Tag Archives: men

#CancerConversations & becoming a Big C Ambassador

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Today I’m really excited to announce that I’ve just taken on the role of Social Media Ambassador this summer for a local cancer charity, The Big C. I’ve written about the charity countless times before in my role as a journalist in Norfolk, but now I’m going to be even more involved in their summer campaign #CancerConversations by blogging for charity and I’m so excited to be involved with such a great local cause.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love to talk. I’ve lost count of how many people have told me I have the gift of the gab, that I’m the kind of gal who could start up a conversation with anyone. Even more so, I love to listen – I love to hear people’s stories, to know where they’ve come from and where they’re going. Two traits that are incredible important, both as a traveler, and in life – these have taken me through a career as a journalist, into travel blogging and has helped me no end in my world travels. Communication is what we humans live for, and yet sometimes it can be so hard to talk about the things that it is most important to discuss, whether relating to our feelings, or even more importantly, our health. For someone who is so vocal about everything else, I sometimes really struggle to talk about very personal things – so often I am listening to the problems of others and find it tricky to slip in what I’m going through. Travelling has changed that, I’m more open than ever before about what is going on in my life and try my best not to bottle things up anymore.

Keeping with the theme of conversations, I’ll always remember a string of interviews I had a few years ago while working as a journalist in Norfolk. It started with a former teacher of mine who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer, then there was the chap who came in with his wife and their baby daughter who had just been given months to live after doctors found a brain tumour. All of these brave individuals were doing their bit to raise money and awareness of the disease whether they were going to survive or not – they were inspiring and fought the illness every step of the way. But then there were the tributes – talking to the families and friends who were left behind after several startlingly young people died of the disease very suddenly. Hearing them describe their mothers, brothers, daughters and uncles as these vibrant individuals was hard, very hard. It was heartbreaking and brought a tear to my eye more times than I can count and really made me realise how short and unexpected life can be. Even now, after years of journalism, these are the interviews that stick out the most in my mind, and in life, these conversations will stay with me for the rest of my days. Teaching me the value of every second we have on this Earth and making the absolute most of it, now that’s all I dedicate my life to after giving up life as I knew it to travel the world.imageWhen it comes to health, I’ve always been lucky and had a huge support network of friends and family I could go to about anything. This makes such a huge difference when you actually have a health scare, just knowing you have people to talk to about it, just knowing you’re not alone and being able to seek help can change your whole experience. It’s sad to think there are people out there who feel they have no-one to turn to in these situations, or who wouldn’t feel comfortable seeking the help they are entitled to, but there are so many like this. Just recently, I’ve had two uncles hospitalised in a serious condition, one of which was put on life support, and saw how our entire family came together despite being spread across three continents. The beauty of phones, email, Skype and even Whatsapp made it possible for us all to keep in touch across five different time zones and brought us closer together. But if you have no-one you feel you can turn to, it could be such a lonely and terrifying time to go through something like that. I think guys find it harder to open up about health issues so it’s essential for campaigns to help them discover the support that’s available to them.

This is why The Big C have launched their summer campaign, #CancerConversations which is aimed at those across Norfolk and Waveney who are not taking advantage of the free cancer support available to them, men in particular. The team behind The Big C said: “Chaps – don’t bottle up your cancer health issues. We can help support you through your treatment! We have a range of free services we can offer including: financial support and welfare advice, counselling services, pharmacy support and complementary therapies.”  It’s so important to get the support you need while going through something like this, I know so many people who couldn’t have coped with going through cancer alone. A lot of these services were not available when my grandmother died of oesophageal cancer around a decade ago, but even then we were grateful for any help to deal with the condition. Now anyone going through the heartache and suffering of coping with this disease, or supporting someone through it, has a wealth of free services at their fingertips! If you’re a woman reading this, why not take the time to make the men in your life aware.1563

Where can you get help?

With free support centres in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and my home of King’s Lynn, there are plenty of places to start if you’re seeking help. Join one of the cancer support groups to share experiences at the Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn Centres for men who are living with and beyond cancer. These provide an informal, non-judgmental, open environment where men can support each other.

