Bruges on the waves: an insight into the ‘Venice of the North’

As the Belgian city bustles with over three million tourists each year, Talia Jones writes about the heart and soul of the city from the calmer waters of the canal routes.


“…And whatever you do, don’t fall in, yes?” muffles our tour guide through plastic headphones as we tentatively step into the sun-soaked canal boat. That was exactly the confidence boost we needed to hear. Michel had been explaining Bruges’ history and culture for the last three hours in his broken English, adding ‘yes?’ to every other sentence. It was as though even he was not certain of his facts.

We had spent most of the tour lagging behind the guide; amidst copious photographic opportunities of the idyllic surroundings and only two good ankles between the pair of us, my mother and I had firmly found our place as the tortoises of the group. Dipping in and out of headphone range left a constant static ringing through our ears, but we didn’t care – it was her 50th birthday and we were going to enjoy ourselves.

28The boat appeared derelict at best, with rotting wood and an attempt at covering up the cracks with a translucent-looking lick of white paint, so we were grateful when Vincent offered us a helping hand onto the water. Very grateful indeed. He was a gorgeous specimen of a man – exactly the physique and chiselled jawline you’d expect to grace the London Fashion Week catwalk. This was a welcome distraction from Michel’s constant, incessant mumblings.

Unfortunately, the moment was abruptly ended by my inability to fathom where I was going, having to be saved from face-planting into the canal. Not exactly my finest hour.

Picturesque views were at every sweeping corner in the city they named ‘The Venice of the North’; the 12th century hospital still stands with the original brickwork and has been resurrected as a museum almost rivalling the Louvre. Meandering up the river, you encounter a piece of modern art living in the canal made entirely of white steel pipes standing three storeys high – something Tracy Emin would have been immensely proud of creating. And all this before you get to experience the three tallest buildings within the five-mile city walls.


“Get your cameras out now,” Vincent says, with a knowing grin on his face, “The Church of Our Lady is straight ahead of us.” And he isn’t wrong about wanting to capture this hugely impressive feat of architecture on film – it is a thing of absolute, man-made beauty. The 13th century, gothic-style cathedral has been modified with a Victorian era twist to give the building a more modern interpretation in the historical centre of the city. “Oh, and one of Michelangelo’s sculptures lives there too. I think it’s called Madonna,” he adds, as if this unintentional comment was just an afterthought and not one of the most widely recognisable pieces of artwork in the world.


The other two masterpieces of Bruges’ skyline are also cathedrals of varying style and stature, but equally outstanding in the dusky lighting. But these startling structures were to be just three of the many highlights of the canal tour. “If you look to your right, you’ll see Marilyn Monroe in the window,” Vincent nonchalantly declares, as if it is a sight you would see anywhere in the world. Marilyn’s iconic pose resides in one of the shop windows and would send shivers down even the coldest of spines.

People wax lyrically about the unequivocal beauty of the autumnal colours dissipating into the narrow waterways, but observing the reddish-green leaves falling around you under the sunset sends you into some zen-like trance. Until the women at the back of the boat giggle like schoolgirls so much that the boat nearly overturns – magical moment gone.

22We had already been given a warning before we even started covering the sparkling water – Vincent had the audacity to ask one of the larger women on the boat to kindly sit on the other side, attempting to even the balance out. He was obviously one who was unafraid of offending people, but we found him oddly charming in spite of this. In fact, all the middle-aged ladies were hanging on to his every word throughout the tour like pre-teens at a One Direction concert.

It was lucky we were so attentive to his stories – we may have only met him twenty minutes previously, but he clearly had an understanding of the females on board, pointing out the best chocolate shops across the city, in between the historical highlights and majestic museums. But it’s the houses on the river that stand out the most. The pastel-coloured, medieval-style buildings that line the canal front astound me. It is like the adult, real life version of Balamory.

