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Archives for June 2010

Body shapes and gastric bands

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Anne Diamond | 15:13 UK time, Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Vanessa Feltz at the 2006 TV BaftasWeight loss is very much in the news again as everyone in the celebrity world seems to be talking about Vanessa Feltz having a gastric band op and Lesley Garrett confessing she'd like to reduce her bust! So you can probably imagine how busy my phone has been with TV and radio stations asking me to comment.

I must confess, it's a wonderful feeling thinking that I have all of that angst behind me! But it's a sobering thought how very big an issue it is, and how many people are obsessed and often distressed by their own body shape. I've just recorded, yesterday, a new video for the charity Body Gossip, which campaigns for greater understanding of weight issues.

I'm away from BBC Radio Berkshire this week, so the programme is being hosted by Sarah Walker, who writes:

Funny that gastric bands should be back in the news. Only yesterday we were debating if gastric band surgery is one of the many treatments the NHS should start refusing in a bid to keep costs down. This prompted a very compelling call from Jan in Beenham. She told me that her free gastric band surgery changed her life - allowing her to lose almost 23 stone. Jan feels that overeating is an illness within its own right and those who struggle to control their intake should never simply be viewed as greedy. Her story was a real eye-opener and a reminder that these debates are never straightforward.

Talking of complex, I was joined in the studio today by Sue Bourne, headteacher of The Avenue special school in Reading. She faces a unique set of challenges on a daily basis in her role. Some of her pupils have life-limiting conditions, and last year the school tragically lost four of its pupils. When I met her last August, Sue told me the story of one of her youngsters who shortly afterwards, had poignantly asked her if he would be next. Sadly, he went on to lose his life earlier this year. It's a very special person who can not only come to terms with something like that, but lead a school through such trying circumstances. I have the utmost respect for Sue, her staff, pupils and that very brave young man.

Those end-of-term things - like the School Play!

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Anne Diamond | 14:33 UK time, Tuesday, 29 June 2010

It's most certainly that time of year. Just as I think I might have time to sit in the garden and admire my new automatic watering system (I've been plumbing it into all my pot plants) or chill in front of the Wimbledon TV, I get a frantic call from my youngest, at school.

"Mum, can you find an arrow?"

He's in a school play. This I know because I suddenly had to make him a Tudor gentleman's frock coat at the weekend, out of an old black blanket and one of his brother's school blazers.

But now he has to find an arrow, he says. And it cannot just be a pointy bit of wood, he adds. The play's director wants it to look authentic. Er... excuse me?

This is what happens at this time of year.

It's not easy being a mum. It is a constant challenge. To which sometimes I rise, and at which other times I fall far short. Trying to make up my mind right now as to whether I should go up into the attic (where number 2 son's old archery kit might be stored) or give up before I start. Too many spiders up there. Which are also big at this time of year.


I've made up my mind.

I'm staying downstairs with Andy Murray and a glass of OJ.

Meanwhile, Sarah Walker - who's looking after the programme this week - writes:

There are few events that have been going for the last 171 years. But the Henley Royal Regatta has managed it and resumes again tomorrow. Today on the show, I learned that it's one of the few sporting occasions that survives without commercial sponsorship. In a bizarre way, maybe this lack of dependency on the corporate sector has been the secret of its success. Chairman of the Regatta, Mike Sweeney told me that three weeks after the end of this year's Regatta, plans will begin for the 2011 extravaganza. All of this hard work is worth bearing in mind as we sip our spritzers by the banks of the Thames this weekend.

On the phone-in today, I heard your locked-out stories after my front door became jammed an hour before the England v Germany game on Sunday! Most tales seemed to involve sliding people through small, open windows. Our former Olympic Rower, Sarah Winckless admitted that her housemate had once done this very thing. He slipped through the window and brought the sink underneath it off the wall, only to discover the keys to the front door were in his pocket the whole time and Sarah was inside waiting for him!

Rowers at the 2007 Henley Royal Regatta

Still reason to be proud! A quintessential English weekend

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Anne Diamond | 14:14 UK time, Monday, 28 June 2010

Sizzling on the barbecueNever mind the goals. Or Just remember, it was a wonderful English weekend, with fantastic English weather, and me and my boys had a smashing barbie in the garden whilst watching the burning sausages with one eye and the TV with the other.

