31 May 2013

One Whole Month! #BEDM

It's over. Finito. Done. Completed. The end. 

For this, I feel a mix of joy and sadness. Joy for having taken part and (just about) managing to complete it. Sadness for the teency gaping hole it is sure to leave. How does everyone else feel? I'm not going to be inundating your Twitter feed with #BEDM any longer.

I learnt that I really enjoy writing, and blogging. I also learnt I don't really give a shit about comments (or lack thereof). Validation is really not very high on my list of priorities. 

It was particularly enjoyable to discover and read all the other blogs and posts; seeing each of the different takes on the same topic. There is nothing I can think of that I disliked apart from maybe faltering but that's my own fault.

Would I do it again? Hell's yeah!... But not in June, alright.

This month, I took part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM). This is day 31 and the last post. Thank you for being here with me. It's been fun.

See you somewhen...


30 May 2013

Who inspires you? #BEDM

This one was difficult, actually. My family are a given and I have a few friends who also really motivate me to do better and achieve. 

But, outside of that, someone being deserving of the label of 'inspirational' can be quite a tall order. When I started this post, I wasn't immediately sure who I could give that label to. In fact, I didn't even have any idea where the post was going but it's no real surprise that it's about to become rooted in science. 

For me, two people have this label. They have genuinely shaped my life into what it is today. And do you know what's even better, they're female scientists!

My A level physics teacher was amazing. Without her, I probably wouldn't have started out on the path to study physics at university and thus, wouldn't be where I am now. I really wish I could find contact details for her so that I could thank her.

The other was the unofficial second supervisor / mentor during my PhD. She is a professor of physics at Manchester and I am not blowing smoke up anybody's derriere when I say she really is an amazing woman and a brilliant physicist. Not only that, she was invaluable to me, both on an academic and personal level, during the PhD. She spurred me on and inspired me to finish the damn thing, true story. Without her, I wouldn't be here.

This video sees her talking about girls doing physics on BBC One Breakfast a year ago, not too long after she'd written me a lovely reference for my job. :D



We need more ladies doing physics!

In some ways, I wish I still had some connection to teaching physics as I would feel honoured to be someone's inspiration (male or female), however small, for embarking upon a path that sees them doing what they love.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 30. The penultimate post!

29 May 2013

Morning Ritual #BEDM

My morning typically commences with not wanting to get out to bed. It's not necessarily that I'm not a morning person (sometimes I can be), I just don't want to be out of the bed. Simple. This is completely at odds with often not wanting to be in the bed when 'bedtime' arrives.

Anyway. So, the rest of the morning involves readjusting to the reality that I am, in fact, out of the bed. Thankfully, I enjoy my job so it's not too much of an ordeal. It would be a lot worse if not. I dislike feeling rushed so I try to allow myself enough time to 'wake up'. The snooze button can wreak havoc on my efforts, mind.

Shower. This is a requirement in order to effectively wake me up. I will use this time to decide what to wear and maybe decide what I will do first when I get to work.

Out of the shower. Brush ma teef'. Toner. Moisturiser. On with either some TV (BBC One Breakfast) or music. Maybe reply to the odd text, tweet or message if time. Sometimes even if I don't have time. Living on the edge, I tell thee.

Clothes.

Time to sort out my fizzog and barnet. Heat protection spray. Tangle teezer. Mascara. Eyeliner. Brows. Blusher. Bit o' eyeshadow maybe. Blow-dry. Straighten. And that's all pretty much it there.

Get together anything I need to take to work e.g. lunch if I've made any and gym stuff if I can face it.

Breakfast. Of late this hasn't featured too heavily. Ordinarily, I can happily eat as soon as I get up or just before I leave. Lately, I might grab a banana from the fruit bowl by the front door and then eat it at work. 

Everything I do is in a particular order and a particular way. I would say I rarely deviate.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM). This is day 29 and was mostly dull as dishwater.

28 May 2013

Bad Advice #BEDM

Some of the worst advice I have ever received? It's quite general really but I think it has to be 'grin and bear it'. In my opinion, there are very few scenarios where this actually helps you. Most of the time, saying or doing something about the situation will stand you in better stead than if you just accept being given the shit end of the stick.

Some pearls of wisdom for you, right there. Oh no, you're welcome! 

What? Oh, that doesn't pacify you? Then, here's that bad advice you were hoping for.

Conversely, you can find some pretty good advice – nested in some pretty funny shizz – in a copy of Justin Halpern's Shit My Dad Says. I highly recommend it.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 28.

27 May 2013

Secret Talent #BEDM

What am I good at that nobody knows about? I could make some remark about seeming to have an awesome ability to allow people to take advantage of me but I'm just in a bad mood and so, I'm not going to say that. And this will be a scheduled post so you won't know when I was actually in a bad mood. Ha!

Turns on bragging ability.

Maybe two things spring to mind. Music and Food.

Music. At the age of 8, I knew nothing about this stuff. That's a lie, when I was 4, I got up on stage at Butlins and sang Little Blackbird. The cutest according to my parents but of course, they would say that. (I would provide a link but I have no idea what song this is?) I digress. So, I'm eight years old and two of my siblings play instruments. One day, I remark to my parents 'What if I played an instrument?' and that was that. The violin and I became one. Or something. Until well, we weren't any more but that's another story for another day children. One might say I am not too shabby at singing either (this feels far too close to blowing my own horn. Here come the hives!). I've been in a few different choirs and did finally pluck up the courage to try karaoke in my early 20's (and, on the rare occasion I do go, I mostly haven't looked back since). Oh and there was that time when I was about 10 years old that I sang some Celine Dion in the school talent contest. Yes, you read that correctly. Three female work colleagues and I may or may not have started an acapella/harmony ensemble. Potentially watch this space. ; )

Food. We already know how much I bloody love this stuff, and anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram will know only too well how much of my life (or at least, photo taking) revolves around food. In addition, I seem to have this innate ability to completely shut off my 'fullness' filter. As a result, I will continue to eat until I am close to bursting. And I seem to have been further honing this skill as my age progresses. There are certainly times when it feels like I might see it all again but that's never a real possibility. That's another lie. I remember one particular incident in Spain when I actually had to go to the ladies and pep talk myself into not reacquainting myself with my dinner. True story. It all worked out for the best, though. I obviously give good pep talks. This is all fascinating I am sure but it wasn't actually where I was originally headed with this one. My baking skills are alright, I suppose you could say.

