Thursday, 25 July 2013

'Heir's looking at you kid'... the Royal baby prince George arrives

So, much to the relief of his parents (and indeed the nation), little George Alexander Louis – or HRH Prince George of Cambridge if you prefer – has safely arrived.

Is it just me, or did you think that he was waving as the family appeared on the steps of the Lindo Wing for his first public viewing?

What a little superstar – already aware of the crowds of photographers and people watching at home on TV and giving them a Royal wave!

I had predicted that he’d be called George.  Although I had said I thought he’d be George Arthur Louis Spencer or perhaps have Philip in there somewhere, so I wasn’t quite right.

When I had said about the ‘Louis Spencer’ bit – thinking they might use Princess Diana’s maiden name – my daughter had looked slightly shocked as she thought I’d said ‘Louie Spence’ and wondered why they’d name the baby after him!

And it’s probably just as well they didn’t have Kate’s Dad’s moniker as one of the middle names, because then he would have been George Michael.

Wishing little Prince George health and happiness – I’d normally say health, wealth and happiness, but I think he’s got the wealth bit sorted!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Brookfield Plantation - the fight continues...

I saw some beautiful photos a friend had shared on Facebook recently.

A wooded glade, sun streaming through lush, green trees.

His children playing happily on verdant grass.

Tall, healthy trees, their leaves bathed in the July sunlight.

He reported that his family had been lucky enough to see seven deer and a host of other wildlife including butterflies, dragonflies and bumblebees too.

You may be asking yourself what’s the relevance of all this.

The idyllic area in the photos to which I’m referring is the Brookfield Plantation, located on the outskirts of Corby, just off the Gretton Brook Road as you head towards the villages of Gretton or Deene.

These are the same trees that are under threat of destruction to create a ‘resource recovery park’ next to a plant processing waste.

The same trees we’ve heard described as ‘poor quality woodland’.

Now, I’m no expert, but they look fine and healthy to me, unlike the ones in photos the developer has been using (funny that).

How anybody could contemplate destroying this environmental oasis bursting with wildlife – including Chalky the white stag and his herd – is beyond me.

But it’s the pictures of the children playing here that I find particularly poignant.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s really important - this is their future that we’re trying to protect.

They don’t want to grow up looking at a plant that recycles waste – it doesn’t matter what fancy name the developers give it in order to make it sound more acceptable.

They would rather see trees and wildlife, and have fresh, clean air to breathe.  I think we owe them that much, don’t you?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Tonight Matthew I'm going to be...

I loved ‘Stars In Their Eyes’, the prime-time, Saturday-night, karaoke- with-a-twist TV show.

It started in 1990, and was originally presented by Leslie Crowther, then Matthew Kelly – who could forget the famous line uttered by all the competitors during his reign ‘Tonight Matthew I’m going to be...’ and then finally by Cat Deeley, until its demise in 2006.

For the uninitiated, it involved turning members of the public into lookalikes and soundalikes of famous singers.

The competitors would talk to the host, then disappear through a door on stage, re-emerging through a cloud of dry ice looking uncannily like their musical heroes.  The challenge was to then sing like them too.

The most memorable – for me anyway – were Chris de Burgh and Freddie Mercury, who I can only hope went on to have successful careers on the tribute-act circuit.

ITV have now tried to re-invent this formula with their new celeb version called ‘Your Face Sounds Familiar’.

I wish I could say that I watch it ironically, but I don’t – it appeals to me in just the same way as ‘Stars in Their Eyes’ did.

Each week the competitors – Alexander Armstrong, Bobby Davro, Matt Johnson, Natalie Anderson, Cheryl Fergison and Denise Lewis – have to look, and sing, like a chosen musical icon. 

The winner, voted for by a mixture of in-studio judges (Emma Bunton, Julian Clary and a guest) plus phone-in public vote, then receives £10,000 for their chosen charity.

The new twist is that a computer – gloriously and hilariously named the Randomizer – selects for them who they’re going to be each week, and sometimes it picks a different gender artiste.

So far, this has resulted in Cheryl Fergison singing as Meatloaf – she was very good, actually – Denise Lewis as Lenny Kravitz (not so good), and Matt Johnson as Taylor Swift (appalling, but he tried hard).

But stand-out, genuinely-good performances for all the right reasons, include Natalie Anderson who’s won for two weeks running, firstly as Britney Spears then as Kate Bush (spookily like the original ‘Wuthering Heights’) and Cheryl Fergison, who won the first week as Dusty Springfield.

