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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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Happy Birthday EastEnders… And A Look Back At That First Ever Episode

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Well we’ve been waiting for this day for what seems like eons – and now it’s here! EastEnders turns thirty today – and I feel so old! When the show first aired, who’d have thought that three decades later we’d be still be tuning in – and that Sharon and Ian would still be in it?

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As part of EastEnders thirtieth celebrations, the BBC are showing the first ever episode of the London-based soap opera which began on 19 February 1985. If you’d asked me if I’d ever watched the first episode, I’d have said no. I had absolutely no recollection of seeing it and I don’t recall the infamous opening scene where Albert Square regulars Den Watts, Arthur Fowler, and Ali Osman kick down the door to Reg Cox’s flat and find the pensioner dying. Incidentally there is to be an ode to this first ever scene in tonight’s episode.

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So I thought I’d take a Butchers (pardon the pun!) at this iconic episode which was to change the course of weekday television viewing forever. We were introduced to the Fowlers, the Beales, the Watts, the Osmans and the Jeffereys, plus we got our first introduction to ‘Nasty’ Nick Cotton – though no sign of his ‘Ma’ Dot. We also got to meet the lovely Dr. Legg. It’s amazing how young everyone looked, especially Ian who looked as though he was living a carefree existance. If only he knew then what we know now…

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As it happens, I realised that I had actually watched this episode as I remember many of the scenes so clearly. I remember Sue Osman’s and Kathy Beale’s argument in the café where Sue tipped Kathy’s teas down the sink. Kathy then went out to the stall and told Pete that there was no tea because of ‘bloody Sue.’ I also recalled Kathy having a dig at Sue when the Osmans walked into the Vic just as Kathy was starting her shift there.

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It was also in this episode that Pauline and Arthur Fowler discovered that they were going to become parents again – that’s right, little Martin Fowler was on his way. But despite being happy about the baby, the Fowler’s were worried as Arthur was finding it hard to get work (as were most of the population in the mid eighties) and they were more than a little afraid of the reaction of Pauline’s mother, the legendary Lou Beale. As it turns out, it all kicked off – in a scene I remember very well – but what was supposed to be so tense turned out to be quite hilarious for the viewer. And the non-stop shouting over each other was an indicator of the shape of things to come…

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There were also signs that Den Watts had quite an eye for the ladies and was going to be quite a handful for his wife, the long-suffering Angie – we just didn’t realise how much! And the glimpse back into television three decades ago was fascinating. There wouldn’t be racial slurs and name-calling for example, unless it was relevant to the storyline and there’s less swearing today on the Square – we don’t even hear ‘bloody’ as much now.

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip back down memory lane and watching all those much-missed characters who made EastEnders what it is today. but now I have to return to the present as a very special episode of EastEnders is about to start – and I want to witness television history as they reveal the killer of Lucy Beale.

Happy birthday EastEnders!

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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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Ten EastEnders Mysteries – Solved!

It’s the whodunit that’s gripped the nation and in just a matter of days, we’ll discover who it was that killed EastEnders’ Lucy Beale. It’s a pretty big week for the long-running soap as it enters it’s thirtieth year and to celebrate there are a week of live episodes which will no doubt culminate in shocked gasps which are most likely to be heard all around the country as we find out exactly who it is that has blood on their hands. Bookies are taking bets and I have my own suspicions as to who it might be. It’s one of the biggest storylines to date.

However as every EastEnders fan will know, the show is well known for its mysteries and whodunits that are guaranteed to keep viewers tuning in to discover who the culprit was and their motives. Let’s not forget, the very first EastEnders scene involved the murder of Reg Cox. I think if Hercule Poirot lived on The Square he’d never be out of work with all the murders, shootings, thefts and other mayhem that takes place.

So as we reach the conclusion to what is going to be a classic Walford whodunit, I’m taking a look at what has been for me, some of the most memorable mysteries ever to occur on the Square, with some going practically as far back as the beginning of the show. They definitely had us on the edge of our seats!

1. FOWLER BREAK-IN

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When Pauline and Arthur invited a group of their friends and family back to theirs, they weren’t expected to be greeted by the sight that awaited them: their home had been ransacked and the Christmas club fund that Arthur had recently withdrawn from the bank was gone. The question is, who could have done it?

As far as mysteries goes, this was pretty tame stuff. But then again it was back in the eighties when EastEnders was just getting warmed up. And far from it dragging on and on, the culprit was revealed within a couple of episodes as loveable Arthur Fowler who’d used the Christmas club money to pay for his daughter Michelle’s wedding and then staged the break-in to explain the missing money to all his friends, family, and neighbours. This incident lead to Arthur’s eventual breakdown and imprisonment.

2. WHO FATHERED MICHELLE FOWLER’S BABY?

Drama didn’t follow anyone around as much as it followed Michelle Fowler, and it all began when she got pregnant at sixteen and refused to name the father. This storyline occurred very early on for EastEnders and it is still one of the most memorable and still talked about today.

There were several characters who were in the frame for being the father of the future Vicki Fowler. On the day of the big reveal, viewers saw Andy O’Brien, Tony Carpenter, Den Watts, and Ali Osman hurridly getting into their vehicles and driving away – just as Michelle was on her way to the canal to meet the father. We knew it was one of the four; we just didn’t know which one.

Then a car appears at the canal and we see a man step out of it before going to open one of the rear doors – as Roly jumps out of the car. Yes, it was none other than Den Watts. Even though I’d watched these scenes the first time round, I was too young to understand the relevance of what I was watching  (strange as it may seem, I innocently thought Michelle was having a chat with Sharon’s dad) but now I’m so glad that I got to witness this piece of soap history.

