Talking Point: Nigel Havers

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Liz Nicholls chats to actor, dad, and all-round charming man Nigel Havers, 67, who is set to star in ART at Richmond Theatre.

February is here which brings Valentine’s Day! Do you celebrate?

“In a word: no! My wife is not interested in Valentine’s Day, thank God. We don’t bother at all. If that sounds unromantic, perhaps it would be to say that I think every day should be Valentine’s Day!”

Q. What do you enjoy most about ART?

“ART is my favourite play which is why I’ve done it so many times. It’s beautifully written by Yasmina [Reza] and one of the best comedies ever… Thirdly, it’s a joy to take part in because, being such a short play, you’re in the pub before 9pm!”

Q. You always have a lot on; how do you relax when you’re not working? Do you watch soaps?

“I don’t watch any soaps, no. It being panto season, I haven’t not worked for quite a while – I’ve forgotten how I relax! I tend to keep busy, but if I’m not lying down, I’m walking.”

Q. Does your dog accompany you much?

“Yes; she’s a black poodle who’s cut like a mongrel so people are always surprised when I tell them her breed. She’s called Charlie and a real character. I live between Wiltshire and London and we often take her to the pub with us. The Bell at Ramsbury is a lovely dog-friendly pub near us. In London there are several; we like Colbert in Sloane Square and a restaurant called Lucio’s in Fulham Road. I don’t know why more places don’t allow well-behaved dogs.”

Q. What’s the greatest lesson fatherhood has taught you?

“Agree with your daughter! Give them anything they want! Because they’ll win in the end so that little nugget will at least save you time.”

Q. Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to visit?

“I haven’t been to Vietnam and I’d like to explore that part of the world.”

Q. You’re godfather to Jack Whitehall, too. Do you see a hidden side to him?

“He’s a very bad influence on me! No; he’s a sweetheart; a really lovely man. There’s nothing secret about him because he lays it all bare in his acts. He’s very honest about his life. When he first started as a comedian, he performed at a pub in Putney and invited me to come along to watch and advise. My advice to him at the end of it was: look – don’t try to be a comedian! Well, that didn’t work and I’m glad he didn’t take it!”

  Nigel Havers, Denis Lawson and Stephen Tompkinson star in ART on tour this month. Visit for more information.


See it at Richmond Theatre, 4th to 9th March.

For tickets, click here or call 0844 871 7651 (normal charge plus 7p per minute).


See it at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, 18th to 23th February.

For tickets, click here or call 01483 440000


See it at Oxford Playhouse, 4th to 9th February.

For tickets, click here or call 01865 305305


Chinese Whispers: February recipes

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Ahead of Chinese New Year on Tuesday, 5th February (the Year of the Pig), local star Ching He Huang shares her wisdom…

Cheat Char Siu Pork with Pak Choy

(Prep: 10mins – Cooking: 20 mins – Serves: 4-5)

I love the flavour of char siu pork but it takes some time to roast and if you want dinner in minutes then this is my cheat char siu pork
stir-fry. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.


1 tablespoon rapeseed oil, 2 garlic cloves – crushed and finely chopped, Knob of fresh root ginger – peeled and grated, 1 tablespoon Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry, 200g pak choy leaves – sliced in half on the diagonal

For the pork
250g pork fillet – cut into 5mm slices, 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 1 teaspoon hoisin, 1 teaspoon runny honey, Pinch of sea salt flakes, Pinch of ground white pepper, 1 tablespoon cornflour

For the sauce
50ml cold water, 1 tablespoon low-sodium light soy sauce, 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce, 1/2 teaspoon yellow bean paste or miso paste


1. Place all the ingredients for the pork, except the cornflour, in a bowl and turn to coat the meat evenly. Dust with the cornflour and set aside.

2. Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a jug, then set aside.

3. Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking and add the rapeseed oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds to release their flavours.

4. Add the pork fillet and let it settle for 10 seconds to sear and brown, then flip it over. Add the Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry and toss for another 5 seconds.

5. Add the pak choy leaves, then drizzle in 1 tablespoon cold water around the edge of the wok to create some steam to help it cook. Toss for 30 seconds to wilt the leaves, then pour in the sauce and toss again.

6. Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately.

Shiitake, Kimchi and Pineapple Fried Rice

(Prep: 10 mins, Cooking: 20 mins, Serves: 6-8)

A delicious sweet, umami-flavoured fried rice. Perfect for supper, any night of the week.


1 tablespoon rapeseed oil, Knob of fresh root ginger – peeled and grated, 5 large fresh shiitake mushrooms – rinsed, patted dry and cut into thin slices (stalks optional), 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon fermented cucumber kimchi – finely sliced, 300g cooked brown rice (150g uncooked), 2 tablespoons low-sodium light soy sauce, 100g fresh pineapple – finely diced into cubes, 5g spring onion to garnish – sliced on a deep diagonal


1. Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking and add the rapeseed oil.

2. Add the grated ginger and stir-fry for five seconds, then add the shiitake mushrooms and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

3. Season with the dark soy sauce, then add the sliced cucumber kimchi followed by the cooked rice and toss together for one minute.

