Have You Ever Been On A Working Holiday?

working holiday, career, family, life lessons, work,

I've got a question for you... have you ever been on a working holiday? 

I'm currently looking at all options for my youngest child as he starts an apprenticeship in September at the local college in mechanical engineering even though his dream is to do something in the world of entertainment and anyone who knows him will know that he's well suited to that.  However, I want him to have his college qualification so that he has something to fall back on. Maybe a working holiday is the taster session equivalent so that he can actually make his mind up?

The types of jobs he has considered are working in a theatre but thinks it would be pure torture to see the acts on stage and not be up there himself.  He has also thought about being a Red Coat at Butlins or even a holiday rep somewhere hot. The only problem here is that he has to wait until he is 18 to audition. I am trying to steer him away from auditioning for X-Factor or similar reality type TV shows because, whilst I love them myself, I'm not sure I want that type of false fame expectations for my own child. 

Whilst researching all the ins and outs of how he can get some work experience I was directed to this website which provides all the details for working holidays in the UK (have a click of that link -there's some great articles on there). There are a number of options available which has provided more ideas for our research. 

So, tell me about your working holiday experiences. I want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly! I'd love you to share your stories and give us more ideas about what he can do and where he can go. 

This is a sponsored post. Please view my disclosure policy here.


[Review] GlassesShop For Cheap Prescription Glasses

I feel as though I'm as blind as a bat sometimes and I flip between wearing glasses and contact lenses. Glasses are my go-to face furniture because they are so easy to throw on and forget about however I love contact lenses because of vanity but also for running and wearing sunglasses

When GlassesShop asked me to review their service it fell at a fortuitious time because my favourite pair of glasses had recently broken and I was wearing my spare pair. After a browse of their website I chose the Aubervilliers Rectangle in Black because I was recently told that I should choose frames that follow the shape of my eyebrow and these seemed to fit that option.  I also chose a photochromic tint so they became light sensitive, an anti-reflective coating to stop glare and a super-hydrophobic coating so they were water resistant. 

Aubervilliers Rectangle Frames in Black from GlassesShop.com

I've always visited an optician for my prescription eyeglasses so ordering online was a whole new experience - and one that felt a little daunting at first.  I didn't need to worry though as there were full and easy-to-follow instructions on the website.  All I needed was my prescription (available from my optician - everyone is entitled to retain a copy of their own prescription) and a ruler to measure the distance between my pupils (the pupillary distance).

Once you have chosen your frames, each stage of the order is clearly defined with pop-up help bubbles if you need them and the whole ordering process takes about 10-15 minutes. The glasses do come from China so there is a slight wait for their delivery - mine were delivered in just over three weeks.   What do you think?

Aubervilliers Rectangle - Black

I can fully recommend GlassesShop for purchasing cheap glasses online. Also, if you use the code NickieX20 you'll receive a 20% discount from your first order. They have a huge range of styles for men, women and children and the offer a "try on" service in which you can upload a photograph of yourself and overlay the frames onto the image to give you an idea of what they would look like. 


Race For Life - And This Time I Really Am RUNNING It!

Another year, another Race For Life.

I don't mean that to sound as flippant as it does but I enjoy this event so much. It's emotional (for many reasons), it's an opportunity to push myself outside of my personal boundaries and it's all for a charity I wholeheartedly support.

Every year I run for my daughter. My own little cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at 14 months old and has continued to amaze and surprise us with the way in which she defied all medical expectations after her intensive chemotherapy.  Of course, as each year passes (it's 23 years since her treatment now) the memories fade a little but medicine advances in way which we never thought possible. Cancer has touched our lives in other ways too. My father-in-law was sadly beaten by Mesothelioma sixteen years ago and my aunt had a mastectomy after breast cancer approximately 20 years ago. This is why I need the Race For Life as a constant reminder of what can be achieved with research.  Research that needs funding. 

This year, I am extremely grateful to Brioche Pasquier for supporting myself and Rachel as we enter the Race For Life. They have funded both our entry fees and they will be making a donation on my Just Giving page to help us towards this year's target of £250.  

This year I'll actually be running the Race For Life (what was that... another mention for my running journey... #notsorry) on Wednesday 24th June in Blackburn and this is also where you come in - again. If you can, please donate via our Just Giving page. Even just the smallest amount helps and will make a difference. If you would like to donate via text then you can also do that by following the instructions below.  Keep an eye on the blog for an update after the event on Wednesday too! 