A year or so ago now, I made the really stupid sisterly decision to make my brother a birthday cake for his 25th. Not the birthday cheesecake, a real cake. Thinking of an idea for the decoration was actually pretty difficult. He likes a few different things but everything I considered just seemed too difficult; a climbing wall, a motorbike, lego, something science-themed (a microscope definitely seemed like a party pooper),... But there was one thing that, at the time, we'd both become a little obsessed with. We'd even managed to get dad into it! And, so the Angry Birds victoria sponge was born (like a labour in almost every sense except it was a three day labour and an actual baby definitely would've perished in the birth canal):

And this is a terrible photo of said Angry Birds victoria sponge! But seems to be the only one I can find.
Every time I made a bird or some other component that wasn't quite right, my solution? 'Oh, guess I'll just have to eat that one then!' Probably ate about 10 birds. Had sugar withdrawal for two days afterwards (not a true story). It was fun but bloody hard work. 

Oh, I suppose I am half-decent at science (except that I'm actually not) but I guess people do know about that. Talking about it really isn't necessary.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 27.

26 May 2013

Fantasy Dinner Party #BEDM

So, it's soirée time...

Guest List

Who would I invite? There wasn't a great deal of thought necessary for this one. I vaguely recall being asked this question once before and my answer being almost instantaneous. I am not obsessed by, and am largely indifferent to, celebrity so I very much doubt anyone famous would appear on this list. No. The only people I would really want at my dinner party would be people I would just like to see one last time. Or people that, had circumstances been different, I could've met or may have been part of my life. It sounds a little morbid but, as some of my work colleagues may have recently discovered, I have a tendency to develop morbid fascinations. It's just that I would like to meet these people as an adult. To have a real conversation with them. To know them, well as much as you can in an evening. It sounds deep, and I debated going with something that might appear more lighthearted. But then I thought fuck it, this is my honest answer. Who are these people?
Virginia and Alfred John Barratt my maternal grandparents
Denver Sanders my uncle
P.M. my paternal grandfather
Patricia Elliott my auntie
Ted Barratt my great uncle
My mother*
* My mother is still here. I just know she would give anything to see these people again as well.

Playlist

What is playing? This would be the part where a celebrity, or two, might be desired. The live audo backdrop would consist of classics from Lionel Richie (I'll leave the decision about whether to bring along The Commodores up to him but they're welcome of course), Marvin Gaye, Otis Reading, Smokey Robinson, Wilson Pickett, The Temptations, Gladys Knight. Essentially, the whole of Motown.

Menu

What are we eating? I feel like I am treating this like my last supper or something rather than choosing something I would genuinely serve at a dinner party. Some of my favourite food is West Indian e.g. curried goat (or mutton), rice and peas. But I am much in love with sushi, and authentic Chinese and Italian food. Oh, I know! I'd have an all you can eat buffet of all cuisines. (Whuuut? This is a fantasy! I don't want to hear your negativity about waste, greed and unrealistic demands. In this fantasy, I can eat as much as I want without getting full, regurgitating or gaining weight and there are no starving people in Africa, OK?!) There would definitely need to be dessert as well. Cheesecake. BOOM! Done. Bottom line? all. the. food.

Merriment

Is there entertainment? Is there entertainment?! Getting to know the lovely guest list and enjoying the wonderful music would be merriment enough for me.

That was not as difficult as I thought. And I hope I pulled you out of morbidness, Motown will do that for ya. : )

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 26.

25 May 2013

Music Love #BEDM

The prompt for this post would've coincided perfectly with Saturday since I attended the Dot To Dot music festival in Bristol on Saturday. Ya know, if I hadn't been such a poor excuse for a human being blogger. Instead, you're getting some well-matured content. I'm not saving it am I?

Moving on.

This is a difficult topic for me. Music is a huge part of my life. It really would be a serious consideration whether, given the choice, I should lose my sight or my hearing. It can depend on the day. And it is doubly difficult to narrow down my choices. Five albums? Where do I even start?! I'm not always an album-person anyway; there are some individual songs I adore whilst having no idea what the rest of the album sounds like. I feel naughty admitting that, not sure why. 

I was trying to decide between five favourites of all time or my five current favourites... OK, I've decided. Some of them are favourites, some are those I just really want to share whilst their residence on the all-time-favourites list is as yet, undecided. Discovering new music is a biggie so one or two will also be quite new to me.

Back To Front – Lionel Richie

This album holds a very special place in my, and my family's, heart(s) for very personal reasons that I am not going to share here. But it's also because it was the soundtrack to a good few years of my youth. My dad had purchased a new car with a CD player (!) and this was one of the CDs we owned. I'm not even sure I can pick out one particular track as my favourite, I love them all, but All Night Long and Dancing On The Ceiling never fail to get me to my feet. Never. Lionel also just seems like an awesome dude!

Ceremonials – Florence + The Machine

I was very nearly going to cheat and choose two albums – Ceremonials and Lungs by Florence – as one but I have been strict with myself. The main reason Ceremonials pips Lungs to the post is because I've listened to it less and so there is still an amount of novelty to it. Her voice is phenomenal; it is unmistakeable on the radio. Several of her songs are haunting and the sounds she chooses to put together are very original. I saw her live in Manchester a few years ago; just incredible.

Six60 – Six60

I discovered this rock band less than a week ago at Dot To Dot and feel very privileged to have seen them live. They were immense! They really got the crowd going and I danced liked an absolute nutcase. Not only that, but I also got to meet these five lovely guys from New Zealand after the show, have a chat and a picture with them and also get a free, signed copy of their album. Not bad for a night's work, eh? My current favourites are Lost and Forever but genuinely so many of the others are good. Their Wiki page has an apt description of their music; a blend of soul, rock, dubstep and drum and bass. Check out their music here.

Bad Blood – Bastille

Another one that is fairly new to me. Favourite tracks? Probably Pompeii, Bad Blood and Laura Palmer. The Abbey Road Sessions on the Extended Cut are very good. It's getting late and my battery is close to empty (the charger is so. far. away) so I'll leave you with this pretty glowing paraphrased report I gave to a friend recently: I am in love with this album and have been listening to it nonstop all day whilst cleaning! The start of one song reminds me of Thorin's theme/Misty Mountains. And there's reggae/mod and African influences in others. Who wouldn't like these things?!

xx – The xx

And last but by no means least, this is one that has actually been gathering a little metaphorical dust on my Spotify but has had some good air time in the past. They're Indie pop supposedly (I really should try harder to learn genres) although 'indie' has somewhat lost its meaning now. My favourite track would have to beeeee Heart Skipped A Beat but the entire album is great; even the start of the Intro gives me goosebumps. Ohhh see, now I've put it on and even at 12:30am, it's given me that music kick! A brilliant album.

