Friday, March 28, 2008

Morbid Preoccupation

For someone of my age (32) , I've been to a lot of funerals. Going on twenty at the last count in fact. Of course a couple of these were for elderly relatives, who had lived full and happy lives to a ripe old age; but an upsetting proportion were for friends whose time was cut short prematurely. Some were close contemporaries who I still think about a lot - what they might be up to now if the big 'C' hadn't raised its ugly head. When I remember their funerals though, I think how blessed they were to have been so well-loved and respected during their lives, and what a shame it was that they couldn't have been there to witness the standing-room-only theatrical affairs in which they were despatched from this world.

There's nothing more depressing than a quiet funeral, and I have been to a couple of those too. We'd all like to hope, I'm sure, for a full-house, a rousing chorus or two (it helps to be part of the am-dram community to ensure this), and a passionately delivered eulogy with a few affectionately humorous anecdotes. I'll never forget the shocked faces of some of the more respectable attendees at my own grandmother's funeral, when the vicar (also a family friend) recounted the time he shared a spliff with her in my mum's back garden. I'm sure Granny would have been amused, though. And of course, everyone knows the famously scathing memorial speech in which John Cleese proclaimed
"Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries" of his friend and fellow Python, Graham Chapman. This level of sarcasm wouldn't be welcome or appropriate for everyone, but personally I would be more than happy to think of someone getting a laugh at my expense as part of the proceedings.

Being both a consummate party-thrower and self-confessed control freak, I struggle with the idea of someone else organising my funeral, and actually give a worrying amount of thought to what instructions I will leave to ensure a suitably dramatic send-off. My friend Neel (incidentally listed in the Brighton Cheeky Guide as a local eccentric) was so concerned about missing his own funeral, that he decided to throw one while he was still alive to arrange and appreciate it. Some might think this a rather sick idea, but I can understand where he was coming from. I'm obviously hoping that own my plans won't be needed for some years to come, but I do already know exactly what music will be played at which parts of the ceremony, and what pictures will be shown on the tear-jerking slideshow, to be played during the cremation. I even made a friend promise recently (sorry Tim) that he will lead a chorus of 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' should I die before him. But this is the only detail I'm giving away, as the rest, of course, should be a surprise.

Top left: Craig Rees (with me, in The Pajama Game), RIP 2005
Bottom right: Paula Dollar, RIP 1999

Also fondly remembered: Angie Whimpenny, Michael Carpenter,
Barbara Woodcock, Hilda Stanfield, Pauline Sands, Ron & Gill Wickins, Marc Meader, Geoff Fuggle, David & Pam Williams, Paul Shingler, Jean Coleman, David Harmer, and not forgetting all the creatures.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Eternal Auntie

I think I'm safe to tell the world that I'm going to be an auntie again soon, as my younger sister Megan is expecting her first baby in August. Currently nicknamed 'Mooglet' this new addition to the family will be a cousin for little Isaac (my Brother's son), who'll be four by the time he or she arrives. Both my parents are only children (Mum's recently discovered long-lost Kiwi half-brother notwithstanding), so the whole cousin thing has largely bypassed our generation - though we do get along famously with our mother's cousins, who are quite a bit younger than her, and actually nearer in age to us. But they lived in Anglesey while we were growing up in Eastbourne, so we never got to know them well until they all de-camped to London (apart from Ginny, who escaped all the way to New Zealand!) as adults. So I've always envied the special relationship that other people (including my other half) seem to have with their cousins - especially when they live nearby and are of a similar age.

More intimate than friends, but less annoying than siblings who you have to put up with all the time, cousins are fun childhood allies to have, or so it always seemed to me as an outsider. I suppose being an uncle or auntie is a similar experience - you can build up a special bond with a niece or nephew, and have a go at all the enjoyable aspects of parenting, but give them back before it becomes too waring and cuts into your social life and sleep patterns. I love looking after Isaac, I really do, and most of the time he is great company to have around. Ant and I had him to stay for the night on Monday, and although it was eerily quiet when he went, I was also quite relieved to have the house back to myself. Perhaps I'm more cut out for auntie-hood than parenthood, being as I am, rather set it my (un) ways these days.

