Eat Cake and help support people with dementia
Alzheimer's Society is a charity close to my heart. My Gran had Alzheimer's and passed away in 2013. Due to the pandemic, charities are in more need of your help than ever to raise money to be able to help support people living with dementia and their families.
Please read my latest blog on how you can eat cake and help raise money for Alzheimer's Society at the same time. And you will be in good company. Lots of famous faces are taking part. Find out who here.
And I promise to show you a photos of my baking skills... and when I say skills I mean I can burn pasta!
I'm a judge on the Eurovision Song Contest.
Yes, this weekend I am going to be a judge for the Eurovision Song Contest.
Update: I have included my top three so you don't have to listen to all 41 if you don't want to.
Heaven 17 give back to their fans
Read my latest blog featuring the wonderful Heaven 17
Corona Virus - Diary
Friday 20 March 2020
What an experience of shopping in Asda today was …well an experience. I wouldn’t normally blog about food shopping but these are strange times. Some people were very rude, others very chatty and friendly. This situation certainly brings out people’s true colours
Read my blog here: https://www.jasminestorm.com/thoughts-and-feelings
Corona Virus - Jasmine Storm update
Monday 16 March 2020.
I had already made a decision to stop attending gigs and theatre this weekend before the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, suggested yesterday in his speech that people avoid theatres, gigs, cinemas and pubs. I was due to let you all know and was going to update my site, but as things are changing daily, I can now tell you that even if I hadn’t made that decision, it’s now been taken out of my hands.
Many theatres have already taken the decision to close to not put its clients at risk. I should have been seeing The Mousetrap last night and The Sound Of Music tonight. On Friday I was due to see Heaven 17 do a very rare performance of early Human League albums, Reproduction and Travelogue. This too has been cancelled.
It is the right decision to close and cancel events and I respect all those involved in making those very difficult decisions. However, the way the government have ‘strongly suggested’ they stay away is an economic nightmare. The arts are very close to my heart and I fear that many theatres and musicians will end up bankrupt or make people redundant and will not recover from this. All the government needs to do is order closures so that all these businesses can claim on their insurance. Its not rocket science. Remind me again how the government are qualified to govern?
I am also very concerned about the restaurant industry. Both my sons work in hospitality. My oldest son is manager of a lovely pub/restaurant in a small rural village. My other son is a chef in a kitchen, but despite that he is zero rated so if he is sent home due to no customers, he isn’t paid. Multiply that by all those in that industry and see how horrific life is going to be for people in this country. Last night my son came home early as there were no customers to cook for. The taxi driver said there will soon be no taxi’s as they feel they are at risk with people in their cars.
How about tourism? No planes flying. No people visiting our country. Holidays cancelled. I assume Madame Tussards, The Tower Of London and all the museums in London will also close. This new term, ‘Social Distancing’ is fast becoming a buzz word, but it will impact the world as we know it. Who knows what will be left after this disease has swept through us like a hurricane and see what damage it has done. So, in these difficult times, I wish you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. That we all get through this together and I will see you on the other side.
Love to you all, Jas.
Are we living in a horror film?
My thoughts on the Corona Virus is now on my thoughts and feelings page.
I had to phone someone so I picked on you....
Its's Bowie week (none of that Bowiemas business - it's always Bowie week to me). For those that don't already know, the 8th January was his Birthday. This year he would have been 73. Happy Birthday David Bowie. Sadly the 10th also marks the anniversary of his passing. So to commemorate this very significant week for Bowie fans, I have written not one, but two new blogs.
What is your favourite Bowie track? I couldn't just pick one. I couldn't just pick five, I couldn't even pick ten...so here is my favourite top twenty...still a very difficult task and subject to change. Let me know if you agree with them. I would love to hear from you what your top twenty are.
I have also written a piece about his final gift to us all. Find out what I am talking about here. And no matter how you spend Bowie week, Love on ya.
Pride In Milton Keynes
What did I think to Pride in Milton Keynes? Read my latest blog of a topic close to my heart.
I love #LoveMK day
I am a classic MK Lover. I was born in London and moved to Milton Keynes as ‘London overspill’ to live somewhere with a bigger house, clean air and a can-do attitude.
I love MK and would not live anywhere else, given the choice. If someone asks me why I love MK, the answers are numerous; but my default reason is the clean air. I can smell the difference in air quality compared to a big city such as London or Birmingham. Five minutes in any direction and you are in the country. It’s the best of both worlds!
I love MK because of the can-do attitude of so many who live and work here. They are forward thinking and positive. We strive to be the best we can be. We have weird and wonderful house designs, we have embraced electric cars with more charge points than anywhere else in the country, and we look at the positives to see how to make where we live a wonderful place to live.
It’s easy to make a joke of us with our roundabouts and concrete cows but MK has heart. And there is nothing wrong with a grid system – New York has one, and if it is good enough for New York, which is one of the most successful cities in the world, its good enough for us. I say city as true MK lovers say city. We say ‘Are you going up the city?’ we never say town. Even the classic balloon ad says ‘Wouldn’t it be great if all cities were like Milton Keynes?’ And it was registered as ‘The Borough and New City of Milton Keynes’. There are still signs saying this on the A5. There are no signs saying town. They say ‘welcome to MK’ with a small 50 in brackets. Christ the Cornerstone church is like our very own St Pauls. For us – we have the heart of a city. If we need to travel we have good road and rail links to both London and Birmingham. We are perfectly located between the two. Many businesses have built their head offices here for that reason. We also attract big names when it comes to music, Take That are appearing here this month, and of course we do have the MK Dons football team representing the best in sport.
But the best thing about living in Milton Keynes is the talented and caring individuals that make MK a wonderful place to live. I cannot say how much I celebrated when MK got its own theatre which will have its 20th birthday this year. We have some amazing shows come to MK that towns in our vicinity do not get. People come from miles to shop in our shopping centre. And when that shopping centre was first built it was the biggest under-covered shopping centre in Europe. We even had Duran Duran do a photo shoot here – and Cliff Richard filmed Wired for sound here.
We have cool architecture and amazing art works. Our gallery has just extended to share wonderful art with us. This month I will see a world premiere of Freddie Burretti – The Man Who Sewed The World – right here in Milton Keynes. Directed and performed by local people and not to forget that Freddie Burretti himself lived in Bletchley. For those who don’t know Freddie Burretti designed a lot of David Bowie’s classic 1970’s clothes including the Life On Mars blue suit. I have also seen shows by MKTOC who are world class when it comes to comedic talent.
So, laugh at us if you must – but if you live in Milton Keynes we know. We truly have it all. Where else would I want to live?!
Who is Freddie Burretti?
If you love fashion, (turn to the left) and know David Bowie’s 70’s style, there is one name that is synonymous with those wild and wacky outfits. If you know that blue suit from Life On Mars; if you know who Arnold Corns is; then you know there is only one Freddie Burretti. Freddie Burretti – The Man Who Sewed The World: The Musical is having its world premiere in Milton Keynes, where Freddie grew up. Jasmine Storm chats to Caz Tricks about directing this masterpiece of storytelling about this fashion icon.
Read the full interview here
Trial By Laughter
If any journalist knows the inside of a courtroom, Ian Hislop does. According to WikiLeaks he is the most sued man in history, so of course, it must be true. Private Eye and Have I Got News For You has firmly put Ian in the public eye so when he decides to create a new play with cartoonist Nick Newman, you know it’s going to be interesting.
