Saturday, February 28, 2009


Ok to get away for a day from talking about Being Human, I thought I'd share this instead. Normally I listen to Radio 2 when I'm cooking the tea on Friday evenings, and for the last two weeks Chris Evans has been talking about U2 coming into the studio. He was also hinting at a really big thing that was going to happen. Being a busy sort of person I kind of forgot all about it, and yesterday, because I was so busy running the kids around between singing auditions (no3), drama lessons (nos2&3) and school discos (no1) I completely FORGOT that U2 were on Chris Evans so I missed it. And because I missed it, I also missed that the Really Big Thing was them playing a concert on top of Broadcasting House which was just a little bit cool. Luckily having watched the BBC2 documentary on U2 last night we discovered we could watch the gig anyway by a simple dint of pressing the red button.

Being an eighties girl it is probably obligatory for me to like U2's music, even if at times I have found Bono a bit (0k alot) pretentious. However I liked him a lot more from watching the documentary, and I think the Edge is great and I loved they way they a) all took the piss out of Bono and b) are utterly dedicated to the idea that just because rock stars traditionally produce their best before they're 30, there is no reason why they shouldn't keep trying to produce their best now. I wasn't it has to be said wowed by the song they sang on Jonathan Ross earlier, but I was wowed by this:

and this

and of course appropriately, this:

(I did have empathetic vertigo watching Bono leaping around by the railings I tell you)

and of course they appropriately ended with this:

Really wish I'd heard it all live. Wish even more that I still worked in London so I could have snuck out to Broadcasting House on my way home, but hey... aren't that little red button and the internet wonderful things?

Truly, truly, magnificent...

PS Chris Evans runs a daily slot of Top Tenuous which are ten tenuous links to someone famous. I haven't got ten but my two top Tenuous for U2 would have to be, I have been interviewed for the radio at Broadcasting House, and Spouse touched Bono's boot once, when he wore suede, about a million years ago in Hammersmith...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And it was so damned good...

... we watched it again.








And this time around I realised, that in the heat of the action, I'd missed George punching Seth after weakening him with his star of David. Then saying, plaintively, it hurts. This is why George totally rocks. He is a wuss and a weed, and THEN he is magnificent - like when he gets Annie out of her stupor by bullying her to get up to help their friend. I loved that.

I knew he had hit someone with a chair, but it was later when they rescued Mitchell from Herrick. And what I absolutely LOVED watching this again was the way they were all so pathetic about the escape. They ran, they squealed, they panicked - even Mitchell. Spouse and I are big fans of vampire movies (quel surprise) - and normally in this kind of situation (think Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing, Welsey Snipes in Blade, Kate Beckinsale in Underworld), the heroes/heroines are cool, strong, and sexy as they fight their way out of trouble. The Being Human equivalent is three people dithering and thinking wtf do we do next. They were actually more human at that moment then in the entire series, and I think that's a great part of the appeal. We'd all like to be Andy McNab (as George so eloquently puts it), but come the real deal we'd all be gay ninjas too.

The other strand of the story, about Annie coming to terms with what Evil Owen did to her (and watching it again, I was truly struck at just how horrible he really is), was also brilliantly realised. The way he looked through her when he told Janey he couldn't see anything, and as she told George later, killed her all over again, was a brilliant take on the imbalance in a relationship where one person has too much power. Ultimately it makes you a monster, and Owen is far more of a monster then George and Mitchell are. I really like all that - like I say Being Human has a lot of fun playing with expectations and subverting them. Having been a little unsure at first about Lenora Critchlow's interpretation of Annie, I thought she was spot on in this episode - the way she crumpled under Owen's withering stare was wonderful. I felt her pain, and her subsequent triumph when she finally realised she could stand up to him, and though I am now really really worried that Owen is going to meet Herrick in the police station, I thought the gibbering insanity to which he was reduced was a fine and vengeful punishment.

Finally, before I bore the pants off any non BH watchers out there, anyone any thoughts about what Annie actually whispered to Owen? I seem to vaguely remember from the pilot Annie and Mitchell having a conversation about death being much worse then people imagine, and she was pretty adamant that George shouldn't look through the door. Mind you, Gilbert seemed quite cheerful about going through his, so whatever's on the other side, I'm sure I'm not going to be able to work it out. Though, naturally, I have my theories, which are either a) Annie is going to go through and still not be dead somehow b) she'll defer death a while to help Mitchell (or his need for her will keep her tied to the real world - I think they're falling in love don't you?) or c)the fact that it says 1 High Street above the door is deeply significant and she'll take them into a safe haven or something. (Mind you, I don't think they should be flat sharing anywhere other then that flat - in 20 years time I predict it will have cult status and people will be falling over themselves to buy it like they have been the Withnail house...)

I promised Marie a post about music and how I use it in the creative process, and it has struck me watching Being Human that the makers of the programme do exactly what I would want to do with music if I were making tv programmes and not writing books, so I will be talking about music, and if you can stand it, Being Human once more... but now I really do need to go and some work.

That is all.

Except, that I really really really love George.

And Toby Whitehouse utterly rocks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

In which I blog ever so slightly incoherently about Being Human...

And squee probably a lot.