4. Season with the light soy sauce, then add the fresh pineapple cubes and toss gently into the rice.

5. Garnish with the spring onions and serve immediately.

Zhajiang Smokey Bacon Noodles

(Prep: 10mins – Cooking: 20 mins – Serves: 2)

Zhajiang mein means mixed sauce noodles. This classic Beijing dish is made with fresh hand-pulled noodles. There are many varieties and some are saucier than others, the traditional Zhajaing noodle is slightly drier – my personal preference.


2 tbsp rapeseed oil,  tbsp finely chopped garlic, tbsp finely chopped root ginger, 2 tbsp diced baby leeks, teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, 200g smoked lardons, finely diced, tbsp Shaohsing rice wine or dry sherry, tbsp fragrant oil (see tip), tsp dark soy sauce, 150ml hot chicken or pork stock, tbsp tian mian jiang or hoisin sauce, tbsp yellow bean paste or miso paste

For the noodles:
tbsp sesame oil, tsp dried chilli sauce laced with chilli oil, 200g plain wheat flour or egg noodles, cooked, drained and tossed with 1 tsp toasted sesame oil

For the garnish:
2 small red radishes, sliced into matchsticks, 1/2 cucumber, deseeded and sliced into matchsticks, 1 spring onion, finely chopped


1. Divide sesame oil and chilli sauce between two serving bowls. Place cooked noodles in the bowl, toss in oil and sauce and set aside.

2. Heat wok over high heat until smoking, add rapeseed oil.

3. Add garlic, leeks and peppercorns and toss , add lardons and stir-fry for a minute.

4. Add rice wine or dry sherry, fragrant oil and dark soy sauce, stir fry for a minute.

5. Add stock, tian mian jiang or hoisin sauce and yellow bean paste or miso and toss well.

6. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring until pork is cooked.

7. Divide the pork mixture between the two bowls of noodles and garnish as above. Sprinkle spring onion and serve.

Heat 5 tablespoons of groundnut oil. Add a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon grated ginger and 1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onion, cook for 1 minute then strain the oil into a glass jar. Keep for 5 days in a cool place.

• Recipes from Stir Crazy, published by Kyle Books, photography by Tamin Jones. Visit

Win! Ching-He Huang cookbook and wok

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Win! A copy of Ching-He Huang’s Stir Crazy cookbook and a scratch-proof Lotus Wok

Born in Taiwan, and raised in South Africa and the UK, TV chef and cookery author Ching-He Huang has become an ambassador of Chinese cooking around the world. Ching fuses traditions from her Chinese heritage with a 21st-century attitude to create fresh dishes.

Stir Crazy, Ching’s eighth cookbook, features 100 delicious, healthy and simple stir-fry recipes. Ching reveals when to add what to the pan and how to get the best out of each ingredient to achieve that crisp finish and smokey ‘wok hei’ flavour which Chinese masters love.

Created by Ching, the Lotus Wok is made using the latest technology to blend an authentic Asian cooking style with the superior performance of modern cookware. Suitable for every kind of hob, it can be used to blanch, braise, deep-fry, pan-fry, sear, smoke, steam and stew, as well as stir-fry.

To enter this competition, complete the form below by 12pm on 1st March.

  Click here to see our February recipes from star chef Ching-He Huang

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Rock solid: megaliths

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Andy Burnham offers his guide to some of the best megalithic sites here in South East England which you can visit.

While you may associate stone circles, henges and other megalithic sites with Wiltshire, Cornwall or Scotland, a few have survived here in south-east England. The stone monuments date back to the late Neolithic era, around 4,500 years ago and the earthen round barrows are about 1,000 years younger, from the Bronze Age.

● The Devil’s Quoits – stone circle & henge

Nearest village: Stanton Harcourt | Map: SP 4112 0476 | Lat: 51.74004N | Long: 1.40588W
fascinating monument and a triumph of the art of reconstruction, this site was extensively damaged by gravel extraction and the construction of an airfield during World War II, when the original bank of the henge was levelled to make way the runway. By 1940, only one stone remained, with others buried near their former positions while the airfield was in use. Careful excavation in the later part of the 20th century provided a complete plan of this 79m (259ft) circle, with its original stone-holes. The henge is huge, with a ditch diameter of 120m (394ft) and entrances at each side. Between 2002 and 2008 the standing stones were re-erected, along with many newly quarried ones, and the great banks and ditches were restored. Once again 36 gravel conglomerate stones now stand fresh-looking and their deep red colour catches the winter sun beautifully.
Find it: Just outside Stanton Harcourt village, follow the signs to the recycling centre. Continue until you get to a small parking area on your left opposite a lorry weighbridge, where you can check in and ask for directions to the stones, a pleasant walk of a few hundred metres.

● Micheldever Wood – round barrows

Nearest village: Micheldever | Map: SU 5277 3721
There’s an archaeological trail through the woods that takes in a number of barrows
and an Iron Age “banjo” enclosure. The bowl barrow is damaged on its northern side by quarrying for flints or clay, but is still 25m (82ft) across and 2m (6½ft) high. The woods are stunning in spring when the bluebells are out.

