Are you tube body ready?

Take a look at this advert.

small

Does it offend you? Don’t worry – there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question, I’m just being curious.

Because – unlike what you may have initially thought – I’m not offended by this advert; I’m merely bored by it.

I’m bored by the slim blonde woman. Sent to sleep by the block colour background and statement lettering. Yawning at the implication that not only is the packaging small, but the model is draping herself over the phrase, physically linking herself to it; “think small! Drink our small drink and be small!” Don’t make yourself big, don’t be big and don’t think bigger than this.

After last year’s Protein World “Are you beach body ready?” debate, you would have thought portion ads marketed at women would have learnt a thing or two. Here the ad team must have seen the ban on outright body shaming ads and thought; let’s move the woman left of centre! And we’ll make it seem all about the product, even though there’s a yoga toned model in the corner, by only describing its ingredients and lack of gluten (perfect for the ‘clean’ eating brigade), rather than demonstrating its efficacy.

I don’t want to body shame the beautiful model in this ad, but where are her flexed muscles? Where’s the sweat? The look of intent one gets when someone else has the machine in the gym you keep missing due to poor timing? Where’s the glint of pride earned from surpassing one’s own expectations in the hand weights section?

The answer is not in this advert. It’s in gyms across the country. In parks, in living rooms and community centres. It’s in Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign. It’s even in the recent Adidas Woman campaign where they invited loads of uniformly slim followers to don their three stripes and give thanks for Karli Kloss.

I had a response on Twitter calling out my original tweet about this ad, picking up on protein not being a weight loss tool (I’d argue the visuals of this ad position it as one) and the common ‘would you say this if it was a man in the picture?’.

But here’s the thing – of course it wouldn’t be a man in the picture. It’s a product aimed at women and their tiny lady hands and bags! A print campaign ignoring the fact that – going by my gym anyway – women’s gym essentials often include a hairdryers and a bag big enough to carry that and much more. If it was a male marketed product, the ad minds wouldn’t think small, they’d think huge! They’d focus on strength, power, size, stamina, sweat and inspiration.

The successful women’s campaigns make us feel empowered and part of a unit; we all sweat, we all experience an intense adrenaline rush from reaching our goals. But the goal of this ad is to look like a yoga-toned blonde white woman. And I ain’t buying it.

After all, what’s empowering about thinking small?

How to build a PC: a guide by Frankie Ward

Recently I did something I never thought possible; I built a PC.

Despite what one misogynist visitor to my Twitch stream, women can build PCs – we have hands and brains just like men do (whaddya know)!

However, I would be honest and say that for this individual, PC building wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, so I’ve compiled this handy help guide in case you get a hankering to put your own rig together.

1. After saving for months on end, peruse Amazon and get mind blown by how many varieties of Intel i7 Core Processors are, what a PSU is (power unit, it turns out) and how much wattage you actually need to get the final thing to turn on.

2. Settle for a *slight* shortcut by buying a bundle from a third party Amazon vender called Components for All, featuring the CPU (Intel chip), CPU cooler (a fan), motherboard (brain) and RAM (not a sheep). Realise after buying that this lot is going to be put together by the company, meaning you’re less likely to blow the bloody metaphorical doors off and can just ‘stick it in’ to the case.

3. Order PSU, case, graphics card and settle on hard drive (HDD) because you don’t realise SSDs (solid state drives) can actually work without one. Then buy Windows on a USB stick because Linux would be a step too far.

4. Speak to dad. Audibly sense the disappointment in his voice when he discovers you’re owning something not created by Apple (that could one day end up in his graveyard collection of Macs).

5. Find initial enthusiasm of components arriving wears off very quickly when the various instructions in each box is ridiculously vague.

6. Find internet also ridiculously vague. What’s BIOS when it’s at home?

7.  Put motherboard into case. Get confused by instructions about PCIe. Cry out “What’s a  PCIe? WHY DIDN’T I BUY A PCIe?” Routinely hug the case, partly because of worries about static and the need to ground oneself, partly because everyone needs a bosom for a pillow, and if you haven’t got one a cold metal case will have to do.

