Review of the Year - 2018

Review of the Year – 2018

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

And so, the end of another year has arrived, where are the years going? It feels a bit blink and you missed it, especially this last one. As we head fast into a new year, full of promise and new exciting experiences on the horizon, we thought that we would once again take you on a review of the last year we have just had.

The year 2018 was overtaken in the news by lots of talk of Brexit, a subject that we will obviously refer to later in this review of the year. As we started the year, we were 452 days away from Brexit day in March next year, by today we are down to only 88 days from the big day. Before we look forward to next year, let’s review the last one.

The year began in the usual way with Big Ben chiming his bongs, closely followed by the usual New Year celebration fireworks live from the River Thames, all of which were in the shadow of the celebrations that had already occurred in the time zones to the east, for example at L’Arc de Triomphe, and before that in Marina Bay, Dubai and even earlier at the Sydney Opera House. With many more firework celebrations to occur in the western time zones namely Times Square.

Here in the UK many television sets were playing the tunes of Nile Rogers and Chic live from their concert in London to mark the start of another new year, this must surely go down as one of the last live performances of 2017 as well as one of the first live performances to take place in 2018.


Blue moon you saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for.

Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart

As soon as the clock struck over into a new year in California, USA a new law came into force, which legalised the recreational use of cannabis in the state. California is the largest state in the USA to legalise the drug. The new law allows citizens of California over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce (28g) of the drug and grow up to 6 marijuana plants in their own home. There were opponents to the law that argued there would be more driving under the influence cases as well as introducing young people to drug use. It is worth noting that California had legalised the drug for medical use in 1996. In making the recreational use of this drug legal in the state, California became the 8th state of the US to legalise it for recreational and medical use.

Barely a week into the new year and the keepers at Longleat received the very sad news that their 56-year-old, 32-stone gorilla, Nico had sadly passed away in his sleep during the night of the 6th. Nico was a much-loved gorilla at the safari park, not just with his keepers but also the many visitors who visited the park over the years. Nico was the 3rd eldest captive gorilla in the world, although there is no actual record of his birth, therefore he could have been older. Nico lived on his very own island on Half Mile Lake which he had shared with his partner Samba, until her sad demise some 10 years earlier. Nico had arrived at Longleat in 1986 from Switzerland and his species is critically endangered. Nico is renowned as middle-aged and grumpy, but that just seemed to enamour him more to the keepers and general public. He is said to have had a love of jam sandwiches and enjoyed watching satellite television in his house. Head of animal operations at Longleat, Darren Beasley said, ‘Everyone here has been truly saddened by the death of Nico. His main keeper has been working with Nico virtually on a daily basis since 1989 and has forged an extraordinarily close bond with him. It goes without saying that he is particularly devastated by the loss.’ Nico will be sadly missed by all.

Nico the Gorilla, picture used with thanks to Longleat.

The evening of the 7th saw the annual Golden Globes award ceremony in America, this year the award ceremony was more famous for events around the ceremony than the winners of the awards themselves. I am sure you are aware of the Harvey Weinstein accusations around Hollywood and the resulting MeToo movement. Many of the attendees at this award ceremony wore black and wore corresponding #MeToo badges. This clearly was a big focus of the attendees and successfully highlighted the movement.

It was this year that football fans up and down the country got their first view of the VAR system. VAR stands for Video Assistant Referee, and it debuted on UK soil on the 8th of January this year at a game between Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace in the FA Cup. Sadly however, VAR was not called upon as the circumstances that it could have been used did not arise in this game. However, there were more occasions when this was used throughout the month of January. 2 occasions of note were the first goal to be awarded by VAR which was scored by Kelechi Iheanacho in an FA Cup 3rd round replay match against Fleetwood Town, who were beaten 2 – 0 by Iheanacho’s Leicester City team. The other occasion of note for VAR came at Anfield, Liverpool, when referee Craig Pawson, watched a video recording at the sidelines of the pitch, causing a delay of nearly 3 minutes, after which he awarded a penalty to the home side, Liverpool FC.

While on the subject of changes in sport, the 26th saw the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) decide to ban walk-on girls, the girls slammed this decision and a petition of 3000 names led by Raymond Van Barneveld called for the girls to be reintroduced. Whereas there was also support for this move from other dart players including Michael Van Gerwen who in an interview given to AD Sportwereld said ‘The PDC wants more people to see it as a sport. It does not interest me (walk-on girls). It is just a sport.’

It was just 4 days after the original PDC decision that Formula 1 Management (FOM), Liberty Media, made an announcement which said they were banning the use of grid girls starting this season. The ex-owner of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone said ‘I can’t see how a good-looking girl standing with a driver and a number in front of a Formula 1 car can be offensive to anyone.’ In contrast the current Managing Director of commercial operations, Shaun Bratches said, the change would be made ‘so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport’.

The last day of January saw a total lunar eclipse. This is an eclipse of note as it was the second full moon of the month, therefore making it a super blue blood moon. The last time that we had one of these was way back on December the 30th 1982 in the Eastern Hemisphere. Sadly, here in the UK we were unable to witness this phenomenon, however the next one is due on January 31st 2037. So what makes it a super blue blood moon? The Moon was at its perigee, the point at which the Moon was nearest to the Earth in its orbit, and therefore is referred to as a supermoon, and is called a blue moon as it was the second full moon of the month. The blood refers to the red colour of the Moon in a lunar eclipse. We are looking forward to the next Super Blue Blood Moon in 2037!


I can’t believe the stuff that is not I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is not
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
And I can’t believe that both I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
and the stuff that I can’t believe is not I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter are both,
in fact,
not butter.
And I believe…
they both might be butter…
in a cunning disguise.
And, in fact, there’s a lot more butter around than we all thought there was.

Alice Tinker, The Vicar of Dibley

February saw the resurrection of the Team GB uniforms again, however this time in the winter style for the 2018 Winter Olympics, held in PyeongChang, South Korea. The Winter Olympics took place from February 4th through to the 20th. It is probably fair to say that Team GB does not actually have that much success in the winter version of the multi-sports competition. If we look back in history we have names that live on due to their various levels of success, including Torvill and Dean and Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards. The class of 2018 however will live long in the memory as they came home from the games with 5 medals, one of which was gold and the others bronze.

Here we take a look at Team GB’s PyeongChang history makers:

Lizzy Yarnold – Skeleton Gold

Obviously we have to start with the 1 gold medal won during these games. This went to Lizzy Yarnold, who successfully defended her title in the Skeleton from the 2014 games in Sochi.

Despite battling a chest infection, Lizzy put down the track record in her first run down the track, after her second run and at the end of the 16th Lizzy was sitting in 3rd place. Over the course of her 3rd and 4th runs on the 17th Lizzy managed to do what no Briton had ever done before her and win back-to-back gold medals at the Winter Olympics. This victory also made Lizzy Team GB’s most successful Winter Olympian of all time.

Laura Deas – Skeleton Bronze

Laura Deas joined her friend and fellow countrywomen, Lizzy Yarnold on the podium to collect her bronze medal. Throughout the 2 days of competition, Laura had been there or thereabouts on the timings screen. But finally, when run 3 leader, Janine Flock, was unable to maintain her speed, Laura saw her bronze medal confirmed. A good return for a Winter Olympic debut for Laura.

Coming into the PyeongChang games, Great Britain had won medals at each of the last 4 games in the Women’s Skeleton, after this year’s games that tally is now 7 medals from 5 games.

Dominic Parsons – Skeleton Bronze

The day before Lizzy and Laura won their medals on the Skeleton Track, Dominic Parsons had successfully secured a bronze medal for his efforts. Dominic had been impressive in training all week, but looked to have missed out on a medal, but thankfully for him World Champion Martins Dukurs made uncharacteristic mistakes on his last run and that allowed Dominic to hold on for bronze, not bad for someone who was 10th in the Sochi event 4 years earlier. He got Team GB off the mark in the medal table and became the first man to win a medal in the Skeleton since 1948.

Izzy Atkin – Slopestyle Bronze

On the same day that Lizzy Yarnold and Laura Deas won gold and bronze in the Skeleton, Izzy Atkin won a bronze in the Slopestyle event. Izzy was Team GB’s youngest member of the team representing GB at the Winter Olympics, and she will forever have a place in British folklore as the first competitor to win a medal on skis. Her final run score of 84.60 placed her into 3rd place with 3 competitors to try and beat her, happily they failed to do so and Izzy left PyeongChang with a bronze medal for her efforts.