There will also be spoilers.


if you don't like squeeing...

or spoilering...

or indeed incoherent ramblings about a TV show which features a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost...

or even more incomprehensibly you don't actually like programmes about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost...

Then look away now.


Hoping anyone left is as much of a fangirl/boy of Being Human as I am turning into.

Now we can begin...

A few weeks ago, I posted about episode one of this series here. I really enjoyed the pilot and the first episode, and was slightly worried, as you are when you discover a new favourite that the rest of the series might not live up to its promise.

Happily Being Human not only has lived up to promise, but exceeded expectations. It really is very dark - people die/get hurt, we feel the characters' pain, from George's horrific werewolf transformations (though, less said about the werewolf the better), to Mitchell's horror at what he is/has done to Lauren, and Annie's grief about not only the loss of her fiance, but the loss of her life. But as well as being dark, Being Human is also immensely funny - George is frequently hilarious as he squeaks about the horror of being a monster, and Annie's PMT ghostly moments are also great. I loved George's line about for once being the person with the interesting news at the end of episode 3 when he bursts into announce he's finally managed to have sex, only to discover Annie in the throes of deep depression because she's discovered what we suspected all along, that her fiance, Owen, has in fact killed her.

Before last night's episode, my favourite episode had to be episode 3, featuring as it did an eighties ghost, who helped Annie come out of her shell, and was EXACTLY like any number of boys I knew in my student days in Liverpool. From the shiny shirt, to the northern accent, to the crap dancing to Sisters of Mercy/Lords of the New Church type music, to the obsession with Morrisey and left wing politics, he was perfect. And from starting out as an annoying little tit, by the end you were totally absorbed by his story, and the sweetness of discovering that he had only hung around because in his real life he had never experienced love till he met Annie. As frequently happens in Being Human, your expectations of what is to come next are subverted, and you are frequently left thinking, I didn't see THAT coming...

Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy George's coming to terms with being a werewolf, when he gets to meet Tully, the werewolf who created him, because I did (crap werewolf costumes notwithstanding). I love George, for being heroic in a geeky slightly camp way. I love the way his voice goes all squeaky when he is trying to be brave and heroic, and how tries anyway. Ah, Russell, little did I know when I watched The History Boys, I'd fall in love with you playing a werewolf...

Mitchell of course, is the properly sexy hero - as a vampire he has to be. He oozes charm and the slight edge of menace, but his ability to hold onto something of his humanity, and his constant battle not to give into his urges - at one point when George expressses disquiet that he has killed someone they know, he tells George that he has to manage his condition every day, whereas George only gets to do that once a month. From the moment when Lauren pitches up and he doesn't kill the girl in episode one, you really tap into Mitchell's pain. He is at odds with what he is, he hates what he's done to Lauren, but yet to try and protect her, he tries to help her even though he finds the blood sharing she needs abhorrent.

The only episode that didn't quite hit the right note, was last week's, when Mitchell befriends a boy in the street, and ends up accused of paeodophilia. Although I liked that notion of the mob turning on them, and the question of who are the monsters, humanity or the flatmates? the storyline didn't quite work as effectively as other episodes. And apart from anything else, Annie's poltergeist tendencies didn't get explored anything like as much as they deserved to be. (Although, in another shocking twist at the end of episode three, having first thought Owen was the baddie, I had totally been hooked into thinking he wasn't, so discovering he HAD murdered Annie was a huge shock.) The shock ending of episode four was the little boy dying in a car crash, and Mitchell "saving" him by turning him into a vampire.

But any carping I might have had about episode four gives way to total awe and much squeeing and incoherence for Episode 5.

Mitchell turning to the dark side. Thinking he's doing the right thing, yet we know Herrick isn't to be trusted.

Annie failing to scare Owen. Annie going completely into decline until George goes all manly (George!) and demands she helps their friend.

Annie and the Chair. George and the Chair. George knocking Seth out with his Star of David.

Mitchell discovering what Herrick's really up to. Run that by me again? A blood farm in the basement of the hospital. I did a double take on that one.

Suddenly realising Mitchell is in the shit.

Annie and the Chair.

Oh good they're getting away.

Oh no. They're not.

Oh fuck. Here's Lauren, she's going to rub Mitchell's nose in it.

Wrong again, she's just stabbed Seth was a stake....

Talk about edge of your seat stuff.

And that was WITHOUT Mitchell saving Lauren by killing her, and the poignancy of her not wanting to lose what was left of the human Lauren to the vampires (and I hadn't had ANY sympathy with her up till now)...

And WITHOUT Annie finally standing up to Owen (god I'd forgotten that - Owen was such a bastard. And it was such a brilliant metaphor for crappy relationships where one person has all the power), and THEN finding her door.

And she's going to go through it. But she can't.

It's ony episode five. And there has to be another series. I can't stand it if there isn't another series...

And there's a knock on the door. And they don't answer it.

And then Mitchell does.

And OH FUCK. I so didn't see that.

So episode 5 ends with Mitchell with a stake in his heart, Annie dithering about going through the door, and George screaming at her to go.

What a brilliant cliff hanger...

Told you it was incoherent.

