Talking Point: Russell Watson

Round & About


Liz Nicholls chats to singer and dad Russell Watson, 53, ahead of his 20th anniversary UK tour.

Q. Hello! Congratulations on 20 years since your album The Voice. How does that feel?
“Thank you! You’d expect to be more thrilled and grateful at the start of your career and then becoming used to it but for me it’s the other way around. I didn’t realise the significance of the record sales at the time. The Voice spent a year at number one in the charts and people kept congratulating me but at the time I was a bit ‘meh’ – I’d say, nah, Robbie Williams has done more, Elton’s done more. Now I look back and can’t believe the arena tours, the sales. It was just happening so quickly but I’m more grateful now.”

Q. How do you take care of your voice?
“I’ve always had to take care of my voice. If you don’t you pay the price later down the line. Dairy is an absolute no-go, as are fizzy drinks and anything spicy. I lived on chicken and boiled rice throughout the entirety of the last 25-date tour I did with Aled Jones, but he didn’t! I’d meet him in the canteen where Aled would be tucking into his meat & potato pie, chips, peas, gravy and a Diet Coke. I‘d ask him how he could have that before going on stage and he’d say ‘Well, that’s the downside of being a tenor!’ But I love Aled; we’ve become really close. It’s nice to have someone you can talk to and trust in the music industry.”

Q. You’ve worked with some stars – who would be your favourite?
“I’ve been very lucky. The list is endless and I’d never want to forget anybody. From Luciano Pavarotti at Hyde Park to Paul McCartney at the Nobel Peace prize awards in Oslo when we sang Let It Be. When I was a kid I remember sitting in my bedroom playing the Beatles bumper songbook and 15 years on I’m singing with the man himself, wow. Shaun Ryder, Meatloaf, Lulu, Mel C ¬– so many amazing people! Lionel Richie definitely stands out, and Cliff Richard; my mum was a massive fan of Cliff when we were kids.”

I haven’t ever stopped loving it!

Q. What’s your first memory of music?
“My grandad was a fantastic classical pianist trained to the highest level but sadly he had serious confidence issues so he never went on stage. But my earliest memories are of leaning against the back leg of his grand piano, falling asleep to the vibrations of the Chopin waltz.”

Q. You left school early didn’t you?
“Yes; I loved school but not from an academic perspective – I always felt I wasn’t ready for learning as a child. I learned more about life and started to read more after I’d left school – I’m not an advocate of leaving school early, though! I come from a working class background and I love my mum and dad to bits but they didn’t in anyway to encourage me to be academic. Maybe if I’d had parents who’d been more pushy I might have been. But I wouldn’t change anything.”

Q. Do you get stage fright?
“No not really! I’d been doing the clubs for years then in 99 I was invited to sing at Old Trafford for Manchester United’s last game of the season in what had been a truly iconic time for the team. I sang Nessun Dorma and walked off to see my dad at the side of the pitch with a tear in his eye (it was windy, he said!). He said: ‘were you not nervous?’ And I said no – I love it! And I’ve never stopped loving it. The more the merrier in terms of the crowd.”

Q. Do you love being a dad more than ever?
“Yes; my bond with my girls got even closer after getting ill with the tumours, particularly the second one when I nearly died. My eldest is 25 now and works with me and they’re both nearby. We pull funny faces and sing the wrong words to pop songs, crying with laughter. They bring the best and most stupid side out of me.”


For all tour dates and to buy tickets

Adult care: Winter 2020

Round & About


We’ve put together some articles about planning for later life care as well as staying healthy & stimulated in our February guide.


Planning for your own – or family members’ – needs in terms of later-life care can be daunting. Where do you start? Here’s our advice on some of the practical elements of care.

People worldwide are living longer. Today, for the first time in history, most people can expect to live into their sixties and beyond.

Today, 125 million people are aged 80+. And, of course, there is no “typical” older person. Some 80-year-olds have physical and mental capacities similar to many 20-year-olds. You need only look at Sir David Attenborough’s contribution, well into his nineties, as a golden example of ageing with grace.

If you’re dealing with the care of a parent you’ll know how overwhelming it can feel. And planning for your own later years can be stressful, but it’s worthwhile tackling this, one step at a time, for all concerned, when you can.

Paying for social care and support can be confusing and sometimes worrying. As a general rule, if you have less than £23,250 in savings, your care will be paid for, partly or in full, by your local council. NB: this figure does not include the value of your property unless you’re moving into a care home.

In some situations where poor health is involved, social care and support is provided by the NHS instead of your local authority. In these instances it’s free (and not means-tested). If you like, of course you can arrange care privately. If you’d like your council to arrange or pay towards your care, your first step is to request a needs assessment by calling your local social services department or getting in touch online.

Care options

A recent Better At Home report by the Live-In Care Hub revealed nearly 97% of us say we’d prefer to stay in our own homes as we get older. Many children choose to care for an elderly parent in their home, but it is worth bearing in mind the financial and emotional challenges this can bring, as well as how it can affect family dynamics. In addition to residential care, the third option is home or live-in care, made possible by a professional carer who lives with the older person.

Making changes

Home alterations such as stair lifts, or installing a downstairs shower room, may be needed. If you want to adapt your home, you may be eligible for financial support from your council to make small changes. If the local council recommends that you need minor adaptations that cost less than £1,000, such as grab rails, short ramps, a dropped curb or outside lights these can also be also provided and fitted free of charge.

For larger adaptations, you can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant. Major modifications, which can be costly, can be done free by the NHS if deemed essential. For impartial advice about the care options available in a parent’s home, call the Live-In Care Hub on 0330 311 2906. For support and advice you can also visit or call 0808 808 7777 on Mondays and Tuesdays, 10am-4pm, for support and advice.

