Day One – When I Wonder if God Will Ever Forgive Me

Posted April 13, 2009 by rachelq82
Categories: Uncategorized

Day one of my spendthirft’s challenge passed off successfully and I am proud to say I still have a crisp £10 pound note burning a hole in my pocket. Well, proud is probably not the most appropriate word seeing as I’ve managed to get myself into the big man’s bad books. This is how it happened.

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As you know, yesterday was Easter Sunday so I thought I would do the Christian thing and take myself off to church. This is when I encountered my first problem – the collection. Those of you unfamiliar with the proceedings in a Catholic mass, every week a collection is taken for various charities around the community, it is up to each parishioner how much they will put in, some leave notes, some leave coins, but people generally leave something.

As the collection baskets went around, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t broken my £10 note yet and if I were to donate any money, that would be my weekly budget gone, just like that. I wrestled with my conscience, but to be honest, it didn’t take long. I held on to my money and defiantly passed the basket on to the next person while the little old lady beside me eyed me with the kind of disdain normally reserved for door-to-door salesmen.

Not only did I not give to the needy, but I did not give to the needy on Easter Sunday! I was surely going to hell and as I skulked out of there I wondered if God would ever forgive me. Surely he would understand the pressing needs of this monumental task I was embarking on? I was going to have to do some serious grovelling. But I absolutely promise that next week I will return with a pocket laden with money ready to be transferred into the hands of the less fortunate.

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The rest of the day passed quite easily as I had a full cupboard of food. I was, however, asked out for a drink with an old friend, which I had to decline as the thought of wasting money on a drink and a taxi at this early stage in the week was too much of a sacrifice to make.

I went to bed still wracked with guilt and set my alarm 30 minutes early as I realised I would have to walk to work in the morning. Damn, this was not going to be as easy as I thought it would be.

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A Spendthrift’s Challenge or My Week on a Tenner

Posted April 10, 2009 by rachelq82
Categories: Uncategorized

I consider myself to be very foolish with money, just ask my dad if you don’t believe me. I’ve lost count of how many wallets and bank cards I’ve lost over the years and I was on first name terms with all the staff at the “lost or stolen cards” section of my bank. I don’t know anything about mortgages or interest rates or anything like that and the only thing I know about overdrafts is that I have two very large ones.

I get money, spend like a WAG and the next thing I know I’m in Tesco buying my weekly shop when the guy at the counter gives me a dubious look before telling me my card has been declined. “There must be some mistake,” I gasp, well aware there actually isn’t. I do like spending on my card, if you don’t see the money being exchanged then you’re technically not spending any are you? Well that’s the money philosophy I live by anyway.

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So anyway I skulk out of Tesco red-faced and panic stricken as I realise I have no food at home and no money in the bank. At this stage I usually cry and promise myself I won’t be so foolish with my money next month and resign myself to a week of porridge and pasta (which I seem to have an endless supply of at home).

But of course no sooner is my balance in the plus again before I’m straight down to Topshop or into Sainsburys (I can afford Sainsburys for the first week of the month) to see if they have any champagne offers on.

You get the general idea. So I was intrigued and inspired by Stuart Jeffries efforts to live on just £10 for a week. Stuart, a journalist for the Guardian, was spurred on by the thousands of people in China who were taking the “100 yuan challenge“. I’m thinking, how difficult can it be? I’m on a diet anyway so food won’t be a problem and if anything it’ll keep me off the champagne lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to (well Chardonnay at least).

For the next week you can follow my trials and tribulations of life on a tenner and if it doesn’t work, I will give £10 to a local charity (which I should probably do anyway). Tomorrow I will go on a shopping frenzy and will commence on Easter Sunday. So watch this space for updates on my progress.

There’s No Place Like a Newsroom

Posted April 3, 2009 by rachelq82
Categories: Uncategorized

As I walked through the revolving doors of Northcliffe House, the sheer size and sophistication of the building took my breath away and I instantly felt  – scared? Excited? Out of my depth? Privileged? All of the above?

