KCC COVID-19 cycle lanes cost over £400,000

A freedom of information request has revealed that Kent County Council spent £414,528 of their emergency travel fund on the highly controversial pop up cycle lanes.

Kent was allocated a whopping £1.6 million pound from the Emergency Travel Fund, which was designed to allow local councils to produce better walking and cycling facilities. Over 25% of this was spent on the pop up cycle lane, which was removed within a week.

In the FOI, Kent County Council confirmed that the subsequent removal costed £186,538.

Source: Facebook, via Melvin Roy Bartholomew

Not all the money was wasted, though. The FOI adds that the £414,528 “includes assets to the value of £149,306.74 purchased directly by Kent County Council which can be used on future schemes across Kent”.

Within a week of the cycle lanes popping up, two petitions, one on 38degrees and Change.org were created, amassing over 3,140 signatures. After a barrage of criticism and anger from motorists, KCC started removing the cycle lanes and the final bollards.

Residents and drivers branded the cycle lanes as “dangerous” adding that they were causing “travel mayhem and chaos”. One disgruntled resident even said that “someone is going to get killed as cars are just speeding through the crossings”.

Your Little Lift: a gender neutral, eco friendly care package

Your Little Lift is a new, original startup created by Ryan Mairs, known as Mairsy, to encourage people to take a well deserved break in our hectic, busy lives.

Ryan, now 24, grew up in Hamstreet, a small town just outside of Ashford. He now lives near Brixton, in Tulse Hill.

Ryan suffered the loss of his father at 12 years old, and lived unaware that his mother for six years was at the time an paranoid schizophrenic. Now, Ryan is a mental health campaigner, with multiple podcast appearances and was previously an Amplified Champion for Young Minds.

Using his knowledge and first-hand experience of suffering with anxiety and depression, Ryan has devised a new way to spread positivity through a package, that is gender neutral, on it’s way to becoming eco friendly.

Ryan described to me how Your Little Lift came to him one night when he was asleep. “I knew a lot of people were under a lot of stress and people’s mental health was being severely effected through this crazy year.” Going onto explaining his rationale for Your Little Lift, he went onto say that “I thought a little gender neutral self care package would be a great mood lifter for anyone, either purchased for themselves or for a loved one.”

“I’ve always wanted my own side hustle or business within mental health or a mental health/well-being focus. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind set but my other projects sort of fizzled out or I didn’t fully believe in them.”

Your Little Lift includes items such as sweets, bath bombs and journals to help clear your mind and improve your mental health.

At the moment, Your Little Lift boxes are currently only available on a trial basis. They were available via Instagram to twelve people who messaged Ryan first. For those who missed out (like myself), I asked Ryan what is in each box, and what they meant and represented.

“In our trial boxes we have a notebook for self-development, great for those who struggle to vent verbally. Note taking or journaling is a fantastic way to help clear your mind. We have a bath bomb to relax and take some down time (subject to change) and anyone that knows me knows I have a ridiculous sweet tooth. I love all things sugar but I wanted to include brands that are fun, homely and coincide with what I want to achieve – I’ve been a big fan of Candy Kittens for years, an ethical and fun brand. They are delicious sweets and a big hit with our buyers so far, we include a bag in each box. I’m a chocoholic too so we are including two small bars of organic Green & Blacks chocolate. We also have herbal Pukka tea bags as I think there is something so comforting about a hot drink – especially now that winter is on its way”.

Mindfullness is one key step to improving your mental health. Switching off, and paying more attention to yourself, and the present is a key step to a healthy mind.

One of Ryan’s happy customers so far. Ryan personally delivers the boxes if you live within 5 miles of Brixton.

It has only been just over two weeks but Ryan says the reaction has been incredible. All twelve of the trial boxes have sold out, and have been posted. Ryan says that if you live within five miles of Brixton, he will personally hand deliver the box, as a personal thank you. “Last week I handed out little free taster boxes to strangers on the street and their eyes lit up. They all cracked huge smiles which gave me the biggest buzz”.

With such a positive reception so far, it was only fair to ask Ryan what he has planned in the future for Your Little Lift. “I eventually want to make it’s own entity”, Ryan says, with plans to expand packages for everyone: adults, kids, atheletes and pets. “Customer service is very important to me and I want to be in a position to control as many of the processes I can”.

