Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category


It’s the anxiety that kills you
Strangles you alive
Forcing even the bacteria
From the bowels of your stomach
So you have nothing left
Not even a bacteria
To settle the nerves
Raising from the
Depths of your stomach
So you feel nothing
See nothing, hear nothing
Life becomes a blur
As you shake powered
By nervous energy
The foundations of your
House begin to move
Cracks appear in the
Road outside as
Your shaking threatens
Global peace, Trump and Kim
Blame each other for
Launching a nuclear missile
And just when you
Cannot take any more
It stops
Your mind and body
Cannot take anymore
Exhausted by anxiety
They give up the fight
You feel relaxed
So you see what you’ve missed
Texts, calls, emails, bills
Appointments, deadlines
Everybody wants you
Everybody wants something from you


Yesterday I competed in the Halifax Half Marathon for the first time and it was an experience I will never forget.

Having reckied part of the course the day before albeit in my car, I was under no illusion as to how tough this race was. Pretty much from the off you are climbing from the depths of Dean Clough Mill, Halifax to the heights of Soil Hill and Roper Lane, Queensbury before you descend back into Dean Clough Mill and the finish.

I arrived at the start and plenty of time and was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of car parking available. Some events I have turned up to and parking has been a nightmare so this time having plenty of space to park was nice. I later found out that the reason for there being so much parking available was more due to the notorious reputation the Halifax Half has and the effect this has on putting people off rather than me being early.

At one point before the start it seemed that most of the other competitors were in the queue for the toilet then preparing themselves to run! And then we got the call to assemble at the start and a couple of hundred runners were off to test themselves on the hills of Halifax.

The start heads up towards Shroggs Park before dropping down and heading towards Brackenbed Lane. This was the first of the hard climbs taking you up to Moor End Road and Mount Tabor. It is one of those typical climbs that we seem to have a lot of in Yorkshire where you think you have reached the top only to be confronted with yet more climbing.

And this is the advantage of doing a reckie. I was prepared for this second climb rather than being taken by surprise and I had set off at a steady pace in anticipation of this. I have been caught out by this in the past at races and suffered later on in the race as a consequence, but this time I was ready and climbed Brackenbed Lane in one go which set me up nicely for the rest of the race. I was feeling good and my confidence was going up.

Onwards and upwards on Moor End Road and towards Mount Tabor a nice village set in the countryside of Calderdale. Four miles soon went by and we headed right on Moor End Road towards the village of Moor End. Going through Moor End we had a bit of respite from all the climbing as we ran downhill towards Mixenden. On this first bit of downhill I decided not to push the pace but relax my body and mind and conserve my energy for the climbing that was yet to come.

We were soon through Mixenden and beginning to find ourselves in our own little races with the other runners. I was running with a lass from the Halifax Harriers and two young lads with charity vests on. At times like this it’s nice to have other runners with you as they keep you going and pull you along and you can maintain your pace easier too.

Through Mixenden the climbing started again. A steep climb on Mill Lane, takes you up to the outskirts of Illingworth and it was on this climb that a man running in sandals passed me! I was surprised at his choice of footwear but each to their own! I decided against racing him as it was obvious he had run in sandals before so I left him to tackle the climb on his own.

Once you have got to the outskirts of Illingworth you assume that you would head to the main road preparing for the last major climb, Soil Hill. However, the organisers of the race had been particularly nasty and instead the route took you left down Lane Head Lane before turning right up Rocks Lane. This route means you are as far down as you can go before you start running up to Soil Hill. Once again I was pleased with myself for having done a reckie of the route the day before. If I hadn’t done the reckie I would have been taken by surprise again and had another heart sinking moment that could have put my hopes of getting a Personal Best (PB) on the course in tatters.

My PB for a half marathon was 2:19:40 set at the Liversedge Half in February. I had run the Huddersfield Half in early June and missed getting a PB by around 40 seconds due mainly to wearing the wrong shoes for the course and stopping at water stations which I don’t normally do. At Halifax I had set myself a time of 2:10:00 to finish and coming off a week of rest after some hard runs I was feeling confident of achieving this.

