Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"Game Change"

I just saw the trailer for HBO's new television drama, Game Change, based on the 2008 American presidential campaign. The drama, which stars Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris and Julianne Moore, is the story of how Sarah Palin came to be nominated as the Republican Party's candidate for vice-president and how Senator McCain's campaign ultimately ended in defeat for him and victory for Barack Obama. The trailer made me very, very excited to see it and the performances, script and cinematography all look amazing. 

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Henry VIII, who ruled England, Wales and Ireland from 1509 until his death in 1547, was famously married six times. Commitmentphobe or commitment-addict - who's to say?

Anyway, being married six times is and was extraordinary and in the years since, people have argued quite a lot about why one of the most powerful men in British history had such a messy private life. Debates in books and on the Internet between "fans" of the various wives often get quite vicious and part of the reason is that Henry VIII's romantic adventures helped radically change the face of history. As Dr. David Starkey wrote in his 2003 book on Henry's marriages, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII is one of the world's great stories ... It is more far-fetched than any soap opera; as sexy and violent as any tabloid; and darker and more disturbing than the legend of Bluebeard. It is both a great love story and a supreme political thriller .... What is strangest of all, it is true. And being true, it is supremely important."

There are few stories in History I love more than those of Henry VIII and his six very unlucky wives. As Starkey says, you can't make this stuff up!

1. Katherine of Aragon (1485 - 1536) Henry's wife from 1509 to 1533; she was divorced. The youngest daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, Katherine was originally married to Henry's elder brother, Prince Arthur. (It was this fact which was later used by Henry as a reason to divorce her. Conveniently, he decided marrying your brother's widow was against God's law at the same time as he also discovered he didn't find Katherine attractive anymore...) Arthur and Katherine were both teenagers at the time and Arthur died during a plague epidemic six months after the wedding, leaving Katherine a widow at the age of sixteen. For the next seven years, she remained in England while her father and father-in-law tried to renegotiate the treaty between their two countries. When her father-in-law Henry VII died in 1509, the 17 year-old Henry became King Henry VIII and almost immediately married Katherine, now twenty-three, in a private ceremony at Greenwich. Whether it was because he was in love with her, because of her powerful royal connections abroad or to please his advisers is anybody's guess. The young king - who was then tall, handsome and popular (what a difference 30 years and 30 stone would make...) - certainly seemed to find his dainty Spanish bride very appealing. In many ways, Katherine  of Aragon was a perfect queen. She was clever, dignified and well-connected. Henry soon began to take mistresses, but in public Queen Katherine was always treated with great respect. Early in their marriage, she also enjoyed great political power, which she often used to Spain's advantage, but in 1513, she also helped lead England's government in defeating an invading Scottish army (Henry was busy fighting an expensive and rather pointless war against the French.) Devoutly religious, Katherine was devastated when her only son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall, died at the age of six weeks. All her other pregnancies ended in heartbreak. The Queen finally gave birth to a healthy daughter, Mary, in February 1516, but eight years later she entered the menopause and could have no more children. In 1525, Henry began to seriously consider a divorce, in order to have a son with another wife. In 1527, he fell obsessively in love with one of Katherine's ladies-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. Katherine fought the divorce tooth and nail, earning herself many devoted followers and the adoration of many of ordinary Londoners. However, her heroic defence of her marriage and her refusal to accept a divorce ironically ended up weakening the Church she was loved so much. With the Catholic Church unable to give Henry the divorce he wanted because of Katherine's opposition, Henry began to move further and further away from loyalty to the Pope. In 1531, Katherine was banished from Court and she never saw her husband again. She lived originally at The More, a lavish palace where she had over 200 servants; with her usual flair for melodrama, Katherine complained that it was like having a cell in Purgatory. She was officially divorced in 1533, but she never accepted the divorce as legal. She died of cancer in 1536 and she was survived by her 20 year-old daughter, Mary, who became Queen Mary Tudor in 1553. Some historians have been critical of Katherine and her stubbornness, but many more have praised her for the courage and determination she showed in resisting her husband's attempts to dismiss her.