Phew! I'm glad that's done. Turns out I like British, specifically English artists then.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 25.

24 May 2013

What's in your fridge? #BEDM

Right, it seems I completely gave up on BEDM. Another bank holiday weekend happened and well, I was just busy. I've had this draft post window open for over an hour and not written a thing (although, I have also been watching The Apprentice and updating my Project 365 page). So, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I clearly don't want to share what's in my fridge...

Maybe because I just imagine it to be completely dull, for all involved, mainly for me. That's not to say I have disliked others' posts on this.

What's in my fridge? Milk, margarine, yoghurt, vanilla buttercream, butter (that's a lot of frickin' lactose that should not be in there! Onwards), raspberries, chilli's, salad, cucumber, sweetcorn,... are you bored yet? I'm doing this from memory. There is a lot of other stuff in there that belongs to my flatmate. Oh and fnally, leftover sausage, red wine and rosemary risotto I made yesterday. 


Now move along, there's nothing more to see here... Well, until I post the next late BEDM post, that is.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 24.

23 May 2013

Compliments #BEDM

Thanks to dear Shippers over at Just Me, this post now needs to have a slightly different slant. (Read hers. Yeah, she beat me to the punch. And did it way better than I could've done it. Oh look! A compliment mixed with a back-handed self put-down. Definitely a British thing.)

Anyway. Yes, I don't take compliments well either. All the BEDM posts I've read thus far today say the same. Nobody is good at this shit.

And I could probably talk about that till the cows come home (reference). But I've decided I'm going to talk about two particular compliments. You'll know the ones I'm talking about, we all get them at some point.

"You're so nice!"

Yes, this one. This one I have a very strong aversion to. Nice? Nice? There are so many other words in the English language than measly, little 'nice'. It just means next-to-nothing. I concede, whilst some of the alternatives are largely unsuitable in the majority of situations, there are some that I would particularly enjoy hearing — either genuinely or for comic effect — and then there are those which induce a straight-up WTF?!:
absorbing, acceptable, admirable, agreeable, alluring, amiable, amicable, angelic, appealing, approachable, approved, attractive, beauteous, beautiful, becoming, befitting, benevolent, benign, bewitching, breezy, charismatic, charming, choice, civil, classy, clubby, comely, comme il faut, commendable, compatible, conforming, congenial, congruous, considerate, copacetic, cordial, correct, courteous, cute, dainty, dandy, dazzling, decent, decorous, delectable, delicate, delicious, delightful, desirable, divine, ducky, effective, electrifying, elegant, enamoring, engrossing, enhancing, enjoyable, enthralling, enticing, entrancing, excellent, exquisite, eye-catching, fair, fascinating, favourable, fetching, fine, fine and dandy, fit, fitting, foxy, friendly, genial, gentle, good, good-humoured, good-looking, good-natured, gorgeous, graceful, gracious, grand, gratifying, handsome, helpful, hunky-dory, ideal, infatutating, ingratiating, inviting, in-keeping, irresistible, kind, kindly, likeable, lovable, lovely, magnificent, magnetising, marvellous, mild, neat, nifty, obliging, okay, peach, peachy, pleasant, pleasing, pleasurable, pleasureful, polite, prepossessing, presentable, pretty, proper, provocative, pulchritudinous, pussycat, radiant, rapturous, ravishing, ready, refined, resplendent, satisfying, seducing, seductive, seemly, shapely, sightly, simpatico, sociable, spiffy, splendid, statuesque, stunning, sublime, superb, superior, sweet, swell, symmetrical, taking, tantalizing, tasteful, tempting, titillating, to one's liking, to one's taste, unpresumptuous, urbane, warm, welcome, well-chosen, well-formed, well-mannered, winning, winsome, wonderful, worthy,...

... the list goes on. Choose one.

 "You're really interesting..."

This one, and sometimes the previous one, can be swiftly followed by the wondrous conjunction but. So, hearing the first three words doesn't exactly fill you with joy or hope. It's usually the result of some dude trying to palm you off with some BS about how interesting you are but not interesting enough to consider you any further. Although, I received one variant which replaced 'really' with 'the most'. That induced a very definite warm and fuzzy feeling and you know, might just be the nicest compliment I have ever received. : )

So, those compliments, I am definitely not any good at taking and nor do I want to be. Mind you, when I say I'm not very good, I mean to say that my attempted internal response is 'your loss, mate'. I don't always believe it but I do try.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 23.

22 May 2013

Thirteen year old me #BEDM

This is probably going to be construed as cheating. But if I don't do what I am about to, it would just be a regurgitated piece of writing, anyway.

Back at the start of 2011, I got the idea from Helen over at Clear Your Heart to write a letter to my 16 year old self. This is the letter I am now going to use as inspiration for today's post; writing a letter to my 13 year old self. What I'm going to do though, is update it slightly since it is now almost 2 and a half years old. You can, of course, read the original.

_____________________________

Dear 13 year old me,

it's 1998 and you're in your second year of high school, midway through some of the best and worst times of your life. You opt for German but will one day wish you'd chosen French. You think you hate physics and right now, you do. I never blamed you really; high school physics is quite terribly taught. I'm not even going to try and convince you to like it because your hatred for it proves quite fruitful later. Do listen to your teachers but you should know, they are far from omniscient. One piece of advice: keep the violin lessons. Go private. Anything. Just keep playing the violin.

Boys are weird. You're right, they are. You're choosy but I know you still have a major crush on that guy. Yes, that guy. He's really not good enough, Jen. If you think about it, really think about it, he's not even very nice to you really. Avoid him and his friends. He will kick himself later, believe me.

Let go of the bullying and dismiss all those negative memories. Read this. Life gets better. Listen to your mom when she tells you that girl did it simply because she's jealous of you. When you meet her years later she won't have changed and you come to pity her. People do want to be friends with you, in fact, as many will tell you, you make a great friend. Please believe me. You need to stop testing every friendship to the nth degree, and expecting it to fail. You lose a few friendships this way; being so reluctant to open up in fear of being let down, or expecting them to 'wake up' and realise they don't like you. They will, and do, love you!

Thanks to the world's best mom, you never have a problem with your hair colour. She really is right; people pay a shedload of money to fake it. Being a redhead will become a big part of who you are.

University, that big scary word that you've heard grown ups talk about that you see as having no relation to you, is something you will open your mind up to. And there you will study something you never would've imagined! But I don't want to spoil the journey and metamorphosis for you. Your parents probably worry how you'll cope in terms of food and making friends but they will even surprise themselves with how wrong they were. In fact, your fussiness is kicked into shape (really Jen, you should try to deal with that a little better than you do. I only say that because I know you can), you learn to cook, meet lots of wonderful people as well as a handful of some not-so great people and, here's something specific, join a choir. It encapsulates some more of the best and worst times of your life.

