Joanna Lumley meets

People will probably be cynical about this programme. is an unusual guy and therefore quite easy to pick on. Musician, producer, philanthropist, weird clothes, gentle with an asexual demeanour – he’s a bit like Michael Jackson with a corporate make-over, like when coffee shops go ‘authentic’ and hang black and white canvases of Italians laughing over coffee. Anyway, after watching this, I can’t help it. I like him a lot. I’m a brand new fan.

Not only is Will a bit strange, but Joanna Lumley is a strange choice of presenter. She has a Louis Theroux-esq, faux-naive style of documentary making, but if it’s possible, she’s convincingly genuine. Maybe she really is? Who knows.

On arriving at Will’s house, Joanna is met by a host of assistants, including Will’s brother Carl who cuts his hair full-time. Yep.

Will comes down the stairs like a gentle breeze, wearing his trademark ridiculous jacket made from what looks like a cross between a wetsuit and a Galaxy bar wrapper (more on this later). Like an enthusiastic child, he eagerly shows Joanna his awards cabinet, which also contains pictures of Will with Obama, Oprah and his family. Joanna comments (as an aside) that things in Will’s house seem to be switched off and locked as (we guess) he spends so much time away. This is where I had my first pang.

Joanna is invited into the ‘heart of Will’s family’. We met his best friend and band mate Apl.De.Ap (who is a Filipino man, not a robot as his name suggests). Later, Joanna heads over for supper with his mother (he never knew his father), his uncles and an old friend of his Grandmother’s. Clearly, the older you are in the family, the greater respect you’re shown. Watching Will at the table you could be watching a little boy being careful to mind his manners.

Raised to have a strong Christian faith and with a strictness that forbade him to say words like ‘lie’ or play outside the boundaries of his postage stamp sized front lawn, Will obviously maintains a respect/fear and deep love for his family. Again, I felt a pang.

The programme moved through Will’s various ventures, of which there are an exhausting number. Telling us curtly that he gets 4 hours sleep a night by saying ‘think what you can do with 20 hours a day’. My mind goes blank. All I can think is I could do a whole lot of mooching around the house in 20 hours. Will and I are worlds apart.

His involvement in a technological investment, the nature of which was too secret for us to know, meant cameras were ousted from a meeting, described by Joanna as some kind of ‘techno wizardry’ – said with a completely straight face. Theroux would be proud.

Will himself tells us he has a deep sense of social responsibility and a ‘need to help’ so there are numerous philanthropic projects to discuss such as ‘ College’, a school set up by Will to educate youngsters in his old community.

Of course, there’s fashion. He explains how plastic bottles are used to make high quality fabric, or headphones. Joanna buys a tailcoat for her conductor-husband for $2000.

Then last but not least, there’s the music. Sitting next to Joanna in his studio he casually knocks out a new track called ‘Alright’. It’s not amazing, but it’s definitely ‘alright’. Certainly, a million times better than anything we could have come up with in 4 hours, or ever.

At the end, Will was at the O2 Area on his first solo tour. I felt nervous for him, being so far from home and his mamma. A sensitive child-man, in his smart little jacket, with his hair all done ready (Good old brother, Carl), just wanting to do some good and to please people. It was pang-central. Perhaps he’s more of a bastard in real life, I hope so anyway. It’s a bit scary out there if you’re very nice.

Catch up on Joanna Lumley Meets on BBC iPlayer now.

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Mayday: The Passenger who Landed the Plane

This was the incredible survival story of 77 year old John Wildey. A kindly, British sort of Grandad, with coffee coloured teeth, watery eyes that sparkled with jokes gone by and nerves of absolute TITANIUM.

It all started fairly nicely for John that evening. He’d decided to go for a jolly day out at Butlins and instead of driving he thought, ‘why not take the plane?’ Wow. Most Grandads would suggest the bus, or a day watching the snooker. But Butlins? Just for the day? And in a plane? I loved John already.

