Spa Fever

10 May

As it was both mine and my Mum’s birthday on the same day a couple of weeks ago, and particularly as it was an important one for her which I won’t reveal on the internet (50th), I treated her to a spa day.

This particular spa is at a rather grand hotel in the countryside of Buckinghamshire and having never been to a spa before little did I know what a treat I was in for. We were treated like Princesses for the day with unlimited tea in fancy china, lunch on the terrace, luxurious beauty treatments, a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gym and sunbeds. And the best part about it? You get to wander around all day in your dressing gown without any funny looks, heaven.

So I can now proudly pull a seat up to the circle, hold my hands up and admit “Hello, my name is Lauren and I am addicted to Spa-ing.”

The beautiful hotel

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The Vegetarian

9 May

This is a short story I wrote for my professional writing unit at university, see what you think..

As we burst out of the gate the cold air made me feel sick. I always usually enjoy a leisurely stroll the woods, sometimes we go for a jog if we’ve eaten too much but today Max had that look in his eye which makes my stomach knot. There was nothing I could say or do so I just carried on walking, slightly behind him, silently.

As we marched, I looked at him with only my eyes not turning my head. Max always seemed so much braver than me, his shoulders so much broader, his teeth so much whiter. He seemed fearless and I envied that so much. Being the younger of us two I never answered back or questioned why, something I found hard to suppress. I always got the impression he thought I was just his aggravating younger brother, adopted into the family due to no family of my own thrust into his care. Yet somehow deep, very deep down I knew he cared. As he walked his wild ginger hair looked so thick and healthy and the sun glinted off his gold necklace. As I struggled to keep up with his fast pace I stumbled catching my foot on a flint but I didn’t utter a word, I would rather suffer than interrupt him in this robotic disposition.

Suddenly Max stopped and I knew what was coming. He raised his face in the air and closed his eyes listening intently then suddenly his eyes burst open as if about to pop out of their sockets. My whole mouth filled with saliva, so much so I found it hard to contain in my mouth but gulped it back down. Max studied his unsuspecting victim. I wanted to shout, to warn them, to help them but he shot me a look which pinned my feet to the ground without one touch. I have no idea what this one had done to him but they definitely did not deserve what I knew was about to happen. The wind whispered round my ears and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Slowly he started to approach the unsuspecting prey. By the time they had turned around it was too late. With one strong movement he reached out and seized them by the throat, a spurt of blood splattered through the air like a sordid firework. My blood ran cold and I had to prevent myself from fainting, blood was never a taste for my palette.

His prey now dancing with the reaper, Max carried the victim as we made our way home. I made a conscious effort to stay behind him so he could not catch the tears in my eyes. I need not worry; he didn’t look back at me once. The mile walk home felt like a hundred, freezing every time we heard a noise. On frosty mornings these woods could look beautiful. A type of silence and glistening that only untouched nature can achieve. But not today. Today the trees seemed to glare and suffocate and the frozen cold ground made my feet feel painfully sore. As we got to the end of the woods near the house by the big oak tree, Max put down the victim then relieved his bladder right next to the body. He could be so heartless.

Dusk had settled by the time we returned to the house so no one could see as we made our way around the side of the house into the garden to leave the victim there until the morning. Mark opened the back door to let us in and we both walked straight past him not uttering a word.  My tongue felt like sandpaper so I had a long drink before heading into the living room. I sat in front of the warm fire and shut my eyes. Mark asked where we had been and seemed really angry shouting obscenities but I just kept my eyes shut and listened to the television, I don’t think he really expected an answer. The warmth of the fire relaxed me and made me feel safe again and every muscle in my body started to melt. Yawning I felt I could drift into a long deep sleep, all of the days happenings would be a distant memory, I would wake up refreshed and content. I had no plans for the next day, as usual, so there was nothing to wake up for. Max could do as he wished with the body, I was no longer involved.

Suddenly I heard footsteps and then the back door slam. It was Sandra, she was going out to the garage through the garden. My heart started pounding and I sat upright. I looked around but was not sure where Max was. This was Max’s doing, he had killed someone and I was going to get the blame. She did not return quickly, I thought maybe she had not seen the body, a glint of hope flickered in the back of my mind that maybe she had not seen the body… when I heard her come back in the back door.

