Red Nose Day is back!

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The biennial Red Nose Day for Comic Relief, one of my favourite charity telethons is back again for its 30th year this year, on Friday 13th March. It’s long been a cause I’ve supported and donated to – and also in its Sport Relief guise on odd numbered years, as it has always, at its heart, approached fundraising for amazing causes in the UK and abroad in a light hearted way via a night of top comedians and entertainment on BBC One.

My childhood memories of Red Nose Days were always of non uniform days at school where you donated a pound to wear red for a day, and of teachers being sponsored to sit in a bath of baked beans (still quite a British thing to do I say. You wouldn’t get that in America, and I thus love it), followed by the 6 hour telethon on that same Friday night.

So with the new telethon approaching, I threw open discussion on my Twitter about what I thought were the most memorable moments from Red Nose Days past. Here’s what – with input from my followers – I decided were the very best…

(PS – If you’re wondering about the picture above, this is my #FunnySelfie with one of this years’ Red Noses and the mug that I posted on my Instagram. If you wanna post yours then do it now and text ‘FUNNY’ to 70011 which will automatically donate £1 to Comic Relief – the noses are available in Sainsbury’s. Thank you muchly)

WHEN THE SPICE GIRLS MET THE SUGAR LUMPS

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In early 1997, the Spice Girls were on top of the world – bringing a new generation of pop fans some serious girl power. Only right then, that their then forthcoming single ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, was chosen as that year’s official single for Comic Relief.

A multitude of copycat girl groups were springing up in the Spices’ wake, but only one was to meet with their approval – step forward the Sugar Lumps. And like their counterparts, they each had a nickname and persona too – Ginger Lumps (Jennifer Saunders), Posh Lumps (Dawn French), Scary Lumps (Llewella Gideon), Sporty Lumps (Kathy Burke) and Baby Lumps (Lulu).

It set up the trend for the hottest pop acts of the moment to record the official single whilst taking the mickey with top comedians, and ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ rocketed the girls straight to #1 in the UK charts again, raising over a quarter of £1m for the charity.

WHEN ALI G INTERVIEWED POSH & BECKS

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Just five years later in 2001, Posh Spice herself, Victoria Beckham was back on the telethon, this time with footballer hubby David as they took part in a sketch with Staines’ most gangsta rapper Ali G (aka Sacha Baron Cohen) where he interviewed them.

Well, we say interviewed – but it was nonetheless a very tongue in cheek probing they recieved from Mr G – case in point…

Ali G: “So tell me, does Brooklyn like your music, or is he getting a bit old for it now?”

Victoria: “Well yeah, he does like music, he jigs about and dances. He’s also into football as well, so it’s nice.”

Ali G: “Respect, respect. So how old is Brooklyn now?”

Victoria: “He’s nearly two.”

Ali G: “So tell me, is your little boy starting to put whole sentences together?”

Victoria: “He’s learning the bits and pieces, so yeah.”

Ali G: “And what about Brooklyn?

It also nonetheless proved that Victoria and David had a deliciously dry sense of humour – hence why, they’re probably still held in great affection by us Brits and the world over.

WHEN MCFLY WENT TO UGANDA

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The appeal films shown throughout the night on the telethon, moving as they are, nonetheless show what a real difference the money raised for Comic Relief can make – even the smallest amount.

When the McFly lads were chosen to record the official single ‘All About You’ in 2005, they also went out to Uganda to see first hand one of the communities that was benefitting from Comic Relief fundraising, in Kamowokya. The appeal film then became a video for the B-side of their single, a cover of the Carole King standard ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ – a truly moving video if you find it on YouTube.

When they returned two years later in 2007 for a special BBC report, they saw that much had changed – for the better – and as a result of the money raised from the release of their chart topper, a new school had been opened, providing an education for the children of Kamowokya, something we all take for granted so readily in this country. It really highlights the message of what Comic Relief achieves through any amount given, big or small.

WHEN GARY BARLOW AND PALS TREKKED UP MOUNT KILIMANJARO

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In recent years with the telethon, fundraising efforts have also extended to events before the actual night – and some of them the most extreme imaginable.

In 2009, the Captain of Take That, Gary Barlow, assembled a group of famous friends – Cheryl and Kimberley from Girls Aloud, Alesha Dixon, Fearne Cotton, Chris Moyles, Ben Shepherd, Denise van Outen and Ronan Keating – to trek up the epic Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Their ardurous climb, battling against extreme temperatures and altitude sickness made gripping viewing, and the team ended up raising a cool £2m for that year’s appeal. Two years later in 2011, another team of famous faces – among them, Olly Murs, Dermot O’Leary, Kara Tointon and Lorraine Kelly – trekked through the Kaisut desert in Kenya, raising nearly double on 2009’s trek.