Before we knew it, our journey through the centre of Bruges was over and we would have to go back to the rather dull musings of Michel, suffering once more with headphones too big to fit comfortably in our ears and contend with static that would haunt us for the next three days. But half an hour with a dishy-looking man, husky voice and a sat down tour around a city with undoubtedly rich history: Priceless.

19This overwhelmingly stunning city has hidden treasures encompassed within the five-mile radius of handmade bricked wall; from chocolatiers that share melt-in-the-mouth milk chocolate with tourists for free (which, incidentally, we exploited as much as we could) to the obliging natives who direct the clueless among us without a moment’s consideration. Bruges is not just a medieval city; it is a land of unwavering possibilities.


Welcome to the life of a 3rd year University student…

I am happy to admit that being a third year sports journalism student is chaotic, frustrating, time-consuming and draining. But it is possibly the most rewarding thing I will ever do in my career. It will be setting me up for life!

So I thought it would be a good time to show you exactly what our university students do when they aren’t drinking to drown their sorrows! Here is only our 2nd ever fully live broadcast that went on air from Solent University.

Me and my team of five created the last package on celebrating 130 years of AFC Totton, a local football club who have had more then their share of ups and downs. Watch the video, feel free to share as much as you like and comment away!!

O’Flaherty: “AFC Bournemouth can withstand the Premier League”

AFC Bournemouth’s Development Goalkeeper, Patrick O’Flaherty, believes that his squad have not been hyped up enough for their first ever season in the top flight.


Photography by Naomi Baker

O’Flaherty, who has been at the club for the last 18 months, sees the potential of the squad on a daily basis in training, and says that their manager is the reason why people should be looking forward to Bournemouth’s style of play.

“The way that Eddie Howe has them playing, the team should be hyped up (by the media). People should be excited to watch them play,” he explains, and is adamant that his side can cope with the pressures of their new-found exposure.


With assistant goalkeeping Coach, Martin Pidgley

“We play a different style of football to the other teams and so I do think we can withstand the Premier League. They have confidence in how they want to play the game, but it will be a tough season.”

And he isn’t wrong. After an unlucky 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Aston Villa last weekend, Bournemouth found themselves on the wrong end of an offside decision last night for the only Liverpool goal, leaving them pointless after two games.


The 6ft 5′ Goalkeeper doesn’t get beaten easily – Photography by Naomi Baker

Despite the first team struggling to adapt to the fast-paced nature of the highest league in England, O’Flaherty believes the development squad can win their division this season: “Being in a third category league, it’s not going to be easy and the others teams are going to push us.

“Exeter are probably our toughest opponents this season. They have players with first team experience and showed us how difficult this league will be, but we should be winning it. That’s the aim.”

To hear more of Patrick’s interview on the Bournemouth squad and his contract extension, click the link below:

Snipers Cheerleading Head Coach is vying for top spot at Nationals with brand new squad

11130226_10153831678254922_6390578610167157099_nSnipers Cheerleading Academy may have only been up and running since Easter, but their coach targets a National title in their first full season.

The squad, based in Hounsdown in the New Forest, are aiming for the same success they had with Southern Sirens Cheerleading Squad, before relations within the team broke down and all members made the transition four months ago.


Head Coach Sam Youren is taking 7 routines to the Eastbourne competition in just 10 weeks’ time

Sam Youren, Snipers Head Coach, sees their first competition in Eastbourne in early November as a warm up to the National Championships in March, but doesn’t want to pressurise her new team.

“We’ve had a lot of success in the past few years at Eastbourne and I want the team to do well after putting in so much time and effort over the last few months. But I know that it may be a little scary for some of the newest members.

“There’s a lot of good competitive squads going in November, but I don’t see why we couldn’t place in the top three – our stunts are harder, our dance is faster and tighter, we could do really well as long as no-one panics.”


Lia Jackson raised over £300 alone to help Snipers reach their target

However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the new team, and uniforms do not come cheap for cheerleaders. To kick-start their sponsorship, one plucky parent completed a 10,000ft skydive just two weeks ago raising over £2300 to cover the costume costs of everyone in the squad.