2. Anne Boleyn (1507 - 1536) Henry's second wife from 1532/1533 until 1536; she was executed. The youngest child of Sir Thomas Boleyn and his well-connected wife, Lady Elizabeth, Anne was born in England, probably in the summer of 1507. Her father was the heir of his Irish grandfather, the Earl of Ormonde, one of the wealthiest and most powerful members of the Irish aristocracy; her mother was the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, one of the greatest lords in England. Anne's father was a diplomat and she was sent abroad as a child to be educated as a companion to the Austrian and then the French royal families. She was fluent in French and she was also taught Latin, calligraphy, music, dance, theology, embroidery and poetry. Of medium height, with long dark hair, a delicate physique and beautiful dark eyes, Anne returned to England at the age of fifteen, although people would later observe that because of a childhood spent in Paris, she always seemed far more French than English. More nonsense has been written about Anne Boleyn than about any other queen in English history; there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that she was anywhere near as nasty, unpleasant, immoral or cruel as later popular legend suggested. In fact, as a young woman, Anne earned nothing but praise everywhere she went. Lively, fun-loving, intelligent, witty and apparently the best-dressed young woman of her generation, Anne had many admirers, all of whom she cleverly managed to keep at arm's length. Then, Henry VIII fell so violently, obsessively and tragically in love with her. Anne initially rejected the King's advances, because she did not want to become one of his many mistresses. Impressed by her, he proposed marriage and she accepted. That engagement lasted six years and in time, Anne came to be seen by many as the power behind the throne. Ambitious and intelligent, Anne used her new-found influence to promote Protestant and reformist theologians, although she herself always remained a Catholic. Despite this, her hatred of the Pope was intense and she rejoiced when England split with the Vatican in 1533. She was secretly married to Henry, probably in late 1532, and crowned queen in a magnificent ceremony in 1533. Her daughter, Elizabeth, was born that September. In many ways, Anne Boleyn was an excellent queen. She was intelligent, sophisticated and cultured; she patronised scholars, encouraged the arts, was a very, very generous patron of charity and she championed an end to death by burning for heresy. However, she incurred her husband's hatred by refusing to meekly accept his many adulteries and when she turned against the Reformation in 1536 because of its greed and its closure of the monasteries, her former political allies turned against her too. After two miscarriages, she was arrested on 2 May 1536 and taken to the Tower of London. A palace servant was tortured into providing evidence against her and four of her male friends and supporters were arrested and executed on the charge of having adulterous sex with her, including, horrifyingly, her own brother. At her trial, Anne behaved with great dignity and denied all the charges. The Lord Mayor of London wrote that she had been the victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice and all the evidence was false. She was beheaded on 19 May 1536 and went to her death bravely, according to the eyewitnesses, many of whom knelt as a sign of respect. Her daughter, Elizabeth, later became one of England's greatest rulers. Anne was called by one historian "the most important queen consort this country has ever had."

3. Jane Seymour (?1508 - 1537) Henry's third wife in 1536 and 1537; she died. The daughter of a country squire and his wife, Jane was a quiet, plain girl, with milk-white skin. She served briefly as a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, before Henry VIII developed a sexual interest in her in 1535. Jane initially seemed flattered by the King's interest, but she ultimately rejected them and his gifts of money. Jane was poorly educated, quiet, submissive and easily manipulated by those around her. In short, she was the opposite of Henry's first two wives and only twenty-four hours after Anne Boleyn's death, Henry asked her to marry him. They were married ten days later and Jane was pregnant within nine months. Deeply conscious of the fact that she had been born a commoner, Jane was strict with her servants - to the point of a possible O.C.D. She liked counting the number of pearl buttons they had on their dresses. She gave birth to the future King Edward VI in October 1537, but post-natal complications set in and she died in great agony two weeks later. Jane was given a splendid funeral and Henry was buried next to her, which has led to the idea that she was the wife he loved the most. In fact, his treatment of her often bordered on bullying and the reason he was buried next to the poor woman was almost certainly because she had given him a son.

4. Anne of Cleves (1515 - 1557). Henry's fourth wife in 1540; she was divorced. The dumpy but likable daughter of a German duke, Anne was promoted by Protestants in Henry's government as a useful tool to build an alliance with an anti-Catholic group of German princes. Despite the politics behind it, the royal marriage was a disaster. Henry claimed Anne was ugly, smelly and boring; she can't exactly have found the porky prince much of a catch either. It ended in divorce six months later, with Anne receiving one of the largest divorces in human history as thanks for her co-operation.