I'm absolutely delighted that my auntie-duties are shortly set to be extended, even though I'm still trying to get my head around the idea of my ickle baby sister being pregnant! It seems only yesterday that we were up in the attic playing with Sindy dolls and Care Bears, or putting on face paint and pretending to be mice (or was it cats?) in the bath (as in the above picture). I suppose it should make me feel old, all this growing-up going on around me, but being the only non-breeder left, I feel duty-bound to enjoy the freedom that my siblings have relinquished favour of parenthood. I suppose I'd better brush up my nappy-changing skills too, it's been a while.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Turning Back Time


Originally uploaded by Jaded Lady
The tradition of going out dancing on Maundy Thursday goes back almost as far as the Hot Cross Bun thing on Good Friday, indeed what better way to kick off the long weekend? Back in 'The Bourne' we'd invariably hit the end of the pier for a session in what was once the Roxy, but has since tranformed into the Odyssey and now Altlantis. Given that Eastbourne's nightlife has never been exactly eclectic, this was deemed the lesser of the clubbing evils available, especially on a Thursday night when an endless supply of cheesey 70s and 80s tunes was guaranteed. There was a time when I would have gone out on a Thursday regardless of having to get up for work the next day, but these days I am content to do so but once a year, when the next day is a Bank Holiday.

In Brighton by contrast, there are almost too many clubbing options to choose from, and for the annual Easter dancefest ths year I was torn between Guilty Pleasures at the newly opened Brighton Coalition - sure to evoke nostalgia for those end-of-pier dancing days, and Super Hair - a brand new night at audio in which extraordinarily styled barnets are compulsory. In the end, the GBF and I decided on the latter, and set off suitably wigged and styled, respectively. As is customary in this town, the majority of punters had risen to the occasion admirably, with everything from feathered-heads to giant afros, to back-combed bee-hives, to rockabilly quiffs on display. Armed with my camera, I hit the dancefloor and hardly came off it again all night, as the music became more and more to my liking - ending on one of my own DJ-ing staples, Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now'. As I jumped up to air-guitar along on the podium, the years rolled back and I felt 15 again. Who would ever guess that the two cheeky youngsters in this photo are in fact both somewhat jaded thirty-somethings? Oh how I love airbrushing.

Superhair - a Flickr photoset by Jaded Lady

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Annual Bunfest

Bank Holiday weekends. Don't you just love them? A free day off, and in the case of Easter, two! I get uncharacteristically excited by the prospect of this annual four day weekend, which somehow manages to avoid all the intense pressures and emotional minefields that inevitably punctuate the Christmas break. Perhaps because we are all full of the joys of Spring, spurred on by the presence of daffodils and blossoms on trees, and more importantly, fuelled by chocolate (which surely must have a positive effect on the collective endorphins?) that it seems to be an altogether jollier affair. This weekend I shall be taking the opportunity to go out dancing several nights in a row, safe in the knowledge that there will be no shortage of compensatory sleep-time available. I also have to make a start on my final photography project, the subject of which being People at Play, so am hoping that tonight's Super Hair party and tomorrow's Piratefest will provide plenty of suitable subject material.

Of course no Easter weekend would be complete without the obligatory gastronomical over-indulgence, of both the solid and liquid variety. It's a custom amongst my clan to spend most of Good Friday eating Hot Cross Buns - freshly baked of course, none of your lame shop-bought imitations (the worst possible example of which amusingly bemoaned here by Alien Spouse), heaven forfend. There's nothing like the smell of rising dough wafting through the family home to warm the cockles - the anticipation of that first warm buttery bite (real butter of course, no margarine for me please), the softly spiced aroma teasing the senses, until finally the first batch of buns arrive on the table, only to be snatched up in an instant by eager hands and salivating mouths.

Mother's buns are truly superior to any others I've sampled - traditional and simple, they tick all the boxes without over egging the pudding. I prefer her little pastry crosses to the doughy ones you usually find on commercial versions - the contrast in texture between soft bun and crumbly pastry really hits the spot, and is what makes Mum's buns extra special. Having said that, I'm not averse to experimenting with convention and can't seem to shake the notion of marzipan crosses from my culinarily inquisitive mind.

