Friday, 25 September 2015

A Nigel Farage tattoo?

I'm trying very hard not to be too judgemental here, but what on Earth possesses somebody to head to a Tattoo Parlour and say to the tattooist 'I'd like a picture of Nigel Farage on my arm please!'?

Yet, as I was watching the news at lunchtime today (Friday 25th September), there before me was a lady sporting a pen and ink image of the UKIP leader on her right arm.

Not only that, she was getting Nige to autograph her arm underneath it - I imagine so the tattooist could then ink that indelibly.  Forever.  Unless she can get laser surgery or ask the amazing artists on Tattoo Fixers to transform it into Brad Pitt or George Clooney.  Now they're good, but I'm not sure they're that good.

My only hope is that it's some kind of transfer, a temporary adornment.  Or maybe it was Mrs Farage, showing her undying love for her hubby?

If not, it only leaves me with the conclusion that the lady in question is a Farage Super Fan, because to get a tattoo of any party leader seems a little extreme in demonstrating how you vote.

Have a bumper sticker on your car, a poster on your door, maybe even a badge on your lapel - but a tattoo?  Surely that's party loyalty in warp-drive? 

I'm not sure any Tories would sport a Cameron tat, and even the recent Corbyn-mania hasn't seen a Jezza inking (yet, as far as I'm aware anyway).

I saw some amusing comments on Twitter about where people would like to get tattoos of the party leaders done.  I won't share them, you can seek them out if you wish.

Just be assured, I won't be copying this trend any time soon...



Monday, 21 September 2015

Could a Robot do my jobs?

On a wet Monday morning the last thing you want to see when you switch on your computer to start a week's work is the question 'Will A Robot Take Your Job?'

Yet this was what greeted me when I thought I'd quickly check the BBC website to see what was going on in the world. (

Apparently 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years.

Which got me thinking - which of my jobs would you like to do Mr/Ms Robot?  Wife, mother, daughter, puppy-mum, voluntary worker, cook, cleaner, personal assistant, errand runner, and that's even before we get to my paid work as a writer/PR person.

If a robot would like to take over my household chores, all well and good, please feel free.  Take over the dusting, vacuuming and all the other things that I really don't enjoy doing but have to do.  And, judging by some of the negative critiquing I often get, my family would probably like a robot to take over the cooking too!

However, I really don't think a robot could do the whole host of other jobs that I and most people do in an average week, whether paid or unpaid, and often simultaneously - can robots cook dinner, help with homework and feed the dog, all at the same time?

Fortunately working in the creative industries is a good place to be, as robots aren't good at that.  They're also not very handy at empathy and caring, so you're ok if you're a nurse, midwife, paramedic or a member of the clergy.

According to the research, those most at risk of losing out to the next generation of Metal Mickeys are telephone salespeople, typists or other keyboard workers, and legal secretaries.

Those professions least at risk include publicans, hotel managers and school inspectors.  Perhaps something to consider if you're looking for a career change - I predict a sudden rush of applications to OFSTED!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

School Summer Holidays

OK, I'm going to put on my tin hat and put my head above the parapet - would it be so wrong to reduce the school summer holidays?

Hold your fire and hear me out - what if we had four weeks in the summer and the other three weeks were added onto the October, February and May half-terms?

Obviously this would have to be done with the agreement of the teachers and support staff, but might it be a solution to the expensive summer getaways which nobody can afford?

Wouldn't it give more opportunities for families to have affordable breaks together without taking children out in term time and facing fixed penalty notices and fines?

Plus, seven weeks is actually a long time to entertain children, and, particularly if both parents are working full time, it's also very expensive to pay for clubs and other childcare.

I know at this point you're all looking back misty-eyed to the school holidays of your youth, were you played in the fields, picked blackberries from the hedgerows, made dens and the time seemed to drift on forever like a scene from an Enid Blyton book, complete with lashings of ginger beer.

