All posts by nikki white

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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Even parties don’t seem too bothered

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Thursday, May 29 2014

Hands up if you voted in the European election. I’m looking, I’m looking. You at the back – do you have your hand in the air or are you just scratching your head?

In a poll taken at the start of the month, six out of 10 Europeans said they were “not that interested” in the European Parliament elections.

The survey of nearly 9,000 people in 12 EU countries found only 35% would definitely vote, down on the 43% average turnout for the 2009 elections.

The greatest enthusiasm was registered in Belgium (53%), where voting is required by law so one wonders why 47% are ready to be punished rather than put a cross in a box.

France was the second keenest country to vote (44%) followed by the Netherlands (41%). The lowest was in Britain (27%) and Poland (20%).

Why aren’t we bothered? Do we think the channel of water between us and the rest of Europe means any decision taken elsewhere will never filter through?

But then we don’t just have ourselves to blame. Come general and local election time, we regularly have people knocking on our door asking us how we’re going to vote and if we’d like to vote for them.

Many push leaflets through our letterbox and I read them all. Particularly in the local elections, I sometimes end up voting for the person I believe is going to do the best job and not just their political leanings. If someone lives in my area – and has done for some time – I hope they are going to care about what happens to the place as much as I do.

I know that’s not possible when it comes to MEPs but I’d like to think they value my vote enough to at least hire/persuade someone to shove some correspondence through my door telling me what they plan to do, should they win.

The only thing I had through my door for this election was my polling card. I live directly opposite a polling station so had no excuse to know it wasn’t election day but, had I not, Thursday could have quite easily passed me by if I wasn’t someone who kept up with current affairs.

In the end, I made my decision based on the piece written by our very own political editor Paul Francis (thanks for that, mate).

I’m happy with my decision, and where I put my mark, but I do wonder if I might have voted differently if someone had just shown a bit of love and told me more about their dreams for the next few years.

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As part of the build-up to the World Cup, the FA is holding a number of events all over the country to get more people involved in the big game.

And some parents will be showing their children (or maybe not) how it’s done, right here in Medway.

On Saturday, June 7, at The Howard School in Rainham, two teams of mums, whose youngsters play for Medway United, will take each other on in a match where Medway East will play Medway West.

The men, too, will be fielding their own teams in a Dads v Dads match.

It’s all to promote the Medway Cup 2014, a mini soccer tournament taking place on July 6 at Beechings Cross, Gillingham, and is fully backed by Gillingham FC.

It will be raising money for Take Heart Mercy Mission. You can find out more at www.facebook/medwaycup2014

The parents’ matches on June 7 get under way from 10.30am. There’s plenty of food and drink too, so do your best to pop along.

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Non-drip bites seem a bit fishy

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, May 12 2014

There is always a large pile of newspapers and magazines in our house, much to my husband’s disgust.

He’s one of these people who can read just the few bits he’s interested in every week, and disregard the rest.

Not me. I try (but often fail) to glance over every page in every paper and supplement, just to check I haven’t missed something I might be interested in.

As we’re both journalists by trade, we buy plenty of papers, and so the pile builds. I just haven’t the heart to throw away a writer’s work without having bothered to read at least a couple of lines.

In among this ever-growing mountain of papers and supplements is an ever-growing pile of supermarket magazines (yes, I pick all those up too).

In one of them was an article promoting their lunch range and “the perfect snacks to eat at your desk”.

Pretty handy, you might think. A selection of non-drop, non-drip tasty morsels that you can eat on the go and be the envy of your colleagues.

As delicious as their lunch selection might be, I don’t want to be reminded that I eat at my desk, trying to type notes to sub-editors with one finger while I cram a cheese and tomato sandwich down my throat.

If I choose sushi, it’s because I feel like it, not because I’ve recognised I’m less likely to drop crumbs into my keyboard (if anyone from our IT department is reading this, I swear I don’t drop anything on my keyboard and it has nothing to do with one of the keys jamming).

I don’t want to sit and ponder the last time I went out for a full hour, sat down to an ordered meal and enjoyed a sneaky lemonade – it makes me too depressed.

