Thursday, 28 November 2013

Sam Bailey's got The X Factor!

Much to my husband's dismay, I love watching The X Factor on Saturday night.

In fact, I've watched it since it started ten years ago, and now my daughter is a huge fan too.

If hubby had his way, we'd be watching Grand Designs on loop, but luckily, he doesn't, so our Saturday evening is Strictly, followed by The X Factor live shows.

This series has been the best in a long time, with Sharon Osbourne regaining her place as Queen Judge. 

Mrs O knows what she's talking about, and amazingly looks younger now than she did when she was on the show a few years ago.

She's got a good chance of her act winning this year too - what a fantastic way to mark her return to the show.

I should add at this point that my daughter and I are both huge fans of Sam Bailey, who I think is vocally superior to the others taking part.

We're both hoping that Sam will win the competition this year - she seems a very pleasant, ordinary lady, blessed with an absolutely amazing voice. 

How has she not had a career in singing before now?  Yes, I know she was on cruise ships many moons ago, but surely she's recording artiste material, or Las Vegas-show bound?

Each time she sings I genuinely get goose-bumps.  Her performances of 'My Heart Will Go On' and 'Bleeding Love' were brilliant.

It also makes me wonder though, how many other people are out there who, for one reason or another, didn't get the chance to pursue a career in music?

But for shows like The X Factor, would they continue to be undiscovered, working in their jobs, singing just to themselves or their children?

There's probably an army of undiscovered talent in this country, in all sorts of fields.  Actors, dancers, artists, writers - all quietly getting on with their lives, having never had their fifteen minutes of fame.

Sadly, this could be Sam's last chance at a career in the music business - let's face it, the charts aren't kind to the over 30s (more's the pity).

So here's hoping that she does go on to win, or at least get a record deal out of it, because I think she deserves some recognition.

But winning, on The X Factor at least, isn't everything - lest we forget, some of the biggest stars to come out of the show never actually won it; yes I'm talking about you, One Direction, JLS and Olly Murs!


Friday, 22 November 2013

Mostly As...

I'm probably talking to the over 30s here, but do you remember doing those quizzes in various magazines (Smash Hits, Just Seventeen) when you were at secondary school?

You had to total up the number of As, Bs, etc and then it gave you a startlingly inaccurate answer as to your personality, how cool you were, and so on.

Well, now there's the online version, which my friends and I on Facebook have had great delight in taking part over the last week or so.

So far, I've discovered the following facts about myself:

I'm 100% stuck in the 1980s, due to my knowledge of song lyrics from that decade;

I'm 74% Country (as in countryside, not the music genre, although I am partial to a bit of Dolly Parton or Lady Antebellum);

I'm 67% Kettering;

I'm 65% Corby;

I'm only 36% posh - my lack of playing Polo and the fact I went to a Comprehensive school reduced my score apparently;

I'm 10% Northern (that puts me somewhere around Bournemouth - I'm actually 100% Northamptonshire!);

I'm 0% Essex;

I'm going to live to be 92 (here's hoping).

Other findings include the literary character I'm most like is Bella Swan from Twilight, the Canterbury Tales character I'm most like is The Knight, and the dog I'm most like is a Labrador Retriever.  Oh, and when I grow up, I'm going to be a Teacher.

Yes, I'm aware it's all nonsense, but it's kept us amused comparing results. 

The Kettering and Corby quizzes are actually very good, and must have been written by someone from the towns.  

If you've got the time or inclination, give them a go - here's the link: (you can also link from here to the other quizzes).

I'm now waiting for someone to compose a 'How much time can you waste doing these quizzes' quiz - but I fear I may get 100% on that one!


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Faith restored...

I'm sure that I'm not alone in the fact that I dislike the over-commercialization of Christmas.

Unfortunately, I saw my first Christmas advert on the TV on 15th October, and I didn't rejoice when the 'Holidays Are Coming' juggernaut rolled onto our screens earlier this month.