You go through at least two heartbreaks whilst you're there and I'm not going to lie, they'll be pretty damn shit. In fact, that doesn't even cut it. But you'll be alright. Think long and hard about your choices. Don't listen to anyone else and ignore wanting to please others. Know that walking away is OK, and when that crosses your mind, oh and it will, consider it seriously; carpe diem! Hold onto your friends, you'll regret it if you don't. Stop being so argumentative and learn to relax. I know how much you hate to admit you need it, but if you need help, please just ask.

And all of that is only scratching the surface. You have so much to look forward. I can tell you, save for a few tweaks, right now, in 2013, you are happy! :D I don't think I even need to tell you this — because it is something that even now, I can't seem to change even when I want to — but always, always be yourself.

I would love to meet you but I can't so just this: take care little lady.

Love,

The future you x
All images from weheartit.com

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 22.

21 May 2013

Dream job #BEDM

OK, this shouldn't be too difficult. The job I currently have matches up pretty well with my dream job. Or at least, it comes pretty close to what I have wanted to do for the last 5 years or so.

As an aside, I do sometimes wonder if I enjoy my job because I am easily pleased after wanting so desperately for my PhD to be finished. But I'm pretty confident that's not the case. I'm not a bare minimum (BM) kind of person. I often like to make things interesting (read: difficult) for myself. Just as a test, you know? It means I wouldn't stick at something long if it were too easy, not challenging me or I wasn't learning anything new.

What?

So, what do I do? I am a publishing editor for a scientific research journal; they publish academic research in applied physics, both in print (weekly) and online. It was the only job I applied for post-PhD and was ecstatic when they called me a week later to offer me the job. Time for a picture. This is the reception of my building. Pretty swanky really.


Why?

By the time I finished my A level in physics, I couldn’t envisage myself doing anything other than physics. My A level physics teacher was so inspirational that I considered being a physics teacher; we can never have too many of those! I imagine it may have all started sooner than that, though. My father loves science and would sing its praises at every available opportunity. Also, during high school, I attended a WiSET (Women in Science, Engineering and Technology) activity day funded by my school. With all this, I had already begun to disregard the idea that science was only for boys!

During my bachelor's degree, I knew I wanted to put my background in physics to direct use and wanted to make a contribution to physics in some way so, a career in science, technology or engineering was always the goal.

After the PhD, I decided conducting scientific research wasn’t for me. Working within the scientific publishing sector would mean that whilst I wasn’t doing research anymore, I could still feel connected and even help to facilitate the communication and progress of scientific research. The job description was exactly what I was looking for and the company itself seemed like a great institution to work for.

Fundamentally, I love physics and it is the future; I want to be a part of that!

How?

This is probably the boring bit. I manage the peer review process for the journal; the system used to assess the quality of scientific research before it is published. First, I assess articles submitted for their suitability; most importantly, whether the topic of each article falls within the scope of the journal and ensuring it meets other stringent criteria outlined by the journal and us as a publishing company. Then, I select appropriate referees to review the article which will be other experts within the field the article concerns, i.e. 'peers'; academics and industry professionals, for example. These reviews allow me to make a decision on the next course of action required; fundamentally, whether the article should be rejected, revised by the authors or accepted for publication. Each day is a mixture of all these activities and I manage the article’s progress from start to finish. Accepted articles are then passed to the production department. Scientists and researchers can be quite eccentric and there isn't a day that goes by where we don't have a little giggle at some of the things they can come out with when reviewing a paper, or the authors themselves when responding.

There are perks. On an occasional basis, I attend conferences to promote the journal and its activity, and to meet potential authors and referees. I also liaise and meet with members of the Editorial Board; the people who ensure the quality of the journal. After just 6 months in the job, they sent me to San Francisco to represent the company and the journal. I had a wonderful holiday and fun times, and met some truly awesome people. I shall be going to Rhodes, Greece in August and Denver, Colarado in November. Not bad really!

But what if...?

This doesn't mean there aren't other jobs that interest me or that I would be happy doing. There were a number of jobs I wanted as a youngster, including a singer, an interior designer, a forensic scientist and a teacher. But those motivations dissipated. Although, I envisage something with music would still be quite enjoyable.

In some way, starting a business of my own would be a dream, even though I'd have no idea what the hell I'm doing! And my mind flirts with the idea of something creative to which I could apply my affinity for logic, efficiency and organisation to. Top of that list comes a bakery/cupcakery/wedding cake maker or a stationery/letterpress business. Maybe one day eh...?

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 21.

20 May 2013

Newsflash #BEDM

Most of you are going to hate this. You think I'm joking. I'm not. In fact, most of you should just leave now. Why? Because this is going to be about science. Yup, see ya! *waves*

For those that have opted to stick around — and I realise I could just be talking to myself here now — I'm going to talk about something in the science news today. Why? Because I bloody love the stuff, that's why. In this context, today merely means current. Here's a pretty picture to keep you interested.

An embryo at the blastocyst stage. Credit: BBC News
I'm the first to castigate biology and how inferior it is to physics (all retorts welcome in the comments section) but actually, it's mostly in jest. Biology is too difficult for me; there are too many things to remember and it doesn't mix well with my fundamentally logical approach and mind. I do however, find both it and the continued research triumphs increasingly interesting.

This research published in the journal Cell [1] details the use of cloning to create human embryonic stem cells. I am all in favour of stem cells; their potential to create a variety of tissues to restore or even regrow those that are damaged is astounding. In addition, cloning circumnavigates the difficulties of donor rejection, since the cells and thus, tissue, are a perfect match.

There is however, a raging ethical debate about the use of stem cells, and the discourse about cloning has ensued for a long time. We all remember Dolly, surely? No? She was the first mammal (a sheep) to be cloned in 1996 using the same technique employed here; somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). There have previously been scientific achievements realised with the creation of embryonic-like cells using proteins to 'reset' the adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. [2,3] But this research is arguably more successful.

As a side note, do you know why else I'm so enthused by this research? They used a laser! Saying I'm a fan of lasers would be a significant understatement. But who doesn't love lasers?!

This research is a significant step in furthering regenerative medicine but a chasm still exists between this and creating the first cloned human. The ethical issues will continue to be hotly debated but this is, in its own right, some great science.

You can also read about this, and see a video of contracting heart cells, at ScienceNews.org. [2]

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 20.


