Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A trip down memory bus lane...

I grew up in a Northamptonshire village, where I also attended the primary school, walking the mile or so to school every day in all weathers.

It wasn't until secondary school that I needed to use the bus on a daily basis, and when I did my fellow pupils and I had to use three different buses (each way) to reach our final destination.

Just a few minutes' hold up anywhere meant we missed our connection and then had to phone parents for a lift.  If it happened on the homeward journey the ensuing wait at Kettering Bus Station meant that we could get a drink in the cafe, head to the nearby chippy to share a cone of chips, or pop into Linnets newsagents for a copy of Smash Hits.

I have to say I often envied my schoolfriends who lived in the town - they walked home every day, and at weekends could easily meet friends and go shopping.

There is a point to this story and a good reason for my trip down memory bus lane - our bus service was an absolute lifeline.  My mother didn't drive, my father worked long hours, so if we needed to go anywhere we went on the bus or we didn't go at all.

So I know how important the bus is for people who live in villages, particularly those who don't drive.

Without it, you can't go shopping, or to the Doctors, Dentist, Hospital etc. unless you ask other people for lifts.

Being able to catch a bus means independence for people of all ages.

That's why I'm absolutely appalled at plans to withdraw the Number 67 service, the Gretton to Market Harborough route via Corby and Cottingham, currently the only daily service bus to Gretton.

County Council funding has stopped, and the bus company says it's no longer viable.  Yet figures show 80 people a day rely on this bus, and the children attending Corby Business Academy use it too.

A Facebook group has been started to campaign to save this service or find a decent alternative, please join it if you can - www.facebook.com/groups/savethenumber67bus.  Thank you.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Time to say goodbye to Europe...

Right, that's it, I've had enough.  I think we should leave this European club.

We don't understand them, they don't understand us, they all vote with each other, nobody votes for us, yet we invest lots of money into the whole process.

No, I'm not talking about that referendum on 23rd June - I'm still very much undecided and wish somebody could outline just the facts without scaremongering and highlighting what suits their own agendas and political ambitions - I'm talking Eurovision.

We turn up year after year, usually with a great song, and still don't win.  Joe and Jake's 'You're Not Alone' was actually quite a pleasing little ditty and deserved to do better.

And, with no disrespect to this year's victor from Ukraine, her song wasn't really what I was hoping for in a Eurovision winner.

With Eurovision, I want glitz, glamour, glitterballs, fancy frocks, and enough 'cheese' to make the Jacobs cream cracker factory work overtime.

I don't expect to see Australia there either - how did that happen, when did Australia become part of Europe?  The addition of a set by Justin Timberlake was welcome though, but leads me to wonder can we expect a US competitor next year?

Following in the fine 'Riverdance' tradition the interval entertainment stole the show.  The comedy song 'Love Love Peace Peace' was genius and it would probably have won the contest had viewers been allowed to vote for it.

The Swedish presenters Mans Zelmerlow and Petra Mede listed all the elements that you need to win Eurovision - which included having a powerful start; having drums played by topless men; highlighting your ethnic background with a folklore instrument played by a bearded man; adding a violin; having a DJ pretending to scratch; wearing memorable costumes; and singing a song about love or peace, or both, which they then did.

Abba were victorious with a song about war, Waterloo, but generally this isn't recommended.  But as this year's winner won with a song about Stalin I guess anything is now possible.

Friday, 13 May 2016


The word 'fantastic' conjures up a positive image for me, as I'm sure it probably does for you too.

For example, if somebody told me my cooking was fantastic, I would take that as a compliment, or assume they were being overly polite - or perhaps sarcastic given my mixed history with culinary creations (just ask my husband about my 'Greek' potatoes).

Therefore to hear countries described as 'fantastically corrupt' is a bit of an oxymoron - unless of course you admire the fact that somebody's corrupt, which I'm fairly sure wasn't Mr Cameron's intention.

That's the problem with snippets of overheard conversations, you don't always get the full gist of what's going on.

Then, in another diplomatic kerfuffle following the release of yet another taped conversation, the Queen has apparently unwittingly insulted the Chinese by commenting that officials were rude on a State visit.

