All posts by nikki white

Sea change makes every vote count

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Saturday, October 11 2014

Love ’em or loathe ’em, you can no longer ignore Ukip.

From a small party of colourful characters, whose logo was just as colourful and brash with its purple and yellow branding, they have grown – and will continue to do so.

With their first elected MP now in place, and the prospect of another on the way in Rochester and Strood in the next few weeks, it really is time to sit up and listen.

There are still many who will not entertain them or their politics. A friend of mine spotted Mark Reckless giving out leaflets at a railway station the other day, targeting commuters.

“Thankfully he missed me,” she said. “If he had stopped me, I’d have told him to ‘poke it, daddio’.” It’s a phrase I might use more in life.

But the message from Clacton was loud and clear. Douglas Carswell won with a 12,404 majority – 60% of the vote. That’s not just a bit of backlash.

Maybe voters thought that voting for Ukip now and having Mr Carswell represent them until the general election next year was worth it to send a message to the other parties that it was time to get their acts in gear. Or maybe they agree with him. We’ll find out in 2015.

Many are unhappy with the parties they usually support but don’t know which way to turn – I do sometimes wonder if there was a “none of the above” box on the voting slip just how many of us would be tempted to put a cross in the box.

I’ve fleetingly contemplated voting for someone obscure in the past, but chickened out when I couldn’t carry the guilt that had everyone else in the ward or constituency done the same, we’d be represented by someone who wanted to turn the area into a home for hobbits.

The near-win in Greater Manchester – where Labour only narrowly held Heywood and Middleton, and Ukip forced a recount – and the outcome of Rochester and Strood are just as crucial as Clacton.

Even for someone like me, who prefers to put the political wrangling aside and look at what the issues actually mean for the day-to-day lives of people like my parents in their cosy bungalow, this is fascinating.

Because if Ukip has anything right, it is that times are changing. The party’s wannabe MP for Dartford, Elizabeth Jones, said: “This is the beginning of a sea of change.”

She’s right: It is. And that change may not be for Ukip, but it’s certainly making many more people think about not only which way they vote, but making sure they do, because it is becoming increasingly clear that every single one will count.

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More centenarians means more cake for us reporters!

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Saturday, September 27 2014

There are now almost 14,000 people over the age of 100 living in the UK, a five per cent rise in a single year, according to new estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

It’s good news for the Queen’s Birthday Card Team, and it’s also good news for journalists.

We love a 100-year-old. They’ve always got a good story to tell and, more often than not, you’ll get a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Any reporter will tell you (because they will have had it brow-beaten into them by their news editor) that one of the most important questions to ask is what the secret to a long life is.

It’s not because we’re all about to start changing our lifestyle in the hope we can reach that grand old age but because some of the reasons are just brilliant.

Over the years, I’ve seen longevity put down to ballet dancing, healthy living, leading a good Christian life, a tot of whisky every day and doing what you blooming well liked.

I’m sure a colleague of mine had one interviewee who put it down to the fags she had started smoking at 80.

Many of the stories were no doubt embellished, but when you get to 100, you’re entitled to embroider the truth a little, aren’t you?

With more 100-plus birthday reports on the horizon, it hopefully means there will be more golden weddings too, another reporter favourite.

Just like a visit to a centenarian, a trip to interview a couple celebrating their golden wedding is always a job to treasure (and not just for the tea and cake).

The family albums usually come out and there will be some wonderful (or sometimes hilarious) story about how they met. One of my favourites was the man who was stood up, and then met the love of his life as he stomped past her at the bus stop.

But the best things are their secrets to a long marriage. It is usually “give and take” and “never going to sleep on an argument”.

But my favourite tale was from a colleague years ago. She came back from an interview looking particularly hassled, which was a bit strange given she had been out quaffing tea all afternoon while the rest of us slaved away writing.

“That,” she said, “was the strangest job I’ve ever been on. They sat at opposite ends of the sofa and when I asked them why they had asked me round, she said it was because her daughter had arranged it, and she didn’t want to upset the kids.

