Ramblings

Helping the Homeless in Bristol

 

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I walk past this sleeping bag every day on my way to work and it’s becoming a more common sight

Homelessness across Britain has dramatically risen over the last few years and the city of Bristol is no different. People begging and sleeping on the streets is now a common sight in the city.

Homelessness charity Shelter recently reported that homelessness across the whole of Britain is increasing year on year with 320,000 people reported homeless in 2018. This is an increase of more than 13,000 compared to 2017. Bristol’s recent official rough sleeper count recorded 82 people living on the streets – this is four less than last year but this doesn’t account for those sleeping in unsafe buildings, vehicles or sofa-surfing.

There any many misconceptions surrounding the homeless, with assumptions sometimes made that those on the streets have brought their situation on themselves through addiction. While some rough sleepers do suffer from substance abuse, this cannot be said for all.

One man on the street that I spoke to, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was simply a case of losing his job and not being able to pay the “crippling” rents. Many of the homeless have moved to the area with a limited support network and so have no-one to turn to when they get into difficulty. Rising rents and a lack of affordable housing are some of the main issues that have contributed to the rising levels of homelessness in Bristol – the average house price is £300,000 with rents regularly pushing £1,000 a month.

I recently visited Help Bristol’s Homeless in Bedminster where founder Jasper Thompson is converting shipping containers into accommodation for the homeless. Bristol philanthropist Jasper, who works as a bodyguard in his spare time, has been developing an innovative way to help.

The charity, which was founded in 2017, renovates shipping containers to turn them into accommodation for the homeless. The site on Malago Road currently has seven people living on site who help maintain the containers, while rebuilding their lives. Thompson believes that providing people with a roof over their heads is the first step to helping the homeless .

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Some of the containers at Help Bristol’s Homeless

The containers, some of which are donated and others bought via fundraising, have been fitted out and look indistinguishable from the inside with a fully equipped kitchen, shower, toilet facilities and a bed. Those who live on site all help out with the refit with tradespeople offering electrical and plumbing services for free.

I spoke to Rob Earnshaw who has been living on the site since it opened in 2017 and now helps manage the site as well as doing the cooking. He became homeless after a combination of mental breakdowns and heavy drinking and calls the project “affirming” and “diversional therapy” from the situation he’s in. Earnshaw now intends to continue helping others with the night bus the charity is using to help get people off the street. The double-decker bus has been fitted with beds for 12 people and will allow users to access the toilet, shower and breakfast facilities at Malago Road. More information about the charity can be found here.

Below is a quick interview with Jasper Thompson.

 

Ramblings

An increasingly Big issue…

A few weeks ago I did something I’m ashamed to say I’ve never done before. I bought a copy of the Big Issue. Now I don’t want this post to become preachy but over the past few years, homelessness is a subject that’s become more evident and important to me.

Over the last few years, I’ve worked in two city centres where I’ve witnessed a staggering increase in the number of homeless people. In my small seaside town, people living on the street were a rarity during my childhood, but this has increased too. The number of homeless people across the UK has increased dramatically with homeless charity Shelter reporting last year that one in every 200 people in the UK was homeless.

The Big Issue

In the past, I’ve been guilty, as I’m sure many of us have, at ignoring people begging and Big Issue sellers. As a child or young woman on their own I have felt at times intimidated and would rather walk on the other side of the road or ignore someone than engage, in case of the very small chance, that someone gets aggressive. There’s also the thought that many of us have about where any money we give somebody might be spent? Is it going on cigarettes or to fuel a drug or alcohol addiction? The Big Issue helps any of its vendors who have an addiction but does stress that, contrary to popular belief, not all suffer addictions.

Since starting my new job, I’ve started chatting to the Big Issue vendor near my office and he really brightens up my day. Instead of just shouting “Big Issue” like so many do, he simply wishes you a good morning and to have a lovely day. Considering my commute can be very stressful with people pushing, not acknowledging you and being generally anti-social, this is a welcome change. I always wish him a good day back and have on a few occasions now bought the magazine from him.

I didn’t know a lot about the magazine beforehand but it’s actually a really interesting read with some well-written features, as well as real stories about people who have pulled themselves out of homelessness. For those unfamiliar, each vendor has to be either homeless or very close to being so and they pay £1.25 per issue which they then sell on for £2.50.

