Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Radio 2 - if it ain't broke, don't fix it

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' - not the most grammatically correct of sayings, granted, but true nonetheless.

On many occasions I've uttered this mantra and saved myself a lot of unnecessary stress and heartache.

I think the bosses at Radio 2 should have also said this to themselves before they changed the format of the Drivetime show.

They had a popular presenter in the shape of Simon Mayo, they had a winning formula of chat, confessions and cookery amongst other things.

But for some reason best known to themselves, they decided to throw this all up in the air and parachute in Jo Whiley to co-present with Mr Mayo.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love Jo Whiley, and I've made no secret of the fact that when I grow up I want to be Jo Whiley.  She's like the cool girl at school we all wanted to be best friends with and of whom we were slightly in awe.

But the lack of professional chemistry between Simon and Jo - who have been friends for 25 years, so it's not like they don't get on - was painful to listen to.

In fact, I had to stop listening, because it made my ears hurt and I couldn't concentrate on cooking the dinner while cringing so much.

Now Simon has resigned and is heading for pastures new - rumoured to be Smooth FM, but who knows.

Jo has been given back her evening show, which is where I first listened to her on Radio 1 with Steve Lamacq.

Sara Cox has been announced as the new host of the Drivetime show, and I like her a lot, but would have preferred her on the breakfast show where she more than ably covers for Chris Evans in his absence.

I just hope they leave Popmaster with Ken Bruce and Steve Wright in the afternoon just as they are. 

Otherwise for lots of listeners serious jockin' will become serious leavin'!

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Great British Bake Off 2018

Ooh, wasn't this year's Bake Off good? 

The final had me on the edge of my seat, too close to call who the ultimate victor was going to be.

I thought Kim-Joy had edged it, but Rahul was crowned the winner in what must have been the closest final in the show's history.

Rahul appeared to genuinely not know how good he was throughout the series.  How this was possible as time went on and he received Hollywood handshakes almost every week is beyond me, but his lack of self-confidence and his Eeyorish quality of doom-mongering and always anticipating the worst outcome was endearing, if not a little stressful to watch at times.

I may take up Ruby's use of positive post-it notes - we saw a shot of her flat, with messages like 'I am the Bake Off winner' etc on the fridge - and post mantras such as 'You're doing your best' and 'Your food is almost always edible' to give myself encouragement.

I wasn't sure about the out-of-the-tent experience of camp fire cookery if I'm honest, and I don't think adding a Bear Grylls element to Bake Off was necessary.  Having said that, if I ever want to cook pitta bread alfresco, I now have a better idea of the pitfalls that could await me.  Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

The companion show Extra Slice with Jo Brand, provided a fun-filled hour of out-takes, behind-the-scenes clips, discussions with the baker who'd been voted off, and also an opportunity to see the culinary creations of the nation each week.

Never again will I be able to look at a hedgehog cake or Colin the Caterpillar in quite the same light though.  Some of the photos sent in by viewers were bordering on frightening - I can only hope these horrors were not presented to a child as their birthday cake otherwise years of counselling will ensue!

So that's GBBO over for another year, and I'm missing it already.  At least we've got the Stand Up To Cancer fundraising celeb version to look forward to - bring on the bakers!

Friday, 26 October 2018

For the love of dogs

Now I love dogs.  In fact, I would almost go as far as saying that these days I prefer most dogs to most humans!

I don't mind seeing dogs in pubs, caf├ęs and restaurants - I would much rather have well-behaved dogs sitting quietly under their owners' chairs and tables than badly behaved humans of any size running amok.

Dogs are, on the whole, brilliant.  They are loyal, they love you unconditionally, they are always pleased to see you, and become a huge, important part of the family.

So that's why it didn't really surprise me to read that the main sticking point in sorting out Ant McPartlin and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Lisa's divorce is their mutual love for their chocolate Labrador Hurley.

It's been reported that each party wants sole custody of him, as they say their current shared agreement of him spending one week at each other's house isn't working, and they're finding it too upsetting at hand-over time.

Now, I don't know Ant and Lisa personally, but if I did I would tell them this -  in fact I would say it to anyone going through the same situation - you need to put aside your own feelings and think about what's best for Hurley.

Just as you would do for a human child, he's your fur-baby, and deserves just as much consideration as if you'd given birth to him yourselves.

Yes, hand-over time might be jolly uncomfortable for you both, but you have to think of your dog's happiness.

By all accounts, he adores both his Mum and Dad, so how could you deprive him of the right to see either?  You wouldn't do this to human babies, so please don't do it to your dog.

Ant and Lisa both seem like decent people, so I'm sure they can find a way to make sure that Hurley remains a priority in their new lives. 

A dog is for life, even if a marriage sadly isn't.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The latest craze?

Picture this - I'm sitting there one lunchtime, watching the News at 1pm, as is my habit now I'm a worker from home.

Then the newsreader starts talking about Brazilian Butt Lifts, and I nearly choke on my cheese and pickle sarnie.

What, seriously?  I didn't even know such a thing existed!  Admittedly, I'm not a subscriber to Plastic Surgery Monthly or any other such publication, but even so, how did I not know about this?

I put down my sandwich, lest there be another near-choking incident while I listened to the segment, which described in graphic detail the procedure, the risks involved, and then heard the horror stories direct from the patients' mouths about what went wrong when they had this operation overseas.

It turns out that this is the most risky cosmetic procedure you can have.  Because of the size of the gluteous maximus muscles, they have large blood vessels, and the fat - which is removed from another part of the patient's body to be used to enhance the buttocks - can be accidentally injected into the wrong place and can cause all sorts of problems.

