I was really interested to hear today about a national competition to find the country's best children's mum or dad, grandma or grandad, teacher or librarian story reader
- someone who is really, really good at reading aloud.
Today I spoke to Cressida Cowell, author of How To Train Your Dragon, who's launched the competition along with the Children's Laureate, Julia Donaldson, who wrote The Gruffalo. They think there are hundreds of brilliant unsung heroes, busy reading all the time, who need to be recognised.
If you want to know more about it, go to their website - or get in touch with me, cos I'd love to hear you do your thing on the radio!
...sometimes spoken by 'ologists. Perhaps it's the fault of the journalists who get them out of bed on a Sunday night by ringing them up and asking for a quick quote. The latest piece of stupid information you don't want to read on a cold, dark Monday morning is that this is called Happy Monday.
Yes, I mean Monday, January 30th. Outlook dreary, cold and a chance of snow. What was it David Cameron said about 2012 - it was going to be a harder year for us all even than last year.
So why is it meant to be Happy Monday today?
Supposedly because this is the first Monday of the year when we - at last - have received the first pay cheque of 2012, and have finally booked our summer holidays.
Well, yah, boo, sucks to that. Neither is true for me. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm meant to pay for last Christmas. Reminds me, I must take some of those decorations down. And I definitely haven't booked a summer holiday yet. Bet most of you haven't either.
Still - at least tomorrow is the last day of January! My apologies to anyone who was born in January, but I honestly cannot see a good thing about this month. Roll on Feb.
Today I had my first go on a Segway.
It's totally brilliant. Perhaps I shouldn't have said on air that it's better than sex - but there you are, I said it, and perhaps it is. Wish I could afford one. But for those of us who can't - you can go on a Segway tour right here in Berkshire.
Have a go!
But it's not - it's a wonderful still life from East Anglia, taken by my guest Justin Partyke, who has now been commissioned to take photgraphs that will show Berkshire rural life.
It's all part of a special project by the Museum of English Rural Life. The project kicks off with an exhibition this weekend, and will gradually come together over the next couple of months, as Justin travels through the Royal County with his camera to capture the, as yet, undiscovered gems of the Berkshire country and farming world.
They say that the next Bond movie
, shooting at the moment in Pinewood
, is suffering from the recession. They're apparently trying to save money by axing the exotic location shooting, and instead choosing UK places like Bognor.
Do we really believe this?
Having been to Pinewood several times, and getting to know some of the locals, I'll have to get to the bottom of this one. The Daily Mirror says it's true, and is busy coming up with alternative titles, like 'Dr No-Money' and 'Savings Bond'. How about 'Gold-Plated Finger' and 'From Bognor with Love'?
At present, we're told the new movie's title is SkyFall.
Unless you can think of a better one!
...and it's about feathers!
For this, we have to thank Theresa Verney-Brookes of Thatcham Discovery Centre, who's hosting our Stargazing Live event tomorrow Wednesday evening.
The RSPB was started by a group of feisty females who were outraged that the Victorian/Edwardian fashion industry was actually causing the threatened extinction of certain birds - particularly exotic birds of paradise and the wonderful Great Crested Grebe (which, by the way is showing off its feathers as it does its mating dance at this very moment at Thatcham Discovery Centre!)
The RSPB was formed to counter the barbarous trade in plumes for women's hats, a fashion responsible for the destruction of many thousands of egrets, birds of paradise and other species whose plumes had become fashionable in the late Victorian era.
Well done ladies!
As I was driving one of my sons back to uni yesterday evening, we noticed what a fantastic night it was for looking at the stars - it was clear and there was one particularly bright star in the sky.
My guest this morning, an expert cosmologist (everyone should have one for moments like this), tells me this was undoubtedly not a star, but a planet - in fact, Venus. Have a look at the Moon, too. Really bright and you could see real texture on it.
A great time to join in the BBC's Stargazing Live. It starts tonight on BBC Two at 8.30 with the prince of cleverness (well, isn't it annoying when people are so darned clever and multi-talented? No, I'm not serious, I'm actually a huge fan...) Professor Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain.
Then on Wednesday evening, BBC Radio Berkshire will be hosting a Stargazing ecvent at Thatcham Discovery Centre, and you're invited. It's free, so come along.
I'm having a totally grumpy day today. Dunno why.
Perhaps I'm just too tired.
What's it someone on my radio show said yesterday? Fatigue makes fools of us all.
Well, it's certainly gotten to me. So, I thought, how to get around this?
I downloaded Michael McIntyre's audiobook 'Life and Laughing' which I thought might put a smile on my face for the drive home from work.
I think it's beginning to work. Phew.
He's really rather good, you know. And an antidote to these dark, bleak, frosty mornings.
That's me and Nick, with Pierce Brosnan and his lovely first wife, Cassandra, back in the 80s.
