Prince’s Trust: Pre-Taster Session

Ladies, Gentlemen, boys, girls and everyone in between, I have an update for you on my Prince Trust Team progress.

Out of respect for the group, I will not be name-dropping in my posts. Therefore, I will give you a general gist of what happened.

We spent the entire two hour session doing ice-breaker and team-building activities.

Firstly, there were the questions:

  1. What’s your name? LexC (pronounced ‘Lexi’/’Lexie’/’Lexy’ – you get the  general idea) I’m not giving you my real name.
  2. Favourite Food? Don’t really have a favourite food. I can’t stomach fast food or anything organ-related. Apart from that, I pretty much eat everything else.
  3. Favourite singer or band? Don’t really have a favourite singer or band. My family despise favouritism in the family and so, I’ve realised that it isn’t fair to not have favourites of one thing and have favourites of something else. You can shout and scream ‘Why?’ all you like, I’ve never had any favourites at all.
  4. Something interesting about yourself? My family & friends can give you a better answer than me. I’d probably say, that I’m currently writing a novel.

For the sake of this example, I’ve given you my response.

As expected there were people from all backgrounds, aged between 16-23. Awkwardly, I’m one of the eldest when in similiar situations I’ve always been the baby of the group. The vast majority of the group still live at home (2 of us have independent living arrangements). It’s physically impossible for me to do this course and live at home with my parents.

Favourite food? The majority responded with pizza. The second most popular was home-cooked. Kelly and Mel asked this question to ascertain what food would be cooked on the residential trip every night. I like the latter groups way of thinking. Pizza’s good every once in a while.

Favourite singer/band? There was a mixture of all genres from rap to r’n’b to pop to rock to heavy metal. To which most just said ‘I think I’ll just listen to my iPod/MP3 player on the minibus’.

Something interesting? As most are lads, nearly all gave ‘video games’ as their reply. Yes, mostly lads but that’s totally fine. Us ladies all gave different responses.

The second activity was team-building orientated. We had to build a tower using 3 newspaper and sellotape. There was a lot of encouragement on my part to get my group to contribute but they refused. It doesn’t help as a team that they did this, but as it was the pre-taster session I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. Why? I used to be like this when I was their age so I can’t really . There’s going to be a lot of hard graft on this course, it won’t be easy for them to worm their way out of the things we’ll do.

The last activity was also team-building. We had to use strips of paper and write words on them associated with The Prince’s Trust. I was in a group where everyone participated with word suggestions. We had to create a bridge between two chairs.

The only thing holding us back is confidence. First day at school nerves, that sort of thing. By the end, we’ll all be changed people – for the better. More mature, more confident, more experienced; you catch my drift.

Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for another blog post from me about our first proper day. I feel like I’m preparing for my first day at school all over again (been there, done it all, and actually got the t-shirt to prove it). I cannot wait to tell you all about it.

Speak tomorrow,

 

LexC

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Mid-week Madness

Hey everybody, I’m back again!

Wednesday was a day unlike no other not just for me, but for the whole of Blighty and indeed the rest of the world.

Worryingly, I heard a bang before bed but never questionned the seriousness of it. Less than 24 hours later, the temporary closure of my street that night was trending all over Twitter with news of arrests and the background on the person responsible. The whole world and his wife descended here before I had switched on the news with a mug of coffee in hand  (I may be British but I don’t drink tea all of the time).

Obviously I could go on about how weird the whole situation about the presence of the press was, how shocked I was that not only someone had done something so horrific to my nation. The worst thing of all was that they lived on the opposite side of the street from me; a fact which I did not know until I turned on the news. It’s taken me a while to get my head around it hence why I didn’t blog on Wednesday.

The last time I felt like this was in 2011, when a lone gunman went on the rampage and started a killing spree in and around the city I lived in. Put it this way, had he not been dealt with by counter-terrorism officers, our school would have been next on his list the very morning that it happened. Police had informed the school staff that they knew he had passed by our school to size us up. Our school, much like the rest of the country, was put on lockdown. At the time, I was 16 years old. This is the first time I’ve spoken about it in a public way.

