Going for Golden Causes

7 Oct

The comedienne Victoria Wood once said “Jogging is for people who aren’t intelligent enough to watch television”… well I don’t know what that says about me because over the past few months I’ve been doing a lot of jogging!

I’m not a natural runner (Mo Farrah’s twins who are just two years old are probably faster than I am), but it is a wonderful way to see our beautiful city. The Taff trail lets you explore for miles, and of course we have stunning parks to enjoy too.

It’s not the first time I’ve put on my trainers and pounded the streets of Cardiff, in 2008 I ran the London Marathon in aid of Cancer Research UK. It was something I had dreamt of doing since watching the event on TV as a child (I’m not that stupid Victoria Wood!) and it lived up to all the expectations.

This time I have another good reason for racking up the miles – it’s one of my oldest friends, Louise Attwood.

Louise and I

Lou and I met when we were just three years old, on the day our mothers took us to David Morgan’s to buy our first ever school uniforms. We struck up a bond straight away and sat next to each other on our first day of school. Fifteen years later, on our last day of school before heading out into the big wide world of university and work, we sat next to each other again to re-live one of our earliest childhood memories.

Sadly, it was just a few years later that Lou’s mum Sharon died of cancer. The news was devastating.

But medical research has come a long way in a short space of time. In 2012 Louise was tested for the gene BRCA 1 which increases the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer. It was the start of long process of operations that included a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and a hysterectomy all by the age of 32.

Obviously it was traumatic, but Louise is a fighter! Not only has she recovered and is back working full time while caring for her two young sons (she’d probably say she cares for her lovely husband Leo too!) but she has also been running several miles a week as well.

She must be mad I hear you say! Well this is what she told me “My reason was to get my fitness back after being out of it for so long, but to also raise money and give something back to the amazing centre that looked after me so well and saved my life”.

So on Sunday Louise and I are ran the Cardiff Half Marathon in aid of The Breast Centre at Llandough Hospital in the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. “This centre is really pushing boundaries in looking at preventative surgery, and is helping hundreds of young women and their families throughout Wales deal with difficult decisions.” Louise says “as a result of the care and attention they have given me, I no longer worry about not being there to watch my children grow up”.

I’m sure that’s something every parent reading this can relate to, which is why even when I was tired running the Half Marathon, Louise’s strength and determination helped me cross that finish line.

Changing Seasons

22 Sep

It may be the end of Summer but that means the start of a new season, and I for one can’t wait!

I have always been a big fan of Autumn – there’s nothing better than wrapping up in woolly gloves and a scarf ready to head out into the park on a cold crisp day, where freshly fallen leaves crunch beneath your feet. To me it’s a magical time when the natural world undergoes a real transformation. But there can be big changes for us too as it’s the time when the school calendar changes so children move classes, some even start new schools and university students get their first taste of freedom.

Another new school year for me

Another new school year for me

The beginning of a new school year was always my favourite time growing up, mainly because it meant a trip to buy new stationery! I don’t know whether it was the excitement of having something shiny and new, or the anticipation of what I’d be able achieve in the coming months armed with my new bottle of tip-ex that did it, but I always looked forward to going shopping with mum to choose my pens and pencils.

Sadly as you get older the novelty of new notebooks and biros quickly wears off, particularly as you have to buy them yourself!

But that feeling of a fresh start, when anything is possible, is still important. Too often we get dragged down by our daily lives and can soon feel like we’re stuck in a rut, but without the prospect of a new term ahead, how do we drag ourselves out of it?

Sometimes, I think, you just have to ask for help. There’s nothing weak about admitting you need support, in fact I think it can take the greatest strength to do that.

GetAttachment-1.aspxThat’s why a few months ago I started working with a management company in Cardiff called Peacock Media Group. The aim was to help me get the most out of my work, and so far the decision is really paying off. As well as helping me to focus my thoughts and plan my career, they’ve also arranged an amazing photoshoot and helped me to create my own brand! And it is already paying off, today I started a new contract with the brand new television station called Made In Cardiff which launches next month – I’ll be presenting the nightly entertainment show What’s Occurrin’ Cardiff?

I’m more excited than I have been for years!

So this September may not be a new school term for me, but without doubt it is a new start, so make sure you keep watching this space, not for new highlighter pens, but for plenty of highlights!

