All posts by nikki white

It’s changed so much in 20 years

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, January 12 2015

On January 3, I clocked up 20 years with the KM Group. Back then, I worked on Kent Today, a paper with several editions each day, and those of us who were around then (and trust me, I have several colleagues who have been with the company far longer than me) still wonder how we did it.

Computers were reasonably new to the world (at my previous paper, I’d worked on a typewriter) and turning a breaking story around by 10.30am could involve quite an expedition.

Having tracked down who you needed to speak to, you would set off on your trek, hopefully with a photographer in tow.

We’d have to interview people at super-quick speed, fast while still being courteous, and there simply wasn’t time to drive back to the office to write up your copy.

Instead, you would get a draft written in your notebook, find the nearest phone box, call the operator and ask to make a reverse charge call.

If no photographer was available, you would have begged your interviewee to hand over a photo of themselves and then drive to our head office in Larkfield where the company’s only scanner was kept.

Somehow, it would make it into that day’s paper.

It sounds antiquated now but we were at the cutting edge.

I can’t begin to tell you the excitement when we started publishing colour photographs.

These days, you find yourself requesting a black and white image simply so it looks atmospheric and edgy.

It hasn’t all been good – there were times when I knocked on doors and had them slammed in my face and I wondered why I was doing it.

But the times when I did knock on a door and was welcomed in – even in the most tragic of circumstances – made it all worthwhile.

Sometimes people realise you are there because you care.

I’ve cried with grieving families, abseiled down tower blocks to raise money for charity and celebrated when years of campaigning have come to fruition.

The good and the bad, it’s been a privilege. Thank you.

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Our telephone line at home went down last Monday. As far as we know, it’s just us and two neighbours but, bizarrely, we’ve been given differing explanations.

Our call charges and telephone line are dealt with by different providers, which was our first headache – whoever we rang (on our mobiles – I’m looking forward to that bill coming in) referred us to the other company.

Eventually, someone told us it was a fault at the exchange which would be fixed by today (Monday) at the latest.

We went to share the news with our neighbours. “That’s funny,” said the first. “They told me it was a problem with the box on the corner, or my inside line.”

The other neighbour, who runs a business, had been told it would be fixed within six hours. The last time we spoke to them, they still they had nothing.

Our favourite piece of advice from one company, while referring us to another, was “to dial this number from your landline”.

“I don’t have a landline,” said hubby through gritted teeth. “That’s why I’m calling...”

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And so the panic begins...

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, December 23 2014

It’s too late. Whatever it is you’ve forgotten to buy for Christmas, you’ll never get it in time unless you:

a) really want to join the hordes of other people running around in a panic, get completely stressed out and still not get what you want;

b) are happy to just shove money in an envelope and hope for the best;

c) were thinking of buying everything from a petrol station.

The last option doesn’t sound as bad as it once did. Once upon a time, petrol station gifts were limited to a sorry looking bunch of flowers, an in-car air freshener, windscreen scrapers and a dried-up cheese and tomato sandwich.

Not these days. Our local garage has realised fuel isn’t the only reason people choose to visit and now there are queues to get a parking space every weekend.

It was rebuilt last year, almost double the size and we all feared the worst. Anyway, when it re-opened, the place where you go to pay for your fuel wasn’t just one of your run-of-the-mill kiosks.

Ooooh, no. It had its own butcher’s counter, with meat fresh from a Kent farm, a deli counter with local cheeses and a wide selection of olives (although those don’t seem to have stayed the course).

Every day, there’s artisan bread brought in, it has its own mini-bakery to produce baguettes and rolls, and they cook up their own sausage, bacon, egg, any-combination-of-the-above fare.

There’s Kent beer, wine, gin, rum, vodka, all created within just a few miles of the place. They stock unusual sweets, flavoured oils and, of course, their local Messenger.

I’d be more than happy if someone bought me a present from there.

