Things I Learnt In April

April felt like such a long month but I think some of that was because I was counting the days on a 30-day squat challenge (more of that in the monthly Fitbitches blog post). But long months provide lots of learning opportunities so here are my favourite few.  Buckle in... it's a long ride!

My picture of Carol's bin and my declaration that she is my hero is one of my most popular photos of the month. #BinGate is the hot topic of the month... probably even the year. I thought our plight was a common one but it seems that it isn't. It's a long story, but on many occasion our wheely bin is stolen. It is deliberately taken and used for a full fortnight until the next collection day for one of two reasons; (1) a neighbour doesn't own their own bin, will not pay the council fee of £20 for a new one, so takes the one nearest to their gate on collection day or (2) they didn't put their own bin out in time for collection and emptying so just take one when they think no-one is looking.  Yes, I'm being serious. Friends wait in anticipation for my weekly Tuesday updates on the drama in our alley way. I could write a whole blog post about this - maybe even a book or a sitcom.

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Do you know what will happen across the media when the Queen dies? There was a great longform from The Guardian which details the code - London Bridge is down - and the order in which announcements will take place.  I'm a bit of a Royalist at heart - I think we have a wonderful monarchy but this reign has seen the most changes within the media and has battled to uphold tradition alongside the need to be seen to be changing.  It can't have been easy and, regardless of how much comfort and assistance the Queen and the DofE have from day to day, there aren't many 90-odd year olds that are working and look quite as sprightly.

Edit: On the day this was published, the DofE announced his retirement. 
It must have been something I said... 

If music has run out of tunes, then the internet has definitely run out of articles. I've always had this crazy idea that there are a finite number of tunes out there and that, because of the way we are inspired by the music we listen to when we are growing up, this will influence the composers of the music of today - even to the tune of plagiarism. Anyway, back in February I wrote a blog post about songs that sound like other songs, incorporating my theory and an interesting marketing strategy that uses music to influence purchases.  At the time I mused that I would have liked more time to investigate the theory or to be paid to research these sorts of idea.

Fast forward to April and I read an article on, written by Peter Robinson of PopJustice, examining this exact subject after Ed Sheeran was found guilty of plagiarising a Matt Cardle song with a few other Ed Sheeran examples and lots and lots of comparisons.  Copying? It's doubtful. Something that is becoming more noticeable due to the way in which we are fed the music across the airwaves? Definitely!  Even Boy George has his opinion on it all.

It's never OK to presume you can talk about someone's mental health regardless of their celebrity status or, if you're a Daily Mail reader, the size of their salary.  Stormzy - a British grime and hip hop artist - was featured on the front page of NME as part of their "Time To Talk" campaign. Whilst NME are to be applauded for starting this conversation in the mainstream, you need to read what Stormzy had to say about this. His depression is something he has chosen to share through well-chosen media outlets and he didn't give permission to be used as the 'poster boy' for NME.  The magazine has now issued an apology and a brush-off explanation but it definitely doesn't excuse their assumptions and their actions could have made a personal situation a whole lot worse.  Every action has a consequence, even when you are trying to send a positive message.

Other people mention me in their blog posts, the mental bastards. Firstly, Violet Fenn who writes Sex, Death, Rock 'n' Roll  reckons I'm awesome and batshit crazy but this makes me a succssful writer. I can live with that, natch.  Also, Talya at Motherhood : The Real Deal crowdsourced an A-Z of the things we should teach our daughters; I contributed to "S"  *innocent face*  Finally, a website of which I'm a h.u.g.e. fan of - Londonist - have been using some of my images in their London in 1990 series, highlighted in their weekly newsletter.  The images were probably initially sourced from Pinterest (pictures from my 18th birthday trip to London) but they are embedded in the article and fully credited which, for me, is fantastic! Please do give all of the articles a read and a share on your social media.

Whilst everyone else is binging on Netflix, I'm binging on podcasts. It's taken me a while to get into podcasts. I've steered clear of them for a while but I tune into weekly radio shows on 'catch up' which is more or less the same thing.  I'm a sucker for a good story though and anything to do with real life or crime - and when mashed together it's even better! I really got into Serial when it was first launched but the hype wore off and my podcast app lay empty. S-Town reignited the fire and it was because all episodes were available for download in one go. I didn't have to wait six days for the next installment. I saved them all to my phone and listened to them, one after another, during the car journey to and from work. My current binge is the Karen and Ellen Letters which include after-show analysis and then I'm moving on to Mortified which was recommended to me this week.  If you'd like me to curate a list of recommended listening please do let me know but Sian has pulled together a comprehensive list of the best 'true crime' podcasts to start you off.

