Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Coleen Nolan - 'Let's Get Physical' (review)

Coleen Nolan has been one of key people in my life for nearly three years, and coinciding with my love for fitness comes my passion for Coleen's workout DVDs. Her first was a success, and her second was even greater. So when I heard she was releasing a third, to say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. The first DVD was very much a cardio workout, and the second was a bit more of a dance routine. I did wonder what 'Let's Get Physical' was going to be, and it turned out to be a complete dance workout. 80s style.

The first thing that will draw you to the DVD is of course the cover. A lot of effort has gone into this, with the colours in bright neon pinks and purples. Then as you would expect, you have a picture of Coleen, as if stuck onto the front. She's dressed in a bright pink leotard with purple leggings and a belt around the waist - very 80s! The smile on her face lights up the whole DVD, a smile that Coleen takes with her everywhere. In a little bubble at the side it says '4 x 20 minute workouts'. This got me thinking; usually exercise DVDs are an hour long and although broken into sections, they connect to one another. Though this one claimed to be four separate routines, taking the length to 80 minutes rather than 60. I was desperate to explore.

Putting the DVD on, I entered the first of four routines. This turned out to be quite energetic, but not overly so that by the end you're sweating. Twenty minutes later and I'd completed a combination of steps, turns and bops. Feeling motivated I carried straight on with the second, which turned out to be twice as lively and introduced box steps and grapevines among others. By the end of that twenty minutes I was beginning to tire a little and went to pause the DVD to get a glass of water. I was quite surprised to find that the DVD would not pause! That is very rare - usually fitness DVDs will allow you to pause the workout so you can grab a drink or take a breather, but not this one. Although I didn't get my glass of water, I wasn't too bothered. Had I paused the workout I may have taken a longer break than needed, but instead I just powered on with the routines.

Entering the third section I found things began to slow down a little. While we were still on our feet for most of it, various stretches were introduced to begin to cool us down. And by the fourth and final twenty minute slot we were cooling down with lunges, push ups and holding onto invisible ropes. Each of the twenty minutes has a warm-up, work out and cool down, though nothing is 'sign posted'. Unlike most, we are not told that we are doing the warm up etc, it all just flows together. And then each section connects together with the first acting as a warm up, the second two as the cardio and aerobic routines, and the final the extended cool down. What I especially like about the fact that it is four lots of twenty is that you do not feel you are doing a longer workout, yet you're increasing the general time by twenty minutes.

Better yet, our trainer does not irritate me! Quite often with fitness DVDs you can see little of the celebrity, with the focus on the obnoxious instructor. Though Deanne Berry (GMTV) was lovely. She laughed and sprung around merrily, with the occasional whoop and screech. Plus, much to Coleen's delight, we have three males at the back complete with toned abs who are there to assist. Needless to say, our flirtatious Coleen had fun with them.

Once you've completed the workout and you're brimming with achievement, you can watch the 'extras'. The first is a Behind-the-Scenes which shows us a little of Coleen's training and the preparations for shooting. The thing I like about this is the fact that since Coleen has already got two other DVDs, it's not your typcical "she weighed this before hand and was so unfit" and "now she's super skinny and energetic". It focuses more on the making of the workout DVD, which to be honest is more interesting. Then you have 'In the Studio', which shows Coleen recording her version of 'Physical'. Now throughout the DVD, both in the workout and on the menus, you'll appropriately hear 'Physical'. I was unaware of this until I watched the extras, but the vocals are actually Coleen's! It just highlights her singing for the strength that it is, and also makes this all the more unique - how many celebrities (Debra Stephenson aside) can say they sing the soundtrack to their workouts?

Not only do we have Coleen's song to move to, but there is also a great range of wonderful and lively 80s tracks from artists such as Dead or Alive, Bananarama and Blondie. Coleen tells us that the idea behind the DVD for her was that it took her back to the time when she was singing with her sisters. Though of course this is not just aimed at those who grew up in and around the 80s. I'm a 90s child and love all the songs that are on here, which makes it more interesting - some DVDs use music that is unknown and it is almost impossible to connect with it.

At around £12 from most good stores, this is a bargain of a DVD. You're likely to pay around that much for a single session at the gym. Why bother when you can work out in the comfort of your own home alongside the lovely Coleen Nolan? It is one you can do and enjoy again and again, and not only are you getting a good workout but you'll laugh too - that's something you'll never be short of when Coleen is around! It is incredibly unique; I've never come across a DVD where so much thought has gone into it, so much detail and individuality. A brilliant fitness DVD without a single flaw, 'Let's Get Physical' is one to get you moving!

Amy x

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Jason Manford - Live at the Manchester Apollo (review)

When I first started watching BBC's Live at the Apollo some months back, I was introduced to a whole new world of comedy. Before, I indulged in sketch shows or sitcoms, but had never ventured into viewing any shows featuring stand up comedy. However, Live at the Apollo quickly became one of centre things in my life - a 'cheer up' show that, thankfully, could be wathed over and over again on BBC iPlayer. The show itself introduced me to many great comedians whom I quickly became very fond of. One of which is Jason Manford.

Jason is probably the finest comedian to come out of Manchester, ever. In fact, if it weren't for Coronation Street, I'd say he would be the finest 'thing' to come out of Manchester. And while I adore Coronation Street, sometimes it's nice to take a break from the stresses of the cobbles and watch something a bit more light hearted to get my Manchester fix. This is where Jason Manford steps in.

Jason has appeared on all sorts of shows, and when he became a team captain on 'As Seen On TV, with the lovely Fern Britton as opposition, my passion for his comedy grew greater. Before long I was 'youtubing' his name on a daily basis, and longing for more Live at the Apollo appearances. Just when I thought all was at a loss as my 'Manford Fix' was becoming scarce, the news was broken that he was releasing a DVD. The world seemed a much brighter place.

I had to wait until Christmas to receive his DVD, 'Jason Manford - Live at the Manchester Apollo', which was quite a few weeks after it was initially released for public purchase. Thankfully though, I can safely say that it was well worth the wait. Now packaging of products is almost as important as the content itself, and this one excels. The main colour of the cover is a luscious sky blue shade, which stands out a mile away and helps you to locate the DVD in stores. Then, below the DVD title, you have a picture of Manford pressing a microphone into his ear. The image itself is quite comic, something that helps identify the nature of the show. Also, Manford used this picture as his Twitter profile image for quite a while (@Jason_Manford) so it is also something his followers could relate to and recognize.

With the thorough inspection of the design complete, there was nothing left to do but explore the show itself. I'd seen clips of the show, and liked what I saw then, so was completely looking forward to watching the entire thing. It lasts for a little over an hour, and this turned out to be a ball of laughs. Manford has a very fluent style, as opposed to those who just go for 'one liners', and the fluent style I prefer. He tells a lot of anecdotes in this which will have you crying with laughter. Some of these you will have heard if you are already a fan of Jason, such as the 'weeing in a bottle' or 'Chief Inspector Williams, Greater Manchester Police', but even still they never become less amusing. He tells them in a slightly different way too so not to lose the magic. Though there are lots of new tales for you to enjoy too, making the show a bundle of surprises.

What I love about this especially is the level of interaction with the audience. If I remember correctly, the first people Manford 'picks on' are two young lads in the front row wearing hoodies. Now unlike most audience members, the enthusiasm in these two boys was rather flat. Nonetheless, Manford handles this well and continued with the banter as best as possible, despite the almost-silence in these two boys. The rest of the audience interaction though went wonderfully, and I don't want to give much away, but there is a hilarious moment where a man talks about being mugged for his walkman. Given that this is the 21st Century and walkmans are considered a thing of the past, I cannot blame Manford or the audience for their outburst of hysterics. The 'mugged' also laughed along too though, making it such a great watch. That is just one of the hilarious audience moments you'll find, with so much more to add.

Once you've finished watching the show itself, you can select the extras at the end, which include Manford being interviewed by his brother, Manford interviewing the Manchester City mascot, and also a Behind-the-Scenes of the show itself too which is a delight to watch. Although these extras are not a necessity, they are still wonderful to have on there and make the DVD all the more thrilling.

Now this has a certificate of 15, which I would say is quite reasonable. There are a few moments where the language is quite strong, but nothing offensive. At around £10 from all good stores, this is a bargain of a price and well worth all the hours of laughter you can extract from this. My admiration for Jason has been taken to a whole new level for this, and it is simply encouraging me to see him live at some point (though I'll have to be quick, he sells out sharp!). Whether you are already a fan of Jason's or are looking to discover him for the first time, this is an absolutely fantastic DVD that will not disappoint.

Amy x

Sunday, 20 December 2009

JLS - JLS (review)

I've always adored the X Factor - it's the whole 'Simon Cowell Factor' - though with 2008's shows I never really took to any of the acts. And then when all the obsessive little girls started to commercialize JLS with their slogan jumpers and jewelery merchandise, I seemed to quickly lose any potential interest I had in JLS. Though when they released 'Everybody in Love', my opinion on the group changed quite dramatically. I went from loathing their existence to actually being quite fond of them just because of that single song. When asked to review 'JLS', their 2009 album, I simply thought, 'What they hey, it may just even change my opinion on them entirely!'. But was it going to succeed?

The artwork for this album is incredibly eye catching. Although it is very basic, it is also extremely powerful. You have a greyscale image of the four boys against a plain background, but above them you have the JLS logo in full colour. It does grab your attention - it's not as busy or as 'in your face' as some album covers we see nowadays, and is something to sell the album for sure.

Of course an attractive case is all well, but as the saying goes, 'it's what's on the inside that counts'. It is very important that the first track on an album grabs your attention to keep you listening throughout the rest, and it is safe to say that 'Beat Again' does just that. The song itself, with its glorious upbeat tempo and addictive lyrics, has been out a lot longer than the album itself and whilst I didn't really take to it straight away, I've found that the more I listen to it the more I enjoy it. It's quite a lovable song, and I have to hold my hand up and admit that it is one that I enjoy overly so.