1

Celebrating World Elephant Day

12 Aug

The Elephant Nature Park is an hour drive from Thailand’s Chiang Mai – and a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. As soon as you arrive a feeling of calm washes over you.

Elephant Nature Park in Thailand

Elephant Nature Park in Thailand

I was lucky enough to spend time at the sanctuary as a volunteer earlier this year, and the experience was incredible.
Every one of the elephants is strong and powerful but, with the exception of the babies born at the park, has been maltreated in some way by mankind. As a result, you would forgive them for being wary and untrusting, but these are gentle giants. Despite the force in their trunks I was able to hand feed them bananas and melons and never once felt in danger.
Feeding time

Feeding time

While I fell in love with all of the elephants, two really stood out for me. Mae Perm is the first elephant ever rescued by Lek Chailert the sanctuary’s founder. A few years ago the team rescued an old blind elephant called Jokia and as soon as she arrived at the Elephant Nature Park Mae Perm took her under her wing acting as a tour guide. The pair are now inseparable, where ever Jokia goes, Mae Perm is there, acting as her eyes.
Mae Perm and Jokia

Mae Perm and Jokia

This show of compassion and friendship between these two wild animals is amazing. But what’s even more incredible to me is how humans can hurt them.
That is why I am determined to do all I can to raise awareness of the wonderful work being done at the Elephant Nature Park. Not only do they rescue elephants in danger but they are also trying to change people’s attitudes and are campaigning for animal cruelty laws to be introduced in Thailand.
Another busy day at the sanctuary

Another busy day at the sanctuary

Today is World Elephant Day and I hope everyone reading this will be inspired to find out more about the charity and maybe even sponsor an elephant because I have seen first hand how your support can help with the care of these truly magnificent mammals.
Mae Perm and me - friends for life!

Mae Perm and me – friends for life!

To find out more about Elephant Nature Park please visit their website http://www.elephantnaturepark.org

Home Sweet Home

31 Jul

I love going away on holiday – in fact my friends joke that I’m always jetting off somewhere.

The past few months have been particularly busy for me. As well as spending my weekends camping in North Wales with friends, at a hen party in Western Super Mare, a wedding in Cornwall and a trip to Bournemouth to see old university mates, I have also been away working.

Bournemouth

The destinations haven’t been the most glamorous but they have been varied. For a week I was filming across the East of England with the team at Barn Media, I’ve also spent time at a stunning stud farm in Buckingham working for Equine Productions, while Heart FM has sent me across pretty much the whole of South Wales in search of stories.

My favourite recent trip though has to be the two days I spent at the Hay Festival. Listening to the speakers was truly thought provoking and inspirational and it was great to meet up with some friends from the BBC. The food was amazing and the rain held off, and on the Thursday night I sat listening live to the beautiful voice of one of my favourite Welsh singers, Cerys Matthews, as she recited extracts from Under Milk Wood to music, regaled us with stories and sang some of her showstoppers. And while I was there I had the opportunity to support up and coming Welsh musicians as well, through the #horizons campaign (or #gorwelion in Welsh) which is championing new talent.

Hay

I’m so lucky to get paid to travel around the country and I’ve met some amazing people who have such interesting stories to tell.

This month my journeys have continued – just two days ago I flew back from Glasgow where I’d been cheering on Team Wales at the Commonwealth Games.

Comonwealth games

In fact, no matter where I am in the world, or what I’m doing, I always feel proud to be Welsh – which is why I’m always glad to come back here to Wales.

I flew back to Cardiff from Scotland with some of the Team Wales squad!

I flew back to Cardiff from Scotland with some of the Team Wales squad!

Call me sentimental, or even stuck in my ways, but I love the feeling of being at home. There’s nothing better than walking my dog Pierre in Llandaff Fields, or meeting friends for tea. I love meandering along the River Taff past the Millennium Stadium as I walk to my favourite shops in town, and I can never go far without bumping into someone I know.

They say home is where the heart is and that’s certainly true, but my heart is happiest when I’m here at home.

And you can read more about my travels in the July edition of Cardiff Times Magazine

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2xe7p/CardiffTimesJuly2014/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fcardiff-times.co.uk%2F

Cardiff Times: Thailand’s Gentle Giants

30 Jun

If you still haven’t managed to read my June column in Cardiff Times Magazine yet don’t worry, it’s till available online!

