Thursday, 31 December 2015

Auld Lang Syne

As it'll be New Year's Eve when you read this, let's link arms and sing 'Auld Lang Syne', before imbibing a medicinal sherry and cramming in another Quality Street (strawberry cream for me please).

Right, now we've done that, let's have a quick review of 2015 as seen through my columns:

In January, I talked about saving Corby's Fire Engine, the need of which was particularly highlighted after the appalling fire at the town centre.

In February, the earth moved for me when we had the Rutland earthquake.

Northamptonshire County Council lifted the 30 mile limits on from where waste could be brought into waste plants in Corby in March, and Jeremy Clarkson rather unceremoniously left Top Gear after a fracas.

April, and I talked about the protest march in Corby, and how a gust of wind caught my placard as I walked up George Street and I nearly whacked (our now MP) Tom Pursglove and the UKIP candidate Margot Parker on the head.

In May I asked what's with all this air kissing and hugging these days - what's wrong with a proper handshake?

Much excitement in the County in June, with the Women's Cycling Tour speeding through, and also the inaugural KettFest Community Festival.

I wrote about daughter leaving primary school in July, and how I wept buckets - and set other people off crying - at the Leavers' Assembly.

In August I admitted that until then I'd never seen Mamma Mia!  I enjoyed it immensely, and also felt that Pierce Brosnan's singing wasn't that bad - I'm sure he's relieved to hear that.

September saw me marvelling at the lady with the Nigel Farage tattoo, and in October we had the Great British Bake Off final, with the winner Nadiya making an uplifting victory speech.

In November, I imparted the decision that I would be embracing hygge (and possibly Morten Harket), and in December shared my ambition to one day have a pint and a chat with the fabulous Adele.

I wonder what 2016 will bring?  Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

It was Christmas Eve, babe...

'It was Christmas Eve, babe...' - so begins my favourite Christmas song by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

I will also confess to having a certain fondness for Shakin' Stevens' 'Merry Christmas Everyone', but mainly because I remember the video and his rather fetching festive jumper.

When you read this it will indeed be Christmas Eve, probably my favourite day of the festive period.

I love the anticipation of Christmas Eve.  The presents still wrapped neatly, nestling under the tree waiting to be opened (if the dog hasn't got to them first and given them his inspection).

The mulled wine warming gently in a pan on the stove, mince pies, sausage rolls and a whole host of other delights which I try to only consume at Christmas, otherwise I'd have a belly the size of Father Christmas's and need to borrow his nice red suit, or perhaps fetch my maternity jeans from the attic (now there's a thought - thanks Joey from Friends for that idea!)

One of my Christmas Eve highlights is the candlelit crib service at the local Parish Church.

It's lovely, attracts people of all ages, and offers a calming influence before the 'storm' of the festive season. 

The old stone building is transformed with the glow of the candles, carefully balanced out of reach of little hands on the stone columns which have stood proud for hundreds of years, witnessing many events such as this.

Everyone joins in singing - it's not just hymns either; last year we had the 12 Days Of Christmas, with each pew having to stand up and sing their line, causing much amusement when people didn't arise at the correct time and boomed out 'Five Gold Rings' at the wrong moment, for example.

The children usually dress up as characters from the Nativity, but I'm pretty sure there was a Gruffalo once.  I'm anticipating Star Wars-themed outfits this year - perhaps Darth Vader himself, some Ewoks or a couple of Storm Troopers?!  Merry Christmas to you all.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Keep it simple, keep it local - Small Business Saturday

On Small Business Saturday I only shopped in small, independent businesses.

This was partly conscious effort from me - my mantra for Christmas shopping being 'keep it simple, keep it local' - but also because I happened to be in Oakham.

This is where we have to buy my daughter's school uniform, in a small independent store run by a lovely lady who occasionally has to shut the shop early if one of her children is ill or if she has a parents' evening.

I also shop in my local Post Office and Stores on a regular basis, where I'm guaranteed a warm welcome by Julie, Mike, Sam and Michele.  They know what bread I like, what paper I read - they're even aware of my (slight) Fry's Turkish Delight addiction!  It's great to have that level of personal service and interaction.

