Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Don't underestimate the power of


I don't have any myself, but as a self-confessed dog lover, I naturally jumped at the chance to help out with my friend's adorable pooch whilst she was away training for a new job in London.

I've had some experience of pets in the past, namely those belonging to my ex and his family, most memorable of which is the mischievous beagle puppy, Bowser.

Best pals.. Charlie & Buddy
But the four-legged friend in question to which I've been playing 'Auntie Gracie' to, goes by the name of Buddy, and he's absolutely beautiful. A Fox Red Labrador with a heart as big as his appetite.

Buddy hasn't been staying with me at my home - much to my dismay - as he has a good pal in the shape of Golden Lab and all-round softie, Charlie, my friend's housemate's doggy. So I've been making my way up to Laura's several times a week to take Buddy out for walks, play with him and generally shower him in cuddles and ear scratches.

But it wasn't until the other night I realised just how much spending time with Buddy has meant to me. Laura and Adam asked me to stay at the house as conflicting work schedules meant they would both be away, and wouldn't be able to tend to the dogs. Cue Auntie Grace (I like to think of myself as the Mary Poppins of the dog-sitting world!) for a double doggy sleepover.

Buddy, Charlie and I spent a lovely evening cuddled on the sofa watching telly, before Buddy snuggled up at my feet come bedtime. Waking up to a wagging tail and wet nose sniffing at my ear was a more welcomed alarm call than you may think, and such a warm and happy morning greeting set me up for a great day.

So next time you need a bit of a mood boost, have a fuss of your furry friend (or in my case, borrow one off a pal!) and reap the mood-lifting benefits of being a pet owner.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A writer's haven

First and foremost, a brief apology for such a long and unjustified absence on my part. You should know I'm back and more enthused than ever to be doing what I love on a (more) regular basis.

My productivity - or rather lack of - is something I've been thinking about a great deal over the summer. A question I've found myself encountering time and time again is where is the best place to get work done. And much to my excitement I think I've cracked it.

You may be thinking nice, quiet office with a cushy leather office chair. Or you might say the relaxing atmosphere of a Saturday morning sat at your kitchen table, with a freshly squeezed OJ and the dulcet tones of Radio 2 playing softly in the background. Maybe you think you work at your best from the comfort of your bed on a Tuesday night, donning flannel pajamas large Pinot Grigio in hand.

Undoubtedly, all great places to work. Sometimes you need peace and quiet. Sometimes you need Jeremy Vine’s familiar tones. Heck, sometimes all you need is a nice large glass of something cold and Italian to spur you on to meet your word count.

But the best place of all really does come from the huge clichéd stereotype of writers. No, not the washed up, writer’s block-ridden Edward Morra in Limitless, penning his dead-end novel from the familiar squalor of his pigsty of a New York flat.

Equally, it’s not always as glamorous as Carrie Bradshaw makes it out to be, juggling her relationships and shoe collections with deadlines and interviews in the exclusive borough of Manhattan where she resides. Nor is life as a journo always quite as exciting as Tintin’s; the adventurous reporter turned eponymous hero, never without his trusty sidekick Snowy in tow.

So it’ll probably come as no surprise to you when I tell you I’m at my most productive cuddled on a sofa in the corner of a well-known coffee shop chain, hot chocolate in one hand, large calorific pastry in the other.

Writer’s block is something to which I am very familiar, despite my brief career so far. It’s not that you don’t have the ideas or inspiration, it’s that you can’t get them out. I imagine it’s similar to how a mute must feel; thoughts whizzing round your head, and simply no way to get them out, make yourself heard. It’s frustrating, agonizing, and more than anything down right bloody inconvenient. My inconsiderate arsehole of a brain obviously doesn’t appreciate the fact I have deadlines to meet, when it’s playing hide and seek with my ability to string a half-decent sentence together.