At the six-mile mark on the main Keighley Road, I was on target to get a new PB in the time I had set myself but I still had the climb up to Soil Hill to contend with which would be the deciding factor in how close I would get to 2:10:00.

Soil Hill has a reputation as being one of the toughest climbs around and it is easy to see why. It starts off reasonable enough before flattening out and then steeply ascending taking in three ninety-degree bends before getting to the top of Ned Hill Road on which Soil Hill is. The first one of these bends is particularly difficult as it is at the steepest and narrowest part and you have to concentrate on just getting up and not worrying about your pace.

I did exactly this and successfully negated the bend and was on the climb up to the second bend. On this short straight I met one of my other Queensbury runners coming down in his van. He had, had a successful day out motorbike racing the day before coming away with a very well deserved third place and was in a good mood. On the way up I gave him a high five and carried on.

Up and up I went cheered on by some supporters from Halifax Harriers who were in their car and giving all the runners a much needed boost. At the top of Soil Hill, I passed the two young runners in their charity vests who to my surprise were now walking. They were younger than me and looked fitter than me but looks can be deceiving… This was the last I saw of them until the finish. The girl from Halifax Harriers was still in front of me so I had a decent marker to aim for and to keep pulling me along.

At the seven-mile mark halfway on Ned Hill my time was 1:15. I was five minutes behind my schedule and knew that the next six miles were going to hurt. There would be no time to relax and enjoy the scenery this was now me against the clock, me pushing myself once again to my limits and seeing how far I could go. This was now me against me.

Ned Hill Road goes into Perseverance Road some more downhill and flat and I began to pick up the pace knowing I had no time to rest. Going faster was the only way I would achieve my goal.

At the bottom of Perseverance Road is the Raggalds Inn and several from the Queensbury Running Club were there to cheer me and the other runners on and take photographs.

After the Raggalds, Roper Lane takes you around the outskirts of Queensbury. The first part is steady climbing before turning left and going downhill. By now I was visibly catching the lass from Halifax Harriers but remembering the advice I had been given by more experienced runners I reminded myself that this was about me and my own personal race and not racing other people.

I was soon at the bottom of Roper Lane and on the main road where the final water station was at the nine-mile mark. Here I finally caught and passed the lass from Halifax Harriers as she stopped to take on some water and I took some on the run. This gave me the advantage I needed to not only pass her but maintain momentum as there is a small climb before you head back down once again.

By now I had made up around two or three minutes on the time I lost going up Soil Hill but despite the pain in my thighs and my mind telling me I couldn’t do this I knew deep down I could and I knew I had to maintain this pace and I would achieve my goal.

Left onto Swalesmoor Road and a climb that you don’t notice normally became a hill but still I maintained my pace. Down the other side, pass the ski slope and another incline that isn’t there usually is all of a sudden huge. By now I’m catching two runners in front of me and this gives me added impetus to keep my pace up.

At the bottom of the road I am caught out. I assumed, wrongly that the route would take me over the road and down through the area of Claremont before heading into Halifax town centre. However, at the bottom of the small decline the arrows say right onto Claremont Road. I remember wondering where the route was going? We weren’t far from the end now so where were we going? What surprises did the organises have in store for us?

At the end of Claremont Road, I was soon over the main road. I had been lucky today with crossing roads and had not lost too much time. Some more downhill on the outskirts of Halifax town centre and another runner was in sight. I was catching her fast and knew I would soon pass her. This however was inconsequential to me. I had made up all the time I had lost previously and was now on course to achieve 2:10. This was now about me maintaining my pace and pushing myself not about beating anyone.

At the bottom of this road we turned left and I realised that the organisers had put us on a road that runs parallel to the main road but is far quieter. This is where the pain really began to set in. My thighs were on fire and felt like they would drop off at any time, my breathing was heavy and my mind was telling me to take it easy. I knew from looking at my watch that I would set a new PB whatever but now it was about how much I wanted that 2:10 time.

