07/01/2018 - 08/01/2018 | Typecast

Soundtrack To My Life : Now That's What I Call Music

Soundtrack To My Life - Now That's What I Call Music : If my Soundtrack To My Life series was building up to anything, it was probably going to be this blog post

If my Soundtrack To My Life series was building up to anything, it was probably going to be this blog post. 

The album compilation series, Now That's What I Call Music, has reached it's 100th release - a concept that started back in 1983 and one that I can honestly say "I was there at the beginning" because the first album was one of my Christmas presents that year.

It's interesting to hear how the Now! series was created (it was an idea from Virgin Records to showcase the best songs of the year. It turned into a collaboration with EMI - the first time two record labels had joined forces in this way). The series took it's name from a 1920's poster that advertised Danish bacon and the pig in the same advertisement became the iconic image of the album series for the first five issues, although it's probably only us old heads that remember it properly!

Soundtrack To My Life - Now That's What I Call Music : If my Soundtrack To My Life series was building up to anything, it was probably going to be this blog post

I loved receiving the latest Now! album for my birthday or Christmas, or even saving up my pocket money if there was a new release on the horizon. I had a mixture of vinyl and cassette and each double album was played over and over, with the song order learned off by heart so you knew exactly which song was coming next. This was a great way to access the top selling singles of the year in one place with a special mix on occasion - Now Christmas and Now Dance, for example.

Soundtrack To My Life - Now That's What I Call Music : If my Soundtrack To My Life series was building up to anything, it was probably going to be this blog postI heard a conversation on Radio 2 on the way home the other night - Simon Mayo mentioned that you could probably guess a person's age by the first Now! album that they bought - that's definitely true of me and also of all the comments on Kara's Facebook post earlier today. If you want to read how the Now! 100 album was pulled together then you should read this BBC article and you might also want to have a listen to Gary Davies' "Now That's What I Call Compilatons" radio show from a couple of weeks - at the time this blog post went live, it had two weeks left to run on the iPlayer. [side note : how can it be that Gary Davies has got better looking with age?]. But, if I'm being perfectly honest, I'm not sure what value the Now! albums have today because of the different ways in which we access music. You can easily make your own compilation album by creating playlists from downloaded individual songs on your iPod, the music app on your phone or Spotify (check out this one made by the guys at Popjustice which picks the best song from each of the 100 Now! albums).

A few years ago I wrote a blog post - Can I Get A Rewind? - which talked about the two carrier bags full of cassette tapes I found on the top of the kitchen cupboard. There was almost every Now That's What I Call Music album up to number 21 plus a whole load more such as the Hits! series and other compilation series' - I think I had so many because they always seemed to be the best value for money! I think what I'm trying to say is that whilst any Now! album was the soundtrack for that particular time, the early Now! albums were always a representation of my own Soundtrack To My Life, and looking back over those early editions brings back many memories. I just need a cassette player to play them all on!


Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series where I talk about music that has influenced my life in some way. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board.


8 Completely Selfish Reasons for Using Reusable Cotton Printed Bags

The indiscriminate dumping of plastic is a major environmental issue. We are just producing way too much plastic waste that we can possibly recycle or dispose of properly. Thankfully, the solution to the grocery-bag problem is already in place. Reusable cotton printed bags can be easily carried around and can be unfurled for sudden shopping sprees.

However, we humans are reluctant to change our habits. There is also no denying the convenience of a simple grocery bag. They are cheap, they are waterproof, and they are readily available everywhere. To help you break your plastic bag dependency, the following are 8 completely selfish reasons why you should use cotton tote bags.

8 Completely Selfish Reasons for Using Reusable Cotton Printed Bags8 Completely Selfish Reasons for Using Reusable Cotton Printed Bags

They Save You the Cost of Buying Single-Use Grocery Bags: 

Almost all stores charge extra for plastic grocery bags. While it not may seem much, the cost of these bags adds up. While printed cotton bags are significantly more expensive than a single grocery bag, they last way longer than a single shopping run. This saves you the cost of buying years’ worth of grocery bags.