The idea first occurred to me when Mum announced that she wouldn't be making a Simnel cake this year, and we all agreed that the thing we'd miss most about it would be the little toasted marzipan balls on top. So I naturally started pondering how else these almondy treats could be incorporated into the Easter festivities, and was soon researching the feasibility of marzipan-topped buns. Turns out I'm not the first one to come up with this concept, in fact an article in this week's Times suggested marzipan as a common alternative to dough for cross-making. So why, in a family where marzipan is the ultimate comfort food, more often than not eaten by the block, have we never thought of this before? Not wanting to rock the boat of family tradition, I've floated the notion past my mother via text message, saying simply: "Marzipan Hot Cross Buns - heresy or genius?". I'm really hoping she agrees the latter.

Photo of Hot Cross Buns courtesy of Joellybaby at Flickr.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Eight Random Things

Apparently this game has been going on between bloggers for ages, but I've only just been 'tagged' by my sister-outlaw (my brother's girlfriend, and mother of my gorgeous nephew) to join in. Basically, as the title suggests, you have to list eight random things about yourself, then 'tag' other bloggers to do the same. Like some kind of digital chain letter I suppose, but without the threat of imminent catastrophe if you fail to participate. But just in case I forgot to read the smallprint, and am at risk of reprisal (not that I'm at all superstitious, oh no), here are eight random things about me:

I'm really good at parking, and can squeeze into tiny little spaces, even without the help of power steering.

I've recorded at Abbey Road studios. I even have the obligatory zebra crossing shot to prove it. My singing has taken me to such glamorous locations as Eastbourne Winter Gardens, Chichester Cathedral and the Library Theatre, but Abbey Road was undoubtedly the most exciting.

The dimple on my right cheek is actually a scar that I got when I fell out of a bunk bed onto a pencil. Seriously.

It's no secret that I *love* fancy dress, but it might surprise you that during my long and illustrious history of dressing up I've been all of the following: (click on the links for photographic evidence): Cinderella, a Bellydancer, The Queen Mother, a Witch, The Virgin Mary, Princess Leia, Pierrette, a Flower, Balthazar (one of the Three Kings - and yes, I was made to black-up), a St Trinian's Schoolgirl, Axl Rose, a Fairy, Florence from the Magic Roundabout, Tank Girl, Trinity from the Matrix, Ava Gardner, a Golden Buddha, The Absinthe Fairy, Titania, Catwoman, Sally Bowles, a Vampire, Lara Croft, The Chinese Ambassador, Death, a Medieval Babe, a Wild West Hooker, Mrs Mia Wallace, Sybil Fawlty, Annie Lennox, a Ninja, a Bollywood Star, Princess Leia (again), Peter Pan, a Bad Cupid, a Tiki Lounge Lady, Penelope Pitstop, a Sadist, a Naughty Nun, Barbarella, a Disco Pirate, The White Witch, and most recently, Karen Carpenter. I may have forgotten one or two, but I've even surprised myself with that list!

I once sold books to Mick Jagger whilst working in the Richmond branch of Waterstone's. Somewhere I still have a copy of the receipt with his signature on it. I'm not embarrassed to admit that I found him strangely attractive, for an old wrinkly.

Celery makes me sick. No, really, I can't abide the stuff. I mean, what kind of vegetable comes with its own dental floss? Ugh!

Thanks to a brief stint with an evangelical church group back in the late eighties, I can recite the books of The Bible by heart, both Old and New Testament. It can come in handy, occasionally.

Trifle is my favourite dessert, and I'm always concocting new and exciting fruit/alcohol combinations - most recently I made a chocolate orange version for my friend Brian's birthday, which contained two whole bars of chocolate (one dark, one white) and half a bottle of triple sec.

*****

Now is the part where I have to 'tag' a list of eight fellow bloggers (only cringing very slightly) to reveal eight random things about themselves. So I'm choosing a mixture of friends and Brighton bloggy people whose writings I regularly read. OK, here goes, I hope you're game guys:

Tag! You're It...
Abbi at http://sesheta7.wordpress.com
Jen at http://www.alienspouse.com
Shaun at http://www.idleformat.com
Beth at http://bethgranter.wordpress.com
Ant at http://www.reithian.blogspot.com
Sophy at http://www.wellieswithwings.org
Rosie at http://www.rosiesherry.com
Rowan (the other one) at http://www.rowanjanuary.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dawn Inspiration