Although I was never approached by the press for comment as I carried on with my life in the most stoic British manner possible on Thursday, there was still that British-level awkwardness on my part about the whole thing. But we are the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland’, clues are in the name of our amazing country; despite our current in-limbo situation we are united and great in equal measure. Even though our security level remains at ‘severe’ we will not allow such attacks on our freedoms to break us. Remember the quote from Rocky: “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward.” Everybody responds differently, as the UK, we have chosen to simply carry on, as suggested by this sentiment. Yes it may be a fake but it encapsulates the British spirit, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters. Take it from me, stoicism always wins out in the end against the terrorists who are simply a pile of turds.

Not to point out the obvious, but these ‘things’ (they are not deserving of the title ‘human being’) who commit these crimes against humanity are not real Muslims. The people I know who are real Muslims abhor this type of behaviour just like the rest of us. It’s a fact that the world must not lose sight of. Please do not tar Muslims with the same brush.

To all the victims, families & friends of the victims, and the heroes who tried to save the four victims and those now recovering from the atrocious event – I send you my sincerest heartfelt condolences, best wishes and gratitude. A special shout-out to national hero PC Keith Palmer, who risked his life to protect the people of London: thank you sir. To his family, you are in my thoughts, always.

To help make a donation and support PC Keith Palmer’s family, here is his JustGiving page.

To help make a donation to support Aysha Frade’s family, here is her JustGiving page.

To help make a donation to support Kurt Cochran’s family, here is his GoFundMe page.

To help make a donation in support of other related crowdfunding campaigns for the victims of the Westminster attack and those  who worked hard to help the injured, go here.

Speak soon,

 

LexC

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Life Update!

Ladies, Gentlemen, boys & girls and everyone else in between; I have an announcement to make!

With my Team Leaders (Kelly & Mel)’s permission, I have been allowed to proudly announce I’ve signed up to The Prince’s Trust and that I can blog about it too!

For those of you who don’t know what The Prince’s Trust is, allow me to elaborate.

The Prince’s Trust was set up by our very own Prince Charles in 1976 to help those who are unemployed or struggling with school between the ages of 13-30 years old in order to make a difference to each individual by helping them to prosper.

The charity provides various training programmes, mentors to help advise and they even give financial grants to help young people set up their own businesses.

Last year, they helped 56,000 young people get into employment, education, training or volunteering.

The programme I am about to start is called Team led by two Team Leaders (Kelly & Mel) and each team is made up of 12-15 people all with different skillsets and backgrounds. Our Team is called Team 125.

It doesn’t matter where you come from or what has happened in your life; everyone is accepted here with open arms.

I’ll get onto a bit about my background a little later on.

Right now, I want to tell you about all the exciting stuff that the whole team will be getting up to over the next 12 weeks (or 3 months – if that’s your preference).

In the taster session next week and in the first week everyone will meet each other. Personally, I can’t wait for this!  Everyone is in the same boat; we’re all terrified at first but the team-building exercises will provide us with some much needed icebreakers.

In week 1 (commencing 27th March 2017), will see us set out what it is that we want to achieve and what our goals are. As I’ve not met the rest of the Team just yet, so I cannot speak for them. But my ambition is simple: I want to write novels that people enjoy reading for a living. How I go about doing this is still a work in progress at the moment, so if anyone reading this has any suggestions I am happy to listen to them.

Then there are the qualifications that we’ll gain at the end of the program. The best things about the Prince’s Trust qualification (Employability, Communication & Teamwork) is that it is a nationally recognised award and an award which only a small percentage of the UK population have. Their award is aptly named because they are the most important qualities companies want in their employees. There is also Food Safety which is to do with the residential trip (I’ll get onto that in a bit) and something I’m looking forwards to getting because I love cooking. And finally, there’s First Aid which is useful should anyone I ever come across, be in need of help.

We’ll also be planning for our residential trip during our first week which will take place the week after.

In Week 2, the residential trip is designed to get people out of their comfort zones, to have fun, try new things, and learn how to work with others . We could be doing canoeing, abseiling, or building a raft- so anything that involves getting outside and doing things we wouldn’t normally do.