“Mark!” She shouted from the door, “Those bloody dogs have bought back a pheasant again, will you get rid of it?”

Barney and Max in the background

Inspired by probably the naughtiest dog in the world.

Getting a bit nude

9 May

Nudes, pales, pastels, whatever they’re calling it, it’s hard to avoid the trend that the magazines are raving about this season. I hit the streets of Bournemouth to see what pale nail colours are making these girls’ purses a touch lighter…

These lilac nails are pretty and perfect for Summer

Grey is great to be a bit edgy, this one is from Barry M

Pale orange is something a bit more unusual and goes perfectly with this Holly's cute orange dress

The classical nude is bang on trend but still ideal for work

The lilac was my personal favourite so I treated myself to a purple by Barry M. They say money can’t buy you happiness but new accessories definitely can!

Website analysis of the Times Online

4 May

Usability

  • The website fulfills its purpose of providing the news efficiently due to the fact that the homepage is full of the top UK headlines for that day for users to find straight away and click on to read more of the story.
  • However the technical stability of the website could be questioned. Although pages are quick to upload, there is room for technical improvement in terms of videos. The videos load quickly however when watching are slow to stream.

Navigation

  • On the navigation bar there are 12 main links ranging from news to archive. Under each of these headings are up to 10 subheadings within that topic. These topics along the navigation bar are specific to different audiences such as ‘sport’ and ‘politics’. The clear, simple navigation bar could be considered a definite strength of this website.
  • There is also a ‘Where am I?’ feature under the navigation bar which shows which category the user is in so that they are able to keep track of where in the website they are located.  A helpful feature that aids browsing.

 Design

  • The design could be considered conservative in style. The colour theme for the title and navigation bar is green, black and grey with news headlines in blue. This colour scheme runs throughout the website. Although the grey could be considered plain, it is effective and suits the professional style of the newspaper.
  • The font of the whole website also fits in with this professional style.  Menu items and body text is all in the font ‘Arial’ and the subheadings and story headlines are in ‘Georgia’. These fonts are ideal for the Times Online website as they were produced by typographer Matthew Cater in 1995 when commissioned by Microsoft to design ‘screen-friendly fonts’. They have proven familiarity, legibility and speed of reading which makes them perfect for a news based website.

Searchability

  • When entering the phrases ‘The Times’, ‘Times Online’ or simply just ‘Times’, into a Google search engine, Times Online comes up as the first result.
  • However when typing in the phrase ‘news’, Times Online is not as easy to locate. The Times Online did not appear in the search until the ninth page of results after rivals such as BBC news and The Telegraph which came up within the first page of results. This could be improved as it is important for websites to be found in the vastness of the ever growing cyber space.

Content

  • There is a large range of content varying from the latest UK News to the latest World News. Readers can also look at articles other than news reports such as  car reviews and crossword puzzles. There is such a vast range of content and something for  every reader. All of the stories are supported with visual aids.

Audio and Video

  • There is a link under the ‘News’ heading labeled ‘videos’ where there are a range of videos from interviews with actresses to clips from Sky News. However, as noted earlier, the streaming of the videos is slow which could be improved.
  • Another recommendation is concerning audio content. Although there is a range of podcasts, they seem inconsistent as they are present for certain stories but not others. The website could benefit from having an audio version of every story and item.

Interactivity and UGC

  • Registered member of the website are able to comment on all the feaures. It is evident that there is a lot of interactivity on this website as every story has a number of comments underneath it with the views of the public. This interactivity is a definite strength of the website as users feel like they can have a say.

This isn’t just any raving, this is White Raving

4 May

As the new craze of ‘white raving’ sweeps across the nightlife of Bournemouth, what better way to try out this rave with a twist than our friend Esther’s 20th birthday. The ‘white rave’ first came to Bournemouth in September 2009 and was a huge success. Held at the student club The Old Firestation on a Monday night, students buy a ticket but also buy an all-in-one white jumpsuit, something similar to painting overalls. Before entry guests stand against a big screen and get splatted with paint (using an actual paint gun). Once inside the club UV lighting makes the paint glow and the combination of the bright colours, 800 litres of UV foam and hardcore drum & bass beats makes for an ultimately different night to any other! Here are a few pictures from our night out…

The night begins, all laughing about how stupid we look in the suits but secretly all loving how comfortable and warm the suits are.