And then it kicked in. All the memories of the hard miles down over the winter. Doing it the hard way through mud, water, rain and snow with no one there to see it, no one to cheer you on, no one at the end to say well done. The winter months spent up on the moors all came into their own now, the climbs, the feet ice cold from being in water for hours, the mud that was still there after a week. This is what is meant by doing the grind.

And people’s voices flashed through my mind reminding me all that I have achieved, how far I have come, the respect I have earned from everybody not just other runners, reminding me that I can do this, willing me on!!

And I ran through the pain, through the hurt. I was passed by a lass but it didn’t matter. I was only bothered about keeping going and finishing now. Giving up would be easy but I don’t do anything the easy way.

Round the edge of Dean Clough, down and up some dangerous stone steps and onto the road that goes through the middle of Dean Clough and one final small climb before turning right into the car park and the finish at last!

The finish was strange to say the least as the organisers had decided to put a couple of turns in before you crossed the line, which in the middle of a car park seemed very odd!

I crossed and looked at my watch, 2:10:28. I had done it! But prior experience of how fickle the organisers can be with their timings meant I knew I would be tempting fate if I was to announce it straight away.

But I had done it. I had achieved something I would have thought impossible a couple of years ago. But more than that I had fought the voices in my head telling me to slow down, accept something less, telling me I could not do this. The last three miles had been the hardest miles I had run all day. All the climbing had taken everything out of me and then for the second time in a week I had to dig deep and then dig deeper to get what I wanted. I had to go through and beyond my pain threshold, my legs felt as if they would fall apart and I would never walk again, mentally I had to switch everything off that said no and focus on my goal and nothing else.

This run was proof that whatever your level you can achieve something if you’re prepared to put in the hard work, go through the bad runs hoping for a good run when it matters, put yourself through the pain barrier again and again and again, seemingly for no reason, push yourself to your limits only to push them back again the next time. And the only competitor you have is you. It doesn’t matter where you finish, first, last in the middle, it means nothing. All that matters is that you have done your best, you have achieved your goal and you have nothing more to give.

And my official time yesterday? 2:10:34. For once the timing gods were on my side too!


It is now Wednesday and I have had time to reflect on the Huddersfield Half Marathon which together with three of my fellow runners from Queensbury Running Club I ran in on the Sunday just gone.

 

The day started warm but overcast and this filled me with confidence as the Huddersfield Half is one of the toughest half marathons in the country and a lack of sunshine would save valuable energy for the climbs that the route is renowned for and prevent the possible onset of dehydration in the later stages of the race.

I was picked and soon all four of us were on our way to Huddersfield YMCA, New Hey Road. Luckily for us there was someone in the car who had a vague idea of where we were going otherwise we could still be driving round Ainley Top now looking for the YMCA!

At the YMCA we were pleasantly surprised to find a low key affair with relatively few runners around which made for a relaxed atmosphere and runners and supporters alike able to move around freely and not worry about bumping and jostling each other. We had also arrived in plenty of time which again added to the relaxed feel of the event and enabled us to pick up our numbers and take photos at our leisure.

Outside the temperature was slowly raising and our fears of a hot run began to come back to haunt us as we took to the sparse starting line. For a large town like Huddersfield this seemed to be a small scale affair but this added to the charm of the event.

And we were off! A nice gentle downhill start through the suburbs surrounding the YMCA. I watched as my fellow Queensbury runners went off at a decent pace into the distance and remembered that this was a half marathon and not a sprint and as a slow starter I would have plenty of time to get into my rhythm and stride and maybe even catch some of the other Queensbury runners up.

Soon we were out of the housing estate and into open countryside. I have never been to this area of Yorkshire but it is beautiful and stunning in equal measure and even as you run through it you have time to have the odd glance and look in awe at the sheer magnificence of Gods Own County.

And to the first steep descent. I love running downhill as fast as I can and seeing how fast I can go before I fall and lose some skin and blood to the unforgiving tarmac. Today I was fortunate not to fall as fast as I was running and I soon made up places on other runners and was sure I could see some of the other Queensbury runners not too far ahead of me.

