A note from our Editor, Louise Robinson
A huge welcome to Saga’s #notgoingoutclub, where we’re looking for positives to take from this extra time at home.
So, how was your long weekend in lockdown? The Bedfordshire Easter Bunny took the ‘essential shopping only’ rule very seriously this year, which meant the annual egg hunt in our garden was pretty much over before it began. My chocaholic, 13-year-old daughter Lily was underwhelmed, but cheered up when she found a tenner on the bird table along with a note promising double rations next year.
Have you managed to catch Laurence Lewellyn-Bowen’s highly entertaining vlog which went up on our website and Facebook page yesterday? It made me laugh a lot – no mean feat these days. Thank you so much for your feedback once again – I enjoyed Malcolm Nelson’s idea to go through old photographs and write names, dates and places on the back. Simple but inspired. As he says, “How many of readers of Saga Magazine ‘inherited’ a box of old photographs and wondered whom the pictures depicted and where and when they were taken? Sadly, the family members who could have told us are long gone… Have you ever thought, ‘I wished I’d asked about my family history when I could have but was too busy living life?’” Well put, and on that note….
I was fascinated to read a recent survey that two thirds of us want to have ‘achieved’ something by the time life returns to normal, whenever that is. Personally, I feel I have more than enough on my plate running the magazine, dealing with this new-fangled technology and coping with three teenagers – but for others more disciplined than me I understand the desire to achieve something tangible during this extraordinary chapter in our lives.
I think, like Malcolm, Esther Rantzen was on to something when she suggested that we should write our life stories to pass on to the next generation. It’s one of those things that we mean to do, so, why not give it a go this week? Experts say a good place to start is to write a short account of several key moments in your life: perhaps what life was like at school, memories of your parents and your home life, your wedding day or first day at work. Here are some tips:
Dig out old photos and/or diaries and family videos to jog your memory and to use in the final account.
Search online for wider events happening at that time; listen to music from the era – it will set your brain whirring.
Phone relatives and/or friends to pool recollections and get more ideas. It’s a good excuse to get in contact again.
Start your family tree if you haven’t already. You may think younger relatives already know a lot of this, but you’d be surprised. You’ll probably manage one generation back fairly easily, but try www.freeukgenealogy.org.uk. It’s a free site updated by volunteers who are transcribing millions of births, marriages, deaths, census data and parish records from 1837 onwards to make them available online. There are already 274 million births, marriages and deaths to search and 46 million records from parish registers.
If writing isn’t your forte, have a look at recordmenow.org. It’s a free app which allows you to record video or audio: it prompts you with questions like recalling your first romance or things you’ve done that have made you most proud.
On the box
Who remembers the Coughing Major? He was the former British Army major Charles Ingram who was caught cheating his way to the top prize on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? back in 2001. His wife Diana and a friend were accused of coughing in strategic moments during the recording to let Charles know the correct answer. ITV are now showing a three-part drama called Quiz (9pm) about the conspiracy, which started last night and continues this week. Two things have surprised me about this gripping drama. One, I didn’t know that the grimly determined Diana, not Charles, was the chief strategist in the plot. She’s brilliantly played by Sian Clifford (who you might recognise from Vanity Fair). And two, just how eerily accurate Michael Sheen is as Chris Tarrant. There are no prosthetics – he relies simply on a strawberry blond wig, but has every Tarrant mannerism and voice pattern off pat. Apparently an exact replica of the original 1990s Millionaire set was constructed in Wimbledon for the drama, after producers ruled that the original studio in Salford was now too modern and up to date!
Wild (in the water)
During one of my daily walks last week, I saw my first frogspawn of the year in a local pond, and reader Roslyn Byfield has sent me a gorgeous picture of coots reinforcing their urban nest on her local river path – four eggs were clearly visible, which is fantastic.
Even if you don’t have a pond, you can still see frogs, toads and newts in your garden as some travel up to 500 metres from a breeding site. Later on, froglets will travel from ponds into neighbouring gardens, too. Ellen Kinsley at The Wildlife Trusts reminds us to leave some long grass at the margins of our lawns and to create a wild patch, as amphibians need damp places to hide.
“You don’t need to build a large, expensive pond to invite amphibians into your garden. Even a small, shallow-edged water feature, a log pile or a compost heap could be tempting for frogs, toads and newts to visit,” Ellen tells me.
“You can provide a safe place for them to spend autumn and winter by leaving a log or an old brick on some damp, soft earth, in the shade, with a small hollow underneath. You might find a newt, or a frog, makes it their winter home.”
How do you tell the difference between frogs and toads? Common frogs have smooth, moist skin that is mottled brown and green, and their large eyes are flecked with gold and brown. They also have longer legs and a trimmer, more athletic shape than toads. Adult females can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a clump of spawn called a raft. The common toad has captivating copper-coloured eyes and a horizontal pupil. Its skin is bumpy, but very soft. Female toads are much larger than males and lay up to 3,000 eggs in a string that looks like a necklace.
For more information on creating a water feature and life in ponds, visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/gardening.
Website of the week
Nasa Live (nasa.gov/nasalive). It’s hard to believe, but on Friday (Apr 17) it’s 50 years since the accident that derailed the Apollo 13 mission – and inspired the eponymous film, starring Tom Hanks as mission commander Jim Lovell. While refreshing my memory about the mission, I stumbled across Nasa Live. It’s basically Nasa’s TV station and shows a mixture of documentaries, interviews with astronauts currently in space and streams live events such as dockings and hatch openings at the International Space Station. Finding your way around it isn’t always easy, but look at the list of upcoming Live events (it’s in US Eastern time, so add five hours).