Even this column is brought to you while I tuck into a cheese roll, a banana and a salt and vinegar doughnut (don’t ask, it was an office challenge).

I know I’m not alone, far from it. There’s probably only a tiny minority of people these days who get to eat anywhere but in front of their computer.

But Mr Supermarketman, please let us continue to revel in the fantasy that it isn’t the norm and someday, life will go back to walking out the office at 12.30pm and not coming back until the full 60 minutes are up.

Mind you, even working at your desk is now a killer apparently. According to reports, there are a growing number of people suffering from ‘sitting-down disease’, especially women.

Some experts believe sitting for too long can be as dangerous to health as smoking. Inactivity more than doubles your risk of diabetes and is linked with an increase in heart disease.

Exercise outside work is no help either – you need to be getting out your seat every 30 minutes to get your muscles and back moving.

Perhaps I can use the time to go and buy my lunch to eat at my desk.

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From pop tarts to MIS information

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, April 28 2014

Dragging myself off my sickbed last weekend, I headed for the English Festival at Rainham’s Riverside Country Park.

In typical style, just as a long weekend was coming up, I’d developed a severe case of the sniffles - thumping headache, rollercoaster temperature and (so I’m assured although I don’t believe it) a loud snore.

Determined not to spend all weekend wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa and watching re-runs of Midsomer Murders (although I did manage the entire series of Silk), we dosed ourselves up on flu relief (yes, hubby had it too), and set off.

We weren’t the only ones. We couldn’t get into the Park and Walk car park and the grass verges near the park were packed.

We finally managed to get a parking spot near Motney Hill and headed back along the riverside walk.

That pathway too was filled with people both on their way, and coming back from the festival. When we got there, we were really impressed with what we saw.

For children, it was brilliant. There were donkey rides, a beach, Punch and Judy, fairground rides, the biggest inflatable slide I’ve ever seen and the smallest open top bus to take a trip on.

For the grown ups, there was tea and scones, iced Pimm’s, a brass band, string quartet, a World War One camp and one of the best farmers’ markets I’ve been to. Had I been feeling better, I’d have put a serious dent in my purse buying up enough produce to see me through the next fortnight.

But amongst it all was some hidden comedy. It was so cleverly done that to start with, we didn’t cotton on.

We first spotted a stall selling, quite literally, a bunch of old tat.

“Who on earth is going to want a ‘next customer please’ sign from a till?” I asked hubby. “And what’s this?” I asked the seller, as I fished an old cassette by an 80s songstress from out of a clapped out toaster. “A pop tart”, he replied.

We then realised that among the items that you could genuinely find at a bad boot fair, it was all a hoax. From the camera phone (an old camera strapped to a 1970s trimphone) to the potatoes on a stick (50p more if you wanted it dipped in flour), it was genius.

Back in the main area we came across the M.I.S. Information stand (put MIS and Information together and you’ll get it).

We read about plans for the underground wind farm at Rainham, a call to demolish Rochester Castle to make way for a multi-storey coffee house and watched as people queued for a “pram pass”. Some barely batted an eyelid as they were asked how many wheels they had and were handed a raffle ticket.

Nobody seemed to notice that the computer keyboard the bloke kept picking up and shaking, or the telephone he kept making calls on, weren’t connected to anything.

I loved it, but for me, there could have been more. I’m in the minority, I know, but where were the Morris dancers? Or maybe I’d just overdosed on the flu remedy.

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Forget A2 - I’m taking scenic route

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, April 14 2014

I know my tolerance of people and their manners – or rather lack of them – is getting worse.

Generally, I think people are better than they were 20 years ago when dog-eat-dog was fashionable. Maybe that’s why I’m becoming less forgiving.

Drivers who can’t be bothered to say thankyou is one of my bugbears.

I don’t care that it’s your right of way.

The sign may say that the big white arrow is in your favour, and I have to wait for you to come through; the cars may be parked on my side of the road and it’s your right of way; the narrow country lane may have the passing place on my verge.

But just because we both know you’re going to drive by while I wait doesn’t mean you can’t just raise your hand and say thank you.

