Thursday 9 February 2023

My climb to the top (or at least the idea of it)...

Last year, a good friend of mine took her step-son to climb Yr Wyddfa to watch the sunrise. She had said to me how beautiful it was and that we should go together next year (now this year)... to my surprise, I found myself agreeing to take on the challenge. Now, for her, she is fit and healthy, whereas I am overweight and not so healthy. In June 2022 I injured my fibula by jumping onto a rope swing - a definite case of my mind being younger than my body - and in August I fell down the stairs and sustained a grade 3 sprain to my ankle which hurts on a daily basis. So what really pushed me to say 'yes' to what is for me, going to be the challenge of a lifetime?

My 'why(s)'

1) My son, nearly eight years old, has struggled with anxiety since the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. This has snowballed since then and has become a daily battle for him. From the panics of him losing his dad and me, my parents and my partner's mother to him feeling like he 'is having a heart attack' before bedtime, seeing him with these struggles at such a young age breaks my heart.

His school has been fantastic in working with us to help him to manage his thoughts and fears. He has been put forward to the Thrive programme - a programme that is so valuable in schools in this day in age but is not readily available to every child.  At home, we encourage him to complete his daily journal (which can be found here) that helps him to reflect on the good and not so good things that happened in each day. Not only does it help him to regulate his thoughts, but it also helps us, as his parents to find other ways to help him. But is this really enough? With waiting lists for both children and adults mental health services at an all time high, is this really enough? In all honesty, no, I don't think it is - but aside from what we can do at home and in school to help give him the best childhood possible, there is little to no access to support for our children who have been caught up in a snowball effect of anxiety or poor mental health. 

2) Working in Further Education with students with additional needs has taught me that there is little access to young people who struggle with their mental health. After sitting with students who have openly discussed suicide and have handed over sharp objects to you as an adult whom they trust, it is evident that our young people are not getting access to the support that they need in order to look after their mental health. It is heartbreaking to think that there are so many young people are in crisis because the funding for services is inadequate. Change needs to happen, but unfortunately falls down to charities such as Young Minds or Childline to provide the resources aimed at helping individuals [at the very least] to cope.

Back when I was 16 (some 20 years ago now), online bullying, negative influencing videos/websites were not on the radar. I mean sure, bullying was around, but with cyberbullying a whole new dimension is added to the lives of our young people. As if every day school and college life isn't already a minefield with social groups, academic achievements and expectations, social media is a minefield that can be the good, bad and the ugly all mixed into one.

3) I could do with the challenge... I started training with my first hill walk in January. This challenge will not only be a positive step in helping our selected charity, but will also help me to train and get my health and fitness back on track. Plus it will be an experience of a lifetime... I mean, who doesn't want to climb a mountain in the dead of night to watch the sunrise? 

I will climb for Young Minds along with a group of friends. A date is yet to be set for August, but regular updates will feature on my page.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and for your support.

Over and out. L x

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Let's Talk

Nokia, from library
Nokia 3210 - Guardian Online, 2015
What happened to conversation? Why are we so immersed in [the] online that we no longer have the time nor the skills to start up a conversation with a stranger? And what can we do to engage with 'reality' again?

Perhaps you remember the days before 'the smartphone' - incidentally these are now the norm - perhaps you don't. Perhaps you were born knowing how to use the camera on a phone, or apps on a tablet, or maybe, you have had to learn with the technological development - but whichever side of the digital age you were born on, at some point, you will have undoubtedly been introduced to the consumption of a digital device. 

When I consider the amount of time that I spend on an electronic device of some kind - be it phone, laptop or tablet - I'm horrified. From the ringing of my alarm, to the reminder to start my fasting app, the engagement in WhatsApp conversations in numerous groups to writing uni assignments, whether we like it or not I live in the age of the gadget. No matter how hard I try for my family to be device free of an evening when we get home from school and work, somewhere along the line, either my partner is glued to his mobile device, my son is watching television, or I am engaging in my 'Mothers' Meeting' chat on WhatsApp. I would love, absolutely love to break free from the shackles of technology for a week... I'm just not brave enough. If I want to know the answer to a question, or want to find the best place to go for lunch in an unfamiliar place, I take my phone out and 'Google' it. 
What time is the local pool open? Google it. Has my son got Forest School today? WhatsApp it. Need inspiration for garden landscaping on a budget? Pinterest it. Everything is at my fingertips. 

