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Monthly Archives: March 2014

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I’ll Be Loving You Forever: NKOTB Celebrate 30 Years With Vegas Bash

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Back in 1994, I was listening to a radio interview on Capital Radio where presenter Clive Warren was speaking to Boston boy band New Kids On The Block as they made their comeback after an absence of three years. During this interview, Donnie Wahlberg revealed that the band had been together for ten years.

“Ten years!” exclaimed Warren, “that’s incredible!”

As they were back in the day!

As they were back in the day!

And indeed it was. Despite a few exceptions, pop acts aren’t expected to last longer than a couple of years so ten years seemed like a lifetime, and as I sat at home listening to the interview while having naughty thoughts about that Jordan, I shared Warren’s sense of amazement.

The very first album cover three decades ago

The very first album cover three decades ago

 

Fast forward to 2014 and guess what? New Kids On The Block – or NKOTB as they like to be called – have announced that they will be hosting a four day party and concert extravaganza in sin city itself, Las Vegas, to celebrate – wait for it – thirty years since the group was formed. That’s right – THIRTY YEARS!!!

Las Vegas: The soon-to-be scene of much musical mayhem!

Las Vegas: The soon-to-be scene of much musical mayhem!

It’s not a typo of any kind – the New Kids were formed by Maurice Starr in 1984 when they really were just, er, New Kids. Many Blockheads have taken to the forums to say that although they are delighted by news of the Las Vegas residency at the Axis at Planet Hollywood and the fact that the beloved boy band have been together for thirty years… the news also made them feel very old! Thankfully for me, I never did get past the age of fifteen, so I don’t feel old – but I am wondering where all those years went…

 

I still remember the very first time I saw the ’80s favourites. It was November 1989 and I was sat at home watching Top Of The Pops with my dad and sister. The New Kids were starting to make a name for themselves on this side of the Atlantic. I’d already heard (You Got It) The Right Stuff played on the radio a million times which was just as well because I never got bored of it, and all my classmates couldn’t stop going on about them (I went to an all-girls school!) I’d had phases of being into other pop acts: Wham! Duran Duran, Bros, Brother Beyond, Kylie and Jason… but seeing NKOTB for the first time doing the New Kids dance was something I will never forget. Was it possible to get five hotties in one band? Did Jordan Knight need a license to be that gorgeous? Where did they get those magic feet from? Damn, they could sing! I fell in love with Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jon and Jordan there and then and it has most definitely not been a phase because I’m still besotted with them after all these years.

New Kids On The Block And Backstreet Boys Shop At Sugar Factory At Paris Las Vegas

The band went on to sell over eighty million records; become the kings of merchandising; have their own cartoon show; appear on just about every music program and talk show (as well as in our dreams!) and generally conquered the world with their combination of smooth vocals, choreography that kids were trying to recreate in school playgrounds and drop-dead-pass-out-and-die looks. They were also the boy band who gave us the erm, boy band! Love them or hate them for that, there is no denying that there have been a zillion boybands since them, all trying to emulate the success of the New Kids. Take That were formed as a British boy-band to rival the New Kids, and Boyzone’s Shane Lynch has revealed that he harboured ambitions to join a boy-band after seeing New Kids On The Block on the telly. To be honest, I really do wish that boy-bands had began and stopped with the New Kids because there hasn’t been a group who has been even half as good as the New Kids – not really a surprise as you can’t improve on perfection!

Beautiful Boston where it all began

Beautiful Boston where it all began

Sadly along with the highs, there have also been a lot of lows. An extremely loud cracking noise that could be heard all over the world in 1991 was identified as the sound of millions of young hearts breaking as New Kids On The Block announced their split amid rumours of escalating tensions and rivalries among the band. Even before that there were scandals as Donnie Wahlberg was accused of starting a fire at a hotel and was rumoured to be living with a much older woman (remember this was in the days when teen heart-throbs couldn’t admit to having a girlfriend!) The comeback in 1994 proved to be short-lived: NKOTB went their separate ways for good (so it seemed) once die-hard fans ripped up their posters and moved on to the latest pop group du jour. Jordan Knight later admitted in interviews that launching a solo career was hard as he was regarded as a has-been at the tender age of twenty six and couldn’t escape the band’s perceived cheesy image.