But, in all honesty, does it really matter?  If the countries involved in David Cameron's conversation are indeed corrupt or have a history of corruption, and if the Chinese officials were rude on their State visit - and walking out on the Ambassador could be considered the epitome of rudeness (I'd love to know what provoked that response - did he not proffer enough Ferrero Rocher?), then what's been said is absolutely true.

The only people that should be upset and embarrassed about it are the people who are corrupt, and the people who've been rude, not the people who have talked honestly about it.

OK, I will concede that it's perhaps a little bit embarrassing to have what you think is a private conversation made public, but as long as what you're saying is the truth, then you surely have nothing to fear.

In fact, I'd love to hear more of what the Queen thinks about the various people she meets, and the numerous Prime Ministers she's had to deal with.  I wonder how many of those she'd describe as 'fantastically annoying'?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Leicester, Richard III and King Power

Is the meteoric rise of Leicester City FC somehow linked to the Richard III story?  There are too many coincidences - and according to Gibbs' rule no 39 (NCIS), there's no such thing as coincidence.

Leicester's winning streak started after the reburial of the car park king - that's not being disrespectful, they sell mugs in the Richard III visitors' centre giftshop with that slogan emblazoned on them.

It's almost like he wanted to be found, and was then happy once he'd been laid to rest again.  The once much maligned king has become a good omen, a talisman for the city.

Before King Richard's reappearance Leicester was probably best known for Gary Lineker and Walkers crisps.

Now, there is a buzz about the city, and it can boast a Premier League winning football team, a rediscovered Plantagenet king, the National Space Centre and a fabulous John Lewis.

My family and I went to the King Richard III visitor centre in Leicester on the Sunday the Foxes played Manchester United.

The statue of the king was sporting a Jamie Vardy scarf, and the Cathedral was flying the Leicester City flag.  With that level of support I was pretty sure that Leicester couldn't fail.

Everybody was wearing blue - except one either extremely brave (or foolish) Man Utd fan in his red shirt. 

The Richard III visitors' centre was very interesting, and we learned the story of the king's discovery is full of coincidences and things happening to fall into place just at the right time.

From Philippa Langley having a 'feeling' that the king was in the social services car park, to the thunderstorm that happened at the moment when the bones were discovered, to the fact that there was only a small window of opportunity for the mitochondrial DNA evidence to be extracted from descendants of the king's female line of relatives for comparison with any skeleton found.

In fact, the story of the discovery of the king is almost as remarkable as Leicester City winning the Premier League, from their home ground called King Power.  Congratulations to Leicester, well deserved winners.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Why my Labrador wouldn't make a good detection dog

I can't say that I was surprised to hear that the detection dogs at Manchester Airport regularly found cheese and sausages rather than Class A drugs.

I'm sure most dogs, given the choice, would much prefer to sniff out foods they might like to eat rather than the poisons humans choose to take.

I can almost picture the scene, as an eager-to-please Springer Spaniel careers around the baggage area, sniffs what might be Cocaine but then gets a whiff of Chorizo so heads to that bag instead, wagging its tail with delight and waiting for its reward.

In our house - where I hasten to add the only drugs likely to be sniffed out are paracetamol or Ibuleve for my dodgy knee - my dog simply seeks out food and prides himself on the fact that he can hear me open the cheese packet from at least two rooms away.

Believe me, it doesn't matter how much ninja-like stealth I use to open the fridge door and extract the cheddar, within nano-seconds he's there, stationed at my feet looking up at me with pleading brown eyes, a small stream of drool starting from his ample jowls.

Yes, before anyone writes in, I do remember my cookery teacher telling us that pets should never be in the room when we're preparing food. 

I also remember the Health Visitor doing a home visit after my daughter was born.

Our previous Labrador greeted her enthusiastically, as he did with anyone who walked through the door.  I'm sure burglars and cold callers would have been similarly treated as friends he just hadn't had the pleasure of meeting yet, and been whacked firmly in the back of the leg with his otter-like tail.

She said "Oh, you have a dog, have you?" and then paused for what seemed like an eternity, before eventually adding: "That's good, studies show it helps to build a child's immune system."

Which was a relief all round, as I thought for one dreadful moment she was going to tell me my dog was a health hazard!