Fitness, Life

Summer Dieting – 8 Essential Tips

Summer is upon us once more, as people attempt to gain the body of their dreams, or at least give it their best shot. Between the months of June and September, holiday bookings reach their peak level, particularly throughout the school holidays, and this generally sees prices soar far beyond off season prices. Despite this, many people choose to jet off to destinations around the world, and in an attempt to prepare for their holiday, many people choose to go on a diet to lose some weight to fit into their summer wardrobe. The following blog post shares some tips that will be useful for those wishing to learn more about what it takes to become confident in hitting their fitness goals, and achieving the body they desire.

  1. Abs are Made in the Kitchen

A rather cliché term, but one that actually makes a lot of sense. As much as some people will try to tell you otherwise, dieting is the most important aspect when it comes to achieving your goals. Regular exercise including cardio and strength training will certainly help in the process, but it is generally common knowledge that you cannot out train a poor diet. One of the biggest mistakes people make regularly is that they believe once they have completed their workout, it now justifies them being able to visit a fast food restaurant, or indulge in some of their favourite treats. This essentially defeats the object of working out in the first place, so bear that in mind. A balanced diet coupled with regular exercise is what is needed in order to effectively meet your goals.

  1. Don’t see it as a diet, More a ‘Lifestyle Change’

The word diet itself has somewhat negative connotations, but for the purposes of this blog post I will use the term to explain essential tips in order to reach your goals. Some refer to dieting instead as a ‘lifestyle change’, and this turns it into something much more positive. Diets often leave many feeling unhappy and lacking in energy, and so called ‘crash diets’ are not sustainable in the long run, as although it is possible to lose a considerable amount of weight in a short period, many people get fed up and end up falling of track quite quickly and easily. Weight loss is something that takes time and commitment to happen, and if you make the right choices you will remain happy as well as hit your goals. Certain diets make some foods off limits, and sometimes temptation will strike. You do not necessarily have to go cold turkey on what are generally known as ‘bad foods’ in your quest to tone up and lose fat, what is important is knowing when to say no, and as difficult as it may be, paying attention to portion sizes. This is where people often go wrong, as they end up eating far more than they realise which then leads to falling off track in some cases gaining weight. One tip which will be very useful is to experiment, try new foods that you might not have necessarily considered in the past, you may end up discovering your new favourite fruit or vegetable! Adding in additional vegetables into your diet can be a sure-fire way to bulk up your meals and leave you feeling satisfied, and less tempted to reach into the treats drawer. If you really have a sweet tooth, a good option would be to incorporate more fruit in your diet, although you might want to keep an eye on your sugar intake, despite the sugars found in fruit being natural. Another tip would be to find healthy foods that you enjoy eating, and so you can keep your calories down and it feels less like a diet knowing you can eat something that is good for you but also something you can look forward to eating.

  1. Track Calories

One of the easiest and quickest ways to fall off track when dieting is not tracking calories. This can potentially be a big mistake as simply by guessing you could easily go over your calorie count for the day, so controlling of portion sizes, keeping a record of any food/drink you consume and weighing your food is definitely the way forward. Invest in a set of scales so you know exactly how much you are eating, and this makes it far easier when tracking calories. You could use a notepad and write down your food for the day, or you could use an app such as the popular MyFitnessPal, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. At first it can seem quite tedious however once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t so bad, particularly if you eat the same foods frequently, and it is easy to add new ones by simply scanning the barcode.

  1. Remain in a calorie deficit

If it is your goal to lose weight/fat it is important to factor in that in order to do so, you need to burn more calories than you consume, whether this be exercising more, or eating less. This is another reason why it is important to track your calories, so you know you haven’t gone over your calorie count for the day. Use an online calculator to work out what your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is, this is essentially the number of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight. If you wish to lose weight you need to eat less than this per day, and more than this to gain weight. However, what you also need to factor in is how active you are, and take this into account when working out the total amount of calories you need to hit your goal. This is called the TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) formula. I recommend using as here you can work out both your BMR and TDEE in one simple calculation. When in a deficit, try not to start with too large a deficit at first, start off with 100-200 calories, and once you hit a plateau cut down your calories further by 50-100. Do not cut your calories too much otherwise you will sacrifice your muscle mass, and did it difficult to build or maintain muscle. To enable you to keep as much muscle mass as possible, keep your protein intake high, typically 0.8-1.0g of protein per pound of body weight.

