Coronavirus: Self-isolation week five

Reflecting on the past week, I remember a friend of mine who has died after becoming ill with coronvirus. Every day the death toll is rising and behind each number are family and friends who are grieving. All coronavirus related deaths would not have happened had this virus not existed and it’s heartbreaking to think how many people across the world have lost loved ones.

I have known Geoff most of my life; he was a fellow Manchester City fan who I knew from our supporters’ club and he went to games with my Dad. He was always kind to me and interested in my career. I shall remember him with affection. Only close family can attend his funeral, due to social distancing measures. It is with great sadness that I cannot pay my respects in this way.

This past week has also been lamentable because I should have been on holiday in New York. It became all too easy to think of “what if” scenarios – what I might have been doing at certain times had the pandemic not swept across the world. I actually saw the hotel I was meant to be staying in on Times Square in a shot used on a BBC news report about how New York has been severely affected with cases of the virus.

The lights are out on Broadway, where I was due to see the production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical comedy Company, after missing its run in London’s West End last year. The ticket price has been refunded but I am still waiting to be reimbursed for the flights and hotel bookings, which could take anything up to 90 days.

Musicals are great escapism during these uncertain times and I’ve been able to get my fix with a subscription to Disney Plus, which isn’t just about animated classics. There’s the Star Wars back catalogue, Marvel universe and National Geographic documentaries included too. During my annual leave, I’ve watched another of Sondheim’s works Into the Woods as well as Mary Poppins Returns. Two very different films, both I’d recommend.

Friday night YouTube screenings of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical have also been something to look forward to, while staying at home. This week’s was Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. As a fan of the original I didn’t know what to expect of a new iteration but I loved it and may even catch it again before the link on the ‘Show Must Go On’ page expires this weekend.

Having more time on my hands, while in self-isolation, has also given a chance to bake more often than usual. (With usual meaning not at all.) I was previously quite daunted by it, after seeing elaborate showstoppers on the Great British Bake Off and other cookery programmes, I’d find any excuse to buy ready made baked goods from a shop. However, I’m amazed how simple some recipes are.

It’s easy to see why there’s a shortage of flour because it seems every man, woman and dog have been having a bash at baking banana bread. I’ve perfected my own version (pictured below) which has oats in and caramelised banana on top. Other tasty recipes that have gone down well include a tea loaf that’s made with marmalade and homemade ginger biscuits.

I’m back working from home this coming week, all that’s left to do now is finish wiring up the work computer and, all being well, I’ll be able to log in and access the internal BBC network. That should help workflow massively. I’ll let you know how it goes in next week’s update. Stay safe.

Coronavirus: Week four in self-isolation

The Easter bank holiday gave chance for a short break. My partner and I made the decision to do everything as close as possible to what we usually would. A nice meal, with a leg of lamb, flowers and an egg hunt around the garden. The biggest absence were the wider family but video calls meant that everyone could feel connected virtually.

Our family became a bit bigger on Easter Monday, as we welcomed new member George Patrick into the world. A symbol of hope in uncertain times, an appropriate Easter metaphor too.

The joyous occasion is also a reminder that, alongside helping coronvirus patients at increased capacity, NHS staff are still dealing with all the usual hospital admissions and doing so to an incredibly high standard. The service which Britain is so proud of.

We can’t visit baby George, he’s home and well, but has to isolate with his parents for 12 weeks. I’m further along the self-isolation timeline at four weeks plus. It’s going as well as it can do. The main side effect for me has been swollen feet. I’m not the most avid of walkers at the best of times but even walking around work and Carlisle city centre offers more daily exercise than working from home in a bungalow does.

As I’ve taken the decision not to leave the house at all during lockdown, I can’t make use of the Government mandated daily walk but have been trying to exercise at home. One thing I will never take for granted is how lucky I am to live so close to Morecambe Bay. There’s so many places I could aspire to visit once the peak of the virus has passed. What I would really like is to walk along the coast and soak up the views of the a Lake District fells in the distance once again. That’s first on a long list of things to do. Visiting the local takeaway for a kebab comes a close second though, I must admit.

A computer from work has now been delivered so, when that’s set up, I’ll be able to access the internal BBC systems a lot easier than I do currently, while working from home. A big thanks to my colleagues back at base who have input audio and scripts into the play out system and enabled me to help produce the breakfast show. When I’m up and running on the new kit I’ll be able to do everything I can usually do in the office.

