television

Land of Hope ... and Glory

There are some pieces of music which are iconic, and for me that includes not just rock and pop but also the occasional piece of 'classical' music.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a classical buff ... I don't listen to a lot of what might be described as 'classical'  music, but I do enjoy the occasional iconic tune.

So I was interested when I discovered that On this Day - October 19th - in the year 1901, a piece of music which would become one of the most well-known in Great Britain at least, was performed in public for the first time.

The Pomp & Circumstance March No 1 is perhaps best known because it includes the tune which is the song Land of Hope and Glory. which is especially well known in the UK because it's a highlight of 'The Proms'. otherwise known as the 'BBC Proms' because the series of mostly classical concerts are shared with the world by that broadcaster. The march and the tune is traditionally also an integral part of the Last Night  of the Proms concert.

Edward elgarThis iconic piece of music is the creation of Sir Edward Elgar and many of his works are part of the British and international classical concert repertoire. Apart from the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, another of his best-known orchestral compositions and works is another favourite of mine -  the Enigma Variations - but he's also well known for concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies. Elgar also composed choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius, chamber music and songs.

Elgar is often regarded as a typically 'English' composer but the most interesting thing I've learned about him is that his musical influences came not from Britain but from continental Europe. He also felt like an outsider including musically - this was a time when music was dominated pretty much by academics and Elgar was a self-taught composer. Now THAT'S astonishing!

Socially Elgar also felt out of place.  He was a Roman Catholic in a largely Protestant Britain, and as a result some people were suspicious of him. He was from humble origins but lived in a very class conscious society in Victorian and then Edwardian Britain. He apparently was sensitive about his beginnings even after he gained recognition.

And another interesting point about Elgar - his major success didn't come until he was in his 40's ... 

That's encouraging I think ... it's never too late!

Just a note about the Pomp And Circumstance Marches - full title Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches. Although No. 1 In D and March No. 2 premiered today in 1901, actually they are a series of five (or six) marches for orchestra. The first four were published between 1901 and 1907, when Elgar was in his forties, but the fifth was published in 1930, a few years before his death and a sixth march was compiled after his death, from unpublished sketches. This was published in 1956 and in 2005–2006.

But back to Marches No 1 and 2. Both compositions were played two days after the premiere in Liverpool, at a Promenade Concert - a 'Prom'  - in the Queen's Hall in London. It was  conducted by Sir Henry Wood, who is synonymous with the annual promenade concerts. Wood actually conducted The Proms for nearly half a century and introduced  hundreds of new works to British audiences, and after his death in 1944 the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as the "Henry Wood Promenade Concerts".  In 1901 he conducted Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1  second, after March No 2, and Wood later recalled that the audience  "...rose and yelled... the one and only time in the history of the Promenade concerts that an orchestral item was accorded a double encore." (Henry Wood, My Life of Music p. 154)

And a final point before I leave you and you can enjoy this presentation of the iconic piece ...  The piece now known as Land of Hope and Glory in its original form was just a tune.

It was a big hit, including with the new British monarch - King Edward VII - who happened to mention to Elgar that he thought his March No 1 tune would make a great song. So when the composer was asked  to write a work for the King's coronation, he worked the suggestion into his Coronation Ode, with words written  by the poet and essayist A. C. Benson. Unfortunately the coronation was postponed because the king was unwell, so Elgar created a separate song, which was first performed by Madame Clara Butt in June 1902. And part of that original work - the first of the seven stanzas of the Ode's original final section - is now a feature of the Last Night of the Proms, and has become an English sporting anthem and a  general patriotic song.

Final thoughts on all this - apart from the fact that some people are just brilliant Elgar teaches me that sometimes we have to wait for things to happen for us. And sometimes what we create turns into something more wonderful than we might ever have imagined or dreamed.

How wonderful!

 

 


Friends (I'll be there for you)

Today I'm going to indulge myself a little, and share with you one of my favourite TV programmes of all time.

If I mention the main characters in the sit com in question, many of you will know exactly what show I'm talking about.

FriendsMonica, Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe!

It was on this day - September 22nd - in 1994 that 'Friends' aired for the first time on the American TV network NBC. . It's the unfolding story of six friends in their 20's and 30's who live in New York City. Over ten seasons until May 6th 2004, the final episode, we saw their lives and loves unfold.  Lots of laughter and quirkiness, some tears and tragedy, amazing moments. 

I have to say 'Friends' captured my imagination from the get go. I just thought it was so cleverly written - we were drawn into the lives of these people, all of whom were very different and all of whom really were nothing like me. Plus I've never lived in New York ... but it was just fun.  Actually, I found it to be a weekly escape  from the realities and stresses of life - in those days there was no binge watching, we had to wait a week for the next episode! 