But if you haven't been watching, why not??? And what are you waiting for? I believe all five episodes are STILL available on i-player...

Me, I'm hanging on in there for episode 6.....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Things you think you'll never do, part 2

Some little while ago, I blogged about never imagining I'd go and see David Cassidy. Well this weekend, I also did something I never imagined in my prechild life I'd ever find myself doing.

Going away anywhere with six of us is a) usually hideously expensive and b) bloody hard work as no one in the hotel trade seems to imagine that a husband and wife going away with their children might rather have a bedroom to themselves while their children sleep safely next door and can be reached via an interconnecting door. Furthermore, when we book self catering accommodation we always have to read the small print because when it says sleeps 6, you can bet your bottom dollar, Spouse and I will be confined to an uncomfortable sofa bed while the sprogs are squeezed into two tiny box like rooms. Last summer, the apartment we stayed in laughingly claimed to sleep 7. Maybe 7 dwarves...

We also had a thoroughly miserable experience at a Campanile (never EVER book a Campanile) , where we were given two bedrooms, but not next door to one another, as requested. They actually DID have interconnecting doors, but to reach the children, we'd have had to go via a strangers' room in the middle. I ended up having a very heated conversation in French as to why they imagined that one room booked with Mrs Williams and one booked with Mr (thank you for making my life sooo convenient) would be likely to be two different families. As they refused to budge, I ended up in one room with the two big ones, and Spouse in the other with the little ones. (The rooms were also motel like, so you walked straight outside. Hmm. They clearly haven't worried too much about the Madeline McCann case in France then...)

Anyway. I was so bad tempered after that experience, I almost felt like saying we won't ever go anywhere again till the children are grown up and have their own holidays, and Spouse and I can happily go globetrotting on our own. However, that is patently both stupid and mad, so when Spouse suggested going away for the weekend at half term, I agreed, this would be a good idea.

Thanks to someone he worked with who busy the Super Soaraway Sun, Spouse discovered that if we collected enough tokens, we could go away for three nights for the princely sum of £90. Which is how I ended up spending my Valentine's weekend, here... Spouse and I don't usually make too much of Valentine's anyway, but this year is possibly the least romantic venue we've spent it in...

I have to say Pontin's is probably everything I ever imagined it would be: deeply tacky, very cheap, an overabundance of fast food (although the restaurant did at least aspire to producing something that looked vaguely edible. I couldn't rid myself of the urge to wonder what Gordon Ramsay would make of their kitchen, however.), and dire entertainment. So it suited the kids perfectly.

There were also plenty of activities for the kids to do, so no 1 had a go at quad biking and no 3 and I did archery. I've never done archery before, and I was getting the hang of it by the end. I even got a few bullseyes (ok, ok, the target was really close, but Maid Marian, eat you heart out!) . There was also a swimming pool, which looked much nicer from the outside then it actually was. I regularly moan about the disgusting state of the changing rooms at our local pool where I swim several times a week, but this pool had to be the dirtiest I've ever been in. I came away feeling that if I had a shower I'd be dirtier then when I went in. There was SAND in the bottom of the pool. When I queried this as an attendant leant into to test the water (full of chlorine, I think from necessity, otherwise Pontin's would have to close for having spread Legionnaire's Disease), she blithely informed me it was a problem with the filters. Yeah, right.

Our apartment left alot to be desired - as yup, we had the sofa bed (though it still offered more space then the place we went to last year) - but I can cope with discomfort for one weekend. It was also very very cold and very very damp, so we had to go to bed with all our clothes on, which I haven't done since my student days. But, hey it was cheap, it was good to get away, and we didn't have to spend all weekend there.

So we also went sightseeing to the Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury Tor and Wooky Hole.

Spouse and I had done the first two on our own, six years ago, when thanks to kind family members we'd managed our first weekend away sans enfants. It was the first time I'd been to Glastonbury, and I found myself hooting with laughter - I've never been anywhere so New Ageish in my life. This time we found three shops run by witches. You can even go on a witchy course. I nearly came away with a book of spells, but Spouse wouldn't let me.

We didn't manage to visit the Abbey as the children had definitely lost interest by then (apparently Arthur and Guinevere are buried there, you can even see their tombstones - yeah, right), but we did climb the Tor, which is fabulous and offers wonderful views of the Somerset levels. On a misty day, approaching by foot, you can quite understand why the legends about Avalon started up, though I prefer my Arthurian mythology to be Cornish/Welsh myself. I see Tintagel as far more likely to be Arthur's hunting ground, somehow.

We had rather tired of the fare offered by Pontin's restaurant by Sunday evening, so I suggested we went for something to eat in nearby Weston Supermare. Which turned out to be a really bad idea. We drove round the whole town, getting hopelessly lost, and then just after we'd stopped at a traffic lights, Spouse spotted he'd overshot a car park. Looking back and seeing nothing behind him, he reversed, so he could turn right into the car park. There was an almighty bang, and a horrible scraping sound. Wtf??? Turned out we'd hit a Lotus Selise which had parked up behind us, and we couldn't see it in our wing mirrors as it was so low and narrow. Fortunately the chap involved was very reasonable (I once had a prang with someone and her teenage son was vilely abusive), but we had ripped a hole in his front bonnet.

