Daydream Believer

Very sad to hear that Davy Jones has passed away. We watched The Monkees as kids on the telly and Daydream Believer has always been a favourite of mine. So much so that it is the theme tune to my novel The Generation Game – if a novel can have a theme tune. It was played at the book launch last summer and Judi Spiers played it on her radio show just a week ago at the beginning of my interview…

Amother link to my childhood gone, but not forgotten.


Sing me to Sleep

So some research from the USA has suggested that if you take sleeping pills you are four more times likely to die. The researchers do not seem to say how you will die. But you will. Really.

Why scare people? Most people who take sleeping pills want to sleep and have tried everything else. How much more likely are they to die from sleep deprivation? Is there some research on that?

You have to balance the benefits with the risks.

So annoying…


Citizen Claus

Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has launched a campaign to raise money to buy an important painting by Eduoard Manet, to prevent a private sale and the painting leaving the UK. The portrait is of Fanny Claus, a concert violinist and friend of Manet’s wife and is important in the development of the artist’s work.  It has only been exhibited once and has been in a private collection for most of its life. I’d like to think it could now become part of the public arena, accessible to a wide audience rather than bought for private investment or egotism or whatever.

I visited the National Gallery of Scotland in the extraordinary city of Edinburgh earlier this week and felt uplifted as I came away. I was particularly thrilled to see the iconic ice-skating vicar, the Reverend Robert Walker. This was an impressive collection and I’m annoyed that I didn’t realise there was a Vermeer there. So I will have to go back.

There’s also an exhibition at the Portrait Gallery, entitled ‘Hot Scots’, with photographs of contemporary celebrities – not necessarily ‘hot’, but definitely Scots. Another reason to return.

As for Mademoiselle Claus, I guess she can no longer be known as that, as this week the French have banned the use of this title in official paperwork… I feel another blog coming on…

Love in the First Degree

After a week away with friends from university days and a nostalgic trip back to the 80s, I have been listening to Slow Moving Millie’s album ‘Renditions’, 80s hits, stripped back to their bones, without MTV production values or Stock, Aitken and Waterman hi-NRG.

As much as I admire Bananarama for all they achieved, I love this new version of ‘Love in the First Degree’. For the first time I have actually listened to the words as I haven’t been distracted by the male dancers on the original video. Or the insane costumes. This is the only Youtube clip I could find, live on Radio 5, but you get the gist… It’s sweet.

More nostalgia to follow…


Choose Wham!

When Lord Lucan disappeared in 1974 after his children’s nanny was found murdered in his Belgravia home, my uncle took action. Because he sported a moustache and was dark-haired and of a similar age, he had a t-shirt printed with the caption ‘I am not Lord Lucan’. This was the first slogan t-shirt I ever saw.

It was about a decade later when I got my first and didn’t know then that it would become an iconic piece of 80s memorabilia. In a record shop in Exeter, a friend and I each bought a ‘Choose Wham!” (not ‘Choose Life’) t-shirt and put them on in the ladies in Debenhams. We then strutted around the shops… A couple of years later, I ran the world in those same streets and had the t-shirt for that too.

The 80s was a  great time to be a student, not only because we had full grants, but because we had a prime target: Thatcher. The campus at Lancaster was always full of Smash the Tories, etc. And no student was a proper student without a Smiths t-shirt of some description.

These days slogan t-shirts have lost their power and tend to be ‘humorous’ or ironic (‘Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls’ was one I saw around Teignmouth last summer). They are also printed up by school-leavers, hen-and-stag parties, and any group or sports club going.

I don’t wear them now I am a woman of a certain age (apart from as pyjama tops). But I still treasure my Choose Wham t-shirt as it sums up my teenage years. Not quite cool but proud of it.

Up my Street

From 1972-74, my parents, two older brothers, Sammy the cat and I lived above the Candy Shop on Belgrave Road in Torquay. It was a shop that you only find in seaside towns; we sold sweets, fags and grockle tat (for those of you that are not Devonian, ‘grockles’ are holiday-makers). I was only little but this time and place has always stayed vividly in my mind and became the setting for my debut novel, The Generation Game

The Candy Shop is now a security shop. But I still drive past every now and then, just so I can remember…

There are far more famous connections to Belgrave Road. Agatha Christie was baptised in All Saints Church which was just over the road from us. And further down, towards the seafront, is the Grosvenor, made notorious recently from the hilarious Channel 4 documentary, The Hotel.

A few months ago I visited my old school in Teignmouth and talked to some English students about the book. They asked me who would play Philippa if the novel was ever made into a television drama. I turned the question back on them, and one lad suggested Miranda Hart. Genius. But I only discovered today that Miranda was born in Torquay in 1972… How cool is that?

Hold Me Close

Don’t ask me how my brain works, because I don’t know, but today I was listening to the classic pop song Hold Me Close by David Essex. Check out this Youtube video to see the 1970s in all its gilded glory and spangled splendour.


Just love the way men could dress back then, anyhow they wanted. A flowery choker and a hairy chest could sit well together (admittedly looking like David Essex helped – not sure my dad could have got away with it)…

… so I was only a 7 year old when this song was in the charts but, whenever I hear it, I go straight back to the sweet shop where we lived in Torquay at the time. This was the setting for my debut novel The Generation Game and indeed Hold me Close is ‘played’ twice in the book at significant moments. There’s something about the cheesy words, his slight cockney accent, the flares, the cheap Top of the Pops set that makes me long for that simpler world.

Or is that just plain old nostalgia…? And is there anything wrong with that?

Oh Deary Me!

Watched Alan Partridge last night and haven’t laughed so much in ages. There’s something about his pathetic life in the Travel Tavern that should make you pity him, despise him, but he’s just hilarious. Genius telly. And for the ultimate spoof celebrity autobiography, you really must read ‘I, Partridge: We need to talk about Alan’. (I also watched the first in a second (?)series of Roger and Val have just got in which was a real treat. Touching and real.)

So I’ve been thinking about sitcoms I miss, short-lived series that fizzled out for one reason or another. And how situation comedy can really show the stark reality and absurdity of life.

The High Life

Can you remember the theatrical The High Life about the flight crew of  Air Scotia flying out of Prestwick airport and starring Alan Cumming before he was whisked off to Hollywood?

Then there was Cardiac Arrest which showcased Helen Baxendale and Andrew Lancel, currently bad boy Frank in Coronation Street. It was a mix of dark humour and hard-hitting attack on the NHS – just pre-New Labour.

The Goodies












Can’t forget The Goodies for its surreal take on life. British people of a certain generation can be put into two camps: The Goodies or Monty Python. For me, it has to be the former.

Then there was a much more down-to-earth sitcom that was on a Friday night with Mel Smith and Louisa Rix, called Colin’s Sandwich. This was gentle and quiet but with a wry humour – a British Rail clerk who wanted to be a writer.

There must be many more sitcoms that could have gone on longer but stopped short for one reason or another…. Can you think of any?

Colin's Sandwich