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A Few Of My Favourite Things

The hubby and I have been in America for over six weeks now and I’m slowly becoming accustomed to my new home. To be honest we’ve both been busy with all the usual hectic stuff that goes with a move abroad i.e. renting a flat; buying a car; settling into a new job; getting to know people; finding the best place to get a take away curry etc. etc.

I’m very excited about coming to America and all the opportunities it presents. From the time I was a teenager, I had a feeling that I’d one day end up living abroad. And now I’ve done just that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get homesick and miss England and everyone and everything in it terribly because I do. So I always take comfort in anything that reminds me of home… and some of these things even have a connection to my childhood!

BOOT’S PRODUCTS

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I remember when I was last in Oregon a few years back, Target had started stocking  up Boot’s products which I was very excited about. And I’d totally forgotten about it until we went into our local Target last week and found a small section of the store – and I do mean small – dedicated to Boot’s cosmetics and skin care products. That really did cheer me up – to see a little piece of home.

I’m not familiar with many of the brands available in the States although I will inevitably get round to trying them out – but right now its great to see a brand I know and trust.

JELLY

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Or jello as its called over here. OK, I know – jelly is such a kid’s dessert. No one with a sophisticated palate would even consider a bowlful of the wibbly-wobbly stuff and most adults will probably only touch it if you add alcohol and serve them up in little plastic shot glasses at parties.

But then I’ve never really been one for following the crowd and I’ve always loved jelly. It stems from childhood when a bowlful of jelly was an amazing treat – how easily pleased we were – and even now, when I’m feeling homesick or a bit low for any reason, jelly hits the spot every time. And if there’s any ice- cream or squirty cream to go with it, so much the better!

Funnily enough, most American adults I know have no interest in jello – unless we’re talking jello shots – but yet there’s such a fantastic array of flavours unlike the UK where we’re pretty much limited to five flavours. So far I’ve come across peach, melon, cherry, blueberry, apricot, grape, fruit punch, cola, pineapple, mango… and those are just the ones I can remember!

While the Americans beat us on flavours, the thing I love about jelly in Britain is that you can get them in the form of squidgy gelatine squares whereas over here in America it’s always in crystal form. How I love those jelly squares! Whenever my mum used to make jelly for us, you could be sure I’d pop a couple of squares in my gob. In fact, I’ve even been known to scoff a whole packet like sweets!

EGGO WAFFLES

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In Britain, waffles are either Belgian or potato which are both fab but I remember my aunt making a different type of waffle when i used to go round to her house which seemed to be made from batter. I have no idea what brand it was but when I was much older I used to look for them in the frozen aisles but could never find them so they’d obviously been discontinued long ago.

Eggo waffles are the ones that come closest to my childhood memory and they are a firm favourite in our household.

SARA LEE DESSERTS

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Who remembers those Sara Lee television ads of the eighties where we were advised that “If at first you don’t succeed – cheat!” I’m quite sure that Sara Lee gateaus would have been all the rage at dinner parties back in the day but this brand is another thing that seems to have disappeared over the years in Britain. It was only when I used to visit Oregon a few years back that I ran into this brand at the supermarket like a long- lost friend… and those Sara Lee fruit pies soon became a freezer staple.

These days I’m addicted to Sara Lee’s pound cake. Delicious!

 

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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in Brands

 

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30 YEARS OF EASTENDERS: EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT

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It’s impossible to have failed to notice that EastEnders is about to turn thirty. It’s unbelievable! I remember being a kid and watching the trailers for a new BBC series that was about to hit our screens in which a host of characters introduced themselves and their families. At the time I was too young to understand what was happening, but looking back it’s very obvious that hopes were high that this soap was going to be something huge – and it was! Thirty years on, EastEnders is still going strong but it’s so surreal to think that there are people under thirty who will never have known a time when EastEnders wasn’t on the box.

When the Cockney soap, which is set in the fictitious London borough of Walford, was first screened, it was only shown twice a week: on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30. As the show gained in popularity, I began to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays which became known as EastEnders days, and felt quite bored on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – which became known as Wogan days – because there wasn’t anything worth watching. Unless Terry Wogan had some interesting guests on!

In the early days, EastEnders centred primarily around three families: the Beales, the Fowlers, and the Watts. It was only when the character of Dot Cotton was introduced several months later, did the Cotton family become another well-known family in the Square – although many would say that it was for all the wrong reasons!

Over the years, EastEnders went through periods where it was gripping, unmissable stuff to times where I’d rather have a nap than tune in to what was happing in Walford. In fact from early 2011, I pretty much stopped watching the soap – something I never thought would happen. It was a combination of ridiculous storylines, dull characters, and awful actors that just made me want to switch off. And I know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that EastEnders had lost the plot. But I have to say that in recent months, the show’s gotten to be very interesting again, and it takes me back to the days when EastEnders was nothing less than brilliant. But whether I tuned in regularly or not, one thing was for sure – that missing the Christmas Day episode of EastEnders was not an option! It has been a family tradition for so long, and it doesn’t matter what we’d be doing but everything stopped as soon as we heard the familiar opening bars of the EastEnders theme tune. My Aunt and Uncle have been having huge Christmas bashes at their house for years but as soon as it was time for EastEnders, everyone would huddle in their front room; it was an episode not to be missed.