Likewise, whilst I appreciate the effort that's gone into creating the 'Magic and Sparkle' and the 'Hare and the Bear' productions, I feel that they don't really represent the true meaning of Christmas.

I was actually feeling quite fed-up with the whole 'spend, spend, spend' messages bombarding me on a daily basis.

Then the fantastic amount of money raised by the British public for Children in Need helped to restore my faith in human nature, and made me think that, thankfully, the real message of Christmas is still alive and well.

People dug deep and donated an amazing £31 million pounds.

As we're only just dragging ourselves out of recession, and many people are still struggling, it's truly heart-warming that we still recognize that there are people worse off than ourselves and give generously.

Similarly, within a few days of the appeal being launched last week, millions of pounds had been donated to the Philippines relief fund.

Even though there's a lot of charity events taking place - Movember being in full growth, respect to all the men sporting additional facial hair - we still give what we can, when we can.

At this point, I'd like to give a special mention to a local lad - Sam Powell - who's having his beautiful long hair shaved off, along with two friends known as 'Team Baldilocks', to raise money for Macmillan. 

If you'd like to support him too there's a sponsor form at Gretton Post Office or you can donate online at

Thank you.  Hx

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Thinking about the true Christmas message...

The scenes of devastation from the Philippines are truly heart-breaking.

All those poor people with nothing to eat, or drink, or anywhere to live, wading through steams of polluted water wearing just flip-flops.

Death and destruction are all around them.  Disease will surely follow.

I saw a lady interviewed on a news bulletin - she said quite simply that they don't need computers, mobile phones or televisions, they need the basics of life - food, water, shelter.

In complete contrast, this country is gearing up for the excesses that the Christmas season now seems to bring.

Each commercial break on the TV has yet more adverts encouraging us to spend, spend, spend.

Yes, I've seen the 'Holidays are Coming' advert, which for some seems to herald the arrival of the festive season.

However, I didn't rejoice on seeing this, or the 'Magic and Sparkle' or the 'Hare and the Bear'.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like Christmas, but I have to say that I think these adverts are so far from the true message of what this should be about that it's really not funny.

Please can we remember that we're meant to be celebrating the birth of a baby, to parents who were not wealthy, who was laid in a manger in a stable because there was no room at the Inn - hopefully everyone's still familiar with this, although when I hear that there are spacemen and frogs in school Nativity plays I must admit I do wonder!

Can we perhaps get back to basics ourselves, and remember that all we really need for Christmas is food, drink and shelter, and the love of our families?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remembrance Day, 2013

Like a lot of people in this country, I attended a Remembrance Day service on Sunday.

It was a cold, crisp day, just as I remember many Remembrance Sundays being when I was a child.

I was a Brownie, then a Guide, and we always attended the services in the village in which I grew up. 

I think this is a fantastic tradition, and long may it continue.  It keeps the younger generations in touch with these events.

Now I still attend them with my husband and daughter because I think it's important that we remember the huge sacrifice ordinary people made in order to keep our freedom. 

Members of my family were killed in action in the First World War, and their names join that of many others on the War Memorial in my home village.

But getting back to this year's service, the little church was packed, the Silver Band played the hymns - I Vow to Thee My Country and Onward Christian Soldiers made all the more powerful for being accompanied by the band. 

As the Vicar gave her sermon, a beautiful butterfly fluttered through the Church.

I found this particularly poignant.  In the midst of this solemn service of remembrance, there was a lovely reminder of the beauty of nature and the fragility of life.

It makes you think, doesn't it? 

'They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them or the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.'

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The perils of letterboxes...

Let me start by saying I've always had the greatest of respect for my Postman.

He's a brilliant chap, very efficient and a lovely person too.

If I'm out, he'll leave a parcel with a neighbour - none of this 'taken back to depot' on a card nonsense.

In fact, both Postmen who cover the area in which I live are great.  I often saw the other gentleman when I was out walking the dog (who's since sadly passed away - my dog, not the Postman, just to clarify) and we'd exchange pleasantries and discuss the weather, as you do.

