Wishes in the Wind

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A Christmas story

© Chris Meredith

It was deep mid-winter. Snow lay on the ground and barely a bird could be seen in the clear, blue sky.

Children were wrapped up in their hats and coats, ice drops appearing on their noses. Dogs were bounding after snowballs thrown high into the air. Adults were building snowmen, laughing, and chatting to each other as they returned to the joys of their childhood.

Soon the light faded, and the adults, children and dogs slowly and tiredly made their way home.

Silence – until the wind came.

The wind had travelled from oceans far away to be here, gathering speed and ferocity and anger. Static objects only mildly interrupted it. The next objects it encountered were a group of trees that still had bedraggled leaves clinging on for dear life on them.

The wind smiled as it raced to blow the remaining leaves off the tree. A huge puff should do it. Breathing in deeply, the wind blew its cold, wintry breath over the leaves. And within seconds, every tree branch became bare.

The wind stopped a while to catch its breath. As it did so, it noticed a beautiful robin sitting on one of the bare branches. The robin smiled and said to the wind; “You’re a bit of a bully, aren’t you?”

The wind, taken aback, started to blow fiercely at the little robin, making him fall off the branch and onto the white ground below. The wind towered over the robin and glowered at him. The robin simply fluffed his feathers and hopped and danced in a circle in the snow, not showing an ounce of concern.

“There you are, said the robin. You ARE a bully!”

The anger of the wind dissipated and he started to sob gently.

“I am sorry little robin, I know of no other way to behave. It is in my nature to behave like this”,  he explained.

The robin hopped on one foot, then the other and was deep in thought.

“Would you like to change your nature wind, the one that is angry sometimes?” he said.

“I would love to”, wailed the wind, “but I just don’t know how.”

The robin beckoned the wind to pick him up which the wind gladly did, asking, “Take me to that cloud you can see high.”

The wind was intrigued and gently carried the robin to the cloud.

“The cloud is called the wishes cloud and inside this cloud you will find the Christmas wishes of some of our human friends from Cleeve Lodge Residential Home. To see them you must softly breathe on the cloud.”

The wind followed the robin’s instructions and the cloud parted as he breathed onto it. All at once there appeared the faces of Ken, Mary, Elsie, Gordon, Dot, Lilian, Sylvia, and Tom. “Now”, said robin,  “please take me back to the tree where you first met me and then you must go and make their wishes come true. Can you do that?”

The wind nodded and smiled as he swept the robin back to the tree in one huge breath.

“Good luck” said robin – “God’s speed to you.”

The wind turned and moved quickly above the land and hovered above Cleeve Lodge.

He could see Mary and Ken playing out in the fields, knee deep in snow and laughing. Elsie was wrapping up Christmas presents, Gordon and Dot were singing Christmas songs. While all the other residents were tucked up inside, snug and warm.

With a shake of his head the wind rushed over the fields where Ken and Mary were playing and then rushed into an open window at Cleeve Lodge. He tore around the house, brushing the heads of everyone he touched. The care assistants rushed to close the window, but the wind swept through it and was gone.

The wind had what he wanted. He had gathered all the memories of the residents and raced to the wishes cloud. Once there he blew the cloud with all his might and the residents’ Christmas memories tumbled from him and into the cloud of wishes.

Their memories were from distant Christmases past.

Lilian was cuddling a baby doll named Lilly who was enjoying being fed with pretend milk. Mary was kissing a toy panda and pushing it in a dolls pram. Philip was kicking an old leather football, Gordon was pushing a train around a track, Ken was playing a musical instrument while Tom had an array of plastic farm animals. They were children, they were happy and carefree. The whole of their life stretched before them.

The wishes cloud recreated the toys they were playing with. The wind blew them towards Cleeve Lodge and magically wrapped them in Christmas paper as he blew.

They tumbled from the sky, down the chimney and rested under the Christmas tree.

Christmas Day came, and the residents eagerly opened the mysterious presents under the tree. As each one was opened, a special memory of childhood was evoked. All the residents remembered with glee the happy, carefree life they had many moons ago.

