If we can't offer a helping hand, a safe place to raise children, a refuge from war and terrorism, then I don't believe we are fufillimg our role in this world.

I've refrained from writing anything about refugees coming from Syria and other wartorn countries for a number of reasons. Primarily because of the negative, hateful comments people who have expressed any sort of opinion or compassion have been hit with.

Tonight, I met some members of a refugee family who have moved to the area.

The young boy is at the local high school and spoke impeccable English to say he has only been here for a matter of months. His father also spoke good English. They, along with the rest of their family, have been having English lessons since they arrived.

The young boy is taking part in this weekend's remembrance service, lighting a candle to signify 'peace'. A poignant and fitting choice.

He was chatting away, talking about his love of playing football with his friends at lunchtime as his dad looked on. He will be there, watching his son's big moment, on Sunday along with his three other children and his wife.

The young boy really made the conflict in Syria and the refugee situation hit home. In his school uniform, looking so relaxed and happy, it broke my heart to imagine what he has seen, and experienced, in his young life.

Barely into his teens, he and his siblings will have experienced situations that no person - let alone a child - should ever have to witness or go through.

I couldn't imagine even begin to imagine the horror this gorgeous little boy has lived through in his short years.

Now, however, he's safe, happy, and healthy. As, I'm sure, the other refugees are who have been resettled around the country.

Of course, there are issues in this country - people are struggling, the NHS is at breaking point - but we can help people. There are people in this world who need our help. Who need the safety and security that we can offer. If we can't offer a helping hand, a safe place to raise children, a refuge from war and terrorism, then I don't believe we are fufillimg our role in this world.

There are issues surrounding refugees, I understand there's a limit on resources and that people at home need help and support too, but imagining gorgeous little babies, children and young adults going through the horror that is war and terrorism breaks my heart. As a parent, all you want in life is to protect your child.

Parents shouldn't feel pushed, desperate, to escape their country to save their babies. It says a lot about where they are coming from if they view a dinghy in the sea as a safer option to the land. No parent would risk their child's life crossing oceans on unsuitable transport methods if the water wasn't safer.

Mark Stone's recent report of, literal, life and death in the Med was heartbreaking to watch. It was eye-opening in every sense the risks these people take to seek a better, safer life. Or simply just to preserve their life. If you haven't watched it, I would recommend it. (Not like I'd recommend Shrek or Toy Story, it's a completely harrowing watch, but I think it's an important one.)

There must be some cap on accepting refugees, I accept that. We can't, unfortunately, take them all. If I had my own island, I'd take as many as I could to protect and save the children of this terrible, heart breaking war.

I'm not writing this to open up a debate about refugees, or to say we should take in every refugee out there.  I'm writing it to explain how the whole refugee issue has been humanised for me. I had my own opinions on it before, but they have just been consolidated after meeting this family. I'm sure they, along with the other refugees, would have preferred to stay in their home country. To not have to move to a foreign land, learn a new language, and start a new life. Only, when they felt they had no choice, would that have ever become an option.

These people have lived through hell. I can't stop seeing the gorgeous little boy's smiley face and wonder how long that smile was absent from his face. How long was it replaced with tears for? With fear, anxiety and worry?

You hear everyone else's opinions all the time. We're drip fed information through the media and influential characters. Often, it can be racist and heartless. Not all the time, of course, but a proportion is. This only fuels extremist views, with many using the information gained from media outlets to form their own opinions. That is fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It's the beauty of Britain - freedom of speech.

It's rare I agree with Piers Morgan, generally I think he speaks antagonistic nonsense, but on this I do. Nobody wants Britain to be taken for a ride, or our kindness to be taken advantage of. But I would like to think if ever, god forbid, we needed help and refuge that another country would be kind enough to welcome us; and not leave us to perish.

To those who say 'refugees shouldn't be allowed here, it's not their country' - we shouldn't look at it as an us vs them. We are all part of one huge community, sharing this earth with each other. If we can't lend a hand to those in the most desperate of situations when they need it most, then I am genuinely worried about the future of society.


Canestan cream & lip balm are not two things you want to mix up

I realised I carried too much crap in my handbag when I went to pull what I thought was my lip balm out of a side pocket, only to reveal a tube of Canestan cream to the queue of people behind me at the self-scan in Morrisons.

Rather than quickly shove it back in my bag and dig around for the elusive lip balm, I froze.  Just holding the thrush cream in my hand staring at it for what felt like an eternity.  Also very aware that everyone was staring at me.

Eventually, I found my lip balm.  It was next to my eye drops.

I haven't used said eye drops since I bought them one day when my contact lenses were giving me jip.  I just chucked them in my bag "just incase" I needed them again.  The same with the Canestan cream.  That's been there for months - "just incase".

After realising a pattern was emerging, I decided to look what else I actually carried round with me everyday.

