EUROVISION 2014: Austria Wins in Copenhagen

I watched this year’s competition with no pre-conceived ideas or notions about any of the songs including the UK’s entry. I didn’t participate in viewing the TV show which determined our Eurovision song, or watch either of the two semi-finals that occurred before the finale on Saturday 10th May in Copenhagen. Having boycotted last year’s event because of the Englebert Humperdinck humiliation in 2011, I didn’t even expect to be watching this year either. But my husband Rob had clearly got over his grumpiness from last year when he said ;( to my surprise); it would be essential viewing. And as soon as the Charpentier Te Deum Prelude music began I realised I had missed it, not surprising considering Eurovision has been a near constant companion since I was two years old.

Rob interactively commented on the evening’s proceedings via Twitter, but I didn’t go near my phone at all so there was no external influence. I wanted to just concentrate on the show and see what my “gut instincts” told me. So this is what I thought as I watched & heard some of the 2014 Eurovision entries for the first time.

My Top 5 Countries

Malta: Coming Home by Firelight: UK TV host Graham Norton described this group act as a mix between Mumford & Sons and Gary Barlow!! Well I didn’t get the Gary feel but I certainly understood the Mumford reference. This act had a fresh modern quirky sound, great vocals from the woman pianist and guy lead singer, and some unusual instrumentation taking place (double bass was there). Malta has had a few close calls in winning the contest in the past, and I would have loved to see them succeed. Points 32: Place 23 of 26.

Spain: The familiar face of Ruth Lorenzo (UK X-Factor) sang in her native Spanish and English a self composed song Dancing in the Rain. The power in her vocals was quite something, she looked stunning (if somewhat wet), and I felt that this was the strongest song out of the “big five” in Eurovision. For those who are not aware who the big five are: Germany, France, Italy, Spain & the United Kingdom. These nations put the most money into the Eurovision franchise. Alas, although Molly tried her best for the UK with Children of the Universe, I didn’t think her vocals were anywhere near as strong as Ruth’s or the eventual winner Austria. Points 74: Place 10 of 26

Finland: Something Better by Softengine: A modern, fun and energetic boy-band with the looks, sound and attitude to do well given half a chance. Points 72: Place 11 of 26

Russia: The Tolmachevy Sisters (17 year old twins) sung beautifully Shine, a really nice sounding song with comprehensible lyrics and great harmonies. The setting for their performance was simple and elegant as were their outfits. It was unfortunate that these girls as Russian representatives had to endure the audience hostility toward their home nation. POLITICS SHOULD NOT COME INTO A SONG CONTEST EVER. Unfortunately Eurovision has suffered from partisan voting and political back-slapping for as long as I can remember, although I think it has got more pronounced over the last 20 years. Points 89: Place 7 of 26

Azerbaijan: Start the Fire” by Dilara Kazimova: I thought this quite a sweet and nicely sung piece. Points 33: Place 22 of 26.

Unusual & Quirky

Ukraine started the competition with a man appearing to be running inside a hamster wheel? The Belarus boy-band didn’t want to be anyone’s cheesecake!! Iceland’s entry No Prejudice by Pollaponk made me think of a mix between The Jam and Showaddywaddy (just swap the multi-colour teddy-boy outfits for a more modern cut suit). Montenegro had an ice-skater performing in the background. Greece could start a new Gangnam-style craze by using trampolines. Poland’s scantily-clad “girls” Donatan & Cleo in folk dress definitely put the spice back into girl-power. Slovenia had a flute playing singer, and more than once whistling featured in the proceedings too. The wooden spoon went to France who came last with two points, but I wasn’t surprised. Moustache performed by TWIN TWIN just made me wonder if their performance was a kind of stage manifestation of “a bad trip”. I remember when I was very ill in hospital being weaned off morphine, and the funny (in hindsight) but terrifying visions I had then, and the French entry just made me think of that time.

Netherlands: Calm After the Storm by The Common Linnets: Graham Norton described this as a song in the country & western style and wondered if it had a real place in the competition. He admitted it had “caught-on” though and by the end of the evening it was second with 238 points. I’m not at all surprised about this because country & western style music is hugely popular throughout the world, with lyrics that are very meaningful and a sound that is easy and inoffensive on the ear. The folk-like quality would be very appealing to the more eastern-bloc nations as well. The Dutch entry was sung very well, both vocalists matched each other’s guitar play and the setting was very simple. There was nothing to detract from the quality and beauty of a good song. Listening to it for the first time I was immediately struck by its similarity to the sound and feel of Every Breath You Take by The Police.

Austria: You probably couldn’t get more unusual or quirky with this entry. Drag act Conchita Wurst (real name Tom Neuwirth) won the 59th Eurovision Song Contest with her song Rise Like a Phoenix scoring 290 points. All I knew before Conchita took to the stage was the catch-phrase “the bearded-lady”. When she appeared on stage I gasped and as the song began I couldn’t quite believe my ears. The vocals were stunning, clear as a bell, powerful and heart-felt and with the orchestration background I immediately thought “James Bond movie-theme”. Rise Like a Phoenix had that Bond like essence about it, and I could well imagine Dame Shirley Bassey singing it. The long-limbed slender frame of Conchita Wurst dressed in a figure hugging full-length sequined dress looked amazing, very much reminiscent of the Dame Shirley look. But as I looked at the chiselled dark haired features of Conchita I was reminded of another singer, Freddie Mercury. I always thought that the Queen front man had a very attractive, distinctive look with cheekbones many would pay good money to have. Of course he also had an incredible voice and a wonderful stage presence. So with these associations in my thoughts as I watched Conchita perform, I wasn’t at all surprised that Austria won for the first time in 48 years. After all, James Bond, Dame Shirley Bassey and Freddie Mercury are not bad company to keep.



