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Regrets

13 Nov

I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of sexual harassment of late.  In truth I’ve thought about it for a number of years but the Harvey Weinstein story was what really focused my mind.  My thoughts were centred on my own time in politics having worked for Plaid Cymru in various guises between 2005-2011.  It was somewhat timely then that this subject inevitably started becoming an issue that engulfed that world, both at Westminster and in Cardiff Bay.  The notion that it is confined to those national institutions by the way is extremely naïve and I am sure women across all tiers of all industries in Wales will have experiences they have for too long considered simply part and parcel of their working lives.

I never saw directly any incidents of sexual harassment while working in politics. I’d like to believe I’d have stepped in immediately if so. Also, no incidents were reported to me while in a position of responsibility to act, towards the end of my career at the Assembly. However, I carry a lot of guilt hearing the flood of accusations and experiences that have been voiced in the past few weeks and months. I regret that I was not more proactive in recognising the culture that existed.  I regret that when in more junior positions and hearing of the rumours and experiences of others that I wasn’t confident enough take a more authoritative approach to responding to the things I was told or heard.  I regret that I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to have been more supportive.  I also regret that when in a senior position I should have done more to make myself accessible to complainants.  I question if there were women feeling intimidated, violated and harassed that did not consider me a viable confidant to vocalise their situations?

There are degrees of responsibilities and I can try and justify how or why I didn’t do more in many ways. I was junior to those who have been victims let alone the perpetrators; I was young in age and professional experience; I suffered similar concerns as to how it would impact on my own career etc. All that being said, it is clear to me today that I and others didn’t support colleagues enough, both in individual instances and in changing the wider culture. My ignorance to the realities facing my female colleagues and friends serves as no excuse. I wasn’t aware of the truth perhaps because I wasn’t willing or able to see beyond my own personal environment. It was this lack of awareness that helped allow sexual harassment to thrive within the political sphere in Wales.

Recently, I’ve spoken to a number of women I worked with over the years to voice these regrets and to apologize.  The magnanimous attitude they have adopted in response serves only to emphasis how much I didn’t play my part and how important it is that I, along with other men who have and do work in Welsh politics, have a duty to ensure victims, past; present and future, deserve action.

The whole Carl Sargeant story is tragic. I’ve no inside track as to the legitimacy of allegations against him. I don’t know any of the details. I feel horrendous for what his friends and family must be going through in the aftermath of his death.  I also feel huge sympathy for those individuals who felt compelled to register allegations against him. The victim blaming they have endured on social media is an utter disgrace.

However, what I do know is that the genie is out of the bottle on this issue. Carl Sargeant may or may not have had a case to answer.  I stress again I have no knowledge of those allegations.  Regardless, there will be many women in Welsh politics, Welsh public life and across different industries and professions in Wales who will have encountered sexual harassment. We can’t change the fact this is now in the public consciousness, nor should we ever want to. The time is right to set the agenda and change the way politics is conducted to safeguard those at all levels within it.  I don’t want any regrets about trying to help that cause now.

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Please don’t drown…..

19 Jun

Every year I try and take part in a charity sporting venture, although I don’t recall doing one last year.  Two years ago I did a triathlon of sorts where I accumulated 10,000m on the SkiErg followed by a 10,000m run before finishing with a 10,000m row.

This year I am taking on the real thing with a proper triathlon, this Sunday’s Cardiff Bay Tri.  Full disclosure I don’t own a bike and chose not to buy one just for this event and so I am doing the swim and run portion of the full Olympic triathlon distance (1,500m swim and 10,000m run) with a friend and training partner covering the bike section.

When I signed up I didn’t think much of it really.  A 10k run isn’t easy but it’s something I knew I’d be able to get done without changing my usual training patterns.  I didn’t swim outside of splashing around on weekends with my kids in the local leisure center but I can swim and am quite fit so never questioned how hard it could be.  Turns out, pretty god damn hard!

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I quickly found out that being able to swim, and actually swimming any sort of distance, were very much two different things.  The first few times I went to the pool I was absolutely exhausted by swimming a 25m length.  I would regularly accumulate 500m-1,000m but through numerous 25m lengths with noticeable breaks in-between.  It took me a good few weeks to get to the 150m unbroken mark.  At which point I seriously started panicking that I would, at best, get fished out of the water on race day.

