BBC BLOGS - Anne Diamond's Blog

Archives for July 2010

Er...we're gonna need a bigger trophy cabinet...

Anne Diamond | 14:57 UK time, Wednesday, 28 July 2010

- or so thought our Great Britain under 20 Basketball ladies who returned victorious from the European Championships just yesterday.

One of my fave guests who often comes into the studio in the first hour of the programme to help me look through the papers and comment on the interesting stuff is Matt Johnson, who's assistant head coach of the Reading Rockets. He's been away for a bit and we've all missed him. So today it was a treat to have him back - and looking so well because it's been a great tournament, returning as they did with this huge piece of silverware!
That's Matt on the left, with head coach Damian Jennings holding the cup, and team manager Marlies Kiefer. The team beat the Slovak Republic in the final in Macedonia. Well done everyone!

Always loved a Red Admiral...

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Anne Diamond | 13:35 UK time, Tuesday, 27 July 2010

It was the first butterfly I ever really knew and could identify. So it comes as a bit of a shock to find that our butterflies are in almost as much danger of decline as our bees. Now we've all got to take part in a butterfly count, to do a survey of the British butterfly population, and watch out for the Painted Ladies and the Peacocks. If you want to know more, go to

And thanks to all my lovely listeners for their great ideas for staycation "must-see" places. Today, we had ideas for visiting the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede, which is apparently a lovely, peaceful spot. Also there, of course, is the Magna Carta and JFK memorial. I also learned that Lewis Carroll bought a huge house in Guildford for his six unmarried sisters, and that's where he died in 1898, after having written "Through The Looking Glass" in Guildford, too. More ideas -the UK Wolf Conservation Trust at Beenham, near Reading - though I think we'll have to become members before we pop along there! But a great idea for the future....

The Diamond Family enjoy their "staycation"

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Anne Diamond | 14:30 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

Had a wonderful time at the Farnborough Air Show yesterday - the filthy clouds cleared almost miraculously just minutes before the Red Arrows opened a spectacular display.
It made me think about our family "staycation" this year? What are the things still worth seeing and experiencing in Britain that me-and-the-kids could do? The things everyone in Britain should see? Windsor Castle?
Or how about the famous White Horse at Uffington?
Or, come to that, the Cerne Abbas giant? He's on a T-shirt belonging to one of my sons - perhaps he should see the real thing! Shakespeare's birthplace? The Angel of the North? Or Turville, where they filmed the Vicar of Dibley and where the windmill was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? More ideas most welcome!

So glad I flew Concorde...

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Anne Diamond | 12:22 UK time, Friday, 23 July 2010

I'll never understand why we let Concorde go into enforced retirement. She was a wonderful beast, and I was always very proud to see her. Even more brilliant - I flew her several times. The first time was a special VIP "excursion" taking a load of TV people, celebrities and rich punters up to Liverpool for the Grand National.

I remember, I travelled alongside Russell Grant, who, for some odd reason was dressed as a Greek God. I have a very embarrassing photograph of us both which I, luckily, cannot find.

But the really great times were when I was filming in New York, and I was needed back home (at TVam in London) fast, and my boss would tell me "just get the Concorde". The flight was 3 hours and ten minutes, exactly the same length as Good Morning Britain in those days! I'd leave New York at lunchtime and arrive at Heathrow at about 11pm, scramble back to my flat for about 2 hours sleep and then be up for the alarm at 2.58am and off to the studio for 3.30am! Great days!

Concorde in flight

The first day you ever walk into the Concorde lounge at JFK airport in New York, and your luggage slips away silently from your grasp, to be replaced by a petit four and a glass of champers, that's when you feel you might just have made it. You look at your fellow passengers and think: they must all be millionaires!

The cabin itself is surprisingly small, long and thin. And the seats, small but comfortable in exquisite grey leather. All one class, of course. Concorde class. And in front of you, a little display that tells you when you are flying at Mach 1 (that's when the first, on-flight, glass of champagne comes round) and then Mach 2. What's more - you even get a special souvenir. I got a silver photo frame, with "Concorde" inscribed on it, and two silver decanter labels! They remind me of times gone by. I cannot believe Concorde is in our past - like the Moon landings. I was talking about Concorde on the show today, because two local writers have produced "The Concorde Owners' Workshop Manual" - just in case you fancy owning a supersonic airplane. I wish!

Denis Healey leaving Downing Street to present his 1978 budget, with his wife Edna at his sideSo sad to hear today of the death of a very lovely lady, Edna Healey, wife of political grandee (and Lord) Denis Healey.