A range of free welfare advice is available with a specialist adviser, helping you sort the practicalities so you can concentrate on getting better. Information on benefits, loans, housing, employment issues, travel expenses, childcare, blue badge applications, help with form filling and much more is available.

The Big C also provide a range of complementary therapies in the Big C Centres. If you are a cancer patient, you and one carer can have up to six sessions each of reflexology, massage or reiki. There are also relaxation classes and nutritional workshops available, contact your nearest Big C centre to book.

Available for both you and your family, free counselling is a more structured form of support which may be appropriate when things seem so overwhelming that your usual ways of coping don’t appear to help. Up to six sessions can be arranged for each patient and carer.

For more information about these services, contact one of the following centres:

Norwich – 01603 286112 or cancer.information@nnuh.nhs.uk
Great Yarmouth – 01493 855297 or yarmouthcentre@big-c.co.uk
King’s Lynn – 01553 818737 or kingslynncentre@big-c.co.uk
The Louise Hamilton Centre, Gorleston – 01493 453100

Click here to go to the website – and here to find out more about the #CancerConversations summer campaign

Have you used any of these services – how have they helped you? Tell me about the strangest or funniest conversation you’ve ever had.

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10 reasons girl power beats aside the boys

10151806_10151984321267617_7647881145046258044_nBy now you guys will all know how much I love my girls, whether they’re the ones that live on my doorstep, halfway across the country, or even thousands of miles across the world. They mean the world to me and I love the fact that I have managed to find so many amazing women who all share the same attitude as me to life. Even more so, I love that they have been with me through the very worst and the very best of times, have seen me in a complete state and at the top of my game, and love me no matter what. Men may mock girl friendships – and yes, some are a complete sham – but I reckon we girls have one up on you guys when we do things right.

You will, of course, get those friendship groups who chat shit about each other behind each other’s backs, steal each other’s boyfriends and generally make each other feel bad about themselves. Just like you do in some male friendship groups… But when we women club together, we have something you guys don’t – and that is a closeness that can’t compare to guy friendships I have seen. These girls are more than “just friends”, they are my sisters and my family – the ones I have chosen to share my deepest, darkest secrets with and the ones who will pick me up in the middle of the night when it all comes crashing down. As they say, your friends are the family you choose – and my friends are firmly an extension of my family.10155561_10152012406232617_3339493121334675269_nA few particularly good girl dates recently have inspired this post because they really got me thinking about what makes my friendships special – then I realised, they aren’t special at all to anyone other than me. Women up and down the country share equally incredible friendships with their girls – and while mine are completely unique and special to me, the general principals are exactly the same. For most of my life I have been more of a boy’s girl, but amazingly I have found myself at this point of my life with more girlfriends than ever before, and I have to say, my tastes have definitely changed. I love being surrounded by girl power, loud voices, fierce personalities and loving support. It makes me feel stronger as an individual, and forever grateful that every single day I know I have a tribe of equally strong women fighting my corner and cheering me on.

What do I love about my girls?

  1. They always involve wine, food, cocktails and a lot of chat – and any time can be wine o’clock.
  2. Half an hour and a bottle of wine is all we need to set the world to rights and solve everyone’s problems – okay we’re starting to sound like we have a drinking problem.
  3. We can happily go from having a quiet night in with a takeaway and X Factor, to having a candlelit dinner by the river, to raving until dawn at a festival. We’re just so versatile.
  4. Talking about EVERYTHING. With your girls, no conversation is off limits and it is important to girls to talk about every detail – you just don’t get that with guys. Plus boy problems always seem so much simpler when talked about with a girlfriend – but most guys I know don’t really talk about girl problems with their mates.
  5. We are loud. Boys think they can out-do us, or out-loud us, but get a group of girls together and tell them to have a catch-up and things get really LOUD. But my girls never judge me for being loud.
  6. Opinions are in full force and you can really have a heated debate about something you are really passionate about, then five minutes later we are talking about cake or lipstick.
  7. There is always someone on make-up or hair watch for you, guys don’t notice when your lipstick is smeared or you have fluff in your hair but a girl will always pick up on these things.
  8. On nights out, guys kind of dance awkwardly or barrel around drunk – girls will stand round in a group and dance their little hearts out. No matter how stupid the moves – in fact the sillier the better – you will dance in high heels until you can’t any more.
  9. A friend can always solve your problem for you by putting things in perspective, or just telling you a funny story. They always know someone who has been through the same thing.
  10. Snuggles with your girls are the best, whether its spooning each other at a sleepover or just a hug when you’ve had a tough day. Your girls always know when you need a hug and things are a bit much – guys just don’t seem to get that same comfort.