P.S. Brioche Pasquier also sent us some of their amazing pan au chocolat to try out (probably to help us 'carb up' before the race).  It didn't really touch the sides and it's now my new favourite snack. I need MORE! 

Who's The Daddy - My Top Five British TV Dads

This Father's Day I thought I'd share something a little bit different, so here are my Top Five (British) TV Dads. There were a few that didn't make the cut (Father Ted Crilley may have been pushing it a bit too) but these five were the ones that came straight to mind. 

Frank Spencer, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (1973-1978)

I grew up on a diet of 1970's comedy and even though I'm not a huge fan of slapstick comedy, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em was one of those that stood out from the crowd. I always remember being quite thankful that Frank wasn't my dad but - and even now I don't know why - I always felt sorry for Frank. He tries so hard to provide for his family but never quite succeeds and will go to all lengths to try and make it work, even though it's totally obvious that it will end in certain disaster. His vulnerability was his downfall and he always seems to be at the nasty end of workplace bullying. Because of this it's now it's hard to watch this type of 'comedy'.

Did you know... the catchphrase "Ooh Betty..." is only said once (Series 2, Episode 2) and that there were only ever twenty episodes made?

Ben Porter, 2.4 Children (1991-1999)

I definitely related to the family in 2.4 Children. They reminded me a little bit of my own family (I didn't have a snotty little brother though - I had a weirdo little sister). Whilst the show focused on the mum in the family (Bill), Ben had the ability to relate to both adults and children with a fantastic sense of humour. He ran his own heating repair business (along with his very sarcastic assistant, Christine) and often joined his son to watch horror films and play computer games whilst teasing his teenage and hormonal daughter. Whist being a bit daft, at the end of the day he was always there for his family.

Did you know... there are many post-modern references included in the show including The Flowerpot Men and Monty Python? 

Jim Royle, The Royle Family (1998-2000)

We've threatened to buy my husband a yellow striped polo shirt on a number of occasions as we are sure he was the (unofficial) muse for this character. Surveying and commenting on family life from his main vantage point, Jim Royle manages to use up all his energy doing precisely nothing, apart from watching television, slagging his family off and announcing his impeding bowel movements. As has been proven on a number of occasions, he does have a softer side which comes into play when needed. 

Did you know... After Noel Gallagher heard that his song, Half The World Away, had been requested for the title track, he suggested that the track Married With Children would have been more appropriate? What the hell does he know, eh?

Ben Harper, My Family (2000-2011)

Ben reminds me a lot of my own dad with is constant need to escape and have a quiet read of the paper with a beer after a hard day's work. He's sometimes fairly surly and ill-tempered - and not just with his family as this extends to almost every single person he meets. However, when all's said and done, he's pretty much a caring and providing father and a sensitive and supportive husband.

Did you know... My Family is one of only twelve British sitcoms to pass the 100 episode mark (120 episodes have been made)? I've also got Robert Lindsey as one of my 'Shwing' members *ahem* 

Frank Gallagher, Shameless (2004-2013)

Oh, where to start with Frank. He's an alcoholic who is forever skint and on the fiddle or borrow for cash, not so that he can feed his family but so that he can buy more beer or drugs. He always has a very perceptive opinion on what is happening in the world, especially with what affects him and his community. In fact, he'd probably make a great politician. After living in a similar environment to the Chatsworth Estate for many years, I can honestly say that I know a few Frank Gallaghers...

Did you know...Shameless once beat Coronation Street to win the award for 'Best Continuing Drama' (Royal Television Award Society North West Awards 2007)?

So who are your Top TV Dads. I stuck with British but I'll let you nominate anyone. You can have any nationality, past or present, fact or fiction. Go for it! 

In the interest of transparency, I have entered this article into a competition with Currys PC World 


Things I Learnt In June

You seem to enjoy these "what I have learnt" updates so here are this weeks - again, in no particular order...

The next generation still love traditional and classic poems like Albert And The Lion, which I joyously recited (off by heart... oh yes, I did) to my two granddaughters after hearing that one of them was visiting Blackpool Zoo next week. She's not allowed to take a stick with a horse's head handle... y'know, just in case...

headmaster, Ferris Bueller, gif, My youngest child official left school last week *sob*.  However, this week we received a letter from the school which led us to believe that he'd missed one of his exams due to their incompetence. I had to ring the deputy head and, after our initial conversation, in my mind he was running around the school like the headmaster on Ferris Bueller to get the situation sorted out.