The dominant storyline right now in EastEnders is the murder of Lucy Beale whose killer is going to be unmasked during the week of live episodes – and we cannot wait. It’s absolutely exciting stuff and I’m so glad that EastEnders is back on form. So to celebrate this momentous occasion there’s going to be a host of EastEnders-inspired blog posts honouring this legendary soap and having us skipping down memory lane. In this post, we’ll look at thirty factors that make EastEnders what it is…

1. THE QUEEN VIC

The Queen Victoria public house is the hub of Walford and was named after er, Queen Victoria. It’s where the locals meet and have a night out. And if any of the residents are having a wedding, funeral wake or christening, you can be sure that they’ll hold their event at The Vic. And let’s not forget it’s also been the venue for many a showdown, bust-up and shocking revelation!

When EastEnders first began, The Queen Vic was home to the Watts family. Since then it’s been owned by the Mitchells, the Butchers, and run by Kat and Alfie. Nowadays it’s very much the domain of the Carters.

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2. THE LAUNDERETTE

It appears that no one in Walford actually owns a washing machine, so they’re always popping into the laundrette with bags of laundry, keeping Dot busy with service washes. It’s also quite bizarrely something of a meeting point and quite a few argy-bargies have taken place there. A bit like the Vic but without the drinks!

Dot has always worked in the laundrette and she used to work there with Pauline Fowler. However the often-mention Mr.Papadopolous, the laundrette’s owner whose name cannot be pronounced by Dot, rarely appears on screen.

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3. THE CAFE

It was first owned by Sue and Ali Osman, a couple who made Den and Angie look like Terry and June. It was later taken over by Kathy Beale who thought that Walford needed something a little upmarket and transformed the day-time café into a late-night bistro. But I don’t think the locals were fooled – it was still the café! Today it’s owned by Walford’s answer to Alan Sugar, Ian Beale. It’s the place where everyone meets, especially when they have private matters to discuss, because let’s face it, there’s not much chance of anyone overhearing your conversation in the café!

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4. THE FRUIT AND VEG STALL

It may just be a humble fruit and veg stall but it’s been a part of EastEnders from the very beginning and you just can’t imagine Walford without it. The fruit and veg stall has been in the Beale family for years. Viewers first saw it run by Pete Beale with help from his then wife Kathy and son Ian. After his death, the stall was run by Pete’s nephew Mark Fowler for years, and it’s currently Pete’s grandson Peter who now works the stall. Although most of us tend to visit the supermarkets for our five a day, the Walford locals won’t think of going anywhere else for fresh fruit and veggies.

Who’d have thought the stall could be a nice little earner?

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5. THE MARKET

I remember when Angie Watts used to head ‘up west’ on many of her numerous shopping expeditions despite having a market on her doorstep. These days, the market seems to be the only place the locals will shop. They buy just about everything there including outfits for a night out. And many of the Square’s residents have been market traders at one time or another including Sanjay and Gita Kapoor, Bianca Jackson, Stacey Branning, Zoe Slater, Kat Moon and Ronnie Mitchell’s long-lost daughter Dannielle.

And who could forget slimy market inspector Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Cole? A corrupt lothario, Richard was more concerned with trying to get into the pants of the female population of Walford than the stall holders selling them! And when he wasn’t on the look-out for new conquests, he wasn’t averse to taking a few backhanders from stall-holders. Of the monetary variety of course but there were a few times he got himself a well-deserved slap!

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6. THE CAR LOT

Even though it’s now owned by Max Branning and was previously run by David Wicks and Roy Evans, whenever I think of the car lot, I still think of Frank Butche as he’s the one who opened the car lot in the square. It may just seem like an ordinary car lot but if the walls of the portacabin could talk, it would have more than a few stories to tell: romantic trysts, dodgy deals, vicious attacks… it all took place here. And that’s before we even get to Frank torching the place as part of an insurance scam in which a homeless man was killed.

I still remember the episode where a few of the Square’s residents went to Spain and David Wicks picked up Sam Mitchell in a bar not realising who she was. She then told him about the car lot her father-in-law used to own.

“But it’s not like the car showrooms you have,” Sam said, “it’s just a tatty little  car lot.”

“Yeah, I think  know what you mean,” David smirked.

Indeed you did, David. Indeed you did!

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7. THE ARCHES

The Arches – a garage – was what brought the Mitchell brothers, Grant and Phil, to Walford, and it was always considered Mitchell territory. Well at least until recently when Max Branning conned Ben Mitchell into signing it over to him. Like many of the establishments on the Square, The Arches have witnessed it’s fair share of drama including Ricky Butcher and Natalie Price conducting their affair behind Bianca’s back; Ben Mitchell undergoing a personality transplant and attacking his friend Jordan, and that fight between Phil and Grant after Grant discovered what Phil had been getting up to with Sharon for months. mechanics who have worked there included, Phil, Grant, Ricky, Gary, Minty, Jase and Ben.

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8. ALBERT SQUARE

I don’t know why but for a long time, I thought that ‘Albert Square’ referred to the little bit of enclosed greenery where the residents often sit and mope. But it isn’t – that is actually the Square’s gardens. Albert Square refers to the row of terraced houses where most of the residents live and it is named after Prince Albert. The Beale family live at number 45, which used to be home to the Fowler’s when the show first started. The Masoods live at number 41; Phil and Sharon are at number 55; Patrick Trueman resides at numbers 19-20 with Kim and Denise, while Ronnie and Roxy live at number 27. And of course The Queen Victoria is the focal point of the Square.

