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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wheelchairs and snow...marriage made in hell? Maybe not anymore...

From feet, to trays, to wheels, to bigger wheels, to blades?
For any of my readers who don't know, snow and wheelchairs can often be a match made in hell (though that wouldn't be very helpful as your both tyres and snow would melt!)
The first few winters after my injury felt like a long steady torture of ill health and depression, sat at my bedroom window, trying and failing to revise, yearning to just run around and play in the snow...
My negative memories and feelings didn't help...the day before I'd gone into hospital for my operation I'd played out in the snow, and for 4/5 years I just couldn't cope with the idea of going out in it and when I tried, I just got stuck...

Until 2010...which was when I started to see my wheelchair as this cool thing that gets me around...(This was way before i'd even thought of skiing, I was still all studious and attempting to get an A* in History at GCSE (which i'm still proud of btw) back then...) and Dad dug out a tray he uses for gardening and that's how i got around that snow week...
It was a little awkward when i was forgotten and
stranded in the middle of my street..
Now, I'm a little more of a wheelchair geek and I love wheels...a little too much.
...Extra wheels...
I've now got a "freewheel" that I haven't yet had the pleasure to use in the snow. Apparently however, with the correct large wheel tyres it's pretty good...(my snow tyres are currently on order...)
I'd recommend anyone who can afford or has the guts to ask for someone to fundraise £375 buys a freewheel. I got mine through Gerald Simonds in the UK, but it originates from the US. I use it all the time and i's got me many places...
It got me onto the giant's causeway...yes, I had to be
carried off, but that's because...have you ever been there?
you'll get my drift!

It's also fantastic for everyday use more than anything, not just Laura May-loony adventures. If I go for a push at night (especially these dark ones) I put it on so I can push quickly and with the confidence, knowing that I'm not going to fly out because my caster got caught on a tiny stone.
So I'm looking forward to trying it out on the snow either over here or when I go over to vancouver in January...
That's another thing, It's compact and easy to travel with. You just attach it to the back of your chair as it comes with all the equipment needed.

A video showing the freewheel in action             >>>>>>>

...Bigger wheels...
So from freewheels that are great camping, in fields at festivals, walking your dog and getting over everyday obstacles to my new baby...
My mountain trike.
I only got it yesterday but this is literally a mountain bike...but a wheelchair and when I get in it...i'm on a bike. It's weird, I will give it it's own beautiful, personalised blogpost...but that's apparently amazing in the snow too. Though I doubt I'll get it over to Vancouver in hand luggage and it's not £375 but it is worth £3995 and I really want to see it develop as a sport and oh the trails...anyway, sorry...sidetracked...but yes, mountain trikes...check them out...
I've recently taken up skiing and I'm loving learning how to slide and not fall or lose my teeth on the lifts at the Chillfactore...
Anyway, I've been talking to a few people and recently at some kind of motability show in Dusseldorf...these lovely little wheelchair attachments called "wheelblades". The design of them seems similar  to your outriggers that you use when mono-skiing. I don't know anyone who's tried them but what I've seen looks pretty epic, I'd love to try them! Not sure I need them however with all my beautiful baby wheels...but hey, when you get kids trying to be cool, or old men walking their dogs saying "you need to attach some skis to that thing!" if you're going down a huge least you can answer back and say, "ye, don't worry, they're at home!"
Wheelblades website
Though...if you've seen where I live...if it did snow, I'd love to just monoski down my street!

Hope this helps...just thought i'd let you all know of my little journey from feet, depression, getting stuck to...rolling and sliding quite happily in the snow. :)

Final 2 days of Granada: wrapped up!

The final two days of work experience at Granada were definitely mixed...

I'm going to wrap them both up as this is turning into a bit of a saga and putting me way behind in publishing other stuff i've been up to!

I was humped by a staffordshire bull terrier. (He was so cute and crazy but wasn't put into the final edit which i still think is an outrage!)
It was really fun being out on the road all the way to westHoughton with Ralph who i salute for carrying me up a flight of stairs in a 3 storey town house and spending at least 2 hours picking on me and threatening to steal bits of titanium off my chair!

