MOVING FORWARD


For the past couple of weeks, my mental health hadn’t been too great - so much so, that I decided to take a step back from both my blog and social media channels.

Having been a blogger now for three years, I found myself in a position that I wasn’t used to, nor had I felt before. I was constantly comparing myself to others on social media. Where I was in my life compared to others, whether it be my job, social life, my blog, feeling like I wasn’t moving forward yet everybody around me was, and I was even comparing my own physical appearance and body to others that I viewed on social media.

The overwhelming thoughts of ‘That’s it now, you’ve peaked - you’ve had your moment and nobody cares what you do next.’ ‘You’re clearly not good at what you do because you would be doing what they’re doing.’ ‘You’re shit.’ kept swirling around in my head, and I guess I just began to feel bogged down and as though these thoughts were right.

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Why was I blogging? What was the point? Does anybody actually care? Do I even enjoy this anymore?

As these thoughts became louder and my feelings became more mixed, I could feel my enthusiasm levels dwindling, not only for my blog, but for everything in general. I remember one Sunday I left my home and drove around aimlessly for 7 long hours almost in a daze until coming to the realisation that actually, it didn’t matter if others didn’t care, because I knew I no longer did.

People around me knew that something wasn’t right as I became quieter and began to withdraw from conversations and making an effort. It’s hard sometimes as I feel that I enjoy and love making people laugh so when I do, I tend to be rather dramatic (I blame my love for Tiffany Pollard/New York for this) so that when I do feel down, I fear that I won’t be taken seriously as I myself, try not to take life too seriously.

Luckily I was strong enough to be able to make the decision of taking a step back from social media and my blog as I could feel this was the main cause of my low mood and negative thoughts. The love and messages that came through once I had told my followers that I wasn’t feeling too great mentally, took me by surprise. Perhaps I had got into my head too much at this point? But I couldn’t shake off that ‘failure’ feeling. A colleague at work told me that she thought I was brave for putting myself out there for as I came across as vulnerable which got me to thinking… We need to start opening up more of a dialogue when it comes to mental health, and it certainly shouldn’t be seen as something that’s embarrassing, nor will it make you appear weak!

Being somebody who wears their heart on their sleeve, I try to be as transparent as possible, which is why I’m writing this. In my process of moving forward, I have since unfollowed those who no longer make me feel good about myself. I’ve just written that sentence and I have just cringed.

OF COURSE YOU SHOULDN’T BE FOLLOWING ANYBODY WHO DOESN’T MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF. FACT. END OF. PERIOD. THE END. GOODBYE. SEE YA LATER. TOODALOO. SHEEYA.

Prior to me feeling this way, I had booked a trip away to Prague, and I’ve always been a huge believer in ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and I truly believe that this trip was supposed to have happened at this particular time in my life for me to be able to step away from everything, and re-evaluate what is important to me. Having this time away from familiar surroundings allowed me to push myself out of my comfort zone and to switch off. I remember feeling apprehensive when the plane was beginning to land back in Leeds/Bradford airport in case all of those dark, negative thoughts came flooding back and I’ll be honest, those thoughts aren’t as loud anymore.

I do enjoy blogging, and having had the time away to reflect, I now know what is important to me and what simply isn’t. If I don’t get a chance to post on a particular date or a time, then it’s okay! I have now realised and learnt that sometimes, it’s not always about how much or how little you post, it’s about how you feel when doing something. If it makes you feel good, then that’s all that matters. I’m fully aware some people may read this and think ‘Oh chuffin’ ‘ell, what’s he got to whinge about???’ but writing this and posting it is a way forward for me. So that I am able to reflect on this period in time, and hopefully I’ll be able to see how far I’ll have come since then.

If you are struggling or struggle with your mental health, then please don’t suffer in silence.


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VALENTINES 2019


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It’s Valentines week! Over the next week I will be posting Valentines themed content so do not panic if you haven’t purchased for your loved one yet! Or, if you’re single, (like me), then perhaps I could give you a reason or two to treat yourself?

I hope you like this little fun ‘rebrand’ for Valentines and I would love to know what you’re up to for this occasion! Are you spending it with a loved one? Perhaps you’re single? If so, how are you spending it? Are you a fan of Valentines at all or do you find it too nauseating? Let me know!


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HUAWEI - STORYSIGN


Isn’t Christmas just the most magical time of the year? With all of the wonderful sounds of the Christmas Carollers singing the traditional carols, radio stations and stores playing those catchy Festive songs that get stuck in your head for hours on end, the excitable noises children make when they see Santa appear on TV!?

Well, with 32 million deaf children around the world, the sad reality is that many of them don’t get to hear or experience these sounds that many of us take for granted at Christmas time. They also don’t get to experience that close connection with getting lost in a book at bedtime when a story is being read to them, at a time when a child’s mind is the most imaginative.