The one thing I can’t do is call it a garage. I simply can’t get my head (or tastebuds) around the fact the joint of meat for our Sunday roast has come from the same place where outside, there’s still that lingering smell of petrol which makes my stomach churn.

My neighbours call it the “magic garage”. My husband simply sticks to “the shop” to keep me happy.

I’ve tried referring to it as the farm shop, but I know it’s only me I’m kidding. And who cares what the packaging is like when the contents are so much better than before?

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So that’s it for another year. I’ll be honest, I won’t be sorry to see the back of this one.

There have been some wonderful laughs and moments to treasure – a family holiday to mark my dad’s 70th and my brother’s 40th being one of them.

But there’s also been some heartache; we’ve lost people we’ve loved and other battles have been hard but in a strange kind of way strengthened friendships and relationships, and made us stronger for it.

I hope this Christmas brings you everything your heart desires, and the chance to spend it with those you love.

And as 2015 rings in, may it be better than 2014 because even if it’s been good to you, there is no harm in hoping that the best is yet to come.

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Hitting the heights, almost

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, December 9 2014

They say pride comes before a fall. Now I have no problem with feeling a little pride. If you’ve done a good job, why wait for someone else to pat you on the back? A sense of accomplishment can spur you on to better things.

But sometimes, there’s someone just around the corner who is going to rain on your parade, even though they don’t mean to.

Three weeks ago, my hubby and I climbed Helvellyn in the Lake District, the third-highest point in England. Twice.

We climbed it one day from the easy side, determined to get to the top but not wanting to end up in difficulties.

We picked a day where the forecast was reasonably good (or as good as it gets in the Lake District in November) and set off.

It was tough going, and as we neared the summit, the cloud had lowered but we ploughed on confident we were being sensible.

After a couple of hours we reached our target – the Ordnance Survey point at the top of the peak.

By this time, it was pretty cloudy. but we took a few landmark snaps and set off back the way we came.

The following week we thought we’d try again, but try a tougher route.

We made it almost to the top but with the wind speed rising, we chose not to go any further.

As we revelled in our glory of two ascents in two weeks, with a chocolate bar to celebrate, we looked up and realised that the OS point where we’d taken photographs a week earlier wasn’t actually the summit. About 300 yards or so to the right was a slightly higher point, something we’d missed in the mist.

“Never mind,” said my hubby. “We did it. We were up there and as far as I’m concerned, we climbed to the ridge on the top.”

Feeling slightly better, we stood for a while to take in the view and revel a little more in our glory, and reminisce over how well we’d tackled such a tough climb.

And then, up the hill came two collies, running at full pelt with the wind in their tails and a smile on their faces. And behind them were their owners, also running at top speed.

We sat and watched as they then ran along the tough, craggy path, up the scramble and across the top of the ridge where we had been days earlier, having taken hours to complete a route they’d done in a matter of minutes.

Just to rub it in, they didn’t even stop to celebrate, simply carried on running down the other side and home.

Like I said, sometimes, there’s someone just around the corner....

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Tower poppy display a fitting tribute

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Monday, November 10 2014

At first glance, it’s a small, weak looking flower. Its stem is flimsy, its petals fragile. The strongest thing about it is its vibrant colour.

Yet it’s a tough little cookie. It will grow on the stoniest of grounds and when joined by armies of other blooms, can stop you in your tracks when you come around a corner and spot a field of them in the distance. The sight can be breathtaking.

Like people, the poppy is resilient and nothing could be more appropriate as a symbol of reflection and hope.

They may not be the real thing but the 888,246 ceramic flowers at the Tower of London are just as powerful.

The Tower of London art installation Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper features 888,246 ceramic poppies – one for each of the British fatalities of the First World War.

I’ve been to see them twice. The first time was humbling enough and barely half had been planted. I went again at the weekend, joining the thousands of people now shuffling along, at times three or four deep, waiting patiently to get to the front to spend a few moments in thought. It was a simple idea but has sent a powerful message and has brought not only the visitors together but volunteers too, all wanting to do their bit.