And speaking of podcasts... this gets a bit meta.  Richard Daly mentioned a blog post a wrote last year on one of his podcasts.  It was my 'random things you hear on the radio' observations detailing the structure for almost all local commercial radio stations.  Listen in here.

Twitter doesn't have the most followers on Twitter. Katy Perry does (at the time of writing).  You can view the top 100 here... however, I'm not sure I could cope with having millions and millions of followers. I get into enough trouble with the 6,000 I currently have.

There's a reason that celebrities wear shoes that are too big for them. Aside from the fact that your feet may get sweaty and slide down towards the toe of the shoe (because... gravity), it's to prevent blisters when wearing the shoes for any length of time. Silicone pads (the shoe equivalent to tit-tape) are usually inserted to help with the fit and comfort too.

There are some brilliant picture projects out there in internet land but to track down as many of your subjects as you can over 30 years later to recreate original photos shows dedication. It's also an interesting insight as to how people change... or not.

My video of the month comes from Facebook. It's of an illegal rave that took place on a tube train and it's genius!  The weirdest thing about this is that I shared it to a friend's Facebook page at exactly the same time she shared it to mine. Great minds, eh?

As a related aside, I also found out that Carl Cox played the Millennium (the switch from 1999 to 2000) on New Year's Eve twice. He did this by performing in Sydney, Australia then flew back over the International Date Line to play in Hawaii. (h/t to Reddit for this one)

That one viral social media post that will give you 15 minutes of internet fame is just not worth it. Do you remember that image of all the celebrities that died in 2016, created in the style of the Sergeant Pepper album cover? Chris Barker, the guy who created the image, dug into the buzz around it from his Twitter analytics and from the 270,000+ people it was served to (i.e. his tweet appearing in their timelines through sharing, likes, comments, etc) he only received 15 new follows. I think this goes to show that actually growing social media accounts is even more difficult now that it is embedded into our lives. Are we waiting for the information to be served rather than going to look for it?

The ending for the second series of Peter Kay's Car Share was very disappointing. Don't get me wrong, the series was brilliant but if the rumours are true, there are to be no more episodes made - not even a Christmas special. I'm a huge believer in not stringing things out and every story has a natural ending however all references to the "Christmas team in the supermarket" indicated that there would be an glimpse of the season's festivities at least. WE NEED A ONE-OFF CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!

Everyone loves a ghost sign. I'm fascinated by ghost-signs; the history and how they have lasted over the years. I wrote about a few in our town a while back but wanted to share the pictures to a wider audience. So the ghostsigns_ Instagram account was created and it's naturally migrated into a fan-generated account. I'm getting submissions from all over the world with exact location and local history information which helps enormously with the story behind each picture too.  Give it a follow and embed yourself in some history.

Things I Learnt In April - Ghost Signs Instagram

And finally... an announcement. I am now officially the National Stationery Week Blogger of the Year. The official press release and more information will follow in a separate blog post but there's a trophy winging its way to me and hopefully a few brilliant opportunities later this year.

Things I Learnt In April - Stationery Blogger of the Year

Coming up on the blog soon... the reveal of the #FitbitchesMOVEment new logo and all the information about how you can get involved plus more about that Stationery Blogger of the Year award! Also, don't forget to read my two-part Bullet Journal series (part 1 | part 2) and all about how Casey Neistat sent me a personal video message - total fangirl moment! 


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(Not) Meeting Casey Neistat

Back in March my Facebook Messenger pinged at around 8.30am and the conversation went something exactly like this:

Laura: Ok, really bloody random question but if you had the chance to spend a few nights in Helsinki with me and go to an influencer (cringe) event where Casey Neistat was speaking would you be up for it?

Me: Holy fuck, Laura! You know how to wake a girl up!
Me: In an ideal world I'd jump at the chance but [..] it's not something I can do
Me: I'm flogging myself with a big stick right now

Laura: I understand. I saw Casey's name and thought I had to ask because otherwise you would hate me forever

Me: Do me one favour - just give him a piece of paper with "I ❤ @nickieohara" on it and get him to sign it. I'm sure he'll be FINE with that. Or a video message. No pressure.

Laura: LOL. I'll see what I can do.

So, I then imagined that Laura blocked me on all social media channels, just in case I sent even weirder random requests and never really thought of it again.