It was a bit awkward when we got back however...this truly was work experience within broadcast journalism (an ever changing industry) in 2012...
6 redundancies were announced that dinner time, so i felt really awkward being the work experience girl and completely baffled as to why the people who i'd seen were most busy had lost their jobs...
Apparently the format of local news is changing and instead of being a full on news programme, it's trying to be more short and snappy like a website. So skills to me at least, are appearing to be splattered out the door and then dust pan and brushed back up and handed out to a handful reporters who are expected to produce pieces of work that years of experience, skills and many hands have been used to produce. It doesn't seem fair to both sides, those that are keeping their jobs and those that are losing...and will the audience really benefit from this huge revamp?
It'll be interesting to see the effects when everything falls, emphasis on the word "falls" there, into action...

I'll be honest, it felt weird. I'd been there less than a week and yet i'd worked everyone and the whole place out. The warm banter, the dynamics of everyone and the building frustration of how it's all about to change...with me, thrown into the middle of it all.
I didn't really have much to do in the morning, so I flicked through the papers and planned a few things for our disabled access story and then after lunch...
I was rescued from feeling a little lost and little low by the lovely Jo Blythe. To be honest, we did just chat and drink coffee a lot, but i learnt so much about the weather too! I'd never approached Fred for any work experience-related-type stuff as I'd assumed throughout the week that i should just stick with reporters. The guys in graphics even said to me, "Ye, you were monopolised on Monday by Matt O'donoghue!"Maybe it was a good thing? Either way, ever since I was little I've been interested in how we find out what the weathers like and how it all gets fed onto our TV screens...and on Friday afternoon I learnt just that! I listened in on the phone call from the met office, found out that Granada actually film weather reports for (memories fading now) about 3 regions and got to giggle in the studio at Jo accidentally saying the word "sex" instead of "sec" old am i?
Oh, come on. It is funny.
She did have to re-do the entire report because of my slight smirk...
ooo I also stopped in the corridor and got talking about how beautifully shot countryfile is...and all the while was thinking yep, my love of the outdoors and bizarre skills I have with the media will help me in many ways...not just as a journalist...
I watched Granada reports one final time in the gallery and probably made Rob Smith put on a few pounds as my miniature heroes were right next to his desk. Riggers said I'd been a "big presence" in the newsroom...funny that, I thought i was just a large annoyance...I headed to the car park, handed in my pass and headed off home from a week of ups downs and complete unexpected normalised madness at Granada.

So what now?
Am I going to rush off, get my diploma to be recognised as a journalist and begin a career in journalism?
Am I going to take a "gap year"?
For crying out loud, no. I hate labels. I'm living life and I know that if i wanted and when i wanted I have the ability to become a journalist; observing and reporting....but for now, I want to do some doing. I want to travel, I want to meet people, I want to work with people. I want to work within outdoor adventure and build up my skiing skills to become an instructor and I just want to soak it all up, doing, not just observing. In the future I may roll to that and then to other things...but for now, what I'm doing, improving my own skills and meeting incredible people with amazing ideas that are similar to mine and pursuing them is what I want to do. I all to aware of the media and the power it has, that's why I'm staying alive and learning from it and using it in an ethical and healthy way to get to where I want to be and promote some of the new, innovative and exciting adventures i'm beginning to get up to. That's what I learnt about that week. I learnt about the sheer power  and respect the media has. It's all about talking and asking and communicating and being  a little bit cheeky in order to be the first to find out...well that's exactly the same way in which you go about becoming the "first one to do"'s not an "ego" thing. It's a heart pounding, gut following, forget about what the world thinks and just do it thing. So that's what I'm going to do. Don't worry, I'm not going to disappear or go off the radar...the media is very similar to mother nature and they work best together.
Let's get these amazing adventures and discoveries of mine and the fantastic people around me on the map!

So...from now on, you'll find on this blog accounts of me getting out there and just well, going for it!
Not that I've not always done that anyway...

Emmy The Great - War - cover

I also do a little bit of guitaring in my spare time...Emmy the Great is amazing. Excuse the quietness of my singing, it's  a stark contrast to my personality...or is it? na, it's called being paralysed from the chest down my dears....;)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Final 3 days of work experience: Wednesday!