Chris Meredith is a writer based in Windsor with a passion for poetry.

He conducts therapeutic poetry sessions at care homes in Berkshire, Surrey and Hampshire sharing his love of the form at weekends since 2015.

His first anthology Words of My Life was published in 2014 and is available through Amazon.

Chris has recently launched a website featuring his work, please visit chris-meredith.co.uk

Show you care this Christmas

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On Monday, St Christopher’s Fellowship launched its Christmas fundraising appeal. They’re raising £20,000 to help make sure children in care and young care leavers don’t feel lonely this Christmas.

St Christopher’s is a charity based in Putney that aims to create brighter futures for children and young people. They do this by providing fostering, residential homes and support services where children and young people can feel safe and cared for.

Their appeal puts a spotlight on the issue of young people’s loneliness. Last month a nationwide survey revealed that 16 – 24 year olds are lonelier than any other age group. This is particularly the case for young care leavers who find themselves living on their own for the first time. Some don’t have a family they can call on for support when they need it, and they may find themselves facing the prospect of being on their own on Christmas Day.

But St Christopher’s want to change things. With your help, this Christmas can be special for children in care and young care leavers. Your donation could buy Christmas presents and Christmas lunch for a children’s home. Or it could buy a train ticket so that a young care leaver can be at their children’s home for Christmas, so they don’t spend the day alone.

A young person who lives at one of St Christopher’s 16+ homes said: “I don’t know where I would be without St Christopher’s? It is like a family.”

Support the appeal today at www.stchris.org.uk/christmas

Self-care: granny knows best

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How do dadimas aka grandmothers self-care?

Can you remember the last conversation you had with a grandmother? What was their attitude towards stress, mental health and self-care? As part of my dadima’s (translated as grandmother’s) project, I’ve interviewed Indian grandmothers for my memoir cookbook, where ‘ordinary’ women (‘extraordinary’ in my view) share their culinary stories and life wisdom, along with some of the challenges they’ve faced. Over several cups of masala chai, and wholesome home-cooking, we talked about everything under the sun. Here are five of their inexpensive wellness tips, that I’ve found helpful in my life.

1. Frame your ‘problems’ through talking and listening
Grandparents can shed light to a ‘problem’, through simply sharing their life experiences. Inter-generational conversations have helped me to put my ‘problems’ into perspective, as the grandmothers had the benefit and wisdom of hindsight, even if their younger lives were very different. Talking and listening are free therapy.

2. Keep your mind calm by thinking good thoughts
Easier said than done, but the grandmothers stressed this. Even if someone had wronged them, they would wish them well, and see the experience as a valuable life lesson for the future. Several grandmothers shared stories of things ‘going wrong’ in life, and the effect of those on their mental and physical health. For example, their stories of migration from India to the UK.

3. Make time for gratitude, meditation, and stilling the mind. Whilst mindfulness, meditation, yoga and gratitude, have now become ‘trendy’ concepts, the grandmothers that I spoke to have practiced it for years. They were either religious or spiritual, and their faith gave them a sense of stillness. They focus on what they have, rather than the culture of ‘I want…’.

4. DIY beauty & wellness remedies
Ayurveda is said to be the world’s oldest, holistic healing system which originates from India. In recent years, it’s become trendy in the UK, in a culinary and wellbeing context (for example, with the popularity of turmeric). The Indian grandmothers I interviewed, are like walking encyclopaedias of wellness remedies, including face and hair masks, and cleansing drinks – tricks that I have grown up with, at a fraction of the cost of commercial products.

5. Make home-cooking a lifestyle
Cooked from scratch, using the best ingredients you can afford. They made the most from the ingredients they had, and made them go far – for example, a big pot of nutritious daal.
For them, home-cooking was a part of their lives. They are no Michelin-star chefs, but their cooking speaks from the heart and is real soul food. See my instagram page and cookbook, for delicious, heritage recipes and time-saving tips.

