“‘Ave you seen ‘er?” On Victoria Wood

An Audience with Victoria Wood, Dec 1988

Growing up, I always knew about Victoria Wood. My mum had her videos and we had a couple of signed books, too. I remember feeling dead grown up, aged about 10, when I was allowed to watch some of her stand-up. Here was a lady, who wasn’t thin or glamorous- but she was funny. Even as a kid, I knew she was unusual.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that she’s had a huge effect on me. As a northern, working-class kid, she talked about things I understood. I even own an orange raincoat (although not a fetching yellow hat to go with it.) My sister and I have been known to say “I’m looking for my friend, Kimberly. ‘Ave you seen ‘er?” to each other. We don’t know any Kimberlys.

In restaurants with slow service, it won’t take long for Benn or I to whisper to the other “Two soups?”

I’ve always felt a bit suspicious about prawns too, thanks to this sketch:

And I remember seeing her programme about tea. Of course.

The thing is, Victoria Wood’s humour was funny and warm; it was grounded in real life and it was never cruel, either. I’ll miss her.

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Strictly Come Dancing: Week #10

Well, this week was sure to be a bit of a cracker, wasn’t it? After all, we’ve spent the last few days living through #Jameliagate and Ola claiming everything’s a fix- it’s certainly been stormy. As we get towards the end, it gets more exciting, right? There’s nowhere I’d rather be than on the sofa, being a smartarse on Twitter about people who are always going to be way better at dancing than me.

Alas, I was at a cricket club dinner with Benn last night (we NEVER go out twice in a month, so I’m not quite sure what happened there) which ended with me getting into a debate about the merits of Margaret Thatcher. I’m pleased to say that I stayed calm. It’s safe to say that I did miss Strictly. So, without further ado, let’s get going…

Kellie and Kevin- Salsa (I Want You Back)

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Aw, I love this song- it’s cute and fun, which kind of sums these two up in my mind. In the same way I could never find a Kirsty fan, I’ve never met anyone who dislikes these two. This was fun and light (these Latin dances are always much easier to watch when the celebrity is a good dancer, no?) and I enjoyed it. I liked that you could see the cogs working when Kellie and Kevin were trying to work out Len’s ‘GR8’ comment, too.

Scores: Craig- 8  Darcey- 8 Len- 9 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 34

Katie and Anton- Argentine Tango (Libertango)

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You know how Anton has, like, super fans who will vote for him regardless? I never understand quite why- maybe it’s his longevity on the show, or his chin, or the fact he changed his name so that it’d sound a bit more suave or something- I’m not one of them. I don’t mind him, though, and last week’s American Smooth is one of my favourite dances of this series. I’m always a bit wary of him and Katie doing ‘sexy’ dances (although I appreciated that their rumba wasn’t smutty) so I’ll admit I came to this dance a bit reluctantly. I liked that someone in wardrobe decided that Katie should be dressed as a stroppy mermaid this week and that this was a proper, old-school Argentine tango (Anton is never going to jazz his dances up, is he?) with loads of kicks and flicks. I liked it.

Scores: Craig- 7 Darcey- 8 Len- 8 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 32

Helen and Aljaz- Viennese Waltz (At Last)

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I’ve given up comparing Helen to old film stars. She’s gorgeous and a brilliant dancer, but she never feels entirely natural. I’ve said before that she’s a bit like Peter in that I think she’s concentrating so hard that she can’t unwind properly when it’s needed (hi, Latin dances!) Interestingly, I think Helen splits the audience too, so it’ll be interesting to see where she finally places in the competition- I’m not as sure as I was that she’ll be in the final, but who knows? It’s getting quite hard to predict now that we’re getting to the end and when the celebrities have a bad week, they then have a habit of doing phenomenally the next week, as happened here. Anyway, this was beautiful and really played to her strengths- and who wouldn’t look that happy to be dancing with Aljaz?!