Denis and I had a famous spat on TV back in the 80s, when I questioned him about Edna having private surgery just when Denis was so critical of Margaret Thatcher having a private operation. He didn't speak to me for several years but I'm glad to say we made up and have remained friendly. Here is Edna in the picture, back in Denis' hey-day, when he was Chancellor, on Budget Day in 1978. I often met Edna, and interviewed her from time to time, including a smashing day spent at their home in Sussex. She was 92. So a great life, well-lived.

Throwing out is the hardest thing...

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Anne Diamond | 13:52 UK time, Thursday, 22 July 2010

I'm a bit of a hoarder. I used to have a house with a chapel of its very own and I managed to fill the lot with stuff. Then I moved to another house with five stables, and filled all of them, too. Finally, on my last move, my removal man took me to one side and said: "Mrs Diamond, you're paying me to move from house to house hundreds of boxes of stuff, most of which you've never unpacked. This is madness!" And then he went on to tell me that I wasn't unique - in fact there are millions of us hoarders who're too scared to throw anything away.

But it is so hard, for instance, chucking out the children's things. I know I have an attic crammed full of soft toys from my boys' nursery days - huge hairy dogs, big black and white pandas, hundreds of assorted beanie babies, teletubbies, Care Bears and enough Action Men to sink the flotilla of Lego Pirate Ships and wooden Noah's Arks that are boxed with loving care awaiting my... er... grandchildren?

It's a story echoed everywhere. On the phone-in today, I spoke to a professional house clearer who says that he often cannot get inside the front door of some client's houses. Often, they have to take the door off its hinges, and on one spectacular occasion, the rubbish was so dense and heavy, it had fallen through the floorboards!

Of course, throwing toys away when they've been outgrown - well, that's the plot of Toy Story 3.

Buzz LightyearAndy (the boy who owns all the toys) has grown up, and is going off to college. He has to sort his room, and decide what toys (like Buzz Lightyear, here, and Woody the cowboy doll, who haven't been played with for years) should be saved and stored in the attic and which ones should be donated to the local children's day centre.

His mum is not a hoarder. She's even going to give Andy's room to little sister. No sentimentality there. She's going round with bin bags. It's all very upsetting for a hoarder like me. Sniff. Made me think of my wonderful toy koala, Kwolla, who was my childhood friend for many, many years. Eventually I left home and my Mum couldn't bear to get rid of him - so she put him in a box in the attic. Sadly, the attic became infested with mice or rats and Kwolla got eaten. Sniff. It's all too upsetting. If you're going to hoard, do it with big plastic boxes. That's what I'm doing. We don't call our attic an attic. It's called Legoland.

What on earth?

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Anne Diamond | 12:01 UK time, Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Colin's metal detector

It's a metal detector, that's what, and it has made quite a bit of money for its owner over the years! Like £25 grand after the discovery of a 3,000 year old necklace in a wheat field in our area! You'd think that, by now, after centuries of farming and hundreds of years of people tilling and working the earth under our feet, there were no ancient treasures left to find. But all the time, wondrous artefacts are being found. And my guest this morning, Colin Hennell has made many extraordinary finds with this simple piece of equipment, including the necklace (which was of solid gold) and other Roman coins, old military ware, buttons and brooches. If you're interested in finding out more, Colin is giving a talk as part of the Festival of British Archaeology - at Wokingham Library, 6.30 tomorrow.

Anne's dove at rest in the gardenMeanwhile, how is the crazy bird in my garden? You'll remember that I was talking about birds whose populations are going into decline. No wonder, I thought, if they're anything like the bird-brained female in my garden. She's a collared dove (I think, from my trusty "garden bird spotter" booklet) and she has created the most pathetic nest I have ever seen. It's no more than a sprinkling of twigs. And there she sits, precariously hovering in a tree just a few feet above my little herb garden.

Another broken eggIt's so sad, because every time she lays an egg, it falls through the ridiculous trellis of twigs that is her nest, and lands on my flower pots beneath. She'll never have any babies this way, poor thing.

Went to the cinema with my boys last night to see Toy Story 3. It is indeed brilliant, BUT I hate having to wear 3D glasses. To me, it spoils the relaxation of sitting back and enjoying a movie. Why is it all the rage, I asked, when I don't honestly think it adds much to the movie? My son Jake reckons it's all to do with the movie makers desperately trying to beat video piracy. Difficult to pirate a 3D movie apparently.

You've got to build a better nest if you don't want to become extinct!

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Anne Diamond | 12:42 UK time, Tuesday, 20 July 2010

I came out of my front door this morning to a flurry of grey feathers - a huge heap of them - and a few bird's bits and pieces that you really don't want to know about. Some poor pigeon or dove met an untimely end in a dramatic fashion overnight - and just outside my door!

