BBC BLOGS - Anne Diamond's Blog

Archives for December 2010

Have a great Christmas!

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Anne Diamond | 13:03 UK time, Monday, 20 December 2010

chrismas baubles

It's snowing and I'm feeling that "nesting" instinct. I just wanna go home and make festive garlands out of bits of tree, and hang a few baubles around the front door. It's time to hibernate.

But here on BBC Radio Berkshire, my show will be presented mostly by Nicki Whiteman - so thanks, Nicki, and I hope you have a great time over the festive season!

While everyone else talks up a storm over the best way to manage your Christmas pressures, and cook the traditional dinner, I am going to have a go at the wonderful veggie treats dreamed up by my guest, Sophie Fenwick Paul, from Thames Valley Vegans and Vegetarians. She's put the recipe up on her website. Go on, have a go. I'm going to.

Until the New Year, have a great time nesting, too!

All I want for Christmas!

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Anne Diamond | 12:00 UK time, Thursday, 16 December 2010

Is an ear trumpet.

I reckon I need one. I have worn a TV earpiece over so many years that I think I've gone a bit deaf in one ear. I actually find I can improve my hearing HUGELY if I put both hands behind my ears, Dumbo like!

Well, this week I was chatting to audiologist Dr Rachel McCarthy from the Royal Berks and she told me that the old fashioned ear trumpet (or cupping your hands behind your ears) is indeed a very effective way of helping yourself hear, if you are suffering very slight hearing loss - because it helps focus the sound. Apparently what I've got is presbyacusis. Aagh! Sounds dreadful but its actually just age related hearing loss. (Presbyacusis occurs in both ears and affects over half of all people over 60 years old, making it the second most common cause of disability in older people).

And I thought it was the kids mumbling! I'll have to apologise when I get home!

A touch of Victoriana at a snip!

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Anne Diamond | 12:27 UK time, Friday, 10 December 2010

A great idea for revamping old baubles - cover them with Christmassey fabric, tie with wire, top off with a ribbon and you've got a new look with a vintage style quality. It takes about thirty seconds and really improves old or naff decorations. Thanks so much to Joanna Marshall from Sparkling Ginger in Kingsclere, where she runs creative craft workshops. She brought in some home-made ideas that are easier than you'd think to create, and yet which look thoroughly professional. For the other decoration, slice up and dry (in the oven or even the airing cupboard) an orange, then pass some thread through them, knot it at the bottom and hang a cardboard or wooden painted heart. Simple!

Making your own Christmas decorations

I have more than the average number of feet!

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Anne Diamond | 13:34 UK time, Thursday, 9 December 2010

bare feet

And so, probably, have you!

It sounds astonishing but it's true. Because, sadly, there are some people in the world with less than two feet - they bring down the mathematical average to something like 1.9. Thus the average number of feet for a human being is 1.9. And I have 2. Which makes me more than average!

I've always been fascinated, and yet simultaneously baffled, by numbers in this way. That's why today I was chuffed to meet Michael Blastland, the journalist and broadcaster who created "More Or Less", the Radio 4 programme that cuts through the mess of lies, damn lies and statistics. By the way, the new series starts tomorrow (December 10th), in conjunction with the Open University.

Listen again to his magnificent explanation of so-called cancer clusters on the iPlayer.

Gingerbread and follies....

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Anne Diamond | 13:00 UK time, Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Anne, Roisin and Jenniffer with the Microwave cake

Had a gingerbread tea party this morning with author Roisin McCauley, my old friend from breakfast tv days and Jennifer Marshall from the Microwave Technologies Association.

Roisin's microwave blew up two years ago and she hasn't missed it. Jennifer is the ultimate ambassador for her product - in fact her cookbook has recently won a People's Award - and she managed to persuade Roisin to buy herself a new microwave for Christmas! As if to prove that a microwave can do almost anything, she brought in the yummiest ginergbread cake - totally made in a microwave. You'll find the recipe here. It only takes a few minutes.