Scores: Craig- 9 Darcey- 10 Len- 10 Bruno- 10 TOTAL: 39

Jay and Aliona- Tango (When Doves Cry)

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Jay appears to have had a stressful week- he’s certainly been saying some odd things on the telly, so maybe the pressure’s getting to him. Saying that, the tango should be his forte… and what a CRACKING song to tango to. I love it; all stompy beats and dramatic moments. This was brilliant; complex, spiky and menacing (Benn noted how brilliant their timing is and how perfectly in sync they are with one another.) A beautiful, sexy and dangerous tango that used that song to perfection. Thrilling.

Scores: Craig- 9 Darcey- 10 Len-9 Bruno- 10 TOTAL: 38

Peter and Janette- American Smooth (Sweetest Feeling)

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I think we can all agree that last week’s jive was as bad (if not slightly worse) than watching all of My Former Neighbour’s Iceland adverts back to back whilst being force fed a prawn ring from said frozen food outlet. So this week, he’s back and he has a point to prove! This was certainly sweet, if a tad gimmicky. Could Peter’s days in the competition be numbered? He’s really starting to stick out now that the competition has ramped up a bit. Also, I just want to add that I HATE that open mouthed ‘surprise!’ face he does.

Scores: Craig- 7 Darcey- 8 Len- 8 Bruno- 8 TOTAL: 31

Anita and Gleb- Rumba (Read All About It)

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Oh, a rumba. Do you know what fills my heart with more dread? The fact that it’s a rumba danced to Emelie Sande. In front of what appears to be a Kindle Paperwhite. Because nothing says sexy than a badly edited, free edition of Jane Eyre. As a rumba goes, I guess it was OK- lots of anguished facial expressions and wiggling about. I will never warm to this dance. I loved Len’s rant. A man after my own heart.

Scores: Craig- 7 Darcey- 8 Len- 7 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 31

Georgia and Giovanni- Paso Doble (The Final Countdown)

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Despite my better judgement, I have grown to really like these two and I think Georgia is a contender to possibly win- she’s been on one of those cliched ‘journeys’ that producers and viewers love and she has a great chemistry with her dance partner. This was brilliant- if a little unorthodox with the pro banging a drum at the start- and how brave is Georgia for doing all that bit on her own? This was FABULOUS and a properly dramatic paso. Loved. It. I mean, even if Craig is singing its praises, you’re onto a good thing, right? I did think the judges scored that a bit low, to be honest.

Scores: Craig- 8 Darcey- 8 Len- 8 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 33

Group dance: Quickstep

Ah, this is when you can tell it’s really getting serious, innit? We start getting the fancy group dances and then two dances each a week. (Oh and don’t get me started on the ‘freeform’ dances.) Quickstep is a good choice, but there’s so many ways it could go wrong too… I did wonder-and Craig confirmed this- if the male celebrities have a harder time of it, as they lead and maybe don’t have experience of this kind of competition? Also, this is the one time when Len’s ‘final say’ is probably actually fairly useful, right?

Order of points:

7 points: Helen and Aljaz; 6 points: Georgia and Giovanni ; 5 points: Katie and Anton; 4 points: Anita and Gleb; 3 points: Jay and Aliona; 2 points: Kellie and Kevin; 1 point: Peter and Janette.

So we have HELEN at the top and PETER at the bottom-  I predict he my be going in the dance off…

Got any thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet me: @wuthering_alice.

#PaperHaul: Featured- Rory J. Murphy

It was a stormy grey day when this month’s #PaperHaul landed in my mailbox. I tried to resist it, but as any stationery lover knows, these little boxes are as hard to resist as a dame in a silk dress. What would the box yield to closer inspection, I wondered?

Oh, Ava Gardner, I love you.

Oh, Ava Gardner, I love you.