30th April 2014 Leighton Hospital Radio Studio

Over the last ten years I have always tried to come up with some good ideas for my radio show (Angie’s Allsorts) at Leighton Hospital in Crewe. Recently I’ve been thinking about all the artists I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen live on stage. This gave me the idea of playing a couple of virtual concerts comprising of artists and songs with special meaning to me. The only condition was that I’d seen them in concert at least once, although several have had repeat attendances. For tonight’s show you will discover which musical has a great significance for me, find out the artist I’ve listened to my whole life and seen over 20 times, and see why one song has me beaming with delight when I hear it. So welcome to the show….

Playlist Leighton Live Part 1

1. DAVID ESSEX with BEAUTIFUL DAY-the intro song for my first David Essex concert at the Victoria Hall Hanley in 2006. I went back for more in 2008, and have seen David act on stage as well.

2. BUCKS FIZZ with MAKING YOUR MIND UP (no. 1 in UK from 12/4-2/5 1981). I was delighted to see three of the four original members perform as The Real Bucks Fizz.

3. JULIAN LLOYD WEBBER with JACKIE’S SONG (announced his retiral this week, last concert at Malvern this Friday (May 2nd). With the sudden announcement on Monday regarding Julian’s unfortunate injury (herniated disc in his neck) forcing his retirement I had to play something from the great man. Thankfully I witnessed a mesmerising performance from Julian in 2009 as a birthday treat.

4. WHITNEY HOUSTON with MILLION DOLLAR BILL-the concert was initially cancelled and rearranged due to her suffering a respiratory tract infection. Although nowhere near her prowess of twenty years ago, she still packed a punch, although with a much huskier, deeper, and jazz like voice. Clearly struggling at times the whole audience joined her in singing Greatest Love of All, and the hairs on the back of my neck literally stood on end. A magical memory.

Joseph & His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is a musical that resonates throughout my life and is very dear to my heart. My first encounter with the concept of such a coat came from my Mammy’s favourite song from Dolly Parton. I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing Dolly three times so far, and have a ticket for a show in June. She is clearly a woman of deep faith and my most vivid memory from a Dolly concert was during her Backwoods Barbie Tour. At the end of the show the entire audience rose to their feet to sing/clap and rejoice with Dolly singing Jesus & Gravity. Everyone (with or without a faith) were united in the sheer power and joy that Dolly exuded. It was like being at a spiritualist revival, absolutely amazing. But for my Mammy I’m playing tonight…


I knew about Dolly’s coat, and I learned about Joseph’s coat at Sunday school. Then in the summer of 1981 our finale show at Cleland Primary; (before moving to high school); was Joseph & His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. We must have been taught well because to this day I know all the music and most of the dialogue we used, so I was more than able to join Jason Donovan singing


Although I’ve seen Jason act on stage in other shows (Priscilla Queen of the Desert and The Sound of Music) I didn’t see his Joseph. But I thoroughly enjoyed the music concert I seen him do in Dec 2008. When I finally did manage to see Joseph on stage, none other than DONNY OSMOND had the lead role. Somehow my honeymoon (Amtrak New York-San Francisco in 1994) coincided with him performing the role in Chicago! I was only passing through the city for one night but my husband and I managed to get tickets. I’ve heard Donny sing alongside his brothers & sister since then.

7. THE OSMONDS with LET ME IN-the boys appearance on the Andy Williams US TV show made them stars.

8. ANDY WILLIAMS with CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF YOU-a favourite artist of my Granny & Mammy so when I seen the poster outside the Royal Albert Hall I had to get a ticket.

9. OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN with PHYSICAL-toured last year for the first time in twenty years. I managed to get the cheapest ticket available, standing in the gallery. I was given the impression that not much else was available, and the higher prices were eye watering anyway. On the night I was told by the usherette that I’d been re-allocated to a better seat. Having climbed the heights of the RAH I trudged all the way down again, to find myself in one of the boxes close to the stage. These seats were the most expensive in the house, and judging by the clientele in the next booth; (champagne on ice, canapés, finger food buffet, cutlery, china plate settings, and designer clothing); I could well believe it. But I scrub up quite well and had dressed smartly so I didn’t feel out of place. Anyway, one of my personal traditions is to take a little soft teddy to a show when I can. Having over 70 of them, it’s a fun and harmless trait that makes me smile. For Olivia I had taken my Sooty glove puppet, and he showed his prowess at PE when Olivia sang Physical. Sooty never missed a beat and was happily bopping along when I spotted the thunderous glare from the people in the next booth. That picture in my head is priceless and I just grin inanely at the thought, they must have felt that barmy squatters had invaded the palace gardens. A good friend of Olivia is of course Cliff Richard.