Trial by laughter is based on real events and it’s the story of bookseller, publisher and satirist William Hone, who in 1817, stood for trial for parodying religion, the government and the monarchy. Isn’t that what all comedians do today? Is it a crime to be funny?
Speaking to Ian and Nick, they both feel passionately about the right to free speech so this story of old has as much relevance today as it did in 1817. Back then the monarchy bought up all the cartoons of the Prince of Wales drawn like a whale to stop the public laughing at them. Even the trial Judge tried to stop people laughing in the courtroom. Would this happen today? Well it is true that we still have to fight for our rights for free expression. Brexit has divided the nation yet it’s not often you hear a balanced view from anyone. Brexiteers have been called Gammons and Remainers have been called remoaners. Ian feels the tactics for Brexit are the same, sue the traitor; the enemy of the people. We need to defend free speech at all costs. No one should be told what is allowed to be funny.
Meeting Ian and Nick it’s clear that this duo are of the same mind-set and bounce well off each other. They joked about if they should put dark glasses on as I had my sunglasses on for our press photo. All I know is that if Ian and Nick are an evaluation of what to expect, Then Trial By Laughter will be funny and thought provoking.
Trial By Laughter is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 2 March 2019.
There is a special Q&A after the show on Monday 25 February with Ian and Nick.
How to do Las Vegas if you don’t gamble.
I did not think Las Vegas was for me. I don’t gamble, I don’t like flying long distances and I thought Vegas could be really tacky. Well that goes to show what I know - let me blow a few Vegas myths out of the water. Firstly, don’t think of Las Vegas as a city break. Its not like a normal city. Think of it as a holiday destination, the same way you would if you were travelling on a summer holiday. The heat is… well its hot! It was touching 100 degrees when we were there. To describe it is like having a hair dryer blown in your face constantly. Of course, it’s not an issue as the hotels know what good air con looks like. I like the heat so didn’t mind it so much.
This is the only place I’ve travelled to where I could see my hotel from the airport! That’s how big the Mandalay Bay hotel is and it is stunning. Despite being the eighth biggest hotel in the world (Vegas boasts three of the top ten largest hotels in the world), but we were treated as if we were VIP guests. They even sent us a greeting and some truffles for our anniversary. The hotels really do have everything you need, restaurants, café, nightclubs, shows and a venue for live gigs. Mandalay Bay hosts Michael Jackson One and during our stay Santana played at House of Blues. It’s really that big. It has a conference suite; a place to get married (much better than tacky chapels) and it has the most amazing swimming pool including a lazy river. I’d never seen anything like it. The opposite end of tacky. It was glitzy, high-quality and stunning with no expense spared on décor. Even the door handles were beautifully designed.
Travelling from the UK, the first thing to note is that Vegas is several hours behind so it took a few days for my body clock to adjust. On our first day I woke up at 4am so hubby suggested we go out – as this is Vegas and there are places open 24 hours a day. We got some breakfast and then headed down to Caesar’s palace and this was the first time I was stunned at the décor. (It was not to be the last). It was like the outside but inside. Full scale fountains and shops with a sky above that changed as daylight arrived. Being here this time of day was perfect. No crowds. No people at all. It was like it was open just for us.
Most of the modern hotels allow you a walkway around the casino’s rather than have to walk through them. I was pleased with this as I am not interested in gambling and have no desire to watch others gamble. Sadly, some of the older ones means you do need to walk through them to get to your destination. The good news is there is an abundance of restrooms where ever you may be. Many of the hotels have a theme. Mandalay Bay seemed to be tropical with elephants and waterfalls and is spectacular. It took me three days to find the front entrance which is well worth your time. The hotels are a tourist attraction in Vegas. My personal favourites were The Venetian, Mandalay Bay and Caesar’s Place. They all really did take my breath away. The Cosmopolitan and Wynn also have very high standards. I didn’t go inside every hotel so cannot comment on each. The two I would personally avoid is Circus Circus – its very old and grubby looking and very smoky inside despite it being an attraction for children. (Free circus acts inside) and Rio. Rio was very smoky and crowded. Its slightly off the strip and walking to it is not a nice route. The Penn and Teller theatre was lovely, clean and spacious but the rest of it was disappointing. We had hoped to have a meal for our anniversary there before the show but ended up in Smashburger. Not very romantic.
My top five hotels to visit:
The Venetian. You can have a gondola ride or sit on the piazza, listening to people singing opera. It’s truly a wonderful experience and a sight to behold. The detail of the buildings is amazing. It’s really just like Venice – only cleaner!
The Fountain Of The Gods at Caesars Palace. It’s a full fountain in a street with a sky that changes with the day. It feels like you are outside even though you are inside.
The Bellagio fountains. They are free to watch and stunning to see. Dancing water to music. What more can you ask?!
The Mirage exploding volcano. You can feel the heat and it certainly has impact.
The top of the Stratosphere. It’s the best view of the strip. We had a cocktail in the bar while enjoying the view. There is also free Wi-Fi up there.
Other musts to do while in Vegas.
Freemont Street. During the day its most definitely the tacky and old Vegas you expect. However, at night it’s the most fun place on earth. It has DJ’s, Bands, dancers, street performers, and sights you are unlikely to see anywhere else! It has people zip-lining across your head, a canopy with an interactive music and imagery known as the Freemont Street Experience. Further down the street it’s an artier area. Check out container park, which is full of small artisan shops. All very different from the strip.
Day trips. Why travel this far and not go to see one of the seven wonders of the world? The Grand Canyon is the most fabulous thing I have ever seen in my life. I cannot explain how vast it is. My brain cannot fathom it either. It’s one of the seven wonders of the world for a reason! I also visited Red Rock but there are lots of places to choose from. Day trips take you out of the craziest city in the world and give you a sense of gravity.
Shop! There are some great malls and we went south past Mandalay Bay on the bus to a massive discounted shopping centre. Of course, there are also shops in most of the hotels too and shops along the strip. If you want tacky cheap tourist tack – there is a massive shop downtown but the cheapest was on Freemont Street where I got a Vegas nail file for 97c!
Shows! You are truly spoilt for choice. During our stay we did two shows; Penn and Teller and Tournament Of Kings. However, there is something for everyone including famous singers such as Mariah Carey and Rod Stewart, Circus Du Soleil and even Magic Mike.
Travelling by foot is the cheapest way around but it’s hot on the strip and going in and out of the hotels can be rather convoluted. The next best option is the tram which is free but only runs between Mandalay Bay, Luxor and Excalibur. Bus is the best option to get downtown and its only $8 for 24 hours bus travel – worth it. Our tour guide told us the reason there is no tram running up and down the whole of the strip is due to the Taxi Mafia. Yes, that’s really what he said. People on the strip are dressed up to have their photo taken with you ‘For tips’. I didn’t do this but walking past Deadpool and Spiderman and Spiderman says hello to me felt a bit surreal. I also saw Star Wars characters and many showgirls. You are really spoilt for choice. My advice here would be to secure an agreed payment before having the photo taken. My husband made this mistake in Rome a few years back and a photo on our own camera ended up costing us 40 euros! Being an 80’s girl at heart I couldn’t help but sing Club Tropicana every time I passed the Tropicana and Duran Duran’s Rio when we visited that hotel. It always made me smile. Food is everywhere and for every pocket. If you are looking for cheap eats, Denny’s offer a discounted voucher each time you eat there which can tempt you to go back. IHOP is always best for pancakes for breakfast but I personally couldn’t get over the amazing buffet that we ate at; Bayside Buffet in the Mandalay Bay, where you can have a full dinner for breakfast if you wish. For a good steak try Outback Steakhouse which does very good steaks.