You Can Carry Them Around in Your Pocket: 

One of the many advantages of cotton bags is that they can be folded and carried around. Taking up slightly more space than a large handkerchief, these bags can be unfolded and commissioned to handle any sudden shopping situation. 

They Are Supremely Comfortable to Carry Around: 

Cotton tote bags come with soft cotton handles. These can be hung over the shoulder, which makes carrying heavier loads a whole lot easier.

You Can Comfortably Carry More Things: 

 One of the major cons of plastic bags is that they can only carry a few items. Beyond a certain weight, which is not much, these bags tend to snap. The higher tensile strength of cotton bags allows you to carry more things. Tote bag handles can also be strung over shoulders to keep those hands free.

They Are Machine Washable: 

Cotton printed bags can be washed, dried, and reused just like regular cotton clothes. The fact that they can be cleaned so easily makes reusing them a breeze.

You Can Pretty Much Get Them for Free: 

If you don’t want to buy biodegradable cotton printed bags, then just head over to a store that gives them away for free. Many boutique retail outlets give away cotton carrier bags if you make a purchase at the store.

Some Shops Give You Extra Discount for Bringing Along Your Own Bag: 

Some retailers incentivize customers who bringing along their own reusable carrier bags with extra discounts. This means you not only save the money that would otherwise go into buying plastic carrier bags from the store, but you also get an additional discount. That’s double savings for simple choosing to carry cotton bags.

Cotton Tote Bags Make You Look Good: 

In case you didn’t notice, plastic grocery bags aren’t necessarily fashion accessories. However, cotton tote bags are very much in style. They go really well with a jeans-and-t-shirt look. People also notice you making an effort to reduce plastic waste. That makes you look good in a whole different way.

Kate... My Mate

Kate... My Mate : Kate Sutton

I shut down my work computer, picked up my phone to check for messages and a Facebook post appeared in my news feed.  One that I never ever thought I would read...

I walked out of work and drove home  in silence, trying to process the information.

Me and Kate go WAY back.  She's one of the 2010 OG's... or OB's as I like to call us - the "Original (Mummy) Bloggers".  We started our blogging journey at a similar time, wrote about the same family trials and tribulations, met at conferences and blogging events and she's one of the first people I message when there's something bugging me blogging-related so I can have a bitch or a moan or just see if she's got the lowdown on something.  In fact, I messaged her TODAY to see why she'd not responded to a YouTube link I'd sent her at the weekend related to our shared hatred of vlogger schmaltz.  We were also always musing about how we could encourage brands to properly tap into the +40 female influencer market. 

But I can't do that any more.

Kate had a way of writing that hit the truth bomb but with added funny.  She wrote about her family, her travels, food and her dating journey which she was making moves to turn into a book. She had her personal ups and downs but always managed to put a humorous spin on it to make it into a worthwhile read.

So, if you've ever read one of Kate's posts, watched her Instagram stories, begged for another disastrous dating update or just knew and loved her like I did then please try and donate a couple of quid to the GoFundMe collection to help her sons pay for her funeral and any other costs that will be incurred over the coming weeks, months or however long. 

And if you're wondering why I have had to write this blog post so soon, it's so I can give her one final link back to her blog [inappropriate blogger joke moment]. But this is what the OB's used to do... something happened during the day and you'd write about it at night so you could process the information and get feedback from your blogging peers. She'd also hate me for sharing the next few photos but they are my little memories of her and taken in the days before I had a decent camera or whilst giggling uncontrollably.

Rest in peace, Kate.

Kate... My Mate
Kate... My Mate

Kate... My Mate
The one where Kate looked like she was in labour (but she wasn't)
Taken at the Guinness World Records HQ in London

Kate... My Mate
The one where we realised that Kate's tits were about the same size as Monika's 8 month baby bump.
Taken at Cybher in 2012

Kate... My Mate
The only three bloggers in the whole of the UK who have any right to discuss hair woes!
L-R Kate, Amanda, Chris - taken at Cybher in 2012


Do you know your Hippogriffs from your Basilisks?