What goes down must come up! Sure enough I was soon at the bottom of the first steep climb and being mindful that I had not been feeling 100% all week and did not know the area I opted to take the sensible option and walk up the climb as fast as I could. This proved to be a sensible option as this climb meandered its way up the valley and whilst not as steep as the infamous Trooper Lane in Halifax was considerably longer and took just as much, if not more out of you because of its length.

Near the top was the welcome sight of a water station and mindful of the ever hotter conditions I stopped and took a cup of water. Usually I will grab a cup and sip some as I run but knowing that this course was tough, physically and mentally and feeling the sweat starting to run down my forehead into my eyes I decided to take on board as much fluid as I could rather than risk the onset of thirst and dehydration later on in the race.

I set off again knowing I had lost valuable time at the water station and began to climb again when a man came out of nowhere and gave me a bottle of Lucozade, muttered something and run back to his car! I looked at the bottle, checked it had not been tampered with, although why anyone would want to stop me running when I would be just happy to finish is beyond me. But this thought did flash through my mind and having satisfied myself I could drink this Lucozade I carried on.

At the next water station because of my Lucozade I was able to carry on straight past it and make up some time. This allowed me to put some space between myself and the heavy breathing woman behind me which gave my ears some much needed respite! And so began the descent towards the M62 before the climb towards Scammonden Dam.

I had seen the climb as I descended and had already made up my mind to walk up it rather than run as I didn’t know the route and was unsure what lay ahead of me. At the bottom of the climb I slowed to a decent walking pace and took on some much needed fluids. The heavy breathing woman who I had left behind had now caught me up and she was much stronger on the hills on the day than I was. So rather than risk wasting much needed energy racing her for no purpose I watched her slowly go into the distance and leave me behind as I made my way up the climb.

I finished my ascent and there was Scammonden Dam bathing in glorious summer sunshine. I was filled with renewed energy and began to up my pace and pull away from the pack of runners who has caught me up and were now my competitors. This was fun until it happened. My feet began to ache. Not just one of but both and all over. It felt as if I had blisters all over my feet and the bones in my feet had collapsed. This was a new pain for me and something I had not prepared for. How can you?

But I pushed on in the hope that the pain would subside but it got steadily worse. Turning right towards Golcar I saw a sign for Scapegoat Hill and my new found enthusiasm evaporated as the realisation of climbing another hill this time with painful feet hit home. I carried on and was soon rewarded with yet another stunning view of the Yorkshire countryside resplendent in glorious sunshine as the road flattened out and I was able to relax slightly and enjoy running for what it is and forget that I was racing.

This didn’t last long as a lady came up on my shoulder and for a mile or so we kept pace with each other going as fast as we could, following each twist and turn in the road, each undulation, me not daring to look behind me in case I lost those valuable seconds that can make the difference between winning and losing.

The road began to drop steeply into Golcar and I speeded up despite the pain in my feet and toes getting worse. I was passing people who had passed me now and enjoying running down through the streets of Golcar. Some people were even clapping and cheering us on our way and offering jelly babies to boost our flagging energy levels, which was a lovely touch and made our effort feel appreciated and respected.

And then I got to the bottom of the final climb. I already knew that the finish was uphill but for a first timer running the race nothing could prepare you for it. I grossly underestimated how long it was and at first I was running up it, in pain and at a slow pace but I was running. Parts of the hill were shaded by trees giving us all a welcome respite from the midday sun.

The climbing continued up and up and up. It seemed relentless, going on forever. I looked at my watch and there wasn’t far to go yet I was still climbing, feeling as if I was as far away from the end of the race as I was at the beginning. I was in agony with my feet now and the thought of just stopping there and then briefly crossed my mind. But I knew it would be a shame to stop now, so near to the finish and I remembered some encouraging words a friend of mine had said to me and this spurred me on despite the pain I was enduring with my feet.