1555534_10153670109485084_46650904_nDon’t worry, I’m not shooting down guy friendships as I have plenty of my own. I’m just saying that girl friendships can sometimes get a bad rap thanks to those who don’t understand the concept of true friendship. But the point is that actually we really have something going for us and girl friendships, in my experience, seem to reach a level that guys should be jealous of and that we should be proud of as women. If you ask me, some women need to realise that supporting each other and cheering each other on is far more admirable than tearing each other down and casting judgement.

What do you love about your girls?

Ab Lucy sign off

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Festivals: Where are all the female bands?

10397834_10152219575647617_2424544814853925969_nI know I seem to have festivals on the brain  at the moment, but we are slap bang in the middle of festival season, so you’ll have to keep reading these posts for a few weeks yet. Anyway, this one is slightly different to all my reviews and reminiscing posts about previous festivals – this one is focusing on an interesting infographic that was sent to me by the guys over at Farfetch about the number of female bands performing at the world’s top three largest music festivals. Despite the crowds surrounding the stages at festivals being full of women of all ages, whether they arrive in huge groups or in pairs, it seems that most of the line-ups for 2014 were dominated by male acts. Where are all the female musicians when it comes to the stage? This infographic focused solely on three of the world’s biggest festivals, starting with our very own Glastonbury Festival, which saw 175,000 flocking to Pilton between June 25-29. These figures were compared with those from Denmark’s Roskilde Festival which attracted 110,000 between June 29 and July 6. And finally, Belgium’s Rock Werchter which saw a further 110,000 between July 3-6.1004604_10151480508882617_1052791188_n

How big is the gender gap?

Let’s kick off with the figures on how many acts featured female members at each of the festivals. Glastonbury saw a whopping 83% of male performers to just 17%, but actually this was the highest percentage of female performers. Roskilde saw 88% of male performers compared to a mere 112% of females. But Rock Werchter showed the greatest gender gap with just 11% of female performers compared to 89% of males. Glastonbury may have been storming ahead, but still stood at only 17%!

Does genre matter?

As you can imagine, there seems to be a wider gender gap for some musical genres than others, and perhaps that is why some festivals in particular are struggling with the number of female artists. Women were best represented in pop, then rock acts at Glastonbury, with electronic, R&B and world music trailing behind. Over at Roskilde, pop remains the top representation of our gender, followed by rock and jazz, with further and much smaller representation in funk, experimental, electronic and world music. Rock Werchter, music like Glastonbury, went hard on pop and rock female-led acts, with far smaller numbers of electronic acts, then folk, jazz and world.

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Who’s headlining the festivals?

Another sorry result for the ladies who were distinctly absent from the headline acts, in fact entirely so from Roskilde which featured no female headliners! Rock Werchter wasn’t far behind, with just 6%, and even Glastonbury only boasted a mere 15% – although this did include the fabulous Dolly Parton!

Is it a popularity contest?

