All posts by nikki white

Wonderful men, taken far too soon

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Wednesday, March 19 2014

Sometimes, you just want the world to stop for five minutes so you can catch your breath and take it all in.

Two men who have played a part in my life – one in my personal life, the other a colleague – have died in the past few weeks, both taken too soon.

I met Mick Ashby, or Munch as we all knew him, not long after I met my husband.

They first became friends when my husband was 16 and started a Saturday job at the builders’ merchants where Munch worked.

They bonded, as most men do, over football. Munch ran a local team and my other half was soon playing for them.

From then, he and his family became very close friends and eight years ago Munch was best man at our wedding.

He was one of those people who didn’t stand any fuss and loved a joke.

He was rarely without a smile on his face and he absolutely adored his family.

He was never happier than when he was with his girls – his wife and three daughters – ribbing each other over something and laughing loud and hearty.

And he would have laughed himself silly over the tributes being paid to him now. There are many men who, like my husband, will never forget the way he guided them both on the pitch and off, a listening ear when one was needed. The 200 cards his family has received show just how well thought of he was.

Munch never woke from the severe injuries he suffered after he fell from a roof, typically helping others to the last.

Then came the news that former Messenger photographer Barry Crayford had died from a suspected heart attack.

He was another person who I will always remember as wearing a beaming smile.

I hadn’t seen him for some time but spoke to him on the phone only a few months ago.

He had rung to tell me he had taken a photograph I might be interested in.

After leaving the KM Group in 2008, he became a volunteer press officer for Sheerness RNLI and used his photographic skills to promote their work.

In true Barry style, he was happy, loving life and had time for a little chat to catch up. He genuinely cared.

Both were taken too soon. Munch was 62, Barry only a year older.

I like to think the pair of them are both up there, forging a new friendship filled with laughs.

Bless them both.

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Holding back the years

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, March 3 2014

Every time I look in the mirror, I swear another wrinkle has appeared.

A daily ritual of eye cream, face serum, moisturiser followed by something that’s supposed to “brighten and tighten” must be doing something, but I wish it would work harder.

Photos of supermodel Christie Brinkley looking better at 60 than I did at 30 (and possibly even 20) did nothing to help my mood.

She puts her figure down to a vegan diet and keeps herself looking young with “special facials” from her dermatologist.

My diet of sandwiches grabbed on the run, biscuits and snacks to get me through the day are probably telling their own tale.

My other half is pretty good at making sure we eat a sensible evening meal during the week with plenty of fish and veg. If left to me, it would be cheese and potato pie most nights.

But it’s clearly not enough and if I’m ever going to lose weight and hold back those laughter lines, I need to do something more about it.

I have started going to the gym a bit more, forcing myself to fit in at least half an hour even if all I want to do is go home and have an early night, or it’s chucking it down with rain.

I was doing OK and feeling pretty good about myself, until near the end of one sweaty session, two familiar faces strolled in.

As a Strictly Come Dancing fan, it was a bit of a dilemma. I was thrilled to see James and Ola Jordan in the flesh, but not right at that moment in time.

There was the beautiful Ola, looking pretty and petite and toned in her clinging black outfit.

Then there was me, in a baggy old netball training top, face wet with perspiration and looking like I’d been dragged through a hedge forwards, backwards and every other which way.

Still, I’m trying.

The other age giveaway, of course, is your hair.

My limp, fine locks have never been flowing, but at least I’ve always been a shiny chestnut brown, which I love.

Until now. One by one, the grey is creeping in.

I had my hair cut on Saturday, and looked closely in the mirror at the smattering of silver glinting from my head.

What I wanted my hairdresser to tell me was that those grey hairs weren’t as bad as I thought.

Instead, she suggested something like a number 6 would be closest to my own hair colour.

Still, if it’s all in the genes I don’t have much to worry about.

My mum is looking pretty good for her age (I won’t let on how old mum!) so there is hope for me yet.

But I really do need to lay off those chocolate digestives.

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Rain, rain go away....

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Friday, February 21 2014

The rain has been causing havoc again across the county.

On Friday night the culvert running through our village, which I’ve never seen anywhere near overflowing, was so high, water started seeping onto the road.

Thankfully, it was short-lived and the level dropped back quickly. Not so further down the road where it flooded again and two cars got stuck.