It became a 'water cooler' type of show, one which we would talk to our friends and family about. My niece, Vicki, in particular was and is a great fan of 'Friends' and it was something we had in common, moments remembered that we could laugh about.  Quoting from 'Friends' is a thing for us! Even now!

This was a sit com which brought people together. It's been described as an one of those 'iconic, culture-defining shows' and although it's been 17 years since the last episode aired, somewhere in the world and in the UK it's playing right now!! And if that ends I always have the boxed set.

Down the years there have been calls for new 'Friends' episodes but this year the cast did come together for a one-off  special called ‘The One Where They Got Back Together’,which celebrated the mega-hit comedy’s 25th anniversary.

Would I want a new series? 

Probably not ... it was fun while it lasted but time has moved on. The cast have moved on to new projects but still, if they are reading this (wow wouldn't that be fabulous?) I'd just to to say a HUGE thank you to all the writers and producers and staff who gave us so much pleasure down the years, and especially the Iconic Six - Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courteney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (the weirdly wonderful Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Mathew Perry (Chandler) and David Schwimmer (Ross) - THANK YOU GUYS!

One of the things that defines a great TV show, I think, is the theme tune. Every time you hear it when the show is being aired, it gives you a shiver of anticipation. Now that the show is over and only existing in 're-runs' that theme tune is just like a bit of a comfort blanket.

In the case of 'Friends' it's 'I'll be there for you'' by The Rembrandts, with that iconic chorus which really sums up friendship. Well it does for me, anyway.

I'll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I'll be there for you
(Like I've been there before)
I'll be there for you
('Cause you're there for me too)

In the year or so after 'Friends' was aired for the first time, I was in the USA on holiday, in Florida with a friend and we were out for dinner in the Disney resort area. It was a warm night, masses of people around on the boardwalk and there was a huge TV screen in the central square where, I think, there was a fountain and seating area. We were walking through there and on the screen came the official video for the 'Friends' show! We and loads of other people ended up singing the song  at the top of our lungs ... and laughing until we cried. 

What a memory! Fun, friends and feeling happy. Doesn't get much better than that!

I'm blessed to have great friends (and family members) who I know will stick by me, whatever. And I'm so blessed and thankful for that. We may not live in New York City, and actually we're often separated, but true friends will always be there for each other!

So today, to mark the anniversary of the first time the world got to know those six 'Friends' ... here's the official video ... not only featuring The Rembrandts but the main cast members!

Sing along if you want. Out Loud is good. 

Smile, laugh and ... enjoy!

 


A Scrumdiddlyumptious Day!

Now here's something you may not know ...

Today is Roald Dahl Day!

Or to give it it's official name ... Roald Dahl Story Day !

It's a global annual celebration of the most brilliant British novelist, short-story writer, poet, screenwriter ... and wartime fighter pilot - Roald Dahl, and today we're encouraged to enjoy and celebrate our favourite Roald Dahl stories, characters, and moments.

We do all this today because it was on this day, September 13, in the year 1916, that the author was born!

Roald Dahl is best known as a children's author, of course ... think The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  and Matilda - and that's just for starters, I think you could probably name more.

But Roald Dahl wrote not only for children, but also had a successful parallel career as the writer of macabre adult short stories (I was scared witless back in the 1980s by television dramas based on his spooky and and bizarre Tales of the Unexpected.) Briefly in the 1960s he also wrote screenplays including two adaptations of works by Ian Fleming - the James Bond film ‘You Only Live Twice’ and 'Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang'

Roald Dah quote - change the worldIf you look online you'll see loads of quotes from Roald Dahl - and this one here is one of my favourites I think.

He could be funny and profound at the same time. He could write about cruelty and kindness in equal measure. And, as we've learnt from some of the films which have been created from some of his stories, his words encourage children, and all of us really, to be the people we should be, to dream big and to believe in ourselves.

He was and still is a true superstar!

In fact, as it says writ large on the building which houses a Museum named after the author, he and his creations are 'Truly Swizzfigglingly Flushbunkingly Gloriumptious!'

When I lived in the UK, I actually lived quite near to a leafy village called Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, which is home to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

Dahl - Willy Wonka gatesStep through the doors of the museum and the Willy Wonka Gates and prepare to leave reality behind as you enter the weird and wonderful world of Dahl.

The gang’s all there including the aforementioned Big Friendly Giant, Charlie, James, Matilda ... Danny, the Champion of the WorldThe WitchesEsio Trot, Fantastic Mr Fox and so much more!

If you fancy it, you can dress up as your favourite Roald Dahl character, and get crafty making a mask of, as the museum literature says, ‘a crodswoggling creature’.