For those that don't know, I'm a huge fan of Casey Neistat.  He doesn't need me to shout loud about his YouTube channel for him to grow his audience as he's quite capable of that himself, having gone from zero to hero in around two short years. It's really hard to explain why he is so engaging and inspirational but, as a film-maker who daily(ish) vlogs, he doesn't see vlogging as a shortcut to engaging with an audience. It's still part of his storytelling. Everything he does has a purpose but he has a talent for making it feel natural and making him seem normal and approachable and... well... like one of us.  I've championed him on this blog a few times and really have to restrain myself from sharing everything he does for fear of looking like a bit of a stalker.

Anyway...  please do go and have a dip into his videos. He has a 'style' that makes watching really easy but I guess that's the storyteller in him.

Fast forward to 28th April 2017.  If this was a Casey vlog, this is the bit where I'd reach out to the camera, adjust the lens and zoom in a bit to make you understand that what I'm going to say next is important.

Laura posted in a private Facebook group that she was sat in the audience of the #PingHelsinki conference and did we want her to livestream the Casey Neistat talk. I was at work with NO speakers and no real way of watching but went with a "HELL, YES", knowing that I could watch later. I tried to sneak a peek whilst it was live but I was supposed to be working and her internet speed was a bit funky.

And then it was all over... or so I thought.

I got another Facebook notification from Laura to the tune of "Nickie... you owe me" and wondered what the hell it could be. It was this...

Yes, Laura, I owe you BIG time. You have no idea how much I appreciate you giving up your Casey moment to pander to my needs. I'd have been like "fuck Nickie, the needy bitch... 'so, Casey...' " and then a full on interview in the 30 seconds I'd been allowed to be near him.

Thank you, Casey, for giving up your valuable time to sign a piece of paper and send a video message to someone who you have never met and who has a quite frankly, unhealthy fangirl crush on you at the age of 45.

PS. Laura is the Director of BlogOn Conference. Click on the link to find out more.


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National Stationery Week 2017 : Seven Days Of Stationery

As a blogger, National Stationery Week may very well be my most favourite week in the year. 

It's at this time of year that I get free rein on talking about stationery (not that it's ever stopped me before...) and it's the perfect opportunity for me to recommend my favourite stationery items.  I'll be updating this blog post each evening this week in line with the themes from National Stationery Week (I've included them below so you can join in too if you like) and talking about how and why I love stationery so much.

Monday : Pen & Pencil Day
Tuesday : Get Crafty
Wednesday : World Stationery Day
Thursday : Thank You Thursday
Friday : Fountain Pen Friday
Saturday : Signature Saturday
Sunday : Write A Letter Day

Pen and Pencil Day

Writing implements are always a tough one for me. I mean, I'm a sucker for a nice pen - even one engraved with my name - but the pen has to be heavy and I prefer a thick barrel due to the way in which I hold my pen (resting on my ring finger, rather than my middle finger).  I like a 'wet' ink rather than basic biro ink so any notebooks I use have to be able to accommodate that without bleed though.

Pencils are another ball game all together. I used to only write in pencil, especially in my diary, so that the perfectionist in me could erase any errors and keep a tidy planner. Since I discovered Frixion pens I've rarely used pencil unless it's a mechanical pencil (yes, I'm aware I've just evicted myself from the pencil community but needs must).

I've chosen to share my three favourite pens with you here. They are (from L to R) a Monteverde Prima Rollerball from Pen Chalet - perfection as described above and the design on the barrel is absolutely unique due to the marbling effect used when making the pen. Next is a Parker Urban Rollerball from Pen Heaven which has a narrower barrel but is weighted well - a great every day pen to keep in my handbag. Finally I have the Cross Tech3+ Multifunction Pen from Pen Heaven which is for use in my daily planner or Filofax as it has three refils which can be accessed by a twist of the barrel; a blue biro ink, a red biro ink and a mechanical pencil.  

National Stationery Week 2017 : Seven Days Of Stationery - Pen and Pencil Day - Monteverde Prima Rollerball, Parker Urban Rollerball, Cross Tech3+ Multifunction

Get Crafty

I used to be very crafty (no... not in that sense of the word - well, yes I am was but now isn't the time or the place) but I find that there's not enough hours in the day.  All I do these days is crochet.

Recently, however, I did teach myself how to make an origami box. I have the written instructions available here with images and a video tutorial. It's really simple so you can learn how to do this right now - it'll take five minutes, I promise - plus it's a great way to use up old magazines and scraps of paper!  Have some fun with it, be experimental and let me know how you get on!

World Stationery Day

I really wasn't sure what I was going to write about for World Stationery Day but I thought I'd share my 9 current favourite stationery-themed Instagram accounts. I've tried to steer clear of brands but there's a couple in there who really do great Instagram.  Give them all a follow and find other new accounts through the recommendations too.  I'd also love to hear which stationery Instagram accounts you follow too.