Do you know your Hippogriffs from your Basilisks?
Image Credit

If your immediate answer is yes, then you’re clearly a Potterhead that would relish the opportunity to get up close and personal with your favourite Harry Potter creatures. If the answer is no, however, consider Warner Bros Studio Tours as a day out to the zoo, but with a difference!

Why are magical creatures so much fun?

Why aren’t they? While the antics of Harry Potter and his friends are exciting, they wouldn’t have defeated Voldemort and his Death Eaters without the help of some furry and winged friends along the way. Of course, not all of the creatures featured in the books and films are good at heart, but that’s all part of the fun!

Which are the good creatures?

With the exception of Ron Weasley’s rat, Scabbers, who turned out to be the nasty Peter Pettigrew in disguise, the animals owned by Hogwarts students, as their familiars, are all loyal and good-natured. Harry’s owl, Hedwig, is chief among them, but sadly dies when protecting him in an airborne battle with Voldemort’s cronies.

As well as students’ pets, there are a host of other amazing creatures that deserve high praise. The best include:


Half horse and half eagle, these magnificent creatures are beautiful to behold, but hard to tame. Suckers for proper etiquette, Hippogriffs like to be approached slowly and bowed to, with eye contact maintained throughout. If they bow back, humans may mount them and soar into the air on their backs. Buckbeak is the most famous Hippogriff in Harry’s world and there is a full-scale animatronic model of him in the Forbidden Forest exhibit. Will he bow to you?


Incredibly regal large birds with tears that can heal all maladies, the most well known is Fawkes, Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix that lives in his office. He can be found, still in place, close to the headmaster’s desk.


Mystical creatures that should be protected at all cost, they live in the Forbidden Forest and are often hunted by those wanting their blood to make an elixir for long life.


Not as evil as you might think, despite their fire-breathing abilities! Many of the older characters in Harry Potter go on to work with dragons, most notably, Charles Weasley. Dragons featured in the Triwizard Tournament and are often depicted as being abused by unethical characters. Poor dragons!

So, which are the baddies?

Given that ruthless witches and wizards can train animals to do their bidding, there are a plethora of nasty creatures to be aware of.


Not technically one of the evil guys, these giant spiders live in the Forbidden Forest and view humans as easy prey. Aragog is the exception to the rule, having been raised by Hagrid, who encourages him to leave Harry alone, but in Hagrid’s absence, there is little to stop him giving in to his carnal tendencies. Don’t get a shock if Aragog pops out at you in the Forbidden Forest!

The Basilisk 

A terrifying snake-like creature that is up to 50 feet long, Harry comes up against a monstrous variety that has been hidden in the Chamber of Secrets. Take a look at the model featured on the tour and you’ll get a real feel for how scary it must have been for Harry to defeat it, fangs and all!


Seemingly harmless creatures, Boggarts take the form of an individual’s greatest fear, rendering them paralysed and unable to fight back. The only defence is to humiliate them! Who can forget the image of Professor Snape wearing Neville Longbottom’s grandmother’s clothes?


Heralded as soulless, foul beings, these flying spectres suck the joy right out of people, through their mouths. Charged with guarding Azkaban, the wizard prison, they shirk their duties to wreak havoc in many places, including the Hogwarts Express, so wands at the ready when you jump onboard during your tour!

What about taking a magical creature home?

While you can’t buy a real Hedwig, as much as you might like to, a plush soft-toy version will be easy to come by in the studio shop at the end of the tour. There are a host of other cuddly creatures to choose from too, so don’t forget your purse!

Without The NHS...

Today - 5th July 2018 - the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is 70 years old.  There have been plenty of celebrations to mark this milestone of one of the nations most loved institutions, the role it plays in our everyday lives and to be thankful for the extraordinary staff that guide, support and care for us, day in, day out.  But tonight, whilst reading some of the media reports about how the NHS was started, and how far it's come, I realised that I most definitely have had my money's worth out of the Service...

Without The NHS... Whilst reading some of the media reports about how the NHS was started, and how far it's come, I realised that I most definitely have had my money's worth out of the Service...
Photo Credit : NHS England

Without The NHS...

