The spirit of Tony Hart lives on!!

I have made a Morph this afternoon, from a kit given to me by a good friend for my birthday!  The box said 3 years + but he only took me 10 minutes – ho ho!!

Do you like him??

morph

Our ‘wild’ night out in Brum

Well last night wasn’t really wild at all actually, just a departure for us as our socialising these days is generally done at friends’ houses. Not that I’m knocking that at all – now that we are well over 30 it’s lovely (not to mention cheap, of course) chilling in jeans in each other’s homes, being able to chat without yelling to be heard over loud music.

If I do sound geriatric at 32, I make no apologies. But it was great to take a break from the norm and venture into the city. Ourselves and our good friends Ros and Warren booked tickets for the Glee Club, beforehand going for a meal at a lively Brazilian restaurant in the Arcadian called (plug, plug) Las Iguanas.

At the Glee we were seated on the second row – rather too close for comfort to the stage, but we at all times avoided eye contact with the comedians and were relieved when the bulk of the piss-taking was reserved for front row dwellers and hecklers.

There were four acts: the compere Mark Olver, banjo-playing Simon Fox, Geordie Rhydian lookalike (he said so himself) Richard Morton, and deadpan Canadian Sean Collins. Never heard of them? Nope, nor us, but they were entertaining. I favoured the manic Richard Morton.

The Glee crowd were predominantly ‘mature,’ i.e. our sort of age, with a lot of couples – nobody yobby!  So we didn’t feel like elderly great aunts and uncles attempting to ‘hang wiv da kids.’  There was a friendly, comfortable atmosphere, despite the aggressive reputation comedy clubs can earn.

When the show closed at 11:30, the school assembly-style chairs and tables were stacked against the walls and the disco kicked off.  They played a mix of 70s and 80s (Jacko’s Billie Jean, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Chic), 90s student classics by the likes of Pulp and Haddaway and more contemporary hits by Amy Winehouse and Duffy.  By now most people had actually gone, and the scene was rather reminiscent of a school disco, without the Panda Shandy.

By now most people had actually gone, and the scene was rather reminiscent of a school disco, without the Panda Shandy.

We four oldies admitted defeat at about 12:30 – waaayy past traditional bedtime – and hopped into a taxi (just as the ‘younger’ Birmingham scene was starting to kick off, so we came away at the right time).

It was brilliant, as I said, to do something different, and left us with the feeling that we really ought to venture into Birmingham more often – albeit not every week.

There was a time when Ros and I were regulars at Cheeky Monkey, the Friday 80s night which has been running for years at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall (see, even in my clubbing days I never went to ‘trendy’ venues, only 80s places!). We used to have a great time there when we were 19/20, and I look back with fondness on those days, but certainly don’t miss them.

I suppose that’s just a natural part of evolution. I have a husband and a mortgage now. I love a good boogie at a hen night or wedding reception, but would hate to still be leading a ‘living at home, getting wasted in clubs every weekend’ lifestyle!

I’m published!!!

I am absolutely thrilled (not to say stunned) to announce that my short story TV Spa-Dom has been accepted for publication in My Weekly magazine!!!!!!!

At the risk of sounding like a hyperactive teenager, I feel every one of those exclamation marks is justified in this case.  This has given me such an unbelievable boost.  I have had no fiction published since I was 17, when a kiddies’ story I wrote made it into the Bunty annual.  It is wonderful to know that somebody believes in me.

Mel and Gloria Corns, the two main characters in the story, who I loved so much I gave them prominent cameo appearances in my novel Gap Year, were originally drawn as very Black Country.  In order to reach a wider magazine audience, I ‘un-Dudley-fied’ them.  I have uploaded this current version of the story here so you can see what the MW fiction editor liked the look of!

So much for ‘certain people’ who told me I am a hopeless writer!!

I have submitted dozens of stories to various women’s magazines over the last year – in fact I sent this one off in June, so it just shows it pays to be patient in this game – and this moment has seemed so out of reach as I’ve received rejection letter after rejection letter.

I must admit this story is not one that I had particularly considered one of my best.  However, of all the magazines in my sights MW do tend to favour quirkier angles and offbeat subject matter, so I guess TV Spa-Dom would not have found favour with any other publication.

No news yet on actual publication date, but rest assured I will let you know as soon as I hear!  I’m sure my mother and I between us will buy up every copy of My Weekly stocked in every newsagent in the West Midlands.