10. CLIFF RICHARD with SOME PEOPLE– I’ve managed to see him four times but I was a late comer to his concerts, my first being in 2006. At this show I realised how much of Cliff’s repertoire I knew, but he performed songs from his “Nashville” album Something’s Goin’ On, which I’d never heard before. These songs were utterly astounding to me particularly “For Life”, the words, emotion, setting etc. all spoke to me in a way few songs ever had. Another spell-binding concert moment freeze-framed in my mind. Some People still remains one of my favourite Cliff songs. I managed to see The Shadows on stage during their reunion tour with Cliff.

11. THE SHADOWS with WONDERFUL LAND (no.1 in UK from 16/3-10/5 1962)

12.   SYDNEY DEVINE MEDLEY with TINY BUBBLES, PEARLY SHELLS, STAND BESIDE ME-I’ve grew up listening to this artist since I was in a pram. Due to hearing Sydney records for all these years, I’ve amassed a wide knowledge of songs, lyrics & artists from several genres of music, easy listening, country, rock n’ roll etc. I may never have known otherwise. I’m eternally grateful for this musical grounding, but Sydney Devine in Scotland is usually either loved or loathed in equal measure-a bit like marmite. But to me he is Absolutely Devine and I will see him for the 24th time in November (all being well, considering he is 74 with almost 60 years in professional showbiz behind him).

This song was played at the end of our request show: 13. JOE McCELDREY with THE CLIMB

I’ve attended the X-Factor shows four times and Joe’s was the last one in 2010. To me the show couldn’t be beaten, because I was seated in the middle of the front row at Wembley Arena!!!!

Every one of these artists has given me enormous pleasure and I thank them all for their talent, energy, enthusiasm and professionalism.

If you would like to hear my playlist (with no chatter, this blog is my voice) you will find it at

One Woman, One Man in War

The woman referred to is Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt the First Lady of the United States during World War Two, and the man referred to is Simon Weston badly injured in the Falklands War. During an overnight visit to London, I became even more aware of the stories involving these two people caught up in two separate wars forty years apart.

Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt

In the small intimate setting of The Kings Head Pub Theatre, I attended the last performance of the one woman play Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London. Actress Alison Skilbeck had crafted this dramatic story having had access to Eleanor Roosevelt’s diaries. She performed all the characters within the play (including Churchill and The Queen Mother) with minimal props, but with an uncanny accuracy in accents.

The premise to the plot involves an elderly Eleanor living in the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As she laments the possible end to peace, and even the world, the audience are taken back in time to the former First Lady’s visit to war-torn London in October of 1942. Through flashbacks we learn about her tour around Great Britain, meeting dignitaries, attending formal functions on behalf of President Franklin D Roosevelt, and visiting US troops and ordinary British people. We also learn in part something about the private person, and how a traumatic childhood and a husband prone to infidelity had shaped Eleanor as a woman. It was fascinating to watch the play and I came to have a deep respect for Mrs Roosevelt, and all that she had tried to achieve.

Until seeing this play my only real reference point for Mrs Roosevelt in recent times was from the film Hyde Park on Hudson. A peripheral character in this movie, I got the distinct feeling that Eleanor was a somewhat cold, unfeeling, distant and slightly eccentric character “full of causes”. The President’s infidelity wasn’t glossed over, but you couldn’t help feel that he had good reason to wander!! However, having seen this play I can well understand why Eleanor devoted herself to causes, and perhaps seemed a bit distant at times. She had offered to divorce Franklin on discovering his first affair, but had been told that wasn’t an option as it wouldn’t be good for his political career. So Eleanor was effectively trapped by the necessity of keeping up appearances, and as a way of coping threw herself into campaigns not particularly fashionable at the time.

Eleanor Roosevelt championed women’s rights and the rights of black people in the US long before it was a common cause. And on her visit to Great Britain she insisted on seeing for herself how the ordinary man/woman/child coped and dealt with the effects of war. The First Lady’s itinerary included visits to factories, land girls tilling the fields, bombed streets, air-raid shelters, docks, WRVS and many other places the length and breadth of the country. Far from the cold and unfeeling character I thought Mrs Roosevelt was, I came away with a sense of someone with a tremendous empathy for those less fortunate. I was particularly struck by a small part in the play, when the First Lady speaks of the horror of witnessing bombed out streets. Her thoughts went along the lines of “although these houses were probably no more than slum dwellings (a civic wrong in itself), they were home for these people. Now they have nothing at all”. Compare that to what the Queen Mother said when Buckingham Palace suffered minor damage from a bomb blast, “glad of it, now we can look the East End in the face”. I was far more moved and affected by the consciousness from Eleanor Roosevelt than the pretentious uttering from our Royal family.

Aware of being someone of privilege, Eleanor Roosevelt strived to put her status to some good use by shining a light onto issues and concerns affecting those less well off, and using that status to try and change things. Only a First Lady could attempt to bring the issue of “wrong socks” for US troops, or black servicemen pay and conditions, to the attention of the US Army General. Through her speeches, news articles and publications Mrs Roosevelt brought many issues into the public domain.

After the war ended Eleanor became the chairwoman for the Commission of Human Rights and its inception, and announced the template for the Commission in 1948. She also became the US ambassador at the United Nations. Now as the Cuban Missile Crisis threatened to envelop the Western World, an obviously dying Mrs Roosevelt wondered aloud had she done any good during World War Two, and had she tried enough to make a difference. I think the answer is an unequivocal YES.

Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London. Image credit
Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London. Image credit

Simon Weston

The day after seeing Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London I went to the National Portrait Gallery, with the express intention of seeing the David Bailey Stardust photo exhibition AND taking a look at the new People’s Portrait of Simon Weston. Last year a competition was held to find a portrait sitter elected by the general public; (a first for the NPG); and Simon won the accolade. Probably he’d be the first to admit a wish that the circumstances which brought his likeness to canvas had not happened.

In 1982 during the Falklands Conflict Simon Weston suffered 46% burns to his body, when the ship Sir Galahad was bombed by the Argentineans. Miraculously Simon survived his ordeal but many of his comrades perished. Over the years Simon has been a tireless fund raiser for charity, and his badly scarred face has become a familiar sight on TV.

The artist chosen for the People’s Portrait was Nicola Jane Philipps, who I believe did a superb portrait of Prince William & Prince Harry a few years ago. I liked the royal picture very much so I was intrigued to see how Nicola would portray Simon. On setting eyes on the newly commissioned portrait I was not disappointed. I found the simple and yet powerfully styled setting with muted colours and soft lines very appealing.

In the portrait Simon is holding his medals, standing behind a chair that has a soldier’s beret sitting on it. Simon’s badly damaged hands are prominent holding the medals, a symbol of his (and other soldiers) courage and bravery. The beret on an otherwise empty seat is a tribute to those who have passed. The standing position of Simon could be interpreted as “standing for justice and fairness to all”, or as a position of strength I suppose. Dressed in a simple open necked shirt and jacket, rather than the pomp and circumstance of a full military uniform, Simon is shown as an ordinary humble man. The one thing in the portrait that I couldn’t take my eyes off were Simon’s eyes, which had a depth of colour and clarity to them that mesmerised me. The distinctive line and the striking blue colour of the eyes stood out from the fudged framework of earthy shades. The only other sign of bold colour in the portrait came from the patriotic medal ribbons (red, blue and white).

You could say that Simon Weston having endured horrific burns to almost half his body is aesthetically half the man he was, when he embarked on a ship bound for the Falkland Islands. But having survived that extraordinary experience, those eyes tell you that Simon Weston today is twice the man he was before.

People's Portrait Simon Weston. Image credit Nicola Jane Philipps
People’s Portrait Simon Weston. Image credit Nicola Jane Philipps

Off The Beaten Track 2

Liverpool this week was filled with the excitement of horse-racing fans enjoying the Aintree Festival (3rd-5th April), culminating with the Grand National race. You can read my blogs on Aintree at in the horse racing section. The city however hosted another sporting event the week before, that was little reported other than on specialist websites.


These were held in the Liverpool Echo Arena and had the cream of British gymnasts taking part, including Louis Smith (Olympic Silver Pommel Horse) who has recently returned to competitive training. The senior overall championship titles were hard fought competitions, and the spread of medal winners makes interesting reading. The British gymnasts, who competed in Liverpool, will be dispersed into smaller nation status gymnasts during the Commonwealth Games. Of course they will be up against the might of Australia and Canada, so will the partition of Team GB in Glasgow 2014 be a hindrance or a help in winning medals? Only time will tell, but the overall championship senior winners were as follows:

ALL ROUND MEN’S CHAMPION: MAX WHITLOCK, Silver: Dan Purvis, Bronze: Dan Keatings.

ALL ROUND WOMEN’S CHAMPION: REBECCA TUNNEY, Silver: Becky Downie, Bronze: Claudia Fragapane

Champions Rebecca & Max. Image credit British Gymnastics website
Champions Rebecca & Max. Image credit British Gymnastics website


Around the same time as the gymnastics in Liverpool, the final competition in the figure-skating calendar took place in Saitama Japan. The final awards for brilliance on the ice were as follows:

MEN’S                                                                     WOMEN’S
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) 282.59                     Mao Asada (JPN) 216.69
Tatsuki Machida (JPN) 282.26                Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS) 207.50
Javier Fernandez (SPA) 275.93               Carolina Kostner (ITA) 203.83

PAIR’S                                                                     ICE DANCE
Savchenko & Szolkowy (GER)                  Cappellini & Lanotte (ITA) 224.88                                                                    175.43
Stolbova & Klimov (RUS) 215.92           Weaver & Poje (CAN) 175.41
Duhamel & Radford (CAN)                        Pechalat & Bourzat (FRA) 210.84                                                                    175.37


This is the eighth season that this competition has run for girls under 13 playing six-aside football. Two teams representing AFC Bournemouth and Shrewsbury Town contested the final at Wembley on Mother’s Day (March 30th), prior to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final between Peterborough and Chesterfield (3-1).

Broadstone Middle School qualified to represent Bournemouth whilst Thomas Telford School won the right to represent Shrewsbury Town. Each school girl team competed in several rounds to reach the hallowed turf of Wembley. On the big day itself, the final was closely fought with neither team giving much away, during the 14 minutes of play. But a winning goal from Bournemouth captain Molly Pike in the second half, gave victory to Broadstone Middle School.

Bournemouth Captain Receives Cup. Image credit Bournemouth Echo
Bournemouth Captain Receives Cup. Image credit Bournemouth Echo

The Kid’s Cup an under-11 football competition will see teams compete in finals prior to the League Play-offs weekend.


A short news item on Aljazeera brought to my attention the Street Child World Cup being held in Brazil. I was not aware of this organisation until now, but its aims are to give children who have lived on the streets a chance to know something better through sport. These kids have known terrible depravation, and yet the sheer joy for life that they exude is humbling. Their motto is “I Am Somebody” to remind those more fortunate that every child matters and should have the same chances of opportunity, regardless of wealth or status.

