My Top Albums of 2017

For the first time ever I’ve put together a blog highlighting some of my favourite albums of this year. I don’t pretend to be any authority on this, and these certainly aren’t reviews as such, but I know I talk a lot about music on my socials and I wanted to talk in a bit more details about some of the albums I’ve loved this year and why.

In composing this list I had very few rules – these 8 albums aren’t in any particular order from 1 to 8 for example (although you will find I’ve highlighted my top album of 2017 further down). Quite simply the album had to be released in 2017 (or at least I have to think that’s when it was released!!), it has to be a full length album as opposed to an EP, and it cannot be a Christmas album.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts, and if you make it to the bottom there’s a special treat for you!

Lauren Alaina – Road Less Travelled
There’s no doubt that this album is on here for the lyrics. Road Less Travelled is full of catchy melodies that will get stuck in your head but its when you delve into the lyrics that you can really appreciate the strength of this album. For me Doin’ Fine has become a particular favourite and one of the songs that has helped me through a tough year – especially the chorus lyrics “I’m doin’ fine enough to know that everyones a little broken, fine enough to learn that hearts are best when they’re wide open. I still got fear inside of me, I’m not OK but I’m gonna be alright.” These are words that to me have been a reminder that I don’t have to cover up the way I’m feeling all the time, and that it’s OK not to be 100% all the time.
For me though the standout track is Three. This song tells the story of some of the struggles Lauren Alaina has been through to get to this point in her career and if you’ve ever thought musicians can walk into their career this song will soon change your mind! I think my own experiences of feeling like I miss out on so many opportunities because my training and racing comes first meant I related to this song from the first listen. As you delve deeper into the album you’ll see this is a common theme though – Lauren sings about life experiences and it’s this that has made the album stand out to me!
Standout track – Three

Taylor Swift – Reputation
A lot has been said about this album, and it’s no secret that I’m a huge Tay-Tay fan and always will be. The album was launched with a huge fanfare (or lack of in one sense considering Taylor disappeared from social networks in the buildup) which made the anticipation even greater. Musically some songs on the album are a huge departure from what’s come before – but not all are … Getaway Car for example would fit in on any of the last couple of albums. Whilst musically the album is different in places Taylor’s storytelling  and lyrics continue to be just as outstanding. Just yesterday shuffle on my iPhone meant I listened to Picture To Burn (TS1) followed by Look What You Made Me Do one after the other – I highly recommend this if you want to see Taylor’s progression as an artist!
Then just as the album is coming to an end up pops track 16 – New Year’s Day! This could have been on TS1 and TS2 – it looks and sounds like the old (dead!) Taylor. In fact it’s even been released as a single to country radio – a nice, unexpected surprise at the end of the album!
Standout track – New Years Day 

RaeLynn – WildHorse
This was, if my memory serves me correctly, the first album I bought in 2017 and it’s stood the test of time to end up in this list. The standout track on this album, Love Triangle, tells the story of a child with separated parents and was on regular rotation on my iPhone long before the album became available – it’s country music storytelling at it’s finest, drawing you in.
Lyrically Diamonds stands out to me as another fantastic song and one which deserves more radio play than it’s got, particularly on UK Country radio. Ultimately this whole album has established RaeLynn as a super exciting artist to watch and I hope we’ll see her over in the UK really soon – I was gutted she wasn’t on the original lineup announcements for C2C 2018.
Standout track – Love Triangle

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound
Time to be honest here…the first few times I listened to this album I just didn’t get it. I knew he was coming up as a guest on Bob Harris (which I listen to religiously!) and so I listened to the tracks that had already been released a few times in advance…not for me. Then I listened to his session on Bob Harris and suddenly the songs took on a new life to me. I think previously I’d had it on as background music and not connected with the lyrics. But hearing Jason talk about the tracks made me listen more carefully and tracks I’d dismissed like If We Were Vampires and Something To Love made me instantly want to give this album a second chance and this time listening to the lyrics I realised it really is outstanding!
I’m glad I gave it a deeper listen as listening to the album cuts made me come across Anxiety which for me is a track people need to here…’Anxiety, how do you always get the best of me…I can’t enjoy a goddamn thing’. Seriously worth a listen.
Standout track – Anxiety