However, I’ll be spending my fifth week of self-isolation on annual leave. It’s been booked for a long time because I was meant to be flying to New York. Once it became apparent that my holiday of a lifetime wouldn’t be taking place yet, I decided to keep the annual leave because it’ll be good to have time off and mental break, if nothing else.

My week “off” will mostly be spent in the back garden, where the weather forecast looks good. It offers time for quiet contemplation, to make sense of this strange period of time we’re living through. Those personal admin type tasks, that always seem to get put off. And to jump on the baking bandwagon, after managing to somehow get hold of some flour. I’ll share how successful my attempts are with you next week. Until then, take care.

Coronavirus: Week three in self-isolation

I can’t help but feel reflective while in “lockdown”. Last Good Friday, I was buzzing after presenting a music special on the radio called Eclectic 80s. This year I haven’t left the house for three weeks. It puts everything into perspective about how different life can be from one period of time to the next.

My fiancé was due to present a radio programme this Good Friday. He’s usually always on-air on Bank Holidays, that’s how we met when I studio produced one of his shows almost four years ago. The programme was postponed this year, due to alternative arrangements made because of the coronavirus pandemic. I know first-hand how much time and effort goes into planning these programmes, so hopefully it’ll make it to air after the outbreak is over.

For the past few years, Easter has always been very special. Not just for religious reasons but also because it allows for precious family time. As I spend Christmas Day with my parents at Easter I spend it with my partner and his children. It’s always an enjoyable time. Due to social distancing the family can’t be together this year, so it’ll feel strange. We’ll have a video call meet up instead and have plans to celebrate together as soon as possible, once the peak of the virus has passed and it’s safe to do so.

Lockdown during the pandemic is difficult for everyone; it’s something many of us have never experienced the likes of before. I’m trying to keep positive about my own situation in self-isolation but one of the reasons why it is hard is because, for the first time in my life, ‘underlying health conditions’ have literally stopped me in my tracks.

I’ve spent years making sure my quality of life can be on a par with anyone else’s and I’m fortunate that, usually, that is the case. However, at the moment, I can’t do what I want which is to go out and about and be part of a bustling radio newsroom. I can actually do quite a lot for the station from home though and soon a computer from work will be delivered, so I can access the internal network and that’ll aid my workflow even more.

I’ve got four days off over the Easter period and, while this would usually be a very busy time, I’m using the time it to relax and recharge. It’s been great to dig out my DSLR camera again to reacquaint myself with my hobby of photography. One of my garden wildlife pictures was used on a social media video for BBC Radio Cumbria this week and I was able to get a great shot, using an extended zoom lens, of the supermoon.

I wish you a peaceful Easter at home. This year’s will be a memorable occasion but probably not for reasons anyone could have anticipated. However, the religious comparisons are quite pertinent during this “lockdown”. These unusual times will pass and we will get our lives back again. A new beginning will come.

Coronavirus: Week two in self-isolation

If you would have told me by April I wouldn’t have left the house for a fortnight then, I’d have thought it was an April Fools joke! However, we’ve living through unusual times and we must all do our bit to stop the spread of coronavirus.

At the time of writing, I’m on my 18th day in quarantine and I’m taking it well. For a lot of people who have ‘underlying health conditions’, like myself, we’ve already been through quite a lot in our lives and I think that helps build up a resilience which helps deal with challenging circumstances.

My accounts of life in self-isolation were featured on the hospital radio station Bay Trust Radio last Saturday. I was flattered to be asked because I wasn’t sure the experiences I’ve been tweeting and blogging about have been very interesting! I have been wondering how long I may be able to keep up my daily Twitter diary, because the days are becoming quite similar and blending together, but I’ll try to keep it up as long as possible.

This time last year, I was a guest at a beautiful spring wedding in Cheshire. It seems like that was in a parallel universe to now, with gatherings banned. We all must not lose sight of why we are doing these social distancing measures though. The unpredictability of the virus means that none of us know how it would affect us, if we contract it.

My social media timelines are full of harrowing accounts of people who have lost loved ones to this virus, which really hits home the reasoning why we need to stay at home to stop the spread. I had a bad bout of asthma earlier this week, which can usually be rectified with an inhaler. I couldn’t help but think how frightening it must be for people who struggle for breath, if they have severe symptoms to coronavirus.

I’ve been working from home again this week, helping to produce the breakfast programme on BBC Radio Cumbria. It helps during self-isolation to provide structure and a purpose to my days. I’ve also been back broadcasting this week too; I sent over a report about birdwatching from the back garden, in honour of the RSPB’s ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’.