National Stationery Week 2017 : Seven Days Of Stationery - recommended Instagram accounts

(PS... don't forget to follow my new Instagram account too - Bullet Journal Fans... natch)

Thank You Thursday

When was the last time you wrote a "thank you letter"? I've been lucky enough to sample a few stationery boxes recently and have noticed a resurgence of notelets and postcards. Some are cute, some are classic, some even display up and coming artists' work - but all encourage you to scribble a note to a friend and are the perfect way to send a retro "thank you" to a relative for a birthday gift or even just to ask how they are.  

I'm making it my mission to send something handwritten at least once a month from now on just because it's so quick to send a text message or a quick query via Facebook Messenger or email; writing something out shows that you've taken your time to choose the words and then the whole process of buying a stamp and taking a trip to the post office. It's a really good excuse to crack out the fountain pen which is a great lead into tomorrow's update...

National Stationery Week 2017 : Seven Days Of Stationery - Origin One stationery box         National Stationery Week 2017 : Seven Days Of Stationery - Spotlight Stationery subscription box

~ check out Origin One and Spotlight Stationery for great stationery boxes ~

The Karen And Ellen Letters Podcast
As an aside, I'm listening to a podcast at the moment called "The Karen and Ellen Letters" which is about two fresh-out-of-school teenagers in the 1980s embarking on their first experience in the real world. In the podcast, a year's worth of written correspondence between the two girls and their landlord is read out and then analysed. It sounds odd but, trust me, it's genius. Listen or download here!

Fountain Pen Friday

Any stationery addict will tell you that they are a fan of their fountain pen however they only use them if they find an accompanying notebook that is the right size, has the perfect page markings and - most importantly - has paper that is weighted heavy enough to not allow bleed through. A combination which is few and far between, I've found.

I have a Kaweco Sport Skyline (in Mint) as my everyday fountain pen and I use either green or purple ink in it.  I use it specifically for writing in my bullet journal and for birthday cards and handwritten notes however I tend not to use it for scribbled notes or in my work notebook. You can read more about my favourite fountain pens here.

Signature Saturday.

There are about five people in the world know what this is. I can't tell you who, how or why at the moment as I need the accompanying video evidence and a whole blog post to rave about it.  But it IS safe to say that to know that this autograph - and a personal message - is on its way to me is a total fangirl moment.  More will be revealed very soon.  Let me know if you recognise the handwriting or the signature.... EEK!!

Write A Letter Day

Come back tomorrow for the FINAL National Stationery Week entry but, for the time being, you can enjoy these pictures which are a teaser of things to come:

A post shared by Nickie (@nickieohara) on

A post shared by Nickie (@nickieohara) on


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Summer Holiday Essentials

Later this year my husband and I are jetting off to Corfu to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary. Yes, I know I don't look old enough... it's very kind of you to say so.  Anyway, over the next few weeks I'm trying to prepare properly for our break by ensuring that I travel light, yet functional, as I have a tendency to over-pack.

Summer holiday essentials... what would you add to the list? [click to tweet]

I'm loving looking at ideas for beach, day and evening wear and need to make sure I've got a good mix-and-match wardrobe. I've noticed a lot of blue and white on offer for this season.  Styles that I'm loving are longer length shorts, tunic tops and light, floaty summer maxi-dresses that don't cling in all the wrong places.
Summer Holiday Essentials - summer fashion

You can't go wrong with tan shoes so I'll be packing my Roxanne wedges from Hotter Shoes which are so comfy that I could wear them all day but I spotted their matching 'Resort Sandals' too which I'll definitely be investing in. I'll also be popping in a couple of pairs of flip-flops for the beach and a pair of trainers for long walks.

Summer Holiday Essentials - summer footwear

I've been collecting up a whole range of products and accessories over the past few weeks.  I already own a Mia Tui Emma bag which is awesome as hand luggage (full review here and 'What's In My Travel Bag' video here) but they now do smaller bags which can be used as make-up bags or wash-bags for travelling (see more information here).

I don't wear much make-up on holiday but I do like to have a bit of a touch-up in the evenings. I keep my tones fairly nude with a slash of colour on my lips so I've also invested in some QVS Beauty make-up brushes which are the perfect size for popping in my make-up bag.

I'm having a break from acrylic nails at the moment but may have a gel manicure before I leave. In the meantime,  Orly breathable nail polish is perfect for covering up the damage I have to my nails at the moment and I'll probably take a bottle with me in case any touch-ups are needed to keep my mani/pedi topped up.