For me, the biggest negative is the Smoking that is allowed almost everywhere. It feels so old fashioned and downright stupid to continue to allow this. Smoking is not in vogue any longer and the fact that passive smoking has been proven to kill – I just find it incredulous that it is still allowed. If they only took a step back and realised most people don’t smoke and it could attract more people in without it – it would be a revelation. It was certainly a big negative for Vegas. The other negative is the music. It seems the trend to pump out modern music everywhere. There seems to be no avoiding it. In the Mandalay Bay it was even in the elevators as well as on the main floor. It is also true as you walk down the strip. I think firstly it doesn’t need to be so loud, this makes everyone have to shout to communicate which makes the volume of noise in general very loud. I also think it alienates anyone over 30 and anyone who isn’t into this particular style of music. If Vegas is only trying to attract the young; this would be a massive marketing error on their part as all ages can enjoy Vegas.
Vegas is an experience like nowhere else on earth. Everyone should try it once. This is a destination where hotels come and go regularly. Where nothing is safe and everything is constantly changing. It’s really the craziest place on earth – and I had a blast!
Jasmine Storm takes New York
I’ve never been to New York before and it was never high on my list of dream destinations. But since there was the last ever chance to see the Bowie Is exhibition in Brooklyn it was on my radar and when hubby said it would be his treat if I bought the tickets for Bowie exhibition it looks like I would be heading to the USA for the first time in 14 years.
The trip started from the moment we left home as we were chauffeured to Heathrow in a brand-new Tesla with white leather seats and red exterior. If I had ordered my dream car this would come very close. Listening to Absolute 80’s on the radio and having a friendly driver made it even better. https://www.airportsdirectmk.com/our-cars. When we arrived at Heathrow there was no queuing so we could check in straight away despite being early for our flight. We handed over our cases and headed for the Upper-Class lounge with Virgin. Wow – what a fabulous experience it was. Dedicated staff to attend our needs, spa, food to order, Wi-Fi and charging points made it my dream experience. I am a nervous flyer so didn’t eat that much but did have some ice cream and some nibbles. Oh, and a vodka and coke to calm my nerves! https://www.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/virgin-experience/clubhouses-and-treats/our-clubhouses/london-heathrow-clubhouse.html
Soon enough it was time to get on the plane. Staff were so friendly – a million miles away from my horrific British Airways experience. We had paid for a window seat as this was something I had never experienced on my previous flights to the USA. I loved that the plane was called Lady Stardust. It was a perfect name for a Bowie trip. My husband would also celebrate his birthday when we were out there and when we mentioned this to the staff – two glasses of champagne followed. It was just perfect and I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. Thanks be to Virgin Airlines!
As we landed I couldn’t help but have songs running through my head. Lazarus by David Bowie ‘By the time I got to New York, I was living like a king’, Frank Sinatra’s New York New York and of course the soundtrack to On The Town, but most of all a song that was always a big song in my life Gerald Kenny’s New York which was used in one of my first stage appearances when I was about 11 years old.
Sadly, the transfer was a poor choice and we had to chase it three times to get them to turn up (over an hour later) and they weren’t happy when we chose NOT to tip them. Yes, lets mention tips. In the USA not only is tax added to everything afterwards, but then most places expect a tip of 15-25%. Not the merge 10% that most people offer in the uk. So, no they were not pleased but frankly I don’t tip for bad service and was glad we had not booked them for the journey back.
Our hotel was The Benjamin and it was a beautiful hotel in Midtown. The room was fabulous, we paid for a king size and it included a kitchenette and a safe in the double wardrobe. The mirrors were also massive so I could check how I looked before I went out. It also used Elemis products which I loved. Staff were helpful and when we had a problem with our water heating up someone came to our room within 10 minutes! https://www.thebenjamin.com/rooms-suites/deluxe-studios Breakfast was not included so we found a small place less that 100 yards away called New York Luncheonette. Its not much to look at from the outside but trust me – people queue here for breakfast so its worth the wait. https://newyorkluncheonette.netwaiter.com/new-york/about/ We ate here everyday and chatted to people on the tables next to us. We met some interesting people and I felt sad on my last day to say to the family run staff that we were leaving.
Our first full day there we had pre-booked the 911 museum. The official website to pre-book is confusing but take my word, all you need is the museum. You do not need a tour around the free memorials which are outside where the towers used to stand. They are accessible to all, but do pre-book the museum because it gets busy. This was something I felt I needed to do. It’s not a touristy thing in my opinion but rather to pay my respects. I still remember where I was when I first saw that shocking footage and it has never left me. I can tell you that its shocking and very emotional. It includes The Pentagon and Flight 93. There was a recording of a woman saying her plane has been hijacked but she is okay and sending her love. Of course, we all know what happened to flight 93 so I was properly sobbing my heart out by this time. After the 911 museum we needed some light relief so we went shopping at Century 21; it was just a quick visit but enough for us to know we needed to dedicate some time here. We decided to come back later in the week as this amazing superstore offers huge discounts. We walked down Wall Street right to the bottom of Manhattan to see the Statue of Liberty. You will not be surprised to hear my phone tells me I did 20k on this day. It was a struggle as I was not used to it (I’m probably the most unfit person you know) but I wore comfortable trainers and that helped. We had heard about Ellen’s Stardust Diner and decided to try it out for dinner. We had no idea what we let ourselves in for but it was a blast. You don’t go there for the quality of the food, you go there for the amazing musical numbers sung by the waiters and waitress. It has a walkway and be warned the tables are so tightly packed in that you need to pull the table out to get to your seat. However, this is all totally worth it. I was picked on for a song and had a waiter sing Barry Manilow’s Mandy to me with such passion that he dragged my husbands chair away to get closer and at the end pelted me with straws. I was laughing so hard and everyone cheered and clapped us both. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is YouTube footage of this! If you are a fan of musicals you have to visit! http://ellensstardustdiner.com/
Today was Hubby’s birthday. We had pre-booked the Empire State Building but with hindsight this was a mistake. It was pouring and I got soaked just getting there at 8am. Normally it sees 20k visitors a day but today it was more like 20 as there was officially no view. We were unable to change the ticket as it was pre-booked so we went up anyway. It’s a stunning building with such lovely art deco touches. The staff are all friendly and we chatted to them. One of the security guards, Julius, said how they get training to spot people who may jump off the top. I had never even considered that people will do this – he told me a story of someone who did but fell onto a ledge below and broke a leg. He had to call 911 on his mobile to get help. It was interesting and lovely that it wasn’t crowded. It felt like it was a private tour. Very special for his birthday – the only thing missing was the view!