Misconceptions

The misconceptions about homelessness are vast. It’s assumed that the majority are addicts or they must have done something bad to be kicked out of their accommodation or family home. After reading many examples of how people become homeless, it’s actually a lot closer to happening to some of us than we think. I’m lucky that I have a steady job, a home I can afford and a support network of family and friends who would be there if anything went wrong. Some people have no family or friends to fall back on, so if they’re struggling with employment and then can’t afford their rent, it’s very easy for it all to fall apart. Bereavement, redundancy and illness can all cause this.

A few tips on what to do if you see a homeless person:

  • Firstly, if you’re concerned about a rough sleeper, particularly if it’s extremely warm or cold outside, contact StreetLink who can put them in contact with support services
  • Talk to them. Even if it’s just a hello or if you feel more confident, have chat, find out if there’s anything you can do to help that won’t put you out of pocket. We’re all human and capable of making mistakes at the end of the day
  • Rather than giving money, why not grab them a bottle of water, a coffee or a sandwich
  • Buy the Big Issue off an official vendor and most importantly, take it. It’s a business, not a charity and they want you to take and read it. If you want to find out more, visit it here

If you’re still cynical about where your money might be going, at the end of the day £2.50 can’t do a lot of harm, but it could do a bit of good.

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Advice, Ramblings

Exciting news….

So, I have some exciting news, I’ve just started a new job. And not just any job; my perfect job. I am now Staff Writer at History Revealed, part of Immediate Media. I’ve spent years trying to get work placements at their magazines and have even started a distance learning journalism course to improve my chances and I’m so thrilled it’s paid off. As I say in my blog, it’s always been my aim to be a writer and history is something I’ve always been passionate about. I was the one at school that actually enjoyed learning about dates and kings and queens where some of my schoolmates couldn’t have looked more bored. I love wandering around castles and museums; I would annoy my family on holidays by trying to get us to visit as many historical and heritage locations as possible. This could mean a few more historical themed posts which I hope you’ll enjoy reading. If anyone’s interested in History Revealed, check it out here. I’ve written many articles for Milkround and other sites about persevering in the job search and can now testify that it works. If you’re still struggling to get into your dream career, don’t give up. Keep showing initiative by contacting companies and individuals you’d like to work for to ask for advice. If anyone wants to get into writing/publishing, feel free to contact me by commenting for some tailored advice. It’s been a short post today but I will be back soon once I’ve settled into my new role x

Ramblings

The struggles of being an introvert

I wasn’t sure what to write about in this week’s blog post so I thought I’d write probably the most honest blog I’ve done so far. I’m an introvert; there I said it. To those who know me well that probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. I came across this article recently and it gave me a few things to think about.

Misconceptions about introverts I’d like to challenge:

  • Introverts hate people: I have a small but amazing group of friends, family, colleagues etc. who I enjoy spending time with. However, there are certain social situations where I feel quite uneasy and uncomfortable. I sometimes go out of my way to avoid these but that does not mean I don’t want to see people
  • We always want to be alone: Everyone likes their own space sometimes; a relaxing bath or catching up with your favourite TV shows. Introverts, however, can need this more than most. I saw it described somewhere as having to recharge. This is exactly how it feels; after spending a lot of time with a large group of people or even a small one, it’s nice to have time to just relax and unwind and not feel like I’m on edge.
  • Introverts are control freaks: The one thing as an introvert I do hate is unexpected plans. I like to know what I’m doing and when so that I can plan my time. It’s not that I need to be in control of every situation but sometimes impromptu plans can catch me off guard.
  • Introverts hate having fun: This is just not true, everyone has things they love doing and those they don’t. There have been times where I’ve made up excuses rather than just admitting to people that I don’t enjoy certain things.
  • Introverts have nothing to say: I’m very rarely the first one to speak in a large group of people or in a meeting and I’m often told I’m quiet. That doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to say. My mind it too full of thoughts sometimes. I just take my time and choose what to say wisely.
  • We wish we were extroverts: Occasionally there are times I wish I was more confident and out-going. There are probably times it has hindered me. However, it’s who I am. I’m always told I was born in the wrong century and I’ve decided to own that now. I read Jane Austen, think Downton Abbey was one of the best things on TV, and love nothing more than a good cup of tea but I can party with the rest of them.

An honest confession

Along with being an introvert, I do believe at times I’ve experienced elements of social anxiety and it can make me feel like I don’t fit in. A classic example was my first weekend at university. I have never been a big clubber; I don’t enjoy it like the majority of people my age do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great nights out with friends and my husband and I love going to the club night Ultimate Power (check out my post about that here). Therefore, once I got to university I had very little experience of going ‘out’. I obviously wanted to bond with my flatmates so we all went down together to the first fresher’s night. I couldn’t even make it into the tent and just suddenly felt terrified that I knew no-one and wasn’t comfortable. Therefore I spent that evening on the phone to my now-husband in tears.

