Sir Bruce Forsyth: A Friend From The Telly

Sir Bruce Forsyth aged 89 sadly passed away on August 18th and for many the news felt like they had lost a dear friend. So much so that my husband and I spent the evening chatting away about him and remembering how ever present he had been in our lives. That was the kind of hold Sir Bruce had on his audience, little wonder considering his career, which began aged 14 as the Boy Bruce the Mighty Atom.

Sir Bruce had a natural affinity with his audience rather like the late Sir Terry Wogan. Although Wogan had a great TV persona, it was all based on his irrepressible “gift of the gab” but knowing when to listen. Forsyth on the other hand could turn a delivery into an act be it a joke, song, musical recital or dance. Seemingly a dab hand at the piano, a first rate tap dancer, with impeccable timing, a good voice and amazing facial expressions, Sir Bruce Forsyth was the ultimate performer. There was far more to him than the game show host tag which he probably became best known for.

In my childhood home soap operas and game/quiz shows were the main sources of TV entertainment, if my Mammy got her way which usually happened. So the Forsyth face and his catchphrases were known to me from a very young age through The Generation Game (good game, didn’t he do well!); Play Your Cards Right (I’m the leader of the pack, Dolly dealers, Brucie bonus) and The Price Is Right. I also religiously watched Come Dancing much to my mother’s bewilderment, and desperately craved to have music and dance lessons, which I never got. But I didn’t hanker after ballroom dancing but tap dancing? I had no exposure to anything in the dance world except through what I saw on TV, and I had wondered over the years why tap had been so appealing. Last night I realised who had influenced that notion Sir Bruce Forsyth, who I recalled being enthralled by as he did a tap routine with Sammy Davis Jnr. (the embodiment of Mr Bojangles to me).

Despite never cracking America during his career, it seemed many top names from US showbiz wanted to work with Forsyth when they came to Britain. They sought him out knowing that he was an equal they could work alongside, a credible voice to showcase their latest work, chat over old times and do improvised (though probably well-rehearsed) routines.

Although Sir Bruce began work at 14 he didn’t really make a name for himself until 1958, when aged 30, he was offered the compere role on Sunday Night at the London Palladium.  It made him a star, but his relentless work ethic undoubtedly took a toll on his private life, and two failed marriages followed over the years. In later life with perhaps a healthier work/life balance he found happiness with his adored wife Wilnelia Merced whom he married in 1983.

In closing Sir Bruce Forsyth was a classic old school vaudeville entertainer whose like will undoubtedly not be seen again. He made everything seem so easy to do, but worked excessively hard practicing his craft to make it look effortless. Jokes aimed at game show contestants were never cruel, and his affable manner made him liked and respected by his entertainment peers and audiences alike. Thanks for the memories Sir Bruce an entertainment legend “it was nice to see you, to see you nice”.

Advertisements

Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) 2017

The GBBF17 festival held at London’s Kensington Olympia ran from 8th-12th August, and for the first time I attended the trade session on the Tuesday afternoon. It was great to be near the front of the queue, getting in and grabbing a coveted seat, then viewing the vast hall with nothing more than a scattering of people, ready to enjoy the vast array of ales on offer. I had already reviewed the list of beers available prior to arriving, so after a brief look at my brochure for tasting notes and floor plan study, I set to work armed with two third pint glasses!

            Serious study going on!

There are key words in beer descriptions that I naturally gravitate toward (chocolate, liquorice, caramel, biscuit, toffee, coffee, malt, subtle, floral) and others I tend to avoid, as too much of them can seriously disagree with me (strong hops, citric, tart, lemon, grapefruit, highly bitter, smoke). But I tried this time to mix things up, so deliberately didn’t choose the most obvious ones for me. I also tend to notice “quirky” descriptions and try them out, and GBBF17 was no exception on that front. Thanks to having food sorted (see later) and not going into the high gravity beers until the end of the day, I managed to go beyond my usual 2 pint limit without ill effect, having 9 third samples on Tuesday and 10 on Wednesday.

Everything I tried was nice and a favourite would be hard to pick out, but there are two distinct categories “quaffable” and “memorable”.  Here are my summary notes for each section.

Quaffable: You could sup these all day if you wanted.