References

[1] Masahito Tachibana et al. Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Nuclear Transfer (2013) Cell doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.006
[2] Meghan Rosen "Cloning produces human embryonic stem cells" (15 May 2013) ScienceNews.org Link
[3] Hongyan Zhou et al. "Generation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Using Recombinant Proteins" (2009) Cell Stem Cell 4 (5), 381-384 doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2009.04.005

19 May 2013

Favourite Tradition #BEDM

I'm late on this post and there is no real reason. I was free, and I even knew what I would write about. I just decided to be super lazy.

There are a few obvious traditions I could talk about; Christmas, Bonfire Night and Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day); all of which I am a big fan of. But actually, potentially my favourite tradition is one I no longer observe. I debated between the Friday family swim followed by fish and chips from my adolescence, which was a pretty great tradition. But I opted for something a little different, and one that I am a little surprised that I remember so fondly.

Back-to-school traditions. You would spend most of the year getting excited for the 6 weeks summer holidays. Sometimes those 6 weeks wouldn't feel long enough, other times you could get quite bored off your rocker. But whichever the case, without realising it I would actually look forward to the last one or two weeks when the 'Back to school' preparations would start. We'd travel to my auntie's area of residence and visit the shop of her friend to pick out any new school uniform. This alone was actually pretty fun. Maybe it was because we'd often get some non-school related clothes, too. Then there would be the new school backpack, pencil case, stationery, and shoes. The older I got, the harder I had to battle to get the attire I desired. The fact that it was essentially futile never seemed to dawn on me. Despite this, I was always excited to reach this part of the year and couldn't wait to strut my stuff on the first day back at school. Within a single morning of being back at my education establishment, the excitement was of course, all over. But it was nice while it lasted! :D

Do we need a little media? Me missing my two front teeth, trying to say cheese at ~7 years old (maybe).


This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 19.

18 May 2013

Best Friends #BEDM

I'm very lucky to possess five firm best friends; my mom and dad, sister and two brothers. If I needed any of them, they'd step up without question. And unconditional love is a given.

The idea of a best friend changes a lot as you get older. It's not like high school anymore. And thanks to my shitty high school experience with 'friends', my style of friendship that spawned out of that often baffles the average person. So, how might I act if you're my friend? Mainly berate and tease you.  The more of the former that occurs, the more I like you. And if you reciprocate, you're a keeper. I'm probably not going to call or text you everyday and I expect you not to get 'pissy' about that.

I would say I have a few 'best friends' (le Clique spring to mind, you know who you are!) but I am going to talk about one in particular today (mainly because I am pushed for time and because it's my blog and that's how I wanna roll today so ner). Anyone who knows me, and I mean really knows me, probably wouldn't be surprised to discover one of my best friends is male. I mean, you know where you are with boy bessies. If you're being a dick, they'll tell you you're being a dick. I appreciate that. You can get all sorts of insider tips about how boys' brains (don't) work. And they won't get their non-existent knickers in a twist if you don't call them for a while. So, who is he?

Batman.

Yup, that's right; his name is Batman. OK, it's not his real name obviously. And no, I'm not deliberately trying to conceal his identity. It is actually how I refer to him. And me? I'm Robin. How cute is this picture? It's not us of course but it's pretty close. Well, that is if I were a boy, he were no longer ethnic and the photo wasn't from 1966.


Moving on.

I met him in 2006 when I was doing my MSc at Manchester. (Wow, I've known him 7 years?! That's crazy.) We both started a job raising money for the university by telephoning alumni, reading a ridiculously long script and asking for donations. Our sense of humours were rather well-aligned and it wasn't long before we were ripping one another to shreds, and coming back for more. He also liked the music and the alcomohol. The fun possibilities were endless! I know what you might be thinking, there's got to be more to it than that? The whole opposite sex issue thing... Nope. Nothing. He is one of the best people I know and we get on like a house on fire. It's not complicated. And friendships shouldn't be, right? We can not talk for ages but will always just pick up where we left off.

Sadly, I cannot remember where the 'Batman and Robin' thing came from. No doubt based on the fact that we make a pretty fucking awesome duo. We send each other superhero hugs regularly.

Today's topic must've been on my mind last night as I decided to give him a call. But not under normal conditions. Oh no. I opted for a chit chat whilst meandering home after some drinks and live music in Bristol. This is standard Batman and Robin behaviour; we will call one another after a night out, sat on public transport or wandering the streets, quite intoxicated. And it will always start with a Batmaaaaaaaan! or Robiiiiiiiiiin! With the other returning the appropriate greeting. In true Batman and Robin style, the conversation lasted 90 minutes and was full of jokes, ridicule mixed with caring remarks, current events, miss you's and some seriousness.

I think we're going to be friends for a long time. And that's pretty frickin' great.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 18.
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Image credit: J G Klein, CC0 1.0

17 May 2013

Walk to work #BEDM

There are a few different routes I can take to get to work. If I take the most direct route, it's pretty short; less than a mile (0.7) and only takes ~10-15 minutes. It's not the most interesting; I walk along a pretty main road. Although, now prompted to think about it, there are a few things I pass. A shopping centre, two hotels, a student halls of residence, a pub, an old church and two parks. Some of the best things to look at mind are the people. I'm quite the fan of people-watching.

There is one constant, though. No matter which route I opt for, I have to cross one of the many bridges that straddle the River Avon. This one (along the most direct route) is essentially the last thing I see before I enter my work building. And on lovely, sunny mornings like today, it doesn't half perk me up. It's pretty, no? Cold, rainy, windy mornings are of course a different story.



The route home depends both on what I feel like and whether I need to make a supermarket stop. On sunny days, I particular enjoy this route across another bridge. The sun helps, obviously.


This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 17.

16 May 2013

Pampering #BEDM

Have a bath. Pour myself a glass of wine. Have a long, hot bath. Paint my nails. Yada yada yada.

Yes, in an effort to be kind to myself, I'll do those things. We all do those things, I'm sure. But you know what, sometimes even that's a little too much effort. In those scenarios, pampering involves giving myself permission to do absolutely nothing. Nada. Jack shit.

I'll get into my comfy and ridiculously soft pyjama bottoms. I'll watch tv, sometimes rubbish tv or episode-after-episode of a series.


I'll eat, sometimes cake and too much. Whatever the hell I like. Can you see a theme to my life here? Like-a-so:


Yup, that's right; I'll be a slob. And I'll frickin'enjoy it. All. Of. It.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 16; almost midway.

15 May 2013

Life's a lesson #BEDM

There have been many lessons I've 'learned' in the last 28 years and it's quite difficult to choose the single most important one. The main ones? You should put your family first and hold on to your real friends. Asking for help does not make you weak and never let embarrassment stop you from asking for it. Love does not conquer all. And all numerical values should have units.

