sex workers ≠ humans

Originally posted on Following the Path to Unknown:

I don’t read articles on sex work lately, as a very desperate attempt to leave ‘it’ behind.
But today I read one ‘accidentally’. Anyway. It was about a sex worker receiving whiplashes as a punishment.
I expected the comments would be ones of bewilderment and pity…
Well, I was wrong. Most people were just referring to her mother ‘who was probably’ a hooker as well. Other comments were like ‘Oh, can I fuck her too.’
It pains me to see that, although I shouldn’t be surprised.
These rude and inhumane comments didn’t come from religious and conservative fanatics. No, they came from ‘normal people’. Yeah, we care about women….as long as they’re good, not too sensual, not too daring, not to seductive.
To put this very short: If you aren’t a ‘good woman’…you can fall dead, no one cares for you…and you’ll be laughed at your face.
Wow, that’s…

View original 33 more words

Halal Meat Scandal: What’s the big fuss?

This article was written for Within magazine – The Birthday edition :)


10601107_773181516060948_1364743220_n Halal Hysteria has swept across the UK and suddenly we’re having a huge moral panic over how our meat is slaughtered. This has been fuelled by ‘certain’ sections of the media; having realised the threat of imminent terrorism is wearing a little thin, they’re now telling us there’s some kind of sinister plot – inflicting halal meat on innocent, animal loving Brits. Unsurprisingly, both the BNP and EDL have jumped on the anti-halal bandwagon, using the debate as a proxy for the real concern, the presence of a growing Muslim population.


More fuel for the halal hysteria fire…

Do you really think the papers are concerned with animal rights? If so, why is the debate not about all forms of slaughter? – The fact it’s only the halal method that’s being discussed is no coincidence.


Why the sudden interest now – if everyone is so worried about how the meat

If The Sun says it's true it must be...

If The Sun says it’s true it must be…

they eat was killed, why have they never asked before?

That’s because it wasn’t really a problem, was it? Well, not until The Sun said it was anyway…

So what does halal actually mean? Put simply it’s like this – The animal must be healthy and uninjured. A relevant prayer is recited whilst the animal is slaughtered – using a single cut to the throat with a sharp knife. All blood is then drained from the body.

There’s no nice way to kill an animal in order to eat it, but personally I find this method slightly more palatable than the other ‘non-halal’ methods – the thought of an animal shot with a bolt through the head, or a chicken hung upside down, dipped in electrified water then having its head mechanically removed makes me lose my appetite.

We should have all our meat labeled, with a detailed explanation of how the animal was killed, and then let the consumer decide – in fact, maybe a live feed from the abattoir, relayed on a huge screen directly above the meat fridges is the way forward…

A DMarticle

It’s much easier to find halal meat now, thanks to the ‘scandal’ – silver linings n all that ;)

The University of Salford Journalism Awards 2014

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The much anticipated University of Salford Journalism Awards 2014 took place this week and was a fantastic success, thanks to the months of hard work by the dedicated team bringing it all together. Hosted at MediaCityUK, the event was very well attended, including several industry professionals, University staff and students.

I attended with my good friend Matt who, being the perfect GBF, looked and smelt absolutely wonderful. After much debating I opted for a floor length evening dress and heels – the dress was spot on but the shoes nearly killed me, I ended the night both jubilant and barefooted.

Everybody was dressed to impressed and, with plenty of time for networking, we managed to having a quick drink from the bar (to steady the nerves of course) and a nibble from the complimentary buffet which was both vegetarian friendly and warm:)

The University’s School of Arts and Media Festival was also running on the same evening and the atmosphere was buzzing, with plenty to see and do, as well as a live performance by talented singer Lucy Logan.

At 7pm we were ushered down the red carpet and into the Digital Sound Lab, which had been

Inspirational speech by Richard Frediani

Inspirational speech by Richard Frediani

transformed into an ‘Oscars style venue’, complete with spot lights and big screen.

The event began with a very inspirational talk by Richard Frediani, programme editor at ITV News

at 6, where he discussed the rise of social media and the impact this has had on the industry.

And then it was time for the awards themselves…


Michelle Mayman

Michelle Mayman


Best TV – The first to be announced was best TV, presented by Michelle Mayman – Editor of BBC North West Tonight, Executive Producer of Sunday Politics NW and also Late Kick Off NW.

The nominees : Alec Herron, Emily Burgin, Fizah Tahir, Sophie Dulson.

Winner: Sophie Dulson



Best Print - This was presented by Richard Moriarty – Deputy northern

Chris Riches and Richard Moriarty

Chris Riches and Richard Moriarty

news editor for The Sun and Chris Riches – NW Correspondent for The Daily Express.

The nominees: Eleanor Lees, Emily Howlett, Taaliah Nazar, Will Moorcroft.

Winner: Taaliah Nazar

Yes I am delighted:)

Yes I am delighted:)


Dave Lafferty

Dave Lafferty


Best Online – Presented by Dave Lafferty – Communities Editor at the Manchester Evening News.

The nominees: Alec Herron, Fiza Ikram, Liam McCallion, Rachael Heslehurst.

Winner: Fiza Ikram



Best radio – Presented by Heidi Dawson – Editor at BBC Radio 5 Live

Heidi Dawson

Heidi Dawson5 Live

The nominees: Armen Haczmarian, Dan McLaughlin, Kate Berry, Sophie Whitfield.

Winner: Dan McLaughlin


As our good friend Dan was in Ireland he was sadly unable to accept his well deserved award. Never fear though, Matt stepped in and did a fine job of accepting it on his behalf – nice one Matt:)

Matt accepts Best Radio on behalf of Dan

Matt accepts Best Radio on behalf of Dan



Martin Hamer

Martin Hamer


Best sports piece – Presented by Martin Hamer – Senior broadcast journalist at BBC Sport

The nominees were: Helen Rowe-Willcocks, Simon Rowbotham, Siobhan Maguire, Will Moorcroft.