We decided that someone was trying to tell us something, so we gave up on Weston Supermare and headed backto Pontins, for more undesirable food, and crap entertainment. However, the latter did mean the kids ran off to play and we were able to have a much needed beer in peace.

We left on Monday in blazing sunshine - blimey, I'd forgotten how nice that is - and spent a great day at Wookey Hole,visiting the magnificent caves there, seeing paper being made at the paper mill and having our fortunes told by the Victorian penny machines they've got in a mock up Penny Arcade (mine apparently tells me I'm just about to meet the love of my life... oh dear.). We also saw an amazing circus act completely done by children. They were much much better then the crap circus we saw at the children's school a couple of years back, which I blogged about here. Although the mum in me couldn't help wincing as the tiniest of the two girls climbed up those swirling scarfy things and hung themselves upside down, WITHOUT a safety net...

All in all we had a great time away, even if it wasn't exactly our first choice of destination. Not sure I could cope with Pontin's for a week, but for a weekend, it wasn't too bad at all...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A birthday and a deathday

Today is no 4's birthday. I can still remember very vividly the feeling of being utterly overwhelmed that hit me between the eyes the day I took her home from the hospital. I'd come in, and at my mother's insistence gone straight to bed with the new arrival. I didn't get much peace. Two minutes later the other three, then aged 5, 3 and 20 months piled in, and jumped around the bed next to their new sister. Blimey, I thought. I've got FOUR children. How the bloody hell am I going to manage that? I look back at those pictures, and still wonder how I did it.

Particularly as no 4's arrival coincided with possibly the most stressful period of our lives. Spouse had just been involved in a corporate buyout of the dental practise he then owned, which had necessitated lots of late night meetings in London, worryingly close to no 4's arrival, but did liberate enough cash for us to have a new extension done. Work started when she was five weeks old, and as the builders were planning to knock the end of our house down I repaired to my mother's for a fortnight, only to discover she had to be called away suddenly. I couldn't face the thought of being in her house with four small children on my own, so Mad Twin kindly put me up till my own home was in a semi habitable state.

The first year of no 4's life is therefore a blur of stress, hard work and a fair amount of trauma in the shape of the other major difficulty we had at the time. Namely my father in law's failing health.

Up until the age of 75, Fil was incredibly fit. For a man (as Spouse always says) who abused his body spectacularly badly when young , he was pretty active in his early 70s. Then, when no 1 was eight months old, he had a massive stroke and we were told he was going to die. Fil was made of much sterner stuff then that, though. So, after two weeks semi conscious and three more months in hospital, he did recover sufficiently to get home, and spent the following year determinedly learning to walk again - at one point in competition with no 1 who was also just taking her first steps. Being as stubborn old cuss, he did it, and he and Mil were able to set up home in a flat which fortuitously came available down the road from us.

For a long time they used to stagger up and down the road together, leaning on each other and their walking sticks. To our amusement, they ended up knowing more people on the road then we did, as they had time to stop and chat, and as I was still working then, Spouse and I didn't.
Fil also still managed to organise his regimental reunions every year, although it was to an ever dwindling group of people. I typed the letters for him (being old school, even when he was fit, Fil couldn't have used a computer or typewriter if you'd paid him.), and I still have the copies on my computer, detailing the campaigns he took part in at the end of the war. As was common with his generation, he always played down what he actually did, but I think he was alot more courageous then he let on.

He was certainly honourable. At one point at the end of the war his regiment were (like many others) ordered to repatriate Yugoslavians. According to Fil, everyone knew they were going to their deaths. He and his comrades refused the order, which could have led to their court martial. The only reason it didn't was because the Nuremberg Trials had been taking place, and the defence of some Nazis that they were simply obeying orders had been deemed inadmissable. If an order was morally wrong, it was said, then a soldier could disobey it. Fil and his friends cited this in their defence, and avoided both the court martial, and the forced repatriation. Elsewhere, other Yugoslav refugees weren't so lucky as you can see from this. According to Fil, everything in this article is true, and the episode is a shameful blot on the Allied Forces at the end of WW2, simply done to appease Stalin.

Knowing this about Fil, made it immensely difficult to watch his slow painful decline into ill health. Particularly, when he ended up with well meaning carers who patronised him horribly. After his stroke, if you didn't know him, you'd have thought he was just a rambly old man, but we who were close to him, could see the subtle changes the stroke had wrought: the increased tetchiness, his frustration at not being able to do more, his forgetfulness about the recent past. It infuriated me when people patronised him (like the social worker who I frankly wanted to kill after she sat here practically patting his hand, saying There, there, as if to a small child), because I wanted people to see him as I did: a man of courage, of principle, of humanity, who'd been rendered helpless by the ravages of an illness that overnight had made him impotent.

Fil, being Fil didn't go gently into that good night. He struggled on even after he fell and broke his hip just before no 3 was born (I could write a book about juggling care of small children and the elderly, I tell you). He kept going when he suffered another minor stroke, which meant he could no longer write ( a source of huge frustration, that: it was only writing bad tempered letters to Tony Blair which kept him going.)

