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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > Radio Lancashire > Open Centre > Ladies@Lunch blog

Ladies@Lunch blog

Smelly candles, authors, firefighters and Ranvir Singh - it must be the Ladies @ Lunch!



Friday's guests

Carole, Vera, Scott and Sally


What a week. Last night Garry and I had another intimate evening, we call it our date night, our time! Be-gone those evil thoughts from my head as our intimate evenings are not like that at all, we host performers and last night we had Charlotte West singing her little heart out with Rob her stand in at the last minute guitarist. Massively successful and watch this space for the next one.

Today’s programme began with positives thoughts, when you wake up are you happy clappy or a miserable moaning morning person? Count me in the later, and in that I am in fine company as Scott Wright our Mr Man Friday is just the same. Working on Coronation Street he stared alongside the countries most famous Vera but today he arrived with his very own Vera – Vera Waters is Scott’s on air companion; she’s billed as an inspirational speaker and suggests remembering that every moment is important. It has to be; it is the only moment of which we can be sure.

Scott and Vera are a great double act but today they brought Garry Kirk and Kevin Orchard along and together with Scott gave us a couple of belting songs. Scott and his band with no name are going to do us an intimate evening session so keep your peepers on this page.

Have a good weekend and see you Monday.




Thursday's guests

(l-r) Sally and Ranvir - and another full house inn the BBC radio theatre!


Our radio theatre here at BBC Radio Lancashire has played host to quite a few famous faces and luscious luminaries over recent months – and today was no exception, as Sally and Carole were joined by two ladies who are famous for totally different reasons.

We had the delightful Ranvir Singh as panellist number one – no, not THAT Ranvir Singh from the world of Indian football, the one off North West Tonight! If you tune in to the show each evening, you’ll see Ranvir co-hosting the show with the legendary Gordon Burns (and putting up with some sports reporter by the name of Livesey!) – but long time BBC Radio Lancashire listeners will remember that Ranvir is another name on the long list of media superstars who started their careers here on our station!

It was a funny route into the media for our Ranvir… growing up she knew she liked performance and theatre, and studied drama, and she also had an interest in the news and current affairs generally – but didn’t really connect the two things. Eventually, she realised that it’s possible to “perform” to people by presenting news – and happily (for us anyway) Ranvir pursued this career path… not that she had the benefit of much in the way of career advice apart from a fairly strict uncle who, on looking at the subjects she was studying (mainly the Humanities), noted that she “wouldn’t make it as a doctor with those qualifications”!

Beginning in radio with the BBC in Manchester – and achieving all the things she had set out to do there – Ranvir realised that the TV department was a couple of floors above her and basically went knocking on the door for a job! Her first screen test was unsuccessful – but she must have been noticed by someone, because Ranvir was successful in her next interview.

Not too long afterwards, Gordon Burns – the guy off the telly that Ranvir had grown up watching on the “Krypton Factor” – was, quite literally, holding her hand just off screen as she presented her first afternoon bulletin for North West Tonight! Having met Gordon when he came on Ladies @ Lunch as a Man Friday a few weeks ago, I can believe Ranvir absolutely when she says he is wonderfully kind and very encouraging to new faces… in fact – Gordon… Tony Livesey… Ranvir… we only need Diane and Heather as guests to complete the set…!

Alongside Ranvir, we were joined by Sallie Day – author of “The Palace of Strange Girls”, a novel set in Blackpool in 1959. By all accounts, it’s a riveting read and has had great reviews and some acclaim – good news, because Sallie is not only a lovely person but a first-time author who only started writing a decade ago… and by that, I mean she hadn’t written a word seriously before that!

Sallie originally worked in industry, and was bowling along happily – then family duties called as she fell pregnant, and Sallie took time out to raise children. She would have gone back to the job as well… however when the time was right to go back to work Sallie fell ill with ovarian cancer. Back in the day, this was devastating – only 1 in 3 people survived the disease, and it was viewed as something of a death sentence – but thanks to some tremendously skilled medical personnel… and the unwavering love, care and support of her family and friends (including her husband – “a saint on Earth”)… Sallie proved the big C can be beaten.

The experience had a massive effect on her life, as I am sure you can imagine – and it focused Sallie’s mind on what’s important in life. From then on, her energies were focused on bringing up her family… and when the oldest one flew the nest for University, she was at a bit of a loose end – so Sallie enrolled on a creative writing course… which led to an MA (via her first serious effort – a time-slip novel set in two different time periods which was so mind boggling I won’t even try to describe it here!) and finally a publishing deal for “Palace”.