Hoods up for protection of the hair, very fetching!

The paint wall in action, Emma and Tara getting a serious paint splattering. The paint gun pointing in their faces not seeming to phase them in the slightest.

Seriously sexy goggles, new look for Spring/Summer?

Katy looking a bit worried about what’s to come..

Top left of the picture, the foam begins…the girls carry on dancing away obliviously.

Ten minutes later, a few dives into the foam and me and Nicola are rocking ‘drowned-rat-chic’.

The floor towards the end of the night, really hard to stand up but great for doing slides that would give a 10 year old boy at a wedding a run for his money!

All in all it was a great night, perfect if you fancy something different and don’t mind getting really messy. The date of the next one has not yet been confirmed but check out the White Rave facebook page to keep updated! And a word of warning, the suits are not waterproof, this is the top I wore after TWO washes so don’t wear anything you plan on wearing again!

A Weekend to Never Forget

30 Apr

Here is a feature that I wrote on Bournemouth Sevens rugby festival to be published in the Daily Echo.

7 a-side, 7 minutes each way, 6 full size pitches, 5 DJ’s, 4 beer tents, 3 days, 2 nights, 1 huge party! With Bournemouth Sevens releasing the latest line up of bands and DJss this week, excitement is building for the biggest festival in Bournemouth.

So why is seven the lucky number? First held in 2008 by Diamond Sports Events, by 2009 Bournemouth Sevens was the biggest music and rugby festival of its kind in the world. In 2009 it doubled in size from the first year with 132 rugby teams, 88 netball teams and 20,000 attendees, and this year is expected to be bigger than ever. Any amateur rugby teams can enter and play for 12 cups including The Sunday Snakebite Cup and The Sunday Shandy Cup.

Unlike typical rugby matches, games are seven a-side and seven minutes each way played on a full sized pitch. But essentially everyone is competing for the same thing, to be crowned the Bournemouth Sevens 2010 champions. Other countries such as Dubai, Hong Kong and Amsterdam have Sevens festivals but Bournemouth holds the biggest of its kind in the world, recently winning the Sport Business Award for mass participation. The festival this year will be held on May bank holiday weekend for three days starting Friday 28th May. Held at Bournemouth Sports Club in Chapel Gate, the 65 acres of tree-lined fields is more than enough to accommodate the rugby pitches, netball courts, beer tents, stages, campsite, parking, food tents and endless other facilities.

With just over a month to go, this week event organisers Diamond Sports Events announced the entertainment line up. The festival provides a variety of entertainment all day from 10am until 1am to keep the crowd occupied before, after, between and even during the rugby matches. The headline act announced is former Radio 1 presenter DJ Spoony. Other acts include the Bavarian Oompah Band and various cover bands providing music on a main stage to dance the nights away to.

If that’s not enough, other entertainment for this year includes a parachute display, a pitch side Jacuzzi and the new craze ‘Rock-e-oke’ similar to karaoke but individuals can sing-a-long on stage to a live band creating the ultimate rock star experience! As a family event there are loads of activities for the children. Whether it is wall climbing, face painting or quad biking there is plenty to keep them busy all weekend, it’s just getting them to leave which is the problem!

Although not compulsory, fancy dress is ultimately encouraged for the weekend. Never seen 20 smurfs, 8 gingerbread men, 43 Amy Winehouses and an Easter bunny all under one roof? Just take a look at the website to see some of the weird and wonderful ideas people came up with last year. And don’t worry, it has been confirmed that this year the whole weekend will be caught on camera, with coverage courtesy of Sky TV, BBC and ITV. Sam Woodman, an attendee of the event last year said, “Last year was amazing, 15 of us all went dressed as ‘Where’s Wally’ but are still trying to think of something original to go as this year! I really don’t know how they’re going to top last year but the line up looks incredible, can’t wait.”