So when I’m in the grip of this foul beast (yes, I do personify it, and it really is an awful creature!) I take myself off to a coffee shop and settle myself in a corner where I can see everyone come and go. Before I know it, the juices start flowing – well, I am sort of writing about clichés, why not include a few?! – I type word after word, and sometimes if I’m lucky I read it back and not only does it make sense, but it is vaguely engaging! Huzzah.

By the time I pause for breath, I often find my mocha has gone cold and the population of fellow customers has turned over twice. But it's all worth it, because I've succeeded in putting pen to paper: a fundamental skill often frequently but temporarily disengaged in a writer's existence. I've met my word count, whilst adding some points to my loyalty card. Surely a win win situation for everyone.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A brief encounter with Mr. Tom Hardy himself.. sort of

Wow, shit loads of you read my last post.. My newly single tragic life must make a good read - I'm fine with that by the way haha!

So as you often do when something significant shifts in your life, I've decided to make some changes. These changes started today at promptly 9:30am, when I was stood on my lonesome in a cold studio at the gym. After reluctantly dragging myself out of my lovely warm pit an hour before, I'd donned my sports bra and trainers for an hour of ass-kicking, Body Combat style.

I'd barely wiped the grotty bits of sleep from my eyes before I was jumping, kicking and karate-style chopping my way through a painful hour of pure sweatiness. I did find myself thinking - on more than one occasion I might add - why the hell am I up at this time, after not getting home from Dan's after work till gone 2am. But, as you should know by now I'm a 'silver linings' kind of gal, so it was nice to be up, calories burnt, showered, dressed and sufficiently protein shaked before noon.

Now I'm not going to pretend it was plain sailing; I was sweating from crevices I never knew existed to put it politely, but there was one slight detail which made the whole ordeal much more enjoyable. And that there my friends, was the Tom Hardy lookalike instructor. Yep. You read right. Tom Hardy lookalike. And I don't know about you girls, but I don't think there was a better use of bold text than that statement right there.

Not wanting to look like a complete exercise-phobic pussy, and wanting to give off a 'gym bunny' style vibe, I gave 120%, and pretty much nearly died in the process. Totally worth it though.

At the end of the torture, erm.. I mean, hour, I coyly enquired as to whether he took that class every Saturday morning. And guess what? I see myself being preoccupied every Saturday morning for the forseeable future. Score.

Safe to say a swift text to wingwoman Throopy, who I knew would appreciate such a detail on a Saturday morning, soon followed when I got back into the changing rooms!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Life has a habit of...

...biting you on the ass when things seem to be going swimmingly.

Well what a long month it has been. Brilliant highs and some serious lows.

A roadtrip to Amsterdam with my dad for some quality father-daughter time was great. We camped for 4 days, drank beer, saw some sites, ate alot and just generally hung out. Something I miss out on alot with us living 2 hours apart, but all the more worth it when we can fit it in.

Another high point - although I would've called it a low at the time - was finishing my first 10k race in 1 hour and 10 minutes. I know that's not an impressive time, but for a girl who's been working on her beer gut at uni for the last 18 months, I was pretty chuffed.

Great nights out with friends have been strewed across the month too, and the sun has even seen us pay the occasional beer garden a visit.

But just as life has a way of balancing itself out, there have also been some lows. Wednesday saw me and my fella of 4 years split up. And along with that I've lost my second family, a home and a gorgeous - but naughty - Beagle pup. But just as every cloud, apparently, has a silver lining, my inner monologue is going stir crazy with all the funny and slightly tragic anecdotes I will pen when the time is right to laugh about this.

Right now though, it's not. So I'm working to my deadlines, going to work, writing about everything and anything, getting drunk with friends and trying to instill some normality back into my life between all of that.

Updates to follow, as always.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Paris Brown: leave the girl alone

First of all, apologies for not posting for so long; I've just been so busy with other projects, but I'm going to try and post more often from here on out!

My first thoughts upon hearing the news of Paris Brown’s foul-mouthed tweets were actually that of sympathy.

I can’t help but feel that everything has been blown well and truly out of proportion. The teenager’s tweets were from quite some years ago, and chances are she was a young, impressionable child, showing off to her friends online, as so many kids do nowadays.

