Alex’s End of Year Prizes 2015

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It’s Boxing Day! Which means a couple of things – firstly, cold meat and pickles in endless bounty (YAY). And secondly, also means it’s time for me to hand out my second annual End of Year Prizes on this here blog.

Unbelievably it’s now been a whole 12 months since we last handed them out, so grab some more Roses/Quality Street and a cuppa, and pull up a chair/sofa as I hand out my prizes to the great and good I’ve loved in music, telly, books and film this last year…

MAN OF THE YEAR and STYLE ICON

And the winner is… OLLY MURS!

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For the second year running, Mr Murs takes home my ‘Man of the Year’ prize, and what a year to take it on, with a world tour, presenting X Factor, a new album, a book, singles galore and numerous events (most of which I’ve NOT been at. I jest of course!) packing his schedule but he has more than proved that he’s at the top of his game and still incredibly grounded with all he has achieved. He also takes home the Style Icon prize for his many dapper turns whilst hosting X Factor…nice one Murs!

WOMAN OF THE YEAR

And the winner is… NIGELLA LAWSON!

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After a lengthy absence from our screens and cookbook shelves, in which time everyone (not these quarters, mind) got obsessed with the smug bravado of MasterChef and the ‘soggy bottom’ hype of The Great British Bake Off, Nigella returned this year with easily her best series and book to date in ‘Simply Nigella’. Simple in both title and execution, but utterly delightful as always, and a pleasure to have her back.

SINGLE OF THE YEAR

And the winner is (or should I say are)…LITTLE MIX for ‘Black Magic’!

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Since winning X Factor four years ago, the Little Mix ladies have quietly become a real pop force to be reckoned with, with three awesome albums now to their credit. They cemented their position as the girl group of the hour by spending three weeks at the top of the UK chart this summer with a big chorused, melodic and upbeat offering of 80’s disco pop that’s sure to be a classic in years to come.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

And the winners are…YEARS & YEARS for ‘Communion’!

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Fronted by the haunting, charismatic vocals of Olly Alexander, electro-soul three piece Years & Years started 2015 as the annual ‘BBC Sound of’ poll winners, and bucked trend by being the first winner of that poll since Little Boots to not be awful. Their debut album boasted two of this year’s best pop singles in chart topping ‘King’ and also brilliant ‘Shine’, and we’re sure there’s gonna be more of this to come from them in 2016.

FILM OF THE YEAR

And the winner is…MINIONS!

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Having cemented themselves as the true stars of both the ‘Despicable Me’ films, three of the cutest, funniest and darn right silliest yellow creatures from those films – Kevin, Stuart and Bob (sorry. KING BOOOOOOB!) took over the big screen this year with their own spin off movie, and what a hoot it was, with brilliant star turns from Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm as well.

ACTOR OF THE YEAR

And the winner is…MIRANDA HART!

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Whilst we sadly started 2015 waving goodbye to her much loved BBC sitcom (but happily so, as her and Gary finally tied the knot. Captain Fun Times!), this year saw Miranda make her big screen Hollywood debut in the brilliant action comedy caper ‘Spy’ alongside Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham. It proved there was more to her talents than fruit friends and falling expertly over a pile of boxes, and is hopefully the start of even more promising things for her film career.

BOOK OF THE YEAR

And the winner is… GIOVANNA FLETCHER for ‘Dream a Little Dream’!

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Not only one of the most brilliant vloggers around with her weekly ‘Dear Carrie’ entries on YouTube, Giovanna Fletcher is a one woman writing tour-de-force, and her third novel, ‘Dream a Little Dream’, showcased the further development of her witty, heart warming and gorgeously romantic talents as an author. A must read.

TV SHOW OF THE YEAR

And the winner is…THE X FACTOR!

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It came in for its fair amount of (unnecessary) criticism this year – namely from people who comment on the Daily Mail. Tells you all you need to know – but returning to ‘The X Factor’ on our autumn weekends this year was our best telly watching decision we made. Olly & Caroline’s adorable ‘will they won’t they’ banter. Last year’s superb finalist Fleur East with THAT homecoming performance. ChΓ© Chesterman’s mind blowing vocal turns. 4th Impact being generally amazing. And Reggie & Bollie? Nuff said.