After this we went to see Grand Central Station. It really is a sight to behold. A few weeks before we flew there was a three-part documentary about New York and they did a big piece on how the station has been restored. And by chance we met one of the staff members who featured in the documentary. She was so chuffed we had seen her on TV. She chatted to us not caring about the queue behind us. We made her day! I took my husband to eat across the road at Pershing Square but felt it was a bit overpriced and was disappointed at how keen they were for us to leave our table once we had paid our bill despite still having drinks on our table and I had just popped to the ladies when they were already clearing the table! From then I carefully suggested we head for Soho/Greenwich. I knew that Lafayette subway was having a special Bowie feature but was it asking too much to visit on Hubby’s birthday? Surprisingly he agreed and my poor husband spent his birthday afternoon taking photos of me with Bowie. He did a good job as one of the photos really looks like he is holding my hand. I felt very lucky that this was happening during my stay.
Thursday was always going to be Bowie day. It was my ticket to the Bowie Is exhibition. I have written a separate review of this which you can read here: https://www.jasminestorm.com/single-post/2018/05/04/By-the-time-I-got-to-New-York After the exhibition we met up with a friend who showed us around Brooklyn and walked across Brooklyn bridge. The bikes go very fast so make sure you keep to the pedestrian side. Brooklyn allows you to see the whole Manhattan skyline so its worth visiting. That evening we visited Times Square. I had never been to the rock-hard café so we went in but it was so overcrowded and full of teenagers that I said to find somewhere else to eat. Across the road was a place called Brooklyn diner and not only could they fit us in (seated in a booth) but the service was excellent as was the food. I was delighted to find this hidden gem and can’t get over the size of my Hubby’s pie! It was also the best burger I had throughout my stay. https://www.brooklyndiner.com/
Friday, we spent the day travelling in Chinatown and little Italy. We found Lombardi’s which was the first Italian American pizza place in New York and still uses the same oven which is over 100 years old. We did eat here on our last night but its very busy here so book or go early. http://www.firstpizza.com/ I’m not a huge pizza lover so probably not the best person to ask about pizza. We searched for this amazing little bakery called Ferrara’s but couldn’t find it. On our last night we did and can say it’s definitely worth visiting. It’s the best cake place in New York. http://www.ferraranyc.com/ Anyway I digress, back to Friday - we travelled on the Roosevelt cable car to Roosevelt Island which is the same cost as a normal subway ride but you get amazing views so worth a go although there isn’t much to see on the Island. I was feeling tired after all our walking so suggested we eat somewhere close our hotel. I googled Trip Advisor to see what was recommended locally. A small Italian came up just a few blocks away (see how I have adapted to the lingo – blocks not streets!). La Gioconda was like eating in someone’s front room it was so tiny – but that made it feel exclusive and the food was out of this world. https://www.lagiocondanyc.com/
I felt obliged to try the cheesecake in almost everywhere we ate. I hope you appreciate that I did this for you so you don’t have to! New York cheesecake is supposed to be special so I went out of my way to taste it for you. I can tell you the best cheesecake was not Lindy’s as expected (in fact don’t bother visiting – it felt tired and grubby). The best cheesecake was actually found by chance just down the road from where David Bowie used to eat in Soho. A tiny place called Fanelli’s that has a home made strawberry cheesecake. We also were impressed with the soup. http://www.fanelli-cafe.com/
Saturday I was planning to meet my Swedish penpal that I had started writing to when I was 13. She married and Italian and moved to NY many years ago now. We had never met in all these years and to begin with it felt a bit like a first date. She met me and we all walked around central park together. It was lovely and she felt like an old friend rather than a stranger. It was touching to visit John Lennon’s memorial and the famous Alice In Wonderland statue as well as Hans Christian Andersson. There were kids playing baseball in the park and an Eyewitness News van passed us by. I really felt like I was in a film! It was all so surreal. After we said goodbye, we strolled away from Central Park and I had the biggest pastrami on rye sandwich I had ever had! Even I couldn’t eat it all and I have an appetite.
We decided to visit the upper west side as Hubby had read about a Bazaar which was a bit like a posh car boot – but even the stalls ask for tax/tip on top of the price quoted. We visited a tiny café for lunch. It was called New Wave Café (we like new wave music so it suited us) and its huge menu offered a range of things but I opted for the chicken soup which was amazing. As we left we noticed a board outside with all famous faces that have eaten here – including The Sopranos! Who knew!! Whatcha gonna do?! It was a perfect surprise. http://newwavecafeon79th.com/ We visited a record shop but there was not much Bowie on offer…shame as I had hoped to bring some home with me. By the way we had trouble working out the subway on a weekend as there was a reduced service and a lot of the trains weren’t running but we did eventually get where we need to be. I took a photo of a homeless man sleeping on the train – the woman next to me told me not to do that as she has seen people beat up for worse but in New York you can really see the difference between the genuine homeless and the guy who walks on the subway with his smartphone saying he needs to feed his daughter and he is a veteran. Not convinced about him as much as the guy with no shoes who is so cold and dirty that he doesn’t even ask for money. Who would you give your money to?
Monday came around too soon and it was the day we were leaving – I was genuinely sad. Without knowing it I had fallen in love with New York. Maybe it’s the Londoner in me but it felt like home and I understood why Bowie had loved it. Goodbye New York – I will miss the people and the food, (especially the bagels) and the sights. It’s a perfect city break. As we had not booked a transfer back the hotel organised one for us. We liked the lady who drove us to JFK so much she gave us her personal card to contact her direct next time we are in the area. If you need a transfer contact Astrid on email@example.com
I feel this will not be my last visit to New York…but next stop is Las Vegas. Watch this space!
Shrek - a sneaky backstage tour at Milton Keynes Theatre
I felt just like an eight-year-old princess to be offered a backstage tour of Shrek. Even though my skin isn’t green and I am not quite Princess Fiona, I was very excited to see where the magic happens.
I stood on the stage in Milton Keynes theatre in the first time for over a decade. Although I don’t act anymore there is still a magical feeling of being on stage – even without an audience. It was quite emotional. But the tour waits for no one; not even Princess Jasmine Storm, so we headed off to see some of the props and set. I got to meet Brexit, Lord Farquaad’s royal steed and I got to tell The Gingerbread Man; Gingy to his friends - you know him, he is friends with the Muffin Man who lives on Drury Lane, how much I enjoyed his performance. I got to see all the costumes and feel how heavy some of them are. I feel for the cast members who play the pigs – especially in this hot weather. Shrek’s outfit is also padded and most of the outfits are very heavy and sturdy, the red and blue Duloc outfits, the armour – even Princess Fiona’s dress looks like its made from a heavy velvet. The deer is specially made for Shrek under a DreamWorks licence and is kept safely away from the other animals so she doesn’t come to any harm. I got to work out on Lord Farquaad’s barbells and was a bit star struck when Puss In Boots said hello to me. I never knew he recognised me or read my blog. What an honour! I did pass by the dragon and she really is very nice but I just looked her in the eye and went on my way. I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side. I saw different sets and the amazing rat shoes. I could have stayed there forever in this magical kingdom but they have to tell this wonderful story again tonight.
I’m a believer in Shrek and love this show which is on at Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday 5th August 2018 – Don’t miss it!
What a Feeling!
Jasmine Storm talks to Joanne Clifton about Flashdance, Strictly and more ahead of her visit to Milton Keynes Theatre in Flashdance.
Jasmine: Hi Joanne. Did you always want to dance?
Joanne: Well I come from a dancing family. My brother, Kevin, my parents and my grandparents all dance.