But, in the same way that dear old Enid didn't actually write about lashings of ginger beer, was any of that other stuff real either?

Don't you remember how much it rained - except in 1976 when we had the drought and the ground cracked so much you could lose your leg down the crevasses created.

We only had three channels on the TV, and much of that didn't cater for children.  I do remember 'Why Don't You...?', but that strapline finished with the words 'just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead' - such helpful advice!

Perhaps we should have a national debate to see what teachers, support staff, parents and children think.  We can't just leave this to MPs to decide - remind me, how many weeks Summer Recess do they get?

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Gretton Music Festival 2015

Ah, the great British weather.  August Bank Holiday Monday was a bit of a wash out, but fortunately I was able to take refuge in The Hatton Arms for the open mic event, part of the sixth annual Gretton Music Festival.

It never ceases to amaze me how many talented musicians there are around here. 

The highlight of the afternoon for me was a new outfit called The Top Banana Band - they were absolutely amazing!  Brilliant cover versions of I Feel Good, Mustang Sally, Brown Eyed Girl, Soul Man and The Blues Brothers' Shake Your Tailfeather and Everybody Needs Somebody To Love to name but a few.  They had the whole pub singing and clapping along - we would have been dancing too if there had been enough room!  Can't wait to see them again.

Earlier in the weekend we saw the young performers at Gretton Recreation Ground, and were dazzled by Charlie Botting and Cara Hamer, both classical/crossover artists who were fabulous.  I had a goosebump moment when Cara sang 'Run' by Snow Patrol - she's certainly a name to watch for the future.

On Saturday afternoon we were entertained by the lovely Al and friends, and then Mark Thompson, who sang a fantastic tribute set to Frank Sinatra in honour of 100 years since the birth of ol' blue eyes.

Sunday afternoon my friends and I headed to 'Puccini and Prosecco', hosted by impresario Martin McEvoy.  It was very informative, entertaining and enjoyable, with Martin seeking to bring opera back to the masses and demystify it.  I've attended one of Martin's opera appreciation courses, and he explains all the different types of opera and voices - highly recommended.

It might not be Glastonbury - even though we probably had enough rain to rival it on the Monday - but it's a great community event, with something for everybody, and is thoroughly enjoyed by all.  Thanks to all the performers, organisers and venues. We're looking forward to next year's event already!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Harry Potter Studios

I climbed aboard the broomstick and wrapped the black cloak tightly around me while a queue of people looked on - not a phrase I thought I would ever use, but something which happened to me the other weekend.

No, I haven't had a radical career change, or started my Hallowe'en preparations two months early, rather we visited the Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden.

My daughter is a huge fan of JK Rowling's boy wizard, has read all the books and seen all of the films.  I read the first four books, then had her so that was as far as I got as nappy changing etc took over from reading, whereas my husband has seen some of the films but not read any of the books.

But I have to say it was absolutely fantastic and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  Admittedly, a bit of knowledge is required to appreciate the full effect, but even if you aren't the biggest Harry Potter fan it is well worth a visit.

Highlights include the Great Hall set, with tables laid ready for a feast, and Diagon Alley with its quaint shops selling all manner of items including wands and puking pastilles.

You can climb aboard the Hogwarts' Express, have a photo taken of you pushing your trolley through the wall of Kings Cross to reach platform 9 3/4, practice your wand skills, walk across the wooden bridge to Hogwarts or stand outside the Dursley's front door at No4 Privet Drive. 

The broomstick ride, courtesy of green screen technology, lets you soar high above the ramparts of Hogwarts Castle and through the streets of London.  Also on display are the models, costumes, wigs, prosthetics and props used in the films. 

And then you can drink butterbeer, if you really want to.  Best described as like a weakened version of that soft drink 'made from girders' with very sweet artificial cream on top, it's really quite disgusting!

Exit is via the giftshop, with some eye-watering prices for souvenirs (£8.95 for a chocolate frog), but overall it was excellent.