Track two is a personal favourite of mine. 'Everybody in Love' is the very track that began to change my opinion on JLS. From the very first bar, I am hooked to this one and it has my full attention throughout its duration. It has an amazing rhythm that encourages you to move around as much as possible, and although it is quite quick paced it is very light hearted too. I've yet to find somebody who does not like this song, it's such an asset to the album.

Following two successes comes a third, in the form of 'Keep You'. Sometimes I find it hard to adapt myself to new music if I've not heard a song before (I'm probably one of the few who actually prefers covers!). Though I found myself taking to this song almost immediately. The great tempo is continued with this song, and the vocals are amazing too. It is definitely one that I would recommend you listen to.

The fourth track, 'Crazy For You', started off a little more slowly, with the strength within the song building up gradually. It never fully reached as much of a powerful tempo as the previous tracks, but it still held a steady rhythm to it. The vocals are much clearer though and this one is certainly easier to sing along to. Although it is not my favourite on the album, it is still an enjoyment.

'Heal this Heartbreak' is a track that confuses me slightly. Whilst I like it, it doesn't seem to stick in my mind. As soon as the song finishes, I have to listen again to be able to recall it's steady paced tempo and reasonably strong lyrics. It's one of those songs that are catchy whilst playing, but you wouldn't request it for radio play. It's definitely worth a listen but not one you should expect to fall in love with.

Our next track, 'Close to You', takes a new direction. It reminds me incredibly of bands such as Westlife or Boyzone with its gentle beat and soft vocals. I think some JLS fans may not like this one as it is quite a big step away from their usual hits, but it suits my tastes perfectly. It's so loving and caring, and I thank JLS for putting this one here to break the album up.

After a relaxing song, our spirits are raised again with track seven. 'Only Tonight' takes us back to the more traditional upbeat style. Okay so it's not much of a dance track, but it still provides you with a little bit more motivation with the previous. The lyrics stick with you more also - a thorough enjoyment!

Track eight is incredibly peculiar. 'One Shot' mixes a clubland-style tempo with gentle vocals before giving us something powerful all round. It's probably the most 'tencho' song on the album (but anything stronger than The Beatles is techno to me!). It is a catchy song and well sung, it's simply not my favourite.
'Private' was a song that I fell in love with almost instantly, the reason being I cannot place my finger upon exactly. Parts of it sound like 'Rock DJ', a song that I am shamefully fond of. The vocals are much stronger and attractive than the rhythm here, and I like that. It's very beautifully song, to say the least. Definitely one worth listening to.

With less than half the album to go, we head to 'Don't Go'. Although it does not have too powerful a rhythm compared to some, it is still quite a nice song and one I would happily listen to. Though again it is not one of those I'd go out of my way to listen to. But in all it is quite pleasant!

When a song begins with vocals, I find that I tend to dislike it more. I've never worked out why, but I prefer that tinkling of melody to introduce us. And 'Only Making Love' is no exception. Now I am not saying I dislike the track, I simply do not like it as much as others on the album. It's tempo is quite basic and the vocals are not overly impressive. I can listen to it, but would choose not to.

'Kickstart' is our second last track. It's certainly quite an exciting and upbeat song that is sure to make you move, if only slightly. Though I found it to be quite similar to other songs on the album, as if parts had been taken from various songs and merged together to create the one. I will admit though that it is quite catchy and one I enjoyed listening to the several times that I did.

The last track on the album is just as important as the first as far is impressions are concerned - this is generally the one that sees the album out and imprints the final impression. 'Tightrope' was definitely an option to go for here, but I was quite surprised at how gentle it was. Usually albums finish with an incredibly upbeat song with the exception of ballad albums, but JLS broke this rule. However I am not complaining at all. It is such a beautiful song, sung to perfection with an amazing rhythm. It is incredibly sweet and most certainly a joy to end the album on.

Right, that's it. I hold my hand up. I am a fan of JLS. I'll never be obsessed, but I think I'm going to be more likely to make the effort to listen to them now. This album has certainly won me over, and despite the few weaker tracks, it is build up of nothing but entertainment and quality. At no more than £10 from all major retailers, it is a bargain! Any fan of JLS simply has to buy this, and even if not you need to get your hands on a copy of this album - I promise you will not be disappointed. It will convert you too!

Amy x

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Jane McDonald - Jane McDonald (review)

From the moment I discovered the wonders of 'Loose Women', I fell in love with Jane McDonald's voice. I bought a range of her latest albums, but had yet to listen to some of her older materiel. Though after too long, I've finally bought a few of Jane's more dated albums, one of which is titled simply 'Jane McDonald'.

The cover to this album, first of all, is quite attractive. Jane is sitting on the floor against a gorgeous purple seascape. Her name is written in a luscious purple shade, with a few of the tracks listen below. It's a very basic cover perhaps, but it is still going to capture your attention and looks wonderful. Jane's hair is a bit 'different', but she still looks wonderful!

The CD Itself is home to fourteen tracks. Giving the album a scan, I realized that I had heard of over half of them, but not once had I heard Jane's versions. Excited about unlocking the wonders of the music, I decided to listen there and then. The first track we are faced with on this 1998 album is 'One Moment In Time'. Originally sung by Whitney Houston, this is one of my favourite songs. Often artists can kill a song when producing a cover, but I had every faith that Jane would deliver. And thankfully, she did just that. There is so much power in Jane's voice, it's incredible. And I might just happen to prefer her version of the song to Houston's now!

Next we com to 'The Twelfth of Never', a song that I had not actually heard before. I didn't know what to expect from it, but I turned out to be thrilled. It's not an overly lively track but it has a good rhythm to it that is quite catchy - you'll surely be singing along in no time. It is definitely a wonderful track and one that I am sure to listen to over and over again.

The third track on the album is 'Do You Know The Way To San Jose', again anothr track I wasn't aware of. This one is the most lively at this point, and certainly awakens you. The lyrics are not overly clear, but this is not too important as it is not one that you're likely to adopt to sing. It's a splendid track and one of my favourites!

'You're My World' is our first track, and I was shocked at just how beautifully it was sung. It's quite a slow and melodic song, and as Jane sings you can picture her in your head swaying as she does so, you can hear the emotion in her voice. It's so beautiful and gentle, it's incredible. I'm surprised this has not become one of her better known songs.

The next track is probably one of the more known songs. 'How Do I Live' was originally sung by LeAnn rhymes, and I do adore her version, but I had a feeling Jane was going to allow me to love it in a different way. Thankfully, she did just that. Jane has complete control of the vocals here, the strength in her voice is incredible. I must admit, I prefer Jane's version now - she's taken the song to a whole new leave.

'You Make Me Feel (like a natural woman) is our sixth track, and with the greatness of the album so far, I expected this one to be just as wonderful. Thankfully, it was more than that! The song has quite a steady rhythm to it with a strong beat, and I find that it fits Jane's voice perfectly. It's very gentle and loving, and while I have heard some monotonous covers, Jane's version is simply incredible.

Our seventh track is one that has been circling since the 80s. 'Wind Beneath My Wings' has always been a beautiful track, but when Jane sings it, it is phenomenal. She gives the melody a deeper meaning, and allows the music to sit in the air around you lovingly. I've never been in love with this song until now - Jane has opened my eyes to just how wonderful it is.

Halfway through the album now and everything is perfect. Track eight is one that I have loved for many years. 'Downtown' was originally sung by Petunia Clark, and I had yet to hear Jane's version. I found it to be just as upbeat as the original, and the vocals fitted in perfectly with the rhythm. Jane's version is slightly more choppy, but it works and still sounds brilliant.

Our ninth track is another that I hadn't heard of before so I was relying on Jane to give me a great first impression on the song. It turned out to be quite a slow song, very soft and considerate. It suits Jane's voice wonderfully and creates such a phenomenal atmosphere. I simply cannot believe it has taken me this long to come across this one.

'When I Fall In Love' is quite a peculiar song. It's quite upbeat yet is very soft and gentle at the same time - a combination that never fails to amuse me. It's a song that I knew of slightly but had never fully explored it. The vocals are flawless, and incredibly powerful too. Jane has certainly opened my eyes to this one.

Track eleven is 'I'll Never Love This Way Again', which I had actually heard Jane sing before. It has always been one of my favourite Jane songs, yet I find I listen to it very occasionally. It suits my own voice too, which I find is quite general for Jane's songs, so it is without a doubt going to be come one of my most played tracks very quickly.

Next we are faced with 'Some You Win Some You Lose'. This is another gentle track that gives the air around you such a fantastic softening and relaxing vibe. Although it is not the most powerful of Jane's songs, it is just as memorable and has an amazing rhythm to it. I love singing it too, and it is an all-round amazing song.

The next track is one I've had a stressful relationship with. Whenever you log into Jane's official website music plays in the background. While I love this, 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me' always plays. Jane sang the song at her concert when I went to see her earlier in the year. Yet, I did not own this song on any of my Jane albums. So I was more than over overjoyed when I discovered it was on here. It's quite a lively song, and the vocals are incredible. Jane has strength, passion and control with this song, and it is without a doubt a favourite of mine.

Last but not least, we come to the final track - "I Will Always Love You". This is a song that seems to be heard all the time, whether it is a professional singer releasing a cover, or a talentless idiot killing the song during an audition on one of Simon Cowell's many TV shows. But thankfully, Jane's version is incredible. The vocals are so strong. At the beginning she sings it acapella, and my entire TV started vibrating because of the power in her vocals. The melody is wonderful and this definitely suits her voice. It's without a doubt the perfect song to end this amazing album with.