Jasmine: If you could have had another career what do you think you would like to have done?
Joanne: I did want to be a lorry driver. I even made a logo called Joanne’s mushrooms.
Jasmine: Ha ha I did not expect that answer. Do you miss strictly?
Joanne: yes, I do. I still watch it as Kevin is still in it.
Jasmine: lets talk about Flashdance. Do you relate to the character, Alex and her passion for dancing? What do you enjoy about playing her?
Joanne: She’s feisty. Before this I haven’t done a serious role so I am enjoying her. She is determined to work hard and she isn’t professionally trained as a dancer as I am, but I relate to her as I am not trained as a singer and actor but I am working on this.
Jasmine: What’s next after Flashdance?
Joanne: I have a few things lined up but cannot talk about them yet. Also, a secret project with Ben Adams my co-star in Flashdance. Watch this space!
Jasmine: Finally, can I ask what is your favourite style of dance?
Joanne: I love Tap but I can’t do it so it is ballroom.
Jasmine: Thanks for speaking with me. For the record, I have seen you dance and consider you an exceptional dancer. Last time I saw you dance you made me cry.
Joanne: Thank you. That’s very kind.
Joanne Clifton is currently starring in Flashdance which is coming to Milton Keynes Theatre from 16-21 July. Book your tickets here. This is one I wouldn’t miss for the world!
A hidden argument
There are many people who live with a hidden disability yet generally, the public at large seem to only see a physical disability as a disability, ie if they cannot visually see you are disabled, to them you are not. This attitude needs to change. People need to understand that if someone stands out of their wheelchair it is not because of a miracle (sadly) but a perception that you had assumed they couldn’t walk when maybe they use a wheelchair because they have MS, CFS or any condition which means they cannot walk far.
If you have a hidden disability you can be at the receiving end of a negative attitude from people. I was on a train a few years ago and chatting to my work colleague as we headed into London. Once the train had stopped a woman who had been sitting behind me started to shout at me saying that I spoke too loud for her to be able to study on the train. This was not a designated quiet coach and I was stunned at her reaction. I have been hard of hearing in my right ear since I was six years old and despite many operations on my ear, have learnt to live with it. I don’t even consider myself to have a disability as there are many more people out there with worse problems than me. However, there are times I cannot hear properly and that is usually where there is extraneous noise levels ie a pub/restaurant or on a train where the noise of the train and others talking can lead me to be louder than usual. I had to take a moment to understand what she was saying but reasoned that once she realised I had a hearing problem she would understand. I was wrong. She was nasty and judgemental and only thinking of her own needs. Firstly I shouldn’t have had to explain myself or disclose my disability and secondly I wasn’t in the wrong – I was just chatting on a train. What harm had I done? This still bothers me now, more than 10 years later. How should I have dealt with it? Should I have ignored her? Should I have told her its none of her business? This is the dilemma that someone with a hidden disability is faced with as soon as a member of the public questions their disability.
Here are a few suggestions of what to say if someone says you don’t look disabled:
You didn’t look judgemental but hey, looks are deceiving
Where’s your white coat then doctor?
On the outside I look fine but my insides are falling to pieces
Say, you don’t look human
Oh you can see inside my body can you?
I’d better bring a walking stick next time to shove it where the sun don’t shine
Give me your number and I’ll phone you when my business concerns you
I see you just got off the stupid bus
How am I supposed to look?
*Big sigh* – that’s a relief
I can amputate my leg if it makes it easier for you to see my disability
I’ve had my medication and it hasn’t worn off yet
You are right – on the outside I don’t
I know – I do a great impression of a healthy person
Okay, some of these are rather harsh but why do people need to look disabled and why do the public feel the need to judge them if they don’t? Education on hidden disabilities is really needed to stop people being put in this situation. So next time you see someone park in a disabled space without a wheelchair or use a disabled toilet, stop and think. Yes it maybe just an asshole who is taking disabled spaces because they are lazy…or it just might be they do have a disability.
People with hidden disabilities live with it everyday and do not need the stress of being judged or pressure of having to disclose something so private. Please be understanding. Be considerate. Be aware.
We Are Cult
I am delighted to say I have submitted my first piece for the We Are Cult website. It is a re-write of my 'Are You A True Bowie Fan?'.
I am a geek. I have always been a geek and knew it when, as a child, I asked my gran to take me to the first Star Wars movie. I grew up on a diet of Doctor Who, Space 1999 and Logan’s Run.
To read more and view some geeky photos of me, head over to We Are Cult website:
Are you a true Bowie fan?
What is the definition of a true fan? Why are some fans seen as more dedicated than others? This is something that I have been pondering for a while. There are clearly different levels of fandom but how do you measure this? Does the size of your collection equate to the size of the fan? Does the amount of times you have seen them live mean you are a bigger fan than those who haven’t? How do you know when you are a die-hard? It’s not an easy thing to measure.
I have been called a Bowie die-hard. This title was bestowed on me by others but why do they think this about me? Well let’s explore some possible reasons and see if I am a true fan.
So, let’s start with the size of your collection. For many years my collection wasn’t much of a collection at all. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to collect all things Bowie, but simply due to a lack of funds. I would say I am still as much a fan as I ever was. Yes, I have a nicely sized collection now but being admin on the Facebook’s ‘David Bowie Collector’s Group’ has shown just how lacking my collection is. There you can see 30+ covers of the same album. I may have 4 or 5 of the same album but I have not collected them for each different country that it was released in. Also, I do not spend money on items that have gone for silly money and for this reason, I currently do not have the RSD Starman picture disc or the yellow vinyl Let’s Dance in my collection. So, if the size of a collection is a measurement of a true fan then I fail. And I do not believe that a lack of funds should equate to a measurement of a true fan. That can be dictated by life and your personal circumstances.
Perhaps you a true fan for the amount of times you have seen them live? I have only seen Bowie live four times. I feel blessed that I saw him those times and of course wish I had seen him more. He did keep touring while I was pregnant (okay so that is two tours) and I didn’t like the Tin Machine years as I felt he was having a mid-life crisis. This is David Bowie; he can’t just become a band member! So, I never went. Of course, now this is one of the biggest regrets of my life, but again funds do come into it. Raising a family meant funds were limited and I put my children first. I am so pleased that I went to the Reality tour as this turned out to be the last time he would do a big tour. At the time, I had no idea that this would be the last time I would ever see him again, so I do feel blessed that I went. Despite the restrictions on trains home and the weather (it poured down), I am so glad I went. However, I know people who have seen him more than 100 times. I know people who have met him personally. I know people who have a story to tell about him. It breaks my heart to say I have none of this. Does this mean I am not a true fan?
I rarely wear T-shirts. So how do people know if you are a true fan if you do not wear a Bowie t-shirt? I don’t wear them as I don’t think they flatter me – not because I don’t like them. You may not be able to wear a t-shirt to work either so how can you spot a true fan? Of course, you could suggest a more permanent solution to the t-shirt is the tattoo. It is certainly true that since David’s passing, many hundreds of Bowie fans have had a tattoo to mark their dedication permanently. This does include me as three months after his death I got my first ever tattoo. But I do not think it is fair to say that only fans with tattoos love him and those who don’t have a tattoo are less of a fan. A tattoo is a very permanent personal decision and it could be classed as one measure but certainly not the only thing that would define a die-hard.