If you are interested in ordering a Your Little Lift box, or just to see the future of the start up, follow their social media accounts here!

“Having herpes isn’t pretty; but it’s not something you should hide behind”

According to Marie Claire UK, over two thirds of your friends probably have herpes. Over 66% of people over 50 have herpes. Worldwide, herpes is thought to affect over 3.7 billion worldwide.

Herpes Simplex, known as herpes, has two subtypes; HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is typically defined by mouth ulcers, where as HSV-2 is characterised by blisters and sores around the genitalia.

Both types of the virus can lay dormant for years at a time and herpes will often flare up when you are fatigued, ill, or even menstruating.

At the moment, there’s no cure for HSV-1 or HSV-2. However, there is medication to help dismiss it. But what happens when the medication doesn’t help?

Kent resident Rosie Bailey, aged 24, has lived with HSV-2 since 2017

Rosie Bailey has lived with HSV-2 for almost three years now. “I was diagnosed with HSV type 2 on 23rd December 2017. Up to a week before my diagnosis, I felt symptoms of nausea, fever, general weakness, tiredness and fatigue. I had a sore throat and tight chest with shooting pains down my arms and legs.”

“The first year or so of having herpes was very unpredictable. I got an outbreak on average every two weeks”

“I went to a local GUM clinic in Ashford, Kent where they informed me I had herpes but sent off some samples for confirmation testing and sent me on my way with Aciclovir antiviral tablets.”

“Over Christmas, I spent a lot of time in bed, feeling very poorly and under the weather. Your first outbreak is always the worst but I thought it was going to be like this every time! I had to use a lot of anaesthetic topical cream and vaseline when I went to the toilet. I feared for my life if I needed to pass a stool because the pain was just excruciating.”

Rosie went on to say that trips to the local GUM for appointments to get new medication became a regular occurance. “I got an outbreak on average every two weeks, despite how much I took care of my diet, kept my stress levels down, cut down on smoking and so forth.” Doctors were unable to prescribe new medication unless they saw Rosie with sores; which meant that there were some “heated discussions with the doctors”. “I had to reassure them I wasn’t exactly lying to get pills”.

Despite feeling overwhelmed Rosie had a good support network from her partner. “My partner was, of course, ever so supportive and caring towards me and held some guilt about passing it to me; but it is no ones fault.” She kept her diagnosis within her close social group at first and then eventually told her mum. “She didn’t take it well. She didn’t ask me the right questions regarding it and she seemed very angry with me, which is not the appropriate approach”. After telling her mum, she told her dad. “I went to my father who I am closer to, and he was so comforting and told me it doesnt matter and it is life and people do get STIs.”

In January of this year, Rosie split up with her partner and it dawned on her that she faced a new challenge. “I knew it was going to be hard to come to terms with having to tell potential sexual partners about my condition. But over the few years I have had it, I have educated myself enough so I can confidentially discuss it with other peers, not just sexual partners. In fact, its something I like to randomly bring up in the pub. I don’t really care if it makes them uncomfortable because I don’t and never have seen it as taboo. I like to help others understand that, also. If anything, I have gone out my way to try and break the silence because I didn’t realise HOW MANY people live with it and live in fear.”

Asking Rosie why she has decided to go public with her story she said that to her, it’s important that people know and understand that it isn’t something to be ashamed of. “I want people to stop seeing it the way my mother does. Sexual health is so important to any adult and I believe it’s not taught correctly or we are only taught what is really important, like just how to put a condom on a banana or thinking we can only catch chlamydia.”

“I got the hashtag and want it to trend and people suffering or ‘survivors’ as some like to call it, can use it to engage with others or encourage people to feel more open and comfortable about ‘coming out’.”

Asking Rosie what she has learned over the past few years she said that “having that anxiety and worry on your mind about it can probably cause more outbreaks. Looking after yourself helps; so taking time out of the day or week to enjoy something to keep stress levels down and listening to nice podcasts too has helped me. I use an app called ‘Headspace’ which is made for mental health and general mind goodness. Eating well and cutting out dairy has helped too’.

If you want to learn and spread awareness, search using these hashtags on social media:

#HSVisme #HSVisus

Blind man “told to queue like everyone else” by B&M staff

Rick Newman, lives in Ashford with his wife Tracey. He’s severely sight impaired, and uses a white cane to go about his daily life. His wife is arthritic, and has to use two crutches to walk. This means she can only walk short distances comfortably.