Short and sweet today.

Also, Baz Luhrmann's Sunscreen and this:





This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 15; almost midway.
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Image credit: Next TwentyEightCC BY 2.0

14 May 2013

Food Glorious Food! #BEDM

I love food. I think about it. Dream about it. Set time aside to be with it. It's pretty much my life partner at the moment. And not just any food. Oh no, this calorie consumption queen is quite particular about good quality, tasty, interesting sustenance. But there just isn't time to go into that now. I can tell you though, it makes quite a change to my fussy/skinny days of yore. Read more here.

Today is a fast day so this is quite the torturous post, I can tell you.

I did deliberate over what to share or talk about with you today. I was focussing on savoury and struggling slightly. I mean, there are some recipes I make a lot and eat like they're going out of fashion. Like this chilli con carne or this salmon, pea and lemon risotto. But nothing was jumping out at me.

Then, inspiration came in the form of SlapSnap and Sarah's post about cake. CAKE! Of course. How was that not my first thought?! I have a cake/baking fetish. And you can look forward to more about it later in May.

I had a number of different sweet recipes I could turn to. Like Nigella Lawson's devil's food chocolate cake (which work well as muffins as well) or Delia Smith's bread and butter pudding with whiskey soaked raisins (rum works, too). And I've already shared a few different sweet recipes here on the blog, all of which were front runners;

Dark chocolate brownies | Carrot cakeRaspberry and white chocolate muffins | Homemade lemonade

But I'm not feeling 'cheating' today. So have opted for a new recipe for you. One which I can't believe I haven't already shared. I've made it for a few birthdays and parties, and it has been rather happily consumed. I discovered it after it featured at a friend's dinner party. I then just needed it in my life.

White chocolate cheesecake 

This is a recipe for just the cheesecake itself. You could have a number of different toppings; strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, etc. You could also opt for a chocolate biscuit base or add a fruit coulis.

Serves: 6  |  Time: 3 hours (min)

Ingredients 
  • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 x 300g white chocolate You can use any type of chocolate and even use less e.g. 3 x 100g
  • 300g biscuits e.g. digestives I have used as much as 500g of biscuits for a thicker base
  • Few knobs of butter
  • Tin e.g. 7 inches

Method
  1. Crush the biscuits until completely ground. Add butter (either in food processor or gently heat on hob) until desired crumbly consistency. 
  2. Add the biscuit mixture to a cake tin and pat till flat. TIP: Key is to use the right amount of butter to bind the biscuit together; too little, and it will be really crumbly; too much and it will become soft. Leave to set in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes. 
  3. Begin melting the chocolate in a glass bowl over a a small pan of hot water on a low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. 
  4. Mix the philadelphia and mascarpone cheese together with a whisk; hand or electric. Add double cream and whisk. Finally, add melted chocolate to the mixture and whisk. The mixture may seem slightly 'curdled'; just continue whisking. 
  5. Spoon the mixture over the cooled and set biscuit base. Return to the fridge to cool for as long as possible, until the topping is set. Finally decorate with fruit or other topping.

Here is a photo of the one I made for my brother's birthday to feast your eyes on. Yes, those letters are cut out of strawberries.

I also added this to a popular recipe website, with a mixed reception about my haphazard ingredient list (I had put it online for myself not really for others) but it has received a number of positive reviews. Give it a go, let me know how it tastes!

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 14, with possibly a record for the number of links in one post.

13 May 2013

Go Green! #BEDM

I don't always blog every day, but when I do, I don't always blog every day. Internet meme reference. So, yup, I missed one again. But it's difficult, OK?!

Let's talk green.


It's all about R. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Yes, the picture has nothing to do with that but it's green. Now, shush. 

Reduce

Waste was always a big thing in my house as a child. We do not waste heat, food, clothing... money! And I have tried to carry that through into adulthood. How?
  • I try to buy only what I need at the supermarket to avoid waste. Although, when cooking for one, that can be difficult. I don't need a whole frickin' cabbage. Oh, you don't sell 'half-cabbages'?... OK. Just give me the cabbage.
  • My trusty shopping bag goes with me to the supermarket to avoid coming home with yet more carrier bags. We have a million already!
  • With leftover vegetables and bones, I make vegetable and meat stock. Otherwise, it goes in the compost bin. Thus, reducing what I actually throw away.
  • I've opted for electronic mail where I can; bank statements, phone bills, etc., and reused envelopes for scrap paper and paper sleeves.
  • Minimise my carbon footprint by using Shanks' pony to get around instead of buses or cars. In times gone past, I cycled everywhere. I miss my beloved Biki.

Reuse

This, I'm definitely a fan of. And I reckon you are, too. Shoe boxes. Tupperware. Cardboard boxes. Paper. Jars. Pots. Shopping Bags. Newspaper. Material. Clothes. (Some might consider this hoarding. I don't hoard. Stop. I don't want to hear it. I'm saving the planet!) Tell me you haven't got at least some of that stuff? I also make an attempt to buy products that have been made from recycled materials if I can and where appropriate.

Donating and buying from charity shops and car boot sales (oh and small independent businesses) are big likes of mine! :D For any fancy dress event I would avoid the big, cheap chains a la Primark. Instead opting for second-hand stores like RyanVintage in Manchester or Oxfam. The Northern Quarter and Oldham Street in Manchester is a great place for such things. See this handy guide.

Recycle

Like most UK households, we are provided with recycling facilities for cardboard, paper, tin cans, glass and plastic. There really is no excuse. So, yup, I'm a member of the recycle school.

UK readers might be interested to know that the clothing store H&M are operating a Garment Collection project; they will give you a £5 voucher for each bag of clothes donated. I've had my bags ready for a little while but I keep forgetting to take them. This post has reminded me.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 13.

12 May 2013

Collecting #BEDM

A collector is not how I would describe myself, was my first thought. 

Thinking back though, that hasn't always been the case. My dad is definitely a collector, amassing many different things; antiques, houses, motorbikes! He never thinks small does my papa. I don't remember being actively encouraged to collect anything so I can only assume I took it upon myself to begin a collection. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd weighed up different options and decided upon one that would be feasible, the weird, level-headed little child I was.

So, what did I go for? Keyrings (keychains?). With a gift shop at any given attraction; feasible: tick. And develop quite a little pile I did. I also tried to rope in as many people as possible; family, friends, etc., asking them to acquire me a keyring on their holidays or excursions. I had keyrings that were old, new, tacky, pretty, disgustingly ugly and quite weird! Ones that were allowed out often or had to be kept for special occasions. My favourite was probably my koosh. Anyone remember these?