Wildwood Kin – Turning Tides
Quite simply, if I had to single one of these albums out as my top album of 2017 this would be it, and it’s another discovery I owe to Bob Harris and Radio 2. Wildwood Kin were highlighted as part of BBC Introducing this year and featured on a Radio 2 show from Maida Vale. Listening to their interview and songs on this show was enough for me to fall in love with this music. The all-girl trio, who are all family, produce some of the most stunning harmonies you’ll ever hear on an album which could probably be found in many genres in a record store – certainly country, Americana or folk fans are all going to enjoy this sound.
It’s hard to pick a song that stands out because the album truly is superb from start to finish (never mind finding just 2 to put on my Apple Music playlist – see below) but I think on a personal level Hold On has connected with me. But honestly – you need to give the whole album a listen.
Better still – go see Wildwood Kin live. I’ve been lucky enough to see these girls 4 times this year, including on the opening night of their first ever headline tour, and their live performance really is something special. Plus they are 3 of the nicest, most welcoming people you will ever meet.
Standout track – all of it. Genuinely. 

Shania Twain – Now
I guess for me Shania falls in the same category as Taylor in having been a fan for a long time. In the case of Shania the wait for new music has been much longer due to her health struggles having put a hold on her music career for a long time. With so much time having passed there was a lot of anticipation surrounding this album and personally I felt it delivered. Shania sits on the pop-country boundary and Now very definitely sits on the pop side of that, with a slightly different sound having developed since her last music.
That said from a lyrical perspective Soldier sits very definitely within the heart-stopping storytelling you expect to come directly out of Nashville. On the other end of the spectrum Life’s About To Get Good (the first single release from the album) is an up tempo pop anthem that everybody can embrace!
Standout track – Life’s About To Get Good

Lindsay Ell – The Project
Like a few of the artists on this list I first came across Lindsay Ell’s music on Apple Music. The first thing that came across to me was the fantastic guitars on the music! (If only I could play my own Fender that well!) I started to do a bit of YouTube research, as I do with many new artists, and quickly discovered that the brilliant guitar playing is her own work. Hundreds of YouTube videos of her live performances and her guitar slaying (as I now like to call it!) has helped establish her as one of my favourite discoveries, and certainly my favourite guitarist on the country scene right now. If you’re still not convinced then the fact that Brad Paisley opted to take her out on his Weekend Warrior Tour this year speaks volumes – after all Brad knows a thing or two about the guitar!
It should be noted that beyond the music this album is also strong lyrically. Her previous EP releases meant I’d already fallen in love with Space and was so glad it found a place on the album, and Castle also grabbed me the first time I heard it due to it’s simple yet provocative lyrics – ‘even if we had a house upon a hill, I bet we’d want a castle’.
I was gutted to miss Lindsay when she came over to the UK this year but thanks to some excellent friends I still have a signed copy of the album and I’m looking forward to seeing her live when she comes over for C2C 2018.
Standout track – Castle

Danielle Bradbery – I Don’t Believe We’ve Met
It says something about the strength of this album that it’s found it’s way onto this list having been released only a matter of weeks ago. Danielle won the US Voice a few years ago and after releasing the album that followed the win has taken a break before following it up with this album. I only discovered her music on the new album so can’t speak for what came before but the result has certainly been a brilliant album. This album probably includes the story for the strangest way of discovering an artist…I discovered her music initially when Bailey Bryan promoted her album by dancing along to Sway on her Instagram Story! (A side note here – Bailey Bryan’s EP ‘So Far’ deserves a special mention here for containing my song of 2017, Scars, which is my most-listened to song ever – a song that means the absolute world to me – and is included on my playlist so you can listen to it yourself!)
Back to Danielle’s album though, and it really is superb. Of all the albums on this list I think it might be the most raw, and overall honest. The songs on the album tell stories of hurt, heartbreak, relationships and life in general. It takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, from songs like Sway which I want to dance along to every time I play it, through to songs like Potential and Human Diary which are strong enough to tear you apart on every listen.
Standout song – Human Diary

So that’s it – my top albums of 2017! But it’s one thing hearing my thoughts – really you need to hear the music! So with this in mind I’ve put together an Apple Music playlist with 2 songs from each album. I’ve tried to pick 2 superb tracks whilst trying to showcase the variety on the albums. Hopefully you’ll enjoy and find some new favourites which might encourage you to dig deeper and explore these artists for yourself (then buy their music!)!