Dahl - museum exteriorJust like Roald Dahl, who invented hundreds of new and whacky words and phrases – over 200 just for the BFG ‘gobblefunk’ dictionary apparently – you can even let your imagination run riot and create your own crazy words. It’s fantastagorically hands-on and fabulously intriguing, even if you’re not 6 to 12 years old! 

His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide but his talents actually extended much beyond the written word and the Museum and Story Centre is also a window on that world.

In the ‘Boy’ Gallery we can find the famous ‘mouse in a gobstopper jar’ and learn more about Roald Dahl’s schoolboy days and pranks! There’s loads more about his life as a Welsh-born lad with a Norwegian heritage and as a husband, father and grandfather as you read original letters and delve into the Dahl family photo album.

Step through into the ‘Solo’ Gallery and discover more about Dahl’s life as an RAF (Royal Air Force) fighter pilot in the Second World War and his unique literary archive. You might have to fight a 4-year-old for a place by the touch-screen monitors, but if you are forced to wait your turn, you can always sit back and enjoy extracts from some of the films which have been created from Roald Dahl’s books.

Then, if the kids haven't already beaten you to it, it's into the Story Centre and Crafts Room. There you'll find the aforementioned dressing up box, and that word creation area, tables where you can be all messy and crafty, and there's even a space where you can make your own stop-frame animation film.

Roald Dahl originally wrote his stories for his own 5 children and encouraged creativity in all the kids he met, so it's not surprising that his Museum is a place where the words ‘Don’t Touch’ are banned! Here there are items to play with, spin and manipulate, holes to peer into and wonder what lurks beyond, things to prod and poke. Anything that is not for touching is out of harm’s way or under glass. In fact, touching and feeling and getting into a little bit of mischief is positively encouraged!

However, my favourite spot at the Museum is the replica of Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut - it's in the Story Centre and it's fascidoodly - here I go, making up words already! 

It was in the 1950s that Roald settled down with his family in 'Gipsy House' in the little village of Great Missenden in the county of Buckinghamshire (sort of north east from London). He was then married to his first wife, the American actress Patricia Neal, and it was here in the quiet and idyllic countryside that they raised their family.

At the bottom of the garden at Gipsy House, Roald had a little hut to which he retreated to write most of his unforgettable stories. Research tells us he couldn’t type - he always used a pencil to write for several hours a day locked away in his hut, sitting in a big old shabby chair, leaning on a ‘writing board’ which he fashioned to fit perfectly around his body.

Apparently the hut wasn't warm or particularly clean and tidy, but it was here, in his special writing place, that Roald wrote for two hours each morning and two hours every afternoon, using exactly six freshly sharpened, yellow, Dixon Ticonderoga pencils which he popped into a small Toby jug on the desk next to his chair. He'd worked out that he needed six pencils for a two hour writing session and always started each session sharpening the pencils!

Dahl - The writing hutIt’s just one of the rituals which Roald had when it came to writing and, as you sit in the replica chair in the replica Writing Hut, surrounded by the fascimiles of the author's special objects, you feel something of the man and the genius. Well, at least, I did!

This is me some years ago trying to channel a tiny fraction of Dahl Inspiration in that replica of his very own chair!!

Small Kid or Big Kid - whatever age you might be, there will something for you!

The Museum and Story Centre regularly hosts Revolting Rhymes sessions from roving storytellers in the Courtyard around which the museum nestles. In Miss Honey’s Classroom there are ‘fantabulous’ weekend and holiday workshops with storytellers, authors, crafts experts, scientists and chocolatiers (Roald Dahl ADORED chocolate which makes me admire him even more!)

For an extra special treat for adults and slightly older children you can enjoy a special tour of the Dahl Archive, a behind-the-scenes experience where you get to meet an archivist who will show you some of the locked-away archive material, providing an even deeper insight into the mind, life and work of the author. When I went, we discovered that Miss Honey (the perfectly lovely teacher in Matilda) was originally intended to be an alcoholic and Miss Trunchbull (the hideous headmistress in the same story) started out as a much nicer person!

For those wanting to do more research on Dahl, the Archive and Museum Reading Rooms are also open to researchers by appointment and they also welcome researchers who can't actually get to Great Missenden - via the website.

Dahl - Cafe Twit signFinish the visit with a stroll through the Shop where you can buy everything from books and pictures to Dahl themed games and weird stuff like a ball made entirely of elastic/rubber bands.

Finally, grab a drink and ‘delumptious’ cake in Cafe Twit. 

Dahl - cakesIf it's a fine day sit in the Courtyard and just watch how much fun everyone - young and old - is having.

And forget any diet - because the cakes are perfectly delicious.