The final thing I always ensure that I take with me is a few products to help prevent my skin from drying out in the heat. I'm a huge fan of the Vaseline Intensive Care moisturisers and their ever-faithful cocoa butter lip therapy.

Summer Holiday Essentials - summer beauty products

I'd love to hear if you have any summer holiday essentials recommendations. We also need some new luggage after a baggage mishap last year so I'm currently shopping around for something a little more sturdy to transport all my holiday essentials. Any ideas?

Summer holiday essentials... what would you add to the list?  [click to tweet]


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Personalising Your Bullet Journal - 5 Top Tips

Recently I wrote my top three tips for starting a bullet journal and here I'll expand on how I have adapted the bullet journal system to suit my own planning needs.

I was bullet journalling before Buzzfeed et al discovered the phenomenon and will continue to do so when everyone has moved onto The Next Best Thing because bullet journaling really helps me to be productive. I've been through the notebook-of-doubt phase and I've used all the washi-tape and stickers and I've come out the other side.

Here are my next five tips for making your bullet journal work for you.

5 top tips to help you personalise your bullet journal and keep it simple [click to tweet]

1. Find the notebook that suits you

This may be a pocket notebook, a Leuchtturm 1917 or Moleskine, a Filofax or standard notebook with a motivational quote on the front of it. My preference varies as I've had a bullet journal in a travellers notebook system and have found a way to merge my bullet journal and my Filofax

I always go back to using a simple notebook and my preference is dot-grid paper or squared but you may prefer lined paper or even plain paper.

2. Use your own key.

The original bullet journal method uses three main notifiers. They are a dot (.) to indicate a task, a circle (o) to indicate an event and a dash (-) to indicate notes. Anything urgent has an asterisk (*) placed next to it and, at the end of the month, migration arrows (> and <) come into play.

My key is slightly different.  I still use the original idea of an open box as my "task to do" notifier and the rest are listed below. You will soon find out which symbols work for you.

Task to do
Task done
Blog ideas
?Thinking about
Moved to another task list

3. Start with the basic bullet journal ethos and then make it your own

Your bullet journal is your way to keep track of your life and it is designed to be a way to ensure that you complete all your tasks and eliminate those bits of papers floating around with notes on. Now is the time to start building your own collections into your system and create trackers if you need to monitor certain aspects of your life. You can get inspiration from Pinterest, Instagram or YouTube. 

Whilst I use my bullet journal as part of my planning system I'm not in the slightest bit creative or artistic so I am still very basic with my layout as you'll read below

4. How I use my own bullet journal

I'm a one-book girl and this is my B.O.A.T. - my Book Of All Things - so whilst it is a continuing list of things to do (or a book of Done That's) I also need to use a future planning system. The layout of a Hobonichi planner is perfect (annual planner, monthly planner, daily planner) but so expensive and the pages are a little bit small for my handwriting. I've taken to investing in a notebook that I'll like using, dividing the book into sections and drawing out my pages (you can see an old example here). It's not perfect but it works for me.

I'm very minimalist these days. I found that using a long list of indicators, stickers and washi tape distracted me as I was spending more time creating the to-do lists than actually getting anything done.

5. Start your bullet journal now

It will take around 10 minutes for you to set up your first bullet journal. You don't have to start a bullet journal in January... hell, you don't even have to start it on the first of the month but it makes more sense. You can use any notebook and pen and when your current notebook runs out, simply start a new one.

You don't have to photograph your journal and share it on Instagram. You many notice that I'm reluctant to share images of the inside of my own current notebook (although I have in the past) because, like me, it's not very photogenic.

Whilst these are tips to help you get started with your bullet journal, there really are no rules.  Grab your pen and notebook and go for it!

5 top tips to help you personalise your bullet journal and keep it simple [click to tweet]

Here's some additional reading to help you out
Kate has collated 50 List Ideas to help with your collections
Complete bullet journal guide from the Lazy Genius Collective


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Blogging Isn't Just A Hobby

Today saw the announcement of the closure of Standard Issue - an online magazine fronted by Sarah Millican, written by women, for women and covering every single topic you can imagine. I've followed from the beginning (I even applied to write for them on a couple of occasions but was turned down) and there have been some stonking articles on there. So to hear that the main focus of the website is being wound down is a surprise and saddening. 

Looking at this from a blogger's point of view, I find it incredibly interesting that a project which has so much potential has found it impossible to turn a profit in a world that now needs online content to be fed to it pretty much consistently.  