Posted in country, General, Music | Leave a comment

I’m not done with 2017 – 2 very different 10km’s

As many of you will be aware, 2017 hasn’t gone to plan. ‘The plan’ had been to have a superb season with many first time road races for me like the Paris Marathon and the Great North Run, as well as returning to some old favourites, including a 5th consecutive Yorkshire Marathon. Instead complex health problems have meant that I’ve not raced a single time in 2017 and had 6 months where training was completely off limits.

Back in July I used my blog to share the news that I was able to get back to some light training and that I was hoping to be able to race in Bury this September. I’ve waited to confirm this until I was confident it would be do-able, but I’m pleased to be able to share some very exciting news – that whilst I’ll only be racing the once this year I’ll be doing 2 10km’s in September! (Bear with me, and read on!)

Firstly, I’m really pleased to confirm that I will be doing the Bury 10km on Sunday 17th September. This will be my only proper race of 2017, and the only time I’ll be sitting on a 10km start line in my racing chair this year. As I mentioned back in July this race will give me an opportunity to gauge where my training is at and focus my training ahead of a hopefully full 2018 season.

However that’s not all. I’m taking the opportunity of not being able to race properly this year to do something a little bit different, and remind me how all this started. I got into this sport by first taking part in a number of mass participation running events in my day chair, and along with my good friend and colleague Travis Abbott I’ll be doing this once again at the beginning of September. On 3rd September we’ll be heading down to the Olympic Park to take part in Parallel London – the worlds first fully inclusive push/run. I’ll be taking part in my day chair and certainly not taking it too seriously but it will be great to do 10km in one go (at whatever speed – there may be some pushing, running, jogging, walking – who knows!) and know I can do the distance ahead of the Bury race. It should be a fun day and we plan to just stick at the same pace together and keep going for however long it takes to do it in my day chair!

One of the most frustrating things about this year has been not being able to do some of the things that I’d had planned to promote and fundraise for Right To Play. I was delighted earlier this year to be able extend my support for Right To Play until at least the end of 2018 and that continued support starts now! At both of these events I’ll be in my Right To Play/Viper 10 kit, and I hope the more relaxed atmosphere of Parallel London will give me a bit more opportunity to spread the word! Alongside that I’d love it if you could take the time to make a donation to Right To Play as sponsorship for these events and to motivate my training over the next few weeks.

Right To Play work with over a million children each week in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, using sport and play to develop new skills, educate and transform the lives of disadvantaged children. They believe that through the power of play children can receive a high quality education, overcome obstacles and see their lives turn around. They train local people to lead these programmes, creating a long-term and sustainable solution for communities facing poverty, disease and conflict.

It’s this ethos which has drawn me to support Right To Play, as it’s something I know to be true. I know that play and sport can transform lives, because I, in my own way, have seen that first hand. Since I became wheelchair bound sport has not only transformed my life but become my main focus, as I found that I could achieve and enjoy myself even with a disability. This same feeling is one that I hope children will benefit from as a result of my support of Right To Play – that through sport and play you can have fun, achieve and give life a purpose.

To sponsor me today and donate to Right To Play please head to:

Posted in Disability, General, Right To Play, Sports, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Some bad news, some good news

After months of writing blog posts explaining what’s going on with my health and how it’s affecting my racing I’m hoping that this will be the last time I will update you! Not because I’m better but because I have a long term plan, and I’m hopeful that it’s all going to go according to my plan.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will be aware that over the last few weeks I’ve been given the OK to begin some light training again. I can’t tell you how excellent being told that was. After over 4 months of being stuck at home in the evenings, unable to do the one thing that is more ingrained in my daily life than my work, getting the go ahead to start training again was superb. That’s not to say I’m better – the infection to my implant site which took me out of training in the first place cleared, but the pain to my implant site which kept me out is still very much there, whilst I await action from some new specialists to hopefully finally resolve this. However in the meantime they’ve been able to move me on to some medication that doesn’t interfere with the medication keeping my lungs from going crazy again and I’ve been given assurance that training won’t make anything worse, so here we go (after a bout of pneumonia threatened to be the next thing to get in my way)!

