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Rosemary and Thyme: Cagney And Lacey Meets Gardener’s World

 

Many of the posts here on Nostalgia Pie are mainly focused on popular culture from the 1970s-1990s – what I consider to be my era.  But today’s post is all about Rosemary and Thyme, a murder mystery series that began in 2003 and lasted for three series, which starred Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris – two very familiar faces from my childhood.

A series about two gardeners turned amateur sleuths sounded like something that was right up my street. After all I did grow up on a diet Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Miss Marple! So I couldn’t wait for this new ITV drama series to begin. And I did find it very enjoyable; maybe a little slow paced but then when the show is about two female landscape gardeners heading towards the autumn years of their life, it was never going to be Starsky and Hutch!

The series centres around Rosemary Boxer, a never-married landscape gardener and lecturer, and Laura Thyme, a former policeman and mother of two whose marriage ended upon discovering her husband’s affair with a much younger colleague. Laura is very close to her son Tom, but we later discover that her relationship with her daughter is rather strained although the two do eventually make up.

Rosemary and Laura meet and become friends  in the first episode and discover that they both have a love of gardening, which culminates in them working together on various horticultural projects through the series. It just so happens that many of these projects that they undertake also involve someone being murdered; a crime which is always solved by Rosemary and Thyme!

As much as I’m getting stuck into my new life in the States I won’t lie, I am very homesick and have a yearning for all things English, which is what brought me  to Rosemary and Thyme because the countryside, greenery, flower beds, stately homes and cottages… You can’t get more English than that! And despite being a city girl, the show does very much remind me of the place I still call home.

I’m disappointed that only three series were ever made but I am enjoying watching them again. Lounging around on the couch with a box of choccies while watching Rosemary and Thyme while the snow’s pelting down outside is definitely my idea of bliss.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in This, That and the Other!

 

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Confessions Of A Vintage Magazine Junkie

I recently developed a new interest in something which unfortunately requires a pocket full of money – but then isn’t that true of all good things?

Woman magazine over the years

Woman magazine over the years

I have developed a fondness of collecting vintage women’s magazines. OK, strictly speaking, I suppose I should be using the term retro as the magazines are predominantly from the eighties and nineties but hey I like the word vintage better! And in any case I’m sure that I’ll soon start collecting magazines from decades prior to the eighties. And it’s not just women’s magazines – I’ve also started collecting pop and teen mags from those decades too.

 WHY THE SUDDEN INTEREST?

I have always been a magazine junkie – right from the time I was able to read. As a child I couldn’t go into a newsagents without whoever I was with purchasing a  kid’s magazine for me. And it just went on from there.

As a young teen, I started to keep all the magazines I bought rather than toss them out – proving they really were money well spent. But unfortunately as my collection grew, space became increasingly tight, especially as we were living in a pretty small place at the time. So feeling fed up one day, I threw the lot out, not realising that one day I’d regret that decision.

My interest was sparked when upon arriving home from America, I discovered that my mum had thrown out boxloads of the vintage recipe pages I was saving. I was livid! And that’s putting it very mildly!

Part of my recipe collection

Part of my recipe collection

However during the three months I’d spent in the States, I didn’t buy any magazines as I didn’t really like the selection that was available there (apologies to my American followers!) But then when I arrived back in the UK, I found that my usual weekly reads didn’t really entice me as they once did. I actually found them a bit soul-less. It was just full of ads, celeb gossip, and fashion features of clothes from stores that I don’t frequent. It was all starting to get a little bit dull. The quality just wasn’t there.

I started thinking back to the magazines I used to buy years ago. I loved the extraordinary stories from real life people. I couldn’t get enough of the fiction pages and the puzzles. I loved the homely way the food accompanying the recipes was photographed. I enjoyed the regular weekly features. I also liked how the cover girl was usually an unknown model or at the very least a relevant actor or actress from one if the top soaps of that time. Not a reality TV star in sight!

Woman's Own from the 1980s

Woman’s Own from the 1980s

I began to wish I’d never been so foolish as to throw out my beloved collection of mags – and set about trying to replace them.

WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT TO ME?

Well in a nutshell, it’s because it reminds me of my childhood. Bet you didn’t need me to tell you that! It brings back wonderful memories of going to the newsagent with my uncle and picking up a pack of jelly tots – and a kiddie’s mag which I would read from cover to cover; of going through my aunts’ bags to flick through their latest mag; of going to the shop after school with my friends, where they’d buy a chocolate bar or bag of crisps for the journey home, and I’d buy a ton of chocolate – and a very ‘uncool’ women’s weekly – which I’d always claim was for my mum. Yeah right – Mum was lucky if she even caught sight of it, let alone read it!

I loved best!

I loved best!

I actually believe that these magazines got me prepared for the adult world. Or perhaps I should say that in my very naïve teenage mind, I’d flick those pages and think that that was what being an adult was all about. As I looked at the fashion pages, I’d imagine that those would be the clothes I’d wear when I was all grown up. I’d look at the hair and beauty features, envisioning my chic and elegant future self. The interiors section gave me a lot of inspiration for my future home. I learned a lot from the sometimes unfortunate real-life stories of ordinary people. Furthermore, my love of cooking and interest in food stems from those recipe pages.

And where teen magazines are concerned, they played a major role in my growing up. They answered the questions my friends and I were to afraid ask our parents, teachers and other adults around us; questions about boys, dating, the changes that were rapidly occurring to our bodies, problems at school, fitting in with the crowd… And of course they enabled us to indulge in our teenage crushes, gave us advice on how to do our hair and make-up and gave us tons of freebies. And without Smash Hits, I would never have been able to learn the lyrics to my fave tunes.

