The Student Migration: International Students in the UK

A Benedictine monk and a Ghanaian walk past each other…

No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke. This is university. In the UK, our universities serve to bring together all nations, colours and religions in one place, an eye-opening experience for any student and representative of one of our country’s great assets: multiculturalism and diversity. I have met students from all over the world, from Iran to Cyprus in my time as a student. Their experiences have in many ways marked me, with a sense of our common humanity, and also, with a profound understanding of how differently we see the world.

International students often come to the UK to work hard, learn and experience new things: for example, a German friend of mine, Hans*, refuses to speak in German whilst he is in England. He wants to respect the land he is studying in and improve his English, or, as he puts it, what’s the point of coming here? This enthusiasm can enable international students to not only learn but teach UK students to appreciate their country. I knew a Nigerian, Ikenna*, who was sitting next to me as the first snow fell. The look on his face was like a child’s; so delighted and awestruck at seeing what had only been in pictures actually falling outside his window. He was grinning like a boy on Christmas day, while trains and cars came to a standstill around the campus. I had never appreciated the cold white stuff so much. The weather we grow up to complain about had become a magical thing again.

Other cultures can often teach us to let go and have fun. In the endless repetition of going out, getting drunk, and recovering from a hangover, I was shown one night that I had forgotten how to enjoy myself, how to listen to the music and actually dance. At a reggae and R&B night on campus, I found myself in a group of students from Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, and El Salvador. Decidedly, this was the most talented group of nations in the art of dancing. So we had a street-dance type contest in the middle of the bar: African vs. Caribbean vs. Latino. Having learned to dance in West Africa, I represented the group I most identified with, but we were soundly beaten by the Caribbeans, who had the benefit of a soundly muscled dreadlocked guy who rolled his hips like no man I’ve ever seen! Clapping and whooping in a circle of so many different faces was exhilarating. That night, I learnt to feel something different, to let go of my English inhibition and really enjoy myself.

On the other hand, this lack of inhibition can be daunting for some students who have come from a country that has stricter codes of behaviour than ours, often enforced by law. For example, I met a postgraduate student at a karaoke bar named Yousef*. He was put off by the noise, the binge drinking and the sexual promiscuity, all things that would not have been allowed in his native Iran. He said that the culture shock was, at first, hard to get over. The most controversial part of UK life, he told me, was something we take for granted every day: I, a woman, not his sister or aunt or wife, was sat talking to him in a bar. Men and women mingle everywhere, talking and laughing and hugging each other, all in the spirit of friendship, and this is entirely normal; but not for Yousef. He recalled an incident in Iran where he went for a drive with a childhood friend, drinking coffee and talking. Sounds innocent enough, no? Apparently not, as the car was pulled over by the Iranian police and Yousef was almost arrested. He had to beg for mercy and was let off with a warning, for the crime of sitting next to a woman in a car. This was his idea of normality. And after the free socialising of different genders in the UK, when he went home for the holidays he admitted that it was hard to keep himself in check and his time away sometimes shed a harsh new light on his native country. Despite this, he is apprehensive of the promiscuity of women and men in the UK and the damage this may be doing to our young people. I can see his point.

How does one return home after a taste of such freedom? Yousef admitted that he was considering staying in England, and I’ve heard this opinion before, from Ikenna, who has not returned to Nigeria after his Postgraduate degree. He found life in the UK far too tempting and really made himself a home here. I guess, for him, the grass really was greener on the other side. Some people don’t integrate so well, however. A flatmate of mine from Bermuda, Serena*, never seemed to leave her room and found it hard to socialise with our all-white, loud, mostly English corridor of students. I don’t blame her. She was a long way from home and obviously found it hard to be away from everything she had ever known.

There are others for whom the choice to stay or to go is not so easy. Another postgraduate friend of mine, Fatima*, is from a troubled country in the Middle East. She found herself unable to return home, fearing for her safety in her war-torn homeland, and spent the Christmas holidays on campus. She faces not only danger but prejudice back home; being a lesbian, she has been free to explore her sexuality and meet like-minded people at university. Back in her home country, homosexuality is illegal. There have been many stories like hers, of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people making the most of their liberty in the UK and dreading the return to a homophobic culture. I know people who have come from Middle-Eastern and African countries that can’t be out on Facebook, have to control their interactions carefully, and could never come out to their families and friends back home for fear of victimisation and even imprisonment.

On the one hand, our more tolerant society offers opportunities to live openly and unashamedly as an LGBT person, as a woman, as a person with equal rights. On the other hand, as me and Yousef have discussed at length, how will their respective native countries ever change and progress (in terms of tolerance) if the international students never return home to contribute their experiences and knowledge to their national future? I can see both arguments, and would never judge either choice. All I know is that I personally am glad to have widened my worldview, met some extremely interesting people and learned to understand and appreciate the unique benefits that living in this country provides.

*Names have been changed to respect the subjects’ privacy.

http://www.tamu-commerce.edu/international/offcampus_employment.asp

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.- “The Well”

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The mysterious artefact that sets the episode in motion…

 The Well is the most competently written and well made episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far. Until this episode, the show has grappled with an inconsistent tone and lazy writing. Whilst The Well is far from perfect television, it does demonstrate a strong sense of identity and boasts an intriguing plot. Like recent episodes of the show, the episode is tied directly to the events of the film Thor: The Dark World that (as of this writing) is still playing in theatres. This connection to the larger Marvel franchise adds a certain level of gravity to the events unfolding, yet is vague enough to not confuse viewers who are not as familiar with the Marvel movie franchises. This link to the larger fictional universe, coupled with the greatly improved writing, permits this episode to really feel like a legitimate companion piece to Marvel’s recent cinematic efforts.

Set right after the events of the second Thor film, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his S.H.I.E.L.D. team are in Britain; investigating the alien attack that recently took place there. Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) explains to her teammates (and to the audience by extension) that the gods of ancient mythology were in fact alien beings from other universes and that “magic” is in fact extremely sophisticated science that humans do not understand. This crucial concept is at the heart of the Marvel film universe (of which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a spin-off). Immediately as the episode begins, the viewer is reminded of the connection between this show and its cinematic cousins, lending a sense of grandiosity and importance to the episode’s events. The narrative properly commences in the second scene. Two Norwegian extremists discover an alien artefact in a forest and use the artefact’s bizarre powers to muster an army. Soon Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) is affected by the artefact and must track the extremists across Europe before he’s driven mad by visions of his past. The team’s only hope of stopping the extremists and curing Ward lies in a professor of Norse mythology (Peter MacNicol) who has more than a few secrets of his own.

The episode is certainly not without fault. The ending is extremely abrupt and easy; everything endangering the team is quickly defeated and forgotten about within a few short scenes. The episode’s writers seem to have little to no understanding of how large Europe is (the characters travel from England to Spain to Norway to Ireland in barely any time at all). Members of contemporary Pagan religious may be somewhat offended by how this episode defines their belief system and confuses it with Odinism. Most disappointing but not unexpected is the fact that the ideology of the episode’s villains is never explained. The antagonists this week are a Norwegian “hate group”: nothing more is said of who they are and what their intentions are likely to be. One can make a logical assumption that the intent of the writers was to call to mind the 2011 Norwegian terrorist attacks committed by far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik. This is some extremely dark and mature subject matter for a superhero TV show to touch on and such courage should be commended. The best science fiction television is frequently a means by which writers are able to deliver commentary about heavy world issues in an entertaining manner. However, the fact that this dark connection is only hinted at and not directly confronted makes one wonder why the writers chose to even address this topic in the first place.

However, aside from these issues, The Well is a surprisingly strong entry. Guest star Peter MacNicol delivers an amusing performance as the slimy Professor Randolph. The character is a fun distraction from the episode’s bleak subject matter and the ultimate twist reveal about him is unexpected and fascinating. Much more personality is given to the character of Ward, who has mostly been relegated to the position of “macho tough guy” until this point. The episode’s title is a reference to a tragic occasion in Ward’s past that comes back to haunt him. The events of the episode serve to examine and humanise the character. The writing is so much more competent than it was two episodes ago (when this same character introspection was attempted with Simmons and failed miserably). The episode is also much more successful in its character dialogue. Whereas most episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. exhibit the characters speaking to each other in a series of one-liners and witty retorts, most of the writing in this most recent episode feels very natural. Despite the ending being somewhat hurried, the final few scenes of the episode are very intriguing as they set up some very interesting character conflict to come. The “post-credits” stinger that closes out the episode is also very intriguing to long time fans of the show (yet another indication that Coulson may not be who he thinks he is). This was a really strong and really fun episode of a show that has had little of either so far. If every episode was as strong as this one, the reputation of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be very different.