Anneeka Ludhra is the founder of dadima’s heritage food & lifestyle brand, and author of the dadima’s cookbook. Dadima’s celebrates culinary and life wisdom from elders – particularly grandmothers. Anneeka is looking to interview more grandmothers (and any interested grandfathers) for her 2019 dadima’s project.

Please contact anneeka@dadimas.co.uk if you are a grandmother or grandfather who would like to get involved.
Instagram: @_dadimas
Facebook: dadima’s
Website: www.dadimas.co.uk

Mr Tumble talks to us

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Peter Anderson chats to children’s TV star Justin Fletcher MBE, 48, ahead of another star turn delighting families as we hit pantomime season.

Q. What inspired you to go into acting? “I have always been interested in acting and drama, including making my own animated short films when I was younger with my dad’s Super 8 camera. I was born in – and have always lived in – the Reading area and went to drama school in Guildford. A chance meeting with Philip Scofield led me to asking him how I might get into BBC children’s television. He said ‘make a showreel’, and so I did! Having experience with the Super 8 was a great help. Now I have my own production company and am still loving my children’s television work.”

Q. Who were your inspirations? “One of the people I always wanted to appear with was David Suchet, whose career was also launched in Berkshire [at The Watermill in Newbury]. But one of my real loves – and obviously great for pantomime – is slapstick. I adore watching Laurel & Hardy and their looks directly to camera. I was blessed to have been taught slapstick by Jack Tripp, who is sadly no longer with us. He was considered one of, if not the best pantomime dame in this country.”

Q. How do you think children see your character within this year’s pantomime, at Reading’s Hexagon? “Although I am known and billed as ‘CBBC’s Mr Tumble’, I probably take on more than 20 roles across the programmes I make. But it is very important for the children to understand within the pantomime [Aladdin] who my character is. So, every performance we always have fun with the children about who I am as a character in the pantomime, and get them on-side to help me through the rest of the show.”

Q. Do you enjoy doing panto? “I always enjoy doing pantomimes, in the same way I enjoyed going to the Hexagon as a child in the 1980s to watch them. Aside from, as I said, slapstick being one of my favourite kinds of theatre, it is a marvellous way to get people – especially families – to go to the theatre. Pantomime is one of those things that can be enjoyed by the whole family, parents and children. Then if we can get them coming to pantomimes as they grow older they may wish to try other types of show.”

l Justin is patron of local charity Make A Wish foundation: www.make-a-wish.org.uk

Click here for more interviews.

Peace offerings: Christmas recipes

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Here are some indulgent yet wholesome and uncomplicated recipe ideas to help keep us grounded throughout this mad month.

Almond biscotti

(makes 24)

These are great to make ahead and present in a glass jar or tin when you are serving coffee or after-dinner liqueurs. Dip these in Vin Santo to transport yourself to heaven. Give me these over mince pies any day!

Preheat your oven to 170°C. Add 220g of plain flour, 1½ tsp of baking powder, generous pinch of salt, 60g of ground almonds, 120g of whole almonds and 150g of golden caster sugar to a large bowl and mix together. Lightly beat two eggs and add to the mixture with 1tsp of almond extract and bring together with a wooden spoon. Use your hand to bring the dough together into a ball (it may be a little sticky) then lightly flour a work surface, divide the mixture into two and roll it into two long sausage shapes, about 20cm long each. Lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and slice into 1cm thick pieces using a serrated knife then lay flat back on to the baking sheet and cook in a cooler oven at 150°C for another 20-30 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Chuck steak con carne

(serves 6-8)

This is the kind of one-pot dinner that gives you a break after all the fiddly, feasting food. Really hearty and another crowd-pleaser. Serve with sour cream with a dusting of paprika, grated cheese, nachos and rice or winter slaw.