The last few weeks, initially starting on some fitness work, before starting to do some light sessions in the chair, have been an exercise in managing expectations. As I said to someone in the gym this morning, there are days when just being allowed to train again makes me think that suddenly I can do everything, yet there are also days where I realise just what a long road I have ahead (and more of the latter right now). 4 months is a hell of a long time to do nothing for, and the last few weeks have demonstrated just how much fitness I’ve lost, and how hard the next few months will be. They’ve reminded me that I’m not going to be back at full speed tomorrow, this will be a long and steady process – one which is vital if I want to save myself from the risk of injury and more time out. The good thing is that when it comes to my training I’ve never been shy of hard work. Getting up at 5am for training before work, hours of training in the evenings, they’ve all helped me to understand what is required to race, and have created an attitude of hard work, perseverance and never giving up. The next few months of training I will have to test that attitude to the core, but I will, because I love my sport so much.

Seeing the reality of what my fitness is like has led to some incredibly difficult decisions. Missing out on a huge ambition to do the Paris Marathon in April was horrible, as has been missing out on races like today and the opportunity to defend my Great Newham Run title. When every one of these decisions has been made I’ve been looking forward to the end of this year and hoping that two more of my big races would still happen. In early September I was due to race the Great North Run for the first time – a race I’ve wanted to do for years, and then in October I was due to race the Yorkshire Marathon, which would have meant I’d made it to all 5 races since it began. Unfortunately neither of these will now happen. The chances of me being fit enough to even complete these races is in itself questionable, but the chances of me being fit enough to race them and get a time I’d be happy with is 0. Those of you close to me will be aware that the last few months have taken a huge toll on me mentally, and the last few weeks that has only spiralled, in part with the reality of seeing where my fitness is at. At times my motivation has been at an all-time low. Even if I was fit, to race and do (what I would perceive to be) poorly, is likely to do more harm than good and that’s not a risk worth taking.

All this said, with me struggling mentally and for motivation I’ve felt it’s important to put something in the diary which will encourage me to put in the hard work to get my fitness up to scratch, and I’m pleased to confirm that, all being well, I’ll be racing a 10k in 2017. I’m working towards racing the Bury 10k on September 17th, and that will be my only race this year. It will be a chance for me to gauge where I’m at, and help to focus training for what I hope will be a full season in 2018.

I will, of course, be doing this race in my Viper 10 kit which proudly holds the Right To Play logo on the front, and I hope to be able to raise even more money for Right To Play during the next few months. I hope by now you all know loads about Right To Play, so I won’t repeat myself here, but I would love it if you’d consider donating to Right To Play today, as a form of sponsorship for this event. Not only will your money be going to an excellent cause I truly believe in, but it will encourage me as I work to get to fitness for this race, and work towards hopefully a more successful year in 2018. If you’d like to find out more and donate, please do so here:

Thanks as always for your support over the last few months,

Posted in Depression, General, mental health, Right To Play, Sports, Wellbeing | Leave a comment

A Letter to Me

So much has happened in the last 12 months, there are days where I just wish I could go back and give myself a bit of advice about what’s to come…

Hey 27 year old Chris,

Right now you think things are alright. You think that for the first time in as long as you can remember things are going right. Being able to talk about your depression publicly for the first time was a huge step and you felt like a huge weight was taken off you. The last few months you’ve had a few great holidays and weekends away. You don’t know it yet, but later this year you’ll sit at the finish of the Yorkshire Marathon after your best ever race and start to imagine how things might turn out.

The problem is, life doesn’t always work out the way you dreamed. You already know that by now. Your health issues, your disability, your dreams that have fallen by the wayside are all testament to that. And yet you keep dreaming. Because you’re only human.

The next year is going to be tougher than you ever imagined. The toughest you’ve experienced in 27 years on this earth. Your health is going to take another downwards spiral and all those dreams you had will be forgotten, whilst you spend months in pain (I can’t tell you if the pain improves…). A song will come along and tear your heart apart time and time again as it reminds you of what you’re missing with your twin. You’ll spend months blaming yourself for a situation you could have done nothing about. You’ll regret ever talking about your depression as you get crushed time and time again by the heartless comments from people who think you need to ‘get on with it’.