This is one of the most flawless albums imaginable. Better still, it has an incredible price tag. For all fourteen songs in an attractive case, you should expect to pay no more than £5 for a copy brand new. It's available from places such as eBay and Amazon.co.uk, and you'll find it occasionally in high street stores too. It is most certainly one to look out for. If you are already a fan of Jane McDonald then you simply must buy this. However if you have not heard Jane's voice before then this is a perfect album to start with. You'll fall in love instantly and I promise you, you'll never look back! This may have been Jane's first album, but it thankfully was not her last! It's phenomenal - incredibly powerful and controlled with a great mix of amazing tracks.


Amy x

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Eamonn Holmes interview

Q+A with one of Britain's finest presenters!

Me: You studied Journalism at University – what made you decide to go down that route?
Eamonn: I was heavily influenced by the Troubles.

Me: Now you joined GMTV in 1993, is that something you'd ever go back to if need be?
Eamonn: In my business you can never say never - I spent the majority of my working life there. If conditions were right , and the viewers wanted it, who knows?

Me: You've been with Ruth for 12 yeas now, how did you first meet?
Eamonn: On a street corner.

Me: Have you set a date for the wedding?
Eamonn: Still in negotiation - nearly there.

Me: Would you like your own show alongside Ruth, as the next 'Richard and Judy'?
Eamonn: Co-presenting is more difficult than single presentation. Co presenting with your other half could lead you to become single ! Maybe.

Me: You've taken part in various game shows including 'All Star Mr and Mrs,' and 'Ant and Dec's Game Show Marathon' – do you think you'd ever take up an offer for a reality TV show such as 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here' or 'Celebrity Big Brother'?
Eamonn: That's easy - NO ! Just can't see the circumstances in which I would fel the need. Maybe a reality show of some type - but not those ones.

Me: Your autobiography, 'This is My Life' was released in 2006. Would your ever consider writing a part two'?
Eamonn: Might be getting near that time . People tell me they wanted to read more about me growing up in N. Ireland during the Troubles.

Me: You're such a well respected and admired TV Presenter, who was your career inspiration?
Eamonn: All the people who did it well - the famous anchors like Des Lynam and David Frost.

Me: What advice do you have for anybody wanting to get into the TV industry?
Eamonn: My advice would be "Get a real job".But you may just end up being as lucky as me - I haven't worked in 30 years because this is a dream.

Me: And finally, do you have any hopes for the future?
Eamonn: My only hope is that I can stay working until it suits me to retire - and that's a long way off!

Thanks Eamonn!

Amy x

Sunday, 13 December 2009

X Factor 2009

There's something highly entertaining about watching the X Factor auditions - it gives you the rights to laugh at all the talentless idiots and gaze in amazement at all the wonders. However this year it was not an enjoyable experience. When I heard the auditions across the country were going to be in front of a live audience, I wasn't best pleased, and as I had expected it felt like I was watching 'Britain's Got Talent', another Cowell franchise. So after just the second week I decide to boycott the X Factor until the live heats - that was when the competition was really going to kick in!

Now I feel there have only been a handful of acts that have stood out this year. In fact, I cannot actually name you all of the contestants that were in the final twelve - just a select few that I've actually cared about. First we have Lucie - a wonderful singer an a woman with a great personality. It was quite upsetting to see her leave, and there was a lot of debate floating around as Simon let the public decide to throw her out against 'Jedward'. Though personally I am a Jedward fan! John and Edward amused me right from the start when I saw their live audition, and although I still cannot tell the different between the two, I have nothing but positivity about them. They are incredibly entertaining and despite what certain people may think, they can actually sing! They're talented an charming, and are sure to go far!

Then we have Lloyd Daniels, Danyl Johnson and Jamie 'Afro' Archer. I cannot deny the fact that the three boys can sing, but there is something about each of them that annoys me somewhat. Lloyd to me seems that bit too much immature for the competition and to be honest is not the greatest of singers, and the other two seem too cocky for their own good. The amount of times Jamie was mentioned on episodes of 'Harry Hill's TV Burp' was laughable (much to my amusement of course). When Danyl, the final of the three, went out on the second last week, I was ecstatic with the acts we had left...

...Stacey Solomon, Olly Murs and Joe McElderry. There has been mixed responses regarding Olly - some say he can dance but not sing, others dislike the dancing, it's all meaningless bicker. On a personal note I adore Olly. He's got great charisma and determination, and is not afraid to show emotion either, which I love. Moving on to Stacey, I don't know where to start. From the moment I saw Stacey's audition, I was mesmerized by her voice. From the word 'go', you could tell she had a heart of gold and an amazing, genuine personality. And as the weeks went on, we saw Stacey blossom into a superstar. Almost straight away I knew I wanted Stacey to win the competition, so when she was voted off in third place, I joined her many fans in a state of devastation. However I do not fear, as I have every belief that only great things will come her way now and she will have a very successful career!

And then we have Joe - our X Factor 2009 winner. As a fellow Geordie, I warmed to his voice straight away, and his gorgeous looks came as an extra! He allowed his personality to shine through week after week without getting cocky, and progressed wonderfully with each song. And the look on his face when Dermot announced the winner - it just shows that he too is genuine and not for one moment actually got above himself and expected to win. He is a talented young lad - is he going to go far? Why aye!

I have to agree with Mr Cowell - this has certainly been one of the closest finals we've had. Which of course the judges had to work extra hard in mentoring their acts. For Louis it was likely just a case of sitting back and enjoying the show since his acts had all been voted off, but for Simon, Cheryl and Dannii, the game was on. They all seem to have their own styles and ways of going about things; Dannii - the friend, Cheryl - the emotional touch, Louis - laid back, and Simon - well, he's just Simon! Their ways all seem to work too, which is always going to be a good thing.

So its onwards and upwards for our X Factor finalists, and indeed our X Factor winner, and it won't be long before the auditions start again and the judges begin touring the country. I'd love to audition, just to meet our lovely judges (though I'd rather interview them given the chance!), but I don't think I'm quite up to the humiliation! May X Factor 2010 bring just as many delights, and best of luck to Joe with his release of 'The Climb'!

Amy x

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Westlife - Where We Are review

I've always liked Westlife, though I have never actually gone out and bought one of their albums. And with the recent release of their latest album, 'Where We Are', the case was no different. However a friend of mine who is head over heels in love with Westlife wanted my opinion on the album and, keen to find out what their music was like nowadays, I jumped at the chance, ready and raring to explore.

The cover of the album is quite attractive, a pale sky blue that gives a sense of peace and calm. The four band members are on the front, a distant photo of them all dressed in dark clothes and walking slowly. Again it is all so peaceful and welcoming - definitely a cover that would attract me to the album amongst others. You'll find that Westlife covers are generally black or blue so it does mean that fans know what they are looking for too!

Now the album itself is home to thirteen tracks, of which I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into. Giving their titles a quick scan, they seemed to give off quite a sorrowful and highly emotional style, which can be joyfully expected from Westlife. The first song on the album is 'What About Now'. It is important that the first track gives us an initial wonderful first impression to engage us into listening to the rest of the album. I hadn't actually recognised the song by its title, but as soon as I heard the first few bars I instantly knew it as the boys' single that was released in late October of the same year. It actually peaked at number 2 in both the UK and Irish charts. To be frank, I am not surprised either! This is one of the most amazing songs I've heard in a long time, with a reasonably upbeat chorus and lyrics that infiltrate your mind. Its incredibly melodic and extremely addictive. After this, I couldn't wait to explore the rest of the album!

The second track we face is 'How To Break A Heart'. The title itself suggests that it was going to be quite an aching song, and this is exactly what I found. Though it isn't one of those tear jerking songs that dampen your mood. It still holds a slightly positive tempo with a steady rhythm that surprisingly forces you to tap your feet along in time. It's beautifully sung and one that I will happily listen to time and time again.

Following on from two amazing songs we have 'Leaving'. The four minute track is much more mellow than the previous, and floats divinely in the air around you. The vocals are heavenly - I encourage you to play this song at maximum volume with headphones strapped to your ears so you can feel the power melt your heart! It's one that is sure to draw tears to your eyes in a way only magic can.

A little choked up, we come to 'Shadows' next for a bit of a lift. Whilst this lovely track is still gentle it does have a bit more of a spring to it. It's so powerful, my throat tingles as I refrain myself from singing along. With this song, to close my eyes is to enter a world of bliss and security. It's simply mystical.

So far everything's perfect, and approaching the fifth track I hoped this would live on. 'Talk Me Down' is the second of the delicate songs on the album, a breathtaking piece that will tear your heart. It's so beautifully sung an so gently strokes the atmosphere that it's impossible not to get wrapped up in the rhythm. 'Talk Me Down' is without a doubt a fine song.

'Where We Are' is not only the name of the album, but also the sixth song. Now generally the corresponding song on an album is one of the greatest and most memorable tracks, and with this I must agree. This is a superb, and indeed touching, song that will not leave you once you've listened. The vocals are so strong and hold firm control over all your thoughts. I could not be more wonderful.

The chain of delight continues as we approach 'The Difference'. This is one of the more steady songs, but in no way is it monotonous. It's such a warm song with secretive depth to it, bewitching to say the least. It's fair to say that it's one of my favourite songs on the album, one that I simply love to sing over and over.

'As Love Is My Witness' is another of our mellow tracks, and is quite sorrowful in a loving way. It is so perfectly sung, and it tugs on the heart with passion and delight. A song that makes you sway and close your eyes considerately, it's an amazing piece and a treasure to the album.

Just when I thought things could not get any better, I was introduced to 'Another World'. I was taken away by the peaceful yet powerful song - such a sensational piece that sends a thrill of delight throughout your entire soul. A truly amazing song that helps make the album the delight that it is.

The next track on the album brought more tears to my eyes than I had bargained for, thanks to the soothing rhythm of 'No More Heroes'. There's something so relaxing about the song that seems to force me to let my guard down and release any emotions locked within. It's so magnetic it's astounding. Definitely a delight to put it simply.

