Preston shocked by appearance of sun

12 02 2011

Preston residents were left confused this week after the city endured two sunny days in the space of less than a week, with some reporting “holes in the sky”.

Scientists are in serious talks with the Met Office to establish why the city had what other places in the country apparently call: “Nice weather”, which Preston experienced on Thursday 10 and Saturday 12 February, 2011.

Temperatures soared to pleasant, leading to many residents being confused whether to wear their coats or not. One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Well, I’ve been wearing me big coat and scarf every day since the beginning of October last year, but on Thursday and Saturday I went out to buy a loaf of Greenhalgh’s wholemeal bread and I were just too hot – it’s ’cause of this global warmin’. So I had to go into a furniture store and sit down for two minutes so I could cool down.”

But the problems were far more serious for some. Prof Madeu Pname, a university academic, said: “People were calling the Preston Weather Emergency Helpline throughout the day, wondering what the holes in the sky were.

“After speaking to our colleagues who don’t live and work in Preston, we have established that the holes actually show ‘the sky’, and that what we formerly perceived as ‘the sky’ is, in fact, something called cloud. On Thursday and Saturday, we experienced a phenomenon known as sunlight.”

The bright light caused havoc on the roads, as drivers were dazzled by the sun. Hundreds had to stop, close their eyes and wait for nightfall before they could continue.

The appearance of the sun in Preston left some drivers dazed, confused and stranded

Some shoppers were delighted with the weather, though. One market stall holder put out extra seating so people could sit down. “I put some in the shade and some in the sun, so people could have a choice of being slightly warm, or a bit nippy,” he said.

Extra seating was provided by market stall holders

One shopper suggested the sunny weather could save locals trillions of pounds: “That Dave Cameron and his sidekick are making everything expensive aren’t they? Well, I’ve got one up on ‘em now. Why? ‘Cause I’ve just cancelled my holiday to Dubai. No taxes from me! Sunny enough ‘ere int it? It’s grand!”

The last time Preston basked in sunshine was before Charles Dickens visited in the 19th century. Following Dickens’ glum portrayal of Coketown in Hard Times, Preston, on which Coketown was partly based, has been predominantly cloudy. Comforting cloud and rain are expected shortly.

The sunny weather was used by some to dry out dog poo, presumably for art

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Why UCLan is right to urge students not to report on Preston EDL march

26 11 2010

It’s caused a minor furore on Twitter and on blogs: “Concerned over safety, UCLan urges journalism students not to cover EDL march”. But why are people getting so wound up about it?

To be clear, I’m not writing this on behalf of UCLan’s journalism school (the school’s position was made clear in Laura Oliver’s article, linked to above), or even trying to represent a different view.

The reason I am writing this is because I think the criticism levelled at the decision is starting to become a bit unreasonable, I get the impression that some people believe the story is somehow an indication that UCLan is denying its journalism students the opportunities to practise journalism. I think this is nonsense.

I understand (as does the UCLan journalism school) that the EDL march will receive regional, and possibly national, coverage. For those that attend, there’s the chance to get a brilliant story.

But is it really so irrational of the school to say: “we cannot allow students to cover these events for any assignment or reporting exercise and we will not allow our equipment to be hired out”? The reasoning is clear and explicit – the department spoke to  practising industry professionals who will be there on Saturday. The school has clearly been warned of the potential dangers that students could encounter.

Telling students not to report on the march for university work passes absolutely the onus of responsibility onto the student. Through refusing to accept work about the march, UCLan is removing the possibility of students taking unnecessary risks in order to look good and get good marks. There is no reason for a student to take risks in order to attain good marks for their portfolio.

As I said in a brief exchange on Twitter to one of my peers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), if a student goes to the protest and gets injured, it was their idea, not the university’s. It was their own decision to go, for their own personal reasons.

While the school has told students not to report on the protest for university work, and have advised students to stay away following warnings, the department has NOT completely banned students from going, as some people seem to be inferring.

Do I plan on going to the EDL march? Yes I do, and I intend to take some pictures.

Of course, it’s a frustrating situation, but the alternative (ie. NOT to tell students not to attend for university work) is open to a lot more scrutiny, and it would be unprofessional of the university to be seriously warned about the dangers, and not to make their position unequivocally clear.





Uganda diary: Preface I

5 08 2010

Yes that’s right, I’m going to Uganda. Not yet, but relatively soon.