3. DEBBIE’S PHONE PEST

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When Debbie Wilkins began getting obscene phone calls, she naturally didn’t know who could possibly behind them. Then she realized that the voice belonged to café owner Ali Osman. Her enraged boyfriend Andy wanted to storm over to Ali’s and have it out with them but Debbie had another idea: she was going to invite Ali and his wife Sue over for dinner and confront him about the calls. It was a very tense dinner as Sue worked out that Debbie and Andy were blaming Ali for the phone calls… and then the phone rang.

You guessed it – it was the phone pest. And a horrified Debbie realised that she had made a mistake and still didn’t know the identity of the person making the malicious calls.

It was during a visit from Debbie’s phone Naima that the identity of the caller was revealed. Naima had answered the phone when it rang and despite Debbie’s attempts to take the phone from her, Naima insisted on speaking to the caller herself. So she did – in Bengali.

The caller was none other than Naima’s husband Saeed.

I actually remember the scene where Saeed was exposed, as well as an earlier scene where Saeed was queuing up along with other residents to use the payphone in the laundrette which was already being occupied by Ali who was making an important phone call. Looking back it was probably to keep viewers guessing as to who the phone pest was.

4. WALFORD SERIAL ATTACKER

This was a storyline that particularly sticks out in my mind even though I was so young when it aired. In 1987 an unknown man was terrorising the women of Walford. He’d stalk them at night and there were references made by the characters of hearing about yet another woman being attacked. It wasn’t long before some of the Square’s residents were having close calls with the Walford attacker. Sue Osman had had an encounter with him, as had Sharon Watts but both had got away unharmed. In fact I remember the episode in which Sharon was almost attacked. I was watching it with some of my little friends and we all played detective: discussing who we thought the attacker might be and who could be his next victim.

Unfortunately Pat Wicks didn’t fare so well. She was brutally attacked and left for dead. Her ex-husband Pete became a suspect, but although he had a motive for attacking Pat, there was no reason why he should go after the other women.

Eventually the Walford attacker was caught when he tried to assault Debbie Wilkins after finding her alone in the laundrette. Unfortunately his capture was a bit of a let-down because instead of being a well-known or at least easily identifiable character, the attacker just turned out to be some random guy who I believe was called Oxley.

Still not bad for a soap that was pretty much just starting out.

5. MURDER OF EDDIE ROYAL

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Ex-policeman Eddie Royle hadn’t been landlord of The Queen Vic when he had been found knifed to death in The Square’s gardens back in the early nineties. Dot stumbled across his body when she found Roly stranded in the Sqauare who led her to Eddie’s body. But what Dot didn’t know was that she wasn’t the first person to discover the dead body…

Viewers saw Clyde Tavernier standing over Eddie’s body with a knife in his hands before wiping the blood from his hands and fleeing. He then set about acting very suspiciously: tiptoeing back into his house so as not to alert his family to his presence before burning a shirt with Eddie’s blood on it – under the watchful eye of his grandfather Jules.

However Clyde was innocent. He’d found Eddie lying in the gardens and foolishly picked up the murder weapon thus incriminating himself. Not only that but Clyde also had a motive for killing Eddie after they fell out over a boxing betting scam. But then Eddie was hardly a popular man in The Square with a few of the residents including Grant and Sharon having a grudge against him.

Nick Cotton then told police that Clyde had killed Eddie causing a terrified Clyde to go on the run with his son Kofi, on-off girlfriend Michelle Fowler and her daughter Vicki.

Thankfully Mark’s friend Joe came forward and told police that he had seen Nick Cotton in the Square that night after watching the recovering drug addict shin down the drainpipe outside his bedroom window. It was clear – as I’m sure many people had long suspected – that Nick was Eddie’s killer.

But despite being arrested and tried for the murder, Nick is found not guilty due to lack of evidence, leaving him free to wreak havoc in the Square for years to come.

6. WHO SHOT PHIL MITCHELL?

Our very own version of the who shot JR saga was who shot Phil Mitchell – the first time back in 2001. And with the number of Square residents who he’d rubbed up the wrong way, it could have been anyone. On the evening he got shot, a very drunken Phil was irritated by what he thought were kids playing knock down ginger. So he went outside and hollered in typical Phil fashion that if they did it again, he’d tan their backsides. Then as he turned around to walk back inside he was shot in the back. But before losing consciousness, Phil caught a glimpse of his assassin fleeing… and we all waited until Phil was out of hospital for that humdinger of an episode where Phil confronted the person who shot him.

Steve Owen, Lisa Shaw, Dan Sullivan, and Ian Beale were all suspects – but it turned out that it was little Lisa who pulled the trigger.

7. DENNIS RICKMAN’S KILLER

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I had the biggest crush ever on Dennis Rickman, so I was absolutely heartbroken when he was killed off in 2005, especially as it was in an extremely brutal manner. I remember my sisters, who were massive Dennis fans too could hardly bear to watch the episode where Dennis died.

After marrying Sharon, the woman of his dreams, the newlyweds were thrilled beyond belief to discover that they were going to have the one thing that they didn’t think was possible – a baby! I still remember the scene where Sharon broke the news to Dennis and how jubilant they both were.

But sadly their happiness wasn’t to last. Johnny Allen, furious with Dennis for having crossed him, threatens Sharon and tells her that if she and Dennis don’t leave Walford before the new year, her baby was grow up without a father. Sharon manages to talk Dennis into leaving for a new life in America but on the day they’re due to leave, Phil Mitchell tells Dennis that Johnny Allen attacked and threatened Sharon, and that he was responsible for killing Dennis’s friend Andy Hunter. A furious Dennis goes over to Johnny’s, where he beats him half to death. But then Dennis makes the mistake of throwing Johnny a phone so that he can call for help, thinking it won’t matter as he and Sharon will be long gone by the time help arrives.