● Setley Plain – round barrows

Nearest village: Brockenhurst
Map: SU 2962 0002
On Setley Plain in the New Forest are three impressive disc barrows, all of them damaged by antiquarian investigation in the 18th century. The ditch and outer bank of the north-western barrow are interrupted by the bank of one of the others so they overlap, which is unusual.

● Cissbury Ring – Hill Fort & Flint Mines

Nearest village: Findon
Map: TQ 1391 0803
Dating from around 250BC, Cissbury Ring is the largest Iron Age hill fort in Sussex and the second largest in England, covering some 24 hectares (60 acres). Partially enclosed within its ramparts are much older (Neolithic) flint mines. When the mine shafts were excavated in the 1870s, three of the 13 investigated were found to contain rock art and carved chalk blocks. Further prehistoric art was found in another shaft excavated in the 1950s, suggesting once again that there was more going on here than the simple extraction of chalk. The site’s name probably comes from 16th-century attempts to associate the fort with the Saxon chief Cissa.

● The Hoar Stone – chambered tomb

Nearest village: Enstone | Map: SP 3779 2375 | Lat: 51.911N | Long: 1.45204W
Discreetly sited in a copse beside the road, this is a very ruinous but impressively atmospheric tomb. Green with moss, only three stones remain, one nearly 2.7m (9ft) tall, the others 1.5m and 0.9m (5ft and 3ft). In 1925 there were six stones and a mound, but there’s no sign of the mound or the three missing stones now. At Midsummer’s Eve, it is said, the largest stone goes down to the village to drink, or alternatively to the brook at Woodford. Another story depicts the stones as an old man, his horse and his dog, all turned to stone. Still another has it that a ghost has been seen walking from the tomb north toward the village.

● Lambourn Seven Barrows

Map: SU 3289 8288 | Lat: 51.54198N | Long: 1.52901W
Some 42 barrows have been identified in the Lambourn valley, with a group of ten (the “Seven” Barrows) running in two parallel rows near the road, clearly visible. They are mostly bowls, but there are some disc and saucer barrows, and a long barrow. Some were found to hold intact burials, some cremations. Grave goods included various flint arrows and a small, polished, rectangular jet pendant, with a hole that was smoothed, showing it had been worn.

● The Rollright Stones – megalithic complex

Nearest village: Long Compton | Map: SP 2958 3087 | Lat: 51.97555N | Long: 1.57080W
The three Rollright sites are linked in folklore through the famous tale, first mentioned in brief in William Camden’s Britannia (1586), of the would-be king of England who was turned to stone by a witch, along with his knights and foot soldiers, when seven strides failed to reveal to him the village in the valley below. In 2015, the media seized on the discovery of a female skeleton, buried below an Anglo-Saxon ritual spoon (patera), as proof of the existence of Long Compton’s witch – although “Rita” (as she was dubbed) actually lived some three millennia after the raising of the circle. The Rollright Stones still have a strong draw for modern Pagans and ceremonies are regularly held here. The King’s Men are interestingly weathered, oolitic limestone stones positioned in a 33m (108ft) ring, smoother sides facing inward. Comparisons of antiquarian drawings and lichen analysis reveal many of the stones have been moved and re-erected over the centuries. It is thought they originally formed an almost continuous wall of some 80 uprights, built around 2500BC. The stones are thought to be of local origin. There were tales of the King’s Men returning to life, linking hands and dancing at midnight, and they were also said to go down to a well at Little Rollright to drink – as did the petrified king himself at the sound of the church clock striking 12. Perhaps 1,000 years separate the building of the circle from the raising of the King Stone, now found across the road (SP 2962 3095). This 2.5m (8ft) standing stone may have been a marker for a Bronze Age cemetery. The stone’s odd shape was caused by the historic practice of chipping off pieces as good-luck charms and amulets against the Devil. It was protected (along with the other Rollright sites) by the first Schedule of Ancient Monuments in 1882. The King Stone was known in local legend as the meeting place of Long Compton’s witches, and was also said to mark one of the entrances to the fairy halls under the circle.

The Whispering Knights (SP 2993 3084), 357m (1,171ft) east of the stone circle, predate the King’s Men by 1,000–1,500 years. Legend tells how the knights were turned to stone as they plotted against the king. It is said that women used to question the Knights, pressing an ear against a stone to receive their oracular wisdom.

I hope this has been an interesting introduction to a few sites…

You can find many more on our Megalithic Portal at – look for the ‘Find a Site’ menu to get close to prehistory on your doorstep.

Andy Burnham is the author & editor of The Old Stones: A Field Guide to the Megalithic Sites of Britain and Ireland, published by Watkins and out now.

Pictured: Pentre Ifan by Robin Potticary

Adult care guide: Winter 2019

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Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Later life can be full of fun & mental stimulation. In February we focus on adult care and our moving interview with Sir Jackie Stewart as well as initiatives from silverswans.


