I’m finally off work and quite looking forward to some lockdown gardening. While it’s been incredibly frustrating to see people isolating with massive gardens and apparently loads of free time, most of us have been working under difficult circumstances from home, yearning to get out in the little green space we may be lucky enough to have.
One of my jobs that’s not been done for years is to lift and divide my front yard daffs.
Usually you should wait for daffodils to get to the yellow leaf stage before lifting and replanting, but if I don’t have that time. You should leave the leaves on, they need to reabsorb that green nutrition. Don’t be tempted to tie them either. If you have them in grass, leave then alone if they are flowering well.
The perennials in the tiny, dry front garden are trying to grow through a mass of leaves and I want to get some more plants in too, so the daffs have to move.
You can leave them to dry but it’s best to plant in the green and get them in the best state for next year. Plant at least to two bulbs’ depth to avoid digging them up accidently or giving squirrels a free lunch.
I bought some coir blocks for a quid each from Poundland which has proved to be a real bargain for seedings and mulch. There are penstemon and rudbeckia in this tiny strip that should begin to shoot better now they aren’t being crowded out. The daffs are going in the back garden – just need to find some space…
If you think I’ve been a little quiet over recent months, it’s because I also write over here on our Northants-based magazine, The Nenequirer.
The title’s a bit of an in-joke for Northamptonians in case you were wondering:
the Nene (a river running through Northampton, pronounced Nen, rhymes with hen)
quirer (sounds liker choir-er).
Put together they sound like N‘enquirer.
Which is why it’s mostly now known as the NQ…
Review – The Worst Witch, Royal Theatre Northampton (show seen, Sunday Dec 9)
THEY are pretty tough to impress, ten-year-old girls. They’ve just reached that eye-rolling, arm-folding kind of age. Gone are the days when they’d fall about at a fart noise or a silly face. Three of them – my daughter and her two […]
Do you use coffee capsules? Do you wonder whether they decompose fully? The University of Northampton is looking for volunteers to take part in a project that will focus on examining the compostability of selected coffee capsules. It will run from July – November 2017. Participants will be provided with a free composting bin and the coffee capsules. They will be tasked with monitoring the process over the period of about three months, and providing researchers with the data. Support will be provided throughout the process by the research team, if required. Participants will be chosen on a first come, first served basis.
Our youngest, Bonnie, had been to five festivals before her fifth birthday.
Due to our largish family, it was always cheaper to do a festi-hol, but by 2014 the elder ones had started to get jaded and wanted to do ‘normal’ holidays. We did like the masses and had a couple of short trips to Spain and a drive through Europe.
Then Camp Bestival announced Fat Boy Slim and Tears for Fears were headlining for 2016 and I couldn’t resist.
So here we are again, blazing sunshine, our trusty 20-year-old Japanese Bongo van and an awning propped on a windy hill in Dorset.
So far we’ve watched the kids make a den in the Dingly Dell, shoot crossbows with the Tudors, stuff their faces with posh ice-cream and organic salad (and chips) and enjoyed acts as eclectic as Turin Brakes and Mr Motivator.
Two days to go, so far, so good!
Festival fever – after Glastonbury, here’s your round-up of festivals for summer 2016 in Northants and beyond
(Originally commissioned for Northants Herald and Post)
THE British weather is as unpredictable as ever, which can only mean one thing: it’s the start of the festival season.
As the mother of all music festivals, Glastonbury, has just taken place in all its muddy glory, we bring you a round up of some of the hundreds of UK festivals in Northamptonshire and beyond and some advice for those thinking about going for the first time with the family.
If you’re travelling with babies and toddlers, festival camping can be daunting, but a couple of fun days in a festival field can be easier to handle – and cheaper – than having to fly abroad in school holidays.
You need to accept that everything might not be operating-theatre-sterile for a couple of days, but there’s little that can’t be sorted with a multitude of various wet wipes.
A travelcot may seem like a heavy thing to lug to your campsite but it will allow peace of mind if your smaller offspring are prone to wander.