Legal considerations

It’s important to seek legal advice if you’re worried about any aspect of an older family member’s care, or your own, such as power of attorney. Citizens Advice offers free advice on a wide range of issues, including benefits, housing or employment. The helpful charity team can provide advice over the phone or in person at one of their offices. Visit to find your local branch.

Law centres offer free legal advice across the country, covering topics such as benefits, employment, housing, immigration and asylum, discrimination and debt. Visit

Age UK doesn’t offer legal advice but the advice team can suggest reliable sources of information and advice to help you with your situation. Age UK runs a free national advice line that is open 8am to 7pm 365 days a year. To speak to someone, call 0800 678 1602.


Local rehabilitation and fitness expert Tim Laskey explains more about how you can help protect & restore your spine

The importance of looking after your back cannot be overemphasised. Millions suffer from (predominantly low) back pain. Statistics vary, but suggest every year about 20% of us consult our GP about this.
Back pain can range from uncomfortable to excruciating and falls anywhere between inconvenient and totally debilitating. This is a serious problem, exacerbated by sedentary occupations, our obsession with social media, reduced physical activity and burgeoning obesity. The latter in particular places enormous compressive strains on the low back.

The human body has evolved over millions of years. We don’t so much use it, we neglect it, we abuse it, And in the Western World we’re paying a heavy price. Proper functioning of the spine is crucial to our wellbeing. The spine, of course, contains and protects the spinal cord.
The four movements involving the spine are

• Flexion – bending forward
• Extension – bending backwards
• Lateral flexion – bending sideways and
• Rotation – twisting.

All of these movements involve the low back which is, effectively, the hinge between the torso and the lower body. But – and this is so important – just about every movement we make involves the spine and the low back.

Wear and tear and aging take their toll.

Indisputably, though, the biggest problem is very low strength in the muscles, tendons and ligaments that make up the spine’s support structure. Add poor mobility and the deterioration of those crucial intravertebral cartilaginous discs and it’s a “perfect storm”.

If you suffer with back pain, what do you do? For many it’s off to the GP. That is likely to result in prescription painkillers and, perhaps a referral to the physio. ALL drugs have side effects. Some can be extremely addictive. They don’t solve the problem neither do lumbar belts, braces or other supports.

A good chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist with manipulative skills, can offer wonderful relief from pain. But it’s just that; relief and may be temporary. If you do nothing you’ll keep going back. Surgery is the last resort and always carries some risk. It’s often inconclusive and, as I’ve proved, often unnecessary.

To solve the problem you must find a rehabilitation specialist with the experience, the expertise and the equipment required. Such a specialist will interview you, study your spinal alignment and body posture and devise a programme tailored exactly to your needs which will contain strength-building and the development of mobility, flexibility, stability. The specialist needs to talk to you about the most significant muscle groups; erector spinae, rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum and iliacus. Hyperextension and compression of the lumbar spine must always be avoided

It is generally simple to transform a person’s back strength, mobility and stability and, in doing so, transform their life. It may be simple, but it’s not always easy as it does require application, determination and perseverance! Visit


We ask Helen Davies-Parsons, CEO of Dormy Care, which owns Bramshott Grange care home in Liphook, about how care has changed & how we can choose a happier life for our older loved ones.

Q. What do you feel are the myths surrounding care & what would you say to anyone who’s going through the stressful process of deciding care? “Sadly, there is a low level of understanding by the general public on the positive aspects of care homes. There’s been a lot of negative press about abuse in care homes, which is, of course, appalling. However, this is in the minority and most good quality homes offer support, care, companionship and a quality life for the ladies and gentlemen who live in them. My advice for anyone going through the process of deciding on a care home for a loved one is to visit unannounced.”

Q. How do you feel attitudes & ethos have changed for the better when it comes to the care of older people? “Society now has a much more positive view of older people and the contribution they have made, and continue to make, to society. This is largely due to the fact that older people are seen more in the media and their voices are louder than ever before.”

Q. Why is taking a more holistic approach to care better? “Everyone is an individual and one size does not fit all. Treating everyone as a person in their own right enables them to continue to live their life to the full and continue to enjoy what they want to do with the support of care teams around them.”

Q. What should people be aware of when visiting a residential home & what questions should they ask? “The most important thing to do when visiting a care home is to look, listen, smell and get a feel for the place. Is the home clean? Are the staff friendly? Do the people living there look happy and well cared for? Are there activities going on? Does the food look appetising? Would you be happy to move in yourself if needed?”


Haslemere’s Hunter Centre is running a series of talks given by local nutritional adviser Claudia Vargas.

Claudia knows that, while we can’t prevent ageing or change our genes, there are some steps we can take to reduce our risk of developing dementia.

The healthiest foods worth including in your diet are greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, avocadoes, coconut oil, olive oil, walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds.

Rich prebiotics are garlic, onions, leeks, chociry, Jerusalem artichoke and top five herbs and spices for health are rosemary, turmeric (mixed with a bit of pepper and coconut or olive oil), cinnamon, ginger and sage. As for drinks, opt for filtered water, green tea, golden tea, ginger turmeric, black pepper, coconut oil tea or rosemary and mint tea.
For further information on diet, recipes and useful care tips please email [email protected]


After talking to care-givers on their team, Kevin Lancaster, managing director of Right At Home, shares five tips to help older people in our community stay safe and warm.

Winter is here, and with it the increased likelihood of a cold snap and freezing temperatures. We can all play our part to be good neighbours and help keep loved ones safe, warm and comfortable.

Getting older can leave us more vulnerable in the colder months as our bodies respond differently to temperature changes. When we start to feel cold, this usually triggers us to do something to warm up; adding more layers or turning up the heating. But if our body temperature drops below 37ºC, dangerous problems can arise, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, liver damage and even heart attacks. Hypothermia can set in if our core temperature drops below 35ºC. Left untreated, hypothermia shuts down the body’s heart and respiratory systems – a real risk in the winter, especially among older people.

