Mental Health Awareness Week

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This is a massive challenge now. It’s Wednesday 8th and I’ve decided to do my tiny bit to help raise awareness for Mental Health. Deciding to generate 5 posts, one for each weekday of next week – Mental Health Awareness Week.

I am not a Mental Health blogger, to my knowledge I am not a suffer of a diagnosed Mental Illness. There are so many people that are one or both of these things and within that group, some of them have found their voice and are amazing influencers and advocates for Mental Health. But there are others out there that has not found that voice, that struggle to open up and come to terms with things. These are the people I am doing this for. The scarred, the lost for words and the vulnerable. The people who want to scream from the rooftops but are so broken, shy and worried to do so that they sit in silence and let the world eat them up.

No more! Not today! Not ever!


The official theme of this week is Body Image – This is what the Mental Health Organisation have said about this topic:

“Body image issues can affect all of us at any age. During the week we will be publishing new research, considering some of the reasons why our body image can impact the way that we feel, campaigning for change and publishing practical tools.”

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But I don’t want that to stop us, I don’t want you to read this and think – my concern isn’t with Body Image, this isn’t relevant. I promise you everything is relevant. No matter what you are going through. Sit tight, buckle up and get ready for a week of informative, fun and relief. If I can change one persons life for the better than I will be proud. But I am going to need your help to achieve this.

Also check out the Mental Health Foundation website for tips, guides and articles about MH and what they are hoping to achieve this week.

All support, comments and love will be welcomed.

First steps into Mental Health blogging – I am a rookie in a Pro’s game. But I want to help. Wish me luck.


 

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Men’s Gift Guide

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A Handy Gift Guide for the Men in your life.

What with Summer round the corner, fathers day and that important birthday for the special man in your life, I thought it best to put together a Men’s Gift Guide – because let’s be honest we all know that one guy who we struggle to buy for. Hopefully this post will help you decide something special for them.


One. – Panasonic Shaver

[AD] This entry is on behalf of Panasonic who have paid for a mention and advertisement.

Panasonic ES-LV6Q

Now no matter whom we have in mind, Dad, Husband, Best Friend or Milkman – more likely than not any and all men would love and appreciate a new shaver and this is where Panasonic steps in.

Panasonic has recently unveiled a new range of shavers, trimmers and clippers. The full range can be found here on “Shavers Panasonic UK”. In particular, I am drawn to the ES-LV6Q. Quoted as “The Next Generation Shaver for the Distinguished Gentleman” The ES-LV6Q uses a Multi-Flex 5D head, 5 blade technology and a 14,000 CPM Linear Motor Drive that is all packed into a comfortable sized handheld unit that gives outstanding results and incredible closeness.

Another great function to this unit that really bugs me with others is: say you have a mixed length of out of control beard and facial hair. Some razors, mine included, struggle to power through the fuller thicker sections. But with the ES-LV6Q it houses new sensor technology that can tell a thicker patch it coming and boosts the power to maintain the smooth action of trimming and minimises the skin irritation. I guess it’s like cruise control in the car – we don’t know HOW exactly it works, but it does and we love it.

Unlike other electric shavers, this one has the function to work wet or dry, for a quick trim or a full-on soap and lather shave – this unit is waterproof and developed with Japanese Blade Technology, the same the Japanese use for the manufacture of swords – and we all know how good their swords are, well imagine that in a razor.

Want him looking fresh, feeling fly and suave, then a new razor is always a great shout. As the main component in my bathroom in regards to my grooming regime, a trendy new razor will always be welcomed.


Two. – After Shave Balm

[Note] This entry is non affiliated, I was suggested to promote the product via a blogger on twitter. There is no personal gain from this.

https://miessence.one.organic/aromatherapist/en/product/11411/after-shave-balm

Now let’s be honest this works out really well with number one. After a lovely shave you want to finish the job off properly don’t you, you want to splash a bit of balm on to soothe and freshen up your now newly suave looking face.

This is where Miessence steps in, they are an innovative company focused on using Natural and Organic ingredients in products that work. Miessence are also 110% carbon negative, which means they offset more than they emit. So while freshening your face up you can feel proud you are doing your bit for the environment. With a couple of pumps to the fingertips, gently massage the face and shaved areas. This helps to calm razor burn and refreshes the skin. They also use marshmallow in this – so imagine that light and fluffy feel. Got to be worth a go right – treat yourself. . . . or him.