 TRACKING THEM DOWN

Well it wasn’t easy, I can tell you that now! But once  I decided to try and track down vintage finds and stop buying modern-day magazines, I had to consider which were the best places to start looking. At first I tried many of the local charity shops but found no joy there, although one of the volunteers did suggest the Freecycle site to me. Unfortunately I had no luck there either. Nor did I find anything at car boot sales.

More recent issues of Woman's Own from within the last ten years

More recent issues of Woman’s Own from within the last ten years

I also tried people I knew who might have the odd mag or two or a hundred going back to the eighties but alas nothing. And I was practically laughed out of the newsagents when I enquired if they had leftover stock from thirty years ago (not as ridiculous as you might think seeing as my parents acquired stock from what seems like thirty thousand years ago when they took over a local shop!)

Finally I checked out sites like Gumtree and eBay which I suppose I should have checked out first. It was slow going but I soon discovered some real gems…

WHAT I GOT

I’m thrilled that in such a short amount of time, I’ve been able to get some really amazing finds. I’ve got a lot of the magazines from the eighties that my mum and aunts used to read such as Woman, Woman’s Own, Women’s Realm, My Weekly and Women’s Weekly. I’ve also got two issues of Bella which I’m thrilled about as well as Prima which were two titles that I – not my aunts – used to buy.

Just a fraction of me Me magazine collection

Just a fraction of me Me magazine collection

Another thing I’m also thrilled about is that I’ve been reunited with a 1990’s mag called Me which I’d totally forgotten about! But flicking through it, the memories came flooding back and it was just as awesome as I remembered.

I never used to buy Essentials and neither did any of the women in my family but after I stumbled across a file containing pages from old-school issues of this publication, I made it a mission to track down some issues – and I haven’t been disappointed.

Essentials from the early nineties

Essentials from the early nineties

But one of the best finds, even though it isn’t a women’s weekly title, were a bundle of Smash Hits magazines from the late eighties to the early nineties – the exact period that I used to buy this fantastic pop magazine. And what I was most excited about was the issue that had the first ever cover of New Kids On The Block on it – the best pop band in the world! Upon contacting the previous owner to thank her, she revealed that she was sad to part with them but as she was a mum with a growing family, she had to let her Smash Hits collection go which made me feel guilty. I promised her that I’d give them a good home – as I will with every mag in my growing collection.

The issue now is (ha! Geddit???) Is how I’m going to haul my collection across the Atlantic to my new home!

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A Tearful G’bye To Doug: A Look-Back At Ramsay Street’s Willis Family

 Hotel Death Trap week on Neighbours was truly gripping stuff! But it’s also been incredibly heartbreaking, and I think it’s safe to say that life on Ramsay Street will never be the same again. Viewers watched Josh Willis die after bravely sacrificing his life to save his nemesis, Daniel. Today his grandfather Doug collapsed and died shortly after reuniting son Brad with his own estranged son, Ned. What is it with those scriptwriters – they really had it in for the poor Willis family!!!

The scenes of Doug’s death, featuring three generations of Willis men, were extremely poignant. When you mention the Willis family, fans of Neighbours  today will think of Brad and Therese, their three children, Josh, Imogen, and Piper plus Brad’s daughter Paige. But when I think of the Willises, I go right back to the early nineties, when the Willis family consisted of Doug and his wife Pam, and their children Adam, Gaby, Cody and of course – Brad!

When Des Clarke sold his house to Doug Willis, I didn’t think that I’d take to the Willises the same way I did with the Clarkes – I was wrong. I  absolutely adored this family and still do. At this time there weren’t really many families as such living on Ramsay Street so this new family unit made a very welcome addition and their lighthearted attitude to life proved to be a breath of fresh air.

THE MARRIAGE

Neighbours Viewers already knew Cody Willis but they got to meet her parents Doug and Pam just before they took over Des Clarke’s  house and set up home in Ramsay Street. They may have been married for over twenty years but anyone could see that the spark was very much there between Doug and his wife. And they didn’t behave like a couple of old marrieds either. Who can forget when Pam tricked Doug into removing all his clothes before locking him out of the house and refusing to let him back in until he promised to take her out dancing?

It was probably because the Willis marriage was so strong that Doug’s habit of flirting with attractive women didn’t bother Pam at all. But there were times when it caused Pam to worry: when Doug’s ex-girlfriend, Alexandra showed up briefly in Erinsborough, and when Lou’s sister, Brenda, became infatuated with Doug.

Both times Pam’s fears proved unfounded. But neither she nor Doug could have predicted what was around the corner…

While nursing neighbour, Jim Robinson back to health, Pam realised she was attracted to him. Her behaviour caused Doug to become quite suspicious of her and Jim but Pam made the fatal error of confessing her feelings for Jim to her ‘good friend’ Jill Weir – not realising that Jill had set her sights on Doug.

Jill used this information to her advantage which resulted in her spending the night with Doug in his hotel room. When she found out, a furious Pam threw Doug out of the house and started divorce proceedings before embarking on a brief fling with Jim.

But it took Doug getting lost at sea to make the warring Willises realise they still loved each other and reunited, ending one of the lowest points in their marriage. And after four years in Ramsay Street, Doug and Pam upped sticks and moved to Darwin after Doug was offered a job there.

THE KIDS

Doug and Pam were the proud parents of four children: two boys, Adam and Brad, and two girls, Gaby and Cody. 