Phone fear

Being an introvert can feel like you’re trying to be someone else and there are times where I have to push myself out of my comfort zone. One of my biggest weaknesses is talking to strangers, I hate this and even more hating using the phone to call or answer to someone I don’t know. One of my responsibilities in a previous job was to answer the incoming phone calls and if would fill me with dread every time. Now, you probably think that’s ridiculous and I can’t really justify it. I was just always worried that I would do or say something wrong or cut the person off (something I did on numerous occasions). However, it’s not all negative.

What makes being an introvert great

  • We’re great listeners: I’m proud of the fact that friends feel they can come to me with problems. I have been known to be an agony aunt and like to think I can offer advice without judging and I always keep things to myself. Introverts are empathetic and let people unload.
  • We’re really imaginative and creative: I love reading and watching films that take me off somewhere else. I’ve always had an active imagination and that’s why I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
  • We’re passionate and have strong moral compasses: The causes I care about, I really care about and

So my main aim with this blog post was to let all the introverts out there know they’re not alone and it’s ok to feel this way. To my friends reading this, sorry if you ever feel I haven’t wanted to spend time with you, I love you all x

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

Maldives
Our World, Ramblings

Beautiful winter’s day for a beach clean

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Yesterday, along with my mum and sister, I took part in a beach clean at one of my local beaches. I’m not going to lie, Sunday’s are normally very lazy days for me where I catch up on the mountain of TV I have to watch, take a leisurely bath and do any other chores I need to do (currently the kittens are taking up most of this time). So when my sister suggested doing this, part of me wanted to stay in bed, especially with the bitterly cold weather we’ve been having recently. We set off with a flask of hot Ribena and were wrapped up ready for the Artic.

The statistics speak for themselves

The Marine Conservation Society has been running beach cleans for years but they’ve recently taken on the gigantic project of the Great British Beach Clean. According to stats from surveys carried out in 2017, an average of 718 litter items were found per 100m across the UK’s beaches. Over 30% of this comes from us; items that we are deliberately leaving on beaches or flushing down toilets etc. The majority of the items are plastic pieces and sweet and crisp packets. As well as ruining the look of our beaches, this is hugely dangerous to the wildlife around our country. The UK has some of the most diverse natural habitats in the world and they are being destroyed due to our impact. Anyone who’s seen Blue Planet this year will know the devastation plastic especially can do to our oceans. Turtles can get caught in it; fish are eating it and poisoning their young and even us. We don’t know enough yet about the impact that plastic has on us but it’s already affecting the other residents of this planet. Plastic bags can look like delicious jellyfish in the sea and tiny colourful pieces of plastic could probably be mistaken for fish.

A great day to make a difference

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Needles found in just under two hours on the beach

The turnout for the beach clean was amazing. Apparently, they normally have around 20 people attend but there were at least 100 people there of all ages. It was great to see parents bringing their young children to help. The amount of litter we found was staggering. Cigarette stubs, a load of cotton buds, plastic bottle tops, polystyrene foam you name it, it was there, we even found a whole broccoli. Even more worrying was the number of needles found which you can see above on such a well-used beach for walkers, children and animals. It’s so sad to see, especially as one of the clean-up leaders reminded us, the tide comes in twice a day so more is washed up all the time. It felt really great to help and I would encourage everyone to do one. A bracing walk on a cold winter’s day could be just what you need and you get to help the planet too.

We need to make a change

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Angel fish in The Maldives

We visited the Maldives last year as part of our honeymoon and were lucky enough to see some amazing underwater wildlife including reef sharks, dolphins, rays and beautiful fish. The idea that in the not too distant future these habitats and species won’t be around anymore is so sad. Coral reefs are dying due to rising sea temperatures and now fish are eating the rubbish we chuck away. Something needs to be done. The Marine Conservation Society is doing a fantastic job to try and change this. They’ve already had success by helping bring in the plastic bag charge in 2015 and run beach cleanups across the UK regularly. Click here to find one near you and sign their petitions to stop the devastation of plastic.