Billy Morgan – Snowboard Big Air Bronze

It was a whole extra week before TeamGB won their next medal at the games, this time the bronze to Billy Morgan in the Snowboard Big Air. Like Izzy, Billy will go down in history as the first man to win a medal on the snow for GB. To secure his bronze medal, Billy pulled off a trick which he had not completed before in competition, a front side 14 triple with mute and tail grab.

Team GB’s Winter Olympic medal winners

Finally, on the Winter Olympics, it is a Winter Olympics that will stay long in the memory as North and South Korea joined together and sent a delegation of athletes to the games in a unified team. This team entered the arena of the Opening Ceremony under the Unified Korea flag. One sport in particular where this team were entered was Ice Hockey, where it was agreed that 3 North Korean players would be chosen for each match.

On the 14th of the month, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma resigned from his post after days of defying orders from the ruling party African National Congress (ANC) to stand down. On the eve of a no-confidence vote, Zuma said he was a disciplined member of the ANC to which he had dedicated his life and that ‘I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment’. Zuma’s resignation ended an extraordinary day in South African politics which had begun with dawn raids on a business address of a family at the centre of recent corruption allegations levelled at Zuma. At noon, ANC officials announced they would vote for an opposition party’s no-confidence vote on the Thursday. Late in the afternoon he gave an angry and rambling TV interview to justify his refusal to step down. His speech however was more confident and warm. Zuma’s resignation left the path clear for deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa who had already taken over the leadership of the ANC in December.

On the 20th, Her Majesty The Queen made a surprise visit to London Fashion Week. This was Her Majesty’s first visit to London Fashion Week, a visit which fell on the last day of the event. Her Majesty sat in the front row of designer Richard Quinn’s show. Quinn paid tribute to Her Majesty with a collection of full swing coats, silk headscarves and vibrant floral patterns in what he described as ‘a tongue in cheek take on Balmoral, done my way’.

Sadly, the month came to an end with the sad news of the death of actress Emma Chambers. Emma was only 53 at her death. Whilst she had many roles across British TV and Film, she was probably best known for her role as Alice Tinker in The Vicar of Dibley, thus adding to the great reunion in the sky following the deaths of her co-stars in 2016. The other piece of work that Emma was famous for was Notting Hill. Emma’s masterpieces will keep her memory alive.


Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess
I thank the Lord I’ve been blessed
With more than my share of happiness.

Ken Dodd – Happiness

On the 3rd of March, a legend in the world of athletics passed away. The person in question was the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Of course, that man’s name is Sir Roger Bannister CBE. Sir Roger made the dramatic feat of the sub-4-minute mile in 1954. Not only was he an athlete he was also a neurologist. During the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki, Roger set a British record in the 1500 metres in which he finished 4th. This achievement strengthened his resolve to complete a mile in under 4 minutes. The announcer at the time of Sir Roger’s achievement only got as far as ‘the time is 3 minutes…’ as the crowd began to cheer, his exact time however was 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. His record lasted just 46 days. Bannister achieved the time with minimal training at the same time as practising as a junior doctor.

March was an interesting time in Cirencester town, it started in the snow and the mysterious case of the missing Lego Man head. On the morning of the 3rd of March, the toy shop Crocodile, located in the town had posted a message on Facebook asking if anyone had seen their Lego Man head which had gone missing overnight. The significance of this is that the Crocodile Lego Man is well known throughout the town, and many an adult and child have ‘had’ a conversation with this creation. There were many comments on this post to say how awful it was and how sad the people of Cirencester were that such a thing could have happened to the Lego Man, some comments came from far and wide of people saying how they loved to see this creation on their visit to the town. We are glad to say that the head was returned to the Lego Man on the 7th of the month with a note anonymously apologising for taking the head, which had happened on a drunken night out. Although the owners of Crocodile had to make a few repairs, the Lego Man continues to stand in pride of place at the entrance to Woolmarket shopping area in which Crocodile Toy Shop can be found.

In the midst of Cirencester hunting the Lego head, a much more serious event was taking place just a mere 50 miles away in Salisbury. An ex-Russian spy and his daughter had been poisoned in the town, with the poison later identified as Novichok. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia had been poisoned by the substance being placed on their door handle, later affecting Wiltshire Police Officer Det. Sgt. Nick Bailey, who went to the house in the line of enquiries. Thankfully all three people affected were later discharged from hospital. The UK Government soon identified the Russian state through their GRU as the suspects in the poisoning and in retaliation sent home 23 Russian diplomats. By the end of March some 100 Russian diplomats had been sent back to Russia from other countries in the world in support of the UK’s response to this attack. The Russian Government, namely Vladimir Putin, denies any involvement in this attack. The suspects were later identified and named by the UK Government. We took a closer look at this story at the time and our take on it is available to read on our 2018 blog page.

While discussing Russia, it is worth noting that the Salisbury Novichok attack took place in the middle of a presidential election in Russia. This was actually used in a defence of their country with some people asking why Vladimir Putin, President of Russia would sanction such an attack while looking to get re-elected as Russian President. Other media commenters expressed their concern that this would be a perfect occasion for him to do so to show his political might and power. Some even saw the Novichok attack as Russia showing that they could attack anyone who goes against the regime in any country at any time. With the votes of the election counted and verified the world heard on the 18th that Vladimir Putin would indeed serve another term as the President of Russia.

We move on to the sad news that March brought, and by the end of the month we were beginning to think that 2016’s curse for taking famous people had become the curse of 2018.

The first famous person of note for us taken in the month of March was Sir Ken Dodd, a charismatic character who was born and died in the same house in Knotty Ash, Liverpool. A personal reflection for me would be that until my first visit to the city of Liverpool, and accidently taking a wrong turn, therefore driving through Knotty Ash, I believed that it was a place that Ken Dodd had made up for his comedy performances. My apologies for this to the people of Knotty Ash! So, who was Ken Dodd? Sir Ken Dodd was probably most famous for his Diddy Men and his tickling stick which was accompanied by the catchphrase ‘How tickled I am’. Ken Dodd had many talents which include, comedy performances, ventriloquism and singing. Whenever we think of Ken Dodd one of the first things that comes to mind is of him singing ‘Happiness’ which from an outsider looking into the character of Ken Dodd, feels like it sums him up, in honour of this legend of entertainment who was active from 1954 until 2017 we have included a link to this song from YouTube:

Ken Dodd performs Happiness

The 14th saw the death of Sir Stephen Hawking. Sir Stephen died at the age of 76, he was famous for his works of science theory with possibly his most famous work entitled A Brief History of Time. In 1963 he was diagnosed at the age of 21 with a rare early-onset slow progressing form of motor neurone disease, of which doctors told him he had 2 years to live. By 1970, his speech had deteriorated so much that he could only be understood by his family and friends. By 1986, he was using the voice technology that he would continue to use until his death. Sir Stephen Hawking went on to live a full life, achieving many things, as well as being able to appear in comedy sketches and show that life with a disability can be a full and meaningful life. He appeared in several Comic Relief sketches, one of which we will always remember and have included a link to here. He has also written a series of children’s books with his daughter Lucy, as well as having a film made about his life.

On the same day as the death of Sir Stephen Hawking, Bullseye presenter and comedian Jim Bowen died, Jim presented the darts-based quiz show from 1981 until the end of the original run in 1995. He was inspired by Ken Dodd in his early years to take up full-time comedy. In the words of Jim Bowen, ‘You can’t beat a bit of bully’. We are sure that Jim will always be remembered for his deep gravelly voice and his entertaining style on the gameshow.

The other person to have died in this month that we want to make reference to is Bill Maynard whose most famous acting role was that of Claude Jeremiah Greengrass in ITV’s Sunday evening drama, Heartbeat. Many a Sunday evening has gone by watching his performances as the ducking and diving Greengrass in Aidensfield, Yorkshire. However, this is not the only role that Bill will be remembered for, as fans of the Carry On series of films will see him in his earlier years starring in these comedic, some would say risqué for their time, films including:

  • Carry On Loving,
  • Carry On Henry,
  • Carry On at Your Convenience,
  • Carry On Matron,
  • Carry On Dick.

Luckily fans of these famous people will always have their work to remind them of how great they were.

