Leave the backseat empty, please

One of the amazing things about having a growing social platform is having an instant connection to people.

But also – let’s be honest – it’s also because sometimes people invite you to things because people are following you on Twitter, and invite you to stuff.

At the start of last year very few people knew who I was. Now a handful do – I’m not famous by any means (I’m more recognised for being the “maneater from E3”, or the “girl who interviewed Doc and Shroud at that PUBG thingy”), but my social profile went from a few thousand on twitter, to five times that (my barely updated Instagram saw followers increase by 12,000 in the hour that I co-hosted the aforementioned PC Gaming Show at E3 in June).

Similarly, more people watch when I stream on Twitch – again, not massive numbers (I couldn’t maintain a regular schedule and be a full-time host), but enough to keep chat moving.

Social media is very important to what I do – it’s where I can announce which projects I’m working on next, connect with friends and followers, and keep up with news. Having a healthy number of “likes” can be the key to booking more work – and although I’m resisting being labelled an influencer so far, sometimes that’s why companies will book  me.

But this near-constant communication with the wider world has some side effects, and one I realised when I took up one of those free invites.

I was asked if I’d like to try out a new escape room – AIM Escape in East London. I took one of my oldest friends, and we brought our other halves too. The room was dark and atmospheric. At first, we flew through the initial puzzles of the Psychopath’s Den room – team work on point. Then in the next stage, myself and my friend worked out exactly what we had to do – there was just one detail (I’m trying to be vague with the details to avoid spoilers) that we got wrong. For some reason we didn’t fix this detail right away, and that’s when I noticed it; the voice of the Psychopath was back-seating me. His robotic voice was telling me what I needed to do – even though I was clearly already doing it.

I want to put a disclaimer here before I go further; I don’t think the staff (who were fantastic) could hear me; the priority of the venue is entertainment and storytelling and the delay from the first time we got stuck, we must have lost time, so they were trying to help us catch up. I genuinely enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to everyone.

After it happened a few times, I lost it; I was being back-seated away from my Twitch screen, away from my mobile phone, away from everything. Escapism in the escape room was not going to be possible.

Would this have bothered me in a world without Twitch or Twitter? Maybe – but certainly not as much.

Recently, I’ve found streaming increasingly hard to do; “why didn’t you pick up that AR [in PUBG]?”, “Put your hips into it [Just Dance] more!”, “jumping is easy if you switch it to your third mouse button [in Half-Life]”. The instructions and critiques feel endless and never ending. As they mount up in mentions and Twitch Chat, they also become harder to ignore. People have invested their time and attention in me – and for that I am grateful – but some expect me to morph into something I am not and cannot become.

Then there’s the comments on my appearance (always from men); “that shade of red doesn’t suit you”, “this lip colour isn’t your best”, “if I found you sleeping… I would iron your hair”, “I prefer your hair when it was long” (the latter is odder when you take into account that my hair is around the same length as when I started streaming – but some keen commenters have scrolled back through three years of photos to find me fringeless with long, flat curls). If I reveal on Instagram that I’m getting my hair cut, I lose followers before they’ve even seen the results.

I’ve started to react more strongly – or even overreact – when I sense the comments are coming now. I sometimes try ignoring them, but occasionally I see things I can’t ignore, or a weariness about continuing the broadcast pervades.

So, as I begin my Half-Life 2 play through, I’m going to do my best to stop responding to the people who tell me to “press shift to run”; my stream, my rules, my right to ignore “feedback”

 

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“You have the right call me anything you want”

Warning: I use some naughty words in this post.

Occasionally I see comments on social media that remind me of naive days as an eight-year-old, when insults could reflect the attitudes of a seventies sitcom.

This was back in the days when kids (and some parents) weren’t educated on what it meant to be gay – calling each other a “gay lord” was the insult of choice, second only to calling a girl a “fat bitch”.

But we are older now. We know this is wrong – we would be horrified and tell our kids so if we heard them speak the way we did on the playground.

Or so I thought.