There are other fundraising ideas coming up for Snipers, with bag-packing at their local stores and performing at events being the main options for new safety equipment and training facilities.


Lia caught in the act on the way down

If you would like to donate to their JustGiving page, please follow this link:

To hear more on the skydive story, click the link below for video footage:

Southampton’s Max Cater bids for Taekwondo gold in first European Games

MAX Cater has been called up to the Great Britain Taekwondo squad for the first European Games aged just 17.


Cater picking up his Gold Medal at the Swiss Open in March

The games held in Baku, Azerbaijan, will be a big test for New-Forest-based Cater, and a step up in character for the under 54 kilogram fighter, however, he has held his own against international opponents in recent years.

Not only has he won titles in the Swiss Open and Bosnian Open already this year, but is also the reigning Commonwealth gold medallist from 2014, proving that his place in Team GB is well deserved, and his move to Manchester to train with Great Britain’s elite has paid off.

The seven-strong team of athletes competing travelling to Baku also have the opportunity to gain valuable points at this event and challenge for Olympic qualification; a dream that Cater has been working towards from the age of five.

“My inspiration for Baku is to go out and perform my very best, hopefully bringing back a gold medal.

Jordon sparring with black belt teacher, Fallon

Jordon sparring with black belt teacher, Fallon

“It’s the first major event for me, and is a great achievement to be picked at 17. But I’m always looking to improve for Rio next year.”

However, Cater isn’t the only Southampton-based interest; Jordon James, who has been scouted by the Panther Taekwondo academy, competed for the first time on Sunday taking home bronze, and is tipped to be a star for the future.

James showing her strength against a black belt in warm up

James showing her strength against a black belt in warm up

James came third in her first competitive bout after only eight weeks of training in the sport, but believes her background in cheerleading and dance has helped her to adapt to the martial art.

“It’s not been hard to make the transition, because a lot of it comes from flexibility that I got from dance, but it is much more disciplined.”

For extended interviews with James’ coach, dad and herself, click the link below:

By Talia Jones

@TaliaSofia16 @SouthCoastSN

10 things to give up for Lent!

So I’m fully aware this was a couple of months ago, but this was a fun article to write for my magazine production class. The thought was there, unfortunately the timing wasn’t!

So it’s that time of year again. 40 days that can be religious to some, or just a reason to kick-start your healthy lifestyle in the vain attempt it might last this time!​ It may be a bad habit you just can’t bring yourself to stop, or maybe it’s something you eat after a stressful day. Or a long day. Or any day! Either way, we know how difficult it can be to get yourself out of that rut and back on the right track, so here are a few ideas to get your teeth (quite literally!) stuck into.

untitled (13)Chocolate:

Okay, so we’re all guilty of the occasional small chocolate bar as part of a quick lunch, or the rare whole Terry’s chocolate orange to ourselves if we’re feeling a little emotional. But chocolate doesn’t always have to be the answer. Instead of being addicted to huge amounts of cocoa, try substituting that urge with an actual orange. Yes, it may not be the best substitute for the sugary goodness, but you never know, it might even become your new treat.


…Or to give them their full title, small slices of salty potatoes baked to perfection. The taste of some Thai Sweet Chilli Sensations can send you into an oriental whirl of happiness. Although, if you fancy trading these in for lent, replace them with a cereal bar if you’re running to your latest meeting to make it on time! It will fill you up just as much and could even give you more energy for that lecture you normally fall asleep in.


untitled (14)So this is one of the biggies to give up for Lent. It won’t be the easiest of journeys; get a friend to either quit with you, or give you moral support over the next 40 days. It will be so much easier to stop if you’ve got another person kicking you into shape! By giving up together, you’re four more times likely to quit for good. Maybe spend that extra money on that pair of shoes that have been staring at you for the last month – it could be those Louboutins you’ve been desperate to buy for a night out, or even the Nike trainers just waiting in the shop window, begging to be bought.


