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As the UK  battles its way through the longest cold snap since 1981 shoppers swarmed their local supermarkets in an effort to stock up on food supplies.

Equipped with the knowledge that ‘the worst was yet to come’ manic scenes, some of which I was witness to took place at supermarkets throughout London.

Copyright of Claire Noble

Clutching my to-do list I embarked on my familiar stroll towards my local Sainsburys. Dashing through the aisles shoppers grabbed tinned goods by the dozen, while many, settling for what they could – chose from what was left on the bare shelves.

Forecasters accurately predicted snowfall of up to 40cm. If there was ever a time to bulk buy it was now.

According to Wednesdays Metro:

  • Asda saw a 100 per cent rise in sales of thermal underwear and a 129 per cent leap in the purchase of vacuüm flasks
  • Tescos soup sales  increased by 80 per cent
  • In Essex, Budgens said shop takings were triple the normal
  • Salt, cat litter and soups were among the most popular purchases
  • While Halfords said it had seen sales of snow chains and sleeping bags also rise.

Forecasters predict the  cold snap will continue  for the  next two weeks.

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Hand over mouth, a woman stares at the raw image captured before her. A young mother lies motionless on the streets of El Salvador, gunned down as be-wildered schoolchildren helplessly look on.  This is one of the 196 thought provoking and shocking images portrayed at the World Press Photo exhibition in London’s Royal Festival Hall.

There’s something for everyone here as each image varies in content from the harrowing scenes of violence, drug trafficking and prostitution to the delicate capturing of nature’s most elusive creature on earth – the snow leopard. Their placement on either side of the ground floor serves as a possible metaphor for the demand of public attention on various issues.

  • Gripping social issues of poverty, murder and homelessness appear on the right.
  • While on the left, sporting events, humour, daily life stories and the addressing of contemporary issues portray the lighter side of photography.

Overall winner Anthony Suau’s imagery suggests the times we live in as a new kind of war – the war on a fallen economy.  A chilling black and white photograph depicts a lone, armed sheriff entering a ransacked US home. At first glance one would be convinced that this is the result of a serious crime, however this is not the case.It is reflective of the times we live in, as one family, struggling to make mortgage repayments, subsequently lose their home.

His images, all black and white suggest the dark mood felt throughout the US as businesses, families and employees attempt to adjust to the sheer reality of a credit crunched world. The next shot captures the mood on the floor of the Chicago Stock exchange, you notice, with a chill the unpredictability etched on each employees face. Crumpled shirts, paper strewn floors the folded arms and blank expressions all predict unease.

  • What Anthony Suau achieves in his photographs is the ability of relating to the viewer.
  • He’s current and portrays this ‘new war’ by capturing people at their most fragile.

Here at DIY it is with a creative mind, and a musical ear that we welcome the familiar sight of aspiring indie songstress’.

Sashaying their way onto the new music scene, they emerge, carrying their own unique vocal and instrumentation arrangement that sets them apart in an already bubbling genre.  Lucy Day, an acoustic artist from Derbyshire, both passes and fails on said acquirements. It is all very new here, ‘Trick of the Light’ is a roughly mastered six track EP with only a few creating a real stir to the soul.

Courtesy of stock.xchng

Opening track ‘A Trick of the Light’ introduces Day‘s vocal abilities, the main strength of the album. This ability should flourish with the use of strong instrumentation and complementing percussive effects. Instead, at times it sounds a tad patchy, weak and honestly, a bit flat. ‘A Trick Of The Light’ has no great sense of movement, there is no authority or track crescendo –  rather it flows from beginning to end and exits safely with no great impact.

Music has the power to uplift the soul, trigger thoughts and tap into that addictive side of our personality (yes,  admit it – we all have one). Only a handful of tracks can pull off this charm.

As a newbie, Day provides a stable enough platform for herself  with her début. Furthermore, it could be argued that tracks like ‘Oh Desire’ and ‘A Fire In The Sea’, while holding the same unstructured flow as ‘A Trick Of The Light’, could be cleaned up a bit and tightened with the aid of professional recording.  Day, like many artists these days, recorded this EP in her bedroom, a method where few artists can achieve that perfected,  polished sound.