My drive to work most days takes me through the most glorious countryside. I love some of the views so much that once or twice, when the sun is at the perfect point, I actually stop for a few seconds to look at the view and take it all in.

Apart from the iciest of days, I choose not to get involved in the bun fight on the A2.

I can’t abide the daily grind of heading down a road, like ants hurtling down a tube, and having to bite my tongue as some idiot decides he’d rather try to get in my boot than overtake me.

Then there is the other kind of idiot who is clearly of such great importance that after doing close to 90mph, he believes he is allowed to cut into the traffic on the slip road, forcing us all to brake. I have realised by now that these are very important people and the rest of us just have to get out of the way (yeah, right).

So I gave up the A2 for the rural ride.

Mostly, it is full of polite people who, like me, prefer the scenic route and are more than happy to reverse up a bit to make all our journeys a bit smoother and raise a hand in gratitude.

So I’m not going to get too upset about it.

And I’m safe in the knowledge that just around the corner there will be a delivery van, lost on its sat nav again, and you’ll have no choice but to give way for the sake of your glossy paintwork.

 

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It was really sad to hear about the death of author Sue Townsend. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 came out when I was just 11 and I absolutely loved it.

At a time when my world was being filled with Dickens, Wilde, Hardy and Shakespeare (we escaped Chaucer from our studies at school, thank goodness) it was wonderful to discover a modern author whose work I could fall in love with in the same way.

It was a time when I too was launching into the rocky world of forming relationships, and the angst he felt over the terrible Pandora made our hearts twist.

Thank you, Sue, for all the laughs.

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A gem at the end of a wet day

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, March 31 2014

It was, I admit, entirely my choice, so I have nobody to blame but myself.

Birthdays are either big deals or simply pass us by, and for me, it’s a big deal.

Mine was last Tuesday, another year older, another wrinkle earned.

We’d already booked a holiday to the Lake District so whatever happened, I could at least take comfort in knowing I wouldn’t be sat in front of a computer screen, typing away until my fingers were nearly numb.

The day before my birthday was glorious. We woke to beautiful sunshine, sat on the small patio overlooking the stream that babbled past our front window, and sipped hot mugs of tea as we watched the sheep graze in the field opposite.

We dined in the sunshine, tucking into toast and planned our day ahead.

After some serious uphill walking, we reached the top of Catbells, which has the most incredible views of Derwent Water. Having conquered that, we carried on and hiked higher still.

That evening, empowered by a sense of achievement, a healthy dose of sunshine, fresh air and plenty of local beer, I decided I wanted more of the same for my birthday.

Instead, we woke to buckets of rain, with thick mist, a drop in temperature and no sun for good measure.

Admittedly, I could have called the whole walking thing off and insisted we spend a day at the nearby hotel, indulging in a spot of swimming, a massage, a couple of hours reading and then enjoying a champagne afternoon tea.

But we battled on, up a short but steep climb to Loughrigg Fell and views of not much at all, although we knew Lake Windermere was out there somewhere.

Just as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, the mist began to lift and just before lunch we came across this little gem – Loughrigg Tarn.

It was the most idyllic spot, quiet, serene and where sheep outnumbered humans by about 100-1.

I soon forgot about my wet coat, the cold and my aching thighs and soaked up the scenery. Some things can’t be gift wrapped.

 

I know I’m a day late but the joy of mums is that they will always forgive you (well, mostly).

So belated Happy Mother’s Day to mine. I just wanted to say:

Thank you for all the times you picked me up when I fell over, and made it better with a hug and a kiss;

Thank you for all the times you made it fun, even when we went on a camping holiday and I found out years later we’d only been half an hour down the road in Tenterden;

Thank you for feeding me, even when you hid liver in the spaghetti bolognaise and made be a beautiful birthday cake of a cottage, which leant over like the Tower of Pisa.

Thank you for not saying I told you so when my heart was broken by another one I thought was The One and yet you always knew would never be.

Thank you for still treating me like a teenager, and making sure I give you three rings when I get home just so you know I’m safe.

Thank you for making me laugh and giving me such happy memories with you, dad, and even my brother.

Just thank you for being you.

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Nikki's world, with Nikki White

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