With this realization I dropped down to the sprint distance (750m swim) and started taking adult swimming lessons.  The relief of having a shorter distance, the guidance of improving my technique and the many lonely and tough hours spent chipping away at it started to make a different.  By the end of January I was still only getting to 300m but that was a major breakthrough.

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Then one day, having never gone passed that 300m mark, things just clicked and suddenly I went straight through to the 1k marker.  The perseverance started paying off and while I found the first 300m were always tough, as I settled in things would always get better as my stroke slowed and breathing settled.

I was told that open water swimming in a wet-suit was an easier proposition than the pool and so, knowing mentally more than anything I would have to try it before the event, I was really pleased to find out that Cardiff International White Water Center do open water swimming sessions between 6:30am-8:30am on Thursday mornings.  These were a revelation to me.

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Swimming in open water was not only easier and gave me more enthusiasm and confidence, but it was so much more fun and enjoyable than the slogs you have to endure in the pool.

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I was lucky enough to have been joined by my regular crossfit coach Pete Rankin from Crossfit Boatshed as well, although he is genuinely a good swimmer.  Having someone come along with you on that first session was a big deal, even if just to know you can be towed to safety if required.  Thankfully I didn’t need him for that!

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After this open water swim I bumped myself back up to the full Olympic distance and am really glad I did.  The weekend before last I put in a PB of 2,000m in the pool unbroken and really only stopped because of boredom.

5I followed that up with another strong open water swim last Thursday.  I’m pretty confident now that so long as I don’t drown within the first 300m I should survive.  That said it only dawned on me recently that I also have to run and so staggered out for an 8k test two weeks ago which focused the mind on that aspect of neglected training!FullSizeRender

So, with all this said, if you want to donate anything to the cause, and it is a fantastic cause in raising money for Ty Hafan, you can do so by clicking on this link.

Also if you are bored and want to know if I have drown you can track me on the day by clicking on this link.

Fingers crossed I’m still here Monday to reflect on the result.

 

 

 

Reflections of Election Day

28 Apr

Next week Wales goes to the polls to vote for the make-up of the next Welsh Assembly, and as a by-product its next Welsh Government.  On that day I will be in work as normal.  I will go to the gym as usual before getting in.  I will work until 5pm; drive home; put my kids to bed; walk up the polling station to vote; have some food; watch some TV or read and probably go to bed and to sleep by 10pm.

On Election Day five years ago things were very different.  I had some fantastic results nights during my previous life working and consumed by party politics.  I worked for Plaid Cymru the year they went into government and on a constituency scale having worked for Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Adam Price and Jonathan Edwards I knew only winning.  In the case of RGT, if I recall correctly, we won the highest majority in Wales outside of Dafydd El in 2007.  However, to repeat a sentence already used in this blog post…..five years ago things were very different.

There’s a sense of optimism on any election day.  I think over the course of the campaign there has to be so much positive reinforcement and outward looking promotion that you almost inevitably become a little indoctrinated.  By consistently having to talk up your chances, regardless of the actual state of play, for the sake of the media and your own party campaigners, it is easy to start believing it.  There’s something of a self-inflicted Stockholm syndrome taking place.  Party activities, members, staffers and candidates all brainwashing themselves into thinking that this is their year.  This is their election.

Five years ago I was realistic going into election night.  I don’t think anyone in Plaid Cymru was under any illusions that the election would be anything other than tough.  In fact, it was the commonly held view that there would be a trade-off in electoral success for the positive referendum result.  That was a view accepted before even the One Wales agreement had been signed.  During the campaign I flagged up quite early that I thought Llanelli was in trouble.  That said, you live in hope more than expectation at times.

The saying ignorance is bliss is certainly true on election day and there’s a sense of euphoria in knowing that you’ve always got a chance to win while the polls remain open and, after such an exhausting period of work, whatever happens it is at least coming to an end.  Having spoken to a few people working in different parties during this election it is clear the race to the end is still an existing phenomenon and not confined by political colours.  The pressure and hours that staff, and of course candidates, put in over not just the election period but the months leading up to it shouldn’t be underestimated.  Even ignoring the stupidly long days, the lack of time away from work and the constant over analysing ridiculously minor issues, just think about the toll a month or more of stodgy on the go food has on your mental and physical outlook!