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I recently joined Huawei on a 3 day trip to Lapland where I got to find out more about their latest release; StorySign. When I initially read the invite where it described a little bit about the app and how it aimed to help deaf children globally, I was naturally very intrigued, especially as it is so close to home for me being deaf myself and is a subject I am very passionate about when it comes to raising as much awareness for the deaf community!

After having had our breakfast, we then sat down to a presentation where the StorySign app got demonstrated to us. To create StorySign Huawei enlisted the help of experts;

  • Mark Wheatley - the executive director of the European Union of the Deaf.

  • Neil Pymer - the creative director at Aardman Animations best known for Wallace & Gromit.

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StorySign is an app in which Huawei want to help create an authentic way for deaf children to be able to interact with stories at bedtime. By using AI (Artificial Intelligence), it also features Image Recognition and Optical Character Recognition. The power of Image Recognition means that the books can be read from a 45 degree angle, creating a natural way to read a book at bedtime without having to worry about the best position of the book for the child to be able to understand. The Optical Character Recognition means that the books can be translated from words into Sign Language giving a more accurate reading, whilst the AI helps power the speed of the turning of pages which enables children to keep stimulated without having to wait too long to find out what happens next.

Neil Pymer gave us an insight into how the app had been created, telling us how each facial movement and hand movement in sign language had all been recorded and looked over at with a fine tooth-comb to ensure that the Sign Language is brought to life in the most natural way. I was pleased to see that facial movement had been translated and considered into the app, as with many deaf people, facial expressions and movements help to get their point across as well being able to lip read to fully understand what they’re saying! They came up with an avatar/character in the form of; ‘Star’. A young, animated girl who translates the words from the pages of a book, into Sign Language onto Huawei’s mobile screens.

Mark Wheatley signed on stage that he hopes that the StorySign app will create an impact in the deaf community and after having seen a short-film of deaf children who had visited Lapland prior to our arrival just a few days beforehand, it was abundantly clear to see that an impact had already been made. The children’s faces when Star appeared signing the words from the pages of the book onto the Huawei mobile screen were all lit up! The video itself was incredibly touching and really hammered home just how important and how much of a difference StorySign can, and is already making.

Meet Star!

Meet Star!

Once the presentation had ended, we were all then given an opportunity to use the StorySign app ourselves and hover it over the pages from the ‘Where’s Spot’ book, and that initial moment when Star first appeared, was magical! I think I can speak for everybody who had that opportunity of seeing it firsthand that we were all in amazement at how lifelike the animation of Star was and that the Sign Language was incredibly detailed down to the hand movements, and facial expressions.

Going to Lapland to be able to see StorySign ahead of its release was an experience I’ll never forget, and it has emphatically hit home just how important it is for any child to be able to have that special ‘Stories at Bedtime’ routine with their loved ones!

This short trailer below features Maisie who you may recognise from the Oscar Winning Movie: The Silent Child.

For me, I was a little shocked as to how this app has only just come about, and that there wasn’t anything else like this out there before Huawei’s release. It takes 43 minutes on average to read to a deaf child, yet it only takes 31 minutes to read to a hearing child! Deaf children are already at a disadvantage when they go to school, many of them being mainstream schools which don’t have the facilities or resources to be able to support deaf children with their literacy skills meaning many of them get left behind. With StorySign, this can help bridge that gap by improving the literacy skills of deaf children whilst enabling them to feel connected to the story!

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StorySign is available from Google Play Store and Huawei’s AppGallery across 10 countries in Western Europe. With the app having only been released just 2 days ago, Huawei have set up the app to be able to translate the ‘Where’s Spot?’ book, but hopes to add to its library once the StorySign movement gets underway. To help expand the library for more books to be translated into Sign Language, simply donate here.

Thank you Huawei for inviting me along, it’s been a magical experience!

Will you be trying out StorySign? Have you already tried it? If so, what do you think to it? Do you think it will make a difference to the deaf community? What other books would you like to see be translated? I would love to hear your thoughts on this as I genuinely believe it will make a huge difference so leave me a comment below so we can continue spreading awareness! Don’t forget to click the ‘like’ button also!


LAPLAND WITH HUAWEI


An email came through to my inbox with the subject line of ‘Hi Luke - Invite to Lapland’ and before I had chance to read the details in full, I had already RSVP’d with YES!! The trip was to join the technology giant - Huawei, on a magical 3 day trip to Lapland to get an exclusive look ahead of their latest release. In this blog post, I will be talking about my experience of Lapland in full, and in Wednesdays blog post I will be able to reveal more details as to what Huawei’s newest release is all about, which will give you a better insight as to why I had been invited along!