  1. Don’t drink your calories, Keep water intake high. 

It is no secret that keeping your water intake high is really good for the body. Especially when the sun is shining, where it is even more important to stay hydrated. When consuming water, particularly before a meal this can help you feel full, and you are less likely to overindulge when eating meals, so are far more likely to reach your goal and stay on track. Another way to suppress your appetite can be to use caffeine. As well as giving you a boost when it’s needed, caffeine can be consumed to suppress the feeling of hunger, so instead of reaching for a snack, try a cup of coffee or perhaps a tea depending on your preference, as this can often lead to the feeling of hunger going away. Additionally, it is important to consider the number of calories that are in drinks such as alcohol, fizzy drinks and fruit juices. If you do not track them you can easily go over your calorie count. If you really wish to satisfy your sweet tooth then stick to diet options, and when drinking try to stick to diet mixers with spirits such as Vodka and gin as they contain far less calories and carbs than beer and cider for example.

  1. Cardio

One thing that often gets forgotten about is cardio. If your goal is fat loss then cardio is effective in allowing you to reach your goals and burn additional calories. It is not necessary to spend hour after hour on the treadmill running at a steady state. For some this may be a preferred option and there is no harm in doing it, but particularly for those who are short on time then HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great option. Short bursts of intense cardio at full effort followed by a short period of rest/low intensity over a period of about 10-20 minutes and you can get just as much benefit from doing this, and studies have proven the benefit of HIIT, which produces an ‘afterburn’ effect, meaning that the body will continue burning calories for up to 24 hours after completing a HIIT session. You can do this anywhere and don’t need to use of a gym in order to take part in any cardio activities. You could go for a run in your local park instead, for a bike ride, or even from the comfort of your own home doing exercises that involve no equipment. Again, several YouTube videos can be found online to mix up your workout routine and it really doesn’t take long, so throw your excuses out the window and get active!

  1. Meal Prep

Head on down to your local store, purchase some reusable food containers and you will be well on your way to achieving your goals. Ensure that the containers you purchase are suitable for use in the microwave, as well as freezing, depending on how far in advance you intend to prepare your meals. Meal prep is essentially preparing your meals for a certain number of days in advance. This works well because although you have to spent a certain amount of time by bulk cooking foods, this is most certainly save time in the long run, and you will be less tempted to choose fast food for convenience or perhaps you had a long, stressful day at work and don’t feel like cooking. You can choose to place your meals in the fridge and they typically should be fine for 3-4 days. If your planning more in advance then you can freeze your meals and just defrost them overnight. Either way, you know that a healthy, well balanced meal will be ready for you having done meal prep, and once you get used to it it won’t seem so much like a chore.

  1. You don’t need to live in the gym

For some, the idea of joining a gym can be a daunting prospect for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is all new to you, and you’re terrified of embarrassing yourself as you may not have a clue what you are doing in terms of using equipment. What you have to realise is no matter how intimidating it may seem, no one is there to judge you, and even the largest, most muscular people in the gym had to start somewhere, and maybe one day in the past felt the same way you do. Don’t be afraid to try out new exercises, and stick to a weight you are comfortable with, or at least a lighter one until your form is perfected. This is when you can move onto heavier weights. Building muscle and fat loss isn’t something that happens overnight, and it will take hard work and dedication, but when it comes to sticking to a workout plan it is definitely quality over quantity, and consistency is key.

If the gym isn’t for you, or perhaps you don’t have time to go to the gym due to work commitments or having kids to look after, there are several videos available on online sources such as YouTube, and here you will find millions of videos to watch for workouts you can perform easily at home. Often no equipment is required, and many workouts can be performed in 30 minutes or less, so if you really are stripped for time this is a great option. With dedication and consistency, you can achieve great results from the comfort of your own home.

  1. Have a plan, and stick to it.

The key to sticking to a habit is effective planning. This goes for both your workout regime as well as planning and tracking what you eat. Before you go for a workout whether this be at home or in the gym don’t wander round aimlessly thinking of what machine to go on next, that goes for both cardio and strength training. Figure out a plan that suits your lifestyle and stick to it, at first it can be hard particularly if you’re new to exercising but stick with it and you will eventually get used to it, then you can build upon this by upping the time spent working out, or lift heavier weights. When it comes to dieting, ensure you track your calories having worked out your BMR and TDEE, prepare your meals and weigh out your food. One of the most important aspects however is remaining consistent, no one said it will be easy but hard work and dedication really does pay off. You will feel more confident, healthier and you will be proud of yourself for sticking to your goals, overcoming any obstacles in your way.


Man Utd Season Review 16/17 – Successful First Season for Mourinho? 