So, here goes.  A list of the entire contents of my handbag:
  • Ibuprofen
  • Solpadeine
  • Tampons
  • Concealer
  • Car keys
  • House keys
  • Impulse body spray
  • Deodorant
  • A hairbrush
  • A three-way mirror
  • Brow gel
  • Hair grips
  • Tissues
  • Tinted lip balm
  • Boots Advantage card vouchers
  • A pinky/orange lipstick
  • Business cards
  • My purse
  • One plaster
  • An umbrella
  • My press pass
  • Sunglasses
  • A nude lipstick
  • A memory stick
  • Tweezers
  • One glove 
  • My iPod
  • A paper clip
  • An empty box of cold and flu tablets
  • Sweetener tablets
  • A number of hair bobbles
  • Chewing gum
  • Screwed up receipts
  • A pink lipstick
  • And a shit-load of pens
It's no wonder my arms ache at the end of a day lugging all that around with me!  It's lucky I don't have a bigger handbag, I dread to think all the other stuff I could fit in.

More than half of the stuff in there I don't even use.  I didn't even know I had the lipsticks in there - I never wear lipstick on a day-to-day basis.

The Boots vouchers get shoved in my bag every time they come through the door, yet I never end up using them.  

And I don't even know what is on the memory stick. 

It really is no wonder I can never find anything in my handbag.

All the stuff I carry around every single day, moaning I can never fit anything else in my bag and complaining that it won't fasten, and I don't even use half of it.  

I mean, one glove.  For crying out loud.  Apart from attempting a shit wintery cover of Bob Marley's classic, there's very little I could do with one bloody glove.  I couldn't even begin to tell you where the other one is.

I can guarantee, if I 'sort' my bag out tonight and keep in it only the essentials, within a fortnight I'll be back to where I am now.  

I really hope it's not just me that carries unnecessary crap around with them all the time?  I bet, ladies, if you look in your bag you'll find some really obscure things in there.  I'd love to know what the strangest thing is you carry round everyday.  Please make me feel better about myself! 

This weekend I will sort out the contents of my bag.  In the process of getting everything out to inspect what was actually in there, then putting it all back in, I broke the bloody zip.  Now, not only do I have an over-filled bag with a load of crap I never even use, but I can't even fasten the zip to hide said crap from the world.

If ever there was a time to be a man, who only needs a pocket for his wallet and keys, this would be it.  

I'm pretty sure staff at our wedding venue think I am a psychopath

It's true, I'm pretty sure the wedding coordinator at our wedding venue thinks I am an actual psychopath.

After lying awake at 3 o'clock in the morning one Sunday night fretting about the smallest, most insignificant things, I sent a frantic email to our venue asking all my worries. I knew it, I sounded mental.

I actually asked the question if they'd save us a room for our wedding night. Of course they bloody will, I knew they would. But I had the worry in my mind that our excited guests would book all the rooms and we'd be left like Mary and Joseph with no room at the friggin' inn.

Pretty sure I even used that example in my email. Just kill me now. 

It's now just six months until our wedding. SIX MONTHS!!! 

It doesn't seem five minutes since we got engaged, or since we started the one year countdown. Now, it's just six months. This time in six months, we'll be husband and wife. Having our photos taken ahead of our evening reception.

Just 181 days to go. Sounds a long time when you put it like that. But, when I think back over the last six months, it's absolutely flown.

Everyone keeps saying 'once Christmas is out of the way it'll be here before you know it.' Now bonfire night is done and dusted, Christmas will be here in a blink of an eye. Then it's wedding year!!

Wedding planning is pretty much done and taken care of now. Everything is booked, ordered, bought and arranged. Just the small matter of saving and paying for it now...! It has been very stressful at times. When we sent out the save the dates it was difficult as there were controversies over who was /was not invited; that was definitely the hardest part. But we were expecting it.

Everything else, though, has been pretty plain sailing. We've got our gorgeous bridesmaids their dresses and Tom has chosen his suits for him and the boys. We've picked our honeymoon destination and are just waiting for the flights to come out so we can get it booked.

I imagine the next difficulty and stress will be the table plan. It makes me break out in a sweat thinking about it.

But those little stresses are so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It's all about me and Tom.

Hopefully I can reign in the psycho/stressy tendencies in the next six months, otherwise he might not be there waiting for me at the top of the altar! I joke (I hope).

Six months to go - there is an end in sight to these annoying blogs banging on about wedding planning! Then it'll just be further excitement about my exciting role in my best friend's wedding. I think I'll be more excited for hers than my own. All the exciting bits, none of the stress ha!

2017 is literally going to be the year of the wedding. I'm so lucky that Tom is so interested in the wedding planning. But I'm also so lucky that I get to do the whole process with my best friend; planning our weddings together.

When we first realised our weddings would be so close, I think we were both a bit worried it would be a bit like the film Bride Wars. I say 'I think', I know we were. Soph messaged me saying she hoped we didn't end up like that ha. But we never have. To say we are so similar and so alike, and both love the same things, we've never been in a situation where we've both wanted the same thing. Even if we were, we are so close we wouldn't get upset or angry or petty about it. We want each other's days to be just as special as our own, so we would never go all Bride Wars on each other.