5. Catherine Howard (?1523-1542). Henry's fifth wife from 1540 to 1542; she was executed. The young, sexy and fun-loving niece of the Duke of Norfolk, Catherine was brought to Court as a teenager to serve as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves. Apparently, from the moment the middle-aged Henry clapped eyes on her, he was smitten. Like a middle-aged billionaire and his young trophy-wife, Henry and Catherine were an odd pair. They were married within days of Henry's divorce from Queen Anne and the new queen enjoyed herself with parties, jewels, clothes and presents. She was a gossip, a flirt and a material girl, but harmless. However, rumours soon circulated that she had not been a virgin at the time she married and this led to an investigation into her private life. A love letter was found from the Queen to a handsome young courtier called Thomas Culpepper, written after her marriage and the Queen and her lover were both executed. Catherine's favourite lady-in-waiting and her secretary were both executed as well, for helping cover-up details of the queen's behaviour. Whether Catherine Howard was actually guilty of adultery is impossible to tell.

6. Katherine Parr (1512-1548) Henry's sixth wife from 1543 to 1547; she survived him. Elegant, well-mannered and a keen reader, Katherine Parr was a wealthy society widow when Henry asked her to marry him in 1543. Katherine had no desire to marry such a dangerous man, but felt she couldn't say no. She was attractive and mature, and she helped heal the rifts between the royal children caused by their father's constant re-marriages. A devoted Protestant, she wrote two prayer books but was savagely criticised by her husband on at least one occasion because he felt her views were too radical. She survived Henry when he died, fat, feared and foul-tempered in 1547, and she then married for love to Lord Thomas Seymour. Tragically, Katherine Parr died giving birth to Seymour's child eighteen months later. She was the first member of the royal family ever to be given the title "Queen of Ireland", before that it had simply been "Lady of Ireland". 

Fun fan video from the series The Tudors about the wives.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Me loves me some Shane Mack

Every now and then a great movie can introduce you to a great soundtrack and, from there, to a great new artist. That's what happened to me when I watched the 2007 movie Shelter, a beautifully-shot love story set in California about two young men, Zach, and his best friend's brother, Shaun. Shelter is short, sweet and it probably has two of the most brilliantly natural and "real" performances I've ever seen on screen. It has also has fantastic music.

The movie's soundtrack featured quite a few songs by the Texas-born singer-songwriter Shane Mack, including Lie to Me and More than this (a personal favezies.) Since watching Shelter, I've become a big Shane Mack fan and try to listen to some of his music when I'm sitting down to write Popular or really anything to do with Cameron or Blake. More than this is probably the one I've listened to the most.

Anyway, I strongly recommend an i-Tunes creep for Shane's music and having a look at the trailer for Shelter (below.) 

Also - have a great weekend!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Did Marie-Antoinette really say "Let them eat cake"?

On October 16th, 1793, Marie-Antoinette, the widow of the recently-executed King of France, was taken from her prison cell in Paris and publicly beheaded. She was thirty-seven years-old and the new French republic had declared her a traitor. At the time, many of the republic's enemies considered Marie-Antoinette to have been a martyr and her killers to be little better than sadistic monsters. Within a decade, Catholic postcards in France were showing Marie-Antoinette's soul being received into Heaven by the Virgin Mary herself. But that view of Marie-Antoinette was slowly lost to history and the image most people have of her today is of the ultimate blonde bimbo. In popular culture, Marie-Antoinette is seen as the perfect symbol for upper-class excess and the poster girl for self-indulgent materialism. Even if many people don't think she deserved to die such a terrible and lonely death, most people still see her as a stupid, selfish airhead who partied her life away whilst the vast majority of her husband's subjects lived in poverty.

One story in particular is often quoted to prove how out-of-touch with reality Marie-Antoinette really was. Bread was the main meal of France's poor, in much the same way as the potato was for Ireland's. When there was a bread shortage, the people therefore began to starve and to riot against the government. Hearing of the trouble, the young queen asked why the people were rioting; one of her servants answered that it was because the people had no bread. Marie-Antoinette shrugged and replied, "Then let them eat cake!" Living in a fifteen hundred room palace with over four hundred servants devoted to her every whim, Marie-Antoinette had absolutely no idea what life was like for ordinary people and she was so used to luxury that she just assumed that if poor people couldn't get bread, then they could snack on cake, like she did.

People still debate whether Marie-Antoinette said her cake comment because she was an idiot and thought peasants could afford the treats she could, or because she had a cruel sense of humour that found it funny that she had everything and the poor had nothing. Either way, "let them eat cake" is probably one of the most famous quotes in history and it's repeated hundreds of time every year in the world's media to highlight someone who's perceived as being too rich to function or too selfish to care about people less fortunate than themselves. But did Marie-Antoinette ever actually say it?