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From receiving the invitation on a Tuesday, to landing in Lapland the following Sunday, the build up to the trip was a bit of a whirlwind, and was a trip that had many firsts for me. I had never flown abroad by myself before, I had never been to a country covered in snow with sub zero temperatures before, nor had I ever participated in any ‘snow activities’ other than attempting to ski down the dry, fake grass ski slopes - I say attempting as I recall face-planting the floor several times much to the amusement of my old school friends! Panic started to set in with regards to clothing, as I was completely unsure on what to wear and what would be deemed as appropriate outdoor clothing to take with me. If it was up to me, I would have dressed head to toe in faux fur, but this suggestion didn’t go down too well with my family… Luckily, this was all around the time of Black Friday. Thank God for those 75% off deals!

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On the morning of departure, I woke up feeling excited yet a little apprehensive about checking in and the whole airport procedure as I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. With that being said, I just followed the signs and I decided to attempt each part of the check-in process in stages, so it felt less overwhelming. There were two main things that struck me about Heathrow. Firstly, the sheer size of the airport, it was huge. Secondly, how deaf it made me feel! I know that may sound confusing and a little strange, but it was just so noisy! The noises of luggage being dragged around, the many different tannoys that seemed to be mumbled and jumbled, the general hubbub of crowds and distorted background noise. Once I had checked in and I had made my way through to the boarding gate, the feeling of nerves and confusion soon subsided to excitement for the upcoming days ahead!

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The flight to Lapland was split in two, the first to Helsinki which we then had a private chartered flight from Helsinki to Lapland itself. I was unaware that the private flight was indeed private, until I began to notice the Huawei branding everywhere and we had all been given a pack which outlined the itinerary of our trip. We were also incredibly fortunate enough to have received our very own Huawei Mate20 Pro, so we could take many photographs and videos to document the duration of our stay!

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I then got introduced to 5 other members in our UK team and off we set to our hotel and as we drove to our destination in the darkness, it struck me how isolated and remote Lapland was as we seemed to pass a car every 10 to 15 minutes. As we pulled up to the hotel, I was in complete awe. The hotel we stayed at was: Star Arctic which was situated on the very top of a hill overlooking the nearby town; Saariselkä which was all lit up, dazzling the night’s skyline.

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Our UK team sat down for dinner and having had a glance over at the menu, I had to do a double take as I saw that our main course contained Reindeer… I ate Rudolph! (Sorry guys.) It was great to immerse myself in local Finnish culture by eating their food, which I would never have done otherwise! After a glass of wine (or 4), I then retired to my cabin and conked out straight away after a long day of travelling. The following morning we all gathered at reception and we were then shown their latest release which I will reveal all on Wednesday… Once we had been given our snowsuits ready for the days ‘snow activities’, we then began our hike up into the snow!

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Prior to our hike, I had layered myself up in about 8 layers of clothing which proved to be very useful as it was -7º outside and I didn’t feel the cold at all! Further into our hike, I could see in the far distance a man covered head to toe in fur (faux I think!) and my initial thought was ‘What on earth is going on here?’ As we got closer and closer, it soon became apparent that this was part of our experience and he began to talk a little about the history of Lapland in his deep, bellowing voice. He then came around each and every one of us and gave us his ‘blessing’ with his good luck charm which involved him stroking an faux animals paw across our faces… It was a very surreal yet special moment, and one that will remain a fond memory of mine from the overall trip! We then came across some miniature bottles of Brandy and after downing 2 bottles, it sure did the good ol’ job of warming me right up again!

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The sun rose at around 10am, a good hour before setting off on our hike and it then began to set at around 2.30pm which felt incredibly surreal! Once we had eaten as much bread and soup to our hearts content, we then set off in a bus to our next ‘snow activity’ which included tobogganing down a ski slope. Now, I will admit, I am a huge wuss when it comes to rides of any kind, so I opted out and instead took many photographs of the surroundings which completely took my breath away. Everything felt so serene and calm, it was a different world I had never experienced before! Once the activities were over, we then headed back to base to get ready for dinner at a traditional Finnish restaurant where for our main course this time, we had ‘Air Dried Bear’. I didn’t even know this was a thing!? I can only describe it as crackling and I hate to say it, but it was rather tasty…

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The following morning arrived for our departure and it felt that it had ended as quickly as it had begun. At the time of being in Lapland we were kept so busy that for me, I didn’t have the time to soak it all in and it was only on the flight home that it dawned on me what an incredible experience and opportunity it was for me to have. Lapland was truly one of the most magical experiences and from start to finish it flowed seamlessly. Thank you Huawei for inviting me along, I am truly grateful!

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As stated earlier, on Wednesday I will be sharing with you my blog post on Huawei’s latest release and the reason I had been invited, so do check back for that blog post very shortly! Also, all the photographs seen within this blog post were all taken on my new Huawei Mate20 Pro phone!