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9. THE GARDENS

The gardens are central to the Square and it houses Arthur Fowler’s bench which was placed there in his memory. There is hardly an episode that goes by when someone isn’t sat on that bench – known by viewers as the Bench Of Tears –  crying, brooding, sulking, moaning or threatening another resident. Though as they all have houses on the Square it’s not quite understood why they can’t do all the above from the comfort of their own home and not publicly out in the Square!

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10. THE MORE-THAN-EXTRA EXTRAS

The Queen Vic’s resident barmaid Tracy has been in EastEnders for years. The pub is always changing hands but it doesn’t matter who the new owners are – Tracy stays! Then there’s Winston who runs one of the stalls in the market who’s been in EastEnders since 1986 – who my family absolutely loved and cheered when he made an appearance.

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But get this Tracy and Winston aren’t members of the main cast but humble extras. They’re often seen whenever there is an important event in EastEnders and every now and again, they may get the odd bit of short dialogue. Tracy did have a (speaking) part in a storyline that was fairly major (for her) when she was attacked by Sam Mitchell as Sam dug up the body of Den Watts on Dennis and Sharon Rickman’s wedding day. That’s the closest she’s ever got to having a role in a major storyline and there are often calls from the public to give both Tracy and Winston more prominent roles – and I agree.

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And we can’t forget Big Ron played by actor Ron Tarr. Big Ron appeared in EastEnders since 1985 but was never given a main role. I remember that in the 1990s, a TV mag even had a campaign for Big Ron to get a bigger slice of the action but it never happened as Ron Tarr passed away in 1997 after battling cancer.

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11. THE FOWLER HOUSE

Just like The Queen Vic, 45 Albert Square stands the test of time – and is probably the only house where people tend to enter via the back door rather than the front! Now owned by Ian Beale, at the start of the show it was still very much the residence of Ian’s grandmother Lou Beale who lived there with her daughter Pauline and her family. Back then the house seemed very small, cramped, and extremely dated, but nonetheless it had a certain charm to it. Of course when Ian bought the house, he set about making changes, turning it into the more roomy, modern pad that it is today.

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12. THAT THEME TUNE

Composed by Simon May and Leslie Osbourne, the Eastenders theme tune is easily one of the most recognizable theme tunes around. Producers had requested May to come up with something melodic which would “bring people in from the kitchen or garden” – and that’s exactly what they got. The theme tune is so iconic that people know the show is starting when they hear it without having to look up. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t whistle or hum that tune every now and again.

In 1986 the theme was turned into a song called Anyone Can Fall In Love sung by Anita Dobson who played Angie Watts,which reached number 4 in the charts.

The EastEnders theme tune has undergone a few tweaks and changes over the years although it has generally been kept as close to the original as possible. During the mid-nineties, the theme tune underwent a major revamp which didn’t go down too well with viewers, so it went back to the original tune.

13. ‘DOOF DOOF’ SCENES

Every EastEnders fan is familiar with the ‘doof doof’ scene. It’s that famous drum beat that can be heard at the end of the last scene which signals that the episode has finished and that that famous theme tune is about to begin. This type of scene is now synonymous with EastEnders.

It wasn’t until the late nineties that I realised that this type of scene actually had a name. It was Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Melanie Owen, who said in an interview that cast members naturally wanted to be in the ‘doof doof’ scene, especially if it featured a cliff-hanger. The scene got its name from the sound of the drum beats that sounded like ‘doof doof.’

I was impressed that the scene actually had a name!

14. THE OPENING CREDITS

The opening title sequence of Eastenders is as well-known as its theme tune. It’s been revamped a few times but it’s essentially a map of the East End of London. It starts by zooming in on the River Thames before panning out to give an ariel view of London. Easily one of the most iconic opening sequences.

15. CHRISTMAS EPISODES

There were always two things we had to do on Christmas day without fail. The first was go to mass, and the second was to watch the Christmas day episode or episodes of EastEnders. This was something we always looked forward to, and it didn’t matter whose house we were celebrating Christmas in, as soon as we heard that familiar theme tune we dropped whatever it was we were doing and gathered in front of the telly. Not only was it a family tradition, but we also knew that the Christmas day episode was one that was guaranteed to have us on the edge of our seat. Yes, the public often complained that the episodes were often depressing and full of misery and often featured someone dying, but most of us found them to be full of drama and either featured a whopper of a cliff-hanger or resolved one.

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16. WHODUNITS

Anyone would think that Ms. Marple resided in Albert Square with the number of murders, attempted murders and other crimes that take place. The very first episode of EastEnders opened up with the murder of Reg Cox and these whodunits have been keeping us enthralled for years. There was the shooting of Phil Mitchell (the first time) the murders of Dennis Rickman, Eddie Royal, Archie Mitchell and we’re currently gripped by the mystery of who was responsible for the death of Lucy Beale which is going to be revealed very soon.As with the murder of Archie Mitchell, many of the cast members only found out at the same time that the public did in a live episode – and that’s exactly what’s going to happen when the Lucy’s killer is going to be unmasked.

And let’s not forget there are whodunits of a different variety, which have nothing to do with crime,  where pregnancies are involved where viewers are trying to work out who the baby’s father is as in the case of Michelle Fowler’s, Laura Beale’s and Heather Trott’s pregnancies. There was also one occasion when viewers had to work out who a positive pregnancy test belonged to with suspicion falling on the Fox-Wicks women.