“When I asked them what their secret was, the woman said ‘We haven’t got one. We’ve barely spoken to each other in years’.”

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And here's another sunset...

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Wednesday, September 17 2014

It’s that time of year, when most people are back from their summer holiday and want to relive it by showing you the evidence.

The joy (and the cost) of film meant that years ago, if you could afford to go away for a few days, you were careful about what you snapped.

There was no chance of reviewing there and then what you had taken, so most pictures were carefully posed with a countdown of “3,2,1 -cheeeeeeese!” to make sure everybody was simultaneously smiling, looking in the right direction and not blinking.

Weeks later, once the film had been developed (if you have no idea what that means, ask your mum) woe betide anyone who had messed up the money shot with a badly-timed sneeze.

Holiday photos give us the chance to brag about where we’ve been and show just how clever we were to be in the right place at the right time to take a picture of a beautiful sunset.

Funnily enough, there is no evidence of our camping trip to Tenterden when I was about eight.

According to a recent survey by a travel firm, we now take an average of 447 pictures during our foreign holidays including 45 selfies and six of stray cats.

At a couple of quid per roll of film, that would have cost you almost £40, which is why 25 years ago, all holiday photo albums were restricted to the 24 shots on your film (or 36 if you were feeling ambitious).

Now, most people – 66% – take their snaps on smartphones, while 42% use cameras and 27% on tablets.

Few are deleted, which is why trawling through somebody’s holiday album these days is as much about the food, drinks and legs on sun loungers as it is the scenery and wildlife.

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing them, but I’d prefer an edited version, or better still, a superfast slideshow with equally speedy commentary.

The sad thing is that most never get printed and under half make it onto social media sites, according to the survey.

They clearly didn’t interview some of my Facebook buddies, who have been away for what seems like months and have been uploading photos while they’re away. Don’t you just love looking at pictures of bright blue seas when you’re sitting down of an evening wondering whether it’s too early in the year to turn the heating on?

I am just as guilty at clicking away, although our house is filled with photos capturing precious moments, and we do have one of those digital frames which doesn’t quite fit into the decor of our Victorian cottage, but I love that it means I can look at so many more photos of family and friends.

So here is one of mine. It’s of my hubby in one of our favourite places in the Lake District, where we’ll be returning later this year.

I definitely won’t be sporting a tan by the end of my break, and I can guarantee my photos will be few and far between. There’s only so many times you can capture the magic of fog, rain and pints of beer next to a roaring fire.

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I thought I’d ducked out of a drenching

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, September 2 2014

So, they finally got me.

For weeks, I’ve been watching with glee as friend after friend tipped a bucket of icy water over their head, and nominated somebody else for the ALS challenge.

There were buckets full of ice, dustbins full of water, sensible tippings on sunny days, and mad-cap near midnight drenchings outside our local pub.

I’ve watched celebs such as David Beckham and wife Victoria lay down the gauntlet, seen local councillors do their bit and also utter strangers make idiots of themselves.

I thought I’d managed to escape the madness because I’m the worst Facebooker friend ever.

I log on and love to catch up with what others are doing but when it comes to posting things about me, I never feel I’ve got much to say. So I don’t, which I thought meant I’d probably slipped under the radar.

And so I thought the ice bucket challenge had passed me by until one of my oldest and dearest friends nominated me on Thursday night.

Worse still, she’s not even on Facebook. She’d been nominated by her teenage son, and nominated me via her husband’s page – now that’s just sneaky!

So there I was on Friday night, running late to get ready to go out, and instead of luxuriating in a hot bubble bath, I was stood in the middle of my garden, tipping water over my head.

And before you ask, yes I did donate some cash.

The sad thing is that although this craze has swept the land, according to a recent survey, more than half of Brits polled did not donate to an ALS charity after taking part.

And 53% of people who did complete the challenge did not know what cause it was supporting.