TV Spa-Dom

TV Spa-Dom

 

** Published in My Weekly magazine under new title of Girlie Weekend on 1st May 2010!!! **

“What’s it to be then – Funky Watermelon or Electric Moonfruit?”

“Got to be the Moonfruit,” I insisted, “I’m in a cerise mood today.”

“OK.”

“Why do eyeshadow colours have such daft names anyway?” I asked of Jasmine the beautician.

As she laughed, while smearing my eyelids with the oddly-titled shadow, her new assistant, Kerry, tottered in with a silver tray bearing champagne and two crystal flutes. She placed one carefully before me and one before my mother, sitting next to me. Her hands were trembling, bless her!

“Aw, you shouldn’t have.” I was half embarrassed and half loving it. These Shirley Bassey moments are precisely what I aspired to during my childhood.

“Well it’s not every day we get a glamorous superstar in,” Kerry quaked.

“I’m hardly that,” I cackled. I’m still genuinely thrown by such comments.

“Cheers then, our Mel.” Mum chinked glasses with me. “And I think you ought to try that peachier blusher this time. It makes you look less, well, brassy.”

“Cheers Mum. You could be right.” She usually is. I examined the rainbow of hues in Jasmine’s palette.

Mum is my heroine. We’ve been a close unit since Dad passed away in 1974.  I was a vulnerable kid of nine then, and haven’t always been the easiest of offspring since.

While Mum was out slaving for a wage at Simpson’s sweet factory, I’d be sneaking in her room, swathing my adolescent body in her dresses, splodging her poor lipsticks across my mouth, posturing in the mirror and dreaming of stardom.

Years later, it was she who actually thought up my stage name Melba Most; she who – despite being exhausted from her Simpson’s shift – would stay up all night sewing sequins on my costumes for those pub cabaret ‘nites;’ she who was on the front row the night I won The Big Big Talent Show – and the front row of every show I’ve done since.

Hence I love being able to treat her these days. I take her every couple of months to Swinley Grange.  It’s one of Britain’s plushest health spas, and my favourite retreat.

I’ll never forget her face the first time she entered the Queen Anne Suite, which I always book for us now. It’s bigger than Mum’s flat, with its own private staircase, leading up to a vast lounge, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and even a small sauna.

“What d’you wanna go splurging your cash like this for? A normal room would have done.  Well a caravan in Prestatyn would have done, actually.”

“You’re worth more than that, Mum. We went without for so many years, now I fully intend to relish going with.”

I’m not always a pampered guest at Swinley Grange. I also perform there often.

“What have you been doing today, Mrs Corns?” Kerry asked Mum, while buffing her cheeks with blusher.

“Ooh, well me and Mel had a sauna before breakfast – got our own, y’know – later, we did a bit of swimming, went in the Jacuzzi, and after that a tai chi class. Then we got our legs waxed. Ouch! I wasn’t too sure about that – and I haven’t even got as much hair as our Mel.”

Neither of us could talk much then, as Jasmine was painting my lips with Immoral Coral, while Kerry daubed Mum’s with Lippy Chick.

“All finished!” Mum beamed in her chair. She looked so transformed and fabulous, I swelled with pride.

“I’m nearly there.” Jasmine carefully slotted my blonde bouffant wig on my head, and then I actually was ‘there.’ Now it was Mum’s turn to be proud.

“Our Melvyn’s always loved dressing up, haven’t you, son?”

“Ready for your audience?” Kerry breathed, whipping off the cape that’s been protecting my stunning frock. “One last thing, though – don’t suppose there’s any chance of an autograph?”

“For you, darling, anything.” I squiggled my felt-tipped name across the shiny poster which proclaimed: “Swinley Grange presents its hot hen night cabaret – starring the UK’s top drag queen Melba Most and the Italian Stallions!”

Yes, I thought, rising from the chair and letting my scarlet skirts fan into a train behind me, life didn’t always glitter for little Melvyn Corns. He has come a long way.

Oenology* for Beginners

(*That’s the study of wine.)

I attended a wonderful course with my mum yesterday, run by the organisation Wine Unearthed, at Bank restaurant in Birmingham’s Brindleyplace.  We learned what to look for in a glass of white or red; how to analyse its colour, nose and palate.

It was a present for my birthday, which fell two weeks ago – perfect for me, as I love doing quirky things and I’ve said before that I much prefer activities and experiences to possessions.