Along he chugged in his Cessna, his trusty pilot at the wheel, when (as always in a Channel 4 documentary) disaster struck. The pilot said, ‘I feel a bit sick’.  John was instantly worried about getting sick on his trousers and quite rightly so – who wants sick on their Butlins trousers? Soon after, the pilot started breathing heavily, threw his head back and died. (Poor chap. RIP). John reached over and felt the pilot’s forehead. It was cold and clammy. That can’t be a good feeling. We, the viewers, did not feel good.

Finding yourself suddenly alone with a corpse, in an aeroplane that you don’t know how to fly, is the point when most people would do the decent thing and freak out massively, before sending some heartbreaking goodbye-texts from the cockpit, looking for a minibar, and sobbing at the controls until the inevitable happened. Fortunately, John who had worked as a desk clerk in the RAF and, we’re told, ‘knew some flying terminology’, was made of stronger stuff. Don’t knock it. I’ve spent my entire life basically muddling through on zero knowledge and a bit of terminology.

He radioed down to deliver the bad news to air traffic control, ‘Mayday, I’m not a pilot’. The words every controller hopes never to hear. ‘An innocent day had turned into a full blown emergency’, said the narrator. We’ve all been there.

Then began a united effort by Humberside Airport, RAF Search and Rescue and a Flight Instructor named Roy, to help John land his hopeless little plane, in the dark, without being able to see, as he couldn’t work out how to put his dashboard lights on. Oh John again, we’ve all been there.

The team suggested John aim for ‘Runway 26’ which was a small, unlit runway. Let me just pause for a moment and let that terrible advice sink in. The tenuous reason presented for this awful, AWFUL idea was that the wind would be ‘ahead’ and therefore, it would be safer. However, I suspect the real reason was that Humberside Airport didn’t want a plane to crash on its main, lit and international runway and then have to spend the evening delaying flights while poor John was scraped off the tarmac. Shame on you, Humberside Airport.

Anyway, John valiantly flew his aircraft at the dark, little runway-of-no-return, before bailing out and diverting to the more sensible and real runway. I’d imagine air traffic control went, ‘oh for God’s sake OK, let him do it’, before muttering angrily to themselves, ‘this is going to be a long night’.

It was nerve-racking viewing, but to be fair, we knew he got down safely because we knew the programme title. After much tension, the realisation that John had to fly over a main road and an oil refinery to get to the runway, which, had he crashed onto Hull, could have caused massive improvements (sorry DAMAGE, massive damage), John amazingly pootled down and landed the plane. What an absolute LEDGE.

He said it must have been his lucky week as he went on to win £6.70 on the lottery. What a testament to keeping your cool.

Catch up on Mayday: The Passenger Who Landed a Plane on 40D or tonight on 4seven from 9pm

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The Million Pound Necklace – Inside Boodles – Review

Luxury jeweller ‘Boodles’ is a family run affair with a pleasing company name. You can just imagine rich and fabulous ladies of leisure returning home to their husbands with a sweeping, ‘oh darling, I have just spent simply oodles at Boodles!’ and their husbands oddly replying, ‘darling, that’s totally fine’.

At ‘Boodles’, the customer service is impeccable. Read ‘nauseatingly sycophantic’. Rich housewives can spend the afternoon being fawned over, sipping champagne and trying on diamond bracelets, uttering clatteringly obvious things like, ‘oh this is just gorrrrrgeous’ while turning over their bony, tanned wrists over in the air.

The ‘Boodles’ customer, we’re told, is ‘someone who enjoys wearing jewellery’. They also seem to have expensive looking highlights, yachts docked in Monaco and I detected a Scandinavian look to a lot of them, but I don’t know if that’s important. Especially loyal customers are even allowed to borrow pieces from time to time, to wear on outings. Excuse me ‘Boodles’, but I enjoy wearing jewellery. Can I borrow something for tomorrow? I’m going to Sainsburys.

