trip to the park or organising a PJ party with friends. It's just something every day that makes you smile and appreciate the world and the people in it. This is my resolution every year and it really does work, if only I could remember to keep it past March... 2015 is my year though I'm sure. 
  2. Spend less time on social network sites and watching television.We are all guilty of sitting on our laptops Googling the most random of things and Facebook stalking someone you went to school with for hours. But why not limit your time online and sitting in front of a box and spend more time maybe actually talking to real life people? Just an idea!
  3. Improve my diet and exercise regime. The benefits to a healthy lifestyle are endless you don't need me to tell you that. By trying to indulge in a more balanced lifestyle and occasionally sporting your work out clothes you are likely to see an improved physique, the release of endorphins (Elle Woods in Legally Blonde taught these make you happy and prevent you from killing your husband), and generally feel healthier.
  4. Take more photos. I personally love sitting down and looking through old photos and laughing at the lovely memories I have. But I often forget to take them, taking more photos could mean preserving those special moments for longer, and with smart phones taking just as good photos as digital cameras it has never been easier.


Good luck with whatever you decide to do and of course Happy New year!


*This was originally published on Cardiff Times.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

BIRMINGHAM CHRISTMAS SHELTER



"Our aim is to offer food, warmth, shelter and companionship to homeless and lonely people in the Birmingham area, over the Christmas period.  Our doors are open to all, irrespective of gender, colour, race, religion or sexual orientation."

In today's blog post I want to tell you about one of the most amazing organisations I have ever had the pleasure to be part of. I am totally aware of how lucky I am to have a loving family, a roof over my head and many luxuries, and last year I felt like it was long overdue that I gave something back. So off I went to my old faithful laptop and I took to Google to try and find out if there was anyone who needed my help. It wasn't long before I stumbled upon the Birmingham Christmas Shelter.

I signed myself up on the website and soon I received an email asking me to attend an induction. I went along to this building situated in the Jewellery Quarter, here I walked in alone a little timid and nervous about what I had put my name down for. I was not to worry though as I was instantly put at ease after listening to a group of amazing people talking about their experiences, who every year give up their time, money and resources to ensure the homeless have a Christmas to remember. 

In the induction we were informed that the shelter opens up in this particular week as most other homeless charities close down, which I found shocking. The week which is arguably the time that people need love, company and warmth the most is when they will have the most difficulty finding it. Another astonishing fact was that not everyone that visits is homeless, some people just live alone and crave some company over the festive season. This was the saddest news to me, I hate even sitting in a restaurant and seeing someone sitting alone. Not long ago I saw an old man alone in Harvester tucking into an ice-cream Sunday he looked perfectly content but still my heart was breaking. I would hate to think of anyone ever having to be or feel alone at any time of the year, especially Christmas.





My time at the Shelter


They warned me in the induction that nothing would quite prepare me for that first moment when I walked into the serine building I saw on the induction, and it had become completely unrecognisable. It was no longer an empty room filled with a few volunteers, a slide show and some complimentary biscuits lay on a side table. It had been transformed into organised chaos. My first shift was on the tea hatch so I made my way over and got acquainted with the hot water machine, I was warned not to mention that the coffee was decaffeinated, apparently the real stuff meant bedtime became impossible. And so my shift began, and before I knew it (and before I wanted it to be) my time with the Birmingham Christmas Shelter was over. My shifts had all passed by in a fleet of long conversations, tea making, sweet finding and board game hopping. 

One person that stays with me is a young boy I met on my final shift. He was dressed in a duffel coat and fingerless gloves. He had long floppy brown hair, rosy cheeks that looked like they had experienced severe cold, and his most prominent feature of all was a broad smile that could have belonged to the richest person in the world. He had fled from London to Birmingham and had been in and out of foster homes his whole life. He was only a couple years older than me, and whilst we were happily chatting he told me how much he appreciated me being there at my age, and how hopeful he was that next year he wouldn't need the service and maybe he could be a volunteer himself. How could a man who had so little take the time out to be grateful for my presence? It really is hard to comprehend. Since those visits to the homeless shelter my Christmas wasn't the same, I sat there with my extravagant presents and the delicious Christmas dinner my Mum had cooked us, and my brain couldn't help but wonder back to the friends I had made and how their days were going. I don't think Christmas will ever be the same again for me but I'm happy with that. I just hope these charities can keep going and bring just a small amount of joy to these people who are just having a bad time.

No matter how many programmes we watch, or articles we read about this hidden and often forgotten part of society until you actually see the hardship first hand it is hard to understand. After my truly rewarding experience, and such a fun time I signed up again this year and my sister is joining me. I can't wait for her to see the incredible work that goes on and what it means to everyone there. I feel quite selfish saying that I actually really enjoy it too, it made my Christmas so much better getting to speak to people I never usually would. I think part of the reason I have always wanted to be a journalist is because of how nosy I am, I love finding out about people and listening to their stories because truly everyone has one to tell. The guests of the shelter are more than happy to chew your ear off which I throughly enjoyed.

If you would like to support The Birmingham Christmas Shelter then please click here to donate. If you would like to volunteer then sadly this year the application has closed, but keep checking the site for next year... it's a decision you won't regret!