The Street Child World Cup Finals took place at the Fluminense Football Club on April 6th. The play-off for third place went to Team Pakistan (Boys) and Team El Salvador (Girls). I managed to watch some superb footage of both the finals posted on the Facebook site of the organisation ( It is on You Tube described as FINALS- Street Child World Cup, and well worth a look.

Boys Street Champions 2014: Burundi 1 TANZANIA 3 (h-t 0-2).

Girls Street Champions 2014: BRAZIL 1 Philippines 0 (h-t 1-0)

All these children have been amazing ambassadors for change and children’s rights, and they have done themselves and their countries proud. WELL DONE.

The Information Is Out There

The Street Kids World Cup made the news on Aljazeera which I happened to catch, and the World Figure Skating Championships were televised on British Eurosport. But the other events I happened to discover were taking place quite by accident. I wasn’t aware of any of these events getting much TV coverage or exposure at all. As I don’t have subscription TV I couldn’t watch the ice-skating, and I don’t have a permanent connection to the internet at home either. So my web browsing is mainly done on my mobile phone, although with intermittent signals for that too, my search for information can be thwarted at times. So I’m just pleased to have finally got the facts I wanted for this edition of Off The Beaten Track.

And Finally

Sometimes you come across the most unexpected things whilst going about your everyday tasks. Whilst in the local Potteries Shopping Arcade I spotted these beautifully sculpted elephants in the Elephants Parade tour, created to highlight the plight of Asian elephants in the wild. More information on this can be found at, in collaboration with The Asian Elephant

Unforgettable Journey on Elephant Parade
Unforgettable Journey on Elephant Parade
Love Story, Flower Impression & Spirit on Elephant Parade
Love Story, Flower Impression & Spirit on Elephant Parade
The Butterfly Effect on Elephant Parade
The Butterfly Effect on Elephant Parade

PHILOMENA: A Mother’s Love Quest

Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday program broadcast on Mother’s Day, contained an amazing interview by Clare Balding. She was speaking to Philomena Lee, an 80 year old Irish lady whose story of loss was turned into an award winning film, simply called “Philomena”. I watched that movie a few months ago in the cinema, and remember how incensed I was at this woman’s treatment at the hands of Irish nuns. Her “crime” was that of committing a “mortal sin” by having a child out of wedlock in 1950’s Ireland.

Philomena lost her son Anthony at the age of three, when she was forced by the nuns to put her son out for adoption. Philomena never forgot the little boy, and returned many times to the convent where she was confined with Anthony, seeking information about his whereabouts. Unbeknownst to Philomena, Anthony now named Michael Hess also returned to the place of his birth, seeking his mother. Neither of them gained the reconciliation they desperately wanted, because the nuns deliberately withheld information from them.

Irish Law to this day does not allow Irish adoptees to access their records, and so Michael (Anthony) was prevented from knowing anything about his early years. He was reliant on the nuns’ compassion over-ruling the law but that never happened, causing undoubted heartache for Michael (Anthony) and his birth mother. His dying wish was to be buried in his birth-place, just in case his natural mother was looking for him. Mercifully the nuns’ did grant Michael (Anthony) this courtesy but never told Philomena about it. It was by chance she discovered her long-lost son’s final resting place.

In the interview Philomena spoke movingly about her early life and the ordeal that scarred her forever. Her daughter Jane Libberton spoke of The Philomena Project, which has been set up to try and get Irish Law changed to allow adoptees access to their personal records. This project is Philomena’s love quest in memory of her son.

Michael (Anthony) was brought up in the USA, worked in Republican politics and was gay. In the film I got the distinct impression he was dying of an AIDS related condition. So I was surprised though relieved that his final wish was granted. I could easily imagine what the nun’s might have thought about Michael’s lifestyle choice!!

The film scene that got me so angry happened toward the end of the movie. An elderly nun when confronted with the “complicity of silence” allegation uttered the Catholic mantra I was expecting. The Sister’s face full of conviction condemned Philomena and her kind as “fallen women full of sin” who deserved to be eternally condemned, more or less. I was absolutely disgusted but not surprised. And I was reminded of the Sister’s complete belief that marriage and children are intertwined, the day before Philomena’s radio interview broadcast.

On Saturday March 29th 2014 Great Britain allowed gay marriage to become lawful. During news broadcasts reporting this event, I heard the idea that marriage is to allow people to have children without “any help from others”, and the notion that love didn’t come into it at all. Try telling that to anyone having gone through IVF, or those who can’t or decide not to have children. Are their marriages any less valid? The words love one another with a pure heart springs to mind. God created us from love, and however that love is expressed is a marriage between those who love and God.

The Philomena Project is testament to the memory of a child and a parent’s never ending love. Philomena has a purity of heart I’m sure will find God’s pleasure when she comes to be re-united with her Anthony.  AMEN.

Philomena meets Pope Francis to highlight The Philomena Project. Image credit Kate Bowe
Philomena meets Pope Francis to highlight The Philomena Project. Image credit Kate Bowe

A Mothers Day Letter

Mammy at 65

Dear Mammy,

It’s Mother’s Day and you are not here to receive a gift or card. So I thought I’d write you a letter as I have so much I want to say. I’ve put the last good photo of you as a stamp on this so the angels know who to deliver it too. And I’ve enclosed some others as well since I have your photo album here. Some pictures you won’t have seen before. Remember how Granny Bowes used to write letters with no punctuation except for the odd full stop!! Well for ease of reading I’m putting this into “bite-size” chunks so you can read bits when you have time ok.