But my respect for them, and indeed all others who deliver leaflets etc, has recently multiplied.

I undertook a task of delivering some leaflets - not a big deal, I know - but I didn't realize how much of a hazardous task this can actually be!

Luckily, I did this in broad daylight, because the complexity of some people's gates and driveways really is a wonder to behold.

Then there's those draft excluders which everyone except me appears to have attached to their letterboxes.

I appreciate that they reduce energy costs, keep the house warm etc, but seriously, you can't get letters or leaflets through them!  They're like furry finger-traps designed to grab your digits but not let the information pass through.

Then at two doors, I poked my leaflets through to be met by snapping teeth and snarling.  Now, I'm guessing that these belonged to a canine rather than the householder, but it was a little disconcerting!

I know we perhaps all take our Postmen and women a bit for granted, and indeed those delivering takeaway menus, charity leaflets and other pamphlets, but please give them a thought next time you're barricading your letterbox against the cold. 

Also, can I suggest if you've got a dog who's not fond of visitors to the door, a lettercage is perhaps advisable to preserve your post and the fingers of the delivery person?  Just a thought...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The perils of revolving doors...

It's not often I watch the news at lunchtime and laugh, but I did just that today.

The sight of Bernie Ecclestone failing to negotiate a revolving door as he arrived at court was truly hilarious.

I did feel slightly guilty at one stage for laughing at a senior citizen, but then I reminded myself he's a billionaire and he was probably struggling to get in there because a member of staff wasn't holding it open for him which eased my guilt somewhat!

However, it also reminded me of a time I got stuck in a revolving door.

Admittedly, I was about nine years old at the time, and it was on my first trip to London, so I think I can cut myself some slack over this incident. 

Thinking about it, it was probably the first revolving door I'd ever encountered.

It was on a primary school trip, and we all herded into the compartment of said door - I think it could have been at St Paul's Cathedral, but I'm not sure.

Somehow, I managed to get my leg caught when entering.  We came to an abrupt halt, and I managed to free my leg somehow - to this day I don't know how.

I guess I could have been quite hurt, had I not got quite sturdy legs which stopped the door from revolving.  It's about the only time anyone's given thanks for thunderous thighs!

I remember being more embarrassed than anything else.  Let's hope that's how Bernie feels too.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Farewell to the 'laminated book of dreams'

I have some sad news to impart to you all.

I couldn't quite believe it when I read it in the financial section of my Sunday newspaper.

The 'laminated book of dreams' (Bill Bailey's description) is to be scrapped.

Yes, the great leveller of shopping - the Argos catalogue - is to be replaced with tablet computers.

Initially I believe it's just in-store, but how long before our home catalogue disappears too I wonder, along with the little blue pens?

As long as I can remember we've had an Argos book in our house.

Even now, when a new one comes out, I read through it, carefully turning over the corner of a page where an item I like lurks, in the vain hope that Mr Bach might have a look at Christmas or birthday time (it's never happened yet, though).

As a child, it supplied my 'wish list' for Christmas gifts - an Evel Knievel, a Mr Frosty slushy maker, a Girl's World - a veritable cornucopia of Seventies' toy delights.

Needless to say, I didn't actually get any of these - times then, much like now, were hard.

Sadly, I have also heard that it's the only book in some households.  Unfortunately it wasn't a joke that when a child was asked to bring in a book from home, he/she arrived with an Argos catalogue because that was the only one they possessed. 

Once upon a time, every home had a Bible or similar Holy book, maybe a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare, a good dictionary, perhaps a few other classic tomes - now the Argos book has become so ubiquitous in the UK it could easily be added to this list.

If that goes, what's left?  Not many houses have the other books listed, which I think is a shame, but perhaps I'm just old-fashioned.

Still, fewer Argos catalogues will hopefully save a lot of trees which is ultimately a good thing for all of us. 

So farewell to the laminated book of dreams - it's been nice knowing you.