Golden Triangle: ELDERFLOWERPOWER 4.2% Light and refreshing, delicate yet robust floral taste with a hint of floral essence on the nose. A lovely refined pure flavour.

High House Farm: RED SHEP 4% A smashing dark ruby mild very smooth with light caramel and fruit.

Palmers: DORSET GOLD 4.5% really nice golden ale with the banana heart giving a mellow vague sweet essence, and the mango providing a hint of tropical fruitiness.

Coniston: ASRAI 4 % with light fruit, delicate hops, mellow orange and a hint of herbs (coriander). Beautiful.

Irwell Works: MARSHMALLOW UNICORN 4.4% think toasted marshmallows on the fire. A mellow beer with a warming burnt sugar essence, smooth and tastes very wholesome. Great for a cold autumn/winter day.

Memorable: With unusual ingredients giving the beer a “quirky” personality

Belvoir: WHITE KNUCKLE RIDE 4.3% smells amazing, sweet and inviting. Taste smooth, distinct white chocolate flavour with a harmonious coconut edge. No bitterness rather like a posh barley wine. Looks like a top class smoky quartz with a dark chocolate heart and a clear caramel edge. Tastes as good as it smells, think melted white chocolate infused with the coconut of a Bounty bar. Wonderful but could be rather sickly if too much consumed.

Metalman Brewing: EQUINOX 4.6% a clean yeasty essence, vague fruit and a smooth quality with a distinct pepper aftertaste. Brochure described this as “wheat aged on sun-dried lemon peel and white pepper”.

Sonnet 43: I SHALL BUT LOVE 6.8% has a pungent roast coffee and coconut heart. Heady yet mellow with no real bitterness though a little smoky.

Birrificio Italiano: DELIA 4.5% has a green, fresh resin quality with a hint of sweetness, slight effervescence and mid bitterness. This Italian Draft Pils was described as having “fruity notes, herbaceous and balsamic resinous hints of fresh flower hops with sweet malt”.

Tiny Rebel: MOJITO SOUR 3.9% the taste was as good as the smell. Literally a wonderful “cocktail” beer with the mint and lime perfectly balanced, giving a wonderful fresh palate. I kept thinking it should have an umbrella and straw in the glass. But the mint also made me think I should be chewing something edible!

Drinking the Mojito Sour made me think of two stand-out beers from past festivals at Stoke. Both of them tasted great, smelt wonderful and yet had a weird twist making them unforgettable, for the strangest associations. Wolf LAVENDER HONEY 3.7% screamed pot-pourri and Woodlands OAK BEAUTY 4.2% furniture polish!! All thoughts told me consumption of these drinks should NOT be happening. It seemed my taste and smell senses were turned upside down, an unusual experience.

Looking back at old diaries I’ve concluded this was my 13th visit to the GBBF and it proved “lucky” in many ways. This was by far the most organised visit I’ve ever had, with military precision planning going into the whole four day trip. Knowing I intended spending two days at GBBF spanning lunch and dinner times (nothing gets in the way of me and my food!!), I ensured that I packed suitable foods/drinks to cover lunch and snacks, so we would only need to buy dinner. There was ample provision of foods and snacks at the venue, many at a reasonable price, but you have to seek them out and fight the queues. All those little nibbles eventually add up to a hefty cost, so I packed a rucksack with fruit juice, fizzy drinks, nuts, savoury crunchy snacks, cake bars and protein bars costing about £25 in total. I organised all these things into individual bags for each day (they actually covered all four days in London) and added some fruit from the hotel breakfast bar each morning. I reckon to buy all that lot in London/at the venue would have been about £100. Had the little flask I’ve taken on my travels not malfunctioned, I’d have had a flask of tea for a cuppa as well.

Unusually I took home some wonderful chocolate from the Oddfellows Chocolate Company having been able to taste some samples. These were sold in small bags with enough content to compliment the beers on offer, but I preferred to enjoy them away from the festival. And I bought two great sounding ales to savour at home as well. Ticketybrew ROSE WHEAT BEER 4.7% from Manchester and Lord Chambray FLINDERS ROSE 4.2 % a Maltese Gose were a delicious way of toasting a wonderful Great British     Beer Festival. Cheers, until next year.