Three. – Hoodies with Purpose.

[Note] This entry is non affiliated, I was suggested to promote the product via a blogger on twitter. There is no personal gain from this.

Now I know what you are all thinking, Ross this weekend was a scorcher – who needs a new hoodie. Well this one is a must.

Firstly you want your man in comfort and fashion right, and to know he is doing his bit in support.

The C9 Foundation is a Scottish registered charity with their main purpose is to tackle Mental Health within grassroots football, with teams and their communities.

Run boy Colin and his awesome team, C9 is always striving to do the best, be the best and give the best back to the community and these hoodies and other clothing ranges, such as hats and shirts are one way of doing that. With the profits going to Mental Health charities, this hoodie really does have a purpose.

Of recent I have started to take an interest more and more in Mental Health blogging and support and without a shadow of a doubt I know Colin and his crew are doing and will continue to do an amazing job. Give him and them a follow on the following links:

C9Foundation / C9 Twitter / The Gaffer 


Four. – The Pawfection Pack.

[Note] This entry is non affiliated, I asked if I could promote the product via a blogger on twitter. There is no personal gain from this.

This one is for the dog lover in your life, that person who’d treat his four-legged friend over himself any day and for good reason. The Pawfection team are a small local business based in Cambridgeshire – who try to deliver the best service and the most affordable pricing they can in their quirky, cute boxes.

But don’t take it from me – here is Annie’s bio blurb about the packs:

“We at The Pawfection Pack also believe in supporting as many small independent businesses as we can, just like us, I always think it’s great when you find fun, quirky items that aren’t readily available on the high street, there’s something very special about them, as well as supporting the people who make them.”

Offering several style of packs, memberships, subscriptions and one-off buys, there really is an option for anyone. You can find their links just here:

Pawfection Pack / The Twitter Page / Stark’s Insta / Pupvengers Blog


 

Now how is that for a handy guide, a selection of ideas, quirks and gift picks. Give them all a look, take them for a spin and treat that special someone right. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, learnt and lot and maybe even thought highly of me. I am always here to help.

 

Edmond de Bergerac – A Review.

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[Gifted] This post is in association with The Royal & Derngate Theatre Northampton.

Here I am again, back with another cultural insight into the world of theatre by reviewing the play “Edmond de Bergerac”. Now let me begin by saying when this opportunity came knocking I had to pause and google what I was signing up for because I knew the name, the phrase but couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

The press release reads as such: Edmond de Bergerac is the hilarious story behind Cyrano de Bergerac. Set in Paris in 1897, playwright Edmond Rostand (Freddie Fox) is approaching his thirtieth birthday with no new plays but a whole lot of worries. He has not written anything in two years and in desperation has promised a new play to the acting superstar, Constant Coquelin (Henry Goodman).


Right from an opening couple of scenes, it was obvious this play was going to be a hyper form of realism, a dynamic mix of sets, acting changes and pure thespian magic. In a strange blend of intercontextuality the play tells the story of a writer, using his own words, life experience and love letters to create a play of which tells a more exaggerated version of his own private life – but with a few extra additions, like a duel!

Henry Goodman & Freddie FoxThe cast is fabulous and committed to every role with so much passion and dedication that even when they play several characters you can easily follow which character is which just by their talent of giving each character their own personality. With big names like Freddie Fox, Henry Goodman, Josie Lawrence and Chizzy Akudolu the play carries great presence and though they were all great it was the supporting cast that stole the show in my opinion – in particular, Simon Gregor; who plays some very wild, over the top and somewhat comical characters such as The Wardrobe Master and the Hotel Receptionist. And Robin Morrissey as Leo, Edmonds friend and ultimately the victim of a stolen identity whose comedic timing and compatibility with the other actors makes every scene and almost every line he delivers a laugh out loud moment.


henry-goodman-coquelin-robin-morrissey-leo-gina-bramhill-jeanne-in-edmond-de-bergerac-credit-graeme-braidwood.jpgAnother aspect of this production that I really enjoyed was the very clever use of the set and stage actions to convey something else happening. Most worthy of a mention is the scene where Leo has climbed a ladder and the ladder ends up falling to the street and also the imitation of the train using costumes to mimic the engine and the use of props and acting to give the illusion the characters are riding in a shaky carriage. Yes, we are aware of how they are done, but in the setting, it’s just pure theatre magic and that is something I love.