The programme focussed on Jody Wainright, son of ‘Boodles’ Chairman, and with the ridiculous job title, ‘Head of Stone Sourcing’, he looked like a cross between Bud Fox (Wall Street) and Ken (Mr Barbie). He announced proudly that he ‘love[d] emeralds’ (well who doesn’t?) and more than once during the hour long programme he likened the appearance of a huge diamond to a Fox’s Glacier Mint.

Jody started out by purloining a whacking load of huge emeralds and then the ‘Boodles’ team had a meeting to decide what to make them into. I would have suggested a City, for the Wizard of Oz to reside (naturally), but instead they went for a ‘suite’ of jewellery, with a ‘foliage motif’.

That done and dusted, another meeting was then called to discuss what could be next and Jody said he’d like to acquire a massive diamond. A really big one. Like a 14 carat. This went down very well with the ‘Boodles’ management team. ‘Good idea!’ *back slaps* I’m sorry, but I think I could easily get a job at ‘Boodles’ based on my observations of these meetings. ‘Let’s get a gigantic diamond! One HUNDRED carats!’. ‘Yes! I like the cut of your jib!’ Piece of cake.

Jody’s Diamond Dealer was Saul Goldberg, who had diamonds to sell. Why? I’m not too sure. On career day at school I must have missed the talk about becoming a Diamond Dealer, instead hearing only the option to do an apprenticeship in hairdressing. Goldberg’s back office looked like a scene from ‘The Merchant of Venice’. With the diamond cutter humming away in the background, Jody haggled for a handful of diamonds. ‘But what will ‘Boodles’ do with them?’ you ask. Hmm, I feel another management meeting coming on.

At the end of the programme, the emerald necklace was finished and hawk-eyed Jody inspected it closely, no doubt to see how much it looked like a Fox’s Glacier Mint. It passed the test, and for £2.8 million it can be yours. Available to buy from Harrods. I would, but I’ve already got a bag of Glacier Mints in my car.

Catch up on The Million Pound Necklace: Inside Boodles on 4seven tonight at 7pm

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Louis Theroux’s LA Stories ‘City of Dogs’

Hooray for a new series from the documentary maker who first pointed out to us that Savile was a bit creepy. ‘I called my mother ‘The Duchess’. Here’s her wardrobe of clothes, just as she left them’. Shudder. Sorry, let’s not think about it. This three part series is about life in Los Angeles and this week it was ‘a journey through canine companionship’.

Now first, a warning. The programme contained upsetting scenes of dogs: bad, delinquent, street dogs, ‘weaponised’ dogs and dogs with ‘broken hearts’.

We met Cornelius Austen or ‘Dog Man’ who was a self confessed ‘pit-bull enthusiast’. Not the Hispanic rapper/singer-kind (wooo-eeee!), but the snarling, drooling, barking kind. Like a dog-themed Pied Piper, he cared for the abandoned dogs of LA, cruising round in his car and telling us, ‘there is no dog, I can’t get’. I bet he couldn’t get one of the Queen’s corgies. Or Lassie. When happening upon a particularly troubled dog, choking back tears, he translates for us the violent barking as, ‘I’m in pain. I have fleas. My heart is broken’. Dog Man himself was a friendly ex-gang member, who seemed the forlorn keeper of a broken heart. He’d lost his mother and father early on, and his relationship had recently broken down, seemingly in a dog-related dispute. She said, ‘all you do is help people with their dogs, and I’m tired of it’. We could sort of see her point. But Dog Man was undeterred – ‘I’m a dog man, and I’m going to be a dog man ‘til I die’. Girl, there’s just no reasoning with a man like that *Finger snaps in a ‘Z’*.

Then there was Malcolm, who kept a ‘weaponised dog’ for protection, under a sign that said ‘Beware of the Dog’. Somehow, the sign didn’t really emphasise the situation strongly enough. ‘Run for your life’ might have been more appropriate.

Retired fire-fighter Greg had a scary looking Doberman called Lexi whom he lovingly told, ‘I will never leave you’. He went on to tell us that he’d been abandoned as a child by his father. ‘Ohhhhh, ok’, we nodded solemnly, as a nation.