The 21st of the month however brought some really sad news that for the most part got hidden under lots of other news. This was the news that the last male Northern White Rhino, Sudan had been euthanised after suffering from age-related complications, he leaves behind just 2 other animals in this sub-species, both of whom are female. This was a sad day in the history of the Northern White Rhino.


‘Next time you’re at the checkout and you hear the beeps…
Beep beep,
Think of the fun you could be having
On Supermarket Sweep!’

Dale Winton

April began with the sad news of 2 famous sports stars from different sports leaving the Earth.

On the 4th, football star Ray Wilkins died at the age of 61. During his footballing career Ray had played in the midfield position for several clubs at home including, Chelsea, Manchester United, QPR and Crystal Palace as well as Rangers in Scotland and other teams in Europe including AC Milan and Paris Saint Germain; he was also good enough to get a place in the England national side earning 84 caps scoring 4 goals. He then went into management taking charge of 3 teams, Queens Park Rangers, Fulham and Jordan as well as becoming Assistant Manager at many others but most notably Chelsea. As a player and manager, he won the FA Cup 4 times, the FA Community Shield twice and the Premier League once along with a range of other accolades along the way. Once he hung up his boots and retired from management, he became a well-respected pundit on the game particularly for Sky Sports. The world of football will greatly miss Ray Wilkins.

The following day the Darts legend that is Eric Bristow MBE passed away at the age of 60. During his career Eric Bristow was ranked World Number 1 by the World Darts Federation a record 6 times, was a 5-times World Champion, a 5-times World Masters Champion, and a 4 times World Cup Singles Champion. During his career he achieved 70 career titles. During the 1980s his personality helped to turn darts into a worldwide spectator sport. Along with 15 other players, Eric Bristow broke away from the British Darts Corporation and formed the Professional Darts Corporation, retiring from the sport in 2007, taking his reputation to behind the mic as a commentator for Sky Sports.

April wasn’t all bad for sport fans. In fact, during April the focus was on the Commonwealth Games; for some athletes this is the multi-sport games they look forward to particularly in the United Kingdom as they get to wear their individual country’s colours instead of Team GB’s colours. The Welsh participants in particular comment how much they enjoy wearing the Welsh Dragon on their chest. The 21st Commonwealth Games were held in the Gold Coast, Australia from the 4th to the 15th of the month. This was the 5th time Australia had the honour of hosting the event and for the first time the games achieved gender equality due to having an equal number of events for men and women, which the Olympic Games have not yet achieved. More than 4,400 athletes, including 300 para-athletes from across the 71 Commonwealth Games Associations, took part in what are known as the friendly games. Like the Olympics, the Commonwealths are held every 4 years and Birmingham is due to host the event in 2022. Australia topped the medal table, closely followed by England and India in second and third respectively. The result that will probably live long in the memory is from the netball court, where England beat the Australians in the dying seconds to win gold, a match which had a nail-biting ending, with the winning goal being scored in the last throw of the game by Helen Housby. The first time that Jerusalem had rung out in victory for England Netball at the Commonwealths.

Four more people of note died during the month of April.

Over in the United States of America it was announced on the 17th that former First Lady Barbara Bush, wife of the 41st President of the United States, George H W Bush had passed away at the age of 92. Barbara served as First Lady from 1989 until 1993, she left her husband, George and 6 children.

Back in the UK, the news of the 18th was that television entertainer Dale Winton had died. At his death Dale Winton was only 62 years of age. Dale presented many game shows, for example, Hole In The Wall, Pets Win Prizes and In It to Win It. But he is probably most well-known for his television show, Supermarket Sweep, where he invited members of the public to go ‘wild in the aisles’. He was a charismatic character, and the world of television is surely going to miss him.

The 20th of April arrived with more sad news, and this time it was Swedish musician, DJ, remixer, and record producer, Avicii. Avicii was just 26 years old when he took his own life. A life that continued to promise so much, but sadly Avicii was suffering from mental health issues and stress. He is probably best remembered in the UK for his tune, Wake Me Up, which was covered a few years ago and released as a Children in Need official single by a group of celebrities led by Gareth Malone. Whilst the cover version is good, Avicii’s original will live on as the better version.

The very next day, the world woke up to the news that Verne Troyer had passed away. Verne Troyer was 49 years old, and was probably most famous for his role of Mini-Me in the Austin Powers’ films. Notably, Verne was only 2ft 81in or 81cm tall, this made him one of the smallest men in the world. His size was as a result of cartilage-hair hypoplasia, which is a rare genetic disorder. Although he is best remembered as Mini-Me Verne made many movies and television appearances, and different people will remember him for different things.

April also threw up some nice happy news and events as well as the sad death news that we have looked at. No review of the year currently is complete without mentioning, Her Majesty The Queen celebrating a birthday; this year she celebrated her 92nd birthday, may we wish her belated happy birthday wishes, and wish her many happy returns to come. Long may she reign over us!

While discussing the Royals, many of you will be wondering where the latest addition to the Royal Family is and of course it was April that this addition arrived….


Yes, on April the 23rd Prince William and Catherine welcomed their third child to the world, and the 5th in line to the throne is a boy. After days of guessing, the royal couple put the UK out of their misery and announced the child shall be called:

Prince Louis Arthur Charles Cambridge and his official title is Prince Louis of Cambridge.

Like his sister, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis made history as he is the first male royal to be born that doesn’t displace his female sibling in the line to the throne thanks to the Perth Agreement made in October 2011. Princess Charlotte made history on this day by keeping her place in the succession line to the throne. Prior to the Perth Agreement Princess Charlotte would have been the 5th in line with her brother Prince Louis taking her 4th in line position as son and heir to Prince William, but this old rule no longer exists.

The month ended with an historic moment on the 27th when the Leader of North Korea stepped into the South Korean zone of the Joint Security Area of the Korean peninsula for a meeting with the South Korean leader. In doing this, Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean Leader to set foot into South Korean territory since the Korean War. During this meeting, also known as a summit, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in (South Korean Leader) pledged to declare the official end of the Korean war within a year, as well as denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. As part of the Panmunjom declaration, both leaders called for an end to the long-standing military action in the region of the border, and the reunification of Korea.


Our language and literature are without a doubt
Britain’s greatest contribution
to the cultural heritage
of the world.

Tessa Jowell

Following on from the Korean border summit, on May 5th North Korea adjusted its time zone to match that of the South, and throughout the month South Korea began removing propaganda loudspeakers from the border area. These actions show that potentially the Korean peninsula could one day once again live together in peace and harmony.

On the 10th May, we read an article on comments made by ‘sexuality expert’ Deanne Carson, on ABC News. According to the article Deanne was talking about teaching consent to children and she says to set up a culture of consent, parents should ask their children for permission before proceeding to change their nappies. She went on to say that she appreciates that children will not be able to verbally confirm consent, but the parent should ask and then leave a space in time for the child to make eye contact and use body language thus showing the child that their response matters. Deanne says that she works with children from 3-years-old. On social media, her comments however received criticism. One such criticism says that if a child has a soiled nappy then the parent should change it as that is part of the parent’s role to properly care for their child. Another comment discussed having to turn up to the doctors with the child having a skin problem, because they didn’t give consent, so the child couldn’t be changed. The segment even led to Sky News Australia commenter to label the notion ‘Left lunacy’. Deanne Carson has since retaliated with a lengthy comeback on her Facebook page. In her comeback she quoted the child sexual abuse statistics, even this comeback has led to many comments of ridicule to the idea.

We think it is safe to say that the thinking behind what she is saying is solid, i.e. children should be taught that they have a right to say no, and that their body is theirs, but at the same time does the commenter not have a point about the parent having a responsibility to look after their child effectively?

2 more notable deaths occurred in May; one of these is for the good things they achieved in their life and the other for the exact opposite reasons, and both these deaths occurred on the 12th. We will start with the negative.

Serial killer and necrophile, Dennis Nilsen died at the age of 72. Dennis Nilson was famous for his killing spree in London from 1978 until 1983, during this time he killed at least 12 young men. He was convicted of 6 counts of murder and 2 attempted murder charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 25 years. Nilsen was never released and died in prison. The murders were committed at 2 North London addresses, which he had lured his victims to; he killed them by strangulation, sometimes accompanied with drowning. Following the murders, he followed a ritual where he would bathe and dress the victims’ bodies, keeping them for extended periods of time before dissecting and disposing of the bodies either by burning on a bonfire or by flushing down the lavatory.