Edmond’s play, Cyrano de Bergerac takes many tumbles and suffers several setbacks before it gets off the ground and even when it finally does make it to opening night the lead actress suffers a tragic injury. But the actors playing actors in a play within a play muster on and the production of Cyrano is greeted with multiple encores and raving reviews as the play is a huge success. Cementing Edmond Rostand as the famous playwright we know today and the tale of Cyrano has lived on with him, inspiring many adaptations across all forms of the arts including Theatre, Film, Radio and TV.


I think the underlying message that both Cyrano and Edmond deal with that makes this piece stand out and so relatable is what I guess is modernly called “Catfishing”. The idea of falling for someone’s words and charm without seeing them or knowing who they really are. It just gives you a sense of perspective and a sense of realism that helps the audience relate to the play on a deeper level.

Overall I went into this show apprehensive and unsure of what I was about to watch and instantly within minutes I felt right at home and walked out at the end thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. It’s touring soon and if you get a chance to catch this adaptation I highly urge you to go and check it out.


Running until the 13th of April at the Royal & Derngate Theatre Northampton.

What To Do Next?

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As you might be aware of recent I’ve been a bit quiet on the social media, blog front. Just because I’ve been left feeling very deflated and . . . . well like this.


Stuck in a lifestyle that I am not a great fan of anymore. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to bad mouth these aspects of my life because they have served me well and I’ve learnt and grown from them. But it is now time to move on and take a bigger step forward. Though how realistic is that?

Not to moan about money but sadly this is what makes life tick over. I know I should live in the moment. Enjoy what I have. Can’t take it with you bullshit. But sadly Karen that isn’t the world we live in. The fact of the matter is if I don’t earn X amount a month I won’t be able to pay my bills, buy food or get by. So if I bring home less than that or I have a sick day and don’t get paid. I feel the pinch.

It’s horrible.

But what can I do? How can I make my life better? I’d love to go freelance. In photography or media or blogging. But taking that plunge is an unrealistic step for me. I’d love to get into charity work. Especially Male Mental Health based work. To help give a voice to people. To do something meaningful and to make a difference but sadly in the most none selfish way that won’t pay my mortgage. Not to begin with anyway.

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A very supportive and lovely friend said the following to me earlier – “You really could do it full-time I believe in you buddy! You’re written word is fantastic, I love your content and you are always one of the first people to boost people up in this community! I honestly couldn’t think of anyone who deserves it more than you.”

Which is crazy cute and mega supportive of her and it made me think – who else thinks this of me, maybe I could be this figurehead that people look up to, maybe I could help everyone.

I’m thinking about setting up a movement / brand / organisation that focuses on those goals of raising awareness and money for Male Mental Health charities. Which is where I will need your help.

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I just hope something like this can and will give me purpose and until I find my feet I will have to keep going with my current affairs but in time, maybe one day, I will be able to stand up tall and look back at what I have done with pride.


 

Welcome to StrongMen

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StrongMen – What is it and what it is doing.


Just so you know this if not an AD, the Charity didn’t come to me. I asked them if I could write about them to help spread the word of who they are.

As many of you might know recently I discovered Channel 4’s S.A.S Who Dares Wins. Which pits a team of average joe recruits through a version of the selection progress for the Special Forces, lead by a tough team of Directing Staff which is made up of Ex Special Forces Operatives; Ant Middleton, Jason Fox, Matthew Ollerton and Mark Billingham.

Each season highlights the recruits back stories and reasons for taking on such a challenge, and each season for me has a couple of people who really stand out with some truly emotionally touching stories. Earlier seasons showed me Ehrem’s story and the season just gone showed me Mark and Milo’s stories. All dealing with grief, loss and a drive to prove themselves in honour of their lost family members.

Obviously as the world is very social media driven I jumped on the bandwagon to follow both Mark and Milo on Instagram. Only to find out their relationship has continued after the show and they are embarking on a Charity Climb of Mont Blanc in July with Ollie Ollerton. All in the name of “StrongMen”. Which got me thinking, who are they?


StrongMen

StrongMen is a non-profit organisation set up by several Ex-Recruits and a D.S. from the show. Their mission, to tackle Mental Health issues caused by bereavement and suffering in men. Offering weekend retreats for Men aged 18-55 who have suffered a bereavement of a family member.