If you haven't heard about this story, you can have a look here

In a way I sort of feel her pain. The Internet has changed in recent years; it’s no longer exclusively for chatting to friends, shopping or playing games. It’s a much more powerful tool, especially when it comes to employment and upholding your reputation.

Over the past year or so I’ve really used the Internet to my advantage: I’ve gained loads of experience writing for online newspapers and blogs, and I’ve started to build my reputation as a journalist. And one of the things I’ve done to create a more professional online presence is vetting my Twitter. I removed tweets that could be deemed as offensive or taken the wrong way, and I changed my handle from the rather girlish and ditsy @graciebabesxo to a simpler @gracehutch28. I’m not sure if I can say yet whether doing any of the above will have helped, but at least I have my own piece of mind that something I posted on Twitter years ago won’t come back to bite me on the ass.

Whilst I understand that there are endless cases of racist/threatening/abusive tweets and messages posted online by the likes of celebrities/politicians/footballers and the like, but they have one thing on their side which makes these tweets less excusable: age.

With age comes experience, and with experience comes common sense; both of which Paris was obviously lacking when she posted about hash brownies and drinking binges. But we all make mistakes, and most of them are made when we’re young and naïve. And unlike Miss Brown, most of us get to make them out of the spotlight and away from media scrutiny.

So before you judge the 17 year old crime tsar – as the Daily Mail today dubbed her – just think back to when you were in your teens, making whatever mistakes you did and only having your parents to answer to, not the entire British population.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Back to reality with a bump

Every now and again something brings you back down to Earth, and often reminds us in the process just how precious life really is. As cliche as that it, it's the truest of them all.

I left my flat this morning in a bit of grump: I'd got up late, only just had time to straighten half my hair, and my good intentions of getting up early to make myself a healthy smoothie were ditched in favour of a measly cereal bar on the run. I wasn't on the war path, but I was in a less than perfect mood.

From leaving my front door to reaching the end of the road my mood had done a massive U-turn. Suddenly the small things I'd annoyed myself over just ten minutes before were insignificant and silly. The change happened as I witnessed a hearse and accompanying funeral car pull up at the church, and a devastated family get out and slip inside.

I could only begin to imagine what they were going through; what the week leading up to this day must've been like for them, the misery and heartache they were no doubt experiencing. And that was enough reminder for me; that life can be snatched away in a second.

So next time I'm whinging that I didn't get Beyonce tickets, or I'm bogged down with assignment deadlines, I'll remember the black car I saw today.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Big changes, small changes; life a year on

So my blog turned 1 year old yesterday - happy birthday blog! - but how much can really happen in a year? Well, actually, a lot as it turns out.

This time last year I was wondering if a career in journalism really was for me; university wasn't what I thought it'd be and my course seemed to focus on the elements I didn't enjoy so much. One year on I'm certain I've chosen the right path and am actually practicing as a freelancer as I work to build my portfolio up.

A piece of advice I'd have been glad to receive a year ago was never lose sight of your dreams. Some 52 weeks ago I never would've thought I'd be writing for an online newspaper, contributing to one of the county's leading glossy magazines and making contacts here there and everywhere. But I am. As cliche as it sounds, if you want something, go and get it. It's not going to find you.

So what else has happened in my life since I set this blog up for a university assignment? Well maybe the next biggest change that's happened is my only sister moving some 12,000 miles away to Australia. I did a post about it here. Friendships and relationships have changed - some for the better and some for the worse - but I'm surrounded by people I love and who make me laugh, so it can't be bad on that front.

I'm excited to see what the next 12 months hold for me, and I look forward to writing a similar post in another year, no doubt detailing all the mischief and misdemeanours I've been up to since this day.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

We're all guilty of it

Facebooking someone you've just met or are due to meet, to get a bit of an idea of who they are. Facebook is basically the Google of all humans. Well, most anyway.

