Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Competitive life events


Now, I could tell you that I'm not a competitive person, but anyone who knows me would straight away shout 'that's just not true!'.

As I make a habit of always being truthful in my columns, I will confess to being a smidgen competitive, but only with important things like quizzes, air hockey, and computer games like Mario Kart or the motorcycle simulators you get in arcades at the seaside.

But not when it comes to major life event celebrations - for example, my wedding was a simple affair, ditto daughter's Christening.  I don't agree with spending large sums of money on one day, admittedly a fairly important day, but just one day in your life nonetheless.

That's why I just can't get my head around the latest life-event competition - funerals.

Why on earth would anyone compete over funerals?  I know it's a 'thing' because there's loads of TV adverts now dedicated to ensuring you've got enough cash for a good send off.

For example, the endless over 50s life insurance ads, and the lady who liked stargazer lilies, her friends commenting what a lovely funeral she had, but they couldn't possibly afford one like it unless they take out insurance.

What?  Who cares?!  I hate to break it to you, but because you'll be dead when it happens, you won't know what your funeral's like.  Or I suppose depending on your religious viewpoint you will perhaps be able to view it somehow, but even so, what does it really matter?

Honestly, when did we become a nation of folk who partake in competitive dying and subsequent send-offs?

Without wishing to destroy an entire industry and make coffin craftspeople unemployed, wouldn't it be better for the environment if we were dispatched in strong biodegradable cardboard coffins or similar?  Why use the finest oak on something that will either be cremated or buried six feet under?

Surely death is our chance to stop keeping up with the Joneses' - why not keep it simple and just rest in peace?

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Be more Simon Cowell


I've been giving it some thought, and I think we should all be more Simon Cowell.

I'm not suggesting that we become incredibly successful multi-millionaire music moguls - although that would be good - and don high-waisted black trousers, Cuban heels and wear a white shirt open to the navel to display our hairy chests.  But if that's what you'd really like to do, go ahead, I won't judge you.

No, what I'm musing on is whether we should try to give up our mobile phones.  Simon made headlines recently when he admitted he hadn't switched his on in ten months.

My first thought was 'ooh, what if his partner wanted to reach him in an emergency?' but then I realised he probably has an assistant or two with multiple devices between them and they could pass on the message.

Is it feasible for the rest of us though?  Could we revisit a world where the only phone we had was anchored to a cable and sat proudly atop its own designated table, probably in the hallway?

OK, even a Luddite like me has a digital handset I can walk about the house with, but you get the idea.

Now the genie is out of the bottle and in every pocket in the land, how would it work?

Having said that, my parents haven't used their mobile in over ten years.  When I upgraded mine I gave them the handset and a new SIM card, showed them how to use it etc, thinking it would be handy in case of emergencies.

It promptly disappeared to the bottom of my mother's handbag, never to see the light of day again. 

So they along with Simon Cowell - not a phrase I ever thought I'd say - are proof that you can live quite successfully without a mobile phone.

Could the rest of us?  I think a reduction in use would certainly be possible, but to give mine up altogether - how would I check the BBC weather app?!

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The importance of keeping M&S


To say I'm upset about the threatened closure of M&S branches in Kettering and Northampton is an understatement.

I'm absolutely mortified that these two towns - in both of which I've either gone to school, college and work at some stage - are going to lose one of their main stores, the heart of their once great high streets.

The threat to both towns should not be underestimated either if these proposed closures happen.  It could well have a knock-on effect on other stores if there's a steep decline in footfall.

In truth, we'd suspected closures might happen once the Rushden Lakes shop opened.  And of course I recognise that the world of retail has changed dramatically over recent years, with the increase in online shopping.

But about five years ago, I stopped all online shopping.  I didn't like the way online giants were starting to dominate retail, so I made a stand and changed the way my family and I shopped.

If we want books, we go to Waterstones.  If we need CDs or DVDs, we go to HMV.  For gifts and toys we head to The Yards, and for some of my clothing and food shopping, I go to M&S.

So if like me you don't want to see Kettering and Northampton lose their M&S, keep shopping there, or start shopping in store if you don't already.

Don't buy your stuff online, go in and see the staff, some of whom have worked in the Kettering branch since I was a teenager.

Because if we don't, and we don't support other shops in our town centres too, they will sadly close.  This is also the reason I use the Post Office and my Bank branch regularly.

If M&S goes, where will people who live and work in Kettering and Northampton go to buy their lunchtime sarnies, and purchase their 'Dine in For Two with free wine' offer (my personal favourite)?

But even more importantly, every time we need new undies we'll have to make a special 'pants pilgrimage' to Rushden Lakes!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Royal Wedding


I know by the time you read this you'll perhaps be fed up of talk about the Royal Wedding.

Truthfully, in the run up to the big day, I was getting a little fatigued with the speculation about the dress, whether or not Mr Markle would attend etc.

But then on the day itself, daughter and I sat transfixed, and watched the TV coverage from start to finish, commenting on the fabulous outfits, hats and cars.