Winner: Will Moorcroft




Best journalistic blog – Presented by Liz Hannaford – Digital

Liz Hannaford

Liz Hannaford

Journalism tutor at Salford University.

Nominees: Jabeen Akhtar, Jack Howson, Sumaira Hussein.

Winner: Jabeen Akhtar





Elaine Wilcox

Elaine Willcox


Best mobile reporting/social media – Presented by Elaine Willcox – ITV News correspondent and presenter.

Nominees: Dominika Piasecka, Fizah Tahir, Kate Berry, Sam Rosbottom.

Winner: Fizah Tahir




Best 1st year submission – Presented by Andrew Lindsay – tutor, BBC and

Andrew Lindsay

Andrew Lindsay

ITV correspondent and Quays programme editor

Nominees: Bradley Harris, Carlie Foster, Dominicka Piasecka, Siobhan Maguire.

Winner: Carlie Foster



Caroline Cheetham

Caroline Cheetham



Best 2nd year submission – Presented by Caroline Cheetham – Tutor, BBC 4 and BBC 5 Live radio superstar.

Nominees: Antonia Hunter, Jayna Patel, Penny James, Taaliah Nazar.


Winner: Taaliah Nazar




Receiving my award from Caroline

Receiving my award from Caroline








Dave Randles

Dave Randles


Best 3rd year submission – Presented by Dave Randles – Tutor and former sports correspondent for the Liverpool Echo.

Nominees: Fiza Ikram, Fizah Tahir, Sophie Dulson, Sumaira Hussain.

Winner: Fizah Tahir




Best postgraduate submission – Presented by Programme editor of ITV news – Richard Frediani.

Nominees: Isobel Greenfield, Matt Tate, Simon Rowbotham, Sophie Whitfield.

Winner: Isobel Greenfield

Paul Broster

Paul Broster


NCTJ Highest achiever – Presented by Paul Broster – Associate Director of Journalism at Salford University.

Winner: Hannah Al-Othman



Martin Duggan

Martin Dougan


Scoop of the year - Presented by CBBC Newsround presenter – Martin Dougan.

Nominees: Emel Chaush-Kavaloglu, Kate Berry, Rene Bissohong, Taaliah Nazar.

Winner: Rene Bissohong




Eddie Lowey Award – Presented by Richard Fredini

Winner – Cassandra Ward


A special mention is deserved for Bradley Harris – First year student who greeted us with a hilarious voice over as we entered the Digital Performance Lab, Tom Short – Comedy and Performance student as well as Sam Smith who is a MA Scriptwriting graduate and entertained us with an amusing break from the awards that included attempting to embarrass Richard Moriarty….never a good idea to try this with a journalist and he quickly

turned the joke around, raising more than a chuckle from the crowd:)

Lucy Logan

Lucy Logan

Also very entertaining on the night was Lucy Logan, a photography student who had travelled from Ireland in order to perform her debut performance. Singing a soulful acoustic cover and one of her own, original songs, Lucy really was lovely and has an amazing voice.



The award ceremony was covered by both Shock Radio and Quays TV, with the event being organised by a small team of dedicated students from across a variety of courses and disciplines. Given £2000 from Eddie Lowey’s Lady Monica Cockfield Memorial Fund, they used the cash to stage the awards, which awarded  winners a certificate and cash prize of £75.

More exciting than the Oscars...

More exciting than the Oscars…

I had a fantastic evening and am totally thrilled to have won two awards, Best Print and Best

happy times

happy times

Second Year Student – Journalist of the Year.

I have wanted to be a journalist for as long as I can remember but life seemed to have other plans and, after finishing school without sitting my final exams, I thought my chance had gone.

Fast forward over 20 years and now, as a mum of 4 and aged 38, I am delighted to say that hard work does pay off and it is never too late to fulfil your dreams.

I went back to college and got my GCSE’s and, after meeting a fantastic woman called Mimi who

Nomination card for Best Print

Nomination card for Best Print

inspired me to believe in myself, I applied for university. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I will be forever grateful to her for our late night chats and enduring friendship.

I will be going into my third year at Uni this September, to finish my BA in Multimedia journalism and who knows what the future will bring from there. One thing is for sure though, I will be the one in the corner, writing for a deadline…:)

Here is the full Journalism Awards 2014 video….:)

@UoSJA14 and

What is next for troubled Corrie star Michael Le Vell?

This article first appeared as an exclusive in the April edition of Within Magazine…


Michael Le Vell

Michael Le Vell


As Michael Le Vell hits the headlines yet again I take a nostalgic look back at his time on Coronation Street as Kevin Webster, and forward to what the coming year has in store for him…


I GREW up in the 80’s, when we had only 4 channels on TV to choose from and plastic Jellybean shoes were supposedly cool and I have fond memories of sitting down with my Mum to watch Coronation Street of an evening.

Snuggled on the sofa we would debate the story line and each had our favourite character – I

Kevin Webster

Kevin Webster

was always torn between Bet Lynch and her amazing earrings and Kevin Webster the friendly mechanic. With his almost comical moustache and rebellious pierced ear he was the epitome of cool, well to me anyway.

Around the same time, and unbeknown to me (I was about 11 at the time), Michael was becoming well known as a gay icon, allegedly receiving sacks of fan mail on a daily basis. This all came to an end with the departure of his infamous facial hair, although he still remained popular with the ladies and was a permanent feature of The Street.

Off screen Michael married his co-star, Janette Beverley in 1986, they went on to have two

Michael and his family

Michael and his family

children and spent 25 years together before separating in 2011.