But is all of this technology making us lazy? Kids are making friends with strangers online, which of course has its own issues, but as a society we have lost the art of conversation. We are consumed in conversations with our 'smart speaker' (which in the not so distant future will go in the same direction as the smartphone/phone and become known simply as a speaker) that it is easier to communicate with someone in a different room through a device rather than physically going and striking up the conversation. This is some Black Mirror shit.  The first mobile phone I had as a teenager was a Pay As You Go Nokia 3210. It didn't have a camera, nor did it send messages over WiFi - in fact at this point most households that were lucky enough to have internet access were on dial-up. To send a text you had 459 characters, which included any spaces, and were generally charged at 10p per message - if you went over to 460 characters, you were charged the cost of two text messages. Generally, you would only send a text if you were confirming plans with a friend... after all, you would actually be able to tell them everything when you saw them!

I fear for kids growing up in a digital age. With the dangers of social media, online bullying, the concept of catfishing and the very fact that the internet is plastered with our personal information. A persons career could hand on the balance of what they have previously posted on Facebook or Instagram. We have become a generation of mutes, our thumbs do the talking - I wonder whether trigger-thumb and carpal tunnel syndrome have become more common medical issues in the past ten years.

However, with each negative that has come from the emergence of the digital age there must be a positive, right? You can have a (virtually) instant conversation with someone without having to have a phone glued to your head for an hour - no more crick neck from cradling the phone and also no more interruptions once the kids have gone to bed and all you want to do is watch the Great British Bake Off. Internet banking...  no wait, mobile banking is just so bloody convenient - no more cheques ('whoooooooooooooooo?') or having to go into the bank to move money around. Weight loss apps - (does this one count?) I have so many of them promising to help me lose weight and yet I still can't lick that one down (although I guess I can't really blame an app for my downfalls). Oh, and the fact that you have every little thing at your fingertips - so much information that I can even find out pointless information about what the longest word in the English language is (it's pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis by the way). I might just share the longest word in my WhatsApp groups - see, knowledge is power 😉

Over and out.



Sunday 3 November 2013

It's been a while...

Hello and a very good morning, noon and night to one and all wherever you may be!

I am very aware that I abandoned my blog for a while. It has been one heck of a year and I cannot believe it is almost over! I have been through a range of emotions this year - from the relief of starting a new job (back in January), to the stress of being stupidly busy and run down by said job, but nonetheless it's been a goodun'. My well earned annual leave begins tomorrow and I am not back at work properly now for 2 weeks... although I am sure that it will fly by and I won't necessarily be any more relaxed as my partner and I are preparing to buy a house.

It hit me the other day that actually, I am rather 'grown up'. My mind keeps telling me that I am still 23, but every time I look in the mirror I think to myself 'another day older and still got a lot of growing up to do' (I am 27 in little over a week). Then I think that buying a house for the very first time is a massive deal. Maybe I have become a more mature individual. I mean after all, I have graduated from university, been through the motions of having to find another job and already pay bills. The comforts of my mom's cooking seems like a distant memory. Living in London for just over seven years has meant that I have had to stand on my own two feet with everything - not such a daunting task anymore.

Currently I work at a university - I look at the Freshers' coming in to the new academic year, they appear shy and timid and some don't look much younger than I do... then it hits me, I have a good seven years on most of them. It is strange to think that when I was a student I expected to graduate and walk straight into a job (even if we were entering a recession). Obviously this didn't happen, but as a student and graduate, you kind of take it for granted that you are still within this system, a sort of protective bubble. Once you graduate, after a month or two, that bubble suddenly bursts and you get a weird 'oh shit' moment when you realise that you are on your own to fend for yourself in a competitive job market. Honestly, I didn't think I would end up working in the role that I am currently in (I had never even heard of the role before), but I can tell you that I have met some of the most interesting (in both good and bad senses of the word) and fascinating people in just 10 months.

