We didn’t really enjoy the five-a-side football sessions that small son took part in last year for a number of reasons. So when school offered outdoor training sessions, I had small son straight into the car and en route to the sports shop in no time!


The thing is though, no matter the location of the game, it’s small son’s complete disregard for the game and its rules that is the problem. I noted this as soon as I saw him put his brand new shinpads on his arms. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I tried to help him put them on his shins (the clue was there all the time, my friends!), he told me off for messing about with his (and I quote) “shin PANTS”.

There was no time to waste though, as I then had to help with the shoelaces which is a skill he has not quite mastered. This of course, had to wait until we’d had a row about whether to wear trousers or shorts.  When I used to play football, we played in shorts, no matter what the weather. I remember playing in snow and even below freezing, and the pain as the ball would smack the skin on your thighs which was preferable to playing in trousers which felt like running in treacle. If these trousers are up to your nipples as the exhibit in front of me though, it’s actually more akin to swimming in treacle.

As the session was about to start, I relented. There were two youngsters from our local football team who split the children by age.  That meant that it was the woman who took the 15 or so boys and girls who were just as clueless as small son.

All of the other parents disappeared, while I asked if I could watch. “I promise I won’t get involved” I joked.  I did manage to keep my feelings to myself for a bit but then realised I was face-palming and tutting when small son lost control of his ball and ended up in the other group for a while, before noticing that he was meant to be playing “stuck in the mud”, not keepy uppies.

Bravely, the staff member then organised a game. Not entirely sure that small son knew the aim of the game is to get the ball into the other goal, I watched in disbelief as he chased the ball all over the pitch but then run away screeching when someone passed it to him.

When I saw one of the other team slide the ball into the goal while small son played some air guitar, I disappeared into the car park to avoid an aneurism.  But small son was undeterred and when we got home, we had a fun kick about in the garden until one of us chipped the ball over into next door’s garden. No prizes for guessing which one of us it was…..




RIP William G Stewart – 15-1

We were sorry to hear about the death of William G Stewart. My dad and I both appeared on the hit quiz show 15-1 that he created, produced and hosted in the 1990s.

Needless to say, my dad did much better than I did. I got my own name wrong and was out before the advert break (which from memory tended to be for adjustable beds and Otex eardrops), but dad got to the last three and got hilariously difficult questions while the other two had such doozies as having to name this: Screenshot (15).png

Having played a game of 15-1 at the audition in Plymouth, I couldn’t believe that I was invited onto the show, until a friend helpfully suggested that “they must get through quite a lot of contestants, and they probably need some at the lower end of the spectrum”.  Thanks.

We travelled up to Putney and stayed overnight with other quizzers in a nearby hotel before heading to the studio the next day.  This was the 1990s, remember, so things were decidedly lo-tech, and I always wonder what it would be like to appear on the contemporary version with Sandi Toksvig.

Screenshot (13)

The studio is tiny and the audience was a handful of contestants’ guests sitting on some school chairs.  The set seemed to be held together by gaffer tap and was much smaller than it seems on TV. They applied A LOT of make up to my face, before inviting us to select your number from a hat (between 15 and 1, of course.  I was 8, which meant that I appear behind the quizmaster a lot looking terrified) and they check the spelling of your name. I was so scared, I went blank and this took ages.

I then recall that the man at number 7 asked me if I’d like a Polo mint and as I’m unfailingly hilarious, I said; “Just the middle please”. He looked completely confused and then got both of his starter questions wrong. My fault; I’ve been carrying that one for 20 years.

The man himself then came out and made us all feel at home. He was extremely charming and efficient; firm but fair.  During my dad’s programme, one contestant kicked up a fuss about getting his question wrong believing it to be ambiguous. Stewart told him to investigate and write back. “If we’re wrong, we’ll give £50 to the charity of your choice” he said.

He told me to relax my shoulders as “they are around your ears” and asked me my name. This was the first question I got wrong. “PLYMOUTH” I shouted.

The rest of the programme went by very quickly and I remember the horrible sensation of having to nominate people. The question that knocked me out was about “trompe l’oeil”. Twenty-year old me had never heard of it, but it’s a term I hear all the bloody time now. Thank God this was before the age of social media!

So William G has joined the great gameshow in the sky along with Bruce Forsyth and Bob Monkhouse. RIP and thanks for 15-1.






New patron for West Berkshire Mencap

West Berkshire Mencap has announced its newest charity patron – Josh Dugdale.

The filmmaker and owner of the Wasing Estate joins a list of famous patrons including actor Lorraine Chase and celebrity chef Daniel Galmiche who support the charity and raise awareness of the work it does for people with learning disabilities and their families.

Mr Dugdale has supported West Berkshire Mencap for years, but decided to become a patron recently owing to the enthusiasm and leadership of its chief executive Leila Ferguson.

He said: “West Berkshire Mencap is an amazing charity doing incredible work, and it’s a great honour to help. Without the key work that they do – staff, volunteers and families- I can see that there would be an enormous gap to fill, so it’s a privilege to lend support.”

Leila Ferguson added: “We are so grateful to all of our wonderful patrons and are excited that Josh is joining the team. He is a busy man and has such amazing experiences under his belt from founding the Glade Festival to documentary making that we’re thrilled to have him on board. We hope to collaborate with Josh to put on a fantastic Mad Hatter’s tea party in the ground of Wasing in the future to help raise funds for the charity.”

West Berkshire Mencap continues to organise fund-raising events in order to ensure the organisation can continue to provide services. Its next major events are a wine tasting event at Englefield on Friday, 29th September, a murder mystery event on Friday, 20th October, a quiz on Friday, 10th November and its annual race day in early 2018.


Northcroft Lido (and a whirlwind tour of other outdoor pools!)

19 Northcroft outdoor pool.jpg

So another season over too soon. I always have a mad panic in the final few days before Northcroft Lido in Newbury closes its doors, thinking that I must spend every spare minute in the water to avoid ‘swimmer’s remorse’*.

The weather has been hit and miss, but on hot days, there have been big crowds; it’s always heartening for me to see plenty of people on a cooler day. Much as I love having the pool to myself in the rain, we’d all much rather that the pool was well used!

So while Northcroft has closed early, we decided to venture a bit further to see what other lidos are in the area.

First up was CIRENCESTER which is a lovely 25m pool in the heart of the beautiful Cotswolds town dating back to 1869. There’s a gorgeous walk through the sandy brown streets to find it (because I couldn’t locate the car park) and it’s set under a stunning castle-like office building and most of the pool has been renovated. There’s a slide (that I was too old/fat) to go on and a reasonably big children’s pool.


Next was Cheltenham’s Sandford Parks Lido where I took small son who has been asking to return – he particularly fell in love with the slide!  This pool dates back to 1935 and is an art deco stunner with green spaces, a fountain, fantastic old school changing facilities and a huge café.



Next up was Portishead!



This is a glamorous affair. It put me in mind of how I used to picture the sea pool in Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers books where the girls swam in a pool filled with sea water. Looking at the sea with a gorgeous café behind me, I honestly forgot about the stresses of life. As well as a swim in the 33m immaculately clean pool I was lucky enough to meet one of the trustees, who also happens to be the co-author of a forthcoming guide to every lido in the country. It needs a bit more support, but we NEED this, so check it out here:


*an as yet unrecognised condition!