Thursday, 29 September 2016

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

"If you want to live and thrive, let a spider run alive."

This is a saying my Dad used to say to me when I was little, and even though I'm quite scared of spiders, I still go out of my way not to hurt them.

This usually involves me having to either wait until husband gets home from work so he can capture them safely and release them to freedom, or me donning my Marigolds - I know, it's daft isn't it, but I can cope with most things if I've got my trusty rubber gloves on! - getting some cardboard, a glass, or whatever else I can find and then moving as swiftly as I can to get them outside.

At which point my dog will block my way, look at me - much the same as Moose does in the Clearscore advert - and I can almost hear him say 'What doin'? Where goin'?'.

I only mention this because there's been a raft of stories involving spiders in the press, and my house also seems to have become a haven for the largest spiders in the world who look like they're wearing boots.  Seriously, they're enormous - about the size of my hand.  Well my daughter's hand, ok possibly the same size as the dog's paw, but you get the idea - they're big.

We've read about the family from Leicester who bought some bananas and then had to have their house fumigated after a cocoon burst forth and hundreds of what's thought to be baby Brazilian wandering spiders emerged like something in a horror film.

To make matters even worse, these spiders apparently have a bite that results in a very unfortunate medical condition - I'll leave it there, this is a family paper - and possibly death if not treated in time.

Then I read about an Australian man using a Portaloo and being bitten in the same delicate place twice, a few months apart.  Now that's what you call unlucky - not sure he'd agree with the 'live and thrive' advice from my Dad! 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

He ain't heavy, he's my Brownlee brother...

Sport has provided many inspirational moments this Summer.

Firstly the Olympics, and stunning performances by the whole of Team GB, but particularly the cyclists Laura Trott and Jason Kenny.  Then the Paralympics, with the amazing gold medal tally achieved, and each and every athlete a perfect example of overcoming adversity.

But sometimes, there's something which captures everybody's attention and reminds you that even in the highly competitive world of sport there's more to life than winning - and that moment was what I shall call the 'he ain't heavy, he's my brother' Brownlee moment.

The road had indeed been long, and as Jonny negotiated the last winding turn of his triathlon in Mexico he staggered around like a drunk man who couldn't find his way home.

It was almost painful to watch - the finishing line was only a few yards away and winning this race would have meant he'd won the world triathlon series.

But he just couldn't do it, his legs were jellified (technical term) and he stumbled into the arms of a steward.

Just then, his older, wiser brother Alistair who'd paced himself properly in the race, appeared and scooped him up and half-carried, half-dragged him to the finishing line where Jonny was unceremoniously dumped to ensure he crossed the line of his own accord and could claim second place, before being rushed to hospital to be re-hydrated.

Alistair himself - who could have won the race had he continued running - gave up his victory to help his brother in his time of need.

This was nothing short of heroic - it's not often in sport, or indeed in life, that people give up their own chance of winning to support somebody else.

If I was Alistair and Jonny's Mum, I would be so proud right now.  Not only are they brilliant athletes, they're also decent human beings who look out for each other. 

The only way this could have been more perfect would have been if the South African runner who overtook them and claimed victory had just run beside them instead. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Another great Gretton Music Festival

My family and I enjoyed another great August Bank Holiday weekend of entertainment courtesy of the Gretton Music Festival.

Despite rain of Biblical proportions on the Saturday afternoon - which resulted in the hog roast having to be rescued lest it be swept away in the flood - all the events were well attended.

My favourites of the weekend were the Musical Marquee on Saturday afternoon, where we were treated to a variety of singers performing - yet again Kara Hamer provided 'goosebump' moments with her stunning interpretations of Snow Patrol's 'Run' and Josh Groban's 'You Raise Me Up'.  Hard to believe that a 15-year old can sing like that, she's amazing.

Mark Thompson entertained the crowd with his Rat Pack set Shades Of Sinatra, and was also the lead singer of The Top Banana Band charity fundraiser gig on Sunday night, as well as MCing the open mic event at The Hatton Arms on the Monday afternoon.  He was certainly kept very busy!

At the Open Mic event we listened to a wide range of performances - stand-out acts for me included a rock band of youngsters called Unpredictable, who were brilliant.  I'm not sure, but they must have all been aged 16 or under.

They performed Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall', which seemed quite appropriate coming from kids that young, and also the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Under the Bridge', a very-rocked up version of Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good', and encored with Bon Jovi's 'Living on a Prayer' which they encouraged us to sing along to, something in hindsight they may have regretted!

We were also entertained by a trio called Post Hatton, who provided another 'goosebump' moment with their version of Adele's 'Hello', and a folk band who I think were called Soundbase who played a variety of violins, guitars, mandolins and a box. 

All very different, but all very talented.  Thanks to all the venues and the organisers, and especially to Terry Forsey who's now stepping down after seven successful years at the helm.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

GBBO - please don't change the recipe!

