Monthly Archives: September 2012

Please don’t drink the water!

My rose-tinted spectacles have been well and truly removed and I’m reconsidering my thoughts on a British seaside holiday!  A report this week tells how pollution levels at Britain’s most popular beaches reach a decade high as fears rise over tourism impact.

Tests have revealed that raw sewage is still spilling into the sea, despite water companies investing billions in improvements.  Blackpool alone could face losing £1bn in revenue unless improvements are made to sewer systems and more than 40 beaches are expected to fail when new standards are introduced in 2015.

Some of Britain’s most popular beaches, including Weston-Super-Mare, Exmouth and Blackpool, recorded the worst bathing water quality standards for more than a decade, according to a list obtained by The Sunday Times. 

In 2015, tougher standards are being introduced and will be partly based on this year’s results. At the worst beaches, signs will go up warning people not to swim.

Water companies need to make more efforts, as well as farmers and householders to protect beaches from becoming polluted and there needs to be more information on the times of sewage overflows.  The overflows, which operate during heavy rainfall, are one of the biggest causes of pollution flowing into the sea along Britain’s coastline. They are supposed to operate only three times in one bathing season, but some resorts can have more than 100 sewage spills during a wet summer. 

Brings a whole new meaning to the words “I’ve had a s**t holiday!”

Laziness descends to another level!

I remember being appalled on a recent shopping trip to Waitrose to find pots of ready peeled garlic on sale in the vegetable aisle .  Now I’m all for saving time and making my life easy but really, just how difficult is it to peel a clove of garlic?

The madness continues however.  I’ve read this week about a supermarket chain which has been forced to apologise after they stacked their shelves at stores in Austria with peeled bananas – pre-packaged and wrapped in foil.  German-owned Billa, which calls on its own customers to use more common sense when it comes to the environment, was slammed by customers who took to Facebook and Twitter to condemn the move.

Shoppers first became aware of the wasteful product after the store itself allegedly posted pictures of the product online.

You have to ask yourself what is going to be next?  Are we really that consumed with our lives that eating, one of the most basic and simple pleasures in life, has become such a chore that we can’t do anything for ourselves any more.  Exactly how far away from just taking a pill to satisfy our hunger cravings are we?

I for one will definitely NOT be going down that route!  Quite apart from enjoying the whole process of preparing and cooking food, there is nothing more satisfying than others enjoying your handiwork.  So you can keep your ready-made meals and pre-prepared products – I’m not buying!!!

Introducing Clyde the Thistle Man

Now that the London Olympics are finished, the next big sporting occasion to look forward to is the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.   The official mascot of the Games was unveiled this week as a Thistle man named Clyde.  Clyde is the brainchild of Cumbernauld schoolgirl Beth Gilmour whose mascot design was chosen from more than 4000 entries in a UK-wide competition.

Beth, who won four tickets to the Games opening ceremony as part of her prize, said: “My idea was that Clyde was friendly and sporty. On my entry, I drew him running and winking so he’s a wee bit cheeky as well. He’s exactly how I pictured him.”

and Glasgow 2014 chairman, Lord Smith, said: “Beth’s design captured the imagination and the spirit of not only the Games, but also of Glasgow and Scotland.  Clyde is the cheeky but friendly face of Glasgow 2014 and will take the Games message to the people of Scotland.”

Clyde, named after the our City’s famous river, was introduced in a short animated film narrated by 2014 Games ambassador Billy Connolly.  It tells the story of how the thistle was planted by Captain Bristle and taken around the Commonwealth on HMS Shipshape.  The captain then returned to his base on the Clyde, where the thistle came to life.

The excitement is starting to build – I’m sure that Clyde will be popping up all over the place in the next 2 years – keep your eyes peeled!!!

Celebrity baby names

OK, I understand that “celebrities” live on an entirely different planet from the rest of us mere mortals but it never ceases to amaze me that these people feel the need to give their offspring such ridiculous names that they will surely hate their parents for when they’re old enough to understand the ridicule!

This is not a recent trend.  In the 60’s Frank Zappa called his eldest daughter Moon Unit and, strangely, she is still known by this name today, whereas Zowie Bowie, son of David Bowie, changed his name unofficially at the age of 12 to the more normal “Joey” and around the age of 18 officially to Duncan Jones.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the Geldorf offspring of Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Little Pixie, though these names may have had more to do with their mother, the late Paula Yates, who went on to have another daughter by the late Michael Hutchence and called that poor mite Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily!

So it comes as no surprise that Robbie Williams and his wife Ayda have decided to call their new daughter by the name of Theodora Rose, to be known “affectionately” as Teddy apparently.  This after saying recently that they weren’t going to go for an “Apple-esque” celebrity name.

