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My most embarrassing moment – the paper round

16 Jan

Paper boyThose who know me now may be surprised to learn that I wasn’t always the cool, collected person I am today *ahem*

In fact, my life pretty much used to consist of merely trying to get through the day without doing anything to completely humiliate myself or, at least, to try and stop anyone finding out about the stupid things I’d done.

I was reminded of the moment that is most brought up at family get-togethers, was shared with my entire football team thanks to my dad, who found it hilarious, and is possibly the most idiotic of the lot.

Before you read it, you need to realise that I didn’t have a lot of common sense back then (I still don’t) – it’s the only explanation for how it happened.

I was 14 years old, an intelligent young man, but fairly awkward and with a propensity for doing stupid things.

I wasn’t a geek or anything, but best fit into the category of inbetweener. I played football, but not particularly well, I was smart, but never found in the library and I liked getting drunk, but looked too young to ever be served.

My income came from a morning paper round. I would be up at 6am, out by quarter past and back by half seven to get ready for school.

I didn’t even get a respite on Saturdays and Sundays – if anything, it got worse because of the weekend papers so I had to do two or three trips.

These days, getting out of a bed is a massive struggle, so it amazes me that I managed to get out of bed every day. But I was used to it and could jump out of bed as soon as my alarm went off.

So when my alarm went off on that fateful day, I just jumped straight out of bed as usual and got dressed.

I headed downstairs, made myself some breakfast, wolfed it down and got on my bike with my bright orange paper bad and left.

I remember thinking that it seemed a bit darker than usual, but I attributed that to the winter months closing in. There were more people around than usual and they all seemed a bit drunk – maybe it had been a student night and people were on their way home.

When I got to the newsagent, it was closed. This confused me – my boss wasn’t the tardy type. If anything, he’d be the one going mad if you were late.

I didn’t have a watch with me and, although I had my first mobile phone, I hadn’t brought it with me. I only really used it try and flirt with girls and they didn’t really appreciate that at six in the morning.

Confused and still only half-awake, I cycled back to the nearest open place I could find to ask them the time. It turned out to be the kebab man. This didn’t seem strange to me.

Kebab manThe kebab man confirmed that it was half past midnight. As he said this, a drunk couple staggered up, took one look at me, burst into uncontrollable laughter and ordered a large doner.

I cycled home, planning to sneak back in quietly so that my family wouldn’t wake up and realise what an idiot I’d been.

Unfortunately, I quickly realised that I hadn’t brought my keys with me. They were always awake by the time I got back, so I’d never needed to.

Fortunately, our brand new extension extended beneath my own bedroom windows. Unfortunately, after climbing on top of it I realised that all of my windows were locked.

So I’d have to wake the house, which, for some reason, I chose to do by opening the letter box and wailing ‘mmmuuuuuummmm, can you open the doooooooor’ until she came down in her dressing gown and did just that.

I’d hoped that my mum, being the lightest sleeper, might sneak downstairs, let me in, laugh at me but agree not to tell anyone.

Unfortunately, she clearly didn’t recognise my voice and was flanked by my dad, who had come down just in case it was a burglar that he needed to knock out. Because burglars always enter houses by wailing through letterboxes.

As it happened, my dad told everyone he knew and probably more. It wouldn’t surprise me if he told everyone he saw that day – I’m sure there is a cashier at the supermarket who probably had a good laugh about it the next day.

He told all of my friends when they came over, all of my teammates on my football team and still laughs about the fact that I had my breakfast at midnight to this day.

I don’t know what it was that woke me up at midnight – it wasn’t my alarm as that went off at 6am as usual – but there must have been a noise that I’d just assumed was my alarm and hadn’t checked.

This was one of many such incidents that used to punctuate my life. These days, I’m better at stopping myself getting that far.

I remembered this story and decided to share it after getting a text from a friend at midnight, which woke me up.

Having got up and grabbed my towel to go in the shower, I did the thing that I’ve learnt from bitter experience to do and checked the time.

I got back into bed, remembered this story, laughed to myself and went back to sleep. At least I didn’t try to go to work with only the kebab man for company.

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Hacking the new Facebook profile images

15 Dec

So I got the new Facebook profile today and immediately set about seeing if I could hack it to make it look much better than it does.

It took me a while to figure out the dimensions that I needed, but it seems as though a good size for the main picture is 180×540 – that’s what mine keeps coming out at anyway.