This weekend, Rick and Tracey recently visited three B&M stores in Kent, two in Ashford and one in Folkestone, to find and purchase a matching lamp for their home. Instead of having a pleasant shopping experience, they were greeted by ignorance, discrimination and a lack of compassion.

“Tracey was so upset she went and sat in the car”

“Due to COVID the Folkestone branch has a single entry point which has to be accessed by walking along the side of the car park and around the stacks of pallets then back in the opposite direction to the shop. A route that takes no consideration to where the disabled parking bays are. Tracey would not have been able to walk around this route and still have enough strength to walk around the shop.”

“I asked the guy out the front of the shop if we needed to queue up as Tracey would struggle, and he said you need a disabled card. Even though we had just parked in a disabled bay, I said no problem. He then said he would have to go inside and ask if we could go straight in. A woman then came out and said no you’ll have to queue like everyone else. Pointless being asked for proof that we were disabled by her colleague. I explained to her why we had asked for some leniency which fell on deaf ears”

All over the country, supermarkets or large retail stores are introducing a queuing system, to make sure that customers inside are able to maintain a two metre social distance. If you are classified as a key-worker, or you are vulnerable, you are often able to skip the queues.

However, Mr Newman’s terrible shopping experience didn’t end there. After he was able to get in, the manager came and found him. “Interesting, I thought. Here comes the apology. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The manager challenged me and accused me of shouting at his colleague. The 2 metre social distancing rule had clearly been forgotten here as he was right in my face. I explained I hadn’t shouted and had merely raised my voice, to the same level he was now talking to me.”

This is not the first time that B&M have been in the local news. In January of this year, Barry Fleming had a seizure in the Ashford branch. Barry suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, and during his seizure, inadvertantely injured three customers. According to Fleming, the supervisor said he was a “liability” and is “not allowed back in there again”.

Fustratingly, Mr Newman contacted B&M via email with some constructive advice on how to make their shops more accessible for those who have a visual impairement. “I emailed them 2 years ago and offered to show them the difficulties that visually impaired people have using their shops, and offered my help to show how some simple improvements to their layout would help disabled shoppers I didn’t get a reply. Nothing. Not even a confirmation of my email.”

In a phone call, Mr Newman went on to describe what sort of issues there are in B&M stores. “There are tripping hazards and things that are jutting outside the shelving racks and displays stands, that are usually at shoulder height. They usually hit my shoulder or bicep when I am walking around. That isnt the type of fixture I can find with my cane.”

He said that its not just B&M who make it difficult for the visually impaired to shop. “Its the same at Waitrose, TK Maxx, Boots and DIY sheds I use. It’s an issue with the whole retail industry. They do not take into consideration anyone with any visual impairment or disability, other than what maybe deemed as a ‘normal’ person.”

“It really does leave a bad taste in the mouth, but I’ve given B&M an opportunity on a couple of occasions to reach out, and they haven’t. My last offer on Sunday was that I am prepared to work with them and help them, to make them an inclusive retailer, because at the moment they are not”.

I have contacted B&M for further comment.

Take Home Exams: What are they like?

I sat my Politics, Law and Ethics exam this week. But from home. What was it like?

At 11 o’clock this Tuesday, my Politics, Law and Ethics exam paper became available on Blackboard to complete. I should have been sitting it in an exam hall, with two hours to complete it, but instead, due to coronavirus, I am sitting it at home with 48 hours to complete it.

According to the Christ Church take-home examination centre, “the examinations will be similar to the formal examination you would have taken in-person” and they are also “designed to be completed within the 2-hour or 3-hour time constraint normally given to the examination”.

From Blackboard, you will download a word document with your paper on. From here, it’ll look almost exactly like your paper you would get in a normal exam.

What your front page of your exam will look like

Your paper will tell you exactly who to contact for any academic reasons (this most likely be the tutor of the module) and contact details for iZone, in case of any technical issues. For my paper specifically there was guidance on what exam questions to answer, what marks they were worth, and any reading material they recommended.

This is important: at the start of your exam, you must copy and paste the following statement of authenticity:

By taking the online exam, I confirm that the work is my own.