There are some recipes that just shouldn't be messed with.

Take Victoria sponge for example.  It's flour, eggs, butter and sugar, then with good quality jam and perhaps butter icing added for the filling.  Sometimes there are variations on this theme - like adding cocoa powder for a chocolate cake - but basically the four main ingredients remain the same.

Well, that for me is the Great British Bake Off.  We have our four main presenters - Dame Mary of Berry, Paul 'Sparkling Blue Eyes' Hollywood, and innuendo laden-duo Mel and Sue.  That's it, don't mess with it. 

The chemistry between the team works.  Yes, the talk of soggy bottoms etc sometimes gets a little trying, but we forgive them because it's such a good watch.

In a world where there's so much uncertainty and nastiness, we could rely on good quality BBC output like Bake Off, and Strictly, and Countryfile to help us forget just for a little while what life was really like.

Wrapped in our cocoon of icing sugar, or sequins or Adam's Farm, we can surround ourselves in good things, even if it is just for an hour.

And now?  Well, the bad news is that GBBO is leaving home.  It's packing its bags and mixing bowls and heading for Channel Four.  It's decided that Auntie Beeb's house isn't enough and it wants more.

More what exactly?  Money obviously.  Which is a shame, because although I'm well aware that everything sadly revolves around money, it  just feels a little bit tawdry. 

The silver lining in my cloud is that at least it hasn't gone over to the great satellite dish in the sky, because then my relationship with GBBO would have abruptly and permanently ended.

As it is, I'm thinking I will give it a trial reconciliation, just to see if we can make the new arrangement work. 

But if they change the recipe, lose the main presenters and drive me mad with commercial breaks every ten minutes, I may have to reconsider my position.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Will I be forced from my Victorian Bathing Machine?

If I'd been contemplating swopping my short break in North Norfolk for a sojourn to the South of France - don't get me wrong, I love Norfolk, but guaranteed sunshine might be nice - I'd be rapidly re-thinking my plans right now.

You see, I don't want armed Police to surround me on the beach to make me remove my kaftan, sarong or other cover-up clothing.

There are numerous reasons for this, which I will share:

1) my less-than-toned bits are my concern, and mine alone - not for public viewing at home or abroad;

2) my skin is so breathtakingly white - growing up my brother nicknamed me Data from Star Trek - that everyone else on the beach would need protection from the brightness reflected back on them or they may sue for retinal damage;

3) without said protective garments, even with Factor 50 sunblock slathered over any exposed skin, I will, without fail, go bright red within nanoseconds and resemble a lobster.  I will then blister, peel, and never tan, ever.

OK, so although the above is written slightly tongue-in-cheek, I'm trying to make an important point here.  What I wear on the beach is my choice and mine alone.  It's what I choose to wear.  If I could wear an all-in-one outfit that kept me completely covered, or use a Victorian bathing machine, I probably would.

The Muslim lady who went to the South of France beach wearing long sleeves, well hopefully that was her choice too.

It was shocking to see her surrounded by armed Police, forcing her to remove her clothing.  It must have been embarrassing and humiliating for her.

I wonder if a white woman sits on a beach fully clothed - like I have done in the past - or perhaps a Nun in a habit visits, will the Police response be the same? 

Every woman should have the freedom of choice as to what they wear, wherever they are.  Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, 1 September 2016

My Olympic journey...

Something surprising happened to me in August.  I went from being not bothered in the slightest about the Olympics - and chuntering because it completely messed up the TV schedules - to being glued to my set.

Within a fortnight, I became an avid Olympics-viewer, insisting on watching the synchronised diving and cycling races which seemed to be on at about 9pm each evening. 

But in all honestly I hadn't got a clue what the rules were and how the scoring worked.

Watching the pursuit cycling, where just two competitors cycle around the velodrome, I couldn't understand why they had to start so slowly and the lead one had to keep looking over his/her shoulder at the person behind.

How did they manage this without cutting off the circulation to their heads?  Would it not be easier to have mirrors on the bikes so that they didn't have to crane their necks at such an awful angle?  I appreciate this might affect their aerodynamics, but still, it might be better.  This suggestion was laughed at in our house, but I think I might be on to something.

Also, with the Keirin, why do they have the little 'motorbike' that sets the pace for the riders?  Why does it go so slowly, gently build up speed, and then get in the way and cause near disqualification for the riders who then try to get past it? 

The Jason Kenny race had me up way past my bedtime, sitting on the edge of my seat with a complete adrenaline rush - head in hands when I thought he might be disqualified.  It was so stressful I couldn't get to sleep for hours after.

With regards to the little 'motorbike', I'm thinking that I could train to ride one of those, as it'll be the only way I ever get to take part in an Olympic games.  But I can personally assure Jason Kenny that I wouldn't get in his way!  In all seriousness though, well done to everyone in Team GB.