If you don’t know, ALS is short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the American name for the condition usually referred to in the UK as motor neurone disease (MND).

It has raised more than £3m for the charity, but they could have so much more.

If you’re one of those who has taken on the challenge but not paid up yet, donate now. You can log on at www.mndassociation.org or donate £5 by texting ICED55 to 70070.

I’m now off to finish my loom band collection.

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Minding our language in a changing world

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, August 19 2014

I love words. I love reading them, typing them, and sometimes I still even use a fountain pen to write them down.

As a journalist, you would be surprised if I didn’t, and I am always fascinated when new lists of words emerge.

You would think by now we would have sorted out our complicated language, but nothing is forever, which keeps wordsmiths like myself on our toes.

While we grapple daily trying to translate council agendas and government documents into stuff an 11-year-old can understand, there is now the additional challenge of social media, which has a whole language of its own.

As a traditionalist, I still cannot bring myself to type LOL at the end of a text, and those winking smiley faces made up of commas and semi-colons just make me shudder.

I am, much to my mum’s delight, still putting apostrophes in my texts, even if most others are giving up on the humble symbol.

However, I am also intrigued by the plethora (one of my favourites) of words that join our world.

The latest list for OxfordDictionaries.com includes humblebrag, neckbeard and sideboob. Which is, of course (new word alert) adorbs.

A humblebrag is, apparently, a modest statement made to draw attention to something a person is quite proud of.

A neckbeard is exactly that – a beard on your neck – while a sideboob is the side of a woman’s breast.

It became popular as celebrities’ dresses became less about the fabric and more about showing an increasing amount of flesh.

Also on the list are adorbs (an adjective that means something is cute or adorable), Yolo (an acronym of You Only Live Once), and binge-watch (to avidly watch something).

You may not have heard of clickbait, deep web, dox, fast follower, geocache, in silico, octocopter, smartwatch and tech-savvy, but it probably won’t be long before you do – they are on the list, too.

It is amazing how quickly new words are soaked into everyday use.

Not so long ago, the word “selfie” was barely uttered. Now we are at it every day, taking photos of ourselves and posting them on to Facebook and Twitter. OK, not all of us.

What about twerking? We might not all be at it, but Miley Cyrus did quite well out of it.

So what’s next? I cannot wait to see, after all yolo. LOL.

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A romantic weekend away... eventually

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Friday, August 8 2014

When you don’t have children, there are some things that pass you by: knowing all the words to the songs in the latest Disney movie; knowing all the characters in How to Train Your Dragon; loom band bracelets; remembering when the school holidays begin.

To be fair, hubby and I had realised the dates we had chosen to go away for a romantic break were probably the first full-on weekend of the summer holidays.

“It’ll be a bit busier than normal,” I’d said, “but it shouldn’t be that bad.”

We took half a day’s holiday so we could leave at lunchtime and still make it to Bath in about three hours.

We’d check in late afternoon, take a stroll around the city and get our bearings, find somewhere for a drink, dinner and then meander back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

We were doing OK until we got just past Junction 7 on the M25 and hit some traffic. But the weather was sunny, we were OK for time and we pootled along at about 40mph.

And then the rain came, and some more, and just when you thought it couldn’t rain any harder, it did, and the lightning started right above us.

By this time, the motorway was flooding, and we were stopping and starting at regular intervals.

At Junction 9, we gave up and came off the motorway and decided to make our way across country.

“I’d rather be stuck in a jam on an A-road than on the M25,” said hubby.

Well, that’s exactly what we got because everybody else had decided to do the same. An hour, 10 miles and one junction later, we got back on the M25 and joined the crawl.

And so it carried on to the M4. We didn’t get up any speed again until Reading, when we came to a halt again and watched as a police car went past with its lights flashing.

At this point, I actually yelled out in frustration. If I could have got out and kicked something I would have.

Thankfully, for all involved, it turned out to be a minor shunt, and we quickly found ourselves on our way to our destination, albeit two-and-a-half hours late.