This was also the year things started to go wrong for Michael in a very public way, he faced allegations of 19 sexual offences and, although the Crown Prosecution Service later dropped the charges due to “insufficient evidence” the stress clearly took its toll.

Friends of Michael say that this was when he started to drink heavily, often “propping up the bar” in the local pub near his home in Hale, though he did remain a popular character on the much loved soap.

In 2013 the Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed the decision made previously in relation to the allegations and authorized Greater Manchester Police to charge Michael with all 19 offences once again.

ITV reacted by writing Kevin Webster out of the storyline with the promise of his return – once proceedings against Michael had finished.

Held at Manchester Crown Court, the case attracted media attention on a massive scale. Every

Michael appeared stressed during the trial

Michael appeared stressed during the trial

day Michael arrived at the hearing to be greeted by numerous flashing cameras and eager press looking for an exclusive quote or statement.

Supported by his family he looked, at times, like a rabbit caught in headlights, it would be foolish to think that the stress of such a high profile case didn’t affect him in a big way, despite him being eventually found not guilty on all charges.


Leaving court on the day of the verdict, a relieved Michael said he was taking some time out – possibly somewhere abroad, and that he would be back on the cobbles soon, much to the delight of his many supporters.


After a break of six months Michael made his return as Kevin in an explosive storyline that saw him getting into fisticuffs with the neighbours as he arrived with his suitcase in hand. Then he was gone again…

Here is the infamous scene…:)


New scandal now surrounds Michael and his personal life, he’s admitted to using Cocaine during the trial, at what he says was his “lowest ebb” and Corrie bosses have given him just three months to turn his life around or risk being written out permanently.

As if this wasn’t enough for the shame-faced star, his ex-girlfriend, Blanca, has added her own fuel to the fire by alleging that Michael “enticed her into having sex with him and another man after he had drunk 12 pints and snorted Cocaine.”

Now, while I am not defending him in any way, I would question why this story has surfaced now, and if it is humanly possible to entice anyone to do anything after allegedly consuming so much alcohol then topping it off with some class A drugs. It sounds to me like nothing more than a kiss and tell she was no doubt paid for, in a sad attempt to get some media attention…..

At the end of the day Michael is a guy who is having a tough time and it would be nice to see him get the space and privacy he needs to get back on track.

Who hasn't made mistakes?

Who hasn’t made mistakes?

Who hasn’t got drunk and made a bad decision or done something they really would rather people didn’t know. He was found innocent of any wrongdoing in a court of law and the rest is, to me, little more than tickle tackle.

I reckon the future for Michael is bright, although I’m not sure the same can be said for Kevin, after all, the Corrie scriptwriters are known for their bumpy storylines, who knows what they have in store for his return this time around.

There is speculation that Michael is currently in rehab although this has, so far, been unconfirmed. A friend of the star said: “Michael knows he has to sort his life out and is determined to do that. Coronation Street bosses have been incredibly supportive. They know Mike went through hell with his trial and that the stress has led to

Michael looking relaxed

Michael looking relaxed

problems in his personal life, which have to be resolved. All anyone wants on the show is Mike back, in good health.”

Wherever Michael may be at the moment I hope that he is getting the support he so obviously

needs and deserves. People are quick to remember the negatives and forget the positive – in my opinion he is not a bad person, as certain media sources would have you believe, more a good person that has made some bad decisions. Only time will tell if he can bounce back again but I really do believe he will.

Michael may have made mistakes and, in hindsight, that moustache was a bit too YMCA but at the end of the day he is a Manchester bloke that will be remembered long after the Rovers has served its last hot pot and pint.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 22.39.09 Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 22.38.44 Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 22.38.56




18 years on…

Manchester 1996

Manchester 1996

The ear-splitting explosion came first, seconds before the shattered glass began to rain down on terrified shoppers on the busy city streets. The sound of fire engines racing across the devastated

streets entwined with the screech of burglar alarms as they wailed in protest; a noise that would continue for days, long after the dust had settled and the cleanup had begun.

Glass rained down from shattered windows above

Glass rained down from shattered windows above

It was a Saturday in June 1996, the day before Fathers Day and Manchester was buzzing. Thousands had taken to the streets to enjoy the sunshine; many were looking forward to the match that afternoon, when England would play Scotland at Wembley, in the Euro 96 football championship.

 Manchester was hosting games in another group and the mood was both cheerful and upbeat. As a gesture of friendship to visiting fans, the Manchester Evening News had placed billboards saying ‘Welcome to Manchester’ in four different languages and the city was alive with people from all over the world.

 Unbeknown to them, IRA bombers had parked a Ford box van containing 3,300 lbs of home made explosives on Corporation Street, outside Marks and Spencer, on double yellow lines, hazard lights flashing.

Within a few minutes an unsuspecting traffic warden slapped a ticket on the windscreen as the driver and his passenger walked away towards Cateaton Street, hoods up and sunglasses on.

 A phone call was then made from the Piccadilly area to an IRA member in Ireland – giving a signal that everything was in place. The two men then left the city in a burgundy Ford Granada, later abandoned in Preston.

GRANADA TV received a coded warning from the IRA

GRANADA TV received a coded warning from the IRA

Just before 10am, a call was received at Granada Television; it was from the IRA who warned them of

The damage was widespread

The damage was widespread

the bomb in a coded message. Special Branch confirmed this was a genuine threat and minutes later the evacuation of 80,000 people from the city centre kicked into action.

 By 11.10am the police cordon was a quarter of a mile around the van – the amazing effort to clear the streets would mean that no one would die from the bomb, the biggest seen in peacetime mainland Britain.

The Army’s bomb squad arrived from Liverpool, sending in a robot to break through the van’s window in an attempt to locate and destroy the timer on the passenger seat –instead it triggered the explosion.