The research team spent some time looking at Facebook likes and comparing both male and female acts to see who appeared most popular – these were used as record sales information was not available. Some of the top acts at the festivals included the male-led metal band Metallica who took to the main stage at Glasto and Rock Werchter this summer and boast 37,423,683 likes. Hip-hop artist Drake took the main stage at Roskilde and has 34,000,000 likes, he was joined by rockers The Rolling Stones who have 19,000,000. Skrillex represented electronic music at both Glasto and Rock Werchter on secondary stages and has 17,514,547 likes. While rockers Kings of Leon took to the Rock Werchter main stage with 12,000,000 likes, joined by Pearl Jam who have 9,997,000 likes. Finally the ladies chime in, popstrel Lana Del Ray headed to the main stage at Glasto with just 9,461, 785 likes. Ellie Goulding took to the stages at Glasto and Roch Werchter with 9,409,676 likes, with Imagine Dragons and Ed Sheeran trailing behind.

Bucking the trend?

One of my favourite festival moments of the summer is actually one I wasn’t even there for, I watched Dolly Parton’s performance at Glasto live on TV but loved every second, I felt like I was there. She line-danced all over that stage, entertained the huge crowd of over 100,000 with her fabulous and funny stories at the Pyramid Stage. She actually drew a larger crowd than Arcade Fire and Metallica – both headline acts! So it seems that although male acts might be more popular on paper and to the booking agents – but when it comes to winning over the audience, it’s anyone’s game!

10590525_10152223383927617_4194751662331272017_nIt’s strange, this is something I hadn’t really thought about before. Considering all the festivals I have been to over the last three years, particularly this summer, I had never actually paid attention to how many female acts there were, or even what genre they seemed to stick to. After reading the infographic and really starting to think about it, I’ve certainly noticed that the majority of acts I have seen live this summer have definitely been male acts or male-led acts. I only actually remember seeing a handful of female headliners and one group featuring women taking a headline slot. While at We R FSTVL, Annie Mac was shockingly the only female act I remember seeing and while she really is a great role model and champions the female DJ, doing it alone perhaps highlights a real lack of women working in the electronic music genre.

At Secret Garden Party, one of the most impressive performances came in the form of Foxes who took a sunny, daytime slot on the Main Stage, while the powerful strains of Martha and the Vandellas had the whole crowd on their feet in one of the headline slots. This festival was probably one of the more female-friendly for acts but was still lacking slightly. BoomTown Fair actually went in the opposite direction with almost all of the acts I saw being male or at least male-led – I only remember seeing one act with a female singer, but there may have been others from times when I couldn’t quite see the stage. It’s a bit sad if there are actually all these female acts out there who are working their butts off and just aren’t being given the opportunities to perform on main stages at festivals – but is this a bigger problem with the music industry? Or is it simply a case of there are more men out there who want to be musicians to the level of performing at festivals? I’m not quite sure…10556415_10152190746577617_6474017272307128048_nWhat do you think about the figures and about the questions they raise? Do you think this highlights a bigger problem with the music industry – or are there just not enough female performers?

Ab Lucy sign off

The great beard debate

tumblr_mvbsagkhlF1qkkn30o1_500Okay, I admit it. I have a weakness for beards. I know there are  many girls out there who cringe at the thought of a boyfriend with a beard, but for me it is all I have ever known. At 16, my boyfriend had a full beard and I swear it took a while to get used to, but then it reached the point where he shaved it and I was actually freaked out by the sight of his naked face. There’s something that seems just a little strange about seeing someone’s bare face for the first time after it’s been buried under a beard for as long as you have known them. Now we are eight years down the line and I can honestly say I have not seen him completely full shaven for nearly as long – but I prefer it that way.

e1c59865ccfb3b1ca9e19e50c0410fa6Although it took a little getting used to, now I wouldn’t ever let him shave it. Of course it is important to keep a beard well-maintained and trimmed neatly, but I think it is ridiculous to expect men to shave every day. Fair enough there are those bare-faced boys who struggle to grow a few stragglers on their chins, but I’m sorry boys, this is firmly the era of the beard. Something most of us women knew a long time ago is that beards are sexy and they do make a man sexier. Need proof? Which one of these guys do you find the most attractive?