8. Discover you own a PCIe in the shape of a graphics card. Spend 20 minutes wondering how to take off PCIe cover from case. Finally have guts to peel metal off while crying about how much this business has all cost, in money and tears.

9. Broadcast a Twitch IRL stream to get advice from lovely community about order of I/O front panel connectors. Then give up for the night.

10. Discover that it would have been an extremely good idea to connect those little front panel cables in the case up to the motherboard before the graphics card went in… Give a moderate scream as the cables keep popping out.

11. Breath a sigh of relief as build ends. Connect up to fancy BenQ screen.

12. Let out a scream of insanity as nothing happens.

13. Realise that part of the motherboard was lacking power. Discover from colleague and all-round life coach Iain that this was due to the 8 point cable from PSU was plugged into graphics card instead and actually this 8 point cable splits into two parts, one of which now goes into the motherboard, with a modular cable used to power the graphics card. Rage that none of this information was included in the PSU instructions box.

14. Try again; lights on front and the graphics card now turn on, as does the CPU cooler, but nothing happens on the screen. Scream. Repeat stage 6 and the latter part of stage 8.

The computer that will turn on, won't show a screen. Gaaaaah

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15. In airport on way to Dreamhack Leipzig, speak to lovely man on phone from Components 4 All. He mentions that actually, the problem is probably using the wrong side of the 8 pin split and that’s why the thing isn’t turning on.

16. Get home from work trip, now a massive fan of German Twitch broadcasters and a self-confessed pretzel addict (I’ve gone cold turkey). Switch side of 8 pin in motherboard. Try to boot again. Light turns on, fan turns on… but nothing happens on screen. For once do not panic as nice man from step 15 also mentioned trying to turn on again without the graphics card.

17. Take out graphics card. Plug power and screen in again and switch on.

18. Scream, because this time it works and YOU’RE IN BLOODY BIOS!

19. Get Windows installed, put graphics card back in again, install Overwatch as a matter of urgency.

20. Stream on Twitch from your shiny new PC the first time.

21. Suck a Strepsil and enjoy.

Thanks to everyone who helped me in the painful process of building my PC – you can see it in action on my Twitch channel!

Bring on 2017

Let’s face it, 2016 isn’t going to go down in the Great British Scrapbook (or its worldwide equivalent) as the best days of our collective lives.

For me personally, in the latter half of 2016 a big job change pulled all focus into its orbit. I made the difficult decision to leave the BBC after over four years (and four different roles, including Radio Comedy and BBC Live) for a far different proposition; the social video gaming platform Twitch. I’ve swapped hot desking and getting annoyed about reading about my employer in the Daily Mail, for having a desk to fill with assorted gaming memorabilia and tea leaves, as well as getting annoyed about coverage of my former employer in the Daily Mail.

Dragon Quest Builders are our our #twitch stage at #EGX at 11:45!

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But it’s not just tea leaves and complimentary snacks (we have LOTS of them in my office, sorry waistline), I’ve also travelled more in five months than ever before; Germany, Amsterdam, Poland, Sweden and er… Birmingham (twice), met some brilliant fellow gaming fans who work darned hard streaming to their audience, worn silly headgear onstage, made friends with a chocobo, and formed my own little gaming community on my personal Twitch channel. As a programming manager, I’m producing stage shows and meeting game developers and streamers and trying to absorb as much new knowledge as possible – which leads me to my ‘to do’ list for 2017. Because resolutions are so 2016.

2017 to do list

  1. Make transition from gaming fan, to gaming expert; I work with the latter and count myself currently as the former. So every opportunity has me ‘sponging’ for more information.
  2. Build a gaming PC – most lunchtimes see me streaming and/or practicing Overwatch in the office games’ room. I stream from Playstation 4 at home, but I’m longing to spend more time on my Tracer time-hopping, Hanzo-dodging skills.
  3. Host some eSports, preferably Rocket League. And get better at playing Rocket League. Just because.
  4. Do some creative stuff; my sister bought me a book about knitting stuff using your own forearm. It’s worth a go, right? Keep your eyes peeled for ‘wool rage’ on my Twitch channel sometime soon…
  5. GIG AGAIN! This makes the list each year. I played set list yesterday at home and realised I genuinely miss it – life gets in the way, and all that.
  6. Move in with Lacey (boyfriend) and get a small dog called Guthlac. (This may be carried over to next year.)
  7. Pioneer “cheese, wine and VR nights”, because I’m determined to “make VR happen”, although it’s looking like it will with or without my help, thankfully.
  8. Do the Youtube yoga thing more regularly again – it’s good for the mind.
  9. Keep up the gym thing – it’s good for the behind.
  10. Go to the cinema more often. My favourite podcast is Wittertainment and I now have BFI membership, thanks to Lacey.
  11. BAKE! Jeez, I used to do this every weekend and now, once a year…
  12. Be kind. To others, and to myself.