I live within the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the location certainly lives up to that name. There’s a plethora of birdlife to gaze at from nuthatches to chaffinches and lesser spotted woodpeckers. Roe deer from woods behind also make an appearance some evenings too. They’re so graceful to see that I can forgive them for munching on the plants.

My Mum and Dad are set up on their iPad now and have picked up using the technology very quickly and video calling them is a joy. Despite being adamantly against it, that shows what kind happen if you’re mind is put onto something. Speaking of which, I’ve dusted off the exercise bike to try to burn off some calories from the chocolate I’ve been eating. Apologies in advance but, in a weak moment, I have to admit that our Easter egg stash has been broken into.

The peak of the pandemic has not yet passed yet in this country, so this way of life is likely to continue for some time. I was speaking to a radio contributor earlier this week who said she doesn’t feel like she is helping the situation because it feels like she’s doing nothing. Staying at home is helping though and the more of us do this, only going out when absolutely necessary, the sooner this will pass.

Some of the birds in the front garden.

Coronavirus: My first week in self-isolation

Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”

I’ve been self-isolating for more than a week due to government advice during the coronavirus pandemic and so far, so good. I have two ‘underlying health conditions’ and, while not in the more severe group that need to be “shielded” from the virus, the advice for me was to social distance, as much as possible. I don’t have any symptoms and feel healthy, it’s just a precaution.

The fantastic team at BBC Radio Cumbria have enabled me to work from home so I took the decision to self-isolate, as I didn’t want to take any chances. I haven’t been out of the house since last Wednesday, 18 March. As with ‘flu, if I catch coronavirus, the risk is I’d need to be hospitalised. At a time when the NHS is pressured, I think self-isolating is the responsible thing to do. Not just for myself but to stop the spread and help others.

Working from home has been brilliant; it gives me something to focus on. I’m listed as a ‘key worker’ in the category of public service broadcasters and journalists and I’m glad to be able to play a part in supporting the BBC’s news output. I have an office space to work in and find it helps to mentally separate work from home life… although I’m sure my cat would prefer it if she could sit on my lap constantly!

With a team back at base supporting me to input cues into the internal BBC system, I’ve helped produce the breakfast programme, can record audio / broadcast using my phone and am in touch with colleagues regularly, so I don’t feel out of the loop. I miss reading news bulletins and studio producing programmes but those roles need to be done on site. I’m looking forward to getting back to that, as soon as possible.

My partner’s isolating with me, so we’ve not been able to physically shop for food for a while. I take it as a good sign that home delivery slots from the supermarkets are full for weeks in advance because it means other people are heeding the advice to stay at home. We’ve been able to get items from a local newsagent, which leaves the deliveries on doorsteps and neighbours have offered to help too.

It’s important to look after mental health at times like this and I’m in good spirits. I’m fortunate to have lovely views of south Cumbria to look at and a big garden that I try to get out in as much as possible for some fresh air. It’s where I’m writing this now. I don’t feel the need to get out and about to exercise. We have equipment we can use here anyway, I just need to motive myself to do it!

I find it difficult to read novels lately; I’m too interested in the latest news developments, but have found audio books a useful distraction to everything that’s happening in the outside world. Radio has been a great companion, as always. I have BBC Radio Cumbria on constantly while working from home and it helps to feel connected to those back at base. The importance of public service broadcasting shouldn’t be under-estimated.

Mothering Sunday was heartbreaking because I had made plans to see my Mum and Dad, all of which were put on hold. They don’t yet have video calling capabilities, but I’ve bought them an iPad so that’ll soon change. We’re in touch over the phone all the time and I was lucky to have been able to see them recently.

In terms of the future, who knows how long this will last? I was due to travel to New York after Easter which now won’t be happening. Although, the flights are still showing as going ahead. Even if the US travel ban is lifted, I wouldn’t want to go there so soon and Broadway is still on lockdown. Hopefully we can get some money back because, if we can’t get a refund, we stand to lose thousands of pounds.

Only a few weeks ago, my partner and I were in a chippy when a group of American tourists came in. It made us think ahead with excitement to our holiday in the USA. A week later we were in same chippy, the Americans had gone and it then seemed highly unlikely that we’d be going abroad at all. Fast forward another week later and we weren’t even leaving the house.

The speed the virus is spreading is shocking but we’re all in this together. The more of us who follow the advice to stay at home, and only go out when absolutely necessary, the sooner it’ll be over.

Stay strong, stay safe and take care. X

My view while self-isolating of the world behind the glass.