It's fairly harmless, usually all we're able to find out is where they're from and if they're single or not, and largely we don't use their profiles to formulate our opinions on them.

But what if your future boss was to have a snoop at your page? Photos of you falling out of a club with your knickers on show, or a raging status update slagging off someone or something that has pissed you off. Are these things you'd openly share with prospective employers?

Obviously, that's a no. However it doesn't stop them poking around your social media presence anyway, and even worse; there's nothing to say they can't discriminate against you after seeing something YOU posted on YOUR page. But is it fair?

Just because you like to go out on a Friday and get insanely drunk, doesn't mean you're an unprofessional person who wouldn't be an ideal candidate for that dream job. In a way I think it's unfair that employers are searching through social media to get a better picture of a job candidate.

However, in the same way, if there does happen to be a seemingly endless amount of photos of your latest drunken escapades on your page - where you also clearly display the name of the company you work for - employers aren't going to want to associate themselves with you.

Fair or not, it's easy enough to stop potential bosses getting to know you before you've even met, just check your privacy settings. And hopefully if you are an ideal candidate for your dream job, you'll already have this covered!

Friday, 25 January 2013


I like to think of myself as someone who isn't a great believer of cliches - especially as a journalist - but there are certainly some that do ring true.

You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Pretty obvious, really. In this case I'm talking about my sister. Thankfully, she is alive and well, but she just so happens to be existing some ten and a half thousand miles away from me. This isn't ideal for girly shopping trips or nights in on the sofa.

When she announced she was moving to Australia to be with the love of her life, I never thought for one minute it'd be this hard without her. We both had pretty separate lives anyway, aside from sharing the common bond that is our parents, but that doesn't mean I love her any less.

Big sisters are a blessing that not every little girl is lucky enough to have. Whilst your mother teaches you the valuable lessons in life; manners, honesty, integrity, sisters teach you the things you really need to know as a girl. Your makeup, clothes, hair, how to dance, get drunk, even flirt. All of these fundamentals come from hours spent watching my older sibling do it best.

But it wasn't all adoration and niceties, she also taught me how to be tough. Let's face it, you have to be when your sister's favourite past time is to yank your feet from under you as you're carefully making your way down the stairs. Or hiding in the dark dining room and jumping out as I toddled past into the kitchen. It wasn't all fun and games.

I miss her a lot now. I miss her on nights out; the getting ready, conversing on what to wear, her nicking half of my wardrobe for so long I forgot I even owned the items. I miss her whilst I'm sat on my sofa with my duvet eating biscuits - something our mum never allowed us to do as kids, so we'd indulge in the rare luxury on the odd occasion she was out for the night. Even when I'm eating cold pizza for breakfast, or picking my nose and wiping it on a piece of kitchen roll (gross, I know!) - all things that she taught me to do.

Just as people say a father is a little girl's first love, I think as sister is very much a girl's first best friend, expect she always will be, because she's irreplaceable.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Take a walk down the Green Mile

There are very few times my flatmate and I can sit on the sofa and give a programme our full, undivided attention. But amongst the drivel that crowded our television screens last Thursday night, there was a hidden gem. 

ITV’s new two part documentary, Inside Death Row, saw acclaimed broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald venture inside one of America’s most notorious maximum security prisons, Indiana State. Just an hour’s drive south of Chicago lays one of the country’s oldest prisons, where nearly two thousand prisoners are serving an average sentence of 52 years each. 

Not one to shy away from drama, Trevor dives straight in at the deep end, and takes his first walk down death row - otherwise known as X-row and the Green Mile. And viewers shocked by what they see. Of the 12 condemned men living – if you can call it that – on Death Row, the first they speak to is Benjamin Ritchie. He freely and openly admits in a shockingly poignant way that he’s “the kinda guy that does need to be in prison”. When questioned as to why this is, he responds: “If I can’t pay my bills the legal way, I’ll go get a gun and I’ll pay my bills.” A truly disturbing sentiment, considering our answer to a financial difficulty would most likely be to increase our credit card limit.