It eventually turned out to be Dawn Swann’s.

17. THE NEIGHBOURING STREETS

Although most of the residents live on Albert Square, many of the small businesses are based in neighbouring streets such as Turpin Road, Bridge Street, and George Street. These places are often mentioned by the characters.

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18. JULIA’S THEME

Julia’s Theme is named after the show’s creator, Julia Smith. It is used in place of the regular theme and emphasizes a particularly emotional event such as a character leaving or dying. Each episode normally ends with the ‘doof doof’ drum beats, but with Julia’s Theme, the ‘doof doofs’ are replaced with a slow melody played on piano.  Julia’s Theme has been revamped a number of times, so there are different versions of this tune. Sometimes the beginning of Julia’s Theme is used as the intro to EastEnders‘ main theme tune.

I remember Julia’s Theme being played when Lofty proposed to pregnant Michelle Fowler, after Debbie Bates had been killed in a road accident; as Cindy Beale fled to Italy with her sons and was forced to leave her daughter behind; while Sharon watched Phil and Kathy embrace on their way home from France, and when Jim Branning proposed to Dot.

19. THE TRAILERS

Right now we’re all a bit spooked after watching the trailer promoting the unveiling of Lucy Beale’s killer. But spooked or not it’s a fantastic trailer, and you can’t expect anything less from the show who release great trailers whenever a major, new character is about to descend on the Square, a new storyline is about to hit, or when an old face returns. I especially liked the ‘Everyone’s talking about it’ slogan which accompanied some of the trailers.

Trailers were used when Kat and Alfie returned to the Square, just before Archie Mitchell’s killer was revealed, for Den Watts’s shock return, the Zoe, Dennis, Sharon love triangle which exploded on Christmas Day, the murder of Den Watts, Sharon’s return, and the arrival of the carter family.

20. SUNDAY OMNIBUS

When I was growing up, we all looked forward to the omnibus edition of EastEnders where Tuesday’s and Thursday’s episodes were repeated for those who had missed them. Well I say we all looked forward to them, but I’d say it was probably us kids who looked forward to the omnibus (nicknamed the ‘lonely bus’ by my brother) because we would watch it whether we’d seen the episodes during the week or not! I’ve lost count of the times Mum or Dad would walk into the living room see us all glued to the TV and exclaim, “But you’ve already watched this!” That’s right and now we’re watching it again! The EastEnders omnibus was the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon.

In more recent years, there has been a change in the scheduling of the omnibus but it has now emerged that the BBC are going to scrap the Sunday omnibus from April of this year, as the thirty day catch up on iPlayer means that broadcasting the omnibus is no longer necessary. I agree but it’s sad to lose this classic Sunday afternoon tradition.

21. THE FAMILIES

EastEnders is just about people being miserable; growling at each other; screaming their heads of in the market, or starting fights in The Vic. No EastEnders is all about family and the importance of familial relationships –  or perhaps I should say faah-mily! During the last three decades there have been many prominent families who have made their mark in Albert Square: The Watts; the Fowlers; the Beales; the Mitchells; the Jacksons; the Butchers; the Slaters;  the Wicks; the Brannings; the Moons; the Masoods, and now the Carters.

In each of these households there’s usually a fairly loud-mouthed matriarch who comes across as bossy, domineering, interfering and in danger of suffocating their children. But at the end of the day, to these women, family is everything. Who can forget Pauline Fowler bleating on about the importance of family? Or Peggy’s famous, ‘You’re a Mitchell’ line. I even heard Cora Cross tell Tania that she’s ‘a Cross’ but sorry – it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the Mitchell line!

Of course there were some families who couldn’t quite cut the mustard and were sent packing. When you think of the great families who graced the Square with their presence, who thinks of the Kapoors, the Ferreiras, the Di Marcos or the Flaherty family?

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22. THE PETS

It’s not just the characters who have endeared themselves to the public, but we’ve also grown quite attached to the four-legged, furry creatures that have appeared in the Square. Wellard, Roly, Freida, Ghengis, Terrance, Bella and Betty – we loved them all. And during the eighties, we were asking everyone if they’d ‘seen my Willy?’

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23. FAMOUS FACES

A few famous faces have popped up in Walford either as a cameo or a guest role. There was Robbie Williams using the phone in The Vic; Goldie played a gangster; Susan George appeared as Terry Raymond’s love interest; Bobby Davro played Shirley’s on-off boyfriend, and Madhur Jaffrey appeared as the Ferreira matriarch. Mike Reid, Shane Richie, Phil Daniel, and Samantha Womack are long-established actors or comedians  who had or have long-term roles in the soap. And of course after Barbra Windsor started her role as Peggy Mitchell, no one ever saw her as the girl from the Carry On movies again!

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24. CROOKS AND GANGSTERS

As the East End is Kray’s territory, it goes without saying that there have to be a few major league villians. Phil and Grant Mitchell might have fancies themselves as a couple of tough nuts but compared to the likes of Jack Dalton, Johnny Allen, Andy Hunter, Steve Owen, George Palmer, not to mention Den Watts’s associates, they were pretty much small fry!