And yet, you’ll have some of the best races and opportunities you’ve ever had, including getting to retain your Great Run title in no less than the Olympic Stadium! You’ll conquer a huge fear in going abroad completely independently in your wheelchair (which is all the more impressive considering the circumstances in which it happens). You’ll create some new friends for life and have some incredible evenings sharing your love of music with them. And you wait till you seen the lineup for next year’s C2C – it’s going to be the best weekend of your life (just make sure you get that Bluebird Cafe ticket…)

So knowing all that, here’s my tips for getting through it all (and they’re tips I reckon we can all live by)…

You can’t hold yourself responsible for the decisions other people make. You can’t always make everything else better. For a while, you won’t get that. Day after day you’ll ask yourself ‘what if?’. You’ll blame yourself for other people’s difficulties. But you can’t know everything. You can’t fix everything. The sooner you can stop blaming yourself, the less painful it is. Everyone will tell you there’s nothing you could have done. You won’t believe them but they’re right.

Be willing to talk and share your feelings when your heart is breaking. The beauty of music is that it says things you simply can’t find the words to say. You’ll find it a great tool when blogging. Take the next step and use it to have difficult conversations, to explain how your heart is pulled apart. Otherwise it will eat away at you until it causes you more pain than you can imagine. You think you’re being strong. You think by the time you’re in your late 20’s these things shouldn’t upset you anymore, that even your family will think you’re crazy. They don’t. And once you’ve had a good cry you’ll feel a lot better for being able to share.

As people hurt you with comments that you know aren’t right you’ll become ever more insular and independent. After all, you can show everybody you’re doing fine, that you don’t need support. Time and again people will ask if you’re OK and you’ll just say yes. You’ll make sure your social networks paint a picture of someone who’s enjoying life and getting on with things. And yet by not talking to anyone you put yourself in a situation where you cause yourself to break down as soon as you roll through your own front door on a far too regular basis. You’ll make yourself feel far, far worse. Likelihood is that those people asking if you’re OK do actually care. They want to know, to support you. If you talk to them it might help. You might not find things so hard. Hey – you might not even have to write yourself this! Remember, you’re not invincible. However much you’d like to be.

In the midst of all the battles with your health you are going to go through some pretty tough patches. You’ll think it’s the end of the world. You’ll feel like things will never get better. I can’t tell you right now what the ‘everything is better’ feels like because I’m not there. But I’ll tell you what I have found. Hold onto the good times. In spite of all the challenges, all the struggles, and all the pain, you’ve had some pretty awesome moments this year. Hold on to those moments. Those videos of Brad Paisley singing ‘Today’ at C2C, Bailey Bryan on the popup (you don’t even know her name yet!) and Cassadee Pope in the Bluebird – keep them on your phone (sorry to ruin the lineup announcement for you by the way!) You’re going to go back to those videos time and time again. You’re going to watch them literally hundreds of times on your bad days. But they’re a reminder that life does have it’s positives. It might not always feel that way but you have some brilliant moments. Hold onto them.

Oh, and keep dreaming. No one should ever stop dreaming. No, not every dream comes true. But having dreams will always push you forward. It will always move you on. And better to be hurt by not reaching your dreams, then to not aspire to anything in the first place.

See you in the mirror,

28 year old Chris

PS. The concept of writing a ‘letter to me’ is not one I can take credit for. But then you know that, because even at 27 you loved Brad Paisley. Remember as Brad says in his song “You got so much going for you, going right”…

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National School Sports Week – a chance to promote wellbeing for everyone


It’s become something of a tradition for me to put up a post during National School Sports Week (NSSW) to talk about why I believe it’s super important. And so as the annual event comes around once more I wanted to put down a few thoughts about what makes any event that encourages children to be active so important. As this blog talks directly about the education system, in which I am employed, it’s important so say that as always, views are my own…


Over the last year ‘Wellbeing’ has become a real buzzword in education. As workloads for those in education get greater, and as an awareness of mental health issues in children becomes more prevalent there is rightly a focus upon:

the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy
(Oxford English Dictionary definition of wellbeing)

When we talk about wellbeing, sport is undoubtedly a key factor. It is widely recognised that there are a large number of physical health benefits associated with exercise and participation in sport, including reducing the risk of heart attacks, and helping to tackle obesity. To put the benefit into numerical terms, a Sport England study estimated that participation in regular exercise or sport activities can save up to £7000 per person in healthcare costs.