Volunteer Jessica Child, 20, worked at the festival last year. She plans to do it again this year and would encourage people to volunteer. “There is a great atmosphere at the festival, everyone is just out to have a good time,” she said. “I am studying events management at university and this is definitely the best event I have ever volunteered for as there were loads of jobs for me to do like giving out wristbands and directing people around the site. I would really recommend volunteering at the festival this year because you get to work with some amazing people, you don’t even realize that you’re working!”

Although they have not yet released any names for 2010, in previous years many professional rugby players have attended the event including players of the England rugby union, Austin Healey who now provides BBC punditry, Josh Lucy, Kyran Bracken and Lewis Moody. In an interview on the Bournemouth Sevens website Austin Healey said, “This is the most amazing event I think I’ve ever been to. The Bournemouth Sevens is supposed to be a festival of rugby but it’s more a festival of fun. There are lots of families here with their children creating a great atmosphere.” On the Sunday evening there will also be an awards ceremony on the main stage where all the cup winners will have a chance to meet and be presented with their awards by their sporting heroes.

Whether it’s a great game of rugby you’re after, a stag do with a twist or just a weekend away with mates, Bournemouth Sevens is the only place to spend May bank holiday weekend. The campsite is already 85% full and 20,000 people will be flocking from all over the country so grab your tickets soon. To purchase tickets, enter a team into the rugby tournaments or find out more about the weekend please go online at www.bournemouthsevens.com. Alternatively you can call 0844 847 2500 to purchase tickets. Although there will be tickets on the day, they are cheaper in advance and there will only be a limited number. There are cheap deals for students and group bookings and under 12’s get in for free. You would be simply mad to miss it!

The magazine layout I created for the feature using the programme Indesign

Protecting all our creatures great and small or health and safety gone mad?

26 Feb

Two weeks ago me and my housemate Sam woke up on a sunny Sunday morning and after a while of throwing ideas around about what to get our other housemate Holly for her birthday, concluded that it would be a nice idea to get her a goldfish (this isn’t entirely random, she wants a turtle but for space, money and commitment reasons thought a fish was a bit more suitable).

We jump in the car, bearing in mind it’s about half past three on a Sunday afternoon, this pet shop closes at four and we’re not entirely sure where we are going. But alas we find the pet shop and pick out two lovely big goldfish. We grab a goldfish bowl and some pretty rocks to put in the bottom, just need the fish.

Sam approaches a teenage girl in the bright green pet shop body warmer and asks if we could please buy these fish. The teenager strolls over eyeing us both up before producing a notepad.

After grilling us for a few minutes, informing us that the tank we had chosen was too small and establising that a filter is not something you roll into a cigarette it seems we failed the test.

“I regret to inform you that you can not leave the premesis with a fish today as it is our policy that our fish can only go into water that has been filtered for over a week.” She says it word for word as if reading it off an invisible script then starts going into the science of oxygenated water and bacteria. Me and Sam look at her stunned. We even try to wing it saying that we will put the fish into our friend’s filtered tank then into ours once we have filtered the water. The response? “Oh no! That will cause too much distress for the fish, imagine if you moved house twice within one week don’t you think you would be distressed?!”

We end up leaving the pet shop with a tank, a filter and some fish food, but not one living animal.

Despite being presented on her birthday with an empty fish tank, Holly was thrilled and as promised we drove back to the pet shop a week later (once she had had the filter set up for a week obviously) to buy her fish. Holly picked out two lovely goldfish, one white one gold and named them Fizzy and Nemo.  The fish loved the tank, swimming in and out of the plant and we grew quite fond of them.

Unfortunately when we woke in the morning Fizzy and Nemo were dead. Holly now uses the fish tank as a vase for the flowers her boyfriend got her for valentines day. R.I.P Fizzy and Nemo…

I remember the days when you could win a fish at the fair in a plastic bag and then keep it for the next 3 years. Now it seems even our fish are wrapped in cotton wool. It has recently been in the news that and elderly lady was arrested for selling a goldfish  to an under 16 while there are real criminals still roaming the streets. We couldn’t believe the amount of trouble and questioning we had to go through to buy two goldfish, are these necessary measures to protect living creatures or has Health and Safety gone crazy?