Saturday, 31 December 2016

Review of 2016

'Eventful' is an understatement, but sums up 2016 in a word.  I've been looking back through my columns, and here's my review of the year:

Just two weeks in and we'd sadly lost Lemmy of Motorhead, David Bowie and Alan Rickman.  This theme continued throughout 2016 when we also lost Prince, Leonard Cohen, Victoria Wood and Paul Daniels amongst others.

In February, yet more sad news with the death of Terry Wogan.  I explained that I'm not Terry's Hellen Bach, but in a way I am as I grew up with him.

Boaty McBoatface put in an appearance in March, as this was the name the public chose for a polar research vessel, eventually named after Sir David Attenborough.

April came the Panama Papers revelations, and the report from the Economist Intelligence Unit that a Trump presidency was rated among the top ten global risks.

In May we had Leicester City FC winning the Premier League, and I went to the Richard III visitors' centre.

The surprising result of the EU referendum occurred in June, and The Flying Scotsman steamed through the county.

July, and I visited the wonderful KettFest and the 'I (heart symbol) Music: Kettering' exhibition.  In August I confessed my new found interest in the Olympics and how I was basking in the glow of 80s nostalgia.

September saw the shock news of Bake Off heading to Channel 4 and the Brownlee's 'he ain't heavy he's my brother' moment.  October, and I questioned the reality of Honey G and the arrival of the 'killer' clown craze from the US.

In November, following the US election result, I imparted the fact I've been wearing my 'theme park face' (a rictus grin with terror in my eyes) for most of the year, and asked had anybody got a paddle.

In December I imparted the news we'd all suspected - our chocolate bars and tins are indeed getting smaller, yet the price remains the same.  I wonder what 2017 will bring?  Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Merry Christmas everyone!

It's Christmas!  Some of you, like me, probably read that in a Noddy Holder from Slade voice, and if you didn't please re-read and give it a go.

Apparently it's a scientific fact (in truth, I'm not sure exactly how much science was involved) that there are some phrases you just can't read without saying them as a song lyric, or alternatively if you utter them, it will encourage somebody else to spontaneously burst into song.

Not convinced?  OK, try this one - 'my name is'.  There's going to be some of you saying that in the same style as Eminem.  'It wasn't me' will prompt some of you to remember the song by Shaggy, and 'I just can't get enough' will spark a Depeche Mode tribute.

At primary school one of my teachers was called Mrs Robinson, and every time her name was mentioned at home my Dad would sing 'and here's to you Mrs Robinson' from the Simon & Garfunkel song.

A discarded Frozen child's lunchbox was found by a dog walker near where I live, and he helpfully posted a picture of it on our local Facebook group page trying to find its owner.

After several unsuccessful attempts and repeated questions as to who owned it, somebody replied with the simple three word phrase 'Let it go', which caused much amusement.  For those uninitiated in the world of Frozen (and I believe there are still some although I'm not quite sure how), that's the theme song magnificently warbled by Idina Menzel.

Nobody can utter 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' without thinking of Kelly Clarkson's uplifting anthem.  If anyone says 'the final countdown' I'm immediately transported back to the eighties to soft-rock out with my air guitar, Europe and Joey Tempest's magnificent perm.

All of which leads me to say Merry Christmas everyone, channelling my inner Shakin' Stevens and sporting my best festive jumper and stonewashed jeans, and then sing Happy New Year to you all in an ABBA style.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Duxford and Al Murray

It seems a distant memory now, but we went to Duxford for the first time in the October half term.  We were going to go before but the American museum was shut and being refurbished so we waited until it re-opened.

It was certainly worth the wait - this was the first part we visited when we got there one Sunday morning at 10am, using the theme park rule of visiting the areas furthest away and then working your way back towards the car park - it works for us, anyway.

From the outside I thought it resembled a larger version of the Teletubby house, as the entrance area nestles into the surrounding bank.  But it's certainly an amazing sight when you walk through the doors and come almost nose-to-nose with a B-52.