They were just seconds from making the bomb safe.

Here is a video of the robot approaching the van and the huge explosion that followed -

Barely a window survived in a half-mile radius of the blast and buildings a mile away were damaged.

Explosion caught on cctv

Explosion caught on cctv

A crater measuring 15ft-wide was left where the van had been parked and Greater Manchester’s hospitals were flooded with casualties. Marks and Spencer, being closest to the bomb, was destroyed beyond repair and other notable buildings were badly damaged too. It was the day Manchester was to change forever.

The damage was extreme and far-reaching. Longridge House, home to Royal Insurance was to be demolished and the Arndale bus station, underneath the shopping centre, would never open again.

The Corn Exchange was totally wrecked and although the Royal Exchange Theatre looked like it had escaped the worst, it was later discovered that the bomb had literally raised the roof, putting it back down almost 2inches askew.

The Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange

The police investigation was headed by Detective Superintendent Bernard Rees and based at Longsight station and they liaised with the head of Special Branch in Manchester. The inquiry was called Operation Cannon, after Cannon Street – close to where the van had parked that terrible day.

With the incident room in full swing, priority was given to tracing the Ford Cargo’s history.

 The registration plate was A214 ACL and, according to the Police National Computer, the van belonged to a man down south, who then told police he’d sold it to a dealer, Arthur Loveridge, who lived in Peterborough.

Detectives went to investigate while others checked motorway traffic cameras, in an attempt to pick up the van’s journey into Manchester.

 They discovered it was driven to London the day before the bomb and had been picked up by camera on the M1. This link with the capital would become significant as the investigation progressed. That same evening the van had headed north, accompanied by the Ford Granada that was used as the getaway vehicle.

 After an appeal for information and some detective work, police discovered telephone traffic between the home of a prime suspect in Ulster and a telephone on the mainland around the time of the bomb, while another call was placed to an IRA ‘quartermaster’ from Manchester just three minutes after the van holding the bomb was parked on June 15.

 Police built up a picture of events that day, as well as confirming the prime suspects.

So why weren’t they arrested?

CPS said they did not believe there was a realistic chance of securing a conviction on the evidence available and, that if the suspect was charged his defence would point out the fact he had been to

The MEN named the suspect although the police would not

The MEN named the suspect…

Manchester after the bomb and, despite the fact that police knew he was in the city, they let him go.

In fact, the only people ever arrested in connection with the bomb were Steve Panter, crime reporter at the MEN who named the suspect, and DCI Gordon Mutch, a senior police officer who faced a harrowing ordeal, accused of leaking confidential information to Steve.

Make of that what you will…


Police arrested journalist Steve Panter

Steve said that during the summer of 1998 he received a series of anonymous phone calls from a knowledgeable source, offering information about the Manchester bomb. He says that the police had identified suspects in the bombing of ’96 and were not going to arrest any of them for questioning. There was suspicion amongst some of the police connected to the inquiry that politics were involved, and the decision to lock away the investigation file stamped “No Action” was partly to prevent upsetting Northern Ireland, where the plans to get the peace process were finally back on track.

After the bomb Manchester was dramatically rejuvenated in a citywide renaissance that today generates millions of pounds in revenue.

The modern day skyline is very different than before. From the glass icon that is Urbis to the breathtaking Beetham Tower, the flair and passion put into the redesign are clear to see. Ian Simpson



is a Manchester lad, and architect – it’s him we have to thank for many of the buildings we see in our contemporary city.

No doubt pressure was added to the post-bomb development, the Trafford Centre was due to open in 1998 – at a cost of £600 million. The new design had to be modern, and break down the barriers that existed between the wealthy centre and the ‘poor’ areas to the North.

Market Street was where these two worlds merged but there was still the physical barrier of buildings to overcome.

The Printworks as it is today

The Printworks 

Pre-bomb, The Printworks, then Maxwell House, was empty and abandoned, Urbis was just a car park and there was nothing but wasteland around the Cathedral.

Manchester city centre today is a thriving, cosmopolitan place to be – full of energy, excitement and pride. In 1995 just 300 people lived in the city, today that figure is over 20,000 and growing.

Some people say that without the bomb Manchester could have suffered the same fate as Sheffield, whose city centre was hit by the challenge of out-of-town shopping malls.

Others disagree with this, pointing out that Leeds and other areas have regenerated perfectly well without a bomb ever being involved.

I’m sure the people caught there that day won’t ever see it as a positive event at all. For me it was a very dark day in my home city, but also one that helped to focus minds on how Manchester could be improved; a tragic catalyst that sparked long overdue change.

 Down but never out indeed…..

This article was originally written for Within Magazine, where it appears as the cover story in the June edition.

Within Magazine - June edition

Within Magazine – June edition

10445971_734339443278489_6066343611011948781_n 10390220_734339459945154_2241281367692343713_n 10367175_734339469945153_7256291433766428925_n

Can everyone just stop taking selfies now please….

Heres a little selfie...

Heres a little selfie…

According to the Urban Dictionary (yes, there is such a thing), a selfie is: ‘A picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, Myspace or any other sort of social networking website.’

In my opinion a more accurate description could be: “Self-absorbed, totally unnecessary and often poorly focused snapshot taken with the primary intention of posting on social network sites, for no particular reason at all.”

The BBC has recently released an article, looking at the science behind selfies, explaining that ‘people generally have an image of themselves that tends to be younger and more attractive than we really are. This has led to an obsession with selfies, for the first time ever we are able to take and retake pictures of ourselves until we can produce an image that comes closer to matching our perception of what we think we look like.’

Ok. So let’s just think about that for a second.