All the Willis kids were extremely close and looked out for each other. They were all fun-loving  but they were also as different as they were alike. Adam was studying to be a doctor who couldn’t decide between Caroline Alessi and Gemma Ramsay (although he eventually left the Street to start a new life with Gemma.) Gaby had been studying business in Hong Kong before coming to live with her family in Erinsborough. Brad was the typical, ultra laid- back surfer, and as a sign of what was to happen in years to come, was caught up in a love triangle between Beth and Lauren. Brad eventually chose Beth but Lauren would get her chance in years to come… Then there was baby of the family, Cody. Headstrong and independent, Cody was a rebel who was always determined to get her own way but nonetheless was doted on by both her parents. She was madly in love with Todd Landers but left to study in America.

All the Willis kids eventually left Ramsay Street to start new lives elsewhere. After a while the characters of Cody and Brad were brought back – although they were not played by the original actors – and Gaby made a cameo appearance in Annalise Hartman’s documentary. Only Adam seems to have been forgotten about but viewers can only assume that Dr. Adam Willis is still living happily in Newcastle with Gemma.

THE LAUGHTER

One thing that I loved about this family was that there was always a lot of love and laughter in the Willis household. Sure they had their problems like everyone else and they endured some pretty rough times, but on the whole, they were very fun loving and never took themselves too seriously. I loved the scene where Brad and Gaby were play fighting with Doug despairing if they’d ever grow up because it reminded me of my own family.

Adam once explained that practical joking was a family tradition, and the Willises did indeed like pranking each other. I remember after one prank got Doug arrested, he got his own back by getting Cody arrested by a police officer. The way it played out was so funny.

And then there’s was Adam’s disastrous first date with Caroline Alessi where his car broke down. It would have infuriated most people but not Adam. Ever the optimist, Adam got a take away pizza and then turned on the radio so that he and Caroline could dance while roadside assistance repaired the car. “Told you I’d take you out dancing after dinner,” Adam told Caroline, looking thoroughly pleased with himself, demonstrating the Willis ability to look on the bright side.

THE HARDSHIPS

Despite all the fun and laughter, the Willises also faced some pretty testing times when laughing was the last thing they wanted to do. There was the time Pam was arrested after being accused of helping one of her patients to die. It was a very worrying time for the family and Pam was determined not to go to prison for something she didn’t do. Thankfully charges against her were dropped.

But worse was to come when the Willises youngest son, Brad, was imprisoned on false drug smuggling charges in Asia- a crime which carried the death penalty. An extremely frantic Doug and Pam flew out, leaving the elder two kids, Adam and Gaby, to raise the funds they needed to get Brad out of jail. After a while Doug and Pam arrived in Erinsborough – with Brad in tow!

Despite Doug having his own business, the Willis family weren’t exactly rolling in it. Pam often took to driving her father’s cab when money was tight, and once many years ago, Pam was forced to pawn her engagement ring, and was extremely relieved to get it back. So financial worries were nothing new to the family.

But things went from bad to worse.

After a joint business venture with Paul Robinson went wrong, Doug found himself in debt. Forced to sell the business, Doug was then employed by the new owners but a difference of opinion led to Doug being sacked. He then spiralled into depression, leading to excessive drinking and a near- breakdown.

But being made of tougher stuff, the Willises got through it.

THE TRAGEDIES

Despite their happy demeanor, the Willises experienced more than their fair share of heartache. Doug and Pam lost one of their children – a baby boy called John – when he was around eighteen months old. Then tragedy struck again years later when their youngest child Cody was accidentally shot and killed during a shoot out on Ramsay Street, leaving the family distraught.

In more recent times, Doug’s health began to deteriorate rapidly as he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Unable to cope with the demands of looking after her husband, Pam sent Doug to stay with Brad where the whole family rallied round and did their best to care for Doug but it was painfully clear to everyone that Doug was steadily getting worse.

And of course as viewers saw last week, fate decided that it wasn’t done with the Willis family as the explosion that rocked Lassiter’s, claimed the lives of Doug and his grandson, Josh, ensuring that the Willis family would never be the same again and that the union between Doug and his beloved Pam had finally come to an end. However will Pam cope?

THE NEXT GENERATION OF WILLISES

The fact that a new generation of Willises were brought back to Erinsborough almost twenty years since Pam and Doug had left for Darwin proves that the Willis family had indeed made an impact and were still fondly remembered. Brad, his second wife, Therese, twins Josh and Imogen, together with youngest daughter Piper, and Brad’s long- lost daughter Paige make up the new Willis family. There may not be as much larking about in the Willis household this time round but they’re definitely not short on drama!

I had always believed that it was the decision of the actors who played Pam and Doug – Sue Jones and Terrence Donovan – to leave Neighbours, marking the departure of the last two Willises left in Ramsay Street. But an interview with Terrance Donovan revealed that Pam and Doug were written out to make way for a family unit with teenage kids, thus keeping in line with the hotter, younger, sexier new image the show was trying to convey. Enter the Kennedys! To be honest its only in recent years that I’ve grown to love Karl and Susan which means I’ve finally forgiven them for ousting the Willises from their home! But I never really did take to the Kennedy kids the way I did with the Willis kids and I would have loved for them – the whole family – to have stayed.

I think another reason why I’m so fond if the Willis family is because the were around during Neighbours’ heyday – a time when we all rushed home from school to watch Neighbours so that we could discuss it at school; when Neighbours’ stars got all the magazine covers, and the show’s actors appeared on our TV screens more than our own homegrown talent. The Willis family are a reminder of those days and of everything that was going on in my own life at the time.

It’s sad that Terrence Donovan’s association with Neighbours which has spanned a period of more than twenty five years has come to an end. And as Terrence is the real-life father of Jason Donovan – who brought the role of Scott Robinson to life – it makes that association somehow stronger. And let’s not forget Terrence’s sensitive portrayal of a man battling Alzheimer’s which raised further awareness of the illness. Doug’s time on the Street has come to an end but we will always have very fond memories of Doug and remember him as a hardworking, down-to-earth family man who loved his wife and kids – not to mention having a laugh.