You see, we were talking this morning about Pinewood and 007. The PM is visiting Pinewood today, to throw more political weight behind the British film industry.
It reminded me of the 007 I knew best.
Mind you, when this pic was taken, Pierce had been offered the role but had been unable to take it up because he was contractually bound to another series of Remington Steele, and Hollywood wouldn't release him.
It was the most wonderful day.
Apparently using acupuncture to treat hot flushes is a real discovery and is helping many cancer sufferers overcome the problems caused by hormone changes after operations like mastectomies.
My guest today is a physio to some of our biggest ice skating champions and will be rinkside during the European Figure Skating championships at the end of this month.
She did her Masters in sports injury, particularly focussing on neck and shoulders - how incredibly specialised is that? Yet Julia Ferreira - who works at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Windsor - also finds acupuncture incredibly useful in her work with ice dancers as well as the rest of us!
She's the official physio for the GB team. So watch out for her at the side of the rink when the figure skating is on the telly. You never know, we might see her in action with her needles!
Does a maroon V neck sweater make a young man look like Peter Mandelson? Where were the sticky pastries this morning in the Daybreak
green room? What ARE man-boobs and why are modern men so worried about them? Did any of us ever know that there are such things as testicle implants? And why is Ratatouille such a brilliant movie that I stayed up late last night to watch it, even though I knew I had to get up at 0430 this morning to appear on breakfast TV?
These are the burning issues of my day today. Hoping another coffee will lead me to re-prioritise.
The newspapers are sizzling with pictures of Meryl Streep as Maggie Thatcher who once remarked to me: "Anne Diamond? Yes, I know you! I never actually WATCH breakfast television, but I do know that I am on it a lot!" I'm dying to see the movie - even though nearly every critic says that Streep's performance far outshines the film surrounding her.
Today is twelfth night. Time to take down the Christmas decs. That'll keep the whole family busy.
Weekend sorted, then.
If you want any more ideas for the weekend, have a listen to my weekend warmup.
See you Monday.
I've always been a strong supporter of the "right to die your own way"
lobby. But something said by one of my guests this morning, and someone who often has to deal with these issues in his work, Rev Neil Warwick
, made me stop and think again...
He told how, at one particular deathbed, he was very very glad that the option of assisted suicide had not been available to one of his flock. Because in the last few days, and just when the family had thought there would be no change, no breakthrough in demeanour, the patient sought reconciliation with his daughters. Daughters he had refused to speak to for many years. Had assisted suicide been an option, he said, there's no doubt that this patient would have wanted to end his life days, if not a couple of weeks earlier.
Perhaps there was indeed extended suffering - which is dreadful - but finally there was a moment of happiness which no-one, least of all the patient himself, had expected and it made a huge difference to what might otherwise have been an empty death.
Makes you think, doesn't it?
...and it's quite surprising and shocking in some ways to be caught up in it. I haven't really read a newspaper all through the Christmas and New Year period, and so, as I am taking part in a debate this evening at the Frontline Club
, I thought I'd better catch up with what's been said about me and of me in the past few days!
So let's get a few things straight.
I have never, ever, said anything unkind, critical, derogatory or unfair about Dawn French. What on earth was that fuss all about? I did write an article in the Daily Mail about how great she was looking, after losing so much weight. The article was entirely supportive and affectionate and I don't believe I implied she'd had surgery, I just said the world was speculating because we're all dying to know how she did it - but I guess that because I am known to have had a gastric band myself, people may have concluded an implication where there was none.
Next, I see that the Guardian diary point out that, some 20 years ago, I crossed the privacy barrier myself when I grilled Denis Healey about the Sun's front page article which reported that his wife, Edna had had a private hip operation. Yes, I did so because I sensed possible hypocrisy. (Healey at the time was lambasting Margaret Thatcher about foregoing the NHS and having a private hand operation.) But it is indeed interesting that some people could (and possibly Healey did) see this as a breach of privacy - because it was about his wife, and not him.
Which makes the press ethics debate even more interesting: Without agreed guidelines and appropriate discipllnary measures we have ALL been allowed to write using just our own judgement. Some journos take their responsibility seriously and others wield the power of free speech without a care. That means self regulation isn't good enough.
That, to me, is why we need a regulatory body. But I'm not saying its remit will be easily drawn up.
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas break. I did. Though I was allergic to my Xmas tree!
After a brief setting up and decorating session inside the house, I realised I had a blinding headache and sniffles. And no, it wasn't the mulled wine. It was the tree.
So it had to go - outside, with the baubles and lights still aglow. Anyone else suffered such an allergy? It's set in a concrete bucket on the patio right now - which is lovely because we can view it from the sitting room. But how on earth am I ever going to recycle it, with its feet in concrete?
Yet another challenge for the New Year.
Have a good one!