It was quite a sad thought when I realized I was approaching the end of the album, as I came to the eleventh track in the form of 'Sound of a Broken Heart'. This one has quite a fast paced tempo, to slot alongside the beating heart. And indeed it certainly has your heart racing! It's a beautifully sung piece, breathtaking in every which way.

Our second last track carries on this reasonable pace, though has much more aching vocals that tug at your heart with force. I was surprised by the fact that it has the ability to make me feel both joyous and broken, the magic created in just four minutes of music. This is one song that sticks by your side and will not leave you in a hurry.

Last but by no means least we have 'I'll See You Again'. As with the first track, it is especially important that this song lives up to all positive expectations, as it is likely to give you the opinions that you will leave the album with. Not only that, but this is also the longest track at just over five minutes. Thankfully, it was just as delightful as the rest. It has quite a steady tempo with gentle vocals that sooth the air and banish all signs of tension. It is completely overwhelming, and a splendid way to end the album.

With not a single ounce of disappointment, it is fair to say that this album is a complete and utter success. Better still, it has a price tag to match! It this current climate buying CDs at our leisure s not always the most practical of ideas, but seeing as this one will only cost you around £7 from all good music stores, it is definitely something to cheer about. Each and every track is beautifully sung with a sensational melody, and is enough to make me want to listen to more Westlife delights. This is just one of their many albums, unique and magical in every way.

Amy x

Jo Joyner 'interview'

I've been in contact with the lovely Jo Joyner for a good few years now and have received many wonderful replies from the actress. In an attempt to build up my portfolio I requested a snail mail interview with Jo and she granted my wish! I decided not to post the interview online in case it went against Jo's preference, though it came to my attention that she never actually said not to display it online. And having been asked to put it online by a friend as proof of certain information, I decided just to go for it. So Jo my love, if you read this and are not happy - just let me know! ;)

---
Me: You've played Tanya for three years now. When you first joined 'EastEnders' in 2006, did you think Tanya would be such a popular character?
Jo: It is very hard to know how your character is received when you are in the midst of it. But I did think that as a whole family with the girls etc we would be loved.

Me: Tanya's had her share of men on the Square, but who do you think is right for her, if any?
Jo: I think, for better or for worse, Max will always be the one for Tanya. She's a one man woman at the end of the day. I also thin that as a couple they provide the most drama.

Me: On the show you work at Bootys - would you ever like to own your own business if any kind?
Jo: I don't think I'd like to run a business like Bootys - I wouldn't have a clue what I was doing!

Me: How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant with twins?
Jo: Over the moon. We can't wait to meet them.

Me: Do you have any hopes for the sexes of the babies?
Jo: We just want them to arrive safely and healthy.

Me: Have you been throwing any names around for the babies? Might I suggest Amy for a girl? ;)
Jo: !

Me: When are the babies due?
Jo: The babies are due just before Christmas.

Me: When you return to EastEnders, do you have any hopes for Tanya?
Jo: When I return to EastEnders I'd really like Tanya to be right in the midst of the action as I think she's had quite a year.

Me: Did you have any say in how Tanya exits this year?
Jo: No. We never have any say! I think the writers and storyliners are the best people for the job.

Me: You have a lot of adoring fans! If somebody wants to send you a gift post-birth of the babies, would they be better to do it via EastEnders or your agent?
Jo: I will be on maternity leave for 6 months so I wouldn't send anything as it may not reach me.

Thank you Jo!

She really is a truly wonderful woman! Best of luck to her with the twins (may one be called Amy, boy or girl I don't mind!) and I look forward to seeing Tanya back in May!

Amy x

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

RIP Maggie Jones

Just a quick post to show my love for dear Maggie Jones who sadly passed away today. Best wishes to her family, friends and colleagues at Coronation Street. It won't be the same without Blanche and her constant moaning! She was a much loved character.

Thinking of you Maggie.

Amy x

Monday, 30 November 2009

ColNo's Iceland advert!

I am completely obsessed with Coleen and Jason Donovan's Iceland advert, the one where they are at the party and are singing to the tune of 'Well Did You Evah?'. At long last I found it online so I thought I'd learn the lyrics, and now I know them by heart - joy! You can learn them too!

LYRICS:
Coleen
Have you heard the latest news?
We've found the cure for the Winter blues!

(Party!)

Jason
Well did you ever, what a swell party this is!

Coleen
Now have you heard of my friend Dawn?

Jason
Yes, she just slipped off with a platter of prawns!

(No?!)

Jason
Well did you ever!

Party guests)
What a swell party this is!

Coleen
These bagels, they're new!

(smoked salmon!)

Coleen
These duck nests are too!

Child
Quack quack!

Jason
More turkey? Of course! Do you know he eats like a horse!

Girl
You're not kidding!

Small boy
You know what's in these please?

Coleen
They're chocolate coated strawberries!

Small boy
Wow!

Jason
Meringue, Coleen?

Boy
Hey, they look fun!

Coleen
No thanks, Jason! Just have this chocolate one!

All
Well did you ever, what a swellegant, ellegant party this is!

END
-----------------

Don't you just love it? Below is the link to the video if you wish to view it and sing along!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPKYR4FaKck

For we all love ColNo!

Amy x

Monday, 23 November 2009

Buster Elvis Savage

Buster Elvis Savage.

Paul O'Grady's beloved shih tzu-bichon frise cross, died of cancer aged 14 on the 19th November 2009. He had a long successful television career alongside O'Grady, and I felt it was necessary to just say a few words about the lovely little dog.

Many scrambled to their telephones to enter the Nodding Buster Tombola during each Paul O'Grady Show in the hope that they would be the lucky winner who would receive a little nodding Buster through the post. Buster was loved by all - a sweet, entertaining and adorable bundle of fluff. His cheeky nature led him to play shy in front of the camera at times, bringing the audience out in an unanimous 'aw'. A companion to Paul, a friend to the viewers and an all-round lovable soul, Buster's cuddly nature will be missed by all, and indeed never forgotten.

R.I.P little Buster.

Amy x




The tribute the Paul O' Grady Show put together for Buster:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3m14n7gI3E

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Katie's return to 'I'm a Celebrity'

I made no intentions to watch 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' this year. I hadn't seen it properly in a few years, and didn't think it was something I would still enjoy. Though after watching the second episode (I had a cat on my knee and couldn't get up to change the channel) I found myself hooked straight away.

Okay so I knew of two people in the Jungle: Kim Woodburn and Lucy Benjamin. I made up my mind straight away - Lucy to win, Kim to come second, and after that I couldn't care. Though it seemed that my opinion was distorted almost instantly when I discovered that Katie Price was going back into the Jungle...

I can only remember Katie being in the Jungle the first time round in 2004 very vaguely. So for me I was treating this as if it were her first time in the Jungle. Straight away I noticed a lot of mixed views on Twitter being thrown about over Katie's return, and I found myself landing in a few heated debates over the issue too. Though it seemed I was the only one sticking up for Katie when others were shouting off their hateful comments.

One thing people need to realize is that the media can often twist things. I'm not saying Katie is an angel, but there is a great chance that a lot of what she gets up to is blown way out of proportion. I think a lot of Peter Andre fans are sticking by him no matter what, sporting their 'Team Andre' motto whenever possible (including the lovely Ant!). Though is it fair to take sides? Behind closed doors, maybe Peter was not as perfect as people make him out to be. I personally do not think he is a bad person, but you just never know what goes on.

It's clear that the public are rather cruel! I mean, voting Katie to do two Bush-tucker trials in a row is insane. Yet Katie does not complain, and just gets on with the tasks like a good friend would. She's strong minded, and for that I admire her greatly. I have a feeling she is going to do wonderfully in tonight's challenge 'Celebrity in a Bottle' too, but here's hoping there's no water involved. That's just mental torture for her.

I hope Katie goes all the way to the end, and comes out a winner. She deserves happiness. She clearly has a good heart and means well. So what if she likes to let her hair down now and again. We all have different ways of releasing stress and pushing the weight off our shoulders. She's incredibly beautiful and has a big heart behind a chest to match. Katie Price, you're always going to be a winner with me.

Amy x

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Waters of Mars - Paving the way for our Timelord

When I first heard David Tennant was stepping down as the Doctor, I cried. Of course I did. He is utterly gorgeous and simply amazing. Though thankfully we still had four more episodes to get through before his departure. And the 15th November brought episode two: Waters of Mars.

I'd seen the trailer for the episode and thought it looked okay. Not brilliant, but watchable. I wasn't overly sure what it was going to be about, so as the excitement built up inside me throughout the day, I was ready to explode by the time 7pm arrived. As soon as I saw Tennant in his orange space suit though, my heart sank a little. It seemed that this episode turned out to be a cross between The Impossible Planet (Series 2) and Silence in the Library (Series 4). Don't get me wrong, I adore those episodes, but I was looking for something a bit different.

The idea behind the episode itself is quite interesting though. I mean, contaminated water? It's so simple yet so genius. It's one of those episodes that can scare people so easily. With Blink (Series 3), you had the Weeping Angels. Doomsday made Canary Wharf threatening. And now people are scared to drink their water. Utter genius. It's so beautifully written too, a tear was brought to my eye with every word the Doctor muttered. There's something magnificent about David's eyes, they're so breathtaking. He really does melt my heart.

When the Ood appeared at the end, I screamed. Literally. I had no idea that they were connected with the final episodes. Actually, as much as I love them, I was a little disappointed by this. I think they stress the Ood a bit too much. I mean they have appeared in two series' to date, and I think that is enough. I just do not find them 'special' enough for the show. I wanted the daleks to be involved, and who knows what they have in store for Christmas and New Year, but I don't like this anticipation! I'm thrilled that Donna is back in the next episode, and the Master! I've seen pictures of Billie Piper and Camille Coduri back on the set too, which made me incredibly happy. Billie is the reason I initially carried on watching Doctor Who, she means the world to me, and it is only right that she is involved in Tennant's last episodes. I truly cannot wait.