We’re all allowed the odd slice of birthday cake, but when it turns into a slab of Battenberg every night for dessert, that’s when it becomes a problem! If you’ve got a case of the midnight munchies and reach into the cupboard for a chocolate cake bar, someone needs to stop you. Looking for something different for your taste buds to enjoy? Have a yoghurt and feed that need for something sweet.

untitled (15)Alcohol:

One too many jägerbombs in the week? Wine acting like the devil’s drink and leaving you with the mother of all hangovers? Surely by now, you’re fed up of hanging your head over the toilet, or even worse, holding someone else’s! Cut the alcohol and feel slightly more refreshed in the mornings. (But if you’re not a morning person in the first place, there’s not a lot we can do on that one!)

Social media:

99% of us are constantly glued to our phones, refreshing our twitter feed every two seconds. When we wake up, our first port of call is to find out the latest gossip about our favourite musician, or who the latest celebrity is to either be quarantined in a psychiatric ward or busted for drugs. It’s starting to become an obsession now… why not take a Twitter ban for lent? Most of the tweets are pictures of cats, or a ‘not so’ indirect status about someone – you won’t miss too much!


Truthfully, it’s not the easiest to stop doing. But there has to be some sort of punishment system if you attempt this; invest in a swear jar, adding 50p every time you slip up. If you really want to push yourself, every swear word results in five push ups. Let’s see how often you swear after that, especially if someone else gets to see you suffer every time! To make it interesting, get people at work to set up a sweepstake; if you have to give something up, they should give up their money, no?!


Now we’re not suggesting throwing the TV out the window, but everyone has that one programme we love to hate. Maybe it’s Jeremy Kyle you find so compulsive and have it series-linked or endless re-runs of Top Gear on Dave. For the science geeks among us, it may be The Big Bang Theory (we all fit into this category secretly!) Delete the link and take that extra hour to catch up on that book you’ve been dying to finish off. One better, go out for a jog round the block – maybe test out those new Nike trainers if you’ve also quit smoking.

Soft drinks:

There’s nothing like having a glass of lemonade after a long morning at work to quench your thirst, but an ice-cold drink of water will have the same effect. May even give you that ‘pick-me-up’ to keep you going for the afternoon session. Water helps to improve your concentration throughout the day – might give you that extra energy to get on with that task you’ve been putting off for months.

imagesX1TAWZGOTime for a little exercise:

We can all be held accountable for driving round the corner to the shops, or taking the lift instead of the stairs. Some of us may even testify to getting our other halves to run upstairs and grab something for us in the bedroom whilst we’re sobbing on the sofa. But if you’re feeling the need for that extra push, sign up for 30 days at the local gym. Whether it’s a dip in the pool to give you that adrenaline rush, or a quick 10 minute jog on the treadmill, it’s time to get back into those dusty trainers!

Is now the time to be changing the face of Formula One?

imagesQR4ZK13OAfter recent Formula One races, everything has been called into question about the integrity of the sport – from the infinite lack of safety features (due to Jules Bianchi’s horrific crash in Japan) to the financial situation of the lower ranked teams.

Caterham and Marussia have fallen by the wayside in recent seasons, causing them to plummet into administration, despite Bianchi’s heroics in Monaco, handing the Marussia team with their first ever points in the sport.

images20DMV7R7This year’s racing appears to the fans as a transition season; new regulations have been put in place left, right and centre, leaving the action more exciting, but some of the fans less enchanted.

So is this really the time to start discussing the possibility of three-car teams? Most of the die-hard F1 supporters are still trying to get to grips with the new double-points system for the final race in Abu Dhabi. Something that championship leader Lewis Hamilton disagrees with.

“It sucks,” were Hamilton’s exact words, considering his title challenge could be wiped out with one poor race, gifting the championship to his biggest rival and teammate, Nico Rosberg.