In fact, you could say they are ... Scrumdiddlyumptious!

*This blog is based on a article I first wrote for my Hub Pages website pages ... and it's still there if you fancy looking it up ... and also please feel free to check out my other hub stories!

Thanks!

 


Never Forget

Where were you on Tuesday September 11th 2001? 

It's a date that, of course, goes down in history as one of the saddest and most shocking of modern times.

And today it's 20 years since what has become known as '9/11', that infamous terrorist attack on the United States of America

Four commercial airlines were hijacked mid-flight by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists.  Two of the aircraft were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Centre,  the iconic Twin Towers in New York City, with the subsequent collapse of those towers. A third was crashed into the west side of the Pentagon in Washington DC, the headquarters of the American military. A fourth was also hijacked and was also destined for the USA capital, but the brave passengers on board attempted to gain back control of the aircraft, which subsequently crashed instead in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Of course, it's the image of the burning Twin Towers that remains in most of our memories and that's why many of us remember where we were on that day.

At the time I was Head of Broadcast of a small (somewhat experimental) TV station in Hertfordshire in England. It was called 'Home TV' and it broadcast just to the towns of Hertford and nearby Ware and surrounding areas ... the forerunner, one might say, of the small digital and cable stations that sprang up later. We ran local news, sports and weather mostly, mixed in with other interesting 'bought in' programmes and national news from SKY TV.

Some members of my small team and I were in the operations room, the control room from which we controlled transmission. It's a room with lots of TV monitors which allow the directors and engineers to see what's coming in and what being transmitted to our viewers. The SKY TV news feed monitor was always on so we could see what they were running, even if we were not 'taking' the live feed at the time.

It was around 2 o'clock in the afternoon and we were having a news planning meeting for the next upcoming local news bulletin - scheduled for 6pm - when we looked up to see the SKY TV monitor flick to pictures of the World Trade Centre in New York, with one of the towers (the North Tower)  ablaze. We turned up the sound to hear those words 'News coming in of ....'

We all stood there, pretty shocked, I have to say. And then, a few moments later,  we saw it ... the second aircraft plough into the South Tower.

It was devastating! It was at at THAT point that I realised that this had to be a terrorist attack rather than an airline crash or accident.

But with my news head on I also realised that we needed to break into our regular programmes and show what was happening there across the Atlantic in New York City and, as it transpired, in Washington DC and other parts of the USA.

We had to have special permission to dip into SKY TV outside of our contracted hours, so I picked up the phone to their control desk.

All I said was 'Home TV in Hertford, we're taking your news feed now!' I guessed that no one there would be able to answer questions because of the seriousness of the events unfolding, and I figured that if we were in trouble for taking the feed, we'd deal with that later. We flicked live to the SKY TV feed and stayed with it all day. Somehow, news of what was happening in two small provisional towns in the UK seemed immaterial at the time, as did re-runs of cartoons and natural history programmes and sports compilations.

I really can't remember if we did a 6 o'clock bulletin. What with trying to get reaction from local people and working with the small team of largely young and inexperienced staff who were, understandably, rather traumatised by the day, September 11 2001 became a bit of a blur.

It was only when I went home late that night and sat down to watch the national BBC News that the enormity of the day began to settle on me. 

That day 2,977 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured. The immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Centre and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.  Most of those who died were civilians but we know that 344 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers died in the World Trade Centre and on the ground in New York City. Another law enforcement officer died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into that  field near Shanksville and 55 military personnel perished in the attack on the Pentagon.

Of the 2,977 people who died, 2,605 were U.S. citizens and 372 non-U.S. citizens - all were loved, had families, some were dads and mums and grandparents. Each person is a hole in the life of someone else. 

9/11 is the deadliest terrorist attack on the USA and, in fact, in world history. Over the past two decades we've seen the experiences of that day played out on TV over and over and over. I think that must just be awful for those who lost someone that day, especially in the Towers, as they are being constantly reminded of their precious loved ones final moments of life.

Of course, we know that the 9/11 attacks led to an invasion of Afghanistan, where the al-Qaeda terrorists were allowed sanctuary, the eventual killing of the mastermind behind it - Osama bin Laden - and 20 years of Allied troops on the ground, with the loss of many more thousands of lives. American and British and other military personnel who were killed or injured in the subsequent years of battle and not forgetting the many many thousands of  innocent Afghanis who got caught in the cross fire. It's only last month - August 2021 - that the allies have moved out, leaving the country once again in disarray and once again under the control of the Taliban ... itself a radical Islamic group. But that's another story.