The last year of his life, and the first of no 4's was a succession of small failures, and shuttings down, of the realisation that less and less of the world was available to him, and the walls were closing in. Mil was his main carer, despite her own infirmities (she has suffered for many years from a condition known as a benign essential tremor, which basically means she shakes a lot and loses her balance constantly. How she looked after him is beyond me.) Fil led her a right old dance it has to be said, becoming ever more querulous and demanding, and selfish. But it was a selfishness born of desperation, I think. If he didn't demand she attend to his every need, I think he was afraid that he'd just keel over. It wasn't really like him to be that selfish though, and finally six weeks before he died, I think he woke up to the fact that he was slowly killing her with his demands.

We had begged him to consider going into a home so Mil could have some respite care. (Hence our meeting with the patronising social worker). He'd refused, saying he didn't want to to be in a home with a bunch of "old" people (I can't say I can blame him. Why would you want to play bingo with geriatrics just because you happen to be over 80?). I offered him a bed at our house (though I'd balked at the thought of it - how would I manage a school run, an elderly man, who needed constant care and two small children, if only for a week?), but he told me we were too "young". Like I said, he could be an awkward old cuss, and though I could usually manage to jolly him along to do things, I couldn't jolly him into that one. Until that January, when Mil was so exhausted, and Fil finally jolted out of his selfish cocoon and agreed to temporarily go into a home.

The home did their best, but it was a grim experience for him and for us. Spouse and I left Fil there one cold January Sunday, while Mil went to stay with relations. We both felt dreadful as we left, seeing this bewildered figure in an old raincoat, plaintively asking if he could go home. And worse was to come. I arrived the next morning to see how he was, with no 4 in my arms, and no 3 gathered around my ankles. Fil was stuck in his room, refusing to come out. "This is a terrible place," he said. "Take me home." I had to tell him over and over, as you do a small child, that he couldn't go home, and that it was only for a week. He was furious with me and Spouse for putting him there, and I wept as I left, because I didn't want him there either, but really, there was no other choice.

In the end, he stayed for two weeks, and by the time he left, he was more sanguine about the experience. Bil, Spouse and I visited every day. I took no 4 with me on my visits, who bounced around cheerfully on her bottom (she never crawled) and pulled faces at him. I like to think that cheered him up and that they connected on a very simple level - by then he found the older ones simply too exhausting to be around. He'd spent a great deal of the previous two years asking me why he was still here - "To see your last grandchild," I kept saying, and looking at him laughing as no 4 blew raspberries at him, I'm glad that even though things were so very grim for him at the end, she brought some little pleasure into his life.

When he moved back home, the boys had sorted his bedroom out so he was comfy and able to sit in bed watching the endless videos of 'Allo 'Allo and Dad's Army which he loved. He was more gentle and appreciative of Mil, and I hope his last two weeks were a more peaceful and happy time he'd had in a long while.

My last proper conversation with him, was a week before he died. I'd popped in one evening, and found him and Mil watching a programme about Diana and Charles. Fil was propped up drinking his daily nightcap of a whisky and a glass of red wine, pontificating about how Charles should never have married her. I sat on the edge of the bed and we laughed our heads off. For a brief moment the old Fil, the one I wanted the world to see had come back. I walked away that night praying that he would finally be at peace, and a week later on no 4's first birthday, he was.

I spent all that day trying not to let the children know their grandad had died, because I didn't want them to associate no 4's birthday with sadness. But my efforts were for nothing, as no 1 informs me she overheard us talking, so she already knew when I told her the next day. Now they all know that no 4's birthday is also Grandpa's deathday, but it doesn't seem to bother them. And as I always say to no 4, he chose a happy day to go, and she gave him a lot of happiness before he left us, so we shouldn't be too sad.

Fil was a keen gardener and insisted on buying us bulbs for the garden. The day after his funeral, the first daffodil of the year came out. And on the first anniversary of his death, the first daffodil of that year bloomed. Spouse thinks I'm fanciful, for thinking it, but I like to imagine that's his way of keeping in contact (this year with all the cold weather, mind the daffs are a long way off blooming.) I know that I was immensely lucky to have such a great relationship with him, and for my children to have had him, even if only for a little while.

In Sheffield Cathedral, in the regimental chapel of the York and Lancaster Regiment to which Fil belonged,there are benches dedicated to the memory of soldiers from the regiment. Last week we were sent a copy of a picture of one with Fil's name on it. As a soldier to the end, I think it's a fitting memorial.

Meanwhile, the birthday girl is having lots of fun, her siblings have temporarily forgotten that this is Grandpa's deathday, and that I think, is fitting too.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

As it's Valentine's on Saturday...

... and I'm going to be away, and as Mr Armitage DID win the sexiest man on legs poll, I thought y'all might appreciate this video of his most romantic moments. To make my cup of happiness complete, the main reason I'd chosen him as inspiration for my hero in Last Christmas was because he was soo romantic playing Dawn French's love interest in The Vicar of Dibley (and I loved the complete and utter unlikeliness of him falling for her in the first place.) I hadn't actually realised till I watched this clip, that he quotes one of my favourite bits of Far From the Madding Crowd, when Gabriel Oak (romantic hero to end all romantic heroes) tells Bathsheba Everdene, "Whenever you look up, there I'll be, and whenever I look up there will be you."