Max and Nancy were flaky, arty types who were the wholly unlikely owners of a little black and white nightmare called Casper. In the seemingly heart-warming story of how they came to own this dog they told us, ‘he was staring at us through the bars and (we) just fell in love with him’. On their very first family walk, they realised Casper had ‘some problems’. Seems like what they thought was the look of love was actually the look of, ‘I want to bite you to death’. As they cowered in the corner of their sitting room, it was clear that little Casper had completely ruined their lives. Louis pointed out that if a human behaved this way, they’d ‘be acting like a dick’ and to be fair, Casper was acting like a bit of a dick. Sadly, after attacking Nancy’s ankle, we learned that Casper had been put down and that they now had a much more suitable pet called Belvedere whowas much calmer and more like a cushion than a dog.

The South LA dog pound was a wretched place where dogs rarely came back out. Reminiscent of Death Row in Louis’s previous docu-series, ‘Miami Mega Jail’, dogs snarled and growled and one by one were selected for the long walk. It was sad to see these hopeless creatures, so mistreated that they were now too aggressive to coexist with humans. Kennel Manager Leslie said that all her staff take Xanax to cope with the sadness. Seemingly, whether you’re a dog or human being, a broken heart is a broken heart. Tune in next week for another likely sob-fest when Louis looks at how Americans handle death.

Louis Theroux’s LA Stories airs Sundays on BBC2 from 9pm

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David Attenborough’s First Life – Review

While everyone else was having fun watching ‘The Voice’ Saturday night, I was learning about fossils. Well someone had to. They don’t make these programmes for fun you know.

Fortunately for me, this was the start of a two-part series which, if you didn’t catch it the first time round, is being shown again on BBC4. Ah, David Attenborough. Is there anything in this universe more wonderful than a series courtesy of this lovely old thing? He should have his own channel where his work is endlessly repeated like ‘Friends’. We love his reassuring voice, his witty narration and the way he shows us things we didn’t know existed. I think I’d like David Attenborough’s voice to be the last thing I ever hear, ‘Come towards the light, everything will be OK’. I certainly hope that while the BBC are sending him on these expeditions, they are simultaneously working out how to ensure he never dies. I noticed last night that he was walking with a bit of a limp. Gulp.

In ‘First Life’ David told us that he had travelled ‘around the world and back in time’ to make the programme. Nice work if you can get it. The standard camera shot when he says something is either of him crouching (which he’s a bit old for now) but increasingly it’s of him standing on a cliff, filmed from a helicopter. ‘Dave, we’re flying round again OK? Just keep standing there’.

‘First Life’ is a bit less exciting than the usual Attenborough documentary, mainly as all the creatures he describes have been dead for 3 billion years. And actually, they weren’t that great even when they were alive,. A slug, with one tubular leg. A piece of leaf. But nevertheless, it was an evolutionary start. Sort of like ‘Pop Idol’ ten years ago, as compared to ‘The Voice’. We’ve definitely improved.

With help of loads of paleontologists (I absolutely challenge you not to think about ‘Friends’), we saw how single cell organisms, without much going for them, became multi-cellular ‘Charnia’. A plant-like proto-animal, immobile, surviving mostly in the dark and on just bits of dissolved carbon. This made me feel nostalgic for my student days.

In Australia’s barrier reef, we learnt that sponges are alive. Did you know that? Wow, I think I’ve got some major apologising to do in the bathroom. To reduce a sponge to its individual cells, the paleontologists forced it through a sieve using a syringe, which apparently ‘seems brutal but is of no consequence the sponge’. OK, I’ve never done anything that bad.

Nothing gives you perspective like a documentary about fossils. Feeling a bit anxious? Think you might have screwed up at work? Concerned that you’ve piled on a few pounds over Christmas? Well this rock is 3 billion years old and this slug mashed into it, survived in the dark, at the bottom of the sea, by hoovering up bits of dust, so get a bloody grip. Life is sweet.