Despite ending the season with an FA Cup win, Manchester United took the decision to sack manager Louis Van Gaal after league performances faltered, meaning United missed out on a Champions League spot for the second season in a row, instead having to contend with a spot in the second tier European competition the UEFA Europa League. The Dutchman spent two seasons at the helm having been chosen as the club’s second manager since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson after 26 glorious years, off the back of an abysmal campaign under the reign of former Everton manager David Moyes, who failed to hold the position a full season after a poor run of results. The Old Trafford club finished the season under the leadership of club legend Ryan Giggs, who then took the decision to retire after spending his entire senior career with the Red Devils. The former Welsh International then became part of David Moyes’ coaching staff as a player coach, and later chosen to be Van Gaal’s assistant for his two seasons in the hotseat. Upon the sacking of the former Netherlands boss, Giggs decided to step down as assistant despite being offered the chance to remain in the post as former Chelsea boss Mourinho was appointed manager ahead of the 16/17 Premier League season. 

The Portuguese boss, who’s former clubs also include Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Porto, was said to be after the United job for some time. Many thought he would be the man to succeed Sir Alex upon his retirement in 2013, but upon leaving Real Madrid eventually ended back at his former employers Chelsea. After seeing the Stamford Bridge club finish in 12th place after an appauling run of results, notorious Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who has become famous for appointing and sacking a considerable amount of managers since his purchase of the club in 2003, became frustrated at his team’s performance, and took the decision to sack Mourinho. When appointed manager of United, José got straight to work to build the team to his liking, signing four players in his first transfer window at the helm, including Villareal defender Eric Bailly, Dortmund winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and finally the capture of former youth team player Paul Pogba from Juventus, having to break the world record fee in the process. 

Each of the players that were signed by Mourinho slotted into his setup remarkably well, with the exception of Mkhitaryan who unfortunately suffered setbacks in the form of injury throughout the course of the season, however when called upon after being publicly motivated by Mourinho, performing exceptionally well in United’s Europa League campaign scoring 11 goals in his debut season. Arguably Mourinho’s best signing was that of Swedish giant Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was signed on a free transfer from French club Paris Saint German. People were quick to judge the the former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker who was approaching his 35th birthday, and argued he would not be able to cope with such a physically demanding league which is widely regarded as the best in the world. The Swede proved his doubters wrong, scoring an incredible 28 goals in all competitions despite cruelly ending his season early with a long term injury, eventually leading to his release from the club. Upon the season ending, Mourinho must now make it an absolute priority to replace the Swedish international, as United have been linked with several big names, such as Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata, as well as former player Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly also had a fantastic first season, receiving plaudits from around the world, becoming accustomed to the Premier League with ease, and for the majority of the season formed a formidable partnership with Argentinian international Marcos Rojo in the centre of defence. The towering center back once plied his trade in La Liga with Villareal, and was a loss to the team when suffering from injury towards the latter stages of the season, as well as being called up to his national squad for the African Cup of Nations at the start of the year. 

Mourinho’s final signing of last summer was French international Paul Pogba, who left United for Juventus having failing to agree to a contract with The Old Trafford club under the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. He was signed from French club Le Havre and formed part of the United youth squad. However having seen his first team chances limited departed for Serie A, and went on to become a huge part of the Juventus setup, scoring spectacular goals which most certainly caught the eye of José Mourinho, who then re-signed the player for a world record fee of around £90m. Many questioned the monumental fee that the Frenchman commanded, and a huge amount of pressure was placed on his shoulders, as he had a lot to live up to to justify the huge price tag United had spent on him. Despite not scoring perhaps as many goals over the course of the season as many expected, the 24 year old formed a huge part of Mourinho’s squad, featuring regularly and stats proved his worth overall despite him scoring 5 goals in 30 appearances. 

United finished the season in sixth place, having endured a frustrating amount of home draws, performing better on the road. The final league position was lower than what was achieved by Louis Van Gaal the previous season, and many ridiculed Mourinho for placing more emphasis on the club’s Europa League campaign to gain entry to the Champions League next season, as opposed to a top four finish. However, after beating Ajax in Sweden to earn United their first ever Europa League trophy last month, the Portuguese boss achieved his goal of getting United into the top European competition next season. Coupled with a League Cup Final win against Southampton, United finished the season with a double, which is more than can be said for the first seasons of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, and so overall Mourinho’s first season in charge can most certainly be classed as a success, despite an under-par performance in the league. 