After, add your full name and student ID number. This can be found on your student card, or Blackboard.

Tips for the exam

1) Revise!

Just because it’s an open book exam with suggested material, still means you should revise. You don’t want to be caught scrambling through a hefty textbook for answers. Questions will usually require short, to the point answers that textbooks may not provide the answers to.

2) In case of any difficulties, contact someone right away

If you have any issues, like something is wrong with your paper, contact your academic tutor immediately for help. If it’s something technical, the iZone are available between Monday to Saturday, 9am – 5pm to help out.

3) Save, save and save again!

Saving your work is one of the most important things to do when writing a proposal or an essay. You do not want to be caught out mid way through your exam and your Word document crashes and looses all of your progress!

4) Don’t unintentionally cheat

The university have confirmed that take home exams will be subject to the same plagarism checks through Turnit In and “other means”. What this means is, that like your coursework and essays, they will be checked to make sure you haven’t copied and pasted from the internet, or copied your friends.

5) Hand the exam in on time

My exam required me to hand it in 48 hours after it was released at 11 am. Before submitting, ensure that it reads through well, and spelling and grammar is good. Then, upload it it to Turnitin. No late submissions are allowed, so make sure you get in before the submission time.

Good luck!

University bar running at £186,000 loss

A recent freedom of information request sent to Canterbury Christ Church has revealed that the student’s union bar ran at a £186,000 loss in the financial year of 2018/2019.

They made over £201,936 in that same period. However, the long list of outgoings was quick to put a dent in the money they had made. Catering costs in that same period totalled a whopping £111,470, leaving £90,470. Staffing costs, like wages, cost a further £152,975, leaving the student union in the red. And on top of that, other costs, like agency costs, license fees cost another £124,173 bringing them down to minus £186,000, where the University footed the bill.

Student union bars are synonymous with cheap booze and food – which all students love. However, over the recent years, students are demanding more opportunities to socialise with their friends without alcohol. The living index in 2018, states that on average, students spend £38.61 on alcohol each month with Canterbury spending the least.

These losses are not just occurring in Canterbury. Just last year, Portsmouth University closed its student union bar, The Waterhole, as alcohol sales plummeted over 20%. Now, it is a place where students can socialise, eat street food and drink coffee.

In a study completed with over 300 university students nationwide, over 20% of them stated that they do not drink alcohol or consume drugs at university. This trend is on the rise according to the National Union of Students, as more and more students are pressuring universities to cater for teetotallers, with facilities and events.

Fred Ling is a third-year student studying accounting at Portsmouth University. “Being a non-drinker at university has had more challenges than I first imagined. It’s ingrained in the culture of students to drink several times a week and while I do not condone this it has made my time at university more challenging to meet people as I often find myself not fitting in as most people I know drink regularly.” As my union has shut due to no longer being financially viable it would be nice to see the money saved being reinvested into an improved social structure for both drinkers and non-drinkers alike.”

Panic Buying: How is it affecting everyone?

On December 31st 2019, the World Health Organisation first heard of a potentially deadly, unknown virus. Since the outbreak of Coronavirus in January this year, a rapidly rising number of confirmed cases and deaths has instilled a massive cause of fear, panic and concern for everyone.

Over the past few months, the Independent hand sanitiser sales have gone up 255% after the WHO recommended using it more often.

This was just the beginning. The fear and panic as coronavirus edges closer to home has started a new wave of panic buying. Panic buying is a phenomenon where consumers mass buy household goods and non-perishable food in anticipation for a potential disaster. It can also be described as an instinctive behaviour. Sarah Clark, a therapist based in Ashford said, “I do think that panic buying is a form of anxiety”.

At the end of March, MarketingWeek reported that over 72% of retailers in the UK were reporting shortages, and over 25% of consumers admitted to stockpiling, or panic buying.

Empty freezers
Empty freezers at Tesco Park Farm

Empty Shelves
Barren shelves, again, at Tesco Park Farm

Empty freezer fridges and shelves have been a common sight in most supermarkets in the past few weeks as customers attempt to stock up on household goods and food. Olivia Percy, a Partner at Waitrose, said that since the pandemic started “customers tend to panic buy toilet rolls, hand sanitiser, cereal and pasta”. In response to this, they have made a few changes to how their stores operate.