Just two more episodes. That is all we have left. And then we have Matt Smith. Forget what they say about this being the beginning of the end, that will not happen until Smith becomes our 11th Doctor. When that happens after the regeneration, the show will go downhill. Ratings will drop and viewers will lose interest. That really will be the beginning of the end for Doctor Who. So until then we better enjoy the glories of David Tennant and our beloved Doctor as much as possible.

Amy x

Monday, 2 November 2009

Your Sex is on Bon'Fire!

There's something so uplifting about Autumn. It brings Halloween: pumpkins, witches and ghosts galore. The colours are amazing: oranges, browns, plums. The cool breeze whips around your hair, pulling it back loosely. As you step outside the leaves crunch beneath your feet, the silver moon glistening down as you stride. The smells are luscious; spices, apples, cinnamon...smoke.

Yes, smoke. As with Autumn, you have November. And with November, you have Bonfire Night. The Halloween spirit has begun to die down – wigs and wands are being sold for 50p a piece in your local supermarket – and now the shelves are lined full with rockets, sparklers, gloves the lot. Everywhere you look there are posters about keeping safe, and plastered aside them information about the fire brigade can be found. There seems to be an uncanny fascination with being given permission to make something explode that one day a year. Is it worth the hassle though?

Of course, Remember Remember the 5th of November as the saying goes, is not all about fire works. It takes us back to the same day in 1605. The event that led us to marking the occasion became known as the Gunpowder Plot. On this evening, a number of people attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. The most recognised conspirator now is none other than Guy Fawkes. A warning letter had been received by the Parliament, which then led to a search of the grounds, and luckily the plot to blow up the building (and King James I) was stopped before it was too late. Thus resulting in the arrest and executed.

Now, we apparently celebrate Bonfire Night, o 'Guy Fawkes Night' in such a way to mark such an eventful and close night those many years ago. Yet, I feel that the whole reason behind the occasion is drifting. Not once do I see a poster or display about Guy, and I have a feeling that if I asked my younger siblings who Guy Fawkes was, I'd be met with blank looks. As a child though, I was well aware of this Mr Fawkes, and I did not like him one bit!

Bonfire Night for me as a child was very much a family occasion. Each year, we would all pile into my Grandma's house and have our evening meal, a hot cup of coffee for the adults and a cup of juice for the children. Afterwards, as the evening was just beginning to darken, we would wrap up warm in your thick jackets and cosy gloves, and head out into the garden. Filling a basin up with water, my Grandma would be greeted my squeals of delight from us children, who knew exactly what was happening. Then, as if it was the most magical thing in the world, the adults would produce packets of sparklers and give one to each of us. After making sure we were holding the sticks the right way around, our ends would be lit and before you knew it, you had three children dancing around the yard (safely!), creating wonderfully bright coloured swirls and shapes in the air. The smell was gorgeous – a sharp and seasonal aroma. I loved to write my name in the air, hoping for the pink colours to kick in. After the sparkler had frazzled out, we would place them carefully into the basin of water, and start the process all over again until all the packets were empty. It was such a magical occasion.

One year, we decided not to go to my Grandma's. Instead the whole family thought we should take a trip to a local family pub to watch a fireworks display. The Poacher's Pocket (which I believe at the time was called the Crowley Arms) held firework displays on Bonfire Night annually, though we only ever went once. The pub itself was wonderful, catering for everybody. On the night, we seated ourselves around a picnic table towards the bottom of the garden area, and myself and my two cousins spent a few hours running riot in the little play park, down the slide and scrambling across the monkey bars. That alone was great fun. I have always loved the Autumn breeze, so to be let free among it was simply delightful, especially with crunchy leaves and conkers all around me.

Then it was time for the fireworks display. In the centre there was a home-made Guy Fawkes – something again that I see very little of nowadays – and a rope was put around the display quite a distance back. Everybody at the pub gathered around, my family and I quite near the front so the little ones could see properly. There was lots of house hold items and general trash piled around the Guy, who was securely roped up and tied to a wooden stick. They lit the display, and we watched as the Guy doll burned. You could almost hear is squeals of pain, his little eyes melting as he stared at you accusingly. It was so sinister, and something I feel little children should not experience. Nonetheless it was still quite enjoyable.

After the display was cremated, it was time for the real display. From the other side of the rope, rockets and fireworks of all kinds were beginning to be set up. Catherine wheels could be heard slowly clicking, and before we knew it, rockets were screeching high into the sky and exploding into a burst of colour. I must admit, I adore seeing fireworks open up and reveal their true colours – gorgeous displays of pinks and silvers, flowers of purples and blue. Unfortunately, they have no mute button and I have to put up with their wails at the same time.

The Bonfire Night was the last time I ever celebrated the occasion. I cannot deny that it was an amazing evening, but after that, something must have clicked inside my brain, forcing me to fear for the evening. I have no idea what its cause is, but now I simply cannot bear being anywhere near fireworks. My neighbour had a display in the back garden a few years ago, and my bedroom window is right next to it, so I took myself off to the far corner of the living room at the other end of the tiny flat, terrified out of my mind. One year my Mam had to go to the shop in the evening on Bonfire Night, and I was not yet at the age when I could stay at home alone, so I had no choice but to accompany her. I feel sorry for my Mam, as I hung onto her arm the whole way there and back, shaking with fear as the rockets soared from all directions.

My Mam is getting married this year on the 5th of November, which is luckily for me not going to have anything to do with Bonfire Night. Though had the tickets not been £70+, we were going to be going to a large fireworks display in the North East. I am just pleased for overpriced entry fees in that case – how would I have got out of that one?! I love how fireworks look, but I am simply too petrified of them to have anything to do with them. Even sparklers terrify the life out of me.

I blame television. I watch EastEnders and Coronation Street religiously, and every year there seems to be an accident of some sort on either of the soaps, involving fireworks. It has got to the stage where I cannot watch the Bonfire Night episode, as that alone gives me shivers. The soaps are nail biting as it is, but that takes it one step too far for me. Its such a horrid thing to fear, as it will be the burden of my career. I have high hopes for what I want to achieve as a future TV Presenter, including the desire to present the big television events such as Children in Need and the Christmas shows. And what do you have at the end of each show? Fireworks! I can just see myself and a fellow male presenter as it usually goes, saying the final few words out to the nation before the last music acts takes to the stage. The fireworks explode somewhere in the near distance, and I hit the floor in fear. Well, it will give the viewers a laugh to say the least!

I had a lot of happy memories as a child with Bonfire Night. Those evenings 'at Grandma's' were wonderful, and that one fireworks display was an amazing experience. However the joys stop there. Maybe one day I will over come my fear, especially if my career were to depend on it, but this year I will spend the evening tucked up safe in my Mam's house while the siblings dance about in the yard all gloved up with sparklers in hand. As long as they have a good time, that is all that matters, and I shall cower with the dog!

I wish you all a safe and happy Bonfire Night this November 5th!

Amy x

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Remember, Remember...

Gosh, it just occurred to me that I hadn't blogged throughout the whole of October. I feel so guilty!

When I first started this blogging business, I promised myself to commit fully. Though its a lot harder than it looks, as I soon found out. What are you supposed to publish? Who is actually going to read it? How often do you write? So many unanswered questions. Yet, despite the unknown, there's something thrilling about writing a blog. Its probably one of the only chances in live you'll get to 'voice' your opinion without anybody being able to answer back or interrupt. A one-woman debate, arguing back and forth with myself as I try and come to a conclusion over a meaningless discussion. And then of course there's the day dreaming and random waffling as you make your way through the afternoon. A cup of tea, a clear mind, and a working keyboard. With those you are fully equipped to write your blog (despite the fact that my keyboard is falling apart and missing several buttons!).

Its been quite a hectic few weeks, which makes a nice change. I finally said goodbye to school after a successful interview with college. As of this month I will be studying Radio at HNC level, something I am looking forward to incredibly. My aspiration in that side of my life is of course Jackie Brambles. I've been able to listen to a few of her radio shows and I must say, she is very good! I'm hoping to volunteer at the Hospital Radio too, but I've not heard anything back as of yet.

Of course, my heart lies with TV Presenting still. Always has, always will. With my UCAS application going away later this month, I really need to sort out my decisions for University. I think I've made up my mind though - I'm hoping to study Television Journalism at Middlesex University. The course sounds amazing, its close to the heart of London, and the Halls don't look too shabby either! Though failing that, my backup plan consists of Leeds Uni, Coventry Uni, Thames Valley Uni and Robert Gordons Uni...at least one of them must want me!

I'll have something else to add to my Personal Statement and CV as of next week...yes, there's only ten days until the Fashion Show! The last one, in aid of the Cyrenians, was a bit of a drag. We were using fair trade clothes as we combined the event with fair trade fortnight, and I must say - I wouldn't be caught dead in most of those clothes! Fortunately though this one is stepping up in class. We're hosting a Prom Dress fashion show, with suits and kilts too. And lucky me, I get to present the event! I'm so exciting, and so far the nerves have yet to kick in. If it's anything like last time, I will get to about ten minutes before I'm due on stage and totally freak out for that ten minutes, then stand on stage and all the nerves will flush away, smothered by a river of excitement. There's something so uplifting about being on a stage, microphone in hand. It's sensational!

I've never been the most confident of people when in public, but put me on stage and it's a whole other story. I have big dreams for my career, many of which are likely to remain just that. My biggest goal is to anchor Loose Women. Something I have wanted to do for two years, and will not stop wishing for until it becomes reality. Then there's 'Ghost Talk', a show that Amy and I are in the process of putting together. Think of it as the next generation of Most Haunted! I'd like to present some sort of programme that teaches children about History, opening their eyes to different eras: The Victorians, Ancient Egyptians, World War Two. An educational and entertaining programme for children around the age of seven - perfect! I'd love my own television show too, 'Amy's World' - a tea time show similar to 'The Paul O' Grady Show' and 'Davina'.