It's been a whirlwind six months - I have thought about everything. I have analysed my life, where I am, where I want to be and how to get what I want... I am still searching for these answers and instead of wading through haze and reaching a new form of clarity, I seem to have confused myself more and continue to pass through muddy waters. There was a short time where I was thinking and worrying about death - it was sinister. It wasn't anything in particular - just horrible thoughts about losing those that matter most around me. No matter how much I tried to keep my mind off it, occasionally it would creep up on me as if it was preying on my thoughts - hungry to force me to face the realities of life. The strange thing is that I have never been one who has been remotely concerned about death - it is part of life and I have to say that when it is my time to go, I will be gone. There is nothing that anybody can do about it - but it is different when I consider my own fate, this doesn't upset me one bit. It is when the death of loved ones creeps up on me that it completely throws me into this weird abyss of thoughts that I really do not want to be thinking. That said, it also makes me realise how lucky I am to have the people that I have in my life.

Perhaps it is because I am getting older, and I guess I am adding to my life experience as I go along that I am reflecting more on every aspect of my life. I have to say that I have been very fortunate - and even though I haven't done what I set out to do and my plans have changed, I feel incredibly privileged to have so many amazing people in my life who have got some fascinating stories to share. I am looking forward to making my own stories and memories to share with new generations... I mean come on, I still remember the days of the 'cassette tape', 'VH' and 'dial-up internet' - I bet that the 'Beliebers' of the world have never even heard of 'dial-up'.

I think I will leave my ramblings here for one evening. It's getting late, and really this post has no relevance whatsoever, but if you take anything away from this post it should be this - live life one day at a time, but remember your roots, remember the growth of your roots and remember every branch that flourished because of those roots. Nothing is forever, but cherish your memories however distant they may appear.

Over and out. Weez

Thursday 31 January 2013

Nuisance caller? Nope, nuisance receiver…

In the age of annoying calls about family members having mythical accidents, or an individuals unawareness about PPI and how to make a claim – these nuisance calls are becoming the bane of many household telephones across the country. Think of it like this, in the ‘olden days’ people used to send letters, and then telegrams – there simply wasn’t the platform to be hassled the way that these reprobates trouble the households of the UK.

Every day, when I arrive home from work, I see at least two missed calls on my landline – either from private numbers, or ridiculous numbers (such as 942) which I have no doubt are not numbers associated with the UK. It’s annoying – no matter how many times you ignore these slippery buggers, they are resilient and ridiculously persistent. Time after time I am informed of an accident I had two years ago, or that I have been paying PPI on a credit card that doesn’t exist… so tonight, I had my own fun.

A caller (from a call centre in India) told me that I had compensation waiting for me and that he needed to take my details in order for me to claim it. At this point, I was pretending to wrack my brains over whether I had been in an accident or not. He was adamant that I had previously been in an accident despite me saying clearly that I had definitely not been involved in any such accident. To which he replied ‘Well our records show that you had an accident ma'am and there is compensation waiting for you, perhaps your injury made you forget it’. Time and time again, I told him that I had not been in an accident – when he decided that I definitely had, I said ‘If it's free money, feel free to write me a cheque, but I didn't have an accident. Look, I know that Valentines Day is coming up, but you don’t need to try and give me compensation, all you have to do is ask’. At this point, the line went quiet – I was sat giggling to myself when all of a sudden I heard the ‘dead-line’ tone. Considering that he called me, I thought that hanging up on me was rude.

Note to self – the way to get rid of those pesky callers (although it’s only temporary – but fun to do) is to wind them up, mock them and make them hang up on you. It makes handling those annoying calls that much easier.

Over and out. Weez

Thursday 3 January 2013

Happy New Year with new resolutions (to break)

I wonder how many people manage to see their resolutions through 365 days of the year - do they set achievable goals that they really want to achieve or ones that were simply made to be broken?

We all know that each New year that we see in will have it's challenged for us, yet we wish for the best over the coming months - I for one have usually forgotten that I even made resolutions by the time March pays us a visit.

For anyone who has seen their resolutions through in previous years without falter, I take my hat off to you. This year I have pledged to lose the pounds that I have stacked on in the past four years of my relationship - last year I pledged the same and ended up putting on more weight. That said, my problem is that I don't see my resolutions through to the end. They sound like a brilliant idea when plied with alcohol.