This is now on record. So I guess I’ve got no excuses now…

Selling eyeliners is one thing… but surgery? How Transform’s latest ad fails to see below the surface

I’ve been tardy with the ol’ blog recently. I’ll be the first to admit it. I was thinking of writing about my work on the recent Trainspotting Live, or the fact that I’ve just left the BBC after more than four years to start at Twitch tomorrow.

And yet, this is what has compelled me to delay my latest attempt to complete Final Fantasy XIII and only half pay attention to the latest love of my life (Gilmore Girls on Netflix). An advert printed in the back pages of Glamour magazine.

In it, 22-year-old London-based fashion blogger That Pommie Girl describes how her recent “boob job” (and yes, because it is aimed at her readers – women of her age or younger, it actually uses that phrase), has made her “love her body”, something bloggers are known for. They’ll post paid for ads for products with names like “Boo Tea” on Instagram promoting speedier metabolisms and “detoxification”, or 24 products at once for a “natural look” on YouTube. And while I’m not saying this is 100% harmless (the thought of me – with my mountain of loose leaves piled up in the corner of my kitchen – purchasing a tea for anything other than the fact it tastes good makes me shiver), it’s nothing compared to surgery.

This woman has been given a free major uncessary  surgical operation – and in my book, that’s something that’s both invasive and requiring the patient to undergo general aesthetic – and most likely been paid a lot of money to do so; she’s been paid to be cut open, stuffed, and to promote this to her young followers. Lest we forget, there’s a reason why bloggers and social media stars are called influencers. She’s someone people aspire to be. Her lifestyle is what her followers yearn to have. And her lifestyle now involves major surgery so she can like herself.

Let’s face it; a lot of young people aren’t comfortable in their own bodies yet. I have a strong body which I’ve worked hard on (I’m not ripped or anything like that, but I can hold my own in a boxing class) and, at the age of 27, I still check how much my stomach sticks out in the mirror when I wake up. I’m not That Pommie Girl’s target audience, and yet I still bought the aforementioned copy of Glamour because it came with a free Benefit eyebrow gel. (And I already own a similar one from L’Oreal that works perfectly fine.)

I decided to do a Google to find out a bit more and discovered the Advertising Standards Authority have actually banned the TV version of the advert, although you can still view videos of Sarah Ashcroft (the blogger in question), on Transform’s website.

There’s a few disturbing things about the advert, which you can view by accessing the last hyperlink. Firstly, Ashcroft explains that she never experienced anything she’d describe as “pain” (aside from back pain). Not immediately post operation or during the aftercare period.

“In terms of recovery I still couldn’t really believe it. I had geared myself up for a lot of pain when there wasn’t really any at all. I remember feeling incredibly drowsy, but aside from that the healing process was pretty straightforward, with the major inconvenience being a support bra due to the neck and back pain from my new posture.”

Surgery is going to be different for everyone, but this advertorial really does go out of its way to emphasise “no pain, all gain”.

And probably the part I find the most shocking of all, Ashcroft implies that her career has been progressed by the operation:

“It really has changed my life and cliched as it sounds, I feel like a new person with a newfound confidence and love for my body. Now, I can be as experimental as I want to be with my style; something I always wanted and I feel like my blogging has come on leaps and bounds too.”

Breasts “enhanced”, she can now wear different clothes and write better! Us women had better all sign up for surgery so we can have enough confidence to ask for a big enough pay rise to start paying back our surgery loans and wear the contractually obliged high heels, skirt and at least five items of noticeable make up to the office..