The five smaller pictures are all 97px x 68px so by taking chunks out of the original image you used for your profile picture you can, in theory, create a cool effect.

Here’s what I’ve managed so far. I’m aware that it’s not there yet, but hopefully you can see what I’m trying to do.

hacked facebook profile

Now check out this video of one of the coolest hacks of a facebook profile that I’ve ever seen. Well done sir!

Further inspiration:

    Running into inspiration

    8 Nov

    Yesterday, in a wholly uncharacteristic move, I decided to join a gym. Now having seen the video that I’ve embedded and read that first line, you’ve probably put two and two together. Well, guess what. You’ve made five.

    Because it wasn’t actually until today that I first saw this video and, like the majority of the hundreds of thousands of people that watched it before me, I felt inspired.

    It’s a powerful, yet simple story. For those of you too lazy to watch the video (I don’t blame you, I probably wouldn’t either in your position) it’s about an American guy who used to be fat. Then he started running, lost weight and started to feel better about himself. Seriously, watch it – my description does it absolutely no justice whatsoever.

    Now I’m not a portly chap. Far from it really – I’ve been a skinny little rake for the majority of my life and at 5’9 and 11 stone with a bmi of roughly 22.5, I’m pretty healthy on the face of it. Except that I don’t really feel that healthy.

    I rarely have much energy, I don’t play anywhere near enough sport as I used to and, frankly, I’m just not in as good shape as I would like to be. I feel like my metabolism is slowing down more with every day and I don’t much like the idea of a beer belly.

    And that’s where the overall message of this video comes in. And not just in a fitness sense – the message transpires to numerous elements of my life.

    if you want to do it, all you have to do is do it

    It’s simple, but it’s bloody true. My laziness tends to prevent me from doing things that I actually want to do. Combine that with the magnitude of starting something new and it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.

    Whenever I’ve actually gone for a run, I’ve really enjoyed it. Whenever I’ve decided to go to football even though I really can’t be bothered, I’m really pleased that I did. And yes, whenever I’ve decided to write a blog post instead of having a couple of games of FIFA, I find it far more rewarding.

    So I’m going to try my best to keep that message in mind. There are plenty of things that I want to do – get back to a good level of fitness, buy a car and start driving, write a book.

    Miraculously, I’ve actually managed to do one of those (the car) but how that came about I’m still not quite sure. And I’ve made a start on another by joining a gym. Where I’m getting all this inspiration from, I’ve no idea.

    But I’ll be keeping that little message in mind, because it’s so true.

    if you want to do it, all you have to do is do it

    Short story: Divorce

    5 Nov

    Last year, back when I was living in London, I wrote this short story, but I never did anything with it. I’ve just come across it on my laptop and decided that I should add it to the blog. It is the first and only one I’ve written, so I don’t know if it’s any good, but here goes nothing:

    Shuffling past the endless row of bicycle frames, the distant glow of the underground guiding him along the murky back streets of East London like the Star of Bethlehem, the weathered pensioner pulled at his solid gold watch. An arctic wind bit at his exposed ears like a snarling wolf as he wrenched away forty years of fidelity, catching a half-formed tear in the crevices beneath his eyes. He clutched at his hood, covering his balding crown with woolly warmth, slipping his new treasure into his pocket as he did so. His jewellery, instead of being the proud companion of his left wrist, would now sit with the lint and dirty tissues that soiled his winter coat.

    Continue reading

    Rediscovering my blogging mojo

    5 Oct

    Right, this is getting silly now. I’m becoming acutely aware that everyone who finds their way to my website is still seeing a blog post entitled ‘Moving on from The Guardian‘ that was written back in May and, frankly, it’s getting a bit silly.

    So this is less of a blog post and more of a statement of intent – that I won’t allow this site to fall so far behind again. And once I get the Internet in my beautiful new flat (I’m writing this from the online sanctity of Starbucks) I’ll have absolutely no excuse not to.

    I’ve been half-heartedly looking into coding over the past few weeks and I’ve decided that I’m going to either teach myself or use alcohol to bribe one of our lovely, dashing team of developers *waves* into showing me the ropes. Then I’ll look at making this website look half-decent (although I might keep the hot-pink links.)