Wedding planning may have been a nightmare at times, but it's also been amazing. Doing everything with Soph has been so special.

The next six months, and beyond, are going to be so exciting. And I just can't wait to be Mrs Natalie Jane Kershaw.


It's almost a year since I joined Slimming World and I still struggle to find my way through the maze that is 'target'

It's almost a year since I made one of the best decisions ever and joined Slimming World, and I can't begin to describe how it has changed my life for the better.

This time last year I remember feeling so incredibly fed up with how I looked.  We'd just celebrated my birthday and I felt disgusting in everything I wanted to wear.

Tom had taken me to Harrogate for a night away and booked a table at a restaurant nearby.  I'd taken a variety of outfits to wear - dresses, skirts etc. - but felt awful in them all.  I'd bought some jeans, hoping to wear them instead, but they didn't fit me when I got back to try them on.  I was so gutted.  I ended up wearing my work trousers (which when I originally bought I needed a belt, and by then were a snug fit) and a baggy top.

On my birthday itself, we had some friends round for drinks and nibbles.  Again, I had nothing to wear that I felt nice in and opted for leggings and a really big, floaty top.

When I look at the pictures from last year's birthday I feel sad.  Not because I look horrible, I think I dressed quite well to 'flatter' my figure rather than accentuate the bad parts.  That was one thing people always said to me when I first started Slimming World - "Ooh you don't need to go there, you're not fat."  Well, I maybe didn't look fat covered up in my baggy clothes but I certainly didn't look good in more fitting things.  And I certainly didn't feel great.

I digress.

I feel sad looking at last year's pictures because I was sad.  I felt sad in myself.  I didn't feel happy or confident about my body shape and size.  I had so many gorgeous clothes which didn't fit me anymore.  And so many lovely outfits that I no longer felt comfortable wearing.

Fast forward 12 months and I am like a new person.

Last year's birthday

This year's birthday

I know it's impossible to compare these two photos properly because I am wearing a coat in one, which isn't all too flattering, but coat aside I can still see a huge difference.  (That's probably just because I am overly critical of myself..!)

I reached my target at Slimming World in March, so over seven months ago now.  While I gave it all the chat upon reaching target that I would still keep going to group, it pains me to say I haven't been since about April time.

Initially I kept going every other week but that soon fizzled out.  Now, I wonder how I ever found the time to go!  I would love to go back to group again, I miss the people there so much!  I'm pretty sure if I did go back I wouldn't recognise some of them, I see on the Facebook group some have lost tremendous amounts of weight.  I feel so proud of them all when I see the updates.

Thankfully, though, not going to group hasn't hampered my weight loss and I haven't piled back on the two and a half stone that I lost in just over five months.  Which I think is quite rare for target members that bail on group.

My weight does fluctuate from the bottom of my target range, to the top, and just out of it.  I have good weeks and bad weeks, like any normal person.  Right now, for example, I am probably out of my target range after a heavy week of alcohol and food celebrating my birthday.  But that's ok, it was my birthday.  It wouldn't have been any sort of birthday if I'd just eaten salad and fruit.

This week, I am back on it again and I am confident that the pounds will shift as quickly as I put them on.

I really struggled being at target at first.  It's such a strange psychological barrier that only other target members will understand.  It sounds so stupid saying how hard it is, surely the hard part would be shifting all the weight in the first place.  But that's not so.  Maintaining and switching your mindset is really tough.

That's why I've struggled to get my bum back to group - because I'm not motivated every week to get a good weight loss.  Some weeks I let myself go and throw caution to the wind and just eat whatever I want.  Those weeks I'd hate going to group.  Standing on the scales and seeing I'd put on half a stone or whatever.  I know that's what group is there for - nobody judges and everyone is there to help.  But I'd judge me.  I am the worst person for being tough on myself and giving myself a hard time.

I know in myself after a week of eating foods which aren't necessarily the best when I've put a bit of weight on.  My jeans start to get a bit tight and I just generally feel a bit more sluggish.  But I don't beat myself up, or let myself "fall off the wagon" because I know I do not want to go back to where I was.

Food is everything to me.  When we're celebrating anything - a birthday, good news at work, Friday... - it's with food.  A meal out, a treat meal at home, cake... Similarly, when I'm sad, I turn to chocolate and sweet things.  So when I start to think "shit, I've put on some timber the last few weeks" I automatically want to eat more crap, because I'm sad and need a pick-me-up.  Switching out of that mindset is bloody difficult.  Especially when you're the kind of person who can't eat whatever they want and not put on any weight.

But I think I am finding my way through the maze that is target.  I have learnt to stop being so hard on myself and look at how far I have come.  I was never going to stop enjoying food and drink, that would not be a life I would enjoy.  I just need to remember that everything is fine in moderation.

I can have weekends/nights where I do treat myself and maybe have an extra bit of chocolate or order dessert when out for a meal.  Denying myself those things would just make me want them even more!

I know, though, that as long as I do revert back to 'plan' everything will be ok.

