Recently by Sid Langley
It's a pretty bleak midwinter right now. I've done all the tinkering on Farm Town I can possibly do for a day or so. It's a computer game on Facebook, in case you didn't know. I've caught up with all the Dr Who episodes I missed (mwah, mwah iPlayer), ready to watch Tennant go out with a great gush of emotion on Christmas night. And his Hamlet on Boxing night as no one could get tickets at Stratford or in London. I even watched the truly excellent Dr Who edition of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. I'm confidently expecting Tennant to become a US TV star on the scale of Hugh Laurie with his next project.
There are a few guaranteed seasonal goodies which never fail to amuse year after year - like that terrible jumper knitted by auntie and the naff Ferrero Rocher ads on TV. The Christmas show at Warwick Arts Centre is decidedly un-naff, more than living up to its seasonal expectations - it's usually one of the most interesting in the region, and this year is no exception.
Cinderella offers bags of fun and catch-your-breath magic for all the family without any panto nonsense - and, like our 11-year-old, you may even get the chance to dance with the prince. A word of warning, though. This version by Ben Power and Melly Still goes back to the tale as retold by the Brothers Grimm, so there are genuinely dark elements - as in all the best fairy tales.
Just as it's about to cause chaos with our Freeview boxes (due for a re-tune after noon tomorrow - Wednesday September 30) Channel 5 comes up with the most promising thing on TV for some time. Interesting, too, that it has more than a smattering of British front-of-camera talent on display - rather like The Wire.
There are detectives at the forefront again, but there the comparison ends, because FlashForward is much more like Lost. It's the same Rubik's cube-style puzzle, twisting and turning plots and characters to try to make sense of the global mega-event - the whole world passing out at the same time and seeing visions of the future. Or not if you're FBI agent John Cho, sidekick of our hero Joseph Fiennes. Where Lost had a polar bear, FlashForward has a kangaroo in downtown Los Angeles.
Spymonkey's Moby Dick, currently opening a nationwide tour at Royal&Derngate, Northampton, must be the funniest show on any stage in Britain at the moment.
Given the company's global reach, that accolade will soon, no doubt, read 'anywhere in the world'. It really is that brilliant. Sly and witty, deftly debunking theatrical conventions at every turn, full of brilliantly-executed physical comedy, with warm and winning turns from a company of four magnificent performers, it is an absolute must-see.
I am getting keyed up over the 65-plus exam. When I was coming up to secondary school age, a whole lifetime ago, life was simple. Fraught but simple. You passed the 11-plus and went to your nearest grammar school or you failed and went to your nearest secondary modern school. It was the same throughout the country, with results like those pictured.
Despite the demonising of the legendary exam, it was far less stressful than the constant testing my children faced, and a complete doddle compared to what my grandchildren are put through.
Here's a link for you. Launched at Nottingham Playhouse today (Wednesday Sept 16) it's a new, easy-to-use website aimed at providing blind and deaf people with more information about their local theatres and the facilities they have to offer including details of British Sign Language interpreted, captioned and audio described performances.
The website also includes audio clips and a facility for screen enlargement. It also allows blind people to use their own screen readers and magnifiers effectively. Deaf people can make use of the film clips, which translate much of the site into British Sign Language.
It's easy to see why Disney's Beauty and the Beast has picked up so many award nominations. The current UK touring production, at Birmingham's Alex in June and at Stoke's Regent next week, is playing to packed houses in Northampton this week - a bit of a step change from my last few visits to take in the various elements of the Royal & Derngate's brilliant Ayckbourn season.
But this is state of the art musical theatre, filling the huge Derngate stage with clever film inserts, heart-stopping pyrotechnics, wonderful cartoon-style comedy (don't forget the 'Disney' in the title), excellent live music and some fabulous performances. A magnificent chunk of family entertainment delivered with energy by a superb company.
A new product, invented and launched in the US (where else?), has just become available in Britain. Not quite sure who it's aimed at, but it's a fat-burning lip balm.
Yes, forget about WeightWatchers, and all that tedious calorie-counting and exercise, just slap on this special lippy and you'll be like Victoria Beckham before you know it. A joke from an old colleague ... you have to admire David Beckham - most of us hide or skeletons in a cupboard, he takes his out in public ...
Why on earth would Vic and Bob (or the BBC) want to revive Shooting Stars? They can't need the money, surely? Why on earth would big comedy names like Jack Dee and Matt Lucas want to be involved? Or even Ulrikakakaka Jonsson?
Those kind of thoughts went through my mind last night as I reluctantly abandoned Facebook to watch the first of a new series. Misgivings were piled almost as high as the Dove from Above. There is one resounding answer to all this - laughter. You can't argue with it.
Britain's Got Talent, The X-Factor, Pop Idol and the like have definitely moved the goalposts. I'm listening to an awful racket from the garden of The Woolpack, separated from my office/bedroom as the crow flies only by an admittedly substantial stone former Methodist chapel, now home to our local army cadets.
The problem is that the rash of hugely-popular talent shows seems to have done something to yer man and woman in the street's consciousness of what constitutes singing ability.