G’bye Doug – Ramsay Street just won’t be same…

 

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2016 in TV Shows

 

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That’s My Boy!

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TITLE: That’s My Boy

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United Kingdom

GENRE: Sit-com

CHANNEL: ITV

YEARS: 1981

NUMBER OF SERIES: 5 including Christmas specials

WRITTEN AND CREATED BY: Pam Valentine and Michael Ashton

  • Molly Sugden- Ida Willis
  • Christopher Blake – Dr Robert Price
  • Jennifer Lonsdale – Angie Price
  • Clare Richards – Mrs Price
  • Harold Goodwin- Wilfred Willis
  • Deddie Davis – Miss Parfitt
  • Thelma Whiteley – Mrs Cross

PLOT: No-nonsense housekeeper goes to work for a young doctor and his wife. The doctor and housekeeper have an instant dislike towards each other – until the housekeeper discovers that the doctor is the baby she gave up for adoption almost twenty eight years ago…

There are some comedies that stand the test of time and are repeated over and over again to be enjoyed by new generations of viewers. Then there are comedies that fade into obscurity and are never mentioned again. Eighties sit-com That’s My Boy is an example of a comedy show that fits into the latter category. But if anyone thinks that’s a sign that it wasn’t very good or watchable – think again!

Over the years, I was vaguely able to recall a comedy show from my childhood that featured a young married couple with an older lady, who I guessed was some kind of live-in housekeeper. However, I could never remember the name of the show, and moreover,  I’d never seen it on TV since it was first shown, and I don’t remember anyone even mentioning it. I was beginning to wonder if I’d imagined it (like so many things from my childhood!)

A few of the things that I could recall were the appearance of the married couple’s flat; that the older lady looked like  Mollie Sugden;  the husband was very handsome, and whenever I thought of this comedy, I always associated it with the colour blue! I later realised that the older lady was indeed Molly Sugden, and that the blue association was because the opening and closing credits of series one to three featured a sketch of the apartment building where the trio lived with a sky blue background and also because Mollie Sugden’s character, Ida, often wore blue.

Despite there having been five series of That’s My Boy, my memories of this sit-com were a little on the hazy side but I did think about the sit-com over the years and was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down and spend some very pleasant evenings (and weekend mornings!) watching this show all over again. I was amazed to learn that I was actually able to recall certain scenes and episodes, although I didn’t remember Wilfred or Mrs. Price, and neither did I remember the move to Yorkshire. I was also surprised to hear that it was shown on Friday nights, as for some reason, I remember That’s My Boy being shown on Sunday afternoons (?)

THE STORY SO FAR…

When Yorkshire-born Ida Willis turns up at the Muswell Hill flat belonging to Dr Robert Price and his wife Angie, a model, to work as their new housekeeper, she and Angie instantly become friends. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Ida and Robert who appear to loathe each other on sight. However all that changes one afternoon when Ida confides in Angie about the baby boy she gave up for adoption called Shane. After showing each other baby photos of Shane and Robert, Angie and Ida are dumbstruck by the realisation that the baby is one and the same – meaning that Robert is Ida’s long-lost son, Shane!

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Had this been a soap opera, this storyline would have been drawn out for several months (or years) with plenty of tears, tantrums, sobbing into bottles of wine, with shrieks of ‘you ain’t my muvva!’ once the secret was revealed but comedy handles such a heavy topic in an altogether light-hearted manner with much hilarity that doesn’t see Robert scarred of life or going on a killing spree! The realisation that they are mother and son doesn’t make them become best friends overnight. Ida tries hard to be a mother to Robert, but she still grates on him, especially when she insists on calling him by his birth-name Shane. And Ida isn’t afraid to give Robert/Shane a piece of her mind when she thinks it’s called for.

Much of the humour is provided by Ida’s wayward brother Wilfred and the power struggle between Ida and Robert’s ‘other mummy’ – his adoptive mother, Mrs Price, an upmarket widow who is as far removed from Ida as you can get. The two naturally don’t get on as they battle to become the number one  ‘mummy’ in Robert’s life, but there are times when the two have to form an alliance, especially when it’s in the best interests of their son.

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But Robert and Ida do indeed bond and it is delightful to watch their relationship develop. Robert becomes very protective of Ida and when attending the wedding of Ida’s niece, it’s really heart warming to see Robert affectionately declare Ida as his mother. What was probably slightly unusual was the relationship between Ida and her daughter-in-law, Angie. A typical situation would have seen glamorous model and actress Angie, snobby and aloof who seriously clashes with her newfound mother-in-law. But then Angie doesn’t get on with her other mother-in-law Mrs. Price so I think it was clever of the writers to create a different scenario where instead of being the archetypal interfering mother-in-law, Ida is a friend and an ally to Angie.

And later on in the fourth series, when the family leave Muswell Hill and move to Little Birchmarch in Yorkshire after Robert secures the post of village doctor, we meet the dithering Miss Parfitt, Robert’s mousy receptionist.

WHY I LOVE IT:

One thing that’s dawned on me after watching That’s My Boy! is that I seem to be a fan of sit-coms that are not considered ‘classics’ or that most people might have forgotten. Fawlty Towers, Only Fools And Horses, Open All Hours etc. are firm favourites with me and my family and are undeniably terrific, but I really do think that there’s something good and a lot of fun to be had in watching the lesser repeated comedies.

That’s My Boy is  a wonderfully pleasant comedy and one of the reasons why I think it works is because of Mollie Sugden’s immensely likable and highly amusing performance. Mollie is in good form and relies on her genius for visual expression and excellent timing. She is a wonderful actress with great screen presence and her portrayal of Ida is no exception. For most people, Sugden will always be best remembered for her role in  Are You Being Served? but it’s very easy to forget the other great roles she played with Ida being a good example with her witty one-lines and hilarious put-downs – this is a lady who has an answer for everything!

