Sunday, 30 June 2013

'Gangnam Style' MPs? It's just wrong!!

Living where we do in North Northamptonshire – just over the border from Leicestershire – I always read the Leicester news on the BBC red button service.

One recent story had me checking the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day, and I feel the need to share it with you.

On Saturday 29th June I read the following:

“Leicester East MP Keith Vaz has challenged several MPs to a ‘Gangnam Style dance-off’ after he was filmed copying the internet sensation.”

Apparently he joined in with students performing the dance at a college in the city in celebration of Leicester’s City of Culture bid for 2017 (footage is available on YouTube).

He wants MPs representing the other areas in the running to a dance-off on the terrace at Parliament.

Unsurprisingly, his request has been met with a mixture of amusement and bemusement, the report concluded.

The other cities competing with Leicester are Hull, Dundee and Swansea Bay.  It’s probably just as well that John Prescott is no longer MP for Hull as the thought of him dancing to Gangnam Style fills me with a mixture of amusement and horror!

But on a more serious note, can I just say to any MPs who may be reading this (unlikely, perhaps, but I feel it needs to be said) please remember that we don’t want you to try to be cool and ‘get down with the kids’.

We want you to be dignified, attract respect, and get on with the serious job of running the country and getting us out of recession.

Cringe-inducing ‘Dad/Mum dancing’ to Gangnam Style is not the way to win City of Culture.  Despite the obvious amusement, it’s more likely to attract headlines for all the wrong reasons.

However, as I’m writing this, I’m also musing that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and at least Mr Vaz’s antics have got us talking about Leicester and the City of Culture bid, which was perhaps his intention all along...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Gretton Music Festival, 2013

Glastonbury starts this week (on TV from 28th June).

There’s the usual broad range of big-name performers including The Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford & Sons, Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, Bastille, Hurts and Sir Bruce Forsyth (yes, I double-checked that, it’s not a typo!)

Unfortunately I’ve never been – not keen on portaloos – but I avidly watch it on the TV, staying up way past my usual bedtime to listen to the varied music on offer.

That’s the great thing about this festival – there’s a wide range of different musical styles to be heard.  There’s a place for all genres, and people get the chance to listen to something that they otherwise might not.

In my opinion, there’s no such thing as good or bad music, just whether it’s performed well.

With this in mind, I’d like to tell you about a forthcoming local music event which is going to showcase a variety of musical styles right here in Northamptonshire.

The Gretton Music Festival is taking place from 23rd to 26th August 2013 (Bank Holiday Weekend), and will feature tunes for every taste, from sea shanties to traditional French dance, through to folk and rock ‘n’ roll.

This year there’s a new Music Trail, taking place on the Saturday afternoon, which offers a unique opportunity to spend time touring the village broadening your musical horizons.

This will include special mini-events hosted by local enthusiasts, ranging from a reggae session to Verdi opera and African drumming.

So head to Gretton and listen to something new.  It might not be Glastonbury, but it has proper loos!

More information can be found at

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Hey Mr D.J.

Have you ever been somewhere and the most inappropriate song has been played?

For example, I remember walking into a Silver Wedding anniversary party to hear the strains of Tammy Wynette’s ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E.’ blaring from the disco speakers.

Then some years ago at a friend’s wedding at an extremely posh venue, after their first dance to Shania Twain’s ‘You’re Still the One’, the DJ cranked up Mousse T’s hit of the time ‘Horny’.

The bride and groom looked embarrassed as they were left stranded on the dancefloor, while guests exchanged raised eyebrows and smirks at the DJ’s choice of tune, refusing to budge from their seats to join them.

Having never worked in hospital radio I can’t confirm this, but I believe there’s a list of tunes that can’t be played, even if requested by patients.

I imagine ‘Girlfriend in A Coma’ by The Smiths tops this list.  I’m pretty sure the Manic Street Preacher’s ‘Theme from M.A.S.H.’ is on there too. 

I’m wondering if now, with the trend for pop music to be played at weddings and funerals, do places of worship and Crematoriums have a list of songs they won’t play?

If so, I’d love to know what they are...

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Whatever the weather...

Much to my daughter’s dismay, I don’t own a smartphone.

I don’t think her generation can imagine a world before Angry Birds and apps.

As I’ve told her on numerous occasions, we didn’t have mobiles as children – in fact I was 25 before I owned one – and I managed perfectly well.

I was dispatched off to secondary school with a ten pence piece with which to phone home if I missed the bus.

This was, however, occasionally spent on a rocket lolly from the ice-cream van which visited the school every lunchtime (sorry Mum!)