Creatures that look like bits of old chewing gum were never going to send your Saturday night into orbit, but it was still Attenborough. The teaser for episode two was, ‘there were about to be some animals’… OK Dave, I’ll give you one more chance.

Catch the second part of David Attenborough’s First Life on Saturday at 7pm on BBC4 – or if your Saturday is otherwise occupied, repeats are shown Wednesdays at 10pm on BBC4

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Davina – Beyond Breaking Point – Review

Well, I’m utterly traumatised. This programme was a gruelling 60 minutes of Davina McCall trying to raise money for a worthy cause in Kenya. The cause in brief was explained to us through two people, the first a young woman, a drowsy baby slung on her back, who breaks stone all day in a scorching quarry for just a few pounds. The second a little girl, who spends long, hot days smashing rocks with a hammer to earn money, but who has a collection of tattered textbooks, from which she’s trying to learn on her own, hoping to become a doctor. Eeesh. OK Davina, say no more, go for it.

The darling of TV’s plan was to batter herself, both physically and emotionally, from Edinburgh to London, through rain, snow, up mountains, across lakes, cycling up 45 degree hills, and then we could donate to the Kenyan project. Oh it was awful. Why must charity be so cruel? Davina’s like our mum. Our big sister. Our best mate. So this was essentially the equivalent of watching David Attenborough (our much-loved national Grandad) being shoved into a bin by some bullies.

Davina’s husband Matthew, is even lovelier than Davina. All starry, blue eyes and a warm, soft beard, saying how proud he is of his wife. Oh, SOB. And she hadn’t even left yet. We prepared for tears and boy oh boy did Davina deliver them.

It was pretty much constant crying from the very beginning. Extra hormonal, it would seem, as the night before the challenge kicked off she told us that she’d just got her period. Slightly awkward for all the dads who were only watching for a bit of cycling. Shuffle. Go and make a cup of tea.

Day 1 was Edinburgh to Keswick and off she pedalled. I felt tired straight away. Hours of brutal pedalling into the wind, with ‘celebrity trainer’, Greg, pedalling furiously next to her on his skinny racing bike. We were told that his presence beside her was to ‘protect Davina from the wind’ but with that, Greg promptly fell off his bike and onto the wet road. Davina’s face crumpled for the 47th time that day. Poor Greg.

On Day 3 came the dreaded crossing of Lake Windermere. It seemed a misty and freezing prospect as surveyed from the jetty. ‘Fear has taken over,’ Greg warned us, as he climbed into his wetsuit. ‘I’m going to be ok,’ sobbed Davina. Greg gave her a firm clutch on the shoulders. ‘You’re going to be fine.’ 60 in metres into the swim, Greg swimming by her side like a faithful hound, Davina was in a right state. A few hours later, her near- lifeless body bobbed limply to the jetty and she was dragged out and treated for apparently terrifying-looking death symptoms. Shivering on her bed she croaked, ‘Is Greg alright? He said he was cold.’ Well I’m glad someone finally thought to remember poor Greg. Yes, thank you for asking, Greg’s fine.

By day 6, Davina was a bit less whiny. The sun was out and the massive-fringed Claudia Winkleman was there to cheer her on. Just the sight of that ridiculous fringe is enough to make anyone smile.

Finally, a shattered looking Davina ran across the Millennium Bridge and into the reassuring beard of her lovely husband. ‘I’ve got to stop crying!’ she shouted into the microphone. Yes. Yes you do. And can somebody please get Greg a glass of water?

Text the words FIVE or TEN to 70510 and donate that number of pounds to the women of Kenya. Go on Davina my girl. Well done.