Just because you are able to do something, it does not mean that you really should. Selfies are the perfect example of this. I suppose it does show a certain amount of confidence, and possibly a little narcissism, to post self-portraits on the Internet, knowing that others are able to comment on them. However, if they are being Photoshopped to death and then shared in the vain hope of gaining ‘likes’ then I think you may have a deeper issue that needs addressing…

The perfect Photoshop selfie?

The perfect Photoshop selfie?

I have spent many an evening ‘untagging’ myself from pictures I would rather never saw the light of day, let alone want anyone to comment on. *Is it untagging or detagging – has anyone officially decided on what we are calling this yet?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally against the odd self-portrait; I even took one once, of me and my Grandma on her 90th birthday. The result was an unflattering, blurred picture of me looking ten years older than my actual age, highlighting every blemish, pimple and stray hair, and my Grandma looking terrified, staring into camera like a rabbit in proverbial headlights.

There are just so many of them that it’s driven me to a severe state of SOS….(Sick Of Selfies). Just once I want to be able to log onto Facebook without being bombarded with countless selfies, from, ‘I am wearing bikini in winter and then taking pics in the mirror for no reason’ to the more common and disturbing, ‘look at me pulling a duck face at various locations throughout the day’…..yes, you know who you are.

I’m not alone in my despair of this alleged nit-spreading, self-loving obsession sweeping the country. Selfies made an appearance in The Independent’s list of ’50 things we hate about modern life’ – coming in at an unsurprising number six, not quite as annoying as self service check outs but considerably more disliked than the entity known as Gangnam Style (which, for the record, came in at number 22).

Mona Lisa Selfie...

Mona Lisa Selfie…

Every man and his dog has access to some kind of device these days, and the capacity to take pictures of some amazing things and sharing them with the world online within seconds. Sadly, looking at some of the selfies floating around it would appear that, for some people, the dog would actually be able to take a better picture than they clearly can.

Who was it that decided to, rather than focusing the camera on the wonders of nature or the joy of capturing a special moment, it would be a much better idea to take a picture of yourself looking ridiculous – and then share it all over the internet like some kind of crazed cyber-egotist?

The number of selfies popping up is mind-blowing; over 17 million selfies are uploaded to social media every week and it’s not just the teenagers who are adding to these figures either.

It would be nice to blame the youth for such nonsense, writing it off as a faddy craze but, while they may have started it, they are certainly not the only ones keeping this strange new tradition alive and growing at epidemic proportions.

The first ever selfie was taken in 1914, by the then thirteen-year-old, Russian Duchess, Anastasia

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna

Grand Duchess Anastasia 

Romanov. I’m sure she had no idea just what she had started that day as she stood on a chair and took a picture of herself using a Brownie box camera. Anastasia later sent it to a friend saying: “I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard and my hands were trembling.”

These days the over-55s are taking more selfies than the 18 to 24-year-olds, with one in six admitting to regularly taking one. My own great-aunt Enid is one of these OSOs (Older Selfie Offenders), she’s been known to post the same selfie over a dozen times within a minute. It seems that while she struggles with the concept of press

Never too old to take a selfie...

Never too old to take a selfie…

and wait while uploading, she is, however, a dab hand at the ‘art of selfie’- often striking her own version of the duck face pose. Bless her puckered lips…

Turns out there are even a number of websites and Youtube videos offering tips on how to achieve the ‘perfect selfie’, while over on Twitter, ‘self-confessed-selfie-fan’ Kim Kardashian regularly tweets advice to her millions of followers, before getting distracted by her own reflection…

Seems that the selfie is here to stay and, love it or hate it there isn’t much us selfie-phobes can do about it – other than ignore them and hope they go away…

Possibly the most famous selfie ever?

Possibly the most famous selfie ever?

Several of my friends, who shall remain anonymous, are serial selfie-offenders and it drives me crazy. One in particular has even been known to post the same picture several times using different filters. I kid you not.

Yes, he is good-looking and may have the nicest teeth this side of Blackpool, but, there is still only so many of his selfies that a girl can take, before she reaches for the block button. He has been warned….

I will leave you with quite possibly one of the most annoying songs ever released, I predict this appearing in next years list of major irritations…..


Amir and Faryal on the red carpet

Amir and Faryal on the red carpet

Boxing champion Amir Khan reportedly had a night of passion with French make-up artist Eglantine-Flore Aguilar in a top London hotel, and then asked her to sign a gagging clause.


The married boxer paid to fly Eglantine to London from Paris just before he attended the Sport relief

Eglantine-Flore Aguilar

Eglantine-Flore Aguilar

Charity event in March, despite his wife, Faryal Makhdoom being pregnant and expecting their baby in May.

Eglantine, 21 said: “I have told the real truth but Amir is nothing but a hypocrite. He is a role model to millions and claims to be a doting family man, but he is nothing better than a sleaze-ball and he can’t even be honest.

“We met via Instagram in February and Amir was very flattering, he showered me with compliments. When we switched to using Whatsapp he asked me to send him some pictures, which I did, and he asked if he could fly me over to see him in London.

‘We arranged to meet at the ME London hotel on The Strand but I got there before him and waited in the bar. When he did arrive he had his mates with him and we went to eat before returning to the hotel where I waited for him again, this time in his suite.”


Amir Khan

Amir Khan

While waiting for Amir, Eglantine took pictures of items scattered around the room, to prove she had been there. After ten minutes he arrived and joined her on the bed.

Eglantine said: “Within seconds we had undressed. The session lasted about 20 minutes and he was very loving. He treated me like a princess and I thought we would see each other again.”

The next morning Amir left the hotel for radio interviews and TV filming for Sport Relief at the BBC. It was on his way back to the hotel, where Eglantine was waiting, that he sent her a message saying she ‘might need to sign an agreement’.