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25. TWO-HANDERS

I don’t think I’ve ever seen another soap opera do a two-hander: an episode which has only two characters. The very first one I remember was back in the eighties and it featured Den and Angie Watts. Den announced that he was leaving Angie for his mistress Jan and Angie played her trump card, telling Den that she only had six months to live. Another memorable two-hander was when Michelle Fowler finally told Sharon Watts the truth regarding Vicki Fowler’s paternity. Other two handers have included episodes featuring Den and Sharon, Phil and Grant, Dot and Ethel, Max and Stacey among others.

There have also been three-hander and four-hander episodes too. The episode featuring Phil, Grant and Sharon after Phil and Sharon had slept together for the first is particular memorable, as is the episode featuring Grant and Michelle, and David and Cindy in two different sub-plots where the two couples, er get it on!

The reason for these two/three/four hander episodes was that it sped up the filming process, and while the two actors were filming the two-hander, the rest of the cast could be filming another episode. These special episodes look like mini-plays and are a pleasure to watch as it relies usually on just one storyline and a limited number of actors, and it’s very clever of EastEnders to come up with that.

Incidentally, there has only ever been a single one-hander episode in the show’s entire history which featured Dot Cotton.

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26. GRITTY REALISM

EastEnders isn’t one for shying away from hard-hitting social issues. It’s tackled storylines involving cot death, homophobia, prostitution, rape, mental health issues, HIV, paedophilia, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism, racism… the list is endless.

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27. RATINGS WARS WITH CORRIE

There were other soap operas around when I was growing up, but when it came to ratings, it seems that it was firmly between Coronation Street and EastEnders. The Sunday papers would always show who’d hit the top spot in the TV pull-out section and it would alternate 9or so it seemed) between EastEnders or Corrie. The others didn’t even get a look-in!

28. COCKNEY ACCENT – WITHOUT THE RHYMING

You can’t have a soap set in the East End of London and not expect to hear a few Cockney accents. And being a real-life Eastender myself, I’ve always said that Cockney accents are the most endearing in the world – although I’ve never used rhyming slang, and it very rarely features on the show. I hardly ever hear real-life Cockneys use it so it just wouldn’t be realistic.

Of course in recent times, there have been complaints that the EastEnd just isn’t Cockney enough and there are too many different regional accents. But then anyone who’s ever lived in the East End will know that it’s not just Cockneys who live there. There are people from other parts of the country and of course other parts of the world. My complaint is that I don’t hear Cockney accents enough where I live and I’m sure that the show is reflecting the diversity of the area.

29. THE CHIPPY

You can’t have an East End district without a fish and chip shop so thank goodness for Beale’s Plaice – although when Ian first purchased the shop, no way was it to be called a chippy. Ian was aiming for the rather more upmarket sounding ‘fish restaurant’!

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30. THE AWARDS

To say that EastEnders is an award-winning soap is something of a understatement. So far it has won around 316 awards (roughly ten a year) and just like in the ratings wars, it often goes head-to-head with Corrie for the Best Soap category.

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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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With This Ferrero Rocher Advert You Are Really Spoiling Us

It’s New Year’s Eve. People all over the world are going to be celebrating, partying, guzzling Champagne, and generally having a good time as is customary all over the world. So I thought it would be very appropriate to share one of my favourite television adverts. It’s the Ferrero Rocher ad where the ambassador (not sure of which country) is throwing a lavish reception and has invited guests from all over the world. Despite their numerous languages, they all understand the language of fine chocolate – and Ferrero Rocher was definitely considered top quality confectionary back in the day. And let’s face it – during the festive season, there would always be at least one box of Ferrero Rocher among the tins of Roses and Quality Street.

Even though this advert is more than two decades old, it is still very well remembered. It’s the cheesy piano music along with that classic line, “Monsieur, with Ferrero Rocher you are really spoiling us.” It’s a line I still use when I want to be sarcastic – and of course everyone instantly knows where it came from!

 
 

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Lynda Bellingham: A Real Class Act

 

Like most of the nation, I am shocked and saddened by the sad news that the lovely Lynda Bellingham has lost her battle against cancer. Even though the sixty-six year old had announced just a couple of weeks ago that she was in the terminal stages of the illness and had made the brave decision to stop having chemotherapy treatment, nobody expected her to slip away so quickly. The Canadian-born actress passed away last Sunday in the arms of her beloved husband Michael Pattemore – who she affectionately nicknamed Mr. Spain. Lynda had recently announced that her dearest wish was to have just one last Christmas with her husband and her sons, Michael and Robert, and it’s heart-breaking that her final wish won’t be fulfilled.

As expected, tributes came flooding in from the world of showbiz. Lynda had had an extensive TV and stage career and had worked and become friends with many well known people in the entertainment industry. Her colleagues from Loose Women, where she had been a panellist,  opened up Monday’s show with a tribute to their dear friend which saw Colleen Nolan become tearful though she did her best to keep it together, as the Loose Women team wanted it to be a celebration of Lynda’s extraordinary life, and they even admitted that Lynda would just want them to ‘get on with it.’

Members of the public took  to social media to express their sadness at the loss of the much-loved star. It goes to show that whether you knew her or not, Lynda made a big impact on everyone. Actress and presenter, Nadia Sawalha, said that Lynda loved the fame aspect of her job and liked the fact that she was appreciated the public, but she never milked her celebrity status, and behaved with the grace and class that we love her for. Indeed many of today’s so-called celebrities – many of whom are famous for being famous – could learn a thing or two from her.