This was definitely somewhere I could see myself working, I thought to myself as I was issued my visitors pass. I made a mental note of the nice receptionist’s name, promising to warmly greet her every morning, even after I became editor of the ES Mag (which was surely going to happen). One must never forget the little people in the rise to the top.

When I was taken into the office and shown my desk, I noticed how quiet and  mellow the atmosphere was – gone were the numerous beacons of news I had become accustomed to over the last few months – no TVs, no radios and no newspapers strewn about every desk, being scanned by journos for any titbit they may have missed. OK so magazine work was going to be a lot different, but show me the celebrities and movie premiers and I was in.

I think I was ever-so-slightly ahead of myself with my whole, “They’ll probably offer me a job when this is all over” attitude (which I knew, but hey, a girl can dream).

I spent the first day calling up the agents and PR companies of celebrities to try and secure a celeb interview. “No,” said Cheryl Cole. “Too busy,” said Whoopi Goldberg. “Not our kind of thing,” said David Tennant. “Too London” said Coleen Rooney.

What was wrong with people? Wasn’t I saying it right? This was the EVENING STANDARD, London’s quality newspaper. I expected people to fall at my feet, but in a celeb’s eyes, media is media whether you work for the Cardiff Evening News or The Times.

Days two and three were spent writing a few bits and pieces for different features, the crux of which was research, research and more research. I didn’t realise there was so much. My day drifted by in endless Google searches and phone calls to company after company after company.

Freebie after freebie arrived at the office and as I looked on with envy I began to realise the true perks of this magazine lark. I was not completely forgotten either as my hours of searching for the best fitness classes, best trainers and best gyms meant I was able to go and try them out. Hmmmm, I could get used to this.

Friday came and after a pleading letter to the editor, I was allowed to go into the news room. As I stepped out of the quiet, freebie-filled haven of the magazine quarters and into the rather frantic hack and stress-filled newsroom, I felt like Dorothy felt when she went back to Kansas (without the red shoes – brown Mary Janes, in case you wondered). I was home. The background noise of Sky News, phones buzzing, raised voices, laughter and  the feeling of imminent deadlines hung in the air. I was definitely in the right place.

The only freebie I may be getting is a newspaper but at least my name would be in it and in my eyes, that means I’ve earned it.

Starting at the Top

Posted March 29, 2009 by rachelq82
Categories: Uncategorized

You always think you are going to be OK. You read the newspapers, go online, watch the news and listen to the radio. And no matter what you hear or read you always think you are going to be OK.

Following the job losses at Manchester Evening News, Media Guardian led with the job losses and journalist strikes that followed the job losses. It was a bleak Monday. Like they aren’t bad enough already, and there were 27 newspaper journalism postgraduate students coming to the end of a long, tiring and stressful term. A fun term, but a tiring one. The light was at the end of the tunnel, just some law coursework to do, a few more production days and that was that, one step closer to that journalism job. Then we see Media Guardian. No jobs, no prospect of jobs, falling circulations, papers switching to online. Doom and gloom for hacks and aspiring hacks everywhere.

And I think it was at this moment I actually thought, “Maybe it’s not going to be OK after all.” Here we are slogging our guts out to prove we have what it takes to pass this prestigious course and go into the cut-throat world of journalism. But is it all for nothing? Are we all in the wrong industry?

My colleagues have started to talk about going into PR, sales and marketing but it seems even that isn’t a safe bet as search engine giant Google announces 200 job losses.

So what do I do? Should I pack my bag and go globetrotting again? Should I stay with education and hide behind another course until the recession passes? Should I graduate and take any job offer that goes? Or should I be optimistic and believe that the perfect journalism job is out there waiting for me?

Tomorrow marks my first day of work placement and I have been lucky enough to have been accepted onto The Evening Standard. What a way to start! I hope this is only the beginning of what my life as a journalist is going to be like – start at the top and keep on climbing because no matter what I read, I really do think I am going to be OK.