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2vek5/CardiffTimesJune2014/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fcardiff-times.co.uk%2Fread-online%2F

 

Happy Birthday to Me

27 Jun

Next Tuesday is my Birthday and for the first time in 3 years I plan to really celebrate.

As a child, a teenager and throughout my twenties I absolutely loved my birthdays, they were the perfect excuse (not that I really needed one!) to get together with friends and family, to do fun things, eat great food and as I got older enjoy lots of good wine.

I loved birthdays when I was young

I loved birthdays when I was young

But as I approached ‘the big three oh’ something changed.

Suddenly I was entering a new decade in my life, but I felt I had little to show the 10 years that had come before it. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have children, and while I had a great job, I was still working for the only company I’d been at since leaving university. I felt like my life was going nowhere fast and the thought of celebrating the fact I was turning 30 absolutely filled me with dread.

I worked at ITV for over 10 years

I worked at ITV for over 10 years

So while my friends hired cottages for weekends away or organised lavish parties to mark their latest milestones, I spent my 30th at a small restaurant with a handful of family and friends wishing I was at home instead.

Now though, as I look back to that night three years ago, instead of feeling depressed I realise it was turning point in my life. Sometimes we have to feel down before we can get ourselves back up again.

Granted, it hasn’t always been easy – ending a relationship of 5 years is really hard, even if you know it’s not going anywhere, and I cried enough tears on my last day at ITV to fill as small reservoir – but making huge changes can have huge rewards.

Who would have thought back then that I’d now be working on various regional and network programmes with the likes of Huw Edwards, or that I would have been on the front cover of a magazine to promote my monthly column?! And my personal life has flourished too; I have a beautiful new home and a lovely new dog to enjoy it with, plus I’ve experienced some great adventures, like travelling on my own for the first time and getting up close to elephants. It sounds like a cliché but I really do wake up every day with a smile on my face now.

 

Meeting elephants in Thailand earlier this year

Meeting elephants in Thailand earlier this year

So on the 2nd July this year I’ll certainly be celebrating in style, looking forward to the year ahead.

Cardiff Times: Inspiring People

12 May

This month’s Cardiff Times Magazine is hot off the press. If you’re inspired to read my article click on the link below!

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2tty5/CardiffTimesMay2014/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=

Bank Holiday Bonus

6 May

It’s a funny time of year – as the days get longer the weeks seem to become shorter, as nearly every other weekend is a bank holiday.

Not that I’m complaining of course. As a freelancer it’s a great opportunity to either pick up extra work or enjoy some guilt free time with friends and family.

When I haven’t been reading news bulletins on the radio, I’ve been putting the bank holiday sunshine to good use by enjoying the great outdoors. In my (humble) opinion you’d have to go a long way to beat a cycle along the Taff Trail, or a brisk walk in one of Cardiff’s picturesque parks, so that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

Bank Holiday Bike Ride

Bank Holiday Bike Ride

And it seems I’m not alone. New figures out today from the Sport Wales Active Adults Survey show there’s been a significant rise in the number of us enjoying exercise. Over 260 thousand people in Wales, who are over 15, are now taking part in sport three times a week or more.

As a result they’re now enjoying the health benefits that come with being active, like a healthy heart and a smaller waist line. As someone who covered health stories for ITV Wales for more than three years, I know how important that can be.

So I for one welcome today’s news, and I’m already looking forward to another bank holiday bonus in just a few weeks time.

Cardiff Times: Dreaming Of My Name in Lights

23 Apr

My latest column for Cardiff Times Magazine has hit the shelves. To find out why I’m “Dreaming Of My Name in Lights” read it here now!

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2sl9c/CardiffTimesApril201/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fcardiff-times.co.uk%2F

 

Thai Tales

15 Apr

On 28th March I left Wales for Thailand, and a trip of a lifetime!

It was my first ever experience of travelling alone and I’d never been to Asia before, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive, but the opportunity to spend time at an elephant sanctuary was too good to miss, and the experience was amazing.

This is the diary I wrote while I was there…

Sat 29th March
After travelling over night I have finally arrived in Thailand. The journey has been a star studded affair; not only was actress Gillian Anderson on my flight (Scully from X Files) but when I arrived at Bangkok airport the corridor to border control was lined with teenage girls desperately clutching smart phones and cameras, as I was about walk through to show my passport an high pitched scream erupted around the building. Apparently a famous Korean actor (and heartthrob obviously) had just disembarked from a plane.