In the intervening years I was privileged to hear some of the personal stories of those who were directly affected by the events of 9/11. People who were on holiday in New York city and saw the events unfold in front of them. People who served at 'Ground Zero' (the place where the towers fell) for many months afterward, including chaplains and others from The Salvation Army in New York City and the wider north eastern provinces. People back here in the UK who were also affected and traumatised.

So today, as I have done every year  since that infamous day in 2001, I take time out to remember all those precious souls lost on that dreadful day.

I pray for their family, friends, loved ones, colleagues. I pray for the children who never knew their fathers, all those lives unfulfilled and the doors closed too soon.

And I remember them.

It's twenty years since that terrible day and we should NEVER forget them!

911


Remembering Roy

Today I'm remembering a great man!

I was privileged to meet him just once ... as a young reporter in Jersey I interviewed him because he was the star of the annual summer parade - The Jersey Battle of Flowers.

Roy Castle was a HUGE personality, a star of stage, screen and TV -  musician, singer, comedian, actor, dancer and television presenter - he was a true legend.

Many will remember him because for years he became well known to British TV viewers as the presenter of the children's series Record Breakers

But before that he was well known for his roles on stage, television and film and because of his amazing musical talent - he was an accomplished jazz trumpet player but he could play many other musical instruments. He was also a person of great Christian faith and a family man - years after that meeting with Roy I actually got to know his wife Fiona ... what a lovely family!

I'm thinking about Roy today because it was on this day - September 2nd - in 1994, that he passed away aged just 62. I remember the shock of hearing about his death ... he had lung cancer but he had never smoked. He blamed his illness, which was diagnosed a couple of years earlier, on passive smoking during his years of playing the trumpet in smoky jazz clubs.

Roy was brave. Even in his final months and with his health declining he continued to work hard, including on the high-profile Tour of Hope to raise funds for the erection of the building that would become the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the only British charity dedicated solely to defeating lung cancer.  Fiona continued to work with the charity after her husband's death, and campaigned for the British smoking ban which came into effect in Northern Ireland in 2004, Scotland in 2006 and England and Wales in 2007, banning smoking in virtually all enclosed public places.

What a legacy!

Sometimes when you meet your heroes, it's a disappointment because they turn out not to be the person you think they are.

But when Roy Castle came to Jersey in 1988 to be 'Mr Battle' at our island's annual floral parade, the highlight of the summer season, the Jersey Battle of Flowers - there was no disappointment.

He was JUST as lovely as I thought he would be. He was jolly and kind, and smiling. A consummate professional and actually a really nice chap. I  interviewed him for the local TV station - Channel TV (ITV) - and filmed him during the Afternoon and the evening Moonlight parades. I saw first hand how hard he worked and how brilliant he was with the public, and us media! There was no 'stardom' about him really - he was full of fun and laughed and chatted to anyone and everyone. People loved him!

That same year - 1988 - Roy presented a TV series for the ITV network which was also close to my heart.

Marching as to warIt was called 'Marching as to War' and it told the story of The Salvation Army, it's founders William and Catherine Booth, and explored all sorts of aspects of the work and music of the global church and charity Christian movement.

For me, as a young Salvationist and someone who was working in television at the time, it was exciting to see my church and it's history being shared with the world, and I was thrilled that Roy Castle - so empathetic and compassionate - presented that series of programmes and was able to bring something of his own personal Christian faith to the project. And I know, from talking to people who were in that series with him (some of whom I can still recognise on the films) that Roy was a pleasure and joy to work with!

A few years after the programmes went out I found myself living in Norwich where the series was made by Anglia TV. By the late 90's I was actually working in the network religious department at Anglia ITV. It felt like a circle was complete.

The whole 'Marching as to War' series is available on YouTube, thanks to my friend Rob Westwood-Payne, who also hails from Norwich and who is  now a Salvation Army officer, or minister.

Some of the footage is now rather dated. Times have changed ... among other things, the uniforms are different and some of us don't wear uniforms at all these days ... and of course the world has altered around us. 

But the message of Booth and his life-altering mission movement remains as strong today as back in 1988 when the series was made, and in 1865 when William Booth first set up his East London Christian Mission, which in 1878 would be renamed The Salvation Army.

So - if you have half an hour to spare - why not  sit back and enjoy this episode?

It's the one where Roy tells us all about 'Soup, Soap and Salvation' - one of the key message of the early Salvation Army ...

 




Flowers Flowers Everywhere

Today in Jersey should have been Battle Day.!

Let me explain. Today the seafront in our main town of St Helier should have been crowded for the annual Jersey Battle of Flowers, a spectacularly colourful parade featuring dozens of 'floats' all covered in flowers, along with dancers and music, costumes and smiles.