I would like to ask everyone who has read this to do a few things to help:

  • Share the messages in this blog and those of the Marine Conservation Society
  • Recycle as much as you can. Visit your local authority’s website for more information on what you can and can’t recycle
  • Sign the petitions the MCS are running which includes banning straws and other plastic cutlery from fast food chains
  • Don’t flush anything down the toilet that’s not meant to go down there
  • Small changes can make a big difference so leave a bag for life in your car or bag so that the use of plastic bags can be reduced
Ramblings

Welcome 2018

Happy New Year to all my readers and I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I enjoyed my first Christmas with my husband in our first home with our two gorgeous kittens. I hope you had a good rest and lots of fun with family and friends. I received a lot of rum this year, I think someone’s trying to tell me something. 2018 should hopefully be a good one. However you saw in the New Year, whether you had a quiet night in or you hit the town, I hope it was a good one. We went out for the first time at New Year to an alternative rock night which was fantastic. I have lots planned for my blog for 2018 so watch this space x

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Ramblings

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
Photo by Tom Rickhuss on Unsplash

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers, I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating with your family and friends. I’m grateful to all those who spend the time reading my blog and the New Year will bring some exciting new changes as well as more regular posts. But for now, drink, be merry and have fun!

cider
Ramblings

Festive cider fun

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Anyone who knows me knows I’m a Somerset girl at heart and love a good cider. Bristol has its own cider shop which offers tastings and I’d been meaning to do one for a while. The first available one was the festive tasting last week and I’m so glad we went.

The Bristol Cider Shop moved a year ago to Wapping Wharf where a range of restaurants, bars and shops all have their own cargo containers. It’s an unusual but effective idea that really works with Bristol’s unique and quirky feel. The Bristol Cider Shop prides itself on only offering cider that has been produced within 50 miles which gives it’s a nice local feel. They also only sell cider that is made with 100% pure juice. I was shocked to learn that the minimum apple juice required by UK law is only 35%. I also learnt (although it seems obvious now) that dry cider has no sugar in it at all as it has all been removed by the fermentation process.

We arrived a bit early so popped into the bar opposite for a drink and it started to snow which made this first Christmassy event even more festive. We were greeted by the manager Seb who gave us a warming mulled cider which was a treat after being out in the snow. A lovely spread of local bread, cheese, crisps, pork pies and apples were laid out for us. The rest of the drinks were given to us in the order as if we were hosting Christmas. These included a sparkling celebration cider, cider brandy, a cider matured in whisky barrels and ice cider. We also tried mead which was unexpectedly delicious. We had 10 in total and I’m not going to lie, I did feel it a bit at the end. We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of the portions but it was help yourself, as long as everyone got some.

The cider toasties we had were to die for. I will definitely be going back for some more. Using cheese washed in cider, this made the best toastie I’ve ever had. The shop has a fantastic range of ciders and the staff are more than happy to recommend one if you’re not sure what you want. Afterwards we went to the festive Ultimate Power club night (see my previous blog post to see what you’re missing out on.) So if you’re a real cider fan or aren’t sure what cider to have at Christmas, get down to the Bristol Cider shop. It’s the perfect place for cider lovers.

Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

Ramblings

Christmas 2017: Sleet, spacemen and sausages

Photo by Charlotte Coneybeer on Unsplash

I’m very grateful for all those who are reading this post after such a long gap. Weddings and the aftermath can be stressful and take up a lot of your time (more on this in the New Year). I thought as it is the season to be jolly I’d write a festive blog post. As I write this it’s currently snowing outside which our new kittens are finding very interesting. Although due to living near the coast, the snow rarely sets which is a shame.

Christmas is a time for family and friends Well this is what we tell ourselves but nowadays it seems to be a time of buying food you don’t need and drinking too much. I am one of those who does get very excited about Christmas food, especially party food when you’re not even throwing a party! Really it’s just food you already know but it’s miniature and therefore you buy into the hype. I have seen some pigs in blanket in Yorkshire puddings that I can’t wait to try. The majority of the time you’re so stuffed after what is normally the biggest roast dinner of the year but you still try and cram in crisps, chocolate and Christmas pudding. Growing up we would always have croissants for breakfast which I absolutely loved but really you should just eat fruit in preparation for the onslaught that is to come. So what is your favourite festive food/drink? Is it warming mulled wine or a mince pie? Take my poll below to let me know what your favourite treat is.

I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year. It will be mine and my husband’s first Christmas together in our house. Since losing my Dad in December six years ago I think I make an unconscious effort to be as Christmassy as possible so that it’s a joyful time rather than a sad one. I love giving presents, that’s so much more important than receiving them. A few years ago I surprised my husband with a trip to see his favourite footballer play and I was so excited yet impatient as had booked it months in advance and just couldn’t wait until he found out. Luckily he was overjoyed (there was even a tear or two).