A few hours later, following another short flight, I arrived in the city of Chiang Mai. Within just a few minutes of being there I’d found a place offering a full body massage for just £5. What a start to a holiday! It was the tonic I needed after such a long journey.

As I write this I am sat in the city’s night market eating pad Thai with a bag full of goodies I bought at the infamous night market.

Chiang Mai Night Market

Chiang Mai Night Market

Sun 30th March
I didn’t wake up until lunchtime – the jet lag is obviously to blame!

As you can’t come to Thailand without visiting a temple I thought I’d visit three today. I started at the oldest in the city, before visiting the two biggest buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. As well as the traditional Buddhas which are recognisable to westerners, I was also amazed to see the deities of the day at each of the three temples.

A deity for every day

A deity for every day

I am now enjoying a cooling passion fruit smoothie made freshly in front of me for just 50p at a stall in the Sunday market. Soon I’ll be heading to my hotel in a tuk tuk as I have an early start in the morning.

Mon 31st April
The email said I needed to be at the office at 8am but typically I was late. Thankfully there were so many people checking in to be volunteers it didn’t really matter. I was handed an official ‘save the elephant’ t-shirt and water bottle and boarded the mini bus to the sanctuary.

An hour and a half later we arrived… I can’t really begin to describe the wonder I felt at seeing the elephants wandering around the park without a care in the world, but if you think of that scene in Jurassic Park when they see the dinosaurs for the first time, it was something like that!

Day 1 at Elephant Nature Park

Day 1 at Elephant Nature Park

After a tour around the park, where we were told some truly sad stories about how the elephants came to be in the camp (like the one who was being used in the tourist trade that was run over by a car, and another that lost part of her foot when she stood on a landline) we watched a video a about how elephants are traditionally trained in Thailand – it was heart breaking to see the abuse and torture they suffer. I won’t go into too much detail here as its too upsetting, but basically they are put in a tiny cage called ‘The Crush’ and beaten until their spirit breaks. How can anyone treat these majestic animals so cruelly?

These adult elephants were all rescued by the sanctuary - one was knocked over by a car, another stood on a land mine

These adult elephants were all rescued by the sanctuary – one was knocked over by a car, another stood on a land mine

Tue 1st April
I’ve never been a morning person but being here is another story, getting up for breakfast was definitely worth it! I sat here eating my toast surrounded by elephants; it’s the most amazing start to the day.

Then the hard work began. My team (team A) were given poo picking duties an everyone got really stuck in. There are two girls from Nottingham, Charley and Jaz, who are really glamorous but not afraid to get stuck in – they really make me laugh! There’s also a lovely couple from Essex, called Mick and Carol Bellini (amazing surname), who were on my bus here from Chiang Mai and my roommate Jacks who’s from Australia.

Mick and I ready to pick up poo!

Mick and I ready to pick up poo!

This afternoon was amazing! We walked around the park, to clean up rubbish and of course more poo, but when we got to the mud put there was a heard of elephants getting stuck in to the dirt. We sat and watched them playing – as well as being fun, the mud cools the elephants down and acts as a natural sunscreen.  Two then walked down to the river and we sat on the banks as they bathed in the sun.

BIG bathtime

BIG bath time

Wed 2nd April
We had two new members of the team today – Jake and his mum Julie who are from Boston. I’m also getting to know the rest of our group better. There are two lovely Canadians, Lindsay and Sheri (they didn’t know each other before this trip) and two teenage friends from England, Emily and Kate.

The A Team!

The A Team!

Our role today was collecting corn bundles and then carrying banana trees up a hill into a truck. It felt like an an amazing workout and I know the elephants will enjoy eating them!

Travelling in style In the back of the truck

Travelling in style In the back of the truck

Sat in the truck on the way back from the banana field I had the most surreal experience of the trip so far – my iPhone was connected to the speaker and Charley was our DJ, after looking through my songs she decided Christmas songs were the way forward, so we sat there in the blaring heat singing our hearts out to Wham’s last Christmas!