It goes without saying that United have room for improvement, and Mourinho’s plans for next season are fully underway, with several arrivals and departures expected at Old Trafford. The Red Devils have already began their summer transfer business having sealed the transfer of Swedish international Victor Lindelof in a £30m deal from Portuguese club Benfica, and have been linked with several other players. The question remains however on the future of club captain Wayne Rooney, who has received a heavy amount of criticism for recent performances, and was resigned to the bench for a considerable amount of last season. Will he still be at Old Trafford come next season? That remains to be seen. 


Cristiano Ronaldo – The Story that Will Not Go Away

Cristiano Ronaldo’s love affair with Manchester United never seems to fade away. The Real Madrid star regularly speaks of his admiration for his former club, and his close relationship with his now retired former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who signed the player from Sporting CP for a mere £12m back in 2003. Ever since his debut for Manchester United against Bolton Wanderers in his first season at the club he quickly became a fan favourite, with his spectacular skills on the ball, which most certainly did the club’s iconic number 7 shirt justice, donned previously by United legends Eric Cantona, David Beckham and George Best. Ronaldo quickly became regarded as one of the best players in world football, which by today’s standards makes the fee United paid for him look minuscule. 

The player went on to win several titles with the Red Devils, and after winning the Champions League with United in 2008, Ronaldo played one more season with the side that arguably made him famous, and was widely tipped to join the team he dreamed of playing for when he was a boy, that being Real Madrid. Breaking United fans’ hearts, he left the club for a then World record transfer fee of £80m, a figure which has since been exceeded with Madrid paying in excess of this for Gareth Bale, whose fee was reported to be around £85m, as well as United’s signing of their former youth team player Paul Pogba from Juventus, who commanded a fee of £90m.

Upon transferring to Real Madrid, Ronaldo continued his remarkably successful career, going head to head with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and continued to receive plaudits from around the world, and has won 4 Ballon D’or awards in his career, the most prestigious award that can be won by a player in terms of their personal success. 

Despite achieving his ultimate goal of playing for his boyhood club, Ronaldo has many times over the years been consistently linked with a return to his former team, only for the player to sign a renewed contract at Madrid. Eight years on from his dream move from Manchester United to Real Madrid however, Ronaldo continues to be linked, and despite Real Madrid recently becoming the first team to retain the Champion’s League Trophy, the Portuguese International has reportedly stated his intention to leave the Spanish club after becoming upset and angry after allegations of tax fraud from the Spanish authorities, and has even mentioned seriously considering a return to Manchester United. Sending Red Devils fans into sheer excitement, Ronaldo would most certainly be welcomed back with open arms, but despite coming towards the latter stages of his career at the age of 32, he will without a doubt command a phenomenonal transfer fee, and Manchester United will clearly need to break the bank to see a return for their former star.


Will He Stay or Will He Go? The David de Gea saga. 

The summer has arrived, and once again the English Premier League season draws to a close. That can only mean one thing, time for departures and arrivals from across the footballing world as the transfer window opens, giving teams the chance to offload unwanted players, and acquire new ones to bolster their squads for the start of the new season in August. Despite not officially opening until the 1st July, many teams have already begun their transfer negotiations, including Everton with their £30m capture of England international goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland. A remarkably high figure for a player of such a young age, albeit with bags of potential.

With transfer records being broken season after season, the transfer rumour mill is now in full force, and it is common for clubs like Manchester United to be constantly linked with just about every player under the sun, only for the vast majority of rumours to be nothing more than just plain old gossip (cue if it’s not on Sky Sports, it isn’t true). Conversely, Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea has been consistently linked with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, who have been chasing his signature for the past two seasons after a series of scintillating performances over the years, and it would not be surprising to see him as Spain’s first-choice goalkeeper for many years to come, following in the footsteps of legendary Real Madrid and Spain keeper Casillas. Arguably United’s lifeline in several games under the management of ill-fated managers David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, and more recently under current manager José Mourinho it comes as no surprise to see De Gea linked with the European champions once more.

Real Madrid, who have recently become the first club to retain the Champions League trophy since its inception in 1992, along with domestic success in finishing first in La Liga under legendary midfielder turned manager Zinedine Zidane, remain highly interested in making De Gea their new number one, and club President Florentino Perez remains determined in his quest to make De Gea his latest ‘Galactico’ signing, replacing Costa Rican international Keylor Navas, whom Perez doesn’t see as the club’s long-term solution between the sticks. A £60m bid was submitted just weeks ago, a fee that dwarfs the amount paid by Everton for Jordan Pickford, but this was swiftly rejected by Manchester United who will certainly play hardball when it comes to selling one of their star players, who is seen by many as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, having progressed leaps and bounds since his move to Manchester United from Athletico Madrid in 2011. Two summers ago, De Gea came within minutes of joining the club on transfer deadline day only for the swap deal involving Navas to fall through due to a ‘faulty fax machine’. This led to his exclusion from the first team starting line-up by then United manager Louis Van Gaal for the beginning of the term as his head was not in the right place, but was then reintroduced into the team after the first few games of the season, replacing summer signing Sergio Romero, and his magnificent performances returned.