I've been a naughty I've been doing stuff and not had the time to sit, think and write.

The latter 3 days of my work experience were very different to the first two. I'd been thrown in straight in at the deep end with Matt, but on Wednesday he was due to go up and work on a documentary so I'd lost my can't really be a shadow without something to shadow, can you?


Matt introduced me to Elaine, saying we'd be a match made in heaven! Like all the other reporters she was great and listened to where I've been, what I'm doing and where I'm at for the moment. My week was during the "floods" so she was placed onto a story somewhere up near Fleetwood about Residents refusing to pay council tax. I'd have been more than happy to go up, but the producers decided I should stay back and work on my own story to do with disabled access with Mel, when she came in...

so Elaine rolled away and I waited.
...and waited.
Then after around half an hour it was realised that it was Mel's day off.
So I felt a bit lost.

Rob, the producer had grown into quite a good little mentor and he showed me how to find stories, scouring through local and national newspapers. A story might be really interesting, but is it the type of story that would be good visually?
Anna then spoke to me after dinner (or lunch as people seem to call it nowadays) and asked me to do some planning towards the story about disabled access.
Hungry for soemthing interesting to do, i logged onto ye olde Facebook and made a status...

No one noticed the slight spelling mistake at first...
Mini access rant/point
I got  a good response and some good discussions about different places from different people. Jan was particularly helpful in telling me about Farmageddon near Ormskirk that despite boasting national awards in tourism, it still remains inaccessible to wheelchair users like myself. When asked whether it could be adapted for chair users the excuse, as always is "health and safety"...pathetic. Just saying. Anyway, we didn't go ahead with this, but thought I'd mention it. Yes, the most important and news worthy places are those of essential use such as train stations, public buildings and shops. But in all honesty, as a younger teenager...places like Farmageddon and other "fun" attractions being inaccessible had a major impact upon my social life. Birthday parties are held in places like that, and a lot of the time people don't bother people don't get invited. It's only been as I've got older and "led" friendship groups, have I gained the courage to ask and organise and go places. It's frustrating to not be able to take advantage and have fun in local places where "normal" people go to have fun...but I cam ski, kayak, climb mountains and be "so inspirational" but not get scared in Ormskirk!

Anyway...back to main experience blogging!
I decided to correct my minor spelling mistake of the word "public" and within 3 seconds i received a phone call off what sounded like some kind of air compresser. It was Ste Unsworth.
In between laughs, and struggling to breath he managed the word "pubic."
But after his moment. (He has a lot of them) he told me about his nightmare of train/bus journey he used to have to take to get to get to College last year simply because Hindley train station is inaccessible.
In order to get to Bolton from Hindley, most people get the train:
HIndley -> Bolton.
In order to get from Hindley to Bolton University, Set had to...
Get the bus from Hindley to Wigan.
Then the train from Wigan to Bolton, doubling back on himself!
This allowed us to a bit more research into public transport with Ed mentioning that London Tonight had done a report on public transport and it'd be quite cool do a report that's things started to move with that...and things still are.
(I'll update you all on that in a later blog, we've done some filming, but still have more to come!)

So despite the early frustration, Wednesday was a productive and interesting day. I saw how stories are formed from ideas and a bit of inspiration, as well as looking for ones that are already there!

When Elaine returned, she also told me that she'd been greeted by not so much water and a bit of improvising with sandbags had to take place.

Sandbags, as Fred assured the gallery during the lunchtime bulletin, really do prevent flooding!

Thursday's blog will follow as soon as I can tear myself away from rolling around everywhere...

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Work experience: Day 2

You know how I said it rained on Monday?

It rained again on Tuesday.
...And I mean rain.
Torrential downpours, sideways, non-stop.

Waterproofed up and ready for the elements I set out a good deal earlier. I was just about on time and turning into Granada, when I got a text from Matt telling me he was already on the road to the Vigil for the murdered police women. This was due to begin at 10am and down at the Hattersley Estate. 
Tim the Tom-Tom (bless 'I'm!) got re-told where to go and we were off. It was a pretty straight forward journey that led me to going round a round-a-bout twice (what's new?) that then found me rolling past the street where the crime took place and into an abandoned pub car-park.