Thur 3rd April

Feeding time

Feeding time

This morning’s job was my favourite so far – we worked in the elephant kitchen preparing fruit and veg. My role was to make the banana balls, mushing up the bananas with my hands then we added a few scoops of corn and a big scoop of bran then when all the ingredients were mixed I rolled them into balls.

Getting fruity - melons and banana balls for the elephants

Getting fruity – melons and banana balls for the elephants

We then walked around the park feeding the elephants. I had the most amazing moment with one called Mae Perm, who was the first elephant that Lek (the founder of this sanctuary) rescued. I was stood in front of heroising for a photo when she walked up to me and let me stroked her trunk!

Mae Perm and me

Mae Perm and me

This afternoon was spent planting grass for the elephants to eat and then the team had a treat for us…. Tubing! We were driven up river in one of the trucks and dropped off higher up the river, then we climbed into a rubber ring and floated down stream, back to the elephant park, for hour!

Fri 4th April
The hardest day so far.

Working the corn fields

Working the corn fields

We spent he whole day away from the park at a corn field, chopping crops and then loading bales on the truck. We stopped for a picnic of noodles rice and freshly cut pineapple then on the way home we stopped for ice cream! Most of the team rode on top of the corn in the truck, but Sheri and I chose the two seats in the cab and travelled back singing along to the cheesy tunes on my iPhone – the driver don’t seem to mind!

Riding high on top of the corn truck

Riding high on top of the corn truck

It was also  sad day for Team A though, as three of our members left today but we’re definitely going to stay in touch!

Sat 5th April
The started back in the elephant kitchen.  Today I was chopping melons. It was hard work sat bent over on the floor chopping for two and a half hours, but we had some light relief when a kitten climbed over the pile of melons and onto Lindsay’s lap where it sat purring as she chopped. Once that was done we chopped up juicy banana trees for the elephants to eat.

Chopping up banana trees

Chopping up banana trees

This afternoon has been idyllic, after a group photo at 1.30 we were given the rest of the day off. As I’m writing this I’m sat looking at four beautiful elephants enjoying the sun and the mud pit.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

Soon I’m off to walk some dogs who are residents at the park’s dog sanctuary (there are 400 in total and most were rescued from Bangkok in 2011 when the city was flooded) then tonight we’re having a special dinner with entertainment from the local school children.

Meg and I with Spoon and Piccilina

Meg and I with Spoon and Piccilina

Sun 6th April
Sad to be leaving the sanctuary today. As I sit here eating my toast as I write this with elephants just a few meters away from me, I know breakfast will never be the same again!

But before all the volunteers leave there’s work for us to do, teams A and B are on poo collection duty before lunch, then I get a 1pm transfer.

Poo patrol

Poo patrol

Looking forward to rejoining some of my new friends at a mini volunteer reunion in Chiang Mai this evening

Mon 7th April
Had such a fun time last night, we ended up at a Ladyboy show in Chiang Mai! Well when in Rome, or should that be Thailand?

Show time in Chiang Mai

Show time in Chiang Mai

Flew to Bangkok this morning. Arriving at the domestic airport was a surreal experience, the runway was literally on a golf course!

Dropped my bags at the hotel and headed for some culture. I started at the King’s Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha – colours and the details on the building were incredible. Every surface was covered with glass mosaics, statuettes or murals. Then I moved on to the impressive King’s Palace before visiting the reclining Buddha, a statue that fills the whole length of the Wat Po Temple.

The King's Palace

The King’s Palace

That's a long lye down! Inside the temple of the reclining buddah

That’s a long lye down! Inside the temple of the reclining buddah

This evening I’m off to a restaurant I saw on the Hairy Bikers tour of Asia series, I hope it’s as delicious as it looked on tv!

Tue 8th April
Today I have shopped til I dropped! Most of my purchases were presents for friends and family, although if did treat myself to a rather lively handbag and purse!

Off to Khao San Road shortly for food, drinks and a stroll around the markets with Lindsay, my Canadian friend from the elephant sanctuary who flew into Bangkok late last night.

On the Khoa San Road with Lindsay

On the Khao San Road with Lindsay

Wed 9th April
I’ve just arrived at the airport ready for my flight home. I’m sad to be leaving Thailand, the people have been amazing and my time at the elephant sanctuary was incredible. But I’ll be glad to see my pets again, and I know I’ll visit Thailand again.