Nothing else left to lose

To err is human, to forgive divine.

As it goes right now, I'm back in my childhood home, back up North, single and unemployed. Five months ago I moved to London, happy that I was finally joining The Boy and not having to spend every Friday night catching the 17.40 down to London, happy that I could class myself as a permanent resident in the city I love.

I still love London, more so than ever, but The Boy and I went our separate ways after breaking up in October and then we ended things quite recently after giving it another shot. I'll just say that I know my failings more than anyone else, I don't need to be told them, but I do need to break them. You live and learn.

After a rocky few months in London, it felt like I'd made the right decision when I decided not to renew my contract at work last week (they wanted to tie me into a 3 month notice period knowing I was job hunting - I only ever agreed to cover a 5 month maternity leave role which ended last Friday). "Brave" was a word I heard a lot in reaction, but the moment I said no, I knew I had made the right decision - that it was about time to throw caution to the wind and go into the great unknown rather than lock myself into something I was unhappy doing until the end of April.

So, I sit here writing this in my childhood home, back up North, single and unemployed. And I'm OK with this. I have some exciting interviews coming up, a few potential interviews/interview outcomes in the pipeline, and I'm enjoying a week out of London to clear my head. What's happened has happened - I can't take that back - I can only say sorry, learn from it, be better, stronger, and go back to London ready to start the next chapter. But this time I go to London with an open mind, aiming not to dismiss that unknown through fear, willing to - eventually - reopen myself to the possibility of ... something.

To err is human, to forgive divine. We all make mistakes. But it's picking ourselves up from them, forgiving ourselves and moving on, that's what matters. xoxo

Latest loves

When I left my last job, I was lucky enough to get Harvey Nichols vouchers as my leaving present (possibly because most Wednesdays I would appear back in the office after lunch with a bag from there: Wednesday lunch equated chip shop chips and a wee mooch on Briggate). I finally remembered to take the vouchers with me at the weekend and I'm very glad I did. I managed to snag some Paige jeans in the sale, reduced from £160 to £10(!) and some Sass & Bide jeans for £17, down from £180. Ruddy brilliant sale!

I saw Black Swan this week and I was absolutely blown away. It's  highly charged, erotic, neurotic, twisted, disturbing and hot!

The King's Speech is another awesome film that I've seen recently. The inter-war period is so interesting and after watching Upstairs Downstairs and reading The Golden Prince recently, I can't get enough of 1930's Britain at the moment.

Finally, Chanel gets a massive shout-out of love this week because of this fabbity video advertising their make-up. So awesome. Sadly the only Chanel I own is their make-up, but *one* day I shall have a few key Chanel clothing pieces in my possession!

What are you all loving at the moment? x

Win a upgrade

I have a upgrade to give away to one lucky person. All you have to do is let me know which of the following sites/apps you've ever used or heard of (specify which), along with a contact email address/Twitter handle. Easy peasy, huh!
  • Xtranormal
  • Empire Avenue
  • Bump
  • Twileshare
  • SoundCloud
  • Wordr
  • GetGlue
  • ChaCha
  • Pandora Radio
  • Quora
  • Plancast
  • Instagram
  • Diaspora
I'll be announcing the winner at the end of next week - make sure you share the giveaway love (good karma, you know!). x

The Bristol Prize 2011

There's another short story competition that is now open (check out The Commonwealth Foundation's one if you missed me mentioning it the other day) and that's The Bristol Prize.

This one you have to pay for - it's £7 - and it's 3,000 words or less that's required, but your story can be on any theme or subject, in any style. First prize is £1000, plus a £150 Waterstone’s gift card; second prize is £700, plus a £100 Waterstone’s gift card; third prize is £400, plus a £100 Waterstone’s gift card. The other 17 writers who feature on the shortlist will receive £100; all 20 shortlisted stories will be published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, Volume 4.

Full rules can be found on their website, the deadline is 31st March, and entries can be made by post or online. What are you waiting for - get writing and good luck!

Maybe I'm missing the point?

Sometimes you get told about something and you don't know how you ever lived without it. And then you're recommended to have a look at something else and you end up wondering what planet your friend is actually from.

Maybe I'm missing the point with these recommendations? Tell me if I am.