I wish people would remember that these cute little babies are going to grow up and will have to live with these names until they’re old enough to change them and a lot more thought could go into their choices.  I can’t help but wonder that if Robbie’s next child is a boy then he may just call him “Train Set” or “Football” to keep the theme going.  Those poor kids!!!

Childhood memories

A lady called Patricia Bevan, 65, has just beaten hundreds of entries to win a national competition to find Britain’s best beach hut with her patriotic red, white and blue affair, complete with bunting and Union Jacks in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee.

This has brought back many happy memories of my childhood holidays in Birchington-on-Sea in Kent where, every summer from the age of about 6 to 15, I spent the entire school holidays [come rain or shine] in a beach hut on the prom at Minnis Bay. 

I have to say that our hut bore little resemblance to this colourful specimen in Westwood Ho.  In fact, apart from the 2-ring gas burner, it was a million miles away from this cheerful, inviting space!  We spent many rainy days huddled around that gas burner drinking tea or tomato soup [though not at the same time], but we also had many weeks of gorgeous sunshine and fabulous walks, either along the promenade to Epple Bay or, if we were feeling more adventurous, to Reculver which was a terrific walk along the coast and is just on the outskirts of Herne Bay.

As a child, the walk seemed epic.  However, looking at a map today it can’t have been much more than 2.5 miles!

The lure of cheap package holidays to the sun when I was in my teens meant that I soon stopped wanting to go to that beach hut in Birchington.  I will always remember though just how lucky I was to get 6 weeks by the seaside ever year and it seems that the humble British beach hut is now experiencing something of a renaissance.

Well known hut owners such as Suggs from Madness [Whitstable] and Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones [West Wittering] may do little to help encourage the younger generation that beach huts are “cool” and to give them a try – but who needs a Costa when you can have the simple life a lot closer to home?  Hmmmm …..??? 

Keep your eyes on the road

A recent study by insurance firm MoreTh>N has discovered that over a third of drivers, 34%, have had a prang or near miss in the UK as a result of taking their eyes off the road to admire a view.  And an admiring 14% have slammed on the brakes to get a longer look – typically reducing their speed by 27 mph.   Accidents resulting from these distractions cause an average £413.56 of damage each time.

And top of the list is the well-known tourist spot of Stonehenge where distracted motorists have more accidents passing here than any other British landmark.   A quarter of motorists, 26%, have been distracted by the pre-historic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury, Wiltshire.

The Angel of the North, in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, is the second most dangerous landmark and the Blackpool Tower, in Lancashire, third.  A captivated 18% and 12% of motorists find their eyes drifting towards these sites as they pass.  Just over one in ten of these drivers, 11%, have had or nearly had an accident at these two beauty spots.

The top ten also includes the Scottish Highlands, the Houses of Parliament, Windsor Castle, Tower Bridge, and Clifton Suspension Bridge.  Cheddar Gorge and Severn Bridge complete the list.

So, in the words of Paul Evans from 1959, “Keep your mind on your drivin’, keep your hands on the wheel, keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead…”

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A Royal week in Provence

Hot on the heels of the now infamous photos of Prince Harry getting naked in Las Vegas, we are now being bombarded with tales of topless photographs being taken of his sister-in-law Kate at their remote holiday villa near Provence and sold to the highest bidder.

And the language being employed by the Palace press office is quite frankly ridiculous!  Kate is said to be in ‘agony’ while she and William are being unspeakably ‘brave’ as they are still managing to go tree climbing in the jungle or whatever it is they do for a living.

Now I know women in ‘agony’ and who are ‘brave’ because they have a serious or life-threatening illness. Perhaps we could save these words for when we really need them.

It’s not that I don’t feel sorry for her – I am sure it is extremely embarrassing to have such photos spread across the pages of gossip magazines but it’s surely time to put things into some sort of perspective.  She’s an attractive, young woman with a great figure (if a little skinny!) and this is, after all, the 21st Century when surely we aren’t shocked at the sight of a pretty girl with hardly any clothes on?

And let’s not forget that Kate is no stranger to baring her flesh for the cameras.  She came to the attention of Prince William when he saw her in a Fashion Show in 2002 while they were both studying at St. Andrews.  The Prince forked out £200 for a front seat at the charity student fashion show where Kate strode confidently down the catwalk in a see-through lace dress which revealed her black underwear. 

It also appears to be another epic fail by the Royal Protection Service.  As with Harry’s partying  antics, this again begs the question as to what their security people were doing.  If the paparazzi could see the couple by their remote swimming pool, why could the bodyguards not see the photographers and send them on their way?  Perhaps they were too busy enjoying the holiday themselves as would have appeared to have been the case in Vegas?

