Basildon hero: Max Whitlock
With eleven medals and four titles in Olympic and world championships, Max Whitlock, who trains in Basildon, is the UK’s most successful ever gymnast. He here chats marriage, burgers and BTECs…
Where’s your favourite place in Essex?
I can’t not pick the gym. Obviously I train in Basildon and I have done for 12 years. So it’s been a long time that I’ve been there [Basildon Sporting Village, Carnes Farm Road] and it’s literally like my second home. I love being in that gym with all my teammates because there’s a great atmosphere and it’s a very rare situation where you get two year olds and three year olds training alongside our elite group.
What is your earliest memory?
I remember doing a lot of handstand competitions in the gym! I was always literally walking on my hands everywhere. But the first competition, I think this really spurred me on and the one that really stands out to me, must have been when I was about nine years old–ish. I came back with seven medals and that really pushed me as a youngster to want some more. Continue reading
Pregnant: Just days before Sonny Jim was born
When I was pregnant with Sonny Jim, I spent (almost) the entire time fretting that something would go wrong.
I refused to let anyone buy me anything baby-related until I was at least 24 weeks along. We didn’t decorate the nursery until only a few weeks before his due date.
I shunned all soft cheeses (and I LOVE soft cheese) I didn’t eat prawns (again, one of my very favourite things) and touched about half a flute of Prosecco the entire time.
As an IVF pregnancy, it was automatically classed as high risk. But my pregnancy was totally textbook and drama free. He even helpfully arrived six days early, sparing me from a swift induction.
Even still, there were so many things you were not supposed to do and were told to avoid it sometimes felt overwhelming. Continue reading
Here to help: Bridgette Smith and Vicky Harrington
TWO women who each escaped an abusive partner – and have gone on to help others like them – are speaking out for domestic violence awareness week.
Bridgette Smith and Vicky Harrington are both counsellors at Billericay’s Wolf Urban, and will be offering free advice for women at their drop-in service in the town for the week – which started yesterday, November 20.
The pair have both worked in Essex’s refuges and are passionate about helping the thousands of women – and men – living in an abusive relationship.
Mum-of-one, Vicky, who now lives in Westcliff, said: “We are both survivors of domestic abuse which is the driving force behind our passion to support, inspire and empower women and children to live free from fear and violence. Continue reading
A proper toddler: Sonny Jim
Sonny Jim is still a good few months off the terrible twos yet, but it seems he’s starting early.
A tantrum in a café when I wouldn’t let him lay on the floor to watch the ceiling fan (honestly, the boy loves anything that spins) got me thinking that you know you’re a mama to a toddler when…
1 You think nothing of sticking a half-eaten banana in your coat pocket. And you only remember it’s there when you go to put another in.
2 The cold leftovers of your little one’s dinner? You totally eat them.
3 While you spent the first months of your tot’s life sterilising EVERYTHING, now you’re all about the five (make that 30) second rule. Continue reading
Not just for November 11: Putting your poppy on your tree will keep our armed forces in your thoughts over Christmas too
So, Remembrance Sunday has been and gone. Armistice Day commemorations have been marked with a two-minute silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
I imagine your poppy is still pinned to your lapel, your coat, or your bag… but as the week closes, what will you do with it? Keep it there, until battered by the elements, it falls off? Will you throw it away? Or stick it in a drawer, forgotten about in the muddle of pens and receipts and long-ago-written notes?
Well, if you’re keen to do something more, here’s a custom I started more than a decade ago, when my poppy fell to the floor of our little cottage.
Just beachy: Chalkwell’s Saltwater Cafe
For more than 100 years, beach goers in Chalkwell have stopped off for a bite to eat or a cuppa at a cafe perched on the edge of the sands.
The pit stop, in Chalkwell Esplanade, even predates the railway station, whose bridge it is nestled beneath.
Now, in its newest incarnation as Saltwater Beach Café, it’s fast becoming the town’s most cherished beach-side bistro, loved by celebs like Essex’s Lee Mead, thanks to the Carr family.
The family took over the café in February, and after a complete renovation, opened their (bi-folding glass) doors in time for the first bank holiday in April. Continue reading
Worth it all: My Sonny Jim
The first IVF baby was conceived on this day, 40 years ago (#IVFis40).
To mark the (rather amazing!) milestone, as a mama of an IVF tot, here are some rubbish things no one ever tells you about it…
- If you are a needle-phobe, it will either break you – or cure you.
By my reckoning, one cycle of IVF probably involves you getting stabbed about 70 times (in your belly, your thigh, in your bum cheek.) A lot of them you’ll have to do yourself, or get your other half to do. You’ll even have a special yellow toxic-waste sharps bin – like actual drug addicts on TV. Continue reading