Talking a lot about birds today. The headlines yesterday were full of what's happening to kestrels in this country - how they are becoming endangered. It got me thinking about red kites, like the wonderful ones pictured here.

Red kites in flight (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Every time I drive down the motorway (M40, coming through the gap just south of Thame) I see so many red kites I am amazed that we ever considered them to be extinct in England and endangered elsewhere in Britain. They're always hovering on the thermals above the motorway, and swooping down ahead of me as I turn off and drive down the country lanes.

Today I spoke to Paul Outhwaite, from the RSPB, who said that re-introducing kites to this area, from Scandinavia, has been a phenomenal success. But other species are still endangered. Including the turtle dove, which has declined by some 69% in the South East in the last few years!

Mind you, I'm not surprised.

I've got what I think is a turtle dove nesting in a tree in my back yard. She's sitting on the most pathetic nest I have ever seen. It's just a few twigs. Every time she lays an egg (which is three times now), the egg crashes onto the earth beneath. It's so sad. But she goes on sitting there, pathetically cooing. I feel like making a nest for her and popping it underneath her somehow. But Paul said turtle doves are well-known as bad nest builders. All I can say is no wonder they're dying out. Wonder if there really is anything I can do for her?

Always fancied a shabti of my very own.

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Anne Diamond | 12:33 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

Shabti statues on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (Photo: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)You know - a shabti is the small figurine buried with the dead in ancient Egypt, which came to life and became an eternal servant? Pharoahs were buried with boxes of them, to be brought to life by a special spell. Never mind waiting until I am dead, and needing servants in the afterlife... I'd like a few in the kitchen, please, and I'd like to know the spell right now!

If you fancy a shabti, you can make your own in one of the many activities being organised as part of the Festival of British Archaeology. There's lots going on in and around Berkshire. Plenty of details about what you can do, where to go etc are on the BBC Berkshire website.

I'm determined to get down to the dig going on at Silchester.

Roman remains at SilchesterAccording to my guest this morning, you can go there and walk around while the archaeologists are digging away right in front of you. You could be there for one of their Eureka moments when they actually find something fabulous!

I asked Professor Michael Fulford, who's in charge of the whole project, what it's like when you actually discover a real "find".

He said he recently held a lump of crud (his word, very descriptive) in his hand and knew it was something brilliant. He said it was too heavy to be just mud, or clay. It turned out to be a first century AD statuette. Fantastic! But, according to archaeologists, the 80/20 rule applies to their everyday work. It's 80% hard slog, in the wet and cold and dirt, just digging away with nothing to show for it. 20% of the time, though, it's worth it!

It's probably like that for most people, isn't it?

What puts a smile on your face?

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Anne Diamond | 13:31 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

Splashing in a puddle - doesn't it make you smile?It's Friday - and everyone has been coming up with great ideas - those little, lovely things in life that make you smile! Like the smell of bacon in the morning. Or the sound of a letter landing on the doormat. Or when someone holds a door open for you. Or kicking leaves in the autumn, splashing through puddles in your wellies even when you're old and grey, or using rock-paper-scissors to settle a dispute. Or what about this one, from texter Anne-Marie: "Getting into a bed that's got freshly laundered sheets!" What about being the first to make footprints in the snow? Or having a snowflake land on your nose?

Red Arrows at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford in 2008

I love going to airshows in the summer. I have visited airshows (particularly Farnborough) many times especially during my childhood, with my Dad, and I have always loved them. My favourites - the Red Arrows (pictured above at the Royal International Air Tattoo in 2008) and Harrier jump jets.

I remember they used to make my ribcage vibrate with the strength of their engines! Many happy memories of me and my Dad. No-one else in the family came with us so it was very special bonding time. I also remember my Dad was invited into a VIP tent, and we had special lunch tickets. They served poached salmon - which was the first time I'd ever eaten it. But I knew I liked salmon - the kind you get in a tin and then in a sandwich. So I proudly told the assembled guests that I preferred tinned!

If you fancy going to the Tattoo (which is at Fairford in Gloucestershire) this weekend - take a few tips from Amy Crosdale, who's been a volunteer there for nine years. She said: buy your tickets online now, they won't be on sale on the gate. Take everything with you from water and sun lotion to rain-proof wear and be there early as there's so much to do apart from looking at aeroplanes. Like a Battle of Britain village, and live pop bands. Oooh - and remember earplugs and binoculars. Very important...

If you'd like any more ideas on stuff to do this weekend in and around Berkshire, have a listen to my Weekend Warmup.