With grief and loss being one of the main causes to depression, stress and other such mental health issues the team at StrongMen have set up retreats to focus on several aspects of life; from diet, to exercise, to leisure activities – all with the goal of helping men open up and talk about their emotions and problems. Even if you are not effected by such things I strongly urge you to check out, look into this group and support the team at StrongMen.


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Mental Health is an ever-growing concern in this modern world, as it becomes more widely recognised and accepted. There is still a stigma behind Men and their diagnoses but with the help of organisations like StrongMen we can move away from that stigma and make it socially acceptable to be worry free and open to discuss what is really going on in our mind.

Men can still be the strong characters they always have been, but there is also no shame or harm in being open about what is going on inside your head. Especially if it results in help.

 

 


With all of this new and fresh in my mind it’s really made me take a step back to evaluate my own personal mental health. The up’s, the downs and the vague patches in the middle. Evaluating my own thoughts and well-being has been on the forefront of a lot of discussions recently. Growing as a blogger I have had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with several Mental Health bloggers for both Men and Women and this has helped me dramatically change my opinion on the topic for the better.

IMG_20180121_224107_636I suffered a bereavement nearly four years ago now, where I lost my Mother. I was 24. It was the start of the summer and I was sat in a beer garden in Northampton with some friends. Just a standard evening of drinks after work to unwind. When I got a phone call. My sisters number, but it was my Dad on the phone. He broke the news to me that she had passed away. Regardless of my relationship with her it was still a shock and worse of all I couldn’t do anything to fix it. I couldn’t even drive the 70 mile trip home there and then because I was in a beer garden. Though I have always be a strong-minded character I think that deep down I have never properly grieved. I just took a deep breath and got on with making sure my sister was ok and putting my Mothers affairs in order as I organised a funeral. (My Parents were Divorced as this point, so power of the estate was in my hands).

I’d never thought about this as a contributing factor to my Mental Health before, but with life getting busier, Adulthood creeping in and responsibilities racking up that tower of Life begins to wobble and lean a bit from time to time. Maybe throwing “Money worries” “Frustration at work” and a dash of “Road Rage” into a pot on top of a ungrevied significant moment in my life isn’t a great move – but then on the flip side maybe I am at ease with it all and how I dealt with it was perfectly rational and understandable during that time in my life.


It is a serious discussion we should be having and with the help of organisations like StrongMen I truly believe that discussion will be taking place more frequently.

As much as I am no professional, I like to think I am a supportive guy who will help anyone, with that in mind – if you want to talk, open up or even just have the knowledge and thought that someone is there. Here I am. Don’t be shy.

I will always be there for you all.

30 Before 30 – Mk2.

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At the start of last year I did a post about my “30 Before 30” list. Which can be found just Here‘ – but recently we’ve been talking about these lists at work. My friend has just turned 25 and is set on doing on. So he is in the midst of making his list. Which made me look at mine and kick-start my lazy bum into finishing it.

You might notice that a few of them have changed since last year, that is allowed.

Turns out I have 17 left to do and 22 months to do it – which is nearly one a month. Scary right!

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I need your help. Below is my list – I need to plan the fluff out of it to hit targets. I love a challenge and I am not prepared to fail right now. So this is what I am aiming for.

Learn a Language – Currently using Duolingo to learn Swedish
Visit Auschwitz – I believe there are talks of visiting this next year.
Cycle London to Brighton for Stroke Association – Worried about how realistic this one will be
Get out of Debt – Tough as I am so bad with money. But confident I can find a way.
Vegas for my 30th – This one won’t help the above one. But I will be ending this list in Vegas in 22 months time.
Write a Children’s book – Something I constantly go back to, but can’t workout the best idea or plan for it just yet.
Start my own business – Hey if this blog takes off maybe I could claim this as that.
See the northern lights – Always wanted to, but the risky thing is, they are never a guarantee to see, even in the Arctic Circle
Write a film script – Similar to the children’s book, I have several started projects floating about, but I fall out of love with them.
Learn to dance (Salsa or Ballroom) – Gotta impress on my Wedding day right?
Learn an instrument – Uke – Sitting in my spare room collecting dust. I might tweak this to “Learn A song” to give myself the edge.
Re-Visit New York – Tempted to treat the GF and link this to the next one for this year.
Spend New Year’s Eve in a different country. – I have to do this this year as there is no other New Years Eve before I am 30.
New Job – One day!
Get a Dog – So close, by this time next year I am sure we will have one.
Sex in a tent – Who even likes camping?!
Take up Golf – Clubs are in the garage. Time to hit the range.