Registered care manager Bailey Harrison says “We do see some people making decisions during the winter months which can have an adverse impact on their health & wellbeing. This includes turning the heating down, or off, to save money; not wearing the right clothing for the weather; or being unaware of the temperature drop outside.

“For people living with dementia, there can be extra challenges in the winter, such as forgetting how to operate the heating or fire, placing something too close to a fire so it becomes a risk, or leaving the house not properly wrapped up.” We thought we’d share some of our top tips…

1. If you have vulnerable members in your family or friendship circle, create a rota of people who can regularly call in to check your loved one is warm and safe. Check they have appropriate clothing. Check the cupboards are stocked with the right kind of food. Check room temperatures and make sure there are extra blankets to hand. Be ready to organise your loved one’s medication, so they don’t run out.

2. Diet and hydration is always important, but especially in winter. Encourage your loved ones to eat warming food such as stews and chunky soups and to keep hydrated with warm drinks. If they may be alone for long periods, why not invest in a flask to keep drinks warm for longer? Also, an offer to pop to the shops to refresh their groceries so they have plenty to eat and drink would be lovely.

3. Pop in to neighbours and loved ones for a quick “hello”. As well as alleviating loneliness, it allows you to check temperatures and to ensure there’s no fire hazard. It’s also worth investing in a carbon monoxide alarm, especially if you notice the heater is old.

4. When out and about, observe the people around you. Are the elderly people you pass dressed appropriately for the weather? A friendly conversation can give you an idea if the person has forgotten to put a coat on, or if there is an underlying issue. We’re not saying you have to buy everyone a pair of gloves, but you may encounter a situation needing a little extra care, or a trip to the charity shop. It’s vital to keep the body’s extremities – such as hands, feet and head – warm.

5.If paths are icy or snow-covered offering a little support can bring confidence to someone who is struggling. If someone falls, keep them warm as you call for help. Don’t try to help them up, in case they’ve broken a bone. Be sure to get it checked by a medical expert.

By working together, we can help to keep our community safe this winter. And, if like the lovely care-givers at Right at Home, you find helping others a natural heart-warming act, why not consider a career working in care professionally? Call 0118 207 0600 or visit to find out more.


Claire Laurent is a local writer and nurse whose family are rich in nurses, medics and midwives. Her new book explores the rituals and myths in nursing through the 20th century.

Nurses, as Claire Laurent observes, have largely been depicted in public consciousness as female and caricatured as angelic, sexy or fierce. From the tabloids’ “angels” to the Carry On films’ formidable Hattie Jacques matron and buxom Barbara Windsor, to Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, nurses have rarely been regarded as just people doing a job. “This, despite Florence Nightingale leading the charge, more than 100 years ago, to establish nurses as a “workforce of demure, clean and educated girls.”

Claire says: “I trained as a nurse at the oldest hospital possibly in the world; St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, in the traditional ‘apprentice style’ of the 20th century. I moved from there to a job as a journalist on the nursing press so I spent many years writing about nursing and following the developments of the profession.

“There’s a bond you develop as a nurse, both with the work and your colleagues, sharing memories and experiences. I wanted to write something that told the stories of nursing that reflected its nature without being a memoir, of which there are many.”

● Rituals & Myths in Nursing: A Social History by Claire Laurent is out now in paperback, £12.99, published by Pen &Sword. ISBN: 978147389661


A carer and a companion all in one – Chawley Grove introduce their innovative, award-winning “home-maker” model of care to Oxfordshire

A quiet revolution in care is taking place in Cumnor Hill. Chawley Grove
is one of the UK’s first care homes to do away with traditional care workers and instead employ “homemakers”…

Homemakers are universal workers, providing gap-free care. Homemakers are carers, housekeepers and companions all in one, holistically supporting residents just as they would in the resident’s own home.

Chawley Grove is part of the Hamberley Care Homes Group, which recently won a prestigious Health Investor award for its groundbreaking new care model. The organisation has removed the hierarchical structure you’d normally find in a care home, and instead developed a leadership hub and a more dynamic model of working.

Chawley Grove also has a wellbeing & lifestyle coach who ensures the team create a nurturing and stimulating environment for residents and staff alike. The coach considers all elements to enable supportive, homely environments that empower residents to live meaningful lives.

The Hamberley team believe the unique model, including an expert clinical team, is the most effective way to deliver outstanding care, helping them win Residential Care Provider of the Year. The judging panel congratulated them for focusing on the resident’s experience of care above anything else. One said: “The resident is clearly at the centre of everything. Brilliantly innovative to create the role of homemaker.”
And it seems the residents and their loved ones agree – the luxury care home enjoys a rating of 9.9 on independent review site The son of one resident said: “The staff are always welcoming and courteous. The ‘homemakers’ do exactly what it says on the tin.”

The daughter of another resident said: “When I first visited I was struck by the beautiful setting, furnishings and facilities. However, it’s the professionalism and warmth of the homemakers and staff that has made my mother’s stay so happy. The attitude of staff is exemplary.”
Hamberley Care Homes CEO Paul Hill said: “Innovation is embedded at the heart of our company and each day we strive to make improvements that benefit our residents and their families.”

February’s recipes: Rice & easy!

Round & About


We’ve teamed up with Tilda to serve up some recipes to make the most of their new flavoured easy-cook sachets

Chicken Massaman curry


• One red chilli, deseeded and cut into very thin matchsticks
• One spring onion, trimmed, halved and thinly shredded
• 50g peanuts
• 400ml can reduced fat coconut milk
• 200ml hot chicken stock
• One cinnamon stick
• 100g Massaman Thai curry paste
• 500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
• 300g baby potatoes, halved
• 350g Tilda Fragrant Jasmine rice
• Large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped (see cooks tip)
• Finely grated zest and juice of one lime
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Lime wedges to garnish, if liked


Place the chilli and spring onion into a bowl of iced cold water and set aside while cooking the curry.
Dry fry the peanuts in a small pan for one or two minutes until toasted. Set aside until ready to use.