The wind and the rain continued to batter throughout the night, but by the Saturday morning it seemed that apart from a neighbour losing a few fence panels, we had, compared to others, escaped relatively lightly.

A trip to meet up with friends in Meopham proved more of a challenge. Our first route was blocked by a tree, our second option also confronted us with a road closed sign. We double backed on ourselves, drove past our home and set off on a third attempt. In less than a minute, we heard a worrying grating sound coming from one of the front wheels.

We turned round and limped back home to swap cars.

Our fourth effort took us along some battered country lanes but after some careful negotiation around fallen branches and piles of flint washed on to the road, we were within minutes of our destination.

But as we turned a corner, we discovered near gridlock. We joined the back of a queue of about half a dozen cars which had encountered a tractor coming the other way down the narrow lane. It was leading a long stream of cars all trying to avoid the fallen tree we’d encountered more than an hour ago.

Thankfully, there was enough space for the tractor to edge to one side while the rest of us started to play what seemed like a giant puzzle with one car moving forward, others reversing and trying to creep forward.

Another 15 minutes later and we were finally through. We finally caught up with our friends 90 minutes after we should have arrived.

Although we’re still not entirely sure what’s wrong with our car (hubby is removing the wheel as I write this, in the hope it’s just something wedged up inside that just needs dislodging), and Saturday’s journey was a nightmare, we do still count ourselves lucky.

We are safe, our home is too and our thoughts are with those who are battling through so much more.

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You can’t help but look at the photos of gold medal winning Olympian Lizzy Yarnold and not feel sheer joy.

Years of early mornings, long training days, and all working towards something that’s over in moments.

My first real memory of watching a winter Olympics was in 1980 when Robin Cousins won gold in the men’s figure skating.

I once watched him perform at what was then the Ice Bowl in Gillingham, and he executed that famous back flip.

I loved to watch skating and I was hooked on Torvill and Dean, but any aspirations I had to take to the ice were never realised – I was far too scared of falling over and breaking something to ever take it up seriously and let’s face it, I don’t have the motivation for those early morning training sessions.

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I’m a pig, but it’s certainly no bad thing

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Thursday, February 6 2014

Kung hei fat choy!

It’s Chinese New Year, and the celebrations to welcome the Year of the Horse have begun.

I was born in the Year of the Pig (1971, before you ask) which apparently means I am patient, sometimes shy, but fun to be around.

We are extremely loyal to our friends, more so our family, and will do anything for them, but don’t make new friends easily as we can be a little reserved when meeting people for the first time.

That can sometimes come across as being aloof, but once we’ve let our barrier down, we can be warm-hearted and rather lively.

People born during the Year of the Pig are said to enjoy life when things are good, but equally know how to get on with it when things are tough.

We don’t like confrontation but prefer to let things take their course. Some see that as a weakness, where a Pig simply sees it as letting the small things go to concentrate on more important matters.

True? Pretty much, I would say. I would do almost anything for my friends and family and I do feel a little shy meeting people, which would surprise some, given my career choice.

What always drove me beyond that initial fear flutter of knocking on someone’s door – I can only compare it to stage fright – is that once that was done, I could get down to the bit I really loved of telling someone’s story.

Early on in my career, I was on duty the weekend of the Chinese celebrations. As the only one in the office (we were in Chatham High Street at the time), it was pretty quiet and it gave me a chance to push on with writing up some copy uninterrupted before I headed out to cover the festivities.

Suddenly, there was an almighty noise, like a machine-gun going off. All sorts of thoughts flashed through my head. Was it a crazed killer? Was it gang trouble?

I tentatively leaned out the window to check what it was and realised someone in the restaurant opposite had let the firecrackers off early.

Having never heard them before, it took several seconds for me to realise it was nothing serious.

Now, I love them but the sound always makes me laugh at the day I thought I was in the middle of a shoot-out and dived on the floor for cover.

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Some people are just so thoughtful.

You may remember a few weeks ago I told you about the scarf my mum knitted me for Christmas. She doesn’t knit much so it meant all the more to me.

Well, one of her friends, who is an absolute whizz at all sorts of crafts, read my column and the next thing I knew, a surprise package arrived at my home.

It was another scarf, one of many she had knitted and wanted me to have as she knew I would love it too – and I do. So Sheila, thank you so much for my surprise pressie, I just wish I had an ounce of your talent.