Come 10pm on May 5th 2011 I was exhausted.  As well as the weeks and months of work that had preceded it I’d been up since about 4am delivering ‘Get the Vote Out’ messages.  If I recall I think I slept for about 45 minutes, if that, under a desk at Ty Gwynfor (Plaid HQ) after the polls closed before waking ready for feedback to start coming in from election counts.

History will tell you that it wasn’t a good night for Plaid and no doubt you can imagine the atmosphere.  The only comparison I could make would be the loneliness of the changing room of a losing boxer.  You put so much work and effort in and ultimately there is no consolation for coming second.  There were a few positive rounds.  Seeing the Plaid Cymru Ministers from the One Wales Government returned, quite comfortably, despite strong constituency challenges showed that there was an appreciation of what had been accomplished previously.  Still, there was no doubting it was a unanimous points defeat.  The Llanelli result perhaps tipping the analogy over into a late TKO.  That seats like Llanelli and some regional swings came down to such fine margins was a bitter pill to swallow.  A couple of hundred votes spread in different ways and the narrative drastically changes.

I was particularly upset with the Llanelli result as there wasn’t a challenge.  There had been a bundle recount but when there was only 80 votes in there I couldn’t believe no one called for a full recount.  I’m not suggesting the result would be different.  The recount could have returned the exact same result, it could also have returned an even bigger win for Keith Davies.  However, not asking for it just became a little symbol of a defeatist attitude to me over the course of that night.  Then again, sitting in a room in Cardiff it was perhaps easy for me to take a more objective view than those more fuelled by the emotions of the night on a local level.

Politics at its worst is a tribal game.  I speak from the perspective of someone no longer involved, directly at least, with politics in Wales, and certainly not in any party political capacity, but it’s the very reason I decided to want out.  I’ve no doubt my younger self was just as petty and tribal as some of the politics we see today, but I am so glad to be out of that environment and have had the opportunity to work with and challenge politicians from all parties since that election.  Just seeing some of the individual and even official twitter accounts involved in Welsh politics is enough to make me despair.  I really hope that come 10pm on election night we see some grown up interactions.  Remember that someone who has put their life on hold to campaign will be feeling the loss more than anyone.  It is a personal rejection of sorts.  For some it will also mean the end of their livelihoods, perhaps even careers, and that includes support staff.

I doubt very much I would ever be involved in politics in the same way again but if I ever was then I could only hope it was with a view of cross-party working.  That the Assembly has lost in Jocelyn Davies on of its greatest political collaborators, someone so skilled at finding resolutions across the political divide, is a particular sadness for me in looking forward to the 5th Assembly.  The likely make up of the institution post May 5th mean politicians of her caliber and approach are needed more than ever.  They exist in every party and hopefully they set the tone for the next five years.

One of the things I really remember from that night in 2011 was a text from Adrian Masters.  It may have been a throwaway line and I am sure, knowing how nice a person Adrian is and his political fairness, that he would have text around contacts in all the parties.  However his message just simply saying (don’t quote me verbatim but something like) “hope you’re ok” meant a lot at the time and still does. He may not remember it even. I do.

I haven’t gone through the various discussions, fallouts and feelings from that night.  Partly because I’m not sure what good it would do; partly because it may not actually be that interesting and partly because those conversations where not mine alone to disclose.

I’m sure there are many a story from the different political party HQs that both mirror and contrast with my own experience.  Indeed, I have many others of my own that do.  All I will say is that to everyone who is sitting down with such an investment in this election good luck, and don’t forget to take a step back and appreciate the wider landscape when the dust settles.  Life inside the campaign always feels that bit narrower, that bit more pressurised and that bit more immediate than it should.

P.S.

One final piece of advice that has helped me.  Whatever you do, hold on to the friendships and relationships you make in politics, but make sure you have some outside that world to get some real perspective on what is happening around you.  No one else is constantly discussing anywhere near the things you are, and only talking to the same people about the same things will eventually drive you mad.

Pen-y-fan

1 Feb

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I’ve always wanted to climb Pen-y-Fan but for some reason I never have, even though I’ve become a big fan of walking for pleasure and fitness over the past 12 months.  Finally, a few weekends back I did venture up with a group of friends.  We’ve all gone too old to play rugby so walking seems like the new group past-time.