This advert probably concerns me most of all because it suggests that we still associate the idea of physical perfection – or a marketer’s idea of it – as a key to success. Why be comfortable with what you have, when the path to success is the physical embodiment of some ideal dreamed up by someone else who managed to make it catch on years ago? Already successful enough to attract Transform in the first place (and no doubt, other businesses wanting to work with her), why would Ashcroft (and a bunch of others profiled on the website) take such a drastic step?

And why – in heaven’s name why – would Glamour run this irresponsible advert? For financial gain? Don’t they have some semblance of a duty of care for their younger readers? It’s enough to make me ignore next latest lucrative freebie issue and pay full price (for a cheaper copycat version of the same product).

Monikh Dale, another featured blogger who Transform have given a “lip enhancement” explains on the site that “I wanted to be the best version of me I could be” – the same slogan that the Army are currently using in their latest recruitment campaign. But don’t get me started on that one, or I’ll never find out if Rory and Jess get together. (Gilmore Girls. Seriously – you need to watch it!)

A look back at the Invictus Games

“You’re so lucky!” my disbelieving friends told me when I explained I was off to Orlando, Forida not for a holiday, but to cover the Invictus Games for the BBC.

Behind the scenes of the #invictusgames featuring our special guests Prince Harry and Paul Vice

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The event, which first took place in London in 2014, gives ex-servicemen and women with physical and mental injuries the chance to compete for their country, amongst others like them. Set up by HRH Prince Harry, it’s a massive event, attended by 14 nations – with more likely to join for the third event in Toronto in 2017.

I produced a live blog for each programme, filming extra video interviews and reports from ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, in order to expand the story of the games and get the audience closer to the athletes.

I might not have managed the time to visit any of the Disney theme parks proper, but there was a magical thing that did happen out in the searing heat – the inner Londoner in me, quick to grimace at the sound of tinny headphones, elbowing back aggressive businessmen and occasionally ignorant of my own fortune – disintegrated. Suddenly I could talk to anyone. Byron in the Veteran Services van, spectators, a Dutch tennis coach, athletes I’d read about but never met in person before.

A personal highlight was hosting my first Facebook Live with Invictus host (and Channel 4 and BBC pundit) JJ Chalmers and the People’s Strictly Come Dancing champion Cassidy Little. We spoke about Cassidy’s experiences of learning to walk on his first prosthetic leg and how he and JJ were “blown up” together back in 2011. The two former Royal Commandos were happy to talk about anything and were brilliant, charismatic interviewees.

And yet, surviving my first live presenting gig for the BBC couldn’t come close to the feeling of being at the Invictus Games itself, and the amazing people I met there (JJ and Cassidy included). From the Aussie sitting volleyball captain Brendan Dover and his squad, including Wade Roberts and Dani Moffitt, to Frenchman Franck Gibot, who told me openly and honestly about how Invictus had helped him and his fellow athletes in learning to cope with crippling PTSD.

martinclaptoninvictusgamesorlando2016nesj6jaoiocl

I don’t think I’ll ever forget archer Martin Clapton, who had just been awarded a special trophy in recognition of his inspirational abilities – releasing arrows with a mouth tab, telling me in this video how he’d tried to take his own life merely a year ago, but how his sport of choice, and the archery squad had brought him back from a brink. As his team captain Chris MacFayden (pictured below with vice-captain Gareth Patterson) turned and told him – they’re “a family”.

Chris and Gareth from the UK #archery team #champions #goldmedal #invictusgames

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There were also early Paralympic promises in the performances of double above-knee amputee 20om sprinter Dave Henson and lightweight powerlifter Micky Yule. In total, the UK brought home 131 medals – you can find more details on the last Invictus live page I produced.

#fireworks at the closing ceremony #invictusgames

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Prince Harry spoke at the opening ceremony of the need to address the hidden injuries – the PSTD suffered by many in attendance – and I was amazed at the willingness for people to talk, both to me and each other. It was a triumph of the human spirit. And every time I feel an irritation on the tube, or at work, or even walking down the street, I shall remember; Invictus!

Chr-Istanbul

Puzzled by the title? Me too (does it work!?) – but let me explain; it’s my hackneyed way of announcing that I went abroad to the Turkish cultural behemoth over the festive period.