Ranvir asked the question we all wanted to – now she’s a proper author, is Sallie wealthy all of a sudden? Her answer was quite sobering… whilst you do get a big fat advance on signing a book deal, the cash comes with a realisation that you’re expected to sell a heck of a lot of books… and then there’s the follow-up novel, which has to be fabulous as well… sounds quite stressful to me! Having met Sallie, I’m sure she will have no problems delivering the goods…

We always seem to be telling you how great Ladies @ Lunch is, and how you missed a great show – that’s because quite often, we hear amazing stories from our guests. There’s something about appearing on the show – perhaps the warm welcome, maybe the relaxed atmosphere, possibly the truth drugs Sally and Carole put in the panellists' coffee – which encourages people to tell us stories they wouldn’t tell anyone else. Take as an example Ranvir’s candid chat today about her arranged marriage… we’ve reflected on this custom many times in previous shows as here in the West we find the idea of having someone choose our partner for us somewhat odd. Of course, it’s all about cultural differences – for many, arranged marriages are as commonplace to them as a cup of tea is to us – and as Ranvir illustrated, these differences can be the undoing of such a union. Put simply, she’s quite “Westernised”; as she said herself Ranvir’s hair is cut nicely, she went to Kirkham Grammar, she enjoys the odd glass of wine… and when she met her hubby and married him, she found that he was very “traditional”. A nice enough guy, educated, training to be a doctor and undoubtedly heading for a secure future… but despite their best efforts and a lot of trying, Ranvir and hubby couldn’t make it work. If you missed the programme, try and listen again on BBC iPlayer – it was an illuminating discussion, with Ranvir exploring the issues around arranged marriages far more eloquently than I could do justice to here.

We rounded things off with a bit of chat about Blackpool – do you think it’s changed over the years, and if so for better or worse? It’s certainly different than the place reflected in Sallie’s book, that’s for sure… but you’ve got to love Blackpool! For many of us, the Tower evokes fond childhood memories of rides on roller coasters, too much rock and sandy butties on the beach… in fact, I’ve decided – I’m off there this weekend!




Wednesday's guests

The Outside Track, and Wednesday's panel Caroline and Pat


Wednesday in the BBC radio theatre – and for the first time ever, Ladies @ Lunch welcomed a harper into the building (not a harpist – that’s a classical harp player… harpers play folk and Celtic music). The lady in question was part of a fantastic collective of musicians, The Outside Track – an international quintet who are making waves receiving much critical acclaim within folk circles – and during two beautiful pieces our audience were transported across the water to the Emerald Isle, thanks to the group’s traditional Irish influences. Four gorgeous ladies… and Alan (a handsome figure of a man on guitar)… with incredible talent – and extremely pleasant to boot. If you get a chance to see the group, do so – they’re fantastic.

Alongside the music, we had the usual complement of two lady panelists. Pat Ashcroft has recently become a grandmother again; baby Miles has brought a lot of joy into her life, and you can tell that Pat is tremendously proud to be a granny! You’d never guess she is 71 – Pat is one of those people you meet whose energy and enthusiasm for life leaves you exhausted... and she uses it to great effect in her tireless fundraising for Mencap. She’s done all sorts to raise vital cash for the charity over the years… and it all began with a chance conversation. Pat met a lady of 85, who had a son in his 40s who was disabled and had learning difficulties – and after reflecting on the fact that people are living longer today the lady expressed her concerns that, after she’s gone, her son might struggle without her. Pat marvelled at the lady’s courage – turns out that “daddy” had abandoned the family when the lad was born, unable to cope with the demands and stresses of caring for him and mum had brought him up alone – and when the lady mentioned a charity cycle ride to raise money for Mencap, Pat jumped at the chance to take part.

You see, Pat regularly cycled the five miles to church and back – so what harm could there be in a little sponsored trip? Then, she found out it was just a tad further than her normal pedal… specifically, it was a 400 mile bike ride in Egypt! Pat completed the journey (she’s involved with the WI – they’re made of stern stuff, WI ladies, a force to be reckoned with when they set to!) and raised £2,500 for the cause… and that was just the start of her charity work. We heard lots of stories from Pat – and she’s such a natural communicator, it was a pleasure to listen to her.