The NKOTB dolls

The NKOTB dolls

During the years that followed, the New Kids virtually faded into obscurity and never again graced magazine covers or were top billing at any show.  There were a few precious glimpses of our favourite Bostonians over the years: Donnie and Joe were both forging ahead with acting careers; Jordan embarked on a solo career, and Danny got a place in short-lived boy-band Upper Street. Jon was the only one who withdrew completely from the crazy world of showbiz and settled for a more quieter life, although he did make the odd television appearance.

As cartoon characters

As cartoon characters

But then everything changed in 2008 when a miracle happened and the five bad brothers from the Beantown decided to make one final attempt at pop domination. And thank goodness for that because they’ve achieved what they set out to do plus healed the hearts of the fans who never went away. The rest is history and the band are still going strong.

I was so sure I was going to be Mrs. Knight... along with a million other girls!

I was so sure I was going to be Mrs. Knight… along with a million other girls!

The last thirty years have been one hell of a ride! Speaking to People magazine, Jordan Knight revealed that passing years have done little to curb their enthusiasm:

” It is cool because it is still the same because no matter how old you get, there is still a kid inside of you.”

Knight also went on to say that it was the success of their annual cruises that gave them the Vegas idea and inspired them to host the residency and have a “cruise on land” in order to do something special to mark this momentous occasion – and the boys are really looking forward to performing at night and hosting pool parties during the day : 

“At the end of the four days, I’m sure we will be almost dead. But it is fun and kind of intoxicating just hanging out with all the fans.”

Donnie Wahlberg added in a statement:

“The band has been focusing on all sorts of solo projects and now prepping for our European tour, but we knew we wanted to do something special Stateside for 2014. We knew we had a limited time block where we could do something fun and we knew we had to make it memorable! What better place than Vegas?”

Paul Natkin

 

And what better people to party with than the New Kids On The Block? The short festival will be called After Dark and kicks off on July 10. Tickets go on sale on 4th April. Will I be going? Well, I’m trying to twist Hubby’s arm and convincing him we need a Las Vegas holiday around that time but he’s having none of it. I am working on it though. After all i’s not every day your fave pop band celebrates their thirtieth anniversary.

 

Damn! Now I do feel old!

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The Cookery Year: A Meal For All Seasons

When it comes to cookery books, most people can’t wait to get hold of Jamie Oliver’s or Nigella’s latest offering – and I’m no different. But there are no words to describe just how thrilled I was to have recently got my hands on a copy of The Cookery Year by Reader’s Digest. I’ve been hunting around for this iconic cook book for a long time, hoping to add it to my overwhelming collection of cookery books. For me, this little gem is the king of cook books – and an integral part of my childhood.

The Cookery Year as I remember it

The Cookery Year as I remember it

From the moment Reader’s Digest published The Cookery Year in the early seventies, it became the cook book no kitchen was complete without. It contained a month by month guide to seasonal produce plus recipes. My mother was the proud owner of a copy from the seventies, and being the strange child that I was, I used to spend hours poring over the pages. I must have been the only five year old who knew what a blini was! It was this book which got me interested in food and cooking at a young age all those years ago, and it introduced me to the delicious summer pudding; the delightful ouefs a la neige, and the flaming brilliant Crepes Suzettes!

My new copy of the cookery year

My copy of the cookery year

But what I liked most about The Cookery Year were the beautifully illustrated opening pages listing information about different types of fruit, vegetables, cuts of meat, fish and cheese, complete with instructions for preparation and cooking. I enjoyed looking the pictures and once I’d learnt to read, I was also able to find out when certain produce was available and preferable cooking methods though why a primary school-aged child needed to know such information, I’ll never know! Who’d have thought that The Cookery Year could be so educational? Furthermore whenever I played the Name Game, with friends, I was very rarely stuck when it came to the fruit and vegetable category – and I have The Cookery Year to thank for that!

August - my month as it appeared in the 1970s edition

August – my month as it appeared in the 1970s edition

Now my mother’s cook book – the same one I used to look through when I was a child – certainly looks as though it’s been through the wars. Battered and worn, with the cover and many of its pages missing, this book has been well and truly used! I remember Mum used to follow the recipes for some of the cakes that featured in this book and I did make something from The Cookery Year when I was about twelve – orange foam sauce which we served with spotted dick as we’d run out of the milk we needed to make the custard so this recipe saved the day!