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So let’s weigh up our options. We have the option of spiky chins that leave us with stubble rash and require trimming or shaving every few days to keep up, there’s those soft, baby-faced boys who have never seen a razor or there’s the men who have shaped their beards into a part of their character and who have turned the humble facial hair into a fashion statement. I think that is what I like about beards the most – when I see a guy with a beard, I think to myself he looks quirky and interesting. Don’t get me started on moustaches.

If you, or your fella, are thinking about growing a beard – make sure you are doing it with the right principles in mind. It is important to remember that width isn’t necessarily as good as length, but at the same time you need a good volume to it. You must take care of your beard, moisturise and condition it to keep it looking good otherwise it is no better than the beard of a homeless person. It must be trimmed or shaved down regularly to keep it looking awesome. This next picture is a good guide for when your beard gets too big.

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Where do you stand on the beard debate? Love them or hate them?

 

Why can’t men swim? And other problems with the blokes of this world…

Photo by Kerry Ritz

Photo by Kerry Ritz

Before anyone starts, this is not a rant against all the men in all the world. Just against a solid few who just seem pretty incompetent and ignorant of the rest of the human race.

It all started with the walrus in the pool at my gym. I say walrus, but I mean plural (What is the plural of walrus? Walruses? Walrusi?). I’m getting pretty sick of the older men at my gym who launch themselves in the swimming pool, which is pretty small to start with, and start swimming furiously up and down like their lives depend on it and as though no-one else is there. It is ridiculous! I feel like Moses is parting the Red Sea next to me and I’m being washed over Egypt in the swell! It just shows how unaware they are of the small person next to them who is sticking to a dainty breaststroke so as not to slap them in the face with a huge wave every time they come up for air. I was especially unimpressed when one chap came up for air and turned in my direction to pant all over me – gross.

Then there was the chump who thought it was a great idea to send pervy messages on Facebook, ending with a picture of his nether parts – why?! Completely unfounded, unrequited and unnecessary! I had never spoken to the guy before, never met him before and he didn’t even live in the same country, yet felt it was appropriate to ask for sexual favours and display his winky on the screen. And a shrimpy winky it was. Just embarrassing really, but not much different from the idiots who smack girls on the arse on a night out, or the ‘lads’ who make suggestive comments when we are minding our own business. Do they really think you are going to turn around and say “Oh god, I just can’t resist, take me now!”?!

And we mustn’t forget the drunks or the ket-heads who rail around the clubs and festivals making a scene, causing fights and ruining people’s nights. How many of us have accidentally been in the way when a fight kicks off in the street and have been the one to end up with a cut eye or a bumped head? The idiots who decide to stub a fag out on someone’s jacket or shoulder, or the ones who blow smoke in others’ faces. And of course, we cannot forget the complete scumbags I witnessed pissing all over festival-goers’ feet as they danced in a tent at V Festival and laughing about it! Just why?!

There are the usual dipsticks who decide that asking for directions is beneath them or that it is just silly and that they can figure out their own way. They even refuse to listen to the sat-nav lady leading to a 25-mile detour around the M25! Definitely what you want when you’ve got a three hour drive ahead of you and you’ve already been on the road for hours. And one of my favourites is the fools who say they can’t wrap presents, the ones who use foil or don’t even bother to use Sellotape. There really isn’t an excuse, it  is very simple to fold a bit of paper and tape it down. It doesn’t look big, clever or funny to not bother – it simply looks lazy and selfish that you haven’t made the effort for the people who love and support you all year long.

Just a little something I had to get off my chest after seeing some pretty silly men making fools of themselves lately – don’t be fooled, it’s no sexist post when I’ve witnessed every single one of these. And I know that women have just as many faults, but these just seem so senseless and selfish and to demonstrate a lack of respect for others around them. I am glad to say I know that most men are not like this and that my life is filled with great men, both family and friends, but it seems a shame there are quite so many fools out there letting the rest down.