With the transfer window yet to open, let alone close, it remains to be seen whether De Gea will still call Old Trafford home by the start of the season. However, with a question mark over the future of former United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently stated his intention to leave Real Madrid this summer (a return to United on the cards perhaps?), coupled with United’s pursuit of a successor to the recently released Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Madrid forward Alvaro Morata, could De Gea be used as a bargaining chip for both parties to come to some kind of player plus cash agreement? Either way, if De Gea were to leave in some capacity he will certainly not come on the cheap, Real Madrid will most certainly have to pay a premium if they wish to get their man.


Staying Motivated During a Job Search

In the modern age of recruitment, it can be hard for many to stay motivated in seeking a career change. Perhaps they have been in a particular role or industry for a number of years, and fancy their chances at proving themselves in another role, or even changing industries. Whatever the case, one of the biggest factors involved in applying for jobs is that there will be rejections. No matter how many jobs you apply for, not all employers will respond. This is most likely due to how competitive the jobs market has become over the years, with employers receiving hundreds in some cases thousands of applications for one position. This is perhaps one of the single most off-putting things about applying for jobs in that you have put a lot of effort into sprucing up your CV and tailoring covering letters to suit the particular company/job role you are applying for, only to be turned down or in some instances simply ignored. Individual feedback is not always achievable to the sheer amount of applications that some employers receive, with candidates receiving the generic ‘unfortunately you have not been successful on this occasion…’.

Whatever happens, it is important to remember that everything happens for a reason, perhaps there were better-suited candidates, not to say that you wouldn’t excel in the position given the opportunity, but other candidates may have more experience in that particular industry for example. Sometimes many aim high in order to personally improve themselves, but often employers cite a lack of experience/qualifications as their reason for choosing not to pursue a particular candidate. In order to improve your chances, and to show your commitment to gaining experience in the industry you wish to work in, particularly if you are changing industries, is to send speculative letters/emails or maybe call a particular employer you are interested in, even if they don’t appear to be hiring. Give them a brief description of yourself, outlining your skills, experiences and the type of role you are looking for. What is key is showing your enthusiasm, and this can sometimes pay off. They will appreciate your interest in your company and might even offer you a placement/temporary work. In some cases, this can be unpaid but everyone has to start somewhere and the experience will be invaluable to you.

Graduate jobs in particular often have lengthy recruitment processes in order to make candidates stand out from the crowd as the applications they receive can easily creep into several 1000s. Video interviews, telephone interviews and verbal reasoning tests amongst other methods often precede any face to face interviews as this helps employers filter out many applicants who might not be the right fit for the company/position. With more and more people chosing to go to university to enhance their career prospects, in spite of the hike in tuition fees over the years, sometimes a degree alone is not enough. Showing your commitment to personal development in other areas through extracurricular activities can sometimes be the difference between an employer choosing one candidate over another.

Overall, if you can brush off any rejected applications you will inevitably receive, as well as showing your commitment to personal development through the methods I have mentioned in this post, you will be well on your way to eventually achieving the role of your dreams, even if that means starting at the bottom. Additionally, when reaching the interview stage, effective preparation is key, but even if you don’t get offered the job, take it as experience for any future interviews you may have, as not all of them will be perfect. You might know yourself where you went wrong, but where possible, ask for feedback as this will most certainly help you improve your interview technique, and you will get to know the areas where you need to improve. Follow this advice, and your confidence, personality, and enthusiasm will soon shine through.


My Home Town – Walkden, Salford. 

My home town is a small area of suburban Salford called Walkden. It’s the place where I grew up and I have lived here all my life (with the exception of moving to Ormskirk for university for 3 years that is). I have seen a multitude of changes that has left the town centre virtually unrecognisable compared to how it looked 10 years ago.  I provide an insight into the regeneration of the town starting in the days of my childhood right up to the present day.  

