Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Boaty McBoatface

You've got to love the British sense of humour.  When things seem particularly bleak, our way of not taking ourselves or anything too seriously seems to come to the fore and see us through.

With that in mind, it perhaps isn't the wisest decision then to ask the great British public their opinion over something serious in an online poll.

I can't say that I was terribly surprised to hear about the kerfuffle over the naming of the new polar research vessel.

So far the public have voted overwhelmingly to call this quite important, £200 million, 15,000 tonne, 128 m-long state-of-the-art vessel 'Boaty McBoatface', which sounds like a cartoon character.

Personally, I think this is hilarious, and am hoping that this name wins, although I believe the Natural Environment Research Council (with the unfortunate acronym NERC, which sounds like another word we used for 'idiot' when I was at school) who created the competition can override the public's decision.

This caveat, which was apparently in the small print somewhere on the online poll, was probably a good idea on NERC's part, as other suggestions have included 'Pingu', 'Usain Boat' and - another favourite of mine - 'It's Bloody Cold Here'.

At the time of writing, Boaty McBoatface has 27,000 votes, with its nearest rival RRS Henry Worsley (named after the explorer who sadly died trying to make the first unassisted solo crossing of the Antarctic in January) somewhat languishing behind on just 3000 votes.

Another more serious suggestion is RRS David Attenborough, which would be a fitting tribute to the man who has taught most of us Brits all we know about the natural world.

I'm not entirely sure who will get to launch this vessel, but if the public do indeed get their choice over this ship's name, I'm picturing a dignitary trying to suppress a laugh as they smash a bottle of Champagne across its bow, while uttering the immortal words 'I name this ship Boaty McBoatface!'

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

'Ill-judged' - the latest Top Gear fiasco

'Ill-judged' is one of those marvellous phrases of understatement.

I follow Very British Problems on social media, and they are forever coming up with such sayings, complete with translation - for example 'it didn't quite go according to plan' actually means 'it completely failed in every conceivable way'.

So, when I say that I think the latest round of Top Gear stunts, complete with performing 'donuts' near to the Cenotaph and outside St Paul's Cathedral was ill-judged, what I'm actually meaning is 'how appalling, have you taken leave of your senses?'

Now I like cars, I like Chris Evans, I even liked Matt Le Blanc on Friends, but I cannot defend this in any way.

When people start saying things like 'even Jeremy Clarkson wouldn't have stooped so low', you know you've got a huge problem - Jezza of course having a history of causing such major offence he was stoned in Argentina (in the Biblical sense, not the modern meaning).

I'd seen the footage of the car outside St Paul's Cathedral, just as the bride and groom were standing on the steps having photographs taken.

Again, as much as I like cars, even I wouldn't have wanted them to gatecrash my big day in such a noisy, vulgar manner.  Fortunately it transpires that this was staged by actors, so no wedding was harmed during filming.

But the Cenotaph footage was a stunt too far.  Yes, I've seen the arguments that it was all down to camera angles, and that the car wasn't that close, but even so, it was disrespectful.

Fortunately, Chris Evans was swift to comment, condemn and assure that the footage shot would not be used in the show.

Cynics will be musing that this was all a publicity stunt, trying to attract attention to the new show and divert us away from Clarkson, May and Hammond.

Maybe so, but in my mind this incident has reminded us that there is such a thing as bad publicity. 

Monday, 14 March 2016

The Travers Foundation Showcase

I always have the utmost respect for people who take to the stage and perform.

It's something I've done myself - admittedly many years ago - and I know how much guts it takes to put yourself out there.

My last performance, if it could be called that, was the first and final time I sang at a karaoke.  Abba's Waterloo has never sounded so awful and I still shudder at the memory.  My only excuse is that there was alcohol involved, but sadly not enough to make me sound good or to erase the memory!

In complete contrast, I saw a host of talented youngsters who could dance, act and sing beautifully when I was invited to the Travers Foundation Young Stars Showcase Dinner at The Cube in Corby.

So good were the performers that I wanted to emulate Amanda Holden on Britain's Got Talent and get to my feet with a beatific smile on my face and clap until my hands hurt.