All The Adults From My Childhood

Of course I’m sure since you left me and Paul, you’ve been surrounded by the menagerie of pets from over the years, and have hooked up with all the folk I knew as a wee girl. You were always at Granny Bowes’ house taking care of things, or running messages for Jim & Cathy Bryce at no. 12, or keeping Nellie Neill company whilst I played with her grandson. Say a big hello to all of them for me. And of course big hugs to Granny, Uncle Harry and Aunty Maggie. Sorry I know I should include Uncle Allan but I was never overly keen on him, too much like Dad I’m afraid. Sadly Granny, Jim, Cathy and Nellie were all gone from my life by the time I was around eight. Then my wee pal Craig Twaddle from Cleland Primary moved to Preston in October 79. I never got to say a proper goodbye to him, I’d to get to the house and make sure the Prudential man was paid. I cried all the way home that day, and a shutter went down in my young mind. Everyone was gone more or less, and I vowed I would never hurt like this again. That barrier stayed with me until I was well into my twenties. I don’t think you had any idea.

Me and Granny
Me and Granny

Uncle Harry

I only met him for a short time when I was about four. Having gone to Australia on a £10 ticket around late 50’s/early 60’s he was far away. Mind you out of sight was not out of mind as far as you were concerned. When commercial radio began in about 73/74 regular requests were sent to Radio Clyde for Harry’s birthday. It was my responsibility (aged 3+) to listen to the Frank Skerritt and Sydney Devine shows and record the requests onto tape, as a gift for the big day. Is it any wonder I feel most comfortable with a pair of headphones on, messing about with music? It was ideal preparation for my volunteering at Hospital Radio Leighton and in January I completed ten years there, can you imagine! Regular airmail letters were sent to Australia as well, and you got me into writing letters too. The joy of pen pals came easily when I was a teenager as a result.


Extended Family

Up until I started high school you took me to see my locally based cousins every Saturday. We would visit your two sisters and Dad’s two brothers on alternate weeks. But as bus fares rose, and you began to realise that most of them all had car access, you stopped making the effort. This meant that when Paul was born (I was 15 ½) he never knew any of them, with the exception of Aunty Maggie. At your funeral I had to scratch my head trying to identify the handful of relatives in attendance, poor Paul hadn’t a clue. Suffice to say both Paul and I could walk past any of the clan in Lanarkshire and make no connection. They would probably stop us though, I have your face and Paul has Dad’s, a bit of a Bowes/McCully giveaway. Not surprising then I view the concept of family as a curious notion, I consider the people I call friends as family instead.
Both Paul and I grew up in a house where the past was ever present, and the present didn’t matter. No matter what was happening NOW you would brush it off and talk about something from years back, with “oor so and so done that or went there”. Rob’s mother is 93 now and reads her diaries to keep hold of the past. But you lived the past your whole life. You were old before your time, and you made me old before mine, as I was your main confidante for all your worries and woes. When I went to Keele I had to fill in the Grand Canyon chips on my shoulders inherited from you and Dad. And I had to try very hard to find the person inside I thought I could be, because I didn’t know who that was.


Paul is doing well at college now and is engaged to a lovely lass called Kerry. You were there in spirit at the engagement though, because Kerry has your engagement ring. I can just hear you muttering

“whit’s guid enough fur Prince William and Kate, is guid enough fur ma laddie and Kerry”

kerry Kerry took this picture in November last year. Yes, you can take a picture of yourself (called a selfie) with a phone these days!!! A long way away from the days of sending “spools to get developed”. Kerry is studying beauty therapy at college, and has a black-belt in tae-kwon-do that funny sounding martial art. So Paul knows to behave himself ha ha. You always hoped you would see Paul reach the age of 21, and you managed it with ten months to spare. I know you’d be very proud of Paul and Kerry making a go of it, and trying to better themselves with college. But I feel with me it was a different matter.

Paul at 21
Paul at 21

Conflicting Messages

You always told me not to be like you and stick in at school. Yet when I showed myself to be a natural kind of scholar, you seemed threatened somehow. At high school I was virtually thrown out of the house to attend my only prize giving. But you refused to speak to me for a year when I went to university. Through the whole course at Keele University you would not entertain the merest conversation about it. When I told you I’d graduated your exact words were

“so this stupid malarkey is over with is it. Not that it matters getting a degree, but at least you got a guid man oot it”.

A word of congratulations would have been nice, or a well done, but there was no chance of that! I shouldn’t have been surprised though because having uttered the words “oonyverity” aged three you said to Granny

“if it wisnae fur his temper and ma ears, I’d swear the hosepital gave me the wrang wein”

Clearly we were on a different paths altogether. But considering you never got so much as an ounce of encouragement yourself, from family or in your marriage, I can easily understand you not being able to fully encourage me. The support and encouragement I desperately needed came from Archie & Agnes in the church, and my old school teachers Mrs Pender, Mrs Mitchell and particularly Mr Brown. I suspect if you’ve met Mr Brown up in heaven you gave him a rollicking for giving me fancy ideas, poor guy. And I know you won’t like me saying this, but Archie and Mr Brown were the main male role models in my formative years. Although I only knew them from a distance, they were the ones I seen the most of growing up.