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This week I’m worrying about…

Euromillons winner, Neil Trotter

Seething with jealousy yesterday, I watched the Euromillions winner’s press conference. Neil Trotter and his partner Nicky Ottaway have scooped £108 million and there they were, bold as brass and  grinning behind their huge fat cheque. They’ve quit their jobs. They’ve been to look at cars. Yeah yeah we get it, just go! I was worried by two things: First, Neil said he was driving to work when ‘something told (him) to buy a Euromillons ticket’. What told you, Neil? A voice? A little beetle on the passenger seat? Was it the same thing that ‘tells’ me to recklessly throw my house keys in the river every time I walk across Magdalene Bridge? Because I’ve been ignoring that very hard, and maybe I shouldn’t. Secondly, with a quick raise of the eyebrows, Nicky said they’d been ‘emergency shopping’ the day before. For what? What did they need that they couldn’t have needed, before the win? Clothes? Food? What was the emergency? I’m worried. And annoyed. Seethe.

The new £1 coin

It’s been announced that we’re getting a new, dodecagon shaped (yes I looked it up) £1 coin which we’re told looks like an old threepenny bit. I don’t remember the old threepenny, nor the old six-pence shilling-a-bob and half a crown, but I’m told that for just a handful of them, you could buy a house? Apparently the new coin is to combat counterfeiting, presumably as thieves can’t be bothered to make 12 sided coins. George Osborne took the prototype coin round to show the Queen last night which hopefully went well. Should we be minting a shed load of new coins with the Queen on…at this stage?

Ely Cathedral

They’re filming again and this time it’s ‘Macbeth’ starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.  If you take a stroll past today you’ll see movie trailers, lots of equipment, several huge, flaming torches and some actors striding round in Shakespearean robes. As a resident of Ely myself, I’m very excited to have such glamorousness beamed into my dreary life for a few days.  I’m sure Ely Cathedral is paid handsomely for lending itself to a film crew and fair enough, as it costs £2000 per day to maintain! Seems an awful lot. I digress. My main worry is the cast of ‘Macbeth’. What are they up to in the evenings? I’d like to hereby publically invite Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard round to my house tonight as I have some sausages that need cooking. See you at 7?

Sport Relief

Raising money for the poor and disadvantaged is an excellent way to spend time. However, I’m a bit worried about the lengths people are going to to raise money  for the cause. There was poor Davina a few weeks ago and her sponsored drowning in Lake Windermere. I still have nightmares about watching her sobbing and bedraggled on BBC breakfast that week. Next it’s John Clyde, who is covering 290 ‘brutal’ miles on foot, rowing and cycling. Frank Skinner who’s gravely afraid of water is going swimming, and David Walliams is swimming down the Thames. Unhygienic. What’s next? Ferne Cotton is dangled into a crocodile infested river? Fiona Bruce spends the night in a skip? Enough. Can’t we just donate the money without all this pain?

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Live from Space: Lap of the Planet – Review