By the way, a couple of readers got in touch to ask ‘what on earth is streaming and is it easy to do?’ It means to watch something broadcast on your TV, tablet or phone – it can be live or an ‘on demand’ service such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Amazon Prime, Netflix or even YouTube.
Live from their sitting rooms…
Talking of streaming, the Royal Albert Hall is the first venue to announce a series of ‘from home’ shows, featuring artists who should have been performing at the RAH instead doing a 30-60 minute show from their homes. This Saturday (April 18) conductor Moritz Gnann will present pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason and violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing performing Beethoven and Mendelssohn from their living rooms at 7.30pm. Go to royalalberthall.com/rahome.
Knock, knock! Who’s there?
Yesterday I was busy tapping away at my laptop in the home office (aka my kitchen) when a series of sharp taps at the window made me jump out of my skin. No, not a husband or teenager hoping to laugh at me spilling my coffee but a blue tit seemingly intent on getting in. Or perhaps not, as the RSPB’s Caroline Offord explains:
“From inside the house it can seem that the blue tit is trying to get in, but it is in fact attacking its own reflection. This is fairly common territorial behaviour as birds claim, and then defend, their breeding territory. The blue tit has probably chosen its nest site nearby and, seeing its reflection in the window, it thinks that another bird is intruding and tries to drive it away by pecking at it. Many birds behave like this and also attack other reflective objects such as car wing mirrors and hub caps.”
“Blue tits, in common with many other birds, are nesting and laying eggs at the moment. A blue tit’s nest is cup-shaped and made of a mixture of moss, fur, grass, and wool. It is built by the female with little or no help from the male. Females can lay up to 16 eggs, one of the largest clutch sizes of all birds. Eggs are white with red/brown spots and once more it’s the female that does all the work: she sits on the eggs alone and to give them some extra warmth she plucks away some feathers on her stomach to create a patch of bare skin which coveys more heat. We can help blue tits and other nesting garden birds by leaving out hair from our brush or comb, pet fur and fluff from the tumble dryer.”
There’s no shortage of pet fur and general fluff in this house, despite my attempts at a spring clean last week. But now I can claim I was saving it for the birds, rather than admit my below-par housewifely skills…
Exercise of the day: standing hamstring stretch
1. Stand with feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart, facing forwards.
2. Step forward with your left foot. Flex your left foot up towards you.
3. Bend forward at your hips and place your hands on your left thigh. Keep your left leg straight as you slightly bend the right knee.
4. Feel the stretch along your left hamstring (behind the thigh). Hold for 30-60 seconds then switch sides.
1. From which country does ‘Cotija’ cheese originate?
2. What flower takes its name from the Latin word for a wolf?
3. Who was the first black astronaut?
a) Fred Gregory
b) Ron McNair
c) Guy Bluford
4. What was the one and only opera that Beethoven wrote?
b) The Magic Flute
5. Geoff Hurst famously scored a hat-trick when England beat West Germany 4-2 in the Final of the 1966 World Cup. Who scored the other English goal?
a) Bobby Charlton
b) Martin Peters
c) Roger Hunt
6. Who killed JR Ewing?
a) Cliff Barnes
b) Lucy Ewing
c) Kristin Shepard
7. There are only two national flags in the world that are square. One belongs to Switzerland. Who does the other belong to?
a) The Gambia
b) Vatican City
8. What is the sixth of the Ten Commandments?
a) Thou shalt not kill
b) Thou shalt not steal
c) Thou shalt not commit adultery
9. Who sang the first line on Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas in 1984?
a) Boy George
b) Paul Young
10. What year was the Euro introduced?
Well I never…
On Sunday (19 April), it will be 40 years since Johnny Logan won the Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland with his song What’s Another Year. That victory would prove to be the start of a career-defining relationship with the contest for the man born Sean Patrick Michael Sherrard. Not only is he the only performer to win the event twice – he won it again in 1987 with Hold Me Now – but he’s also the only person to have written three winning entries, his third win coming with the song he wrote for his cousin Linda Martin in 1992, Why Me?
Word of the week
Apricate (verb): to turn your face and bask in warm sunshine.
How many times can you subtract the number 5 from 25?
Hint: be careful with that one. It had me fooled (which I admit with my maths skills is not all that surprising).
Keep safe everyone, and see you next week (don’t forget to keep your feedback coming: firstname.lastname@example.org)
PS Here are the answers to last week’s quiz:
1. c) Larry. There was another cat, Freya, but she left in 2014.
2. a) Dilyn. He was adopted by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds in 2019.
3. c) France. The famous statue was dedicated in October 1886.
4. a) Chloe. She later started her own label in 2001.
5. b) Sheffield.
6. a) 1946. The President of the United States will be 74 on 14 June and he shares his birthday with Paul O’Grady, Alan Carr and Boy George.
7. b) New Zealand.
8. b) Dolly Parton.
9. c) 270 degrees.
10. a) Above. Marquess is just below Duke while Earl is just ahead of Viscount.
Today’s number crunching answer: Once, because after you subtract it it's no longer 25.
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