Inspired by his wife’s diagnosis, Sir Jackie Stewart has launched a £2million funding drive in Race Against Dementia, writes Karen Neville.

Motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart is embarking on the greatest and most personal challenge of his life. His wife of 56 years, Lady Helen Stewart was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia four years ago, driving him to establish the Race Against Dementia (RAD).

The three-time Formula One world champion has launched a £2million search for new scientists to develop breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of dementia. RAD aims to find a solution that will allow millions of people to live longer with dementia.

There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and millions more carers and family members who struggle to cope as their loved one suffers.

Unless a cure is found, one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime. However, behind each statistic such as these
are the real people dealing with the disease and its effects on a daily basis, each with their own unique heart-breaking story – memories, passions and ambitions that are slowly fading away.

The £2m of research funding to find a solution to this will be administered in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK and will support innovative new ideas in dementia research through research fellowships.

Sir Jackie says: “The Race Against Dementia is the greatest challenge of my life, but with the right people and the right approach we can encourage and accelerate a new way of thinking and cross the finish line with success.”

The chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, Hilary Evans said they were very grateful for the support of Sir Jackie and his sons, Paul and Mark. She says: “It has been inspirational to see Sir Jackie and the family step up to this challenge and to pour drive and determination into taking on the greatest medical challenge.

“We’re proud to have been working with him in setting up these ambitious global Race Against Dementia fellowships.

“These new fellowships are targeted at up-and-coming scientific global talent and will stimulate the careers of researchers with the drive and ambition to make breakthroughs possible that will transform lives.”

Sir Jackie hopes the fellowships will attract talent from all over the world and open the door to a new range of opportunities to “beat this horrendous illness”.

He adds: “Helen has always been my rock and her razor-sharp mind was one of the first things that I fell in love with. Four years on from her diagnosis, she’s still the same Helen, with the same sense of humour, but with a gradual decline in memory and mobility that throws up all sorts of challenges that she, and we, have had to learn to cope with.”

Admitting that his family’s world has been turned upside down, he also acknowledges that they are very fortunate to be able to afford 24-hour specialist care. He says: “I know this is not possible for millions of other families touched by dementia. The cost of care can be enormous and, from a medical point of view, there are very few treatments that can make life easier. This has to change.”

The couple’s sons are ambassadors for Race Against Dementia. Paul has written a song to his mother, entitled Praise You, as a gift to thank her for everything she has done for the family over the years. He says: “I wrote the words as a way to trigger special moments that we have shared together. Dementia has impacted not just my mother but all of us and in particular my father.”

Mark says his mother has always been a strong and loving parent, dedicating herself to the family. He adds: “Sadly we have seen up close what this terrible disease can do. Race Against Dementia is our family’s way of turning a negative in to something positive.”

70 per cent of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease or any other type of dementia

Five times fewer researchers choose to work on dementia than on cancer


Become a Silver Swan and improve your body and mind through ballet.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re Darcey Bussell or have two left feet, dance improves your quality of life. Specially designed for older learners, Silver Swans ballet classes will not only help you keep fit and active physically but also help keep your mind in shape.

Silver Swans teachers are trained specifically to teach a range of abilities and ages over 55. Joining a local class will help improve your mobility, posture, coordination and energy levels.

Dance can improve your life in a variety of ways including improving energy levels and balance, helping to reduce stress and supporting weight loss as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and improving the immune system. Dancing increases cognitive ability by promoting new connections in the brain and it may even help stave off dementia in later life

If you’re an older learner, the social benefits of joining a dance class will also increase your sense of wellbeing – it’s a great way to expand your social circle and meet new people.

That’s certainly been the case for 74-year-old Anna, who says she lived for dancing when she was younger and then, having done nothing for more than 50 years, was thrilled to find Silver Swans. Anna considers ballet a wonderful discipline, both mentally and physically.

While most of those at the classes are women, 60-year-old Ian, who joined a class in Leatherhead 18 months ago, says he decided to do it when looking for exercise that didn’t involve the gym. He laughs: “I am told I’m getting better and I think I am, but it is a very long way to the Royal Opera House.”

Another dancer, Jane, 63, had long been wanting to find an adult ballet class, mindful of how it can help body and mind. She was further inspired after seeing a a 70-year-old woman perform, recalling: “She danced with such grace, within her own limits but demonstrating how beautiful old age could be. She was very moving. A role model to be all you can be at any stage of your life.”

   For more details, visit

Studies have shown that dancing plays a role in helping diminish the symptoms of depression

Research has found 75% of the factors which affect quality of life and longevity are related to your lifestyle


Music is key to unlock memories when it comes to dementia care.

Singing is about so much more than hitting the right notes and making a good sound – it can improve brain activity, wellbeing and mood.

For the Alzheimer’s Society it means much more even than that – singing can unlock memories and kickstart the brain, an increasingly key feature of dementia care which is why the society’s Singing for the Brain sessions are so beneficial.

Run in dozens of different locations across the country, it aims to boost confidence, self esteem and quality of life by involving people with dementia and their carers in singing sessions.