The town once had a selection of stores that no longer have a presence on the high street, such as discount supermarket chain Kwiksave and the ill-fated Blockbuster, amongst others. In addition to this, there was once a thriving marketplace full of independent sellers although this slowly became less relevant as people began to turn to supermarkets which offered an alternative, more modern shopping experience that would later become the norm for many. Tesco had established itself in Walkden for many years, and the success of the store perhaps left independent sellers with no option but to cease trading. The indoor marketplace remained closed for a number of years, but has since made a comeback, providing Walkden with a dose of nostalgia, albeit to a lesser extent given the market now contains far fewer stalls than the original once had.

Between the years of 2000 and 2009, the town’s shopping centre began to show signs of age, and it was clear that the town was in need of serious regeneration. The centre had over the years seen several businesses close down, and the once thriving local cinema had been derelict for some time. The regeneration process began by relocating the Tesco supermarket into temporary premises whilst the process of demolishing existing buildings began. By around 2010-11, the construction of a new Tesco Extra store had been completed, and the temporary premises that were provided to Tesco had closed to make way for additional retail units to be constructed. The first and arguably the largest phase of the regeneration project had been completed. The Tesco Extra store began trading, which is apparently the largest of its kind in Europe. Along with the new Tesco store, the adjoining newly constructed shopping centre building which is attached to what is left of the original structure opened, and continues to grow to date, with stores such as B&M, Boots, JD Sports, Costa Coffee and Poundland amongst the tenants. 

Upon the completion of the second phase a few years later, a number of well known high street stores such as Aldi, Pets at Home and more recently M&S opened in Walkden town centre, and this provided the local area with a much needed boost in terms of choice available. Along with the aforementioned brands, discount retailer Quality Save has opened a large store in the centre adjacent to the Total Fitness gym which has been located in its current position since arriving in Walkden around 1997. Several food outlets have also opened on the retail park to accompany the already existing McDonalds, Subway and KFC stores, including Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and to be opened soon is an Indian restaurant. 

Overall, it can be said that through regeneration and investment, Walkden has over recent years been brought up to a modern standard, making the town centre more aesthetically pleasing, as well as increasing employment opportunities. Many units remain vacant, but are slowly but surely being filled by new tenants. However, the abundance of food outlets and discount stores that are part of the retail park suggests that there is a lack of variety, with there being no clothing stores and a cinema for example, and until this issue is addressed, shoppers are left with no choice but to visit other areas of Manchester/Salford/Bolton in order to access certain facilities. For this reason, many locals including myself still see room for improvement.

Working in Retail

Stock Taking in Retail

There comes a time of the year that those working in the retail industry do not look forward to. No, I’m not talking about the build up to the Christmas period, but rather the dreaded stock take, which can be described as a task which needs to be completed annually or in some cases biannually in order to identify areas where a company is performing well in terms of sales, and conversely areas that can be improved upon or perhaps removed from sale if necessary. 

In my case, the company I currently work for is a budget supermarket chain which has several stores all over the UK and sells a wide range of items in various departments ranging from food and drink to furniture. I have worked for them on three separate occasions totalling in excess of 5 years, and so throughout the duration of my employment I have come to be largely familiar with the aspects involved in stock taking. The store is required to complete a stock take twice a year with dates set well in advance to ensure maximum staff attendance. This enables the stock take to be completed as efficiently as possible. So essentially, the quicker the task is completed, the earlier staff may go home. The actual conducting of the stock take requires hours of preparation in order for the process to run smoothly, with arrangements delegated to a member of the management team who on the day of the stock take is responsible for keeping track of the areas of the store that have been counted and scanned. 

What is required of staff members is that they are each given a sheet of paper which lists their assigned sections of the store and they are then expected to first of all locate the first section which is done by assigning a number to the relevant section, which can be checked off the member of management’s notepad which comprises of all the numbers of the sections that need to be counted. Once located, the staff member then signs their name at the beginning of the section and begins counting the stock which according to the rules, must be done from left to right starting in the top left hand corner, once an item of stock has been counted, the number of that particular item on the shelf must be written down and placed in front of the item so those who scan the count onto the system know how many of each item there are on the shelf. Each section contains three bays of stock and once counting of the section has been done, this can be signed off by the staff member who then informs the member of management the section has been counted and is now ready to be scanned onto the system. This process is then repeated until all sections of the store have been counted, checked off on the notepad and scanned into the system. However, checks are in place to randomly recount an item on a section to ensure the correct number on the shelf has been counted, and if the number is incorrect the section may need to be recounted to ensure accuracy. Once all sections have been completed, the clean up operation begins with staff members having to clean up any bits of paper/rubbish littering the shop floor, and ensure that the stock on the shelves is faced up in order for the store to be prepared and in a presentable condition for the following day’s trade. 

