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R.I.P Carla Lane

One of my friends told me last week that not only was it tragic that we’ve lost some big name stars before we’ve even reached the first half of 2016, but we’ve lost those who made up our generation; people who we grew up with, so even though we never met them, it feels as though we know them which makes us feel that loss so much more.

Today TV writer, Carla Lane, the lady responsible for Bless This House, Butterflies, and one I still remember, The Mistress, has gone on to join a very talented bunch in the sky. I grew up watching Bread, while my mother loved The Liver Birds.

I very much doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t watched something written by Carla Lane. She will be missed…

TV writer Carla Lane

TV writer Carla Lane

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Gone Too Soon

 

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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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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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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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It’s A Funny Old (Modern) World: Technology

To say that the world has changed a lot since I was a child is an understatement and I am constantly marvelling at how far the world and all its inhabitants have come a long way in such a short amount of time. But as the world changes and progresses, so does technology. The Ice, Stone, and Bronze ages may have come and gone, and now our feet are planted firmly in the Digital Age; a period in which we rely heavily on gadgets, and technological advancements are moving at an astounding pace.

Looking back at my childhood years, it’s crazy to think that we were so technologically advanced. And compared to our grandparents and parents, we were. But by today’s standards we were barely getting warmed up! Many of the technological devices and gadgets that once had pride of place in our homes have now been consigned to the scrap heap, while concepts such as mobile phones which perform a multitude of functions and social media ruling the world didn’t even seem conceiveable.

So let’s take a look at a time when life seemed so much simpler…

1. WHEN PHONES WERE PHONES

Mobile phones started to gain in popularity when I was in my early teens. Back then you were considered someone special if you were one of the elite lot privileged enough to own this little device that you could fit into your pocket and enabled you to break free from the confinements of your home because after all, staying in to wait for a call is so 1983! Remember One-2-One and those free after 7pm phone calls? And before 7pm it was only a penny per minute but we still managed to run up some bills and a half? Forget it’s good to talk, it costs a whole lot of money to talk (yes, I know that’s a different phone company!)

With the emergence of text messaging and camera phones, it seemed as though the humble mobile phone was no the total package. How little we knew! The mobile phone was barely getting started, and now you can use your phone to listen to music, watch TV shows, check your emails, keep up with social media, find directions; make cups of tea; fly you abroad; transport you to a parallel universe… and after all that you can even make phone calls! No wonder mobile phones are never out of people’s hands.

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2. DO LANDLINES STILL EXIST?

OK, I know that they do, and they can most definitely be found in most offices and business premises. But do any households – apart from my parents and parents-in-laws’ – actually own one and, if they do, do they actually use it? It’s hard to believe that the whole world has gone mobile phone crazy now because when I was growing up in the eighties, some households didn’t even have a phone. And we thought we were in the presence of royalty when we met someone who had an extension in one of the bedrooms. But the ever-increasing desire for mobile phones has meant that most people have very little use for landlines, and I actually know people who have done away with them.

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3. KINDLES ARE THE NEW BOOKS

Kindles have become so popular now that when I see someone on the Tube reading a book – well, someone other than me – I have to look twice. I totally get how handy these readers are, especially when you think about how much space a collection of books takes up, and the weight of them as you have to lug them around. I also find that I tend to read faster with a Kindle, as with books I tend to linger over the page for too long. But that said, I really don’t think I could give up my book collection for anyone. There’s something about the feel and smell of a book that I can’t quite put into words but has made me realise that anything I do read needs to have pages, a cover and a spine.

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4. WHEN TELEVISION ONLY HAD FOUR OPTIONS…

Many Americans I knew found it really hard to believe that we only had four terrestrial channels – five with the emergence of Channel 5 in 1997. Furthermore many Americans thought it was bizarre that we had to pay a licence fee to watch TV but that’s another story! Yes, during my childhood years we only had four/five channels to while away our days with. But we were never bored because TV was quality back then – or maybe we weren’t fussy!

Sky TV was a pretty big thing when I was about eleven. I nagged Mum to get that for us but she wasn’t having any of it saying that we didn’t do our homework as it was thanks to our excessive television watching. However Dad did get cable ten years later before getting Sky. We soon found that despite the millions of channels, there was hardly anything worth watching!

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5. CDS AND DVDS MAKE GREAT COASTERS

I never thought I’d see the day when people stopped buying CDs and DVDs. But to be fair there’s got to be people out there who are still listening to music and watching films the old-fashioned way. How else can you explain the ten HMV stores that are still open?