Singing for the Brain groups allow people with dementia to express themselves and interact creatively with others. The idea sprang from Singing for the Brain founder Chreanne Montgomery-Smith who when working in a nursing home noticed how residents responded positively to music.

Beginning with a quiz which used familiar tunes, Chreanne noticed how gradually everyone joined in, including one woman who couldn’t remember her name but knew every song.

She explains: “It made me realise that people with dementia had a special ability to remember songs. Even if people with dementia can’t talk, they may be able to sing, whistle, clap or tap their feet. It helps them – and their carers – to feel life is worthwhile.”

The positive effect of Singing for the Brain groups has been proved by talking to those involved. “Dementia is a devastating condition, slowly stripping people of their memories, relationships and identities. It’s so important to still include people with dementia in social activities – no one should have to face it alone, “ says Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society.

He added: “This study suggests that this transformation could be in part due to parts of the brain connecting better for a brief time after hearing music.

“Further research is needed to help understand the longer-term effects of music and help show that it’s not only drugs that can help people manage with dementia.”

Professor Paul Robertson, an academic and concert violinist who has made a study of music in dementia care said music tends to stay with us to the end and that the auditory system is the first to fully function at just 16 weeks. He says: “This means you are musically receptive long before anything else. It’s a case of first in, last out when it comes to a dementia-type breakdown of memory.”

   For exact details about locations and dates go to!/search

Singing can reach parts of the brain in ways other forms of communication cannot


We’ve teamed up with the experts at Age UK to help you consider some simple changes to make your home safer & more comfortable.

Change is seldom easy. And it’s not always easy to know where to start – especially if you’ve lived in your house a long time. But the Age UK team can help you make the choices that feel right for you.

Answering the door

If it’s difficult to get to the front door, think about installing a system that lets you speak to visitors and manage who you let in. Modern door-entry intercoms can help you find out who’s there or you could install an easy-to-fit wireless doorbell that comes with an entry phone to keep near your chair. A video entry phone can help you see who’s at the door – some video entry phones allow you to press a button to open the door from where you’re sitting. Many DIY shops and high-street retailers stock wireless doorbells and key safes. You could ask a family member, handyperson or Home Improvement Agency to fit them for you.

Moving around

Make sure your home is well lit. Think about motion-sensor lights that come on automatically when you get out of bed or enter a room. If you find you need a lot more room or want to keep all essential facilities (like the toilet or shower) on one floor, extending might be an option. Talk to a qualified surveyor or architect.


An extra banister rail or a stairlift can make life easier. Depending on the size and layout of your home, it might be possible to install a through-floor wheelchair lift. Remember, though, that if you rent your home or share access with other people, you may need permission from your landlord or your neighbours to make changes.

Disability support

If you want to make some adaptations, you may be eligible for financial support from your council to make small changes. For larger adaptations, you can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant. Your first step is to get a free care needs assessment from your local council who will send a social worker or an occupational therapist to assess your needs. If your needs are considered “eligible”, the council has a duty to support you. Specialist disability equipment is provided free of charge if recommended by your council and minor adaptations – such as grab rails, short ramps, a dropped curb or outside lights – are also provided and fitted free.

   Call the Age UK advice line on 0800 055 6112. There are more than 140 local Age UK centres willing to help, too. Please visit

A police-approved key safe is a good option if you want friends, relatives or carers to let themselves in

Widening door frames or changing the direction your doors open can help you get about –particularly if you use a wheelchair

Q&A with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody

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Snow Patrol’s frontman Gary Lightbody chats about his recent move to L.A. and what goes into their shows.

Q. Is it good to finally be back with Snow Patrol after so long away and obviously working with other musicians on other projects?

“Yeah, course. You know, we were working together all the way through those seven years. I mean we started making the album that would eventually be called Wildness in 2013 with a view of getting that out in 2014 I guess, but it just didn’t work out that way and we wanted to keep rolling really. All we did was take one year off Snow Patrol, and then we got back at it. The songs just weren’t ready, they weren’t right, unfortunately it took a lot longer than we thought. It’s so exciting to be back, to have the album finished, have the album out there, to get back out on tour, and you know, to tour Britain and Ireland again is amazing. We can’t wait.”

Q. With you having moved to LA and other members living in the UK, how easy was the writing process?

“Yeah I mean, we took a little bit of a break. Nathan went and started Little Matador, I did another Tired Pony album and co-wrote with a bunch of different people including Taylor Swift, and Johnny McDaid was doing that as well with lots of different people and producing. Jonny started Polar Publishing, Pablo was writing and producing with people, too, so everybody was doing their own thing, and I was trying to write the Snow Patrol album at the same time but, you know, I’ll write generally on my own and then I’ll take it in to Garrett (producer) and we will work on tracks together and then everyone else will come in over the period. The years between 2013 when I started writing and 2017 when we finished, we would get together for a couple of weeks or a month at a time. I think the album was probably about nine months work in those four, nearly five years. So it wasn’t constant working for five years – that would have probably killed us.”