2019: My year in review.

If last year was the year to embrace change then the ante was upped in 2019; new job, new house… new cat!

I started 2019 on a high. Last New Year’s Eve I presented my first live radio show in years, since immersing myself in broadcast journalism. The programme was ‘Songs from the Shows’ on BBC Radio Lancashire and featured movie musical hits.

The buzz of live radio is why I love my job; there’s nothing like it. I presented Eclectic 80s live on Good Friday, alongside my main role producing the drivetime programme. Lancs will always have a special place in my heart because that’s where I got my first paid work in the industry, before moving to commercial radio and coming back again.

In summer, I transferred further north, to BBC Radio Cumbria. A station I knew previously, having done work experience there. I’m based in Carlisle and moved home from Blackburn to Milnthorpe. The drive to work takes over an hour, but it’s probably one of the most scenic commutes in the country.

In under six months I feel like I’ve developed so much, as a person and a journalist. Learning the intricacies of a new patch has been an exciting challenge. I get to do the newsroom roles I’m familiar with, like bulletin reading and reporting. I’ve learnt new skills too – including making video content for the social media pages and produced the station’s overnight general election coverage. The team have been so welcoming and I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity.

At the beginning of the year I made a resolution to update this blog more often and set myself a target of posting at least one new entry a month. I’m glad to say that, once I publish this post, I’ll have hit that target. I think I’ve written some of my best pieces this year, including my take on the changing local radio landscape and disability representation in the media.

It’ll be an early night for me, this New Year’s Eve. My alarm clock will go off in the wee small hours of the morning because I’m reading the breakfast news bulletins on BBC Radio Cumbria. It’s great to be able to start 2020 by doing what I love. Happy New Year!

Cool for Cats

A week ago we welcomed a new addition to our family and adopted a cat. I’m an animal lover, and feel like a house isn’t really a home without a pet, but the process wasn’t without various pitfalls along the way.

When I was growing up, I was surrounded by animals. From a cockatiel to a hamster and various fish. What about the controversial cat vs dog camp? Well, sadly, I’m allergic to dogs so by default that makes me a crazy cat lady! I had four cats throughout my childhood and various others who visited. You can imagine my disappointment when I moved out and the contract of my flat stated “no pets allowed”!

I recently reported on a story where a rescue centre had been inundated with kittens due to people not spaying their pets. There was a plea for people to come and help adopt the youngsters and free up space. I didn’t need much persuading anyway and, now I’ve moved to Cumbria, the time seemed right.

Convincing my fiancé, who favours dogs, was the first hurdle. Then onto the adoption process. I’d owned adult cats before and wanted an adult to re-home again because when there are many kittens in the rescue centres, it’s the adults that often get overlooked. I’d also been inclined to adopt a black cat because, due to superstition, you will find many of these in rescue centres. That’s why there’s even a national “Black Cat” day to raise awareness of the issue.

There was a mix up with the first we tried to adopt, after various appointments and trying to reserve the cat, I was informed she’d actually been re-homed with someone else instead due to an admin error. This was disheartening but at least the cat had a home. What surprised me was when I spoke to other people about their experiences of animal adoption that situation is a lot more common than I first thought.

Staff at another centre never got back to our enquiry to adopt a cat. However, the saddest part of the process came unexpectedly. A cat we’d arranged to meet had an existing health condition and had to be put to sleep. This was heartbreaking but handled very well at the rescue centre. They asked, seeing as we had an appointment booked, would we still like to visit the cattery?

I took them up on the offer but, after so many set backs, tried not to get my hopes up. As soon as we went in a black and white cat called Pushkin – presumably named after the Russian poet – came to greet us. They say cats choose their owners, rather than the other way around, and I think that’s definitely what happened here! I’ve never known a cat called that before but, because she answers to it, the name has stuck.

Within a week we had taken her home. She has had to be introduced to each room at a time but has settled in incredibly well. Pushkin is a loving and affectionate cat – she’s actually been sitting on my knee as I write this! She’s such a character and, because she’s 5-years-old, is very well behaved.

I’d urge anyone who’s interested in having a cat as a pet to consider adopting from a rescue centre. There are so many lovely animals who are in need of a home. In Pushkin’s case, her original owner had died and then was relocated from Manchester to Ambleside, before finding herself in need of a home.