We started to feel somewhat nervous on the morning, however, wondering whether we had spent money rashly (these courses are far from cheap) and fearing the information might sail over our novice heads.  I had visions of being surrounded by frightfully pompous Brian Sewell types sporting burgundy bow ties and monocles and taking the whole thing terribly seriously.

We arrived at the salubrious Bank extremely early, and for about 15 minutes wondered if we might be the only attendees, especially as in these lean economic times a wine tasting workshop is unlikely to top most people’s lists of priority spends.  Folks slowly started to pour through the door, though – mostly couples but a few individuals too – until there were 24 of us.

At 10:30 Adrian Bucknall, who was taking the course, ushered us into the small private anteroom separated from the main restaurant area by glass walls (Bank are big on glass).  We were grouped into four tables of six, and all got chatting straight away.  Everyone was exceptionally friendly, down to earth and up for a bit of fun.  Not a bow tie in sight!

The unpretentiousness of it all put us at ease immediately.  In fact Adrian was quick to dispel a lot of the snobbery that can prevail in the wine world.  He even put paid to the myth about screw-top kinds being inferior!

We sampled 15 wines altogether: six in the morning, three with lunch and a further six in the afternoon.  While that may sound like a booze-bag fest, the actual quantity we each consumed in the whole day probably added up to about two to three glasses.  We were also supping plenty of water in between each vino serving.  I certainly wasn’t Brahms and Liszt!

We focused on white varieties in the morning.  Adrian talked us through the first one, which actually turned out to be my favourite of the day: a 2007 vintage Argentine Torrentes.  I had never heard of this particular variety – indeed none of us had tried it before – but will definitely seek it out on future Sainsbury’s trips.

Anyway, Adrian educated us on the art of tilting the glass to examine the colour and clarity of the wine, swirling it around, checking the length of the ‘legs’ running down the side of the glass which denote the alcohol or sugar content, sniffing the wine and gargling it like Listerine to reach every corner of your mouth.

The Torrentes was dry, pale and almost silvery in colour, with a hint of pineapple and elderflower, and apparently a lovely accompaniment to light dishes such as fish and grilled vegetables.  I kept it to one side, rather than tipping it in the spittoon, so I could compare it to subsequent samples.

After talking us through that, Adrian brought around each bottle in turn, left us to talk amongst ourselves for about 10 minutes and make notes in the notebooks provided before inviting us to share our impressions with the group at large.

He advised that everyone’s taste buds and senses of smell can differ vastly, and encouraged us not to be influenced by other people’s responses.  There are no right or wrong answers on this subject.  If you can smell petrol, leather, nutmeg, or even cat pee, while others are smelling blackcurrants, you are not ‘wrong’ (unless perhaps you can taste cat pee!).

There was a good mix of Old and New World wines.  In each case Adrian gave us details of the alcohol percentage, average price for a bottle (they ranged from £6.99 to £12.50) and what foods it might appropriately accompany, as well as a bit of background information about the grape variety.

We tasted the final two ‘blind,’ i.e. without being told what they were, and in addition to making the usual notes were invited to guess which one was from the Old World [Europe] or the New World [rest of the world].  I guessed which was which, and also that the New World was Australian, although did mistake the Old World for Italian rather than the French Chardonnay it turned out to be.

At 12:45 we were served with an excellent three-course lunch, naturally with a soupcon of wine appropriate to each course: Verdejo from Spain with the starter of porcini mushrooms and pine nuts on toasted brioche, Californian Zinfandel with the main course of spicy Malayan chicken with coconut and lime sauce and sweet potatoes, and Sauternes dessert wine with the crème brûlée and lemon shortbread.  That was followed by some very welcome coffee.

Over lunch we had the opportunity to chat with other folks.  Again everyone was extremely friendly and sociable.

The afternoon followed the same format as the morning, focusing on reds.  Again we discussed each one amongst ourselves and tasted the final two blind.  I again identified which was Old World and which was New, though failed to identify their respective countries of origin (mistaking an Italian Chianti for a Spanish vino and an Australian Shiraz for something Chilean).

My favourite red was a South African Syrah Mouvedre (so it ought to have been at £12.50 a bottle!); my favourite white the aforementioned Torrentes from Argentina.

It was a fascinating day.  One of the best Saturdays I have had for a long time.

Oenology* for beginners

(*That’s the study of wine.)

I attended a wonderful course with my mum yesterday, run by the organisation Wine Unearthed, at Bank restaurant in Birmingham’s Brindleyplace.  We learned what to look for in a glass of white or red; how to analyse its colour, nose and palate.