Another reason why I think That’s My Boy is fantastic is because of the rapport that Mollie Sugden has with the supporting cast and the likeable characters they play. All the characters work brilliantly together, with the supporting cast acting as a backdrop for Ida to bounce off.

I enjoyed the  warm yet amusing storylines that kept the audience laughing throughout.. I found each episode to be hilarious and enjoyable to watch.  watch them you won’t get them any more today. The theme tune may consist solely of the lyrics “that’s my boy, that’s my boy. Lalalalalalala…” the upbeat tune somehow suits the show well, and after hearing it just a couple of times, the tune will never leave your head. That could either be a great thing or an annoyance – for me it was a great thing.

I found That’s My Boy to be a very pleasant comedy but wondered how it would be received today. Certain quotes and the play on stereotypes would not be acceptable today as it would be considered racist or homophobic. And I did wonder if That’s My Boy could be considered light-hearted family entertainment with all of Robert and Angie’s saucy antics – but then again, I think today’s kids are exposed to a great deal more!

I do think it’s quite a shame that That’s My Boy never reached the great heights I feel it should have and has more or less disappeared. I also can’t understand why it was hardly ever repeated after it was first shown on TV. But I’m so glad that I discovered this little nugget of TV gold – definitely what I call comfort food television and I will most definitely be watching it again.

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Romance On The Orient Express

Year: 1985 (UK)

Time: 96 mins

Written by: John Worthing

Directed by: Lawrence Gordon Clark

Starring : Cheryl Ladd     – Lily Parker

Stuart Wilson  – Alex Woodward

Ruby Wax      – Susan Lawson

Julian Sands   – Sandy

Betsy Brantley – Stacey

Sir John Gielgud   – Theodore Woodward

Barry Stokes         – Flavio

Danielle Tylke     – Alexandra

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During my much-needed time off from work last week, I stumbled across a film I first saw when I was about seven or eight; a film for old romantic fools like me – and it would appear that I started being an old romantic fool way back in my junior school days! I still remember the first time I watched Romance On The Orient Express. We were living in our first house in East London and it was a Saturday night – back in the days when Saturday night television was more varied and more entertaining than it is today and not overladen with irritating reality TV shows. Now I know it must have been past my bedtime when this film began but it might have been because it was Saturday that we were allowed to stay up late – and this film just happened to be on.

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THE STORY

The story centres around Lily, a glamorous and sophisticated American magazine editor who is traveling on the famous Orient Express train from Venice to Paris with her friend, the quirky, adventure-seeking Susan. The trip brings back bittersweet memories for Lily when she first travelled to Europe ten years earlier with her friend Stacey. It was on this trip that they met two handsome, young Englishmen, Alex and Sandy. Lily and Alex begin a relationship and their story is told through flashbacks. Their relationship ends abruptly when Alex walks out on Lily without saying a word leaving the devastated young woman to return to the States.

Fast forward ten years and the former lovers are reunited once again as Lily comes face to face with the man who broke her heart a decade ago. Alex, having tracked Lily down and knowing that she had booked a trip on the Orient Express, has booked himself on the same trip in a bid to explain to Lily what happened all those years ago. When the couple meet again, the pain and the anguish of the last ten years is still very raw, and Lily understandably doesn’t want to listen to anything that Alex has to say – but for how long can she resist him?

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And Alex’s reappearance plunges Lily into further turmoil as she now has to wrestle between her feelings for Alex and her obligation to her boyfriend back in the States. It is later revealed that her break up with Alex left Lily damaged and unable to form successful relationships with other men. And now she doesn’t know whether she should accept her boyfriend’s proposal or not – even though it’s very evident that she doesn’t love him.

Alex convinces Lily to meet him and the couple catch up on the last ten years and discover that they’d each been married and are now divorced, although Lily’s was the only marriage that produced a child. As the story unfolds, we soon learn that Alex isn’t quite the cad that we thought he was and that his feelings for Lily were genuine. We also learn that when he left Lily, she wasn’t exactly alone…

THE CAST

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When I first saw Romance On The Orient Express, the only person I recognized was Ruby Wax who was a big name in television back in the 1980s. I’d love to say that at infant-school age, I knew who actors Sir John Gielgud and Stuart Wilson were, but unfortunately I didn’t. I’d heard of Cheryl Ladd because I knew that she’d starred in Charlie’s Angels.

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT IT

Even though Romance On The Orient Express is a made-for-TV movie and not a Hollywood blockbuster, there’s something so beautifully moving and poignant about this film which has shades of Casablanca about it. You couldn’t fail to be dazzled by the luxury of the Orient Express and the stunning on-location scenes in Venice and Paris. The story, the setting, the scenery, the acting, the wardrobe… fantastic!   There is great chemistry between the lead actors Stuart Wilson and Cheryl Ladd, and I absolutely loved the riverboat scene with the significantly beautiful song, Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce.

I remember that the first time I watched Romance On The Orient Express, I found the subplot of the romance between Susan and Flavio, a staff member on the train intriguing. Even though it started off as just a bit of light-hearted fun for Susan who was looking for Mr Right -Now, towards the end of the film, Susan had a change of heart and admitted that she does love Flavio but decided to end it because there was no future in it:

“He’s Italian, he lives in Rome. I’m American, I live in New York… I finally meet someone and geography kills it.”

But there is hope for the couple as Lily convinces Susan that if she loves Flavio then they’ll find a way, and you can’t help rooting for the pair hoping that they will indeed find a way because they seem like such a cute couple.