Language is power; Martin Luther King had a dream, Harvey Milk gave us hope, a teenage Malala Yousafzai wrote words so eloquent they scared grown men. All three of these peaceful orators inspired the world – and drew such fearful opposition, they risked – or lost – their lives in the pursuit of fairness.

We live in a world where people are still killed because of the sexuality or the skin colour they are born with; sometimes both. Even in countries where steps are being made towards celebrating and championing the one publicly marginalised LGBTQ+ community, homophobic manifests itself in the most common of places; offices, public transport, street corners. It is highly likely that someone in the Western world, who has not been born with white skin, or is openly not straight, has had some level of verbal abuse thrown their way.

Certain words have been used to portray groups of people as “other” and, as language is an ever-evolving thing, these words can change, while communities can also reclaim words as their own.

Compassion is a simple thing – we can choose to feel it, to bestow it upon others, or we can decisively ignore any inclination towards it. Recently, I’ve seen people online decide that being compassionate would impact too greatly on their rights. “It is a slippery slope”, they say, “to give up words that meant so much to us growing up”.

I have the ability – nay, the right – to say whatever I like, but I also have the responsibility – particularly given the public platform I am lucky to have – to be the change I want to see in the world. The change I want is for all people to experience equality – to not face the stinging slap of a derogatory word meant to hurt someone due to a characteristic that is categorically not a flaw, but is treated by some as if it is.

While you have the right to say what you want, the choices are there; your friend being a dickhead doesn’t make them gay; it makes them a dickhead. Therefore, why not just call them a dickhead? (And besides, it’s hardly fair to tar the gay community with the brush that is your annoying friend.)

When I’m streaming and find myself in a spot of bother, the f-bombs come flying out of my mouth. But I’m directing the aggressive language at myself, or at the game I’m playing. It can be funny – but I’m not tearing anyone down at the same time.

Bringing things back to compassion; people make mistakes – just like my generation did on the playground way back when. I don’t believe people should be hunted, or lose their jobs, or suddenly find the world at their Twitter handle if they do use these words. And besides, these moments are usually followed by a public apology where the issue is highlighted, hopefully making more people aware that their favourite derogatory term maybe isn’t worth holding onto anymore.

At the end of the day, you still have the right to call me anything you want, but when I’m being a dickhead, call me one.

Things I learned before 30

At the end of this year (27th December to be exact), I’m turning 30.

When I tell people this they often want to relay their deepest sympathies, or feign shock; “but you don’t look older than 26!” etc. (By the way, I enjoy this – keep it coming, people.)

Oddly, it’s not the birthday I’m fearing, it’s simply “the end”. My OCD likes to latch onto the smallest seed of dread and replay it in my brain until the echo becomes too much to ignore. Late into the night, my mind calculates my life expectancy and the eventual absence of everything once it’s all over. And it simply started because I one day realised I had reached a level of happiness I hadn’t experienced in years.

I’ve been trying to be better recently at taking in my surroundings, enjoying seeing the world as part of my job, and – perhaps my age is a factor in this – I’ve become far more aware of my environment. Instead of inwards thinking, I’ve moved towards the opposite, and the idea of losing it is terrifying.

It turns out that the hardest part of being a freelance host is the downtime – I love working, I love being busy. Suddenly at home in an empty house, while friends work towards the weekend, I find myself thinking too much.

But I was always a self-starter – and so now I need to kick myself into touch and make something of my time off; be it heading into the outside world, streaming, podcasting and writing.

So let’s reflect on the good stuff; here are some of the life lessons – frivolous or otherwise – that I’ve learned so far.

WORK

Girls are natural born leaders, but we’re told to be quiet and commonly called “bossy” as a negative trait as soon as we start speaking. This often follows us through our teenage years and even into the workplace. After being bullied for years at my primary school, I took the 11 Plus exam and ended up going to a totally different school from everyone else bar one girl, and found my voice. I’ve lost it again in previous workplaces, but I’ve found it again in the past year or so and it’s incredibly freeing.