But Johnny doesn’t call for an ambulance; he calls for someone to take care of Dennis in revenge for the vicious attack. As Dennis and Sharon look for each other among the crowds of New Year’s Eve’s revellers, they catch sight of each other – and as they do so, someone brutally stabs Dennis leaving him to die in a hysterical Sharon’s arms.

It’s in Spring 2006 that we find out that the man hired to kill Dennis was Alfie Moon’s second cousin Danny.

8. FATHER OF LAURA BEALE’S BABY

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Laura, the third Mrs. Ian Beale was ecstatic when she discovered that she was pregnant with her much longed-for baby. In her excitement she got caught up in babymania and failed to notice that husband Ian wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels – although he did a good enough job of pretending to be happy. The reason? Ian knew that the baby wasn’t his as he’d secretly had a vasectomy. And not willing to bring up another man’s child as his own, Ian was biding his time until he could exact his revenge on Laura.

He conned Laura into signing over her share of the business to him, and then on Christmas Day Ian revealed that he knew that Laura had cheated on him and that he’d had a vasectomy so he couldn’t possibly be the baby’s father. Then Ian threw Laura out of their home – much to the disgust of Ian’s young daughter, Lucy.

Meanwhile Laura had been genuinely certain that Ian was the baby’s father and had no reason to believe any different – until she recalled a drunken one-night stand. So she notified the man in question that he was about to become a dad. The man was a very shocked and very married Gary Hobbs!

But the shocks didn’t stop there…

After his arrival, baby Bobby is in need of a blood transfusion. Tests showed that Gary wasn’t the father…

…it was Ian Beale!

9. GEORGE TROTT’S FATHER

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It was the storyline that kept EastEnders’ fans guessing for nine months: who was the father of Heather Trott’s baby? Just hours after giving birth to a baby boy, who Heather named George Michael Trott, she then made a phone call to let an unsuspecting male know that he had just become a father. And in typical EastEnders style four men – Billy Mitchell, Darren Miller, Phil Mitchell and Minty Peterson – were seen getting calls.

I didn’t get to see the episode when it first aired in which the identity of George’s father was revealed. Instead it was left to my sister to tell me that Darren Miller was George’s dad. It’s a good job I’m not a betting person as my money would have been on Heather’s ex-husband, Minty Peterson.

10. WHO KILLED ARCHIE MITCHELL

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This was the last big whodunit before it was topped by the Lucy Beale saga. And just like the episodes which are going to air this week on EastEnders, Archie Mitchell’s killer was unmasked during the show’s first ever live episode as part of EastEnders’ twenty fifth anniversary celebrations.

Over the years, we’d heard a lot about ‘Daad’s bruvver, Archie’ from the Mitchell clan, but it’s only when he appeared on screen that viewers saw what a thoroughly unlikeable character he was. A philanderer, liar, control freak, rapist and trouble maker, Archie Mitchell made a lot of enemies – especially among his own family. His daughter Ronnie, in particular, hated her father for forcing her to give her baby up for adoption.

Archie was killed on Christmas Day 2009 when he was hit over the head with the bust of the Queen Victoria. There were many possible suspects including Ian Beale, Bradley Branning, Ryan Malloy, Stacey Branning, and practically the entire Mitchell family. During the live episode, it appeared that the murderer was a panic-stricken Bradly who was fleeing from the police and was killed as he fell from the roof.

The murderer turned out to be Bradley’s wife Stacey.

And this Thursday, another EastEnders mystery will be solved…

Here’s to another thirty years of murder, mystery and suspense on the Square.

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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in TV Shows

 

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Video

Anne Kirkbride: Goodbye To A TV Legend

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The country is still reeling from the shock death of Coronation Street legend Anne Kirkbride this week from cancer. The sixty year old actress had graced our screens for more than forty years as Deirdre Barlow and many of us have grown up with this iconic character.

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Last weekend, I read an article in which Anne was considering extending her leave from the top Manchester soap due to exhaustion. She had made her last Corrie appearance  last October, and it was even hinted that Anne was growing tired of playing Deirdre. So the next day when I read the first part of a  headline in which William Roach, who played Anne’s on-screen husband Ken Barlow, talking about Coronation Street having lost a legend, for a split second I assumed that Anne had quit the role that had made her a household name. I then went on to learn the incredibly sad news that Anne had passed away. The news had come as a great shock, not only to viewers but to many of the Oldham-born actress’s co-stars, as very few knew that she was ill. At the time of her death very little was revealed regarding the details of her illness.

Deirdre and Ken marry for the first time

Deirdre and Ken marry for the first time

 

My earliest memories of Coronation Street also include my earliest memories of Deirdre. My mum was a huge Corrie fan and back then, the nation was gripped by the Ken-Deirdre-Mike love triangle. I was obviously too young to understand what was going on but I did know that the lady called Deirdre had been very naughty. She’d done something bad with a man called Mike and now her husband Ken was very angry with both of them. I even remember the incredibly touching moment when Deirdre revealed that she didn’t want to leave Ken for Mike or go to live with her mother – and Ken forgave her and took her back. Years later when I was a little older, I thought that Deirdre probably should have chosen Mike as he was more exciting but what did I know? It would never have worked with Mike, and Deirdre without Ken is like fish without chips!

Those glasses!

Those glasses!