Stripped of fussy awkward instrumentation is where Day excels. A back to basics personal approach on ‘A Personal Disaster’ displays soft, innocent emotions in her voice.  ‘Our War’ an upbeat catchy pop number proves that maybe, with practice, Day will make perfect.

A week from today all evidence of my size ten wardrobe shall be binned.

Unless, of course I should toss them into the “one day, I shall fit into them box.” Oh wait…It’s full.

Courtesy of stock.xchng

Yes, Christmas is truly the time for complete overindulgence. On my part anyway. What I find worse is the period after, in which mountains of sweets, biscuits, chocolate and crisps lie lonely in every corner of your house.

It becomes an obstacle course of confectionary avoidance. However, it is probably the only time of year that this type of scoffing is accepted. Hell it’s actually celebrated. Breakfast becomes a selection box. Temptation lingers, and eventually chocolate wrappers take over your life.

And, just as you pledge your ‘three meal a day deal‘ with yourself, you crack. Guilt embeds itself on your brain. Tomorrow is built on promises.

But you can’t go for a walk, it’s the ‘cold snap‘ don’t you know?

On December 26 TV3 announced that Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer.  Mercilessly, they delivered the news, in one of the most insensitive broadcasts I have ever seen.

The seven minute broadcast aired on St Stephen’s day ended as it started – as a tactless piece of news journalism. TV3 said they received the story on Christmas Eve, and held back on running it for 48 hours out of respect for his family. But the hurried nature of the broadcast and its insensitivity failed in doing so.

Ursula Halligan splutters her way through a rushed bulletin, referring to Mr Lenihan in the past tense saying: “It’s shocking news for members of the public. Brian Lenihan was, eh, is regarded as one of the more popular members of the Government.”

  • TV3 had no official statement from the Government certifying Mr Lenihan’s illness.
  • Their aim was to be first, thus losing any credibility the station already had.
  • Had a more constructed bulletin been put in place, TV3 would not be in the firing line.
  • Furthermore, being of the public interest it would have made sense  – ethically speaking –  to run the story stating his  illness was unconfirmed.

Journalists were told that a statement would be made after Christmas and the Department of Finance confirmed nothing. The next thing was an e-mail began circulating around media outlets that TV3 were about to air a story of ‘National importance’. The broadcast continues as news anchor Collette Fitzpatrick asks Miss Halligan live on air: “is it too early to talk about the political consequences of this?”

In the 48 hours of keeping the lid on the story , care sensitivity and clarification should have been adapted to the nature of broadcast.

Countries toughest job

As Minister for Finance Mr Lenihan has without doubt the Countries toughest job.  Now more  so than ever Ireland relies heavily on his decisions to secure the economic wellbeing of  the state. I agree that the news should have been delivered.  But, not in the tasteless fashion of TV3. After all TV3’s defence was that the story was in the public interest, a statement I do not dispute. The fashion and the nature of the broadcast was my only gripe with this broadcast.

Blinded by the knowledge that this is this is the scoop to beat all scoopsthey failed  in realising that this broadcast reeked of merciless journalism.

A life of sacrifice

London Strategic Housing - Student block.

Decked in a delightful navy blue pinafore and armed with the most colourful assortment of washing utensils Aldoha Savickiene, has just finished her cleaning shift at London Strategic Housing’s student block.

Outside a group of trumpet wielding students attempt to play Jingle Bells, and after five minutes of flat notes, we move inside.

You get the feeling that sitting down is a rarity to Aldoha. But, given the opportunity its one she cherishes. Sipping on her coffee she begins to tell me why moving from Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania to Harrow, North West London has, what she calls its “hidden advantages.”

“Oh wait… I almost forgot.” She hands me an envelope of pictures, from her hometown of Vilnius, saying shyly “just to give you an insight of Lithuania.”

Out of the twenty something pictures she shows me, it’s evident that family life, for Aldoha is ultimately her top priority. I’m introduced to each and every member, even the in-laws. Knowing that she has highlighted the most important part of her existence Aldoha relaxes, and begins, what seems to be the unfamiliar task of speaking about herself.