And then I had it. It was a collaboration between #PaperHaul and Rory J. Murphy. I knew then that all hope was lost; that I was drawn in to something beyond my control. You see, this box held something inspired by a weakness of mine- a love of film noir, of broads and dames, detectives and bad guys; of Bogey and Bacall.

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Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

ITEM 1: The Whole Shebang

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Here you can see all the evidence together, clear as day. Paints a pretty picture, don’t it? It’s Film Noir with a bit of Frank Miller (but without the violence.)

Item 2: The Notebook

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Every detective needs a book to keep a note of hoodlums, dames need a book to keep track of conquests. I just need a book to keep track of boring things like budgets and how many rows I’ve knitted. Whatever, I’m channelling my inner crimefighter with this.

Item 2: The Calling Cards

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Everyone has a vice. What’s yours? Liquor? Lipstick? A pistol? Your calling card is here, my friend, in the form of these mini-cards.

Item 3: The Main Event

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Film noir needs its femme fatale and this one appears to be influenced by Rita Hayworth in Gilda. Is that a stocking brandished sexily or… with murder in mind? Only you and the recipient can decide.

Item 4: The Mugshots

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That bobby pin shows that a woman’s been in the interrogating room… has she been up to NO GOOD?

You’ll never get anywhere in this town if you’re not good with faces, kid. Helpfully, you can stick these wherever you like. And the cards are cool; the top one reminds me of Ava Gardner and the bottom one, of course, has more than an air of Bogey and Bacall.

Item 5: The Tape

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Tape’s important. It seals crime scenes and holds your anatomy in its place when needed. This tape will declare your love of the hard stuff AND stick paper together. What more could you want?

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You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.

The terror of toddler night terrors

As it’s a week from Halloween, it seems appropriate that I take to the blog to discuss one of the scariest, most challenging things we’ve been dealing with since becoming parents. Are you ready?

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D has recently been experiencing night terrors. And there is virtually nothing we can do except hope that he grows out of them- a phrase that brings dread to all parents of toddlers.

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They really are vile; D, halfway between sleep and wakefulness is clearly terrified. I can see him fighting something off and his body tenses. I can totally understand why people in the middle ages thought those experiencing night terrors were possessed. D arches his back and sort of lifts his legs too. He screams and shouts. He will try and fight us if we are in his way at all. It’s pretty scary.

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Websites are not much cop, either. “It’s really rare- only 1-6% of children get them!” they trill. Which is fine, unless you’ve got a kid in that 1-6% band, which we do. “Don’t try and wake them!” Which is sensible, but is totally alien; after all, as a parent, your first instinct is to comfort, right? But we learnt quickly that it makes it worse. D is clearly fighting something and if we try and intervene, it makes him more scared. So all we can do is sit with him and… wait.

This is hard, and Benn generally has to do it. I find it too distressing and I’ve cried more than once. Also, if D senses me in the room, it upsets him, sometimes to the point of trying to go for me. Benn seems to be the best, most calming presence and so we’re sticking with the plan that he will be the one to go in. I just lie there and will for it to be over (in about 25-30 minutes.) The other night, he had three bouts. I suspect it might have been because I’d been at work all day and he hadn’t seen me. Apparently night terrors can be linked to seperation anxiety (which he has a bit of, since starting nursery) and a break in routine (me not being home when he gets back.)

The worst thing is that there’s nothing we can do- there’s no point taking him to the doctor, as they can’t do anything. Thankfully, D doesn’t remember anything in the morning, except maybe a fleeting sense of a bad dream and a sore throat. I’d say that Benn and I are more exhausted the next day than he is.

So what are we doing? We’re making sure that bedtime is calm- we talk about all the people D likes and loves, we read stories, we keep the house quiet. I’ve been to explain to the next door neighbours that we’re not murdering him and we’re sorry if they can hear it (they’ve been wonderfully British about it and claimed not to hear a thing, which I know is a complete lie, but sweet of them all the same. I’ll definitely drop a Christmas card round this year.)