  • I couldn't have had any of my babies, surrounded by the best medical team, top-of-the-range equipment and a back-up system if any urgent attention was needed during the birth
  • My daughter wouldn't have had her cancer diagnosis, the initial early treatment, life-saving operations and 15 years of after-care leading up to her final discharge at age 16
  • My youngest son wouldn't have been diagnosed with ADHD early enough to have received the appropriate support at school, been put back together at least four times after breaking bones, had two false front teeth provided after another accident or avoided a high-risk situation that involved an emergency removal of his appendix at 12.30am
  • I would still be suffering with a variety of gynaecological issues which was fixed after six operations, the final one being a full hysterectomy at age 31
  • My mum wouldn't have had the best palliative care from her "second family" on the ward which she spent most of her final years suffering with bronchiecstasis
  • My husband wouldn't receive the much needed medication and support to help him cope with a variety of mental health issues that have crippled his life for over twenty years. 

... and many more situation that are easily forgotten about and dismissed such as contraception, pregnancy testing and sexual health services, quick visits to the GP for reassurance, immunisations, x-rays for suspected broken body parts, fast response emergency services, eye tests and eye care for my children, audiology and hearing aids for one of my grandchildren, pathology results, and everything else that I haven't mentioned.

In fact, I asked this very same question on my Facebook feed.  The responses are eye opening. 

One reply, sent to me privately, was this:
Last year I had emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy which resulted in a tube removal as well as the pregnancy loss. Traumatic at the time but I am so so grateful to then not receive a bill for the procedure. Can you imagine? ''Sorry you lost your baby, here's a massive bill for the pleasure".

Also, there is an overwhelming amount of my friends that I would never have met if their lives hadn't been saved in various circumstances, whether that be a stroke, a cancer diagnosis, complications during single and multiple births, the knowledge that many procedures would still not be covered by insurance as they aren't in America, mental health services, medication and prescriptions in general, oxygen to actually keep breathing in and out, treatment for severe burns, and finally a few people who are grateful and proud to be a part of the NHS team who hold various job roles within the organisation.

In fact, I encourage you to read the responses on the thread I've linked below. It truly makes me more thankful than I ever thought I could be.  I hope it does the same for you.  

Here's to the next 70 years, and many more!  Happy Anniversary NHS! 


I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier?

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018 - Celebrating finish times, not finish lines

I can look back at my first half marathon with hindsight and see where I went wrong.  I chose one of the toughest local races and rushed into a decision after training for a different distance. Post-race, it took me a while to get back on my feet properly but aced a course personal best at a local parkrun, took the trainers to Tenerife for a bit of a holiday jog and managed to score a 10k personal best time at a mid-week race. I also started mixing in a bit of off-road trail running just to liven things up a bit - nothing too extreme but short, sharp shocks to the system, and huge hills to work the thighs! 

Running was fun again so I was ready for another challenge.  Enter, stage left, the Southport Half Marathon.

Now, I wasn't going to make the same mistake again, and I'd already started to put in some long(er) runs with Claire even though we didn't know what we were training for yet so it was just a case of upping the mileage each week and taking it from there.  And whilst it was tough, it was enjoyable - I used to drive home from work on a Friday, pull on my running gear, order a takeaway for when I got home and drive to meet the gang at a random point on the outskirts of Blackburn to take our weekly long run in different surroundings.  Over the five weeks I got stronger and faster (OK... we're not talking Paula Radcliffe territory here but knocking a good minute per mile off my average speed) and I knew that I felt more than ready for the half marathon rather than just winging it on the day.

The plans were made and I was ready for the 1st of July. Enter, stage right, the 2018 British Heatwave.

Now, when the media report on a "heatwave" it usually means that the mercury has risen to around 20  and we're all fanning ourselves for around twelve hours.  But this time temperatures were averaging 25 ℃ (77 ℉) and they were here to stay!  Luckily, the rise in temperature started on taper week so I only had to do a 6 mile run and a 3 mile run but even they didn't get me acclimatised effectively and the nights were too stuffy to be able to sleep properly.  I prayed for rain, or at least a cool morning for Sunday.