 

And over the years, Deirdre definitely became on of my favourite characters. She was a good mum to her daughter Tracy – well maybe a little too good as Tracy could have done with a slap from time to time – and I really did enjoy Deirdre’s scenes with her mother, Blanche. I even understood that Ken and Deirdre belonged together and was very angry with Ken when he cheated on Deirdre with that awful Wendy Crozier (even though Deirdre had been unfaithful first!) I was also very disappointed when Ken had a child with Denise Osbourne and in Deirdre’s marriage to Samir Raschid as I felt that this was hindering Ken and Deirdre’s inevitable reunion. But reunite they did, and the nation went crazy when the Barlows remarried in 2005 – a wedding that attracted more viewers than Prince Charles’s wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The wedding that attracted 12 million viewers

The wedding that attracted 12 million viewers

 

Anne also met her real-life husband on the show, actor David Beckett, when he appeared in Coronation Street playing Dave Barton in 1990. Love blossomed for him and Anne and the couple went on to marry in 1992. In an industry where marriages are not known to last, David has been described as a devoted husband who was with Anne until the very end. Anne had previously said of her beloved husband:

  “It’s thanks to Corrie that I met my wonderful David. I wouldn’t be without him. He adores me and I adore him. What else do you need?”

Anne marries co-star David Beckett

Anne marries co-star David Beckett

The popularity of Deirdre Barlow is testament to Anne Kirkbride’s talent as an actress and her ability to breathe life into a character that has gone on to become a British television icon. After news of Anne’s death broke, tributes came flooding in from fans and the world of entertainment including Anne’s colleagues who regarded her as a much-loved friend. Her co-stars were so devastated by her loss that filming had to be cancelled for a day. A few days later at the National Television Awards, William Roache paid an emotional tribute to his friend and colleague to whom he had shared such a close working relationship, causing many people present, especially the Coronation Street cast and crew, to become quite tearful.

Deirdre Barlow was known for her husky voice, and at one time, overly permed hair. But as we all know, Deirdre’s trademark were of course those oversize glasses that she was never without. Along with those facial expressions that Deirdre used to pull whenever she got upset, and the words “Tracy love,” which seem to have become her catchphrase, Deirdre Barlow was an impressionists dream come true. But far from being the butt of jokes, Deirdre Barlow has become one of television’s most enduring characters, and Anne Kirkbride one of our best-loved actresses. She was part of our family entertainment for so long. Coronation Street will never be the same without her.

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Rest in peace, Anne xx

 

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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Gone Too Soon

 

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Sunshine In Winter With Delia Smith’s Summer Collection

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I am so excited with my latest purchase. This afternoon I bought a copy of Delia Smith’s Summer Collection and it brought back so many memories. This cook book accompanied the 1993 BBC series which used to be broadcast once a week on a week night which I used to watch when I should have been doing my homework!

A terrine of summer fruits from Delia's Summer Collection

A terrine of summer fruits from Delia’s Summer Collection

 

I’ve pretty much grown up with Delia; it’s no secret that my mum was a huge fan of TV cookery shows – she still is – so I got my liking for such shows from her. And Delia Smith was probably the first TV cook I watched in the early 1980s and her career started long before I was even born. I’ve watched all of her TV series as I was growing up which I’m sure contributed to my interest in food, cooking and trying new culinary delights. And I have to say it – Christmas just isn’t Christmas without Delia Smith’s Christmas.

The great lady herself!

The great lady herself!

 

Delia is most definitely on a different plane when compared to today’s TV chefs. Not that I’m saying anyone’s better or worse as I have a lot of respect for those guys, but whereas they’re more fast-paced, energetic and often prone to tantrums, Delia is a lot more calmer with a no-nonsense approach. She reminds me of a school teacher with a great deal of patience! She also had a reputation for complex dishes and for using obscure ingredients that were difficult to source but flicking through Delia Smith’s Summer Collection, there’s very little evidence of that. Many of the dishes seem extremely easy to rustle up with ingredients that are easily obtainable. I was also surprised to see some recipes for Thai and Sri Lankan dishes so I’m guessing the British public were starting to become more adventurous when it came to food just over twenty years ago!

A delicious looking vanilla cream terrine

A delicious looking vanilla cream terrine

 

There are a lot of tasty recipes in here, as well as ones I remember her making from the show such as Coconut ice-cream with lime syrup, ice-tea, and coconut lime cake. That last one is especially interesting because I’ve never been much of a fan of desiccated coconut but it looked so fantastic on the show that I wanted to try it!

So here’s the recipe for coconut lime cake taken from Delia Smith’s Summer Collection which I will also be attempting soon. Go on – inject a little sunshine into winter!

INGREDIENTS:

 2 oz (50 g) desiccated coconut
 2 limes
 6 oz (175 g) self-raising flour
 6 oz (175 g) caster sugar
 6 oz (175 g) soft margarine or butter
 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
 2 level tablespoons dried coconut milk powder
 1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
For the icing:
 3 limes
 8 oz (225 g) icing sugar
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C).
Equipment
You will also need two 8 inch (20 cm) round sponge tins 1½ inches (4 cm) deep, greased and the bases lined with silicone paper (parchment).

METHOD:

For the cake, start off by grating the zest of the 2 limes on to a small saucer, then cover that with clingfilm and set on one side. Next, measure the desiccated coconut into a small bowl, then squeeze the juice of the limes and pour this over the coconut to allow it to soften and soak up the juice for an hour or so.

To make the cake, just take a large, roomy bowl and sift in the flour, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Then simply throw in all the other cake ingredients, including the lime zest and soaked coconut, and with an electric hand whisk, switched to high speed, whisk everything till thoroughly blended – about 2-3 minutes. Now divide the mixture equally between the two prepared tins, smooth to level off the tops and bake on a middle shelf of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the centres feel springy to the touch. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn them out on to a wire rack to cool completely, carefully peeling off the base papers. They must be completely cold before the icing goes on.