And, if you're brave enough to get out and about in Berkshire over the next few days (even thought the temperature is sinking as I write) you might want to watch out for a few follies. Would you believe there is a worldwide community of folly fans? Local historian and architect Andrew Plumridge even writes an e bulletin called Foll-e! It contains all the latest gossip and news (yes, there IS gossip, news and even open days) about follies all over the UK and indeed the world. Have a look.

I dare you.

Good old Ann....Widdecombe, that is...

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Anne Diamond | 14:39 UK time, Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Yes, she told me, she DID watch herself back several times and LIKED it! For its entertainment value. Okay, I was an elephant, she says, but I loved every minute of it. And she agreed to take part in the Strictly Come Dancing tour in the New Year BECAUSE they promised she would be partnered by her most critical judge, Craig Revel Horwood.

I've interviewed Ann many times, and she's even interviewed me (for a documentary she was making about weight-loss) over the years - and we've even exchanged a few cross words. But I admire the woman's guts to stand up for herself and her often irascible views throughout a career in politics and a second career in the showbusiness spotlight, which was possibly even more unkind.

Today, a Daily Mail headline writer mused: "Ann Widdecombe's exit felt a little bit like putting a much loved family pet out of its misery" But this morning on my radio show, she saw the funny side, and vowed that she would consider more reality TV if she liked the format. She's consistently turned down "Big Brother" and "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!" but reckons there is more fun to be had somehow, somewhere.

I applaud her. We're not all Cheryl Coles in this world. There's many an undiscovered Cinderella out there - like Ann Widdecombe!

Have a listen to the interview on the iplayer, it's 2 hours into my show today.

I was a panto snob UNTIL...

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Anne Diamond | 13:49 UK time, Monday, 6 December 2010

TV puppet sooty

I saw Sooty in action. In fact, I never really rated panto at all until I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in one - as the Wicked Queen in Snow White, at Stoke on Trent about five years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it - never had such a laugh. What's more, it was the first time I ever saw Sooty live on stage. And he was absolute magic.

Someone else who's magic, and busy in panto this season is Paul Daniels, who with his lovely wife, BBC Radio Berkshire's Debbie McGee, is doing panto (look, they're behind you!) in Redhill, Surrey. Debbie came on my programme this afternoon to talk about the magic of panto. Paul plays King Crumble (who does the odd bit of magic, I gather) and Debbie is Fairy Organic. Green and expensive. How their characters fit into Jack and The Beanstalk, I have no idea. But how Sooty played a pivotal role in the story of Snow White was a mystery too.

It's all the magic of panto.

Almshouses - a model for future living?

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Anne Diamond | 13:34 UK time, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

castle rising women, old ladies with pointy hats

Just look at these wonderful ladies. They might look like a coven of witches, but they are in fact a little tea party of the Ladies of the Almshouses at Castle Rising, in Norfolk. At first, the whole concept might strike you as a nonsense anachronism, that there are still spinster women who live in so-called "poor houses" at all, but after hearing the history of the Almshouse movement today, I reckon it holds a lesson for us all.

For instance, these ladies are cared for because of the bequest of Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton in 1614. He saw a need - for the impoverished lady spinsters of the parish - and did something about it, by building Trinity Hospital, or Bede House as it is also known.

He specified that the deserving women should attend church regularly, be able to read, be unmarried, aged at least 56, "no scold, no harlot, no drunkard, no haunter of tavern, inn, or alehouse" and should wear a special uniform of a long cloak and a pointed hat. This, they still wear on special occasions!

And they are not the only ones to enjoy such long, ancient and well-meaning traditions. Throughout the UK, there are thousands of old and new almshouses, provided by charities whose sole purpose is to provide affordable housing to those who need it, and to make NO PROFIT from it.

I accentuate that, because, the no profit model is what seems to work. Using money often donated many centuries ago, good houses (and some beautiful examples at that) can be built, occupied, maintained and any excess ploughed back into the charity for future use.

Apparently many a Prime Minister, politician and housing minister has visited the Almshouse Association, which is based in Wokingham, and asked "why can't we do that?".

As I was told by Trevor Hargreaves, Deputy Director of the National Association of Almshouses, "it's a model that works, and has worked for centuries. But what works is the fact that the model is not constructed to make a profit, just to continue its work into the future."

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