Educating Angela
Educating Angela

 Bingo & Horse Racing

 I distinctly remember you playing bingo from Radio Luxemburg, you telling tales of going to bingo by water bus in Malta, and prize bingo in Cleland in the Old Folks Hall. So I’m presuming you have found the heavenly bingo hall by now. Remember how you had a big cash win the night Torvill & Dean won their Olympic Gold medal. It meant I celebrated the occasion with a battered sausage and chips supper you brought back that night. I bet you were surprised when I got to be a bit of an Olympian myself in 2012. No I never suddenly gained an ounce of natural sporting ability, but I was a volunteer for London 2012, so I enclose a snap of me in my uniform for you to look at.

olympic volunteerYou also enjoyed a wee flutter on the horses too, just a few pence but you enjoyed the thrill. If there is a Grand National from the ghosts of yester year where you are, Red Rum my first sporting hero will always be my number one choice. Not that I’ve ever put a bet on, I don’t know how, you made sure of that. You always feared there was a potential rouge gambling gene in my DNA from Dad, so you ensured its traits would never come to light. But it was definitely your influence that brought me to be a horse racing pundit for a friends sport website. Bissom!

Home Alone

Dad, a merchant seaman was away a lot of the time, thank goodness. Because when he was home it was rarely good, him being a heavy drinker and a bad gambler didn’t make life easy. You worked 2/3 part time jobs just to make ends meet. So after Granny died when I was six I became my own baby sitter, with the family pets, radio and TV and my teddies for company. I got to be self reliant and that’s probably why I don’t particularly feel alone in my own company. When Paul was born, you were much older and less able to go out to work. So you were always around for him, and I think that’s why he needs company about to quell feelings of loneliness.

My teddies (and a few dolls) are VERY IMPORTANT to me; each one has a place, person or event associated with them; and there are over seventy now. You unceremoniously put my first teddy in the bin one day when I was at school. The violent reaction you encountered from me at this discovery, guaranteed you never made that mistake again!! Is Teddy receiving some better care in heaven, and does Granny look after wee Tommy doll? Tommy was the twin brother of wee Betty that Granny bought for my second birthday. When I went through the house after you passed away, I found Betty but not Tommy. I have a feeling he succumbed to an attack from Brandy the dog. There were only two places I never explored, the loft and the boiler cupboard in Paul’s room. Anyway, Betty is comfortable with me at Keele and we accept her brother alas is long gone. Here is a picture of Betty, Colin the Koala (Uncle Harry), Goldie (Aunty Maggie) and Agnes the rabbit named after you. I took this little one from your room at Ravenscourt, and she reminds me of you very much. Her pale colouring, feisty and opinionated character and her dainty mouth and pink nose are all you. I know, I know, you didn’t have a pink nose, but Dad described you as having a Miss Prim mouth and pug nose.

Goldie, Betty, Agnes and Colin


 So how do things stand today I hear you wonder. Well Paul is nearly finished college, and still lives in Tinto Way, so a McCully has been resident in that house since it was built about 46 years ago. I think Ravenscourt Nursing Home is still there, although it went through some difficulty as the company running it had finance problems. It was the place you called home for your last years, and I’m grateful to them for giving you a quality of life you sadly were lacking. Rob and I still live in the flat at Keele and will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary in April. Rob still works in the department, plays trombone and is always dashing about. He is a very good man who adores me and I love him to bits.

me and rob Rob and I in London last week (another selfie)

Your stroke meant that when you died you were not the woman I had grown up with, but a younger version of yourself before the cares of the world ground you down. Granny was never able to express any love toward you, but you made sure that Paul and I knew we were loved very much. As I glance in the mirror the woman I see before me is you, as the chin develops and the hair becomes ever whiter. You are never far away in my thoughts and please remember…

I love you


Off the Beaten Track: 1

My blog is called Angies Allsorts for a reason, because my interests tend to naturally gravitate toward lots of subject areas, the more obscure the better. I have a hospital radio show with the same name, as I like to try and play a blend of music that would satisfy most peoples’ tastes. It’s rather like the saying from Forrest Gump “just like a box of chocolates, a little something for everyone”. My “Off the Beaten Track” theme will dip into subject areas that have caught my attention recently, but may not have made a huge impact on the mainstream news. This week I look at science imagery, engineering, sport (diving, football, figure skating) and name games.

Congo Engineering Helps Control Traffic Congestion

Kinshasa, the capital of The Democratic Republic of Congo, suffers like many other cities from overly congested road networks. However, thanks to the innovation of Congolese engineer Therese Izay things are set to improve. Izay has developed two traffic robots which tower over the busiest intersections of the capital. Immune to bribery; which the local human traffic police have been accused of; the robots are able to report traffic violations back to a central computer system. The robot has red lights situated within its huge body and green lights on its arms which can extend. Turning to face each junction in turn the robot can ensure both pedestrians and drivers can traverse safely. Therese Izay runs a women’s technology cooperative to promote women’s engineering and hopes that her innovative idea may be taken up by other African nations and beyond. It is both a brilliant and yet simple idea, to a perplexing problem suffered throughout the world. This story (seen on Aljazeera) made me smile and think “just genius”.