I flew out with my boyfriend Lacey on my 27th birthday – which was fittingly on the 27th December. We were planning to spend New Year’s Eve with his friends, but wanted to get a few days extra out of the extended break.

We headed to ‘Euroflash’ bar 360, at the top of a random building just off a busy shopping street. Having arrived in the city slightly later than planned and finding the lift tricky to kick into gear, we bumped into a kindly stranger who asked us where we were from, was delighted when we said London and promptly led us to a restaurant on the second floor, filled with locals who were confused by our presence; this was not 360 – no matter what the gent was saying. A young waiter pointed us in the right direction and we finally made it to the rooftop bar.

The food itself was fine – but expensive by Istanbul standards at 60 Turkish Lira for my sea bass main (around £14 – by comparison I had the same cooked to a higher standard for 25 TL the following evening). But we got to take a first night photo on the roof, next to a tower made of Carlsberg glass bottles.

#Istanbul #360restaurant

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On the subject of food, pretty much everything we ate was a bargain and tasted amazing (apart from one place that advertised Greek salad with feta and served it with smoked white cheese – an unsatisfactory swap). You could easily have a main for less than £6 at a proper restaurant and even feed two for less than £10, as we did at a kebab shop (which we referred to as ‘hipster kebab’ due to its trendy branding). It’d truly be a waste not to take advantage of the fresh fish, cooked by experts for next to nothing – there’s even fishermen who set up their kit on Galata Bridge every day.

Fishermen of the #Bosphorus

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It’s really hard to write a post about Istanbul without posting gazillions of photos of the cats and dogs that call its streets and derelict buildings home. In an effort to exercise restraint, I’ll advise animal fans to check out my Instagram for more furry snaps.

Grey moggie from the block #catsofistanbul #catsofinstagram #catstantinople

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The reason there’s so many pets in the street is because the local council know their residents love animals, but don’t want them in their home. Therefore, they provide food and some shelters for the animals on the street and leave them to it – with dogs sporting plastic tags in their ears. That means the level of friendliness in the cats varies (some are incredibly friendly, others – including some adorable kittens – are more wary), but the dogs are very cheerful and not at all threatening.

Our guest house in the #snow #Istanbul

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We stayed at a little guest house, the Noble House Galata,  a couple of minutes walk from Galata Tower, which had two steps made of tile – perilous in the onslaught of very deep, powdery snow. It seems that it’s common for Turkish hotel rooms to have showers in them – ours was in a corner of the room, with a toilet in a cupboard-like construction in another.

Flashback to #Istanbul hotel room. Loo in a cupboard, shower by the bed

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The photo above is from our second room in the guest house – our first didn’t have a working light in the ‘toilet cupboard’ and the shower was almost too small. Coupled with sheets dirtied by the unswept floor, we were desperate to move – luckily we were after two nights. By the end of our stay, I was almost sad to leave. Still, if you ever want to test a young relationship, try staying in the same guest house; using the loo in such close proximity to each other will show whether you’re in it for the long haul.

Being big on value, I trotted out into the shopping street on New Year’s Eve, I managed to grab some beauty bargains from a couple of shops – spending less than £6 on the haul above (eye pencils, face masks, nail polish, body lotion and razors – I may give the snail mask a go and write a post about it at a later date). The eye pencils, at about £1 each, aren’t the smoothest on my eyes, but the colours are lovely and stayed put during the NYE murder mystery party our friend Abi wrote and organised later that night.

But eating and shopping aside – and yes we went to the amazing Grand Bazaar, but found better prices for the same products on the hill by Galata Tower – where did we go?

The Suleiman Mosque

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We visited three mosques (and do take a headscarf or buy one from 5 TL if you’re female – I lived in not-too-tight jeans for my week there), including the Blue Mosque favoured by tourists, but I preferred the Suleiman Mosque, which was built during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent and where his tomb can be seen (and even entered). Less familiar to the crowds, you gain a sense of peace and have space to take in your surroundings. It’s also conveniently close to the Bosphorus and the Grand Bazaar.