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You regularly hear people say how beautiful Wales is.  I actually blogged on that very topic a while back when I was trying to appreciate just how stunning Tenby is on a nice day.  However, it really can’t be stressed enough.  Some of the views on the way up the walk were quite simply sensational.12507099_10153956759743623_6554886498610608544_n

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One thing I was quite amazed by was how quickly the weather changed.  You could really appreciate just how easy it is to get caught out.  During the initial stage of the climb we were stripping layers off as we were boiling on a hot and humid day.  Within half an hour you were wearing face masks and walking at a 45 degree angle to avoid being blown over by the wind.

I was also somewhat unprepared as to just how steep to final incline was on the route we had taken from Cwmgwdi car park.  The fog was constantly hiding each upcoming point until it finally jumped out on me.

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By the time we reached the top conditions were freezing and sadly the mist had come in so that while we were able to appreciate the views on the way up the peak offered little to see.

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Funny enough despite several setbacks we were up in quite a quick time.  Getting down proved more difficult.

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I think this photo probably sums up better than most how much disagreement we had about the best way down.  This even though we had a map and compass on us.12540876_10153487827399403_6541160689058677551_n

Eventually we did make it back and I am pleased to say I wasn’t even that sore the next day.

The Great Hathway Book Giveaway

23 Dec

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Here’s the first of a good batch I offloaded to a friend. He’s a good egg and is passing them on with my notes

Every year I stockpile the books I’ve read over the course of a year.  You can see the hits and misses from 2015 here.  At the start of the next year I go about leaving those books for others to stumble upon.  In cafes, on trains, on park benches etc. all with a little note to say that they are a gift to anyone who wants them and with a simple request to just let me know what you thought on twitter.  It is fair to say my 2015 experiences were not all that successful.

Still, I am persevering.  I am a plucky individual.  I like to think of the world in the best possible terms and I remain convinced that sooner or later this will work.  Even if I am not seeing the recognition I can still, perhaps a little foolishly, imagine people cracking a smile when finding or finishing one of the books I’ve left for them.  Isn’t that a comforting, if a little naive, thought?

I have given a good few books to a friend home from England for Christmas (see above photo).  I am also giving a chunk to my brother and around 6 to friends holidaying over the festive period.  In that sense I’m already making a start as when they pass them on the network of book angels (that’s not too grand a title to give myself I don’t think?) is already widening.  I have no doubt the tidal wave effect will soon be in play and passing on books will become my full time occupation.*

*I can honestly say I will be delighted if I just get two or more tweets this year!

HaLLEWeen

2 Nov

Growing up Halloween was never a big deal for me.  Bonfire night was always something to look forward to but trick or treat would basically mean getting the gift of being told to ‘do one’.  I’m not sure if it is because now I am a father or if our culture is just becoming increasingly Americanised.  There certainly seems to have been a bigger push towards Halloween as a holiday over the past few years.

Last year Gryff insisted on dressing up as a witch.  Not a wizard.  He was very specific about that.  A witch or nothing.  I’m not one for gender stereotypes for my children so he was the best damn witch Tonypandy had ever seen!

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This year, from absolutely nowhere, he has spent the past few weeks saying how he is going to be the flash this year.  This is a three-year old with no knowledge of the flash other than a supporting role in a few of his superman/batman books.  He is obviously a child that spots the minor parts and can visualise taking them centre stage.

So….if the Gryffalo wanted the flash the flash is what the Gryffalo was to get.

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The boy is a diva mind so the flash was his day time outfit but there was a quick change to BuzzLightyear for the evenings trick or treating.

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My little Llew cub is too young to be able to voice his preference which handily allows me and my good wife to be able to set the agenda for him.  For his nursery Halloween party he went as Frankenstein, or to be more specific he went as both a confused and somewhat sad Frankenstein.  Monsters have feeling as well you know.

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Trying to instill pride in the Llew name (mind the pun) he went out as the Halloween lion.  He was Prrrrrrfect. (sorry)

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Happy Halloween all.  Now we can truly start the countdown to Christmas.  I don’t care how cynical some of you may be out there. I cannot wait!