SINGER OF THE YEAR

And the winner is…JAMIE LAWSON!

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As Ed Sheeran has now clocked off for a year’s break, it’s left a gap open which has rather handily come in the shape of the first signing to his new record label, Gingerbread Man. Plymouth born singer-songwriter Jamie Lawson is a well discovered signing – having already released three albums off his own back, his self titled fourth release soared straight to number one in October whilst the heart breakingly beautiful ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’ stormed the top 3.

BAND OF THE YEAR

And the winners are…COLDPLAY!

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It’s unbelievably been 15 years since Coldplay made their debut, but Britain’s biggest rock band of a generation went from strength to strength this year, releasing their 7th (and dazzling) new album ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ which raced to number one on iTunes in 23 different countries upon release. With another world tour in their diary for the new year, it’s safe to say Chris and the boys aren’t going anywhere else anytime soon.

COMEDIAN OF THE YEAR

And the winner is…RUSSELL HOWARD!

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Since coming to prominence as the dorkiest panellist on BBC2’s ‘Mock the Week’, Russell Howard has gone from strength to hilarious strength with his ‘Good News’ show on BBC Three – the most recent series of which, saw him do a hilarious rant in favour of junior doctors under pressure from NHS targets (if you haven’t seen it, YouTube it immediately). He’s also branched out into acting with his sister Kerry with the ‘Gert Lust’ series – Christmas special of which, incidentally, is on BBC2 tonight. A must watch!

COMEBACK OF 2015

And the winners are…THE CLANGERS!

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Proof that some things are just as good when bought back the second time round, Oliver Postgate’s charming, wittiest, wooliest and lo-tech creatures of outer space, The Clangers, were resurrected for a (now BAFTA winning) new series on CBeebies this year, lovingly narrated by Michael Palin, and thus introducing a new generation of viewers young and slightly less young (i.e. me) to the delights of music trees, hoots and blue string pudding. Long may their adventures continue to clog up storage space on my iPlayer app!

LEGEND OF 2015

And the winner is…CAROLINE FLACK!

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Reuniting with her TV (and, let’s be honest, should be real life also) husband Olly Murs as co-host of X Factor would have been enough to make Caroline our legend of 2015. But the former Strictly champ has equally dazzled this year, publishing her brilliant autobiography ‘Storm in a C Cup’, winning a Cosmopolitan award for TV Personality, having one of the most addictive, nay hilarious Instagram accounts, and also, more importantly, having AMAZING legs. Bravo Flackers, bravo indeed.

Big congratulations to all my prize winners this year, and a huge thank you to you for reading today and all of this year on this here blog. See you all in 2016!

Much love always,

Alex πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ x x x

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A festive poem from yours truly…

What Christmas Means to Me
by Alex MacGregor

A choir singing merrily on high
Oxford Street lighting up the sky
Frost nipping my rosy cheeks
24 days, counting down the weeks
Roaring fires, all snug and warm
Excitement when I wake in the Yuletide morn
Stockings hung, the tree lit up
Heady mulled wine filling my cup
Seeing loved ones, close and far
Shepherds and wise men following the star
Smells of incense, myrrh and gold
Old and new memories to have and to hold
Signs on the lawn saying ‘Santa stop here!’
BublΓ©, The Pogues & Wizzard, music to my ears
Mince pies, pigs in blankets & yule log
Magical wintry scenes of snow & fog
As the church bells ring out
And you hear the congregation shout
‘Peace and goodwill to all men’
Is the very same message from your friend with the pen.

Merry Christmas to all my readers of this blog! Wishing you a happy and peaceful time today whatever you may be doing!