I was walking now and everybody had stopped racing each other and were saying words of encouragement and support to each other instead. As a group of runners we had come together and all we wanted to do was conquer this hill and finish this race. Beating someone to the finish line didn’t matter anymore. All we wanted to beat was this hill and the inner demons telling us we couldn’t do it and we should stop.

And we had done it. We had got to the top of this seemingly never ending climb to be greeted by a cheery old man sat on a bench telling us the finish and relief was only round the corner through a small underpass.

I went through the underpass and was greeted by the sight of some downhill at last! My legs had nothing left in them but I put a spurt on as best as I could and soon the marshals were in sight directing us to the finish.

I rounded a corner and two of my fellow runners were there waiting for me, offering words of encouragement to go as fast as I could. I duly obliged and used up the last ounce of strength in me to give everyone a grandstand finish.

And then it was over. I crossed the finish line in an official time of 2:21:06, 40 seconds off my PB for a half marathon. On a course considerably tougher than my previous half marathon I was proud of this. The Huddersfield Half is a tough race but it is one that gives you an immense sense of satisfaction and achievement and makes you a tougher runner mentally and physically. I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themselves as a runner and a person and just prove to themselves what they are really capable of.


This Wednesday 18th May saw the final race of the 2016 John Carr series for this year. This is the second time I have taken part and it is a series of 5k races that I look forward to more than enjoy taking part in!

The first race was more of a recce than a full blown, all out run. I was coming off some very good runs where I had been showing good pace on the flat and my climbing was improving to the point where I was passing people on the hills! This filled me with confidence and I decided to set a target of going under 25 minutes for the 5k at one of the races.

This may sound overly ambitious but the John Carr races have gained a reputation as races where you can set personal bests due to the course being set at Esholt Water Works and it is relatively flat which means fast times.

At the first race I was feeling good. My legs were a bit tired but nothing I wasn’t used to. I had a good warmup for the race although this was due to the fact that we parked about 2 miles away from the start which meant I had no choice but to run to the start and warmup.

The race went well. I felt good throughout the race and felt strong at the finish able to put in a sprint and beat some other runners to the line. My official time was 26:11, a new personal best, and I was happy with this. I felt it was a good indicator of my form and that a sub 25 was on.

The second race was a very different affair and brought me crashing back down to earth. I had, had a very stressful day at university finishing my final essay and then got back to my car to find my back window had dropped which meant a trip to the garage and no rest. This all added to the stress.

At the race I didn’t warmup as I should have done and set off far too fast passing one of my rivals within ½ k and continuing to pile on the speed. And then people started passing me and I had nothing left to respond with. My legs were moving but I felt I had no power or strength in them and I was going backwards. I looked at my watch and my pace had dropped to training pace and still I couldn’t go any faster. I wanted to stop there and then but pride and determination kept me going. The end couldn’t come quick enough and I managed to pick up speed and hold off some other runners but for me it had been a disaster. I still finished in a respectable 27:05 but everything that could go wrong had gone wrong and much of it was down to myself and how I approached the race.

For the final race I took a different approach. No stressing, it was only a race after all and do a warmup. I find a 5k difficult and you have to be on race pace from the off and for a well-built man like me it takes a while to warmup and get up to race pace. For distances such as 10k and ½ marathon this isn’t a problem, but for a 5k it is as you can soon find yourself being left behind and have nothing left to respond with as I did in race 2. You have to be on the pace from the off in a 5k and this is where the hard work comes in.

I set off at a comfortable pace, reminding myself to run my race and not someone else’s. I saw one of my rivals up ahead and decided to keep him in my sights rather than go after him and pass him early. I let myself get into the race and find my pace and soon I was steadily catching up to him and passed him around the 1mile mark.

I felt good, not my best by a long way but good enough to keep up the pace I was going and add a bit more if I needed to. My next rival was now up ahead and I was coming up on him fast. I passed him just after the ½ way mark and injected a bit more pace into my run as I wanted to make sure my move stuck and I didn’t have to race him again.

Then I began to struggle. My legs were on fire and my breathing was heavy and once again the thought of stopping briefly crossed my mind. But I dug deep and kept going. Although the course is described as flat the small hills that were on the course felt like mountains at this point as I tried to go faster and leave the runner who had decided to keep me company behind!