I even screamed like a groupie when we scored the second goal-that-never-was! I had no idea I was that excited about football. And pity poor David Cameron, having to watch the footie with Angela Merkel. How utterly humiliating! Perhaps today we should be thinking about ways to cheer each other up!

I'm away from BBC Berkshire this week, and I'll bring you up to date on any gossip if I come across anything interesting. Have a great Monday! This week's Anne Diamond Show is being hosted by Sarah Walker, who writes:

Today on the phone-in, we were talking about the sunshine. The long hot sunny days we're enjoying in Berkshire at the moment will create memories we'll hold with us forever, and I heard some incredible stories of sunny days gone by. Julie in Thatcham told me about how, when pregnant in June 1971, she was walking along Bournemouth sea front when the zip on the back of her maternity dress started to burn her. She was forced to run along, stripping off in front of aghast holidaymakers as she went. Maureen in Newbury remembered puffing up the steps of the sun-drenched Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading just hours from giving birth to her daughter in 1976. Oh, and then there was Roger in Hungerford who maintains that the mere smell of strawberries takes him back to post-war Reading when he would play out all-summer long and return home to a glorious spread of soft fruit in a glass bowl.

I also caught up with Bonita Norris on the show today. A year ago, she told me that she'd had a crazy idea as a youngster to climb Mount Everest. On May 17th, she became the youngest British woman ever to do so. Despite intense press attention since her return, she tells me that she isn't interested in a TV career and wants to keep those crazy ideas coming. In 2012, she plans to journey to the South Pole. So maybe we're not all so obsessed with the sunshine.

Anyone for tennis?

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Anne Diamond | 11:05 UK time, Friday, 25 June 2010

Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon 2010Has all this talk of tennis, marathon matches and Andy Murray bowing to the Queen, given you a taste for Wimbledon? It has for me. I love watching it on TV (have you ever tried listening to the radio commentary whilst also watching the TV - fantastic!) but now my boys are asking me if we can go to Henman Hill and be part of the atmosphere.

Well, I've been to Wimbledon several times but only ever as someone's guest. I have no idea how anyone gets tickets, how you queue or anything.

So this week, as part of our Weekend Warmup, I thought I'd find out - from Tim Henman's uncle no less, Tony Billington, who lives in Woolhampton, in West Berkshire. He's a mean tennis player himself and says the whole extended Henman family are all good players, with another generation up and coming.

His tips for getting into Wimbledon: apply for tickets in the annual ballot, but that won't open until August, for NEXT YEAR. This year, you could still get in if you're prepared to queue. Tony said that you have to join the queue at least three hours before opening time at 10am. Every day, 500 tickets are saved for the queue, for the Centre Court and Courts 1 and 2. Tony says that yesterday, everyone in the queue got into the show courts. And if you don't get a show court ticket, just an admission, you can take a packed lunch with you to Henman Hill which is inside the grounds. So good luck, and get there early!

Also on the Weekend Warmup - what's on in the arts? Here are the tips from John Luther, of South Street Arts in Reading:

  • Eric's Tales of the Sea - 8pm this Saturday, at Norden Farm in Maidenhead
  • Cara Dillon, one of folk music's greatest names, 7.30pm, also at Norden Farm
  • Newbury-based duo Plested and Brown with "The Perfect Wife Roadshow", Tuesday 29th, 8pm at South Street in Reading
  • And if you're booking ahead, there are some really great acts in the Newbury Comedy Festival coming up between 8-29 July

What about movies? This weekend watch out for "Whatever Works", "Shrek Forever After" and "Good Hair" (all at local cinemas except for the last one which is currently only showing in Oxford - but hopefully coming to the Regal Cinema in Henley soon).

Now, just take a long hard look at this wonderful picture of a five month old foetus, alive and healthy in the womb. And then consider whether or not pregnant women should all be given a breath test to find out if they're really smoking, even if they say they're not.

My guests, Reading pastor Yinka Oyekan and Reading author and journalist Roisin McAuley, were divided on whether this is a good idea. I can't make my mind up either. I know how harmful it is for the unborn child if mum smokes. And nowadays, in the field of cot death, we are still losing about 300 babies every year, with the overwhelming majority of those deaths happening in smoking households. The experts I know are convinced that if we could stop more mums and dads smoking, we could almost eradicate cot death - so strong is the link between smoking and cot death in this country!