Image from bearmcready.com

Three Ways to Beat the Blues

London Life Coach & Clinical Hypnotherapist Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about depression. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

Tennessee Williams once said, “when so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone”, likewise it is important to note that in the UK approximately 1 in 5 people suffer with depression so there is no need to deal with your feelings on your own.

It is very common with individuals suffering from depression to dissociate themselves from their friends and family. Even though they are desperate for contact with others, they feel overwhelmed at the thought of reaching out and/or explaining their feelings. These feelings can include irritability, loss of appetite, reduced sex drive, anger, tearfulness, insomnia, exhaustion, negative thinking, lack of motivation, hopelessness and a loss of purpose.

Depression is a broad term which can be internal (genetic, biological and physical) or external (environmental and/or psychological). Different types of depression are seen in a wide range of mood disorders ranging from Seasonal Affective Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome to Bipolar Disorder. Depression, be it internal or external, can affect all aspects of the individual’s life and often lasts at least a few weeks if not months. The shift in the person’s perception and internal thought processes can be alarming for the individual because they recognise that their mood has lessened but more often than not they do not know why.

There are many treatments out there for depression with the medical profession focusing on anti-depressants which come in all shapes and sizes from tricyclics to SSRIs to MAOs. This can be quite daunting to someone who is already depressed so below we talk about some less conventional ways to help beat the blues.

Equine Therapy

There is an equine facilitated learning retreat based in Colchester called “Feel Authentic”. Both Claire Cracknell and Janice Donovan run this retreat and use controlled interaction and specific exercises in conjunction with horses to highlight how our outer false self conflicts with our true self and can play an important role in our depression. Such internal discord results in a set of negative self beliefs and it is these such beliefs that Claire and Janice expose to their clients with the aid of their equine friends.

The session involves using the horse’s behaviour as metaphors for circumstances in the client’s life and through exercises (backed by research and psychology) to allow the client to understand and perceive their circumstances with a greater clarity, enabling them to find the courage and understanding to begin the journey towards a life they both desire and deserve. Anyone trying equine therapy will be invited to be at one with the horse and learn to react to feelings.

There is a lot to learn from these animals as they process information in a different way from humans and view emotions as signals that require action and adaptation. For example, if a horse is in a situation where the appropriate emotion signal is that of fear, they will process such information as a danger signal, reposition themselves away from the danger and continue on doing whatever they were doing before unphased by what a human would have called an emotive circumstance. It is this very objectivity displayed by the horse that we as humans can learn from, i.e. to not dwell in negative feelings caused by an emotional trigger which would send us spiralling into a vicious loop of uncertainty and low self-esteem.

If you are interested in a session at Feel Authentic, please call 01787 223 237 to make a booking.

Nutritional Therapy

If there is not an obvious external cause for depression, nutritional therapists advocate that our emotions and mental state are heavily influenced by the types of foods we eat. It is commonly known that the brain requires food (fuel) to function but more often than not we supply our brain with a quick fix of glucose in the form of high sugar foods like pizza, cakes, chocolate and fizzy drinks, yet these only cause a temporary but fast rise in sugar levels followed by a crash of the same. Outwardly a person who fuels their body in this manner will appear to have mood swings. Add to this internal chemical imbalance even the smallest of anxiety-inducing situations such as a deadline at work or a fight with your partner and you are not far from the slippery slope towards depression.

If you believe this may be the trigger of your depression, an easy fix which doesn’t require anti-depressants can be a change in diet. This can be as easy as increasing your low GI foods such as oats, brown rice, green vegetables, pulses and nuts. In addition, for those who still have a sweet tooth and want the occasional treat, this can be combated with an increase in chromium containing foods as chromium will help the production of insulin and this will maintain your blood sugar levels. Chromium containing foods include garlic, cinnamon and even broccoli to name but a few. Another important food type associated with mood often referred to as the “happiness hormone” is serotonin pre-cursor tryptophan which can be found turkey and yoghurt. If these foods do not appeal to you, eggs (which cointain phenylalanine) and avocados and almonds (which contain tyrosine) are great sources of the amnio acids which facilitate dopamine production which like serotonin will also give our brain a quick pick-me-up.

A final good all-rounder would be to take a multi-vitamin with particular emphasis on your B and D vitamins. For more natural approach to these vitamins, increase intake of dark green vegetables such as spinach and kale and/or grains such as millet and quinoa for your B vitamin intake and for non-vegetarians a good source of vitamin D includes mackerel, sardines and eggs.

Bach Flower Remedies

Bach Flower Remedies are now easily available at local health food shops. They have been thought to help improve negative states of mind and emotional imbalances resulting in positive outcomes and attitudes. The aim of this remedy is to treat the person not the disease, resolving illnesses at their root cause. These remedies can be given in tinctures or an easy to use spray and in some cases have been incorporated into chewing gum.

Although common consensus is to think the Bach Remedies are for light depression, research has shown that they can be effective in the more severe cases and they are able to be used alongside more conventional medicine.

Bach Rescue Remedy is suggested as a good all-rounder, gorse for feelings of hopelessness, mustard for a quick onset of depression out of the blue, and olive for when a person feels exhausted and needing to regain strength.

For further information visit www.bachremedies.co.uk.

The above three therapies are not the only alternative remedies. If none of these appeal to you, do look into exercising, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, clinical hypnosis, medical herbalism and cognitive behaviour therapy. As humans, we are complex individuals. There is no one fix to cure all but no doubt one of the alternative therapies out there can be used in conjunction or instead of conventional medications so long as approved by your doctor.

Images reproduced from couriermail.com.au, elcivics.com and creaturecomforters.co.uk

Alzheimer’s Decline More Dramatic in ‘Young Old’

Research suggests that despite the risk of Alzheimer’s increasing with age, those in their 60s and 70s show faster rates of decline than people who develop the disease at an older age. The study is published online on 2 August in the journal PLoS ONE.

While developing the disease is not an inevitability, age is the biggest known risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s, and almost half of people over the age of 85 developing the disease. Scientists believe that as our bodies change with age, we may become more susceptible to the triggers of the disease. While this would suggest that those who developed the disease at a very old age would be hardest hit, researchers from the US have presented findings suggesting that the ‘youngest old’ may decline the fastest.

The team from the University of California followed 723 people between the ages of 65 to 90 years for up to three years. The volunteers were either cognitively healthy, had Alzheimer’s disease, or had mild cognitive impairment – a state of memory and thinking problems not severe enough to be classed as dementia. The scientists used MRI brain scans to look for changes in the volunteers’ brains over time, and used a spinal tap to measure levels of markers of the Alzheimer’s in their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Memory and thinking skills were also measured using cognitive tests.

The team found that older people with Alzheimer’s showed a slower rate of decline than younger people with the disease. The study showed that those with Alzheimer’s disease over the age of 80 had less change on their brain scans over time, slower decline in performance on cognitive tests, and less evidence of disease in their CSF compared to those of a younger age.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These findings challenge the misconception that Alzheimer’s and dementia is only a problem for much older people, suggesting it may be more aggressive in people in their 60s and 70s. The results highlight the importance of helping younger people with Alzheimer’s to access clinical trials, as new drugs could have a big impact on their lives.

“With more people reaching retirement age, it is important to understand how Alzheimer’s affects people of different ages. Understanding why very elderly people with Alzheimer’s are less likely to feel its full force could provide new clues for preventing or slowing the disease. To answer these questions, we must invest in research.”

Image reproduced from http://static.ddmcdn.com/

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “The Hub”

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Saffron Burrows appears as Agent Victoria Hand

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to try to build an identity for itself in the most recent episode; The Hub. After the sentimental and corny tone of the last episode, this is certainly an improvement (if only a slight one). Unlike the previous instalment, the emotional stakes of this episode feel legitimate and the moments of tension are far better conceived. Were it not for some extremely poor writing decisions, this could have been the first episode since the pilot to rise above being “passable”. Unfortunately, as with almost every episode so far, the faults have a severe impact. The Hub begins with a very tense and well directed sequence in which Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is rescued from a foreign military facility. Coulson and his agents then report to “the Hub”; a mysterious S.H.I.E.L.D. base of operations. Soon Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) are dispatched to Georgia to track down a powerful new weapon. Only after the two have departed for their mission does Skye (Chloe Bennet) discover that her fellow agents are being sent to their deaths.