Harem lifestyle, yo #Istanbul #TopkapiPalace

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There’s a wealth of things to do in Istanbul, and we picked up a five day museum pass for 85 TL (about £20) to use for the Topkapi Palace and Harem, the Archeological Museum, the Hagia Sofia and the Galata Mawlavi House Museum. The palace Harem, which required an extra ticket for non-pass holders, had much of its area under conservation, so wasn’t as grand as you’d expect – although the palace is in a spectacular condition and hugely popular with tourists keen to see Islamic relics and calligraphy.

@lacetagram and archeology's answer to the Athena poster girl… #archeology #AncientRome #Istanbul

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The archeological museum is brilliant for explaining the rich history of Istanbul – including its Byzantine and Roman periods. It’s currently undergoing a makeover, but I’d absolutely recommend visiting its three floors of history.

Inside the #hagiasofia in #Istanbul

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The Hagia Sofia, a Byzantine church that became a mosque during the Ottoman reign before becoming a museum in the 20th century, is an absolutely stunning spectacle – with its mix of Islamic calligraphy and titles, and featuring partially uncovered golden mosaics from 1,000 years ago. It’s very busy, but massive – so you can actually move around unbothered!

On our last day in Istanbul, I went to the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı (turkish bath), in my favourite area of the city, Tophane (it’s brilliant for boutiques, food and drinks). For 150 TL, I was stripped of all but my bikini bottoms, made to lie on a hot stone for 20 minutes, before being scrubbed, having masses of soap suds doused over me and getting a hardcore, brief back massage and a rinse – all sat by a sink surrounded by other ladies in the same situation. In other words, it’s not for people who are uncomfortable being touched by strangers (or seen in a very vulnerable position by them)! I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed the experience at first, but the massage was a godsend after walking up and down the numerous snow-laden hills of Istanbul for six days straight. (My ultimate tip – take walking boots with you.)

Travel around the city is made cheap and easy by purchasing an Instanbul Card (like an Oyster) for 7 TL. Unlike Oyster cards, one can be used by more than one passenger. All journeys – on metro, tram, bus and boat, costs 2.15 TL – which means you can take a boat to Asia for 50 pence.

After a week, I’m desperate to go back to the city already. There’s still so much to explore and some amazing food waiting to be tasted. And we’ve got a bit of credit on our Istanbul Card waiting to be spent…

Finding what feels good

A few big things happened to me earlier this year…

I’ve gone on attachment within the BBC (I’m working on live coverage for events and programmes such as The Great British Bake Off), and I discovered (thanks to this article by Bryony Gordon) that I have a form of OCD, subsequently making it easier to deal with varying levels of anxiety brought on my repetitive (and often distressing) thought patterns. Another change was the unexpected end of a 15 month long relationship, which had switched to long distance mode for the last four months and was likely to continue that way.

There are things that I know are triggers for my OCD, break-ups aside, including caffeine and alcohol (particularly the day after even one large glass of wine – certainly not hangover levels), and so I know I should avoid these or bear in mind that when I’m anxious, I’m partly facing the consequences of my actions. And when your mind is constantly on high alert, and the NHS has a three month waiting list for CBT, it’s hard to make further changes – I knew meditation probably wasn’t going to be practical for me. As someone who tries to box, circuit train, run, dance and Zumba as much as possible (but with limited home space), I wanted to try something physical, free and independent.

And so I discovered Yoga with Adriene. Adriene is an actor and yoga teacher from Texas who hosts an extremely popular YouTube channel, releasing a video each week. Luckily for me, I’ve caught on a few years into her video career, which means there’s a constantly a wealth of videos for me to choose from; from her 30 Days of Yoga playlist, to her Yoga for Weight Loss series and her technique videos. There’s workouts for every mood and schedule; from 3 minutes looking at strengthening the wrists to a full hour of fat-burning moves.

Adriene is so warm, bubbly and likeable – as well as easy to follow. Once you’ve been following her videos for a month or so, the flow between moves becomes more intuitive, although I’m constantly adding new poses to by yoga bank. Even now, when I’m a bit under the weather, I know I can pick one of her more nurturing videos (yes, she has one for when you’re feeling sick).