In weeks 3 to 6, we’ll begin our first local community project of our choosing and we’ll have just three weeks to completely finish it. Again, it’s a team-building team-player project, so it will be useful in having something to talk about in interviews. It will also be useful for us to discuss at length the planning, fundraising, financing, and the roles we’ll have in the team.

In weeks 7 to 8, we’ll be on work placements and get first-hand experience of a work environment at a workplace of our choosing. It will also be a good opportunity for us to put all the skills we have learnt thus far in the programme to use. It will also be good experience for us to see whether the environment that we will be working in is something that we enjoy and thrive in. Not to mention brilliant to put on our CVs (curriculum vitae or resume).

In week 9, this is the prime chance for us to work on our next steps in terms of where we want to go next and plan for a range of potential futures. There will be chance for us to work on our CVs and mock interviews in which to practice our and learn new interview techniques.

In weeks 10 to 11, this is also another community project but focused towards a challenging activity to help others. It’s designed to test the metal of all the Teams taking part and will have to be finished by the end of week 11. Again, a great opportunity to practice all the skills we have learnt.

In week 12 (final week of the programme), we’ll be delivering presentations to both friends, family, potential employers and Prince’s Trust staff at a venue of our choosing. It will detail everything that we have done, the skills & confidence we have gained and what we intend to do after the programme ends.

The presentation is the only thing in this list which I find quite unnerving at the moment but we shall see, perhaps we all will be pleasantly surprised about how far we’ve come by the time we’ve reached the end. I’m predicting the end will be bittersweet.

Seven months ago, I wasn’t completely confident in myself at all. I had graduated from university July 2015 and had repeatedly been knocked back because of a lack of experience in the workplace. I felt demoralised and embarrassed of my achievements. My confidence took a massive nosedive, but let’s not dwell on that because this is meant to be a happy place! Ever since then, I’ve had to take deep breaths put one foot in front of the other and make decisions I never thought I’d have the guts to carry out. It’s been a lengthy process for me to have even got here, so I’m already proud and amazed at what I have achieved thus far. Everything else from here on in will be a bonus.

All of that being said, I couldn’t have done any of it without the help of the Sue Ryder Harborne team (there’s too many to namedrop but they know who they are), it’s been challenging but so worth it. Had I not had the Harborne team nor Hayley or Sharon nor friends and family to help me make those self-improvements I wouldn’t have even signed up for this. I will always be grateful to them. Thank you.

Over the next 12 weeks, I will be keeping you updated on what we get up to, so I hope you keep a keen eye out for future posts and enjoy following along with my progress.

 

Speak soon,

LexC

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Book Review: Go Set A Watchman By Harper Lee

Hi everyone!

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You might have heard that this book has been rather divisive. To be honest I can see why. When I read To Kill A Mockingbird I thought if there was to be a sequel to it, it would be quite hard to top. The sequel came out and with it news of Harper Lee’s passing and the fact that she had written Go Set A Watchman before her Pulitzer prize winner, unfortunately and most surprisingly I was on the disappointed side.

However there are positives and negatives to this book. There is the main character ‘Scout’ who remains as relevant today since To Kill A Mockingbird was first published. She has a lot in common with the great majority of us around the world, in that, she hates racism and can’t believe that it still exists. In some respects, we have made progress to stomp racism out but we haven’t achieved it yet – there is still hope that we can make it. Firstly, the act of Scout bringing the civil rights movement from New York to her hometown has its own benefits and repercussions. Of course it’s brilliant that she has brought the movement to her hometown, but playing the blame game hardly does anything for those living there or those returning. Things only change when we see a problem and decide to fix it. How we make the most change is how we choose to respect one another.

Shouldn’t we leave racism in the past where it belongs – in the 20th century? It just reeks of history repeating itself and to be honest it’s dull and dangerous. I’m not a hippy preaching peace and love. I’m a borderline-normal human-being who just wants to see and experience acceptance rather than hatred and division.  I’m glad that Scout is willing to stick up for herself and doesn’t believe that she is going mad. She is proud to be “colour-blind” in that she doesn’t want to have prejudice against those of a different background to her. White priviledge has never got us anywhere, it just breeds more hatred on top of what is already there.

