My friend, Ciara, was in a Manchester Emergency Department earlier today where she had to receive immediate treatment for an infected ear piercing.
Piercing infections are mostly minor but some can cause paralysis if not treated properly. Thankfully Ciara is one of the lucky ones because thanks to NHS Manchester, they managed to remove the earring before things got worse.
Ciara has been one of my biggest supporters in journalism. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, she has been there since I started almost 7 years ago.
If you look at Ciara's Twitter handle - @WeLoveKateFordX - it is clear as to who she absolutely adores and that is British actress Kate Ford who plays Tracy McDonald in Coronation Street on ITV/STV.
With an encyclopedic knowledge of Kate Ford, Ciara is undisputedly Kate's number 1 fan.
To thank Ciara for her unequivocal support, I joined Celebrity Video site, Cameo, earlier today to purchase a message from Kate Ford. This would have cost nearly £30.00 but the price was not a problem to pay - after all, Ciara has been behind my career for nearly 7 years.
I messaged Kate on Twitter to let her know about the video because Cameo only give you 250 characters to explain what's going on.
Moments after receiving confirmation and the receipt for Kate Ford's video, Kate herself messaged me saying:
"Andy, not going to accept the request because I’m happy to do a video for ciara for free. I’ll do it and send it to her on DM x".
Subsequently, I then was notified by email that Kate Ford had refunded my money.
A very kind offer. I am immensely grateful for Kate's generosity towards both myself and Ciara. There aren't many people in Kate's shoes who would happily refund costs. Especially with the future of our Performing Arts industry being questioned due to CoronaVirus Pandemic closing the doors on theatres and drama groups up and down the country. For that, I wholeheartedly thank and appreciate what Kate Ford did. As one of Kate's old Twitter bios used to say: "Not a bitch in real life".
I would also like to thank the medical team at Manchester Royal Infirmary for looking after my long-time supporter in her time of need. Ciara is very special to me as far as my journalism goes and has been a good friend to me over the years. Far too often do the NHS go underappreciated and I'd like to take this time to send a lot of love to NHS Manchester for looking after my friend.
It's taken me four years with my blog (including the old site) but I finally was invited to a press conference and it was for ITV's Coronation Street & Emmerdale.
As you know from my about me section, I'm autistic and because of that, I've not had confidence to venture out of my home city of Aberdeen. - This meant going to both Coronation Street & Emmerdale's events would be a bit too stressful for me to go to as I've literally never travelled out of Aberdeen myself before EVER!
I am very grateful to Emmerdale for the invite if I mentally could have managed I would have went. As it was the first time of travelling myself, navigating my way from Manchester to Leeds when I don't know the areas was giving me anxieties and stress. - I don't have anything against Emmerdale whatsoever. - I based my decision to go to Coronation Street's press conference on the fact that Coronation Street has been on the go for longer, as it's the longest running British soap opera.
When I arrived at Manchester Town Hall, I was early so I went next door to which looked like a council office and attached to it was something which resembled a library so I had a sandwich there and waited for an acceptable time to come before I made my way to the Town Hall.
When I went up the stairs, a lovely lady by the name of Janice Troup (ITV Drama publicist) said "you must be Andy" - I mean, I was and I still am but I was astonished anyone would recognise me. - She escorted me to the room the event was to be held in where she introduced me to another lovely lady, Coronation Street's senior (in job title not by age) Alison Sinclair.
As I arrived in the room, they got me to sign a confidentiality agreement which basically means that I'm not allowed to reveal that Norris gets Kirk pregnant or Rover becomes Weatherfield Mayor - I'm sorry for letting the cat out of the bag, Janice & Alison. - Obviously I'm joking about those two storylines, or am I?
As I was the first to arrive, I had time to take my coat off and get settled, which was beneficial as I like to adjust to my surroundings before anything big happens. and my surroundings was beautiful. The architecture in the room is outstanding, as well as the portraits on the walls. - Everywhere you look it felt like you were viewing a very important piece of Manchester history. - The room had so much grandeur I most certainly felt out of place.
I may have felt out of place but Alison & Janice made me feel so very welcome, they couldn't have been any kinder to me. - I think Janice detected that I was nervous - which I was - MASSIVELY.