There is a risk of infection - one lady flew home from abroad with a sky-high temperature and then had to have IV antibiotics to try to cure her.

There is a risk of scarring - oh yes, unfortunately we were shown very scarred posteriors - but also, sadly, people can die from undertaking this procedure, paying the ultimate price for wanting to change the way they look.

According to this news item, there's a trend for tiny waists and massive, cartoon-like backsides which resemble two beach balls defying gravity.

This is the image some people see on social media and want to copy.  But is this worth running the risk of dying for?

No, I would vehemently argue that it isn't, and I think it's so sad that in our selfie-obsessed world people are going to such extreme measures for what is a very unrealistic and unhealthy idea of beauty, or indeed booty.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

On the doorstep

I'm sure that I'm not alone in sometimes taking for granted what we have here on our doorsteps in North Northamptonshire.

Not very far from the hubbub of the towns with the convenience of their shops, cinemas and theatres, we have beautiful countryside, woodland and country parks.

There's stunning architecture, historical buildings and beautiful churches in both the towns and villages.  We go on holiday far from home to see such sights, but sometimes fail to appreciate what surrounds us every day.

I must confess that I felt like this when I popped over the border to visit Peterborough.  I hadn't been there for a few years, and had forgotten how magnificent the Cathedral is.

The reason for this particular visit was to see Tim Peake's Soyuz space capsule, which is on display until 5th November.

This seemingly incongruous marriage of modern space travel and ancient religious architecture should be wrong, but somehow it's so right.

The tiny space capsule - which housed three fully-grown men on their descent back to Earth - is dwarfed by the magnificence of the Cathedral which has stood proudly on that spot for 900 years.

Quite how the spacemen fitted in this gadget which looks like a glorified industrial washing machine is beyond me - but as my daughter reminded me, they were all seated for their journey. Even so, sardines in a tin seems an apt analogy.

It's well worth a visit to see, and there's also Tim Peake's spacesuit in a glass case which looks like it might just fit me, a Soyuz gift shop, as well as a virtual reality pod, which happened to be shut on the day we were there though.

If you do go, remember to have a good look at the Cathedral while you're there.  As well as being the final resting place of  Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine of Aragon, look up and marvel at the frescoed ceiling which apparently includes a depiction of a monkey riding backwards on a donkey, but I couldn't spot that particular gem!

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Northamptonshire - three sides to the story?

There are three sides to every story - each of the opposing viewpoints, and the truth, which often falls somewhere in between.

With this in mind, I've been giving a lot of thought to the current state of Northamptonshire County Council, and where the county as a whole now finds itself.

We've been told that the mess we're in is purely down to incompetence at county council level.

But what if it isn't as simple as that?  What if that's only part of the reason, and the other part is because of a lack of fair funding, leading to a 'perfect storm' situation?

If that is indeed the case, what concerns me is that without additional money from central government, how can the two new proposed unitary authorities possibly succeed?

I've read an article which stated 10 other councils are under financial strain, and have seen NCC referred to as the 'canary in the mine', with people waiting to see what happens here.

So while of course it can be acknowledged that there has been some incompetence, I think it's time to also consider how a lack of funding has made the situation even worse.

Lack of funding for public services appears to be rife - for example, anyone who works or has children in the current state education system knows there's a lack of funding there.  The NHS is under terrible strain, there have been huge cutbacks in Policing.  But because everybody's focus remains on Brexit - when will that ever end? - attention has been elsewhere.

But local people, affected every day by loss of bus services, poor road maintenance, closing libraries, and indeed all of their public services cut to the bone, aren't going to forget in a hurry what's happened here in Northamptonshire.

I've even been told 'I've voted Tory all my life, but never again, not after what's gone on in this county, it's a disgrace.'

When there's rumblings like that in the shire, it's time for people to listen and make some changes, or face the inevitable consequences.

Thursday, 27 September 2018


I know everybody's talking about Bodyguard, the BBC Sunday night show, but I'm afraid I can't join in with the discussion because I haven't seen it.

I fear I may be the only person in the country who hasn't, but I just didn't get around to watching it.

Perhaps at this point I should also confess that I'm not watching Killing Eve, and I've never seen a single episode of Downton Abbey or Game Of Thrones either.  But as I'm not a TV critic, I don't suppose that really matters.

Getting back to Bodyguard, I'm not sure how, or why, but I started watching Eight Go Rallying: The Road to Saigon which clashed with it in real time, at least I think it did, and then I never got round to seeing it on iPlayer.

Eight Go Rallying was quite good actually, but it didn't quite generate the same amount of interest and discussion around the nation's water coolers as the fictional Home Secretary's fictional personal protection officer - Noel Edmonds is perhaps disappointed that he lost that particular battle.  He came out with some one-liners that were certainly worthy of the nation's attention.

I have been watching Michael Palin in North Korea though, but again this doesn't seem to be making people want to talk non-stop about it, while others shield their eyes and ears and shout 'No spoilers!  I'm watching it on catch up!!'

In a way though, it must be greatly reassuring for the BBC that they have produced a show which has captured the country's attention in such a fashion and caused so much group discussion. 

With the endless competition from satellite, cable and online providers, it must be getting increasingly difficult to win market share of programming.

It's even been reported that 'the Bodyguard effect' has caused a spike in interest for jobs in that field, but having seen a picture of the actor, Richard Madden, bloodied and bruised wrapped in a blanket, I'm not entirely sure why!