Whilst both Mercedes drivers are sitting pretty at the top with the Constructor’s championship and every other accolade already bagged for the season, the future seems much bleaker for the teams who won’t be participating in this weekend’s American Grand Prix.

imagesLFG09J5SThe race in Austin, Texas, has been utterly overshadowed by the Caterham and Marussia teams who will be absent. However, this could be an unfortunate sign of things to come if the three-car teams structure is approved by the FIA.

If these two constructors are struggling to compete on race days and keep up to date with the tax man, it is near impossible for them to form a team of three drivers on an even lower income.

Formula One wouldn’t be the global sport it is today without smaller constructors coming through the ranks. They have made it to the grid on merit, so they should be given a fighting chance to stay there.

One main example is Toro Rosso – Whilst they may be the sister team to the Red Bull garage, money (or a lack thereof) has always been a main concern; they have found a way to make it work, though, and with top-class talent consistently being brought through the ranks, the team should be safe in future seasons.

imagesRPE3GUUHBut the FIA look as though their sole priority are the biggest teams and giving them more opportunity to increase their finances, rather than helping the lesser-known teams cope with the overwhelming demands of the sport.

So many drivers, including heavyweight of Formula One Jenson Button, are decidedly against this new idea, due to losing too many teams who can’t afford it, even if it means he keeps a driver’s seat for the 2015 start in Australia.

Surely if drivers are willing to risk their seat in favour of keeping the system the same, the FIA should be taking them seriously. These are people with a love for the sport, not out to destroy its integrity.

After all the new regulations, they have to give the teams time to adjust to them, not create more and send F1 into disarray.

Are American sports taking over the world?

Wizard of OzAs Dorothy once said; “There’s no place like home’ but Kansas’ fairytale story hints that baseball is looking to fly off in the Wizard of Oz’s balloon.

From clothing to the music industry to programmes, American culture is increasingly overtaking the rest of the globe and raking in the money. Now their sporting franchises are dominating the back pages and fast becoming the superior power.

In recent years, England has played host to major events such as the Superbowl for American Football and NBA basketball matches.

Manchester City are keen to tap into this with a tie-up with perhaps the world’s most famous sporting franchise – the New York Yankees.

images (10)The latest financial ploy is to bring Baseball to the masses. But is it because the British have a love for the sport, or is it all about generating vast amounts of money for one of the biggest global brands?

It isn’t as if their financial situation is dire; the average ticket price just for one game is £341, and they will easily be able to sell out every stadium throughout the seven games in the World Series between Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants.

Admittedly, Kansas’ fairytale story has not been without issues, coming through one of the longest playoff droughts in history to make it to the World Series finals.

After 28 years of near misses and failed attempts, their wishes have finally been granted. Through hard work and dedication though, not by clicking their red heels together.

But the MLB season started a long time ago in a land far, far away from Sunflower state. In fact, seven months ago, 8.839 miles and a 20 hour journey away in Sydney, Australia.

untitled (10)It’s not just the players that have been acting like the Globetrotters; the brands from the American leagues have been jetsetting across continents and taking the world by storm.

Products such as baseball caps and shirts have now become a part of mainstream society, and are now the fashion for men and women, whether they enjoy (or even know) the sport at all.

However, it is hard to distinguish whether branding is detracting from the action at the plate, or if the publicity is building the framework for future seasons.

Either way, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the more logos are shared, the more we’ll be talking about American sports. But maybe Toto will be Kansas’ mascot in years to come.

Southampton starlet dives to gold

Emily Martin - Rome13 year old, Emily Martin, defied gravity to become champion at the Southampton Invitational, despite competing against people over two years her senior.


Martin performing a pike somersault

Martin, who lives in Totton, won the 1m springboard competition in her first attempt in the next age category up, with a score of 132, before jetting off to Plymouth for a Great Britain training camp.