It wasn't the first time I've walked into the kitchen of a morning to the sight of a fox on the lawn outside, but today's encounter was a little special. This particular fox is a regular visitor to our garden (Ant took this picture in January last year), easily identified by his unfortunately shabby coat, which is largely absent from about half way down its back. Frusrated at not being able to tend to this poor creature's malady, I have tried before to approach him with catfood and milk, but clearly of a nervous disposition, he always runs away. Even Marcel, the most timid cat in the world, appears unphased by his presence, happily trotting past him this morning as he sat curled up right in the middle of the grass. The Ted Hughes poem Roe Deer sprung to mind as he rasied a sleepy head and held my gaze for what seemed like several minutes, until with a stretch and a skip, he was off back over the fence. In Hughes's (far superior) words "the curtain had blown aside" between our separate worlds, suspending us in a magical moment, before returning him to whatever it is foxes do in the day (hang out in their dens, presumably), and me to the usual morning routine of tea-making and cat-feeding - "Revising its dawn inspiration...Back to the ordinary".

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Music to My Ears

I'm currently using a little 1GB music player while waiting for a refund (long story, which I'll save for another time) on my faulty 20GB Archos beast. This means that I'm listening to a smaller selection of tunes at any one time, and am consequently more particular about what goes onto it. It's almost like going back to the days of the tape walkman, when you'd have two or three mix tapes on rotation at any one time, and get heavily into whatever was on them, rather than being able to carry an entire music collection around with you, as technology now allows. So, I'm finding that there are certain albums that can stand up to, and indeed in some cases improve upon, repeated listenings - and these are the ones currently gracing my handy pocket-sized player. I know that I talk about music and individual bands a lot, and you need only hop over to my Last.FM page to find out what I've been listening to, but that won't tell you what is on my headphones wherever I go, so as of today, here is the contents of my personal stereo revealed...

If you've seen the wonderful film Little Miss Sunshine (pictured here), then you will have heard DeVotchKa, albeit perhaps unknowingly. They performed and co-wrote (with Michael Danna) most of the music for the grammy-nominated soundtrack for the film, which was rather elegantly described by Jonathan Jarry (Soundtrack.net) as "...an American polka for dysfunctional families and the malaise of life." It's one of those soundtracks that works well as an album in its own right, and seems to evoke the magic of the film even when heard out of context. DeVotchKa's last actual album, How It Ends, came out in 2004, and was then re-released after the success of Little Miss Sunshine in 2006, which is when I first discovered them. An intriguing mix of Eastern European folk and American punk rock, sometimes described as Gypsy Punk, this Denver four piece employ a rich variety of instruments, including theremin, guitar, bouzouki, piano, trumpet, violin, accordion, sousaphone, double bass and percussion. Currently on a world tour to promote their latest album, DeVotchKa play London on 9th April.

I discovered Italian/French model turned singer-songwriter Carla Bruni, now also First Lady of France, via eclectic French radio station Fip, which I regularly tune into via the internet at work. Her husky, sultry vocals beautifully complement the laid-back jazzy ballads, making perfect Sunday afternoon hangover listening. The latest album, No Promises, is sung in English, but Bruni has also recorded in French in the past - also the native language of roughly half the other singers on my music player at the moment. These esteemed chansonniers include Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Serge Gainsbourg, his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg (though she sings mostly in English, more's the pity), Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin and current belle de jour of the French music scene, Camille. There's something extremely soothing about listening to music sung in another language, and although I can pick up the general gist of the lyrics with my rusty GCSE French, it's the downright unambiguous sexiness of the delivery, which all these artists have in common, that really floats my boat.

Having waited eagerly a whole month since I was blown away by his live gig at Bush Hall, Scott Matthew's (self-titled) debut solo album was finally released last week; although I had to order it from Germany, as Amazon don't seem to be stocking it (philistines!). When it arrived through the post on Saturday, I was home alone, still sat in my dressing gown and wallowing in the self-indulgent sedentary bliss that only weekends can bring (holidays don't count, as I always feel like I should be fitting as much in as possible, and not just wasting time sitting around). I'd strongly recommend cosseting oneself in such a comfort zone in order to listen to this album for the first time. Quietly unsettling and deeply affecting, this clearly very personal collection of songs reaches into the soul and tugs at that purposefully buried disquiet within. Matthew's distinctive voice defies comparison, although suggested similarities to Antony Hegarty are not entirely unjustified. Both share a tremulous quality that can be disarmingly evocative; and an ability to inject intense emotion into their lyrics. Although tending towards the pensive, the album is far from gloomy - a wry humour and occasional jaunty jazz moment balance out the melancholy to beautiful effect, like a much-needed hug in the middle of a big sob. Like the first time I heard Jeff Buckley's Grace, I can't imagine easily becoming tired of it, and am actually looking forward to repeated listenings in a variety of settings, thanks to the wonder of portable music. Next stop, I think, the sea.