To make the icing, begin by removing the zest from the limes – this is best done with a zester as you need long, thin, curly strips that look pretty. Then, with your sharpest knife, remove all the outer pith, then carefully remove each segment (holding the limes over a bowl to catch any juice), sliding the knife in between the membrane so that you have the flesh of the segments only. This is much easier to do with limes than it is with other citrus fruits. Drop the segments into the bowl and squeeze the last drops of juice from the pith. Now, sift the icing sugar in on top of the limes a little at a time, carefully folding it in with a tablespoon in order not to break up the lime segments too much.

When all the sugar is incorporated, allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes, then spread half of it on to the surface of one of the cakes and scatter with half the lime zest. Place the other cake on top, spread the rest of the icing on top of that and scatter the rest of the zest over. Then place the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up the icing before serving.

 

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Posted by on December 29, 2014 in Books Galore, Childhood Legends

 

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Video

Mike Loves Plain Jane Superbrain… And Other Hot Neighbours Couples

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Anyone who saw Hollywood actor-turned-musician Guy Pearce’s recent music video for his new single Fly All The Way, will have noticed that there was another familiar face that we haven’t seen in a very long time. The familiar face was non other than Guy’s former Neighbours co-star Annie Jones, who played Jane Harris, the love interest of Guy’s character Mike Young in the hit Aussie soap back in the eighties and nineties.

Fly All The Way is taken from Guy’s debut solo album, Broken Bones, and the video sees Guy playing a number of different characters. Both the track and the video are very reminiscent of Foo Fighters in their earlier years so it’s right up my street. But what I was really excited about was to see Guy team up with Annie Jones again as she played his wife in the video. It was a very quirky indicator of what Mike and Jane could have been if the powers who be at Neighbours hadn’t insisted on splitting them up.


 

I absolutely loved Mike and Jane as a couple, and the video got me back into reminiscing mode. I thought about all the other hot couples from the early days of Neighbours who were a hit with the fans. Of course today Neighbours is still going strong with a lot of awesome double acts: Toadie and Sonia; Karl and Susan Kennedy; Brad and Therese Willis… but for me, my most memorable couples – even if they have been forgotten by some – have come from the eighties and nineties, when Neighbours was probably the most watched soap in Britain. And as fab as some of today’s Neighbours couples are, I don’t think they have that same spark as the couples of back in the day.

So here’s a look at some of the Neighbours’s couples that I think are tops!

1. SCOTT ROBINSON AND CHARLENE MITCHELL

Even though this list is in no particular order, it would have to be Scott (Jason Donovan) and Charlene (Kylie Minogue) at the top spot, wouldn’t it! I don’t just think that Scott and Charlene are the hottest Neighbours twosome but they’re probably the most popular soap couple of all time; a screen romance that led to the actors who played them to become international stars. Their soap wedding, that was screened in the eighties, is still the most talked about TV wedding.

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Scott and Charlene met as teenagers, when Charlene greeted him with a punch in the face after Scott mistook her for a burglar. Despite the unlikeliest of starts, they soon started going out and became seriously loved-up although their relationship suffered a lot of ups and downs – which didn’t end even after Charlene became Mrs. Robinson. Their families didn’t expect their union to last due to them having married so young, but Scott and Charlene proved them wrong. The day sadly came when the Robinsons packed up and left Erinsborough for a new life in Brisbane where they are still living in happily married bliss. But the legacy continues as their son Daniel is now a Ramsay Street regular thus ensuring the legend that is Scott and Charlene will never be forgotten.

2. MIKE YOUNG AND JANE HARRIS

I always thought that Mike (Guy Pearce) and Jane (Annie Jones) were equally as fantastic as the Robinsons but their pairing was always overshadowed by their best friends Scott and Charlene. But nonetheless, their antics kept me glued to the screen. And as with the actors who played Scott and Charlene, I had hoped that Guy Pearce and Annie Jones would also become a real-life couple. It never happened but it seems as though they’re good friends which is pretty awesome too!

Dubbed ‘Plain Jane Superbrain’ by her less than friendly classmates, Jane Harris was the butt of jokes when she moved to Ramsay Street to live with her grandmother, Mrs. Mangel. Shy and awkward, Jane was desperate to fit in but didn’t have any luck in making friends – until she was befriended by Scott, Charlene and Mike after an initial frosty start. Despite looking quite plain, Mike asked Jane to be his date to the school dance – and I still remember the episode where Mike’s jaw hit the floor after Jane had had her makeover and he saw just how stunning she really was.

They soon started going out, but like Scott and Charlene, Mike and Jane also had their share of problems, from Mrs. Mangel standing in the way of their relationship to Mike’s ex-girlfriend Nikki returning to Erinsborough. then Mike did the unthinkable and cheated on Jane while on a trip to Canberra and the two broke up although they later became friends.

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After some time apart Mike soon saw sense and won Jane back who by now was the Lassiter’s Girl. This time round they seemed more rock solid than before. They still had storms to weather but they got through them and they were definitely one of my favourite couples. Then just when we thought that Mike and Jane had a real chance to be happy together, Jane fell for Mike’s closest friend and father figure, Des Clarke, which wrecked their relationship once and for all. Eventually Mike and Jane each left Ramsay Street to care for sick relatives without getting back together again.

