50 Years of the Beatles!

I am no paperback writer, but thought I would jot down a few words from me to you about the Beatles event this weekend that saw over sixteen hundred people come together to sing one of the fab four’s greatest hits.

Beatles Story Exhibition, Liverpool
Beatles Story Exhibition, Liverpool

Ok, enough of the puns! Throughout 2012 Liverpool in England has played host to a series of events and festivals to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Beatles and their dramatic rise to world-wide fame.  From humble beginnings, growing up in suburbs of one of the North of England‘s most rugged cities, the Beatles performed their first gig in August 1962 at the 17th annual dance of the horticultural Society of Liverpool, and they never looked back!  As part of the celebrations and on the 50th anniversary of the release of the group’s first single “Love me Do”, Saturday (October 5th 2012) saw the people of Liverpool break an official world record.  Taking place at the Pier Head in front of Liverpool’s famous Liver Buildings, and co-ordinated by staff from

Albert Docks and Liver Building, Liverpool
Albert Docks, Liverpool

the nearby Beatles Story exhibition, the gathering of 1631 people singing in a round was verified by Guinness World Records adjudicator Anna Orford as an official world record.  The group, singing “Love Me Do” which reached number 17 in the charts in 1962, consisted of 934 members from local choirs including the Liverpool signing choir, who recently performed at the Olympics closing ceremony, as well as hundreds of locals and visitors to the city.  Congratulations to all who took part!

Liverpool is jam packed with Beatles heritage and well worth a visit or a day trip(per) at any time of year.  Oh dear, that’s another pun – now I just need to work out how to fit in “Yellow Submarine” and “I am the Walrus”!

Downton Abbey has the X Factor

With the Autumnal weather setting in here in Britain, and the Summer holidays well and truly over, many people dread their Sunday evenings at this time of year.  For me however Sunday evenings just got a whole lot better as I can once again indulge in a guilty pleasure with the return of Downton Abbey to our television screens.

The period costume drama, set in Edwardian middle England, has just returned to the British television schedules for its third season and appears to be going from strength to strength.  Whilst it wouldn’t do my street cred much good to admit I’m a fan, I can’t be the only one tuning in; last Sunday’s episode saw it watched by over a third of the viewing public with figures at times reaching levels achieved by the latest series of Simon Cowell’s X-Factor which precedes it in the schedules.

Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey

One of the show’s attractions has to be the top class acting; Maggie Smith has just scooped a grammy for her role and there is a raft of other young British talent in the cast.  For me though, the main appeal is the escapism, the opportunity to lose myself in a bygone era of smart dress suits and frilly dresses and all set against the magnificently grandiose back drop of the Abbey itself.  The show is filmed at the magnificent Highclere Castle, a Victorian manor in central England which is still privately owned by the Carnavon family whose generations have lived there since the 17th century.  The family however open their home and gardens to visitors throughout the Summer months and next year it is at the top of my list for places to visit.

Downton Abbey is currently screened in over 100 countries around the world, so if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss a chance to tune in when it comes to a network near you.  Or if you fancy the real thing, why not come over to England and wander the gardens and grounds of Highclere Castle yourself as you pretend to be one of the Crawley family – I won’t tell anyone if you won’t!

A Stirling Day Out!

Central to much of Scotland’s tumultuous history, Stirling Castle has seen its fair share of battles over the years but now it can celebrate another victory as it has been rated the UK’s top heritage attraction.

Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle

The castle, located in the charming town of Stirling in central Scotland, has topped a recent survey conducted by British consumer group Which? who have taken up the challenge to try and rate Britain’s wealth of heritage sites.  The survey which took place between 2009 and 2011 asked people to rate their experiences of British visitor attractions they had been to and covered a range of criteria including the value for money, customer service and information provided at each site.  The recently released results show that Stirling Castle topped the list across the categories fending off challenges from other favourite heritage highlights including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and a number of other historic Castles across England, Scotland and Wales.

Recently Restored Palace Apartments
Palace Apartments

Stirling Castle is Scotland’s second most visited heritage site behind its close neighbour Edinburgh Castle which overlooks the Scottish capital city.  Stirling, the lesser known of the two castles, has played a key role in Scottish history; it was once the ruling seat of Scotland, saw the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots and was the preferred residence of the Stewart dynasty.  Last year however the castle saw the reopening of the palace apartments which have seen a £12 million restoration to their historic splendour and how they may have appeared in the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.  It is thought that this investment has helped Stirling Castle reach its full potential which has now been recognized by its visitors in the results of this survey.

Wimbledon 2012 – Murray Makes History!

Yesterday evening most of the British population were glued to our televisions sets whilst perched on the edge of our seats as British Andy Murray made history in his Wimbledon semi-final against Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

Wilmbledon Logo
The Wimbledon Logo

Annually around this time of year again we Brits become avid and obsessive tennis fans for two weeks as our television screens are filled with the sight of the prim green courts of Wimbledon Tennis Club in South West London.  And each year the tournament ends leaving us with a slightly dispirited feeling of disappointment as our home players are dumped out in the early rounds with the exception of one or two who manage to make it to the latter stages only to lose against the big names of the game.  So much is our obsession with Wimbledon and our national players that in the late nineties the word “Henmania” was officially recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary as a result of the annual national frenzy surrounding Tim Henman’s progress (or lack thereof) at the tournament.  Tim did indeed reach the semi-finals on four occasions during his career.

This year however it will all be different!  On Friday evening Andy Murray from Dunblane, Scotland, battled his opponent and the pressure of expectation of a nation, as he won his opponent and the pressure of expectation of a nation, as he won his semi-final encounter!  In fact Murray is now the first British player to reach the Wimbledon Men’s Final in no less than 74 years!  In that year Englishman Fred Perry won the event.  Murray is also the first Brit in the men’s and women’s games to reach the finals since Virginia Wade won the ladies tournament in 1977.

Centre Court Wimbledon
Centre Court Wimbledon

So now all eyes are on Murray to seize the moment and go one better on Sunday’s final where he’ll face a stern challenge in the form of seven-times champion Roger Federer.  The superstitious may have notice that Virginia Wade won the event in the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (2012 is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee) and that Andy Murray’s and Fred Perry’s Birthdays are just three days apart and Perry was 25 when he won the tournament – Murray turned 25 in May.  Also, the last time Britain held the Olympics (1908) a Brit, Arthur Gore, was champion at Wimbledon and the Olympics are coming to London in 2012.  So are the stars aligning for a momentous British Wimbledon victory?  Either way the British public are looking forward to a Sunday afternoon of nail biting, gut wrenching drama and will live every minute with Murray!