She breezed through the morning preliminaries at The Quays diving complex, securing her place in the top six divers in the 14-15 age category, and progressing to the final on Saturday afternoon.

Beating 22 competitors in the morning session, she shone in the finals with her three most complex dives to take the top step of the podium, impressing with her twisting and rotating skills learnt with the Southampton Diving Academy (SDA).

Gold Medal

With her gold medal

This isn’t the first event around the country where Martin has made a name for herself; in February this year, she was the most decorated diver for SDA in the Armada Cup, one of the toughest competitions in the diving calendar.

She came away with four medals in all four of her events that weekend (1 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze) proving to her main rivals that she will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.


Emily performing a tuck somersault

The junior elite diver was selected last year for the GB squad and represented England in Rome over the summer after consistently producing her best dives throughout the season.

Her efforts were rewarded in Italy with a bronze in the 10m platform event and a very credible 5th place in the 1m springboard, against all age categories up to 18.

This week’s training camp sees her mix with GB’s elite, and a chance to learn from the best.

To listen to interviews from Emily, her coach and her dad, click this link:

Bournemouth cut it close for charity

Youth team shave headsAFC Bournemouth’s youth team have shaved their heads in an attempt to raise £5000 for a very special local boy with an incurable disease.

The Cherries’ up and coming youngsters have been fundraising for DEBRA, a national charity, in a bid to come up with a cure for EB (Epidermolysis Bullosa) and help Mason White and his family cope with the condition.

With the help of Winton-based hairdressing salon, ‘Heaven’, Bournemouth have already raised £3500, but the first team have donated a lump sum of money, edging them closer to their £5000 target.

Patrick O'Flaherty after the razor

Patrick O’Flaherty after the razor treatment

Five-year-old Mason, who lives in Bournemouth and supports the Cherries, suffers with the skin condition that leaves him bandaged up every day to prevent any blistering.

EB affects 1 in 17000, and around 5000 people in the UK are living with the rare disease. The slightest of knocks to bare skin can cause huge blisters, taking weeks to heal and lifelong scars.

This is due to sufferers missing collagen seven in their genetic DNA, a sticky layer of protein which links the skin together to heal itself quickly.

However, it is not just the squad who are now clean-shaven for the cause for this brave little boy; Academy youth team coach, Joe Roach, and Youth team manager, Carl Fletcher set the standard for the teams to follow in their footsteps.

Bournemouth’s youth team have also inspired some of the other rising stars to get in on the act.

“The youth team have bonded so much more in the last few weeks.” – Patrick O’Flaherty

Development squad goalkeeper, Patrick O’Flaherty, has left home in pursuit of his footballing career at the tender age of 17. Despite moving to a new city, he has adapted well, immersing himself in the local project.

Diving for the ballThe young goalkeeping prodigy spends a lot of his time training and studying for his A Levels, but still threw himself into his new community and got involved for the cause.

O’Flaherty believes that the team meeting Mason and his parents has increased the camaraderie within the squad: “The youth team have bonded so much more in the last few weeks.

“I’m glad to do anything I can to help him. I think he’s a great kid and an inspiration to us all.” – Jordan Holmes

“Their ability has always been there on the training ground, but struggled to perform as a team on match days. Since meeting Mason, the squad have come together and played much better and are now looking up for the rest of the season.”

Practising his goal line clearances

O’Flaherty practicing his goal line clearances

Additionally, Jordan Holmes, a 16-year-old Australian goalkeeper, shaved his head to raise money and said, “I’m glad to do anything I can to help him. I think he’s a great kid and an inspiration to us all.”

Mason and his family regularly visit the Goldsands Stadium, and spend a lot of time with the youth team. The money they are raising will help DEBRA to find a cure in the future for this potentially fatal disease.

Mason’s condition is stable at the moment, and is able to lead a full and enjoyable life, providing he takes care of himself.

If you would like to donate, please follow the link and give as much as you can.

To listen to Patrick O’Flaherty’s full interview, follow this link.