Like many people of my generation, I first saw Lynda when she appeared as the mum in the series of OXO commercials which began in the 1980s and ran for sixteen years. She was apparently chosen from thousands of actresses who auditioned for the part, and I don’t think any of us could ever imagine that role being played by anyone other than Lynda. Despite epitomizing the perfect mother in those ads – warm, wholesome, content at being at the heart of the family, and bringing everyone together with delicious home cooking – her Loose Women co-presenters revealed that she hated people telling her that they wanted her to be their ‘Mum’ and she was concerned that she’d only ever be remembered for those OXO ads. Although she played matriarchal roles on many occasions, the real-life Lynda was far from ‘mumsy.’ As well as being incredibly beautiful, Lynda came across as energetic, vivacious, opinionated, feisty and very funny, and that’s something that came through in many of the parts she played.

So while, yes, us kids of the eighties will think of her as the OXO mum – a role that gave Lynda a platform to become one of our best-known actresses – we also remember the other work she’s famous for including BBC’s All Creatures Great And Small, At Home With The Braithwaites, Martin Chuzzelwit, Doctor Who, Angels, Couples , The Sweeny, theatre production of Calendar Girls and even The Bill, where she played villainess, Irene Radford – a role as far removed from the OXO mum as you can get. And the list most definitely goes on! And let’s not forget that Lynda was also an accomplished broadcaster, author and columnist. But one of Lynda’s roles which is most memorable for me was that of Faith Grayshot, the character she played in ITV’s nineties sit-com Second Thoughts; a divorced  mother of two teens who embarks on a new romance. There are some real laugh out loud moments in Second Thoughts, and although the character of Faith Grayshot isn’t that much of a departure from the OXO mum, she’s a little edgier and feistier, and tries to put her own needs first occasionally. When Second Thoughts ended, Lynda starred in the spin-off Faith In The Future which saw Faith start the next phase of her life as a single woman.

Lynda had started acting long before I was born, and she was on our screens right up until she passed away. I’ve grown up watching her and I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t on the telly or giving an interview in a magazine. There really are no words to describe her loss – a loss that is felt the hardest by her family and friends. Even though we will remember her for her talent, mesmerising screen presence and her generous smile, the tributes and lovely things that have been said about her in the last couple of days prove that her greatest roles were the one that wasn’t scripted  – and that’s the roles of wife. mother and friend.

 

Lynda Bellingham, you will be sorely missed.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Crimestoppers: Why Did It Stop?

I never thought I’d be writing a post about a subject that is less than pleasant but that’s exactly what I’m about to do; the grim topic of crime is central to this post. Crime reconstruction programs bring back childhood memories – of the scary variety!

My contribution to the fight against crime is playing armchair detective when Crimewatch broadcasts its monthly appeals. True, I haven’t helped to solve anything yet but you never know when I might just do so. Incidentally, I realised today that I’ve been watching crime reconstructions shows from a very young age. Either I’ve missed my calling to work in forensics or I was just a very weird kid! Crimewatch UK, Police 5, CrimestoppersI can’t really explain how or why… it’s just something that I happened to stumble across especially as the latter two aired pre-watershed.

crimestoppers

 

It was Crimestoppers which infiltrated my thoughts this afternoon (again, not sure why.) I don’t watch much television these days but I know that Crimestoppers is no longer shown – at least not in the UK. But I remember it very well from the 1980s and ’90s when televised appeals used to be broadcast in the HTV, Thames, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees regions.  Unlike Crimewatch which is an actual program and lasts for about an hour, Crimestoppers lasted around a minute and would be shown during commercial breaks. They would feature one single appeal (there is only so much you can do in a minute!) using either a reconstruction or CCTV footage in order to solve a case. An e-fit and written description of the perpetrator would be shown towards the end of the appeal, along with the Crimestoppers number and the assurance that callers were able to give information anonymously and could given earn a reward.

 

These television appeals were brought by Crimestoppers, an independent charity first established in New Mexico in 1975,  whose aim is to help the law track down criminals and solve crimes. Information given by anonymous callers would then be passed on to the police. Callers are also likely to receive a reward if their call results in an arrest. The UK branch of the charity first got under way in 1983 in Norfolk. Crimestoppers in the UK has had much success since 1988 when it first began televising appeals, with over 122,000 arrests and the recovery of £126,000,000 worth of stolen goods.

I always felt quite spooked after watching Crimestoppers. I was at an age where I thought Walt Disney ruled the world and everything in it. Crime reconstruction features hit home that the world is not always a nice and safe place. Quite a disturbing realisation for one so young. Furthermore, there were  elements of Crimestoppers which I found quite eerie: it would pop up between programs without any warning; the creepy intro with flashing mouth montage; frightening reconstructions complete with narration in a dead-pan voice, and chilling e-fits.

pricedidupay

 

It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who was spooked by Crimestoppers as others who remember the crime appeals said that they were freaked out by them too. It does make me wonder – whatever did we expose ourselves to? I feel quite sorry for my poor parents as I was already quite afraid of the dark – can you imagine what it must have been like getting me to sleep after I’d seen a Crimestoppers appeal! Someone said that now they’re an adult they do wonder why it scared them so much. Can’t say I agree with them. I’m well into adulthood and it still freaks me out! It was extremely hard-hitting and it’s even mentioned on Wikipedia, that the appeals frightened young children. However, the element of shock factor might have been beneficial in getting people to take notice of these appeals and prompt the public into phoning in if they had any relevant information.