Furthermore, there are significant benefits for a persons’ mental health too. It is well known that even light or moderate exercise can release endorphins in the body that help to combat stress and reduce anxiety. Alongside this it is understood that, particularly among children and young people, involvement in sport can help to tackle self-esteem issues, can contribute to feelings of togetherness, and can help tackle body-image issues.

In a society where childhood obesity levels are rising and we are more health-conscious than ever any opportunity to encourage children to lead a healthier lifestyle must be seized upon. Child development experts suggest that particularly at primary school age children are influenced to develop habits for life, and if at a young age we can encourage children to live an active lifestyle we are encouraging them into lifestyle choices that will continue to reap benefits in later life. In addition the mental benefits seem indisputable – in a society where the UK education system seems to put more stress on children than ever before we have a responsibility to promote mental wellbeing to children, and physical activity is one of the ways we can tackle this.

What about those who don’t like sport?

Naturally within a school setting there will always be those who aren’t naturally interested in sport, or those who object to having to do even more than normal. Of course with most things children dislike, one of the key factors behind these feelings can be a fear of ‘under-performing’ or ‘failing’. It strikes me that in some curriculum areas like English or Maths there is clear differentiation – teachers will regularly give children different tasks (for example a different set of questions) and will focus on supporting them at their level. This helps the children to progress, as well as to experience that sense of achievement that they should rightly feel on completing a task, because they’ve been given ability-appropriate material. However sport seems to be one of those areas where, outside of formal coaching, a mixed-ability group will be thrown in together, and so naturally the weaker children struggle.

School is also a very difficult place to promote sport because of the nature of time restrictions, location restrictions and more. To be fair, school sport has moved on a lot since the days I went to school (where rounders, football and rugby seemed to be on an endless loop). For example in the school I work at children are introduced to a huge variety of sport within lessons from athletics through to parkour and lots in between, alongside a huge variety of after-school activities which further complement that. However I believe there’s always more to be done and activities like NSSW provide the opportunity to identify and signpost towards sports that may appeal to those who don’t enjoy your normal PE lessons (for example when I got to secondary I didn’t engage in those sports promoted in PE,  but was presented with opportunities to do trampolining, rock climbing and skiing, which alongside my dance helped me maintain a level of fitness that has been essential to the sport that has now become my life).

So what about National School Sports Week?

In explaining why I believe sport is so important for children, I hope that some of these points will leave you with a similar passion. NSSW is a perfect opportunity for many children to take a first step to embarking upon a healthier, more active lifestyle. It provides schools with the opportunity to introduce children to sports that they might not normally get to try to due to curriculum time-constraints, and therefore hopefully identify opportunities for more children to participate in some form of physical activity. It also provides teachers with the perfect opportunity to talk more about the benefits of sport and to encourage children to get involved – something that is also all too often missed due to the nature of a full timetable. If children feel forced into their one hour of PE the likelihood is you’ll only engage those who already want to participate – having both the time to showcase different activities from normal, and to have those conversations around wellbeing and healthy lifestyles should be an integral part of encouraging children in to sport.

Of course, it’s not good enough to do this one week a year. As I’ve already mentioned sport has an important role to play in the physical and mental health of children. We wouldn’t dream of telling children to only brush their teeth one week a year, and likewise engaging children in sport should not be confined to such a short period either. Not only education but other children’s services too, need to see a culture change where there is a real emphasis on helping children to engage in sport in a field and at a level where they can experience that sense of achievement that motivates them to continue, so that in future it might be unthinkable that a week of promotion is even necessary.