Today’s blog post has provided an insight into the processes involved within stock taking in my current workplace, and whilst processes differ depending on the type of business, the message that can be taken is that despite the task being somewhat tedious and repetitive, it is an essential part of working in a retail based environment to ensure maximum profits are being made. Additionally, it is appropriate to underline the importance of team work, as this in turn means that the stock take can be completed as efficiently, effectively and accurately as possible. 


The University Experience

Time flies when you’re having fun. A clichè which can be applied to the time spent at university. Having spent three years at Edge Hill University between 2012 and 2015, those will undoubtedly be some of the most memorable years of my life. I got the chance to improve my confidence in many areas of life, as well as gaining several transferable skills that would be essential for future employment opportunities. For me, it was my first time ever living away from home, and so was a huge change for me, as it would be for most undergraduate students. If you choose to live away from home for at least one year of your course, this will more than likely be a daunting prospect, albeit an exciting one. Having taken the decision to move out of the family home myself to embark on a three year journey, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone considering applying for a course at university, particularly if the university is a considerable journey away from home, although commuting may be a preferable option for some particularly if their institution is a short distance away from home.

Whilst it may not be for everyone, given the huge cost of tuition fees can be a huge turn off for many, or perhaps the amount of assignments that is required amongst other factors, I can assure you come graduation day it will all be worthwhile. Some however may choose to head straight into work, or perhaps begin an apprenticeship or training course after completing compulsory education, but whichever route you choose to take it is important to ensure that you choose the correct one that works for you in order to give you the best chance to make the most of life’s opportunities, and that you can be satisfied with the route you have chosen.

Fast forward three years, and the last few months of university were upon me. The thought of entering the big bad world felt overwhelming to say the least, but the end was in sight and I had to prepare for the fact that at least for the time being, I would have to move back to my hometown of Walkden and prepare for working life. For a while I was unsure on the career path I wished to take, however I now know that I wish to turn my passion for writing and social media into a career.

Graduation day came along, on the 23rd July 2015. I was accompanied by my parents and Grandmother, and when walking up to shake the hand of the University’s Chancellor, it was without a doubt one of the proudest yet most nerve-wracking moments of my life to date. I graduated with a 2:1 in English and Media and worked so hard to achieve the grade I was aiming for. All those hours spent researching and writing assignments in the library and elsewhere led to this very moment, and it had paid off. When reflecting on the time I spent at university, I have no regrets. I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most amazing people who I wish to stay in contact with for many years to come, having experienced moments with them that I will never forget. I made the decision to go to university not only to enhance my career prospects, but to improve my confidence, gain independence and enjoy life. All this was certainly achieved, and equipped me well for the years ahead.


On the Toon.

Today’s blog consists of a review of my recent stay at the 4 star County Hotel in Newcastle and I would like to share my experience of my first trip to the city. 

As a birthday treat for my girlfriend I booked us a one night stay at the County Hotel in Newcastle. Part of a deal provided on Livingsocial I saw it as the perfect place for us to spend our first trip away together and was something we could look forward to. We took the train from Huddersfield which was a journey of just over two hours. Arrived at Newcastle early afternoon to find the hotel conveniently situated directly opposite the station, absolutely perfect for those travelling to the city by train, especially those who chose not to travel light (including myself!) 

Check-in wasn’t until 3pm so upon arrival before heading into the hotel we had a brief walk to a nearby Yates’s to grab a bite to eat. Perhaps should have dropped off our luggage but we hadn’t walked too far. Once we had eaten we then proceeded to check into the hotel, greeted by a polite gentleman on reception who processed my Livingsocial voucher and informed us that our free bottle of Prosecco could be collected from the Hotel’s bar at our convenience.

We spent a couple of hours at the hotel and as evening approached, we went out for a meal together at well known Italian restaurant chain Bella Italia which was within walking distance from the hotel in the nearby shopping centre. Finding the place wasn’t the easiest of tasks despite enlisting the help of usually reliable Google Maps, yet despite the slight mishap we eventually found the restaurant and enjoyed a lovely two course meal. We skipped starters and each had a main and a dessert, which with a Groupon offer was only £18 between the two of us, plus the additional cost of drinks. 

We then began to explore the night life Newcastle had to offer. We weren’t expecting it to be too busy with it being midweek however we visited a few bars including Revolution, it’d be rude not to take advantage of their 2 for 1 cocktails offer after all! We visited a couple more bars and had our last drink in cocktail bar The Botanist. Whilst walking there we crossed paths with a large number of drunken students, some of whom were dressed in smart attire, others in togas. Must have been social night, not that this was a problem, must be a familiar sight given Newcastle’s reputation as a place renowned for its nightlife. All the bars we visited were within a short walk from the hotel and so no taxis were needed to be called. We had considered going into Bijoux, made famous by MTV Show Geordie Shore, however decided to give that a miss and head back to the hotel.