I was so disappointed when they split. Even after Jane got with Des, I kept hoping that Mike and Jane would get back together again but sadly it never happened. Quite frankly, I don’t know what the scriptwriters were thinking because Des and Jane just weren’t suited – it was just infatuation on both parts. They didn’t have the same chemistry that Mike and Jane had. Whereas Scott and Charlene had their happily ever after, it would have been great if Mike and Jane had sailed off into the sunset together but it was not to be…

3. DES AND DAPHNE CLARKE

There aren’t many grooms who would fall for and eventually go on to marry the stripper at their bucks party but Des Clarke (Paul Keane) did just that! It was hardly love at first sight for either of them but they struck up a friendship, especially after Des was jilted by his bride-to-be Lorraine, and Daphne (Elaine Smith) eventually moved in with Des – as his new lodger!

Des and Daphne were destined to be together but in soap land, the path of true love never runs smoothly, and Des and Daphne had more than their fair share of obstacles to overcome: a kidnapping attempt; former flames; Daphne’s on-off relationship with Shane Ramsay; a supposed love child… but they successfully overcame these problems and Daphne went on to become Mrs. Clarke in what is considered to be Neighbours’ first big wedding.

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They soon had a son, Jamie, and Daphne became the first character to make television history by giving birth while wearing dungarees! But together with Mike Young, who was in their care, Des, Daphne and baby Jamie settled into family life. Unfortunately, this was cut short when Daphne was tragically killed in a car crash, leaving Des and Mike heartbroken. Who could forget Madge and Harold’s wedding, where their joy contrasted sharply with Des’s pain, and actor Paul Keane who played Des, gave a very moving performance as the devastated widower.

I couldn’t decide who was better suited to Daphne: Des or Shane. They both really seemed to love her, and Daphne had real chemistry with both men. However, I think the scriptwriters got it right with Des and Daphne and they certainly seemed to have something special. Des found it very hard to move on after Daphne’s death, and although he eventually left Ramsay Street to remarry and start a new life, his new marriage didn’t last, which is hardly surprising as Daphne Lawrence was his true love and a very hard act to follow.

4. HAROLD AND MADGE BISHOP

Madge Ramsay (Anne Charleston) had dated Harold Bishop (Ian Smith) when they were both at high school but the romance had fizzled out and they both went on to marry other people. But Madge returned to Ramsay Street after her marriage ended where she was eventually reunited with Harold.

As usual, it wasn’t all plain sailing, and Harold had to work hard to get Madge to the alter, determined not to lose her a second time. He finally got to make an honest woman of Madge and despite the fact that they were as different as night and day – Harold could be a little too serious, self-righteous and a bit pompous, while Madge was very straight-talking, fiery and feisty -they were a twosome that worked well together.

Tragedy struck when Harold went missing on a trip and was presumed dead. A heartbroken Madge returned to Ramsay Street and later started a relationship with Lou Carpenter – another former boyfriend. However Madge soon realised what we all knew – that no one could ever measure up to her beloved Harold. So she ended her relationship with Lou and left Ramsay Street to live with Scott and Charlene in Brisbane.

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During the years that Madge and Harold were away from Ramsay Street, I thought of a little scenario where Harold hadn’t drowned but was out there somewhere suffering from amnesia. It seemed that the show’s writers had the same idea too because years later Harold turned up in Ramsay Street as a Salvation Army officer and was spotted by Helen Daniels, who informed Madge that her husband was back in Erinsborough. Madge came to see for herself and wasted no time in helping Harold to remember his past and their life together. She succeeded and Neighbours’ fans cheered when Madge and Harold wed for a second time.

Sadly their second chance at happiness was short-lived as Madge passed away after losing her fight with cancer, leaving Harold beyond devastated. Harold left Ramsay Street after marrying lawyer Carolyn Johnstone years later, and the two set off to begin their life together.

But for the viewers, it will always be Madge and Harold.

5. HENRY RAMSAY AND BRONWYN DAVIES

Joker Henry Ramsay (Craig McLachlan) fell in love with Bronwyn Davies (Rachel Friend) as soon as he laid eyes on her. But the pretty blonde couldn’t take Henry seriously, and started going out with Henry’s friend and neighbour Mike Young instead. However Bronwyn’s relationship with Mike didn’t last and she soon realised that Henry was the man for her – much to his delight. Henry had gone out with Melanie Pearson in the past, and had suffered the experience of unrequited love with Des Clarke’s sister Sally. But it looked as though he might have found the right woman in caring, strong willed, country girl Bronwyn.

But surprise, surprise – as with all Ramsay Street couples, Henry and Bronwyn encountered problems which saw them split on a couple of occasions, but the bond between them was too strong and they would always find their way back to each other. Their biggest test came just before their wedding, when Bronwyn’s father, not convinced that Henry was the right man for his daughter, persuaded Bronwyn to postpone the wedding. And she did just that – on the morning of the day that she was supposed to marry Henry alongside their friends Joe and Kerry in a double wedding ceremony. Both Henry and Bronwyn were heartbroken and even though this incident could have split them up again – it didn’t. And both of them were determined that next time, they’d make it to the alter without any hitches.

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The next test came when Henry landed a radio job in New Zealand, and had to leave without Bronwyn who was unable to get a job transfer. Having to endure a long-distance relationship, Bronwyn felt lonely and miserable without Henry. But luckily for her, the opportunity to work at a veterinary surgery in New Zealand came up. So Bronnie bid farewell to everyone in Ramsay Street and was once again reunited with her beloved Henry. The two married off screen and are still believed to be happily married – with a family – in New Zealand.

The on-screen chemistry between Henry and Bronwyn spilled over into real-life as the actors who played them, Craig McLachlan and Rachel Friend, started dating and eventually married much to the delight of the show’s fans – although they sadly divorced a few years later.