However, I worry that it just isn't realistic. Many mums can't or won't give up smoking because of so many other complex reasons. So often they're single mums, desperately poverty stricken, living isolated lives in the top of decrepit high-rises with nothing but ciggies to keep them going. Demanding they give up may be unrealistic. Threatening them with a breathalyser may just put them off going for ante natal help at all.

Having words!

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Anne Diamond | 13:29 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

Anne with Stewart CollinsThought you'd like to meet my guest today, since he comes in often despite being a very busy man at the moment - Stewart Collins, artistic director of the Henley Festival. Just days to go to his big event, headlined by Will Young, Bryn Terfel, Nigel Kennedy, and Ronan Keating! Just seeing that picture reminds me that, if I'm going to put daily pix on this blog, then I'm going to have to pay as much attention to what I'm wearing as when I am on the telly. I've worn this jacket rather a lot recently!


Don't you just love them? Heard a new word today. Anatidaephobia. Ever heard of it? Its definition is "the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you". I doubt I'll ever need it again (although I'll try!) But today I learned it from an eleven-year-old, Zak, who was off to the Grand Final of The Times Spelling Bee.

He and his team mate, Akash (who spelt Triskaidekaphobia - fear of the number thirteen - perfectly for me) from the Herschel Grammar School in Slough, take their spelling very seriously. Their tip - you have to "visualise" the word. As a lover of punctuation and spellings, I was just happy that kids of their age still care - especially since we seem to live in a world dominated by txt spk.

Now I look back on that sentence, I see it's particularly convoluted. But I like my punctuation that way.

My eldest son is always rebuking me for using too many exclamation marks, but I just love 'em!!! Best of luck to the lads from Slough. As soon as I hear how they got on, I'll let you know!

Marvellous mothers

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Anne Diamond | 14:44 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

I've always been fascinated by mothers. You know - the strength of feeling that comes with motherhood?

The feeling that could probably be summed up by this saying: "The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new."

I'll never forget being told by a friend (who was a national newspaper reporter) when he came back from the Mexico City earthquake, way back in 1985, that he'd always remember what the rescue services said about Mexican mothers.

He said that, when rescuers uncovered the maternity ward of a destroyed hospital, they found that all of the new mothers had instinctively flung themselves across the cots of their babies, to protect them from the falling debris. I've never been able to completely get that image out of my mind. The strength of the maternal instinct is something I've always wanted to write about, and celebrate.

So on today's phone-in I thought I'd ask listeners what they thought of MP Diane Abbot, who has said that West Indian mothers are the strongest mothers of all, because they'd "go to the wall for their kids".

You see, I think lots of diverse racial backgrounds would boast that they have the best mums!

Anne and JohnFor instance, my producer, John Baish, has an Armenian mum. He says they're the best, because they always put their children first. (The photo, by the way, is of me and John getting the programme underway!)

My guest, Una Loughrey, who runs The Link Foundation in Maidenhead, comes from an Irish Catholic background, very similar to me. We both reckoned Irish mums are the best, putting great stock in education. The sort of mums who nag you to do your homework as soon as you're home from the school bus!

And then there are Jewish mothers, who are said to be formidable.

There's a lovely Jewish proverb: "God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers".

But Magdalena rang in from Reading with a very poignant story. She was brought up in Yugoslavia and her mother abandoned her when she was very young. She's turned into a formidable mother herself, though, of two very high achieving daughters. "The mothering instinct does not come from the racial background," she said. "It's an instinct that either you have or you don't. No-one taught me. But I hope my daughters would think I have done a good job!"

If, after that, you're feeling a little sentimental - try out these well-known soppy sayings about mothers:

  • "A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie."
  • "Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible."
  • "A suburban mother's role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car forever after."

Oh - I so agree with that one!

Launch day for the blog!

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Anne Diamond | 09:46 UK time, Wednesday, 23 June 2010

And thanks so much to one of my listeners, who's also obviously a very talented photographer - Paul Hilton.

Paul Hilton's photo, taken at the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre on the longest dayHe has sent this photo into us for the BBC's big Water's Edge project on the longest day. It was taken, apparently, at the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre.

Well done, Paul and thanks for a smashing Berkshire photograph to help officially launch this blog.

Inheriting a life's work - and a few Egyptian antiquities!