Moments from the past

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Anne Diamond | 13:32 UK time, Thursday, 15 July 2010

Were you at Live Aid? This man was!

Bob Geldof at Live Aid in 1985

I well remember Bob Geldof coming into my TV studio to talk about this great idea he'd had to put together a live concert raising money for Ethiopian famine victims. Bob, his wife Paula Yates, and I later became friends, and exactly two years later, I went into the first stages of labour (with my first son, Oliver) whilst opening a fete at his house in Kent. But that's another story...

Shirley Boyt from Earley wearing her Live Aid t-shirtTrying to remember why I wasn't at Live Aid. I know I was in New York, working, and I watched the US end of things on the telly in my hotel bedroom. But one of my guests this morning, Shirley Boyt from the Reading, Wokingham & District MS Society, remembers exactly where she was - in the crowd at Wembley, watching the whole show unfold from beginning to end. She even brought in her LIVE AID T shirt - still in pretty good nick after 25 years and which still looks good on her!

Today we were nearly in tears as we heard the story of a lovely lady called Stella Collis, from Burghfield Common, who has been tracing her long-lost father.

He was a German prisoner of war, who had an affair with her mother in London, just after the war and shortly before he was repatriated to Germany. He stayed in England just long enough to hold her as a one-month baby, before he was sent back home - to East Germany, where his wife and adopted child were waiting for him. You can only imagine the angst and emotions on all sides, can't you?

But Stella's mum never spoke about her German lover, and never married again. He was the love of her life, and her heart was broken.

Anne with Stella CollisStella, meanwhile, grew up longing to know who her father REALLY was. She dreamed he was a war hero, but gradually found out that he was "the enemy" and felt a curious mixture of pride and shame.

Years later, she's been able to piece together a proper history, with the help of a BBC Radio 4 Programme, "Tracing Your Roots".

I asked her - wasn't it worrying to find out just how much of an "enemy" her father was? Wasn't she fearful he might turn out to be a Nazi?

It was a wonderful moment when Stella turned to me, with tears welling up in her eyes, and proudly stated: "I found out he was a very good man".

It's a lovely story - can I recommend you have a listen?

Look - the Bayeux Tapestry - all my own work!

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Anne Diamond | 12:47 UK time, Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Anne with the replica of the Bayeux Tapestry at Reading MuseumHardly. It's the magnificent Victorian replica of the medieval Bayeux tapestry, which I've been visiting. It's on display at Reading Museum. But when we saw this picture, my cheeky colleagues reckoned I was claiming credit for either the tapestry or indeed the whole Norman conquest.

Did Harold ever get hit in the eye? The tapestry is part of the reason it's often thought so - to the left you can see the embroidered words Hic Harold Rex Interfectus Est - "here King Harold has been killed", and underneath, the image of a soldier pulling an arrow out of his helmet. Trouble is, there's another chap being killed by an axe. Which is Harold? Perhaps we'll never know. But let's not kill a good story. Everyone believes Harold was shot in the eye. Either way, he came to a nasty end.

But just take a look at this: Guess where they found this extraordinary artefact?

The sword at the replica Bayeux Tapestry exhibition in Reading Museum

At the bottom of the Thames in Reading, that's where. It's a unique relic of Norman history. It's thought the poor soldier who wielded it was probably stabbed, died, and loosened his grip. It fell from his hand, and tumbled into the river - to be buried in the silt and sediment for hundreds of years. Thanks to the Victorians, who frequently dredged the river, it resurfaced to the delight of local historians and archaeologists. You can see it, displayed underneath the replica of the Bayeux Tapestry at Reading museum.

When I went to see it, I wanted to reach out my hand and touch it - the very sword a Norman soldier, perhaps even one who fought in the Battle of Hastings, once used to kill, maim and pillage (because they were a violent lot) and to try and defend his own life.

I love history. Sometimes, if it's well told and illustrated, it's like old stories coming to life. Talking of which, have a look at the interactive "On The Norman Trail" map on our BBC Berkshire website, where you can learn how the Norman monks flushed their loos! And there's also a Norman Season on BBC TV this month.

Anne, Caroline and SueMy first-hour guests this morning are two feisty, get-up-and-go ladies, Caroline Wagstaff who's an entrepreneur and innovator from Windsor, and Sue Roberts, who's a life coach, from Burnham near Slough. We were talking about one of the most annoying things about everyday life - when you get home from a busy day at work and then find a card on your doormat saying that Royal Mail has tried to deliver you a parcel - but you were out. You feel like screaming: "Yes, I was out because I have to go to work!!!"