6. JOE MANGEL AND KERRY BISHOP

Stereotypical Aussie bloke Joe Mangel (Mark Little) and free-spirited hippy Kerry Bishop (Linda Hartley)seemed like a very unlikely pairing – and to be honest, I didn’t like Kerry’s character when she first graced our screens. But the two were drawn together by the fact that they both had children – and they soon found that opposites did in fact attract.

Over a period of time, Kerry’s hard-edged, stubborn streak subsided and viewers found her to be a very loving and caring woman who still had her own unique way of doing things. This softer side came about as the result of her relationship with Joe, proving that the two really were a good match.

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But of course there were issues that had to be resolved especially as the two had very different ways of living and doing things but they managed to make compromises. The biggest hurdle they faced occurred when Kerry found herself attracted to Clive Gibbons, who had recently returned to Ramsay Street, just before her wedding to Joe. Thankfully Kerry soon saw sense and realised that Joe was the man for her. Joe and Kerry were planning to marry at around the same time as their friends Des and Jane, and Henry and Bronwyn – but Joe and Kerry were the only ones who made it to the alter that time.

Further problems arose after their marriage with Joe’s ex-wife getting custody of their son Toby, and the father of Kerry’s toddler daughter Skye returning: two things which threatened the tranquillity of their perfectly blended family. However, Joe and Kerry got through these episodes – including comforting a very traumatized Toby after his mum died – and were delighted to discover that Kerry was pregnant with their first child. The stage was set for a happy ending.

But in true soap style, tragedy was just around the corner, when a pregnant Kerry was shot and killed while out on a protest against duck hunters. Joe was distraught and didn’t know how he was going to go on without his beloved Kerry.

Joe left Ramsay Street about a year later, and before he did so, he married whacky Melanie Pearson. Melanie had always irritated me and I never warmed to her the way I did to Kerry, and I didn’t think that Joe and Melanie made such a great couple. And it was on Skye’s return to Erinsborough when she was a teenager that viewers learned that Joe and Melanie had split up just a few years into their marriage.

6. PAUL AND GAIL ROBINSON

Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) is undoubtedly the Ian Beale of Ramsay Street. How did such an unpleasant man end up with so many wives and girlfriends? And this is clearly a man who likes wedding cake because despite so many failed marriages, he still insists on proposing!

However, I think it’s his second wife Gail (Fiona Corke) who was Paul’s perfect woman – and quite possibly the only woman that Paul ever loved. It’s ironic that their marriage was only ever supposed to be a business arrangement but the truth was that they both loved each other but were too afraid to admit it. It took Gail leaving to live in New York for Paul to come clean about his feelings for her – and their passionate embrace was witnessed by a delighted Scott and Charlene.

It still wasn’t all plain sailing though. Gail desperately wanted to start a family but had problems conceiving. It was while she was undergoing fertility treatment that she and Paul learned that he had a child with an ex-partner; a revelation that devastated Gail. So fans were thrilled when Gail not only managed to get pregnant, but got pregnant with triplets. It seemed to be a new beginning for Paul and Gail.

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And new beginning it was – just not in the way that fans had hoped. Fed up with Paul’s workaholic ways and feeling anger towards him for the accident that killed her father Rob, Gail had had enough of Paul’s lack of support and left him while she was heavily pregnant to start a new life in Tasmania. Paul was heartbroken and wanted to be there for Gail and the babies – but she was having none of it. When Paul realised that Gail wanted nothing more to do with him, he was forced to move on. And move on he did – to wife number three Christina, and after Paul and Gail, I really didn’t like this pairing; they lacked the fire that Paul and Gail had had.

It was incredibly disappointing when Paul and Gail split up especially after everything they’d been through. I really liked Gail and thought that she was a very strong, intelligent person who was one of the few people who could put Paul in his place and wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense from him. I also think that she brought out the best in him. Would Paul have turned into Mr. Nasty if he’d still been married to Gail? Hard to say but I’d like to think he wouldn’t have. The characters definitely had a special bond but so too did the actors who played them, with Stefan Dennis, quoted as saying that he’d love for Fiona Corke who played Gail to return. She appeared for two guest appearances but we’d love to see her return full time.

7. NICK PAIGE AND SHARON DAVIES

So this is a couple from the early days who I’m sure many of you will have forgotten, especially as they weren’t together for very long. But I thought Bronwyn’s little sister Sharon (Jessica Muschamp) and artist Nick Page (Mark Stevens) were an interesting couple. Both were very headstrong and rebellious. They didn’t like to follow rules but they were both often misunderstood by those around them.

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They faced opposition from Sharon’s strict aunt Edie, and then there was Sharon’s dalliance with local bad boy Skinner, which caused her and Nick to briefly split. Despite getting back together again, Sharon and Nick eventually split up for good although they remained best friends. Nick then went on to start dating Lucy Robinson but they didn’t have the same passion between them that Sharon and Nick had shared.

The two soon left Erinsborough for pastures new: Nick went to art college in London, and Sharon went to live with Henry and Bronwyn in New Zealand. But it would be great if writers brought back and older, wiser and more experienced Sharon and Nick to Ramsay Street…

8. TODD LANDERS AND CODY WILLIS

Todd (Kristian Schmidt) went out with Melissa Jarrett. Her best friend Cody Willis (Amelia Frid) went out with Todd’s best friend Josh. But it was no secret that Cody had always had an eye for Todd. Melissa and Josh started spending time together just as Todd realised that Cody was the girl for him. It could all have gotten messy but the foursome came up with the ideal solution: they just swapped partners – and it all worked out well with the four still remaining best friends!