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Anne Diamond | 18:33 UK time, Tuesday, 22 June 2010

It's bad enough being "married" to your own career. But what's it like when your life is taken over by someone else's? A really interesting subject, I thought, for today's phone-in, one which has always fascinated me because so many women have to face it in their lives. It's when you marry HIS job. In other words, when your partner's job affects your life fundamentally - plunging you into a whole sea of responsibilities, duties, perks and stresses.

Sandra and Michael HowardI was reading the memoirs of Sandra Howard, the glamorous wife of former MP, Opposition leader and Minister, Michael Howard. She said she was relieved when her husband retired from Westminster, because she could at last be her own person again, instead of the Minister's wife. And I thought - I bet lots of people end up being married to their husband's career. I always think of Margo in "The Good Life" who was very much married to her husband's career, because she was always having to throw dinner parties at the drop of a hat for his boring colleagues and their wives.

So, in our phone-in, I found myself talking to Fiona, Lady Carnarvon of Highclere, near Newbury. When she married Jordy, she was a businesswoman with a career of her own, and never thought for a minute about what might be in store for them as a couple.

Life changed because, when her father-in-law died, her husband became the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and she became Fiona, Lady Carnarvon. And her life was transformed. Suddenly they inherited Highclere, a huge country estate and a massive responsibility, and the trappings of a long family history.

Lord and Lady Carnarvon at HighclereNowadays, they both run Highclere very much as a business - but it has taken both of their business brains to make it work. And, of course, it's a job from which they can never retire!

I met Fiona and Jordy at Highclere recently, and had a peep into their lives. Highclere is a thriving and busy farming estate but it is also a wedding location, a film set and has a really clever Egyptian museum in the basement. The 4th Earl of Carnarvon, of course, was the man who funded Howard Carter's Tutankhamun dig, so the family has a treasure trove of ancient artefacts.

"That's the best part of my job!" enthused Fiona. "I've just immersed myself in Egyptian history and it's been an absolute privilege! But I never thought for one minute that my life would turn out this way." Watch who you marry!

Ascot Ladies Day with the First Lady of racing

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Anne Diamond | 16:38 UK time, Thursday, 17 June 2010

It's Ladies Day at Ascot, and today I've had my own celebration of what it takes to be a modern, feisty, strong-minded woman here in the studio. Talk about inspirational.

Anne and Jenny PitmanJenny Pitman joined me, with her lovely "pillar" of a husband, David Stait. I first met Jenny in 1983, which was my first year in breakfast television (in fact, the year that breakfast TV was born in the UK, on TVam and the BBC), when her horse, Corbiere, won the Grand National - making her the first woman ever to train a National winner.

To me, Jenny has always been the woman with the sparkling eyes. She says that's the best way to spot a winner at the races. Go down to the ring, she says, and look your horses in the eyes. The ones with "diamond eyes", as she put it, have got the spirit to win.

We were talking about those moments in life when you have to find your inner strength. She remembers doing it when, after a hurtful divorce, she had to keep on going as a mum of two young sons, and a wannabe stable owner, making her name in the world of horse racing. She moved into a run-down ruin of a house and stables, called Weathercock House, in Upper Lambourn in Berkshire. Everyone told her it was an unlucky yard, she said. But it was all she could afford. So she made it work for her, through sheer force of will, strong personality, and feistiness.

Many days, she recalled, she drew strength from walking around the stables, and talking things over with the horses. Her horses have heard her darkest secrets, she said - the sort of secrets you DON'T put in an autobiography.

Nowadays, with one son a successful accountant in Dubai, and her other son who followed in his mum's footsteps now running the Weathercock stables, Jenny has turned her hand to writing. She's penned five best selling novels, all of them set in the racing world and peppered with stories that must have come directly from Jenny's life.

Sarah Walker with AnneBBC Radio Berkshire's Sarah Walker went off to the races today, it being Ladies Day of course!

Yesterday she mentioned how hard it is to be pregnant and glamorous at Ascot.

I well remember going along to Ladies Day whilst being pregnant. One year, the designer Gina Fratini made me a special maternity dress for the occasion. Thought I'd bring it in and show it to Sarah.

Can't find the hat that goes with it, though!

Anyway, Sarah had managed to come up with a lovely Ascot frock to cover her growing bump.

Ascot dress dilemmas

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Anne Diamond | 13:04 UK time, Wednesday, 16 June 2010

"Stately as a galleon, she waltzed across the floor."

D'you remember that famous Joan Grenfell song? About a portly woman "doing the military two-step as in the days of yore...."