Getting back to phones, something I’ve seen recently on the TV is tempting me towards perhaps upgrading my current handset.

According to Carol Kirkwood, there’s a new BBC Weather app available – and I love looking at the weather.

I put this slight obsession down to being good at Geography at school – at one stage I could tell you all about cloud formation and the Beaufort scale, although, in the style of Homer Simpson, as I’ve got older I think that information may have been pushed out of my brain by other things.

I’m a regular visitor to the BBC Weather website, I check the ten-day forecast, I look at the weather on the red button (formerly known as Ceefax), and even compare different websites to get the ‘right’ weather forecast.

Now that I’m on Facebook – something else I resisted for years and finally gave in to this year – a friend’s told me about the Northants Weather page, and I get updates from that too. 

For other weather fans living locally I recommend it as it is accurate and informative.  In fact, one recent post made me smile – he/she said they’d just managed to get the washing in before the rain! 

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Holkham beach, North Norfolk

Where’s your favourite place in the world?  Other than home, I mean. 

Even though I’ve done a fair bit of travelling in my time, mine is the beach at Holkham, North Norfolk.

I’d discovered this idyll long before Gwyneth Paltrow strode along it in ‘Shakespeare in Love’ too.

I’ve been going to Holkham since I was a child, and I still go there maybe once or twice a year if I can.

It’s completely unspoilt, just as nature intended – you emerge through the pine trees to a wide expanse of sand with the sea just about visible on the horizon.

There’s no shop or any facilities at all really, although in recent years I seem to recall an upmarket food van (offering delights such as locally-produced venison sausage sandwiches) parked in the lane which leads to the path to the beach.

I remember coming to Holkham one February day when my daughter was a baby – it was sunny, and there was no wind, so it wasn’t as cold as you might think it would be for that time of year.

We went for a lovely walk on the beach with our dog, and then retired to the car for a flask of tea and some Christmas cake – such simple pleasures, but I can picture it so vividly like it was yesterday, when it was in fact nearly ten years ago.

I keep promising myself that one day I’ll stay at the nearby Victoria Hotel so I can go to the beach at sunrise and sunset, as I’ve never seen it at those times.  I imagine it’s truly stunning – I’ll let you know when I find out.
I don’t watch ‘Frankie’, the new BBC drama about a District Nurse, but have heard that she’s a Ken Bruce fan and ‘talks’ to him when she’s listening to his Radio 2 show.

Although I’m not sure that is entirely healthy for a member of the medical profession, I too find myself answering questions posed by the DJs on the radio – particularly Jeremy Vine at lunchtime.

Indeed, I found myself doing this only recently, but this time it was when Patrick Kielty was standing in for Steve Wright in the afternoon.

He was talking to a lady who was 49, turning 50 the next day.

“Are you going to embrace 50?” he asked her.

I found myself saying to the radio “What’s the alternative?  Of course she’s got to embrace it!”

I think too much emphasis is placed on ageing.  It happens to us all, hopefully, so why are we so negative about it?

I say hopefully, purposefully, because I’ve known people who’ve unfortunately died young, and they’d have loved the opportunity to be 30, 40, 50 or older.

So the next time you’re worrying about an age milestone, spare a thought for those who’ll never see it – and please count your blessings as well as the wrinkles and grey hairs!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Save the bees! Save the hedgehogs!

There was a report out recently saying that native wildlife species are on the verge of extinction due to loss of habitat.

This didn’t come as much of a surprise to me, unfortunately, as at the moment there seems to be a continual drive to concrete over large areas the country with yet more houses or warehouses.

Why isn’t there an emphasis on regeneration?

Why not take run down areas and rejuvenate them, making them pleasant places in which to live or work?

Wouldn’t this give jobs to builders, electricians, plasterers, plumbers etc?  Why do we need to take large green areas and then build on them?

We need to preserve green spaces, to let wildlife flourish – according to Albert Einstein the human race can’t exist without bees, for example.  As he was a lot cleverer than most of us, I think we ought to heed his warning.

I recently saw a picture from another country where people were having to hand-pollinate plants as the bees had died out in that particular area.  These are not the sort of jobs we should be creating – ‘save the bees’ is a worthwhile mantra.

Back to the UK, and the sad news that the gardeners’ friend – the humble hedgehog – has seen its population decline by around a third since the millennium, its demise being blamed on intensive agriculture and urban development. 

That’s a huge decrease in a relatively short time.  If we’re not careful, Mrs Tiggywinkle and her friends will be consigned to the history books.

I would urge all councils and planning officers to think carefully when granting planning permission to developments on countryside and other green spaces.  Otherwise short-term perceived gain might mean long-term pain for future generations.