Poultry

Poultry

Being reunited with this book is like being reunited with a missing piece of my childhood. I thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with this cook book; flicking through the pages; feeling amazed at how much I’d remembered… I came across recipes and photos I instantly recognised. Grapefruit in brandy… scallops served in the shell… turbot with sweetcorn… salad elona… it was as though I was being transported back in time. I also came across dishes I hadn’t heard of in a long time which were extremely popular when I was growing up such as cock-a-leekie soup, melon and prawn basket, Steak Diane and peach melba. And oh my goodness, kidneys! A lot of kidneys were consumed in the seventies and eighties if these recipes are anything to go by. Maybe there are some changes in twenty-first century cooking for which we can be thankful!

Cuts of meat

Cuts of meat

The edition of The Cookery Year which I have found is from 2009 rather than from the 1970s and even though it’s done it’s best to adhere to the original format, there are differences. The hardback cover of the 1970s edition featured a variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices, artistically arranged and photographed, while the 2009 edition has charming illustrations of fruit vegetables and fish emblazoned across its paperback cover. Some of the photographs inside the book are different to what I remember and some have been omitted altogether. Furthermore some recipes have also been removed such as the delightful ‘bunnies on the lawn’ that I always hoped my mum would make for my next birthday party.

The yummy cake page I remember so well which is missing from the 2009 edition

The yummy cake page I remember so well which is missing from the 2009 edition

Just as clothes go out of fashion, so does food and there are some dishes here which probably haven’t stood the test of time. I can’t see anyone serving up tomato ice as a starter or the delightfully named kidney scramble when they fancy a light snack. But there are still a huge number of classics such as chicken pie, tarte tatin, boef bourguignonne, and Lancashire hot pot as well as the famous summer pudding which outnumber the dishes which now seems outdated, so The Cookery Year is still a worthwhile buy. And in any case, any recipes that seem a bit dated can be adapted to modern tastes and to what is now available, or simply stick a ‘retro’ label on it and it will immediately be en vogue again!

Apparently not so common! Well maybe in another time...

Apparently not so common! Well maybe in another time…

It’s also amazing to see just how far we’ve come from the seventies in terms of food. Offal seems to be off the menu in a lot of households and restaurants, thank goodness. Chilli chocolate, salted caramel, pulled pork and many of today’s current food trends didn’t appear to exist then. In the seventies edition of The Cookery Year, peppers, avocados and courgettes were considered ‘less common vegetables’. Fast forward forty years and everyone’s fridge is full of them! And despite there surprisingly being lots of foreign influences, it’s missing a lot of the Thai, Japanese and South American flavours which are so popular today.

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I really do think that every household could benefit from owning a copy of The Cookery Year. It really is a must-have book. Those who already have this cook book have said that they’ve never really needed another cookery book as this one has everything they need to develop their culinary skills. It’s perfect for beginners to cooking enthusiasts alike; serious homemakers to those setting up home for the first time; parents and children – I even saw a comment from a lady who said that her three year old daughter sits on the work top looking through the book while her mother cooks. Sounds very familiar! Another mother has said that she uses the opening chapters as a teaching aid about food for her children. There are also menu suggestions for special occasions like weddings, Christmas and dinner parties. To say this book is extremely useful is an understatement – it’s the cook’s bible!

I’m so glad that The Cookery Year is part of my life again. I honestly don’t know how I lived without it for so long. I love the format, the month by month guide, the menus, the advice, the recipes, the illustrations, the photographs – in short, EVERYTHING! However, I’m still going to keep my eye out for an original edition like my mum had. What can I say – I’m so old school!

So I’m going to leave you with the recipe  from The Cookery Year for the orange foam sauce I made many years ago with great success. It really is a delicious, versatile and – if a twelve year old can do it – easy to make sauce. It goes well with most pies, tarts, hot pudding and cakes and even Christmas pudding!