We still did everything we wanted but just a few hours later than planned. And, with no children in tow, we could stay out until after midnight eating and drinking with nobody to worry about than ourselves. Life’s not so bad.

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Flying off with a swing in my step

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Friday, July 25 2014

“He’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze.”

British lyricist and singer George Leybourne may have captured the exploits of Jules Léotard in song, but he might have written something completely different if he’d been near me last Sunday.

I sometimes open my mouth without thinking, and that’s usually how my husband ends up creating gift lists.

I’ve had horse-riding lessons, a trip in a balloon and various other surprises, all thanks to a chance remark he’s picked up on.

Just before Christmas, I saw a trapeze lesson on TV.

“I’d love to do that,” I declared, and thought no more about it until Christmas Day, when he presented me with a gift voucher for a two-hour lesson. Which is how I found myself with a group of eight others in Regent’s Park, London, on Sunday, squeezed into lycra and a harness and dangling among the tree tops.

Now when you’re a kid, you think nothing of the hours you spend hanging from monkey bars in the park, swinging your legs up and hanging upside down.

It all looked so simple when the instructors showed us what we’d be doing but it soon became apparent that I was well out of practice.

Climbing the ladder was the first hurdle. Don’t ask me how high it was – once I was up there it felt like I was 100ft up and the lesson didn’t seem such a good idea.

But once I took off, I was flying. The first time, I didn’t manage to get my legs hooked around the bar, but the second and third time I did it, albeit a little slower than the instructors would have liked. And best of all, we got to somersault off the bar and into the big net below.

Unsurprisingly, the children in our group showed up all the adults, making it look as if they’d been doing it all their lives.

A week on, my muscles still ache and I’ve still some pretty impressive bruises on my legs but I don’t care.

I loved every minute of it.

I’m even contemplating booking another lesson in the hope I can get a bit quicker, and get the chance to not only swing on the trapeze, but get caught by an instructor on a separate swinging bar (and yes, the kids did it without a second thought).Will I ever grow up?

Will I ever grow up?

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Why we can still win the race by running like a girl

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, July 7 2014

If you were asked to run like a girl, what would you do?

Think about it, just for a moment, and then think what you would do if you were trying to show your daughter, niece or granddaughter.

Would you do the same thing?

A video of young women, girls, men and boys being asked that very question has gone viral, and for good reason.

Each were asked to demonstrate how they would run, fight and throw like a girl.

Most of them pranced around in small dainty steps, flapped their hands in the air and feigned pathetic attempts.

But the youngest girls sprinted with all their might, showed off some impressive martial arts and powerfully launched imaginary javelins into the air. To them, “run like a girl” simply meant “run as fast as you can”.

So why does “like a girl” sound like such an insult to the rest of us? One girl simply points out: “Why can’t ‘run like a girl’ still mean “win the race?”

Men are usually physically stronger than women – that’s just the way it is – but that should not mean that girls feel second best. Not all men are physically stronger than women and coming second doesn’t mean you’re weak.

I’m ashamed to say that when I watched the video, I too conjured up images of prissy, weak actions.

Girls growing up these days are different, thank goodness. We’re no longer the shy, fainting Victorians afraid to show a bit of ankle.

Girls (and women) love football, rugby, cricket, athletics and more. The increasing coverage of netball by Sky Sports shows that somebody, at last, has finally realised how many thousands of women play the game every week, and have done for some time.

I’ll be joining Life Presidents, players and committee members of the Medway Netball League in Rainham this Saturday to celebrate its diamond anniversary.

And if you want to see how a netballer throws, join a team – we’ve a pretty powerful shot!

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I’ve just come back from a week in Dorset.

Not just anywhere in Dorset but – by sheer coincidence – close to where they’re filming the second series of the gripping drama Broadchurch.