And now, we just wait for him to grow out of it. There’s nothing else we can do.

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Strictly Come Dancing 2015: The pairings

Last night, fuelled by the Twitter hive mind and WINE, I live tweeted Strictly- even though I promised myself I wouldn’t this year. I also decided that I’d do a weekly blogpost (because we all know I’m not busy enough as it is…) This week was the week that the ‘celebrities’ were paired with their partners, and Len says- as he does every year-  “It’s the best year yet! These are the best celebrities ever!” Poor previous celebs. Anyway, if you’re at all interested, here’s my rundown of this year’s pairings…

Ainsley Harriott and Natalie Lowe

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I am a big fan of Natalie’s. I think she’s very nice and super enthusiastic (both things have been confirmed by people I know who’ve met/worked with her) and she’s also apparently very tall. Ainsley also seems very enthusiastic- I wonder if he’ll be more labrador than matador on the dancefloor? Anyway, I am a big fan of his cup a soups, so I am feeling favourable towards this pairing.

Iwan Thomas and Ola Jordan

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I have absolutely no strong feelings about this pairing. They’re very blonde, aren’t they? He looks a bit like James Jordan. Um, that’s it, really.

Jay McGuinness and Aliona Vilani

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There were two- often simultaneous- reactions to Jay on my Twitter timeline: “Who is he?” and “Poor lad, can we adopt him?” He seems lovely, if a bit terrified. People are also mocking his hair, which is a bit unfortunate. I’m not sure how Aliona will deal with him? Gently? Or will she eat him alive? I hope he does well; then he can say he went on a proper reality show ‘journey’ (cue Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ in the background.)

Jeremy Vine and Karen Hauer

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I’m not sure about this pairing and I can’t put my finger on it. I’ve never really been a fan of Karen (and we all heard THOSE rumours about THAT spat with Ola, didn’t we?) and this seems an odd combination. But who knows?

Helen George and Aljaz Skorjanek

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I’ve never watched Call The Midwife (I have enough of children between having one at home and spending my working life with them. Watching TV programmes about them is a bit of a busman’s holiday), but I can seriously get behind a woman who uses her dogs as rehearsal props. And Aljaz? Well.. *fans self* THOSE CHEEKBONES. I reckon these two could make the final.

Jamelia and Tristan MacManus

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Does anyone else remember that time Jamelia went on a rant about Javine and Harvey’s affair (which, IIRC, went on behind Alesha Dixon’s back) on Never Mind The Buzzcocks? Well, I usually like Jamelia, although sometimes she says stupid things on Loose Women (but then, maybe that’s a professional hazard of being on the show?) As for Tristan, I’d completely forgotten about him, so it’s nice to see him back. I suspect these two will also go quite far in the competition.

Georgia May Foote and Giovanni Pernice

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Georgia May is the youngest contestant this year. This will be mentioned approximately 7000 times an episode. Do not do a shot based drinking game on the basis of this unless you want to get very, very drunk. Also, Tess said Georgia May looked like a ‘princess’ in her lurid, man made fibre fringed minidress. Kate Middleton would NOT approve. Giovanni is clearly the new Vincent: he’s Italian, looks a bit like Vincent, says the sort of things Vincent said. May be marginally taller. (I met Vincent once. He was shorter than me.)

Kirsty Gallacher and Brendan Cole

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This is another ‘meh’ pairing for me. However, she’s sporty and been in The Games and stuff, so I imagine she’s quite focused and competitive. Brendan has definitely mellowed since becoming a dad, but he’s also very competitive. I see these two going far, even though I’m feeling a bit shruggy about this one.

Anita Rani and Gleb Savchenko

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I quite like Anita Rani- and I love the fact that when paired with Gleb she kept saying she wouldn’t be able to look at his face. He’ll have lots to prove- he’s new here, but has done other Strictly formats around the world-and she’s a former goth. It’s an interesting pairing.

