Thursday, 27 July 2017

Top Of The Pops and The Generation Game - re-booted

I read recently that too much nostalgia is bad for you - not sure why, perhaps it's considered bad to look back fondly rather than stay laser-focused on the future or something?

But if that is the case, perhaps somebody should have a word with the TV production companies who've just announced the return of two of the best shows from my 1970s/80s childhood.

Yes, much to my excitement, I've read that the company behind James Corden's Carpool Karaoke is planning a re-boot of Top Of The Pops. 

Essential viewing, TOTP was on Thursday evenings, and then moved to Fridays if I remember correctly, and was the highlight of my TV week.

Admittedly in parts cheesy, some of the dancing left very much to be desired by both the audience and professionals - anyone else remember life before music videos when Legs & Co or Pan's People just 'interpreted' the songs?

There was the rundown of the top forty, the climbers, the non-movers and finally the much coveted No1, plus live performances in the studio of varying quality.  I keenly await the updated version, although I fear I won't know many of the artistes these days, unless they're played on Radio 2!

Next regeneration - appropriately enough The Generation Game.  Arguably Brucie's finest hour, if you can overlook the Anthea Redfern/Isla St Clair 'ornamental' roles. 

Those times were very different, and fortunately we're now more enlightened as to the parts women play on TV - even if the BBC salary department has yet to catch up entirely to the idea of equality.

Perhaps then fittingly, Mel and Sue find a new home here after GBBO and replace Mr Forsyth as presenters.

I'm looking forward to seeing it and hope they keep the prize conveyor belt at the end, which was always my favourite part.  I imagine the prizes will be slightly different tough - I can't see anyone wanting fondue sets, heated curlers and sandwich toasters these days, but I'd still have the teasmade and the cuddly toy, of course.



Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Save Corby's Urgent Care Centre

Some things should be above party politics, and saving Corby's Urgent Care Centre is one of them.

We can argue until we're blue in the face about whose fault it is that yet again we're facing its threatened closure, but that's not going to solve anything.  We need action, we need unity, and we need it NOW.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - this is a VITAL service to the people of Corby and its villages.

Yes, I can remember life before it, and it wasn't good.  Up in this corner of Northamptonshire, if you were ill after 5pm during the week or at any time at the weekend and you needed medical attention urgently, you had to get to Kettering General somehow.

Now, that was perhaps ok if somebody in the family had a car, or if you could ask a friend or neighbour to take you, because as we all know, public transport was (and still is) a bit 'hit and miss', especially if you're in the villages or countryside.

Speaking for myself and my family and friends, the Corby Urgent Care Centre is literally a life-saver.  Without going into detail, I dread to think what could have happened to people I know had it not been there.

The staff are brilliant.  They are caring, hard-working, professional and kind.

We know from previously issued statistics that the centre is coping with double the amount of patients than was originally planned.

The population of Corby, and indeed Northamptonshire, is growing at a tremendous rate.

Facilities at Kettering General are overstretched. 

Taking these facts into account, put simply, I believe that closing Corby Urgent Care Centre would potentially put lives in this area at risk.  This is unacceptable, I'm sure you'll agree. 


Tom Pursglove, MP for Corby and East Northants, is working with Corby Borough Council and other stakeholders to try and sort this out.  He wants to hear from people about their thoughts on Corby Urgent Care Centre - please e-mail him pursglovet@parliament.uk asap.  Thank you.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

School sports day

It's that time of year - school sports days are happening up and down the country.  It's not a day I remember with relish, either as a participant or as a watching parent either, if I'm perfectly honest.

My family, it's safe to say, is missing the athletics gene.  Walking is more our pace, but sadly competitive walking isn't included in any sports day of which I'm aware.

Having said that, my daughter did win the egg and spoon race at primary school one year, which was a first for both sides of the family.

The best I ever managed was second, also in the egg and spoon race as it happens.  Perhaps if that was an Olympic discipline we may have triumphed and been able to represent Team GB.

Fortunately the school my daughter attended didn't make a big deal of the parents' race.  However, I did once take part in a parents' race for my younger cousin, who was still at primary school while I was at Uni.

I remember lining up, taking a look at the competition and thinking to myself that despite my asthma and distinct lack of athleticism I had a good chance of winning as I was at least ten years younger than the other participants.  The only Dad racing was about five stone overweight to boot.

So imagine my surprise when he flew past me like an oversized rocket and won, while I just about scraped into a still respectable second place.  Another perfect example of why we should never judge by appearances.

I did read that some schools were banning parents' races because some Mums and Dads were just too competitive and couldn't handle losing.  I imagine their reactions and language weren't setting the best example for the watching children either.


But if you are attending sports day, be on the lookout for parents arriving wearing Lycra and carrying running spikes.  I've heard that Des O'Connor once lined up to run at his son's school only to spot a man thus attired - and he turned out to be Linford Christie!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Voluntary workers - putting the 'great' into Great Britain

I briefly mentioned this in last week's column, but I firmly believe that voluntary workers are the backbone of this country, and put the 'great' into Great Britain.

I can think of so many organisations and events - numerous charities, village Parish Councils, groups of people working in their communities, fetes and fun days, flower festivals, music festivals, youth groups and sporting clubs etc - which just wouldn't exist without utilising hundreds of hours of unpaid labour from an army of volunteers.

Most of these unpaid workers seek nothing in return for all their hard work other than a little bit of gratitude, courtesy and respect - sadly, however, that is not always forthcoming.

It's all too easy for people to take for granted their contributions; their 'going the extra mile' becomes the expected norm; and people keep pushing for more and more when actually they should be thankful for the work that's being done at no cost to them.