Despite my best efforts to track them down, I can confirm that although I have been to the newsagents, the church, the beach and the police station all featured in the storyline, I will not be loitering in the background of any crowd shots as I couldn’t find them.

Not one glimpse of David Tennant, not one.

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Would offering a lift make me a bad person?

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, June 23 2014

I drove past a young teenage lad on Thursday afternoon. He must have been on his way to a friend’s because although he was in his school uniform, he had no bags with him.

All he had on was his trousers and a short-sleeved shirt. And it was just starting to rain.

It was a country lane and given the direction he was heading I knew he had at least a 20-minute walk uphill until he reached a house. He was undoubtedly about to get drenched.

I wanted to stop and offer him a lift but these days, you just can’t. Any adult offering a lift to a child, however innocent, would probably terrify the life out of them and wind up with an angry parent on their doorstep and a trip to the police station.

I’m not sure things were any different when I was a kid – my parents were always warning us about stranger danger and at one point, I even starred in a police safety video about the dangers of getting into the car of someone you didn’t know.

But even giving a lift to an adult makes you stop and think.

I pass a chap in his late 20s every morning. Again, it’s in the middle of nowhere and I know, from the various points I’ve passed him on his route, that his walk is at least 40 minutes if not more.

I feel so guilty driving by, especially during the winter, but I’m just not brave enough to stop.

Would you?

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I had my ear pierced a few weeks ago, a stud in the top of the left one.

It came after a couple of years of deliberating. First of all I couldn’t decide whether I could bear the pain, then I couldn’t decide which ear to put it in and then I just faffed around some more.

Then a close friend of ours died suddenly, and I decided I’d had enough of faffing.

So I did it. I rocked up at Medway Tattoo and Piercing Centre in Rochester and asked to have my left ear done, based on nothing more than it’s the same ear TV presenter Emma Willis has hers, and I’d read an interview with her a few days earlier.

The piercer was professional and as he gently pushed the needle in my ear, there was no cry of pain.

After so much procrastinating, I was pretty disappointed it didn’t hurt more.

I love it but there’s just one thing. It’s no Pat Butcher adornment but my middle-age act of rebellion hasn’t been noticed by my mother. Until she reads this, of course.

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Veterans will never forget and neither should we

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, June 9 2014

Shoulder to shoulder, they stood proud. Age may have wearied them, but they were determined to pay their respects.

Friday’s commemorations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day should be shown in every school in the UK.

To watch men, the youngest in their late 80s, hold their heads with the air of those who refused to be beaten, was humbling.

You and I will hopefully never know what it was like to live through such a terrible time. Not knowing when the men in your family would return home, if at all; dreading the sound of the air raid sirens and wondering if you’d make it through the night to tomorrow; to fight for your country in the harshest of conditions.

I heard a radio interview last week, not about D-Day itself, but the day before and how tough that must have been too.

The interviewee talked about how when June 6 arrived, men got their heads down and got on with the job. With barely time to think and adrenaline running, they knew what they had to do, no matter what the cost.

But the day before, they were marching. Marching through the countryside, step by step, knowing deep down they may be walking to their death. There was time to think and yet they still marched onwards, determined to play their part. That too was brave.

It’s impossible to imagine how that must have felt but it is important we don’t stop trying.

Watching veterans at the services in Arromanches and elsewhere on Friday, some of that determination was clearly still there.

Even after all these years, they are adamant they will never forget their colleagues and do so to ensure people like you and me won’t forget either.

As the years pass, their numbers dwindle and soon there will no longer be a man alive who witnessed first hand the horror of that day and many others like them.

And that is why it is so important for those of us who were not there to look into the eyes of those who were while we can, and promise we too will remember them.

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My little brother was 40 yesterday. He’s not one for a lot of fuss, so a gathering of friends in a Rochester pub was enough to mark the big occasion.

But there’s just one thing, little bro. Can you start lying about your age now so people can’t work out how old I am either?

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Nikki's world, with Nikki White

My name is Nikki White and welcome to my world.

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