We were all thrilled to hear that Royal Mail is now staying open on Wednesday evenings until 8 at SOME sorting offices. They're at West and East Reading, Ascot, Slough, Maidenhead and Bracknell. They're also opening until 2pm on Saturdays. Apparently they're going to announce more in our area soon. Not soon enough, we chorussed!

Your idea of fun? Trekking across a glacial archipelago!

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Anne Diamond | 13:44 UK time, Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A reindeer in the Svalbard Archipelago in June 2010
This is the more benign sight that awaits a team of intrepid students and teachers from a local school - who are off to the Svalbard Archipelago to hike across a glacier in sub-zero temperatures. The other sight could well be a terrifying polar bear! Can you believe the group (from Sir William Borlase's Grammar School in Marlow) spending 15 days in the Arctic because it's fun. I have no doubt they'll have a mind-enhacing time. But I don't fancy a holiday that requires training in how to shoot a polar bear (as a last resort, you understand!), and how to go to the bathroom without getting frostbite in delicate places.

Nice to hear, on today's programme, from Lee Peck, who used to be on "Game For A Laugh" back in the 80s. (We were talking about the arrival on our TV screens this evening of a woman called "The Fairy Jobmother" - Channel Four, I think. She's apparently going to whizz into the homes of families who have lost their jobs, or where no-one has ever had a job, and help them help themselves.)

Lee said he first heard he was losing his job when someone at a cocktail party mentioned they'd heard that the TV show was going to be axed. He said it was a huge blow. His wife at the time was pregnant. So, as well as being a personal and professional disappointment, it was financially scary too. But he used all his contacts, put on a brave face, made himself a list every day of things he was going to do, and got himself a job in advertising within three months. He now runs his own advertising business.

When senior moments get more serious

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Anne Diamond | 12:34 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

Author Terry Pratchett, visiting the neuro-imaging laboratory at UCLA for "Living with Alzheimers"
I reckon nearly every family in Britain has been touched by dementia - in that, in nearly every family, there's a much loved relative, often a Mum or Dad, who's showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer's.

It's a concern that's been so eloquently highlighted by author Terry Pratchett, who is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's - a prognosis that will one day engulf him. Did you see his recent TV series "Living With Alzheimers". Brilliant!

It reminds me of the 80s when I started campaigning about cot death. I took a documentary crew to New Zealand, which had the highest cot death rate in the world. They said there that every family had been touched by cot death. It was epidemic. That's how it's beginning to feel with dementia and Alzheimer's, isn't it? It has touched my family.

Today I met Jo, from Tilehurst in Reading, whose mother started to show signs of dementia at the disturbingly young age of about 67. The whole family didn't realise at first, she said, because they made allowances for her slips of memory.

"We used to finish her sentences for her," said Jo. "You just never think it's dementia, we all have senior moments don't we?"

Jo had young babies of her own. She wondered why her Mum never rang to show a bit of maternal support - why Jo always had to ring her. Now they know - her Mum had forgotten her phone number.

Then her Mum went out for a walk one weekend, and never came back. They had to call the police. Mum was found walking, confused and alone, and had forgotten her way home. That's when the whole family had to take action? But what?

Jo has decided against a residential care home, and is instead caring for her Mum at home. But it isn't easy - on anyone, least of all on Jo. You have to know how to organise your family life, how to deal with power of attorney issues, how to investigate the benefits system, how to look back with no regrets.

Jo was a project manager, and I think that sort of training is invaluable. Perhaps we should all learn those skills. I wish I had them!

On a lighter note - producer John won the office sweepstake for the World Cup. In a random draw weeks ago, he got Spain - and gradually the smile on his face has assumed Cheshire Cat proportions. Me, I drew Ghana. Can't even remember how they did. My bets on Andy Murray winning Wimbledon didn't pan out well for me, either. Never take a sporting tip from me... I'm a jinx.

Warming up for the weekend

Thanks to Des, who emailed me to say that there ARE such things as two seater Spitfires. I was telling everyone the story of how my Dad trained as a Spitfire pilot during the war. But they wouldn't let him fly in combat because they found he had a Physics degree, and they made him go and join a team of young scientists developing radar.

Anyway, my Dad once took my Mum up in a plane, and frightened her half to death. I thought it was a Spitfire, but then thought it cannot be - since Spitfires were single-seaters.

Not so.

Des emailed in almost immediately with a picture of a two-seater Spitfire. So, he said, "it is entirely possible that your Mother did do a loop de loop in a Spitfire!"

Well, that started a fire. Bob in Tilehurst texted in to say he's seen a two-seater Spitfire at air events - and he reckons it's owned and flown by a woman, what's more! Now I'm told the phones have lit up with listeners offering more info. I'll track it down!