I said to Tom the other day I will probably start going back to group after Christmas to make sure I am in peak condition (lol, like I've ever been that!) ready for our wedding & Soph's wedding.  Knowing I will be going back to group to face my consultant's scales will be an even more daunting thought than my wedding dress fitting!

If that doesn't stop me shovelling in the chocolate yule log then I don't know what will!

I just have to keep looking at my 'before and after' comparison, and that is what keeps me going.


Looking for a romantic break in Yorkshire? Look no further...

If you're looking for a romantic location to celebrate a special occasion or simply escape from the real world, then look no further - I've got just the place.

Crab Manor Hotel, the gorgeous accommodation attached to the incredible Crab and Lobster restaurant, will literally tick every box you have.  We stayed there earlier this week and I was blown away by it.

When you drive into the manor car park you immediately feel like you've left the real world behind.  The glimpse of the stunning gardens as you walk into the manor house reminded me of a movie set, for a really romantic film.

Into the manor house itself and it was just stunning.  There are simply no other words.

We checked in and were taken to our room by a lovely man who explained all the features while lugging our bags up the stairs.

Each room at Crab Manor is themed to a different country/location/city.  We stayed in the Mount Nelson room, which was South African theme.  The attention to detail was incredible, with statues of safari animals dotted all around the room and the colour scheme and decor feeling so authentic.

Each manor room has the use of a communal hot tub and sauna in the courtyard.  We took full advantage of this and were chuffed when we were the only ones down there - result!  It felt very private, even though it was just out the back door of the manor house.

There are also a number of private rooms, which looked like cute little log cabins from the outside.  These each came with their own private hot tub.

The communal one was lovely, though.  Obviously we weren't joined by any other couples as we enjoyed it, but it was big enough for you not to be sat on top of one another.

Without a doubt, my favourite part of the entire stay was our bedroom.

The bed was like sleeping on really soft, fluffy clouds.  It even had curtains around it which were like the ultimate blackout curtains!

Then there was the bath.  I absolutely love a free standing bath and this one was just amazing.  It was so traditional.  The first thing I did when we arrived was fill it with the complementary toiletries and have a soak (with a chilled glass of champagne too, of course).

Around the perimeter of the bathroom was a shelf filled with champagne bottles.  I thought these were part of the decoration.  Maybe they were initially, but after Tom inspected them closer he realised each one had been put there by a couple who had stayed in the room previously.

Each couple who had enjoyed a bottle of fizz in the room left their names, the date of their stay and a little message on the label of each bottle then placed it on the shelf.  It was really lovely.

After we'd drank our bottle, we too left our names and the date of our stay on the label and added it to the collection.

If, after reading this, you decide to stay at Crab Manor and end up in the Mount Nelson room, see if you can spot it.

As well as enjoying the hot tub, sauna, and amazing bath, we also had a meal at the Crab and Lobster.

As its name suggests, the menu was predominantly seafood.  Any kind of fish you could want was served.  It was quite pricey, with starters priced from £9 and mains starting at £20.

Like other restaurants where the menu is expensive, the portion sizes at Crab and Lobster are not small; not by any stretch of the imagination.  I ordered fish cakes for my starter, with Tom having tandoori prawns.

The presentation was amazing and the food was simply out of this world.

When the mains came, you could have knocked me down with a feather - they were ginormous.

I'd ordered fish and chips - keeping it classy - and I swear I have never seen a fish like it.  It was like they'd caught, captured and killed Jaws, fried him in batter then served him to me.  It came with huge chunky homemade chips, too, which must have been made from 10 potatoes.

Tom had a curry, which again was huge.  A large dish of rice, a huge dish with the curry, and accompanied with homemade naan bread and poppadom.  He also ordered chips, as he was expecting the portions to be small.

Needless to say, we had enough food left after our attempt to feed another couple.  I didn't even eat half of my fish and chips.  In fact, I was so full that I couldn't even finish my wine.

What was most disappointing was that we were both so full we simply had no room for dessert so missed our chance to try the plate they do with mini tasters of their entire dessert menu.  Gutted.

If ever you do go to Crab and Lobster, please don't be fooled by some of the reviews on the internet which say the portions are small.  You most definitely get what you pay for.

Breakfast was impressive, too.  Although we were both still fit to burst after our banquet the night before, we ventured down to inspect the offerings.

There was the usual fruit, yoghurt, cereals, pastries, juices etc. and a hot menu which was just as 'wow' as the rest of our stay.  Steak, kippers, smoked salmon (not all together, obvs) and, of course, a full English.  Anything you could have wanted was there.  Tom had steak, eggs and hash browns while I settled on a simple favourite of boiled eggs and soldiers.

The whole experience was just that - an experience.  I came away feeling so relaxed, rejuvenated and like I'd had a break from the whole world.

The little extras thrown in make the whole thing even  better.  We had a Nespresso machine in our room as well as crisps, sweets, biscuits and tea and coffee making facilities.  We also had robes and slippers, which were great to snuggle up in when fresh out the bath.

There were complementary canapes served in the lounge before dinner, as well as a small bar.