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A hot bath and an evening in front of the TV has a greater pull than the treadmill

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, January 20 2014

If you’ve managed to get to today and are still sticking to your resolutions, you’re doing better than most of us.

And if you can make it past this Friday, chances are you’ll stick it out.

A survey has revealed that Friday, January 24, is when most people are likely to give up their New Year promises, or give in depending on what your vice is.

Dubbed Fail Friday, it’s the time when most people’s resolve disappears and we go back to our old ways.

I’m not doing too badly.

My determination to get fitter hasn’t quite paid off.

So far this year I’ve managed two yoga classes and two gym sessions, which is two gym sessions more than I actually fancied going to, so I must have some willpower.

If only I could unearth more of it. The number of times I’m actually going, it’s not exactly great value for money, and hardly doing much for my waistband, but I am taking solace that I am heading in the right direction.

Sadly, by the time I arrive home on a wet Monday evening, the lure of a hot bath and sitting in front of the television in my pyjamas for soap-tastic night is too much of a draw so I can’t ever see me being a five-times a weeker.

The healthier eating is faring about the same. I (reluctantly) opted out of office chip lunches two weeks in a row, but did cave in for the bacon buttie breakfast.

On a trip to the supermarket last Wednesday, I scooped up bags of reduced price parsnips and made pots of soup, which I was enjoying tucking into until a colleague pointed out it was so thick, you could slice it.

I’m not sure quite what that says about my cooking abilities, but in my defence a) it wasn’t that bad and b) when exactly does a soup become a puree?

I’m still ploughing my way through Christmas chocolates, though, dear reader, so I haven’t completely changed.

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After a hectic few weeks, hubby and I found ourselves with a few days off last weekend.

So we grabbed ourselves a last-minute deal at a lovely hotel, packed our bags and headed off.

The place we’d picked was amazing, a beautiful old manor house with a great restaurant and friendly staff.

I’d have been quite happy to stay there all day, but instead we took advantage of a sudden burst of sunshine, donned our walking gear and headed out.

Which was fine, until 20 minutes later when we found ourselves in increasingly deeper mud.

We battled on, getting dirtier with ever step and by the time we got back to the posh hotel two hours later, we looked like we’d been roughing it for days.

We dumped our boots in the car and crept to our room to clean up.

Perhaps it wasn’t quite the romantic weekend I’d imagined but, looking back, it was perfect and almost a mini re-run of our honeymoon in the Lake District.

I can’t quite work out how the girl from Lordswood housing estate grew up to love trudging through the countryside so much.

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It’s been a miserable end to the year for far too many people

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Thursday, January 9 2014

At the start of a new year, we should be filled with hope and expectation.

There should be lists aplenty of dreams we would like to fulfil, good cheer we wish to share with others, prayers for those in need and resolutions to stop doing all that is bad for you (or at least cut down).

I have plenty of that but all drowned out by an overwhelming, unrelenting feeling of sogginess.

As a nation obsessed with weather, you would think we would find some happiness in the fact that our favourite topic for discussion is throwing all it can at us.

But how can you when all it seems to be bringing is wave after wave of misery?

Our village escaped reasonably lightly. The main road saw the worst rise of water in years, and I think one of the nearby homes found itself under water but thankfully nothing on the scale seen in Yalding.

We found ourselves driving through the area round Sutton Valence, Chart Sutton and Headcorn on Christmas Eve, and it was hard to tell where the fields stopped and the rivers began.

A few roads were blocked but what followed in the days afterwards was far more devastating.

At least all I have had to contend with is struggling to put a cover over my car (no, I still haven’t got round to getting the window seals fixed) to stop the rain getting in.

If nothing else, it’s kept my neighbours entertained as I wrestle in the wind trying to tighten the fastenings and stop this giant tarpaulin flying back in my face and engulfing me.

So for now, all we can do is pray for brighter weather, batten down the hatches in the meantime, help those who need it, and book that summer holiday somewhere warmer.

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One of my Christmas presents had a tag on it that said “Be careful what you wish for”.

It turned out to be a scarf, knitted by my mum. I’d admired one she made months ago and forgotten all about it. I love it, and especially because I know it was made with love.

My hubby had also been keeping his ears open throughout the year.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’d wanted a lava lamp but had never got round to buying one.

I’m not sure it fits with the decor of a Victorian cottage but I don’t care.

