Wednesday, 10 January 2018

January, sponsored by Lemsip, Benylin etc

Ah, January my icy friend.  Yes, we're still wading through seemingly the longest month, but in reality it's just 31 days.  Feels very different to those balmy August ones though, doesn't it?

If months were sponsored, like TV programmes on commercial channels, I think brand names like Lemsip, Benylin, Night Nurse, Beechams etc should have first dibs on January.

Do you know anyone who hasn't yet succumbed to the dreaded Christmas/New Year/most-of-January lurgy?

So many people have been felled by this bug, including those who've had the flu jab I'm told.  But don't let that put you off having the flu vaccination if you're in one of the at-risk groups who are recommended to have it - better safe than sorry, and proper flu, Australian or otherwise, is no joke.

They say you can tell the difference between if you've got flu rather than a horrendous cold by doing the '£50 note test' - please note, this is not a real medical test; I have no medical knowledge other than a First Aid course.

Imagine there's a £50 note just outside your house, in the garden - if you've got proper flu, you won't care and won't be bothered going out to fetch it in, whereas if you can be bothered to go and get it, you've just got a bad cold.

Having said this, my husband is adamant he would go and get the money even if he had to crawl on his hands and knees - I may just test this out next time he claims he's got flu!  I wonder if it works with lower denomination notes too, as I don't think I've ever had a £50 note.

I'm really trying hard to be more positive about the winter months, and January in particular though.  I'll sign off with an inspiring quote @RuralRootsPR shared on Twitter, something her Granny had said:

"Darling, did you know I'm an octogenarian?  And when you're an octogenarian you have to live for every day, so I'm going to learn to love January and February as much as April and May."

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Graham's stairs

It was all I could do to prevent my televisual viewing over the festive season turning into a blubfest.

Daughter was determined to watch Marley & Me - the Jennifer Anniston movie featuring a yellow Labrador - but I refused.  I knew how it would end.  It would end with me sobbing loudly, as every film featuring a dog has, ever since I first watched Lassie films from the age of about four.

I watched the animated film Up again.  I was bawling shortly after it started - the whole essence of married life, love and loss is taken and encompassed in that first ten minutes.  Then there was Grandpa's Great Escape on New Year's Day, very moving and yet more tears from me.

Bizarrely, even adverts had me getting emotional - has anyone else seen the one featuring Graham, an elderly man, repeatedly going up the stairs in his house, in various precarious scenarios? 

I first saw it on Christmas Day - I held my breath as he nearly tripped over the vacuum cleaner hose and cable, then there was a narrow escape when his cat sat on the stairs causing a further potential trip hazard.

Then we saw him balancing a tea tray, loads of washing, a huge box of DIY tools, all while he negotiated the 'stairs of doom' and the landing filled with more hazards.

Was this an advert for stair lifts I thought at one stage, care homes, or even accident prevention?

Then suddenly Graham was no more, and I felt sad, but the house instead had a young couple and a baby who headed straight for the stairs - 'I hope they've got a good stair-gate' was my first thought.

What had became of Graham, did those pesky stairs finally lead to his untimely demise?  No, sigh of relief all round, he and his wife moved to a bungalow they'd found on Rightmove, who were responsible for this tear-jerking advert.  I was very relieved it had a happy ending - I just wish I could get the theme tune out of my head!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

First Aid

I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again - it's really important that everybody has some knowledge of basic first aid.

Still etched in my memory is the night my then boyfriend (now my husband) and I were enjoying a quiet drink in a village country pub.

A group of people at a nearby table were enjoying a meal when one of the ladies started choking on her steak and chips.

Nobody knew what to do.  It was frightening, she started to panic, as did her companions, the young waitress, the chap behind the bar, everyone was standing there watching her face change colour as she struggled for breath.

The barman brought her a glass of water - I nearly shouted 'What good is that? She can't breathe!' but stopped myself because he was only doing what most British people do in a crisis, fetch a glass of water or brew up a cup of tea.

I did say to try slapping her back, as I had memories of my mother doing this when my brother was choking on his dinner once.

As she continued to splutter, cough and change to a disturbing colour of puce, after what seemed like an eternity the steak eventually dislodged itself and flew across the table, her face changed back to a rosy pink, she sipped on the glass of water and apologised profusely to the entire pub.  She and her group continued with their meals while everyone else went back to their drinks.

It was at that point I vowed I'd get some first aid training because I never wanted to feel that useless again.  I genuinely thought I was going to see somebody die before my eyes because nobody - including me - knew what to do.

I did do a first aid course, although thankfully I've only had to use the knowledge gained on a few occasions.

If you're looking for a New Year's resolution, how about learning first aid?  You never know when you might need it and what a difference it could make.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Review of the Year

Here's 2017, as seen through my columns:

In January, I watched Planet Earth II and said David Attenborough alone is worth the licence fee - a still-valid sentiment, see Blue Planet II.

February saw me discussing optician visits and wondering why they're still reliant on the 'which is clearer, red or green?' test.

In March, I had to explain to my daughter what an orgy was, thanks to tabloid tales about Prue Leith; related the tale of my Auntie's coffee table, smashed because of a mis-timed swan-dive; and talked about the perils of self-employment.

A major story that appeared throughout the year was our fears of losing Corby's Urgent Care Centre, a topic I'm afraid will rumble on into 2018.

In April, we had the 'Legs-it' debacle, and I said we shouldn't comment on female politicians' appearance (would you discuss Corbyn's calves?), and how The Apostrophiser was my kind of superhero.

May saw me declare that Car Share is a comedy classic, and that school parking rules apply to everyone.

In June, I discussed the Manchester bombing and its aftermath, and that it's important to reassure our children about the good people, doing good things, every day.