I crested the final small hill and saw the bright yellow finish which seemed a lot further away than in the other races. I was running at my maximum and I had nothing left to put in a sprint. All I could do was to keep my pace up and not give in.

I crossed the line a second in front of the runner who had tried to beat me. Another couple of feet and she would have done. The time was 25:43 a new personal best if not the sub 25 I was aiming for. I felt good. I had nothing left in me to run anymore so I was happy in the knowledge that I had done my best and giving everything I had on the night.

Overall I enjoyed my second John Carr series and I learnt a lot from it too. Preparation is key to these races and a good warmup is essential. Pacing yourself is all important too so you can finish strongly and I know that I can go sub 25 one day. But the most important thing is to enjoy your running and make the most of it while you can.

 


the valley of my memories that started from a

single pipe, too dark to see beyond its mouth

too small to climb in and explore its stomach as it

spewed forth its watery contents

 

into the valley of my childhood

always moving fast in the same direction

through parts narrow and parts wide

as the sides of the valley rose and fell

 

running with the stream as

we played in its bowels

day after day after day

as the sunshine warmed wet pebbles

 

where it never rained or snowed

so we could build dens to hide in

as friends ran by seeking us

pretending to be brave soldiers

 

leaping over the narrow parts and

jumping from the highs to the lows

flying through the air like

peter pan, if only for a second

 

landing in a heap on stones

that cut and grazed our knees

our only scars of war

this was as brave as we got

 

and then the valley ended

disappearing into a tunnel

one we could crawl into

see into, no secrets in here

 

and we got through to the other side

to a dark place we did not recognise

this was not our playground

we did not belong here

 

so we would turn around and leave

this desolate place behind and

return to our valley, the valley

of a never ending childhood

© Andrew Smith 2014


Losing your mind in a

Society of overwhelment

Slowly turning into a

Sheep of society

Obeying the shepherd

Following the herd

Up hill n down dale

Into town and out of town

Under bridges, over bridges

Wherever you are told to go

By those who will sell you an

Unachievable dream

Wrapped up in wool

Just for ewe

 

© Andrew Smith 2014


This is me reading a poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley. I’ve decided to upload a reading as I’m frequently being told I have a very good voice for reading poetry and more. Personally I hate my voice but again this is very common amongst many people, so I have decided to put my voice out there and let the world decide! Follow the link to my Tumblr blog: http://andyqby19.tumblr.com/ to hear my reading.


This week I’ve changed the title of my blog slightly to better reflect the content. As some of you will have noticed parts of my blog are about life at uni, whereas other parts are about anything on my mind!

This week has been a largely uneventful week at uni for me. I missed the ‘Film and Cinema’ lecture on Monday morning because I was poorly. Tuesday I didn’t have a lecture so my first trip to uni was Thursday afternoon for ‘Men, Masculinity and Crime’. The lecture this week consisted of watching the film ‘Fightclub’ and analysing the film. For me the film was all about finding your identity and that applies equally to males and females and the rejection of the consumerist society we live in. the film went back to a more basic way of living where it seems it was easier to create an identity for yourself because you had less fingers pointing at you from all directions and corners of society telling you what you had to wear, what to watch, what sport to play and on and on and on, in order to be considered a woman or a man. The film seemed to go back to the caveman era and showed the base emotions of society as the foundation for the building and maintaining of an identity. I feel that many films are like ‘Fightclub’ in that there is often a hidden message underneath the plotline and it is up to the individual to find that message, make sense of it and reflect on how they live their lives in comparison. Quite often I think many people watch a film purely for entertainment without looking deeper and finding the meaning and message in the film. They watch the film for pleasure noticing only the car chases, fights and explosions without seeing the life messages behind them.