Here are my main observations from the day:

·        Meghan's dress was beautiful, elegant and very Audrey Hepburn-esque.  In my opinion, right up there with the best wedding dresses we've seen on the Royal Family, which includes those worn by the Duchess of Cambridge and Lady Helen Taylor;
·        I'd prefer Prince Harry clean-shaven, but he and his brother both looked very smart in their uniforms - their Mother would have been very proud;
·        The Queen and Prince Philip are amazing.  Her Majesty looked lovely, and full marks to himself for walking unaided so soon after his hip op;
·        I liked the way Prince Charles welcomed Meghan's mother Doria into the Royal fold, making sure that she wasn't completely on her own;
·        It was good to see Fergie - she is after all the mother of two princesses, and it's only right she should be invited to such occasions;
·        Can I ask that George and Amal Clooney be invited to all events in the future?  They dazzled, brought a whole new level of celeb, and looked genuinely happy to be there;
·        Which brings me to my next point - Victoria Beckham please smile!  I hear you've got a great sense of humour and smile and laugh in private.  It would be lovely to see you do it in public too;
·        Members of the clergy, sermons should be short and to the point.  You've lost most people after about three minutes.  Please remember that Church pews are extremely uncomfortable, particularly if you're eight months' pregnant or over 90 years old, or just don't have sufficient cushioning!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Let's talk more about dementia


It was a very brave decision by Dame Barbara Windsor's husband Scott to release the news about her dementia diagnosis.

The announcement was made with her permission, and although she had been diagnosed back in 2014, they had kept the information private until now.

I totally respect that too - in the 'world of celeb', we are often bombarded with info about what stars are up to, but some people feel that some things are better dealt with privately.  Victoria Wood's decision to keep her cancer diagnosis private - not 'secret' as some papers labelled it - was the right decision for her. 

In Dame Barbara's case, they decided to talk about her having Alzheimer's now because her condition has been declining, and the couple still wanted to go out as normal and not have to worry about trying to hide what was wrong.

The very positive thing to have happened though since Scott's announcement is the amount of news coverage and discussion about what is the cruellest of diseases, and truthfully is probably one of the illnesses that we all fear the most.

But talking about dementia in all its formats will help to reduce any stigma that still exists around the illness.  Statistically, over the age of 80, one in six people will have some form of dementia.

We do need to be much more open about dementia - it's not a natural part of ageing, it's a disease of the brain, but there are medical treatments that can sometimes be taken to slow its progress.

If you are worried about a friend or relative, please encourage them to see their GP at the earliest opportunity.  The NHS teams who work with dementia patients and their families do a marvellous job, they are there to help.

Years ago people felt a stigma about cancer and didn't discuss that - thankfully, that is no longer the case. 

We need to make sure the same thing happens with dementia - that way everybody can get the help and support they need.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Church bells


I think it's fair to say that if you move to the countryside - presumably to embrace and enjoy country life in all its glorious, varied formats - you can't really then complain about things which are part and parcel of the fabric of that life.

For example, if you live near a farm, then you have to expect to hear cows mooing, lambs and sheep baaing, pigs grunting and encounter the occasional strong odour of manure.  Farm animals tend to make noise and smells, it's what they do, it's probably part of their job description.

Similarly, if you live near a Church, it seems a little churlish to then complain to the council about the Church bells ringing.

Bearing in mind in the case I've been told about that the Church bells in question are only rung at weddings, funerals and on Easter Sunday, how much of a noise nuisance can they actually be?

These are surely day time activities - I'm unaware of any of the above services happening after dark or in the middle of the night - so I can't quite understand why this is causing an offence worthy of a complaint to the local council?

Giving the complainant the benefit of the doubt for a moment, perhaps they are a night-shift worker - in that case, I suppose it might be a bit annoying to be awoken by Church bells when you're trying to get a well-earned kip.

But in this particular scenario, as the Church is in an industrial town, on a busy main road, I can't quite get my head around how the Church bells are the one noise worthy of complaint.

If you buy a house near a farm, or a Church, or indeed a Pub or school, can you really complain if you hear the noises associated with these buildings and their inhabitants; have we really become that intolerant of other people and their way of life? 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

What's the name of the game?


I was genuinely excited to hear about the reunion of people who were probably one of the greatest influences of my childhood.

There are some folk that remain etched on your memory; whose impact on those formative years simply can't be measured.

No, I'm not talking about the Chuckle Brothers, although fair play to them, they've managed to extend their career beyond the realms of what anybody probably thought was possible, and they have a new series starting on Channel Five shortly.  I wonder if they will still have the 'To me, to you' catchphrase?

The big reunion I'm referring to is of course Abba.  They're back, in the studio with each other, recording new music for the first time since the early 1980s.

This is amazing news, but it also makes me slightly nervous.  What if the new music isn't as good as the stuff I remember so well from my 1970s/80s childhood? 

So much water has passed under the bridge in that time, and let's not forget they were all once married to each other and then divorced, so you can't help but wonder what was the atmosphere in that studio actually like? 

They apparently said 'it was like time stood still and that we had only been away on a short holiday'.  A 35-year holiday - I just hope they'd asked a neighbour to feed the cat and they'd cancelled the milk and papers!

I can't help but think that it's a huge responsibility for them to undertake.  I wonder what their motivation is, it surely can't be money, money, money?!

As for a concert which features them as avatars - or Abba-tars I hear they're called - if they're able to meet up in person and record again, it surely begs the question as to why not do a real, proper, live concert or tour for their millions of fans worldwide? 

But I'm also musing what all this means for the many tribute acts - apart from having to learn new material for the first time in 30 years, that is.