Well, it seems very unlikely given what we know of her actual personality. Years of propaganda have painted the Queen as a diamond-loving twit who didn't care about anything but her own amusement. It's true that she was extravagant and that her wardrobe was the stuff of legend (Vogue recently credited Marie-Antoinette's chief dressmaker with inventing the entire concept of haute couture.) But in fact, Marie-Antoinette was a generous patron of charity and other members of the royal family were often embarrassed or irritated by her habit of bursting into tears when she heard of the plight of the suffering poor. There's also a problem with dates. During Louis the Sixteenth's time as king, there was only one case of bread shortages in Paris and that was shortly after his coronation. Marie-Antoinette was eighteen at the time and when she heard about the people's unhappiness at the food situation, she wrote a letter about it back to her mother in Austria, in which she said, "We are more obliged than ever to work for the people's happiness. The King seems to understand this truth; as for myself, I know that in my whole life (even if I live for a hundred years) I shall never forget". Marie-Antoinette's personality therefore seems to have been the exact opposite of someone who would joke about the starving poor. It's also true that there were only severe food shortages once in Louis's reign and they were confined more or less to Paris. 

There is even firmer evidence, however, that not only was Marie-Antoinette not the kind of girl to make a comment like "Let them eat cake," but she actually couldn't have. Not only was there no opportunity for her to do so, there are also some very interesting pieces of evidence from the time that prove she couldn't have said it. The story of a princess joking "let them eat cake" had actually been told many years before Marie-Antoinette ever arrived in France, as a young princess of fourteen in 1770. Her brother-in-law, the Count of Provence, who hated her, later said that he heard the story as a child, long before his brother ever married Marie-Antoinette. The count claimed that the version he heard was that the woman who made the comment had been his great-great-great grandmother, Maria-Teresa of Spain, who advised peasants to eat pie crust (or brioche) during bread shortages. A French socialite, the Countess of Boigne, said she'd heard that it had been Louis the Sixteenth's bitter aunt, Princess Victoria, and the great philosopher, Rousseau, wrote that he had heard the "let them eat cake" story about an anonymous great princess. Rousseau wrote this story in 1737 - eighteen years before Marie-Antoinette was even born!

If Marie-Antoinette didn't make the "joke," then how did it end up being associated with her for 200 years? Some historians think it's because the story had been going around for years, getting attributed to different royal women, but because Marie-Antoinette was the last Queen of France, it stuck with her. After her, there was nobody else to pin the story to. Others think that because the French Revolution was able to dress itself up as the force that brought freedom and equality to Europe, it had to justify its many acts of violence and terror. Executing Marie-Antoinette at the age of thirty-seven and leaving her two children as shivering, heart-broken orphans in the terrifying Temple prison, suggested that the Revolution was a lot more complicated than its supporters like to claim. However, if Marie-Antoinette is painted as stupid, deluded, out-of-touch, spoiled and selfish, then we're likely to feel a lot less pity when it comes to studying her death. If that was the republicans' intention, then they did a very good job. Two hundred years later and the poor woman is still stuck with a terrible reputation, and a catchphrase, that she certainly doesn't deserve.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Richard Dawkins and the God Delusion

In the world of celebrities, there is no-one who is more beloved by pseudo-intellectuals and angry men everywhere than Richard Dawkins. For those of you who don't know who he is, Richard Dawkins is vice-president of the British Humanist Society and the former Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. He is also the author of the bestselling book The God Delusion, which has sold over 2 million copies since it was first published in 2006. The book's two central arguments is that religious belief is akin to a mental virus and that religion has been responsible, in one way or the other, for almost all the terrible events in humanity's history. 

Leaving aside the fact that at least half of The God Delusion reads like a rant against a god that Dawkins supposedly doesn't believe in, what riles me about this self-appointed prophet to the unbelieving is that for someone who is so apparently well-educated, quite a lot of what he writes is astonishingly and unforgivably stupid. People have quite rightly pointed out that despite his scientific genius, Professor Dawkins' knowledge of world history is about as sophisticated as GCSE student's and his grasp of theology is even worse. When the bodies of the Russian royal family were discovered in a Siberian forest back in the 1990s, where they had been hidden after their gruesome murder by Communist terrorists in 1918, scientists and observers all over the world quite rightly mocked those members of the Russian Orthodox Church who refused to accept that the skeletons were the remains of the Tsar and his family. Some members of that church believe that the bodies of true saints remain incorrupt - meaning that God proves they are saints by ensuring their bodies don't rot after death. Since Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and their five children had all been declared holy martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1981, many devout Russian monarchists point-blank refused to accept that the mud-stained and bullet-pierced bones discovered in the forest could be the remains of the saint-royals. They persisted in this belief, even though facial reconstruction, pathologists and geneticists all proved beyond any form of doubt that the bodies discovered were related to Grand Duke George (Nicholas II's brother, whose body was removed from its grave in Saint Petersburg) and our own Queen's husband, Prince Philip, who was related to the Romanovs on his mother's side. As one scientist sniped, "I'd like to know how many other relatives of Prince Philip the church think could be buried in that forest!"