So, it’s not about money and it’s not about the size of your collection. Neither is it about how many times you have seen them live or if you have met them personally.
There are different levels of fandom. That is certain. But the real measurement of that is none of the above. It is about your dedication to them. It’s about what is in your heart. How much you love them.
I do find myself talking Bowie to random shop owners, I find myself mentioning a line from a song if it fits a situation. I talk Bowie all the time to those who listen. I cried and mourned for him as if he was a member of my own family when he passed away. My website is dotted with blogs about my feelings for him. It is for these reasons that I believe my friends call me a die-hard. And although I would never say this about myself, I consider myself honoured to have that title bestowed on me. I am a Bowie die-hard.
David And I
It was a regular Thursday evening and I had settled down to watch MasterChef. The phone rang. It was my friend Debbie. ‘What are you doing tonight’ she asks. ‘Nothing’, I reply reluctantly. I am a planner so I am not keen on doing things on the spur of the moment. ‘I have two tickets for the David and I exhibition tonight’, She said excitedly. We both knew about this. We had talked about going many times but had left it and then the event had sold out. Yet here she was offering me tickets. ‘I’ll drop them over but I can’t go’ she said. I called my son and told him who jumped at the opportunity.
Less than half an hour later I was driving around an industrial estate looking for Mini’s. The exhibition was held in a car dealership. I was greeted warmly and offered a drink. Bowie playing in the background. Yes, this is exactly how it should be, I thought to myself. I saw a few familiar faces, after all, Milton Keynes is my home town, but of course was drawn to the stunning photography of David Bowie. I took a deep breath and started to walk slowly around the exhibition. I immediately had my favourites which invoked strong emotions and I had to blink back tears and think about the positives. He looked so happy in some of the shots. It was hard to be sad.
Denis O’Regan has photographed Bowie several times but the image you will all be familiar with is the shot of the crowd at the Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983 at Milton Keynes Bowl. Here we are in Milton Keynes with that photo almost finding its way home. I met up with Denis and told him of my experiences of being at that gig. Not only my first ever David Bowie gig but my first ever gig on my own at the tender age of 16. Denis is an extremely nice man and seemed genuinely interested in my stories. I told him about my blog and mentioned I had already been lucky to have seen some of his work last year at Heddon Street. But it never occurred to me to ask him about his personal stories about Bowie. We both knew this thread connected us but it was almost an upspoken rule.
How someone chooses just one of the pieces on show is beyond me. I loved so many of them that I couldn’t make a quick decision as it needs serious thought. Where will it hang? What size shall I pick? Do I want 70’s Bowie or 80’s Bowie? It’s not an easy decision. However even if you don’t buy a piece its worth going to see this exhibition. What a wonderful Thursday evening it was. Nothing regular about it at all!
The moral of this story is if this event is coming to a town near you – don’t hesitate – buy a ticket!
Find out more and see if it is coming near you here:
The best Zizzi's in the world!
Sara Captain is a talented artist who has transformed a Zizzi’s in Beckenham. However, it is no ordinary Zizzi’s. It is the original Three Tuns pub that David Bowie started The Arts Lab in the back. It is an historical part of David Bowie’s early years before he was famous.
Zizzi’s are aware of this and respectfully pay homage to him throughout the restaurant. There is a glass spelling out SPACEBOY with lyrics of songs. There is a photo of the tributes left when they held a special Bowie event in 2016 and there are now two brand new murals that Sara has lovingly created especially for the restaurant.
Here, in front of the ’69 Bowie mural of David Bowie looking down on us, I talked to Sara over an Italian lunch.
Q:When did you first start to draw/ paint?
A: As a kid, there was a turning point at school, I painted a sky and was the only one to paint it all the way down so from then on I was encouraged to draw. My dad and grandad also painted. I was talent scouted at a street fair – I was supposed to do caricatures but did portraits instead and had a queue of people. I ended up working for an advertising agency as an illustrator.
Q: How has bowie influenced you?
A: He pushed me to be the person I am. I realised you could communicate whatever you wanted to.
Q: How did it come about that you got involved in The Three Tuns/Zizzi’s?
A: Adam, who does local Bowie tours, introduced me to the manager, Lukasz and mentioned my work. They contacted me about what they were looking for.
Q: What talent do you yearn for?
A: To make money – Ha Ha!. But seriously to be able to understand and stop evil.
Q: What do you mean by evil?
A: When you observe people or things that harm others and they seem to enjoy it – that is evil. For example, racism, jealousy, greed, selfishness and a lack of empathy.
Q: What food sums up happiness?
A: Raw fish or a rare steak
Q: Who are your artistic influences?
A: Expressionists such as Schiele and Klimt and abstract expressionists such as Willem De Kooning and Franz Kline. I also like Leonardo da Vinci and the Italian Cartoonist, Hugo Pratt.
Q: What new music do you listen to?
A: I like Radiohead, Blues music, Amy Winehouse and Amy MacDonald, although I’m not sure how new they are.
Q: Tell me the story of how you lost and found your muse.
A: I was staying in a holiday home and we were unloading the car. Someone stole my art out of the back of the boot while we were unloading. I was so upset I felt I lost my muse after that. It had included a graphic novel about the French revolution which I had still been working on. This was around 1997. In January 2016 after hearing the news, I felt the need to draw Bowie and that my muse had returned. I started to paint him a lot and people showed an interest.
Q: What is your favourite Bowie era/album?
A: I really like the Berlin years. Low is my favourite album but I have a special place for Heroes. My first kiss was to Heroes.
Q: Who or what is your greatest love?
A: David Bowie and my boyfriend
Q: If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
A: To have love and empathy for people.
Sara has produced two pieces for Zizzi’s. The first is the Bowie ’69 Mural. This shows Bowie in 1969, with a cascade of curly hair, dreaming about future success and reflecting on the ideals that had inspired the Arts Lab. The lyrics are from 'Memory of a Free Festival'. This is 1969 and a new decade beckons where when Bowie will finally find a way to become the star he knows he is destined to be.
The Bowie ’78 is a more confident Bowie who has known fame. In this image he is relaxed and looking directly at us. He is saying: live life to the full, don't be afraid to experiment, push yourself beyond your limits and your comfort zone, lest you should look back and regret not having done so. Fans will also recognise the nod to the cut-out technique Bowie used for writing lyrics.
Zizzi’s in Beckenham is a must for any self-respecting Bowie fan visiting the sites that were important in those early years. So while visiting The Bowie Bandstand and where Haddon Hall used to stand, pay a visit to Zizzi’s and complete the Bowie tour.
Zizzi’s can be found at 157 High St, Beckenham BR3 1AE
More of Sara’s work can be found on her website:
Bowie wins two Brits!
The Brits have always had a bad reputation. The first year with Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood had so many cringe-worthy moments that it was deemed a disaster. It has worked hard to try to throw off its reputation but it is still not as respected as Grammy or an Mobo. However occasionally it get things very right and last night at the 2017 Brit awards it realised that Bowie was genuinely worth honouring it got things very right indeed!
David Bowie won best British Male Solo Artist and also Mastercard British Album of the year for Blackstar. Some of you may think he has only won it because he is no longer with us and he himself would have probably not cared less about winning, but the truth is he is a worthy winner. Blackstar is a masterpiece and a very original piece of work. It is up there with his most acclaimed albums.