My brother, sister-in-law and brother-in-law were among the hundreds of people who gave up their time to put together the poppies and plant them in the ground.

If you haven’t been to see them yet, it may be too late (unless a campaign to extend the display, backed by PM David Cameron, is successful) but there is still time to show your support.

If you don’t wear a poppy, buy one. If you didn’t stop at 11am yesterday, do it tomorrow. If you did stop yesterday, do it again tomorrow.

We all lead busy lives but there are some causes that we simply should not ignore and Armistice Day and the Poppy Appeal is one of them.

Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of going to war, our troops deserve our backing, especially when they find themselves back home and struggling to come to terms with ‘normal’ life.

As we mark the 100th anniversary year of the start of the First World War, spare a thought for all those men and women who have put their lives on the line for us.

And spare a thought too for the army of volunteers who raise money every year for the Poppy Appeal.

Buy a poppy and wear it with pride.

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Is a cheaper holiday really worth missing school for?

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, October 28 2014

As I lay on my sun lounger, deciding which cocktail to choose from the all-inclusive menu, I gaze out wistfully to sea, and smile gently at the thought of colleagues back in rainy Britain, bashing away at a keyboard.

I pick up my book, pages filled with sand and smothered with sun tan lotion, and settle down for another un-interrupted chapter.

All I can hear is the waves rolling in, and the distant sound of music from the beach bar.

And then the bickering begins.

“But he started it, he kicked over my sand castle,” shouts the little girl.

“No I didn’t,” screams back her brother. “You started it when you nicked my ball.”

“Oh stop it, the pair of you,” comes a voice, weary with frustration.

It’s the sounds of a family holiday, five days in when the novelty of the kids’ club, crazy golf and sunshine are beginning to wear off.

I wouldn’t mind, but the children are clearly old enough to be at school, and it’s term time when they should be in school. And they’re not the only ones.

When there are youngsters in this world who will walk miles every day just to go to class, where getting an education for your children is something you are prepared to sacrifice everything for, it is strange that some parents in this country have forgotten how important learning is.

Yes, taking a holiday outside term-time is expensive, but the holiday companies aren’t doing anything illegal. They are a business and to survive, they need to make money. If you don’t want to hand over your cash, then don’t.

We couldn’t afford foreign holidays when I was a child. Instead we packed up a giant orange tent, piled the back seat of our car with sleeping bags and pillows and set off to the West Country or Norfolk.

I do understand it must be a nightmare trying to bring up children and afford the daily basics, let alone pay for after-school clubs, breakfast clubs, weekend hobbies, the latest trend in trainers and then a holiday.

At least if you go in peak time, you get the best of the weather too. I haven’t taken a holiday in July or August for years, which means I usually end up with two weeks in the Lake District in March, with suitcases packed full of wet weather gear.

But that’s my choice. I’d rather pay less and play weather roulette. And if it bothered me that much, I could always go abroad and fork out a little more for an adults-only hotel.

What worries me about taking children out of school is the message it sends, that school doesn’t really matter; that it’s OK to bunk off.

A relaxation of the term-time holiday ban was needed. I watched a colleague go through turmoil as she waited to hear if her child’s school was going to fine her £60 for taking her daughter out of school for one day so she could go back to Ireland for Holy Communion. It was money she could ill afford but a rite of passage her daughter should not miss.

Now, with the new rules allowing children to attend family weddings or funerals, recover after a personal or family crisis, attend a religious event or visit a relative who is seriously ill, she would not have to worry. And for things like that, she shouldn’t.

But schools need to take responsibility too, and drop the end-of-term wind down when the last few days are sometimes spent watching videos or playing games, so parents realise every day at school is worth it.

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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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Nikki's world, with Nikki White

My name is Nikki White and welcome to my world.

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