Heat your oven to 170°C. Chop 1kg of beef brisket into 2.5cm chunks then brown in a hot pan with 2tbsp of vegetable oil in batches. Transfer the beef to a casserole pan then finely chop two red onions and sauté until softened and starting to turn golden. Add five minced garlic cloves, cooking for a few minutes then add 2tsp each of ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano and ½tsp of ground cloves. Add more oil if you need and cook out the spices then add 2-3tbsp of chilli paste (chipotle or ancho work well) and transfer everything to the casserole with the beef. Add two tins of plum tomatoes and 500ml beef stock and bring to a boil then put the lid on and transfer to the oven for two hours. Drain and rinse two tins of kidney beans and add to your casserole, cooking for a further hour without the lid until the beef is tender. Check seasoning and serve.

Winter slaw

(serves 6-8)

Something fresh and tasty to go with leftover turkey or ham. This makes a large bowl and looks great piled high in the centre of the table for people to help themselves. Add some pomegranate seeds for a little sparkle.

In a large bowl mix together 4tbsp of buttermilk, 1tbsp of Dijon mustard, 1tsp of celery salt and the juice and rind of one lemon. Add in two grated carrots, ¼ red and ¼ white cabbage, finely shredded, five finely sliced radishes, five sliced spring onions and a large handful of roughly chopped parsley. Mix together, adjust seasoning to taste and pile high into a serving bowl.

 

Chive blini with salmon, caviar and crème fraiche

 

This is always a great crowd-pleaser. I like to serve these on Christmas morning between breakfast and lunch, as we are all opening presents with some bubbles. It is really worth making these yourself as they are far more tasty than shop-bought, just warm in the oven before serving.

In a large bowl weigh out 100g of plain flour and add a generous pinch of salt. Separate an egg, adding the white to a clean mixing bowl and the yolk to the flour. Measure out 150ml whole milk and add half to the flour. Use an electric whisk to whisk the egg white until it begins to stiffen and leave to one side whilst you then whisk the flour mix until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the milk while continually whisking then 25g of melted butter and a handful of chopped chives. Fold through the egg white. Warm a pan and brush with a little butter until it begins to foam then add small spoonfuls of your batter. Cook on a low heat until the bottoms begin to brown then flip and repeat. Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraiche, smoked salmon, caviar and dill.

 

 

Story lines: Anton du Beke

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Anton du Beke chats to Peter Anderson about writing his new novel One Enchanted Evening ahead of another UK-wide dance tour with Erin Boag in January.

London, 1936. Inside the spectacular ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them… captivate them… and sweep away their cares. However, accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.

Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small home town. She dreams of joining the dancers on the grand ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and discreet doors. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…

“I have to hope for that elusive line of tens!”

Book Mock-WEB

Throughout his career, Anton du Beke who lives in Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, has loved a good story, but up until now he has told it through dance or more recently song. Now, with One Enchanted Evening, his debut novel, Anton has put them into words. So, did all those years of characterisation in dances (and who hasn’t loved some of his creations on Strictly!?) help him with the characters in the novel? He says: “The novel’s characters are based on people I’ve met or stories I’ve heard throughout my career. There are plenty of stories – whether it is of the dance bands and those who loved them – or tales of evenings down the pub, where after the pints had flowed, it tended to be fists that started flying.”

I find it interesting that Anton’s novel harks back to the halcyon days of the 1920s when Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin represented a more avant-garde scene. He laughs. “That’s a connection I hadn’t made. But I loved stories that were based at a definitive period in history.” One of his favourite current writers is Berkshire-based writer Robert Harris whose novels once again are set during World War II.

I ask Anton whether he hopes to continue writing. “Well,” he replies, “there are certainly plenty of tales and adventures I still have in my head for the hero, and there is a second book in the pipeline. But just like my success – or lack of it in Strictly – how many books the publishers are keen on printing depends on the audience vote – and I just have to hope for that elusive line of tens!”

• One Enchanted Evening is published by Bonnier Zaffre in hardback, paperback and e-book and available from all good booksellers and online.

Look out for our January competitions online and in your local Round & About for your chance to win tickets to Erin & Anton’s show at a theatre near you!

Craig Revel Horwood: Strictly panto star

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Craig Revel Horwood shares his thoughts on Strictly, his varied schedule and meeting his wax twin.