And my other present? After watching Strictly Come Dancing’s Natalie Gumede overcome her confidence fears with a lesson on a circus trapeze, I announced “I’d LOVE to do that!”

So guess where I’m off to this summer? One two-hour lesson on a high trapeze.

I’m genuinely thrilled but I’m not so sure the bloke who’s supposed to be catching me will feel the same way.

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Why, oh why am I never ready?

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Friday, December 20 2013

It’s nearly here, isn’t it.

It’s the same date every year and this time I thought I was being super-organised by taking a week off in November to start planning things and even writing cards.

With a few days to go, most of those cards have only just been delivered, only half the presents have been bought, only half of those have been wrapped and both my dining room and my spare bedroom are in complete chaos where I’ve just dumped things in the hope that I’ll sort them out “when I’ve got a few minutes”.

It doesn’t help that during my week off, I had this mad idea that I could finish making some roman blinds. One of the windows in our dining room has had one for 18 months, the other has just had curtains because I never got round to making a second one.

Now neither of my windows have blinds after I tried (and failed) to make an alteration to the original one. There’s just a sad pile of material sat in the middle of the table. Thank goodness we’re not hosting Christmas this year.

The only thing I’ve actually managed to do is get my nails painted (purple glitter if you’re interested), so at least I have something sparkly to keep me entertained while I’m typing.

When it finally arrives, I know everything will all be sorted and if it isn’t, it probably won’t hurt. As long as family and friends are healthy and celebrating with us, nothing else really matters.

I’m determined not to get stressed by it all this year and part of me does envy my hairdresser (oh, I did manage to get my hair done too) who has decided to have a laid-back day, throwing on nothing more than a pair of jogging bottoms and a jumper and settling down in front of the TV with her family.

Me, I’m off to my brother and sister-in-law’s for the first time and I can’t wait. We’ll be heading to a pub in Chatham at lunchtime, and then tucking into festive fare.

And then I’ll start getting my New Year resolutions together, which might include getting those blinds finished by March...

This is my last column of 2013, so this is my chance to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I hope I’ve made you laugh a little, smile more and if I haven’t, well at least you only have to put up with me every other week now.

May 2014 bring you everything you dreamed of in 2013 and didn’t get, plus much more besides.

Because, as someone else once said, life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “woo hoo, what a ride!”

And if that all sounds too much, just give your loved ones a hug. They’re free but mean more than anything money can buy.

Have a good one and see you in 2014.

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Festive ads bring tears and memories

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Sunday, December 1 2013

I am already a festive emotional wreck.

It all began with that hare and the bear, you know, the John Lewis ad where the hare buys the bear a clock so he can wake from hibernation to see his first Christmas.

The animation is captivating, I’ve always loved Somewhere Only We Know by Keane and Lily Allen’s interpretation is beautiful.

By the end of the first showing, my bottom lip was quivering and I had a tear rolling down my cheek.

Then there was Tesco with its video footage of a family celebrating Christmas over the years.

I swear we had some of that dodgy-looking carpet you can see at the start of the film, and I am now hankering after a Santa gravy boat.

Even the Royal Mail had me welling up, delivering parcels all over the country to their choir singing All You Need is Love.

Then there’s the Morrison’s ad with Ant, Dec and a gingerbread man singing Be Our Guest. You can’t beat a musical.

And what’s not to love about Aldi’s Father Christmas who wants a holiday in Barbados or male supermodel David Gandy in Marks and Spencer’s Believe In Magic & Sparkle (OK, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley plays the lead role, and Helena Bonham Carter makes an appearance, but it’s Mr Gandy who wears it well for me).

But it’s the Sainsbury’s advert that has won my vote.

It’s a series of videos capturing Christmas In A Day, from buying trees to wrapping presents, leaving carrots out for Santa and his reindeer to waking up on Christmas morning, as well as sharing gifts and laughs with family and friends.

Then there’s Jonathan Proud, who filmed himself making meticulous dinner preparations, complete with a spreadsheet.

Sadly, my preparations are more like the woman who follows him in the film, struggling to work out the timings because she can’t add up.

If you haven’t seen it, keep an eye out for it, and I dare you not to well up in the closing moments when those children are sending their soldier dad some loving messages.

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Am I one of the only people in the world who doesn’t own a onesie?

I think I must be a trend-setter, way ahead of my time, because I used to have a bright pink fluffy one-piece when I was about 10 years old.