There are a lot of things to like about this episode. The two interconnected plots (Ward and Fitz’s mission and Skye trying to mount a rescue) are tense and fast-paced. There is a strong emphasis on character interaction over action and spectacle. The fact that the superhero science fiction aspect of the show is used very minimally in this episode allows for more focus to be given to the characters themselves instead of the Marvel Comics references (although the episode does feature a cameo from Saffron Burrows as a character from the comic book source material). Perhaps most interesting is the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally being written and presented as a massive organisation with complex political allegiances. A new viewer who is unfamiliar with the Marvel Studios films could easily make the mistake of believing that Coulson and his team are S.H.I.E.L.D.. This is the first episode that really promotes the idea of them being a small part of a larger whole. Coulson’s team are written as if they are members of a family; their association with one another is very informal and familial. This has given the impression that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a rather homely, friendly entity. This episode re-emphasises the more sinister and secretive side of the organisation.

However, the problems with The Hub outweigh these positive attributes. The character dialogue continues to be surprisingly irritating; an attempt to mimic the witty banter wordplay of Joss Whedon but failing to achieve that writer’s perfect balance of humour and drama. The scenes of Skye convincing Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) to help her hack into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s restricted files is written like a child is convincing her little sister to do something naughty; one could easily forget that these two are supposed to be adults. Obviously the intent of the writer is to make the characters seem human and endearing, but more often than not, they merely come across as incompetent, stupid and possibly a bit insane. These scenes between Skye and Simmons are meant to mirror those between Ward and Fitz (Skye and Ward are slowly being set up as a couple as are Fitz and Simmons). In both cases, a novice is being pushed out of their depth by someone who is more experienced. Also in both cases, the novice proves themselves to be more cunning and devious than the more experienced team member realised. This attempted narrative symmetry just comes across as lazy and perhaps even a little bit sexist: Fitz proves himself to Ward by being surprisingly tactical and brave, whilst Simmons proves herself to Skye by being surprisingly flirtatious and manipulative. Another troubling element of this episode is the continuing identity crisis that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has in relation to its politics. Instead of outright avoiding the question of what it means to work for a government organisation that polices the world, the show keeps trying to address social commentary about freedom and security. Throughout the episode, Skye is told to “trust the system”. When she objects to this philosophy, Fitz makes a bizarre comment about radical socialism; as if Skye’s concern over what the organisation that she works for is secretly doing  is “socialist”. Victory is only gained when Skye and the others defy the system that they keep being told to trust. This apparent stance against government cover-ups is then torpedoed by the saffron burrows character claiming that their insurrection was always part of the plan and that they are still working within “the system”; as if the character’s display of antiestablishment rebellion was something that the show’s writers felt that they needed to apologise for. At the very end of the episode, there is a not-at-all subtle implication that S.H.I.E.L.D. is continuing to lie to Coulson and that Coulson in turn is continuing to lie to his team, reversing the “trust the system” theme of the episode. These issues with The Hub prevent it from being considered a strong episode. The things that work about this episode work really well. Unfortunately, they are not enough to save this latest instalment from its own monumental errors.

Image from tvyaddo.com

How Do I Get Over My Miscarriage?

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about miscarriage, Kelly Brook and how to get over losing a baby. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

Thank you for your question and I am very sorry for your loss. You do not say in which trimester you were in however whenever it happened this situation is traumatic for any couple. I am very pleased to hear on a physiological level that your doctors have given you the OK to try again and have no qualms with you being successful a second time however I also understand and hear your point that although the doctors treat the physiological symptoms you only have your husband to turn to for the psychological symptoms and although it sounds like he is a rock this has obviously been hard on both of you.

The first stage you have probably already gone through is grief which is perfactly natural. Both our conscious and subconscious do not like the thought of loss and react badly to situations where there is such.

In addition your body will be going through hormonal changes which can hinder your recovery process.

The most important thing to remember here is that this is a devastating situation and there is no right or wrong way to react to such. The best advice is to sit in a room with only you and your thoughts and come up with an action plan of how long you think is suitable to accept and go with the emotions of self-pity, fear, grief, distress or guilt or whatever emotion you are feeling and make that date your deadline. Such a date can be a day from now, a week from now or a month from now however when that day comes – especially as you have a supportive partner – it is time to brave the big bad world and just do something like go out for dinner or a comedy club or the theatre and realise it’s OK to laugh and move on and although life has its mysterious twists and turns that you will bounce back from this and no-one will think any less of you whether it takes a month or a year.

A good role model and celebrity who has been in the spotlight after the loss of her daughter when she was five months into her pregnancy is Kelly Brook. Again like you her boyfriend (Thom Evans) have been supporting each other. As she has a public following, the day she finally stepped back into the real world unlike you she had to do it publicly and although Kelly has had a difficult few months, she managed to update her Twitter followers thanking them for their love and support and has finally been seen venturing out on her first public engagement in London since her miscarriage.

All of us at City Connect wish you the best for a speedy recovery and emotional bounce back. We don’t expect you to bury or hide your feelings about such a dramatic loss but I for one know that if you are strong enough to write and ask for help I have no doubt that before long you will be strong enough to return to work and your original life.

Good luck with your recovery. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to get in touch. I also hope to hear from any of you who have gone through the same situation and have helpful tips to help and support our distressed reader. Please leave your comments below.

Image reproduced from moviezadda.com

How to Improve Your CV

Did you ever wonder what happens to your CV once you apply to a job? You finally find the perfect job posting, you’ve read the job description a hundred times and KNOW you can do the job; it’s the dream job you’ve always wanted.

So, you sit down and write a carefully crafted cover letter outlining your skills and how you would be the perfect fit for the job. You edit your CV to better showcase your skills as they relate to the position. Finally, after spell and grammar check, a last minute once over; you submit your CV through the online application.

You did it! You applied! You just know as soon as the corporate recruiter reads your CV you’re going to get a phone call. In fact it’s been 15 minutes since you submitted your CV, you should be getting a call any minute…

As a corporate recruiter, more often than not I find that people applying for jobs through our website are not qualified for the position they are applying for. On average I would say that two thirds of applicants for any given position are not a fit. While they may state a good case in their cover letter as to why they would like the job and think they are a good fit for the position; in reality based upon the experience listed on their CV they have no relevant experience and it is really more like a “dream job.”

As both a professional CV writer and a corporate recruiter, I view hundreds of CVs a day and my biggest “pet peeve” is when someone applies to a job that they are not remotely qualified for. If I specifically state in my job description that the successful candidate MUST HAVE PLC programming experience or a CPA certification, I will only consider candidates that have that experience listed on their CV.

So, what can you do to increase your chances of making it through the initial screening and get your CV in front of the recruitment manager?

Make sure you pay close attention to the job description of the position you are applying for and have a “real” handle on what your skills and experience are.

Make sure you edit your CV and create a new cover letter specific for each position, bringing out the qualifications you have that match what the job description is asking for.

Utilize key words found in the job description and work them in to your CV and cover letter. If the job description states that a requirement is to have PLC programming and troubleshooting experience, detail that not only in your cover letter but also in your CV, giving specific information as to what types of PLC’s you worked with and what your responsibilities were. If the position requires a CPA certification and an MBA, again, list these qualifications clearly.

Lastly, never be afraid to seek out and contact the company for follow up if you haven’t heard anything about your application after a week. It is perfectly acceptable to call or email to verify that your application has been received and to ask what the process is for CVs to be reviewed.

About the Guest Author
Billye Survis is a full time Corporate Recruiter for Rockwell Automation during the day, professional CV writer/blogger of CV tips at night, and superhero wife and mom 24/7. For more CV tips check out her blog.

New Phase III Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s Announced

TauRx Therapeutics Ltd has today announced that it will begin two phase III clinical trials using a drug intended to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s. The drug, called LMTX™, aims to prevent the build-up of a protein called tau in the brain and will be tested in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.