Every New Year I say to myself 'Ok, this year I will save to travel next year'. Don't get me wrong, I would love to go travelling, but at what point do I have the money to even save? Along with rent and bills, I have to eat (granted, probably less than I do) - this leaves little room for saving many pennies to go travelling. Here again I stumble at the hurdle of my resolutions.

This years plan is plain and simple; I want to lose weight and succeed in my new job. I want my family and friends to remain happy and healthy, and the economic situation to pick up so I can start living life as it should be lived.

To everyone reading this post, Happy New Year! Have a great 2013 and don't give up on your resolutions and goals.

Over and out,


Monday 10 September 2012

'Thanks for the warm up'... time for the cool down

As the Paralympic Closing Ceremony drew a line under London 2012 (with the exception of the Olympic and Paralympic Parade of course) the whole country anticipates the metaphorical hangover. In a previous post, I focused on my enjoyment of the Olympics and the sheer joy and emotion it had left me with - I wished that as a nation we would support Team GB through the Paralympics and show the world how it is really done.

I can truly say this summer, that I am proud to be British. As a country, we have come together to show our support and admiration for all of the participants from across the world - particularly those from our 'home team'.

Now, this is only my opinion, but I felt a greater sense of pride for our Paralympic Athletes. Yes, of course I supported Team GB in the Olympics and I was particularly inspired by all of the athletes that have worked so hard to make it to London 2012 - I was also proud to be able to say that I went to school with Team GB's very own Alex Gregory - but there was something extra special about the Paralympics. Arguably, for the first time ever Paralympians have not only been treated as equal, but also been put on a pedestal from which every spectator looks up to. Channel 4's introduction absolutely rings true - in their own right, they are superhuman.

Many were dealt their cards from birth, whilst others were dealt them through their life journeys. Yet, they have overcome, triumphed and defied stereotypes. Hopefully somewhere along the way, as a society, we will make way for a very much needed and heightened understanding of individual challenges that they face. This is an inspiration in itself. The willing, the motivation and the determination of these athletes has been incredible. Many, against all odds, have exceeded expectations of themselves, their coaches and the countries in which they represent.

I was fortunate to have tickets to the Paralympic Stadium (as it became known) on Day 3... suffice it to say, it was one of the most incredible days of my life. Ok, so I am only 25, going on 26, but it could well have been that 'once in a lifetime opportunity' that everyone keeps going on about. I was also lucky to have tickets to the ExCel on Day 6. On both days, I had become a walking flesh covered sack of emotion. I laughed, cried, screamed, cheered and shouted - trust me when I say, the atmosphere at the Stadium was crazy.

Chris Whitehead celebrating Gold in T42 Mens 200m Race

On Day 3 I attended the morning session: Richard Whitehead won Gold in what was one of the most electrifying events of the morning - the stadium overflowing with excitement and pride, cheering all athletes competing and letting out roars, wails, screams, whistles and massive 'woohoos' every time the home team surfaced. It was a time of togetherness, not just for the Brits but the other supporters who were cheering their own countries.  Houssein Omar Hassan appeared to have injured his Achilles tendon early on in the race but showed extreme willing to finish despite the seven-minutes-plus time difference separating the race winner from himself. The stadium stood tall, cheering him on as he reached every length of the track – the focus was not on him to win the race, but solely on his determination that was openly tugging at heartstrings of onlookers. The stadium united to see this athlete and spur on his determination to finish what he started.

Houssein Omar Hassan: T46 Mens 1500m Race

It is so hard to imagine the intensity that Olympic Athletes endure – then you see the Paralympic Athletes with such a diverse range of disabilities and classifications, it has brought a new meaning to sport. Barriers have been broken, stereotypes torn, attitudes changed, world records blown out of the water and infinite possibilities for not only Britain, but across the globe. My hope is, that as a nation, we will carry the spirit of the Paralympics and continue to not only accept our differences, but also celebrate them. 

I want to thank all of the Olympic and Paralympic Athletes for bringing so much joy to London this summer. A big well done to each of the volunteers. It has been an amazing couple of months. Such a shame that we can't do it every year.