Possibly the manor's most famous attraction is the secret beer tap.  Yes, you read that right.  There is a secret beer tap in the manor house.  Each room has a pint glass - just one, which I thought was odd - and a little note encouraging guests to find the tap and make the most of the complementary beer.

I asked one of the staff members where the secret prosecco tap was, and why there was only one pint glass per room, but he just laughed at me.  If I could make any suggestion for improvement, it would be that.

Overall, we had the most beautiful overnight stay.  The hotel was immaculate.  It was beautifully decorated and maintained, the staff were so friendly and helpful, and the whole experience was just incredible.  The food was incredible.  It wasn't pretentious, it wasn't so small you needed a magnifying glass, and it wasn't like anywhere I have ever been before.  It was outstanding.

We will most definitely be returning for another stay to try out one of the other rooms and hopefully be able to squeeze in dessert!

Anyone looking for a romantic break in Yorkshire, look no further than the Crab Manor Hotel at the Crab and Lobster.  When I told people where we were going, everyone said the same: "Oh my God it's amazing there", "I've heard amazing things, it's supposed to be fabulous", "Tom's done good, you'll have the best time."  I was so glad that all the hype and the build up didn't disappoint.

One of the best places I have ever, ever stayed.  I'm already trying to work out when we can return!


This will be my last birthday as a Derham

Just a few more days until my last birthday as a Derham.

It'll also be my last birthday as a Durham/Dereham/Durhem/Dearham and all the other crazy variations I get on a daily basis.

I swear I've had my name misspelt/mispronounced so many times, I'm not even sure what the right way is anymore!

I absolutely love my birthday, I always have.  Back in the old school MSN days I'd have a birthday countdown in my MSN display name from about 250 days.

This year's celebrations have extra poignancy not just because I'll be turning the ripe old age of 25, but because it's the last time I'll be sent cards addressed to 'Miss N J Derham'.

In my life plan, that I drafted in my late teens, I always imagined I would be married by 25.  When that seemed like the impossible dream, I scrapped the plan and put to bed my 'goals' by which I wanted a house, a baby etc.  I convinced myself that I'd be knocking on the door of my 30s before a wedding was even an option.

Now, just days away from turning 25, and our wedding is just over six months away.

This time next year, I'll be getting cards in the post addressed to 'Mrs N J Kershaw'.  Crikey, when you put a 'Mrs' in front of my name it makes me sound/feel well old!!

I used to always think that 25 was old.  Meeting people in their mid-20s as a teenager, they felt so much older than you.  So much more mature, together and grown-up.  I sometimes can embody these traits, but the rest of the time my life is just as much of a mess as 10 years ago.

I still get crabby when I haven't had enough sleep, I still have absolutely no idea about anything to do with mortgages and interest rates and variables and all that jargon, and I still have to Google how long to boil an egg to make it nice and runny.

Maybelline dream matte mousse is still my go-to day-to-day foundation, I still don't know how to do a French plait and I still just want my mum when I'm sick.

When people ask me how old I am, I have to take a second to remember.  The first thing I want to say is '19'.  But I'm almost closer to 30 than I am to 19 - that's scary!!

Since I was 19 I've been through university, graduated, worked at a job I love in my dream career for over two years, bought a house, got engaged, got two cats, and so much more besides.  It's crazy that so much has happened in six years, yet I don't feel any different.  Except being unable to drink the same as I used to.  And maybe a bit poorer.  How did I have more money as a student than I do working full-time?!

My Timehop is a daily reminder at the moment of three years of outlandish freshers fun when I was at uni.  While I cringe most days, questioning what it was that ever possessed me to post some of the things I did, I have to smile to myself at the amazing experiences I had.  While they do feel like they were one really long, sometimes stressful, dream; they were some of the best days of my life.

Now, here I am about to turn 25.  I don't feel it, though, and I certainly don't think I look it.  Especially if the incident in the gym the other week is anything to go by...

Me and my best friend were in there one night after work and one of the staff members approached us and asked our age.  It transpired that he thought we were under 16 and was going to try and throw us out for being in the gym past our 'allotted time'.

We couldn't believe it!  Almost 25 and being mistaken for being 15.  I must look more like a 15-year-old now than I did 10 years ago, because I was always mistaken for being older.

Age is a funny thing.  The older you get, the less it matters.  That doesn't mean I won't be milking the celebrations and prolonging it for as long as possible.  Meals out with family and friends, drinks with Tom, some nice days out, and a hell of a lot of cake.


Choose a job you love & you'll never have to work a day in your life

If you were to rank all the jobs in the world that make a difference to people's lives, I'm pretty sure journalist would be quite low down.

You'd obviously get doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, teachers, the armed forces, scientists, health researchers, charity workers, and probably hundreds more listed way ahead of journalists.  And rightly so.

When people think of journalists many think 'hacks' who dig into people's backgrounds, reveal their deepest, darkest secrets and go out of their way to find scandal or ruin people's lives.  That's maybe true for a really tiny proportion, but not for the rest of us.  And certainly not for me and the other local and regional journalists who were at the O2 Media Awards last night.