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018 - Blackburn Road Runners

On the day, I double-dosed on my antihistamines and piled on the factor 30 sun cream, then drove to Southport.  Our crew had set up camp near the finish line but there were promises of familiar faces to be dotted around the course.  The start line was heaving because the 10k runners and the half marathon runners were all starting at the same time with a split in the course at around the two mile mark.  I set off, found a good plodding pace and decided to keep going for as long as I could. 

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

My long-time internet friend, Annie, lives in Southport and she promised to be outside Costa with a brew cheer for me so that was a lovely boost just after the start of the race.  I leapt onto the pavement to give her a sweaty hug and she promised to see me on the coast road later in the race. I made my way around the course trying to run in the shade where possible and taking on water at the first feed station.  

I was OK until the five mile marker when the temperature rose again - but suddenly, just like when the plane door opens after you've landed in a hot country. We were now on the first three mile (completely unshaded) section of the coast road and, unusually for Southport, there was no breeze AT ALL. I made my way to the feed station at mile 7 and refreshed my water bottle, taking another bottle of water to dribble on my head, neck and wrist band.  The next mile or so was a double-back section so I passed some of my fellow running club crew who were ahead of me and we shouted encouraging words to each other - but everyone was absolutely melting in the heat.

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

The next few miles were a run/walk effort and there was a group of us all doing the same thing but not really in sync with each other so we kept over-taking each other, giving positive encouragement, passing out Fruit Pastilles, secretly trying to work out who had the best technique so we could follow it to power on through to the end. One of the girls was "Jeffing" (a run/walk method created by Jeff Galloway) to the start/stop beeps on her watch and it was fascinating to watch. 

More feed stations meant more water and, gratefully, more dousing.  I saw Annie again at around 11 miles and treated her to another sticky, water-soaked hug.  She took a photo of me and I now realise that all the water had provided an unintentional wet t-shirt competition which I definitely wasn't winning any time soon! I was also met by Annika and Joanne a bit further up the coast road who were providing more support during the longest final three miles ever!

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

It got down to the last mile and I decided to try and break from the pack - it was every woman for herself now! I could hear the commentary at the finish line (a familiar voice wafted across - the dulcet tones of my friend, and fellow podcast host, Rowena) and the merriment of the supporters and I knew that I just had to run as much as I could for that last stage.  Ellen met me at the gates of the park and gave me about 100 meters of side-by-side running encouragement which helped me to regain focus and hold my head up and shoulders back.  I weaved my way through the park and headed for the recognisable sound of the Blackburn Road Runners cheer squad lining the path to the red carpet finish.  

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

It was hot... SO SO HOT... the local weather reports suggested a high of 28 ℃ (82 ℉) and it's really hard to explain how difficult it was to run in that heat. Absolutely every credit to the race organisers - Epic Events - the volunteers, race angels and marshals who were full of positivity and encouraging us to take more than one bottle of water and a gel if we needed it.  Thanks to the Factor 30, I'm not sunburnt anywhere other than my eyelids and my nose due to the profuse sweating although my tan lines suggest I should only wear vest tops for the foreseeable future.  

Chip Time : 2h 53m 49s

I Thought The Second Half Marathon Was Supposed To Be Easier? Southport Half Marathon - 1st July 2018

At the end of the day, this race was still another personal best time for me - around five minutes faster than my half marathon in March.  During training I really did think I was strong enough to complete a half marathon in around 2h 45m and, under better conditions, I still think I could - maybe even a little bit faster. Plus, I didn't have my traditional mid-run wobble because there was so much to distract me, no-one to moan at and no hills to climb.  It has been mentioned that both half marathon attempts have been extreme in their own ways so I looked at signing up for another local half marathon that's a couple of weekends away but the hot weather is forecast to continue and I don't think I want to put myself through that again *opens up laptop to check prices*

Photo credits : Epic Events, Tracy Slater, Annie Bushell


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