Losing a job doesn’t mean losing everything. Admittedly the biggest heartbreaks I’ve experienced have been from work rather than relationships. I’m absolutely someone who throws themselves into work – especially given that it takes up so many hours of the day. However, just because you didn’t “fit” somewhere, or there wasn’t a perceived need for your area of expertise, there’s a place for you and people who will love you and your work.

age 21

I’m 21 in this photo. It would be another five years before my fringe made its debut.

If you want to do something, do it. So, if you want to be a writer, write a blog – practice and publish. In this day and age, there’s no reason why not. If you want to be an esports caster, cast your friends playing a competitive match or watch out for events that allow you to “co-stream” tournaments with your own commentary. Although my break into hosting was through standing in for people onstage when I was a producer, I also made my own video content for years and got practice through interviewing people, so when I did stand in, it wasn’t obvious I was new to being onstage in that kind of environment.

Endings can make the best starting points. Work hard, and be good to those you work with and it’ll pay off when you really need it to.

That said… If someone isn’t nice to you, you don’t have to be nice back. It’s not unprofessional to not pander to someone who is making your life and your job difficult. Be firm, and stay focused on your own lane. And make sure you share your experience of this behaviour with someone you trust, so you know someone has your back when the going gets tough.

Focus on your strengths. Don’t worry so much about “weaknesses” – collaborate with others and delegate according to each others’ strengths. Team work makes the dream work, after all.

LIFE

When I was younger, all I wanted was a place of my own. I managed it – buying a shared ownership place in Bow when I was 23, with savings and by selling some shares my late granddad had left to me and my sister.

However, in the process I sacrificed freedom to move; I could not leave my place for long periods of time or take risks in work. But the same time, I loved living by myself – with subsidised rent I wasn’t paying any more than any of my other friends in London; I could play guitar, bake without feeling guilty about taking up space and exercise freely.

Frankie holds cupcakes

The results of baking in my first proper home

Being a single woman in a city like has its disadvantages. Pre-Uber I’d want to get the night bus home but I’d also be terrified of walking late at night on my own. I armed myself with door keys and occasionally ran part of the way on the nights I did “risk it”. One time, I even went into the MacDonalds at Bow Roundabout and stuffed my valuables in my bra before I took the 4am trek.

I look back now on my fervent savings and my fear of the dark and wonder how much I missed on my “responsibility-free 20s”. (It’s probably why I rarely miss an after party these days.)

Exercise is a tough habit to form, but feels awful to break. Although I did some ballroom dancing classes at uni, I didn’t really have a routine as such. Several years ago I discovered Davina McCall DVDs and got hooked. I do associate my thinnest periods with my saddest – nightly solo DVD workouts followed by a lonely microwaved fish fillet in Willesden Green is apparently an incredibly fast way to lose weight (do NOT see this as a recommendation) – but I’m bereft without my near-daily sessions of Fitness Blender or Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube. Exercise puts me in control of my body, and gives me energy; dumbbells have made me feel powerful, and public classes have pushed me to give it my all.

When you lose a friend, they’re never truly “gone”. My friend Ben passed away just over a year ago. I’d never experienced the death of someone so young before, or so unexpectedly. Without him, life continues, but when those milestones – weddings, christenings and the like – arrive, we raise a glass to our absent friend, and in the day-to-day we see him in the most ridiculous of observations.

My older sister recently gave birth to her first child. My impatient niece arrived a month too early while I was in the middle of a production meeting about the Overwatch World Cup. I finally got to meet her a couple of weeks later and, while it was lovely to finally see the new arrival, I was also very much overcome with just how incredible my sister is – I’ve never been prouder of anyone my entire life.

WOMEN

It appears to be a horribly unfair reality that a lone woman in a workgroup of men will represent “all women”. Whereas if there is more than one woman, then they will be pitched against one another. When I appear onstage or play games online I always have that lurking within my subconscious. However, I also use it to drive me forward; if you want to place me on that “all women” pedestal, I’m going to show that women can absolutely knock this out of the park.