Police were everywhere. Vans, cars, walking officers...I had a scene from Billy Elliot in my head, only there was no picket line to be crossed and I was a little lost.
Rang up Matt, who was in the middle of scoffing a McDonald's breakfast, when I decided I best use the restaurants amenities and grab a toilet stop and drink as didn't want to run off, knocking on bungalow doors in the middle of a moment's silence!

I only wanted a Tropicana!
The world's press and policemen seemed to have gravitated towards that very McDonald's just as I was in the loo and I found myself stuck in a queue...when I'd finally got back in my car I also went round another round-a-bout, saw the procession, panicked and left at the wrong exit! Luckily I was saved by my Sat Nav but couldn't find anywhere to park in the torrential rain. There were just so many cars and I had kerbs and slippy wheels from never ending rain to think about...
Finally found a space what felt like miles away from it all, but at least I could get out.
It was all pretty much a race against time now. Rain still slamming it down. The procession making it's way closer. Matt pushed me to the sport where they'd set up and we were literally ready just in the nick of time...

The rain eased a little.
I had another one of those "seeing things from the other side" moments. The cameras must irritate people, especially at times like this. But the cameras are needed. If they weren't used, no one would know anything.
We hurried behind the procession and headed over to where the small stage was set up, There was an extremely steep hill that I'd be reluctant to tackle even in dry weather. A man attempted to help me down, but I slipped as my bag had fell in front of my wheels. He was trying way too hard to keep me in my chair and didn't hear me say "My bag, I'm slipping because of my bag that's tripping me up!" I managed to survive that moment of embarrassment and near tarmac mountaineering accident, to look to find that my lot had disappeared!

My confused face and position grabbed quite a bit of attention. Before I could get my bearings, two policemen were carrying me up some concrete steps and placing me in front of the police line, ready for the service.
The heavens opened, yet again!
I sat waiting for what felt like hours for something to begin. 
The picture of Fiona Bone fell over, the stage looked like it was about to give way and collapse any second...then as I turned to look at the line of police officers, I saw one of them faint.
The atmosphere, with a little help from the weather, was grim.
Elsie, a local resident said  a lovely piece to the crowd while the police officer said a few things that made me cringe and remember a fe whinges I'd learnt the day before, "contempt of court."
All the while, I was becoming increasingly conscious of the looming camera lens straight across from me that was panning the crowd. This then made me even more conscious of my bright blue rain coat and green wheelchair that most certainly contrasts with the smart black uniform of the police...
I was right to be conscious.

I was apparently on sky news and ITN...great! Of all the times and places to end up on national TV, this most certainly wasn't one that I was hoping for.

When people finally started moving, and I was quite contently acclimatised to the south pole, I managed to scramble through the crowd and follow Matt getting camera shots of the crowd and their reactions. Again, it can look and must feel intrusive, but it's the news.
I got mistaken for a member of the local community yet again, but by Key103 this time.

As the crowds began to thin and we'd had a few interviews, my lightness of body weight yet again played to my advantage and i managed to dry off and keep a little warm while Matt hair dried his shoes in the van.
It was pretty cool to see how pictures get fed through to the newsroom and to other channels and vise versa.

I paddled to my car and headed back to the newsroom.
We grabbed some food and i saw how lunch bulletin package was put together and then had to head back to the Hattersly estate for Matt to do his "as live" piece to camera. In hindsight, it does seem crazy, the amount of running around to different locations that is done in order to create the 6pm news package. But at the same time you can see how it is needed to be presentable and pull the story together.
I parked down a hill in a slightly awkward place. Simply because the police had pretty much taken up the whole main road. My amazing skills of holding the brolly over the camera were...almost needed!

After that ten minute job for a ten second moment of TV and re-fill of petrol, it was back to Granada to put together the tea-time package!
It was around 4pm by now so traffic in the city centre was getting to the stage where it was sending my dysreflexic...

We were back in the newsroom by 5, the package was put together by 6 and I watched Granada Reports in the newsroom. Had a giggle at some of the tweets that get sent in...some of them really do make me question humanity!