Genuine goosebump moments came when Kara Hamer performed Cilla Black's 'You're My World', when Vicki-Louise Sherwin sang Puccini's 'Oh Mio Babbino Caro', and when Meg Lyons finished the evening with a stunning version of 'I Know Where I've Been' from Hairspray.

If it had been a talent show these singers would have sailed through to the next round.

Charlie Botting and Vicki-Louise also performed their single 'Now I've Found You At Last' which they've released to raise money for Lakelands Hospice.  These amazing singers have raised over £6000 for this worthy charity, and I'm full of admiration for them.

All of the performers on the evening had been funded by The Travers Foundation, which is a Northamptonshire-based charity supporting 13 to 30 year olds in Northamptonshire, Rutland and Leicestershire helping them to improve their skills in sports, the creative and performing arts. 

It's a charity with which I have had the pleasure of working over the past three years, and it's wonderful to see how we are helping these young people achieve their dreams and fulfil their potential.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

At the car wash...

Time for another shocking revelation from the Bach archives - until recently I'd never been through a car wash.

I know, I haven't lived.  I had my first mini Babybel the other week too.  Never bought them before - to buy individually waxed cheeses seemed frivolous when you can buy a large block and carve off your daily requirements.

I read somewhere that cheese was as addictive as hard drugs which possibly explains my three slices a day habit.  Mind you, I don't have to resort to crime to feed my addiction, just raid the dairy shelves of my nearest shop - paying for my purchases at the till, obviously.

Anyway, I digress, back to the car wash.  It's a strange sensation, not one that I particularly enjoy.  Slightly claustrophobic, noisy, fear of windows or windscreen leaking, altogether a bit stressful, although arguably the end result is worth it.

It's not somewhere I look forward to going, but when husband announced he'd just quickly pop the car through when we were out shopping I reluctantly agreed.

He decided he'd be more extravagant than usual and opted for a wheel wash.  This is done by hand, and while the chap was scrubbing away at the wheels he discovered a nail in husband's tyre.

He removed it, proffered it at the driver's window, turned away - which is when husband wound down the window to enquire if the tyre was deflating, just at the same moment as the guy spun around with the pressure washer in hand to continue his task.

The cascade of pressurized water and cleaning fluid came through the open window, bypassed husband in the driver's seat and hit me fair and square in the face.

I froze, not quite able to comprehend what had just happened, with water dripping from my nose and chin.

The man apologized profusely, husband fell about laughing, whilst daughter sitting in the back quickly passed me some paper towel.

I too can now laugh about this incident - three months after it happened!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Keeping Up Appearances

There's part of me that thinks we should be discussing the EU referendum, but then again I'm not really qualified to talk about it, I haven't really got much of a clue either way and I'm not sure that what I think really matters.

So instead, in complete contrast, I'd like to talk to you about 'Keeping Up Appearances'.

A couple of surprising facts about this programme have recently been brought to my attention.

The first is what Rev Richard Coles discussed on Chris Evans' Radio2 Breakfast Show on Friday 19th February (just in case you want to listen again on iPlayer -

He has it on good authority that Pope Benedict used to like to watch Hyacinth & Co of an evening to unwind after a busy day doing what Popes do (praying a lot I imagine).

Quite what he made of the very English sense of humour - and sister Rose's insatiable appetite for the Vicar - is perhaps best left a mystery.

Then, in another amazing fact, it transpires that Keeping Up Appearances is the show which BBC Worldwide has sold most around the world.

You thought it was Top Gear didn't you?  I must admit so did I, but that's the best selling factual programme.

No, it's Hyacinth, Richard, Emmet, Elizabeth, Onslow, Daisy and Rose who are seen around the world most - I wonder how Clarkson, May and Hammond feel about that?

I'm sure we could try and analyse the secrets of its success, but the truth is very simple - it's a well-written comedy, starring fine actors and is an accurate portrayal of that very commonplace character we all have in our lives.

You know the one - the snob, the social climber, that person who likes to pretend they're something they're not and make others feel a little bit inadequate in comparison.

Except, somewhat surprisingly, we remain quite fond of Hyacinth, because despite her faults she's very funny.  And perhaps, if we're brutally honest, we're all a little bit more Bouquet than Bucket.