Our other guest, Caroline Hardiman, is a female firefighter based at Blackburn fire station. Now, I know what you’re (probably) thinking – traditionally, it’s a very male environment and you would expect a fire engine to turn up to an incident full of hunky fellas – and although it’s fair to say women are still very much outnumbered within the fire service, Caroline told us how she and her fellow female firefighters (there’s about 20 throughout the county) stick together and support each other, and are well capable of saving lives and making people safe just as well as the lads. You might say she’s “blazing a trail” through the male-dominated world of the fire station… oh well, please yourselves!

Caroline told us about the training involved in qualifying for the job – talk about hard graft! As well as demanding physical tasks, there’s the little matter of “live fire training”… essentially, walking into a room and proving your competence whilst surrounded by temperatures of up to 800 degrees! Imagine Sally Naden in that heat… she’s bad enough with her “tropical moments” in the radio theatre…

Caroline’s off to the fire fighter games in Liverpool (before you ask, yes – Carole’s ears did prick up at the mention of the event… can’t think why, just a bunch of hunky fire fighters running round being all manly, maybe in shorts…?), where she’ll be part of a dragon boat crew. As well as being a lot of fun, it’s all in a good cause – she’ll be raising money for a breast cancer charity – and a great example of the camaraderie and the social aspects of being in the fire service. Think about it – they need to get along with each other… working alongside each other for up to 14 hours a day, needing to rely on each other in life-threatening situations – Caroline said it’s like being part of a big family, so it must be good to let their hair down once in a while.

Two cracking guests – ordinary people who have done extraordinary things – and two hours of cracking radio. Now, when you’ve finished reading this, promise me you’ll go and check the battery in your smoke alarm – it’s no good having one if the battery’s flat. And if you don’t have any smoke alarms (eek! Every home NEEDS them, for safety’s sake!) contact your local fire station – they can sometimes provide them and fit them for free! Imagine, a fireman popping round to your house to help you out… be quick though – Carole’s asked for a couple of dozen already...




Tuesday's guests

Liz and Elaine


Bonjour mes amis, et accueillir a “Ladies @ Lunch” avec Sally et Carole… sorry, I have been listening to Carole’s nice tales of Nice! If you’ve been listening, you’ll know she’s been away for a few days (huge thanks to Jacquie Jones for keeping Carole’s seat warm as well, it was lovely to work with you!), and despite her fear of flying Carole managed to venture to the south of France – admittedly keeping a very watchful eye on the flight attendants on the way, looking for “signs of trouble!” You do wonder what use a whistle and a tiny light are, should the plane plunge into the middle of the ocean… could you form an impromptu whistle choir?

Liz Swan, today’s first guest, has done her fair share of travelling – she’s off on a cruise to Brazil shortly, though not as a passenger. Liz is a nurse – well, strictly speaking she is a “writer who earns her living through nursing” – and she’ll be helping look after something like 2,000 people on board the ship. Sounds simple at first, treating the odd headache and spot of sea sickness… but as Liz explained, anything and everything can happen whilst floating on the briny. Nowadays, cruising is appealing to a much wider range of people – and when you gather a couple of thousand folk together in one place, the law of averages dictates someone will fall ill. Then again, you don’t have to be on a cruise ship to get in trouble… Liz told a cracking tale about a trip on a budget airline where her mum had packed a picnic bag for hubby to carry. As the family gathered after check-in, they noticed hubby Nick was absent… and after an eternity he emerged, ashen-faced, having had to explain the huge carving knife which mum had packed in the bag for cutting the barm cakes up!

Liz is still perfecting her screen play – you might recall, it’s about a mining disaster set in the 60’s – and since we last met her, Liz has been hob-nobbing with the cream of the crop of British writing talent. Last week, she was at an event in Cheltenham as a guest of North West Vision alongside such names as Barbara Machin (she counts “Waking the Dead” amongst her credits) and Tony Jordan (who has written for just about every programme on TV) – and her observation was that the more famous the writer, the more down to earth they are, which was nice to hear!

Our other panellist, Elaine Hanzak, was in my view one of the most fascinating guests we have had on Ladies @ Lunch so far. Elaine’s life was bobbing along fabulously – married, rewarding job as a teacher for kids with learning difficulties – and having always wanted a baby, she fell pregnant exactly as planned. During the following months, Elaine did everything right – read all the books, diligently went to ante-natal classes – and was very much looking forward to becoming a mother.