One of my biggest dreams, and probably the most unrealistic, is 'The McLean Show' - a show where Andrea and I present side by side, with a similar format to 'Amy's World', or perhaps traveling around the world (or on a lower budget, the UK) and exploring various destinations and landmarks. Many will know by now that Andrea McLean is indeed the woman at the heart of my career. During the lowest point in my life when I felt all was at loss, she somehow managed to restore my faith in everything, and forcing my passion for Presenting to take over and bring my happiness back to the surface. I owe everything to her, and when my career peaks, it will all be down to her and I will make sure she knows it!

Another thing I'd love to present one day is Children in Need. Every year I love watching it, and would give anything to experience that buzz as all the money comes rolling in to the charity, and you just know you are helping a good cause. Meeting those children that are overjoyed with simply being on TV and gaining new experiences from the money donated. Unfortunately, with so much going on towards the end of the year, I haven't had time to organize any fund raising events myself for Children in Need, but I shall be donating money, and I've bought my t-shirt, ears and teddy bear, so that's a little bit of extra money for them too!

With Christmas just around the corner - 54 days to be exact - I find myself already getting into the festive spirit. I'm beginning to play 'Last Christmas' by Billie Piper constantly, and I find myself singing various traditional Christmas carols whilst going about cleaning the house. I'm going away for the holidays this year, down to my Mam's, so it is going to be quite a change from the last few years which I spent pretty much on my own! I've done about half of my Christmas shopping too, so I'm well on the way to a peaceful December 25th!

With a busy week ahead of me, it doesn't look like I'm going to have time to sit down much, so until next time, I bid you goodbye!

Amy x

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

In the Mood to listen Again and Again!

When I fell in love with ITV show 'Loose Women', I was introduced to a very special lady more commonly known as Coleen Nolan. At first I didn't know who she was – I had never heard of her before – but there was something about her that I immediately liked. I was quite curious to find out exactly who this witty and entertaining woman was, and after very little searching, I discovered that she was once one of the Nolan sisters.

The Nolans first came to the media's attention in 1974, and the Irish group of singers were an ongoing success for quite a number of years, and were huge in Japan. Over the years the members changed as some sisters left to pursue their own careers, and the younger members joined (Coleen Nolan, the youngest sister, was the last to join the group in 1980). The sisters' group came to what was seemingly a final end in 1995 after many successful records and albums.

Ever since the sisters went their own ways, there was constant talk of a reunion. Though every time the subject was brought up, it was simply never a good time for anybody to make a come back. However when it was once again suggested more recently, the timing could not have been more perfect for everybody, and so for a reunion tour, Coleen, Linda, Bernie and Maureen came back together as the Nolans once again.

News of the tour spread fast and there seemed to be a wonderful reaction both from their original fans, and the newer fans they had created along the way (mainly from Coleen, I'll add). Tickets started selling fast and various new dates had to be added in order to please everybody. Now, with the tour just round the corner, kicking off on the 11th October in Nottingham, it would seem now that everybody is getting very excited indeed! To keep us all satisfied before the concerts, an album was released on the 28th September, giving us an insight to the songs that we would be treated with.

As soon as I had heard about the release of this album, I pre ordered it immediately from Amazon.co.uk. It only cost me £8.98, with free postage and packaging. I thought that was a fantastic price to pay for something that seemed so wonderful, I couldn't wait for it to arrive! Thankfully it came just one day after its release date, so I didn't have long to wait.

As soon as I pulled out the album from the bubble wrapped envelope, I studied the cover carefully. It definitely looked incredibly glamorous and stunning. The cover is a gorgeous silvery colour with a faint giant N printed on it. In front of this, there is a headshot picture of each singer: Coleen, Bernie, Linda and Maureen. They're dressed in black dresses with big smiles on their faces. Indeed it is very welcoming and utterly spectacular. 'The Nolans' is written in between them in a lovely gold shade, with 'I'm in the Mood Again' above it. This logo is also seen on the back, with a track list of all sixteen songs underneath.

Inside the case there is a little leaflet advertising their tour, with dates on it, as well as a little about the tour DVD that will be released in November. Before I had a listen to the CD, I had a flick through the booklet that comes with it. This just gives you a little information about each song, as well as a word from the girls. I would have liked to know who was singing each song as I later found out that it can be quite tricky to pinpoint who is the lead of X song. The booklet is quite simple though not really disappointing.

Having thoroughly explored the case, it was time to enjoy the music. Starting with track one, I was welcomed to 'I'm in the Mood For Dancing'. The Nolans first sang this in 1979. It reached #3 in the UK charts, #2 in the Northern Ireland charts and #1 in Japan. It was a huge success then, and is now likely the most loved and well known track by the Nolans. Even those who do not for some reason care for the Nolans much, you will find that they still know this song! When I first listened to this track, I about died. I was expecting pretty much the original track, so when I found that it had been modernized, I was ecstatic. It sounds a lot more 'electric', but the vocals are still just as strong and as crisp as ever. Blasting this as loud as my laptop could take it, I let it ring around me as my feet moved uncontrollably. It is simply amazing.

Filled with excitement after the first track, I headed straight for the next, being 'Chain Reaction'. I first fell in love with this song when it was sung by Steps back in the early 2000s, and since then it has become a track I listen to rather frequently. When I discovered it was on this album, I was over the moon. Now normally I find that the version of a song I first listen to is usually the best, but after just a few seconds into this song I knew immediately that this one favoured over Steps any day. Again it was quite modern and a lot more upbeat. The electric guitars are very clear in this one, and there is something about it that makes it sound slightly Christmasey. The vocals are also a lot more clear than Steps' version, and definitely a lot more enjoyable. This is a simply delightful track!

Next we come to track three, 'It's Raining Men'. There are a few songs which I simply could not live without, and this is most certainly one of them. Being the biggest Spice Girls fan as a child, I followed Geri's career after she left the band, and this was when I fell in love with this song. Again I wasn't sure if I would like this one as much as Geri's, but once again this one came up a treat. The ladies cackle almost at the beginning before the main beat kicks in, and then you can literally feel the sky splitting above you in a storm. There seems to be quite a long introduction with this one, but once the vocals begin I was literally blown away. It is truly amazing – clear and catchy and incredibly addictive.

By this point I had been reduced to tears. I am an overly emotional person in general, but listening to this album brings out so much more in me. I was ready to face track four with a brave face. 'Holding Out For a Hero' is another of my all-time favourite songs, ever since it was sung by Hayley Tammadon on Soapstar Superstar. When this one began, I noticed straight away that the main beat was not as defined as usual, a lot more blended than I had expected. Nonetheless it was amazing and when the vocals began, I could not believe just how varied and powerful the ladies' voices were. This has definitely became my favourite version of this upbeat and lively song!

The next track is 'Chemistry'. This was sung by the Nolans in 1981, when it reached #15 in the UK charts and #11 in the Northern Ireland charts. Personally I feel it could have gone a lot further – the original version from their older albums is truly magical. But if I thought that was amazing, my opinion on this version could not be described. The modern uptempo beat is simply breathtaking, and despite the echoing wonder, the vocals are still very clear and rewarding. Although the older version is easier to sing along to, this is definitely better for getting you tapping along and, indeed, up and dancing!

Track six is one that took me a while to get used to when it was sung by Amy Winehouse. 'Valerie' was never a favourite song of mine, however now my opinion has taken a complete 360 turn and has become one I have listened to many times within twenty four hours! It's a lot more upbeat and full of energy than any other versions I have heard, yet the vocals are a lot more gentle and mellow. They blend well together to create this perfect song. It;s amazing to sing along to and clap your hands while your feet do the grooving! This is now one of my favourites on the entire album.

'I Don't Feel Like Dancing' is the next track we come to. I thought it was quite bizarre to have this on the album, given the title of the first song on the CD, though I did not knock it for a second. When the song was sung by Same Difference on the X Factor I began to like it for the first time, and now I love it even more, all thanks to the four lovely ladies. Their version is a lot more upbeat and lively than any other I have heard, with perfect vocals which I can actually understand, which is more than I can say for any other version! Despite the song's title, this definitely makes me want to get up and dance!

Half way through the album we come to 'Gotta Pull Myself Together'. This is another track which was previous sung by the Nolans, this time released in 1980. It reached #9 in the UK charts and #8 in Northern Ireland, as well as becoming their first Australian hit reaching #3 in their charts. I must say, there is no surprise that it did so well – it is a truly wonderful track. At the beginning of this track it is almost unrecognisable, it is incredibly different to the original. However when the sisters begin to sing it is clear that you are listening to the same song, simply modernized. I adore this, always have, and find that this new version is easier to sing to. It is also a little more lively and a good song to move to.

Track nine is one that I have never liked when it was sung by Duffy. 'Mercy' irritated me, but when it was sung at Jane McDonald's concert earlier this year, it grew on me slightly. Now, thanks to the Nolans, I like it a lot more! It has an amazing drum beat at the beginning, complete with a less nazal “yeah yeah yeah”. It is still quite upbeat though not as much as some of the other songs, and thankfully the vocals are a lot clearer too. It is a little delight and definitely one I enjoyed a lot more than I had expected myself to.

The next track is one that I was so surprised to find on here. When I saw 'The Promise' written on the back of the cover, I didn't for one minute expect it to be the same song that was sung by Girls Aloud. However, upon listening, I discovered that it was the very one. I didn't think it was one that would be sung well by the Nolans, but I could not have been more wrong. It is simply delightful, slightly different and more harmonised than Girls Aloud's version. I think I might just prefer Girls Aloud's version by a fraction, but this is still an utter delight!

'So What' is the song we next come to. This is one my younger siblings love, and although I had never been completely fond of the song myself, I was still looking forward to having a listen. My reaction to this song was completely out of character for me. The second the first beat kicked in I found myself on my feet and jumping around like an absoulte maniac – complete with air guitar. There was something so incredby powerful about the song that it literally threw me up from my seat. It is definitely one that will be added to my 'exercise' playlist – I just cannot stop moving when its on! I really must have looked like a complete twat – thanks for that, Nolans!