Berkshire captain Bjorn Mordt in local actionWith the weather hotting up, however, it has been a grand day to talk about cricket. My guest this morning, David Morris, director of Berkshire Cricket, says the season is going extremely well thus far - and he's looking forward to a weekend of great action. He never takes a summer holiday, of course, since it's his busy time, "but Barbados at Christmas isn't such a bad option!" he laughed. Sounds like the perfect plan. Why do so many of us go away in July and August, when Britain is at its hottest?

My other guest, Crispin Fairbairn, has just flown back from China, where he has been building an orphanage for disabled babies. As David then surmised, "that puts all our jobs in perspective."

It's Friday. If you want to know how to get the best out of your weekend, here's my Weekend WarmUp.

Our Big Ticket guide to the best arts events, came from John Luther:

The Insider's Guide featured the Woodcote Rally, a festival of steam, vintage and veteran transport which attracts over 20,000 people every year. As well as the cars, trains and tractors, there are also craft stands, trade stands, protected animals, a fun fair and CAMRA's famous Festival of Ales. Woodcote is about eight miles north of Reading, up the A4074, or you can catch a bus up there - the X40 stops in the village and then it's just a short walk away. It's in tomorrow (Saturday) and on Sunday.

And don't forget that the Henley Festival is in full swing.

Movies? Here's what Hills Evans, from the Regal in Henley, recommends:

We also gave you the Perfect Day Out for Music Lovers: There's some lovely music events in wonderful settings. You've just got to know about 'em. So I learned the latest from Natalie Houghton from Berkshire Maestros, a charity which encourages local young musicians. So how about these?

Have a super weekend. I'll be celebrating the 23rd birthday of my eldest son, Oliver. Yes, 23 years ago this weekend, I became "Britain's most famous unmarried mother" (as several newspapers put it). Never mind the headlines, it was the most wonderful event of my life (apart from giving birth, of course, to the other four children!) and my family has been my inspiration ever since.

That's why I can understand why the Queen is apparently really excited at the prospect of becoming a Great Grandmother. Her grandson, Peter Philips and his wife, Autumn, are expecting a baby. Which will make Her Majesty a Great Nan. Fantastic!

The UFO in my garden

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Anne Diamond | 12:58 UK time, Thursday, 8 July 2010

Build a bird table in your garden, and beware! You may be creating a monster which takes on a life of its own.

That's what's happened to me. My bird table has been a tremendous success, attracting two competing families of robins, a handful of blue and great tits, some very tubby thrush babies and a hard-working momma blackbird whose baby has an ever-open mouth and a non-stop appetite.

This buzz of constant activity is an absolute delight. It's like watching a soap opera. For instance, I changed the brand of bird seed for a few days, and my robins disappeared! I was worried that next door's cat, the brooding Barnaby, had got 'em. But when I changed back to the original bird feed, my robins came back. Talk about cupboard love.

However, now my little garden haven is being overrun - by squirrels and the fattest, most stupid pigeons on the planet. A ten-second visit from them wipes the table clean and terrorises the sparrows.

So I've been working on various methods of pigeon-scaring. These include throwing ping pong balls, hurling frisbies or dashing towards the patio doors, yelling and waving arms in the air. It's exhausting.

But now I've come up with a far better, armchair solution.

Anne's bird table with UFO bird scarerMy son's remote-controlled flying saucer. Well, he doesn't play with it much. So I've attached it to a bamboo stick and planted it next to the bird table. I can operate its screaming whirlishness by squeezing a trigger, whenever a pigeon (or squirrel) comes near. They're daft enough to come back for more, again and again. Yes, I know they're Nature's creatures too. But they're unwelcome visitors with absolutely no manners, so I don't feel too guilty.

Afraid I couldn't be in the studio today - so the programme was hosted by Debbie McGee, who writes:

I really enjoyed my morning presenting today's show, and was particularly interested in the bad hairdressing stories, and what you can do if you have an unfortunate experience with your stylist. And there was some great advice too on "equity release", and what to do if your teeth-whitening product is a disaster. I'm off to enjoy my own garden now, although I'm not sure I can compete with Anne's bird table!

Grandma flew Spitfires!

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Anne Diamond | 11:28 UK time, Wednesday, 7 July 2010

It's a fact that, around these parts, it's quite possible that your Grandma flew Spitfires. Also if you live in the West Midlands (where so many of the aircraft factories were located), Bristol or Hamble, near Southampton, because that's where the amazing 160 ladies of the ATA, the Air Transport Auxiliary, were based.