What do I mean by this?  I'll backtrack a little.

A couple of weeks ago I read in the Popbitch newsletter that the Mail Online uploaded over 2000 stories to it's pages in one day. ONE. DAY.  This is the most popular news website in the world. And the reason they do it is for advertising revenue. They sell their white space in the form of interactive background adverts, sponsored articles and product placement "buy her dress" type inserts within articles; all "pay per view" or "pay per click" advertising.  For everything that the Daily Mail and the Mail Online is, they have to be admired (for want of a better word) for addressing the fact that online attention spans are short and needy.  You spend two minutes reading an article and then you're gone unless there is something else to hold your attention - another article in the same vein that comes recommended.  You click... another set of adverts pop up, and so the cycle continues. They know that the articles can be flimsy and weak, with content that is syndicated from other sources or just a narrative of a zelebrity Instagram picture or Snapchat video because there is a world of content consumers out there who believe they need to know this stuff.  There are a zillion other media outlets that follow this blueprint successfully too.

I have no knowledge of how or why Standard Issue failed to make a profit but they didn't - and that is the reason they provide for the termination of their offerings. Their content is meaningful and their readership may not be the type that feel the need to click on adverts that invite you to purchase something based on your recent internet history (it's Google magic, trust me) but maybe their lack of a comments section drove readers off-site? Maybe their content was shared via social media and the continuing discussion happened on Facebook or Twitter or on other blogs. Whatever the reason, I saw their tweet and shared it, adding my own thoughts to it as my right to reply.  You can see their response in the image I've shared.

Which brings us back to the point in hand.

The conversation continued with me expressing that I'm an unfunded blogger, I have been writing here since 2002 and have yet to throw the towel in. I also mentioned that whilst I understood they were hurting or angry that their response to me was harsh. 

I feel that bloggers get a rough end of the deal when it comes to content creation.  The word "blog" and the title "blogger" has sometimes been mentioned with disdain. Even all those years back when my blog was a Yahoo Geocities 'website' with family anecdotes and musings, some members of a parenting forum asked me why I bothered and 'what was the point?'  

I'm not sure there is a point to anything on the internet; why do we share these snippets of our lives via Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat? Why do we pin images of things we want or can't have to our Pinterest boards? Why do we strike up conversations on Twitter with various strangers? Why do we try to change the world with words on our blog?  

Maybe we do it because we know it might be useful to just one person out there.  Or maybe more than one. Or even a whole bunch of people.  I know that some of the articles I've written on here have been read by tens of thousands of people (*cough* David Beckham's Tattoos *cough* not shallow at all *cough*) and the occasional think-piece about my own personal experience with cancer, ADHD, and mental health has provided me with the opportunity to stand up and talk in front of hundreds of people to hopefully provide them with a different outlook on living in these situations.

I've ended up having a couple of brief conversations with people today about online businesses and influence. I'm very lucky to have a wide network of opinionated friends who know how to have a discussion, often where our opinions will clash but who are intelligent enough not to resort to insults. Three of them have agreed to give me quotes related to my musings today.

Firstly Cath Janes, who was a regular contributor to Standard Issue
I wrote for Standard Issue for over a year and was never paid because they don't pay writers (at least they didn't pay me and many other writers that I know. I'd like to think that, as a mag that supports equality and women's voices that it at least paid one woman). That partly why I was so surprised at it going under. If writers were not paid, there was no print involved and there was plenty of celebrity endorsement, not to mention that it routinely asked for donations and subscribers, where did it all go wrong?
Cath won't mind me saying that her final piece for Standard Issue ended up as a very controversial topic which was pulled after publication and edited in favour of soothing another journalist. You can read about that here.

Andy called my blog a "hobby" today. I wasn't too keen on accepting that as a description of what is essentially an extension of my own thoughts and something that has, as previously mentioned, brought great opportunities into my life. He explained himself as follows: 
Your blog is a hobby as it has negligible overheads. Standard Issue likely has a big budget, staff, hosting and design fees. It's not your job. It's what you create in your spare time.
He went on to say
What I mean is that Typecast isn't renting a swanky office, employing an editor, advised to run everything past a lawyer and you're not paying some twatty hipster with a Mac to design website buttons for £180 an hour. You're just getting it done yourself. It's sustainable because of the time you're prepared to devote to it and because you're efficient.
He finishes with a reminder of his own business that he used to run from his attic
When I ran FannyBatter (an online adult toy store) my business was essentially just a couple of boxes of dildos and a few envelopes. I'd talk to other businesses who were burning cash at a silly rate when I bought e-commerce software for around £150 and was paying £20 a year on hosting.  I now see that LoveHoney had the same idea as me but built on it to make it a success,
Knowing Andy, he's expressing the same thoughts that I have on a regular basis about being in the right place at the right time with the right idea and having the drive to see it through. If nothing else, it's made me think more about all the hats I wear for this blog.