Get the men in your life all wrapped up this Christmas

It seems from all the Twitter chat between the FBL bloggers that some of us are very disorganised this year with several presents still left to buy, but the people we seem to be struggling with the most are the blokes! Whether it is dad, uncle, Grandad or the boyfriend, we are all looking for that perfect gift to no avail. Luckily, I seem to be on top of things, despite feeling completely disorganised, and have actually found the men in my life easier to shop for, possibly for the first time ever! So, I thought, so help out my fellow bloggers, I would create a post with all of my festive gift ideas for the men in my life in the hope it will inspire you to treat the men in yours. Hope it helps!

Grandad

Let’s start with the oldest and work our way down. I never really seem to struggle to find anything for my Grandad, in his 70’s, he makes it clear to us from the start – he wants stuff that he can eat, drink, listen to or read. Simple as. I see my Grandad every Sunday and we always have a chat about Strictly, music, what’s on TV – he loves An Idiot Abroad – or we just set the world to rights. He always wants to know about what book I am reading and although we don’t have the same tastes – I like political and dystopian fiction while he likes something a bit more feel-good – it’s always interesting to compare. One thing we have bought him for several years now, each time there is a new one out, is the Dreamboats and Petticoats CDs of all the old tunes that he loved when he was my age – he loves all this nostalgic stuff and how could he not? The music was fabulous then and I have to say I also enjoy it. So when I spotted that the musical show of Dreamboats and Petticoats was coming to King’s Lynn Corn Exchange in March, I jumped at the opportunity to get him tickets for Christmas. I know he’ll love it and he’ll be totally surprised. It is a shame it is not for a couple of months, but I’ll get him something tasty to enjoy on Christmas Day.

Dad

Next in line is my Dad, who is always a nightmare to buy for. I’ve ended up getting so fed up with him in the past for not even giving us any ideas that I’ve just ended up having to buy him anything so he just had a gift. I’ve since had words with him and told him he has to come up with ideas each year because I like to get people things they really want and will use, even if it means it may take some of the surprise out of what you are getting. This year, I have bought him a lovely, big, snuggly jumper with a fairisle print from Marks and Spencers which will keep him nice and warm when we go out for the traditional Christmas Day walk to go and see the Royals at Sandringham, or the swimmers at Hunstanton. I’ve also got him a rucksack to take on holiday, my mum and him like to go on exploring holidays, whether discovering hidden beaches or walking around a city looking at the sights, but my dad was looking for a bag he could carry around all day without it hurting his back to carry things like sun cream and water bottles, maps and books as they explore. He really wanted one in green but couldn’t find it where we live, but I managed to find one online so I think he’ll be happy.

Boyfriend

Finally, Mark, my boyfriend of nearly seven years, is always very easy to buy for. He always gets such amazing presents for me, and I try to do the same because it’s worth every penny and bit of effort to see the smile on his face when he opens it. Luckily, he has similar tastes and interests to me, so for both of us, it simplifies buying things if you know the other person will love it. For example, he has bought me festival/gig tickets in the past and I have bought him an iPod, clothes and kitchen gadgets because he loves to cook. This year, we have placed a limit on our spending at £100 because we both know we can go over the top for each other and neither of us have much money. So far, I have spent just under half that amount on buying him a brand new ‘Lone Wolf’ jumper from an amazing, edgy brand. I may have to explain this – my boyfriend’s last name is Wolverson and to his friends, and everyone really, he is known as Wolfie, so it has become a running thing for us to try to find him cool wolf t-shirts and jumpers. He hasn’t had one for a while and he never really treats himself to new clothes, so I thought this would be a lovely present for him. I have yet to buy them, but I am also planning to buy him some Converse, but will probably wait until we go to Norwich to see his dad’s side of the family the weekend after Christmas so he can try them on and choose the colour. Finally, I am going to treat him to a really nice granite chopping board for the kitchen of his new house. He has just moved in and has yet to furnish the house as he would like it.

And that’s everyone! I really hope my ideas help you to score any last-minute presents and that none of these guys look on my blog in the next week or they will read what they have in their stocking! And if any of our friends happen to look at this and tells him what he’s getting for Christmas – you feel extreme pain on Christmas Day!!! Now I better dash off and stock up on wrapping paper.

Merry Christmas!