I’m going for two weeks in August (from the middle until the end), and will be staying in Kampala with my cousin Emma. If anyone reading this blog post can remember how useless I was at being away from home when I went to the Isle of Man, this news may come as a shock. But I was 10 when I went to the Isle of Man with school, and I’ve grown up a little since then.

But the point of this blog post is not so much to describe the forthcoming trip, but to write down what has happened so far.

How it all started

As is the case with so many financially crippling yet exciting ideas (at least in England), the notion of going to Uganda became comfortably rooted inside my brain after a couple of beers (although, I think the idea would’ve come about regardless of beer).

Cousin Emma went over to Uganda last year. In June this year (2010) she came back to the UK for a few weeks to see her family, her friends, go to a Bettys Cafe tea room and so on. More relevant to this story, during this time she also visited our house.

While she was at our house, we had a big barbecue, accompanied by beer and wine.

Emma told my brother James that he should go to Uganda. This was of interest to him as he now has the ‘travel bug’ – the lucky sod went travelling around South America from September 2009 until May 2010. But, his problem was money – specifically, the absence of any in his bank account.

I sat there, quietly taking in all the information. And then I started to think… “What if I go to Uganda? I have a good summer job. I have been saving. By August, I’ll have raised enough money to pay for the flights and so on.”

A couple of weeks later, my flights were booked.

Vaccinations

To anyone that knows me – in particular those that know me from my schooldays – you will know that injections just do not get on well with me. Throughout my life, I have been known for being pathetic with vaccinations. At primary school, after one particular injection, my thoughtful and considerate peers informed me: “You’ve turned green”. This trend of becoming pale continued throughout all my schooldays.

Once, I was almost OK. I was 15 or 16, and everyone in the year had to have a booster. Just a small, quick injection. I was bricking it. But I decided I’d be OK. I had the injection. Nothing happened. I felt well! I was fine! But as I walked back to my English class, my body decided that, in the absence of any objection from my brain, it was time to react. So it did. Five minutes later, my head was in the toilet bowl in the gents’ in the English block.

So, how did my vaccinations for Uganda go? After the very friendly nurse told me about what injections I was going to have, and after I told her that I was historically useless with needles, I was ready to be vaccinated.

The famous words were delivered: “You’ll just feel a little scratch.” This used to be followed by me thinking: “OK I can feel the scra-OH MY WORD THAT’S A NEEDLE IN MY ARM”, before feeling light-headed.

But this time… I felt the little scratch. And that was it. Done. Then I had another injection. All over.

That’s right everyone, I had two injections (one in each arm) and I was fine.

And y’know what? I’ve had another one done. For swine flu. Today. It wasn’t compulsory, but it was highly recommended for Uganda on a medical website which the nurse used last week. That’s right, I’ve had an injection that I didn’t even need to have.

The next step

The next step involves me packing my bags, getting my hair cut, shaving off my facial hair (I think it’d be a bit optimistic to call it a beard), and organising my life.





My visit to accident and emergency

18 06 2010

A story about a visit to the accident and emergency ward of a hospital should be a fast-paced and dramatic tale, detailing inspiring psychological resilience to overcoming physical pain.

It should be a heart-warming portrayal of how one hurtled through the doors of the hospital, considering asking a vicar to deliver one’s last rites, but with the help of doctors and nurses, one being able to overcome the cruel downturn in luck that led to one being rushed to hospital.

However, my first ever trip (and I would be happy if it was the last) to accident and emergency (A&E), on Saturday 12 June, 2010 was not fast-paced. It was not dramatic. It was not inspiring. It was not heart-warming. Goodness, it didn’t even involve pain.

“I was cleaning my ears, and then…”

What were you doing at about 11:30pm on Friday 11 June, 2010? I was closing my laptop, and considering going for a shower. It was getting late-ish and I was tired from a very busy week. Yes, a shower would be lovely, I thought.

So I trundled into the bathroom. I decided I should clean my ears.  Cleaning my ears has always been something I’ve secretly quite liked. It’s satisfying. It’s nice to scratch that itch that, with your index finger, you simply can’t reach during the day.

So, with cotton wool bud in left hand, I cleansed my left ear. I then rotated the cotton wool bud, and, with my right hand, cleansed my right ear.

I gave it a good wiggle, and then pulled the cotton wool bud out.