July had me waxing lyrically about the Englishness of classic car shows, Pimm's in the sunshine and flower festivals, and how voluntary workers are the backbone of Britain.

In August, I mused on the workings of the honours system and thanked the Powell family for their many years of serving our community.

September saw me eating humble pie as I admitted the new GBBO wasn't that bad, and discussing Market Harborough's Arts Fresco and Betty Brawn's chopstick breaking 'breasts of steel'.

In October, I discussed local dialects m'duck, and Strictly Come Dancing.

November, and I emphasised the importance of Northamptonshire's libraries, and mentioned the Bake Off final and The Paradise Papers.

In December, we had the amazing Shakespeare Schools Festival at the Corby Cube and the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  What will 2018 bring, other than a Royal Wedding?

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

Apparently, debate has been raging on social media about whether or not Die Hard (the Bruce Willis action movie) is a Christmas film.

The argument being that just because a film is set during the season of goodwill, it doesn't necessarily make it a festive flick. 

The jury's out on that one in my house, so I'll leave you to debate that over the turkey, stuffing and pigs-in-blankets in yours - it'll make a refreshing change from the cracker jokes anyway.

When I think of Christmas films, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation tops the list, followed by It's a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Elf and A Muppet Christmas Carol, not necessarily in order of personal preference.

Films I expect to see in the terrestrial TV schedules over the festive season - and will be disappointed if I don't - include The Sound Of Music, The Wizard of Oz, the Great Escape and Casablanca.

But that of course doesn't make them Christmas films, they're just films that are usually on at Christmas, or New Year, maybe Easter, and then the occasional Bank Holiday throughout the year for good measure in case you missed them earlier.  Just good, classic films then, to be watched anytime.

What about favourite Christmas songs though? Mine is Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

My daughter and I also like Last Christmas by Wham!, which has added poignancy this year due to George Michael's passing on Christmas Day last year.  I just wish we'd known all about the good deeds he'd done while he was still with us - what a lovely, generous man, sadly missed.

Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin' Stevens is another tune on my festive playlist, alongside the original Band Aid, Chris De Burgh, David Essex with his Winter's Tale, and the obligatory hits from Wizzard and Slade.

Which leads me to shout out in my best Noddy Holder voice 'It's Christmas!', and to wish you and yours all the best for a wonderful Christmas time!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's engagement

The worst kept secret in the history of the Royal Family (probably) is out - Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged.  Congratulations to them, they seem well suited and genuinely in love, which is always a good start to a marriage in my humble opinion.

The rumour mill had of course been in overdrive for what seemed like an eternity - it was almost a relief when the official announcement was made, as I'm sure it was for them too.

They'd even had the obligatory TV documentaries about her back-story, which must have all added to the pressure upon the couple. 

Of course, a multi-million pound industry is now going full tilt, producing a range of memorabilia.

No doubt there's a mug factory somewhere which has already started production, a tea towel is being designed with the date of the wedding and the venue, and let's not forget the Royal Mint and their special coins. 

I hope primary schools still give gifts like that to children - I still have my Charles and Diana mug and coin, ready for my great, great grandchildren to take to the Antiques Roadshow.

Personally, I'm hoping for the solar-powered waving Royal figurines which are seen in abundance in touristy towns like Stratford Upon Avon, Oxford or Cambridge etc.  Undoubtedly tacky, and admittedly not in the best possible taste, the waving Queen and corgis still make me smile though (apologies Ma'am).

There's nothing like a Royal Wedding to distract us from the everyday news stories - Brexit, North Korea, Trump, yet more Brexit - so the timing of the announcement wasn't accidental either I'm sure.

They didn't want to steal The Queen and Prince Phillip's 70th wedding anniversary thunder, and it had to be done before the news got lost in the general Christmas and New Year kerfuffle, and Sports Personality of the Year etc.

Of course, the big question on everybody's lips is will we get a Bank Holiday to mark the occasion, like we did with Wills and Kate's nuptials?  Now, an extra day off really would cheer up the nation!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Shakespeare Schools Festival 2017

Towards the end of November, my family, friends and I headed to the Corby Cube for the Shakespeare Schools Festival.

This is a brilliant way to get youngsters engaging with the works of the Bard, as they are given abridged versions to perform with a lot of the 'olde worlde' words helpfully defined in their scripts.

On the night we visited, we saw three schools perform, and they all did very well.

Wilds Lodge School did Coriolanus, Montsaye Academy tackled 'The Scottish Play' (Macbeth), and Uppingham Community College performed The Tempest.

But that only tells half the story - so much work and hours upon hours of rehearsals had gone into each of their productions.

Workshops were held at the Corby Cube under the guidance of the staff there, dress rehearsals, evening and weekend practice, stage make-up classes, work done at home making costumes, learning lines - all these young people, their teachers and families put so much effort into their plays and it really showed.

These teenagers completely engaged with the works they were performing - and considering they were written 400 years ago in a very different age to our own, that is nothing short of remarkable.

The Tempest was my favourite though, as it was a very clever interpretation.  There were multiple Ariels, a device used because Ariel is a spirit who envelops the characters at various points in the plot.

The young lad who played Prospero has a future on the stage if I'm not mistaken, and the duo playing Caliban the monster deserve a special mention as they were brilliantly menacing.

Trinculo the Jester had the audience in stitches, and I heard it said, and agreed, that the physicality of the comedy that the actor brought to the role was reminiscent of a young Julie Walters.

The teachers and support staff who auditioned the young people, directed them, coached them and spent many hours of their own time working with them to achieve the standards of acting we witnessed deserve medals for their commitment.  Well done to all involved.