Falling out of love with Strictly

I have to get this off of my chest.

Ever since Strictly Come Dancing began in 2004, I have watched it and loved it. The 2009 series was the series I properly began to get invested in it. Dodgy series really, it seemed old hat compared to The X Factor which was wiping the floor with it. The celebrities comprised of a lot of soap stars, Alesha Dixon joined the panel and there was a racism row. It just seemed all meh. But in 2010 things stepped up a gear, the dances were of high quality, the celebrities were fantastic and you really rooted for them (apart from vile Tory Ann Widdecombe of course). The costumes were gorgeous, the music was gorgeous, the dances were gorgeous. Everything was fabulous.

But since 2014, things changed. Producer interference has ruined this once fantastic show. Dancing is being compromised for favouritism and pure entertainment. I mean, I have no evidence of this but in my eyes the judges adhere to a script essentially written by the producers. It is all so predictable. You can predict the scores they will give. You can predict who are the ones heading for the dance off, i.e. thrown under a bus. The producers WANT certain people to do well. 2014 saw the DIABOLICAL Around the World week which was just, well, beyond parody. But ‘entertainment’ becomes jarring after a while. Surely the whole point of this show is to see some spectacular dancing? Not dancing with props, or themes, or dancing set to horrendous music. Dancing with fantastic music, and moods created by such music. Oh and THOSE FUCKING BACKING DANCERS. They add nothing.

See, this is my problem with the whole thing. Because The X Factor has gone under the radar, Strictly has got bigger and is trying too hard in creating entertainment. Less is more. But 2016 has been the final straw. Overmarking to purposely save couples is a joke and is farcical as is the belief that bigger is better. However, as long as it gets the ratings things will stay the same, and get worse. Producers, you are ruining a once wonderful show. You will sabotage your own success.

I will always watch Strictly but now I have lost heart, and interest. The soul has been ripped out of Strictly Come Dancing.

My appreciation of Hilda Ogden


I feel so sad writing this. Late last night we all heard with such sadness that Jean Alexander passed away yesterday at the age of 90. She had turned 90 only three days before. It has been so touching to read tributes to Jean across social media and in the press. She was, and is, held in such high regard – a marker of a legend and an icon. Hilda Ogden, to which Jean will be eternally known for, is one of Coronation Street’s most iconic characters as well as television’s most iconic creations. To me, Hilda was part of my own “Corrie quartet” which featured Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner and Annie Walker. Four fabulously strong women who have gone to that Rovers Return in the sky.

Hilda was way before my time. As a child, I was completely unaware of the Corrie greats. But thanks to the Granada Plus repeats (a channel which should never have closed down), aged 6 I discovered a wealth of incredible characters – Hilda being one of them. One of the first episodes I saw was Stan’s funeral. I still have that episode on a well-worn VHS that I taped from the repeats and it was beautiful. Of course, as the years have gone by, DVD’s of classic episodes have become available as well as hundreds of episodes uploaded onto YouTube so I’ve been able to see Hilda in her full glory.

But how can I sum up such an iconic character? It’s funny seeing Hilda in her earliest episodes. Joining the show in 1964, Hilda, along with hubby Stan, were COMPLETELY different. They were common as muck for the existing residents of the street, shouting and arguing but very quickly they settled in and as Elsie remarked in Hilda’s first episode from July 1964 “they’ll fit in here like a glove”. And they did. Hilda quickly got a job as the Rovers cleaner, a job she would keep for the next 23 years so she instantly became part of the fabric of the show.


Hilda as she appeared in 1964.

Not only this, Hilda provided vital, and fantastic, humour to the show with her singing, malapropisms, nosiness and life with her beloved Stanley. Several moments stick out for me. The famous Muriel on the wall is always mentioned, and deservedly so. But the Oggies looking after some chickens in their back yard thanks to lodger Eddie Yeats’ crackpot schemes is wonderfully hilarious, especially with Hilda coming back to no.13 after visiting son Trevor to find a chicken on the table! Another moment sees Stan and Hilda enter a Mr and Mrs contest at the Rovers. Hilda is convinced they’ll win but, as usual, Stan puts his foot in it and they lose to Gail and Brian (the first of Gail’s many doomed marriages). To the modern viewer, these stories may seem uneventful, or maybe even boring. But they are funny, natural and well written. And the moment where Hilda holds a seance in 1977. It has to be seen to be believed, exceptionally hilarious.


Hilda and a chicken, 1979.


Hilda, Eddie and Stan. The impeccable trio.