In complete contrast, my husband was recently overcharged in a supermarket - he bought some wine because it was on special offer, but on arrival home he checked his receipt and discovered he'd in fact been charged full price.

The difference was quite significant, so he returned to the shop for a refund.  The staff treated him like he was a complete nuisance, and didn't even apologise for their mistake.

This same supermarket have also sold us in the not-too distant past a rhubarb yogurt which contained what appeared to be ham.

I only discovered this when I'd eaten some of it and wondered why there was something lumpy in my supposedly smooth yogurt. 

We duly returned it - we were refunded the purchase price and told they would send it off to Head Office for analysis.  To date we still haven't heard anything.

Genuinely, I felt sick afterwards, particularly when I told a friend about it and she replied 'Are you sure it was ham?  It might have been the top of someone's finger!'

Apologies if you're reading this whilst eating.  I can assure you that I won't be eating rhubarb yogurt ever again!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Apostrophe misuse - #becauseitschristmas

Amongst my pet hates - be warned, the list is getting longer the older I get - is apostrophe misuse.

A recent post on social media for an upmarket wine shop in a nearby market town said the following:

"I enjoy a glass of wine each night for it's health benefits.  The other glasses are for my witty comebacks and flawless dance moves".

Now, I shared this because I found the sentiment amusing, but also stated that rogue apostrophe really needs removing!

I've always been a great believer in the 'if in doubt, leave it out' rule, but somehow this has resulted in my most recent source of apostrophe-related stress.

The culprit?  The Asda Christmas advert and its hashtag #becauseitschristmas.

Now I'm fairly certain that you can use apostrophes in hashtags.  I don't think you get charged by the symbol or anything. 

So why - particularly when we're trying to teach 10 and 11 year olds for the SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) SATs - is a major supermarket and their advertising agency committing such a heinous crime of apostrophe omission and misuse?

I know there will be some people reading this thinking to themselves 'with the current state of the world have you not got more pressing things to concern your brain Bach?'

Yes, that's a good point, but when you can't control the big things in life, you can at least try to get the small things right.

Moreover, grammar is important.  If you're applying for jobs or writing e-mails in a business context, if your grammar and punctuation is appalling it's not going to create a good impression.

The Barclays Lifeskills advert, which gives us helpful advice on how we should use our social media to get a job, could also do with explaining to people the difference between 'it's' and 'its', and 'there', 'their' and 'they're'.  It could also tell them that it's 'should have', not 'should of'.

While they're at it, could they please let Asda know it should be #becauseit'sChristmas!

Thursday, 3 December 2015


I love Adele - of all today's modern musicians, she's the one I'd most like to meet and have a drink with in the pub.

She's genuine, warm and funny - who else can you think of that would have donned a prosthetic nose and chin and gone along to an audition as a tribute act for themselves?

In one of the funniest things I've seen lately, there was Adele, standing at the back of a queue of singers waiting to perform on stage as 'Adele'.  She stood nervously backstage with the other contestants, and was the last one to sing.

The look on the other performers' faces was a joy to behold as they realised that their idol was amongst them.  She may not have looked like Adele, but the voice was unmistakable.  If you missed it, it's on BBC iPlayer for about a month and I'm guessing on YouTube for eternity.

It really was one of the best moments on TV recently - which admittedly wasn't hard, as I find it hard to stomach watching celebs eating unmentionables in the Australian bush, no matter how entertaining the commentary by Ant and Dec.

I have to confess to still watching The X Factor - mainly because daughter insists upon it - but I think this series has been very disappointing.  Thank goodness Lauren and Louisa are currently still there, as they are brilliant and deserve success.

As for Reggie and Bollie, they seem to be a barometer for how much alcohol I've consumed.  After two glasses of wine they appear quite amusing, less than that and I'm wondering what on earth's going on with the world and why Seann Miley Moore isn't still in the competition.

The series highlight for me has been Fleur East performing her new single - despite what Chris Evans might think of it - which features on a supermarket's Christmas adverts. 

I wonder if John Lewis might consider Reggie and Bollie for next year's ad - I'm sure they'd be considerably cheaper than the £7 million spent on this year's 'Man on the Moon' offering!