Also on my player are several new albums I bought at the weekend (see above), which are too new to comment on, and a few old favourites including Boo Hewerdine, Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band and the White Queen of Soul herself, Dusty Springfield.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Friday Night Fiesta

A welcome new addition to Brighton's eclectic club scene is Carnivalesque, which launched on Friday at Barfly. A refreshing new take on the now somewhat trite burlesque revival (discovering that Paris Hilton is a fan certainly takes the shine off for me), Carnivalesque aims to conjour a carnival atmosphere in the context of a night club - encouraging exotic attire and laying on live world music as well as DJs. The launch night featured local reggae band The Resonators (who I unfortunately missed, as I was around the corner at the launch of Ed Meme & the Forms' debut EP at the Hope) and ubiquitous Brighton parade favourites, Carnival Collective, who never fail to get the crowd into a frenzy with their infectiously energetic brand of live drum'n'bass. Lots of people (myself excluded, unusually) had made a big effort with their costumes - with everything from bearded ladies to cyborg stilt-walkers hitting the dancefloor, which equalled some great photo opportunities for me. It felt more like a house party than a club night, perhaps because the crowd all seemed so familiar - I'm sure I recognised quite a few faces from the recent Dead Famous party at Matty's place, though it's difficult to be sure when you've only ever met someone in costume and not as their 'real' selves. I'll certainly be making the effort to dress up next time, not least because it guarantees cheap entry. Apparently if you get there early enough, you can even learn some samba or flamenco steps with professional dance teacher Rosaria. Seems that Carnivaleque organisers Harmony in the Community have literally thought of everything to get punters well and truly into the festival spirit.



All photos ©Rowan Stanfield - www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar

Friday, March 07, 2008

Tights, Tapas & Torsos

As anticipated, Zorro the Musical was indeed just about the campest thing I have seen this year, and that includes pantomime and of course, the Big Gay Wedding last month. Currently previewing in Eastbourne prior to its West End run, Zorro is a lavish production with impressive sets, super costumes and lots and lots of foot-stamping flamenco numbers, set to the music of the Gipsy Kings. There's not much of a plot to speak of, and it does feel rather thinly stretched at times, especially during the easily forgettable ballady songs. But when it gets going, and the stage is filled with 30 dancers stomping along to 'Bambaleo', it's hard not to love. In eye-candy stakes, it certainly ticks the boxes - my 'date' for the night, GBF Damien was making good use of his opera glasses every time some young male-twirlie appeared in tight trousers and slashed fencing shirt, or even better, topless. The leading lady, Luisa (played by Radio 2 Musical Voice of the Year 2006 winner Aimee Atkinson), was annoyingly twee at times, but her counterpart, the fiery gypsy woman Inez (played by genuine Latino-American Lesli Margherita), more than made up for this weak link in an otherwise pretty solid cast. Zorro himself (Matt Rawle) seemed to get more and more mincing as the show went on, which is not necessarily a complaint - if anything I would have preferred uninterrupted campery to the unconvincing attempts at 'serious' drama that occasionally dragged down an otherwise stupendously silly two and a half hours.

It was nice to be back in my old stomping ground for the evening, and to drop in for a pre-theatre bite at my favourite Eastbourne eatery, Flamenco - delicious tapas and Spanish tipples seemed wonderfully in keeping with the evening's entertainments. We even popped in to say 'hi' to my mum at the Devonshire Park Theatre (without a doubt the loveliest of Eastbourne's performance venues), where she's currently working as Stage Door Keeper. While we were there, she was accosted by one of the actors from the current show, with whom it transpired she has several friends in common, including my own absentee Godfather, Tony Linford. Apparently these kind of connections happen all the time in Luvvieland, especially when you've been part of it for as long as she has. Having done a ten year stint in 'showbiz' myself, I am more than happy to remain on the other side of the curtain these days - it certainly makes theatre-going a more exciting experience anyway.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

When The Cat's Away...