Battle of FLowers Prix d'Honneur 2019I first went to the Battle parade as a child and later in life I would not just attend, but work at it for the local Jersey media - writing for the local newspaper, recording for the local TV station and latterly, I was down in the arena broadcasting live to the island via the local BBC radio station! What a joy!

The history of the parade goes back to 1902, when a parade was organised to  celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. It was so popular that the event was repeated the following year and then it became an annual event and a great tourist attraction. It's a Jersey tradition!

The best thing about the Battle is that it's 'homegrown'.

Over the years I've spoken to masses of people who give their lives to the parade, spending many months of the year planning and building the gorgeous floats, organising costumes and dances and music, ordering flowers and then covering every millimetre of those fantastic constructions with the blooms - most real, some paper - in preparation for the big day.  For many people, Battle is a way of life especially in the Jersey parishes, who create the biggest floats which sail up and down Victoria Avenue on the day and who compete for the big prizes! Yes it's beautiful and it's competitive! 

For many years it's not just been the Afternoon Parade on the second Thursday in the month of August, but also a Moonlight Parade on the Friday, when the flower festooned floats are re-imagined in colourful lights. Now that's a spectacle to behold. It's just awe-inspiring!

This year, however, for the second year running, the Battle of Flowers is off, thanks to the COVID19 pandemic. Previously it was war that prevented the parade, now this ghastly virus not only prevents us gathering in huge numbers safely to celebrate Battle, but it also means that the people who MAKE the parade and the floats haven't been able to meet across the year to plan and build.

I know the Jersey Battle of Flowers organisers desperately hope that we will be back on track next year, so let's pray for that!

So I'm thinking about flowers today, and this fabulous quote which is attributed to Lady Bird Johnson

Where flowers bloom

"Where flowers bloom, so does hope,”

We can't but help feel happy when we see and experience flowers, especially colourful blooms. The spectacle of those flowery floats IS the most amazing feeling. Knowing that people have created the exhibits with such love is also inspiring!

Flowers represent life and energy, and love.

Why is it that often if we want to show our love, we buy flowers or blooming plants? It's because they remind us that life is good, there are better times ahead. Whatever life may throw at us, the flowers in our lives WILL  bloom again, and we will come through the trials.

The Battle of Flowers WILL be back, the colourful floats will grace the seafront in St Helier again, the people who love the tradition will once again produce those wonderfully ornate and imaginative creations!

Roll on August 2022!

Oh - and if you want to see what the parade was like last time it was held ... on the second Thursday in August of 2019 ... here's how the local ITV station reported it! This programme includes some of the people who make the magic, as well as the parade itself. Ok, so the weather was a bit dull, but it was still a wonderful day!  

 


Just for Today

Today is the final day of the first part of the 2020 Summer Olympics events in Tokyo.

Yes I know what you're thinking ... it's 2021! But of course, the Games last year were postponed because of the COVID19 global pandemic so everything is happening a year later than expected.

Although I've not been 'glued' to the TV during the past fortnight I have enjoyed a lot of the coverage, even of sports I am not particularly interested in. I've watched some of the 'newer' Olympic sports like BMX cycling and skateboarding and been befuddled by events like the cycling 'Madison' (a complicated relay race where the riders 'tag' each other) and the  'Keirin' (weird sprinting race). Got to say I've not watched much of the boxing or judo or weightlifting, although well done to everyone who takes part in those.

The athletics is always a roller coaster and I'm in awe that people can run or jump or throw that fast and high and far. And as for the gymnastics - well that's always incredible and full of tension and awe-inspiring feats of brilliance by those young men and women who throw themselves around with abandon.  Although I have to say I'm still a bit perplexed as to why the women gymnasts have to 'dance' their floor exercises and for the men it's just the amazing tumbles. 

But for me, the most exciting Olympic sports are those that happen primarily in the first week of the Summer Olympics in the water and the pool! It seems like the swimming is closest to my heart, and one which I can most relate to. Not that I could even get close to those times but when I see those swimmers diving in and ploughing up and down the pool and then touching the end of the pool as the race finishes, I can turn back time to my own very limited competitive swimming years.

A long time ago now ... 

Which brings me to the Summer Olympics of 1972

I was 13 and it's my first memory of watching the Olympics on the TV.

The Games were held in Munich in Germany ... and unfortunately that festival of sport has gone down in history for a tragic event rather than the brilliant sportsmen and women and their achievements, because in the second week the Games made the news after a terrorist attack in the Olympic Village in which eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer were killed by Palestinian Black September terrorists.

But for me it's also memorable because it's when I first heard of and saw an amazing swimmer - Mark Spitz from the USA.