The old guy that lives next door doesn't realise how loud his TV is when he's watching (what we think is) porn.  He also watches it at very unusual times, like Saturday afternoon at two o'clock or Wednesday evening just before seven o'clock.  Whatever it is he's watching, I know that it's definitely not the local news or Emmerdale. 

Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated (by me) because I didn't actually die when I ran up Buncer Lane.

If The Wonder Years aired today then it would have been set in 1995 as it was set twenty years in the past. Also, if Back To The Future took place today, Marty McFly would be travelling back to 1985. [side note: brilliant BTTF article right here]  

Gary Barlow's old house is now a very sought-after wedding venue. I have no idea where he lives now. 

Phoenix Nights, Hit Me Baby One More Time, gif, Archie Kelly, Kenny Senior, Peter KayI revisited Phoenix Nights, after watching Peter Kay's Car Share, and now I can't hear Hit Me Baby One More Time without thinking of Archie Kelly's recreation of the video in the Stars In Our Eyes episode (S2E6)

I learnt how to make a gif (see the Phoenix Nights clip).

I was slayed by a teen when I suggested that the term was "fleek" but was corrected and told it was "on fleek" (verified by the Urban Dictionary) and therefore I thought I should give up social media because I'm old.  I may have redeemed myself by knowing what ''af'" means though so I think I'm still OK.

I'd forgotten how beautifully poignant Lucy Spraggan's song, 'Tea and Toast' is:

What have you learnt this week? Let me know.


Running Up That Hill...

Twenty-seven years ago I had an accident that changed my life. I went from being a champion sprinter to not being able to run at all. Subconsciously, I think running is the part of me that was missing but it's only now that I realise this.  

Last June was a time of change. Exactly one year ago this Saturday I joined the Blackburn 5K Group Run 'Couch to 5K' programme to try and change a number of things; my sense of well-being, my mental attitude, the direction of the rut I was dragging myself through and, of course, my level of fitness. Dear reader, I know you are probably bored to tears of reading about my running journey by now but this year in my life has been a game-changer. I have gone from being a total couch potato to someone who now can't wait to pull on a pair of trainers and run three times a week! There's so much more to it that this but I you know as well as I do that I can waffle on about this for ages. Anyway... 

Quote, "Fall in love with exercise that changes your mood and your life, not just your body"There are two running (ha!) jokes within the group and you learn them fairly early on. One is "run like you stole something" when you get your final burst of adrenalin during your first 5K run. The second is the immortal words "Buncer Lane". Now, anyone from Blackburn (or the surrounding area) will know that Buncer Lane is one of the steepest hills round here. In fact, if you're a bit of nerd, like me, you'll find this little weblink VERY interesting as it shows statistics about the distance and the gradient... but I digress.  All you need to know at this stage is that it's a BLOODY HUGE HILL! 

During the 9-week 'couch to 5K' programme, we jokingly tell all the new runners that "one day, we'll take them up Buncer Lane" but, of course, it never happens. However, since my own stamina and speed has improved over the past couple of months, I've been looking at the incline and wondering if I could actually run it.

So tonight I did. 
Almost.  (I had to walk the final 20 meters or so)
And then I ran back down again.  

I did it with the support of a few other runners who have completed the same running programme as I have. We decided to challenge ourselves in a one-time-only effort just so we could say "WE DID IT!". I almost puked at the top and I had a little cry whilst pretending to lean against a wall getting my breath back because this time last year I would never have thought that possible. 

But I did it.
And I never ever want to do it again.
Well, not for a while, anyway. 

My running friends are awesome. After I completed my C25K programme last year I offered to volunteer to support others doing the same programme and some how ended up as a group leader, with a Whistle Of Power (trust me - it helps with crowd control - it's not ego related at all *ahem*). It was my way of giving back to a programme that's helped me so much. Everyone completes the programme for a different reason - it could be to progress to further distance running, maybe for health reasons, possibly just to get out and do something different. But, for whatever reason that is, I always end up with a bloody fantastic group of runners who just gel. And it is them, and their humour, and their support and encouragement that got me up that bloody hill. 