But it is not just humour that made Hilda a legend – the drama also played a vital part. Jean was an incredible actress and her acting range was shown through many incredible episodes. Two stick out in my mind. First, in October 1976, when Hilda discovers that Stan has been stealing money from her gas and electric tin. Prior to this she has, again, become the laughing stock of the street when her “red rotten mac” has been used on a guy for fireworks night. Jean gives a masterful performance. She is wretched, the anger is evident in her voice and she can’t stomach the sight of Stan any longer. For all of their ups and downs, and there were lots, this is the most powerful. Stealing from Hilda’s tin, money that she had slaved over for weeks on end, valuable money that the Oggies desperately needed in order to survive had been squandered to give Stan beer money – a disgusting act on behalf of Stan. But, despite this, Hilda adored him. And when Stan died in November 1984, Hilda was now alone for the first time. Those entire November ’84 episodes is Jean’s acting masterpiece. Stan became extremely ill and was taken to hospital. Hilda couldn’t bear the idea of Stan being in hospital and was frightened he would never come out; which sadly turned out to be true. For all of his faults, Stan was her life and her world. His funeral episode is a masterpiece in both drama, script and acting. Throughout the episode Hilda is strangely calm, something Ivy and Vera both remark on, and it is obvious she is putting on bravado for the neighbours. At the end of that day, and when son Trevor hurriedly leaves, she is completely alone in a house full of memories. Fiddling with a package of Stan’s belongings from the hospital, she takes them out one by one. She then comes to his glasses case but there are no eyes behind them. Stan has gone and the glasses are just another object. She breaks down having kept her tears in all day. This scene earned Jean a prestigious Royal Television Society award and is a scene that has gone down in television history for its simplicity and emotion.


The Oggie’s celebrating their ruby wedding, 1983. They adored each other.

While her performances made her an icon, the image of Hilda is the most iconic. She had a voice like a foghorn and an equally grating singing voice which was always met with disdain from the street’s residents. I’m reminded of Bet shouting “Hilda belt up chuck there’s a good un!” while she cleaned out the Rovers select in 1983 (for her own anniversary party!) and singing at the top of her voice, proud to have marked her ruby wedding anniversary with Stan. But this sparrow-like woman with curlers, a pinny and a scruffy mac always seemed to act as if she was a cut above the residents. She always bragged about something whether it was cleaning for the Lowther’s or acting refined while staying at a posh hotel for the Oggie’s second honeymoon in 1977. Ah that famous line. “Woman Stanley. Woman!” Legendary. But let’s not forget that Hilda could be judgemental, which often caused several arguments, as well as ruthless and was fiercely protective of Stan; even spitting on the Rovers floor in 1972 after Stan was accused of being a peeping Tom. She was a sad character underneath it all; lazy husband, endless bad luck, a son who wanted nothing to do with her or Stan. Jean’s acting ability made Hilda a three dimensional character and we always sympathised with her even when she was being a nosy cow!


Hilda had a cultured eye for art…

Despite this, she was deeply loved by the residents and the affection and love for Hilda was apparent when Stan died. The neighbours rallied round helping Hilda and gave her love and support. And when the time had come for Hilda to leave the street, on Christmas Day 1987, the residents threw her a surprise party. They had come to see her as a massive part of their lives and were used to her being there. And even when she sang ‘Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye’ they all cheered and joined in. Hilda had them in the palm of her hands, a captive audience at long last.

This photograph is the copyright of GranadaTelevision. It may only be reproduced for editorial purposes relating to GranadaTelevision and the transmission of the programme to which it relates.

Christmas Day 1987, Hilda’s leaving party and an audience at long last.

Hilda is up there with Ena, Elsie and Annie; forever locked in time as television greats. Dickens could’ve created Hilda Ogden – a tragic, comic heroine who audiences come to love and adore. With the death of Jean Alexander, for me, the old Coronation Street has died with her.


Jean Alexander, 1926-2016.

Perfect Yorkshire Puddings

Makes 10-11.



90g plain flour

150ml milk (full fat or semi-skimmed)

3 eggs

Salt and pepper

Oil for the tin (any fat you like)



Measuring scales

Large plastic or glass jug or a mixing bowl

Measuring jug for milk

Muffin tin tray

Balloon whisk



The first thing you need to do is to preheat your oven to 230 degrees. This is important as Yorkshire pudding batter needs heat whilst its cooking. Some ovens are different though, if your oven does not go up to 230 degrees then use your highest setting. Anything over 230 degrees is too hot and the Yorkshires will burn.