Women are also pitched against each other in contemporary updates of the “whore/madonna” parallel. I can hardly see my friends’ posts on Twitter for a sea of dirge – boys (and sometimes grown men) projecting their fears via critiques of how women present themselves. Notice that they don’t critique how other men are appearing on stream.

LOVE

It’s very easy to give up part of your life to accommodate your partner’s. It’s not even always your partner’s fault – women in particular will make the effort on entering their other half’s life and feel guilty about asking their partner to reciprocate the effort. Don’t lay your identity down for anyone. After years of automatically doing this, I had the most “selfish” year of my life, spending long weeks (often consecutively) away from home – and it turned out my boyfriend just wanted what would make me happy. And when he was offered a three-month theatre tour, I supported him back.

If you start to feel like a shadow of your former self, leave. Even if you’ve got a mini break to Venice booked and you know for a fact he’s already bought you a Christmas present.

Just cos your mate fancies him, doesn’t mean you have to fancy someone else.

Jealousy is natural. Making someone change the way they behave because you don’t trust them isn’t. If you can’t get past that sinking feeling, maybe they’re not “the one”.

Nan knows best. Or at least she does in my case – she decided my boyfriend was a catch when they first met six weeks into what became a long-term relationship. Although explaining you met on Tinder to someone close to 90 is quite the challenge.

Dating apps aren’t bad, but they get repetitive. Although I’ve not used Tinder for close to four years now, I lost count of the number of profiles that featured men skiing, surfing or in groups where you couldn’t determine who the eligible bloke was. Sometimes profiles were solely comprised of the latter. I have only met one man who I couldn’t impose my Tinder profile feedback on (I’ll admit, I’m terribly nosy on this front).

Arguing doesn’t mean you’re going to break up – just don’t be stubborn and talk it through. If both sides aren’t out there, it’s going to be hard to move forward.

If someone doesn’t like you, that says more about them than it does you. That goes for all aspects of life.

I realised recently that my boyfriend is my best friend. It’s quite helpful as we share many things (including moisturiser, inventing our own catchphrases and doing impressions of Tom Hardy in the vastly overrated BBC drama Taboo), but if anyone wants to know our “secret”, I think our relationship works because we’re privileged enough to be able to afford a cleaner.

Finally, if you want a damn fringe but your hairdresser won’t give you one, find a stylist who will. Bloomin’ gamechanger. (Although, don’t do DIY highlights on your own… trust me on this one.)

The Charity Chicken Carry

A year ago, I said goodbye to my friend Ben on the train back into London from Luton Airport.

A group of us had just spent the week in Southern France and Italy. I’d flown straight from the chaos of running the Twitch Stage at gamescom 2017.

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Somewhere that's green…

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It had taken me time to adjust to being abroad for holiday, rather than work, one day bordering on a panic attack as we swam in actual seawater on an otherwise idyllic boat trip, powered by Aperol and a French skipper, (who had casually mentioned jellyfish before our group jumped in). Ben had noticed my fear and paddled towards me, guiding me back to the boat. He was not someone who left his friends behind.

I didn’t realise that the last time I would see Ben would be on that train.

And yet – here’s the thing – Ben was never going to not be around. He lives on at gatherings, in the WhatsApp group his devoted friends created in his memory. In stories, impersonations of his unique mannerisms and phrasings, and in the bizarre newspaper articles we send each other that he would undoubtedly have discovered first for our amusement.

How my boyfriend Matt managed to deliver the eulogy at Ben’s funeral, I’ll never know. It’s available to read online at an initial fundraising page set up last year, and reading it still makes me sway dramatically between laughter and tears.

I’ll never be able to understand the decision of taking away one’s own life, but I know that it is an internal debate that effects so many people. Therefore, I’m planning to hold a fundraiser for Mind (a UK-based mental health charity) in October, and I want to call on members of the PUBG community to get involved.

If you’re a competitive PUBG fan, you may have seen me pop up at various PUBG tournament desks, or brandishing a mic onstage. I love talking about the game at its highest level, and the teams involved.