Problem.

In my hand, I held the cotton wool bud. The plastic stick was there, as was the bud of cotton wool that had so successfully cleansed my left ear. But the other end, the end which had just been in my right ear, was bare plastic.

Evacuation attempt

It was now about midnight. The rest of the family were all asleep. I was on my own, in the bathroom, with a cotton wool bud stuck in my ear.

After a good half hour of searching every cupboard in the house, I found some tweezers. Now, I’ll be honest, I got a cotton wool bud stuck in my ear a few months ago (it was a cheap, poor quality cotton wool bud), but it was near to the opening of my ear, so I could easily get it out.

This time was different though. This time, I clearly hadn’t learnt from experience, and it was nestled a lot further into my ear.

In went the tweezers. I tried to grab whatever there was to be grabbed in my ear. Unfortunately, all I got was my skin, and tiny hairs.

This was going badly.

I then stuck my ear under the tap. I decided that if the cotton bud got wet, it might get heavier, in which case I should be able to violently move my head from side to side, and the present centrifugal forces would dislodge the cotton wool bud.

Instead, I was left with a wet right ear, and a temporary mild headache from the severe head shaking.

Flushing it out

The tweezers had been unsuccessful. But, I believed the water idea had potential. So I had a shower.

With my right hand covering my right ear, I aggressively tried to create a vacuum in my ear (like how one may plunge a blocked toilet or sink). This lasted roughly 10 minutes.

The cotton wool bud was still contentedly lodged in my ear.

So I had my shower and went to bed.

Seeking medical advice

When I woke up at about 10am on Saturday, I felt happy. It was Saturday and I could have a lie-in. And then I remembered I had a cotton wool bud in my ear.

After sharing my brave story with my family, I went into Lancaster in search of some medical advice – my parents had told me to go to casualty, but I deemed it unnecessary.

I thought that the doctors’ surgery might be open, for emergencies and stuff. It wasn’t. It was closed. However, there was a number for NHS Direct. I knew I wouldn’t need it, but I wrote it on my hand anyway.

Despite this hurdle, I was optimistic that someone would tell me that all I needed to do was bla bla bla bla and I didn’t have to go to hospital. So I went to Boots – they do plasters and toothbrushes, so I knew they’d have answers for me. They didn’t. The slightly confused-looking lady at the medicine counter suggested I go to A&E.

No, I refused to go to hospital. I walked back to the car, and decided to ring NHS Direct. After five minutes of me telling the not-medically-trained person what I have said above, I was told I MUST GO TO A AND E IMMEDIATELY. He also said I MUST NOT DRIVE, and I should get someone else to drive me to hospital.

I was already in Lancaster. I was on my own. I was in the car while he was telling me all this. So I drove, against medical advice, to the hospital.

“The problem? Oh, erm…”

After being robbed of £1.70 by the hospital’s car park, I entered Lancaster Infirmary’s A&E doors.

The nerves and mild embarrassment of my problem meant I was subconsciously smiling a lot. This probably made me look a bit arrogant, and probably a bit of an arsehole. Regardless, the receptionist was pleasant enough, and didn’t laugh at me. I would have understood if she’d said: “You’re in A&E for that?” But she didn’t. So that was nice of her.

After five minutes of waiting for computer systems to recognise me, I made my way into the waiting room.

I had a vast choice of seats. I opted for the one slightly hidden by a vending machine. That way, people wouldn’t be able to see that I was in perfectly good health.

The waiting room started to fill up. My conclusion of this is that people damage themselves more around lunchtime than at breakfast.

In the waiting room, my attention flicked between looking at other patients, trying to work out what was wrong them, and looking at the massively depressing posters telling me that speeding on the road would result in death, or thoroughly painful surgery. Nothing beats warnings of death to keep one optimistic while in hospital.

When observing fellow patients, most of my time was spent looking, with considerable disgust and hatred, at the grumpy and moody teenage lass who was taking calls and writing texts on her Blackberry, defying her mum’s requests for her to switch off the phone. Yoof of today, eh?

Diagnosis: Murder Stuck cotton wool bud

I was abruptly snapped from my contemptuous glare when I heard: “PETER ADAMS?!” For some reason, I felt embarrassed. Now my waiting room comrades could put a name to the patient who seemingly had nothing wrong with him.