Whatever your view – This was a win for the fans. We not only wanted him to win because he deserves it but also because he lives on in our hearts.
The first win for Best British Solo Artist was picked up by Michael C Hall. Michael C Hall was Bowie’s choice to star in Lazarus. The first thing Michael said was that ‘If David Bowie could be here tonight ... he probably wouldn't be here tonight’. He went on to say, ‘he accepts this testament to a man beholden to nothing but his own boundless imagination and daring whose ever expanding artistic vitality simultaneously soothes us and sears us and astonishes us’ It was very moving. Michael C Hall was a great choice to pick up the award as he spoke from the heart and when he said ‘Maybe he is here tonight, I don't know.’ You could hear hearts breaking and tears streaming all over the country.
The second award for Mastercard British Album of the year for Blackstar was even more special and unexpected. It was picked up by Duncan Jones, Bowie’s son. His words were so moving.
‘I lost my dad last year, but I also became a dad and I was spending a lot of time, after getting over the shock, of trying to work out what would I want my son to know about his granddad, and I think it would be the same thing that most of my dad's fans have taken over the last 50 years: That he's always been there supporting people who think they're a little bit weird or a little bit strange – a little bit different. And he's always been there for them, So this award is for all the kooks and all the people who make the kooks.’
Duncan dedicated it to us kooks. Its for the fans. For all those who were strange or different. I cannot tell you how much that means to all the fans but to me it was just what I needed to hear. Thank you for this Duncan. It meant so much.
Later on Twitter he added an extra something. ‘I did forget one little bit of the speech though… Fuck cancer. Fuck it right off the planet.’
Our feelings exactly. Love on ya.
Left: Michael C Hall
Below: Duncan Jones and the Tweet.
Save our HMV!
So, I hear that HMV in Milton Keynes is closing down and moving to a site a third of its
current size. Speaking to friends around the country it seems to be happening all over
and not just in MK. But unlike many other cities, In Milton Keynes Shopping Centre,
HMV is the last music shop left, as Zavvi and Virgin went many years ago and
independent music shops cannot afford the rents. It will obviously mean some staff
will be made redundant and they will stock much less in the new site than currently.
So why has this happened? If you cast your mind back a few years HMV was already
in trouble and was luckily saved by a backer. But if you go instore there is not much
change despite the fact that vinyl is now outselling digital downloads for the first time in history. Surely if you know you were in trouble you would look at what you need to change to get things back on track, instead of putting your head in the sand as Woolworths did.
In my opinion from a customer point of view this is what is wrong with HMV.
Their customer demographic has changed but they haven’t. Most people who shop in HMV are over 30. It’s for those of us who want something tangible in their hands.
HMV has been notorious for pricing the same item with different prices in the same store. This doesn’t make you feel you are getting the best price guaranteed. This feels like they are hoping you don’t notice the difference and pick up a copy of the higher priced item. It’s not a good strategy and anyway – we all check to see if it is cheaper on Amazon before buying so it’s not a strategy that is working.
They have diversified too much. How much of the store is headphones, books, cups, keyrings and novelty items such pop heads? The cost vs the footage isn’t worth he space given over to stocking many of these items.
Any specialist items are rarely accessible in HMV. Not just record store day (which is only open to independent stores). This encourages customers to search online instead.
My suggestions would be to address the issues above. In point one, do you want us to spend more time in your store? Give us somewhere to sit down for a rest in-between looking at items? A café on the top floor would work perfectly as it would make money at the same time. Waterstones have discovered this and is very successful. It would easily work with music shops too. Point number two should be dropped as a strategy. We want value for money and will happily buy in your store if we feel it’s a fair price. Point three is a no-brainer. The shelves should be stocked with items that are best sellers and high value items that deserve the footage. The T-shirt wall looks cool but does it earn its space? My final point would be to have a second-hand section where we can get first pressings, or unusual items, coloured vinyl and limited editions would all work to bring in more customers. Make it feel independent and that you may find something special, rather than generic items sold in every store in the country.
I am simply a customer of HMV but truly believe that if we don’t say something now, moving HMV to smaller stores will be the beginning of the end.
Central Milton Keynes HMV closes down at the end of March 2017.
Save our HMV!
Happy Birthday Milton Keynes!
To celebrate the 50th birthday of Milton Keynes I attended the film
premiere of Lee Scriven’s new film ‘I must adjust’ which is a
documentary about people who moved to Milton Keynes during the
1970’s. It was a very moving film and not only told the story of many
pioneers of Milton Keynes but individuals who shaped not only their
lives but how Milton Keynes has developed into the proud city it is today.
Yes, I say ‘city’. That is because anyone who grew up here calls it a city.
There is a city centre where the shops are. There are still signs on the A5 that say ‘The borough and new city of Milton Keynes’. So we don’t have a cathedral, but we have a church that aspires to be St Pauls. So the Queen doesn’t call us a city, but she still chooses to visit us and celebrate our achievements with us. We are not just concrete cows and roundabouts. Milton Keynes was built with heart. And that is what we are celebrating.
Lee’s film really did resonate with me. Many of the people featured talked about how much mud there was. Apparently so much mud they had to pay a lot of money to keep cleaning the streets. But I just remember the mud and building sites as my playground. I used to pretend I was an explorer and find bits of old china. I used to run to the top of the mud mountain and sing The Carpenter’s ‘I’m on top of the world’. I’m sure our parents would have not been impressed if they had known – but this was the 1970s and things were not as they are today. As long as I was home for dinner, I could play out as long as I wanted.
I remember drinking the tap water – it used to come out a cloudy brown colour. We had to run it for five minutes to get it clear. Maybe that’s why I stick to bottled water today. I discovered a war bunker on the way to school (around Wolverton area) and told a few friends. I thought it was so exciting but one of my friends must have told their parents because it soon got filled in. I had imagination. When the kids of today say there is nothing to do they have no idea what nothing to do is! In Milton Keynes in the 1970’s; it was what you made of it.
1979 was a significant year. It was the year that the city centre was completed. A massive shopping centre which at the time was the largest under covered centre in Europe. It was later where I had my first Saturday job in Woolworths. It was significant to the whole of the population of Milton Keynes and so cool that Duran Duran did a photo shoot here as well as Cliff Richard recording his ‘Wired for sound’ video. (Okay, not so cool). In 1979 the Agora in Wolverton also opened its doors and it was where I spent most of my weekends roller-skating.
Today I still choose to live here. I am very proud to have been born in London and consider myself a Londoner but would never live there now. However, much I love London, it is dirty and crowded, people are rude and always in a hurry and the air pollution is much worse. Milton Keynes is brilliantly located for commuting both by train and car. It is situated between Birmingham and London. Why wouldn’t you choose to live in Milton Keynes?
Thank you Lee for your inspiring film. And Happy Birthday Milton Keynes.
End Of Year Review 2016...or end of tears?
2016 has not been a good year for many of us but It started with such promise. David Bowie had just realised Blackstar to high acclaim and it was going to be a year that I celebrate a significant birthday.
However, with no warning only 10 days into 2016, David Bowie was cruelly taken away and I had no idea how profoundly this would affect me. I have loved him since I was 12. He had always been there in the background, sometimes supporting me, sometimes quietly watching my life unfold. I didn’t really believe he was gone. On 16th January I set off on my Bowie Pilgrimage and met with friends who felt the same as me. We visited Brixton and Heddon Street as well as the house he was born in – and later that night, we all sobbed as we sung his songs.