First up is, which is actually the brainchild of Kyle Bragger, the founder of Forrst. You can add a random fact about yourself and rate other people's random facts as one of the following:
  • Knew that!
  • Didn't know that
  • Me too!
  • Awesome
  • Whoa
  • Weird!
  • Boring
  • No way
As it seems to be a motley mix on there, I don't really care if randomer A was a Russian soldier in their third-grade play of The Nutcracker, or that randomer B's favourite colour is teal. I don't know these people; their randomness has zero value to me, and I'm not sure what anyone can gain from my facts either. Delete account - next!

And that would be Wordr, which sells itself as "like Twitter", except you can only post up one word that's less than 28 letters long. Oh, and it doesn't even have to be a real word either, you could post up "euswofbg" if you so wish. Although, we all know *that* means "what a pointless website". I could see the appeal if it was a word association game, maybe, but it just seems to be people posting up random words for no purpose whatsoever.

Maybe I'm missing the point with these two, but somehow I don't think I am. Has anyone else used these and found them of interest?

Commonwealth Short Stories 2011

Each year, to promote creative writing, The Commonwealth Foundation has a Short Story Competition for all citizens of a Commonwealth country, aged 19 and over.

The winner receives a prize of £2000, with four separate regional prizes of £500. There's also two special prizes of £500 - one for the best story for children; the other for the best short story that fits the theme "Women as Agents of Change".

The competition opened on January 15th and the deadline is March 1st. Stories need to be under 600 words and submitted online.

Good luck if you decide to enter!

Guest post: Social media use in Higher Education

I've blogged over on The Social Penguin where I've looked at Social Media use in Higher Education and explored whether there can be a workable balance between how universities use social media and how students use it.

Make sure you have a read! xoxo

Bend... And snap!

Last week I shared something that makes me smile and what I was loving, and I'm doing the same again this week.

Last night I was lucky enough to snag some free tickets in the stalls for Legally Blonde. I've actually seen this before, last April, back when Sheridan Smith and Duncan James were in it, but last night was Susan McFadden's first night as Elle and I got to see Denise van Outen as Paulette. I enjoyed it more the first time, but it's a fab, fun and clever musical - it sets itself up beautifully with the "blondeness" - and it definitely put me in a happy mood and planted a BIG smile on my face.

I've seen a lot of mentions for Filofax recently, but my heart belongs to Moleskine. The only downside is that I like to "save" my many Moleskine notebooks to write something profound in them, but then find I have many notebooks with lots of lovely, crisp blank pages. Moleskine also do some pretty sweet videos showing how custom edition notebooks are made - anyone else a fan?

I am about 20 years behind - my father called it a "dinosaur" when he heard I was getting one - but I finally succumbed and got a BlackBerry. I'd love an iPhone, but I sadly can't justify £600 for one, which is what it costs if you just need to buy the handset. Ouch. I also love that gave me £20 for my rubbish old phone that I've had for the past 14 months... It only cost me £60 new. Sweet! What phone do you all have?

Finally, the TV show Pretty Little Liars is absolutely amazing. Based on the books by Sara Shepard, which I've yet to read, it's about 4 girls whose friend Alison goes missing. A year later they begin receiving messages from "A" who knows secrets they only thought Alison knew which makes them think she is still alive ... then Alison's body is found. It is utterly fabbity, and not just because it has the very worthy girl crush of Lucy Hale in it and the boy worthy crush of Ian Harding. Hel-lo! Watch it if you haven't, and let me know what you think if you have!

What are you all smiling at and loving at the moment? xoxo

Is Quora necessary?

Since the start of December I've been seeing the odd tweet here and there about Quora (I'm hazarding you pronounce it "Kwor-ra" but let me know if you know otherwise!), but two days ago it hit the big time in the Twittersphere and I finally decided to sign up.

Dubious of the likes of Yahoo! Answers and Facebook Questions (Yahoo! Answers often has low quality answers and Facebook Questions hasn't been rolled out to everyone yet, but it's likely it may suffer the same sort of "quality" issue with Facebook being a mass market social network service), Quora seems like it could be a winner.

Described as "a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it", Quora, like Facebook Questions, allows users to vote up answers to questions that they found helpful.

It sounds great in practice, but only if the boundaries of Quora are firmly established. Is it a factual hub or an opinion hub? Or, could it be both? There are questions that are factual, such as Where was Jim Carrey born? but at the same time there are definitely subjective questions getting asked, like What is your favourite Jim Carrey film? Is there a place for both of these question types on Quora or will this make it too much?