And finally…

I couldn’t write a post about sport without giving a mention to Right To Play, the charity I’m proud to be partnering with until at least the end of my racing season in 2018. In the UK we are incredibly lucky that all our children have the opportunity to engage in education. Not all children are so lucky. I began to support Right To Play because, like me, they passionately believe that sport and play can change lives. They work with over a million children each week in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, using sport and play to develop new skills, educate and transform the lives of disadvantaged children. They believe that through the power of play children can receive a high quality education, overcome obstacles and see their lives turn around. They train local people to lead these programmes, creating a long-term and sustainable solution for communities facing poverty, disease and conflict. As schools in this country spend a week giving their children some of the most brilliant sporting opportunities possible there are children in other parts of the world that desperately need the accessible education that Right To Play offer. If you’d like to support their work please head on over to:

Further reading

Read more about how I believe sport changes lives in my 2015 NSSW post


Posted in Depression, Education, mental health, Sports, Wellbeing | Leave a comment

Crying For No Reason

This post has undergone multiple different versions in my mind before today. Initially I planned to call this post Living With Depression but I don’t want to suggest, or imply that this is every persons experience. This is my experience, which I’m sharing because I don’t believe I’m the only one.

Personally, one of the hardest things that happens when I’m struggling with my mental health is being asked ‘what’s up?’ It seems like a harmless question doesn’t it? The sort of question anyone can answer. But when I’m in the midst of a tough time, it’s often a question I can’t answer. Not because I don’t want to. Not because I’m trying to be awkward. Simply because I don’t know.

See what many people don’t understand is that depression isn’t simply feeling miserable because life’s given you a bad hand. Depression is an illness that clouds your mind, clouds your feelings and your emotions. Whilst difficult circumstances certainly don’t help the way I feel, and can be triggers, the effects of depression can strike at any time.

One of the hardest things for me has been dealing with questions like this since I started to be able to talk publicly about my depression. When people who know about your illness ask such a question, or, in my mind the far worse ‘what’s up now?’ it rips you to the core. Fifteen months ago when I first spoke openly about my own battle, one of the driving factors behind that decision was wanting people to understand what’s going on in my life. When one of those people then asks such a question I just want to scream at them!


However what people don’t see is that depression is more than just not feeling great, or, as I’ve had said more than once ‘being in a bad mood’. For me, there are days when life just seems to require more effort than I’ve got. When I wake up and can’t bring myself to get out of bed. When I can’t get the motivation required to open the front door so I spend the most beautiful day of the year lying on my sofa without going out the front door. When talking to friends feels like too much effort so I text them and say I’m busy, when in reality the only thing I’m busy doing is avoiding people.

What I find hardest is that there is no rhyme or reason to it. I can have every reason to be happy that day, and yet I can’t summon the energy to be happy. I can have had great news and yet feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Some days I can be smiling on the outside and breaking on the inside.

And yet, somewhere in all that I know I’m lucky. Personally, I know there are two things in my life that are crucially important – my work, and my training. They are two things that will always get me out of bed in the morning. Two things that I know I simply cannot miss. Two things that even on the toughest days I’ll brave, even if I’m not feeling brave.

“I push all my problems to the back of my mind
Then they surface in my dreams, they come alive”
(Katy B, Crying For No Reason)

Yet sometimes it feels like this perpetuates the problem. I let the world see I’m OK when I’m not, let the world think I’m doing fine when I’m struggling. And then when I’m alone and have finished the ‘must-dos’, it all comes crashing down, and I’m back on my sofa on my own.

Why write all this on my blog though?

I write it because I want to help people understand. Ever since I started to talk about depression a year ago I’ve been met with many people who think that depression is just ‘feeling sad’. Equally I’ve been met with people who tell me they’re ‘not surprised’ I’ve got depression with ‘everything you’ve been through’.

I want to help people understand that there are so many ways depression can affect you. It’s not just taking news badly, or feeling sad. Understanding the effect it can have on peoples lives is crucial.

I want people to be able to look out for signs with their friends so they can offer genuine care and compassion. Again, this is different for everyone, but there are times for me where I wish someone had understood what I was going through. Where rather than asking what was up they’d seen I was struggling and just sat with me.

I want people to know they’re not alone. Honestly, until very recently I thought I was the only person who went through these periods of lacking motivation for the simplest of tasks. It was only through reading something online I understood I wasn’t alone.

And so I’ve written this post. Not really with anything profound to say. Not with any answers to the huge questions I have. But I’ve just written, very bluntly, about a small part of my experiences. I hope you’ll take it as it is, respect what I go through, and look out for those around you who may experience very similar feelings.