Rescue centres are often charities and will really appreciate and value your support. I’d also say that the adoptions sometimes don’t go as you may wish, so it’s best to go into it with an open mind. If you have too many expectations then you may miss out on your purr-fect pet. Adopting a cat has been quite an emotional rollercoaster, in my case anyway, but it’s been one of the highlights of my year. I can’t imagine our house without her now and she’s certainly made herself at home…

Find your niche

When you start out in radio you’ve got to be like a sponge, absorbing all the techniques and tricks of the trade of those around you. And the truth is, this never really stops as time goes on. Technology changes, you may move to another role or fresh ideas are tried out. That’s the beauty of working in a creative industry; no two days are the same. You’ll get to try new things all the time – learning as you go.

My old school motto was ‘Education for Life’ and at the time I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting in a metaphorical classroom forever! Maybe it meant the things you learn in school stay with you but I now take it to be that you never stop learning. Part of that process is receiving advice. I’ve had lots of it over the years and have chosen to follow it from people I trust. Two pieces of advice I received throughout my career stick with me to this day… even though they are, in essence, contradictory.

“Don’t specialise too soon”. 

This advice was given to me when I was presenting music programmes on community stations and I wanted to make the jump into becoming professional. I was specialising in the chill out / easy listening genre at the time. Having presented the same style of shows on three separate stations. I adore music and have a massive passion for it… But the advice was right. 

There are very few opportunities out there for people who specialise in particular genres, in an industry which is shrinking, even for mainstream presenters. The specialist music presenters I know combine their work with other roles in the creative industries – for example club DJing alongside their programme – or something else entirely. You should never lose sight of your passion and there’s more ways to demonstrate that than ever. Blogs, Vlogs, podcasts. If you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.

“Find your niche…”

My passion for radio developed beyond just music and my fascination with broadcasting grew the more of the medium I consumed. I’d been told I needed develop as many skills as possible, so you name it and I did it. From roadshows to promo to research to interviews to desk driving to street team to making jingles to presenting and producing… if it was something to do with radio I wanted to know about it. The  anorak within me was unleashed!! Zzzzzzip!

I was doing anything and everything, then one day at a networking event I was told to ‘find my niche’. This was confusing, since I’d been told not to specialise before. Then I looked at where I wanted my career to go in the future and I combined this with the voice work I’d been doing. My niche was news.

Only news isn’t a niche. There’s so many roles you can do under that umbrella term: reporter, producer, bulletin reader and that’s just skimming the surface. However, hearing that advice helped me get the direction I needed to enrol on a masters in broadcast journalism.

You need to use your judgement, of course. Not every piece of advice you receive will be right for you. One person actually told me not to enrol on a course, which if I had followed wouldn’t have led me to where I am now. In fact, my whole life would be very different – a scary thought!

It’s funny how things said way back when can strike a chord many years later. I remember going to a school progress review meeting one day. It was getting close to exam time and we were thinking about careers. My form tutor said “what about being a journalist?” I laughed and said “Absolutely not!” Well, I didn’t know then how happy I’d be now.

I’m still learning new things all the time and I’m still and all-rounder. In the past year I’ve reported on a stories and made them into an audio package of my report. I’ve read news bulletins, produced programmes, planned upcoming outside broadcasts and I’ve presented a specialist music programme.

Since joining BBC Radio Cumbria in August I’ve been learning lots of new things. Over the past month or so I’ve been the social media reporter. Looking after content that has aired on the breakfast programme and also made into short films for the Facebook page too. I’ve enjoyed learning to edit video again; a skill which I hadn’t used in years.

Even though my work has taken me in a direction I maybe didn’t expect at the start of my broadcasting career on student radio, it feels right. It would’ve been wrong to specialise too soon and miss out on opportunities that were to come because I opened my mind to other possibilities. The great thing is, I still get to utilise my passion in many ways and look forward to what else is around the corner.

Review: Mrs Lowry and Son

Film poster

L.S. Lowry has always been an artist I was acutely aware of. Whether you like his paintings or not, his artistic influence is around the area I grew up in Greater Manchester and beyond. After all, those were the industrial landscapes he became synonymous for.

Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve had a print of Lowry’s hanging on the wall and at school we sang the “Matchstick men and matchstalk cats and dogs” song in assembly. We went on field trips to Salford Quays, first in 1999 to see the Lowry Arts and Entertainment centre being built and after the millennium to see plays performed there and to visit the galleries – something I’ve continued into adulthood.

I wanted to see the film Mrs Lowry and Son but was disappointed to learn it wasn’t being shown at my local cinema and the nearest showings were difficult for me to get to in south Cumbria. Luckily, a community screening of the film was shown this weekend at the Arnside Educational Institute, by The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster.