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Caroline’s Kitchen: The Review [AD]

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[AD, Gifted] – I was asked by the Royal & Derngate Theatre Northampton to review Caroline’s Kitchen in return for free tickets to the play – this is my review.

Last night I had the pleasure of watching “Caroline’s Kitchen” a dark domestic comedy from the mind of Torben Betts, produced by Tom Hackney of The Original Theatre Company and directed by Alastair Whatley at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton.

The play follows Caroline Mortimer (played by the fabulous Caroline Langrishe), a beloved celebrity chef who has it all; an amazing career, loving family and a top end kitchen that we could only dream of. Life is good – or so it seems, but once she is away from the lights and the camera’s, a dark cloud begins to appear over her private life. A storm is brewing and it’s about to wreak havoc.


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Set across the course of one day, the whole play is set in the Kitchen – the heart of the home, as we watch Caroline’s life spiral out of control, the set and the kitchen mirrors this. Starting off as a prim and proper, clean set by the end of the play it’s just like Caroline, the Kitchen is a mess – it’s broken and disjointed. Which is a subtle but very clever way of personifying an object or space to represent a characters transition or mental state. Caroline’s perfect life revolves around her work and more importantly her Kitchen, which is a mirror of herself.

For me it started off at a slow pace – I was a bit lost on what was going on and where it was going but halfway through the first act it really got into its stride and by the interval, I was hooked and on the edge of my seat. Eager for the second half to kick off and continue this mini roller coaster.

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The turning point for me was the introduction of Mike (Caroline’s Golf-loving Husband, played by Aden Gillett) a retired banker who is dealing with a form of depression, looking at life in a bleak miserable way – wishing he had gotten more from life instead of working and then being left as an old broken man. Playing the role of a stereotypical upper-middle-class white man, with his casual racist and politically incorrect outlook on life, he resembled a lead from an old Ealing Studios film. Which I found hilarious and couldn’t get enough of. I guess this probably suggests something about my level of humour and old man mentality.

This is also in no disrespect to the rest of the cast, I really enjoyed both Jasmyn Banks and Elizabeth Boag’s performances. As Amanda, Caroline’s Sassy Drugged up PA and Sally a disgruntled visitor with more on her mind than a house viewing. Both of these women in my eyes dominated the play when they were on stage. Drawing focus from the likes of Caroline, Leo or Graham the remaining cast members. There is a clear divide where the cast range from amazing and captivating, to lacklustre and boring. The latter in my eyes was Graham – the carpenter. I couldn’t gauge his accent as it changed from North London to pure Northern at times. His timing wasn’t on par with the other cast mates and when he was on stage I just felt awkward wondering what he was going to say or do next. I’m not sure if it was meant to be intentional and that his character was a bit slow but sadly that is how it came across.

This was my only gripe so let’s move swiftly on and not dwell on the negatives too much.

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Overall I really enjoyed this production, the best way I can describe it is by comparing it to that final episode of season one of Dr Foster. Where the truth is coming out and the repercussions are flying around that family meal. It rolled around nicely and with every comment or quip, I was left on tenterhooks waiting to see how the next character would react. It might leave you thinking what just happened for a moment but then once it has settled in you can really appreciate the tone, themes and dynamic of the play. Questioning Morality, Monogamy, Depression and Mental Health – while spreading a dark twisted sense of humour on top.

I would say this play could engage a younger generation who aren’t as ‘Into’ theatre as other generations and something like this would be a great way to spark that passion. The script is snappy and sassy which I would say would be appealing to a younger audience, but still with enough humour and references to engage a more mature audience. As I saw last night, there was young and old sitting together laughing at the same things, bringing people together.

It is showing at the Derngate Northampton for the rest of this week before moving onto Liverpool, Cheltenham and a few other places until the end of it’s run in April. I would highly recommend watching it if you get a chance. You will be pleasantly surprised.

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I also want to thank the Derngate again for giving me the Opportunity to review this production.