It was a present for my birthday, which fell two weeks ago – perfect for me, as I love doing quirky things and I’ve said before that I much prefer activities and experiences to possessions.

We started to feel somewhat nervous on the morning, however, wondering whether we had spent money rashly (these courses are far from cheap) and fearing the information might sail over our novice heads.  I had visions of being surrounded by frightfully pompous Brian Sewell types sporting burgundy bow ties and monocles and taking the whole thing terribly seriously.

We arrived at the salubrious Bank extremely early, and for about 15 minutes wondered if we might be the only attendees, especially as in these lean economic times a wine tasting workshop is unlikely to top most people’s lists of priority spends.  Folks slowly started to pour through the door, though – mostly couples but a few individuals too – until there were 24 of us.

At 10:30 Adrian Bucknall, who was taking the course, ushered us into the small private anteroom separated from the main restaurant area by glass walls (Bank are big on glass).  We were grouped into four tables of six, and all got chatting straight away.  Everyone was exceptionally friendly, down to earth and up for a bit of fun.  Not a bow tie in sight!

The unpretentiousness of it all put us at ease immediately.  In fact Adrian was quick to dispel a lot of the snobbery that can prevail in the wine world.  He even put paid to the myth about screw-top kinds being inferior!

We sampled 15 wines altogether: six in the morning, three with lunch and a further six in the afternoon.  While that may sound like a booze-bag fest, the actual quantity we each consumed in the whole day probably added up to about two to three glasses.  We were also supping plenty of water in between each vino serving.  I certainly wasn’t Brahms and Liszt!

We focused on white varieties in the morning.  Adrian talked us through the first one, which actually turned out to be my favourite of the day: a 2007 vintage Argentine Torrentes.  I had never heard of this particular variety – indeed none of us had tried it before – but will definitely seek it out on future Sainsbury’s trips.

Anyway, Adrian educated us on the art of tilting the glass to examine the colour and clarity of the wine, swirling it around, checking the length of the ‘legs’ running down the side of the glass which denote the alcohol or sugar content, sniffing the wine and gargling it like Listerine to reach every corner of your mouth.

The Torrentes was dry, pale and almost silvery in colour, with a hint of pineapple and elderflower, and apparently a lovely accompaniment to light dishes such as fish and grilled vegetables.  I kept it to one side, rather than tipping it in the spittoon, so I could compare it to subsequent samples.

After talking us through that, Adrian brought around each bottle in turn, left us to talk amongst ourselves for about 10 minutes and make notes in the notebooks provided before inviting us to share our impressions with the group at large.

He advised that everyone’s taste buds and senses of smell can differ vastly, and encouraged us not to be influenced by other people’s responses.  There are no right or wrong answers on this subject.  If you can smell petrol, leather, nutmeg, or even cat pee, while others are smelling blackcurrants, you are not ‘wrong’ (unless perhaps you can taste cat pee!).

There was a good mix of Old and New World wines.  In each case Adrian gave us details of the alcohol percentage, average price for a bottle (they ranged from £6.99 to £12.50) and what foods it might appropriately accompany, as well as a bit of background information about the grape variety.

We tasted the final two ‘blind,’ i.e. without being told what they were, and in addition to making the usual notes were invited to guess which one was from the Old World [Europe] or the New World [rest of the world].  I guessed which was which, and also that the New World was Australian, although did mistake the Old World for Italian rather than the French Chardonnay it turned out to be.

At 12:45 we were served with an excellent three-course lunch, naturally with a soupcon of wine appropriate to each course: Verdejo from Spain with the starter of porcini mushrooms and pine nuts on toasted brioche, Californian Zinfandel with the main course of spicy Malayan chicken with coconut and lime sauce and sweet potatoes, and Sauternes dessert wine with the crème brûlée and lemon shortbread.  That was followed by some very welcome coffee.

Over lunch we had the opportunity to chat with other folks.  Again everyone was extremely friendly and sociable.

The afternoon followed the same format as the morning, focusing on reds.  Again we discussed each one amongst ourselves and tasted the final two blind.  I again identified which was Old World and which was New, though failed to identify their respective countries of origin (mistaking an Italian Chianti for a Spanish vino and an Australian Shiraz for something Chilean).

My favourite red was a South African Syrah Mouvedre (so it ought to have been at £12.50 a bottle!); my favourite white the aforementioned Torrentes from Argentina.

It was a fascinating day.  One of the best Saturdays I have had for a long time.