Q: We have heard about your waxwork doppelganger in Blackpool – what was it like meeting him? A: “It was quite bizarre, seeing another me because no one ever sees themselves three dimensionally like that! It was so lifelike it was ridiculous. My mum was there and she couldn’t tell us apart! We had the launch in Blackpool Tower. Of course the last time I’d been there was with Strictly and they had spotlights on it in the centre of the ballroom, six dancing girls and fireworks…it was incredible!”

Q: Are you looking forward to playing the Wicked Stepmother in the panto Cinderella at Woking’s New Victoria theatre? A: “I do feel like I’ve come full circle, I just wish I was as beautiful as I was 30 years ago! You have to look after yourself as you can’t go off partying the whole time… but it’s fantastic, it keeps me thin all the way through Christmas! [Pantomime} is an introduction for children to live theatre and as live theatre is my passion I really encourage that. It also teaches children generally about theatre, which I think is the most important thing about doing panto. Coming to the theatre is a unique and individual experience and you can interact with the cast too… it’s great!”

Q: You seem to have a hectic schedule, do you? “I’m working on material now for Christmas 2020. It is crazy! As for Strictly  I still get very excited and very nervous when I hear the opening music… It’s a whole new bunch of people, a whole new cast each time, so it’s always fresh. Seeing people who’ve never danced before realising dance can actually be taught.. and just seeing the enjoyment that people get out of it is great. It’s a gift.. people are no longer socially inept when it comes to dancing and that’s fantastic! It’s the only show really you can have on a Saturday night with the whole family… It’s great fun, the best Saturday job ever!”

Q: Which is your favourite dance to do yourself? “The Argentine Tango is my favourite, I just love that; it’s the way the body is intertwined, how fast it is and how the woman responds to the man’s lead and how much is improvised, it’s a very cool dance, when it’s done well!”

Q: How do you feel about Shirley Ballas’ addition to the judging panel? A: “I think Shirley has made a fantastic addition to the Strictly family, she’s really confident and has learned to be less technical which is good, I think, as that can bedazzle people… she’s fitted in nicely and it’s wonderful having another woman on the panel.”

Q: You’ve directed the opera La Traviata and seem willing to tackle an infinite variety of projects? “As long as I’m in the Arts, those challenges push you forwards. I conducted Act II of La Boheme which was amazing… I studied music at school and can read music which helps and I’ve been singing, dancing and acting to music my whole life so this was really another way to understand what the conductor does. When you’re doing it yourself you get very immersed in it and you and the music become one.”

Q: You’ve written a new volume of autobiography, out soon, In Strictest Confidence, how do you feel about that? “It’s a good, fun read. I try and keep it light but it’s also tackling the death of my father and goes into all the emotions that one goes through. [His first memoir] All Balls & Glitter was really to get skeletons out of the closet so other people couldn’t tell stories about me; whereas this one is answering questions that people ask.. about Strictly, about my life and how one copes with being a celebrity and how that changes your life entirely.”

Q: Do you enjoy being in the public gaze? “The only thing I find good about being a celebrity is that you can raise money for charity and I’ve done quite a lot of that. My mum has chronic rheumatoid arthritis but osteoporosis can be prevented by exercise up to the age of 23 so that’s why it was a charity I chose in order to change people’s lives.”

Q: What was it like choreographing the final scene in Paddington 2, the big dance number led by Hugh Grant? “I taught Hugh to tap dance which was fun; he was absolutely fantastic and really applied himself because it’s tough; he literally learned in three weeks but was spending three hours a day practising.”

Q: You’re also reprising the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie in the West End… A: “She’s wonderful, a misunderstood character who actually has a lot of love to give but unfortunately the children don’t see that. She just really wants a man in her life to take care of her and not finding it tries to find the answers at the bottom of a bottle which, as we know, doesn’t work. I just enjoy her, she’s a lovely character and is funny and scary with it too, you don’t often get all that!”