He won seven gold medals in the pool, all in world record time. That record stood for 36 years until fellow American Michael Phelps came along and won eight golds at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

Actually, Mark Spitz won nine Olympic golds, a silver, and a bronze between 1968 and 1972, along with many many other awards at national and global level. And for several years (1969, 1971 and 1972) he was named Swimming World Magazine World Swimmer of the Year.

WHAT A LEGEND!

I was absolutely inspired. At the time I was doing a lot of swimming and even competing and he was my hero! Ok so he was also a good looking young man ... that helped to make him more attractive to a young teen ... so it is no surprise that, along with pop stars like Donny Osmond, I had a poster of Mark on my bedroom wall!

Spitz retired from competitive swimming after the 1972 Olympics, has become a motivational speaker and much more and there are loads of quotes from him online, including thoughts about that terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team ... as a person of Jewish faith, those murders of his fellow athletes would have been particularly shocking!

Mark SpitzLots of his 'thoughts' about swimming and winning have been taken out of context, of course, but I found this one from the man which is especially interesting, at least for me.

The idea of living in the moment - for today -  is something I think we can all consider.

I don't know about you but I can be inclined to worry too much about what is to come, things that I can't control, and I lose the joy of just BEING!

And sometimes that concern can stress me out and prevent me from performing as I know I am able.

For elite sportsmen and women, I'm guessing that being in the moment, doing the best they can given all their hard work and training, is all they can do. 

During the coverage of some of the Olympic events I've noticed some of the athletes obviously thinking themselves through what they are going to do. The high-jumpers, for instance, seem to turn their head and even move their arms and hands as they envisage the jump that is to come.  They are committed to that moment in time.

I love to watch tennis and I often hear the 'expert' commentators, including former champions, explain that it's important not to get ahead of oneself but to treat each point separately. If you think 'this one will win me the match/make me the champion' it can lose you that crucial point because you take your eye 'off the ball' ... literally! You are too busy thinking about what is to come rather than that moment in time.

This way of mindful thinking ... being in the moment ... doesn't mean we shouldn't PREPARE for the future ... of course we should! If sportsmen and women didn't put the leg work in then they would not be in a place to compete ... but the ability to just put all else aside and concentrate on THIS MOMENT IN TIME, to perform to the best of their ability, is an example to us all.

Of course we must all work hard to ensure we are all prepared for the crucial moments in our lives, but being able to live for that one moment, to concentrate and to focus ... is a skill we could all try to achieve.

In a week or so time we will be treated to the 'second half' of the Summer Olympics 2020 and the Paralympic Games, again from the Japanese capital city, which are, I think, even more inspiring than the events featuring the able bodied.

It's always unbelievably inspiring to see people who have dealt with so much in their lives push themselves to their limits, smash records, make themselves and their nation proud and just excel at the very highest level.

But for today I'm taking inspiration from one of heroes - the AMAZING Mark Spitz - and this thought. 

The ability to not worry endlessly about the future, to enjoy today, to look around and relish this moment ... that's important for me as I grow older.

As I said, it's a long time since Mark Spitz made it onto my bedroom wall. As a young person it's important to have people to look up to. And he is part of my life journey.

So thanks to you, Mark Spitz!

May you continue to inspire!




 


All we need is Love

Here's another one of my 'favourite films' moments.

Ok, so it's a bit unseasonal ... but today I'm thinking about the 2003 movie Love Actually.

It's associated with Christmas, of course, because it's set in that season. But as the title indicates, it's all really about love.

Love in different forms, unrequited love, love which is not returned, love which is complicated, people showing love and sharing love, love at different stages of life.

I love it!

Why am thinking about this ... in July?

Well it's not to do with the whole 'Christmas in July' thing, I can assure you!

No it's because there's a song in the movie, near the start of the film, which is one of my favourites.

And it was released as a single this day - July 7th - in 1967.

All you need is loveI'm talking, of course, about All you Need is Love, from the 'Fab Four' - the Beatles!

Although it was written by John Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney song-writing partnership. Lennon apparently deliberately wrote lyrics that were simple because the song was actually written not just for the British market, but for s specific global event and it needed to have international appeal.

All you Need is Love was Britain's contribution to Our World, the world's first live global TV special. The Beatles were filmed performing the song at EMI Studios in London on 25 June 1967 and the programme was broadcast via satellite, and seen by over 400 million people in 25 countries. 

It's one of those songs that's in our psyche and in our history. It's certainly in mine.

Many of us can just sing along. It's a song which with the constant repetition of the chorus 'All you need is love' .. has a powerful message. And it's not about love we can't attain. It's about doing everything with love.

I mentioned that on Sunday, but it's definitely worth the repetition. 

So - combining one of my favourite songs, with a favoured movie... here it is - as featured in Love Actually.