“I saw it coming you know? This fall of economy, I knew it would happen.” Aldoha was a specialist in consumer banking in Nord Bank, Vilnius before a high cost of living coupled with low wages finally took its toll, forcing her and her family to make hard decisions about the prospect of life in the UK.  

“The price of food in Lithuania is the same as here” she says “but wages are very low.”

It was her job to predict market trends, recommend mortgages, chair meetings and devise the best insurance policies to those that came her way. A world apart from the 55 kitchen sinks she greets every morning in Kodac Court. Her decision to leave Lithuania wasn’t easy resulting in the painful separation of a mother from her husband and three children.

“I came to London to improve the lives of five people.” “This responsibility was enough to keep me working” she says. “They need a future. My husband looked after the children and I came to get us a job.”


A new start

Aldoha arrived in London in 2007 with no English. She says “I couldn’t even ask anyone for the time and if it wasn’t for my sister-in-law I don’t know what I would have done.”

She started off by working three jobs on minimal pay in Central London hotels. She begins mapping out her journey to me. It’s incredible.

Every morning at 6am, Aldoha would travel from her sister-in-law’s East London home to begin work in three separate hotels, starting in Southwark, moving onto Westminster and finishing up at 10pm in Farringdon.

Humour never fails Aldoha, as ever the optimist she smiles through these tales of language barriers, relocation and says:

“It’s funny, I’m fluent in Russian and Polish but I never thought I’d need English.”

After six months of hard work and sending money back home, her family arrived in London. Her husband works six nights a week as a handy-man and Aldoha now works a more relaxed schedule at London Strategic Housing.

When asked does she ever feel saddened that she had to work so hard, having enjoyed a life as a top end banker she says:

“cleaning is the wrong job for my brain, but I’m not scared of change, everyone needs it I’m grateful to get what I’m given – even if it’s not what I’m used to.”

Her choices of career sacrifice over family security are as inspiring as they are humbling. I ask her does the prospect of ever returning to Lithuania enter her mind?

She takes a second, glances downwards at the neat pile of photographs on the table and replies:

“I love my Country. But life as a family doesn’t work. I need to think about my family. A month’s wages in Lithuanian is equal to a week’s pay in London. My children get proper education and healthcare here, so financially, my answer would be no.”

Its Aldoha’s birthday next week, I ask her will she be celebrating. “Nah…work, Christmas all these things, if anything it will be a quiet affair.”

Christmas day will be spent in London with her family, a well deserved break for a mother in every essence of the word.

I tell her she’s more than welcome to view the interview before it’s published, to which she hastily replies:

“Thank you, but do you think I have time to be reading, (before bursting into laughter,) and what would I be doing reading something about myself?

At that, she takes out a battered notebook, scrawls down the Monday to-do list and cursing the very existence of the Great British weather, she walks away, with a smile that could conquer the world.

Randa El Tahawy cites French as her nationality and always will.  But, for now – home is Egypt.

However, this also has its disadvantages. Randa describes her attendance of French school in Egypt lead to the questioning of whether she was a “true Egyptian.”“Life has taught me a lot you know.” These life lessons are clear as we speak of her past and what the future holds. So far Randa has written but not expressed.

Sitting upright Randa begins, detailing with passion and poise why she wishes to write about the unwritten. Society pressures, dictation of living standards they all affect her one way or  another.

I was never able to go further than the commercial publications, its shallow and not me.” She tells of life in Egypt as that of great “prosperity” but buried beneath is a great societal  pressure, especially on young Women like herself to get married as soon as possible.

Randa tells me “it’s a marking of social status” and that “you are officially  member of Society” once the exchange of vows has taken place.

Although she says that people may believe  reporting on Women’s issues to be a  “cliché” subject, it’s an issue that she holds dear to herself and as long as it still exists she’ll no doubt report on it.

Representing her Country

I refuse to live my “life as a blank page, I dont want some bland reference every time someone mentions me, I want to be remembered.”

During her period as a professional Journalist and prior to her move to London Randa has written for three publications, all of which have omitted the chance to speak of  “real issues.”

These issues are more important now than ever as Randa believes by living in London she is “representing her country.”

Aspiring to fix the views of the Social elite and break restrictive reporting are two overwhelming aspirations, that will no doubt be touched on and possibly overtaken throughout her career path.