Q: What’s your life philosophy? “Life is very short and you have to just go out and don’t fear anything. I’m open to whatever comes along. I’d love to direct a film as well but I think I need to act first to see how it all works then can apply everything I’ve learned from that (and from directing musicals) to film.. and perhaps promote dance in film. I’d love to do that!”

No Tourists

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Angus Scripps reviews The Prodigy live at Alexandra Palace as part of their European live tour…

The Prodigy brought their No Tourists tour to London’s Ally Pally on Wednesday night. As a band who have been around for close to 30 years, they are certainly practised at putting on a live show.

Despite their advancing years Liam and the gang can still make the room feel young. And on a school night as well…

From wall to ceiling, from the Nineties to the Naughties, they had a massive roomful of people in the palm of their hand.

Their set contained a perfect mix of ear-splitting heavy dance tunes from their new album (theprodigy.tmstor.es) and classics from their extensive back catalogue, which drove the crowds wild.

‘The Prodigy are no tourists and never were.’

A live Prodigy gig is like no other. They create a rave atmosphere complete with mosh pits and lasers that’s not for the faint-hearted. If you are a fan of what they do this is a tour not to be missed.

Always uncompromising, The Prodigy’s influence can be seen across generations, turning metal kids on to raving and ravers into metalheads. The band put out genre-destroying record after genre-defying record and, from the very start, were renegade revolutionaries. Put simply, The Prodigy are no tourists and never were.

Want to see for yourself? You can make a trip of it to catch The Prodigy on their live Eurpoean tour. They’ll play Berlin on Tuesday, 27th November, Munich on Wednesday 28th, Livorno on Friday 30th, Rimini on Saturday, 1st December, Zurich on Monday 3rd December, Frankfurst on Tuesday, 4th December, Dusseldorf on Wednesday 5th December, Brussels on Friday 7th December, Luxembourg on Saturday 8th and Amsterdam on Sunday 9th. www.theprodigy.com

Watch the ‘Need Some1’ video: https://TheProdigy.lnk.to/NeedSome1VidPR

Stream ‘Need Some1’: https://TheProdigy.lnk.to/NoTouristsPR

Katie Melua Guildford & London shows

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The star singer, 34, tells us about her latest tour, what she’s learnt in her 15-year career, and why her grandad is still her biggest fan.

In a vast warehouse on the outskirts of the market town of Bedford, Katie Melua puts the finishing touches to her European autumn and winter tour. As I watch one of the final production rehearsals I wonder what’s next for someone who has already achieved so much in such little time.

“Well I’ve been writing loads and I’m really excited about seeing what else is possible with records,” says Melua, wrapped in a golden Georgian robe, her chosen costume for this particular rehearsal. Behind her, as she performs, are beautiful projected animations of flora and fauna. This is as much an arts exhibition as it is a concert.

“I’m in an interesting place where my music’s not really pop and it doesn’t belong in R&B and those lanes – but it’s not really classical, jazz, blues or folk either. So it’s sort of in this space that gets inspired by lots of different genres.”

“I’m in an interesting place where my music’s not really pop and it doesn’t belong in R&B and those lanes – but it’s not really classical, jazz, blues or folk either. So it’s sort of in this space thatgets inspired by lots of different genres.”

Katie’s ability to so freely and adeptly move from genre to genre is clear to see in the live show as she skips between classical Georgian pieces, the tempo shifting alt-classical piece ‘The Flood’, and now iconic jazz/folk standards like ‘Nine Million Bicycles’ and ‘The Closest Thing To Crazy’ her first ever single. But in the fifteen years since that single’s release, which positioned Katie as one of the biggest female stars of her generation, what has she learnt?

“When things took off at the start in such a big way, it did floor me a little bit! I didn’t expect it to be that big.” You can tell by the tone of Katie’s voice, that there’s a tiny part of her that still is awed by the massive success of her career. Her debut record has, at the time of writing, sold close to 2 million records in the UK alone and she’s one of two female artists to have seven consecutive top ten albums in the UK, the other being Kate Bush.