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Northern Ireland and Me

Posted March 18, 2009 by rachelq82
Categories: Uncategorized

Years of hatred, bloodshed, revenge, misery, fear and discrimination. And we thought it was finally over. We were wrong.

I don’t ask for much in life. I never have. All I ever want is for me, my family and friends to be healthy, happy and safe. I don’t think that is a lot to ask. We all want world peace, but it’s a sad fact of life we have come to accept that this will never be achievable. But I don’t think it is too much to ask for the country I was brought up in to be at peace after years and years of a deep-seated war.

My family still live there, and one day, if I decide I want a family, maybe I’ll return. Yet with the selfish acts of violence and terrorism at the hands of dissident republicans, Northern Ireland might not have a future.

I often get asked what Northern Ireland is like – was I affected by the Troubles and what is it like now? Being from a border town which was almost ruined by the Troubles in the sixties, we were, for a very long time, affected by things. You couldn’t leave my town from either side without having to go through an army barracks and produce papers, telling the soldier with the gun where exactly you were going, what the reason was and when you were planning on coming back. Being a child, one of the only things I remember was thinking he spoke with a funny accent. I also remember his gun.

Similarly, I remember British soldiers patrolling my neighbourhood, with their guns. Just walking and looking. Sometimes they’d squat and take aim at something, though they’d never shoot. Sometimes they were in my garden hiding or watching or just passing through. It was just something I learned to grow up with.

On July 12, things usually took off. I was never allowed to leave the house. When I got older, things died down a little bit more year after year. But there were still riots. One burned car, a couple of petrol bombs and police in riot gear still constitutes a riot, however small.

But things came to an end and we finally got our peace. Northern Ireland’s political leaders made history. Yet I think all of us, in some way, were waiting for the inevitable to happen. The hatred has run too deep and too many tears and blood have been shed for people to simply forgive and forget.

And the inevitable did happen. The Continuity IRA and the Real IRA have ruined the hopes of everyone in Northern Ireland. Parents’ hopes their children won’t have to grow up with what they grew up with, the older generation’s hopes they will die having seen peace in Northern Ireland at last, political leaders’ hopes they have put an end to years of sectarian war and my hopes that one day, maybe I can return to where I came from without having to worry about whether or not it is safe.

Gerry Adams, Martin Mc Guiness, Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson all united in their opposition to the murder of the three innocent men in the space of three days. After decades of these men opposing almost everything the other stood for, maybe everyone else can take a leaf out of their book and realise Ireland does not want a war anymore. Even the IRA have said their war is over.

The people responsible for these attacks cannot think they can bring the peace process to an end.  I am confident and pray every day that this is not the end. I know I am not alone.

The Wonder That is Twitter (and Rob Brydon)

Posted March 10, 2009 by rachelq82
Categories: Uncategorized

Another day, another blog about the wonder that is Twitter! I haven’t been very forthcoming on the old blog front lately and can only blame my up-and-coming journalist career combined with exams and stressing about the death of journalism as a reason (laziness had nothing to do with it of course).

So why is Twitter so brilliant, apart from the obvious reasons, I hear you ask? I will tell you the story of my week as Cardiff School of Journalism’s art’s editor.

Our weekly art’s supplement, Hwyl – the spirit of the weekend – comes out every Friday and, it being Comic Relief this week, I thought I’d do a special Comic Relief edition. So a Comic Relief special edition in Wales would need a celebrity interview with links to both. But who would it be? Well of course it would have to have been Ruth “Nessa” Jones and Rob “Bryn” Brydon, our very own home-grown talent who are singing this year’s Comic Relief single with Tom Jones and Robin Gibb.

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Now how on earth was I going to get such huge celebrity names for an art’s supplement with very little readership and no circulation (it is an internal publication for training purposes)?