Scientific Photo Exhibition

Listening to Radio 5 I was very happy to hear that this year’s Wellcome Image Awards will be exhibited in four major science museums in Glasgow, Belfast, Manchester and Cardiff. Eighteen fantastic images depicting a world normally unseen by the human eye can now be viewed thanks to the innovation of scientific imaging techniques. The images are also displayed in the window of the Wellcome Trust Headquarters in London, and I went to see them specially and was not disappointed.

Technology Helps Shoppers

Clifton Village Stores near Ashbourne in Derbyshire is a convenience shop with a difference, it’s a vending machine situated in the car park of the Cock Inn pub. The only grocery shop in Clifton closed over twelve years ago and until now villagers had to travel to the nearest town for everyday essentials. With little or no bus service in the area, unless you had access to a car, residents had a long walk, or had to do without. Now villagers can buy everyday essentials; (stocked with around 80 varieties of goods); in the same way as you would buy a coffee at a vending machine. Everything from toilet rolls, dog food, teabags, beans, eggs, bacon etc can be sourced from the machine. Just pop your money in, tap in the requisite food code and your item will be dispensed using a “soft edged” technology retrieval system, to ensure even the most delicate of items remain in pristine condition. The machine can email suppliers when stock items get low, thus ensuring a reliable and fresh stock supply is always available. I literally just caught the tail end of this story on a BBC Midlands broadcast and thought what an innovative and useful concept it was.


Whilst in a coffee shop on St Patrick’s Day, I picked up a newspaper sport section to glance through. It was mainly filled with football matters (about 75%) with the Liverpool 3-0 win over Man Utd, and the Tottenham/Arsenal derby the big features. Then rugby followed as the weekend had seen the conclusion to the six nations tournament, and the new F1 racing season had a write up along with the T20 cricket news. Any other sports were relegated to the last page, and had little more than a paragraph at best each. Though not surprised by this I was a little disappointed, for although I love my football, I get rather fed up with the same thing being forensically examined wherever I look. Other things do happen in the sporting world, and other sports do exist, though we only seem to see them on mainstream TV during the Olympics/Commonwealth Games. So what’s happened recently which I feel should get a bit of acknowledgement.

Diving: Matty Lee and Daniel Goodfellow at the tender ages of 16 and 17 respectively won their first senior medal in competition, securing a Bronze in the 10m synchronised diving event in Beijing. A second FINA Diving World Series Bronze medal was secured in Dubai and the guys got the most points in the contest (80.64) with an inward 3 ½ somersault dive. Tom Daley also won a solo Bronze in Beijing but came 4th in Dubai narrowly missing another medal.

Football: Robin Van Persie suffered a sprained knee after the European game at Old Trafford where he scored a hat-trick against Olympiakos. He looks to be out of action for 4-6 weeks, and the injury made the news on radio, TV and the papers. His recovery will undoubtedly be helped by his clubs access to the best medical facilities and experts in the game worldwide. However, I read this week about a young man who suffered a horrific injury playing football, who will probably recover with the help of the best that the British NHS facilities can provide. Playing in the Calor League Southern Premier Division Chippenham’s midfielder Rob Dean took to the pitch on Tuesday 18th March to play against Hungerford. With about half an hour on the clock Rob endured a terrible tackle, which resulted in him suffering a fully dislocated right knee and a twisted tibia. It looks like he will require total reconstructive surgery, and just reading about his injuries made me feel a bit queasy. Rob Dean required paramedic attention for around 45 minutes on the pitch before being taken to hospital, and the referee rightly abandoned the game.

Figure Skating: The World Championships begin in Japan on March 26th, and I had to trawl through the internet for web page articles, to find out what was going on. Several big names with Olympic medals will NOT be in Japan including: Ice Dance couple Davis & White (US) and Virtue & Moir (Can), Men’s Patrick Chan (Can) and Women’s Kim Yuna (South Korea) and Adelina Sotnikova (Russia), Pairs Volosozhar & Trankov (Russia). Some exclusions have been by personal choice as Chan and the American/Canadian couples decided not to compete, whilst Kim Yuna retired after her last routine in Sochi. But unusually the Russian medal winners have only been named as substitutes for their country, and so will only compete at the World Championships if an injury occurs to the first choices in their discipline. In the Men’s discipline one of Canadian participants Nam Nguyen has just been crowned World Junior Men’s Champion, although he is unlikely to pose a major threat to the hot favourite Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan). For the Women’s event the Italian Carolina Kostner Olympic Bronze medallist is probably the highest ranking, but it will be interesting to see what European Champion Julia Lipnitskaia (Russia) and US skater Gracie Gold can do. With so many of the dominant “big-names” being missing there could well be some interesting results, even perhaps involving the British Ice Dance couple Coomes & Buckland, who won Bronze in the Europeans. During the Olympics the judging found fault with their compulsory dance routine and they were heavily penalised, both in the team and individual events. Yet it was the same routine that helped win them a Bronze in the Europeans! So who knows what might happen, but I shall be keeping up with the Figure Skating World Championship news on the web.

Name Game

Race horses a lot of the time can have some peculiar names, but occasionally you can see the inspiration behind them, and so it was when I came across FiftyShadesOfHay.

In the Torino v Livorno match over the weekend a hat trick was scored by Ciro Immobile to secure a 3-1 win for Torino. This made Immobile the top scorer in Serie A on Saturday and so clearly there is nothing wrong with his mobility in front of goal!!

Angela McCully-Jackson's blog