ORANGE FOAM SAUCE

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Ingredients:

1 oz unsalted butter
1 orange (grated rind and juice of)
1 all-purpose flour
2 oz superfine sugar
1 egg
lemon juice

Method:

  • Cream the butter and grated orange rind and gradually beat in the flour mixed with sugar.
  • Separate the egg and beat the yolk into the butter & flour mixture.
  • Add the orange juice (made up to 5floz with water)
  • Don’t worry if the mixture curdles at this stage, it will become smooth again as it cooks.
  • Cook the sauce in a small heavy based saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and the flour is cooked through.
  • Add a little extra water if necessary to keep the sauce to a pouring consistency.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.
  • Just before serving, beat the egg white until stiff and then fold it into the sauce and sharpen the sauce slightly with a little lemon juice.

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Video

Fresh Fields: Happy 30th Birthday

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This week marks 30 years since Fresh Fields first hit our screens and I’ve just spent a fantastic few weeks watching all four series of the 1980s classic. As with Dear John and Streets Apart, it was a very nostalgic trip down memory lane to eighties bliss! I was very young when Fresh Fields was first shown on our screens, so even though I remember the British sit-com which ran from 1984 to 1989, I couldn’t remember very much about the show other than the fact that it starred the late Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie. In fact I remember it’s sequel French Fields much better – probably because I was a little older when it was broadcast.

The stars of the show Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie

The stars of the show Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie

Written by John Chapman, the show centres around William and Hester Fields, played by Rodgers and McKenzie; a devoted, middle-aged, married couple who live something of an idyllic life in Barnes, South-West London. They’ve been married for twenty years and have two adult children who have left home. William works hard as an accountant in the city in order to provide a good life for the two of them, while Hester is a housewife and looks after the home – and William! They share their beautiful home with Hester’s mother Nancy (played by Fanny Rowe) who lives in the granny flat at the bottom of the garden.

As husband and wife William and Hester Fields

As husband and wife William and Hester Fields

Much of the humour in the show comes from Hester’s non-stop methods of improving her life with a multitude of hobbies and interests in order to keep things ‘fresh’ and interesting and to fill the void that comes with empty-nest syndrome. Pottery, cooking courses fencing, keep-fit, painting, DIY… you name it, Hester’s tried it, although not always culminating in great results! She also throws herself into ventures such as delivering meals to the elderly and cooking in a restaurant. The opening credits set the tonefor the show: Hester and William are shown in silhouette form, with Hester being super active and on the go, trying out different activities while William is content just to sit and read the paper.

The other source of humour is Hester’s neighbour and best friend, Sonia (played by Ann Beach) who lets herself into the Fields’ home, especially at inconvenient times with her catchphrase ‘It’s only Sonia’ and is forever ‘borrowing’ things from the Fields with the intention of returning them but of course it never happens. Sonia grates on William to great comic effect but Hester is very fond of her and finds it hard to turn down any of her requests. Despite my initial reservations that Sonia was taking advantage of Hester’s generous nature, it gradually becomes evident that the two women do indeed share a strong bond.

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I also loved the sub-plot between Hester’s estranged parents Nancy and Guy (played by Fawlty Towers’ Ballard Berkeley) who divorced forty years earlier after Guy ran off with and eventually married another woman while Hester was a very young child. After all these years. Guy now plans to win Nancy back but Nancy is a very strong-willed, no-nonsense, straight-talking lady who claims that she has no interest in Guy but over the course of several episodes, viewers start to see her soften towards her errant ex-husband…

The late Fanny Rowe played Hester's mother Nancy

The late Fanny Rowe played Hester’s mother Nancy

Although the Field’s have two children, Tom and Emma, they never appear in the show, although Emma often phones her parents and can be heard to be rattling off a message at three hundred words per second! She eventually marries her live-in boyfriend Peter and the couple have a little boy named Guy after his great-grandfather. William and Hester’s son-in-law and baby grandson do make a few appearances – but without Emma.

Ballard Berkeley played Guy Penrose, Hester's father

Ballard Berkeley played Guy Penrose, Hester’s father

My memories of Fresh Fields when I was a child are very vague because growing up I only ever caught glimpses of the show. The only episode that rang any bells was the one where William had to rid the house of a spider as Hester was terrified of spiders. Comedies were a big deal in our household as my parents, especially my father, were huge fans of the genre but I don’t recall them talking about Fresh Fields as often as they talked about the other sit-coms of that time. But I’m glad that I got reacquainted with the show in adulthood because I think it’s a fantastic sit-com and now that I’m older, I can appreciate it more.