Q. Now that you have had that turnaround in your personal life has this changed your songwriting?

“I have access now to a part of myself that I was always maybe afraid of. ‘Afraid of’ is maybe the wrong term, but I was afraid that it would make other people not want to be my friend! You know, like, as in, if I, if we all had that fear I think, or we all have that fear that our deepest, darkest thoughts would frighten everyone else, and that’s, to me that was always the reason why I never talked about it, you know, and I found quite the opposite when I started to talk about it, when I started to talk about my demons, I realised that people then go ‘oh yeah, you know, I’ve gone through the same thing’ or ‘I understand what you’re going through’. People, at the very least, understood what I was going through, and at the very best had actually been through the same thing themselves. It made me feel so much less isolated, so much less alone, and I waited until I was 40 years old before I opened my mouth about it. I feel like, I’m so glad that I did, I just wish I had done it sooner in my life. I guess this was just the right time to do it and you know, when you let the light flood into those dark places in yourself, you kind of create this space in yourself, you create this kind of bravery.”

Q. Do you find much difference between the large and the intimate shows, aside from the crowd size?

“Yeah, you know it’s funny, when I first started out, I had no confidence in my stagecraft. I just used to get on stage and stare at my feet and had a big red face the whole time, like I was embarrassed to be there. I guess I probably was, I was still probably questioning what I was doing and I didn’t really have any self belief. Then over time, over many, many gigs, many, many years, as the gigs started getting bigger the confidence kind of grew, that outer shell began to thicken a bit, and I was able to look at the crowd to begin with  and then interact with the crowd, and then cause a reaction in the crowd, go out there and try and make sure that everybody has a great night, make sure everybody has fun and get people singing along. Sometimes it happens naturally but other times it’s not a bad idea to start a sing-a-long, you know. Freddie Mercury showed the way on that one.

Towards the end of 2012 when we were finishing the last tour, I think I was a very good front man, and getting back into that has been an interesting thing. I sort of feel with the smaller shows, I was closing my eyes a lot, maybe feeling a little shy. The bigger shows; after the first few rows everything starts to blur a little bit; my eyesight is not that great at it, so you’re able to come out of yourself more and I think in the last few shows, I’ve really felt like my old self on stage again. We toured with U2 for many years, in 2005 and then in 2009, and ‘10 or ‘11, and I watched them every single night. I watched the two-hour set and it’s a masterclass.”

Q. Anything planned for the live shows?

“We don’t just turn up with our equipment and a couple of lights on the night and go ‘alright, well, where do you want us to set up these?’ We’re thinking about the visuals, we’re thinking about the staging, thinking about how the stage looks, we’re thinking about how everything is presented, we’re thinking about the lighting of course. We’ve got one of the best lighting directors in music – he’s won many awards – working with us. We call him ‘jock for life’. We’ve got some lovely, lovely little tricks up our sleeve and some things that we’re very excited to bringing out on this tour.

Underwater wonders

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Journey deep into the ocean with Blue Planet II – Live in Concert – a feast for your eyes and ears…

The wonders and mysteries of our oceans will once again be centre stage when Blue Planet II – Live in Concert comes to London’s O2 Arena offering a visual, audio and spectacular concert experience.

Due to popular demand, an additional matinee show has been added to the diary and Blue Planet II – Live in Concert will share showstopping moments from the BAFTA award-winning BBC One series.

The natural wonders of our blue planet will be highlighted in breath-taking detail, projected on to a giant 4k Ultra HD LED screen all to the accompaniment of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
The concert, which will be hosted by BBC presenter Anita Rani, will feature such memorable moments from the TV series as the crab and eel rock pool chase and the sea lion tuna hunt.

And Anita admits she can’t wait to part of it, she says: “The penny hasn’t quite dropped that I’m hosting it because I will be standing there in front of 12,000 people at The O2 and all the various arenas that we’re going to and holding the show together. It’s such an honour to be asked to do this show.”

To be precise, Blue Planet II was more than a show on TV she adds, calling it a moment of television history. “If you watched it, and loved it, then you cannot afford to miss this live tour because it’s a fully immersive experience.

“You’ll be able to see those iconic moments – surfing dolphins on a huge screen with an 80-piece live orchestra playing that incredible soundtrack by Hans Zimmer,” she enthuses.

But Blue Planet II goes further than even that, showing the power of TV and the way in which it changed people’s attitudes towards single-use plastic. Anita adds: “It made us aware of the damage we are doing to our beautiful planet and our oceans.”

During the filming of Blue Planet II, crews embarked on 125 expeditions, travelled to 39 countries and spent more than 6,000 hours of deep sea diving armed with the latest state-of-the-art equipment.

She is full of praise for the four years it took to film the show saying it “opened our eyes to an alien world”, adding: “It was the talking point for everybody at work the next day. It tells you something about humanity, it tells you something about our planet. It’s something that is embedded, it’s not like watching an entertainment show that is fun and entertaining, watching Blue Planet II hasn’t left me. Those scenes are with us forever.”

Join the voyage of discovery and enjoy an experience like no other with Blue Planet II – Live in Concert on Sunday, 17th March, at 3pm.