Fellow blogger and freelance journalist, Violet Fenn tells me
'I’m genuinely sad to see Standard Issue close, because it was a breath of fresh air amongst an awful lot of dross. Yet it still wasn’t viable, which says a lot about an over-saturated industry. 
She goes on to say
Maybe such lifestyle sites would benefit from bringing in bloggers and other content creators (properly paid of course, because all contributors have genuine worth) as these people already have an audience of their own. An audience that will come with them and spread the word.

I could make this into a much longer conversation about influence (is there a 'Part Two' to come?) and link to plenty of research and discussion about how online content creators are actually KILLING it when it comes to sharing a message.  I also wrote about the value of bloggers a while back - you can read about paying bloggers what they are worth here - and how they were there, right at the beginning of internet time, tapping away on their geeky keyboards, creating content for other people to enjoy and discuss, and building up a reputation that is now revered but very much misunderstood especially someone needs to use that reputation/audience/platform to share their news.

This is probably all a jumbled mess of words and thoughts - and probably the reason why Standard Issue didn't employ me as writer - so well done if you got this far.  I'd be honoured if you shared your thoughts about this in the comments section or with me on Twitter or Facebook (no ads here - you're safe from that type of influence for the time being).  Are you a blogger? Do you feel the same or have you had a different experience?  If you're not a blogger then how do you feel when reading blog posts versus other web content?


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Soundtrack To My Life : 30 Day Music Challenge

Soundtrack To My Life : 30 Day Music Challenge
Over the past couple of weeks I've noticed a couple of friends updating their Facebook profile with the 30 Day Music Challenge (cheers for the inspo, Alex and Lizzie). They've chosen some interesting tracks and I thought it would be a good idea to publish my selection throughout April on here as part of my own personal Soundtrack To My Life for 2017.

All the prompts are listed below so feel free to join in if you like - tag me on Facebook, share a link to your blog post(s) or update your choices in the comments section here each day. Come back every day in April to see the next tune that I've picked.

Soundtrack To My Life meets the 30 Day Music Challenge [click to tweet]


DAY 1 : A song you like with a colour in the title

New Order - Blue Monday : This may be predictable but I never get tired of hearing it. Whilst it's very 80s electro in its sound, it also feels very timeless.

DAY 2 : A song you like with a number in the title

The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army : There are three reasons for this choice - the drum beat, the bass riff and the seemingly never-ending trippy feel to the video.  And... don't hate on me too much... I even like the Marcus Collins remake of this song.

DAY 3 : A song that reminds you of the summertime

OMD - Talking Loud And Clear : I think I'm probably influenced by the video to this song but the lyric, "...lying in the grass with the sun on our backs..." just makes me think of teenage summer holidays gone by with not much to do other than lounge about and think about teenage holiday romances.

DAY 4 : A song that reminds you of someone you would rather forget about

Black Eyed Peas - Shut Up : Weirdly, I've found this a difficult choice. There's no-one I would really want to forget about as everyone who has been part of my life has shaped it in some way. There are, however, times that I've really wanted to facepalm people and have definitely done the one- or two-fingered salute the second they've turned their back.

DAY 5 : A song that needs to be played LOUD

Meat Loaf - You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth : I want to choose the whole of the Bat out of Hell album because there's no way that any of those songs are being played quietly. If pushed, I'd have to choose this song - it's not my favourite but as soon as it comes on in the car, that dial is going up to 11! 

DAY 6 : A song that makes you want to dance

Madonna - Hung Up ; I grew up copying the dance moves to pop vidoes and choreographing my own little dances to my favourite songs so it seems unnatural to *not* want to dance to anything that has a decent beat behind it. I could have picked any number of Madonna songs here but I'll start with this one before I get carried away.

DAY 7 : A song to drive to

Liza Minnelli - Cabaret : The problem with this is that for short journeys in the car I usually listen to the radio (for a mixture of talk and music) or I catch up on my podcasts. I very rarely drive long distances on my own but when I do, a 'mix tape' selection CD is usually the music of choice.  One thing I do love to listen to in the car, on my own, is songs from musicals where I can sing along and imagine myself in a certain role (stop laughing). I do a fabulous Liza Minnelli, very reminiscent of this performance...