The film was a delight, mostly a double header featuring Vanessa Redgrave and a trim Timothy Spall. I can’t imagine any other actors playing those roles. Spall has got the demeanour of Lowry and I had to admire Redgrave’s Salfordian accent, similar but in many ways distinct from Mancunian and she captured it.

It’s mostly a double header between the two and tells the story of Lowry at the beginning of forging a career as an artist. Seeing beauty within people and in a landscape that others dismiss. The narrative follows Lowry’s search for acceptance in his work but mostly from his own mother.

There’s some stylised elements, which play nicely alongside the realism of the story. Mill workers stopping in their tracks so Lowry can examine their intricacies is an example, as is the ending… which you’ll have to watch to find out what happens!

Although set in Pendlebury, it was nice to see certain scenes set in my hometown of Stockport. The Crowther Street steps feature prominently and there’s a nod to the photograph where Lowry is seen with the viaduct in the background.

The interval interrupted the narrative flow somewhat, but gave a glimpse into cinema’s past appropriate for the time period that the action takes place. It allowed for a raffle to be drawn and for the audience to discuss what they had seen. There was a lovely community feeling to the screening, something that you can sometimes miss at a larger multiplex.

As with most films, it’s special to view as a collective experience and the same can be said for this, with many humorous touches and moments of tension. Mrs Lowry and Son is a particularly poignant film but subtly done. At only an hour and half running time the film, like the man himself, is unassuming but filled with artistry on every level.

Manchester City: My life as a Blue

With Bury FC’s expulsion from the English football league recently, it’s prompted a lot of fans to reflect and never to take for granted what a club means to them. The passion and the pride in a team is something quite special and I have so much empathy for what Bury fans must be going through. As a Greater Manchester team, I’ve known many of their supporters down the years who are a great, loyal, bunch.

Supporting a team sometimes isn’t just down to choice; it’s steeped in family history and local heritage. At least, it is for me and my team – Manchester City, who are the current Premier League champions et al. But fortunes haven’t always been so kind – and that’s all part of a fan’s journey and makes the victories even sweeter.

It’s also 20 years this year since one of the best football matches I can remember: Gillingham Vs Manchester City at Wembley in the Division Two play-off final. The match that cemented my place as a City supporter.

The atmosphere was electric; although City’s season was in a tier much lower than what fans are used to these days, the support has never weaned. I was part of the ‘Blue Army’ that had made the journey from Manchester to London where the twin towers of the old Wembley Stadium were beckoning.

I was 10-years-old and had travelled down with my Mum and Dad. Supporting City is very much in my family. It’s all I’ve ever known and had been going to matches since I was young and back then was a member of the ‘Junior Blues’ and the former Levenshulme branch of City supporters’ clubs.

Football is a big part of growing up in Greater Manchester and the reality is I’ve never wanted to support any other team – even if I did used to tease Dad by holding up United shirts in sports shops!

Everyone in primary school knew which team I supported because kids could bring in their own PE kit and mine was an old City shirt. It was just accepted, there wasn’t much bullying then, only banter.

High School was more brutal. Looking back it probably wasn’t a good idea to start off the new school year showing my footballing allegiances in the only way possible: by having it plastered all over my bag. A teacher took me to one side on the first day and warned: “This is a United school”. It wasn’t long after that my rucksack ended up being kicked down the corridors and having the contents sprawled all over the playground. It wasn’t quite like the scene from the film There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, but close enough.

It might not have seemed like it then but, when among fellow fans, there’s a great sense of belonging that has continued to this day, whether it’s at Maine Road, the Etihad stadium or having a banter with mates… especially United fans!

In 2012, City won the Premier League title for the first time in 44 years and the game was on a knife edge in a race against rivals Manchester United – it all came down to the last game of the season in extra time. I’ve never felt such a mix of emotions when Mario Balotelli passed to Sergio Aguero. It went in. The goal stood. First tension then jubilation – after all those years in the lower leagues, we were Premier League champions! The success continues to this day and I still have to pinch myself that it’s all really happening.

Some people think that if you support Manchester City then you must be a glory hunter – oh, the irony! One question I get asked most in regards to this is “how long have you supported City for?” The answer is all my life. But if there was any doubt, the date that sealed it was 30th of May 1999, the year city won at Wembley.

Long may the good fortunes continue but even if it doesn’t I, like all the football fans I know, would still support our team through thick and thin. That’s my life as a Blue.