At the moment, it seems that there isn't a definition of what sort of Q&A platform Quora is. It's impossible to achieve everything on one site so there has to be a limit. Would it be better for the user to ask for people's favourite Jim Carrey film on a film community like IMDB, or a Jim Carrey Facebook fan page, or maybe just by tweeting their followers? Was it really necessary to ask it on Quora? I think not. Within 3 minutes of me tweeting the favourite film question, 6 of my followers had replied. That's pretty quick, and much quicker than it would take someone to search out the question on Quora and answer it. (Only 3 people have answered out of the12 people who viewed the question - Twitter certainly allows a more immediate response).

The definition of Quora will be key, I think, in ensuring that it isn't a fad, so it can cement itself as a bona fide resource. Of course, it already has Wikipedia to compete with, which is already established and has a higher standard of editorial control. In fact, when I did a Let me Google that for you (couldn't resist) on "Where was Jim Carrey born?" the top result was, of course, Wikipedia:

Click to make it bigger!

(Jim Carrey was born in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, if you're curious, and my favourite film of his is The Truman Show.)

Then, there's also the issue of who you are with Quora. One thing that is differentiating it at the moment from the likes of Yahoo! Answers is that the people who are answering and asking the questions are, largely, in the know-how - I'm seeing the likes of "tech journalist", "community manager", "writer at Techcrunch" and "PR Director" as the job titles.
But, isn't it inevitable that a strong cohort of people from the world of tech/digital/marketing/PR/comms will lead to bias and, well, bullshit? I wonder, especially with questions such as Who are the genuine thought leaders within the UK PR industry? Surely this sort of question is better as a discussion topic as it's so subjective? Doesn't this make Quora a forum, rather than a definitive Q&A platform? And if it's not a definitive Q&A platform, then isn't it just another Yahoo! Answers or Facebook Questions that will get over-ruled by subjectivity?

It's hard to say what the verdict is on Quora, largely because it's still developing. Whereas I found the fizz of pleasure quite nice when someone thanked me for answering their question, there is a limit to what I know, and therefore a limit in what I can answer. And if I don't know something, the likelihood is I'll first turn to firing out a quick tweet, before asking Google. I'm yet to be convinced that Quora is necessary enough that it will still be prominent this time next year.

Have you jumped on the Quora bandwagon? What are your thoughts?

PC11: Share something that makes you smile

If you saw my post yesterday, you'll know that WordPress are challenging their users to post every day (or week if that's too tricky) and are issuing prompts to help you out if you're struggling for inspiration.

After seeing this video, I decided I had to answer yesterday's prompt which is to share something that makes you smile.

I ruddy love this short video from LEGO, so much so that I watched it 3 times in a row. And yes, it has definitely made me smile each time:

There's also this fab video from them that explains where ideas come from - love it!

Recently, I've also smiled because of the following:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Wall.E, Upstairs Downstairs and The Pretty Reckless' album.

For the first time, I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (I know, I know) and I absolutely loved it. The description is spot on and Scrooge really comes to life - there's a great sense of characterisation for him. As it's quite a short book (around 77 pages), I think I shall be making this a tradition to read every Christmas. Brilliant!

Ditto for Wall.E, it was the first time I saw Pixar's 2008 gem and I'm wondering how I could have missed seeing this at the flicks. It's ridiculously heart-warming and has the brilliant quote of "Waaaaaaaaaaaall.E" ... no, I'm kidding. The quote is from the Captain and sums up the film beautifully: "I don't want to survive; I want to live!" And yes, I teared up at the end. If you've not seen it, what are you waiting for? I don't care if you're at work - go and watch it!

Upstairs Downstairs was remade and aired on the BBC for Christmas 2010 and I managed to catch it on the iPlayer this week before it disappeared - I'm very glad that I did! There's some brilliant dialogue and the house is divine; it captured 1936 life in London beautifully and the plot was credible and convincing.

Finally, Light Me Up from The Pretty Reckless has dominated my listening this week. Likened to Hole, Taylor Momsen's  voice sounds beyond her 17 years and is edgy and catchy. A fabulous listen - if you've not heard it, have a listen.

What has made you smile this week, and what have you loved? xoxo

WordPress' daily post challenge

WordPress are hosting Post A Day (or Post A Week if you don't think you can commit to every day) to encourage their users to blog more regularly. Now I may be a Blogger girl, but I really like the premise of this and have decided to blog at least once a week on one of their topics, alongside my regular blogging.

If you're thinking this sounds like a bit of a struggle, don't worry, they provide topics for you so you don't have to rack your brain trying to figure out what you should write about. Today's, for example, it to share something that makes you smile.