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Have you visited Lapland before? Will you be going anytime soon? Have you used any of Huawei’s products before? Used the latest Mate20 Pro? What do you think? Let me know your thoughts below as I would love to hear from you, and don’t forget to click the ‘like’ button!


CHRISTMAS 2018


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MERRY CHRISTMAS

It may seem a little early to be bringing out my Christmas branding, however, now that the Christmas adverts are all out in full force gearing up for Christmas, then nobody can argue with me for this right?

It seems crazy to think that my first Christmas event was back in July to preview some Christmas goodies, but it was also exciting to have had the chance to be able to see what the trends were for this season giving me many ideas in terms of content and of course, Christmas gifts! I have a lot of content planned, so much so that I could be joining in with the infamous ‘Blogmas’ where a Christmas themed blog gets posted daily throughout the month of December and this is purely down to the amount of content I have lined up…

Thank you all for your support thus far and I do hope you enjoy my Festive ‘Makeover’ along with my upcoming content and if there is anything you would like to see from me then please do let me know down below!


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PUMPKIN PICKIN' AT BIRCHFIELD FARM


Whenever Autumn came around I used to always see bloggers in these ‘Pumpkin Fields’ and I’d say to my friends ‘Right, that’s it! We’re going pumpkin pickin!’ but for some reason it just never happened. That was until this year where I discovered a Pumpkin Farm just 10/15 minutes away from my doorstep!

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Birchfield Farm is situated just outside of Ripley in the sleepy village of Summerbridge and prior to going to Birchfield Farm, despite how daft this may sound, I just didn’t know what to wear… I don’t do casual/practical clothing and given that I was off to a field I knew I’d have to compromise slightly. In the end I decided to go for my Idle Grey Sweater, ASOS Tan Overcoat, boohooMAN ripped jeans and my Debenhams: Hammond & Co by Patrick Gant boots!

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My friend was driving us both there and as we approached Birchfield Farm we were looking down the hills and the realisation that perhaps we were too early in the season to go Pumpkin Pickin’ dawned on us as we could only see 2 pumpkins… Nevertheless, we carried on and as we parked up we could see a couple of people in the fields with wheelbarrows so we figured that there must obviously be more than just 2…

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We made our way into the fields where we were told that we could pick out whichever pumpkin we wanted, they would then weigh the pumpkin and then they would work out the pricing whether it’s Small/Medium/Large. There were pumpkins EVERYWHERE! Orange, white, green, yellow, big, huge, small, petite, medium… So much to choose from!

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In the end we decided to go for a petite orange pumpkin which came to £2.50. As we went early in the season, we were told that the pumpkin wouldn’t last until Halloween and would only last a couple of days once carved so we took the opportunity to head into a barn and began to carve out our creation! The staff at the farm supply you with a cutting knife, a pot to dispose of the excess pumpkin rubbish and some Pumpkin designs should you need any. My friend and I decided to name our little creation ‘Pumpkin Spice’! Once we were done, we went to their little cafe where they do a range of delicious food and treats such as waffles, cakes, ice cream and milkshakes!

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Birchfield Farms ‘Pumpkin Festival’ is currently open from now until 31st October from 10am-4pm! A cute afternoon out where you could take your whole family, or like me, just go along with a friend and have some fun! For more details of the farm, click here and you can get directions to the Birchfield Farm with their address below:

Birchfield Family Dairies
Oakmount House
Birchfield Farm
Summerbridge
Harrogate 
North Yorkshire
HG3 4JS

Have you visited Birchfield Farm before? If so, when did you visit? Will you be heading along to their Pumpkin Festival? Are you a fan of Halloween? Are you doing anything special for Halloween? Do let me know your thoughts below as I would love to hear from you and don’t forget to click the ‘like’ button below!


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3


It seems surreal to think that 3 years ago to this date I hit 'publish' on my blog for the very first time, yet I remember it as if it was yesterday. I remember feeling as equally blasé as I was nervous. 

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'Omg I'm gunna click publish omg omg omg but what if nobody reads it??? What if it's a flop?? How embarrassing! I'd die if nobody read it!!' 'Oh who cares, nowt'll happen anyway.'

I hope this gives you a better insight as to where my head was at at that time...

I feel that being in my third year of blogging going into my fourth that I am more established as a blogger and I feel very proud to get to this point. Having said that however, now that I'm at this point, I want to go further than just being a 'blogger'.

I have become an ambassador for Phonak (a company who develop and make hearing aids), and never did I think that this would be an avenue I could go down simply through blogging! Raising awareness for the deaf community has become important to me and there are so many things I want to do and have planned so watch this space!

Thank you all so so much for all of your support, every 'like', 'comment', 'retweet', 'thumb up', 'thumb down', 'emails', 'direct message', just any form of communication has meant so so much to me and I thank you for this. 

Here's to year 4...


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