Stuart Wilson as Alex

Stuart Wilson as Alex

What surprised me was that even though I’d only ever watched this film once, an awfully long time ago as well I may add, I was amazed by how much I remembered, including certain scenes and parts of the dialogue. I also didn’t think that anyone else would have even heard of Romance On The Orient Express let alone watched it, but was pleasantly surprised to find that there were others who had seen this film and remembered it very well.

I know that there are some that might find Romance On The Orient Express to be a little saccharine and predictable but I think it is a very memorable, romantic movie, with a simple, easy to follow yet entertaining storyline that keeps you watching til the end because you just have to know what happens to Alex and Lily. A delightfully charming, heart-felt tale about lost love, long-held secrets and second chances all bound together with the themes of friendship, family loyalty, and surprise revelations. Being a Mills and Boon fan, I feel as though I’ve just seen a classic Mills and Boon novel come to life on screen.

Will I watch Romance On The Orient Express again? Mais oui!

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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Films, This, That and the Other!

 

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Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica

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I can’t remember exactly what it was that got me thinking about Newlyweds: Nick And Jessica, the reality TV series that starred newly married couple, singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey as they embarked on a new chapter in their lives. But I decided to check out a couple of old episodes and soon became hooked again!

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When it came to American teen girl singing sensations in the nineties, Britney and Christina ruled. And when it came to nineties American boy bands, N’Sync and Backstreet Boys owned it. This left Jessica Simpson and Nick’s band 98 Degrees a little in the shade, which was unfortunate as they were – and still are – mega talented. I remember watching Jessica for the first time when she performed on Top Of The Pops with I Wanna Love You Forever, and I know that 98 Degrees collaborated with my then-idol Mariah Carey on her track Thank God I Found You which I absolutely loved. Both acts were well-known in the States but back in 1990’s Britain there were still many people who hadn’t heard of them.

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But Newlyweds changed everything…

At the beginning of the twenty first century, reality television wasn’t as we know it today but it was starting to gather momentum. Today The Osbournes, Donny Loves Jenny, Wahlburgers, and of course, Keeping Up WithThe Kardashians are well-known but Newlyweds was probably one of the earliest reality TV shows to feature the day-to-day lives of celebrities, especially a celebrity couple. Nick and Jessica’s MTV reality show that followed the lives of the newlywed pop stars, who married in 2002 and began filming their series in 2003.

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I remember I used to watch Newlyweds on MTV with my sister. Even though we knew who both Nick and Jessica were, we didn’t quite know what to expect before watching the first episode. We thought it would be bland, boring fly-on-the-wall stuff which we probably wouldn’t bother watching again but we thought we’d give it a go. I was especially interested because I remember that the impossibly good-looking couple’s wedding was featured on one of Oprah Winfrey’s celebrity wedding shows and I was curious to see what married life was like for them.

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Well Newlyweds proved to be anything but boring. It had me and sis in stitches! Jessica’s combination of dumb blonde-meets pop sensation meets wannabe housewife seemed to grate on Nick which provided many of the comic moments. The pairing of solid, dependable, down-to-earth Nick with scatty, dizzy but lovable Jessica who was very comfortable in the world of celebrity made for great viewing. Who didn’t love watching Jessica’s antics and listening to her ‘Jessica-isms’ which often left an exasperated Nick speechless?

But it wasn’t just the humorous aspect that kept us tuning in. Like most of Newlyweds’ fans, I just loved watching Nick and Jessica together. The love between them was evident, and although they may have been chalk-and-cheese, somehow they worked. I used to watch Nick’s romantic gestures and hope that one day, I’d find a man like that too (who didn’t?) It was a modern day fairy tale and I couldn’t wait for my weekly fix of Newlyweds. To be honest, I’m amazed that I pretty much forgot about this couple and the show. As far as memories go, they are relatively recent and both Nick and Jessica are still very much in the public eye. But I suppose it’s the fact that they’ve both moved on and created new lives for themselves and developed as people who are as far removed from their Newlyweds days as you can get, that made us forget that once upon a time, we used to be glued to this show.

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The show boosted the couple’s popularity greatly especially Jessica’s and was great publicity for her many professional ventures including her cosmetics line, Dessert, her album, In This Skin, and her first ever movie role as Daisy Duke in Dukes Of Hazard. Unfortunately as everyone knows, the marriage – and the show – wasn’t to last. At the end of 2005, Nick and Jessica separated after three years of marriage and three series of Newlyweds, despite having a seemingly solid relationship, divorcing six months later. Nick and Jessica fans hoped that the couple would reunite but it wasn’t to be. Fast forward to 2015, and both Nick and Jessica have new partners with whom they have started families, and they have both on numerous occasions expressed a desire to move on from the past and focus on their new families. Of course in the world of celebrity, the past can’t be erased  so easily but there’s no denying that Nick and Jessica both seem happy in their new lives and that’s all that their fans can wish for.

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But the show – and the couple –  will always have a very special place in our hearts.

FAVOURITE JESSICA-ISMS

  1. “Is this chicken that I have or fish?” That infamous line.
  2. “I don’t eat buffalo” – when offered buffalo wings
  3. “Twenty-three is old. It’s like almost twenty-five which is almost mid-twenties.” – on her twenty-third birthday.
  4. “You post a letter before you can send it.” – her thoughts on the prefix ‘post’ meaning ‘after’.
  5. “I feel bad for this horse but I guess it’s on wheels so it makes it go faster.” – during the romantic buggy ride for their first anniversary.
  6. “The horse knows to stop at a red lights?” – during same buggy ride.
  7. “I love this scent. What scent is it again? Oh, it’s unscented.” – on candles.
  8. “They have their own language.” – on thinking that ‘African’ is a language.
  9. I think I just broke my kidney.
  10. “It was total mayham.” – instead of mayhem.