Tau is a protein found normally in cells, but during Alzheimer’s and other dementias it can behave abnormally and clump together to form ‘tangles’. The company state that LMTX, also called TRx0237, can help to dissolve these clumps of tau and may help to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The first of the two trials will treat 833 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s for a year, and the second will treat 500 people with mild Alzheimer’s with LMTX for 18 months. The company has also recently announced a phase III trial using LMTX in people with frontotemporal dementia, where the build-up of tau in the brain is also a key feature.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“It is promising to see another potential new Alzheimer’s treatment moving into late stage clinical trials. While a number of other drugs in development are targeting the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein amyloid, this drug is intended to prevent the build-up of a different protein, tau. We won’t know whether the treatment has real benefits until the trials are complete, but we look forward to the results. With current Alzheimer’s drugs acting to relieve symptoms, there is a desperate need for new treatments which can slow or stop the disease.

“It takes many decades of research to get a new treatment through to the final stages of clinical testing, but with dementia research so underfunded, we risk losing the chance to capitalise on our research findings. Support for research must be maintained if we are to keep building on our knowledge and developing potential new ways to beats this devastating disease.”

These trials are not yet recruiting in the UK, but to learn more about how to get involved in research studies, you can contact DeNDRoN (Dementias & Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Network) on 0203 2064960 or visit their website.

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

Brain Study Seeks Answers on Dementia

Research which seeks to understand how the brain’s electrical behaviour is linked to dementia could pave the way for better treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Dr Jon Brown, at the University of Exeter Medical School, has just started a three year project to examine the complex networks within the brain, after initial evidence revealed that two areas, which are key to learning and memory, communicate abnormally under certain conditions.

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Dementia affects 820,000 people living in the UK, meaning 25 million people have a close friend or family member with the condition. As well as the huge personal cost, dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion a year, more than cancer and heart disease combined.

The research will be funded by a Senior Research Fellowship grant from Alzheimer’s Research UK, of nearly £320,000 over three years. The work is a collaboration involving the major pharmaceuticals company Lilly, who will supply some of the materials to enable the research.

Dr Brown said:
“Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia steal memories and wreck lives, putting an enormous strain both on family relationships, and a social care system which faces a huge challenge to meet the needs of an aging population. If we can better understand how the complex electrical networks within the brain miscommunicate in such cases, we can work towards targeting treatment more effectively and ultimately reducing the burden associated with these devastating diseases.”

Initial studies have indicated that the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which are both crucial for learning and memory, communicate abnormally when excessive amounts of tau protein are produced. Dementia is known to be associated with altered tau production.

Dr Brown and his team will use state-of-the-art recording devices to monitor brainwaves during tasks which trigger communication between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. If these areas are found to malfunction when tau levels are excessive, it could have implications which will help target dementia treatment more effectively in the future.

Dr Brown’s grant award is part of a £5.5 million investment made by Alzheimer’s Research UK over the last 12 months.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:
“We are really pleased to be funding this important study to learn more about the protein tau, which is involved not only in Alzheimer’s disease but other dementias, such as frontotemporal dementia. There are still many unanswered questions about how tau can cause damage in the brain and this study should help to provide some of these answers.

“Despite the growing numbers of people with dementia, there are still no treatments available that can slow or stop the underlying diseases that cause it. Research is the only way to find new treatments, but research into dementia remains hugely underfunded. As the UK’s largest charity funder of dementia research, we are committed to funding projects like this, that have the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives in the future.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

Sport Psychology – How Does Emotion Affect Performance?

London Life Coach & Sports Performance Coach Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about sport psychology, emotion and performance. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

If you have read my first article for City Connect in this field you will know that I have been working in Sports Psychology for a number of years now, triggered by my love of rowing and tennis which both tend to get a tad competitive. With the Olympics 2012 coming up, the demand for sports psychology has dramatically increased enabling me to work with some fabulous individuals in this arena and I thought I would share some of my knowledge with you here on City Connect.

What is the key thing I need to work on to facilitate a change in my performance?

Although this is aimed in particular to the query sent through our Q+A page, it applies to a lot of people so I have written a whole article on it.

Emotion is seen as the component that can make or break a performance. In fact it is often referred to as the key component which will facilitate or restrict any athlete’s flow of potential and ultimately their performance.

As we have seen in my other articles to date, in any given event a person’s performance is determined by not only their talents, information and skill set but by the way they feel about all the aspects of their event they are performing in and their life in general. It is thus governed by emotion and belief. Those athlete’s who have an unshakeable belief in themselves go on to acquire the best results.

This is because both the fear of failure and the fear of success itself can short out a person’s circuits. Tadd to that the emotion of anger and one can find themselves a long way off their goal point..  In some circumstances even fear of actual physical pain can also short circuit success. This is why in short I would argue that emotion is the key component to an athlete reaching his/her true potential. We have seen that negative emotions can short circuit performance and hinder goals and we also know that emotions tend to creep up on us at the best of times more so when there are 1000’s of eyes on you and the pressure of your next signing bonus is in the back of your mind. Being able to control one’s emotions, readjust negative self beliefs and control our response to pressure is a winning formula to the success you have always wanted.

We can definitely conclude that fear is a limiting emotional pattern as it prevents one reaching their full potential and ultimate performance capability, but then how does one achieve success. It goes back to the basic formula for achievement (as we saw in my first article) is based on developing one’s own success consciousness, i.e. having a clear idea of what you want to achieve and that which you desire. The key component here is not only believing that you can achieve it but the I can and I will determination you exhibit coupled with an unshakeable belief in yourself. This behaviour is guaranteed to result in achievement.

Emotion is paired with self image and belief and one’s self image is seen as the most complex of attitudes for the very fact that it has been inbuilt into one’s mental processes over a long period of time by a variety of sources not all positive and nurturing. It is because of this that perceptions of oneself are generally distorted. As humans, our brains don’t objectively analyse facts but we bring emotions into our interpretations along with others opinions which also rely on their emotions, perceptions and baggage, unfortunately that baggage is not Louis Vuitton!

I would say more often than not a person’s belief system could be seen as being unreliable because thought processes which have been built, strengthened and adjusted over the years of self image have not been an accurate record.  I am often quoted as saying “Perception is Everything” and here is a good example of that in application as the perception given to you by others can be very different from objective analysis of the facts. Unfortunately, the brain tends to believe what it hears on repeat allowing distortion of facts due to compounding of information by environment, media and self belief.  However, with the right mental attitude you can use this to your advantage with positive affirmations to reinstil a positive unshakeable belief in yourself. If you are feeling adventurous in your affirmations throw in a little joy and harmony and you have most of the key ingredients for successful employment of mind power. This is because joy is considered a lubricant of the mind allowing muscles, nerves and heart to function at optimum. It is thought to flow through entire being, toning a person up and making for quick responsive co-ordination. Joy works with body, mind and soul to produce rhythmic flow enabling perfect timing and attunement resulting in a superior skill set working at optimum.

I would finish here by saying, success is achieved only by those who try, the fact that you are reading this article shows that you are already on the road to upping your game by employing mind training as well as physical training.

If you wish to pose a question about your particular sport or an aspect of it then either put a comment below, contact me directly or submit an anonymous question through our Q+A page.

 

Treatment Window Thrown Open for Alzheimer’s

A team of US scientists has identified a critical time window of 15 years where treatments targeting the hallmark Alzheimer’s protein amyloid might have a greater effect. The study, published in Neurology, adds to evidence that early treatment in the diseases that cause dementia holds real hope for checking their destructive course.

Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference_2384_1_1___Selected

Amyloid has been heavily implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The sticky protein forms toxic clumps in the brain and leads to the destruction of cells. The team from the Mayo Clinic used PET scans to track the build-up of the protein in 260 people, aged between 70 and 92, over a 16-month period. At the start of the study, 205 participants were assessed as being cognitively normal and 55 as cognitively impaired.

Using the data collected over the study period, the team modelled a predicted rate of amyloid build-up, controlling for age and sex as well as whether participants carried the known Alzheimer’s risk gene APOE4.