“Customers tend to panic buy toilet rolls, hand sanitiser, cereal and pasta” – Olivia Percy

Most supermarkets have implemented purchase restrictions on items. Sam Epps, a Sainsbury’s employee said “we have currently got a two-unit limit for toilet roll, UHT Milk, Hand soap/sanitiser and three units for everything else. I know this is due to be lifted soon or may have been already.” In Tesco’s and Asda, customers can only purchase a maximum of three items of any one unit (for example, a maximum of three boxes of any one cereal, or three bags of pasta). Customers at Morrisons are only able to fill one trolley of shopping, with some multi-buy restrictions. These restrictions still stand.

Restrictions on items are not the only changes that supermarkets have made over the recent weeks. Lauren Baugh, an Iceland employee discussed what is happening there.

“I work at Iceland The Food Warehouse and I am an online picker and cashier. On a day to day basis I am always up early, at about 5am to pick the online deliveries for the customers. Depending on how many we get this can take as much time until we open which is at 8 o’clock. The online average is about 20 to 30 a day but due to coronavirus pandemic we have had a rise of about 75 online per day. When the shop opens I essentially become a cashier serving customers and helping them with any of their needs. Iceland is using a social distancing method of only letting approximately 10 customers in the shop at once. This is due to everyone’s safety including us staff. We have a member of staff on the door letting customers into the shop when available. When the customers approach the till, there is marked guidelines of tape on the floor to ensure customers stand at a reasonable distance until they are called over to the till.”

The limits to the amount customers can buy and also how many in store at any one time helps massively in ensuring that everyone has fair access to products. Lauren went on to mention that “another policy we have decided to change is change our opening times – 9 to 10 o’clock are strictly for OAPs, between 5 and 6 in the evening is for people who work for the NHS. They have to show ID”.

Sharon is a health care assistant. She lives with her partner, a paramedic, and their two children. “I went to Australia for Christmas where we first heard of the virus, and I realised it would be coming all over the world”. With her family’s best interests in mind, she started making appropriate preparations. “When we got back to England which was the 13th of January, within that week I started buying extra food – instead of buying 2 tins, I bought 4. I bought food I wouldn’t usually buy like fruit or tinned veg.” When asked her why she started preparing so early and chose not to go out and panic buy, like we have seen all over social media and television. “I did it because I thought that potentially there could be an issue with food, and I didn’t want there to be a shortage. I bought a couple of extra things each week over the course of the month, as opposed to going shopping in a couple of visits and panic buying, which I feel is very selfish.”

However, not all shoppers shared the same behaviours and initiative whilst shopping like Sharon.

“Bread, eggs, flour, loo rolls, cereal, pasta, rice, tinned fruit and veg, fresh meat (mainly chicken and beef) hand wash, cleaning products, paracetamol and children’s medicine equivalents and frozen foods are basically non-existent – they are the first to go” said Charlotte Clark, an employee at Sainsburys in Bath. Charlotte said she was exhausted. Since the pandemic broke out, she has worked over her usual 20-hour contract by working a 38-hour week instead. This peaked at 60 hours at one point to provide extra help and cover sick colleagues. “Sainsburys have gotten to the point where they will not put hand sanitizer on the shelves as they are putting it back to protect staff. A lot of the people panicking buying were families with children as they’ve put their houses on complete lockdown for like 3 months. People were literally going around with two or three trollies. We’ve had to ban some people from the store because of the increase in stealing, especially from food bank bins and online shopping trollies”. Sainsburys has now introduced new measures to help stop this. “Since the reduced opening times, limiting customers and items it is possible to get some of the stuff that has been sold out constantly due to panic shoppers. But again, it’s all limited so there’s no guarantee”.

In the UK there are over 2000 food banks. Between these, services vary from one to another but they all provide one main service – to make sure families who are desperate are fed. Panic buying has caused a huge knock-on effect for food banks, and it’s making their work a lot harder. “We rely on three things heavily,” said Tony Barnard. Tony has worked at the Ashford Family Food Bank since its opening in 2013. “We rely on donated food, people donating their money and people donating their time”. Tony went on to describe what sort of options they offer their customers. “We put two types of boxes together, one for families and one for individuals. Now we can only offer one box – that box weighs 12 kilograms and should feed a family of four for a week”. Like most people the items that they need the most to fill the boxes, are the hardest to get, are everyday necessities, like pasta, rice and milk. Tony described the service as “struggling”. Before the pandemic the service in Ashford used to send out around 300 boxes a week to families – but now, they are down to 150. Tony assured me it will return to normal soon. Thankfully, food banks like Tony’s, receive a massive amount of community support that helps soften the blow. Community involvement ranges from Tony said that “we have had a lot of support from people providing monetary donations, food donations and also volunteering to drop off boxes”.

