Friday, 28 November 2014

Imagine a world without chocolate...

I have a confession - my name's Helen and I'm addicted to Aldi's dark chocolate Lebkuchen.

If you haven't tried them, give them a go - heart shaped sponge with apricot jam, smothered in dark chocolate, and only 55 calories each.  If you're a fan of Jaffa Cakes you'll like them.  If you're not, well sorry I can't help you, as I'm not sure how anyone can't like Jaffa Cakes.

Fortunately Lebkuchen are not on sale year round, as they're a traditional German Christmas speciality, so I can't be blamed for the chocolate crisis that's apparently heading our way.

A shortage of chocolate?  Surely it can't be true.

I know there's more serious items on the world's agenda at the moment, with Japan going into recession and David Cameron saying that the warning lights were on the global economy's dashboard.

This did make me wonder, which lights are on exactly?  Oil temperature?  Lack of water?  Not enough air in the tyres?  Can we carry on driving or should we stop straight away and phone the AA?  And is there a warning light for the chocolate shortage, because if there isn't there should be.  Mr Cameron, make it so.

In a previous column when people had been panic-buying vacuum cleaners I joked about stockpiling chocolate, but now I'm wondering if this is going to become a reality.  Should I clear a space in my pantry to stock the chocs?

Stop for a moment and imagine a world without chocolate.  No more Wispas, Bountys or Creme Eggs available from just after Christmas until Easter.

Advent calendars with just empty windows, no chocolate coins in your Christmas stocking, no more Buttons.  No selection boxes, or giant tins of Quality Street or Roses from Auntie Ethel.

Yes, scary times are ahead people.  Chocolate keeps many of us sane.  Britain without chocolate would be like China without rice, or America without supersized fast-food.  Somebody do something please - I'm off to Cadbury World before it's too late...

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday 2014

This year's Remembrance Sunday service has to be the mildest temperature-wise I can remember.

I'd wrapped up well though, with numerous layers as I'm usually frozen standing at outdoor services.

I have memories of being a Brownie and then a Guide on parade, wearing as many jumpers as would fit underneath my uniform so I probably resembled the Michelin man, as it was always bitterly cold on Remembrance Sunday.  But walking down the road at the back of the parade this year I actually felt warm.

I was pleased to see that the Parish Church was packed again.  The Silver Band played the hymns - including 'I Vow To Thee My Country' which is a personal favourite and I sang along with gusto.

Last year there was a lone butterfly which floated above the heads of the congregation while the Vicar gave her sermon.  To me this seemed highly symbolic, and represented the fragility of life.  There was no butterfly this year, just the late-Autumn sunshine bathing us in its welcoming glow.

The service after at the War Memorial was quite rightly sombre;  there was the laying of the wreaths, followed by the two minutes' silence which was only briefly punctuated by a distant ice-cream van playing its tune - further testament to the mildness of the temperature.

Thank goodness no mobile phones went off here - I watched the service from Cenotaph earlier that morning and I'm sure I heard a phone ringing while the wreaths were being laid.

It's a shame people can't unplug themselves from their phones for just a few minutes.  If for some reason they can't switch it off completely, surely they could at least make sure it's on silent?

It's one of my pet hates that people don't switch their phones off during Church services.  There's nothing worse than when during a quiet moment of reflection somebody's mobile goes off (I'm now picturing Dom Joly yelling 'I'm in a Church!').

Please remember to silence your phones - nobody wants to hear a ringtone at a funeral, especially something like Disco Inferno at the Crematorium!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Harvest Festival 2014

I recently attended what will be my last Primary School Harvest Festival for a while, as my daughter is in Year Six now so leaves next July.

I'm aware that every concert, play, assembly etc will be the last I see her in at the local school, so it adds a certain poignancy to everything.

I appreciate that I'm also lucky in that I work from home, so try to re-arrange my work so I can be at these events.  It isn't always easy, but somehow I've managed most of them.

I think I only missed one drama performance in recent years due to a hospital appointment that couldn't be re-arranged, but somehow she remembers this and periodically reminds me of the time 'you weren't able to see me be a pirate'!

The Harvest Festival was lovely - although we didn't sing my personal favourite 'We Plough The Fields And Scatter', as more modern tunes are now the norm - and the Year Six children, accompanied by their Teacher and a Teaching Assistant, walked around the area delivering boxes of fruit and vegetables to the older residents.

What I thought was particularly good about this was they stopped to chat to the ladies and gentlemen they met and the older people talked to them about their memories of the Primary School as a lot of them, or their children and grandchildren, had also attended it.

I believe it took them all morning to deliver the produce, but spending the time chatting to people was worthwhile for all of them.

We are lucky that we live in a close-knit community, and the school is at the heart of it.  Long may the tradition of the harvest festivals and delivering the  produce boxes continue.

I expect the next time I'm at this sort of production though it will be to see my grandchildren perform - now there's a thought!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Songs that make you Happy!

Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody came top in a recent poll to find out the song that makes people happy.  Second was Abba's Dancing Queen, and third was Pharrell William's appropriately-entitled Happy.

I thought Queen was an interesting choice - on face value, it doesn't appear to be a particularly happy or amusing ditty.  In fact, its subject matter is surprisingly bleak, which made me wonder why it came top.

Could it be that people of a certain age - like myself - associate it with the film Wayne's World and join in with the head-banging part like they do in the film?

Or perhaps they sing the 'Scaramouche, scaramouche will you do the fandago' bit, pretending to be opera singers - or maybe that's just me, ahem, let's move on swiftly.

As far as I know dear old Morrissey didn't feature in this list, although Steph McGovern of BBC Breakfast fame did say that listening to The Smiths always cheered her up.  I happen to quite like Everyday is Like Sunday, but I can't say I'd reach for it to lighten my mood!

Which then got me thinking, what songs do cheer me up?  Being a fan of the Eighties - music that is, not fashion; no shoulder-pads to see here - I would say that Dead or Alive's You Spin Me Round (Like A Record), or She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult tend to put me in a good mood.

I also like Abba, but would put Mamma Mia or Gimme Gimme Gimme ahead of Dancing Queen in the cheering-up stakes.

Looking at more up-to-date songs, I'm partial to Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass, which I tend to sing around the house much to my daughter's dismay. 

I also like Pharrell's Happy, although it's probably in danger of being played too much. It was in Despicable Me 2, and I love the Minions.  In fact, I would have to say that singing Minions make me happy - I swear!