Earlier this week I spent the morning with a man who lost his wife to secondary breast cancer just four weeks ago.  I didn't know this man before I went out to meet him and I didn't know his wife.  I sat there for over an hour with him as he told me all about how she was diagnosed with breast cancer and beat the disease, only for it to return in a more aggressive form.  He told me about her fight, her struggles and the pain that they both went through as they watched cancer take hold of her.  It was truly heartbreaking to hear.

I listened to him and comforted him where I could, telling him how brave he was to be able to speak out about it.  Not only to talk about it so soon after her passing, but to a complete stranger as well.  He trusted me enough to share his heartbreaking story with me, and trusted me to tell it to our readers (I was going to say the world, but I know that would be over-egging the pudding somewhat!) on his behalf.

That's when I realised that, while we may not be doctors or teachers, we do good in different ways. And listening to all the amazing work that other journalists have done made me feel so humbled.

The last few weeks I've been working on a huge feature for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Each week will feature a different story and a different person's experience with the disease.

I've mainly spoken to friends who have/have had breast cancer which, in some ways, is more daunting than speaking to complete strangers.  There's an added pressure to get everything perfect when it's someone you know.  But when this gentleman contacted me earlier this week about his wife's recent passing, I knew it would be tough.

He was still grieving and was still struggling to talk about it - of course he was, it was only four weeks ago he lost her.  I'm not sure I could speak about it so openly, and to someone I didn't know, so soon after.

But hopefully by me sharing his experience, and the experiences of the other ladies I have spoken to, it will do some good.  It will encourage at least one person to check their boobies for changes or lumps.  Or it will encourage someone to go for that screening that they've been putting off since they got the letter six months ago.  If sharing experiences of others can help raise more awareness and encourage more people to look out for the signs, then I have done some good.

I've written some terribly sad and heartbreaking stories in my two and a bit years as a reporter.  From infant loss to stillbirths to childhood cancers to adult cancers to sudden deaths and obituaries.  It makes me feel incredibly proud of the work I do when people I don't know trust me to tell the story about the hardest, darkest, most difficult time in their life.  I'm not sure I could have the strength if I was in their shoes to be so open with a complete stranger about something so personal.

It all seems worthwhile when someone gets in touch afterwards to say thank you, and I know I did their story justice.  The biggest thing for me was after I shared the heartbreaking story of Emma Fisk, who died aged just 25 from cervical cancer.  After I wrote that, I had loads of women get in touch saying they'd booked their smears after reading Emma's story.  Being able to raise the profile of such important things and have people actually listen, and act upon it, is such a rewarding part of this job.

It is that trust people have in me that makes me love my job even more.

I've always joked I was destined to be a journalist because of how nosey I am.  I mean, don't get me wrong, it helps no end.  But I love people too.  I love telling people's stories - whether they are happy or sad.

Each day I go home full of admiration for people I meet through work.  Admiring their strength, bravery and courage.  It also makes me feel so blessed and reminds me that, no matter what obstacles may be thrown in my way sometimes,  I really shouldn't let it get me down.  If there are people out there going through real hell and real battles and they can carry on with their heads held high, then I really have no excuse.

Last night's award ceremony was amazing and, while I didn't walk away with the top prize, the judges said some really good/nice things about me. I'm still so young and so new into this career path it was such a huge honour to be shortlisted and highly commended. I love my job and the work I do, and for others to recognise that makes it even better.


The One with the trip to Friends Fest

Oh. My. GOD!

*If you didn't just read that in the piercing voice of Janice, you may as well stop reading now.*

I was among the lucky ones who got to visit Friends Fest recently and it was seriously fantastic.  Like, kick you in the crotch, spit on your neck fantastic.

The five-day event at Harewood House, Leeds, was attended by fellow Friends fanatics from across the north.

With everything from Monica and Rachel's apartment, to Joey and Chandler's Barcalounger chairs, to Central Perk and Ross and Rachel's Vegas wedding chapel - it was every Friends fan's dream.

There was also Monica's Moondance Diner - where the waiting staff kept bursting into song and dance every time YMCA came on - and Phoebe's grandmother's cab. As well as the chance to recreate the opening title sequence, learn 'the routine' and try some 'mockolate'.

Could it BE anymore exciting?!

A big screen showing snippets from the iconic show took centre stage; and I have never felt more comfortable reciting all the words to each scene than I did when surrounded by fellow super fans.

I imagine this is what comic book fans feel like when they go to Comic-Con.

My family always joke that they could turn the volume off pretty much any episode and I would still be able to recite, word for word, the entire script.

Barely a day goes by when I don't compare some occurrence, event or happening to something in Friends.

"Ah, this is just like that time in Friends when..."

Whether it be blaming the humidity for big hair, like poor Monica when they go to Barbados.

It's the humidity!!!

Or when I know a secret, and someone else doesn't know that I know.

They don't know we know they know we know!