Atticus and Jack Finch have attitudes which are of their own era (our grandparents’ age). It’s backward-looking but accurate and makes the foundation of acceptance and equality shown in To Kill A Mockingbird redundant. There is particular unsatisfaction with Henry’s attitude which is just too wrong and that he has spent too much time under the guidance of Atticus. No wonder the civil right’s movement took off because of people with his attitude.

Buy a copy for yourself and let me know what you think.

Don’t forget to like, comment, share.

Happy reading!

LexC

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Book Review: Jet The Rescue Dog And Other Extraordinary Stories of Animals In Wartime By David Long

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I read this book purely for research on a current project. For obvious reasons, I won’t go into any further detail about this project, but I will give as detailled a response for this book review as possible.

First of all, it has to be said that more stories of animals irrespective of species have to be written. Animals are intelligent in their own right, if you don’t believe me then observe them. It’s also fair to debunk the myth that feelings are reserved just for humans – again if you don’t believe me, observe. The best place for that is at a dog rescue home.

This book is full of accounts about average animals (bar one who was trained for its job) who have rescued others without encouragement and in turn have been rescued themselves during the war effort. Why they rescue others, as described in their stand-alone chapters inside this book, is a mystery. Perhaps only the animals themselves know the reason why. Or maybe their sixth sense is enough of a suitable explanation. Either way as the reader we’ll never get to the bottom of things because they’re no longer around, and what they did still remains top secret. Even so, we’d still never know why they did what they did for the most blantantly obvious reason.

From a writer’s perspective reading this there are a few things which bring the book down a few notches. There is one thing which sticks out like a sore thumb: it tells the story rather than shows it. Perhaps the amount of information which Long had to hand when he was writing this was minimal so he had to fill in the gaps. It’s more than likely that Long focused on the most accurate information rather than story-telling. You can tell there is very little story-telling because of the amount of cliches you can pick out – again it’s probably to fill out space and sell copies. Verbal rubbish (trash – known to American counterparts) or metaphorical cheese sells books.

The format of the chapters are also a smidge cliche too. Towards the end they tend to get rather same-y, as though it is the same story told just with different characters in different locations. Don’t get me wrong, every genre has books which tell similar stories things which have been taken from predeccessors and changed slightly. But when you start getting the same stories in the same book, there are doubts in one’s mind which question the investment made in this book.

Buy yourself a copy and tell me what you think.

Don’t forget to like, subscribe, comment and share.

Happy Reading!

LexC

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Update & Book Review: I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

Hi there!

Apologies for being away for so long, my summer has been somewhat eventful but I’m back now; ready and raring to go.

There is some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that you’ll have to wait a little longer to read the book reviews of the books I had to study at uni. The good news is I have three other book reviews all ready and waiting to be typed up. You didn’t think that just because I had an eventful summer that reading wasn’t going to be a part of it. Oh no, dear reader, you’re much mistaken. Books are my life and I can’t not read irrespective of whether I am busy or not.

First up is I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. It is a delightful book but one filled with metaphorical cheese – I have to be honest and say the cheesy parts aren’t my cup of tea, they are chapters which are just waffle. No not the edible waffle, the verbal waffle – the stuff that the writer has put in there to fill space and ultimately slow down the pace of the story. Perhaps if there was more showing than telling in these parts, the slowed pace would have still been achieved and most likely become an even better story. .

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Technically speaking I didn’t choose to read this book, it was recommended to me by a good friend of mine from uni after she asked me what sort of genre I liked.

“You’ll love it!” she said. “A bit gory mind, but once you get past that it’s great!”

Gore, I thought, can’t say I’ve ever been fine around it either in literature or in real life.

I was about 15 and just returned from the orthodentist who took my braces out. Out on the  tables in a biology lab was a lamb heart which we were tasked in dissecting. My legs went wobbly and I fainted by one of the sinks. A chundery feeling rising up my stomach, my hand went to my mouth, I scrambled to my feet and out of the exit door. I proceeded to decorate the concrete path outside. Never been near anything like it since. To be absolutely honest with you, I can’t even watch a horror movie without experiencing nightmares and sleepless nights for at least a fortnight afterwards. So yeah, gore and I have never really got on.