Place the coconut milk, chicken stock, cinnamon stick and curry paste into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir in the chicken and potatoes, cover and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes or until the potatoes and chicken are tender and cooked through.

Meanwhile, place the rice into a sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Tip into a large heavy based saucepan and season with a little salt. Pour over 600ml boiling water and bring to the boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook over the lowest heat possible for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to stand until the curry is ready to serve.

Discard the cinnamon stick from the curry. Stir in half of the coriander, lime zest and juice and season to taste.
Fluff up the rice with a fork and arrange into individual serving dishes. Spoon over the massaman curry. Scatter over the peanuts and remaining coriander. Drain the spring onions and chilli and scatter over the curry to serve. Serve with extra lime wedges to squeeze over.

Cook’s tip

There is lots of flavour in the stalk as well as the leaf of fresh coriander don’t be afraid to chop up both and add to the curry. For an even quicker version of this recipe substitute the jasmine rice for 2 x 250g sachets of lime and coriander basmati rice or sweet chilli and lime basmati rice.

Kimchi rice


• One pack of Tilda
• Long Grain rice
• 2tbsps vegetable oil
• One clove garlic, crushed
• 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
• One onion, finely chopped
• 50g kimchi, drained
• 3tbps soy sauce
• Two eggs
• One spring onion, finely sliced


In a large pan, heat one tablespoon of the oil and gently fry the onions, garlic and ginger for a few minutes until softened. Add the drained kimchi and heat for a couple more minutes

Heat the long grain rice in the microwave for one minute and then add to the kimchi mix.

Drizzle in the soy sauce and mix in well. Keep warm.
Fry the eggs in the remaining oil for a few minutes.
Divide the kimchi rice between two bowl and top each with a fried egg and a sprinkle of spring onions.

See our other recipes

You’re never too old…

Round & About


Active minds and active bodies are on the curriculum at the
University of the Third Age

“Live, laugh, love” is the mantra of the team behind the U3A which has groups all over the UK, including branches local to you. Here’s why you should get involved, whatever age you are.


Education guide: Winter 2020

Round & About


Welcome to the first education extra of 2020, we had an impressive array of entries for our story writing competition and they all prove what a talented bunch you are! Congratulations to our two winners and thanks to all who entered. Reading and writing are very good for your mental health and as more schools are focussing on pupils’ overall wellbeing we look at the importance of that and what is being done to improve this as Children’s Mental Health Week will be encouraging you to ‘Find Your Brave’


Wellbeing is becoming as much a part of the curriculum as maths and English. Find out how it can help you and your school

Superheroes would probably feature highly for most children if they were asked who they thought was brave. However, bravery comes in all shapes and sizes as this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is out to prove.

The week from 3rd to 9th February invites schools, youth groups, organisations and individuals to take part with one goal to “Find Your Brave”.

Bravery is about so much more than just fighting evil villains, it can be about fighting your own enemies, sharing worries and not being afraid to ask for help. Perhaps you want to try something new or push yourself outside your comfort zone, build your self confidence, improve your self-esteem and feel good about yourself.

Children’s mental health charity Place2Be which provides counselling and mental health support and training in schools, says bravery is all about finding positive ways to deal with things that may be difficult, overcoming physical and mental challenges and looking after yourself. They believe that children should not have to face mental health problems alone.

Place2Be launched the first Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to highlight the importance of children and young people’s mental health. Now in its sixth year, they hope to encourage more people than ever to get involved and spread the word. about the importance of caring for your mental health.

Last year, Place2Be worked with 639 schools in England, Scotland and Wales, reaching 364,080 children and young people. In the same year, more than 300 schools took part in Mental Health Champions programmes, equipping school leaders, teachers and staff with the skills and confidence to support pupils’ mental health. Over 1,600 child counsellors took part in training on various levels, building an ever-growing number who specialise in working with children and young people.

The Mental Health Foundation offers The 5 Ways to Wellbeing, a set of actions which have been proven to improve wellbeing, offering a starting point for schools.


Get to know your classmates, it’s a great support network, get together over activities or just tea and a chat.

Get active

Exercise can be good for your mind as well as your body, whether you cycle, dance, run, swim, jump or walk, it’s a great way to deal with negative thoughts and feelings.

Be mindful

Take time to check in with your thoughts and feelings, you may notice things you’ve missed, try a yoga session or mindfulness, breathing techniques can be a real help especially at exam time.

Keep learning

Lifelong learning is the way to keep the brain healthy, the sense of achievement from learning something new can be great for your mood, or try a quiz or a new skill.

Give to others

Helping others can help reduce your own stress, improve your own emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health.

• To find out more about how these charities can help you or your school, visit and


New headmaster of Barfield School in Farnham, Andrew Boyle talks about the importance of pastoral care for pupils

As a new Headmaster, my first half of term has been spent carefully observing and evaluating the many strengths of Barfield School, while also looking for those areas where a fresh pair of eyes might make a difference. One aspect of school life which works beautifully here is the understanding of what outstanding pastoral care looks like.

With research showing that mental health issues are becoming apparent earlier and earlier in children’s lives, is it any wonder that some parents are putting more emphasis on finding a school which places a higher priority on pastoral care and wellbeing?

From your first telephone conversation with the Admissions Registrar, you are immediately making judgements as to the ethos and values of the school and rightly so! However, it is my belief that pastoral care is best measured by ‘that feeling’ you get when you walk in through the front door for the first time.

