Losing mum

 Warning- This post deals with subjects some people may find upsetting.

2023 is the year I lost my Mum. It was a loss that I felt particularly as I had been her primary carer for seven years though I never classed it as that till someone pointed it out. Such an endeavour inevitably took a lot of time and took its toll on me too. Mum had dementia but thankfully she was still able to converse and understand stuff. I’d been looking after her at home as best I could but after she went into hospital in May last year it soon became obvious she would not be able to return there and we had to look for a care home.



TV Review: Doctor Who- The Church on Ruby Road


One thing we can be sure of is that Russell T Davies makes big, breezy Xmas specials aimed perhaps not so much at fans but the wider public so the new Doctor was actually introduced half way through the last of the three anniversary special and is (literally) up and running for this tale. No sleeping for the first half as David Tennant’s tenth Doctor did back in 2015, Ncuti Gatwa’s first full episode sees him  involved from the start adding his charisma to what is a rollicking fairground ride of an episode. As with other Xmas specials from the first RTD era, `The Church on Ruby Road` is all about action and fun and Xmas (a bit)



Top of the Pops - 22 December 1988


Words: Chris Arnsby
Steve Wright: “Hi!! Good evening!! To!! Radio One listeners!! And BBC1 viewers!! How are you tonight!! I'm Steve Wright!! Here's Nicky Campbell!!”
Nicky Campbell: “A great show tonight. We've got Neneh Cherry. Kim Wilde. Jason and Kyie. We start off tonight with a bunch of guys who've been in the business longer than Steve Wright. It's The Four Tops.”

 [15] FOUR TOPS: loco in acapulco. One of those lighting in a bottle moments when the atmosphere in the studio lifts a performance and makes it something great. The Four Tops are clearly having a great time -they've come in specially from Detroit according to Steve Wright- and they look impossibly sharp in their red suits, black shirts and black shoes. I've got a soft spot for the second Top from the left. He looks absolutely delighted to be there and he's really hamming it up. The best bit of the performance comes in the instrumental. The four Tops scatter across the stage to face different parts of the crowd and do their own thing, to whoops of approval.


What's with all the Nutcracker Soldiers?


These Xmas decorations are everywhere this year- but why?

 The thing I’ve noticed about 2023’s Xmas decorations is the ubiquitous presence of toy soldiers. Or to give them their correct name Nutcracker Soldiers. They’ve always been about but recently there seem to have been more and more of them till 2023 has seen an explosion. They are everywhere!  Every shop selling decorations has had a lot of them.  Why they have suddenly proliferated this year is something of a festive mystery but they are available in all sizes from several feet tall to small models. Over the past couple of months they’ve rivalled Xmas trees in availability and the other day I saw a full size one standing guard in the porch of a house. What is going on?



Top of the Pops 8th and 15th December 1988


Words: Chris Arnsby

Nicky Campbell: “Good evening and welcome to Top of the Pops. We are on Radio 1, in FM of course. We've got a show absolutely awash with talent tonight, Kylie and Jason, Angry Anderson, Cliff Richard, and of course, Caron Keating.”
Caron Keating: “What a charmer. We're starting off with something for all you rockers. Status Quo and Burning Bridges.”

 [20] STATUS QUO: burning bridges. Oh goodie. A Status Quo song. I hope it's the one that goes dun-der-dun-der-dun-der-dun-der-dun. It is! Wikipedia tells me the song is actually called Burning Bridges (On and Off and On Again). That's probably too long for the caption generator. Also, the single has a picture of Mike Tyson on the cover. No one knows why.


Film Reviews: Wonka, Beyonce - Renaissance


In the best possible way Wonka is an old fashioned film whose central character doesn’t bear many similarities to the sour chocolatier we are familiar with. If it’s difficult to see how Willy Wonka, here breezily, relentlessly optimistic, became that character in later life so perhaps that’s a story for another film. This one presents him as youthfully idealistic in pursuing his dream of selling his special chocolates. When he gets to the city he is constantly undermined by formidable opposition from a trio of established manufacturers who have the market (and the city’s authorities) in their pockets by bribing them with their chocolate. Oh and it’s a musical which the trailers are ambiguous about, not the first time this has happened with recent films. Its also tremendous fun.



TV Review: Doctor Who - The Giggle


Things don't stay the same for long in the Whoniverse these days and there are several interesting developments in this episode which is something of a game of two halves. The first half follows the series’ conventional approach for contemporary stories with a big threat, a supervillain, and some powerful visuals. Then something happens during the second half wherein the story takes a bold right turn that will no doubt irritate some fans. Then again we don’t want the programme to be too predictable do we?


Spoilers aplenty after the break


Top of the Pops 1988 Triple Bill!


Words: Chris Arnsby

Gary Davies: “Hello. Good evening and welcome to Top of the Pops. You know, the last time my friend Susie Mathis appeared on Top of the Pops was in 1968 with a group called The Paper Dolls.”
Susie Mathis: “But I was only seven at the time Gary. Mind you, they must have been impressed because they asked me back twenty years later.”
Gary Davies: “Well it's good to see you back. We've got a great show for you. We start off with who?”
Susie Mathis: “Start off with Yazz at number two.”

 [2] YAZZ: stand up for your love rights. Who is Susie Mathis? Gary Davies is right. She did indeed appear on Top of the Pops in 1968 as part of a trio called The Paper Dolls.

The group made three appearances with a song called Something Here In My Heart; 28/03/68, 11/04/1968 and 18/04/1968. I don't understand how they made two back-to-back appearances when they weren't at Number One. The Paper Dolls were back once more on 21/11/1968 to sing their less successful follow up song, Someday. Then, after a few more unsuccessful songs the group split in 1970.

Susie Mathis moved on and joined Manchester's Piccadilly Radio in 1979. The same year as Gary Davies. She had a decent radio and television career, including an eight week stint on Radio 2, in May and June 1986, in the sleepy 4-6am slot.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Susie Mathis is here. Gary Davies describes her as a friend and I think we can take him at his word. I can't help feeling he's the √©minence grise, arranging for her to be booked at a time when Top of the Pops was trying out new hosts and also as possible to the twentieth anniversary of her last appearance.

Meanwhile, Yazz is repeated from her performance on 03/11/1988.


TV Review: Doctor Who - Wild Blue Yonder


Shrouded in mystery by modern standards (no plot leaks, no full cast list, a vague trailer, just a few photos, quotes about how unusual it is) this episode has been the subject of assorted rumours in the week leading up to today. You know what, this is a good and rare thing these days. When even teaser trailers can ruin some surprises it makes a pleasant change to approach something with no real knowledge of what is about to unfold. Pre Internet, pre smartphones most things were like this, now its very difficult to keep secrets. If you’ve seen the episode, you'll know it's worth watching without knowing what happens so if you haven't then the review that follows reveals things...

Spoilers ahoy after the break