Or when things go wrong, as they sometimes do when a busy volunteer simply forgets a task they normally complete, and then people just moan about what's not been done without realising that they're not actually contributing anything useful and positive themselves.

Before people take to social media, or mutter and grumble in the pub etc about things that they think should be done, they need to stop and ask themselves are they willing to undertake said task themselves?

Are they, for example, willing to attend hour after hour of meetings, read thousands of pages of documents, litter pick, fundraise, organise events, publicise them, clean up afterwards, sort out all necessary paperwork and insurances, all while doing full-time or part-time jobs, looking after children and/or elderly parents?

Because if the answer is no, then they have absolutely no right to criticise those that do give up what little free time they have to make their communities better places.

If the answer is yes, then please go ahead and volunteer and make a useful contribution to society - more volunteers are always needed everywhere.



Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Classic cars and flower festivals

A couple of times this summer I've thought to myself 'is there anything more English than this?' - and I do appreciate the irony of me thinking this as only one of my grandparents was actually from this country!

The first occasion was at the start of June when I enjoyed my first Pimm's of the season sitting outside The Exeter Arms in Barrowden, overlooking the duck pond and a collection of classic cars and their owners who had gathered for a meeting on the village green.

It was around 6pm, the sun was still shining and the cars were gleaming - E-type Jaguars, Mark II Jaguars, Morris Minors, old Minis and the like.  It was a perfect summer's evening.

Then on the last weekend in June, I headed to Gretton Flower Festival at St James' Church.

The theme, quite unusually for these type of events, was Disney films, but it worked really well and there were some great interpretations of various movies including Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Brave, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, Tangled, not forgetting the ubiquitous Frozen (let it go, Elsa!)

It was an ideal way to engage with the younger members of the community and the children really enjoyed guessing the film titles and informing their parents and grandparents.

My moment of extreme Englishness occurred though as I sat drinking my tea out of a china cup, complete with saucer, eating a slice of wonderful peach cake - it had fruit in it, it counted towards my five-a-day - while gazing at the magnificent architecture of the old church building through vintage floral bunting.

And I also thought to myself that while we're still having classic car shows and flower festivals, and drinking Pimm's and tea out of china cups (not at the same time, obviously), that the world can't actually be that bad a place and civilisation will prevail.

Many thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who give up their time to arrange such events - you put the 'great' into Great Britain.




Thursday, 22 June 2017

'We have more in common than that which divides us'

'We have more in common than that which divides us' - the words of the late Jo Cox MP have special resonance in these troubled times for our country.

The time has come for us all to set aside our differences - be they political, religious or whatever.

Because the simple truth is we can't carry on as we are.  We can't be forever fearful of listening to or watching the news each day, bracing ourselves for the latest tragedy to beset our nation.

I was actually going to write a very different article to this, where I discussed the recent election, Theresa May's mis-timed gamble, and the coalition of chaos (as yet to be agreed with the DUP at the time of writing) - a grave cause of concern for many because of their less-than-liberal viewpoint.

However, I feel that enough has been said about Mrs May and her shortcomings.  She seems a decent enough person, doing a difficult job at a very tough time, and I feel that 'Theresa-bashing' as a national past-time should be consigned to the past, along with 'Corbyn-bashing' and 'Farron-bashing'.  It's just not helpful.

Lest we forget, we elect our MPs to work for us, a job they hopefully fulfil to the best of their abilities.

They are only human though, and sometimes they make mistakes; but the only people who never make mistakes are those who do nothing in the first place.  The key is to learn from them and to not repeat them.

With everything this country is currently facing - the on-going terrorist threat, North Korea, Trump, Brexit - we need to be working together, not pulling further apart.

We don't necessarily have to completely agree with everybody's viewpoint, but we do need to listen, be tolerant, compromise where necessary and find some common ground in order to move forward.

We owe it to future generations, our children and our grandchildren, to sort this mess out and to make things better for everyone.  There really is no alternative.



Thursday, 15 June 2017

Online shopping isn't always cheaper - or better...

About three years ago I stopped shopping online completely.  This was a fairly big decision on my part, spurred on by discovering that not all online retailers were paying their fair share of corporation tax in the UK. 

I ceased my very occasional visits to coffee chain behemoths for the same reason - I now have a policy to just visit independents wherever possible.

I appreciate that my one-woman protest hasn't even put the slightest dent in any of these large corporations' profits, and it has on occasion made life a little awkward as when you can't buy things in high street shops the assistants sometimes cheerfully suggest I try online.

However, I have a very recent example of how I actually saved money by shopping on the high street instead.

My stove-top enamel kettle retired after nearly twenty years' loyal service.  Seeking a replacement, husband checked online and informed me that several retailers offered new versions.

I refused to consider this, telling him we should go to a local hardware shop.  Our original kettle had been purchased at Burton's in Kettering, and we were given a handwritten receipt and a paper bag to bring it home in.

We headed to Market Harborough and Frank Gilbert Housewares, a veritable cornucopia of all things domestic which makes the Lakeland catalogue look meagre in comparison.

Here the knowledgeable assistant helped us choose the right kettle for our needs, unboxing several so I could test the weight and husband could check the workmanship, spending time and checking in his storeroom to see what alternative colours he could offer.

We made our choice, paid the asking price and returned home.  Job done, no messing or waiting for delivery and receiving a annoying card saying you were out for the nanosecond that the driver knocked on the door.

Out of interest, I then checked the online retailers' websites - and in each case, we had paid significantly less than the prices online.


Just goes to show, online isn't always cheaper, and it can't ever compete with good old-fashioned customer service.