I like visiting as many Christmassy events as possible. This year, I went to Bath Market and Dunster by Candlelight. Unfortunately, they’re both over now but check them out next year. Bath Market is a traditional Christmas market full of local gifts and food (there’s so much cheese and I’m pretty sure I tried it all). It’s also great for the gin and ciders lovers amongst you. Set with the backdrop of Bath Abbey, it’s truly a magical place to be. Dunster is a beautifully kept medieval village and castle and for one weekend, it’s lit just by candles and has its own little market. I would recommend everyone to check these out next year.

Christmas music is also one of the first ways the festive season feels like it’s begun. Though I feel it’s a shame we don’t have many modern Christmas hits though many try. Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton’s hit though is great (big fan of country music over here).

The majority of my favourite Christmas hits come from the cassette (yes we’re going back to the 90s) that my Dad would play in the car. I have very fond memories of us driving in the sleet, sometimes snow and having Chris de Burgh’s A Spaceman Came Travelling on full blast. I was so surprised to discover that many don’t know this but I think it’s a classic.
My other favourites of course include Wham’s Last Christmas, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power of Love and The Darkness’s Christmas Time.

So that’s just a few of my thoughts about Christmas and I hope you all have a wonderful time whatever you do. I will be posting a lot more regularly in the New Year, I promise. X

P.S. Don’t forget to take part in my Christmas food poll and follow me by clicking the links on the left if you enjoyed reading.

Disney, Ramblings

The day I met the Beast

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Last week I watched (for the second time) one of my favourite Disney animated films become live-action. It was truly magical and yes I did cry; pretty much the whole way through the first time around. In my opinion, the casting couldn’t have been more perfect with a range of fantastic actors and actresses. Emma Watson was a brilliant Belle, Dan Stevens, well I will talk about him later, the wonderful Ian McKellan, Ewan McGregor and of course Luke Evans, who did a brilliant job of making you like Gaston, if even for just a moment.

Some people have an issue with Disney but I think films like this will always have a place. They are pure escapism but I think Beauty and the Beast, like many of the classic Disney films, has a message. Growing up, Beauty and the Beast was a favourite alongside two others which never seem to be as popular; Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. These deal with issues of prejudice and tolerance; accuracy obviously is not always present but for a child they were great. I do think the things you grow up with have a big impact on your personality; I remember watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the cinema; I would have only been four or five and can still remember getting upset at a scene where Quasimodo is mocked. This has always stuck with me.

Of course I’ve always loved the ‘Princess’ ones and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. True, they aren’t all brilliant role models for girls but unfortunately they are quite accurate to the times they were set in. Women were supposed to wait around to get married, and if that ended up being a prince then they would be much better off than the rest. Belle was always my favourite though and unlike the others, she shows something different. Firstly, she’s a bookworm which was obviously the big draw for me as I’ve always ‘had my nose stuck in a book’. Secondly, she wants to break the mould and go further than the small town she lives in. She doesn’t want to follow the path set out for her to become a silent and doting wife. Granted they do make a big deal of her being beautiful on the outside but I do think the film’s main message is that inner beauty is what counts overall. Shrek is another fine, although non-Disney, example of this

Of course I am a romantic, I can’t deny that and along with Disney, I love nothing more than a classic period drama or a bit of Nicholas Sparks. However, I was also (maybe wrongly?) brought up on James Bond. I used to watch the reruns on Saturday afternoons from quite a young age and unlike the majority of my friends, I’ve always loved a good action film. To go back to Disney I am always drawn to the more feisty female characters such as Pocahontas, Belle and Esmerelda who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in and occasionally fight for it too.

This has been my longwinded attempt of showing the world that I love Disney and I’m not ashamed. (Still waiting on that trip to Disneyland Sam :p). I think on one level they can be seen as entertaining films that all ages can enjoy but if you look deeper, the best ones do truly have a heart and a moral message at the centre.

Oh yes, did I mention how amazing Dan Stevens is as the Beast? You may have noticed the picture. By some miracle I was sat in the same restaurant as him on the weekend. I plucked up the courage to speak to him and ask for a photo as I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t. I have loved watching him since Sense and Sensibility in 2008 and he then became my favourite character in Downton Abbey. I managed to tell him how he ruined Christmas for me the year he was killed off. He was charming and lovely and a perfect choice for the Beast who underneath all that growling and fur really is Prince Charming.

If you haven’t already, go out and see Beauty and the Beast. If you’re a die-hard fan you won’t be disappointed. Just be aware that if you’re like me you might like the Beast a bit too much.