Women of the ATA

This picture shows just some of these feisty and amazingly glamorous girls. Eventually, they were all centred at White Waltham, near Maidenhead. Many of them came from America at first, others were amateur pilots who volunteered to fly everything from Lancaster and Wellington bombers to Spitfires around the country - to wherever they were needed. It wasn't an easy job, either. Some were killed, some shot at (occasionally by our own guys) and often the planes they were flying were broken, damaged or strange to them - they'd never flown that type before.

I love such stories - and now they will be immortalised in a special project at the Maidenhead Heritage Centre - called Grandma Flew Spitfires! (They're even going to have a Spitfire simulator!)

Audrey Roberts, who's 83, from Newbury, called in to say how many memories that stirred in her. She was a maintenance engineer at RAF Lossiemouth and had to work out in all weathers, under camouflage, and got terrible chilblains. So they transferred her to a desk job indoors, where her job was to process the log books of all the incoming and outgoing ATA pilots. Thus she met some wonderfully interesting characters, like the young girl pilot who arrived so utterly exhausted they made a bed for her on the floor of the office, out of parachutes and overcoats. She slept until her next plane was ready to be flown somewhere else - and off she went again!

I so love stories like that. Sometimes that's the wonder of doing this job. You get to meet lovely people like Audrey. She even went on to marry a Concorde test pilot, and danced with another young pilot, Ian Smith, who later became Prime Minister of Rhodesia.

Whatever his politics, Audrey had one lasting opinion of him:

"He was a great dancer!" she said.

In an Octopus' garden in the shade...

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Anne Diamond | 10:35 UK time, Wednesday, 7 July 2010

I've always been well-known for my love of sport - not! But lately, I've taken an interest even in the World Cup, thanks to Paul the Octopus from Germany, who appears to be brilliant at predicting how his national team will do in the championship. Our sports reporter Graham McKechnie explained that Paul, who is in fact British by birth, makes his prediction by choosing between two boxes of prawns - and always chooses correctly. So far. Tonight, Germany plays Spain and controversially, Paul the Octopus has chosen Spain. Here he is:

Paul the Octopus

Isn't he lovely? To celebrate, we couldn't help playing The Beatles and "Octopus' Garden", which reminded me - it's Ringo's 70th birthday today. So I have Paul and Ringo together on the same blog!

Two girls caught in a photo booth!

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Anne Diamond | 12:33 UK time, Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Anne and RoisinThis picture reminds me of the days when my friends and I would cram into one of those photo booths at the railway station, on our way to school, and take silly pictures of us all. Of course, I treasure those photos now!

So I thought I'd do the same this morning, as I have just learned that this laptop has its own camera which, although not the same as hiring a professional photographer, does seem to do a pretty reasonable job. My last laptop was so old it didn't have a camera - so please be patient with me. I didn't realise they all have cameras nowadays. Technology is a marvellous thing!

So meet Roisin McAuley, novelist and journalist from Reading. She and I go way back. We worked at TVam together. I was on the sofa, presenting Good Morning Britain, and Roisin was our Northern Ireland correspondent. Oh, if I could only find some photos of us both from those days! Would we look so very different?

Who cares anyway? Roisin is still one of the most lively and interesting people you could hope to meet - and she often pops in to join me in the first hour of my programme here on BBC Radio Berkshire. She's just finished her latest novel, popped the manuscript off in the post to her publishers and, while the editors get working on the details, she's off to the continent, under canvas! I hope she gets some lovely sunshine.

Today we were finding out more about "me time". Yesterday Audrey French was telling us that singing in the Rock Choir is her "me time". What's Roisin's?


Mine? Pottering in the garden. Not working, but pottering. Love it. I spoke to life coach Dawn Fiske, from Basingstoke. She runs. Now that sounds altogether like too much work, but I suppose if it makes her happy. What's producer John's? Half an hour in the morning with a fresh cup of coffee and whatever book he's into at the moment.

Then Kathryn from Marlow was on the programme, telling us that she went away, alone, on a Greek "me time" holiday. Not only did it do her good and recharge her batteries, but she reckons her two sons are not so likely to take her for granted.

Me time. It's an investment in yourself. Let's make it a movement!

Berkshire's accent is rotic...

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Anne Diamond | 13:21 UK time, Monday, 5 July 2010

... unless you have a computer with auto-correction in which case Berkshire becomes erotic!

Audrey French's Rock Choir cakeToday started with cake - from my lovely guest Audrey French, pig farmer and businesswoman from Arborfield. For her "me-time", she sings with Rock Choir, and today's the day they launch "Rock Choir Volume One", with proceeds from one track going to the Refuge charity.

Which is where the cake comes in. Audrey likes to announce things with food. So she asked her niece to bake a cake to mark the occasion of the CD's launch, and she brought it into the studio to carve it up for everyone here. It seemed sacrilege to cut it up, but we forced ourselves. Very tasty.