Track twelve, 'Crashing Down', gave me time to relax a little more for a few seconds with its slightly more easy introduction, but within ten seconds or so the strong beat that had my feet tapping struck again (at the very least I am going to be a lot fitter thanks to this album!). The original version of Crashing Down , released in 1982, was a lot slower, that's for sure! This is a simply wonderful version, again more electric and modern, with an amazing tempo and upbeat rhythm.

There's something about 'Attention to Me' that always sets me off in tears, and having calmed down since the last episode, this one did reduce me once more. I love the original version by the Nolans – it was released in 1981, reaching #9 in the UK charts and #5 in the Northern Ireland charts. It has always been quite an upbeat song, but now it was out of this world. The introduction was completely different – I didn't recognise the song until the vocals kicked in. It is a wonderful track and although I think I prefer the original, it is still an incredible song.

'Eternal Flame' is a song I adored when Atomic Kitten were peaking, but I had somewhat gone off it since then. However the Nolans re opened my eyes to the song with track fourteen, and once more I adore it. Surprisingly, their version is not as 'tinny' as Atomic Kitten's version, but is a lot more mellow and gentle. It is a proper love song, not as 'pop' as I had expected, and indeed a lot more challenging to sing. Though I simply love it again, and this is definitely the better version!

The second last track is one I had not heard before, going by the name of 'Giving Up,Giving In'. Naturally I was not sure what to expect from this one, but straight away when it began to play I was won over by its intoxicating beat and catchy rhythm. The vocals are superb and I am sure I will latch onto the lyrics in no time thanks to the fact that they are incredibly clear. I have a feeling this is going to be one song that I will come back to again and again.

Finally, we come to track sixteen, which is 'I Will Survive'. Whenever this song is played anywhere, I want to cover my ears. I used to like it but then it became too much of a hype and it seemed to be played everywhere none stop. No offence to the Nolans, I was not particularly keen on this track, but that is purely a dislike with the song itself. Though I will admit, it is superbly sung here and it definitely as a more exciteful beat than usual. This track is not for me, but in general it is well sung. The more I listen to it I am warming to the song, I cannot deny that. I think in time I will learn to love it again, all thanks to the lovely Nolans.

I can do nothing but praise this album. There is not a single fault I can find with it. It looks amazing, and has the perfect amount of tracks, each one sung to perfection. It is the most amazing feel-good album I own in my collection, and I am amazed with the fact that the majority of the songs I already had on my laptop, perhaps by different artists, but all the same. They must have read my mind and created this album for me (!). I cannot thank the Nolans enough for creating this – it is just what I needed to cheer me up (despite the fact that it made me cry!). It is truly wonderful, and now I am even more excited for the concert! So What, I am not keen on one track, but I Will Survive! Please just have Mercy, as I'm in the Mood For Dancing and I want you to pay a little Attention To Me!

Amy x

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Andrea in the wrong?

There's been a huge uproar with Loose Women fans after an incident on Monday's show (21/9/09). During a rather heavy discussion about drugs between Andrea, Lisa, Lynda and Carol, it has been suggested that the show's anchor, Andrea McLean, stepped over the line.

I think this is a load of rubbish. The debate about what should be done with drug users was beginning to get out of hand - everybody was overlapping each other with their views and just as Lynda was away to speak, Andrea replied, "Lynda, hang on, no wait, Lynda, wait, wait!". Now this was simply because Lisa had just made a point regarding the police, and Andrea was trying to explain the bottom line of the situation before more points and opinions got tossed about and it became too much to handle. I think the way Lynda turned to the audience was simply her saying "well that's me told!", however viewers have picked this up as Lynda being hurt by Andrea.

Andrea in no way intended to hurt Lynda. She has also said that she apologised to Lynda during the break. Yet, many viewers still seem to be complaining about Andrea. Many hateful things have been said about her, claiming that she is a terrible presenter and that Jackie Brambles should come back.

I would like to highlight one main fact here - Andrea is a wonderful presenter. If she were not good at her job, she would have been axed from Loose Women a long time ago. With a degree under her belt and a line of successful jobs, Andrea is clearly a hard worker and is very talented. Not only is she a wonderful presenter but has a great personality, a truly amazing person, and by no means should she have to suffer from hateful digs by jealous viewers.

It's time for people to drop the issues they have with last Monday's show and get on with their lives instead of wasting time complaining about Andrea. They're spoiling the show for others and could potentially ruin Andrea's career. She is simply wonderful and deserves none of it.

Amy
x

Monday, 21 September 2009

Melissa Joan Hart - a spellbounding actress!

“Hi Sam!” are the very words that were on the lips of many when American television show 'Clarissa Explains It All' first aired in 1991. Loved by many, it was a show that put actress Melissa Joan Hart on the map after her fantastic performance as Clarissa Darling. Although the show ended in 1994 after a very successful run, there was a lot more of Hart to be seen!

In 1997 a television series hit our screens, known as 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch'. It told the story of a teenage witch named Sabrina who moved to the mortal realm in time for her sixteenth birthday, to live with her two Aunts Hilda and Zelda, and their cat familiar Salem. There they teach her to use her powers once Sabrina has come to terms with the fact that she is a witch, and while juggling her spells Sabrina also has to deal with everyday problems mortal teenage girls face, such as high school and relationships.

Already Sabrina was quite a well known character, thanks to the Archie comic series about the teenage witch. Having produced the television series alongside her mother, Paula Hart, Melissa has said that it was thanks to the comic book series that they “came up with the movie idea”, which was released a year before the series launched.

The television series ran for a total of seven seasons, coming to a dramatic end in 2003. Hart has claimed that there are “too many highlights to name” from the show, though admits that her favourite outfit would have to be “ the sparkle-dress from the opening credits”. Indeed, 'Sabrina' got to dress up in a lot of different, and often outrageous, costumes – the wardrobe department must have had the most amazing fun with those!

Aunt Hilda and Aunt Zelda were just two of the characters in Sabrina the Teenage Witch that were hugely adored. Though, many viewers had their favourites Aunt, as both were contrasting in personalities. Though Hart says she doesn't have a favourite, and that she likes them “both”. Hilda's wacky characteristics were fantastically portrayed by Caroline Rhea, with the more disciplining Zelda played by the equally amazing Beth Broderick. It is clear to see why it would be hard to choose a favourite!

A short while after the television series launched, 'Sabrina the Animated Series' aired – a cartoon series based on the original. It was in fact Hart's younger sister Emily, who can be seen as Amanda in the television show, who was the voice of Sabrina. Hart provided the voices of both Hilda and Zelda. Hart was able to jump from the role of Sabrina straight into the role of the Aunts with ease, showing the strength in her talent as an actress.

Hart has played various characters over the years in different shows, and claims that she “loves them all for different reasons”. She also states that, “ every job I have done has better prepared me for the future”. Certainly Hart has had a lot of experience, with a range of roles to appeal to different audiences. No matter what your preference, there is bound to be a Hartbreak production for you!

She admires her “Mom” most in life, and in 2006 Hart became a Mom herself when she gave birth to her first son Mason three years after marrying musician Mark Wilkerson. Her second son, Braydon, was born in 2008. Television is often criticised now, with suggestions that it often gives out inappropriate messages to children. Hart states that she “monitors what they watch”, ensuring her children are brought up in the best world possible.

While juggling motherhood and her career, Hart also opened up her own candy store, 'Sweetharts' in 2009. It was something she had always dreamed of, and hopes to expand the store to other places in the USA, with the current store located in California. Perhaps one day it will expand across the the United Kingdom too.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch 'ended' six years ago now, and as things stand, Hart has claimed that there are no plans for any one off 'reunion episodes'. She hopes for “ peace, love and happiness” in the future, and of course fans are sure to keep her career going strong. We are sure to see a lot more of Hart in the future – she is a wonderful actress, incredibly talented with a great personality. Whether she is your Clarissa Darling, or your Sabrina Spellman, Hart has warmed the childhood of many, and long may she continue to do so.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Loose Women - ITVs Finest Makeover

15/9/09

When i first fell in love with Loose Women back in 2007, the whole idea behind the show was new to me. Luckily I had two years to adapt to the delicious blue set and main panellists. The colour scheme was wonderful, and everything of mine became blue to match. I even had my own mug made with my name on it to match. As for the panellists, well they were perfect. I could not have imagined a more perfect line up than what we were given day to day. Jackie and Andrea were the two most superb anchors imaginable, and everything was perfect.

And then Jackie announced she was leaving.

When I first heard this news, I was devastated. She is such an inspiration and unknowingly plays quite a big role in my life and future career. Although it had taken me a little while longer to warm to her compared to Andrea, she was still part of what made up the wonders of Loose Women, and I simply couldn't believe she was leaving. However when the news leaked that Kate Thornton was to be replacing her as anchor, my spirits did lift a little. I have always adored Kate, and couldn't wait to see her in the leading chair.

After Jackie's send off at the beginning of August, I did cry. Its only natural - my soft nature took over and I grieved with the end of an Era. I did have a suspicion that the Loose Women set would be given a make over, what with its new anchor and a few 'new' faces on the panel, but what I wasn't sure.

After what seemed like an eternity, Loose Women was finally back on our screens early September and the new design was revealed to us. As I had hoped, it captured a main pink colour. At first I thought this was too dark, but after a while I found it quite appealing and have actually concluded that it is a lot more welcoming that the more metallic previous shades. The mugs especially are quite attractive, and I shall be having my own one made as soon as!

Since the previous series, Lisa Maxwell had also joined the ladies full time, and for me this was wonderful news. She is so adorable, and is exceptionally comic too. Although Coleen had been away for a while, Lisa was perfect for stepping into her seat for the time and is certainly welcomed back as often as possible! It was also announced that Rachel Agnew would be back, and so far this has not happened yet, but when it does I will be thrilled. I had been worried that some dire snob would win the Make Me A loose Woman competition in the previous series, but thankfully we were given a woman worth her weight in gold - Rachel is so natural, so amazing - nobody else could have filled her winning shoes.