The team discovered that the rate of amyloid build-up initially accelerates, before slowing and finally reaching a plateau. The findings suggest that a period of around 15 years will elapse before the plateau, with treatments at the early stages of this window more likely to help slow the tide and associated cognitive problems.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research for Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“The rapid technological advances in scanning have helped us understand the disease process of Alzheimer’s in new detail. The evidence is pointing towards one thing: new treatments need to be tested early. Studies like this help improve methods of picking up Alzheimer’s early and provide a window to test new and emerging treatments. Recent drug failures may well have come as a result of trialling treatments too late.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is leading the drive to detect the diseases that cause dementia earlier than ever before to revolutionise our ability to treat them. While the progress we are making is positive, we are continually hamstrung by low funding. Greater support for dementia research will yield the answers we so sorely need far more quickly.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

Film Review: Baggage Claim

Baggage Claim
Baggage Claim is the latest ‘rom-com’ to be made. So what makes this different to all the others? I’m afraid it’ll be answers on a postcard!

There was nothing I could see. All the stars were cute, the situations amusing, the plot lightweight, more like a cosy night in front of the fire, than gripping the edge of your seat drama.

I’ve seen Adam Brody before on The OC. The others I most probably have but it was just like the plot, I had seen it all before.

Maybe if the plot had been more adventurous, the ‘funny’ situations just slightly more original – this could have been a really funny feel good film. Paula Pratton plays a flight attendant who gives herself just 30 days to find Mr. Right, so she has someone before her youngest sister gets married.

Centring the action on the plane and rack up countless miles was a mistake in my opinion, there isn’t anything to do other than they stay sitting, run into the toilet or do stupid things. Only the most extreme would actually exit the plane!

It was rare for me to actually want a disaster to happen like in Airport ’77 – but that might have given the film some action. That’s what really astounded me was the lack of effort by the director to make any change to this formula.

Maybe they had a small budget or just wanted to play it safe? It was a pity, as the cast seemed to gel but so did The Walton’s. I don’t want to pay over £7-8 to just feel okay. I want some ‘bang for my bucks’!

I do feel with most of this year’s directors are not open to trying new angles or stuff. Perhaps they fear they won’t get a another shot at the big chair?

But as Captain Kirk once said, “Risk is part of the game, if you want to sit in the (captain’s) chair.” By doing this film, the director may get another chance – but whose going to remember this film in say five years time?

At least the main actress Paula Pratton shows promise and as a launching pad, she could do a lot worse. I hope her next film is a much better choice.

I’ll give 5/10 for this film. It wasn’t bad, but following a formula to the letter is never wise. Come on director, risk a bit of personality on your next venture!

Image reproduced from wikipedia.co.uk
Trailer reproduced from Film Is Now – Hollywood.

Remembrance Day

City Connect commemorates and honours all the fallen soldiers of all the countries of the Great War and the Second World War and all the civilian victims.

May peace stay with us and may the achievements of our generation be the corner stone of our living together for the future.

 

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TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Fzzt”

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Elizabeth Henstridge as Simmons

The only thing that’s tragic about this “sad” episode is how badly it fails.

Fzzt is the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be aired during the release of a Marvel Studios film. Since S.H.I.E.L.D. is set in the same fictional universe as the Marvel films, it is perhaps no surprise that this episode attempts to tie directly into Thor: The Dark World (which as of this writing is playing in theatres worldwide). Not only is this tied continuity a clever and subtle piece of film advertising, it could also help to strengthen the feeling that S.H.I.E.L.D. is one part of a larger ongoing story. However, other than a few effects concepts borrowed straight from the second Thor movie, the episode actually shares little to no connection to its cinematic cousin. Rather than being an exercise in continuity building, Fzzt is an attempt to explore the emotional makeup of the primary characters; forcing them to deal with their own mortality. The creators of this episode are trying so hard to make the audience care about the fates of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team that it becomes more than a little obnoxious. What is clearly supposed to be an “emotional” episode comes across as a futile exercise in sentimentality.

The setup for the episode is perhaps the most interesting so far in the series. Members of a small town fire dept are randomly dying; their bodies release an electromagnetic pulse that leaves them ominously floating a few feet above the ground (this effect is what ties the episode to Thor 2). After Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team investigate the fire-fighters’ colleagues, they discover that the deaths are the result of an alien virus that was brought to Earth during the events of The Avengers. When Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) becomes infected with the virus, the race is on the find a cure before she too becomes a floating corpse. The first half of the episode is actually one of the strongest portions of the entire show. Agent Grant Ward’s (Brett Dalton) frustration at not being able to counter a virus the way he can tackle an opponent offers a new insight into his personality. Coulson’s continued sense that something is wrong with him since his “death” in The Avengers culminates in an impressively written monologue in which he comforts a dying man about mortality: this scene also helps to remind audience members of the ongoing mystery of Coulson’s existence and whether or not he is even human. These scenes are appropriately underplayed and very poignant, which makes the overblown and rather melodramatic second half of the episode so hard to understand.

Clearly writer Paul Zbyszewski has a grasp of subtle character interactions during emotional moments— the first half of this episode is filled with such sequences. Yet once Simmons becomes infected, the quality of the dialogue and character interactions plummets drastically. What should have been a series of tender emotional exchanges in which the characters realise that one of their team is dying becomes a hammy, over-the-top mess. Clearly the moment when Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons are separated from each other by protective glass is supposed to be a heartbreaking, tear-jerking event. Instead it becomes impossible to invest any emotion into these scenes because of how overblown and artificial they feel. The weeping Simmons telling Coulson to inform her father of her imminent death is another example of a scene that should have packed an incredible emotion punch. Instead, it falls flat due to over-the-top performances and an overuse of stereotypically sad music. Far more emotional relevance would have been created by dropping the orchestral soundtrack altogether. This episodes’ producer, Joss Whedon, used a lack of music to excellent emotional effect in his own Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. There is something very juvenile about how the sequences of Simmons dying are handled. Underplayed performances would have been so much more powerful. Instead we’re treated to Fitz and Simmons crying at each other behind glass and Coulson angrily refusing to give up on Simmons despite her risk to the team. It all feels a bit histrionic and overblown, even for a superhero TV show.

The biggest problem with the episode’s attempt at emotional power is how insincere it feels. At no point do we truly believe that the characters are being torn apart by watching one of their own teammates slowly die. None of the cast exhibits the acting ability to make the audience believe the emotional trauma that they’re supposed to be undergoing. The result of this lack of quality is an episode that comes across as hollow and more than a little boring. This all culminates in an insultingly bad ending which features an action sequence that is so silly and poorly realised that any possible emotional investment is drained completely. As mentioned previously, Fzzt has a strong opening and some very intriguing ideas about the fact that some threats can’t be defeated. The problem is that everything falls apart as soon as the creators attempt to pull at the audiences’ heartstrings; they’re simply not skilled enough as storytellers to succeed.

Image from pastemagazine.com

Film Review: Closed Circuit

Closed Circuit
Closed Circuit looked very good. It’s mostly centred around two solicitors, but it’s a very complicated affair and because of this I did struggle with it a lot.

Eric Bana (Hulk) seems to pick the wrong types of film to do. This is no different. Bana plays Martin Rose, one of the solicitors, who get embroiled in a MI5 plot. What could have a gripping courtroom drama turned out to be a long protracted day at the office. Or getting stuck in a queue at an airport when your flight’s been delayed because of the weather! Grrr!

Even an explosion didn‘t move me. That’s never a good sign. Splitting the trial into two parts was unnecessary and didn’t move the plot along. It needed some zing, not a further complication.

The American journalist seemed to be something that was thought of halfway through filming. Joanna Reace (Julia Styles) tags along to get a story, but Martin plays her to get what he wants. Martin giving her enough to keep her interested.

Jim Broadbent plays the Attorney General but even he was unable to save this dreary movie. It had nothing special to offer, it was exciting as watching paint dry.

It was pity that when one of the characters was targeted for assassination, the killer didn’t go behind the camera – and prevent this drudge from being made. The script was as unappealing as could be, no snazzy dialogue or wit. Nothing worked. I would love to know how this got the budget to be made. Did the director tell a few porkies over dinner with the studio bosses.
“Sure this’ll work. We got an actor who played the Hulk! Sorted!”
The bloodsucking lawyer, “We’re going to make a fortune with this film.”

The plots involving MI5 were just getting dafter. Was there a writers strike? Did the tea person have to step up to prevent a day’s lost filming? And then got sick the next day so somebody else got drafted in? Rather like that game of Chinese whispers, it gets changed person to person.