I can't ever hear the country 'Yemen' mentioned without thinking of 15 Yemen Road, Yemen and I always have to smile when I see a trifle (minus the beef, of course).

I couldn't even hazard a guess at how many times I have seen each episode of Friends.  I have had the box set since I went to uni, yet I still watch it on Comedy Central everyday.

It's like I have a sixth sense when Friends is on.  I'm like Ross with his 'unagi' - I'm always aware.

Ahhh, salmon skin roll.

The attention to detail on some of the sets was amazing, right down to the entertainment centre in Joey and Chandler's apartment blocking the bedroom doors and the black and white picture which hangs there.

There was also the wooden canoe, which famously is the only piece of furniture owned by Joey and Chandler after Joey's boo-boo when trying to sell the entertainment centre.

What did the insurance company say?
They said 'you don't have insurance here, so stop calling us!'

There was also the famous football table and, of course, the chick and the duck (in cushion form, unfortunately).

Wouldn't it be cool if a duck and a chick had a baby? It would be called a chuck.

Into Central Perk there was a Phoebe copycat singing all her hits - from Smelly Cat to Sticky Shoes and even the Shower Song.

Little black, little black, little black, little black, little black curly hair.

We got to pose out front, have our photo taken behind the famous counter, and have our photo taken on one of the most famous sofas in the world.

It was all such a blur.  I felt like I'd jumped into my TV.

Monica and Rachel's apartment was, of course, the star attraction.

For here, you had to book an individual time slot when booking your tickets to ensure it wasn't too over-crowded at any one time.

Again, the attention to detail was amazing.

Nestle Toulouse's cookie recipe was pinned to the fridge (aka Phoebe's grandmother's secret chocolate chip cookie recipe), there were binoculars on the desk to keep a watchful eye on Ugly Naked Guy and there was the famous photo that sits above the TV.

The only slightly disappointing thing was that things had to be glued down.  I'm not kidding.

The cookies, the teapot and the cups were all glued down to the kitchen table.  One of the staff members said this was because people were stealing them, which makes me really sad.

As much as I would love some exclusive memorabilia, I wouldn't take to stealing things.  Especially when things in the shop weren't that expensive.  I got a hoodie for £25 which I thought was really reasonable.  When I've been to some concerts and events I've paid that just for a rubbish programme filled with posey pictures.  Any clothing items are usually well north of £40.

One of my favourite moments inside Monica and Rachel's apartment is when Monica is teaching Chandler about the seven erogenous zones.

Seven, seven, seven, seven, seven..!

When we had our photo taken on the sofa, I held up seven fingers like Monica does in the end of that scene.  Tom, bless him, was unsure of what I was doing so the picture didn't really work out.

Unfortunately, my Friends nerdy-ness just proved too much for him on that occasion.

Although, saying that, Tom demonstrated some Friends geekiness of his own.

Just as we were about to leave home to go he shot off upstairs to get changed.

"I'm dressing as my favourite Friends character from my favourite episode," he shouted down to me.

Being the dutiful, knowledgeable fiancee that I am, I straight away knew what this was.

His favourite Friends episode is The one with the Rumor (rumour, if you're British) - aka the Brad Pitt episode.

I wondered how he was going to suddenly transform himself into Brad Pitt, but he had it all under control.  He'd googled Brad Pitt in that episode and had found an outfit which was almost identical to Brad's.

It was then a case of, when in Monica and Rachel's apartment, recreating a moment from that episode.  Tom chose the bit where he is leaning near the fridge giving evils to Rachel across the apartment.

Come on Will, just take off your shirt and tell us!

So, here it is:

The only thing missing for me was Ross' apartment, I would've loved to have recreated his 'I'm fine' breakdown.

Eeeeee, is for how extremely normal I find it that you two are together.

Of course the sets weren't all the 'real thing', which was a bit disappointing.  I'm not even sure if they will still exist, to be honest.  If they do, I doubt they would fly them over to the UK from America, then take them on tour around the country.  They were a very close copy and it was so exciting to have my photo taken in some of the most famous fictional locations ever.

The whole event was really well organised, I have to say.

By every possible photo opportunity was a member of staff poised and ready to take your photo.  When recreating the opening title sequence the staff were happy to take photos on your own phones/cameras.  At many places there would be 'professional' photographers taking photos and charging you an arm and a leg for a copy; with no option to take your own.  So I thought this was really good.

Ross and Rachel's Vegas wedding chapel was fabulous, with the wedding dresses and Joey's Viking hat.

We got a dry-run at our post-wedding photos as we dressed up.  I think you'll agree from the photos we still need a bit of practice.


The 100 day countdown is on until the most wonderful time of the year

It's 100 days until the most wonderful time of the year - Christmas!

The Christmas period starts long before December 25, but the big day itself is now just 100 days away. It doesn't feel like five minutes since last Christmas; a scary yet exciting thought.

Mince pies, tubs of Celebrations and advent calendars are already sneaking their way onto the supermarket shelves; and it won't be long before festive adverts start being slipped in between Corrie.