“He said it was about us and stated that we did not get up to anything. I asked him why he had arranged this he messaged back saying ‘Some gals say and do silly things’.

“I agreed to sign it but didn’t use my real name, he was really paranoid and I didn’t even get chance to read it. When I asked for a copy he said no but seemed happy I had signed it.”

Eglantine says that Khan has messaged her since, saying he would like to fly her to America to meet up again, as he prepares to fight Luis Collazo in May: “ Amir is a sweet guy but he purports to be a loving, religious family man and that makes him a hypocrite. I’m speaking out to let everyone know what he is really like. He might try and rubbish what I’m saying but we both know it is the truth.

“His wife and fans must face facts and know what goes on in the real world. He’s a total fraud.”

While this is not the first time allegations have been made against Amir, Eglantine has also had her

Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole

share of scandal in the past year.

Previously linked to premier league footballers Ashley Cole, Saido Beratino and several other ‘unnamed’ players, Eglantine has a degree in literature and describes herself as a make up artist.

Last night Faryal, 22, who married Khan in New York last June took to Twitter calling Eglantine a “desperate bitch”.

She wrote: “My husband and I know the real truth and that is all that matters.”

Khan, who describes himself as a family man and devout Muslim, has previously said: “I am where I am through the guidance of Allah and love of my family.”

Amir’s spokesman refused to comment.


Nitrous Oxide canisters on Sale West

Nitrous Oxide canisters on Sale West

POLICE are carrying out extra patrols around Sale West after the trademarks of potentially lethal nitrous oxide – or ‘laughing gas’ – abuse were spotted this week.

Tiny capsules used in whipped cream dispensers were found behind both the library and shops on Coppice Avenue, with several also scattered on residential streets nearby.

Substance abusers pierce the top of the capsules, releasing the nitrous oxide, and then inhaling the

Canisters scattered in several 'hotspots'

Canisters scattered in several ‘hotspots’


This causes a head-rush as the body is starved of oxygen, leaving the user feeling dizzy and slurring their speech. However, more sinister, long-term effects include headaches, vomiting, nerve damage, paralysis and even death.

Adults can buy the capsules, freely available on the Internet, but it is illegal to sell or supply them to anyone under 18.


A mum who lives on Epsom Avenue said: “My children were playing out yesterday and the youngest came in with one of the used canisters in his hand.

“They’re everywhere, we saw at least twenty on the way to school and I had no idea what they were until I saw it on our community group, SaleWestVoice.

“Now I do know, I’m really worried, what if he had put it in his mouth?”

Used canister on Coppice Avenue

Used canister on Coppice Avenue


Safer Communities Officer, Dave Pilling said: “This is a growing problem across Trafford and we have strategies in place to try and eradicate it. I will be going into local schools to talk to children and staff about the dangers related to Nitrous Oxide and we welcome any information from the public about misuse in the area.”


Police Constable Rebecca Fox, part of Trafford South Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We have been alerted to this issue and would like to reassure residents that any kind of anti-social behavior continues to be a priority.


“We have increased police patrols in the area to offer reassurance to the community and I would ask anyone who may have any concerns to speak to their local officer.”

For advice and support relating to the misuse of nitrous oxide please visit the FRANK website.


Strangeways…The inside story

JUST outside Manchester city centre, not far from the hustle and bustle of shoppers and office workers, there is a landmark that is known by many, recognized by others and and feared by some.

Strangeways  via Shutterstock

Strangeways via Shutterstock

Today, Her Majesty’s Prison Manchester, previously known as Strangeways, is an intimidating, somewhat overbearing construction overlooking the busy trading area of Cheetham Hill Road where warehouses can be found down every side street.

As a category A prison, HMP Manchester houses more than 1,000 of the country’s most dangerous and depraved individuals, some of whom are guilty of murder, rape and supply of Class A drugs.

Opened in 1868, at a cost of £170,000, Strangeways was originally designed in an overtly

Alfred Waterhouse via Wiki commons

Alfred Waterhouse via Wiki commons

gothic way, as chosen by the winner of a competition at the time for the best design – a man called Alfred Waterhouse.

Manchester had been named as an assize town since 1864, meaning that the city could try serious cases and had the right to execute anyone convicted of murder.

These, public executions, were held outside the walls of New Bailey Gaol, but, having been built in the eighteenth century, it had fallen into disrepair and needed rebuilding.

In 1863, five years before public executions were abolished, a group of Lancashire magistracy met in the Mayor’s parlour at Manchester Town Hall and called for a new county gaol, where executions would be held in private. They proposed that hangings should take place within the walls of the gaol, and that the only witnesses should be the High Sheriff, the governor, a special jury and representatives from the press.

These suggestions met with government approval and bear many similarities to the procedures that were eventually adopted, once private executions were introduced, and permission was given for the new gaol to be built. Some of the original stones from New Bailey were used in the construction of the new one too.

Strangeways, built on Southall Street, was effectively two gaols in one, holding 800 men and the same number of women, with steps in place to ensure that they never came into contact with each other. Notably this included a screen that was pulled across splitting the chapel in half so that even during prayer there would be no opportunity to meet with the opposite sex.

Panoptic design of Manchester Prison via Wiki Commons

Panoptic design of Manchester Prison via Wiki Commons

Built using the Panoptic principle, Strangeways can be best seen from above where the breathtaking view of all six wings radiating like spokes on a bicycle from the all-seeing central viewpoint can be found.

This was in the days before the all-seeing eye we know as CCTV came into being, the prison officers of old relied heavily on the circular design, patrolling the central area regularly in a bid to deter escapees.

Each wing has four floors split into blocks, with over thirty cells on each, as well as a shower block, recreation area and laundry room for the inmates to use. The cells were originally made for single prisoners but, in more recent years, they have been adapted to house two inmates, often causing overcrowding and other related problems.