It lacked cohesion, something to keep it on an even keel and give a weight of solidity. The family of the defendant being silent. Secret agents in all sorts of places. Information being blocked, information given away… oh, please give me a break! I’ve seen more covert behaviour from the Teletubbies!

A 2/10 from me for this film. I wish myself better luck on the next film! I do sometimes despair of the cinematic world.

Image reproduced from wikipedia.co.uk
Trailer reproduced from YouTube / IGN

Banish Those Bad Habits Forever

London Life Coach & Wellbeing Consultant Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about bad habits and self control. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

Many of my clients come to me and ask how they can have more self control in breaking what they perceive as a bad habit. This could be in the form of smoking, eating too much, laziness including lack of exercise and even things such as personality disorders. We all know what it’s like to make a New Year’s Resolution only to break it within a week or two of 1st January. We tend to take the view that as we are not alone in breaking these resolutions and assume it’s not as bad for us as we once thought. Although you may not be alone in having a perceived bad habit, just by making a resolution you obviously realise that you want to change your habit. The following article will only help people who want to change themselves and are not being forced into it by a partner, child or friend.

So we often bandy about the word “willpower” and what it means. We often couple it with words such as self-control or bad habit or lack of determination and all these words make the brain go into cycles of guilt or shame which ultimately result in avoidance. So how do we realise that words such as willpower and determination are extremely positive words and easily attainable by all of us? At the end of the day, willpower is just a measurement of how well you achieve that on which you intend on doing and as we have seen in other articles such as Five Steps to a Better Life, willpower is quite easily achieved over a matter of just a few days.

It is scary to think that 8 out of 10 people who decide to change a bad habit fail to do so by any given length of time. It is interesting to note that this is down to a particular area of the brain which is located in the front part which is often referred to as the prefrontal cortex. It’s this area that helps you solve problems, keep focused, and create logical thought patterns. So you would think that given it’s function, willpower would be very easy. The catch here is the prefrontal cortex is also involved in short term memory so what happens here is if you try and use willpower, focus and short term memory at the same time your body and brain finds it hard to multitask. It really is as simple as that.

So what is the solution I hear you ask? Well, just like any other muscle in the body, willpower just needs to be trained and exercised. It really is that simple to increase and strengthen that part of your brain and allow it to get used to multitasking. The best way to go about this is to set small achievable challenges (or daily goals if you prefer to call them) and make sure that no matter what you get them done. For example, for someone who is depressed and finds it hard to get up, get dressed and go to work and as such has taken off time from work, it is useful to draw up a chart of all the things you need to do to achieve your goal. For example:-

1. Get up
2. Get dressed
3. Put make-up on
4. Leave the house
5. Walk to the end of the road
6. Catch a bus/tube/train
7. Arrive at work and be sociable

So if you take each point in turn and just add one point to your goal list each day, you will find that in just over a week you are able to actually get yourself out of bed and go to work. Likewise for those of you who want to add the gymn into your routine, it is also possible to write a list of goals. So perhaps your goals would be:-

1. Buy stuff for the gym
2. Pack a bag
3. Get in your car/train/bus/tube
4. Get to the gym
5. Do a work-out of up to an hour
6. Return home

Likewise, if you take each one of these little steps in turn, so on Monday just pack your bag ready for the gym but don’t actually go. On Tuesday pack your bag and walk to the end of the road with your backpack ready for the gym and then do nothing else. On Wednesday, pack your bag, walk to the end of the road, go to the gym, turn round and go home. By the time the end of the week comes, you’ll have found that you will have probably got to the gym and done 10 minutes and then gone home. Then using the 10% rule of going up just a little each time that you feel, whether you go from 10 minutes to 15 or 20, or by the time you are on about 50 minutes you just go up in increments of 10 % and you’ll find that each and every day, you’re getting used to going to the gym and finding it within yourself to actually accomplish a lot more than you thought.

The same is relevant for food. If you know your daily intake is 3000 calories, each day just reduce your calorie intake by about 5%. So if your calorie intake is 3000, just every day reduce it by about 150 calories and before long you’ll realise that you’re only taking in 2000 calories and you haven’t even noticed any negative effects on how you feel or whether you missed the surplus food.

By working on small tasks and baby steps then sizeable goals, no matter how lazy or reluctant you feel or even if you’re hard on yourself by suggesting you have lack of willpower, you will be able to overcome any resistance that either your body or mind has to exercise, food, work or the likes and you can actually train your mind to do exactly what you want it to do.

Now in some cases such as the earlier example of depression, it’s not as straightforward as just beating willpower and it often calls for extra help. A life coach, a psychotherapist, a hypnotherapist or just a friend can be very useful to give you that added extra boost to help you focus on how you want to lead the rest of your life. So just take a step today and make a commitment to at least writing a list of between 7 to 10 things you will need to accomplish in order for your goal to be realised. The last commitment I will ask of you is to just take each one of those goals in turn one-by-one and add them to your daily schedule so that in 1 to 2 weeks you will be on your way to beating willpower and becoming, dare I say it, a high achiever.

Images reproduced from nyeducator.com and msedna.blogspot.com

Movie Review: The Counselor

the-counselorThe Counselor is written by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) and directed by Ridley Scott (the name speaks for itself).

The Counselor stars Michael Fassbender as a lawyer who seems to have everything, dabbling in a one time drug deal that goes bad.

The movie is visually sexy. That is all I liked about this movie. I have never seen such a waste of hot talent and cameos on a movie screen.

The Counselor also starred Brad Pitt, Reuben Blades, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, John Leguzamo, Javier Bardem, and Natalie Dormer to name quite a few without taking a breath.

As the Counselor’s drug deal goes bad so does the film. When he seeks the advice of his co-conspirators he gets philosophized dialogue and meaningless metaphors.

The characters never fully develop. The actors don’t act. The dialogue doesn’t allow it.

I have to give honorable mention to Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt however. Diaz has a scene stealer when she makes out with a Ferrari (body double I’m sure) which was almost worth the movie ticket. We’ll not quite, but it was one interestingly funny and steamy scene. Brad is Brad.

I expected much more from this film with all the star power but it just never delivered. And the credits began to roll…

Image reproduced from collider.com
Trailer reproduced from YouTube / 20centuryfoxuk

Mortality Figures Show Dementia Rise

The BBC recently reported on new figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that the number of people dying with Alzheimer’s and dementia has risen by 6% over the last decade. Alzheimer’s and dementia was the second most common cause of death in women in 2011, accounting for over 10% of all female deaths.

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These figures provide a stark reminder of the growing burden of dementia and we must take them seriously. Technical changes to how the figures were calculated this year may have contributed to some of the rise seen over the last decade, with more accurate classification of vascular dementia. With a rapidly aging population in the UK, and more people living beyond 80, dementia is a condition that society cannot afford to ignore.

“It is heartening to see that mortality from other serious diseases is falling, but we must provide the same answers for people with dementia. Funding for research into dementia lags far behind that of other diseases – for every dementia scientist, six work on cancer. We must ensure that research into dementia remains a national priority if we are to head off this looming health crisis.”

Read the full report from the Office of National Statistics here.

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

Private Members Club – The Do’s and Dont’s for Your Night Out

London Life Coach & Relationship Coach Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about private members club etiquette. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

There is a price to pay for partying in exclusive surroundings, but that price is not always monetary. It is more the case that you are out and about on show in your community within a group of people that have higher expectations than your local pub, bar or restaurant. Below are a few guidelines to help you navigate the world of etiquette in such establishments.

First Impressions and Rapport with the Host

It is good to remember that these clubs are more than a restaurant or bar. Even as a well respected member, it is only polite to always let the Club’s host know when you are dropping by. In these modern times, this can be as simple as a phone call, e-mail and – thanks to technological advancements – a comment on Twitter or LinkedIn. Please, do note that Facebook is not a business porthole and is therefore not appropriate. The announcement should be short and sweet whether it is based on stating that you are looking forward to seeing the host or requesting the entry of guests to the Club.

Such request for attendance should never be in the style of ‘A table for four, please.’ The exclusivity of the Club deserves respect and appreciation that you are a member by invitation should be maintained at all times.