I don't know where this collection is now -- no doubt at my parents' house -- which makes me a little sad if I'm honest. : (

There is also my collection of pen pal letters from my teenage years. I must have hundreds in shoe boxes at my parents' house. My small collection of unusual earrings and nail varnishes; both of which I would like to expand. Oh, and how could I forget all my baking stuff?! I adore all things Kilner and use their clip-top jars to store my dry ingredients with handmade labels. If Mason jars were easier to come by in the UK, they would also feature heavily. My baking corner grows on a regular basis; I'm sure my housemate might regret giving me more shelves! I shall try and update this post with a photo tomorrow.

But now, the things I collect the most are photos. I add to that collection on a daily basis, at least currently, and I get a huge amount of joy from growing and surveying it. The best thing about it, they take up no tangible space. I can have a million on my computer and I am not tripping over them. At least not literally; my computer might start tripping over them and struggle to function.

I have finally gotten around to processing and whittling down my photos from San Francisco, hence the late hour of this post. Here's a sneak peak.


This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 12.

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Koosh ball image credit: Lenore EdmanCC BY 2.0

11 May 2013

Book Love #BEDM

Reading is a big part of my life; work and play. And I'm sure many others would agree, reading as a hobby is a form of escapism. Unfortunately, it's something that I go through bouts of doing and well, not doing. I don't make enough time for it; distracted instead by other things.

I'm not usually the kind of person to re-read a book and much prefer to give them away for others to experience, whether that be directly or via charity. There are however some reads that will forever stick in my mind. Following the style of my blog love post, I have chosen five books that deserve a spot in the limelight and come with a Jen recommendation. Hopefully they're not too obvious but I suspect a few might be.

The Hobbit J R R Tolkien

This was one of the first books I read as part of high school English and I fell in love quite quickly. Tolkien's descriptions are notoriously lengthy and detailed but once you get used to his style, it's worth it. Mr Bailey, my English teacher, would set which chapters to read on a weekly basis, as well as related tasks, and each week, I couldn't wait to delve back in. Now, I cannot imagine deliberately stopping myself from reading but I think that actually made it even better. Fantasy isn't a genre I would list as one of my likes anymore but as a young teen, there was just something so enchanting about it.

Lord of the Flies William Golding

This was another high school read. I remember carrying the little yellow book around with quite some pride (this image shows the most resemblance to the version I had) which I have since realised is because not only was I really enjoying it but I also felt it was quite an 'intellectual read' at the time. There is quite a bit to read into in this book where it delves into ideas of human nature, instinct and actions when completely free from supervision and the normal constraints and rules of society and civilisation. It is just a great book. I really have to read this one again.

Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden

This was a book recommended to me by a friend and I wasn't sure what to expect. A gripping and gritty story about determination, suffering, love and heartbreak as it turns out. I was so absorbed by this story, especially since it was a historical time I knew very little about. I realise when I'm searching for a book to read, my choice to read it can greatly depend on whether I find the cover aesthetically pleasing. The cover of this book is particularly striking. The descriptions are also very well executed and you're never left wondering about the visuals of a scene or of the thoughts and feelings of the main character Chiyo. A simply brilliant novel.

The Time Traveler's Wife Audrey Niffenegger

Perhaps a mainstream read but it really does deserve a mention. When I first started reading this one, I really couldn't get into it and could not understand why so many people were raving about it. It was frustrating and confusing, jumping all over the place in time. But then, something changed and I was completely captivated by the events, feelings and words of the characters. Maybe that's why this one was so rewarding. This is one of the only books to have brought me close to tears. Maybe I should give this one another run as well?

Matilda Roald Dahl

This one will probably come under the heading of books that changed my life. I'd always loved reading but the book's namesake and heroine was so captivating and exciting when reading it at the same age that it is one of the books I have enjoyed most. Even now. It just really sucked me in. Dahl's depictions are incredibly realistic and you are just there. It was difficult choosing which Roald Dahl book to include here. I've read so many of his others; The BFG, The Twits, George's Marvellous Medicine, Esio Trot, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But Matilda also sticks in my mind because of a particular experience I had whilst reading it.

During any family outings or holidays, I would have at least one book in tow and read it at every available opportunity. I was perhaps 9 or 10 years old and we were on a caravan/chalet holiday somewhere in Wales during the height of a British summer. We'd just ordered food at a restaurant, sat out in the early evening sun and, whilst waiting for the food to arrive, I seized the opportunity to get my literary fix. I opened up Matilda and was immediately transported to another world. I was jolted back to reality when a gentleman came over to our table to tell us he hopes we (my parents really) didn't mind but he'd just taken a photo of me reading. He added; "She was just so engrossed in her book, and the look on her face as she was reading, that I couldn't help but take a photo." He explained he was a professional photographer, showed us the photo and offered to delete it should they be unhappy. But my parents had no objections. I know what you might be thinking but really, there was nothing inappropriate about the photo. Being a keen photographer myself, there are some opportunities that just cannot be missed; you feel compelled to capture them. I do wonder if he ever used that photograph anywhere.

Some others I enjoyed just as much; The Green Mile Stephen King, The Other Boleyn Girl Philippa Gregory and, despite the largely amateur writing style The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown. I am also in love with all of the books by Kate Morton. The only reason they didn't appear above is because I couldn't choose between them.

And I've just realised every single one of the books I've mentioned has been turned into a film. Saying something about my taste perhaps? But we all know the books are better. ; )

Any recommendations?

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 11.

10 May 2013

Travel Dreams #BEDM

If I could be anywhere in the world right now? Not at work and in a distant land with a cocktail would be nice.

Family holidays for me rarely consisted of travelling abroad; it was mainly Wales and other parts of the UK in a caravan (although we did manage Ireland, Florida and France). And that is in no way a criticism. I bloomin' loved my family holidays! For some reason, as a child, showering, eating and sleeping in a plastic box is the best thing in the world. Plus, the sun is pretty incompatible with my skin tone. Although, that didn't stop the UK sun giving me first degree burns. Repeatedly. Anyway, this all means if you offer me any kind of holiday, I'll grab it with both hands. It doesn't have to be sunny. It doesn't even necessarily have to be warm. Culture, history, food, scenery and the experience are the main draws. Camping is also something I get rather excited about. Some might liken it to sleeping rough but at least you know it's going to end, and how; with your amazing power shower and wonderfully soft bed.

I've visited a reasonable number of places as an adult, I suppose: mostly Europe e.g. France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Monaco, but a couple of places in the US: San Diego and San Francisco. Oh and there was Hong Kong and Tunisia. I loved them all; navigating myself to different areas, learning about the culture, absorbing the history, attempting the language, trying to get my head around the currency (and tipping!). And I want there to be so much more travel in my life.