Listen to the interview below…

Half a million visitors expected to flock to Margate for Turner Prize exhibition, according to organizers

Margate will be hosting the Turner Prize exhibition this year, running from September until January 2020.

According to the event’s organizers, they anticipate seeing around 500,000 visitors, with a “significant number” of those coming from outside of Kent.

The Turner Prize, established in 1984, is a leading contemporary art prizes, and is recognized internationally. It is awarded to a British artist, for their previous work in the last 12 months, with a cash prize of £40,000 up for grabs too.

VisitKent who are a destination management organization, are working closely with the organizers of the Turner Prize. VisitKent have called being selected for the prize is a “huge honor”. 

VisitKent are very excited that Margate is hosting the Turner Prize later this year, as it gives visitors and locals alike a chance to experience and showcase the towns “richness of offerings”, including culture, food and drink, and attractions. 

Not only will Margate benefit from this, but VisitKent aim to create a “wider experience for visitors” – meaning other towns in Kent will have lots of new visitors to experience “amazing castles, amazing heritage, and amazing animal parks”.

Despite this, locals are worried that Kent’s infrastructure and accommodation sector won’t be able to handle the extra footfall, with a lot of visitors being expected to be travelling into Kent.

Locals are worried that roads will become severely congested, and public transport will be even busier than usual. VisitKent have stated that they are keeping locals involved with decision making and planning. As well as this, they are devising itineraries and are working with organisations such as Network Rail and local councils. 

Kent County Council finally agree for Eastern Bypass

Concept plans posed by Canterbury City Council for a bypass to remove traffic from the ring roads around Canterbury have hit an uncertain roadblock last year after Kent County Council were “anti” plans for it. 

However, they have now finally agreed and come to conclusion that Canterbury has developed to a point where it was a “sensible” idea in their view. 

This now means that Canterbury City Council can go to government for further funding, as the project, according to local Councillior Simon Cook, will cost “tens of millions of pounds”.

Cook today described that the county council have always been “fairly anti” plans for an eastern bypass around Canterbury. 

According to Cook, the eastern bypass would “start near Sturry park and ride and through the south of the city to the A2, to about Bridge – slightly north of it”. 

Not only will the bypass reduce congestion in and around the city centre, it means that businesses will benefit from the reduced traffic on the ring road, air quality will be better in traffic jam hotspots and the quality of life for Canterbury residents will be improved too.

Cook also briefly outlined other plans for Canterbury included the development of 16,000 new homes, around Herne Bay and Whitstable. 4000 of these would be located in “urban Canterbury”.  

Cook predicts that the bypass will be open around 2030. He added that the bypass is now “no longer a fantasy”, as they are now working with central government. 

Four beloved pets die after rat poison incident

Dog owners in Kingsnorth are in shock as it has been discovered that rat poison has been left in a popular local wood for dog walkers.

The woods, located near Furley Park Primary, is hugely popular with dog walkers but it has come to light that someone in the area has been leaving discarded food out, laced with rat poison.

So far, four dogs have lost their lives. One local resident, Terri Kennedy described her “beloved and beautiful” cocker spaniel dying a “horrible and painful death” earlier in March.

Earlier this year, Richard Porter of Park Farm in Kingsnorth lost his cat after a similar incident occurred. He described how his cat took “several days of suffering to die and cost over £1000 in vet bills”.

Residents are at a loss as to why someone would do this, especially in such a popular wood. Janine Oliver described the individual as a “sadist” and a “sick individual” but at this point it is unclear who is doing it. 

The police and animal welfare enforcement in the local area have been informed, but at this point in time, they have no leads, nor is there an official response. 

At this time, residents are warning dog owners to avoid the woods altogether, and ensure that owners keep a close eye on their animals to avoid an shocking repeat of these events.