I’ve hooked my YouTube account up with my Xbox so I can play the videos on my TV and I practice using a cheap yoga mat from Sports Direct and a £2 foam yoga block I bought from Tiger. I’d genuinely thought that yoga wouldn’t be for me; I’ve had a regular exercise routine for at least four years now (starting in my bedroom with Davina McCall DVDs), and thought I’d find it boring. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Although taking part in the videos is fun, the end is usually the best for me; most videos end in a shavasana (or corpse pose), where you basically lie on your back for as long as you want. Given the moves you’ve just done – focusing your mind and body to work together – it leads to a natural state of contented relaxation.

I do believe that what happens to you in a space affects the way your body reacts when your return to it. For example, when you feel fine in the morning, but find you feel ill upon entering your workplace building – something that can be brought on by work-related stress. This can be alleviated once you reclaim the space in a positive way. (I genuinely think all offices should run exercise classes in their buildings – dancing can change the way your subconscious associates itself with that space, as well as being brilliant fun). Now my living room is also my yoga studio, it feels like a different, warmer space. I celebrated its revised context with a makeover too…

Been decorating, ain't I? Colour is 'Sarong' from B and Q colours range

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Oh yes, you’ve probably not seen my living room before – this ‘feature wall’ used to be white with poorly framed posters. Now it’s got a few coats of paint I picked up for £8 from B&Q and a David Shrigley print I picked up from the Tate Modern for the same price. It’s a fresh start, and one I’m really enjoying.

Guys, I made a playlist on YouTube of videos featuring ME!

…Wait, come back! Please! Please?

Due to computer breakages and lack of foresight in terms of backing up, I am severely overdue a new showreel, especially if I’m supposed to be taking this ole presenting lark a bit more seriously.

Therefore, I’ve made a playlist of videos I feature in on YouTube. Naturally most are from my own channel.

What’s that? You want me to host your awesome telly/radio/online show? Me too! Let’s chat.

How to grow up

I’ve wanted to vlog for a while, but knew that simply talking to a camera probably ain’t gonna cut it these days.

There’s something about vloggers like Tanya Burr and Zoella that weirdly compels me to watch – and they are very watchable – but I wanted to do some brief, lighthearted videos that look at different elements of being a so-called ‘grown up’. It’s not necessarily advice for young people that’s helpful right here and now, but it’s about making the idea of being an adult less intimidating, whilst also exploring what that actually means – do your thoughts change? Does your behaviour drastically alter? How do you actually know you are one? What does being ‘grown up’ actually mean?

I’m not planning on talking about makeup and clothes – although I’ll probably wear a lot of silver garments. I’m also not investing in amazing lighting or sound – at the moment, there’s just no point. I’m still exploring the format (and yes, it’s probably very typical YouTube in that I’ll be using jump cuts and cutaways, but hey, that’s the medium).

My first video isn’t about something that everyone will experience – it’s not something everyone wants to do (or sadly can afford, given this day and age), but it’s something personal to me, given that a question I’m often asked is; “why on earth would you live on your own!?” Hopefully my video sums up why I really enjoy it and why it was the right choice for me.

My flat is a shared ownership property – meaning that I pay a mortgage on 25% and pay subsidised rent on the rest. So I can decorate it, but I’m also responsible for paying for repairs should anything go wrong. I can staircase to buy 100%, or I can sell my 25%, splitting any increase in value with the housing association who own the remaining 75%. There’s no point in satirising between as whoever buys next will also be shared ownership and will have to buy my entire share – much more difficult at 50% than 25%.

One of those ambitions I’d had for over a decade (genuinely since becoming a teenager) was to have my own place, and although I don’t own the whole property, I feel that I’ve achieved something.

I should also add, no animals or muppets were harmed in the making of the above vlog, although my sofa is lucky to be alive…

More vlogs coming soon – please let me know if there’s a topic you think I should cover!

Margate: a Dreamland reborn?

I’ve just returned from a weekend in Margate – my first trip to the Kent coastal town in 13 years.

In 2005, the main attraction to the area, amusement park Dreamland, closed. Due to be redeveloped into housing, a Grade II listed 1920s wooden rollercoaster meant that the site couldn’t be worked on and in 2013, the site was bought back for redevelopment. And thank goodness because, together with the Turner Contemporary gallery, Margate is experiencing an unprecedented revival.