 The men on this wing are locked up for an unimaginable 23 hours a day, and so have to find ways to occupy their time. Diabetic redhead Paul McManus killed his wife and his two young daughters. Now he spends his days keeping his cell impeccably clean. 

Other areas of the prison where inmates are allowed to mix come as a refreshing surprise after the cold segregation of X-row, but we’re soon reminded that these prisoners are just as violent. Ronald L Sanford is 38 years old, and has been at Indiana State since he was just 15. He was convicted of a double murder of two elderly women for the measly sum of five dollars, at 13 years old. 

Sanford is unique amongst his fellow inmates. Whilst the other convicts spend their recreation time passing a basketball, sparring the air, or doing pull-ups, Ronald is sat in his cell reading about eugenics or metaphysics. He has used his time inside to educate himself into a polite, eloquent individual. Sure, it doesn’t change the fact he committed an unspeakably violent act, but it is refreshing to see a prisoner do their best to turn their life around, despite the fact he’ll almost certainly die in his cell. He is serving 170 years. 

Aimee and I sat in silence for the majority of the hour, struggling to contemplate both the crimes and the existence of these individuals. Every now and again, we’d gasp or shake our heads at the nonchalant attitude of the inmates talking about the likes of murder, rape and kidnap. But I suppose that’s just it for them; it’s no longer shocking because it’s all around them. 

Despite our country’s obsession with the death penalty and such like, it’s good to see someone taking a more objective view on the goings on of maximum security prisons such as Indiana State. Most documentaries would take the view of condemning the prisoners for their horrific charges, but what use is it condemning an already condemned man?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Is it about time to stop horsing around?

There's been one unavoidable topic - or should I say joke - that has been overcrowding the social networks over the past day or so; of course I'm talking about horse burgers.

The news that one of Tesco's suppliers were found to have contaminated some of their products with as much as 30% horse meat, saw their market value plummet by millions overnight. But it has attracted more laughs than anger in the most part, and despite being a red hot animal welfare and food standards issue, we just don't seem to be taking it seriously.

I'm as guilty as the next person for re-tweeting and sharing various horse-related banter, and I'm not saying we shouldn't, I'm just surprised at the reaction the shocking news has received.

I can't help but wonder, if traces of cat or dog had been detected in those burgers, would we have taken it a little more soberly?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

If you don't judge a book by it's cover

then what do you judge it by? I definitely judge my books by their covers, unless of course someone has recommended something in particular to me. The cover is what draws us in, makes us reach forward and pick it up off the shelf, hold it in our hands.

I'll discard the books with the ominous looking covers; shadows of open doors, or a silhouette walking into the sunset - I instantly decide these books are not for me by it's choice of illustration gracing the bookshelf.

People are very much the same. We are often quick to judge people by their covers, without ever actually picking them up - so to speak - and reading the blurb; a glimpse of what might be in store.

That's where books have an advantage over people.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Don't tar us all with the same brush...

The journalism industry has suffered many heavy blows over the recent years, the most poignant and memorable of which was the shutting down of the News of the World, following hack-gate. Consequently, people have lost their faith in journalism, in newsrooms, in the hacks themselves, and it would seem a small proportion of journalists have given the rest of us a bad name.

Now, when I tell people I'm a trainee journalist, I'm greeted with very mixed responses, most frequently of which is something along the lines of "Eurgh, you're undercover then?" or "Better watch what I say!"

People don't think they need us. They think we don't have any place in society. And I guess as much as our job is to write and educate, it's also our responsibility to prove them wrong.

So this is just me saying, we're not all the same; we don't all want to hack your phones and break into your houses, some of us just want to write, make you laugh, inform you, tell you about the things which you NEED to know.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Journalist problems

writ·er's block
A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.

There are a thousand ideas swimming around in my head put getting them out and stringing together a passable sentence is proving practically impossible! See, did that even make sense?! It's literally driving me round the bend now!
And, breathe.