It's a strong reminder of something that's really important, and which - if we all just tried to love a little bit more -  could change the world.

 

 

 


The Step Class

If you've ever taken an 'Exercise Class' you'll love this. 

I hope.

Back in the day it was the thing a lot of us did, not just to 'keep fit', whatever that meant, but also just for the get together with friends. Some of us wore Lycra and leg warmers ... AND SOME OF US DID NOT! Even when I was a LOT thinner than I am today, that skin tight look was not something I favoured.

I have to admit I've never really been a fitness fanatic. I probably should take more exercise, but give me a good swim or a good walk any day rather than all that sweating!

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not dismissing those who do love all that jumping around and take going to the gym very seriously. And I am proud of friends who have taken their fitness in hand over the years and have really gone the extra mile - literally - to make themselves healthier. Because, in my opinion, that has to be the only reason you'd put yourself through all this.

Anyway, back to the Exercise Class.

Victoria woodToday I'm sharing one of my favourite TV comedy clips of all time featuring the amazing comedian Victoria Wood as 'fitness guru' extraordinaire Hayley Bailey, leading an iconic 'Step Class'.

I think one of the things I love about Victoria is that although she was obviously very clever, and rich and famous, she still seemed to appear 'normal'. She struggled with her weight and made no secret of that. She did at times turn her comedy in that direction, was rather self-deprecating, and actually often took on roles, and wrote them for herself, which were certainly NOT glamourous.  

Today would have been Victoria's birthday and during her life, which was so sadly cut short in 2016,  she brought us SO much happiness. Not just a comedian, but also a brilliant actress, lyricist, singer, composer, pianist, screenwriter, producer and director. Who can forget her 'silly songs' as well as her amazing performances, not just comedic but also in more serious roles?

If you've never watched 'Housewife, 49I thoroughly recommend it.  Made for television, it's based on the wartime diaries of Nella Last  and it was written by and starred Victoria Wood, who follows the experiences of an ordinary housewife and mother in the town of Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire in the north of England, during the Second World War.  It is AMAZING! And I have to say, it's one of my favourite of Victoria's performances and projects.

But maybe that's for another day.

Today I just want us to sit back and have a laugh.

Victoria was just brilliant at 'observational comedy' ... she obviously kept an eagle eye and ear open for all sorts of quirks in people around her and she had a knack of taking those, and little moments in life, and making them hilarious!

Cue Victoria ... and 'Step with Hayley Bailey' ....

There are a few 'blueish' moments, but it's a Classic and she's a Legend! 

ENJOY!

 


Bring Me Sunshine

Those of you who live in the UK and who are maybe of a 'certain age' will be aware that for many decades in the previous (20th) century the comedy scene was dominated by some brilliant 'duos' and probably the most successful double act was a certain 'Morecambe and Wise'.

The Morecambe & Wise Show and especially their Christmas 'specials' became a national institution and for many years dominated the Christmas Day BBC television schedule, watched by many millions. The 1977 Christmas episode was apparently watched by over 28 million people!  Their shows, featuring the two of them, gags, comedy sketches and songs were such a hit that big stars of the screen and stage were lining up to be included in an episode, even if it meant having the 'mickey' taken out of them.

Eric morecambe statueI'm thinking about them today because it was on this day - May 14th - in 1926 that comedian John Eric Bartholomew, OBE was born. He WAS Eric Morecambe - he took his stage name from his home town, the seaside resort of Morecambe in the county of Lancashire in North West England. There's a statue of him in the town overlooking Morecambe Bay, a bronze sculpture which was unveiled by non other than the Queen of England in summer 1999!

Eric had started performing in talent shows at an early age and when he met up with another young performer, Ernie Wise, they became close friends and, eventually, comedy partners.

After the Second World War, they served their apprenticeship in shows and on stage across the British Isles and on radio, before eventually coming to the notice of television producers and finally securing a contract with the BBC to make a television show. It was the start of an astonishing broadcasting career.

The comedy duo worked together from 1941 until Eric's death from a heart attack on May 28th, 1984. In 2002 he was named one of the 100 Greatest Britons in a BBC poll, securing his place as one of the most prominent comedians in British popular culture.

Morecambe and wiseEric and Ernie brought so much pleasure to so many people - myself included! 

And so, to celebrate all the laughs and joy they brought into my life and the lives of so many others, today I want to share with you the iconic song they adopted as their signature tune and with which they usually ended their show, often accompanied by a silly dance. 

I love it! It's so optimistic!

I defy anyone not to have their spirits lifted when they hear and watch  ... 'Bring me Sunshine' ...

Enjoy! And, if you feel up to it ... Smile!