It is ironic that as we live in an age where we don’t need statistics to tell us that the crime rate has soared, Crimestoppers no longer broadcast appeals. Because it is so truly chilling, I think it would act as the perfect crime deterrent: Criminals would give up their lives of crime to avoid ending up on the show and seeing unflattering e-fits of themselves, and kids of today would experience the same fear we did and never do anything bad in their lives!

I was trying to track down the intro so that you could see how scary it was but then I realised that I wouldn’t want something as eerie as that on Nostalgia Pie. Trust me – it’s the stuff nightmares are made of!

 

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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in TV Shows

 

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Supermodels Rocked The 90s!

 

Victoria’s Secret Angels are stunning and you’d be able to see that even without 20/20 vision! However when it comes to the catwalk queens of yesterday, I’m sorry but todays models couldn’t hold a candle to them – and the lashings of hair lacquer has nothing to do with it! Cindy, Christy, Claudia and co. are the original cover girls whose names were on everyone’s lips. Back in the 1990s, the Supermodel phenomenon was really taking off. Cindy Crawford said in an interview that she hated the term ‘Supermodel’ but love it or hate it, that’s what they were. Teenage girls used to stick posters of models up on their walls and fall asleep every night, dreaming of being discovered as a model and following in the footsteps of their idols. Teenage boys used to stick posters of models up on their walls and fall asleep every night dreaming of discovering a girl who looked like their pin up and following in her footsteps all the way to her front door!

I was madly in love with New Kids On The Block and couldn’t find a pop band to measure up when they disbanded, so I didn’t move on to the ‘next big thing’ as most teenage girls did. Therefore supermodels became my pop stars. My interest (or obsession depending on how you looked at it) began when I was about thirteen and I started reading my school friend’s fashion magazines. It wasn’t long before I was buying my own. I loved learning about fashion, the industry, the designers but most of all the princesses of the runway. It was a great way to discover what Naomi, Elle and their friends were up to.

Their wasn’t a single supermodel whose height, eye colour and vital stats I didn’t know. I knew how they were discovered; where they came from; which agency they were with; their interests etc. I even looked forward to watching the World Music Awards held in Monaco every year because of the numerous appearances made by supermodels – and of course I looked forward to the musical appearances! I watched every documentary about the fashion industry and modelling reality TV shows such as Babewatch and Model Behaviour. and I was always happiest when I saw that the latest edition of Top Model was available.

It might sound that as a teenage girl, I had an unhealthy obsession with the whole industry. I can understand that; if I had a teenage daughter, I might be worried. But looking at photos of models didn’t make me want to starve myself. If anything I ate even more – and living without sugar was not an option! I daydreamed about gracing the cover of Vogue, but I knew I was far from model material. I think I was in awe of the lifestyle. I knew that modelling was hard work and that models lived on a plane and were sleep deprived but there were tons of positives: meeting super-hot rock stars; freebies from designers; appearing in music videos; the chance to travel the world; owning a fabulous apartment, and the opportunity to branch out into acting, presenting, design, launching products etc. There’s no denying it; the supermodel lifestyle was fabulous and laden with opportunities.

But it wasn’t just their looks and lifestyles I admired (OK envied!) but their brains as well. That’s right, brains. Most people might think that models have lip-gloss for brains but in order to be a supermodel, there was no way you could rise to the top unless you had something in your head. They had to have good business acumen; successfully liaise with designers and clients;  launch products; realise great opportunities, and start to make the move into other areas, whether it’s acting, photography or another part of the fashion industry – unfortunately the only thing short about models is their shelf life! it also helps a great deal if their bilingual as there is a great deal of travel and international dealings involved. I read an interview with Czech supermodel, Eva Herzigova, where she revealed that when she first got into modelling, someone would ask her in English for her name and she would just nod though she is now fluent in French and English. Go Eva! In a nutshell, you had to be more than just a clothes horse – you had to be a brand.

I can’t decide who my favourite supermodel was. Could it have been Nadja Auermann, known for having the longest legs in the business? Or Karen ‘smoulder’ Mulder? Or maybe the talented Veronica Webb who showed that models could do more than just pose in front of the camera? Ms. Crawford, the original supermodel businesswoman? Or the wholesome, sweet-as-apple-pie Nikki Taylor? Perhaps I just loved all of them!

There’s no denying that today’s models are beautiful and work just as hard. But I know that they’re successful top models, I don’t feel they are Supermodels – not like the supermodels that I grew up with and admired. The Supers of my generation had that certain something that generated a tanker-load of interest. Most teenagers I know hardly mention models. I really do believe that the Supermodel phenomenon is a thing of the past and a key element of the decade that was the 1990s.

 

 

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Bella! Where Did You Go?

Dear Editor of Bella

One of my absolute favourite magazines was Bella. I first started buying it when I was twelve, back in the 1990s (yes, twelve) although I would always pretend it was for my mum so that I didn’t get a ribbing from my mates. The truth was Mum was lucky if she even got to see the front cover. It was on sale every Thursday, and I have fond memories of popping over to the paper shop that was across the road from the school at the end of the school day and buy a copy. I couldn’t wait to get home and read it from cover to cover. I can’t quite explain what the appeal was. There was something quite grown up about buying a magazine aimed at women at such a young age – and let’s face it – we all want to be grown up when we’re in our early teens! The crafts and cookery pages appealed to the creative side of me, and I loved collecting the recipe ‘cards’ – a page which contained cut out and keep recipes.

bella-logo

 

There were certain features I would read religiously. Precious Moments, where readers wrote in describing touching moments in their lives; Talking Point always raised interesting topics such as remaining a virgin until you were married or not being hired because you were too attractive (hmmm… come to think of it, the lady in that feature did look a lot like a young Samantha Brick…) My Own Story, which was a double page feature detailing a heart-rending moment in a reader’s life. I liked reading about different issues relating to friendships and romantic relationships on the Relationships page. I collected all the top tips and the Overheard part of the letters page – where readers would write in with things they had overheard while they were out and about – always made me laugh.