The cornerstone of a culture of warmth, support and family comes from the people. There is simply no substitute for great staff and certainly no shortcut in the relationships they build with your children. Trust your first impressions, but if you are not sure, take a few moments to look around at the children, as they are always the best ambassadors of a school and its beliefs.

Outstanding pastoral care is not just the responsibility of the named Deputy Head or a policy document to which you refer to when something goes wrong, but it is in fact a commitment from top to bottom, with the understanding that everyone has a significant role to play. Cliche or not, happy children are going to make the most progress and will fulfil their potential in all aspects of school life.

I do not have the pleasure of having children yet, but when I do, top of my wish list will be to watch them skip into school every day, safe in the knowledge that when they do hit a road bump, the people around them know them inside and out.


Our younger readers have proved to be a very talented imaginative bunch if the entries for our short story competition are anything to go by. We received a great variety of stories demonstrating there could well be some future David Walliams’ and J K Rowling’s out there. Well done to all who took part, here are the winning entries…

Keep Dreaming by Bethan Hopton

Bethan’s entry charmed us for the way she showed how small random acts of kindness can make all the difference, often in the most unexpected ways and how dreams can come true

Sam was cycling down a hill when all of a sudden…”STOP”. He looked behind him and saw an elderly man next to a road. “Little boy” he croaked “can you be a dear and help me across the road?” Sam flinched at the world little but he couldn’t help stopping his bike and going over to help the man.

He checked the road to see if there was any traffic. He was used to checking the road as he was twelve. He went out on his own all the time!
They walked across the road really slowly because it took ages for Sam to walk whilst carrying all of the man’s heavy bags. Sam checked his watch. He had been helping the man for almost five minutes and they were barely quarter of the way across the road!

Sam sighed as he thought of the football match he had intended to watch when he got home from school. It would be starting any minute!
“Did you have a good day at school?” the man asked in a suspiciously high voice. ”I guess,” murmured Sam.

Eventually, they got to the end of the road. “Bye,” Sam said and began to climb onto his bike. “Bye,” the old man called after him.
When he got home, Sam slumped onto the sofa and switched on the television. He groaned as he looked at the time. He had missed a whole half an hour of the game.

“Mum” he called ”can I have a drink?” ”Sure” she answered.
The next day at school started normally. Sam met his friends outside the gates and cast a cheeky grin at Ffion, his girlfriend who was standing outside the assembly hall when he got in.

Everybody was sat down when the head teacher entered. ”So,” she said, “we have a special guest today and I’ll let them introduce themselves.” She walked off the stage and an elderly man walked on. Sam instantly realised that the man was the same man that he had helped yesterday and smiled at him. “Hello,” the man said, peeling off a mask, “I am Harry Kane.”

Sam stared at Harry and gasped. He recognised him! “You will be pleased to know that I have chosen Sam Jeffers to be my mascot at our next game because of his kindness to elderlies. I disguised myself as an elderly man yesterday, waiting for someone to help me. Many people ignored me but Sam helped me even though he didn’t seem to particularly want to.”

Beeep! Sam’s alarm clock was beeping. ”Are you awake?” his mum called from downstairs. “Yes” Sam shouted back. He quickly got changed in the uniform that Harry had told him to wear and jumped in the car. They got to the stadium early so that Harry could go over things with him. Sam gasped “It’s amazing!” “I know” whispered Harry “Good luck!”

Turning over a new leaf by Elijah Mayers

Elijah’s use of description, painting pictures through words made it easy to visualise the story he was telling and again showed the value of being kind and thinking of others

Sam was cycling down the hill when all of a sudden, his mother appeared by the roadside with her hands firmly placed on her hips. He knew straight away that something was very wrong. Sam got off the bike and walked sheepishly with his head down towards his mum.

Sam’s mother Simone was a stout overweight woman who always wore clothes two sizes too small. Her face was as round and pale as the moon. Her eyes were cold and blue like the sea. Her black hair was long and thin like liquorice running down to her waist. Simone in her high-pitched voice shrieked at Sam to “Get in the house!!!”.

Sam made his way into the house and went straight into the living-room. The house was a mess and Dad lay spread out on the sofa fast asleep. Sam’s dad was a skinny man with a potbelly who loved to wear string-vests. He had thick Ginger hair covering his entire body, making him look like an orangutan. As he slept, Sam’s dad snored. In fact, he snored so loudly that the glass of water on the table next to him shook and eventually fell on the floor.

Ever since Sam’s dad had been sacked for stealing a pair of pink pyjamas from the warehouse where he worked, all he did was lay around the house snoring like a tractor.

Simone soon followed Sam into the living-room and scream at him “What have you done!!!”. Simone went on to explain that the Headmaster’s office had called her, and they wanted a meeting tomorrow.

“I can’t miss work and your dad is useless, so your grandad will have to go with you,” Simone yelled. A wave of fear spread over Sam and that night, he had a horrible nightmare about being told off by the Headmaster.

The next day, the doorbell rang as Sam was getting dressed for school. It was his grandad Jonas wearing a bright green suit and a blue tie shimmering in the sun. Sam sighed and let him in.

Later at school, the Headmaster’s secretary told them to wait in the Headmaster’s office. Sam was so worried that he started to feel nauseous. A moment later, a tall skinny man entered the room and introduced himself as Mr Pearce the Headmaster.

Mr Pearce explained that in the past, Sam had been in trouble a lot of times for bullying. Sam was known for Kicking, punching and pushing the smaller pupils in the school. Recently, Sam has changed his behaviour and now actually helps the other pupils when they hurt themselves. Mr Pearce went on to say how pleased he was that Sam had turned over a new leaf and made himself a better person. Sam nearly fell off his chair when Mr Pearce told him they had awarded him a commendation.