The nurse took me to a room within the waiting room (there were partition walls, but not up to the ceiling). There, I told her what I’d told the receptionist.

I then returned to my seat in the waiting room. Another patient was directed to the room I’d left. I heard every word. His issues were more serious than mine. I felt bad. I was here for a far more trivial reason. But what’s worse is that it meant everyone in that waiting room had heard me too. Damn.

A few minutes later, my name was called again. This time it was called by a short, friendly faced, blonde nurse with a slightly softer tone than the previous nurse.

The operation

I was asked to perch on a seat in a room, and my nurse (she may have been called Victoria. Very friendly) said she would be right back.

As I sat there on my own, my mind was envisaging what serious medical action may need to be taken. What if I required surgery? What if I needed a local anaesthetic (which would have made me sad), so they could drive a scalpel into my ear to rip the stranded wool bud from my ear?

After all the build up in my mind, it turned out that my shower/vacuum strategy had brought the now-12-hours-old cotton wool bud nearer to the opening of my ear, and the friendly nurse plucked it out with some scissor-esque tweezers.

I felt like I had been given a second chance at life, a chance to right my wrongs, to live in a clear-ear world. This was good. My ears were clear and I was happy.

Such was my trust in the nurse following this miracle that I then asked her about all of my health concerns (occasionally mildly shaking hands [anxiety/adrenaline-related], clicking/grinding knees [normal], clicking joints [normal], my fear of needles [common fear]), and every question was kindly answered.

I thanked the nurse, then proudly and healthily strolled out of the hospital.

So there we have it, my A&E story. Through my stupidity I had ended up in A&E. There were people in pain, with serious problems, who needed urgent medical attention. I had a cotton wool bud stuck in my ear. It was embarrassing (and very guilt-inducing), but it was likewise humbling to see the kindness which was shown to me, despite how trivial my issue was.

But please, learn from my lesson.

Cotton wool buds. Don’t do it, kids.






A blog about a cow

5 06 2010

Disappointed cow

This blog is about a cow (see picture above).

The cow is a popular animal in England. They can be most frequently spotted grazing in fields, this being the location where I encountered and photographed this particular cow.

Cattle can also be spotted crossing roads, as the farmer takes them to get milked, as cows produce a lot of milk, and we English like to drink milk, either on its own or to complement another beverage, such as tea or coffee. Milk can also be used in food recipes, such as when making Yorkshire Puddings.

You may also see a cow in a slaughterhouse. Cow meat (beef) is very tasty, best accompanied by Yorkshire Puddings, a plethora of roasted vegetables, and a lot of gravy (made from the juices from the meat).

Below is a selection of photos of a cow in Lancashire. Judging by the absence of an udder, and the presence of a lump suggesting male genitalia, this ‘cow’ is actually a bull.

I said hello to it, and then fed it some grass. The grass in the field I was in seemed to be better than the grass in the cow’s field because it enthusiastically accepted each offering of grass.

Useful links:





Three Russian musicians

27 04 2010

These three Russian musicians were lovely chaps. They played music before we went for our meal.

Context: I randomly went to Russia in 2009.





Sport Relief Mile: The training

21 03 2010

Preston Beer Festival 2010/Sport Relief training

My training for Sport Relief 2010 was exemplary. It was regular, intense and demanding. Look at what Michael Phelps did to win lots of Olympic gold medals, and what Lance Armstrong did to keep on winning the Tour de France, and I’m not too far behind these magnificent athletes.

My training regime began three days prior to the event. On Thursday 18 March 2010, I went to play badminton. But badminton was just my warm up. Oh yeah, I was taking my training very seriously. I played and won three games, and then moved on to the real training.

After leaving badminton practice, I had a shower, and then embarked on a journey, accompanied by my other half and one of my housemates, to a church.

Whether God was in residence or not, I felt like I was in exercise heaven. Dozens of ales and bitters and ciders lined an entire wall. The training began: we drank beer and cider and ate Lancashire Hotpot and I was an ‘appy bunny.

This was my training regime (apart from the badminton/exercise) on Friday and Saturday night too.

As you can tell, I was well prepared for the six-mile Sport Relief run.

NOTE: Sorry, I’ve just remembered something. On Monday 15 March 2010, I was late for my Journalism Practice workshop, so I ran to it. The run lasted about three minutes and I was absolutely knackered at the end of it.