I had hoped that Kate would be on the show in the first week, but sadly we had to wait until near the end of week two before we could see her in action. Finally this came, and I was simply delighted with how things turned out. Kate is a natural on Loose Women, a wonderful presenter and a fantastic anchor. She actually reminds me of a cross between Jackie and Andrea, though has her own style too. She's an incredible woman and although I am upset with Jackie's departure, I feel no finer presenter could have taken over.

The new Loose Women set is gorgeous, and the panellists are amazing, but there is one thing that worries me. Over the past few months there has been rumours that all sorts of personalities are to be joining the panel: Victoria Beckham, Katie Price. If that wasn't bad enough, it does seem that there are a lot more panellists joining the show, which means we never get to warm to them as much as we would if it stuck to just eight like the previous series'. I do fear that it will go down the same route as it did with 'Loose @ 5:30' and start losing viewers. Hopefully though this will not be the case!

Having just won its third award in a row at the TV Quick and TV Choice Awards, it would seem that Loose Women is still going strong, and providing there are no changes too dramatical, I am certain it will stay this way. For me, it is my life and the centre point to my future career. It means the world to me, as do its panellists. If you ever get to see it live, I strongly encourage you to take this opportunity as it is simply fantastic (although the studio is slightly chilly!). Who knows, maybe one day my dream will come true and it will be me sitting in the leading chair, attempting to keep the ladies under control! Until then though, I shall enjoy the show as it is. Loose Women - television wouldn't be the same without it!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Mitchell in the Middle

12/9/2009

It had been four years since we last seen Sam Mitchell flee from Walford, on the run in Brazil to escape her prison sentence. Actress Kim Medcalf had portrayed the character since 2002, and during her time we saw Sam involved with a bag-full of men, becoming quite a businesswomen, and being involved with the murder of Den Watts. However, long before Kim Medcalf was cast as the Mitchell sister, the character was introduced to Albert Square back in 1990, in the form of Daniella Westbrook. Daniella appeared in the soap on and off until 2000, when Sam was axed from the show due to Daniella's drug addiction.

When the news of Sam's return was let out, fans of the soap all had their own opinions created even before filming had commenced. Having been clean for a number of years, Daniella was recast, and this was admired by those fans who adored EastEnders when Sam first came into it. However many of those who were used to Kim Medcalf's portrayal of the character did not take too fondly to this news. Only time was going to tell if the 'new' Sam was going to go down well with the viewers - Westbrook herself has claimed she felt “happy” when she was approached and asked to return to the show.

Sam's return shook up the Square as the Mitchell's tried to keep her hidden, but that was easier said than done. Slowly word began to spread and before long, it had reached the likes of Bianca and Archie. Bianca may have despised the return of this particular Mitchell, but for Ricky it seemed to be the most wonderful thing in the world. The chemistry between Sid Owen and Westbrook is fantastic, and has created an amazing storyline as Sam and Ricky are reunited once again.

It was evident that Sam was now going to be a lot more like the true Mitchell she was when she first came into the soap. During Medcalf's portrayal, Westbrook was living in Los Angeles and was unable to watch the show. This meant that she only really knew the way she portrayed Sam some years ago. Medcalf created a Sam that was a little more soft, perhaps filled with a little less 'Mitchell spirit'. Though as soon as Sam returned on the 4th September 2009, with Ricky Butcher on her arm, it was clear that she was as feisty and flamboyant as she had ever been.

Westbrook states that she is bringing “glamour” to Sam now, and indeed this is clear! The wardrobe department must be brimming with its selection of exciteful garments now owned by Sam. Although she has only been in the show a week, already Sam has been seen in more items of clothing that imaginable, each one more gorgeous than the next.

With her return, Westbrook was looking forward to being reunited with characters such as “Ricky, Phil, Peggy, Bianca and Ian”. She has also claimed that she has been looking forward to working with Samantha Womack, who plays Ronnie, as the two went to school together. As well as her working alongside her co-stars, Westbrook's highlights from her return include “wearing bright clothes and working hard”.

She may have only been on the Square for a week, but Sam Mitchell has created a stir for her own family and everybody else who has crossed her path. Having just been arrested, who knows what will happen to the much loved character now? It would seem that Westbrook's return has indeed gone down exceptionally, and many who feel they are 'true Medcalf fans' have even warmed to her. Daniella would like Sam and Roxy “to be friends”, but if Sam gets sent down that will be a task even for the brilliant script writers. Will she be released and able to live her life, or is it straight to prison for Sam Mitchell?

Friday, 4 September 2009

Jane McDonald concert - Caird Hall, Dundee

4/9/2009

Back in 2007 I discovered the television phenomenon that is Loose Women. It is a show that I connected with instantly and felt that the rapport I had with my TV set was just as strong as that the ladies on the panel had. One of these delightful panellists is Yorkshire lass Jane McDonald. Since starring on 'The Cruise', Jane's voice has become known all over. She has a great vocal range with almighty lungs that will take any song by storm. Combining these factors with her wonderful sense of humour makes Jane such an asset to Loose Women. I'd seen her briefly outside ITV studios but running behind schedule, she didn't have time to stop. However that quick few seconds I saw her in front of me, I was blown away. So when I found out that she had another concert lined up, I jumped at the chance of going.

Unfortunately the closest concert to me was being held at Dundee in the Caird Hall. Though since I am such a fan of Jane's music, I was willing to pay the price of ticket and travel. The ticket itself for the concert, bought from Ticketmaster, cost just short of thirty pound, which I think is a delightful price to pay! With a return train ticket costing just twelve pound, I was getting to see Jane McDonald live for barely fifty pound! For me, that is a real bargain! Less than a week later the tickets flung through my letter box, and all that was left to do was wait a few months until it was time to go!

The concert in Dundee was on the 3rd September, so I wasn't expecting glorious sunshine. However when I woke up on the morning and saw that the sky had opened and the rain was belting down, my heart sank. I didn't want the weather to damped my mood before the event. What was worse though was I still had to get through the whole day before catching the train! Finally I walked off to the train station and boarded the train at five o clock completely soaked through. The internet on my phone wasn't working and I had a headache. So far, things weren't going terribly well.

After a long and dull journey I finally arrived in Dundee. I'd never been to Dundee before so prior to my journey I had drawn up a little guide with the help of Bing Maps so I could find my way to the theatre. I trotted along in the pouring rain again (I'd hoped it was different in Dundee!), and found Caird Hall no bother. The building itself is quite grand. There are ten or so large pillars at the front of the long building sheltering it, and there are a few steps you have to climb up (disabled are able to enter through the stage door), before you come to the main doors. At this point, it was just after half six and I had to stand thankfully for no longer than fifteen minutes in the cold before the doors were opened and I could find my seat.

I was situated in the stalls – M7. 'M' is quite a long way down the alphabet so I'd imagined I would be seated quite far back in the hall, but to my surprise I discovered that I was just twelve rows from the front. This was the first concert I'd been to so I did expect a bigger gap between the stage and the first row, so only much to my delight was I proven wrong. After an impatient wait, half seven finally arrived and the musicians walked onto the stage, picking up their instruments as the audience glared at them. The hall went dark and we were told to give a huge welcome to Jane McDonald. Naturally, we all started clapping and cheering (not so much cheering as about 70% of the audience were over 50!). Jane walked out onto the stage as the spotlight hit her, and I gasped. She was seen in the most gorgeous dress I've ever seen – aquamarine blue with a mermaid style fin at the bottom. It was utterly gorgeous! And then she opened her mouth and the evening just got better! The first song she sang I didn't know, but the second was the one I had prayed for! After performing 'It's Getting Better' on the Loose Women end of season finale this year, I'd fallen in love with the song and this was what she sang next. I must have looked quite peculiar as the biggest smile broadened across my face.

In between songs Jane would talk to the audience, which is always a comfort. She told jokes, such as one about a brown paper bag who wasn't feeling well, and putting money between her butt cheeks. She also interacts with her musicians, especially the piano player (who is also the voice of the Compare the 'Meerkat' adverts!) and her backing singers. One backing singer out of the three particularly stood out for me: Jo Boyd. That woman has such an energetic personality, and an amazing voice too – she took centre stage at one point, and it was most amusing to see Jane with the backing singers. Jane mentioned Loose Women a few times, and also talked about her mother a bit. To my delight, Jane's mam was also in the audience, and Jane had the house lights put on so we could all turn round and see her. I was delighted at this, and her mam must be so proud!

After the break, which lasted about twenty five minutes, Jane came back on and before any stage lights were on, you could see her twinkling away on the stage. As soon as the lights did come up, she sparkled with every movement. She wore a deep red dress which, to the delight of the men in the audience, had a slit at the side which came up to her thigh. Whenever she moved the slightest, it would seem that she had a thousand gems sewn onto her. She truly looked like a firework in the night. The second half of the show is the more emotional part, where she sings more meaningful songs, such as The Hand That Leads Me, Even Now and One Voice. She actually brought a tear to my eye, which was no surprise to me as even 'mp3 Jane McDonald' makes me weep!

After more joking and chatting to the audience, Jane finished off the show with a lively melody of various songs after she'd received her standing ovation. The majority of the audience were on our feet, dancing and clapping along to the music. Her voice echoed all around, and despite its volume it was one of the most beautiful sounds I've ever heard. Within the space of two hours I'd gone through a roller coaster ride of emotions, faced with excitement and nerves, as well as being too emotional for my own good! When Jane walked off the stage into the wings at the end, and the houselights came up, I could have cried! I could have stayed there forever and listened to her amazing voice. It's like nothing I've ever experienced before. It gives me such joy and such hope – and I owe it all to you, Jane!