That's when we saw Al Murray.  Yes, standing to one side chatting to a member of staff was the Pub Landlord.  I spotted him first, and said to husband and daughter, quietly, 'That's that bloke off the telly!  Pub Landlord!', which caused husband to spin round and look straight at him, make eye contact, and then act embarrassed as British people tend to do in that sort of situation.

We didn't interrupt him, just smiled and walked on by, with daughter asking me when we were out of earshot 'Who is he, is he famous?'  She's a Harry Hill fan, and I said he was in Harry Hill's programmes and I thought in the Harry Hill Movie.

A bit later on my daughter and I were in the Ladies' loos, and talking from cubicle to cubicle as women tend to do if no-one else is there. 

She said to me 'Ah, I think I remember him, was he the man in the dress in the nuclear power plant?'

We emerged from our cubicles to find a woman washing her hands, staring at us in the mirror like we were very odd. 

We've since discovered that Al Murray wasn't in the Harry Hill Movie, and that actor was Jim Broadbent, so she will probably never work out what we were talking about!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Ever-decreasing chocolates

Things aren't what they used to be - how often did you hear that growing up?  Well, it turns out it's true, especially if we're talking about chocolates.

We've put up with quite a lot in 2016 already, but this may be the final straw.  It's nearly Christmas and the large chocolate companies are messing with our chocs!

It's been done quite sneakily and gradually - I bet there were hoping we wouldn't notice because of Brexit and Trump etc.  But Watchdog have highlighted it, and it's really quite shocking.

I'd suspected it for a while - I'm fairly sure that when I was a child a Wagon Wheel was the size of my head.  OK, if not my head, it still seemed pretty large.  Now it's not even the size of the palm of my hand.

That Christmas favourite, the Terry's chocolate orange, used to have the chocolate segments so tightly packed together we would have to smash it repeatedly against our fireplace to separate them, and then there was the solid stalk of chocolate left in the middle as an additional treat once the segments had been consumed, remember that?

Well, no more.  The segments are quite frankly puny, there's no centre stalk of pure orangey chocolate goodness and it's reduced in size by 10% too - that's two whole pieces less.

And do you remember the huge tins of Quality Street you used to get for Christmas as a kid?  The seemingly bottomless box of brightly wrapped chocs and toffees that you'd be wading through until well into the New Year?

Not any more folks - you'll be lucky to make them last until Boxing Day.  Also the Toffee Deluxe has been replaced with a Honeycomb Crunch - how was this allowed to happen?

Now there's gaping valleys between Toblerone's mountains, and a bag of Maltesers has shrunk by 15% - that's 10 Maltesers per bag lost, never to be seen again.

Enough is enough - it's time to take a stand, and woe betide the chocolate company that messes with the Purple Ones or the Strawberry Cremes and Dreams!

Ssshhh! I'm watching the play, or film etc...

I have to say I agree with Imelda Staunton's call for a ban on eating and drinking in theatres during performances.

After all, there's usually an interval, which is the ideal time to seek refreshments if required, but I do appreciate that this is also the occasion when many women spend the entire time queuing for the loo (or is that just me?)

It appears to be a widespread problem, and not just with noisy snacks either.  One actor said he'd seen a person in the front row of a theatre in which he was performing produce a full fish supper, complete with mushy peas, which was then consumed with gusto during the play.  This did distract him, particularly as the smell of the food wafted towards the stage.

This won't be popular, but I would also like to see noisy junk food banned in cinemas.  I wouldn't ban popcorn, although I did nearly choke on a kernel once while watching a film but did it so quietly that husband didn't even realise until I informed him afterwards.

But is there anything worse when watching a film than having a critical moment in the plot ruined by the ear-shatteringly loud rustling of a crisp packet, family size Minstrels bag or similar?  Or the slurp of the end of the slushy cup just to make sure it's empty?

Please don't get me started on people who use their phones during performances either!

I went to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them on the day it was released - very good, highly recommended, bit dark in places so not appropriate for very young children - and lo and behold, at several times during the film there was the glow of a mobile.  Not just a quick glance to check the time or to see if there'd been an emergency either, people were just sitting there staring at their screens.

Can't we please just engage in one activity and spend a couple of hours watching a play or film without eating, drinking or looking at our phones?