Audrey is Berkshire born and bred. She reckons she has a Berkshire accent but I really cannot hear it. However, my next guest could - Andrew Jack, a movie dialect coach from Windsor. He coaches some of the biggest names in Hollywood and today he tried to teach me a little about the Berkshire accent, and even got me to speak a tiny bit.

The true Berkshire accent makes a meal of its "r"s (that's rotic, apparently), minimises the "l"s at the end of words and flattens its "uh" sounds! And that was what I learned in just a few minutes. With a movie star, Andrew would spend many hours, days and even months getting it right, while the actor is in make-up, relaxing over a cuppa, or learning lines which are often delivered at the last minute, throwing rehearsals into panic.

Tomorrow is the first day of the Hampton Court Flower Show. Debbie McGee was there for us this morning, with an exclusive preview of this year's show, and here she is with the designer of the Lego garden, Paula Young.

Debbie McGee and garden designer Paula Young at Hampton Court

Sunshine and soft-tops

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Anne Diamond | 13:27 UK time, Friday, 2 July 2010

Had a fantastic sunny week away in London! Now driving to the south coast to fetch my mum for a wonderful weekend of talking and TV tennis! There aren't many days when I wish I had a convertible but this IS one of them. As a fella driving an open top sports car said to me in the car park at London's new Westfield shopping centre: "Go on, Anne Diamond - get a can opener!"

I was shopping, by the way, for a new laptop, which should please producer John. He's been nagging me to update as he says my old one, held together as it is with duct tape, drags down my image - like having scuffed shoes or dirty fingernails! (He should see my car!)

Looking forward to being back at BBC Berkshire on Monday. Meanwhile, Sarah Walker writes:

I don't even know where to begin... As Anne re-joins us here at BBC Radio Berkshire in her rightful place next week, I shall be embarking upon my own very significant journey. My maternity leave begins and all being well, within the next two months I shall be a Mum. This excites, yet utterly terrifies me. Today on the show, you told me how parenthood has changed you. Aside from the obvious sleepless nights and being unable to leave the house without faffing around for 45 minutes - I heard some very inspiring things.

Sue in Beenham told me that all of your energy becomes absorbed in protecting this little bundle of joy. I heard that your priorities change, you become a more considerate person and overall, through the good and bad times - you wouldn't change being a Mum or Dad for the world. I look forward to finding out how it affects me but I will hugely miss BBC Radio Berkshire in the meantime. It's such a fantastic place to work and I'm very proud to be a part of it.

There were a number of magical moments on the show today, but one of my biggest highlights was speaking to Gary Lineker - who was the object of my teenage desires when I was younger. At the age of 13, I would never have predicted that 19 years later, I would be chatting to him live in South Africa as I embark on a truly life-changing experience. It's funny how things pan out.

Retail therapy with a purpose

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Anne Diamond | 13:56 UK time, Thursday, 1 July 2010

I've got to go shopping today. I know. Life is tough. But when you're on telly, you just can't go on wearing the same old kit.

So I HAVE to spend today trying on stuff, getting all hot and sticky in changing rooms, and spending money I'd rather keep! But the whole concept of "retail therapy" does work. I guarantee I'll feel happier on my way home with carrier bags overflowing!

So while I'm busy in the shops, Sarah Walker is hosting the programme. She writes:

Lynda Brown's garden in BerkshireIt's always fascinating to learn what people's little pleasures are. Whilst Anne hits the shops, Lynda Brown (one of my guests today) gets her kicks from tinkering around in the garden of her beautiful cottage. She bought Jessamine back in 2007, when the garden there was an overgrown wilderness that hadn't been tended for ten years. Followed by the BBC programme Gardeners World, it took Lynda two years to lick the area into shape. One of her key requirements was that she wanted to see something that she could eat everywhere she looked. Now her garden is a mass of fruit, vegetables and my favourite flower, poppies. It's proof that investing time in the earth really can pay dividends. Lynda is now completely self-sufficient when it comes to fresh produce.

Talking of lifestyles which have clear benefits, I also met a "regatta landlady". Anne-Marie has been hosting members of international teams taking part in the Henley Regatta for the last six years. This year she has five female Japanese rowers staying in three of her rooms. Of course, she gets paid for her troubles, but admits to getting quite a lot out of this unusual form of international relations. She has hosted crews from all over the world and one thing that links them, she tells me, is their love of Henley. Apparently they view the town and its annual regatta as 'quintessentially English'. Let's face it - there are far worse places to live than this beautiful region of ours.

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