Daphne Oxenford who sadly passed away last year, played William's secretary Miss Denham

Daphne Oxenford who sadly passed away last year, played William’s secretary Miss Denham

There was so much I liked about the show that I don’t know where to begin. I loved the feel-good theme tune by Harry Stoneham. I also loved the chemistry between Rodgers and McKenzie. It was an amazing bit of casting as the two work very well together as a credible, married couple. I also adored their home in Barnes. By today’s standards it may appear dated but I could so see myself living in a place like that. And I thought it was sweet that Hester had such a close bond with her mother that she wanted her living with them. How many people could tolerate having their mother live with them? The supporting characters, which included Sonia’s husband John and William’s trusted secretary, Miss Denham played by Daphne Oxenford, were all a little eccentric in some way and they worked brilliantly together. Sonia proved to be extremely popular and in one episode, the studio audience even gave her a round of applause when she appeared.

Series 2TX 1984

But the show was also something of a shock to the system as it highlighted just how much times and society have changed in the last thirty years – which for me seems like only yesterday! I absolutely loved the Fields’ house but how many of us can afford a house like that today, complete with a granny flat for our dear old mum? How many of us even know who our neighbours are let alone socialise with them? A great fuss is made about the fact that William and Hester’s daughter is ‘living in sin’ with her boyfriend and gets pregnant before getting married but of course in the twenty first century, nobody would bat an eyelid. And Hester’s excitement when she gets a new cordless phone delivered had me in stitches! She and Sonia reminded me of a couple of kids who’d stumbled across a great source of magic. Goodness knows what they’d have made of the state-of-the-art mobile phones we can’t live without today. To be honest it’s a bigger surprise for me knowing that someone actually has a landline! Furthermore it’s refreshing to see a TV show with a happily married couple and no trace of infidelity – a rarity nowadays!

Ann Beach played sassy Sonia

Ann Beach played sassy Sonia

Strange as this may sound but Hester’s use of the word ‘housecoat’ took me back to my very early childhood when Mum had a black and white floral housecoat with bell sleeves and was very pretty. I don’t think anyone uses the word housecoat today as it would most definitely be a dressing gown or a robe. And incidentally the housecoat Hester wore was stunning – a beautiful blue number with angel sleeves I would love to get hold of for myself. Who said the eighties was the time that style forgot?

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I’ve read reviews in which the show has been labelled ‘middle-of-the-road’ and a ‘good schedule filler’. Well I don’t know any schedule fillers which lasted for four series, won an international Emmy award and where the lead actress won the TV Times award for best female comedy performance for five consecutive years. Not bad for a ‘middle-of-the-road’ sit-com! Most of the show’s fans found Fresh Fields to be humorous and entertaining however, I do understand that during the early eighties, there was the emergence of an alternative brand of humour with shows such as The Young Ones and Not The Nine O’ Clock News which I think the younger generation of the time would have been more geared towards.

William has to sort out his dinner as Hester is off to her fencing class

William has to sort out his dinner as Hester is off to her fencing class

But there’s no denying that Fresh Fields was great family entertainment. Some of the highlights for me were Hester having to change literally en route to her daughter’s wedding; Sonia hosting a wine-tasting event at the Fields’ home where Hester runs into her glamorous blonde rival; William helping Hester with the catering at an event and having to hide from his clients; Hester’s run-ins with the law while delivering meals-on-wheels, and the final episode where Hester celebrated her forty-fifth birthday. And the episode where Emma’s parents-in-law invite themselves to stay over at the Fields’ actually made me cry – with laughter! I’m just sorry there weren’t more series of Fresh Fields. I’m even more sorrier that thirty years later it’s not mentioned as often as some of its contemporaries here in the UK as it’s such a brilliant bit of comedy. But I know it’s still remembered quite fondly in Australia and the United States.

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But now that I’ve rediscovered it, I will most definitely watch it again. Boxed DVD set, here I come! And Happy thirtieth to you, Fresh Fields!

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