40:1

8 Oct

At the start of the year I embarked on a process of trying to make the literary world a little smaller.  That’s PR speak for saying that I took the books I read in 2014 and have been leaving them in random locations (on trains, in parks, in coffee shops etc.) for strangers to find, read and pass on.

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The way I see it I am not one to re-read books so it is better to let others enjoy them.

In January I had this naïve view of being inundated with tweets from people who had stumbled upon my offerings.  As more and more books were recycled I feared I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the praise and demand.  That bubble was quickly burst.

5 books in with no reply I was humbled.  15 books in I feared the worst.  25 books in I was depressed.  35 books in and my heart was no longer in it.  But low and behold, God loves a trier and 40th time lucky, 10 months after I began this, I reaped the rewards.  Finally someone has responded to a book by tweeting me.

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When I had this yesterday it made my day.  My only regret is that after passing on some fantastic reads throughout the year including Nathan Filer’s The shock of the Fall, We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, and Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher the one that was discovered was a run of the mill John Grisham.  Please don’t judge me.

I only have about 8 books left from the class of 2014.  My stockpile from this year however is both larger in quantity and certainly better in quality.  With this life affirming moment to boost me I can crack on again.  Hopefully you (yes you the person bored enough to read a blog about Welsh education and carrot cakes) will pick one up.

The Difficult Second Album

28 Aug

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12 months of pure happiness

On Wednesday my little Llew cub turned one.  This is unbelievable to me.  I know it is a cliché to say that time flies but it feels like just yesterday I went on a family holiday as a trio to Tenby and came home a day early as a foursome after Llew decided to turn up a month before his due date.

In many ways the second child has been a lot easier.  You become a far more relaxed parent due to the experience of the first child.  There has been no second guessing every action.  Every cry isn’t met with a huge amount of panic but rather more of an understanding of what the baby wants.  What is more Llew, I’m sorry to say Gryff, has been a far easier baby.  He has fed better, slept better (in the day at least) and developed quicker.

On the other hand, you really don’t anticipate just how much harder having two is compared to one.  When Gryff came along I remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t understand what I used to do with my time now that my days were filled with child focused activities.  Now Llew is here I hark bark to the days of having just one son and think how easy life was.  With the second there just isn’t any let up.  When Llew is asleep Gryff is still there to be entertained, fed, developed.  That is brilliant of course, I love spending time with both boys together and individually, but it can be exhausting.

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A usual ‘relaxing’ day at home. Double daddy attacks.  This will only get worse as they get older!

Time management has certainly become a crucial part of the day.  The importance of family structures and support have also been made abundantly clear to me.  I simply can’t imagine how people take care of children as single parents let alone without the amazing support I get from my parents and my in-laws.  Those people are incredible.

I don’t recall ever being as sleep deprived with Gryff as I have been with Llew.  I get up at 5:20am every day to go to the gym before work and my weekends are always determined by what time the boys get up.  The result of that is that I have probably not slept later than 7:30am in the last 12 months.  Having two means that you never get a late morning.  Added to this that there simply is no downtime and the accumulative impact is one worn out set of parents.

All this of course is the negative stuff.  The positive is that me and my good wife are amazingly lucky to have not just one, but two brilliant people in our lives.  The development of Gryff from having a brother has been phenomenal to watch.  He has radically changed, becoming more outgoing and interactive.  My fears that he could be jealous of a new arrival were instantly forgotten and there is no one that cares or loves Llew as much as his big brother.  Seeing them interact is fantastic and I think a large part of why Llew is up and about walking is down to the fact he constantly wants to chase after, and play with, Gryff.

Over the last three years Gryff has comfortably been my best friend in the world.  Llew is on a joint mantle with him now.  I don’t say that as a throwaway comment but because I genuinely mean it.  They both bring me so much joy.  It really is what life is about.

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These two are becoming best friends

Llew turning one accompanies another Hathway family milestone as Gryff starts school a week Monday.  I am amazingly proud and terrified at the same time.  It feels like my boy is growing up too fast and I am genuinely scared that I can’t control everything he does to make sure he is always happy.