When the crunch came, Elaine had a difficult birth – the cord had wrapped around the baby’s neck – but some skilful work by the doctors ensured a safe delivery. But this was just the beginning of a series of events which saw confident, happy Elaine change into a shadow of her former self – her personality dramatically altered, she began to self-harm. Ultimately, Elaine ended up spending two months on a psychiatric ward – and wondered if she would ever find herself again.

Thanks to some wonderful people, she came through the darkness and today you would never imagine Elaine had been through such trauma in her life. Her book, “Eyes Without Sparkle”, documents her journey and she spends her time now trying to help others in similar situations; campaigning for more “mums and tots” beds in hospitals, signposting post-natal depression sufferers towards help from all sorts of sources. Every once in a while, you meet someone who is truly inspirational – and Elaine is certainly worthy of such a tag.

Another mixed bag, reflecting real life as lived by real people – and another compelling couple of hours in the BBC radio theatre.




Monday's guests

Cheryl and Sharon


Water, water everywhere… what about this weather? It might be good for the garden, but it’s depressing me… I’m sure I’m growing gills! By far the safest place to be today (and most of the week, if the advance forecast is to be believed) was in the radio theatre – hot coffee and a warm welcome are always on offer, and if you’ve been to see us you’ll know we have a lot of fun as well!

After the weekend, there was the obligatory catch-up on what the ladies have been up to… Sally’s hubby had a problem with his crocs (those funny shoes with the holes you see people wearing), whilst Jacquie’s plans for world domination via the cheese import business seem well on track…

Parmesan cheese… delicious though it is, it doesn’t half stink! Have you ever wondered just why we are drawn to certain smells – not just the obvious ones like fresh coffee and floral scents, but the more unusual ones? Cheryl Hook, today’s first panellist, knows all about nice niffs and putrid pongs – she runs her own candle making business, and gets all sorts of strange requests for scented candles. I wonder if Cheryl received any inspiration from the quick sweep of our audience today, when we asked for favourite smells… flowers like roses did well, but our June likes the smell of cow muck in the countryside! Can’t see that taking off, to be honest – unlike Melt, Cheryl’s company, who recently won a commission to produce lovely commemorative votives for the new Liverpool One shopping development.

Cheryl also gave us the lowdown on maxing the wax – getting the most from your candles – in response to Jacquie’s plea for help. Jacquie spends a fortune on scented candles, and has a collection of stumpy remnants where they’ve burned down unevenly and what have you… so to avoid the same plight, Cheryl recommends keeping the wick short and trimmed (around 5 mm is ideal) – and burn candles for longer periods of time, instead of half an hour here and there (longer burning widens the pool of wax burned from the top of the candle, rather than creating a thin tunnel down the centre). Ladies @ Lunch… we do the science, so you don’t have to!

Completing the line up for today was Sharon Knot, a keen am-drammer who you may recall from an earlier show when she was preparing for a role in South Pacific. It went very well indeed; the show was nominated for seven awards (the amateur dramatic equivalent of the Oscars)… and fresh from this success, Sharon has a new role in Oklahoma. There’s some great songs in that show… although I’m told there’s no truth in the rumour that “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” was inspired by Sally Naden’s drinking habits… her group will be doing Oliver soon as well, proving that local am-dram societies really are providing something for everyone. Live theatre is great, and in these days of the credit crunch a night spent with your local drama group is terrific value and a top night out – have a look at what your local group is up to.

Speaking of the current financial squeeze, Sharon had some great common sense tips – learned from her own experience – on how to shake off the curse of the plastic. It’s worth listening again if you missed it, but the bones of her advice are cut the cards up, and pay off more than the minimum payment each month if you can.

I get the impression that Sharon’s not exactly keen on Jeremy Clarkson… with comments like “he should be banned from television” and that she’d rather poke her own eyes out than go on a date with him, it’s a fair assumption that she’s not a regular Top Gear viewer! The ladies wondered whether a review by Jeremy and pals would make you more or less likely to buy a particular car… given that they generally look at mega money motors, I can safely say I won’t be buying one of their recommendations anytime soon!

Sharon’s off on her jollies soon – which got Sally talking about her time on a nudist beach, naturally – and we heard about Southampton’s newest job advert, recruiting for naked cleaners (the dust would get everywhere, wouldn’t it?!) Wasting food (remember folks, don’t buy things just to throw them away) and last night’s epic Wimbledon final (well done Nadal – a gracious winner… and there’s always next year Roger!) were mulled over as well… our ladies served up another aural buffet to accompany your lunch. More tomorrow!



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last updated: 15/07/2008 at 08:18
created: 07/07/2008

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