The following morning we enjoyed breakfast that was included as part of our stay. It was served between the hours of 6.30am and 10am and so we went down to the hotel’s restaurant to check out what was on offer. Amongst the selection was a full English breakfast, with several offerings of fresh fruit and a variety of cereals. And we were kindly offered a hot beverage to accompany our meal. We then headed back upstairs to make the most out of our late check-out of 1pm. Upon check out the receptionist kindly offered to store our luggage at the hotel which was much appreciated given that Storm Doris had unfortunately meant that the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and constant rain blighted the skies. Despite this, given our train home wasn’t until 19:10, we took some time out to explore the area, including the nearby Millenium Bridge. We stopped for a drink in the Pitcher and Piano Bar/Restaurant which was located on the Quayside. After spending an hour or so in here we headed back towards the centre to grab some food and decided on Handmade Burger Co, which was located in the food court at intu Eldon Square, where we had had a meal at Bella Italia the previous night. Our final stop was at the Starbucks located next door to our hotel, we ended up spending a lengthy amount of time here given that the weather left us with little option but to seek refuge indoors as much as possible. The time to head back home arrived. We got the train back to Huddersfield as scheduled but Storm Doris meant that the rail network had suffered several delays and cancellations but this only added an extra 30 mins into our journey. Could have been far worse I suppose!

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and would recommend the hotel, particularly due to its location. Pricing was very reasonable and despite a minor issue with the room (that being the toilet wouldn’t flush properly), the service we received was second to none and we particularly appreciated the hotel receptionist’s offer to store our luggage. In terms of the trip overall, despite only being a one night stay our first trip away together was a fun-filled, enjoyable one. Perhaps we might have been able to do more had the weather have been better but made the most of it nonetheless! Next stop, York!


Who Do You Think You Are?

To provide an accurate description of who I think I am, it would be appropriate to highlight the importance of family and your upbringing, which help define you as a person. This includes the values of life which your parents have a responsibility to provide you with, or at least that is what you would expect.

Firstly, I have lived in the small town of Walkden in Salford, Greater Manchester since I was born, and have experienced many changes, chiefly an on-going regeneration of the town centre, which has given it a much needed facelift, making it unrecognisable compared to ten years previous. Having never moved until I began university, it made the whole experience of moving to a new town ever more surreal, but equally exhilarating. Despite having lived in the same town my whole life, I don’t see myself to have a real connection with it other than my friends and family, but also my high school, St George’s, where I studied for five years. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the school and I am lucky to still be in contact with the same group of friends I have had since first starting there in 2004, and I can recall several fond memories that I shared with them and others. Although I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped when it came to GCSE results, I was able to progress onto college where after completing an additional year I was able to gain entry into Edge Hill University, where I graduated from in July 2015 with a 2:1 grade in English and Media, one of my greatest achievements in my life so far, and something I can be proud of. Despite not really feeling much of a significant connection to my home town I am proud of my upbringing as I believe my parents equipped me with the necessary qualities in which I can build lasting and meaningful relationships with other people, no matter what the context, and this has allowed me to convey myself as a decent, caring person.

In addition to the values taught to you by your parents, as well as the place where you grow up, I believe one of the most fundamental aspects of life that can define a person is their progression through education, it is a necessity in the modern day and age in order to move onto bigger and better things. Without an education, namely primary and secondary, it can be difficult to fulfil your potential in life, and progressing onto college and university allows you to go that one step further should you wish to follow a specific career path, and additionally equips you not only with transferrable skills which are essential in the vast majority of employment opportunities, but also life skills which allow you to mature as a person, such as independence, providing you live away from home, that is. Furthermore, university allowed me personally to improve my confidence in most aspects of life as well as give me a taste of independence, which will be essential in future life when I eventually move out of the family home. Along with an education, I believe another important aspect to being content with life, is to never take for granted what you have, specifically your family, who are the people who you should not only be able to rely on through good times and bad, but who you can make feel proud of your achievements in your life by making informed, mature decisions.

In terms of my career, I have worked in retail for a number of years now but I am currently seeking a new challenge. It is My ultimate ambition it to work with content creation/editing and social media, given I have a passion for writing, and regular blog writing emphasises my commitment and desire to start a career within the industry.