Serendipity of what? My hero is called Gabriel (North - ha. I didn't realise when I named him he'd share Richard's Spooks surname), and he's a shepherd, and I did partly model him on Gabriel Oak...

Top Ten TV Characters to get stuck in a lift With

Thanks to Medium Rob I have been intending to do this meme all week. Instead I have been sidetracked by the hilarious conversation about it on his blog, and the fact that I am still catching up workwise from too much snow and vomity children. (So far this term of a possible 29 days I could have had children in school I've only managed 15), so to say I am behind on my work is something of an understatement, and it's half term next week...

Anyway. Here are my top ten choices. It's a bit Spookcentric, but I reckon MI5 would be a lot of help in a lift...

1. Ros from Spooks. Because she is dead cool and hard as nails and wouldn't panic. And if there happened to be a madman in the lift/someone had a massive panic attack , she would sort it no problem.

2. Lucas North. Well, he is the sexiest man on the planet after all. Also he'd be pretty cool headed too, and no doubt would be able to find a secret panel to help us all escape.

3. Which brings me to Malcolm. Who would no doubt be wired up to the lift and in communication with Ros and Lucas, and be able to spring us by using some kind of fiendishly clever electronic device. He wouldn't actually have to be in the lift to do this, so this is probably cheating. In which case I'm going to ditch him and the rest of the Spooks cast (all of whom would have their uses) and say :

3. (again) should by rights be Dr Who, but as he'd get his sonic screwdriver out and get us out in no time at all, that would be too easy. But Dr Who needs representing in this lift, so I'll opt for Mickey as he found such a useful trapdoor in The Age of Steel.

4. And Donna because she'd make me laugh. Particularly if she was still in Time Lord Doctor/Donna mode. (She'd also probably be better at getting us out then the Doctor in that state)

5. Then I'd also have to include Gene Hunt, because he looked so hot when he was trapped with Alex in Ashes to Ashes (though admittedly not in a lift) and I'd like to see him undo his tie in just that way again...

6. Richard Hammond because he wouldn't take up much room.

7. Dawn French who would take up a lot of room, but again would make me laugh. Plus she and Richard Armitage might get to have some interesting conversations of the, but I thought you loved me/I never knew you were leading a double life kind.

8. I know everyone else has chosen Stephen Fry for intellectual purposes, and I would too if no one else had, but for the sake of being different, I'll call in Robert Peston who can explain everything we need to know about the credit crunch, while Ros, Luke and Malcolm plot a way to blow a hole in the floor and get us out, Mickey searches for a trap door, and Doctor/Donna blinds us all with science.

9. As we might all be in need of having our spirits roused (and there aren't enough women in this lift), we'd better have Victoria Wood to sing us a silly song.

10. Lois from Family Guy who could mother us all, so I don't have to.

Everyone else's memes are here, here , here and here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Angel of the South

Up north they have this...

Admittedly I've never seen it, my travels never having taken me to that neck of the woods. But by all accounts, despite the controversy of whether it should be built or not, I think now it would be fair to say the Angel of the North is an iconic symbol of the North of England.

I'm not sure the same will be said in the future for the new sculpture planned in Kent and entitled Angel of the South. Which is weird. Considering the sculpture is actually going to be that of a horse.

I may be missing something here, but is seems a rather odd idea to build a huge horse in Kent. Particularly when it bears a remarkable similarity to the Barbie Horse belonging to no 4...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sexiest man on the planet?

Well my RNA chums seem to think so. They've just voted Richard Armitage the sexiest man of 2009. As he is the model for Gabriel in Last Christmas, I'm not uninclined to disagree... Only I realised when I was obsessing about him as Lucas North in Spooks, I have inadvertently given Gabriel deep brown eyes, when of course, Richard's are a piercing blue...

Coincidentally, of late Medium Rob has been running a feature on his blog called Dick Heads, which is, er, pictures of Richard Armitage's head for us all to write witty comments (or in some cases haiku on). You can find our latest efforts here. (And yes, I think we're all aware that this is very very silly).

The complete list of who our Dick was up against is listed below. I'd have had a certain Mr Tennant higher placed myself, but at least Johnny Depp is still no 2. Sadly I won't be at the RNA Awards Lunch on Monday - I hadn't planned to go anyway, but with the disastrous week I've had workwise I don't think I could possibly justify it anyway. But still, at least I have this nice picture of Mr Armitage to while away my snowbound hours. I wonder whether I still have time to change Gabriel's eyes to blue...

Romantic Novelists vote Richard Armitage
Sexiest Thing On Two Legs

British actor Richard Armitage has leapt from last year’s 4th place to this year topping the ratings in the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2009 Valentine’s poll, to take the title of Sexiest Thing on Two Legs, beating top Hollywood stars to the number one spot.

Johnny Depp, who topped last year’s poll, was pushed firmly into second place, with Hugh Jackman and George Clooney mere also-rans. “Richard Armitage took 20% of the vote, more than double the count of any other male on the list,” said the RNA pollster. “He was a clear winner from the off.”