By refusing to accept the benefits and methods of science, fundamentalist Christians - of whatever denomination - open themselves up to being queried and mocked. And quite rightly, too, I think. If you believe in a god, you should do so because of the facts, not despite them. Ignoring the facts to help your own argument, or prejudices, is never acceptable in an intellectual environment. Yet, throughout The God Delusion, Dawkins repeatedly ignores historical events that anyone with access to Wikipedia, let alone an Oxford degree, should know about. He claims that no atheist regime has ever instituted religious persecution - ignoring the millions executed by the League of the Militant Godless in the Soviet Union, or under Maoist China, Communist Vietnam, Khmer Rouge Cambodia and even, in its relations with the free Lutheran churches, Nazi Germany. He attributes authorship of various books of the Bible to Saint Paul, when the last time anyone actually thought Saint Paul wrote most of the books at the end of the New Testament was in the early eighteenth century, before the work of the great theologian Dom Augustin Calambret suggested otherwise. He quotes Biblical and Koranic verses out of context; he doesn't seem to know anything, really, about the Reformation, the Crusades or the Inquisition; he misuses the term "Immaculate Conception" (again, Wiki it; it's not what you think, Dawkins) and whilst he rants merrily away on Christianity's (frankly horrific) track record when it comes to homosexuality, he doesn't seem to know that it was only in the sixth and twelfth centuries that the church formally began to codify the idea that homosexuality was wrong and worthy of persecution. If you're going to make such sweeping claims, then the very least you can do is the proper research.

Above all, what I can't stand about Dawkins are his historical-social nuggets of pez-dispensed size quotability and his smug, bile-filled intolerance. He enables every idiot with a passing knowledge of the injustices of our history to point the finger at organised religion and claim it's the fault of a god that doesn't exist and the morons who believe in him. What Dawkins doesn't seem to realise, or at least won't admit, is that human history is a vast, complex tapestries of horrors, mistakes and cruelty, but also kindness, hope and resilience. It's no good trying to blame any one institution and say that's the one that did all the damage. The sad fact of the matter is that it's not religion's "fault" that human history has often been so appalling; it's ours. It's humanity's. There's a great line in the play The Lion in Winter, where the character of Eleanor says, "Oh, my piglets, we are the origins of war: not history's force, nor the times, nor justice, nor the lack of it, nor causes, nor religions, nor ideas, nor kinds of government, nor any other thing. We are the killers. We breed wars. We carry it like syphilis inside. Dead bodies rot in field and stream because the living ones are rotten. For the love of God, can't we love one another just a little - that's how peace begins. We have so much to love each other for."

By standing up and declaring that religious faith makes someone intellectually inadequate and even complicit in the many crimes of religion, Dawkins, to me anyway, resembles the worst kind of Christian evangelist. You know the type I mean - the Bible-thumping zealot, devoid of the ability to understand or appreciate any argument but his own, who, by his words, increases the divisions in society, not heals them. Some of the best people I know are atheists, some of the best, and worst, people I know are Christians. Religion has caused racism, sexism, homophobia and misery the world over; it has been responsible for some of the most archaic, barbaric and illogical policies in human history. It has also offered billions hope and comfort in their darkest hours, it has inspired men to great acts of heroism and kindness, it has brought out the best and the worst throughout human history.  There is much, at times, that we should praise about religion and be grateful for. Equally, religion can and should, at times, be criticised, but it deserves a far better treatment by a far better thinker than Richard Dawkins.

Yo' bro'

Lately I have been feeling very run down. I'm not quite sure why, but for the last few months I've been trying to shake myself out of a funk that just won't go away. It's nothing too serious, but recently it's been quite hard to get motivated - much harder than I've ever found it before. Part of it has been the fairly overwhelming experience of directing the Spring revival of Popular on-stage, with a cast of twenty-six and myself in the role of Cameron. It's a fantastic experience, with a wonderful cast, but I'm really feeling the pressure. Luckily, people have been as great as ever about wanting to come and see the show and it's so gratifying to hear that so many people are already excited about it. It opens in Belvoir on March 15th, by the way, and ends on Saint Patrick's Day. You can reserve tickets by contacting popularbelfast@yahoo.com.