Which leads me neatly onto my next ‘the media’ as studied in the lecture ‘Representing the Social’. This module gets you thinking about the world we all inhabit and looking at it differently. This week was about one of my favourite subjects the media. The media affects all of us whether we like it or not. From the traditional forms of media such as books, newspapers, radio and television to the new forms such as Facebook, Twitter and the internet itself we are constantly surrounded by the media and therefore media representations of life, society and the world. The main question for many academics is ‘does the media represent or construct society’?

If you ask anyone who is connected to the media they will tell you that they are merely reflecting on what goes on in society and the audience can pick and choose what it watches or reads and therefore make reasoned choice about what it believes. However another very different school of thought believes the media construct the society we live in by altering the images they show us, telling a story in a particular way or reporting on one story and not another. By doing this the media can have an immense influence on how we perceive the world around us and change the way we see society.

One way of doing this is to buy three different newspapers on the same day and look at them in detail and how they are constructed. Say for instance there had been a march against austerity the day before or a murder or someone’s human right’s had been violated, do the newspaper’s report on these stories in the same way? Do they occur on the same page in-between the same stories? Are the same words used for the stories? Is the same political slant given to the stories? The simple answer is no. Different newspaper’s will report a story in different ways. One story might have the victim’s story first, another, the perpetrator. One story might have a right-wing slant, another a left-wing slant, another newspaper might not give the story much space or not even report it at all. By doing this you can see how the media in its different forms constructs a view of the world from their perspective and because the reader may only read that particular story it will influence the readers view of the world around them.

This is especially important in today’s information saturated world we live in. How do we know what is and is not real? Who do we believe? How do we know if an event happened as it has been reported or if it has been altered in some way to reflect the views of the newspaper? The answer is we don’t but if there is a story that holds your interest, gets you thinking and asking questions it is worth getting three or four different perspectives of the same story and seeing which parts are reported similarly and which are reported differently. Research the background of the story makers. What political affiliations do they have? Which people do they consider important? Who are their friends? All of this information will tell you a lot about the background to the story, why they consider it important and the world they are trying to construct for you to live in and believe in.

There is a lot more I could write about the media but I don’t have the space in this blog. The main thing to think about next time your reading a newspaper or the internet or watching the news is that the main reason the media exists is to sell stories and make money for their owners. It’s not to tell you the truth as it happened but to tell you a story that makes you want to buy that particular newspaper over another newspaper. And never be afraid to question what you read and are told. Question the motives of those behind the story, question why they think it is important and question yourself too. Why is it important to you? Why do you care about this story and not another one? Always question.

Otherwise it’s been a normal week for me. Friday was a very long day with four hours of lectures and then a trip to Hebden Bridge for a special Shindig hosted by the amazing Winston Plowes. If you don’t know a Shindig is a spoken word event which features one or two guest performers and an open mic session. I performed a couple of old favourites and a new poem which went down very well. The highlight for me though was an old lady telling the main guest he was ‘rubbish’ and should ‘get off the stage’. It was one of those moments when you shouldn’t laugh but can’t help it.

Saturday was spent watching my local amateur rugby league team Queensbury play out a tough 18-18 draw with local rivals Illingworth, the game wasn’t the most skilful but was a tough game of rugby played mainly in the forwards by two teams refusing to give an inch, a very tough game emphasised by the sound of flesh slamming into flesh, blood on faces and sweat pouring into the pitch from said players. These young lads play the game for pleasure yet still face the same pitfalls as professional players in the form of aching limbs and injuries. The main difference is that these lads have to get up for work on Monday morning with their legs still aching from chasing the opposition, bruises all over their bodies, black eyes, missing teeth and the odd broken limb. It is a tough, uncompromising sport just as much at the amateur level as it is at the professional level.

Thanks for reading and take care.


A long blog this week but quite a lot has happened. Most of it is not about life at uni but that is the reality part!

And so to week 2 back at uni and it started off with a typical dark, wet drive to Huddersfield on Monday morning. The mornings are getting darker and for some strange reason that also brings with it rain! Mind you it wasn’t too bad. A light drizzle that necessitated the use of headlights on the car but nothing too bad. I don’t mind a morning drizzle to be honest and once I’d got to Huddersfield it added a bit of atmosphere to the morning and made the stroll through the town centre to uni more enjoyable. Everybody else seemed to have an extra step in their stride too as they didn’t want to get wet but I enjoyed taking my time and watching other people rush about.