WHEN THE CAST OF MIRANDA JOINED JLS

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Bizarrely, in the five years her sitcom was on air, Miranda Hart only made one appearance of note on a Red Nose Day telethon, in 2011. But boy was it what we call such fun.

Part a parody of cult Sky1 favourite ‘Pineapple Dance Studios’ with Louie Spence, the sketch saw her, Gary, Stevie and Penny run the famous dance studios in London’s Covent Garden, whilst ‘bear with’ frenemy Tilly became the new manager of visitors and X Factor boyband JLS.

So where do Miranda and chums come into this then? Cue a mixup with the day for auditioning dancers for the JLS lads’ performance of ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ on the telethon night and you can probably guess the hilarious outcome.

WHEN SMITHY CAME TO THE RESCUE

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It was also on the 2011 telethon that probably one of the most talked about sketches in history featured, as the charity poked fun at itself for a change. It imagined an alternate reality, where founders Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry were depicted as being ‘on the brink’ of not being able to pull in any big name stars for that year’s event.

Cue James Corden, in his Smithy guise from ‘Gavin & Stacey’, and a whole host of hilarious cameos from Davina McCall to Gordon Brown via Sir Paul McCartney and Rio Ferdinand (and not forgetting George Michael) for a boardroom meeting few will ever forget.

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Beating again: the rebirth of Marvin Humes

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The post pop group solo career is a tricky, some might say unforgiving mistress to navigate. For every success story – Beyoncé, Robbie or Justin selling out stadiums and shifting albums by the bucketload, there’s a thousand Abz, Lisa Scott-Lees or Appletons starring in Z-list reality shows and being dropped like hot potatoes from their labels to vouch against the idea whilst failing to embark on a new career devoid of screaming adoring fans at Wembley or The O2.

Marvin Richard James Humes. To all intents and purposes, he is the nation’s favourite member of his former band JLS, the X Factor’s first big supergroup alumni to become a multi award winning, #1 smashing success and who bought the age old concept of the boyband swaggering into the start of this new decade. So, the nation’s favourite? Let’s assess the evidence.

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Capital Radio certainly think so. Having rediscovered his childhood love of DJ’ing during a series of ‘after party’ shows at local nightspots on JLS’ second big UK arena tour in spring 2012, he was offered a weekly Friday night slot to host two hours of dance music on the station in March 2013. Since JLS disbanded, he now hosts Monday to Friday in the post-drivetime slot from 7pm, and also hosts the Vodafone Big Top 40 show on Sunday afternoons, as well as DJ’ing at the station’s major events such as the Summertime and Jingle Bell Balls.

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‘This Morning’, that long standing beacon of daytime TV gold, certainly think so. Along with his Saturdays wife Rochelle, they guest hosted a Friday edition of the show on August bank holiday in 2013. Met with welcome reception by viewers, they now host on Friday editions during the school holidays and half terms.

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The BBC certainly think so. When their music talent search show ‘The Voice’ returned for its third series last year, and was undergoing a rehaul following the addition of Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson and pop royalty Kylie Minogue to the panel of coaches, Marvin, himself a successful product of a music talent show, was duly bought in to replace Reggie Yates in hosting duties alongside Emma Willis, herself taking over from a then-newly expectant Holly Willoughby’s role. He’s since returned, along with Willis, to host the fourth series, the blind audition shows of which are currently airing on Saturday nights.

Polydor Records certainly think so. Despite having hung up his mic after the final date of the JLS farewell tour 18 months ago, Marvin’s involvement with music hasn’t faded completely from view. Along with producers JKAY and The White N3rd, Polydor signed them in a joint deal with Global Talent records (former home of The Wanted) and they quietly formed new dance production trio LuvBug in the summer of 2013, and under this alias did a few guest remixes for singles from Olly Murs, Union J and The Saturdays to name but a few.

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The first anyone knew of his association with the project came in September of last year, when the hooky first single ‘Resonance’ – featuring the vocals of R&B crooner Talay Riley – stormed the UK top 20. Their new single ‘Revive (Say Something)’ featuring Joel Compass, has already been tearing up the airwaves and Shazam charts, and an album is due later this year.