As everyone from Coronation Street were so busy putting the final touches on to the room, they very kindly offered me a cup of tea and a sandwich, which was fantastic as the one I had earlier in the library was awful and I couldn't finish it so I was quite hungry after being on the go since early in the morning. - I don't know if Roy Cropper himself catered for the event but the food provided was amazing, apart from the cup of tea, as I'm very particular about my tea and as there was only sugar lumps available, my cup became far too sweet. - I only like a quarter of a teaspoon (if that), but I didn't let a simple cup of tea incident ruin my day as there was also iced water on the table, which was definitely refreshing as the room got warmer as more people appeared through the very expensive looking door I walked through a few minutes earlier.
I, of course, spilt my water on the carpet and my only saving grace was that the carpet was dark in colour so the water didn't really show up and the fact the room was darkened by the curtains covering the windows. - I apologise to Manchester City Council for spilling water in your building but that's what happens when there's no tables to put stuff on, I get clumsy.
I picked up what was remaining of the ice, put it back in the glass and returned the glass to the serving table where I poured myself another and returned to my seat in hope no-one noticed. - Once my glass was poured I turned around to see Duncan Lindsay from Metro.co.uk so I introduced myself and we had a little conversation before going back to my seat. - When I arrived back someone sat next to my chair where I had to reveal I spilt my water in case any of her belongings got wet. - She was Emma Hynes from Coronation Street Blog, The Coronation Street fansite, and someone from Manchester Evening News (for the life of me I cannot remember her name - my apologies if it's you). I did ask Emma Hynes on twitter a couple of times but she never got back to me. - Luckily, I found her myself and it was Katie Fitzpatrick.
Eventually the nice staff of Manchester Town Hall had the room set up as ITV wanted so we began. Kate Oates, who is the producer of Coronation Street, stood and gave us a wee synopsis of what's happening, where the storylines were leading to and how October is normally a huge time in the world of soap.
We gave Kate a round of applause and then we were off - watching the Monday 17 October 2016 episode of Coronation Street all the way until the end of Wednesday 19 October 2016's episode.
When Wednesday's episode finished, Alison stood up and informed us that the press conference portion of the day was to begin so we went into another room. If you have seen press conferences on the TV it looked exactly like that.
We all sat down, Kate Oates came in and out a few times to be asked about what the future holds for Coronation Street, the actors themselves from Platt/Barlow families were there. Duncan Lindsay from Metro (he's a popular journalist within the soap community on Twitter & Facebook) asked a couple of questions for the publication he works for and Emma asked a couple of questions to a few of them for Coronation Street Blog, Katie got to ask a few questions as well. - We were all in the same room, it wasn't like we met and interviewed them or anything, just to be clear.
It was definitely a learning experience witnessing Duncan & Katie work, they're professional journalists. I learnt a lot from them that day. - Grammar wasn't one of them as you can probably tell.
After the press conference, I got a bit confused (shock horror) so Ben Price kindly explained to me that we're going back into the viewing room then we're going to Breakout Manchester.
On the way to Breakout Manchester, I had a yap with Jack P. Shepherd & Ben Price, not about anything in particular. They were hilarious and just as you'd want them to be.
The team I was in - including Coronation Street's Rob Mallard - failed the Madchester room at Breakout Manchester but it was a load of fun participating in a unique game of mental challenges. Rob was very helpful in his Manchester knowledge, something I was massively lacking. - Thanks, Rob. Still sorry we failed though.
On our way back to Manchester Town Hall, Rob said his goodbyes as he was off to MediaCityUK (Coronation Street HQ) to pickup a couple of scripts.
As I arrived back in the viewing room, Kate Oates asked how I did at Breakout Manchester then we all sat back in our seats to watch the last two episodes of the week before going home.
When the conference ended, I found my way out of the building and took in Albert Square which is absolutely stunning in architecture. What a stunning city Manchester is.
I found the taxi rank Janice Troup told me about, I stood by the line of taxis and on-the-spot surveyed the small part of Manchester I was in one last time before going into a black cab (which was actually pink - fun fact).
I arrived home, exhausted, at about 22:40.
Thank you very much to Janice Troup, Alison Sinclair & Kate Oates from ITV for inviting me and having me along at one of the best experiences in my life. I appreciate the help & support you and your colleagues showed me when I was at Manchester (including the assistance given before I got there via email). I hope to do it again sometime, it really was phenomenal.