However, if you’re familiar with my Twitch stream, you’ll also be aware that I’m a horrible PUBG player.

I panic, I wail and scream, I shoot bushes. Oh, and never, ever let me drive. Seriously.

So I thought I’d call on the pro players I get to discuss at events such as DreamHack and WSOE, and see if they’ll give up a bit of their time to try and make me a better player, along with the talent I share the stage with – my chicken dinner count is currently two and during the first of those my computer died mid game, so I wasn’t even there to see it. It’ll be an arduous task for them, so in a way, you’re kind of sponsoring them more than me…

Although the details are still flexible, the action will most likely play out over an eight hour stream on my Twitch channel, while my fellow squad members will be encouraged to stream and do some fundraising of their own (I’ll likely invite Twitch streamers to join also). I’ll be rotating squads every hour. I currently think Saturday 29th September Sunday 30th September may be a good date, but there may be clashes with online leagues, so will be happy to take feedback on whether this date is suitable.

I’m looking for pro players and Twitch Partners who are interested in joining me to get in touch asap – a DM on Twitter or emailing me is the best option. The same for sponsors, or anyone who would like to be involved in some way.

Thank you.

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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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”.

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.

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#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!

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…

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.

Recommended by a Friend: Comedians on their pick of the Edinburgh Fringe

Last year I produced and presented an interactive video series called Frankie’s Fringe Focus.

This year I’ve gone back to YouTube and spoken to four of my favourite up-and-coming comics about the shows you shouldn’t miss in Edinburgh this year.

Sofie Hagen

I recorded this with Danish comic (and Denmark’s biggest Westlife fan) Sofie Hagen in the loos upstairs at the Camden Head (the one in Camden, rather than its Angel namesake). I’ve been dying to interview her since meeting her at the BBC Radio New Comedy Award in 2013 so was thrilled when she agreed to meet me in the aforementioned bathroom (with my sister on iPad holding duties) to recommend Damien Clark’s latest full length show. I also saw a preview of her own show, Bubblewrap, after our interview and it was poignant, hilarious and unmissable.

Find out more about Sofie’s free show, Bubblewrap

Find out more about Damien Clark’s free show It’s a Good Day to Damo

Joz Norris

I LOVE JOZ! He’s awesome and so much fun to watch and generally be around. This was, in essence, a pilot for the format. (Thanks for being my guinea pig, Joz!) I really enjoyed last year’s show and this year’s Hey Guys comes complete with a toilet seat head and Neil Young – what more could you want? Well, possibly another laughter-packed show, in Marny Godden’s bonkers character show Flap ‘Em on the Gate, the first solo hour from The Grandees perforner. It’s very amusing – and yes, you may be pulled up on stage (but she doesn’t bite).

Find out more about Joz Norris: Hey Guys!

Find out more about Marny Godden: Flap ‘Em on the Gate

Michael Brunström

Part man, part river Michael is responsible for one of the most surprising uses of a morph suit ever to be witnessed in Edinburgh. Now he’s back with The Golden Age of Steam. Rumours he will once again make audience members dance with a fennel are currently unsubstantiated. He’s recommending the utterly charming Colin Leggo (google Breaking Bude for one of his hilarious Cornish videos).

Find out more about Michael Brunström: The Golden Age of Steam

Find out more about Colin Leggo: Leggoland

Matt Winning

Matt Winning is an absurd comic, member of the Bearpit Podcast and all round lovely person, so it’s a real treat to have him on the show to recommend Sean McLoughlin’s show at this year’s Fringe – and, by way of a bonus, he’s debuting his first hour, Mugabe and Me this year, so if you like a bit of intelligent wordplay with outlandish impressions, he’s your man!

Find out more about Matt Winning: Mugabe and Me

Find out more about Sean McLoughlin: Whatever It Takes

But who would you recommend at this year’s Fringe? Tell the world, well Twitter, using the hashtag #RecommendedByAFriend