Yes, it’s cheesy; sometimes even a little risqué, courtesy of double-entendre comments from Mr Clary, but all-in-all, it channels the spirit of Saturday-night TV entertainment which all the family can watch together, which is, of course, the ultimate aim.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Keep calm and watch Mrs Doubtfire!

Mrs Doubtfire is one of my favourite films.

It works on a whole lot of levels for me.

Obviously, there’s the comedy – Robin Williams is fantastic.

Then there’s the Pierce Brosnan factor.

I’ve read the novel on which it is based – Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine – but it’s a lot darker.

I have to say I prefer the lighter Hollywood version.

I’ve not been having a good week for one reason or another, I won’t bore you with the details, but what I was going through reminded me of a line in the film said by Robin Williams’ character Daniel:

‘Did you ever wish you could sometimes freeze frame a moment in your day, look at it and say "this is not my life"?’

I’m sure we all have those moments.  It’s now, unfortunately, a much over-used phrase, but I like to occasionally remind myself to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.  I find it helps – that and red wine and/or chocolate!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Andy Murray, Wimbledon Champion 2013!

Well done Andy Murray!  A proud day for British sport and a proud day for Scotland.

What a match.  Not good for those of a nervous disposition – Murray’s matches need those warnings like you get at theme parks “Do not partake if you suffer from the following...” – you know the ones I mean.

It was a lovely game of tennis, the competitors were evenly matched.  It was good to see some long rallies – if poor old Dan Maskell was still alive (and commentating) he’d have given us a running total of the number of shots in each.

In fact, yesterday’s game reminded me of what I consider to be the ‘golden age’ of men’s tennis at Wimbledon – McEnroe and Borg.

Fire and ice, battling it out, using wooden rackets and wearing naff nylon headbands.

Yes, I’ll come clean, I was a huge fan of McEnroe (yes, I am old enough to remember him playing, but it’s nice of you to suggest otherwise!)

Not his on-court behavioural antics – I didn’t like to see him lose his temper and swear at the referee* – but his sheer class playing.  I wonder, though, if you could have had one without the other?

There have been many good players since, but none, in my opinion, can hold a torch to John Patrick McEnroe.

He was exciting to watch – yes, undoubtedly Borg was good, but he hadn’t got the same spirit, the dogged determination, the character, grit and New York wit that Mr McEnroe brought with him to SW19.

Forgive me for saying it, but now, with huge sponsorship deals, sport seems a little homogenized.  Like politics, some of today’s sportsmen are a bit ‘vanilla’, beige and forgettable.

There are, of course, notable exceptions.  In the world of politics Boris Johnson – whether you agree with his views or not – is at least a character.

And Andy Murray, when the referee* took the decision to close the roof on centre court on Friday, showed spirit too in arguing with the decision.  Not quite McEnroe-esque in his displeasure – who would surely have yelled at the top of his voice ‘YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS?!’, but with a little work he might get there...

* references to the tournament referee, rather than the umpire of individual matches

Friday, 5 July 2013

Mr Gove and the school holidays

Michael Gove – the Education Secretary – likes to kick the proverbial hornets’ nest doesn’t he?!

I think seldom a week goes by that there’s not another proposal for changes for something to do with education.

As far as I can remember, recent suggestions have included scrapping GCSEs (or was it ‘A’ levels?) in favour of a Baccalaureate.

Now GCSEs are to be scrapped in favour of old-style ‘O’ level exams, which I think involves less coursework, an exam at the end, but the grades will be from one to eight, like in piano exams.

Very confusing for everybody – particularly for future employers looking at CVs who will no doubt continue to ask “is that like an ‘O’ level grade C?”

But the latest, and perhaps most controversial, idea from Mr Gove and his department involves giving schools the power to decide their own term structure – which means the sacred six-week summer holiday could be consigned to the history books.

To be fair, I can see the argument from all angles.  For families where both parents work, organizing six weeks of child care is very expensive.

Six weeks is also a long time to be away from the structure of school – in fact I would say it probably takes the first half-term of the new academic year for the children to get back into the routine again.

However, I really can’t see giving each individual school the right to set their own holidays is going to be an overall benefit. 

For example, what would happen if each school in Northamptonshire chose different summer holidays – if you’ve got children at primary and secondary schools, how would you ever get the same weeks off?

How would teachers with children not at the school at which they teach manage?

I can’t see the ‘carrot’ of cheaper holidays materializing either – the holiday companies will simply quote the ‘supply and demand’ reasoning behind the huge price hikes during peak season, and holidays will potentially be more expensive all the time.

Sorry Mr Gove, but I think this is going to be an administrative and logistical nightmare for all concerned.

Perhaps he, and the schools given the new powers, should remember the old adage that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should...