Onwards... and upwards... maybe just not up Buncer Lane again. 


The Importance of 'Stranger Danger' Devastatingly Demonstrated

There's a video that every parent needs to see, even though it will send shivers down their spine. In a social experiment conducted in America, a man asks parents in a public playground if he can test their child's knowledge of the rule 'never go with strangers', having first received an assurance that their child knew the rule, and would be unlikely to disobey it.

Every parent in the video is proved to be wrong. Every child in this video does the exact opposite of what their own parent and you, as a parent, hope they would do. Armed only with a cute dog and a playful demeanour, Joey approaches their child and within just a few moments leads them away hand in hand from the crowded playground, their parent, and safety.

It's truly frightening just how easy it was for Joey - a complete stranger who the child might have, at best, seen talking to the parent for thirty seconds beforehand - to win over the child in every case. What can be done to minimise the danger that this might actually happen to a child?

When raising children, it's natural to teach them to be polite and respectful and to obey adults and those in positions of authority. Yet at the same time, they also need to be made to be aware of the dangers that some people may pose to them. And it's not just people completely unknown to them. There may be familiar faces - people your child sees every day - that you would not want them to trust enough to go somewhere alone with them.

How to help them navigate between being well-mannered and staying safe and out of danger? There is some very useful information on just this topic on the ReactNow.org website and, in particular, an article specifically about what to teach your child about strangers.

The guidance includes useful information such as:
  • not all strangers are bad and that, in fact, some strangers can be samaritans and the best people to talk to if a child finds they are alone or feels scared;
  • how important it is for children to understand who they can trust;
  • when it is appropriate to ask for help from people they don?t know;
  • how to help your children to recognise 'safe strangers' by pointing them out when you?re out and about; and
  • the importance of teaching your children to find public places to ask for help and to avoid dangerous areas and situations;
  • the 'No, Go, Yell, Tell' strategy that helps children to understand, recognise and react to bad situations.

Have you heard of the password technique? This is such a simple idea, but one that is justifiably gaining popularity and being widely shared on Facebook and other social media. It?s as easy as it sounds. You just tell your children that they do not need to ignore people they do not know, but they must not engage in conversation with or go anywhere with anyone that does not tell them the 'special' word that only immediate family members know.

This article was created in collaboration with Sunny-D. Find out more about activities with kids on their website.
For more information on posts like this please view my disclosure policy


Things I Learnt In May

Once again, in no particular order, here is what I have learnt this week...

Getting a notebook/diary system set up to your exact requirements when you are a stationery aficionado is Very Difficult.

Missing Type | #MissingTypeIf you connect Shazam to Spotify it automatically creates a playlist of all your Shazam'd songs.

There is a campaign happening, right now, across the UK called #MissingType and it's the most GENIUS thing I have seen in a long time. Blood donations were a big part of saving my daughter's life so I'm disappointed in myself for not picking up on this campaign earlier.

The kindness of some people never ceases to take my breath away. Sometimes it's the smallest things that make a difference.

I both love and hate running in equal measure but I get renewed joy from it when I achieve another personal best.

Attending a new dance and core fitness class is SOOOOO much fun, especially when it's held on the park with approximately 50 other participants and even in the howling wind with the threat of rain. 

After said new fitness/dance class it is not advisable to gloat that you don't feel achy or sore as the lactic acid build-up (or is it DOMS?) can take up to 36 hours to kick in.  Either way... OUCH! 

Riders, Jilly Cooper 1985-2015,
Judy Blume never stopped being fabulous, as this interview proves. Also, her Twitter bio is beyond awesome...

People are playing a game of 'spot the difference' with the new, less racy cover of Jilly Cooper's 30th anniversary edition of Riders.  Bigger arse, hand moved away to the right slightly..,

Jason Statham used to dive and he represented England at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 (spoiler alert: he's no Tom Daley)

If you friend-request members of Five Star on Facebook they accept you (two down, three to go).

After all the talk about Ferris Bueller having his actual day off on June 5th (pinpointed because of the baseball game they attended) I only noticed that the stance adopted by Ferris, Sloane and Cameron in the museum was them copying the man just to the left of them!

The "Truth Or Drink" series by Cut Video is the best thing I've watched all week!

What have you learnt this week. Let me know.

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