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Ho ho ho, and luv-oo all

Alex
x x x

πŸŽ… πŸŽ… πŸŽ… 🎁 🎁 🎁 πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€

Poem Β© Alex MacGregor Ltd 2015

Dear Cat & Fi: The One with all the Acts of Kindness

Dear Cat & Fi,

Helllooo!!! As has been mentioned elsewhere, it has been an awfully long time since I last wrote a ‘Dear Cat & Fi’ to you both. And I am happy to confirm that that time to write a new one, is in fact now. And behold, my view whilst writing to you both is now decidedly festive in nature…

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πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„
πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€ πŸŽ€
πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„

Yep, my tree is up, my tinsel is up, and my advent calendar is being eaten first thing in the morning (day by day of course, I’m not that greedy). Even my record player has been getting some festive love today:

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Oh yes. Gotta love the Buble at Christmas and especially on a green vinyl! I make no bones whatsoever about the fact I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of the year for so many reasons. Why, in fact Miranda Hart sums up my reasons perfectly:

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I jest of course. (I don’t really.) I write today’s blog whilst sipping tea from my Rudolph mug and watching the Christmas specials of ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ (more specifically, the one where she ends up having three Christmas lunches. So funny).

Myself and Pa Mac and my barber (separately, not together, mind) were discussing this last week what Christmas means to us nowadays. And I said, when asked this, that it meant a couple of things. Obviously as an uncle now, I enjoy it because I enjoy getting to surprise my many nieces and nephews with presents that I know they’ll like.

For the same reasons, I really value the family time at Christmas and being able to relax and play games and watch films whilst manging my way through any amount of Victoria biscuits, Lindt Lindor truffles and ham and turkey sandwiches.

But as I’ve got older, I get more joy these days out of being able to show goodwill and charity at a time of year which to some people, isn’t a time they can enjoy properly because of worries or stress or financial difficulties or illness – whatever it may be.

Which is why, at the start of last week, I took it upon myself to set myself a little challenge, both on this here blog and on my Instagram. To perform just one random act of kindness a day in the run up to Christmas. So far it’s been 6 days in, and this is what I have done on each of these days:

Day 1: Emptied the dishwasher for Mum
Day 2: RT’ed Phillip Schofield’s jumper selfie for Text Santa
Day 3: Sorted out a bag of old books and items to the church Christmas bazaar
Day 4: Wrote Christmas cards to colleagues and friends
Day 5: Had breakfast at a local cafe to support #SmallBusinessSaturday
Day 6: Donated a bag of food to the Neighbourhood Food Collection
Day 7: Shared a funny Christmas joke with my Twitter timeline
Day 8: Bought a special present for a friend’s son with learning difficulties
Day 9: Sent a text to Mum to say thank you
Day 10: Wrote a ‘Christmas star’ for the Age Concern shop window
Day 11: Bought a round of drinks at the office Christmas party
Day 12: Took Mum out for a coffee

Of course, there are still 12 days to go, and 12 more acts of kindness for me to perform. Any suggestions of what I can do, either from yourselves or from anyone from Twitter reading this would be greatly appreciated – I intend to keep up this weekly progress but you can keep a daily eye on what I’m doing, as always, on my Twits.

So. The last couple of weeks. Most of my Christmas shopping is now done as of yesterday – only a couple more people to buy for and then that’s me done for another year. I also got in a suitably festive mood recently when myself and my #MursArmy pals headed up to Oxford Street for Olly’s signing at the big HMV there (brilliant as always, bytheby, even if he told him I felt like a giraffe. Standard).

Our initial plan had been to do Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park afterwards, however, coming so soon after the terrible events in Paris we decided against it this year, and instead took in some of the big department stores, one of which was John Lewis.

Their Christmas advert campaigns have become as legendary as the Coca Cola or Toys’R’Us ones. The one this year is ‘The Man on the Moon’, and I duly had my picture taken on the moon, as you can see…

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I have indeed become a Clanger. Bring me my music boat and blue string pudding!

Anyway, that’s it for now…I’m off to start wrapping presents and lighting a lovely scented cinammon candle I bought at the church bazaar. Until next week, in the words of the Spice Girls, stop right now, thank you very much, I need somebody with a human touch.