    In the meantime, if you’re at all interested in what I’ve been upto – just check out expressandstar.com and shropshirestar.com where you’ll, hopefully, find plenty of evidence.

    I’ll go into more detail about some of the social media and editorial work that I’ve done in the near future, but check out the Property, Motors and the recently created Careers sites which I look after.

    Or if social media is your bag then cast your eye over our Twitter profile or Facebook page.

    All the relevent links for shropshirestar.com are below. Looking forward to rediscovering my blogging mojo.

    Moving on from The Guardian

    24 May

    So as many of you that follow me on Twitter will know, I’ve decided to leave guardian.co.uk for pastures new. I’ve had a great time working here, made some really good friends and learnt a hell of a lot about working in the media industry. I’ve been lucky enough to spend nearly two years working on what is probably the best newspaper website in the country and it’s proved to be an experience that will stand me in good stead for the future.

    Speaking of which, my increasingly near future lies in Wolverhampton, where I’ve landed a job as an Online Journalist for MNA Digital, the webby arm of the Wolverhampton Express and Star and the Shropshire Star. Specifically, I’ll be taking over the commercial sections of the websites, namely Jobs, Property and Motoring, and will be responsible for the social media presence of both publications. It’s a big challenge and that’s why the role was so appealing to me.

    I’ve got a lot of ideas to take with me into my new job and I’m chomping at the bit just to get going really. I felt as though I’d learnt all I could do in my current position with The Guardian and needed something new to get my teeth into to progress as a Journalist, a professional and an all-round person. It’s a fantastic opportunity and one that I know I’ll enjoy every minute of. Expect more updates as they come…

    User-generated content and journalism

    11 Apr

    A student at my old university contacted me last week with some questions for his dissertation, which will look at the impact of user-generated content on modern journalism. Here are my responses:

    1. How would you define the term “citizen journalist”?

    Firstly, I find it important to distinguish between ‘citizen reporting’ and ‘citizen journalism.’ For me, citizen reporting is much more common as it can, essentially, be done by any member of the public that happens to be in the right place at the right time. It could be as little as describing an event on Twitter or putting some pictures of a newsworthy story on a blog.

    Journalism, however, requires more than this. In my opinion, journalism needs to be fair, extensive, sculpted and trustworthy. It requires more than just the act of saying what you see and is, clearly, usually reserved for those in the industry. However, that doesn’t mean that citizens can’t ‘do’ journalism. There are many blogs which do so. Guido Fawkes and Jason Cobb’s Onion Bag Blog spring to mind as very good examples of citizen journalism, although this is largely due to the skills of those individuals, which are essentially the same as a professionally trained journalist.

    2. As a professional, How do you consider User-Generated Content (UGC) in terms of validity to journalism?

    As somebody who works in the Community department of a national newspaper website, I am probably more likely that most to give a positive answer to this question! I think that user-generated content is a good potential source of stories, if there are the resources to dig them out, and I have personally seen stories that have been resulted from comments underneath a story.

    3. Do you see UGC as an alternative to professional journalism?

    No. The biggest difference between the two is authority. Professional journalism has it, UGC rarely does. Without a professional press, how would we know what we could trust and what we couldn’t? Of course, the professional press is not exactly without bias itself; The Guardian is well known as being a liberal newspaper and will clearly produce journalism backed by these values, but these are well-known and affect the telling of the story, rather than the truth of that particular story. Whilst UGC can crafted into journalism by a skilled professional, I can’t see it replacing or providing a serious threat to professional journalism alone.

    4. Do you think that citizens can be trusted to make news without professional supervision?

    It depends on the audience. I certainly can’t imagine a professional newspaper allowing to make the news without the watchful eye of a professional; after all, news stories provided by staff journalists need to be sub-edited before they will appear in the newspaper or on the website. If they are self-publishing on a blog or similar then sure, why not? However, this will most likely lack the authority of a professional news story and is unlikely to reach any significant audience.

    5. Is UGC challenging professionals to start improving their content?

    Yes. It has done since the beginning of journalism with reader letters, which often critique or correct news stories from the previous day. These days it is much more instantaneous with comments left underneath the article and part of my job involves passing on comments that may point out something like a spelling mistake, an incorrect fact or a complaint about the honesty of an article. So yes, the ability for readers to pick-up on problems so quickly means that there is more pressure on a journalist to get everything right, or face the wrath of the comments section!