Begin by weighing 90g of plain flour into a bowl or a fairly large plastic jug. A plastic jug, or glass jug, is ideal as Yorkshires don’t like hanging around in the hot fat. They need to go straight into the oven. The flour MUST be plain flour. Self-raising flour is no good here as, if used, the texture will be stodgy and also the Yorkshires will be flat.

Next, crack the 3 eggs into the flour. 3 eggs will help the Yorkshires rise much more. We all want a big Yorkshire pudding! At this point, don’t stir. Leave it until the milk is in. After this, measure 150ml of milk into a measuring jug and begin to pour into the flour and egg mix. Only pour in a bit at a time as pouring it all in at once will be difficult to whisk. The ideal consistency is for the batter to resemble a double cream consistency. Whisk the milk into the flour and eggs until the mixture resembles the double cream consistency.

After whisking, add salt and pepper for taste and your batter is done. You can leave it to stand for 30 to 60 minutes or you can use it straight away. Some cooks believe that leaving it to stand improves the batter but, in honesty, it doesn’t really matter.

As the oven has been preheated to its highest setting it is now very hot. When you are ready to cook the Yorkshires, put the fat into each individual cup in the muffin tray (I call it a cup but you know what I mean!). Not a lot of fat though. If you use lard for instance, literally just a knob of it, or if you use oil just put a teaspoon in. Put the tray onto a deep baking tray and then into the oven for 10 minutes to ensure that the fat is smoking hot. This is vital.

After 10 minutes is up take the tray out. It will be extremely hot so use oven gloves to protect you. Having the muffin tray in a baking tray will help you in handling the tray when it is full of batter. Pour the batter in as quick as you can as the Yorkshires need to go in the oven as soon as possible. They then go into the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until they are well risen and are dark golden brown.

The end result should be a little crisp but squidgy and wonderful to eat.

My bolognese sauce recipe

Somehow, I’ve ended up writing the entire recipe for my own way of making bolognese. Out of boredom? Possibly. I’ve been cooking this for years now and I think I’ve finally got the recipe to a tee. And here it is. It is a winner, trust me. And very easy.

Serve with either spaghetti, or pasta shells.

A tip – if there is some left over, put the sauce into a tupperware box, or even a dish with cling film over it, and put in the freezer for another day. Be sure to defrost it thoroughly when you want to eat it. Defrosting will take several hours.



1 tablespoon of oil (sunflower, vegetable or olive)

2 onions

500g minced beef (or a standard pack)

2 carrots, grated

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (or chopped)

1 Oxo cube

1 beef stockpot

Oregano (a sprinkle)

Mixed herbs (a sprinkle)

Salt & pepper

1 tablespoon tomato puree

350g jar of Napolina Bolognese sauce

Napolina tomato pasata (to your preferred consistency)



Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and set a shelf to be in the centre of the oven. While the oven is heating, prepare the onions, garlic and carrot. I find it is best to grate the carrot first as that takes the most amount of time. Next, heat a tablespoon of oil (sunflower, vegetable or olive) into a frying pan on a medium heat.

While the oil is warming, coarsely chop two onions. As soon as the oil becomes hot (not smoking, just hot) put the onions into the pan and fry until soft. This will take 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, top and tail 3 cloves of garlic and peel the skin off. If you have a garlic crusher, place the garlic to one side and wait until you need it. If not, finely chop the garlic and leave to one side.

Once the onions are soft, add the minced beef. Break up the mince to avoid clumps of mince and keep stirring it around the pan until it becomes grey/brown in colour. This will take, at the most, 15 minutes.

After the browning of the meat, there may be excess fat in the pan. Place a bowl into your sink and put a colander over the bowl. Place the contents of the pan into the colander and the fat will drain off. Stir the mince around the colander and then put the mince back into the pan and back onto the heat.

To give the mince, and the Bolognese, a meatier flavour, crumble in an OXO cube over the mince and stir. Next, make a space in the centre of the pan and drop in a beef stockpot. Allow the stockpot to melt, which will take 2-5 minutes, and as soon as it has melted stir it into the mince.

Now it is time to add the other ingredients. To the mince, add the grated carrots. This gives the Bolognese an extra dimension. Stir in, which allows the carrot to amalgamate with the beef. Next, add the crushed garlic. 3 cloves of garlic is enough. Although garlic can lose its flavour, more than 3 cloves (from experience, trust me!) is too much.