Take a tent that you KNOW how to put up in advance and if possible, invest in your own small trolley or wheelbarrow. Days can involve a lot of walking and it’s easier to entice a squealing toddler into a blanket-lined barrow than an unwieldy buggy that’s lost a wheel. Pack a set of warm clothes for evenings as it can get chilly (all-in-one rainsuits for kids are worth bringing) and give loads of time to get to stages for a favourite act.
Inevitably you won’t see everything on the line-up – sometimes you’ll just need to chill out with the kids and listen from a distance for your own sanity’s sake. Letting your bigger kids off the leash to wander without you may feel like a worry, but it’s an essential part of growing up and you should make sure they have a watch and regular meeting points. Don’t rely on phones as signal and battery life are usually limited.
Rucksacks and bumbags work better than handbags, cashpoints will be on site but be prepared to queue and pay fees, and you’ll probably survive with lots of socks but just two pairs of footwear – trainers and wellies.
If you’re bringing food, but only want to cook with minimal effort, a camping stove and kettle, cereal bars, tortilla wraps and noodles weigh little and can save you a fortune on festival food. Disposable barbecues are great if allowed and packet bacon will last a couple of days in a coolbox. Tea bags, coffee and UHT milk will feel like luxuries and you’ll be glad you invested in that multipack of earplugs from Boots.
Festival line-up for summer 2016.
Glastonbury, June 22-26, Pilton, Somerset. SOLD OUT.
Featuring: Muse, Adele, Coldplay, Foals, Beck, ELO
FOLD (Freak Out Let’s Dance), June 24-26, Fulham, London.
First year of this Chic and Nile Rodgers curated weekend, with Beck, John Newman, Alison Moyet, Thompson Twins
Love Supreme, Lewes, July 1-3
Featuring: Grace Jones, Burt Bacharach, Lianne La Havas, Kelis
British Summertime with Barclaycard, Hyde Park, London, July
This sees various big names for all music tastes play throughout the month, including Massive Attack, Kendrick Lamar and Jamie XX, Patti Smith, Carole King, Florence and the Machine, Take That and Olly Murs, Alabama Shakes and the Mumfords.
Northampton Town Festival, Racecourse, Northampton, July 2-3. FREE.
OK, so not strictly a music and camping festival, but the first year the town show and hot air balloons have been on the Racecourse for some time. A huge festival of family fun over two days.
Tannerfest, Loddington, Northants, July 9.
A firm fixture on the Northants music scene, this small but perfectly formed event is a laid-back day out for all the family.
Wireless, Finsbury Park, London, July 8-10.
Featuring: Calvin Harris, Chase & Status, Jess Glynne, Disciples, J Cole, KYGO, Boy Better Know. wirelessfestival.co.uk/
Electric Daisy Carnival, Milton Keynes Bowl, July 9
Massive dance music event featuring headliners Avicii, Axwell, Martin Solvig.
Lovebox, Victoria Park, London, July 15-16.
Featuring Jack Garrett, Major Lazer, Diplo, Kano, Stormzy, Jungle, Chet Faker.
Secret Garden Party, Huntingdon, Cambs, July 21-24.
Featuring: Primal Scream, Air, Caribou
Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset, July 28-31.
The little sister of September megafest Bestival and a favourite of our clan, this is a great place to kick off the school holidays and start festivaling with the family, and you’re quite likely to see former music stars chilling out with their own young ‘uns as well as the world’s largest bouncy castle. This year’s line up features Fatboy Slim, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, Katy B, Bananarama and Jess Glynne, with turns from Dick and Dom and Mr Tumble.
Green Man festival, Brecon Beacons, Wales, August 18-21
Featuring Belle & Sebastian, James Blake, Warpaint and Laura Marling
V Festival, Staffordshire and Chelmsford, August 20-21
H&P Ed is feeling very old; he attended the first one of these back in ’96. The big names are flying in for this year’s V Festival with Justin Beiber, Rihanna, Sia, David Guetta, faithless, the Kaiser Chiefs, Little Mix and All Saints on the list.
Atomic vintage festival, Sywell Aerodrome, Northants, Aug 20-21
This 1950s-themed festival features music, pre-1963 cars and hot-rods, lots of food ideas and stalls, set in the aerodrome and surrounds over two days.