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Just look at those shoes

I know that Gryff is going to love school.  I am biased but he is such a lovely, polite, likable and eager to learn little man.  My only fear is that he is too sensitive.  Gryff takes after his dad in that he is just too soft, bless him.  It is absolutely a quality in him I adore but nonetheless, it isn’t always the strongest attribute for the rough and tumble of school life.  In contrast Llew is as tough as old boots.  I’ve no doubt he will be the one sorting out any disputes involving the brothers in years to come.

Time is passing me by as a father and it upsets me a little.  They are quickly moving from babies to boys and I can already feel myself blinking and missing it all as they become men.  Still, at least then I could get some sleep!

 

 

CIPR Bursary

19 Aug

Many thanks to the PR Academy who have just announced me as one of the winners of their bursary awards for this year.  The fact that they have had such a high number of applicants this year and that I was considered the most worthy as part of the judging decision is certainly a boost to the ego.  I intend to start the Internal Communications Diploma with them in October.  This will add to the Crisis Communications Diploma that I secured through the CIPR in 2013.

I hate treading water in a professional sense, which is why I have always tried to continue to add qualifications and skills as I go along.  This will be my fifth diploma if, and hopefully when, I achieve it.  As well as the two mentioned above I have also done diplomas in Marketing (CIM); Leadership & management (CMI) and Journalism (LSJ).  As well as these I have also achieved chartered status with the CIM and CMI.

I think another reason for this continued progression is the chip on my shoulder about only gaining a 2:2 at university.  I’ve no illusions about deserving better.  You get out what you put in.  I firmly belive I’d get a 1st today but undoubtedly I went to university too early.  To put it simply I wasn’t mature enough at 18 to appreciate the opportunity I was given.

I don’t necessarily see it as a failure.  I developed personally and made some life long friends.  What’s more I loved my time at uni.  Aberystwyth, belive it or not, remains up there with San Fransisco in the top two places I’ve been in my life.  However, educationally the greatest gift I took from university was the disappointment of a sub-par degree.  It gave me the focus and motivation to add future qualifications, awards and industry recognition to my CV and is possibly the single greatest factor (alongside travelling a little of the world) that has helped me reach where I have on a professional level, as well as shape my standards of work.

Back to the issue at hand.  I am incredibly grateful to the PR Academy for awarding me the bursary.  Without it I would probably have passed up studying towards a new diploma this year.  It is also a real motivational boost that the sector leading body have recognised the achievements I’ve reached in the past and have invested in me for the future.

Onwards and upwards for that next tick on the professional ladder then.

Some Thoughts On My Hols

13 Aug

I’ve just come back from two weeks in Spain with the family and thought, at the risk of falling into the buzzfeed-ification of articles that I can’t stand, I’d put some thoughts down into a blog post.

1.  Carrier bags are far better. I’m all for the bag charge here in Wales. It’s a great law. But why can’t we have as good a carrier bags as they have in Spain?

2.  Spanish curbs are huge. You are essentially screwed if you are in a wheelchair or are using (as I was) a pushchair. This goes also for almost all shop entrances as well. Accessibility is not a Spanish strong suit

3.  What is it with those random exercise machines in the parks and at the beach? Some of them encourage the most bizarre physical movements and I can’t believe they are a major factor in physical health!?

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4.  Heat makes babies and children go bonkers grumpy. It took the best part of four days for the Gryffalo to acclimatise

5.  34 degree days mean eating ice cream at 9am is totally acceptable.

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6.  Eating frozen yogurt is healthier than ice cream so you can put as much toppings on as you want. I think that’s right anyway.
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7.  Sleeping in a bed with Gryff is a nightmare. Each night was like a wrestling match. Each night my body felt like I lost.

8.  If you have an 11 month old baby he’s guaranteed to spend most of your holiday cutting new teeth. Sleeping or screening
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9.  Zebra crossings mean nothing. It’s just one giant game of run the risk

10.  I’m still confused as to the rights or wrongs of drinking Spanish tap water. Can you?

11.  Spanish supermarkets are free for alls. I felt like I was a competitor in the Hunger Games.

12.  Holiday excess is a real problem. I put on a grand total of 5.4kgs over the past two weeks. Time to hit that winter shred. (I’m doing this wrong ain’t I)

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13.  Raspberry magnums are king of the magnums

14.  Holidays with your kids are amazing. Seeing how much fun they have is life affirming.

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15.  That said they are exhausting. The day I came home was the most in need of a holiday I’ve ever been.