The nicer person who died on the 12th was Member of Parliament Tessa Jowell, later in life known as Baroness Jowell. During her time in the House of Commons Tessa was a Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, previously Dulwich which was her first elected seat in 1992. She stood down from the House of Commons in 2015. During her time in the house, Tessa held several roles both in opposition and in Government. Most notably she was Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport after the 2001 General Election. It was whilst in this role that she had the idea of London hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics and she was in charge of the bid to have London named as the host city for a third time. On London being awarded the Olympics, Tessa was also given the role as Minister for the Olympics. When the Labour Government lost power in 2010, Tessa became Shadow Minister for the Olympics and remained on the London Olympic Organising Committee with Lord Coe and Jeremy Hunt. In 2012 she resigned her role as Shadow Olympics Minister and returned to the backbenches. In 2015 she launched her bid to become the next Mayor of London, coming second in the battle to be Labour’s candidate to eventual Mayor Sadiq Khan. On the 27th October 2015 she was raised up to a lifelong peerage and became Baroness Jowell of Brixton in the London Borough of Lambeth. In January this year Dame Tessa got a standing ovation for a speech she gave. She began the speech by talking about how she had been diagnosed with an extremely lethal form of brain cancer called Glioblastoma Multiforme. She went on to advocate making more cancer treatments available on the NHS saying:

‘In the end,
what gives a life meaning is not only how it is lived,
but how it draws to a close.
I hope that this debate will give hope to other cancer patients,
like me,
so that we can live well together with cancer,
not just dying of it.
All of us,
for longer.’

Sadly, she suffered a brain haemorrhage on the 11th May and fell into a coma which she remained in until her death on the 12th.

The same day as Dame Tessa’s death saw the annual music competition final that is the Eurovision Song Contest, as usual the evening was a mix of colour, music and voting conspiracy. This year the contest was held in Portugal for the first time following on from their win in 2017. This year the United Kingdom was represented by SuRie with a song entitled Storm, finishing on the right-hand side of the board in 24th place collecting just 48 points. This year’s winners were from Israel. Their song was called Toy and performed by Netta who picked up 529 points.

On the 15th of the month, a mini celebration took place for Mickey Mouse, who made his first appearance 90 years earlier in cinema screens in a silent film which was given a test screening to an audience. This silent movie was called Plane Crazy, it was released fully as a sound cartoon in 1929, which became Mickey’s 4th film release. Sadly, the test screening carried out on May 15th 1928 wasn’t picked up by a distributor. Mickey’s first full released debut came later in the year.

How could we review this year without taking a look at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. This event took place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on the 19th May. Hours before the ceremony, Buckingham Palace announced the titles that Prince Harry would receive, these were:

Duke of Sussex,
Earl of Dumbarton, and
Baron of Kilkeel.

Upon marriage Meghan would take the title, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Sussex. The wedding was watched on the television in the UK by 18 million people and 29 million Americans, up from the 23 million that watched older brother William marry Catherine. Prince Charles accompanied his future daughter-in-law down the aisle as her father could not make the ceremony due to recent heart surgery. Ms Markle travelled to the chapel with her mother. The wedding was based on the traditional Christian marriage service as well as royal tradition, with a few tweaks in to make it more personal to the bride and groom, including a Gospel choir. Meghan’s dress was embroidered with 55 flowers that represented the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, as well as Wintersweet which grows in the grounds of Nottingham Cottage where she and Harry lived and the 55th flower was the Californian Poppy, where Meghan is from. She was wearing a tiara loaned to her by Her Majesty The Queen. Following the service, the crowds got the kiss on the steps of the chapel they had longed to see before the couple left the chapel for a Horse Carriage procession round Windsor before heading back to the wedding reception hosted by Her Majesty The Queen. In the evening a second reception was held at Frogmore House for family and close friends and was hosted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and father of the groom, Prince Charles. Prince Harry drove himself and his new bride to the reception at Frogmore House in a Silver Jaguar E-Type Concept Zero. 


Anyone can fall in love
That’s the easy part you must keep it going
Anyone can fall in love
Over the years it has to keep growing
Sun and rain
Joy and pain
There’s highs – there’s lows
We’ve no way of knowing.

Anyone Can Fall in love – Based on EastEnders’ theme written by Simon May

Into the summer months we go, and June is where it begins! Little did we know what a lovely summer we were going to have. The weather turned out nice over the next 3 and a half months, and some events as we will see brought the country together behind common goals.

One such event that brought the nation together was on the 10th of June when His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip celebrated his 97th birthday. Although he took his leave of public engagements last year, on the few occasions he has been seen since, he is looking his normal happy, healthy self, and at 97 it has to be said he is doing well for his age. We wish him many more happy returns and long may he support Her Majesty The Queen as she reigns.

The 12th was an historic day as Donald Trump, President of The United States of America became the first ever President to meet the Supreme Leader of North Korea, on this occasion Kim Jong-un. The meeting took place at the Capella Hotel, in Singapore. During the meeting both men signed a joint statement in which they agreed security guarantees for North Korea, new peaceful relations, the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, which as we know Kim Jong-un had already discussed and agreed this with the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. The agreement between Jong-un and Trump also said the recovery of soldiers’ remains had been agreed and that there would be follow-up discussions between the countries’ high-ranking officials. In the lead up to this meeting, there were significant doubts that it would go ahead as both leaders had spent time calling the other names, with Trump at one point calling Jong-un Rocketman following the nuclear tests that the latter had been carrying out in his country. The summit consisted of a one-to-one meeting, once they had met and exchanged a 12 second handshake in front of the world’s media, followed by a working meeting and lunch together. Publicly the 2 leaders appeared to get on well, with both talking positively for future relations between the countries and leaders.

On the 15th EastEnders legend and actor Leslie Grantham passed away at the age of 71. Leslie will always be fondly remembered for playing the role of ‘Dirty’ Den Watts in the London-based soap, with his most fondly remembered scene coming at Christmas time when he famously handed his ‘wife’ Angie Watts (Anita Dobson) their divorce papers. Leslie Grantham also appeared in many other television shows with cameo roles here and there for example in The Bill and Heartbeat, as well as being famous for playing the role of Boyard in Channel 5’s Fort Boyard game show as well as famously playing Colonel Mustard in Cluedo.

At the age of 46, the Western Lowland Gorilla known as Koko, full name Hanabiko sadly died. Koko had become known for learning a large number of hand signs from a modified version of American Sign Language. She had spent her life living at Woodside California’s Gorilla Foundation. Her name meant fireworks’ child which was Japanese in origin and is a reference to her birthdate of the 4th July. It is believed that Koko had learned over 1,000 signs which her keeper called Gorilla Sign Language (GSL). Rest in Peace Koko.

June became known as the month for historic dates, and no truer day is this than the 24th which saw Saudi Arabia allow women to drive for the first time. Until this date Saudi Arabia was the last country in the world to allow women to drive. Let’s not forget however that there was no actual ban on women driving, however the law did not permit them licences and therefore, women could drive just not legally. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia said it was the right move and the right time.

On the 30th and last day of June, sadly the world’s attention again returned to the Salisbury area. 2 innocent members of the public were admitted to hospital, where police determined that they had been poisoned by the same Novichok nerve agent that had been used on Sergei and Yulia Skripal just 3 months earlier, in Salisbury, just 8 miles away from Amesbury where these 2 new victims were from. According to the press reports from the Metropolitan Police Service, theAmbulance Service was called to an address in Amesbury at 10:15 after Dawn Sturgess had collapsed. The Ambulance Service were called back to the same address at 15:30 when Dawn’s partner Charlie Rowley had fallen unwell. They remained in hospital through into July, when sadly Dawn became the first victim of the nerve agent to die on the 8th of July. Charlie regained consciousness on the 10th and was released from hospital on the 20th of July. In an interview with ITV, Charlie Rowley said that he had found a sealed box of a recognisable brand of perfume and had given it to his partner, she then sprayed it onto herself (assuming that it was indeed perfume) and fell ill within 15 minutes. He described the liquid as an oily substance. He also said that he had got some onto him as he attached the plastic spray dispenser to the bottle, but he washed this off immediately. He also confirmed that they had used a knife to open the sealed box.