First stop was obviously going to be their PR agents. After a few phone calls and even more emails I was feeling a little confident that I would be able to get at least one of them.

A phone call at the weekend from Tidy Productions confirmed Ruth Jones would indeed give me an interview, all I had to do was email the questions. An email interview is better than no interview at all so I was happy.

My happiness was shortlived however when I got a rather blunt email from Rob Brydon’s PR firm telling me he was simply much too busy promoting the single and touring this week and they were really sorry. At least they had the decency to apologise.

But I wasn’t done yet. Being his Twitter follower after recently discovering the wonder that is Gavin and Stacey, I thought I would Twitter him. As Doctor Pepper would say, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Well the lovely man replied and said he would do the interview no problem and would call me when he had time after I gave him my number!

Now can anyone tell me how I would have got the interview without Twitter? Just one tweet and he was mine. Although Rob Brydon obviously being a very lovely and down-to-earth-man had a big part to play in it all as well.

So thanks to Rob and thanks to Twitter, you’ve made my day, and probably my art’s supplement!

Speed Tweeting

Posted January 25, 2009 by rachelq82
Categories: Uncategorized

Forget Christmas. January is the worst month for being single. The dark, dreary and depressing weather means you’re stuck indoors with nothing to keep you warm except your furry hot water bottle and the remote control. You’re both a few pounds lighter and a few pounds heavier after spending and eating so much at Christmas. You realise being fat and skint is the worst combination and curse yourself for having polished off that box of After Eights and buying that expensive dress, which you don’t even fit into anymore.

As punishment you’ve set yourself a month of detoxing, dieting and detention at weekends. You’re all too aware that yet another Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and you fret more about it now than at the time because, lets face it, by February 14  you’ve managed to reinstate your social life and surround yourself with friends and champers, all necessities for day-to-day living.

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So you can imagine my despair and disgust when, not only did I find out the Welsh have their own Valentine’s Day (St Dwynwen’s Day) which falls tomorrow (25 January), but to rub salt in the wound, I sat down to read the Guardian only to be met with a free Guide to Dating: everything we needed to know about how to go on that first date, second date, speed date and blind date. Who made them the experts?

Not feeling like I wanted to be reminded that I am neither dating nor have any potential to be in the near future (simply because I’m too busy of course), I decided to read my news online.

As I logged into my email account, I was confronted with dozens of new emails telling me that ‘Ed59’, ‘Nice Dave’, ‘BeccaOnline’ and a whole other plethora of people were now following me on Twitter. And on and on it proceeded throughout the day. I’ve been a Tweeter for three months and now, today of all days, my site has suddenly begun to explode with followers. I don’t know whether to be scared or flattered.

So as I mosied through the profiles of my new-found cyber friends, deciding who I was or wasn’t going to follow, I realised it was taking me all of 30 seconds to make this crucial decision. If their Tweets or profile page didn’t impress me then  I wasn’t prepared to follow them.

With the Guardian’s article on speed dating still freshly in my mind (I had a sneaky peek, simply for research purposes), I started to wonder if anyone had yet formed a relationship through Twitter. A quick glance at someone’s page, a read of their bio info, a visit to their website and maybe even a quick scroll through their followers and you’ve formed a definite picture. Why, you can find out more about someone in 30 seconds on Twitter than you ever could in three minutes at a speed dating event.

I can see it now. Boy follows girl, girl follows boy, boy Tweets girl, girl falls in love. A few passing Tweets, followed by a few flirty @ replies, swiftly followed by a few risque direct messages. The next thing you know you’re sitting in a bar with a red rose beside you waiting for the mystery Tweeter. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Last week, I blogged that Twitter was the new Facebook. I think I underestimated its powers. Twitter has the potential to be the new Cilla Black. It’s only a matter of time before we get the first Twitter love birds and I expect many more to follow suit. You heard it here first. I’m off to buy a new hat.

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P.S. I do not condone the meeting of strangers who have met online and anyone willing to do so should proceed with extreme caution!