Anthony Ogogo and Oti Mabuse

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I’m wondering if boxing (and a diet of Subway) will mean Anthony is good on his feet. I have good feelings about this pair doing well- and he seemed a little bit in love with her. Maybe this year’s Strictly love affair?

Daniel O’Donnell and Kristina Rihanoff

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I liked Daniel O’Donnell on the show last night. Granted, I’m not his target demographic, but he seemed like a nice chap who’s going to try his best. From what I’ve heard about Kristina, I’m not sure she’ll be thrilled at her pairing, but hey. At least he’s not John Sargent. I wonder what O’Donnell fans will make of this couple- but at least they’re not as rabid as Directioners (or if they are, they’re less likely to use Twitter.)

Peter Andre and Janette Manrara

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I love, love, love this pairing. I think it’s a brilliant one. They’re both enthusiastic and I think they will work well together. Also, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I refer to Peter Andre as My Former Neighbour; a few years ago, after he split with Katie Price, he lived round the corner from me and Benn. The street outside his house was always crawling with paparazzi and it was slightly surreal to walk down there. Anyway, I like these two and I think they’re the favourites this year. I’m tipping them for the final at the very least.

Kellie Bright and Kevin Clifton

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I don’t watch Eastenders, so I have no preconceived ideas about Kellie. She seems nice. (Benn: “Is Eastenders contractually obliged to provide at least one cast member a year?”) I do like Kevin though, especially when he wears his cute nerdy glasses. He also does interesting routines, so I’m sure these two will be fun to watch.

Katie Derham and Anton du Beke

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Be honest. You thought Anton would be paired with The Lovely Carol Kirkwood and were surprised when he was paired with This Year’s Susannah Reid, Katie. A lot of Anton’s fans think this will be the year he goes far. I’m not so sure- although I like Katie, so I’m willing to be proven wrong.

The Lovely Carol Kirkwood and Pasha Kovalev

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My love for Pasha runs deep. He just seems SO LOVELY and NICE and a GENTLEMAN (it’s not really a ‘fancying’ type of love, more a ‘I THINK YOU’RE LOVELY’ love.) It’s fitting that he’s been paired with The Lovely Carol (it’s actually illegal to refer to her without the ‘The Lovely’ prefix.) Don’t discount The Lovely Carol, by the way- she’s a mean belly dancer and I think she’ll be gorgeous in ballroom dances.

So. That’s my rundown of the couples. Who’s your favourite? Join me in three weeks, when armed with alcohol and a device capable of connecting to the internet, I’ll be commenting on the live shows.

What I’m up to at the moment

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I’m coming to the end of my stressy period of work and I have some exciting stuff coming up on the blog (thank GOD for a bank holiday weekend.) Anyway, here’s a quick update on what I’m doing at the moment:

I’m reading: The Raven’s Head by Karen Maitland (there’s an interview with Karen over on The Bookish Badger)

What I’m making: I just cast on Hitofutude cardigan in a lovely 4ply yarn in a light blue/grey

What I’m wearing on my nails: Rita Ora for Rimmel nail polish in Orangina

What I’m writing: I’m keeping up with book reviews over on the book blog

What I’m watching: I’m loving Inside No. 9 and W1A. I’ve also been watching Quentin Tarantino films at the behest of a student.

What are you up to? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter: @wuthering_alice

Why Leslie Knope is right (again)

I’ve been in my relationship for ten years (almost) and we’ve never really done Valentine’s Day, mainly because Benn’s birthday is on Feb 28th and mine is March 14th. We do cards, but no more.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the whole shebang and I think we should celebrate our friends more, a la Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler and celebrate Galentine’s Day today. Phone, email, see or tweet your mates and just tell them what a beautiful tropical fish they are.

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So- celebrate your best friends and put hoes before bros, ovaries before brovaries and tell them how ace they are. After all, if you don’t compare them to a moth today, who will?

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