You can imagine my reaction to an equivalent in a book although not quite so extreme in reaction. I had to put it down a few times and close my head and turn away for a few seconds, before summoning up the courage to plough through the pages as quickly as possible. I’ve never been a fast reader.

That being said there are brilliant aspects to the book.

Take for example, the short chapters make the whole book much more exciting and more than happy to plough through it to avoid putting it down because “it’s just getting to the good bit!”. The shorter the chapters are the more likely the book is to hold my attention. If this is the kind of book any budding authors of this genre is attempting to procreate this is a good technique to use.

The characters in the story were also brilliant. It does sound bland and rather obvious but they are the most human and ordinary of characters. A bit like you and me. We’re not all good and we’re not all bad. We make decisions and enforce reactions and changes because the timing is right and sometimes tread the fine line between right and wrong. Ultimately it may result in smashing success, and likewise in other situations it may go arse over ***. It’s much the same with these characters although there are a few which you get the feeling are slightly more dodgy than the writer portrays.

Buy yourself a copy and let me know what you think!

Happy reading.

LexC

Book Review: Romeo & Juliet – By William Shakespeare; History of Suicide – By Jill Bialosky [Mental Health Special]

  

   
This book review has been in the planning for the past few weeks purely because of the subjects of these books. One explores the effects of a first love and it’s impact on two young individuals, the other is more of a biography of self concerning the younger sister of the author in a more recent mirror image of Romeo and Juliet but slightly differently. 

I won’t give you a blurb, I just think it’s more important to carry on the conversation. There are plenty of books out there on mental health but there are those who refuse to talk or write about the subject because it’s just too taboo. Nowhere is that more apparent, until very recently, than in Britain, although funding is becoming more available through the National Health Service (the name of the healthcare system in Britain) and the National Lottery. 

Shakespeare gave us one part and the very start of the conversation when he wrote Romeo and Juliet. Some critics believe that it’s a naive portrayal of teenage love but if you look at it backwards with the end in mind, it becomes something more serious like mental health on top of the already complex adolescent life. The majority of us experience adolescence but each person experiences this part of life slightly differently. Life for someone who has mental health problems is just as extremely overwhelming, exhausting and frightening as tackling the teenage life. It’s imperative that if you’re the outsider, just be kind to whoever is suffering.

It’s easy to say that it is harder to see someone suffering from mental health problems than someone suffering with a physical health problem. But there are different parts which contribute to someone’s mental health problems and they are all different depending on the person in question. Some are easily overlooked so just keep a trained eye on things. Sometimes you can see some elements appear in a physical way like self-medicating through drugs or alcohol or irratic sleeping pattern or loss of appetite or anything else that looks out of the ordinary. 

But the way to deal with it involves the most basic of skills: listening, and an unjudgemental, compassionate, empathetic attitude. The last thing someone who has mental health issues wants is pity, they just want to be appreciated and loved like everyone else. A line of communication is vital if the said person wants to stop it from getting worse, and it’s key to gaining their trust. Be careful not to break their trust. But then again they might not even realise that the situation is getting bad, so you might be the only one to recognise and thus be able to stop it. 

There is no quick nor easy fix for mental health problems but it’s still a sensitive issue. It cannot be solved by taking someone out for the day and putting a smile on their face and thus “make them feel better”. For most who suffer from mental health it is unbearably hard to have the energy to just get out of bed. If someone knows they have mental health problems or has problems they are unable or feel unqualified to solve by themselves, then it has to be the person suffering who takes the steering wheel and not you. They have to feel safe in order to ask for help. It’s nothing personal but interfering will really set them back in terms of progress. Whatever they decide to go along with, for example, when they stay in bed even though you might have woken them up repeatedly, just accept it because the alternative adds to the burden they are already carrying. 

The mental health conversation has already begun and because everyone experiences it differently it’s not actually that taboo. It’s only taboo because there is a lack of knowledge and most people are fearful of knowing the unknown like the extremes people experience. Whilst there are already websites and groups that help with providing medical help and support, talking about experiences and carrying the conversation on will open up avenues for more acceptance and further research so everything can progress and improve.

Talk about mental health with everyone and pass it on.