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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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Old-Skool Ice-Cream Flavours

Today has been an absolute scorcher of a day. I swear half of me has melted away!

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If I could walk around the streets of London in a string bikini, I would. But unfortunately can’t (especially not with this bod!) so I’ve had to think of other ways to beat the heat and I’ve been downing anything that’s icy cold.

And thoughts turned to all the ice-creams we used to devour as kids. It goes without saying that we loved our ice-cream. For a number of reasons, this was not a freezer staple but rather an occasional treat. There’d always be tubs of Cornish vanilla or neopolitan ice-creams at family parties and gatherings; the ice-cream man wasn’t safe when we heard the van approaching our road, and ice-cream cones always featured when my family and I hit the local park. Unsurprisingly, Mum refused to stock up on ice-cream during the winter months, so ice-cream is most definitely synonymous with summer.

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Today ice-cream means Ben and Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs, Carte D’or and (once) unusual flavours such as salted caramel, lemon meringue pie, espresso, and toffee apple. When I asked my class recently what their favourite flavours were, ‘pistachio’ and ‘green tea; featured in the answers. And me? Well funnily enough my favourite ice-creams are three which are very hard to find in England: I love butter pecan (USA) crème caramel/flan (Spain) and brown bread ice-cream (Ireland.) I must be the only person who needs to hop on a plane every time they fancy an ice-cream cone!

Image from bbc.co.uk

Image from bbc.co.uk

 

This is all good but it’s dawned on me that many of the ice-cream flavours from my childhood have either totally disappeared or they’re very hard to come by. Ice-creams in the 1970s,1980s and 1990s wasn’t necessary high-end or ultra-sophisticated. In fact when I think about it, there were very limited in their range of flavours (generally chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla) and packaging was anything but glam. Brands were typically Wall’s, Lyon’s Maid… and not much else! But it was fun, delicious and it kept you cool.

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I absolutely love ice-cream today: there’s a never-ending variety of flavours, including savoury flavours (avocado chilli or basil, anyone?) the quality has vastly improved, and it’s that much more creamier and flavourful. But I can’t help but get all nostalgic when I think about what ice-cream looked like back in the day and those retro flavours. So as an ode to summers gone by and staying cool, here’s a list of the ice-cream flavours that were around when I was growing up in the eighties. Some of them are still around; some are hard to find, and some seem to have melted away…

1. VANILLA

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Vanilla ice-cream needs absolutely no introduction! Vanilla ice-cream might be considered a bit, well, vanilla, but back in the eighties, in a world with limited ice-cream flavours, if anyone had a tub of ice-cream in their freezer, you could bet your life it would be vanilla. It was very popular in our house although Mum tended to buy it in block form rather than a tub. I suppose one reason it was so popular was because it was – and still is – so versatile: you could pop it in a soda float; add any flavour topping to it; layer it up in a sundae, or serve it as an accompaniment to a pudding such as a cake or tart – much like we do today. However most of the people I knew used to serve it with tinned fruit salad – a real treat back then for us kids (tinned fruit was the only fruit I’d eat back then) or jelly. It might not sound very sophisticated but if someone served that up for me now I’d still scoff it!

Today, vanilla has to work hard to maintain its popularity with all these weird and wonderful ice-cream flavours around that are tempting us away from this good, old-fashioned flavour. Vanilla is still tops due to its versatility but we’re much more fussy when it comes to the quality and won’t settle for any old vanilla ice-cream. It has to be super smooth and creamy, with an intense vanilla flavour – and if it happens to be vanilla bean ice-cream, so much the better!
2. CORNISH VANILLA

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Now this was the ice-cream flavour that Mum was most likely to buy and it was always the Wall’s brand that was in our freezer. Cornish vanilla ice-cream had a much deeper cream-come-yellow colour that regular vanilla ice-cream didn’t have, and what I remember most was that deliciously buttery flavour. Even as a child I felt that Cornish vanilla ice-cream didn’t really need any sauces or toppings thanks to that unique flavour; I preferred to have it ‘plain’.

Over the years I gradually stopped devouring Cornish vanilla. I’m not sure if it’s because I ate bucket-loads as a child or because I was tempted away by other flavours – or maybe both! But when I’m hit by nostalgia – as I so often am – I do treat myself to some Cornish vanilla ice-cream. However, I can’t help feeling a little underwhelmed by it because that intense, buttery flavour that I remember doesn’t seem the same – no matter which brand I buy. But I live in hope of rediscovering it.

3. CHOCOLATE

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I didn’t know a kid back then who didn’t like chocolate ice-cream – and I still don’t! It’s still very much a firm favourite today with children and adults alike. When I was growing up but it was just ‘chocolate’. Now chocolate ice-cream has more varieties than Heinz: white chocolate, chocolate brownie, chocolate fudge; chocolate cookie dough; chocolate mud pie; triple chocolate; chocolate-til-it’s-coming-out-of-your-ears etc.

At secondary school, we were fortunate enough to have an ice-cream van arrive in the school yard every lunch time and home time, where after school, I would sometimes treat myself to a chocolate cone. I wonder what Mr. Oliver would make of that!

And you don’t need me to tell you, it’s still one of the most popular ice-cream flavours all over the world. But thenwith all those chocolate variations it would have to be.
4. STRAWBERRY

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My memories of strawberry ice-cream – a flavour both my parents loved back then – was that it was always an eye-catching shade of pink, from a pretty pastel shade to a very deep pink. However one thing I’m wondering about is whether any of the strawberry ice-creams I devoured contained a scrap of real strawberry at all. I suspect most of them didn’t and were simply strawberry flavoured but even if we knew that back then, I doubt we would have minded very much.