And I certainly think so. Even back in the JLS days, my mum and dad highlighted him as their favourite – my dad when he came to see them with me on their ‘Outta This World’ tour at Wembley Arena at Christmas in 2010, and my mum when she saw them return to X Factor in 2009 to perform ‘Everybody in Love’ respectively. Their exact words were along the lines of ‘He seems like a nicely bought up young man. And there are so few.’

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It’s a common opinion of the media at large too. One of my favourite music websites, Popjustice for instance, have interviewed him several times over the course of the last six years (including recently just as ‘Resonance’ came out). A cursory search on Twitter for mentions of Marvin under their handle is usually full of praise.

Whilst it’s true that all the guys in JLS were top lads – speaking as a bloke, they felt like the first boyband of my generation that it was OK to be a fan of and like the music of because they felt like a group of mates rather than a bunch of vacant pretty boys thrown into a band. But it seems as if Marvin is the one who is moving forward post split the most successfully. He has kept himself as a recognisable identity within his TV work, with his DJ’ing and, to a certain extent with being married to Rochelle – how they’ve not had their own TV show yet is beyond us because I feel it would be absolute gold.

But what he has done so cleverly with LuvBug is to still keep his presence in the music world but without resorting to a more ‘conventional’ solo career that may not have necessarily been a good fit for him – and how many ex pop band members can you say have chosen that wisely? Not many. But Marvin has, and, even with the solo efforts of his former bandmates Oritsé and Aston still to come this year (JB has stepped away from music for a career in farming), I have no doubt he will continue to make waves for years ahead. There’s a life after pop supremacy if you’re as smart a cookie as Mr Humes.

LuvBug’s new single ‘Revive (Say Something)’ is released tomorrow on Polydor/Global Talent Records. ‘The Voice’ blind auditions continue tonight at 7.15pm on BBC One. Twitter: @marvinhumes

TV top trumps: is watching the box now a battle for trend supremacy?

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Netflix. NowTV. Sky+. LoveFilm. A TiVo. Series Record. Amazon Prime. iPlayer. 4OD. On Demand. It seems that with the growth of technology in just the last two decades alone that we are being bombarded ever more with impossibly new ways – and new devices and contraptions – to do the thing our humble TVs were there for in the first place – to, well…watch TV.

But, as I’ve got older – and perhaps more so since I was at uni when I was something of a blissful iPlayer junkie as I couldn’t afford a licence for a full set in my budget back then – I’ve found that, as with most other areas in my life, some of which I’ve spoken about on here before, I’m almost struggling to keep up and be what I call an ‘on trend viewer’.

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Here’s the thing. My TV viewing of childhood was a happy, blissful time – namely in lieu of my then obsession with shows like ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, ‘Rainbow’, ‘The Magic Roundabout’ and ‘Postman Pat’. Nobody, I’d like to think, judges a 3 year old on what they watch. Naturally anyway.

Then I got a bit older – ie early to mid teens – and that’s when the ball game changed a little bit. Suddenly, the safe, carefree world of talking steam engines and jolly postal workers in fictional Cumbrian villages gave way to being into the ‘cool’ shows – namely US imports or stuff that becomes tabloid and water cooler fodder.

Previous readers from before will know my now obsession with ‘Friends’, S Club 7’s TV series and things like CD:UK were thus dodgy ground to occupy, as was my mid teen love affair with Britcoms like ‘Ab Fab’ and ‘The Vicar of Dibley’. In my case, that meant having to take a vested interest in stuff that was beyond my realm – most of it late at night or on a channel from a Sky box.

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Admittedly, as time moved on further towards my early twenties, I did develop a love for some ‘must-see’ TV – the HBO series ‘Entourage’ from America, for instance, which one of my uni friends at the time, Pete, recommended to me in light of a sitcom pilot I’d been writing, and I quickly developed a love for. I am still, at time of writing, about three or four series behind with ‘Entourage’, which, given the movie of the film is out soon, I should probably crack on with watching.

And now that I’m the age I am, I feel like there is suddenly even more pressure on me to be into so called ‘must see’ TV. My interest in ‘The X Factor’ fell off a cliff once decent talent began getting repeatedly kicked off in favour of hopeless boybands and ‘comedy’ acts (cf the 2012 series with Rylan and Union J) and since then I’ve been a staunch Strictly viewer on Saturday nights in the autumn, likewise with ‘The Voice’ which is on again at the moment (and more on which in my next blog).

But again, it’s apparently not cool for a 25 year old bloke to be taking a vested interest in some guy from EastEnders doing a rather good paso doblé, or in Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills emerging sideways from behind a makeshift rock dressed as the crab from ‘The Little Mermaid’ for a salsa to ‘Under the Sea’ (go YouTube it, readers. It will change your life).