The other major event that spreads over June and July this year was the FIFA World Cup held in Russia. This was the 21st holding of the event in men’s football, and the first to be held in Eastern Europe although the 11th time a European country had hosted the event. This year’s World Cup would also make history as the first of these competitions to use VAR technology. Of the 4 Home Nations only England had qualified to get to Russia and in the draw were drawn in Group G with, Belgium, Tunisia and Panama. Unusually for a World Cup, the hype and expectation on the England Team was mute at best and certainly not as expectant and widely advertised with merchandise in stores as usual; it was wondered if this would benefit the lads in Russia. There was also a lot of talk of how the England Team should qualify out of the group, but as any football fan will tell you, you have to beat the team in front of you.

England won their first 2 group games which meant they had qualified into the second round of the finals, meaning the third group game would decide who would qualify top of the group or second. England went into the third group game against Belgium knowing a win would top the group, but regardless they had qualified. The fans at home were hopeful of an England win, sadly this did not happen and England lost the game 1 – 0. Into the second round we went to face a strong Colombia side, who had had a really good group for them. England took the lead after a 57-minute penalty and the celebrations were rife both back here and with the fans in the stadium, sadly the joy didn’t last long as the Colombians equalised in the 3rd minute of injury time, meaning the game went into the 30-minute extra time period in which no-one scored. England now faced their nemesis – Penalties! England has a terrible record of penalties including at World Cups, 3 defeats from 3 shootouts. The tension was unbearable. Each of the first 4 penalties were scored, 2-2, then Henderson missed for England, and Muriel scored for Colombia 2 – 3. Trippier scored 3 – 3, meaning that it was up to Colombia to keep the pressure on, Uribe missed! Dier stepped up, and scored 4 – 3 now we waited for Colombia, Bacca missed. England had won their first World Cup penalty shootout and the hoodoo was over!

England with a penalty shootout win behind, marched on to the quarter-finals where they met Sweden and, in comparison to the last round, the result was a formality with a 2 – 0 win for the 3 Lions. By this time at home, there was a lot of talk of Football Coming Home, Baddiel and Skinner’s 3 Lions’ tune of the 90s had re-entered the chart and finally the country came together and believed that the lads in Russia could actually bring home the trophy and title for a second time ending the 52 years of hurt. Into the semi-finals we go, England get off to a flyer against Croatia, with Trippier scoring in the 5th minute of the match, the excitement, the nerves all rolled into one etched on the fans’ faces. The game got to half-time and England still lead! Out for the second half the words of the managers’ ringing in the players’ heads, 22 minutes into the half and England concede to Croatia, its 1 – 1. Again the game goes on, no more goals in regulation time so on to the dreaded extra time, fearing the return of the penalties should nobody score, the trepidation beginning to show as faces of fans are shown on the television. Half way through the extra-time, nope no goals, on we went with hope of an England goal, and then…Heartache, Croatia scored 4 minutes into the second half of extra time with just 6 to play.

Croatia knocked England out of the tournament and went on to meet France the eventual winners in the final. And as for England, well it wasn’t totally over, they still had the 3rd place play-off game to play against group rivals, Belgium. Sadly Belgium went on to win this game as well with a 2 – 0 win, still we look for the positives of the summer of football and there are plenty. Gareth Southgate looks like the man that might actually get England long overdue success, the country are once again behind the team and there are some really good young lads coming through the ranks; we move on to see what the next tournament will mean for England football.


Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear the NHS,
Happy Birthday to you.

During July this year the National Health Service (NHS) celebrated its 70th Birthday. There were television specials across the BBC and ITV to mark the historic occasion. We got in on the act and posted an article on the origins of the NHS and the challenges that face the NHS ahead, this is accessible in our information Den. The NHS as we all know is a fantastic British institution, and we hope that it continues long into the future, we hope to be fondly celebrating its 100th birthday in 30 years time.

On the 6th Teresa May and Cabinet met at Chequers to discuss the Brexit Plan. The Cabinet came out of the meeting agreeing the plan, although this happy consensus didn’t last long.

8th of July saw the resignation of the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis. He gave his reasoning for this as that he did not believe in the Prime Minister’s plan for Brexit. This resignation then saw the resignation of a junior minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union, Stephen Baker and that of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the latter resigning on the 9th.

Following the meeting, a white paper was published on the 12th to provide details of the plan that Teresa May wanted the Government to achieve. Dominic Rabb, the latest Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, stated that the plan ‘proposes a free trade area for goods to maintain frictionless trade, supported by a common rulebook and a new facilitated customs arrangement, but only for the rules that are necessary to provide frictionless trade at the border.’ The plan however went on to get rejected by the European Union in September 2018.

Brexit throughout this year has been a non-stop discussion on all the news channels, the 1st of July marked just 271 days from Brexit day of March the 29th 2019.

In much happier news, the 10th of July saw all 12 of the young footballers and their 25-year-old assistant coach being rescued from Tham Luang Nang Non caves in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand, which they had entered on the 23rd of June after football practice. Shortly after they had entered the cave, heavy rains partially flooded the cave trapping the group inside. The boys were all part of a football club called Wild Boars and were aged between 11 and 17-years-old. At 7pm on the 23rd June, Head Coach Nopparat Khanthawong checked his telephone and saw that he had 20 missed calls from parents who were concerned their children had not returned from the football practice, he then rang his assistant, Ekkaphon Chanthawong, unsuccessfully and several of the boys, until he reached Songpon Kanthawong who is a 13-year-old member of the team. He told the coach that he was picked up after practice, and the rest of the boys had gone exploring in the Tham Luang caves. Nopparat raced up to the caves finding abandoned bicycles and bags near the entrance, with water seeping out of the muddy pathway. He alerted authorities to the missing group after seeing their unclaimed belongings. Contact had been made with the group on the 2nd of July, with a rescue mission starting on the 8th, until all members of the group had been rescued on the 10th. Sadly, there was one fatality during this rescue. Saman Kunan died on the 6th July from asphyxiation while returning to a base camp in the cave having delivered oxygen supplies to the trapped group.

The annual Wimbledon Championships took place during the first fortnight in July, with Novak Djokovic winning the men’s title and Angelique Kerber taking the women’s titles this year at the All England Tennis Club.

It was announced on the 16th that Britain would be getting its first spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland with the first launches potentially taking place in the early 2020s. While on the subject of Space, on the 17th 10 new moons were discovered orbiting Jupiter, this takes Jupiter’s moons up to a staggering 79 confirmed moons. One of the new 10 moons named S/2016 J 2, nicknamed Valetudo, is notable because it is orbiting backwards in relation to the other moons and it is thought that it may collide with another moon in the future.



Chucklevision Theme Tune

Wasn’t August just a really pleasant weather month, nice warm days, lots of sunshine, and enjoyment in the parks and fields of the UK? Sadly the month took some famous faces away off the Earth.

The first face that we will start with was the sad news of the death of Barry Elliott, more famously known as Barry Chuckle, one half of the Chuckle Brothers, I’m sure like us you had spent many hours of your childhood sat in front of the television, watching the antics of Barry and his brother Paul in their programme Chucklevision. I am sure that you have also gone to move an object in your adult life and have used their catchphrase ‘To me…To you’. Barry died at the age of 71 and along with his brother Paul was a lifelong fan of Rotherham United Football Club. It was heartbreaking to see Paul carry out some TV interviews about his brother, it was clear that they had a really good relationship between them, although Paul revealed that Barry had hidden from his brother and manager that he had been diagnosed with cancer. On the 11th of August Rotherham United had a match against Ipswich Town, when the Club held a minute’s applause in Barry’s honour. However, the memorial didn’t end there, enter the 73rd minute, the home fans started to chant, ‘There’s only one Barry Chuckle, to me’ to which the Ipswich fans chanted back ‘To you’ well done to both sets of fans.

On the 7th American actress Charlotte Rae, full name Charlotte Rae Lubotsky, passed away. We are familiar with one of Charlotte’s roles being Diff’rent Strokes. In case you aren’t familiar with this show we have a link to the Diff’rent Strokes opening and closing titles. Charlotte played the housekeeper Edna Garrett. Charlotte has been reunited in the big reunion in the sky with her co-star and probably the most recognised co-star Gary Coleman.