I love Christmas. I love spending quality time with family and friends but, most of all, I love giving people presents. I love spending time thinking about what to buy, choosing the perfect gift, and then the excitement of handing it over. I'm literally like that little kid on the John Lewis advert from a few years ago.

I love when the nights draw in and you can get snuggled at home with candles lit. I love the smell that fills the house when you dig all the Christmas decorations out. I love that big tins of chocolates are an essential part of the furniture throughout December. And I love pigs in blankets. I'm literally like Buddy the Elf - I LOVE Christmas.

When X Factor started last month, I felt that warm Christmassy feeling in my tummy when the theme tune started. As Christmas draws closer, the X Factor always steps up so the theme tune is just like a Christmas song.

Last year we were super keen and committed, in my eyes, a cardinal sin when we put our trees and decorations up before December. Only by one day, I may add, but I've always maintained that Christmas can't start until December 1st.

I start getting excited for Christmas as soon as autumn hits, but I always hold out on unleashing full festivity until December 1st. Usually...

As soon as December is underway, and the advent calendar is out, so too can come the tree, decorations, and Christmas songs. It becomes acceptable to watch Elf, The Polar Express, The Grinch and all the other fun, festive films. This year we'll (try) and stick it out until he first weekend in December - which is when I'd always put the decorations up when I was at mum & dad's.

But that doesn't stop me getting excited about it before December.

We're coming into my favourite time of year now - the leaves turning orange, the air getting cooler, her nights getting darker. Snuggly, knitted jumpers; hot chocolate; roaring fires; boots; bonfire night... I just love it.

It helps that autumn is also birthday season: my best friend, my mum, my brother, my dad and mine. All in an eight week period. SO much cake!

Then we get my favourite night of the year - bonfire night. And before you know it, the Christmas lights are being switched on in town and Father Christmas is taking up his weekend spot in Wetherells. (If you're not from Selby, Wetherells is our local department store where Santa has a grotto throughout December.)

Everyone will start dreaming of snow, and refuse to face the realisation that a white Christmas is never going to happen; Mariah will be blasted out in department stores; shopping centres will become like no man's land on a weekend; and men will still leave their shopping until Christmas Eve.

Every year I say I am going to be organised with my Christmas shopping and start it early.  But, every year, I still do it all in one go on my annual Christmas shopping trip with my best friend.  Spreading the cost always seems like such a good idea, but then I end up spending twice as much because I forget what I have bought.

This year's Christmas is made even more special as it's my last as a Derham. My last Christmas before I become a married woman. And, once Christmas is out of the way, the countdown to the wedding will well and truly be on.

Yep, 100 days until the world wakes up wondering if 'he's been'. 99 days until we all gaze up at the sky, still hoping that the magic of Christmas will shine through and we'll see Father Christmas and his reindeer flying above.

100 days until we all gather round the table with our loved ones and reflect on the year gone by and all the exciting things to come. Pulling crackers, eating turkey and drinking mulled wine.

I noticed earlier this month that Morrisons had already started selling mince pies, for those who want to be really organised. The downside? They went out of date long before Christmas. Now, I love a mince pie, but with the weather we've been having this week it wouldn't feel right eating one while sitting sweating my C-cups off.

If only there was an advent calendar to count down these 100 days, rather than 24. I would definitely be on board with purchasing one of those!


I'm going to look like a disco ball at every possible opportunity

I planned on writing this post a few weeks ago after I had actually been shopping but a serious kidney infection got in the way & I ended up in hospital. Thanks to that little stay, though, everything still has the tags on and is brand new, so my attempt at a 'fashion' blog post can continue.

A trip to Meadowhall for some window shopping (lol) saw me leave with all things metallic.

I didn't realise I was so obsessed until I did typical home from shopping photo with everything laid out on my bed. I say 'everything', my shiny/metallic haul was two tops and a pair of heels, but for someone who wasn't even going to buy anything while shopping, that's plenty.

Working our way round Meadowhall we started in River Island and worked our way to Primark.

I learnt the hard way to not buy the first thing I see in River Island until I've seen if Primark do a similar piece. And that's what happened this time.

This pretty pink top had a twin in RI, at a much steeper price than the £8 I paid. I also got some smart jeans to wear with it, so it can be dressed up or just worn with leggings.

Continuing my shiny/metallic obsession, and also my impressive Primark haul, was these absolute beauties.

At just £12 they're an absolute bargain!!! When I came out of hospital I just laid in bed wearing them - it's amazing how much better they made me feel.

I can't wait for their first outing!

I also got a 'very me' top, which would go perfectly with the beaut shoes.

It was a Zara buy and is perfect for all those nights out I never go on anymore... Ha! It will be my go-to top the next one, whenever that is, that's for sure.

It was my most expensive buy of the whole day - in which I only spent £50 - but it's just so pretty.

Before the other weekend I hadn't bought new clothes in aaaages. Saving for a wedding has cutdown my shopping habits dramatically. So it was beaut to get some shiny (literally) new purchases ahead of my favourite season in the year - Autumn!!