What gives a Bolognese its flavour is the herbs that go in. Your kitchen will start to smell like an Italian kitchen which is an evocative smell. First, sprinkle some oregano onto the mince and then the same with mixed herbs. Don’t overdo it with the herbs as the sauce will be too strong. Just enough to barely cover the surface. Of course, you can experiment with different herbs. Basil goes well with tomato based sauces but I find it too overpowering. After the herbs, add salt and pepper.

The mince is now ready for tomato – a trademark of a Bolognese. But first, add a tablespoon (or as much as you can get out of a tube as a tubes of puree quickly shrink) of tomato puree and stir. This enriches the sauce. I find that THE BEST tomato sauce for a Bolognese is Napolina Bolognese sauce. I’ve tried lots of sauces and I’ve found this one to have the best flavour. Empty the contents of the jar into the pan and stir into the mince. A little tip – there may be a little bit of sauce at the bottom of the jar. Put a little bit of water in the jar, put the lid on and shake. The jar will (sort of) be clean and then put into the pan and stir.

After this, open the pasata and put in as much as you like. I find that the Napolina sauce alone is far too thick. The pasata gives the sauce extra tomato flavour and makes it moreish. Also, don’t be afraid of the sauce appearing too liquidy. The pasata will cook out in the oven. Once the sauce is the consistency you like, let the sauce bubble which should take 5-10 minutes. As soon as it bubbles have a taste. Have a taste?! Is it not cooked? Of course it is cooked, everything is cooked. Having a taste of the sauce will decide if you need any more salt or pepper to improve the taste.

The Bolognese sauce is now ready to be put into an oven proof dish that has a lid on. It is best to use a ladle in putting the sauce into the dish. Ladle the sauce into the dish and place into the preheated oven on the centre shelf. Allow the sauce to heat and cook out for 30-40 minutes. Not only does this cook the excess moisture out from the Napolina Bolognese sauce and pasata, it makes the sauce piping hot.

Britain’s BEST sitcoms? A prologue.

In honour of the BBC sitcom season, to celebrate an incredible 60 years since the first showing of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s Hancock’s Half Hour (the TV version not the radio version), I have decided to share my top ten favourite sitcoms and attempt to do a review of them and why they are, quite simply, the ten best British sitcoms of all time. Or rather, what I think are the best sitcoms of all time.


The genius of Tony Hancock.

In 2004, the BBC made a show titled Britain’s Best Sitcom shown on BBC 2 for several Saturday nights to find the nation’s ‘best’ sitcom and Only Fools and Horses came out on top. Only Fools? Nah. Sorry. But, it is difficult to label something “the best” as many viewers may not agree with “the best”. Not that Only Fools isn’t worthy. Because it is, it is because comedy and humour are subjective. That’s what is so marvellous about a sitcom – audiences have their own sense of humour and what they might find hilarious, others might not and vice versa.


Only Fools… good but not amazing. Blame UK Gold for CONSTANT reruns!

Historically, this country has produced some of the best ever situation comedies in the world and, arguably, the golden age of the sitcom was in the 1970s with classics such as Porridge, Dad’s Army and The Good Life attracting millions of viewers and lifelong fans. But what makes a sitcom great? A sitcom has to make the viewer laugh. That’s self-explanatory really. But not just this, we have to enjoy the characters and the situation they are in. That’s why comedy is so wide ranging; audiences laugh at what they find amusing. On one hand, I fail to see why The Office is funny, yet millions of others adore it and on the other, I love Mrs Brown’s Boys and find it hilarious. Comedy and humour are both subjective. We should never forget this, and we should be grateful that there are so many sitcoms past and present out there to watch and enjoy. The vitriol Mrs Brown got in the recent Radio Times poll was appalling. This proves my point. If people like something then they’ll vote for it!


That’s nice… and hilarious!


But this dance, isn’t…And isn’t it remarkable, as a closing word, that barely any of ITV’s sitcoms have been lauded as much as the BBC’s?

Stay tuned for the beginning of my countdown. I’ll try and make it interesting and enjoyable… 🙂


What the fuck happens now?

Some rambling, alcohol fuelled thoughts that may not be agreed with.

Today, the United Kingdom left the European Union. And for what? You know, I still don’t know why this referendum has taken place. Why do the establishment want us out? Immigration or national pride? Or both? National pride? Pictures of bowling greens and strawberries and cream. In an ideal 1950s chocolate box world maybe.