With the better half away Up North visiting family this week, I've been happily filling my evenings with the sort of activities that he wouldn't necessarily appreciate, and enjoying the opportunity to catch up with friends in a girlie/one-on-one context. I'll miss him of course, but I don't mind the odd week to myself every now and then. On Tuesday night, my wardrobe mistress skills were once again called upon, this time by Brian, who was wanting to become a pirate - à la Treasure Island - for the World Book Day festivities at his school. I was happy enough to oblige - pirates are easy, especially with all the leftover stuff from the recent Seasick! party. Later that same evening, I was responsible for another transformation - this time turning the lovely Harriet back into a brunette (from being a semi-blonde for the last few years) - a change which suits her immensely. Then last night I popped out to meet Jo at the Duke of York's, to see Juno - a bittersweet drama about teenage pregnancy. From the premise, you'd be forgiven for thinking it might be a tad depressing, either that or sickeningly cloying, but thankfully it's neither.

Deadpan high school misfit Juno, played by a believably adolescent looking Ellen Page (in real life she's 21), is unfortunate enough to get pregnant the first time she has sex - with her geeky running-obsessed best friend, Bleeker (Michael Cera). Seemingly taking the experience in her stride, Juno initially opts for abortion, telling the bemused father: "I'm just gonna go ahead an nip this thing in the bud. Cuz you know, they say pregnancy often leads to, you know…infants". But, perturbed by the oppressive abortion clinic ("..and the receptionist tried to get me to take these condoms that looked like grape suckers and was just babbling away about her freaking boyfriend's pie balls!"), and the idea of her foetus having fingernails already, she decides she can't go through with it, and instead sets about finding the perfect couple to adopt her baby. Predictably, all doesn't go quite to plan, but the outcome is ultimately uplifting, without being overly sentimental. We see Juno transform from flippant carefree teen to knowing young woman; and although I found myself welling up once or twice, there are also laughs-a-plenty, particularly if, like me, you dig the darker end of the humour spectrum. The quirky, stylised dialogue (see examples above)- which could have easily fallen flat in other hands - is wonderfully executed to hilarious effect by Page, not to mention an excellent supporting cast. The soundtrack is pretty cool, too.

In complete contrast, tonight I shall be going to see Zorro the Musical, on its pre-West End stint at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne (of all places). Scored by the legendary Gipsy Kings, I'm expecting plenty of over-the-top flamenco numbers, and campery in abundance - so of course I'm taking along the GBF, who's bound to love it. Watch this space for my own thoughts on the matter...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mummy Knows Best

I'm all for giving mums the thumbs up on their own special day, but each year I find it increasingly difficult to track down a card that says 'Happy Mothering Sunday' rather than 'Happy Mother's Day' - the latter description of the event being of immense annoyance to my own Mummy Dearest. I had always presumed that her preference was simply an extension of a general attachment to all things traditional, which also applies to hymns, wedding vows and grammar. But having heard her sentiment echoed on Radio Four yesterday, I discovered that 'Mother's Day' is in fact an entirely separate festival created by the Americans, and nothing to do with the British equivalent. The practise of 'Mothering Sunday' actually began in the 16th century, not as a celebration of motherhood, but for people to return to their 'mother church' to be reunited with their families on the fourth Sunday of Lent. It later evolved into a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and other family members, and eventually into a general celebration of motherhood in which children take their mums out for lunch and show their appreciation with chocolates, cards and flowers. American social activist Julia Ward Howe invented 'Mother's Day' in 1870 after the American Civil War, originally as a feminist protest against war, although it has now betrayed its socialist roots by becoming one of the most commercially successful occasions in the US.

So I have to hand it to my mother (pictured above, during her Mothering Sunday lunch yesterday at the Plough and Harrow in Litlington) for being not only admirably fastidious, but in this case (and most others, it has to be said), ultimately right. Her immense intelligence, grace and wit never cease to inspire me, and I hope that I manage to show my appreciation all year round, and not just on Mothering Sunday. Thanks Mum, you're the best.