Each cell measures just 13-foot in length, 7-foot wide and 9-foot high – when the prison was first opened they were equipped with a simple wooden bed that could be used as a table during the day. These days while the size hasn’t changed the bed has, to be replaced with a metal bunk bed and a separate table and chair, although it is somewhat cramped, especially for two grown men.

Originally some of the cells were fitted out as workshops, so inmates could fill their time weaving matting and making shoes. There was also a treadmill that could be used by eighty men at one time, this was for prisoners sentenced to hard labour; it pumped all of the water used within the gaol from a deep well.

The tall, minaret-like shaft within Strangeways is a prominent feature of the Manchester skyline and

Strangeways Tower via Wiki Commons

Strangeways Tower via Wiki Commons

originally it operated as both a smoke stack and a ventilation shaft. It hasn’t been in use for years but is still a major feature of the prison nonetheless.

The basement was reserved for the ‘refractory cells’; it was to these that the governor sent prisoners who would not work or who broke prison rules. It was also where the condemned cell was located.

Formed by two ordinary cells being opened up into one large cell, in the basement of B wing, the condemned cell is still there today – although the original use has long since been abandoned.

There were two metal doors, one leading to a long corridor, the other to the visiting area. It was there that family and friends met with the condemned prisoner, although they were allowed no physical contact and were separated by thick iron bars.

To reach their place of execution, the condemned prisoner was led out of the door and across the corridor, before passing through double doors

Noose via Shutterstock

Noose via Shutterstock

, which opened into the execution shed.

The shed was 15 feet square and housed the scaffolding, which was folded away until needed. A pair of doors were opened that in turn opened up the structure, which was then ready for immediate use.

No doubt it was of little comfort to the person about to be hanged that this contraption meant the expense and inconvenience of having to erect a scaffold outside of the gaol each time there was an execution were avoided.

The first person to be hanged at Strangeways was a 19-year-old man called Michael Johnson, who, after stabbing a man in the leg during a pub brawl was condemned to death in 1869 while the last and one hundredth to meet their end on its gallows was a woman, Gwynne Owen Evans, in 1964.

Hanging shed via Wiki Commons

Hanging shed via Wiki Commons


Strangeways has witnessed many changes since this time, not least the outlawing of executions, however, one of the biggest structural changes took place after the riot of 1990.

Labeled the worst prison riot this country has witnessed, severe damage

Fire damage in B Wing via Wiki Commons

Fire damage in B Wing via Wiki Commons

was caused to the building during a twenty-five day period that saw prisoners climb onto the rooftop and set fire to their cells in a protest against conditions within the jail.

Many of the inmates began to feel as if their rights were being ignored. Some were confined to their cell for up to 22 hours a day, with only limited time given for exercise and bathing.

On the roof during the riot via Wiki Commons

On the roof during the riot via Wiki Commons

There were a series of small protests before the riot, which began when, during a sermon at the prison chapel, over 300 inmates rebelled against the guards with the conflict quickly spreading through the prison.

When it was brought to an end, and the last of the prisoners had surrendered, extensive renovations were necessary before it could re-open. When it did accept new inmates, the government gave it the new official title of HM Prison Manchester.

HMP Manchester via Wikipedia

HMP Manchester via Wikipedia


In abandoning the old name, it was hoped that the prison’s image would be improved. To many Mancunians however, it will always be known as Strangeways, or ‘The ‘Ways’, as *Jimmy puts it.

Spending eight weeks in the prison earlier this year, while on remand for shoplifting, *Jimmy explains how little has really changed for prisoners on the inside, despite the external makeover.

He arrived at Strangeways after his appearance in court and was placed on the induction wing before being designated a cell on G Wing.

“The walls closed in around me. I couldn’t breathe. Sitting in the corner    of the bland yet sour-smelling box that was my new home I felt physically  sick.”

He goes on to describe the feeling of isolation as he spent time in his cell,

"The cell was like a box"

“The cell was like a box”

what he calls ‘the box’.


“The first thing to hit you as you enter the ‘Ways is the stench. The rancid mixture of sweat and damp clothes, despair and sadness. Emotions have a smell of their own too; you just don’t notice it on the outside.


“Next is the noise. Not usual, everyday sounds – these are sinister and get louder at night; the screws walking on the landing, keys jangling from their waists, the sound of metal slamming shut and the creak of a lock being opened. These are the noises that make Stangeways, the ones I still hear at night, even though I’m in my own bed far away.”

Although the condemned cell of old is no longer used, the basement is – as a segregation unit for prisoners who refuse to follow the rules. Jimmy spent a week here after getting into a fight with a fellow inmate. The walk from his cell down to the unit is one he will never forget, and one that he says brought him close to those that had been before him:

“I knew we were headed down to the segregation cells when the screws came to get me but I really wasn’t prepared for what it is really like down there.

“As we walked down the stairs I could feel the air get colder, that’s when it hit me we were actually underground. The feeling of isolation was crushing, it felt like with every step I was becoming more invisible, what if they forgot about me and just left me here – who would care, who would look for me?

"it was cold and hkjhk" image via shutter stock

“What if they forgot about me?” – image via shutter stock

“The cells down there are freezing, and quiet. The only discernable noise I heard was the occasional sound of a radio somewhere close by. Not clear enough to make out a tune, just enough to make me feel that there was other humans out there, that I hadn’t been left to rot underground after all.”

He describes his time in the segregation unit as the lowest in his life, where the feeling of being invisible and disposable was never far away, he said:

“I think it is because you are underground, and the fact that people have been there before you but never left. The gallows and hanging tackle may be long gone but we know it was there and what happened – loads of poor blokes went down those same stairs as me but, instead of coming out the other side, they were killed, in a shed like one you would keep cows in. That is the real crime in my eyes, the stuff that isn’t talked about anymore.”

