The following blogs/columns were written for the Nottingham Post's newspaper and website

Aegon Open serves up inspiration

The giants of the tennis world are back in Nottingham for the Aegon Open as they begin their preparations for Wimbledon. As well as entertaining thousands of spectators over the coming weeks, the event will once again play a vital role in getting local kids involved in sport.


Kids need a pretty compelling reason to leave the house these days. That’s understandable: they have Netflix, next-generation consoles, and hundreds of forms of mobile entertainment at their fingertips.

Luckily, the Aegon Open – which this year features top players, such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and
Heather Watson – is right on their doorstep at the Nottingham Tennis Centre. I know, from personal experience, that the event has the potential to genuinely inspire.


Like a lot of kids, I dreamt of either becoming an astronaut or a musician....or, weirdly, a train
conductor. That all changed on a school trip to the Nottingham Open as a 10-year- old.


After I saw Andy Roddick bomb down 140mph serves on the Nottingham practice courts, I knew
what I wanted to be more than anything else. The train conducting idea was relegated to a fallback
option (much to the relief of family members, who had been understandably concerned about my
early career choices).

I started playing at my local tennis club six nights a week; when I couldn’t be there I was causing
structural damage to my parent’s house, hitting ball after ball against the wall. Tennis quickly
became all I ever thought about.


I returned to the Nottingham Open every year, using the tournament to fuel my ambition of
becoming a professional tennis player. It was enough to take me a considerable way to achieving my goal – I attained a junior world ranking and won a two-year scholarship to train at a top London
tennis academy.


Unfortunately, I was never good enough to join the professional ranks, although I now realise that
what tennis gave me was worth much more than a failed dream. I made some life-long friends on
the tennis court, and years of training and competing helped me keep fit and develop healthy habits.


The Nottingham Open organisers have always done a great job at gearing the event for a young
audience. Children are encouraged to pick up a racket on the outside courts, with qualified coaches 
on hand to assist with fun games and challenges.


Schools and parents should take this opportunity to expose their children to top level sport in the
next few weeks. Who knows where it might lead?

Summer Holidays: Why Next Summer Will Be the Best Yet 

As far as I’m concerned, there are only two seasons per year in the UK – summer and non-
summer (meteorology was never my strong point). With summer lasting approximately four-and-a-half days in June, it’s lucky the British know how to make the most of it.


But, out of all of life’s summers, which one really stands out from the rest?

 

It’s a tough question to answer. Summers are like birthdays: each one that comes around makes a good case for being the best ever.


As a 10-year- old, water fighting with my brothers and single-handedly causing a national hosepipe ban, I was sure that I would never see a better summer. The following year, my parents bought a Karcher pressure washer, which took water fights (and hospital visits) to another level. See what I mean?


The first summer holiday abroad with friends might produce the most talking points, but most of us lack the wisdom to come away from that summer unscathed and without regrets. Just because you can stay in the hotel sauna for a solid hour to win £10 from your friend, it doesn’t mean you should. That sort of travel never broadens the mind – it shrivels it, like a raisin.


Some say that the summer after finishing secondary school is the one that sticks in the memory. It’s true, the dizzying sense of freedom is everything you expected it would be, but it doesn’t last long enough. Adulthood takes you by the scruff of the neck and makes you work in a chicken factory – I’m sure everyone can relate to that.


Then I thought, maybe the best summers come after retirement. It made sense, until I asked retired members of my family if they were currently enjoying the best summer of their lives. Two of them gave me a half-an- hour rundown of the pills they had to take to realise that it was summer, and the other mumbled something about death. Which gave me a thought…


With non-summer lasting so long in the UK, the best thing about summer has to be the anticipation of it. Admitting that the best summer of your life has been and gone, or that it is far off in the future, is just too depressing. The best summer of your life must always be the next one.

A wedding for less than £21k? Don’t even think about it


I was once told that women dream of the perfect day incessantly from the age of five, and while that might seem like a wildly inaccurate stereotype, who would dare put it to the test with a budget wedding? Generally, the shattering of dreams is best avoided at the start of married life – leave all that for later.


Certain things are going to cost serious money – accept it. It’s probably not a good idea to suggest, for example, that your dad’s Volvo might double up nicely as a wedding car, or that the local village hall – with a capacity of 75 at a push – would be perfect as a venue. On the same note, she might have a penchant for vintage clothes and be roughly the same size as your great-grandmother but…you get my point.


I am not married, and according to optimistic forecasts (my mum’s) it will take at least another 10 years to trick a woman into marrying me. But, when that day does come, I will want to make sure it’s a memorable one – even if it breaks my bank, and the banks of those closest to me.

 

Without getting too cheesy, weddings are meant to be a celebration of one of life's biggest
commitments. £21,000 is a lot of money, but you will spend more on other things that aren’t half as important – like degrees, house
s and cars.


No matter how extravagant it is, a wedding day can only last for 24 hours. However, the memory of it will last a lot longer – for the rest of your life, if you’re lucky – and that’s what makes it worth paying all that money for.

The average cost of a wedding in the UK is now £21,000 – which is quite a lot, considering a
marriage certificate and registry office ceremony costs little over £100. Here’s why the additional
£20,900 is vital.


The Big Day needs to be a big deal. Anyone who has seen an episode of Don’t Tell the Bride – the BBC reality show which sees grooms given £14,000 to organise every aspect of their wedding day – will know the risks of skimping on even the smallest of details.

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