But, you may be thinking this sounds a little bit familiar. Well that's because NaBloPoMo already exists which has the purpose of getting bloggers to write posts once a day and they offer a community to motive people to keep going. With NaBloPoMo you don't have to do every month, you could just write posts every day for March and August, for example.

Are you going to take part in the WordPress challenge? Or perhaps you're already a NaBloPoMo person?

It pays to know what people are saying

Background #1 The Coca-Cola Holiday Mystery [original blog post]

The Coca-Cola "Holidays are coming" marks the start of the festive season for a lot of people. The iconic lorries making the delivery of Coke is currently in its 4th year of revival, but when did it begin? I can certainly remember seeing it as a child in the 1990s but I couldn't give you an exact date, such is the nature of childhood memory.

It was a tweet asking just this that made me really want to know this answer. Sure, it's not a burning question, but it's one of those questions that I knew would bug me until I got the answer. Getting that answer you think would have been easy, what with Google knowing the answer to EVERYTHING, but I was wrong.

Trawling through the search results, Google drew a blank ... I know. It happens, sometimes ... so I've heard ... OK, it's never happened to me before, and there was only one thing for me to do - I picked up the phone and dialled the Coca-Cola press office. Yes, such a massive internet search failure deserved this outlandish action, only I was thwarted once again as they didn't know! Thankfully, their PR agency did. Result!

The original version of the iconic Holidays Are Coming ad first aired in the US on Thanksgiving Day 1995, before being rolled out in the UK that year. The current version first aired in 1997. 

Background #2 Twitter Power! The fabbity @OECD [
original blog post]

I was a wee bit stressed out as I was solely in charge of the magazine, which was at the frantic last-minute, we're-ridiculously-close-to-signing-this-off stage. I had pages and pages of amend notes to go through, as well as stacks of proofs in front of me; I had copy to write on space exploration and mountain climbing - not my two most knowledgeable subjects - and I also had a 329 page hot-off-the-press document to read from the OECD to update some article stats.

Now, I'm no stranger to Economics, but after an hour of trying to find out the general government net financial liabilities forecast (as a % of GDP) for 2010 for the US, Japan, the UK and the OECD total and not seeing it amongst the pages and pages of figures, I really was ready to cry.

So, I tweeted my frustrations. Like you do. And amazingly enough the OECD saw this tweet and were able to explain why I couldn't find that stat - it was in the statistical annex that hadn't been published at the time I tweeted. Hurrah!

So, what's my point?

Coca-Cola is one of the most recognised brands on the planet. They have an active, official Twitter account where they do follow back their fans (it doesn't always happen). They appear to answer tweets that mention @cocacola, but I'm not so sure if they actively search out Coca-Cola related social media activity. I say this because they didn't pick up on the tweet asking about the campaign start date. They could have answered this query quite quickly without me going through the press office and PR agency - not the most appropriate channels for general customers, or curious Tweeters for that matter.

The OECD, on the other hand, are an international organisation that brings together governments of various states committed to democracy and the market economy ... funnily enough, I'm neither of those, as many people aren't. Despite this though, they have someone looking after their Twitter account who actively keeps an eye out for all types of people who mention them, not just important people related to their sector. This is an amazing and brilliant use of Twitter by an organisation that doesn't necessarily have to bother due to the nature of their organisation, yet still does.

Instances like the OECD is one of the reasons why I love Twitter - when companies get it right, it's amazing to witness the dialogue between "business" and "consumers" that's only become possible because of the social media boom. And, it's a win-win for both parties - a customer engaged in a positive manner is a happy customer, one who is likely to support the brand either through personal consumption or word of mouth recommendations. I, for one, can't see any harm in that. If Coca-Cola had found this tweet, they could have capitalised on it and encouraged customers to share their campaign memories or other favourite Coca-Cola adverts, for example. It pays to know what your customers are saying.

Best of cinema and reads, 2010

Here's my best of films seen at the cinema in 2010 that scored 9 or 10/10:
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Up in the Air
  • Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Cemetery Junction
  • Toy Story 3
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

and the books that scored 5/5:

  • Bel-Ami - Guy de Maupassant
  • Midnight Girls - Lulu Taylor
  • The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
  • The Carrie Diaries - Candace Bushnell
  • Ransom My Heart - Meg Cabot
  • One Day - David Nicholls
  • Under the Eagle - Simon Scarrow
  • Enid Blyton: The Biography - Barbara Stoney

What have been your favourite reads and films of 2010? xoxo


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