I started buying CDs and DVDs when I was in my mid-teens and hardly a week would go buy without me popping into a store to pick up that weeks latest releases. as my collection grew, the space in my room diminished. That should have been a sign to stop but it was impossible. I still have my collection and haven’t given anything away but I did wonder if I should. After all, I’ve outgrown most of my collection and don’t watch/listen to them any more. But the nostalgic in me won’t let that happen!

Of course Netflix, LoveFilm, YouTube and the numerous amount of downloading sites means that it’s no longer necessary to have shelves stacked with CDs and DVDs. A pity if you ask me!

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6. GOODBYE PAGER!

I think I only knew one person who had a pager which he pretty much did away with by the end of the nineties. But I do know that they were all the rage, and as with mobiles before they became accessible to all, pagers were for the elite few including doctors, business people and other professionals. So if you were an ordinary Joe who carried a pager, that was pretty impressive. Well we thought so anyway! But then mobile phones really took off and with the possibility of texting, nobody really needed a pager anymore.

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7. NO MORE HALF CHEWED VHS TAPES

Oh my goodness, how my VCR was my best friend! It saddens me terribly that there are kids today who will grow up never having seen a VCR or even held a video cassette in their dainty little hands! Movies were a pretty big deal when we were growing up; an inexpensive and convenient form of entertainment. And as there were video stores just about everywhere back then, movie nights with our family and renting DVDs to watch at home were a common occurrence. And when we weren’t watching videos on them, we were using our VCRs to record shows that we needed to watch at a later time.

Of course there were times when things didn’t go to plan. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’d accidentally recorded the wrong show or taped over a show that someone else had been planning to watch before they’d even had a chance to view it. And as for the frustration of our trusty VCR chewing up a cassette…

I miss those days!

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8. THE END OF THE ANSWER MACHINE

“I’m sorry I’m not in right now but if you leave your name, number, and a short message, I’ll get back to you soon.”

Then there were the security conscious people who didn’t want to admit that they were out of the house in case it was a would-be-burglar phoning to check that the coast was clear…

“I’m sorry I can’t come to the phone right now but I’m playing with my two rottweilers…”

And whatever the recorded message was, we all knew we had to wait for the beep.

We didn’t get an answer machine until it became a matter of necessity for my parents’ business and prior to that I was always in awe of people who actually owned one because it seemed like such a luxury item (well in the eyes of a six year old it was but I’m sure the answer machine was essential to the person who owned it!)

Now with the vast majority of the world’s population owning a mobile not to mention the other one million and one ways available today in which we can get hold of someone we are trying to reach, answer machines are no longer a necessity and it’s very rare to see one in someone’s home today.

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9. SOCIAL MEDIA FRENZY

When I was growing up, the phrase ‘social media’ was yet to be coined. Now it’s all anyone talks about. In fact it’s what we use to talk – face-to-face communication is so 1980s after all! There’s no denying that the world has gone social media crazy. Whether that’s good or bad is another story but it’s the way it is in the twenty first century. Everybody who’s anybody uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram and the millions of other sites that are available. How many times have I seen friends and relatives sat in coffee shops and restaurants, not speaking because they’re too busy checking out what’s happening in the virtual world rather than the real one. And everyone’s forgotten the Green Cross Code when they’re crossing the road because they’re too busy gazing at their phones!

I remember when I was a kid, if one of the adults wanted to get hold of someone, they’d phone them on the landline – although in those days it was called a phone! If they weren’t on the phone and they lived nearby, you’d pop round. And if they weren’t in, you’d pop a note through the letter box.

But today of course, you can try to get hold of someone without leaving the comfort of your armchair. When I was in my teens, if someone uttered the words, “If you need to get hold of me you can phone me, fax me, or page me,” you’d be suitably impressed and think that the person was Marvel’s latest super hero, Gadgetman! How little we knew!

Today you’re more likely to hear:

“If you need to get hold of me, you can phone me – try all five lines; text me; email me; Facebook me; Skype me; Instagram me; Facetime me, or tweet me!”

Woah!

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10. THE FAX MACHINE:NEWEST EXHIBIT IN YOUR LOCAL MUSEUM!

As a child, I marvelled at the brilliance of the fax machine. I thought it was amazing that you could send something from London that would reach New York – and further afield – within a matter of seconds. Of course as I got older I realised just how expensive it could be to send faxes. My parents used to own a stationary shop, and we used to sell fax rolls as if they were going out of fashion. Then several years later, we ended up binning boxes of fax rolls.

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They had gone out of fashion!

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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Technology

 

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