Posted in Depression, mental health | Leave a comment


manchesterI’ve been debating all day whether to write this blog post. I realise that today it is a topic being discussed a lot. There’s a lot of people writing a lot of stuff. What can I add to the thoughts that have already been put out there about the senseless murder that happened last night? Absolutely nothing. What can I add to the descriptions of a beautiful, vibrant and special city? Absolutely nothing. And so I’ve simply applied the same decision process I do to every blog I write. I’m writing because it’s on my mind, and I need to get my thoughts out.

Firstly, I simply want to echo the thoughts of so many people today about the city of Manchester. If you’ve never been there it’s a special place, and a place that holds so many special memories for me. I saw my first Premier League games in that city, first European game, my first England international. Many of my favourite musicals I saw for the first time in their world class theatres. The most special moment of my life came in the Etihad Stadium, dancing in the Commonwealth Games Closing ceremony. I’ve laughed and cried on the streets of Manchester. I raced for the first time in a racing wheelchair on the streets there. Just last year during a weekend with one of my best friends we sheltered from the rain in the foyer where so many lives were devastated yesterday. And in all my time in Manchester I can say one thing. The high profile people giving beautiful descriptions of that city today are not exaggerating one bit. It’s a brilliant place, it’s vibrant, and the people are lovely. And that’s not just something I’d say today…people who know me know just how much I love the place.

The stories of people going out to help are not surprising either, and not just because of the circumstances. Manchester is a place where you feel safe. The kind of place where, when you fall out of your chair outside a busy bar, you’re suddenly surrounded by people who run out of the pub because they want to help. Why do I write all this? Because it’s tragic that the best in a place, and the best in people, only comes out, or gets reported, in the worst of circumstances. I want to say that this is Manchester all the time. A lovely city, a city of people who care, a city where I’ve always felt safe.

I could go on, for hours talking about this city I love, about the pain and sickness I felt today whilst waiting to hear from my friends in Manchester, but I simply want to write down 3 things that have struck me. They are things that seem more important today, but things that apply all the time. Things that can apply to Manchester today, but apply anywhere, all the time. I don’t want to dwell on them, or write an essay, I just want to put out there 3 things that have struck me today, that will maybe help others too:

  1. In times of grief or despair, let people deal with it in the way they need to.
    In the midst of all the tragedy today, as always, the internet has not failed to amaze me in the things that some people can write. People who in the midst of the suffering of others have the audacity to start worrying about whether a gig will be cancelled, or to start analysing, or passing comment upon, the way other people deal with grief or anxiety. We are all individuals and we deal with things in different ways. 
    Whether directly affected, or simply scared by a situation that seems a little too close to home, because of the location, the industry they work in, or simply because of an anxiety disorder, everybody’s own way of dealing with situations is different. Please don’t judge people for their decisions, don’t use the internet to tell people they should be acting in a different way. People are individuals and deal with things in different ways. Whatever the circumstances, whether today or a year down the line, support them, and give them the space to deal with whatever the situation is.
  2. Be careful about what you post on social networks.
    On all my social channels earlier today I posted a video taken from this mornings BBC Breakfast where Dan Walker addressed the fact that some people were posting fake reports, and fake victims, to gain ‘retweets’. Unfortunately this concept isn’t a new one (in fact I wrote about it in some detail back in 2015). We have to be aware not everybody on social networks is posting stuff for the right reason. Whilst some people post these pictures or information simply because they want to boost their public profile, there have been stories of people posting ‘help me find…’ posts in order to breach protection that has been put in place by courts to safeguard the wellbeing of others. In times like this it is easy to allow compassion to take hold and for the heart to make decisions, however please think before you share posts you can’t verify. If you want to help, follow official channels and share their posts – for example today the best thing you can share is information about Greater Manchester Police helpline and emergency stations.
  3. Live life to the full
    It risks being one of those things people just say, but today is a reminder to live life to the full. Yesterday evening’s attacks were horrible and senseless. People went out to enjoy a night of music, and dozens didn’t come home, either ending up in hospital or worse. The fact that many of those were so young seems to make it even worse, when you think about all the things those youngsters may not get to do. Things that right now, we still have the chance to do. So when you get presented with opportunities, grab them with both hands. Don’t have regrets. Live life to the full.

To finish, and return to Manchester, I want to share this video. It needs no words.

Posted in Manchester, News | Leave a comment