I've been sitting down and thinking about what it is that's causing my bad mood and I think that part of it is a feeling of frustration with effort. I think it finally hit me that I've been making so much effort with work, friendships and relationships over the last year and it just hasn't been reciprocated. Do you ever get that feeling where you're banging your head against a brick wall? By no means do I expect people to make all the effort, but I think meeting people half-way is the very least we can do. If I can be bothered to out in time and commitment on something, then you should be too.

See, I hate with a fiery, burning passion those Facebook statuses that whine on and on about people's lives because they feel their life is somehow cursed. No! If your life is constantly going wrong or becoming too complicated, then it's not because of everybody else around you - it's because of you! If you can't at least acknowledge where and when you've made mistakes, then how do you expect your life to get any better? But, it's also equally frustrating when you can see relationships - personal or professional - where one person is making all the effort. And lately, I've felt like that. I actually wasn't really aware I was feeling that way until I sat down to have a big chat with my friend Adam (he's playing Blake in Popular, guys, and seriously, he's amazing). The more and more I talked it out, the more I realised a sense that I was trying too hard with so many of the things in my life, with little - or no - effort coming back to me.

Since then, I've been working consciously to sort out my mood. The first is that I definitely need to sleep more. The second is that I've decided the new policy in life is "f* it." Rising above it is no longer my style. Yes, admittedly, this new no-nonsense policy towards BS is very much inspired by The Iron Lady. (Oh, Meryl - is there anything you can't do?) But I like to think it's for the best. Thirdly, I'm trying my best to start focusing more on the positive. Last weekend, one of my best friends, Robbie, came home from uni in Manchester to see his cousin's show and to come to our friend Lauren's birthday party. (First of many, actually. Lauren thinks minimalism is for ugly people.) Robbie and I both went to Down High, did a play together over summer and, all things added up, we've spent about 17,000 hours in each others' company. 

At Lauren's, Robbie and I led the charge in the drinking games and he introduced us to the game of Bullshit. Delightful, guys - play it. (Quick note: not with anyone called Claire Handley or Joanne Law, as they will insist that there were elaborate/impossible conspiracies going on to trick them into losing.) And then, somewhere around 1 o'clock in the morning, we settled down for one of the glorious DMCs that come with any party.

One of the things that you can always say about Robbie, hand on heart, is that his loyalty to his mates is one hundred percent. He gets visibly (and vocally) angry when anyone hurts them and he can always be counted upon to have your back in argument. The next day, when he went back to Manchester, I was genuinely upset to see him go. And not just because in any situation, I can always rely on him to eat more than me so I don't seem like Percival the Piggy Pie-man.

That's the really great thing about solid friendships: they can always lift you up. And if you're a good friend, you should be able to do the same for them. 

Ick, is it just me or was that post far too feelingsy?

Monday, 6 February 2012

Sarah P's new music video

Sarah P, whose fantastic single Today, was written for the stage production of Popular, is back with her new music video for Movin' On, filmed in Belfast.

Well done Sarah!

And here's an interview with the lady herself back in summer and a new one will be posted here soon, too!

The Jubilee Begins!

Today is the sixtieth anniversary of when Her Majesty became The Queen. It marks the beginning of many months of festivities in the U.K. to mark the first time a monarch has sat upon the British throne for sixty years since the Queen's great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reached this milestone, known as her "Diamond Jubilee," back in 1897. Queen Victoria, who died in 1901, was the longest-ruling monarch in British history. However, if the current Queen remains on the throne until 2016, as we hope she will, then she will have that record. Queen Victoria will be bumped into second place and in third place will be the Queen's great-great-great-great grandfather, King George III, who ruled from 1760 to 1820.

Although today marks the start of the 2012 Jubilee celebrations in Britain, The Queen actually spent it fairly quietly by visiting a primary school and town hall in the pretty village of King's Lynn in northern England. There are no celebrations today, because it is also the anniversary of the death of The Queen's father, King George VI, who lost his battle with lung cancer on this day back in 1952. King George's moving battle with his speech impediment was captured last year in the Oscar-winning movie The King's Speech, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter.

For a post about the King's death on my History blog, click HERE.
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