Over and out. Weez

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Dis - Lek - See - Uh

Dyslexia [noun] Pronunciation: /dɪsˈlɛksɪə/ [dis – lek – see – uh]

A general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence. 

- Oxford English Dictionaries

Let me first introduce the nature of my post – if you haven’t guessed already, it is about Dyslexia. Call it a follow-up to my previous blog post ‘Are we a dyslexic nation or is it an excuse that we hide behind?’. In this post I want to consider what it really means to be dyslexic.

Firstly, I want to point out that I have been tested for Dyslexia – I have the really long report explaining the areas in which I struggle most and advice on how I can combat the niggles that in the past have been more than challenging. Consider the irony…

Educational Psychologist + potentially dyslexic individual = a really long and wordy report for the newly tested dyslexic person to read.

I found that rather amusing – it didn’t jump up and slap me in the face straight away, although this could be because I was busy concentrating on reading the whole report several times before processing any of the information in it.

So if you read my previous post, you will have understood that for me, being dyslexic has not held me back in the slightest. Yes, I feel that if I had have known earlier on in my education that I would have found my school days easier, but when I think about how hard I worked to achieve what I did, it makes me proud. I survived first school, middle school, high school and college through sheer hard work, knowing something wasn’t quite right but I was still determined to prove to myself that I could do it. I often wonder if some of my teachers thought I was a lazy pupil – regardless, it doesn’t matter now that I have come out the other side unscathed.

That is my account, but for some children (and indeed adults) this isn’t the case. For some, they feel that their difficulty to comprehend through reading and writing has held them back – arguably made them feel inadequate. This genuinely makes me sad because I feel that I managed to achieve a great deal against these odds, but for others it can be such a rocky road. In some cases it has lead to discrimination in and outside of the classroom.

The problem

Dyslexia is mapped on such a broad spectrum – but once it is understood where an individual’s difficulties lie, life can become much easier. For example, it takes me twice as long to read black text on white background as someone who can read perfectly well, but for every area that I find challenging, there is an area that I excel in. To combat my problem with reading I use what I believe is called Apple Green acetate over the paper, or if I am working on my computer I may change the background of the page to speed up my reading. Dyslexia cannot be characterised to one specific area and no two individuals are affected in the same way. Sometimes this is where confusion begins.

I truly believe that the support available to children with Dyslexia in schools is much better now than it ever has been. Teachers are now more aware of the ‘tell-tale’ signs and how to help children overcome their learning difficulties – but more needs to be done. In order to teach children with learning difficulties effectively, the teacher first and foremost needs to understand the conditions and capabilities before bombarding individuals with more overwhelming (and sometimes patronising) ‘ways to combat’ said problems.

The statistics

According to the Dyslexia Action website, 1 in 5 school leavers struggle to read and write, 1 in 10 people have Dyslexia and 1 in 5 children are excluded from the classroom due to reading difficulties. 

The solution

In my opinion, there is no one solution to help those with Dyslexia – there are many. The Government could start by making it essential for teachers in Initial Teacher Training (ITT) to be taught about learning difficulties and ways in which they could help children to push down their metaphorical learning barriers. Not only will this be a great help to the children who have already established learning difficulties, but it will also be easier for teachers to identify signs of those who have not been previously screened for Dyslexia or other associated learning difficulties.

With the appropriate teacher training, the quality of education that is offered to every student will arguably be more valuable to those who had previously struggled. With a better understanding of learning difficulties help can invariably be put in place to ensure that every child gets a chance to achieve.

Every child has the right to be taught in a balanced and fair environment where opportunity is available to everyone. Teachers work hard to provide quality education, they inspire the children that they teach on a daily basis – but how do they get through to the children who have come to believe that they aren’t capable of achieving?

I believe that with introducing compulsory teacher training in Special Educational Needs (SEN) during ITT it will help to raise standards of not only the lives and education of the children, but also improve the levels of literacy in schools. 

On another note, please vote on my poll (to the left of the blog post) about whether or not you think that dyslexic individuals should be allowed to teach. My aim is to create a blog post that provokes open comments about this topic. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Over and out. Weez.

My climb to the top (or at least the idea of it)...

Last year, a good friend of mine took her step-son to climb Yr Wyddfa to watch the sunrise. She had said to me how beautiful it was and that...