The Queen of Soul passed away on the 16th August, of course we are referring to Aretha Franklin. Aretha had a long career, during which time she had performed duets with many legends of music including George Michael, Elton John, Whitney Houston, James Brown and Luther Vandross both on stage and in the studio, among many others. She was recording and performing music from 1956 right the way through to last year, she was prolific in making music and will long be remembered for such classics as A Natural Woman, Respect, and You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman). Here is a YouTube link to a video showcasing 10 of her songs:

Aretha Franklin songs

This month also saw the sad death of the 7th Secretary-General of The United Nations, Kofi Annan at the age of 80 on the 18th. Kofi served as Secretary-General from January the 1st 1997 until the 31st December 2006 and was succeeded by Ban-Ki Moon. Kofi was born in Kumasi, Gold Coast now called Ghana. After his tenure at the UN, Kofi Annan went on to be the UN and Arab League Envoy to Syria between the 23rd February 2102 and the 31st August 2012. During his lifetime Kofi received many honours, most notably from the United Kingdom the Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He was also awarded the Nobel Peace prize along with the UN in 2001.

From July the 2nd through to the 2nd September, Nick Park’s Academy Award-winning character Gromit took over Bristol, in Gromit Unleashed 2, this time joined by his pal Wallace and arch nemesis Feathers McGraw. Gromit Unleashed 2 was a trail around Bristol and the surrounding areas of 67 giant sculptures which were designed by high-profile artists and local talent. The trail was in aid of the Grand Appeal. We took a few rest days to go and have a wander round the trails taking in many sights and sounds of Bristol as we went. On the 29th of August via our Facebook and Twitter feeds we introduced our followers to one of our new friends, Cubby. Cubby was designed by Peskimo a husband and wife design duo, and was located on the trail at Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park. Cubby saw Gromit masquerading as his distant cousin, the cunning fox, complete with a giant bushy, fluffy tail.

Photographs of Cubby taken by Steve at Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park

Sadly, August wasn’t all fun. The 14th saw a suspected terror attack on The Houses of Parliament. The events took place at 7:37am. CCTV operators caught a silver Ford Focus make a sharp left turn and head the wrong way up St Margaret Street, crossing a pedestrian island, hitting cyclists and pedestrians in doing so, injuring 3 people. The car then carried on into Abingdon Street and branched left into an access road to the Palace of Westminster, crashing into a closed barrier and finally coming to a stop near the House of Lords. The whole event took just 15 seconds. 1 of the 3 injured people sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries. This is being treated by police as a deliberate act, and that of terror. The Independent newspaper reported friends of the driver saying that the crash may have been accidental.


Rosie and Jim
Rosie and Jim
Chugging along on the old Ragdoll
Rosie and Jim
Rosie and Jim
And John he steers the boat
We go to play and have a look
With Rosie’s bag, Jim’s drawing book
The world drifts by the window frame
And Rosie and Jim will play our games

Rosie and Jim Theme Tune Lyrics

September was a varied month of events occurring, some famous faces died, as well as some very different sports’ stories, we will even reflect on another of our down days!

The 7th saw the death of Burt Reynolds, Burt was an American movie star, director and producer, having starred in 145 feature films! Not a minor achievement at all. Burt Reynolds’ career was probably at its height as he was appearing in Smoky and the Bandit in 1977, which spawned a single for him as well as a lesser-known sequel Smoky and the Bandit II in 1980. After a period of box office failures during the 1980s, Burt returned to television and appeared in the sitcom Evening Shade through 1990 to 1994. Burt Reynolds was 82 at his death.

The 7th also saw the early death of Mac Miller, also known as Malcolm James McCormick. Mac Miller was an American rapper, singer and record producer, he also starred in Scary Movie 5 and on television in the US in Loiter Squad. Mac’s career however is more commonly recognised for his 5 studio albums that he had recorded. Not only that but Mac Miller entered the psyche of some people last year in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena terror attack where he was supporting Ariana Grande on her return to the US as her boyfriend. He has recorded music with her and came over to the UK with her to perform at One Love Manchester where they performed The Way together. Sadly, the couple split up earlier this year. Mac was found dead in his Studio City apartment following a suspected overdose at the age of 26.

On the 9th of September, Sir Mo Farrah won the Great North Run for a record 5th successive time. Mo Farrah completed this year’s Great North Run in a time of 59 minutes and 27 seconds. The Great North Run is an annual event run in the North East of England from Newcastle Upon Tyne and ends in South Shields, the distance equates to a half marathon. It was devised and first run in 1981 by former Olympic Bronze Medallist Brendan Foster. This year’s winner, Sir Mo Farrah was only half a minute outside the course record. Well done to Mo for his 5th consecutive win in the race.

Mo’s achievement shows the good side of sport, however the following day we got to see the scary side of sport, in a MotoGP2 race in San Marino. During the race, Romano Fenati having just come out of a corner, pulled alongside his fellow countryman and racer, Stefano Manzi, and reached across and pulled the front brake of Manzi’s brake. As they raced down the straight the bikes were achieving speeds of about 130mph. Manzi’s bike wobbled and swerved beneath him, causing him to lose the grip of the bike with his leg momentarily. Subsequently, Fenati was banned for the following 2 races by the sport’s governing body, however days later he was sacked by the team for this dangerous move.

We had another day of relaxation on the 14th, when we visited Longleat Safari Park for their annual SkySafari event. This event combines the Safari Park attractions with a hot-air balloon event. We went on the Friday and arrived for about a quarter past seven, where we were hoping to witness the morning mass balloon ascent, sadly however, this was unable to happen due to the weather conditions, which we were made aware of during the hour journey to Longleat via Social Media. However, this wasn’t a problem as the balloonists were still carrying out an inflation of the balloons on the floor. The sight was amazing, and we were pleased to be able to meet what was then the unnamed new animal shape balloon, by the Sunday this balloon was named Adelaide, she marked the soon arrival of Longleat’s newest residents. Although the day was a little on the cool side, it wasn’t cold and was a very enjoyable day, culminating in the Night Glow, an event where a series of balloons are lit up in time to music. Longleat House was also given a basket with a burner on its roof to be lit in time to the music adding to the whole event. Of course, while at Longleat we had to go and meet the animals and we were pleased to at least get a glimpse of baby Xena, a baby Cheetah whose story we had heard on BBC’s Animal Park. Should you be looking for a fun day out, then Longleat is a place to go and we would recommend taking the safari bus, the driver can give you lots of additional information on the animals that you would not get if you drove yourself round the safari, of course you could always do both.

Longleat’s newest balloon, Adelaide Photographed by Steve.

The 27th saw the death of John Cunliffe, his name may not automatically come to mind, but his characters and stories will. John introduced children throughout the UK to Postman Pat and Rosie and Jim. In the latter he also had a spell on the boat, so his face was then known as well as his name. John sadly died at the age of 85.


Up above the streets and houses
Rainbow climbing high
Everyone can see it smiling over the sky.
Fill the whole world with a

Rainbow Lyrics

In the space of 4 days, many children’s childhoods had been rocked by the death of 2 children’s television people, the first one was John Cunliffe, and then on the 1st of October we had to say goodbye to Geoffrey Hayes. Zippy, Bungle and George are now missing their friend Geoffrey forever. I’m sure you are all following now who Geoffrey was, of course he was the human presenter of Rainbow. Following his role in Rainbow, he found it hard to find another television role, as he once said television producers ‘can only see me as Rainbow’s Geoffrey’. He had a spell as a shelf stacker in a supermarket local to his home as well as a taxi driver. Geoffrey also appeared in several music videos, including Peter Kay’s Is this the Way (to Amarillo?). as well as a few minor appearances on other television programmes. Geoffrey died at the age of 76 from pneumonia.

One name that you probably hadn’t heard of before his assassination on the 2nd is Jamal Khashoggi. Mr Khashoggi was a Saudi dissident and a journalist for the Washington Post. He was seen entering the Turkish consulate building, it is believed he was collecting papers for a wedding he and his fiancé were planning, but he has never been seen since. Many countries believe that he had been murdered inside, however no body has been found. Later in November 11 Saudi nationals were indicted and charged with murdering Khashoggi, and 5 of them have been told that they would face the death penalty as it had been determined that they had been directly involved in ordering and executing the crime.

As you may remember during the summer, Bristol had been taken over by 67 sculptures in the shape of Gromit, Feathers and Wallace, on the 3rd an auction took place at Aerospace Bristol, of 64 of the sculptures, as 3 had been sold prior to the auction. All proceeds from the auction went to the Grand Appeal, the auction was hosted by Dawn French. The evening raised £1,321,500.00 for the charity. With the addition of the Greatest Dog Show on Earth, a display of all the sculptures under one roof, app downloads and private donations, the total raised for the charity stands at £1,621,500.00.