Katie tells me she’s been increasingly involved in the behind the scenes elements of this tour. Once again she will be joined on tour by The Gori Women’s Choir and her band, but for this tour she has also teamed up with the BAFTA nominated directing duo Karni and Saul who animated the award-winning music video for last year’s single ‘Perfect World’.

“Karni and Saul are brilliant visionaries,” she says. “They did such a beautiful job on the video. I can share my ideas and thoughts with them and then leave them to create their beautiful animations. After months of work we’re seeing what they have created and it’s even better than I thought it would be.”
Speaking about the process, Karni and Saul said that they “loved working with Katie on her last album, creating the magic world of sugar and ice in the music video for ‘Perfect World’. So when she approached us to help create a world and visual story for her brand new winter tour we jumped at the opportunity. Katie is a talented songwriter and performer and, though she knows what she wants, she also lets us have a lot of creative freedom…which we thrive off.”
Joining Katie on stage will be a “more traditional four-piece band” as well as The Gori Women’s Choir. Katie’s voice rises in excitement when talking about the new tour. “It’s going to be a winter show but then it’s going to transition into spring. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited and happy about a tour before.”

‘In Winter’, Katie’s last album was a critical and commercial success, and a departure sonically from her previous records, with Katie getting back in touch with her Georgian routes (she was born there before moving to the UK in 1993). The record was also co-produced and co-mixed by Katie herself, and marks a new era for her as a creative force in her own work.

Since ‘In Winter’s’ release, Katie has become something of a national treasure, even receiving the key to the city of Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital.

“Oh my god, it was a bit bizarre and brilliant! They put on a gig for me, it was a birthday concert, and they said they had 10,000 people there. I had been told there would be a pause and the mayor would come up and there would be a surprise but I didn’t know what it would be. And then he made this really lovely speech and gave me a big golden key!”

“In Georgia, they are so positive when a single one of theirs does well, it just pumps you up with so much energy you literally feel like you’re floating. I think that’s what I’m happiest and proudest about, to be a Georgian.”

Do you ever think you’d make it onto a bank note, I jokingly ask?
“That seems like it’s a bit extreme! I don’t know. My grandad would be happy about that because he loves all that, when he goes to the market he’s always showing off about the fact he’s my grandad! In Georgia there isn’t that subtlety about success, if you’ve made it, it’s brilliant! You’ve got to be proud.”

It seems to be quite a British thing, to shy away from one’s success I suggest to her.

“Yeah and I’m more British in that way, so it really throws me over when [Georgians] are like that, but it does a great thing to your self-confidence. I still appreciate there’s still a lot to be done!”

With a stunning and engaging new tour and an exciting future, Katie should embrace her Georgian confidence, because this is an artist in her creative and musical stride. Katie Melua: The Ultimate Collection is out now. Katie tours the UK this winter, including a show at Guildford’s G Live on Tuesday, 4th December and London’s Central Hall Westminster on Saturday, 8th December.

Let’s get crafty!

Liz Nicholls

All Areas

Happy half term everyone! How’s it going so far?

My daughter and I stayed in our pyjamas until gone lunchtime on Monday then decided to get some fresh air by foraging for autumn leaves and returning for some Halloween-themed craft!

Blue Peter celebrated its 60th birthday last week and we’re inspired to make lots of Halloween crafts.

Here at Round & About we’re keen to promote responsible trick or treating, so please make sure that you only knock on doors which have a pumpkin or similarly spooky paraphernalia on display! The quandary we find ourselves in is that we want to welcome knockers on the evening but are also keen to go out & about so we try to race back as soon as we can!

There are so many great ideas for decorating pumpkins (or kits if you want to make it even easier!). This year we’ve decided to go for bats which was an easy and fun choice (see pic!).

We’ve also raided the craft cupboard at home to create some pipe cleaner critters – snakes and rainbow tarantulas! They look fab in our window web display, with a random collection of cacti and spooky bits and bobs.

We want to know and see what you’ve been making so please drop a line & share!