Nor do I take a vested interest in what I called ‘social network baiting porn’. By that, I mean the sort of shows that clog up your timeline or day to day conversation at any given point with a desire to illicit ‘reaction’ from the public and media at large – which basically means things like ‘Celebrity Big Brother’, ‘TOWIE’, ‘Made in Chelsea’, or any documentaries or debates (usually on Channel 4 or Five) attacking the bottom rungs of society for entertainment purposes. Especially if they have the input of insufferable holier than thou rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins and the like.

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But perhaps what infuriates me most of all, is what the sudden pressure of being asked to have an opinion on this unwatchable garbage puts not just on me, but on society as a whole. Recently, Virgin Media have run a ‘Night Owls’ advertising campaign for their TV catchup services (see above) which, I feel, practically encourages, nay forces us to be insomniac zombies obsessed with staying up all night watching some random US show just to keep up with the Joneses (or should that be the Kardashians? I digress).

I put this question of whether we are living in a society that encourages a passive aggressive/competitive culture of ‘TV top trumps’ to my Twitter feed. On the one hand, I found I wasn’t alone in my feeling the pressure to take a vested interest in shows I had no care for. ‘When you say why you haven’t watched a show,’ mused Barnsey, ‘you need to have a good excuse why. Or if you tell the truth, and say it’s not your thing you get the ‘You poor fool’ look of pity and disbelief.’

But what about the reverse side of the coin, for people for whom ‘must see TV’ is their passion and interest? One of my international Twitbuds from Germany, Julia, confessed she was a follower and preacher, although not in a demanding way.

‘I think that I’m sometimes the one forcing my friends to pretend they’ve seen stuff and I always make them listen to me talking about films and shows. But I’m not doing that on purpose.’

‘I just watch a lot of stuff and because I’m a bit “obsessed” with British stuff I watch a lot of things that aren’t on telly here,’ she added, ‘and I watch a lot of the popular stuff as well so I’m most of the time the person who’s seen “everything”. So I guess that’s boring and annoying sometimes for my friends or the people I happen to talk to, but I’m just excited about the stuff I watch.’

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Indeed, what Julia says here perhaps highlights the problem. Getting excited by word of mouth TV – ‘Miranda’, for instance, was a ‘word of mouth’ show for me, as was ‘Entourage’, as was the Aussie sitcom ‘Summer Heights High’ – that’s the kind of stuff that’s great to have a shared interest and experience in. Stuff that you discover naturally as it were. Julia pointed out this was the case with some of our own British shows.

But when we’re being forced to watch and take interest in a TV show that’s all hype and bugger all else by greater powers that be, to the detriment of our own happiness – well, that’s no fun for anyone. So. That complete series catchup of ’24’ (grumbly, weird and trippy)? That 8 hour marathon of ‘Geordie Shore’ (loosely scripted, crass and orange famous for f-all vessels)? Ignore it all readers. As the slogan of an old BBC licence fee ad once proclaimed, watch what YOU want, when YOU want. Live long and prosper.

Recipe: Chicken, Avocado and Tomato Wraps

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I’ve fallen slowly back in love – although it has to be said, not that I ever fell out of it – with cooking again in recent months. It was always one of the best parts of my days at uni and now that I’m working again, I sort of get that joy to myself with making my lunch for the following day the night before.

Case in point: this week, as I fancied a change from endless weeks of cup a soups, so with the slightly less chillier temperatures, I made this healthy but simple and extremely yummy wrap for lunch. Quite a few people on Twitter have asked for the recipe since I posted the picture above, so here it is without further ado:

Serves 2

2 x medium sized tortilla wraps (I used wholegrain seeded ones, but plain ones will work just as well)
1 avocado, stoned and halved
1 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of paprika
Juice of half a lemon
4-6 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 chicken breasts, sliced

METHOD:

1. Scoop out the avocado flesh from its skins, and mash well with a fork in a small bowl. Add in the sea salt, cayenne pepper, paprika and lemon juice, and mix well.
2. Spread approximately half the mixture out onto one tortilla wrap – enough to cover just to the edge of each wrap. Assemble half the chicken slices along the diameter of the wrap, and then the same with the halved cherry tomatoes.
3. Repeat this process with the other wrap, wrap up and then serve!

Do let me know if you try these out – I’d love to see your attempts. Enjoy, lunch adventurers of this humble blog.