The RNA is not alone in admiration of the actor, as numerous online Richard Armitage fan sites will testify. The ardency began with North and South, grew by leaps and bounds with his appearance as the leather-clad baddie in Robin Hood, and shows no sign of diminishing as Spooks takes to the airwaves.

‘It’s a coup for Britain ,’ said one starstruck writer, ‘not just for sexy Richard.’

According to romantic novelists, the sexiest male celebrities of 2009 are:

1 Richard Armitage
2 Johnny Depp
3 Hugh Jackman
4 George Clooney
5 Daniel Craig
6 Sean Bean
7 Alan Rickman
8 David Tennant
9 Pierce Brosnan
10 Gerard Butler

The winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2009 will be announced on Tuesday 10th February.

It Snow Trouble...

I failed to mention yesterday, that I am still unable to get any work done as no 4 has come down with another tummy bug. Very kindly, a friend offered to fetch the others from school for me. At 4pm yesterday they hadn't got back, no 4 had fallen asleep, and the phone rang. It was no 1. I'm cold, she said. Sub text. Give me a lift - NOW. Upon hearing that I wasn't able to drop everything and come out THAT instant, she bad temperedly put the phone down and carried on her way. Five minutes later my friend arrived with the other two, so I rang no 1 back and said I'm on my way, where are you? Establishing her location before her phone died, I got in the car and tenatively made my way to find her via the main roads (no salting round here for minor roads has rendered them lethal).

Arriving at my destination, I could see no sign of my erstwhile child, so I rang her again.
Where are you? I said. She named a road ten minutes nearer to home then I was.
I thought you weren't coming, she said.
Because you put the phone down on me
Yeah, right. Mums always put the phone down on their perishingly cold daughters...
I can't pick you up from there, I said as the road in question was a particular deathtrap, but I'll come and find you en route.

I was now halfway down a road, pointing in the wrong direction and unable to turn round because of lethalness of aforementioned side roads. So I trundled my way into town and found my way back round the not very helpful one way system which clogs up our town on a regular basis. Getting stuck at a red light allowed me a handy moment to ring my eldest once more.

Where are you? she wanted to know. I explained I was stuck in traffic, but I'd be with her shortly. She explained that she was now on another road entirely, but at least it was somewhere I could pick her up from.

I eventually escaped from the town centre and avoided an accident with a helpful postvan which parked in such a position to ensure that I had to drive over the heap of snow in the middle of the road. As I went into a slow slide to the right, I reflected that it would have served him right if I HAD sideswiped his car.

Eventually I pulled up next to no 1.

What took you so long?" she demanded crossly. I could have been home by now.
She was cold and hungry, so I let her lack of appreciation go, besides what should have been a five minute trip took about fifteen.

I think next time she begs for a lift, she might just have to beg...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Snow Fun... Actually it was...

I know I moaned yesterday about the kids not being back at school, but there was an upside to the snow. For a start, I've never seen so muchof the stuff in my entire life. It was coming up over my knees. Proper cool decent snow. That was neat, for us and the kids.

It also felt a bit like an unofficial holiday, which was a bonus considering our actual holiday was pretty crap. And it was really great having hardly any traffic on our road, which is normally horrendously busy. Everyone was walking into town. Most commuters round here couldn't even begin to get up to London because the station was shut, so the park was full of dads having snowball fights with their kids. It did feel like being in some kind of jolly Dickensian Christmas scene, even if it wasn't Christmas...

So here are some pics from our unofficial holiday, which has temporarily lifted us all from our mid winter gloom.

Here's a solitary car edging its way up the road. The snow was so deep most people spent the day walking in the road. You don't get to do that very often without being mown down on our street, I can tell you...

Nos3&4 and I on our way mil's -which took rather longer then the normal two minute walk. Monday is bin day but as you can see, even if the bin men had come no doubt it would have been more then their job was worth to get rid of all that snow on top of the wheelie bin.

Spouse did manage to get into work - although this is as far as he got with the car...

Having got there and had thirty cancellations from snowbound patients, he took the executive decision to call it a day and came home to do this instead...

He tells me it's because he might be too old next time we get this much snow. Hmm...

It took him and no 2 all day. Did I mention my husband is obssessive? It's the Teutonic gene I think. I am far more likely to say wtf and give up, but like Magnus Magnusson, once he's started he just has to finish. At least he got to sit in it for two minutes before it melted the next day... (And the children have learnt from him any rate that you have to stick at things to get them done)

I in the meantime went over to the park with the others. It looked like this...

The obvious thing to do was to have a snowball fight. Which we did. At one point a strange man (as I imagined) started throwing snowballs at me from out of nowhere. What the hell is he doing? was my first thought, before realising it was the husband of a school mum chum. He was so wrapped up I didn't recognise him...

Most surreal sight of the day was watching a chap practising his serve in the tennis courts beyond the play area. Sadly I haven't got photographic evidence as I couldn't quite figure a way of surreptitiously taking his photo without him noticing..

Tuesday was a really bright and sunny day. Spouse has a longer drive on a Tuesday, and besides we still couldn't get the car out as the snow had iced up over night. So he took another day off, and we enjoyed the alpine scene in our garden which did look pretty...