Hungerford heroine: historical novelist Iris Lloyd

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Iris Lloyd explains more about her “now or never” approach to writing, having written her first novel at the age of 70 and just published her latest.

My Lady Marian, my eighth novel, has just been published. It tells the story of Marian who arrives at the court of Henry VIII at the age of 15 and later becomes lady-in-waiting to Katharine of Aragon then Anne Boleyn.

I have been writing all my life – stories, poems, pantomimes, as village correspondent for the Newbury Weekly News – but had never tackled a novel. When I reached the age of 70, I thought: “Now or never!”

At that time, I lived in Beedon, north of Newbury, and was helping to excavate a site on the downs that had been active all through the Roman occupation. Our “finds” included a thousand bronze and two gold coins, Samian pottery, jewellery, a Medusa medallion and a rare fish brooch (a sign of Christian activity), as well as the skeletons of a dog, one adult and more than 50 babies.

Inspired by this site, my first five novels tell the story of Bron, who was born and brought up there, who travels to Rome in pursuit of her young Roman officer lover, then returns home to a new village being built where Beedon now stands.

My sixth novel, Flash Black, takes place during the reign of Elizabeth I. There followed Hunterswick Green, a contemporary novel set in a new housing complex that is advertised as perfect but hides a secret.

  Signed copies of all my books are available through my website or by emailing by adding £2, postage to the price, or they can be obtained through bookshops.

Education guide: Winter 2019

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School days are the happiest days of your life, right? Check out our education guide and find out how you can make them really top class including information on bird watching, how to choose the right school for you, adult education and work experience.


As we enter a new year, Karen Neville teams up with the RSPB to encourage you and the schoolchildren in your family to spot local birds in your garden.

A staggering 6,764,475 birds were spotted during last year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, thanks in no small part to the thousands of schoolchildren who joined in. Youngsters spotted robins, starlings and blue tits among the millions recorded for the annual count.

And now it’s time to do it all over again to see which ones are thriving and which ones need your help to survive.

The house sparrow was the most common bird again in 2018, happy in both urban and suburban areas. Other birds flying high in the surveys included the goldfinch, long-tailed and coal tit while robins were down, largely due to the mild winter which made food more widely available in the countryside meaning the red-breasted bird didn’t have such a need to visit our gardens.

The birdwatch is 40 years old this year and has grown hugely since youngsters were given the opportunity to get involved in a simple winter activity.

From counting the birds in your garden to determine which are the UK’s top 10 most common species, the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has become one of the most participated in nature events across the country, enjoyed by young and old.

Only a few hundred children were expected to take part when it started in 1979, but thanks to Blue Peter, more than 34,000 surveys were completed and results gathered.

Now schools turn their classes into conservation zones and help track the ups and downs in bird numbers through a variety of fun activities before, during and after the Big Schools Birdwatch which helps youngsters develop an interest in wildlife and the world around them.

Simple survey sheets are a great way to get started, helping you to count the birds with colourful worksheets designed for three age groups – five to seven years, seven to 11 and 11 to 14-year-olds. Focussing on the most common birds likely to be seen, youngsters are invited to record how many of each one they see and to draw any not included as well as recording any unusual features noticed.

Why not feed the birds as you record them and perhaps even entice a few more into your garden or school grounds? The RSPB has a range of recipe ideas that you can make too – pastry maggots, pine cone lardy seed feeders and a suet and nut log are just some of the tasty treats to encourage feathered friends to feel at home!

Games are also a great way for pupils to learn about the birds around them and recognise them as they take part in the count – try matching pairs of pictures with a fun memory game or how about a “top trumps” game comparing your favourite feathered facts?

However you enjoy the Big Schools Birdwatch, your help is essential to ensure the birds in our gardens and school grounds are protected. The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from 26th to 28th January and you can submit your findings until Friday, 22nd February.

  To take part visit 


Choosing a school or nursery for your child can be a case of heart versus head…

At The Royal School, we understand choosing the right school for your child will be one of the most important decisions you ever make.

It is a decision that you will take with your head, having completed all the necessary research, but we know that you will really take it with your heart, based on your knowledge of your child and of his or her particular needs at any given time in their education.

There are many factors that a parent needs to consider. When seeking a nursery for your two-year-old, questions around sleep routines, food, toilet training and managing tears and tantrums will be high on the agenda. When seeking a primary or prep school, you will have questions about curriculum, homework, pupil-teacher ratio, friendships, lunches and wrap around care.

When it comes to selecting a senior school, considerations relating to the curriculum, examination results, behaviour management, ethos, class size, extra-curricular provision and the school environment will be on your mind. And when you are looking for a sixth form, you will want to know about university destinations, examination success, opportunities for the development of life skills and careers education. The list goes on…

Here in the south east, parents are blessed with a wide range of excellent schools and nurseries from which to choose and the choice can sometimes feel rather overwhelming, especially when friends and family also add their opinion into the mix. In the end, the decision is easier than you would think. Take time to visit the schools and nurseries in the area. Look beyond the first impression of bricks and mortar – is there a purposeful buzz of activity? Do the children or young people look happy and engaged? Do the teachers appear passionate about their subject? Is the head teacher approachable?