Of course today there is a real distinction between the brightly coloured strawberry flavoured ice-cream, and the frozen, creamy delicacy that’s made with real strawberries and often contains yummy chunks of strawberries – and I definitely know which one I prefer!

And as with chocolate, there are many variations today of the humble strawberry ice-cream: strawberry cheesecake; strawberry shortcake; strawberries and cream; strawberry and Champagne… oh it was all so much simpler in my day!
5. MINT CHOC-CHIP

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A childhood fave for me, as I loved anything that was mint flavoured (as a matter of fact I still do!) And contrary to popular belief, mint ice-cream tastes nothing like toothpaste. When I was around seven, I went through a phase where I would only ever eat ice-cream if it was mint choc-chip. I loved the cool, refreshing, minty taste combined with creamy texture. And those dark chocolate chips were a very welcome addition. Mint and chocolate – a winning combo if ever I heard one. And of course I loved the minty green colour too.

Mint choc chip is still readily available and although I never rush out and buy a tub anymore (I definitely overindulged when I was a child and can never finish a whole tub now) I never say no to a mint choc-chip cone.
6. RASPBERRY RIPPLE

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This was another ice-cream flavour I really liked: vanilla ice-cream swirled with raspberry sauce. Once again Mum used to by this in block form (yep, those blocks sure were popular in the eighties and nineties) which we would usually slice and serve between two wafers. I was always very fussy about which slice I got because it had to be very heavily rippled with raspberry sauce.

Thankfully this delicious ice-cream is still popular today.
7. NEAPOLITAN

Neapolitan: the ice-cream of my childhood

Whoever invented Neapolitan ice-cream is right up there with Einstein! It was a great idea to put the three popular ice-cream flavours together: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. It meant that mums could buy just one tub and know it would please the whole family, and for those who just simply couldn’t decide which one to buy – they could just go for Neapolitan. One tub fits all!

It goes without saying that a tub of Neapolitan was always very well received in our house where we all had our favourites. And whenever we had guests over for dinner and there was going to be ice-cream for afters, if it wasn’t vanilla it was almost guaranteed to be Neapolitan because let’s face it everyone was guaranteed to like at least one of the flavours (unless they were strictly mint choc-chip in which case we were screwed!)

Neapolitan ice-cream is still around today but I wonder how many people have a tub in their freezer…
8. BROWN BREAD

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Although brown bread ice-cream was well-known during the eighties, I don’t ever recall it being available to buy in stores. Instead it seemed to be an ice-cream people were encouraged to make at home judging by the recipes I’d see in magazines and on cooking shows. At the time I remember thinking what an odd flavour it was for an ice-cream. Why on earth would anyone want to eat ice-cream made out of bread?

Well I’ve just come back from holiday where I indulged in the most gorgeous brown bread ice-cream. Words really don’t do it justice. Good on the ice-cream parlour for having brown bread ice-cream as one of its flavours. I hope other parlours and restaurants will follow.
9. RUM N’ RAISIN

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I never actually had rum n’ raisin ice-cream when I was growing up, despite it being quite popular, because I wasn’t keen on raisins and I was afraid I’d get drunk on the artificial rum flavour! How times have changed because now I love to get drunk on real rum… but I still have a love-hate thing going on with raisins. So good on rum n’  raisin for making it into the twenty first century but I really don’t think it’s something I’ll ever be wolfing down (it would have stood a better chance without the raisins.)

My mum, on the other hand, loves raisins but will never stock the freezer with rum and raisin because she hates the taste of rum!
10. BANANA

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This is an ice-cream flavour I loved back then and still do. Banana ice-cream wasn’t overly common when I was growing up – it still isn’t – but I remember that some restaurants offered it along with the top three. I really like banana ice-cream partly because I love the sweet, creamy taste of bananas but also because it made a change from vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. I’ve since discovered that banana ice-cream isn’t popular with a lot of people even now although I can’t understand why after all most people like a banana split and the flavours aren’t too dissimilar.

Never mind – I’ll still guzzle it by the bucketload!

11. TUTTI FRUTTI

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Meaning ‘all fruits’ in Italian, this ice-cream flavour containing mixed peel, dried and candied fruits was incredibly popular during the eighties and early nineties and was a huge hit with my family, especially my mum and aunts. But guess what? I HATED it! I couldn’t stand the stuff. I remember one occasion during a family get together when my five year old self had cried the house down because I wanted some ice-cream. And of all the flavours they could have brought me, they brought me a bowl of horrid tutti frutti.

“Now you eat that,” said my aunt in a very stern tone, “you asked for it, now eat it!” I didn’t dare tell her that even though I’d asked for ice-cream, I did not ask for that awful flavour.

Even though my palate has changed over the years and I now like foods I once detested, I don’t think I could ever get used to tutti frutti ice-cream. And I’m not sure I’ll ever get the chance to find out if I’m right because I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw it on sale… anywhere! In fact a lot of people I’ve spoken to have said the same. And despite my dislike of the flavour, I am sorry that it doesn’t seem to be around now as it brings back a lot of memories of my family, childhood and the eighties… and also because my mum likes it!

12. CHOC-CHIP

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Chocolate chip ice-cream is an absolute classic: smooth vanilla ice-cream combined with crunchy chocolate chips. This was a very popular ice-cream flavour as I was growing up but funnily enough I don’t remember us having this at home. On the rare occasions when we were fortune to sample a dish of choc chip, it was usually in a restaurant. And of course this flavour is still consumed by the truckload.

Right, now I’m going to stay cool with a huge tub of olive oil and bay leaf ice-cream. Bliss!

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