Monday, 15 December 2014

THE BEST CHRISTMAS ADVERTS OF 2014

With only 10 days to go till Christmas day graces us with it's presence again, the TV schedule is filled with lots of ways to make us feel all warm and gooey inside, the feeling that can only be described as the Christmas spirit. I am not talking about the Christmas special programmes and classic movies, but the masterpieces that come in between... the adverts! Here are my top 5:

1) John Lewis' Monty the Penguin


John Lewis has high expectations every year. Their adverts have undeniably become a part of Christmas tradition and I always look forward to seeing what they have conjured up. And I don't think they have let us down with this adorable short about a little boy who buys his penguin a girlfriend, it may sound a little like penguin prostitution but it is seriously adorable. 

2) Sainsbury's Spoof


The Sainsbury's WW1 inspired advert is gorgeous and I would probably even go as far to say that they beat John Lewis this year in the battle of the adverts. But then I saw this hilarious spoof by Hot Gulp and now the original can never be watched the same again. Sainsbury's worker Sebastian and Tesco worker Barry are able to put aside their supermarket rivalry for a game of football with a ball of lettuce. Photos of loved ones are swapped for pornographic images, selfies and even a cheeky snog between the opposing supermarket giants' staff on the sidelines.

3) Oral B's Merry Bleeping Christmas


Taking a more honest approach to the season that makes us all a little crazy is Oral B. They have taken the most scenic magical Christmas moments and shown us the family struggles behind them with the help of a bleeper machine.

4) Mulberry's Win Christmas


This advert rings so true for me; me and my sister are always competing to buy the best present for our parents or even write the best message in the cards. Mulberry captures the competitiveness of Christmas perfectly, and this advert is my favourite this year as the bag featured in the advert is my 21st birthday bag which I am totally in love with. I agree it does beat a unicorn, pug and painting all put together. I also love the Nan's smug grin all the way through, she totally knows she has this in the bag (pardon the pun).

5) Coca Cola's Holidays Are Coming


Coca Cola are the king of advertising, I did a module at university which hammered home this point, and I believe this Christmas classic is the best of the best.This festive truck advert signals the start of the Christmas holidays when it flashes up on my screen. It has become even more special now that me and my friend Tash went to visit it when it came to Cardiff. FYI: This truck is the best place to people watch ever, and people watching just so happens to be one of my favourite activities any time of the year.


Merry Christmas to you all! 
What are your favourite Christmas adverts?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

SOUTH WALES BUCKET LIST

It is easy to get sucked into the student routine of clubbing, napping and occasionally attending that mythical 9am lecture, but I challenge you to step out of that prison cell sized room and complete the Buzz bucket list.

1. RUGBY AT THE MILLENIUM STADIUM
If you have parents dying to come see their little baby at university at the weekend, you may be able to blag a free ticket out of them. For those of you less loved get a shift there selling radios or stewarding and get paid for the honour. Although be warned if you get put on hot dog making duty the most action you’ll see is ketchup mishaps.




2. A BEACH DAY
Head over to the coast for a day of sun, sea and sand or if you’re lucky pebbles, rain, and fish ‘n’ chips. To indulge in an extra special seaside visit go to Barry Island, the birthplace of Gavin and Stacey, pick a character and take on their persona for the day. I always go for Nessa, “what’s occurin’?”, and for the price of a fridge magnet you can sit in her arcade booth.

3. WORK HARD PLAY HARD
Spend a night partying with all your friends, and the one thing you must avoid is sleep, and then still make your day of lectures and seminars. Better yet go to another subject’s lectures, what better way to heal a hangover than with An Introduction to Japanese.

4. AN EVENING OF WELSH TRADITIONS
Wales is not England, and if you’ve crossed that border to get here, you really need to get into the green, white and red Welsh spirit. I suggest you sit down to a traditional Welsh lamb stew, there also has to be leeks involved obviously. This should then be followed with a fresh welsh cake and a big cwtch with all your housemates. Follow dinner with a walk looking at the sheep, a quick rugby game and the smelling of daffodils, okay too far?

5. CULTURAL WALES
South Wales has a lot to offer in terms of museums and history, be a good student and head to one of them, most have free admission and you never know you may learn something new.




6. DINE WITH A DIFFERENCE
You’ve had plenty of meals in the traditional home, pub, restaurant settings, now is the time to do something a little unconventional. Head to The Clink for a meal cooked and served for you by the local inmates or scoot over to Whiff Whaff and devour your meal over a game of ping pong.

7. BE THE KING/QUEEN OF THE MANOR
Put on your finest crown and go to your local castle (Swansea, Cardiff and Newport all have their own). For a true Royal experience climb to the top, take in the gorgeous views and wave to your civilians.



8. JOIN THE CIRCUS
Wales’s home-grown circus No Fit State recently opened their doors to the public and are now offering classes to all. Learn the trapeze, high ropes or how to juggle. Just think of the new skills you can whip out at the family Christmas parties.



9. CARDIFF BAY
Put on your glad rags, catch the water taxi from Bute Park and head for a fancy meal down the Bay. There is something to please every taste bud, and you get a lovely view of the Harbour. For the adrenaline seekers amongst us why not try their white water wafting.

10. A WALK WHERE THE GRASS IS GREEN
Wales is known for its beautiful landscapes, grab some friends, a picnic and some cider and head to your local park, follow this with a walk to burn off those jam sandwiches.

*Article previously published in Buzz Magazine Student Guide.