Choosing a school or nursery is rather like choosing a family home; it can all seem incredibly complicated, but ultimately, it is the one that has the right feel that will be the right choice. This is very personal; one size does not fit all!

By Mrs A Lynch, principal of The Royal School and Mrs K Daunter, head of the Junior School.


Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Here are some reasons why learning in later life is beneficial!

Yes, young brains are most adept at learning languages and skills, but the benefits of taking up a new skill after school age are many!

For those who are recently retired or considering a career change, a lack of direction can be demoralising. Embarking on an adult learning course and picking up new skills can be incredibly rewarding, and fun too.

Signing up to a new course, trying out a new sport, learning a new language or experimenting with a new instrument can boost . It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time and apply yourself to something completely new. Lifelong learning helps you to continually grow and develop as a person and it’s good for your mental ability if you’re always putting your mind to something new.

Adult education courses significantly benefit learners, a survey by the Workers’ Educational Association suggests. According to the survey of 2,000 adult learners, education boosts confidence about finding employment and benefits local communities.

Of course, we’re constantly told that physical exercise is important for keeping our bodies in good condition, but it’s just as important to keep your mind active, too. Taking in new information helps to stimulate your mind, and studies have proven that this can help to reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

You’re never too old to learn, and with advances in technology making e-learning more accessible than ever, there are no excuses for not giving it a go.

   Visit for more ideas and check out the University of the Third Age.


Don’t be shy of taking your first step into the workplace!

Work experience can be a daunting prospect when you’re in Year 10 and more interested in playing on the X-Box or the latest gossip. But it’s more important than just a week off lessons…

It’s a great way to find out whether a certain type of career is for you. You’ll get the chance to learn new skills, make contacts and experience what it’s like working a whole day.

But where do you begin? A good place to start is follow your passions. Try to do something you’re interested in – if, for example, you love animals, contact any zoos or animal sanctuaries. If being on stage or behind the scenes is your thing, try local theatres.

Once you have a general idea start checking out the businesses and companies in your area as well as speaking to your school careers adviser.

And don’t be disheartened if places you contact aren’t able to help; there are plenty of options. Some companies offer structured placements but competition can be tough so make sure you know what you want and how to ‘sell’ yourself. Many places will expect you to complete an application form too so double check your spelling and grammar when doing so.

Having gained a place, hopefully with your chosen employer, put your nerves aside – a tricky one – and remember to make contact ahead of your placement to confirm details such as times, dress code, what to wear etc and a bit of research on them doesn’t do any harm, either.

You’re now ready for your first proper day at work – make the most of it, you never know where it could lead…

Saving Sumatran orangutans

Liz Nicholls

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Lucy Radford of Abingdon charity Sumatran Orangutan Society explains more about the plight of and how to help this majestic endangered creature.

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, lush rainforests are home to orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos. Hornbills fly over the treetops and troops of monkeys leap from branch to branch. The air is alive with the buzzing, shrieking and singing of thousands of animals, from minuscule insects to jungle giants. The rainforest is an amazing place to be, and it is vital for species such as the Sumatran orangutan, which is critically endangered in the wild. Tragically, Indonesia has the fastest deforestation rate in the world, and the threats facing species like the orangutan are intensifying.

Thousands of miles away in Abingdon, the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) works to reverse the fortunes of the orangutans, their forest homes, and the other animals living there. In collaboration with Indonesian NGOs, SOS takes a holistic approach to orangutan conservation. This means tackling the causes of deforestation, as well as trying to cure the symptoms.

Orangutan habitat is sometimes chipped away a few acres at a time by rural communities who grow crops where the forest used to be. In other cases, forests are cleared on an industrial scale. Of the crops grown on Sumatra, the most familiar to us in the UK is palm oil. Palm oil is found in a wide range of products, from cosmetics to chocolate bars, so the global demand is huge. Wildlife cannot survive in oil palm plantations – Sumatra has four times as much land cultivated with oil palms as there is habitat for orangutans.

Orangutans spend their lives in the trees, so protecting and restoring their forest habitat is crucial. SOS works with Indonesian non-Governmental organisations to protect Sumatra’s last forests and restore damaged ecosystems. The health and prosperity of the people of Sumatra are also linked to the fate of the forests, so SOS works closely with local communities to develop conservation projects including forest restoration, and sustainable livelihoods like organic farming that offer a real alternative to the destruction of forests. SOS also supports the only active orangutan rescue team in Sumatra. As well as evacuating orangutans from dangerous situations and releasing them into safe forests, they tackle the causes of human-orangutan conflict, providing training so rural communities can protect their crops without harming wildlife.

One of the simplest ways you can help is to become a voice for orangutans: follow SOS online and share their news. The choices you make when you shop can have a real impact – look out for sustainable palm oil on ingredients lists and check for the FSC symbol on anything derived from wood. You can also donate to support the work SOS is doing on the ground or set yourself a fundraising challenge to raise money and awareness.

 For more information visit