When Sam got home, he showed Simone the commendation and she was so pleased that she nearly fainted. From that day on, Sam’s mum stopped shrieking at him and started praising him instead.


Pupils at Longacre School can enjoy a welcoming environment to talk in The Bear Hut

Schools are putting more emphasis now on pupils’ mindfulness and mental health, making sure their overall needs are addressed.

One of those which has been working to help children is Longacre School in Shamley Green which has opened a new wellbeing space.
The ‘Bear Hut’, so called after the bear that features in the school’s logo, opened at the start of the September term and is already proving popular.

Funded by Longacre PTA, the Bear Hut provides a safe, quiet, welcoming environment where children can be listened to. It will be used as a space for counselling, speech therapy and occupational therapy with individual children and small groups. Mindfulness Club and art therapy will also take place inside the hut.

The Bear Hut is the brainchild of Longacre’s Head of Art and Head of Years 5 & 6, Tara Pandey. She said: “Research has shown 70% of children and young people who have experienced a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age and that children and young people who experience mental illness are more likely than other people to experience mental illness in adulthood.*

“Creating the right environment for children is about creating the right physical environment as well as the right emotional environment.”
She said she expects it to be used as a place for teachers to meet parents and children together to talk through any issues and to offer reassurance or just share their day.
*according to research by Young Minds


Honey Bees Day Care, Farnham has some advice to develop your child’s healthy eating habits

How your child eats today can have a huge impact on their health, food preferences and dietary habits. The earlier you begin teaching them healthy eating patterns, the more likely they’ll be to take these good habits with them into adolescence and adulthood.
Healthy eating can stabilise children’s energy, balance their moods and prevent illnesses. A balanced diet will also ensure your child gets the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients for growth and mental development.To get all these nutrients, it is important your littles ones start experimenting with a wide variety of foods from an early age – fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, lean meat, oily fish, nuts, seeds and whole grains such as brown rice and bread.
A great way to get your children to experiment with food is to make it fun:

• get creative in the kitchen and let your child try different flavours and textures of food

• try and put different colours of food on the plate so they get a variety of nutrients, turn it inot a game with the colours

• get them involved in the weekly food shop, learn about where different foods come from

If they won’t try different foods, don’t worry: the majority of children go through phases with their eating, and habits will often change over time.

• Day care and forest school, Honey Bees, based in Bentley, near Farnham offers a full curriculum to get the most out of any child’s time in their care, including gymnastics, yoga and French


The Lime Tree Nursery in Alton is celebrating its top class report

A homely setting and an environment in which children flourish are just two of the reasons why Lime Tree Nursery in Alton has been rated outstanding.

The recent inspection revealed four areas in which Lime Tree was outstanding citing the “rich and stimulating activities” which support development and commented on the “exciting opportunities that skilfully prepares them for their future successes”.

There was also praise for the qualified and experienced staff, with the report saying: “They are always engaging with the children and make this a wonderful environment for the children to flourish.”

The report continues to say: “Children learn impressive new skills during forest school sessions, including how to use tools safely and how to cook food on open fires. The well-resourced outdoor area provides the children with various opportunities for exploration, risk taking and challenge.”

Relationships with parents were also highlighted. The report said: “They liken the nursery to a family and are delighted with their extremely supportive care.”

Lime Tree Children’s Day Nursery is set in a home from home, with an enclosed garden, full of nature to explore and with direct access to Anstey Park. Open for 51 weeks, from 8am – 6pm, taking children from birth to school age.

The nursery also welcomes children back during the school holidays for their first year of school, making the transition to school from nursery much easier.


Find out how ARCh can help

Reading for pleasure can increase self-esteem, reduce symptoms of depression, help build better relationships and reduce anxiety and stress. When immersing yourself in a good book, you can be swept away to a happy world, away from any dilemmas or stresses. Certain books can also help you realise you are not alone, which is often a focus for the healing process; recognising others may be going through similar struggles.

But what happens if you can’t read well? Assisted Reading for Children Oxfordshire (ARCh) has over 300 volunteers visiting primary schools twice a week to read with three children for 30 minutes each. Each volunteer has a box of books and games to engage with each child and they endeavour to find the right book to inspire a love of reading. An ARCh session focuses on the child improving their reading skills, but it’s about so much more; it’s about a special relationship helping that child gain confidence and knowing it’s OK to make mistakes.
The children and their adult volunteers benefit from the connection between reading and mental wellbeing. People who read into old age can reduce memory decline and have fewer physical signs of dementia. By sharing the magic of reading with a child, the volunteers can gain empathy and perspective at a time when their own connections may have reduced and a sense of loneliness may have crept in.

• To share the magic of reading and enhance your wellbeing in 2020 visit or call 01869 320380 to find out more. Happy reading!


Former head Gerald Vinestock has useful advice before you head off to a school open day

It’s easy enough to mock open days, but parents can find them useful. It’s important first to realise the school is selling itself and parents are potential customers; parents should forget their own schooldays terror of visits to the Head and ask the questions that matter.

If your Ermintrude is a budding Mozart, don’t reveal that until you have the answer to the question, ‘How important is music in the school?’ You are much more likely to get the answer you need than if you start by revealing that Ermintrude passed Grade 6 clarinet at the age of three.
Keep questions neutral therefore, but make sure you do ask them.

You may be shown round by a pupil – that is a good sign of the school’s confidence in its children – and you will be able to gauge a lot about the relationship between pupils and staff as you go round. You will pick up, even on an open day, something of the atmosphere of the school. That matters even more than exam results, though you should ask about these and where pupils go after leaving.

Classrooms are revealing and you should look at what’s on the walls, but remember that a rather untidy piece of writing pinned up prominently may reveal that here is a teacher who really cares: that particular piece of writing may mark a huge step forward for the pupil, whose confidence has now been boosted by public display of this work.