..Before tackling the driveway head on. Hmm. Having just been told NOT under any circumstances to attempt lifting mil by my physio, I wonder how he'd have felt to learn I spent Monday rolling big boulders (well I did help Spouse a little) and Tuesday digging up snow. By mid afternoon we'd freed the car, so we decided to head up to the downs for a spot of sledging. Naively, I thought the roads might be better by then. Wrong....
This week has been a week of firsts. First time snow's ever come over my boots. First time snow's ever drifted to my front door. First time our car's ever been snowed in. And... first time we got stuck in the snow on a hill. This is mainly because plonkers don't park properly on the downs and create a bottle neck for the traffic. All the cars going up the hill inevitably stop, and once you've done that you're in deep deep shit. We managed to eventually crawl up the hill after three lots of kind passersby going down hill got out of their cars to help me push ours up the hill.
We then drove to a rough car park where you can view London on a clear day (and apparently at night its a hotspot for doggers... not that I'd know of course). Spouse did wonder about the wisdom of this, and he was right. When we got back to the car, we had indeed become stuck again. So it was up to me to push us out (hmm, another black mark from the physio I fear). This I managed to do eventually, with the help of another kind passerby (my, the snow does bring out the best in people), but not before a comedy moment involving me falling flat on my face. Spouse said one minute he could see me in the rear view mirror. The next, he ... couldn't.
Still without driving up there (it's just that bit too far for the littlies to walk without lots and lots of moaning), we couldn't have seen this fantastic sunset...

And the kids couldn't have done this...

Or enjoyed another snowball fight...

And falling flat on my face was certainly worth witnessing this...

As a friend of mine remarked the other day, she likes snow when its bad enough for normal life to stop. Our daily lives are so frantic and busy, we rarely have time to stop and stare and take in the view. I'm glad that this week, we had a few such moments. Even if our unexpected holiday went on a little bit too long...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Snow Joke

So... we're officially three days into The Great British Winter of 2009 (which no doubt will go down in the history books at this rate), and... the children are still off school. Yesterday eagle eyed news viewers might have noticed that Surrey was one of the few local authorities which closed ALL its schools. We did have a lot of snow. I know this. And conditions were very treacherous yesterday (we got stuck in Sainsbury's car park - of which more later...), so I can just about cope with them not having gone back yesterday, as even Spouse didn't make it in which is incredibly rare (He has also just rung to say it's taken him two hours to get a mile away from where he works, so conditions still aren't good). But... THREE days off school??? With more snow predicted today/tomorrow that probably wipes out this week then.(Incidentally, only 96 schools in the country remain closed. It would be my luck to have children in three of them...)

My spies close to the school tell me that there has been no attempt to even clear a path in the snow (they do have a live in caretaker who presumably has spent the last two days sledging on the Downs like the rest of the world), so OF COURSE they can cite Elf and Safety as a reason why the kids can't go in. The fact that the majority of children can walk into school is neither here nor there, apparently. Most of the staff allegedly can't get in. Given that, in the junior school, we have already lost seven days to the flood this term (I have just worked out that the kids have been in for twelve days and off for ten) on top of the three days they lost last summer thanks to the building work, you'll forgive me for being slightly cynical about the commitment of the school to actually opening at all in the event of any untoward circumstances. What riles me most is if I took the kids out of school for this amount of time they'd probably have me investigated by social services. As it is, the ONLY time I've ever taken them out for a day I wasn't allowed to. (Guess who might be doing it more in the future).

I do understand that this week has seen an Extreme Weather Event etc, etc. But... I fear my children are being sent a very bad message about not perservering when things are difficult. Given that the world they are growing up in is rapidly changing, and they may face a more hostile economic climate even then we did growing up in the eighties recession, I think this is a very bad thing. We recently attended a meeting at no 1's school where the head talked about preparing our children for a world which is changing so fast it's almost impossible to keep up. She played this rather sobering video highlighting the competition they're likely to face. I don't suppose in China or India kids don't go to school when there's an Extreme Weather Event - they probably walk miles to get there anyway. Our children should be encouraged to too.

On the other hand. The children did learn how to make an igloo...

Monday, February 02, 2009

White Out

So we've had about 12 inches of snow overnight, the car is stuck in the driveway (first time ever) we can't see the conservatory roof, the snow drifted up to the front step (also a first), the animals are snowed in (at least they're insulated), and naturally... the kids are all off school. Becasue there haven't been enough reasons to keep them at home so far this year, have there?

Actually to be honest, I'm not surprised about school closures, as there are no trains running and even the M25 has several inches of snow, so all the roads round here are completely stuffed. I don't think I can recall my whole life having snow like this, so I'm quite glad the kids are going to experience it. They're all off out in the garden now, and we're planning to make an igloo later. For once we might even have enough snow to make a decent snow man. (I appreciate, Persephone by your standards this is nothing, but we Brits never get it like this in the south east)

No 3 is distraught though as she was supposed to be going on a school trip, now cancelled, and has just informed me she banged the conservatory door shut, and a whole load of snow landed on her head. I sense this could be a very long, wet and cold day...

Oh and Spouse has just rung. He walked into work. And he's the only one there. No staff, no patients, so maybe he'll get to join us for some snow fun later...