I loved it, and think my mum had to get rid of it because I wore it so much, it was almost threadbare.

That was more years ago than I care to mention and I really don’t think I can pull the look off now, although as the temperatures plummet, I’m not sure I care. Warmth over fashion is starting to rule these days.

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Take time to remember

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Thursday, November 7 2013

We were up in London on Saturday, and took a stroll past The Cenotaph in Whitehall. As we did, a small group of sub-mariners in their dress uniform walked past us. 

They had clearly come from some sort of ceremony, possibly a rehearsal for this weekend’s Remembrance Service, and people smiled at them as they caught their eye.

A little further down the street was a pub. It was not only packed with more sub-mariners but several were standing outside, chatting and relaxing in the sunshine.

It was a joy to see, and I wanted to burst into spontaneous applause. 

It must have been a far cry from the months on end they spend at sea, and some of the horrors they have no doubt faced protecting our country.

We carried on walking and found ourselves outside Westminster Abbey. There, the mood was more sombre, for in the surrounding gardens were row upon row of tiny wooden crosses, marking out scores of small plots. 

Each plot had a larger wooden cross in it, marking a place for a wreath to be placed next weekend by various organisations in memory of the Unknown Soldier.

In our churchyard, there is a grave for TF/4790 Private P.F. Lane, of the Royal West Kent Regiment. He died on September 1, 1916, aged 18.

I don’t know why it has struck a chord with me, but it has. Maybe it’s because he was so young when he died.

A few weeks ago, we took one of those small wooden crosses and placed it on his grave. He needed to know he hadn’t been forgotten, even by people who never knew him.

I have a small, enamel tie-pin poppy which I wear a lot, as well as the paper poppies. Remembrance isn’t just about one day in November for people who died years ago. While it’s important we never forget them, it’s important we remember those who continue to fight for our country today.

Take time to spare them a thought this weekend.

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It takes me a while to catch on to some things (I’m only part of the way through Midsomer Murders, and am toying with committing to Downton Abbey).

But the Great British Bake-off has woven its spell.

I’m signed up to one of those discount voucher sites and almost spent a ridiculous amount on a cake mixer, based on having made three sponges – one good, one not so good and a third which was supposed to be bright pink but came out a dull beige and a little bit burnt around the edges.

I am rather proud that the jam between the sponges has been home-made (I seem to have cracked blackberry and apple, but haven’t ventured much further) but am most definitely still in the “experimental” stage of cake making.

I resisted buying the mixer but there will be several types of tin, spatula and sugary-based frivolity on my Christmas wish list this year.

Watch this space, and my ever-expanding waistline ...

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Good manners cost nothing

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Thursday, October 24 2013

So, would you offer your seat to a pregnant woman?

Equalities minister Jo Swinson caused something of a stir when she suggested it was “quite sexist” for people to assume she is not capable of standing even though she is seven months pregnant.

She arrived late for Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday, and stood by the door, but not one MP offered her a seat during the debate.

Is that right or wrong? Would they be offering her a seat because she is a woman, or because her condition may be causing her tiredness and she’d welcome the chance of a rest?

When I’m in London, I often travel by Tube during busy times and it never ceases to amaze me the number of people who will continue to sit tight when there’s clearly somebody else in more need.

I’ve even seen parents insist that their young child takes up a seat when they could quite easily stand or sit on their parent’s lap.

It’s that old “I’ve paid my ticket, I’m just as entitled to that sit down as anyone else” syndrome.

Sometimes, it is not about entitlement; it is simply about doing something thoughtful.

To offer your seat (or not) is a modern-day dilemma. If my husband offers his place to a woman, I don’t regard that as sexist, just good manners, but I know other women don’t see it that way.

Then there’s the worry that you might offend someone who thinks you are being nice because you think they’re old.

For me, it’s purely practical. If someone is looking uncomfortable standing, it doesn’t matter what sex they are, how old they are or anything else – I’ll offer my spot.

Good manners mean so much, and – as your grandmother will have told you – cost nothing.

Holding a door open for someone, thanking a driver who has let you pass – even if it was your right of way – or simply saying thank you; they are small things but make the world a nicer place to live in.

Even saying hello to a stranger can make the day a whole lot better.

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Nikki's world, with Nikki White

My name is Nikki White and welcome to my world.

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