A visit on an open day can be helpful, but if you are close to choosing a school, a second visit on a normal school day will be even more helpful to enable you to gauge the atmosphere. Not all schools can cope with such individual visits, but it is worth asking, it will be easier to assess what the school is really like on a normal day and to ascertain whether this will be the right place for Ermintrude or Wilfred. Much more important than what gossip may say is whether you feel the school is right for your child. If you have met caring staff and happy children that matters more than local tittle-tattle when you come to make a very important decision.

The most important thing to remember is that however impressive and daunting the Head may be, ask the questions that are important for you and keep them neutral!

Gerald Vinestock was Northern Regional Director for the Independent Schools Information Service (Now ISC). He has recently had published Crib and the Labours of Hercules a children’s book available locally at Blackwell’s. Read more from Gerald Vinestock at


Berkshire schools encouraged to enter conservation awards

School children in Berkshire are being invited to do their bit for the environment by taking part in the 2020 Dorothy Morley Conservation Awards in honour of a pioneering campaigner.

The awards are promoted by CPRE Berkshire and recognise the two best school projects promoting environmental conservation with prizes of £1,000 and £500 on offer.

CPRE Berkshire branch secretary Gloria Keene said they were encouraged by young people’s desire to change their local environment.
She said: “By promoting this award scheme throughout the county, we hope that we can help school children feel that they can really make a difference, particularly when news about the climate change emergency might feel overwhelming.

“We believe local action can bring big changes and look forward to hearing about pupils, teachers and parents working together on what we know will be some fantastic projects.”

Past examples of projects include tree planting and waste recycling, partnerships with organisations in towns and villages, promoting organic and local food, creating and developing school gardens and creating and maintaining wildlife friendly community areas.

The award reflects the work of Dorothy Morley who died in 1995 and was a strong campaigner on environmental issues. In addition to the £1,000 first prize and £500 for the runner up, all shortlisted schools are invited to display information about their project at CPRE Berkshire’s July presentation event.

The deadline for schools to register their interest is 31st January. For more information contact Gloria on 0118 930 6756 or email [email protected]

Go green!

Round & About


If we each make small changes to our lives we can collectively make a huge impact to protect our planet for future generations. Here are some positive ideas…

A new year, and a new decade. Recent months have delivered some very bleak news about the fate of our planet. We all know, thanks to Greta Thunberg and others, that urgent action is needed to mitigate the damage our species has done. However, we believe that positivity is the only way to bring about change so please consider these suggestions inspiration rather than guilt trips. Some of it might seem like common sense Together we can make a huge difference.

Tree’s company

Scientists have stated that billions more trees could remove two-thirds of all the carbon dioxide created by human activity. The Woodland Trust is the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity working hard to protect the 1,064 ancient woods threatened by development right now. Buy saplings or donate at Also plant bee-friendly plants and wildflowers. And aim to use only naturally derived products and fertilisers and keep your lawn real rather than paving over.

Council care

In the garden, get a compost bin to reduce your household waste. Ensure you utilise food waste, green waste and recycling schemes in your area: local authorities are working very hard to boost these so do check online what can & can’t be recycled to reduce landfill. Reusing, and buying less in the first place is still the best way to lessen your carbon footprint. Monitor and aim to reduce your levels over time.

Shower power

Just 2.5% of the world’s water is freshwater (the rest being saltwater) and most of it is frozen or deep underground so we can’t afford to waste it. According to the Environment Agency, we could run short of water within the next 25 years. Shorten your shower and save 10 litres every minute, and get a water-saving shower head. An average five-minute shower will use 40% less water than a bath.

Feeling flush

Using the small button on your loo will save half the water. Or fit a low-cost water saving device in your cistern. Perhaps surprisingly, dishwashers use far less water and energy than washing up. Run taps slowly & turn off in between brushing your teeth, for example. In the garden, get a water butt if you can and use a watering can.

Heating help

When heating your home, turn radiators off or down in less used or unused rooms, consider if and when you really need the heating on and pop a jumper on or get a warmer duvet. Turning down your thermostat by just one degree can save up to £80 a year. Home boiler heating is responsible for nearly 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Bright sparks

You can save electricity and around £30 a year just by remembering not leave your appliances on standby and more by unplugging. Don’t leave lights on or appliances and devices on, in standby mode or charging unnecessarily. Switch to more energy-efficient LED lightbulbs and save about £40 per year.

People power

Switch to renewable electricity and green gas at home and reduce both your carbon foorprint and bills. Leading providers include Bulb, Octopus Energy and Ecotricity. The average home can save 1.5 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Do install a Smart Meter too – visit

Holiday at home

Consider a UK staycation for your next holiday. A long-haul return flight, say to New York can generate 1,000KG of CO2 per passenger. It takes an average person in more than 50 of the world’s countries to reach that figure an an entire year. A flight to America’s west coast would produce 50% more emissions, and a flight to say China or Australia double that.

Web wise

Switch to using the Ecosia search engine, which commits 80% of its profits to supporting reforestation projects. To date, it’s helped to plant more than 70 million trees.

Shopping savvy

Shop more responsibly and you can significantly reduce your waste and recycling output. And “punish” major supermarkets for their inaction! Look for local suppliers of milk, bread, fruit and veg, meat and dairy and other products. Find products that are made or grown in the UK and use less packaging, such as loose fruit & veg. Sign up to Freegle updates and for clothing, join the kids & buy vintage on apps such as Depop.

Waste not

Think about switching to a disposable safety razor, a bamboo toothbrush, planet-friendly deodorant, bamboo loo roll, soap bars or refillable shampoos and shower gels and use a Mooncup if menstruating. More zero-waste shops & pop-ups are appearing: we will keep bringing you news of these locally!