Another full, soggy and sweetly productive day of work experience!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Work experience at Granada Reports: Day one.

I spent the week of the 24th-28th September shadowing Matt O'Donoghue (for half of it at least) at Granada Reports. Here's what I learned and what I got up to!

Day One

Rain. Rain. 
Did I mention, it rained?

Set out really early only to find that all possible routes to get to Manchester from good ol' Chorley were at a complete standstill. I tend to only drive their at a leisurely pace to the chill factore!
I finally arrived in the Granada car park at around 9:15. (I'd been aiming to get there for 8:30...not good being late on your first day!) Matt was there to greet me, armed with an ITV brolly and the knowledge of pushing me up mountains!

Thrown in at the deep end, we waddled our way over to Court to watch the Dale Cregan case.
I set off all of the security scanners, couldn't get my chair into the press area in court, so had to sit in what looked like the public gallery.
It was very interesting to see things from a press point of view, not as a girl suing the NHS. My previous experiences with the British Judiciary system, for a while, left me with quite  a bad attitude towards the press. During the knitty-gritty part of my trial that dealt with "who's fault it was" i learned that too much press coverage and digging can have an affect upon the entire case. So now I was looking at things from the eyes of an apprentice, 2 years ago I would have glared at. But perspectives change, and the perspective I now carry was confirmed and given confidence with what followed.
In that short space of time I spent in court, I discovered the legal issue of "contempt of court" which, as a journalist, leads to you ending up in court again, only in front a jury! I also experienced how good broadcast journalists  respect this legal issue and the snowball effect it had upon this story and the entire day...

We headed back over to Granada, jeans and chair quite contently soaked. I got my pass from the front desk that allowed me to access pretty much everywhere, then we headed up the newsroom.
TV's everywhere. 
Desks everywhere.
Apple macs everywhere.
Apparently I looked shell shocked, but in all honesty I was just extremely intrigued by it all, a.k.a nosy.
A natural skill I've learnt is key in journalism.
Why wasn't my Nanna ever one then?

With pretty much nothing to report apart from the bare, boring facts of dates, times and appearances. Matt was concerned of what had already been published by the Granada and ITV news websites, knowing that anything close to contempt of court, put his entire career on the line. It also, however meant he had little to report and was at a complete loss of what to fill the what "should" be the main story for Granada Reports with.

Not to worry though!
After introducing me to the newsroom staff (though this happened continuously throughout the week) Matt introduced me to the editing software and how he puts a story together. I was quite impressed. As a kid I used to love editing (this probably wasn't legal) Doctor who music videos (i know!) and other bits and bobs and had no idea that as a still had to do all of this!

Then a bit of an odd-shaped bomb shell hit.

Matt found out he was presenting Granada Reports as Rob Smith was ill.
Not the most amazing news for Matt who had to rush home and grab his foundation...but pretty cool for me, to take a look at how presenting works!

I watched the lunchtime bulletin in the gallery which was coo-ol!
Always wanted to go in a know ever since being a kid watching "behind-the-scenes" on CBBC.

Shadowing did feel a little like stalking...

I watched Lucy and Matt rehearse in the studio and was surprised by how all cameras are remote controlled (so old school in my brain!) then went up to the gallery for the exciting bit...Granada Reports!

When you're at home, you take so many aspects of the news for granted...after last week, I really don't and look at EVERYTHING really closely. From camera angles, to supers. They all are created and add up to make a product at 6pm that people round the north west rely on and enjoy.
And that on my first day, is what I found really satisfying.

You go in at 8:30am (hopefully) with a few rough ideas but no real idea of what    your day is going to be find your way, get there, do your story and by 6:30pm you've got a product.
The next day is the same...but because of that, the next day is never the same!

So i tottled off home, excited, telling my Mum, Dad and Angus (fluffly white thing we call our dog) about everything I'd seen and done, while Matt had to stay behind and do the late-night bulletin.
A long, eventful day for Matt to say the least.

It certainly raised a few eyebrows!
(No joke intended to offend any broadcast journalist's eyebrows...honest!)

...more to come...