Now, I’m a pragmatist. I know that in the scheme of things 90 minutes isn’t that long a time when you’re doing a lap of the ENTIRE PLANET. But settling down to ‘Live From Space’ felt like a lengthy commitment. Especially when ‘The Voice’ was on BBC1.
It got off to a great start with International Space Station (ISS) astronaut, Koichi Wakata, being interviewed in front of a massive sign that said ‘Hatch, EXIT’. All slightly unnerving and very cool. Impressive cloudscapes and recognisable landmass views made it feel exciting, like being on an aeroplane, but much better, as we were safely on our sofas.
However, within 4 minutes it was, unfortunately, just like being on aeroplane. My head pressing against the cold plastic window as I stared out at the clouds, I started fancying a gin and tonic. I was thinking about spending £35 on an aeroplane chicken sandwich. I was bored.
There was a massive delay with the live link. Again, I’m pragmatic, but it was a bit of a bore. Presenter, Dermot O’Leary did his best. ‘Koichi, what can you see right now?’ MASSIVE PAUSE. ‘Hi Dermot, yes I can still see the Andes’. Cut to blue sky, clouds, some dots far below. ‘Wow’, said Dermot. I was unconvinced, and I also had a strange inflight-urge to buy a teddy bear wearing flight goggles.
Strangely, the Twitter population seemed to be finding ‘Live From Space’ fascinating. Were we watching different shows? ‘This is amazing’, ‘Incredible’, ‘I’m transfixed’ they chorused.
Aside from tweets such as, ‘Show more northern lights you dicks’, Twitter did come up with some intelligent questions for @SpaceLive: ‘Do you have the concept of a day?’, ‘Can you see natural disasters happening?’, ‘How does your vantage point make you feel about International conflict?’ Sadly, Derm didn’t ask any of these. He did, however, ask the astronauts to do a few spins.
Best bits of the programme included an item on space junk and how it can smash up a space station (Hope Koichi wasn’t watching that bit), seeing the sun rise over the horizon and a moving account of 9/11 as seen from the ISS. There was touching footage of the commander playing the bugle for his dead friend that day. Always pack your bugle when going into space. You just never know.
Stephen Hawking was involved (of course) and had a terrifying prophetic warning, saying the human race are going to need a ‘Plan B’. By the end of the century he hopes we’re all living on Mars. What?! Errr, you guys go on ahead, I’ll catch you up.
With Stephen’s words of doom ringing ominously in our ears, Derm just breezed past it and cracked on. Keep it light guys. What a pro.
This programme really just confirmed what I have long suspected. Space is both infinitely magnificent and magnificently dull, all at the same time.

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Is the grass greener? Breaking up in your 30s

If you’re approximately 30 years old and in a long term relationship, chances are you’re already engaged. If you’re not, you may feel that bitter kernel of resentment in the pit of your stomach. Why aren’t you engaged? All your friends are engaged. Loads of them are married. If you are living in a rented flat then why don’t you have a house? Where are your children? All your friends are having children. The self-doubt swells. The panic sets in. The alarms go off. Before you know it, you’re lying in bed, tears in your eyes as you stare at the ceiling. That kernel of resentment reaches up into your throat and makes you say it. ‘I don’t think I want to be together anymore’. Gulp.

Making yourself suddenly single at 30 is serious. Someone usually has to move out of somewhere. You might have to break off an engagement. Give back a ring. Detangle the twisted wires of two lives and start all over again. If this is you, before you take a sledge-hammer and smash it through the middle of your life, you better make sure you’re sure.

In 2013, 42% of our marriages were ending in divorce. If we got married in our 20s, then 53% of us will be divorced before we cut the cake on our Pearl Wedding Anniversary. Pearl is 30 years of marriage, by the way. I never knew that one. Probably because only 38% of us ever make it to Pearl.

Reasons for breaking up are often understandable things like infidelity, domestic violence, hatred, loathing, irreconcilable differences. But in your early 30s the reason might well be purely inertia. And also, panic. A dangerous combination which yes, can sometimes lead you to bright-green new  pastures but often just leads to unhappiness, regret, ready-meals for one and living alone with too many pets.

Sadly these days, young people can’t concentrate for more than 7 seconds. They have to carefully manage their social media personas 24 hours a day and they’ll never live anywhere with stairs, unless their parents can pitch in. There’s an invisible tick list floating above the head of a 30 year old which says: Love, Job, Marriage, House, Children and when waking up on your 30th birthday,  dismayed to find that the whole thing is still unticked, it’s only natural to start at the top of the list. Who are you with and is it them that’s held you up?

Item number one: Love. ‘Whatever ‘love’ is’, as Prince Charles would say. At 30, it’s feasible that you’ve been with your current partner for a pretty long time. Ten years or maybe even more. Just bumping along. Moving in together. What fun.  Engaged maybe? Aren’t we grown up!  When suddenly, things become frighteningly serious. You’re 30. That engagement needs to turn into a wedding. That flat you live in? You need to buy it. Can you buy a flat using your overdraft and £25 worth of coppers you’ve got saved under your bed? No. Do you really love this person? Enough for it to be forever?