Guest lists are not much more than a marketing tool these days so remember it is still the personal touch that is important. After the evening, just as with any other invitation, one should send a thank you message. Again in such modern times this can be done electronically and is preferable in this medium. In the cases of Twitter or LinkedIn it is more public and therefore also good advertising for the Club. Such acknowledgment should be done within 24 hours where access allows.

Introductions

As always for new introductions a firm handshake is first port of call. Supplement with eye contact and a genuine warm smile. If you know the member or host well and the setting calls for it, social kissing is still heavily prevalent. If you do not like such contact, it is perfectly polite to extend your arm to shake hands. If you are on the receiving end of such a gesture, respect the boundaries of the other person and go with the flow. If you do go for the minefield of the social kiss, bring the recipient closer to you by gently placing your hand on their shoulder and aim for the right cheek first. Some people decide one kiss is enough. If this is your modus operandi then pull back before you get into the more often than not seen dance of ‘one kiss or two!’ If in doubt, or you are unsure of how to greet the person, let the elder take charge.

Behaviour Inside the Club

A public persona must always be assumed as people-watching is an everyday sport nowadays. Poise and grace are as paramount as in the old days but with a touch of relaxed approachability thrown in. Elegant drinking and dining is a must in such establishments and to carry this off well, it is good to monitor one’s alcohol intake.

There is a dividing line between alcohol as a social lubricant immersed with the enjoyment of fine spirits or wines and alcohol as a precursor to outrageous events that are fodder for much speculation about one’s next Priory vacation. Before having that extra glass of alcohol that leaves you dancing on the tables, err on the side of caution and interperse your imbibation with the odd glass of water.

Conversation itself is best when spontaneous with the avoidance of the hot topics: politics, sex, scandal and money. Talk and listen equally. Be interesting – not only for yourself but for those around you - all while keeping your decibel level to that worthy of your table, not the adjacent one.

If there is a conflict, a discreet nod to the Club’s host and a quiet word is much better than tackling a matter head on. In the case of small infringements, a polite smile is all that is necessary, not everyone is versed in the art of etiquette and their behaviour may not have been personal but just a faux pas.

Meeting Celebrities

In private members clubs you often meet two types of celebrity - those seeking media attention and those who prefer to have a quiet night out with friends. Celebrities, unlike our British Royalty, are not obliged to give a welcoming reception to a ‘mere civilian’. Therefore, in such a spotting, it is polite to ignore them and/or if the situation allows treat them as any other individual. Feigning ignorance as to who they are is rarely an acceptable form of address but a simple gesture, if appropriate, would be to introduce yourself and let them return in kind.

Remember you only know their public persona so treat them like any other member at the Club. If they choose to think their station is above you then that is their business and one for the Club’s host to discretely remedy not you. At no point is it acceptable to criticise their work or ask them to perform. You can, if the conversation allows, remark on your appreciation of their work but the truly elegant celebrity would rather be treated as an individual.

At all times discretion is key and lobby rules should be in play. Such rules are based on the code of honour between Members of Parliament and journalists accredited to the lobby of the House of Commons. It is a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that matters raised or overheard in conversations between members and guests are not to be used for commercial or journalistic purposes. In modern times, this extends to posting on Facebook – and similar – whom you saw, what they were doing and (heaven forbid) tagging them in a photo.  Such courtesy of lobby rules should be extended to all guests and not just celebrities.

My Favourite Members Clubs

London: Luxx, Maddox, Home House and The Club at the Ivy
New York: Supper Club and Soho House
Paris: Palais Maillot
Verbier: Coco Club

Recently, I have heard that Cambridge is now home to a new members club that I look forward to frequenting in the not too distant future. The Club is called 12a and has already developed the mystique and sophistication expected of such an establishment. On the left is a sneak preview of the bar area.

On a lunchtime inspection, I was transported back to the Prohibition Era and allowed to feast my eyes on a delectable drinks menu inserted into an old style book as a bookmark. The drinks menu is old school, not a Blue Hawaiian new age cocktail in site, thank goodness! I believe they are soon bringing out a tasty nibbles and antipasti menu.

I look forward to reporting on my first evening visit.

Etiquette Series: I am often asked to write about the correct behaviour in social situations, be it cultural, social or business.  Although many think I am American, the occasional twang from my Manhattan days, I was born and bred in London.  As a child my local corner shop was Harrods, my usual breakfast haunt Inner Temple and the evenings filled with dinner parties extraordinaire. In circumstances like these as a child you quickly learn that there are expectations and if you exceed them your life will be much simpler. This holds true as you get older but the expectations have developed somewhat in the last three decades. This series is designed to highlight some of the ways in which such old fashioned manners have been updated and how to adapt them to your life. In this series, I will provide you with some handy hints on how to achieve a more positive engagement with people by simply adapting your behaviour. I look forward to your comments, either below or on Twitter. If you wish to be informed of the next instalment of the series, please sign up to the RSS feed in the top right hand corner. I look forward to hearing your views on any of the above mentioned clubs and/or suggestions for others.

Images reproduced from www.homehouse.co.uk, www.libertygalleries.com, www.tressugar.com or supplied by contributors.

Wine of the Month – November 2013

November brings bonfire night – a smokey, spicy, chilly celebration of fireworks, oohs and aaahs. It is also the month of Remembrance Day and Movember.

The wines from our regular Cambridge merchants are, like many a fuzzy upper lip, bigger and fuller this month – and we have not one but two guest appearances – firstly from newly-established WineTrust100, plus a welcome return from Beaujolais and Beyond.

We start, however, with an off-piste natural wine from Joseph Barnes.

Vina Almate Tempranillo 2012, VdlT Castilla y Leon (£10.50 Joseph Barnes Wines)

If brambly, vanilla Spanish Tempranillo is a style you are familiar with, don’t expect to find it in this elegant-yet-rugged natural wine.

Dark in the glass, the nose gives little away, except perhaps for a touch of dark fruit and funk.

The palate is sharp and refreshing, with pure black-cherry and dark berry fruit, an elusive savouriness and a hint of fermented fruit.

It’s a curious wine – as natural wines often are – yet strangely alluring. Intense, focused and uncompromising, this is something of a punk wine; like the mohican-ed toughs who used to hang out in my East Midlands town centre on a Saturday when I was growing up, it demands your attention and feels edgy, yet underneath the scowl, spikes and studs, it’s actually very civilised.

Match with something equally edgy – such as steak tartare. Also beetroot with cream cheese.

Domaine du Diamant Noir, Cotes du Rhone 2012 (£8.99, Cambridge Wine Merchants)

The start of autumn can be said to be heralded by opening your first Cotes du Rhone – warming, dark and spicy, it is perfectly suited to hearty stews and gamey dishes.

This Domaine du Diamant Noir from the southern Rhone is a blend of Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault – with dark berry fruit and some spice on the nose, it has a classic, southern Rhone profile.

On the palate there is more plummy fruit, sweet peppery vanilla spice and fresh acidity with perfectly ripe tannins underpinned by grippy savouriness – classy and elegant, if perhaps a little lacking in concentration.

Match with roast beef dinners and hearty stews.

Sottano Malbec 2012, Argentina (£9.99 Noel Young Wines)

From the Llujan de Cuyo region of Argentina, where vineyard altitudes are from 800m – 1,100m giving wines with deep colour and ripeness with fresh acidity.

Malbec is Argentina’s signature grape – historically from Bordeaux, it is also grown in Cahors where it is known as Cot.

Typically quite flamboyant, if a little rustic, Malbec often feels like it needs a bit of a wash and brush-up to be acceptable in polite company – it can be a Bruce Springsteen of a wine.

This dark, seductive Sottano, however, is more of a Bryan Ferry – with dark fruit, spiciness and a chocolatey texture underpinned by a fresh acidity and good savouriness, it is well-groomed and classy.

Don’t be afraid to decant – and serve with the best Argentine beef you can find.

Bodegas Borsao, Tinto 2011, Campo de Borja, Spain – (£5.99, Wine Trust 100)

The first guest wine this month is from Wine Trust 100, a new wine retailer, set up by three local Masters of Wine - Sarah Abbott from Bedford, John Hoskins who runs The Old Bridge in Huntingdon and Nick Adams who lives in Cambridgeshire.