Luv-oo, Alex

x x

#CrazyStupidPlaylist: ‘Last Christmas’

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Afternoon all! And a hearty welcome to December on my blog! I do realise it has been something of a very long while since I last wrote an entry (a month. That’s usual, I know). Once again, feet of blame must rest firmly at the door of ‘real life shit’, and it’s only now things have calmed down again I can do some serious bloggage again. So to celebrate it’s now December, and the fact we are now but 19 days away from my favourite time of the year (Christmas), I felt it only appropriate to do a #CrazyStupidPlaylist today about Christmas songs.

More specifically, my playlist today is about one Christmas song in particular. ‘Last Christmas’, the tip for the top of the festive charts in 1984 for pop’s biggest selling act of the year – or one of them, anyway – in Wham, only got as far as #2 behind the original recording of the legendary Band Aid single, but went onto sell millions of copies worldwide, becoming a Yuletide classic for all the years after, and has been covered by as many as 60 different artists over the last three decades. And now, I’ve specially curated my top 5 personal favourite covers of this Christmas hit for you – consider it an early present if you will.

1. THE PUPPINI SISTERS

(Available on ‘Christmas with the Puppini Sisters’, Verve, 2010)

Retro lady trio The Puppini Sisters have always had a unique sound which immediately calls to mind some of the old classic crooners from the 50’s and 60’s – Doris Day and the Andrews Sisters, for example. Their take on all things festive for their Christmas album in 2010 was no exception, and ‘Last Christmas’ was given the magic Puppini touch, giving it a dreamy, waltzy take on the song, all hi hats and double bass and generally swoony gorgeousness. Also be sure to check out their version of ‘Jingle Bells’ with Michael Buble on his own ‘Christmas’ album – heaven in a song.

2. BILLIE PIPER

(Available on ‘She Wants You’ CD single, Innocent, 1998)

Time was, about 15 years ago, that Billie Piper wasn’t known as either an award winning actress of stage and screen, or as Rose Tyler, the feisty sidekick first to Christopher Eccleston, then David Tennant, on the BBC’s revived series of ‘Doctor Who’. Nope. Once upon a time, she was in fact a chart topping popstar, and still to this day holds the UK record as the youngest female performer to debut at #1 (she was 15 when ‘Because We Want To’ achieved the feat). At the height of her pop powers in the late 90s, she did this poptastic cover of George and Andrew’s classic whilst dressed in a massive furry white parka (cf. East 17) to perform it on ‘Blue Peter’.Β  For that halcyon memory alone, it gets my vote.

3. OLLY MURS

(Available on ‘Never Been Better: Special Edition’, Epic, 2015)

Taking it right up to date now is friend of the blog and our idol Mr Murs with his cover of the song as recorded for his appearance in the Live Lounge on BBC Radio 1 this time last year, now added to the current repacked edition of his chart topping fourth album. His vocal performance is wistfully soulful and moving on this, and really captures the melancholy of the lyrics which is often forgotten about when you’ve heard the original back so many times. And it’s all the more proof of why the man needs to get a Christmas album all of his own recorded.

4. BTH

(Available on ‘Last Christmas’ CD single, EMI, 2001)

You know that a song, Christmas based or otherwise, is timeless and adaptable when it can be turned to virtually any style of music you care to think of. Such was the case in 2001, when obscure Latvian dance outfit BTH reworked it into a trance-o’clock banger to compete for that year’s Christmas chart topper. It tanked out just inside the top 30 in the end, but it’s proof that there’s nothing a 128bpm rave can’t do to improve your Christmas party.

5. JIMMY EAT WORLD

(Available on ‘Bleed American – The Deluxe Edition’, DreamWorks, 2001)

Usually more renowned for their high energy, nu-punk pop outings, US rockers Jimmy Eat World released their cover of ‘Last Christmas’ as a bonus track on a special re-release of their fourth album in 2001. Their take on it is perhaps the most unique on my list, in that it keeps a bit of its 80s origins intact with an almost Pet Shop Boys-esque electro beat but with a slight feel of folk to proceedings as well. It strangely works.