Despite being so young, Cody and Todd were very much in love and I loved watching them on screen – although admittedly, I’d cringe when I’d watch them make out in front of ‘the olds’ just to get their backs up! They went through a lot together and faced a lot of opposition from their families, mainly because they were so young and also because Cody’s mother Pam was so overprotective of her youngest daughter.

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Just when it looked as though they were on their way to becoming the next Scott and Charlene, Cody was put forward for a two year scholarship to study in the United States. She and Todd came to the mutual decision that they had no choice but to break up, and promptly started seeing other people. But as Cody’s departure date drew close, they realised that they still loved each other and decided to give the whole long-distance thing a go. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as Cody soon fell for someone else in America and ditched Todd. A heartbroken Todd soon picked up the pieces and found love with Phoebe, who was expecting his child when Todd was tragically involved in a road accident and killed.

Cody returned from America and had a few serious relationships before she too met her maker. Too bad Cody and Todd couldn’t have had a happier ending.

9. JOSH ANDERSON AND MELISSA JARRETT

Melissa (Jade Amenta) seemed smitten with her boyfriend Todd, so it seemed unlikely that she’d end up falling for anyone else, and she was bound to take the news that Todd had fallen for her best friend Cody really badly, wasn’t she? Well you’d think so, but this is soap land where anything is possible. So while Todd and Cody were hooking up, Melissa was also falling in love… with Todd’s best friend Josh (Jeremy Angerson).

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And it seemed that the swap was a great idea as Melissa and Josh made as good a couple as Todd and Cody. When Melissa developed an interest in animal rights, Josh was there to assist her in many of her escapades. Sadly, their relationship had barely gotten off the ground when Melissa’s father was being transferred to the States resulting in the whole family moving out there. So after a final farewell to Josh, Melissa left Ramsay Street for a new life in America.

10. ADAM WILLIS AND CAROLINE ALESSI

Med student Adam (Ian Williams) was besotted with Caroline (Gillian Blakeney) who was already in a relationship with older man Jim Robinson. Caroline seemed a little too straight-laced and serious for the whacky soon-to-be doc who was fond of practical jokes but when her relationship with Jim ended she agreed to go out with Adam. And somehow they worked! Who could forget their first date where Adam’s car broke down and they ended up ordering take away pizza and dancing in the street while the breakdown service worked on Adam’s car?

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Unfortunately their romance suffered setbacks. Their differences in income and lifestyle proved to be too much for Adam and they split up. During this time, Adam started seeing Gemma Ramsay and they got quite serious – until he realised that he still had feelings for Caroline. So he gave his relationship with Caroline another go but it didn’t work as Adam finally decided that Gemma was the girl for him after all and ended it with Caroline for good although the two remained friends.

Even after Adam got with Gemma a second time, I was convinced that he’d end up back with Caroline, especially when Caroline stepped in to help the Willis family after Adam’s younger brother Brad found himself in trouble while travelling abroad. But it wasn’t to be and Adam soon left Erinsborough for Newcastle where he was reunited with Gemma and the two later got engaged.

Incidentally, I thought Gemma and her former boyfriend Matt were a great match. But hey, what do I know!

11. DOUG AND PAM WILLIS

This was a couple who seemed truly, madly, deeply in love. Pam (Sue Jones) and Doug (Terence Donovan) had been married for more than twenty years and had four children together. This was a couple who seemed to have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. Not only that but Pam seemed able to tolerate Doug’s non-stop flirting with other women, knowing that Doug didn’t mean anything by it and that he really loved her. And it was this strong bond that saw them through crises such as financial difficulties, their younger son being falsely imprisoned, and Cody being shot and killed.

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However, everything went downhill when Doug wrongly suspected Pam of having an affair with their neighbour Jim Robinson. This in turn led Doug to have a fling with the unstable Jill Weir who had developed an obsession with Doug. When Pam found out she did indeed turn to Jim for comfort but it didn’t go further than a kiss. Pam started divorce proceedings but stopped them when Doug went missing at sea and realised that she still loved him, and the two of them managed to patch things up before eventually leaving for a new life in Darwin, although they both popped up in Ramsay Street from time to time.

I really thought that Pam and Doug were a great couple, and something of a rarity because they were still besotted with each even after being married for so long. I was very disappointed when Jill Weir finally sunk her claws into Doug – who ought to have known better – especially as I felt that despite his flirtatious nature, he’d never cheat on Pam. It’s great that the Willis’ still visit Ramsay Street because even though they had been on the street for a relatively short time, they made such a big impact that I don’t feel that Neighbours was ever the same after they left.

12. RINGO BROWN AND DONNA FREEDMAN

Ringo (Sam Clark and Donna (Margot Robbie) are the most recent of all the really cool Neighbours couples and they’re most definitely not a couple from twenty years ago! But of all the most recent couples, I thought Donna and Ringo were awesome. That’s quite ironic considering I thought Donna was the most irritating character since Melanie Pearson to set foot in Ramsay Street, and also since Donna was initially meant to be a short-term character although due to Donna’s popularity, she became a regular on the Street.

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Donna and Ringo really were the cutest couple. They were madly in love and Donna’s kooky ways somehow complemented Ringo’s more sensible nature. In a nutshell, they reminded me of Hubby and me! I understand that killing Ringo off was great for ratings and for dramatic effect but seeing as Donna left a short time later, I think it would have been more fitting if they’d got their happy ending and sailed off into the sunset together – to America as they had planned to do.

So there you have it – my list of the greatest Neighbours couples of all time. All thanks to Guy Pearce and Annie Jones!

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Posted by on December 29, 2014 in TV Shows

 

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Video

Lynda Bellingham: A Real Class Act

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lynda Bellingham, you will be sorely missed.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Gone Too Soon

 

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