“For me the problem with Strangeways is, and always has been, the mentality of the people running in, the one’s in charge. Until that changes, and until they see prisoners as people, not cattle, they are never far away from another situation like the one in the nineties’. Doesn’t matter how nice they make the outside look when the inside is rotten to the very core, kind of like trying to polish a turd if you ask me.”


While the name may be up for debate, one thing that is certain in regards to HMP Manchester, or Strangeways, is that it will continue to be one of Manchester’s most infamous landmarks for many years to come. Whether it is a much needed necessity or an outdated and inhumane relic of the past is a matter of opinion.

Here is a Youtube video called The Photograph which depicts some of the scenes during the riot and the reasons behind it…

Sometimes you need to relax and EXHALE…


Exhale Therapy is a luxurious spa in Manchester, offering a multitude of treatments from around the world, both holistic and aesthetic. Having heard great reviews, I thought I would check it out for myself.

I booked in for a Hammam bath, hot stone massage, rescue facial and Shellac for my nails – after all there is no point in doing things by halves:)

Exhale Therapy is based in Didsbury, not far from the village and just around the corner from East Didsbury Metrolink station.

 Having taken my car, I was delighted to find they also have customer parking right outside which was a great bonus, it only took me about twenty minutes to get there from Sale too.

Reception at Exhale Therapy

Reception at Exhale Therapy

The reception area is just gorgeous and really set the tone for my whole visit. Expanses of marble and eastern artwork along with the relaxing piped music made me instantly forget the hustle n bustle I had just left behind and really did transport me to somewhere calm and tranquil.

Greeted by Saira I was shown through to the Hammam area which looked inviting although I was a little nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. She made me feel very comfortable and explained everything to me, I was to change and sit in the steam room until she came to get me in about 10 minutes…

Steam room in the Hammam - Exhale Therapy

Steam room in the Hammam – Exhale Therapy

The changing room is spacious and clean, there are lockers for personal bits and both robe and slippers were provided for me so, after getting into my bikini, I headed to the steam room.


The steam room is quite spacious, big enough for four people to share and is just the business. With temperatures reaching 104 degrees in billows of steam I felt like I was in a tropical rainforest and could literally see the toxins breaking free from my neglected skin…

It was really relaxing, if a little hot and I enjoyed sitting still for a few minutes (something I don’t do very often, with or without steam). Just as I was beginning to think that I had maybe had enough the door opened and Saira asked me to step out for the next part of the Hammam experience, The scrub.

Hammam at Exhale Therapy

Lying on the marble bed in the middle of the Hammam I felt warm, relaxed and totally chilled out. I was then treated to the whole shebang – my whole body was scrubbed and polished until I felt like I was literally glowing, then rinsed down with warm water, pure decadence:)

When I had composed myself I got dressed and went to have a hot stone massage and facial with Rebecca the beauty therapist.

Hot stone massage - Exhale Therapy

Hot stone massage – Exhale Therapy

Again, I had never had a hot stone massage but was keen to give it a whirl, I struggle with migraines and tension in my shoulders and was hopeful it would help.

Rebecca explained the whole process to me in detail and asked what kind of pressure I preferred etc. She was very thorough and really took on board what I said, quickly zoning in on the knots in my shoulders.

I had expressed a preference for a firm massage and that is exactly what I got. It was excellent. Rebecca is only tiny but boy is she strong. She really cracked my shoulders and the relief was instant – it still feels much better 3 days after my visit – well impressed.

When I had been sufficiently cracked, stretched and rubbed I turned over while Rebecca then did me a rescue facial.

As a smoker that is fast approaching the big 4.0. that likes to stay up late, my skin has been looking a little tired and in need of some serious tlc lately.

Treatment room at Exhale Therapy

Treatment room at Exhale Therapy

The rescue facial consists of various gorgeous smelling products being massaged into your face then removed and somewhere down the line there was also a facial steamer directed at me. It was wonderful and has left me looking all peachy, even diminishing a few fine lines and I will definitely be back for more when they reappear ;)

Rescue facial at Exhale Therapy - awesome

Rescue facial at Exhale Therapy – awesome

My spa day experience ended with Hayley the nail technician introducing me to the wonder that is Shellac :)

As a life-long nail-biter, one of my greatest achievements is stopping and finally growing decent set of nails. I have only had them for a few months and whilst they are quite long and sting, they are also full of ridges and old war wounds from my days of incessant picking and nibbling.

Hayley explained how Shellac works and how it would protect my nails while they are growing as well as not chipping at all – one of my major nail varnish irritations.

She helped me choose a colour ( I opted for the loud n proud ‘Hollywood Red’ ) and the results are amazing. The ridges are barely visible, it is amazingly neat and it looks sensational, she really is a very talented nail technician.

I left after three and a half hours of pure heaven and can’t wait to get back. My skin feels lovely and smooth, best it has felt in years. My shoulders feel much looser and I haven’t had a headache since Rebecca sorted me out. My face looks brighter and my nails are gorgeous, I can’t stop looking at them.

I can’t recommend Saira, Rebecca and Hayley enough, they are very knowledgable about the treatments they offer and couldn’t have made me feel any more comfortable and relaxed.

Lovely ladies. Sumptuous surroundings. Feeling fantastic :)

Exhale Therapy - Simply Amazing

Exhale Therapy – Simply Amazing

Please see the Exhale Therapy website for full treatment details and special promotions or you can tweet them @Exhale_Therapy 

All images and the Youtube video used are done so with the kind permission of the one and only Manchester Promotions – find them on Twitter @McrPromotions

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