#Dreamland in #Margate by night – magic!

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It took about an hour and a half from Kings Cross St Pancras (even less from Stratford if you’re an East London girl like me), and we got an Air B&B place to stay in Cliftonville, which is about 20 minutes walk from Dreamland, 15 from the Turner Contemporary. Owner John has converted the property next door into three flats of varying size, each with their own balcony. We stayed in HMS Seahorse (all the flats are named after Nelson’s ships), at a cost of £112 per night. John provided us with orange juice and croissants for breakfast, and greeted us with a bottle of drinkable red. There was a range of old school CDs (when we pressed play the Bangles’ Eternal Flame blasted out, much to our amusement) and feel-good DVDs, including Mamma Mia and Slumdog Millionaire. Although, much to our horror, no Nicholas Cage…

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Aside from Dreamland, which we’ll get to, Margate’s old town is host to a clutch of lovely vintage emporiums – curated beautifully I might add – cafes, bars and some of the best furniture shops you’ll ever have the pleasure of browsing. If I ever have the funds to buy a house and furnish from the ground up, I’ll be driving there in a removal van before I even think about stepping foot in Ikea! Being a loose leaf tea fanatic, I have to sing the praises of Lady Tesla’s Loose Leaves and Mud, a tea shop run to eccentric perfection – generous 100g bags of tea leaves start from around the £3 mark (I took away some delicious peppermint for £4.50 and it’ll last me for ages, even if I drink it every day). You can also try any of the teas to take away for £1 (or drink in). I had an amazing coffee and amaretto rooibos (red) tea – I’m itching to go back and buy a full bag now!

The Turner Contemporary gallery is currently host to the Provincial Punk exhibition by Grayson Perry and it’s not to be missed – getting so close to Perry’s works was totally unexpected. His pots are extraordinary – but the true jaw droppers are his massive tapestries, including 2009’s Walthamstow Tapestry.

On the opposite end of the artistic spectrum, Margate is home to the mysterious Shell Grotto, which features 4.6 million shells stored away in passageways under someone’s house!

Shell Grotto – a hidden gem just a couple of minutes walk from the old town #Margate

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For £3.50, you can wander the cool passageways and have your mind blown by the ornate walls, with its mosaics of flowers and animals. Mysteriously, the origins of the grotto is unknown, although perhaps if the Friends of the Shell Grotto raise enough funds needed to conserve it, perhaps they can fund carbon dating to discover the truth!

On Saturday night we ate at the critically acclaimed Ambrette, which serves incredible Indian cuisine (not of the curry variety) for a decent price – although booking is pretty much essential. (It was lucky we turned up at 5:45!) The service is some of the best I’ve ever experienced. Essential dining for any visitor (essential drinking being provided by the Lifeboat pub). A quick, tasty Sunday lunch was eaten at the Great British Pizza Company in Margate.

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After filling up at Ambrette and having a glass of courage in the relaxing surroundings of the Lifeboat pub, it was time to embrace Dreamland’s roller disco – one of the first attractions to open at the park. For £4.95 (peak), you get given a pair of skates and can roll to your heart’s content! Needless to say, we stayed until closing time – AND I didn’t fall.

Roller disco at #Dreamland #Margate

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The next day, it was finally time to hit the rides of Dreamland. Unfortunately the scenic railway isn’t fully restored and ready for action yet, something I was well aware of – unfortunately, neither were a few other rides, including the Crazy Mouse, which I was a little disappointed by! However, there was still a wide range of rides on offer, from the child friendly (Caterpillar), to the downright terrifying (Top Spin – a creakier counterpart to Chessington World of Adventures’ Rameses Revenge). You can even experience crazy levels of G-force in the Barrel of Laughs, which spins so fast that you stick to its sides as the floor drops from beneath you.

Alright Matt! #Dreamland

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There’s still so much to be opened at Dreamland, rides aside. Next to open is the Dreamland Ballroom, followed by the Hall by the Sea and even a bingo hall! The design of the park and its marketing is cleverly pitched at young Londoners like me – and I hope others find themselves seduced by it. Margate might not match Brighton for nightlife, but it has the potential to be a major seaside resort in the next few years. I’ll certainly be back, friends in tow.