DAY 8 : A song about drugs or alcohol

Chase & Status - Blind Faith : So the song probably isn't about drugs but the video interprets it as so. It's very cleverly been filmed and every single second of this video reminds me of the raves I went to in the early 90's - much more so that that mental 'Bounce by the Ounce' video that was doing the rounds a couple of years back.

DAY 9 : A song that makes you happy

Status Quo & The Beach Boys - Fun Fun Fun : For no other reason than this version makes me smile every single time I hear it. I've no idea why this collaboration happened but it's just awesome! 

DAY 10 : A song that makes you sad

Lou Reed - Perfect Day : The title of this song makes you believe that it's going to be a joyous song but the lyrics "you just keep me hanging on..." really gives it the opposite feeling.  I suppose the fact that it was used in an overdose scene in Trainspotting and was used as the official Children In Need single in 1997 gives it an even more melancholy feel.

DAY 11 : A song that you never get tired of

McBusted - Air Guitar : Probably an odd choice for me but this modern track is a very clever song from the two conjoined bands, McFly and Busted. The words just work and the tune is brilliant catchy - fabulous songwriting from three of the band members! And just in case you don't know how great these lads are at singing, have a listen to this warm-up a capella version from backstage somewhere.

DAY 12 : A song from your preteen years

Duran Duran - Union of the Snake : I'm going to have to go with this choice as I heard Union of the Snake when I was was about 11 years old and I always associate discovering Duran Duran with starting high school. Of course, after this song I went through their back catalogue and realised that I'd heard a couple of their other tracks but I was already hooked.

DAY 13 : One of your favouite 70s songs

Pretenders - Brass In Pocket : It would be wrong of me to pick a Queen number for this prompt as I didn't discover and appreciate them until the late 80s so this song is one that I specifically remember as a child of the 70s as not sounding very 1970s in its style and definitely part of the move from the 70s to the 80s music sound.

DAY 14 : A song that you would love played at your wedding

Beats International - Dub Be Good To Me : I'm already married and whilst my wedding was a fairly traditional registry office service, it wasn't exactly a conventional wedding situation and I never had a first dance - or even any dancing. If I was getting married today then I'd definitely be looking at choreographing one of those 'surprise' dance sequences that you often see on YouTube. Anyway... this song was in the charts when we first met and it sort of tells the story of the beginning of our relationship so, if there's ever a reason for us to have a song played anywhere, it would have to be this one.

DAY 15 : A song that is a cover by another artist

Soft Cell - Tainted Love : When you think about it, a lot of songs are covers - in fact, many of the above choices are covers or have been covered since their release. And a lot of the time you don't realise how good a song is (or was) until you hear it covered by an artist you are more in tune with (no pun intended). This is exactly what happened with Tainted Love.

DAY 16 : One of  your favourite classical song

Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini" : This should have been a difficult choice considering the amount of music I have danced to when I was younger but it wasn't.  This is the main theme music from one of my all time favourite films, Somewhere in Time.  I only have to hear the opening bars and I'm already in floods of tears just thinking of the connection to the film.

DAY 17 : A song that you would sing as a duet on karaoke

Human League - Don't You Want Me Baby : This is easy but corny. In fact, there's a few that my husband and I sing but every single one is just as cheesy - Paradise by the Dashboard Light, I Got You Babe, etc - mainly because I'm not very tuneful and we both have to be hammered to get up on karaoke.

DAY 18 : A song from the year that you were born

Rod Stewart - You Wear It Well : I could have chosen the #1 record on the day that I was born but that was Amazing Grace played by The Pipes and Drums of the Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (I know... five weeks at the top of the charts too!) so I decided on this songs as my husband loves Rod Stewart and it really stood out to me in the top 100 tracks of this year.

DAY 19 : A song that makes you think about life

DAY 20 : A song that has many meanings to you

DAY 21 : A favourite song with a person's name in the title

DAY 22 : A song that makes you move forward

DAY 23 : A song that you think everyone should listen to

DAY 24 : A song by a band you wish were still together

DAY 25 : A song by an artist no longer living

DAY 26 : A song that makes you want to fall in love

DAY 27 : A song that breaks your heart

DAY 28 : A song by an artist with a voice that you love

DAY 29 : A song that you remember from your childhood

DAY 30 : A song that reminds you of yourself

Soundtrack To My Life meets the 30 Day Music Challenge [click to tweet]


Soundtrack To My Life : 30 Day Music Challenge
A bit of a different slant for Soundtrack To My Life this month as part of the occasional series on this blog where I talk about music that's influenced my life or I invite people to talk about the same. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board.


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