          With little friends at GBBF

RSC Summer Party at the RA Summer Exhibition

The Royal Society of Chemistry summer party was held at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition on July 20th this year. As my husband Rob is acting Head of the School of Chemical & Physical Sciences at Keele University, we had the pleasure of an invite to this select event. The dress code of “black tie and decorations!!!” meant we were dressed formally for the occasion, which turned out to be great fun. We were on our own most of the time amusing ourselves, but it was nice to bump into a handful of Rob’s science acquaintances as well.

Having been to see the Summer Exhibition before, Rob knew my tolerance/opinions of the art works involved can be limited to say the least. On entering the first room Rob said “I’ll be interested to see what you think of these”. He smiled as I looked around, drew breath and said as I eyed my first two pieces “I like these, I GET them”. I was looking at the Mick Moon pieces 95 At Sea and 97 Dusk, quirkily made I thought in muted colours with a simple yet beautifully expansive design due to the faintest of details. Then I spotted 88 Untitled (Violin) a massive piece of bold coloured acrylic on aluminium by Sir Michael Craig-Martin. This violin seemed bigger in size than a double bass and I thought “violin on steroids with a psychedelic dress sense”. I loved the colours and the clean elegant lines and it certainly grabbed the attention, as did the selling price of £120,000.

We managed to see about half of the exhibition because my attention was distracted by the lovely food buffet provided. Prosecco flowed all night and dainty canapés did the rounds first. As I was examining the artwork in another room I spotted someone with a small bowl of curry! That was it; culture was forgotten as I sought satisfaction in culinary appreciation instead. I unearthed small bowls of vegetable rice with succulent white fish, mini chicken and full sized vegetable kebabs, gorgeous herby prawns, walnut & apple salad and mini buckets of parsnip and sweet potato chips. These were devoured with vigour and thoroughly enjoyed by us; though I’m glad I didn’t come face to face with the duck/blue cheese dish someone waxed lyrical about as we left the venue.

Having had 3 glasses of Prosecco I switched to the delightful non-alcoholic elderflower and raspberry option and returned to the artwork. Unusually Rob stayed on the Prosecco though white/red wines were available too.  Further exploration of the exhibition yielded more praise than grumble from me and my all round favourite (from what I viewed) was 274 Heligan by Christine Woodward. A nicely sized acrylic piece of what seemed a beautiful garden (or mountain foliage) with gorgeous greens and yellow hues, with swathes of navy blue and light purples that are almost shimmering on a bright summer’s day. Positioned in the middle of a vast array of other pictures on the right wall of a room, my eyes alighted on it almost immediately and I was transfixed.  At £500 it seemed a bargain to me. Another stunner was 138 Calton Hill 3 by Jock McFadyen where an enormous moon hung over a small settlement on a hill, a scene I found very evocative and quite moving. Multiple classical references in 835 Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (After Piranesi) by Emily Allchurch was extremely clever and 544 Yellow Mimosa, July 23 2015 by Donald Sultan simple colourful beauty. My attention was caught by the date which was my Mammy’s birthday.

Just as I came upon two lovely sculptures that appealed to me, a waitress appeared carrying a tray of desserts. This included dinky meringues, tiny mouth watering lemon sorbet cones and delightful milk chocolate lollipops with fudge and salt. Of course I had to try them all (more than once) as I closely studied the sculptures. 770 Venus De’ Medici by Yinka Shonibare was a good looking shapely fibreglass gal with an all over Dutch wax pattern (I thought tattoos but better class) and a hand-coloured globe head! I spotted the globe first as I adore anything with maps but was surprised to see it was attached to a female body. It was sort of radical yet establishment as well and I thought it was terrific, and by far the most expensive item that caught my eye at £162,000. 909 Living Doll by Cathie Pilkington was elegant, graceful and classy and made me think of the little mermaid in Copenhagen.

Whenever I’ve been to the Summer Exhibition before, I’ve made a tally of the items I’ve liked just for fun. This year notched up 35 pieces to catch my attention, ranging from £250 to £162,000, which together totalled £784,195. And I only viewed a fraction of the displays, so I wonder if my appreciation of art is increasing?

In closing this was a lovely evening and I’ve enjoyed revisiting my favourites online where all the display pieces can be viewed at http://www.roy.ac/Explore, until at least 20th August.

              Enjoying RSC summer party at Royal Academy