Lots of break ups occur under this pressure. Couples report sadly that they  just don’t feel ‘in love’ anymore. Or maybe that they love each other more as ‘friends’. They report a loss of ‘butterflies’. A lack of ‘spark’. A diminishing of ‘unicorns’ and an extinguishing of ‘wizards’. I urge people thinking and saying this sort of thing to get a grip. You are not living in a Harry Potter book.

In this wide-world of uncertainly and of war, of famine and of old people watching TV by themselves in cold front rooms,  if you’ve actually found someone in the swirling, terrifying chaos that loves you and who you love, don’t bin them over a lack of ‘butterflies’, which let’s face is, it nerves. There are nice people breaking up with other nice people, for no other reason than that they want to see if they can do better. This isn’t Deal or No Deal people. Have courage in your convictions. As Al Green said, ‘Let’s Stay Together’.

“Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.” Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

BRITs 2014: The top eight most annoying things

Watching The Brit Awards last night, I noticed that being over 30 now prevents me from knowing who anyone is. Not entirely. Some things gave my brain a flicker of familiarity (‘oh yeah, I sort of know that one’). On the whole though, I didn’t have a clue. I missed Geri Halliwell’s dress, I missed Liam Gallagher, I longed to see Jarvis Cocker making a protest. Other than being too old, here are eight other things which were very annoying:

James Corden

James was hosting for the last time and they made a very big thing about it. Everyone kept saying ‘thank you’ to him for doing such a great job. I hadn’t especially noticed him ever hosting the Brits before (except the Adele year). He took a selfie with Prince while Prince was making a speech (Don’t interrupt Prince!), he made cruel jokes at the expense of poor Justin Bieber, he kissed Nick Grimshaw on the lips. Annoying. Time for a new host.

One Direction

The boys looked a bit tired. There was detectable sadness in their eyes, their youthful twinkle dulled by three long years in the music business. The terrible things they must have seen! Especially Louis. While everyone’s watching that wayward cad, Harry, who is watching Louis? That boy is looking more dishevelled every time we see him. I’m worried.


Beyonce has made the annoying- list, but don’t get me wrong. Beyonce is the absolute queen of everything. she was resplendificent. She was magnificulous! (I have had to invent two words to describe her, because there just aren’t words).Wearing a blue sparkly dress straight from heaven and singing a song that sounded like joy, if joy were a sound. Beyonce is the best. How annoying.

Noel Gallagher, Kate Moss & David Bowie

I briefly nodded off during some act I’d never heard of, when suddenly I heard a familiar Mancunian voice. Shocked, I rubbed my eyes. ‘Oh my God, my time machine. It’s worked!’ There on the stage was Noel Gallagher and Kate Moss, being all Cool Britannia. Sadly though, they were just accepting an award for David Bowie.


Current darling of the music industry, the multi award- winning teenager Lorde was there. She is 17. SEVENTEEN. I can’t even bring myself to write any more about her.


Every time I turn on my TV these days, I see Pharrell Williams, in his park-ranger’s hat singing Get Lucky or Happy. He’s on my TV, he’s on my radio. I wouldn’t be surprised if one morning I find him making toast in my kitchen. Pharrell, I like those songs but can you just get of my face for a few days? Please.

Ellie Goulding

She’s almost as omnipresent as Pharrell and during her performance last night, which I was quite enjoying, she inexplicably started playing the drums in a most hectic fashion. It was not entirely unlike Animal from The Muppets. Obviously intended as a cool instrumental interlude to showcase how musical she is, it just made me want to give her a hug and ask if she was alright.

And lastly, but most annoyingly, Arctic Monkeys

Last time I saw Arctic Monkeys they were a group of gawky teens from Sheffield singing pretty good songs. I liked them. But they have seemingly morphed into slick haired men, oozing arrogance and delusions of grandeur. They do things like dropping the microphone and say ‘invoice me’ or make a speech about glass ceilings and rock and roll. Someone on Twitter said, ‘now Jarvis, now!’ If only…


First published by Cambridge News