Specifics? I suppose there are a few on the list. Starting small, I really want to go Scotland. I've been to Glasgow but I need to see Edinburgh at some point. Paris is somewhere I want to go back to and Southern Italy and actually, the rest of Europe that I've missed up to yet. We potentially have family heritage in Canada (that's another story) so I really want to go there. There's a whole lot more of America to explore where I think New York would be first on the list. Australia and New Zealand definitely. Asia, too especially Japan. Jamaica, who wouldn't want to go there?

You know what, everywhere I haven't been basically.

My job has actually worked out quite well on the travel front. I am set to go to Rhodes in August (my skin is actually going to peel off. Correction: I am going to morph into a lobster and then my skin will fall off) and Denver, Colorado in November. And all I have to do is meet scientists and listen to physics. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

I have no related pictures today, sadly. I must be able to give you something visual? How about a picture of a rockhopper penguin. For no reason other than why not? And because he looks cool. You're welcome.

Happy Friday!


This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 10.

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Rockhopper penguin image credit: KathrynMcGraneCC BY 2.0

09 May 2013

Social Media #BEDM

Eurgh. Today, I can't be bothered to post.

I like Twitter. Boom.














Ha! Gotcha. But actually it's not going to be much longer than that. I am a big fan of social media and I'm not going to feel ashamed or embarrassed about that.

I would say Twitter is my favourite social media channel; it's great. When you can interact with business, celebrities, companies, friends, people on the other side of the world, people sat next to you, the police (!), funny things, new things, serious things, jobs, products, freebies, movies, TV shows, books. Oh, I could go on! But essentially, what more could you ask for?

Instagram and Pinterest come in at a close second. I could spend hours on Pinterest and the ability to organise everything speaks to my very core. Instagram is an ideal tool for voyeurism but I do get bored when someone posts 10 of the same photo. It's the frickin' same. Stop. Choose one. Life is about choices. You can't have it all. End rant.

LinkedIn has its place and I think it's a very good tool if you use it properly and to your advantage.

Facebook is a joke. Whenever I visit, I want to gauge my own eyes out! And there is little to no way of organising the content, in order to separate the absolute guff from the teency weency bit of interesting content.

And breathe. Think positive thoughts. Are you on Twitter? If not, get on it!

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 9.

08 May 2013

First jobs #BEDM

What was my first job? Well, excluding professional tea and coffee maker for parents and guests a like and being one quarter of a chore-machine - one of my designated roles, without fail, was the putter-awayererrr... yeah, well you make a word out of that then! 

Back to the first job. It was still in that realm in that I worked for my parents in their sub post office and shop. One particularly frequency asked question (FAQ, which I discovered you can, and people do, pronounce 'FAK'. To those people: Stop.) of my school peers was 'Oh, your dad delivers post then?' Ah, you see what you're referring to and the word you're looking for is 'postman'. You're welcome. No, neither of my parents are a postman or woman. They do have pretty cool sounding job titles, though; postmaster and postmistress. 

All four of us worked in the family business at some point and my youngest brother actually still does. My stint started at the age of 14 when my sister went to university and there was a Saturday 'vacancy'. I say that like there was some application, selection procedure or interview. None of these occurred. I was merely informed of my new Saturday plans. My working hours were 9am - 12:30pm, with the exception of summer holidays when it was whatever hours my parents allocated as my torture. I jest. It was a mild adjustment needing to get up 6 days a week instead of the normal 5 school days but then, my place of work was only downstairs so I could often roll out of bed. I worked there for 4 years until I went to university myself. I would also often work during the university holidays, although the eldest of my younger brothers, James was undertaking his sentence by then.

I would actually say that I really quite liked my job. I enjoyed working with numbers and having a great deal of product and systems knowledge under my belt. The customers were, and still are, an interesting breed; expecting you to be open day and night, there to be no queue and you to provide them with every single service they require (reasonable or otherwise). I would have more than the odd customer who would choose to wait for my mom, offering me an 'It's OK, I'll wait for your mom, girl', with a wrinkle of their nose almost like an 'Awww'. Not patronising or condescending at all. Believe me, I won't make a mistake with your money. A large portion of our money for the week would be delivered on a Saturday, ten's of thousands of pounds in £5, £10 and £20 notes which would need to be counted. As a result, I'm pretty good, and fast, at counting money as well as working out change. It's also where I learnt exactly what customer service is; when the new shoes you want depend on returning custom, you get pretty good at endeavouring to make them return.

The downsides of owning/running a post office? One main one really. Robberies. Our post office has been robbed twice. The first time was a Saturday morning, one I was actually supposed to work but being tired, asked for a lie-in. I felt a huge amount of guilt about that but my parents later said they were very glad I hadn't been there. The bottom-feeders got away with a fair bit of money but my parents got away without being hurt; the brick they launched through the glass at my mom's face just missed her. And my dad was hit over the head with a monkey wrench but it was mainly a surface wound (and he's had much more serious injuries). Although, thanks to the blood that had dripped down his shirt, the newspapers reported that his throat had been cut! wtf? My youngest brother, maybe about 11 years old at the time, spotted the getaway car from an upstairs window and quickly wrote down a description of the car and the registration. Sadly, the car was later found burnt out so we didn't catch them but my brother got an award for his quick thinking. The second time I was at university. And I've just realised how many of the other details I have blocked out.

I still regularly use the knowledge I learnt in that job. For a long time, for my friends I was the go-to person for all things post-office related. For the UK readers, some free tips: first class post is not a guaranteed service. Yes, it might get there in ~2 days but it is not guaranteed to do that. Recorded Delivery will give you a signature at the end but if the items get lost, you will only receive £50 compensation, even if your item is £500! If your item is >£50, definitely pay for Special Delivery. OK, end of boring information. Oh, another FAQ; do I get free stamps? No.

I've had a number of other jobs; a nursery assistant, an admin assistant at the Department for Work and Pensions, sales assistant at a few retail stores including H Samuel the jewellers, Debenhams womenswear and John Lewis, menswear. There was the year I was a telephone fundraiser for the alumni charity department of The University of Manchester (despite not being a big phone-chat person) and a Girl Guide Leader (well, I was a volunteer really). 

It does seem the first job a university graduate gets is often referred to or considered as their first 'proper' job. The above are of course all 'proper' jobs, just on a part-time basis. But if you're of that school of thought, my first, real grown-up job is the one I have now; a publishing editor of an applied physics journal.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 8.