Reading and Leeds festivals, August 26-28.
The traditional after-exam-results experience for teens, this year’s line up across the two cities includes The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Fall Out Boy, Foals, Disclosure, Vaccines, Eagles of Death Metal and Biffy Clyro.
Shambala, Kelmarsh Hall, Northants, Aug 25-28.
This is a lovely family festival with a real eco-ethos and a huge sense of humour. Dressing up is encouraged and while the stages usually feature less-well-known but excellent musicians, they’ve brought in the 80s soul divas Sister Sledge to headline on Friday. The circus and arts fields are always amazing.
Work experience in journalism – an essential part of training for all or an outdated concept only accessible to the well-off?
GAINING work experience before getting a career may be the trend for many jobs today, but for journalists it has been a standard requirement for decades.
There are few editors or broadcasters who will not have started out their career on the bottom rung of the ladder as a cub reporter, and to get those traineeships you always needed to show enthusiasm by volunteering in your ‘spare time,’ as a ‘workie,’ willing to type up sports results, proof village correspondents’ copy, shadow ‘real’ reporters and make the tea.
It made for some loose equality and understanding in an industry that often means more than just a regular hard day at the office. Most pre-internet journalists, even those who climbed the ladder into management, will have experienced a death-knock, a murder scene, a grim sexual-abuse court case and several missing-kid stories.
It is only in recent years, since the traditional ‘prof-test’ training route has been overtaken by university journalism degrees, that would-be hacks are now also expected to be graduates. But they are all still expected to get at least one stint of work experience on their first CV.
Many undergraduate courses now include work experience as a compulsory, assessed element, which means more and more student journos looking for fewer places in newsrooms every summer.
But with the huge changes in modern newsrooms, and often far fewer staff available to supervise a terrified newbie, (not to mention the paranoia about HR policy and procedures), are workies still getting the chance for hands-on experience they need to show their commitment and ability to do the job?
Despite a tacit agreement by employers not to exploit volunteers (goodness, there’s even laws against it) and to sometimes pay travel expenses, placements might still cost hundreds for the workie in train fares and accommodation.
Our Northampton-based students may only be an hour by train from London, but to take up a placement in the city they need at least £132 for five day-returns (and that’s only if they use London Midland’s pre-booked weekly season ticket, if they don’t it’s 300 quid).
If they need to head north, to say Media City in Salford, then they need pricey accommodation or a Mancunian relative with a sofa-bed. Even locally, they often need a car due to the lack of reliable public transport.
Many regional papers and broadcasters simply won’t take work experiences anymore because they don’t have the manpower. Some are forced to refer locally-based students to nationally-administered placement schemes that might send them anywhere. These organisations seem to have little interest in their workies having local knowledge and contacts, which seems bonkers.
Anyone who grew up on their paper or station’s patch will usually nuke the opposition when it comes to genuine exclusives. They went to school with that woman who’s up in court, or played football with someone who gives them a great tip-off. Their aunties will always know what’s happening around the community.
Even if the student journo gets a place at a media organisation, is there much for them to do? There are few opportunities to shadow different departments if they are no longer all based in the same office.
A day on newsdesk, a day with the snappers, a day on sport, in court and with subs isn’t possible if they are all now working in ‘hubs’, often in different counties, let alone different towns.
If they come in with their own stories or leads, as we encourage them to, is anyone going to have time to go through it with them? Will they be trusted to go to a job on their own, like we make them do during university newsdays?
But those who do get placements, and working journos who can spare the time to guide them, can get priceless experience. Some of our students have gained full-time jobs as a direct result of their work experience while at university. Newsrooms and PR agencies have sent glowing feedback about how useful it is to have a young, enthusiastic workie in the office, and many reveal that they in turn end up being taught new ideas on multimedia and mobile by the students. Everyone benefits; the workie gets a real-life view, the newsroom gets a new perspective, and an extra person on the tea rota. And that means it must still work, right?
I’m very keen to hear your views. Please feel free to comment and most importantly, please take five minutes to fill in the survey below, aimed at people who have undertaken media work experience, even if their careers took them elsewhere. You can fill in the survey by clicking here. Please feel free to share too.