Bowie was hugely significant to me and his loss was a huge void. However, it was not just the loss of Bowie that has called 2016 a bad year. Terry Wogan was a legend and for years I watched Eurovision purely for his sarcasm. And it didn’t stop there. Ronnie Corbett died from Motor Neurone Disease. Ronnie was one half of The Two Ronnies and I grew up with their sense of humour. I loved their dry wit and play on words and still find their sketches hilarious today. It was a terrible loss. Alan Rickman was the same age as Bowie and I am sure would have had much more coverage over his loss, if Bowie had still been with us. Rickman was an actor with a huge range from the troubled husband in Love Actually to the best baddie ever in Die Hard.
Just as we thought the worst was over, it was announced that Prince who was only in his 50’s, had gone too. Purple Rain had been one of my most played albums in the 80s. How can this be? Paul Daniels was another and I had met him many years ago. Although he was not as popular today, in the 80’s he had a prime-time TV show and was fantastic at sleight of hand.
In my personal life, my youngest son was taken seriously ill and hospitalised for a week in April and again in May and September. The experience was made worse by neglect of the surgical consultant and I wrote to PALS on my son’s behalf to complain. No one should have to go through what he has gone through and I now believe that everyone in hospital should be offered an advocate to speak on their behalf. My son is recovering now but this experience has left us both wary of medical professionals.
However, my End Of Year review is not going to be all doom and gloom. If you dig hard enough there are a few gems. Through my grief of Bowie, I have met lots of new friends who loved him as I do. (yes, that is still present tense). And it was good to see them again in July for the annual netters gathering. I was once again nominated as a finalist for my blog, ‘It’s a wonderful life’ which inspired me to start my own website.
Heaven 17 have always been a great band. But this year was 35 years since my favourite album, Penthouse and Pavement had been released and there was a national tour to celebrate it. To make it even more special the second half of the gig was going to be a BEF special. (British Electric Foundation) which meant special guests including the lovey Mari Wilson and original Sex Pistol, Glen Matlock. And I also saw Heaven 17 at the intimate Jazz Café gig where they wished me a happy birthday in front of the whole audience. That really was a special moment.
Yes, I have truly had to dig deep to find those gems of good moments. One of my favourites was my significant party. It was a very glam event. Set in Birmingham, with friends making the journey to celebrate with me from as far south as Southampton, as far north as Thornaby and as international as Germany. The theme was Studio 54 meets The Blitz and included a 70s-disco set, a Blitz set, a hi-energy set and other tracks that have been the soundtrack to my life. I had two Fabulous DJ’s – Only After Dark founder, David Wright and the fabulous Symix. I also have some wonderful photos from Stagedive photographer, Tony Gaskin. The dress code was glamorous and stylish so people could come with a 70’s or 80’s theme or anything glam. If you know me it’s always dress to impress! I couldn’t tell others to dress up and not do so myself, so I had my dress made. Not only did I have my dress made but I had the material made. I wore a dress with photos of me throughout the years on it. At least I knew no-one else would be wearing what I was wearing! It was a fabulous event and made me thankful for all my friends family and all who bring something to my life.
So, at this time of year which is supposed to be goodwill to all men, but the media tells us of a horrific terrorist attack in Berlin and politicians being shot dead, here is my Christmas wish…
I wish you health. Without good health, you cannot do all the wonderful things you want to. It’s more valuable than any money or expensive handbags. I wish you all good health.
I wish you love. The Beatles were right when they said ‘All you need is Love’.. It really does make the world go around. We all want to be loved – just watch the film, Love Actually again to remind yourself.
And finally, I wish you happiness. You can all be happy. It’s not about the biggest present at Christmas or the car you drive or the job you have. Happiness is a state of mind and you can choose to be happy and try to see the silver lining – even in difficult years like this one.
Let’s all look forward with hope and good intentions. Let’s not make New Year Resolutions but make life goals that are achievable and realistic. Let’s make this world a better place.
Love to you all. Xx
It's Love, Actually
We built this city on rock n roll
Milton Keynes always gets a hard time from those who don’t ‘get it’. Yes, we have roundabouts and concrete cows – but we are so much more. A new book by Lee Scriven shows us in pictures from our humble beginnings to where we are now.
Just looking through this book felt like my own history. I was born in London but came to Milton Keynes as a child and grew up here. (Just like Freddie Burretti). I worked in ‘The Club’ at The Point, for a year when it first opened, had my first Saturday job in Woolworths in the city centre and my first Bowie gig was at the legendary National Bowl. I love the fact this book calls Milton Keynes a city. Yes, we get it. We don’t need the Queen to give us city status to be proud of where we live. We love it here!
I was invited to the book launch and an exhibition that accompanies it. It was almost a who’s who of everyone who is anyone in Milton Keynes. Of course, I was there to document it. Lee Scriven and Pete Winkleman who both have given so much to our city. The book also covers the legendary Jim Marshall (of Marshall Amps – Yes, they started in Milton Keynes!), John Dankworth and Cleo Lane (without whom we wouldn’t have The Stables venue) and my dear friend, Caz Tricks, who I have known since I was 15 (It’s a shame The Starting Gate wasn’t featured in the book!) and is not only known as a singer (The Blues Collective), Compare at many music gigs, director and actor at many stage performances covering a range of works and most of all – one of the best people on the planet!
The exhibition covers some of the movers and shakers that have made Milton Keynes what it is. You can visit this exhibition for free until the end of January 2017 at The Event Pace. Milton Keynes Library. The book, we built this city on Rock n Roll is available to purchase for £15.
Coming up to a big age I find myself reflecting a lot on the past. I feel very lucky to have grown up in the post punk generation. We learnt early about diversity and accepting each other for our differences. There were punks, new romantics and even the odd rocker all getting along together. This was in the days before ‘Goth’ existed. I classed myself as ‘Alternative’ and still prefer that term today. I don’t like to be catagorised into a box and really threw people when I told them enjoyed a bit of Abba.
The post punk generation was creative. We made our own fashions and music. Never had
bands been so stylish! But it wasn’t just about looks. The new electronic sounds coming out
of this era was like nothing that had been heard before. David Bowie himself went backstage
at an early Human League gig and told them they were the future of music. A high accolade.
But most of all we all believed we could achieve our dreams. It was an exciting and vibrant
times, full of colour with big hair, big make up and big ambitions. My dreams have changed
a bit over the years. Back then, I dreamed of being an actress (I do have Lamda qualifications)
and loved being on the stage. But dreams change as you grow and now instead of being on
the stage I review a lot of theatre instead. This is not the frustrations of an actress that never
quite made it…this is actually where I want to be. I love going to theatre and gigs and turning a big number isn’t going to change a thing.
So despite a few more days of clinging onto my 40’s for dear life I have forgotten that turning 50 means…
1) I qualify for saga and that awful life assurance for the over 50s!
2) Travel insurance goes up
3) Age UK can support me
Well f**k that shit.... if you know me you know that nothing will change. I will still be gigging and reviewing. I'm still me!
How many 50 year olds crimp their hair and wear dresses like me? We are the post punk generation and the rules are about to change!!
Looking back is for old folk. And I'm not old! The best is yet to come!