I was reminded of it today when BBC Radio Berkshire's Sarah Walker told me she was going to Royal Ascot tomorrow, and she's 32 weeks pregnant. I wish she'd told me much earlier because I have an utterly gorgeous Royal Ascot dress which was designed for me by Gina Fratini back in the 80s, when I too was hugely pregnant but still needed to look glamorous!

I remember making an enormous entrance, in a flurry of yellow and white taffeta.

Like a galleon.

I'm bringing it in tomorrow to show her but I gather she's already chosen a little maternity number in grey, green and yellow.

Back to nature in Berkshire

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Anne Diamond | 12:59 UK time, Tuesday, 15 June 2010

I've discovered something new. It's called "ecotherapy" - and today I met an ecotherapist who lives and practises right here in Berkshire!

Never heard of it? Well, here goes.

Cornfield on the Berkshire WayAs I was saying on the show the other day, I have found that spending time outdoors is an instant antidote to feeling low or tired. Dunno whether it's an age thing, but my mood is almost directly affected by my time outdoors - in the sunlight/sunshine, the fresh air or the garden.

Then at the weekend, a woman stopped me in a shop and said she heard me talking about it on BBC Radio Berkshire, and utterly agreed with me. She says she HAS to spend a number of hours a day outdoors or she feels depressed.

Perhaps it's not that surprising. We've already heard a lot about SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and today I learned about Thrive, which is a small charity based at Beech Hill, just outside Reading. They use gardening as a treatment or therapy, working with people with various kinds of disability. They've found it helps both physically and mentally.

My morning guest, Wokingham comedian Mackenzie Taylor, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, says it makes sense. We live sedentary, indoor lives, and he says many mental health workers already know the transforming properties of a simple walk outdoors.

But ecotherapy seems to be a way of directly addressing the problem by plugging people back into nature, to rescue their minds. 
Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities, and many people barely ever get a glimpse of green. That's what the ecotherapists reckon, and I agree.
 Our Berkshire ecotherapist was Vivienne Bonnett who says she often takes her clients outdoors, working with horses.

One listener said she has nightmares about leaving her present job, gardening, to go back to an office job! Another, Kimberley, from Newbury, said it's the colours of the outdoors that do us good. Apparently it's all to do with reiki - she's a reiki master. That's why it feels great to see an open blue sky, or a huge expanse of green countryside, or a blue ocean.

Perhaps we should get back in touch with the very environment we're trying to protect. Me, I'll do my bit by gardening and creating gardening projects for myself - and let someone else bother with cleaning up the kitchen!

Danyl Johnson pops in with a nifty titfer

You remember the saga of Robbie the Robot at the Royal Berkshire Hospital? It's a brilliant asset that allows a surgeon to perform an operation quickly, with increased efficiency and accuracy, meaning faster recovery times for the patient. The problem is at the Royal Berks will lose Robbie if they can't raise £1m.

Well, local lad Danyl (he comes from Arborfield, near Reading) is doing his bit, and he popped into the studio today to tell me about his fund-raising concert, tonight at Reading's Jazz Cafe at the Madejski Stadium - it's at 7pm, if you're interested.

Anne and DanylLiked his hat - and we got chatting about computer gadgetry! I am a gadget fiend. I bought the latest addition to my tech collection for my mum, but I've hung onto it for now. Well, how can I advise her on its use if I'm not thoroughly au fait with how it works? So Danyl and I had fun swapping hi-tech tips.

And, as I said, I did like his hat. Gave him a cheeky chappie look.

Tim Dellor's tieTalking of things sartorial, our sports editor, Tim Dellor, was wearing a particularly smart tie today. It was a freebie from the European Cricket Council. Cricket ties are always striking, aren't they?

On the phone in today, lots of ideas for wartime recipes. Apparently we are cooking more and more of those old-fashioned, frugal recipes like corned beef hash, toad in the hole and liver and bacon pudding, to save money in these cash-strapped times.

One recipe suggested was carrot fudge. I can't quite believe there is such a thing. The recipe looks fairly disgusting but I rashly promised everyone I'd have a go at making it tonight to bring into the studio tomorrow. As if I haven't got anything better to do. Never cooked with gelatine before. But here goes. Watch out kids, if I get any good at it, you could find yourself eating sheep's head stew for supper... Works out at just 4d per person.

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