Frankly this result is shit. I’m boiling with rage. I mean, it’s fabulous that Cameron will no longer be PM. But BORIS COULD BE THE PRIME MINISTER! This is not good. This is a man who is a laughing stock. The image he has is that of a buffoon. What would people across the world think? Jesus wept I’d rather have Theresa May as PM.

It’s not all just about image of one silly man. Frankly, I’m scared. I’m scared that MY future has been decided by the older generation. And, you know, democracy is a marvellous thing. We are lucky to have it. Lots of countries and nations across the world don’t have this privilege. On Facebook especially, I’ve seen status after status all saying the same thing – immigration. “People coming over here and taking our jobs”. Blame this government for the lack of jobs, especially in the North East. But what I do agree on is that we are always forgotten. To be honest the whole of the North is forgotten. London is not the centre of the universe. But to get back to the older generation, the people I saw yesterday were just the type to vote leave. You could tell by looking at them. I can just hear them saying “send the lot of them back” which is disgusting. They live in their own little world and don’t think outside the box. Ok, people are set in their ways. But to vote leave because of something that probably won’t affect them is concerning and downright wrong.

Oh and re jobs, etc, PLEASE do not get me started on the Northern Powerhouse that doesn’t exist. The only Powerhouse I know of is the gay club in Newcastle.

But I am scared. Bigotry has triumphed. We are stepping into Nigel Farage’s Britain of ignorance and xenophobia. And not only that, what about security? What about neighbourliness with our European friends and nations? That’s now gone.

With a deep sigh, I (like everyone) now have to trundle on with my life and accept what has happened. There’s nothing we can do about it. I’m still boiling with rage though.

Taking back control? Sod off. The elite and establishment still control our lives.

What’s next?

My goodness me, it’s been a whirlwind three years at university. And they’ve gone by so quickly! Far too quickly in fact.

As I sit here putting the finishing touches to my comedy-drama screenplay I thought I would reflect on the past three years and how university has changed my life. When I think back to September 2012 I was so immature. I embarked on a completely different life really. Moving into halls was daunting and lonely and meeting new people was terrifying. Particularly for someone like me who is extremely introvert and quiet. Very quickly I began to adapt to university life. At first it was a complete culture shock. Of course it would be. Lectures and seminars are challenging. But more on those in a minute, I have strong opinions on those.

First year was not really enjoyable. I was so unhappy during those twelve months. But it was second year that I have enjoyed the most. The modules in particular were fantastic. The module ‘American Film and Society’ has changed my life. It made me love and obsess over classical Hollywood. If I wasn’t forced to choose that module then Sunset Boulevard would not have become my all-time favourite film. Dramatic but true.

And we come to third year. It’s been good but very challenging. My dissertation has been a joy to write and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed research modules, particularly Cultural Theory and Popular Culture where I wrote an essay on my favourite film. Can’t go wrong there! Scriptwriting has got me my passion back for writing (yay!). Popular Music Cultures was like a whirlwind. Was so busy and lots of assessments. Enjoyable though. Media Studies has been a stinker. Enough said really.

Enough moaning (I moan all the time) what will I be doing in the next few months? I hand my dissertation in on 7th of May, a fabulous essay on media and modern life on the 14th of May and my script and critical analysis on 21st and 28th of May. That’s four weeks and university is finished! *Whimpers*. I don’t want it to end. I’ll miss the structure and routine. It’s drilled into my head that I’ve got a lecture for MAC301 at 12pm in David Goldman on Tuesdays. Results day is 29 June and graduation is 5 July. I’m so scared. I would LOVE  a first class honours degree but I don’t think it’ll happen. No doubt I’ll trip up on stage in front of 300 people and fall over.

BUT. Enough negativity. I’m applying for a Masters degree at Newcastle University in Film: Theory and Practice. Firstly, Newcastle University?! It’s so prestigious! Only clever people go there and I’m certainly NOT clever. But it’s a course I really want to do and if I get a chance of writing an 18,000 word dissertation on someone like Greta Garbo or Barbara Stanwyck then I’m going for it! So not the end of education for me just another step into the wide blue yonder of the future. Eventually I would like to do a PhD. God knows what. Probably film/classical Hollywood.

So that’s my future kind of sorted. I salute Sunderland University for allowing me to meet some life-changing people and to do modules that have been fantastic and have enriched my life. I’ll be sad to leave that place.

As a footnote, after the 28th of May I’m going to be writing some film reviews of around 20-30 classical Hollywood films. Possibly 3 reviews a week. So stay tuned!