This Spanish Garnacha from Bodegas Borsao is a classy crowd-pleaser - with a nose of morello cherries, plummy fruit, liquorice, leather, vanilla and spice.

The palate is juicy and mouthfilling, with a lovely sour-cherry acidity, more plummy and dark berry fruit with sweet vanilla, spice and roughed-up herbs.

The texture is soft and smooth, with some gentle grip developing on the finish.

Match with darker game, such as pheasant stuffed with apricots, or spicy sausages.

2011 Chénas Cuvée Tradition (£11.50, Beaujolais and Beyond)I was so impressed with the guest Beaujolais from Beaujolais and Beyond last month that I’ve included another one this time.

This is a textbook Beaujolais cru – purple in the glass with dark berry fruit, the palate shows dark fruit and cinnamon spice. Elegant and precise with good, food-friendly sour-cherry acidity, lovely tannins and good finish.

Match with lighter game such as duck, partridge or a game casserole.

Links

Beaujolais and Beyond – website

Cambridge Wine Merchants – website

Joseph Barnes Wines – website

Noel Young Wines – website

Wine Trust 100 – website, twitter

Main image credit: https://www.makewav.es/blog/180715/bonfirenight

This article also appears on Cambridge Wine Blogger

X Factor 2013: The Public Have Got This Wrong

Week 4 of the X Factor 2013 live shows and there was total shock as two talented acts ended up in the Sing Off. Kingsland Road and Tamera Foster got the least public votes and had to face each other in a fight to stay in the competition.

x-factor-sam-callahanBut why was Sam Callahan not in the Sing Off? The handsome boy with the ugly voice. All the judges – except of course his mentor Louis Walsh – thought that Sam’s performance on Saturday had the weakest vocals… and when they say weak, they mean WEAK! I call him McPitchy. Sam managed to charm the tone-deaf girls of Britain and they voted in their hundreds to save their favourite pretty boy. It might not be The Voice but The X Factor is still a signing competition, not a modelling shoot. Sam Callahan looks good. Hell, he probably smells good too. But the boy does NOT sound good!!!

x-factor-abiAnd what about Abi Alton? Why was she not in the Sing Off? Maybe she was hiding behind a piano as this is the only place she feels comfortable! Don’t get me wrong, it’s very nice that she can play the piano AND the guitar but the girl has absolutely no X factor and appears to have had a charisma bypass. Her daisy chain hair accessories are cute… for about 5 minutes. But for how many more weeks can we endure this one trick pony making every musical genre “her own” by using breathy vocals, big glasses and boring the audience to sleep?!

x-factor-kingsland-roadBack to the Sing Off. Kingsland Road sang first with their rendition of James Morrison’s “I Won’t Let You Go”. You could see the panic in their eyes. Their performance reeked of desperation as their vocals faltered and tuning took a nose dive as the boys struggled to keep it together at the end of the song as the tears flowed and voices trembled.

Tamera Foster then took to the stage and she was sensational. Her note perfect performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” blew us away like any good power ballad should. Tamera gave it her all and then some. She was pushing all the right buttons and kept her emotions in check right until the end. Tamera Foster might only be 16 but she is a ready made pop star who would sit very comfortably next to Beyoncé, Rihanna and Leona Lewis.

No surprises then that when it came to the judges verdict Nicole, Sharon and Louis all voted to send Kingsland Road home.

But I have to agree with Gary Barlow when he said that the “public have got this wrong”. Kingsland Road were not as good as Tamera but they were head and shoulders above the likes of Sam Callahan.

I hope that by next week the Great British Public realise that The X Factor is about finding the next big singing sensation and they stop voting for McPitchy Pretty Boy Callahan and Breathy Big Glasses Boring Abi!

Images reproduced from itv.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / TheXFactorUK

My Business Partner is Lazy – What Should I Do?

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about conflict resolution and dealing with lazy colleagues. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

Thank you for your detailed query. I have summarised your question as above but noted all the intricacies. From your description, it seems that this type of conflict is that of the J/P divide – Judger versus Perceiver. As a Judger, some things seem obvious to you that are just a mere perception to your business partner. The best way forward is for clear communication about your needs & wants and some clear-cut goals.

What you describe as laziness is most likely his perceiving part overshadowing the more logical part. From what you describe, he is just trying to get away with what I like to call the “head in the sand manoeuvre” in the attempt that someone else will do his workload.

If you make it clear that you are unable to carry him any longer, and that you expect a fair division of work, you will no doubt find that he will pass his share of the work off on to someone else under the guise that he has too much work to do. It is this very action that should highlight to you that this is not a personal attack on you and is not your issue. Some people are just different. There is no wrong or right method but there is a method that produces a more successful end product.

To a Judger, avoiding issues and not pulling one’s weight may seem irrational but go easy on the Perceiver. The tasks you set him may not be as easy for him as they are for you and - although he is just showing his limitations - it really is not one’s place to judge. This is indeed hard for a J to hear but is being right really worth a conflict at work?

Know your own parameters, stick to them and if possible try to find the strengths in your colleague. You also appear to be an N so perhaps see if there is some common ground and look at the bigger picture rather than get tied down with the minutiae of who does what.

iPad Air Launches to Fan Frenzy Today

Apple has released the new iPad air and fans across the globe rush into the apple stores to be the first to obtain this remarkable new piece of technology. The iPad Air is supposed to be lighter and faster than its predecessor and it will be even easier to carry this “computer” around with you.

ipad-air-ipad-2

So far the reception has been very positive and the new gadget could become the hit of the year. It will be interesting to see how the iPad air will perform over the next few months and if it holds up to all its promises.

Chocolate: Drink of the Gods

chocolate melted

The history of chocolate, that rich and sensuous (and to some, addictive) substance, begins in the ancient and mysterious realm of the Maya civilisation who lived in Central America around 4th century AD. The cacao tree from which chocolate is derived was first cultivated by these early Mesoamerican people and not the Aztecs as is commonly believed.

The Maya called the cacao tree cacahuaquchtl which literally means “tree”, so important was the cacao tree to their spiritual and everyday lives that there was no other tree worth naming. Mayans believed the cacao tree belonged to the gods and the pods were used in various religious rituals. Cacao was referred to as food of the gods in ancient Mayan writings. The Maya were the first to make a bitter beverage from cacao beans which was a luxury drink only enjoyed by kings and nobles. The drink was flavoured with various spices, the most popular being chilli.

Aztec figure holding cacao pod

Aztec figure holding cacao pod

After the unexplained fall of the Mayan empire around 900 AD, the gifted and extremely civilised Toltecs followed by the Aztecs from Mexico settled in former Mayan territory. The Toltec king Quetzalcoatl was believed to be a god whose mission was to teach mortals how to cultivate cacao. Following political uprising and ill health, Quetzalcoatl went mad and sailed out to sea on a raft, leaving his kingdom but promising to return one day. The story of Quetzalcoatl’s exile entered Aztec mythology and ancient astrologers predicted that in 1519 a white-faced king would return to recover his kingdom.

The Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes is generally considered to be the first European to recognise the potential of Aztec chocolate. When his expedition arrived in the New World in 1519, the Aztec emperor Montezuma II believed Cortes was the reincarnation of the god-king Quetzalcoatl whose return had been predicted to occur in the same year. The confusion was used by Cortes to his advantage and he overthrew Montezuma and after only three years he brought about the downfall of the entire Aztec empire. Cortes was quick to realise the economic value the cacao bean which by this point was used as currency as well as a highly prized drink. The Spanish Jesuits called the beans “pecuniary almonds” and noted that a slave could be bought for 100 beans. Cortes set up cacao plantations all over the Caribbean and literally grew money on trees making the Spanish colonists very rich and very powerful.

Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortés

The 18th century Swedish botanist Linnaeus, who invented the binomial classification system for all living things, later named this amazing tree Theobroma cacao, meaning “drink of the gods”, from the Greek theos (god) and broma (beverage). He thought it deserved a name which reflected the Mayan belief that the tree belonged to the gods.

The Spanish couldn’t keep the secret of cacao cultivation and preparation to themselves for long and soon chocolate became popular in other European countries who in turn established their own plantations, trade routes and processing facilities. The Dutch, French, British and Portuguese all settled in equatorial regions where the weather favoured the cultivation of transplanted cacao trees.

Check back next Saturday for the next instalment in my Chocolate Series.