Cleaning up

In the kitchen, consider green dishwasher and washing machine aids (from Ecoleaf to soap nuts), a household cleaner such as Koh, refillable washing up liquid and other products (from Splosh to Smol) and  plastic-free cloths and scourers (from Ecococonut to Loofah).

Avoid palm oil

Research by Rainforest Rescue showed that the equivalent of 300 football fields are being destroyed every hour to produce palm oil production that can be found in close to 50% of the packaged products. The following ingredients on labels show that the product might well contain unsustainable palm oil: Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate and Palmityl Alcohol. (Source: WWF)

Drinking problem

It goes without saying that if you’re a keen coffee drinker or like to carry a drink on your travels, you should invest in a reusable coffee cup (from R Cup to Stojo) and drinks bottle (from Klean Kanteen and Jedz to One Green Bottle).

Food for thought

Avoid food waste and cut your household emissions by controlling portions, planning meals and monitoring dates. Every year in the UK we throw away £13 billion worth of food that could’ve been eaten, with the average wasting £500 a year. See our Ramblings for a wealth of gardening clubs to help you grow your own or share the fruits of other labours in various swap sales in your community.

More info

For more tips, visit

A golden example of dining

Liz Nicholls


Liz Nicholls reviews the newly opened Ivy Oxford Brasserie.

In these strange, straitened times, luxury feels like it’s in short supply. In fact, “luxury” has become so rare a concept that it feels a retro, almost naughty. Luckily, the energetic team behind The Ivy Oxford Brasserie haven’t received this particular memo.

From the moment we were ushered inside, off the bleak wintry high street into the velvet-coccoon of the cloakroom we were (to quote Beyoncé) living lavish.

The Ivy Oxford Brasserie’s arrival in this often austere city of broken dreams has caused a big fat buzz for good reason. Because we’re all hungry for some luxury, and a place to celebrate rather than commiserate.

As with its celebrity honeypot mother branch in London, and the successful brasserie outposts in Winchester and Marlow, the Ivy brand is all about the best of the best. That’s most thrilling, on first entry, with the service. The staff offer the level of old-fashioned courtesy and enthusiasm that makes you feel like you’re winning at life. I go weak at the knees for a good banquette (especially a curvy orange one) and the effervescent Karim’s recommendation – truffle arancini – were balls of richly flavoured sexy joy; the perfect accompaniment for Magdalen Manhattan.

You can’t visit this Ivy branch without being wowed by its interior. Instagram has helped to gild the Ivy Oxford’s golden age because it really is a maximalist wonderland that feels designed to be snapped. For Pinterest fans like myself, the general vibe could be defined as “1920s Flapper Luxe”, with huge botanical motifs (toucans, butterflies, rainbow trout) and shiny surfaces at every turn. The old bank’s stately dimensions make it the perfect stomping ground for anyone in need of a bit of glam – even strutting up the copper-hued illuminated staircase to the ladies makes you feel special. The toilets themselves (which you might have seen on Insta) are worth special mention: rose quartz sinks, brass taps, gothic-gold floral wallpaper and jewel-hued pouffes… No wonder, then, that the smallest rooms have apparently been papped even more than the chocolate bombe (which comes a close second). And the enamel-ceilinged private hire party room is a golden example of how to create a setting where you can and should celebrate in debauched yet elegant style, a la the Ivy alma mater.

Hype can really detract from a good meal, and I had thought this Ivy outpost might be more style over substance but happily I was proved wrong. Tempura prawns and salt & pepper squid, in their conical silver salver, were crisp and gorgeous dunked in their wasabi and miso dressing and – a greedy choice – the lobster risotto was a divine creation of sweet meaty flesh doused in a seafoamy bisque dressing with a perfect partner of tender samphire.

Another greedy winter choice (and Karim’s recommendation), chicken Milanese was peak pleasure, coated in brioche crumb but kept savoury by a shiny tureen of truffle cream sauce that I kept trying to steal and topped with a rudely perfect fried egg. Then, as if to prove more definitely is more, the blackened cod fillet. This has almost become a cliché dish, which footballers plump for at Nobu and other top-tier celeb haunts, but technically the Ivy version is very hard to fault: pearly succulent fish, baked in a banana leaf beautifully fragrant with sesame and helped to sing with its citrus-pickled fennel (genius) broccoli and yuzu mayonnaise. Top marks too for a sublime sweet potato side and creamed spinach with pine nuts. All of it looked beautiful but tasted even better.

That much-Instagrammed chocolate bombe is also worth its 15 minutes: a grenade of golden flavour whose honeycomb centre oozed out to mingle with the vanilla ice cream once the hot sauce was poured on top to make a big sticky mess.

With all this glitz & glam, you’d expect the Ivy to be expensive but it’s reasonable: a la carte starters hover about the £10 mark, mains around £20 and there’s a three-course set menu for £21 which is stunning value, all things considered.

Hats off to the Ivy team. They’ve managed to live up to the not-inconsiderable hype. From my grandmother – who toasted her 94th birthday here earlier this month – to youngsters in athleisure chinking drinks at the bar, being made to feel like royalty is surely the best measure of success.

See their menu and book here

Oh yes it is…

Round & About


Pantomimes are many children’s first experience of the theatre and what a way to start!

Dashing heroes, beautiful heroines and villains you can boo and hiss at, they really are great family fun for all. Karen Neville offers up our guide to some of the star-studded highlights and those on the local stages…


‘Tis the season…

Round & About


Christmas is approaching and, ahead of advent, we thought that now would be a good time to suggest some great places across our large & thriving readership areas for a tipple, a bite or for presents.

So stop and enjoy a festive drink or a winter warmer meal, perhaps as a breather while you’re out shopping or else for a date or catch-up with friends. Those who work in our food & drink industry will tell you that it’s hard work and local stars deserve our recognition. Share your favourites, too in the comments below.