BBC BLOGS - Anne Diamond's Blog

Archives for May 2012

See my new Burberry!


It's a global name - but it started here in the BBC Radio Berkshire patch - actually in Basingstoke. The young, 21-year-old Thomas Burberry , came to Basingstoke in 1856 and, amongst many other items of clothing, started making shepherds' smocks.

Yes, shepherds actually did wear these smocks; massive things made of a heavy weight twill weave cotton (but hand smocked beautifully) that were warm in winter, cool in summer and magically became water proof after a while, because of the lanolin which rubbed off from sheep's wool.

Thomas Burberry noticed this feature and worked on producing a waterproof fabric, which eventually was patented as gabardine. He was a bit of a genius, not only at coming up with the idea and pursuing the science through to production, but at the whole concept of marketing and image. So was born the Burberry gabardine - a world icon still to this day.

From humble beginnings - such as this amazing shepherd's smock. Thanks to Gill Arnot from Hampshire County Council Arts & Museums Service for bringing it into the studio!

Much more fun than a life in the city...

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Anne Diamond | 12:58 UK time, Tuesday, 29 May 2012


Today I was joined by David Ealand, founder of the Chiltern Valley Winery, the only one with a royal warrant. But back in the 80s, David was a lawyer working in the city, with a hankering for living the rural life.

He ended up buying a pig farm near Henley - and only thought of turning it into a winery when he was told that the soil would be particularly good for vines. (Must be all that pig manure!)

From just two and a half acres of former pig farm, and just one type of (medium dry) grape, his winery has grown to over 100 acres of crop, and produces everything from sparkling wines and liqueurs to meads and ales.

Watch out for the Diamond Jubilee ale - a new one for this year!

Pedal Power.....

Bike you a whole new appreciation for the wonder of electricity. That's according to my guest today, Stewart Collins, who's director of the Henley Festival.

As part of the cultural Olympiad, Stewart came up with the idea of a Tree of Light, a performance piece which involves an enormous structure like a tree, which will be lit by the power of human-generated electricity. In other words, guys and gals on bikes, pedalling away like mad to provide enough energy to light up what sounds like an extraordinary piece of living, moving art.

Lighting a tree is one thing - energising a humble kettle is quite another. Stewart reckons a great many household things should be so powered. It would give us a whole new appreciation of the wonder that is electricity. He said it took him plus three other adults, all on bikes, a full five minutes to pedal enough energy to heat up a small travel kettle.

Every home should have a human dynamo. It'd solve the obesity crisis and save the planet at the same time.

A proud addition to the team!

Anne Diamond | 12:03 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2012

Welcome to a new baby son for one of my regular contributors, Matt Johnson, director of coaching for the reading rockets basketball team.

That's Dad Matt with four year old Joshua and brand new Noah. I'm told he has the required big feet and hands ( just like his bro and dad) and so is destined to grow big and tall, and inevitably become a great basketball player. Congrats to the whole family!

...with best wishes from Anne Diamond.

A waste of time learning to drive?

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Anne Diamond | 12:48 UK time, Tuesday, 22 May 2012


I was asking today - is modern technology teaching us all to be lazy spellers? New research suggests it is - because of the ubiquitous spell checker. But then, thirty years ago we were all worried that the new whizz bang invention called the calculator was going to turn us into a culture that could no longer add up.

Come to think of it - perhaps that has happened! The simplest of sums now, and I reach for the mobile phone's calculator app....

But how about this? Our gadget guy on BBC Radio Berkshire, Fevzi Turkalp, says that most of our household gadgets will be voice activated within just a few years. And that includes the self-driving car. Apparently Google have already pioneered a self-driving Prius. One of the things holding up the whole technology is the legal side of things. If you were to have an accident in a self-driving car, who would be liable? The car manufacturer, the owner of the software or you?

My son is at the moment costing me a small fortune in driving lessons. Perhaps he should just wait for the day (supposedly soon) when he can sit in the car and simply ask it to go to his destination.

I personally cannot wait!

I'm off for an X-ray!

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Anne Diamond | 14:30 UK time, Friday, 18 May 2012


After my hugely stupid fall, now three weeks ago, my left shoulder is still in absolute agony - and while I have regained some limited motion, there are some very specific movements I cannot make with the arm - so the doctor reckons at least one of my muscle clusters must have sustained damage. After all, three weeks on, it should be better!

So I'm off to sit in an X-ray department, hopefully not all afternoon.

So have a great weekend - and let me wish jolly good luck to all my gardening friends in Berkshire who're competing at the Chelsea Flower Show next week.

It's the most prestigious event of the gardening calendar, with over 500 exhibitors chasing a Gold medal - and on Monday you can follow the success of Berkshire's designers and growers at the 99th RHS Chelsea flower show as my programme comes live from the show ground with Sarah Walker and Ady Williams.

They will be there following the judges on their tour and meeting the celebrities on preview day.

That's Monday morning from 10am On BBC Radio Berkshire

The utmost generosity...

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Anne Diamond | 12:30 UK time, Thursday, 17 May 2012

Nicholas Crace

...that's being an 'altruistic organ donor' - someone who volunteers to donate an organ while still alive. There is a charity called 'Give a Kidney - One's Enough', dedicated to raising awareness of altruistic donation, those people who simply decide to help others they'll probably never know, by donating an organ they don't need. But how many of us would ever dream of doing it? And what are the dangers?

Well, all of those worries did not deter a man I met today. At 83, he decided two kidneys was one too many for him in his remaining years, and he sought out how to donate one of them.

He's now the UK's oldest living donor. He's the lovely Nicholas Crace, from Overton, whose mind was totally made up after he was told he had 'Formula One' kidneys that could easily belong to someone 40 years younger!

Celebrating your retirement with the Queen!

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Anne Diamond | 14:50 UK time, Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Diamond Jubilee Barge

That's what Chris Edgerley is doing. He's been a scenes of crime officer working with the Thames Valley Police for the past 44 years, living in Maidenhead - and has always been a keen sailor. It occurred to him that the Queen's Jubilee River Pageant was happening at the same time as his retirement - and so he applied to be part of the huge flotilla on the Thames. That means Chris will be with his family on his boat, La Chemme, which will be one of the 1,000 boats sailing on the River Thames as part of the pageant on Sunday, June 3.

He told me on this morning show: "It will be amazing celebrating my retirement with millions of people across the world who will be watching the Pageant."

Watch out for his boat - it'll be the only one covered, apparently, in stars!

Betty and Beryl's success spells hope for us all...

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Anne Diamond | 15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 15 May 2012

betty and beryl at the Sony Radio Awards

At last night's Sony Radio Awards, Chris Evans reminded us all that they've been gathering to reward the brightest and best in radio for the past 30 years. Who was at last night's events who was also at the very first awards night, mused Chris... The answer was right in front of him, in the form of one Tony Blackburn.

Talking of radio longevity - or maintaining your career even at a grand old age - we can all take heart from the might success story that is a unique double act called Betty and Beryl, of BBC Radio Humberside fame.

At a combined age of 176, Betty and Beryl are two distinctly northern ladies with attitude. They have a headline-grabbing weekly show which is fast becoming a cult, and earned them a prestigious Sony award, beating even the likes of Frank Skinner and Adam and Joe.

Congratulations to those lovely ladies and thanks for giving hope to us all.

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