My first lecture on a Monday morning is Film and Cinema and this is fast becoming my favourite lecture. I’m not usually one to watch films but studying classic British social realism films is reigniting my interest in films. The seminar was very interesting for one particular reason for me. It highlighted a gulf in opinion between those students like me who look for the minute detail in the films such as the mention of a car which was a luxury for most people in the 60s and those students who found the films boring, lacking action and seemed surprised that they were made in black and white! It’s a shame because I feel they are missing out seeing the creation of a new genre of films that helped show Britain in a different light and shape working class culture as we know it today. A documentary about the dramatist Shelagh Delaney and her home town of Salford really rammed the point home. When showing the back streets of Salford and the people the film was in black and white and some of the cinematography was beautiful with the rain seemingly making a hole in the roofs of the houses so sharp was the image quality. In complete contrast was Shelagh herself talking about her life but filmed in colour. You got a real sense of Shelagh being the future of Salford against the grit and grime of old working class Salford.

Monday evening brought another Puzzle Hall Poets event and this one was amazing. Everybody was on top form and the delivery of the readings was so good. It was a real pleasure to not only by there but to read some of my own poems and be a part of it. Although I’m still not entirely convinced by the quality of my own work and my reading ability everybody else seems to enjoy it so who am I to argue! I enjoy writing and performing and this has given me an opportunity to discover my own creative talents which I never knew I had! If you want to do, something just do it. You may surprise yourself!

Which nicely leads me into a discussion I had this week with a writing friend about how to write contemporary poetry? As with any art form it is a highly contested view as to what does and does not constitute contemporary poetry but one of the standards is economy of words. This is difficult for me as I am a very wordy person but it is also something that I could do well to learn, saying what I want to say in as few words as possible. But again I found myself asking the question is a poem good because it conforms to an acceptable standard or because it gets across the message you want it to? Can reducing the words take away from the meaning or does it add clarity and focus to it? It’s something I’m going to look into and see if I can improve my poetry by reducing my word count and hopefully adding more focus to my poetry.

Tuesday brought nothing more exciting than having to listen to a lecturer laugh after every single sentence they uttered. You’re not a comedian dear no need to add the laughter.

Wednesday was a strange day. Firstly an early morning visit to my physiotherapist for treatment on my left Achilles which has been giving me pain for quite a few weeks now. If anybody goes for a sports massage be prepared for pain! I was almost in tears as she rammed her fingers into the back of my leg. I wasn’t prepared for it and thought it would be nice and gentle but no, pain is the way with a sports massage and I will be prepared next time! It does work by the way so it is worth the money and the pain.

Next was what I assumed to be a routine visit to the opticians for an eye test but turned out to be anything but. Unfortunately it turns out that I have a build-up of fluid behind my right eye which is affecting my vision. I’ve now got an appointment at the eye hospital for more tests so until they are done I don’t know anything more. I can still see out of my right eye and it has been caught quite early so fingers crossed it won’t be too bad.

Thursday brought a welcome return of one of my favourite lecturers mainly because her voice is so……………….distinctive? Always a pleasure to be in one of her lectures because she is also quite funny too but still gets the message across effectively.

Thursday night was another poetry reading event this time a new one at the Square Chapel, Halifax. Again some amazing performances but the standout for me was a poem written about two English girls of Yemeni descent who were taken back to the Yemen and sold by their father into slavery to two very distant relatives. A very touching and moving poem. Once again I got favourable comments about my voice and my delivery even though I felt that I’d made a mess of my poem.

Friday and two of my favourite lectures that really make you think about your own and others identity and how it is created. How much influence do we have over the creation of our own individual identity? Do others create it for us without us realising it?

And so to Sunday after a busy Saturday. I’ve been quite productive today and will be in bed soon ready for another busy Monday. Take care everybody.