On the 6th, Montserrat Caballé died at the age of 85 in Barcelona. Montserrat was an opera singer who was really introduced to wider music style fans when she collaborated with the late, great Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. The collaboration came about after Barcelona had won the 1992 Olympic Games, Freddie was approached to write a song as a theme for the event with the idea of duetting with Montserrat who was from Barcelona. Freddie had been a long-standing admirer of Montserrat and she grew to admire him, and the idea to produce an album was born. The album was released in 1988 and was actually recorded in separate locations due to their schedules. In the UK the album reached 25 in the charts but on its reissue following Freddie’s death it reached number 15 in 1992. The song Barcelona was used as the theme for the 1992 Olympics.

In some really happy news, the 12th saw Longleat’s new residents arrive following a long arduous journey all the way from Australia. The new residents are, of course, a group of Koala Bears and a pair of Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats. When they arrived, and even to this day, they are being given time to acclimatise to their new surroundings and the UK weather before being introduced to the general public in Spring 2019, in what Longleat are calling Koala Creek. We look forward to meeting them.

While on an official tour to Australia, on the 15th, Kensington Palace announced that Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting their 1st baby. On its birth the chid will become the 7th in line to the throne. The next royal baby is due in Spring 2019.

On the 16th the annual Restart a Heart Day took place however, unlike previous years, the event went global under the guidance of ILCOR. Countries who took part this year included America (both North and South), Canada, South Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, as well as across Europe. Many hundreds of thousands of school children in the UK were taught how to complete CPR on this day. This year, 238,793 children were taught vital CPR skills across the world, the majority of which in the UK.

Now we turn our attention to 2 sports-related stories that occurred during the same weekend. Firstly, we focus on the 27th when an AgustaWestland AW169 helicopter crashed shortly after take-off from the King Power Stadium in Leicester. The crash killed all 5 people on board including Leicester City Football Club owner and chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. The helicopter was seen taking off from the pitch on BT Sport, as it began what was its usual route to Luton Airport, sadly, moments later the helicopter crashed. Leicester Goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, is said to have been held back from heading straight into the inferno.

Earlier in the day Glenn Hoddle had just filmed a programme for BT Sport when he suffered a heart attack, which sparked a panic among his co-stars, a quick thinking First Aid-trained sound technician rushed to his side and contributed to saving the life of Glenn Hoddle. The 27th of October will go down as a sad day for football.

The following day saw the Mexico Grand Prix, a race which saw Briton Lewis Hamilton head into the race needing to score 5 points to beat his nearest rival, Sebastian Vettel. By the end of 71 laps at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez Lewis finished in 4th place with Sebastian in second place. Lewis therefore scored 12 points and had secured his 5th World Drivers Championship, although it would not be officially confirmed until the end of the season. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his 5th title which moves him equal on the all-time list with Juan Manuel Fangio and 2 behind Michael Schumacher.


Now, God be thanked Who has watched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Peace by Rupert Brooke

November started with some exciting news for children and adults as the BBC announced that this year’s animated programme based on the books of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler would be Zog, and it would be shown over Christmas. It was later announced that the time of the showing of this would be Christmas Day at 4:50.

No review of this year would be complete without discussing the major anniversary that occurred. On the 11th the world came together to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. The UK was led as ever by Her Majesty The Queen at the Cenotaph, although like last year she was on a balcony of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, along with members of the Royal Family with one obvious missing member, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. At the time there were concerns for his health, but it was later thought that his absence was purely due to his retirement from public duty. As with last year, Her Majesty had asked her son and heir to lay her wreath on her behalf. Here, in Cirencester the minute’s silence was impeccably observed as usual, and then later in the day, the people of Cirencester got together and dressed in ponchos of the colour of the remembrance poppy, to make a human poppy in the town centre, a photo of which is available within our In Remembrance blog. The idea was for the people of Cirencester to break a record, at the time it was thought that 3,300 people had made up the human poppy beating the previous 3,000 record, it was later revealed that the record had been broken by Cirencester!

The 12th saw the death of Stan Lee. Stan was an American comic book writer, editor and publisher. He rose through the ranks of a family run business to become Marvel comics’ primary creative leader for 2 decades. Along with other story writers and artists he co-created characters including Spiderman, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Hulk and Ant-Man amongst others. He retired from Marvel in the 90s but remained a public figurehead for the company and made cameo performances in films based on Marvel characters. He also made cameo appearances in his television show starring James Nesbitt, Lucky Man made by Sky 1 and Carnival films.

November 14th is His Royal Highness Prince Charles’ birthday, this year he turned 70. Prince Charles is the longest serving heir apparent to the throne having had that role since he was 3 years and 2 months. He is also the longest serving Prince of Wales having had that title since 1958.

The annual fundraiser that is BBC Children in Need took place on the 14th, and on the evening they managed to raise £50,595,093. The final grand total hasn’t as yet been announced.

On the 17th, another member of the Vicar of Dibley cast sadly died, this time Frank Pickle. This is the character that Polish born John Bluthal would be best known as having. Frank was the likable but boring pedantic secretary to the Parish Council, and once had his face plastered across newspapers with the headline question ‘Is this the most boring person in Britain?’ John as an actor however has had many roles over his career and different people are likely to remember him in different roles, he even had a voice role in Labyrinth with David Bowie which he was uncredited for.

71 years ago, on the 20th Her Majesty the Queen (as she is now) and Prince Philip got married. They marked the landmark event in a private and low-key fashion. This is the longest lasting marriage of any serving British monarch. Back in 1947, Princess Elizabeth was just 21 years and married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey. It is thought that it was 1939 when Elizabeth first fell for Philip as a teenager. Through their 71-year marriage, they have taken on the role of Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, have had 4 children, 8 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren with another one on the way.

As we referred to earlier, this is the year that Mickey Mouse celebrated his 90th anniversary of his first appearance, although as we said back in our review of May his unofficial first appearance was in Plane Crazy, however on the 18th of November 1928 Mickey Mouse had his first official appearance in Steamboat Willie. The film however was the third Mickey Mouse film to be produced but was the first to be distributed. Since its first appearance it has been voted 13th out of the top 50 Greatest Cartoons as well as being selected for national preservation in the United States by the National Film Registry for it being deemed culturally, historically and aesthetically significant, and since this appearance, the rest as they say for Mickey Mouse is history.

The 18th of the month will also go down as a rememberable day in the motor sport world. During a Formula 3 race being held in Macau, 17-year-old Sophia Floersch was lucky to survive a high-speed crash. After losing control of her car at speeds of about 170mph, Floersch fractured her spine, when her car collided with another racer’s car and then crashed into a photographer’s pit at the side of the track. The Japanese driver, Sho Tsuboi, whom Floersch crashed into was taken to hospital with back pain. The whole incident ended up injuring 2 drivers, 2 photographers and a marshal of the race luckily, and you might say amazingly, no one died in this accident. Below we have included a link to a YouTube video which shows the accident from all angles.

Sophia Floersch crashes in the F3 Macau Grand Prix

The month ended with the sad news that the 41st President of the United States of America, George H W Bush had died at the age of 94 years of age. As you will recall, his wife, Barbara had died in April this year. The H W in his name stands for Herbert Walker. George Bush Snr was inaugurated on January 20th 1989, and early on in his Presidential career he saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. During his election campaign he stated that there would be no tax increases, a pledge that he had to renege on during his spell as President, and this would have contributed to his election loss in 1992 when he lost to Bill Clinton, who took over at the White House on January 20th 1993. Also, during his spell as President, George W H Bush went to war in the Gulf, taking part in what would become known as the first Gulf War. George leaves behind his 6 children, one of whom followed him into the White House as president in 2001 namely George and another of his sons, Jeb, ran to be President against Donald Trump in the Primaries for the 2016 Presidential election.


In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Gustav Holst and Christina G. Rosetti

The month started in Cirencester with the annual season cheer day, when the Christmas lights were switched on. As usual the day was taken over by a range of acts on the stage made up by local artists. The lights this year were switched on by Nell Gifford, from Gifford’s Circus. Prior to Nell pushing the button to switch the lights on, Gifford’s Circus held a pop-up circus on the stage. The performance consisted of a stilt walker juggling and performing some hula-hooping skills whilst the hoop was surrounded by live fire. Our personal highlight of the pop-up circus was one of the ‘cast’ performing In the Bleak Midwinter whilst rolling around the stage inside a hoop, at one point she had rolled the hoop almost flat on the floor while balancing the hoop and herself and holding a high musical note. We watched on in awe, maybe next year we will have to visit the Circus when it returns to Cirencester. Once Nell had pressed the button to illuminate Cirencester in the Christmas cheer lights, the now annual event of fireworks took place from the Parish Church, a truly colourful display as always.