In a short statement issued yesterday, the palace said that legal proceedings for breach of privacy have been commenced in France and because the French have some of the strictest privacy laws in the world, I expect some hefty donations to charity will be made in the coming weeks.  However, with fines less harsh than in previous years, publications are more prone to take the risk as their boosted revenue will far outweigh the amount they will be forced to pay in damages.

Of course William and Kate are entitled to a degree of privacy when they are not on official engagements.  However, like many before them who have been photographed in such a way have discovered, there is a market in this celebrity obsessed world for such pictures and maybe, just maybe, she should have kept her kit on?

Give us a smile … you’ve won!

This morning Andy Murray is $1.9m better off after [finally] winning a Grand Slam and in doing so has ended Britain’s 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion with an epic victory over Novak Djokovic in the US Open final.   Murray, 25, emulated Fred Perry’s 1936 achievement, winning 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 in four hours 54 minutes in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, New York.  Beating the world number two and defending champion makes him the first British man to win an Olympic gold and the US Open in the same year.

It was incredible that Murray served out the championship 76 years to the day – on the same court – that Perry won the first of eight major singles crowns but I should imagine the 4 hours and 54 minutes that it took were the longest of his life!

Murray had plenty of noteworthy fans in the stands cheering him on, including a pair of Scots who crashed his news conference after his semi-final: actor Sean Connery and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.   Also spotted in the crowd were Patrick Stewart and Kevin Spacey.

For the last few points everyone was on their feet, desperately hoping that they were just about to witness something special and for once they weren’t disappointed.  As Andy sank to his knees, the relief on his face was palpable and I swear there was just the smallest hint of a smile on his face.  He did say in his post match interview that he was “smiling on the inside” but as usual it didn’t quite make it to his mouth!

A fabulous end to a great summer of sport for the UK and a belief that maybe, just maybe, we’re getting better at this sport malarkey!

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The nation has a new hero in the shape of Mo Farah who, after capturing our hearts with his impressive performances at London2012, winning 2 gold medals in the 10,000m and 5,000m, has now become a father to two adorable twin girls called Aisha and Amani.

Mo is the UK’s finest ever distance runner – a far cry from his humble beginnings in Somalia, arriving in London from Mogadishu at the age of 8 and speaking very little English.  He trained at St. Mary’s University College in Strawberry Hill, a place which played a huge part in my formative teenage years(!) but now lives in Portland, Oregon.

In the early days his passion was for football and his ambition was to play as a right winger for Arsenal – perhaps Arsene Wenger should consider adding him now to his decimated squad for this season – it would be quite something to see him doing “the Mobot” as a goal celebration at the Emirates!

Mo’s build up to Olympic glory started on 14 July 2012 when he was the first ever contestant (celebrity or otherwise) on ITV’s The Cube to win the top prize for his Foundation.  Mo managed to not only reach the final game but also had seven lives left (he had lost two lives in his first game.)  He won £250,000 only losing one more life in the final game.

And then, following his amazing performance in the Games, on 25th August came the birth of his baby girls.

During the games Farah said he wanted to win one gold for each unborn twin, adding: ‘If I only had one, the other would feel left out.’   and he has now vowed to engrave one of the twins’ names on each medal.

So, for the second time in weeks he has scored a glorious double and his trademark grin shows just what both these events mean to him.

Huge congratulations Mo – we salute you and wish you and your family all the best!

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…,”

There are many courageous stories from the Paralympics, but the one that has captured my interest today is that of swimmer Achmat Hassiem, who uses special motivation to go fast: he imagines being chased by the great white shark that bit off his right leg.

The South African was attacked by a shark off the coast of Cape Town six years ago after he lured the great white away from his younger brother.  Before then Hassiem had competed in various sports, including swimming, but wasn’t sure what to do after losing his leg.

It was South African Paralympic swimming champion Natalie du Toit who encouraged Hassiem to get back into the water. Before long, he started breaking his country’s Paralympic records. 

The 30-year-old Hassiem came to the London Paralympics determined to do better than his ninth-place finish at the Beijing Paralympics four years ago.  On Saturday, he won bronze in the men’s 100-meter butterfly. 

‘My little secret is obviously that I just try and imagine I’m in the ocean and I’ve got a 4 ½-meter great white shark at my feet,’ Hassiem said. ‘It’s definitely good motivation to swim fast.‘  With more than a little irony he added ‘I took to the pool like a shark in the ocean,’ .

Speaking after receiving his medal he said: ‘I believe I lost my leg for a good reason,’ he said.  ‘Losing a leg is nothing compared to losing my brother, so I’m just trying to make the best of it.’

And making the best of it he certainly is!  This, and of course the hundreds of other incredible stories we’ve heard during these Games, are an inspiration to us all.  Well done!

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