 

Bella in the 1990s

Bella in the 1990s

 

 

The Secret I Must Share was an absolute drop-everything-and-read feature where people talked about secrets they probably wouldn’t even tell their best friend. The very first one I read was about a mother who had encouraged her young son to steal before he could even walk – at eight he had become a real handful. Then there was the woman who had been having an affair with her American colleague for twelve years. People often used to say that the stories in the ‘Secret’ pages were made up. I don’t know if they were or not but I do know that they made very entertaining reading.

And oh my goodness, I LOVED THE FICTION PAGES! There would always be two stories each week. One would be a longer length romantic story and the other was my ultimate favourite, Mini Mystery which always featured the silhouette of a man with a magnifying glass as part of it’s logo and was typically a tale with a twist – which is my favourite type of tale. When I was fifteen, my English teacher read a short story I wrote and said that that was exactly the kind of ‘tale with a twist’ that she was trying to get out of her sixth formers. Well, perhaps they should have started reading Bella at twelve too!

 

Bella, as I used to know and love it.

Bella, as I used to know and love it.

 

I loved Bella‘s ‘realness’. It didn’t overdo the celebrity phenomenon and contained just the right amount of celebrity news. Bella was primarily about real people with real stories. Another plus point was that the cover star was always an unknown model rather than a famous face, which indicated that this was a magazine for ‘every woman.’ When I first started reading Bella, it was very much a non-colour magazine, with many of it’s features in black and white but nonetheless the magazine was far from bland or dated, although the introduction of colour photos was a welcome addition and for years very little about the magazine changed. Bella stuck to the format that readers knew and loved.

I can’t remember when I stopped buying Bella. It was definitely more than a decade ago. I know I remember thinking that it just wasn’t the same. Don’t get me wrong – I know that change can be necessary in order to keep things fresh and exciting rather than to stick to the same old format and allow things to go stale. But when the old format is a winning one, are so many changes really necessary?

Nostalgia took over last week when I decided to buy the latest copy of Bella. The first thing I noticed was that there were photos of five – that’s right, FIVE – celebrities on the cover alone. This proved to be telling. The first thirteen pages were dedicated to famous faces. This was then followed by several more pages of celebrity related features. True there were some real life stories but not nearly enough. All of my favourite features were long gone and worst of all, so were the fiction pages. In the ‘old days,’ I’d spend a good proportion of time reading Bella cover to cover. Now I could read it in well under an hour. The glossy, revamped version is definitely a far cry from what it used to be. Even the paper it’s printed on is different and there are way too many advertisements. I suspect that the main aim is to appeal to a more younger audience rather than those who have faithfully read Bella for years. But remember, I started buying the old-school Bella when I was twelve years old. How much younger would you like your audience to be?

 

The copy of Bella I recently bought

The copy of Bella I recently bought

 

The Bella I used to know was from 20 years ago so I understand that magazines have to reinvent themselves a little according to demand and changing times. However, Bella is now almost unrecognisable: it has gone from having varied content containing a bit of everything, recipes; readers stories; fiction; crafts; health; beauty; home design and more, to -and I’m really sorry to say it – a bland, uninteresting, watered down version of a celeb magazine. In fact it is now like every other women’s magazine out there and no longer stands out from the crowd. It’s lost it’s unique charm and appeal and has nothing different to offer.

I’ve read reviews concerning the ‘new’ Bella and it seems as though a lot of ex-readers are echoing my sentiments. It would be fantastic if you could bring back at least a few of the old faves and I would definitely love to see the fiction pages back where they belong. This may seem hard to believe but not everyone is interested in what celebs are getting up to or what they’re wearing. Most of us are actually bored with celeb news. Don’t believe me? Just check out the reviews. The irony is that magazine sales must be good otherwise the magazine would have folded a long time ago. But I’m pretty sure that many of those purchasing Bella are not the older readership. Anyone who has read Bella in the past and compared it to the more modern version will definitely see the difference in quality.

 

Bella from 1988. Bring it back Ed - you know you want to!

Bella from 1988. Bring it back Ed – you know you want to!

 

I was inspired to write this letter after a reader urged fellow (or former) readers to write to the editor and complain in a bid to bring back the old look Bella which we miss dearly. However, as much as we want that, I can’t see it happening which is very sad. Publishers seem to think that fashion and celebrity sell and maybe it does… but it’s not for everyone. I’m so glad I grew up in an era where we weren’t all so celeb-mad and our every move wasn’t dictated by what famous people we were never likely to meet were doing. I’m from the school of if ‘it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ so the total revamp, in my opinion, was unnecessary but clearly not everyone feels the same way. This letter is just my way of letting you know how much your old readership miss the old Bella… and how we have treasured memories of our once favourite read!

Angel

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