Brexit has been a reoccurring theme through this year and therefore our review of the year. December in the midst of the lead up to the Christmas cheer, I’m afraid is no different. Towards the end of November, Prime Minister, Theresa May had signed off a deal with the European Union for our exit of the EU, she then brought the deal back to the UK and Parliament, it become obvious very early on that the deal was not going to be agreed by Parliament, or even in her party. On the 11th it was announced by Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative’s 1922 Committee, that the required number of letters of no confidence had been received and therefore the leader of the Conservatives, Theresa May would face a no-confidence vote in her leadership. The Prime Minister emerged early that morning from Number 10 and publicly made a statement in which she said she would fight ‘with everything I’ve got’ to win the vote. The vote was held that evening between 18:00 and 20:00, following a meeting that she had had with all her MPs. At 21:00 it was announced by Graham Brady that Theresa May had won the vote with 200 of her 317 MPs voting that they had confidence in her. She can now not face another no-confidence vote until December next year under Party rules.

As usual, this year the BBC held their annual Sports Personality of the Year programme, this year keeping the 6 sports persons nominated to win the big prize a secret until the evening. The 6 people nominated for the award were:

  • Lewis Hamilton,
  • Lizzy Yarnold,
  • Geraint Thomas,
  • Dina Asha-Smith,
  • Jimmy Anderson,
  • Harry Kane.

The public voted that the 2018 Sports Personality Of The Year was, Geraint Thomas with Lewis Hamilton and Harry Kane finishing in second and third respectively. For the first time ever the BBC had decided to not publish the exact results with number of votes for each nominated person, they say that this brings the programme in line with their other shows, however cynically we wonder whether this has got to do with last year where the criticisms were loud as the female nominees were seemingly snubbed.

However, other awards were handed out on the night, which included an award for Gareth Southgate who won Coach Of The Year for his exploits as England Football Manager in the summer. Team and Moment Of The Year went to the Women’s Netball Team, with the moment being the Commonwealth Gold winning moment. The emotional award of the night as always is the Helen Rollason award which this year went to Billy Monger. Last year Billy had an horrific crash, when he crashed into the back of another race car, causing him to lose both of his legs. Earlier this year he returned to the race track and is looking to carry on his racing career.

According to a recent poll conducted by Radio Times, It’s A Wonderful Life has been voted the nation’s favourite Christmas film, narrowly beating the modern classic starring Will Farrell, Elf. The 1946 classic, which starred James Stewart and Donna Reed topped the poll which was carried out on The poll received 7,000 votes. The post-war film tells the story of George Bailey, a man who has devoted his life to helping others and is shown the value of his own life by a guardian angel, to stop him killing himself. It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated for five Oscars and has become a seasonal staple around the world. In the poll Elf came second with The Muppets’ Christmas Carol third. A controversial film on the list according to was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, despite the series featuring Christmas in every film, rather than being Christmas films. The full top 20 list included:

1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
2. Elf (2003)
3. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
4. Love Actually (2003)
5. Home Alone (1990)
6. Die Hard (1988)
7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
8. The Polar Express (2004)
9. White Christmas (1954)
10. Scrooge (1951)
11. A Christmas Carol (1984)
12. The Snowman (1982)
13. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
14. Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
15. The Holiday (2006)
16. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
17. The Grinch (2000)
18. Scrooged (1988)
19. Nativity! (2009)
20. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

The poll will be controversial to many as well as debatable because everyone has their own idea as to what the best Christmas film of all time is. We wonder whether your favourite made the list.

Picture of What a Wonderful Life used with thanks to Rex Features

No Christmas cheer was had at Gatwick over the few days beginning the 19th of the month when the runway was closed for some 30 hours following reports and sightings of a drone being flown over the airfield. This is an irresponsible and illegal act as it endangers the lives of so many people should a plane hit the drone. At the time of writing it is not known what the reason was behind this act. Not only were the police involved in trying to identify the culprits and prevent any more drone sightings, the army were drafted in to use their expertise and technology to block the drone signals to make it safe for the planes to fly again. The police have interviewed a couple who they believed were suspects, but on Sunday 23rd announced these were no longer suspects in the case. Other than a small window on the Friday, planes have been able to continue to fly since, just a shame someone saw fit to try to ruin many thousands of people’s Christmas including children who were due to fly to Lapland to meet Father Christmas.

On the 21st the annual who will be Christmas Number 1 was announced. This year’s Christmas number 1 is a song sung by a YouTuber called LadBaby. The song is a cover of Starship’s We Built This City, this version is an ode to Sausage Rolls, and all proceeds from the song are going to the foodbank charity, The Trussell Trust.

On the 22nd came the sad news of the death of ex-Liberal Democrat Leader, Lord Paddy Ashdown. Paddy Ashdown was Liberal Democrat Leader from 1988 until he resigned in 1999. In the 1997 election, he oversaw an increase in the Party’s representation in the House of Commons, even though they received less votes than in the 1992 election. The representation went from 18 up to 46 Liberal Democrat MPs.

Zig-Zag Zog! As has become an annual tradition these days, at 4:50 on Christmas Day many families with children and some with just adult ‘children’ gathered around the television set to watch this year’s Magic Light Pictures’ adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s book, this year Zog, basing the animation on Axel Scheffler’s original illustrations. The television company gave the production company creative licence with the story, and in places it was able to explain how Princess Pearl was able to be in the right place of the story at the right time, which the book was never able to explain fully. The programme of Zog gives a nice little reference to other books in the Julia Donaldson repertoire namely, Stickman. We fully enjoyed this year’s Christmas Day highlight and look forward to the next one Magic Light Pictures selects to turn into 2019’s Christmas Day!

On the 28th of the month, this year’s New Year’s Honours list was announced by Buckingham Palace. As usual the list was littered with famous faces being awarded the various awards, as well as members of the public who will be able to add these titles to the end of their name. In the world of sport, ex Question of Sport Captain and England Rugby Lock and Captain Bill Beaumont has been handed a knighthood, along with England Cricketer Alistair Cook. Also in the field of sport England Football Manager, Gareth Southgate and the Tour de France and BBC Sports Personality of the Year Winner Geraint Thomas become an OBE, while England Football Captain at this year’s World Cup, Harry Kane becomes an MBE. In the world of entertainment, Michael Palin becomes a Sir, while famous model Twiggy receives a damehood, and Julia Donaldson, writer of The Gruffalo and Zog among others, receives a CBE. Also in the writing world, Philip Pullman has been knighted and naturalist presenter Chris Packham has a CBE. Away from the glitz and glam of showbiz, the UK’s longest serving lollipop lady has been awarded an OBE; 82-year-old Beryl Quantrill has 54 years of service, spending most of her career helping the children of Queen Mary Avenue Primary School in Cleethorpes cross the road to and from school. It has been reported that Ariana Grande was offered a damehood in this year’s New Year’s Honours list following her response to the 2017 Manchester Arena Terrorist Attack. The reports say that Ariana politely declined the damehood stating that it is too soon, she is still grieving as are many families, and she feared that some would see it as insensitive. It is reported that she is flattered and honoured to be offered the award but didn’t feel it was the right time to accept this. Of the attack, Ariana in November this year stated that, it ‘seems impossible to fully recover from’.

The sad news was announced on the 29th that actress June Whitfield had passed away. June had been in the entertainment business since 1953. She was awarded a damehood in 2017 New Year’s Honours list as well as already holding the OBE and the CBE from previous Honours lists. Over the years June has played many roles, and will probably be best remembered for her roles in Terry and June, Absolutely Fabulous and in the Carry On series of films. June dies at the age of 93 years and will be missed by all who worked with her as well as those of us who have fond memories of her TV and film career.

So as 2018 draws to a close we ask what does next year bring and that is a difficult question beyond the anticipated Brexit which under Article 50 is due to take place on March the 29th.


We would like to take this opportunity to
Wish all our family, friends and customers
VERY Happy New Year.

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