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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Days of writing, talking and laughing...

It could have been three days and three nights of torture. Being stuck in a  small English town, with four other women of different ages...from very different backgrounds...who didn't know each other.

But when you're a writer, you're nosy, with an insatiable appetite for news and yes, let's call some of it gossip, well, there's a connection.

So who were we and  why were we there?

I met Shannon years ago through a travel forum. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans....I wanted to her to do some two ways here on the BBC. With direct access to what was going on and how the emergency services  were doing..all delivered in a delicious southern drawl..she was a real hit. And we've been friends ever since.

Her daughter Lauren was also there...within a kiss of turning fifteen, she was stuck in a coach house with four older women. Was it hell for her? I suspect not....she's funny, welcoming, and oh so polite. Now that's not your average she destined for a career in PR? If so, she'll be wonderful....

Denise is a food writer, a journalist formerly with the Boston Globe. Feisty , funny, direct...hell yes, she's direct..with such a warmth that we didnt need to turn up the central heating.What a woman!

Here's Lauren and Denise....

And there was|Susan , another travel writer , petite, with a quiet voice compared to some of kind ...who always seems to be catching a flight to the next story.

So the scene was set...we met in Cambridgeshire,in the Fens, in Ely, We stayed in an atmospheric , quirky coach house belonging to an old house right by Ely Cathedral. We were there to write, to eat, and drink copious amounts of prosecco (apart from Lauren of course)

We went sightseeing , Ely Cathedral, the town, a wonderful local restaurant called the Old Fire Engine House,  Cambridge...we sat and really talked....what a magical few days.

Ostensibly we all spoke the same language - English- but with us being from the UK, Lousiana, the East Coast of America, and Phoenix Arizona... our accents were very different. Being called Miss Bridget  drove me into paroxyms of delight....I could have been in a film....I've got to get to the Southern States to hear more of that wonderful accent. And Denise (Holy Shit )Dube....well,she should definitely be in, love!

As for me...well, I hope I've given them a trip around Cambridge that they won't forget, and a  true flavour of some of our English sayings...the rich variety of our vernacular. "Bollocks" and "knackered " seemed to  go down a treat for some reason.

So what seemed to be a one off meeting looks like it will be repeated. We've all got so much material to write about - travel articles, food reviews, we're going to meet up again. Perhaps Italy, who knows where our next journey will take us...but it will be soon. So much creativity, laughs and was wonderful.

Thanks ladies! Until next time.....wherever anyone wants to send us.....


Monday, 18 February 2013

More days of Richard III mania

Well it's been a busy couple of weeks ...who would have thought that Leicester would be the focus of the world's media for days?

Yes, those bones were those of King Richard III!  It's been such an exciting time for true Ricardians everywhere around the globe, and millions watched the channel 4 documentary about the search for the King.

On the night it was broadcast I was at work in the newsroom reading bulletins every hour on the hour. It was busy so was unaware that I was in the documentary too. But suddenly there were twitter and facebook messages saying I can hear you....and I've just seen you.

Of course the following day I watched..and yes, two pieces of audio were used from the day I was broadcasting from the car park where Richard was found....and two shots of me in the press conference - looking slightly gormless I have to say...

So, nothing to get excited about there...but there's been exciting developments since. Channel 4 have already commisssioned a second documentary about the King  after a consolidated audience of 4.9m - and it's Channel 4's highest rating show of 2013 to date.

We've also seen a fight between two cities over Richard. The City of York laid claim to the King, saying his bones should be interred there ...he was from Yorkshire. As you can imagine that hasn't gone down well here in Leicester. Yet despite the fact the Ministry of Justice licence to allow the original excavation states the legal right of the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council to choose the site of interment, York has continued to press its claim.

As if that wasn't enough excitement , a brand new exhibition opened in the mediaeval Guildhall ten days ago chronicling the search for Richard III and detailing the proof that the body found really was his.

There's some great touchscreen interactives in the exhibition and there's a model of King Richard's skull, made from the CT scan of the skeleton made at Leicester Royal Infirmary and 3D printed using a technique called laser sintering.It's been made by bods from Loughborough University (where I studied)

There's also some rather lovely floor tiles plus a section of carved stone frieze from the wall of the Grey Friars church. Hats off indeed to Laura Hadland,  a senior curator at Leicester City Council and her team who have worked around the clock to get this exhibition up and ready for action in such a breathtakingly short space of time.

When I say this exhibition is popular, there's been queues for days to see this exhibition. But do's free to get into with fascinating glimpses of what's been the most thrilling archaeological finds for many years. Opening times vary, so do check with the Guildhall online before turning up.

 Meanwhile the Richard III Society have unveiled their design for Richard's tomb.

Many like the design but Leicester Cathedral is starting it's own preparation for the interment of King Richard III inside the Cathedral in a place of honour.. A date has been set - 12th March - when the Architects brief will be agreed by the Cathedral Chapter, with whom the decision about a final memorial legally lies. This brief will then be made public.

 So we will wait and see what's decided...but the tomb must be in harmony with its surroundings within the cathedral. Whatever the design though, visitor numbers to Leicester Cathedral will go through the roof.

The BBC studios are within spitting distance of the cathedral and the guildhall, a stone's throw from the car park where Richard III was found, and I can't remember ever seeing so many people milling around here in the mediaeval heart of Leicester. This historic discovery has suddenly ignited a passion for our past....and long may it continue.

Today's track is slightly different to usual and much longer .....but do have a listen. It's a recording of a special concert held a week ago at the University of Leicester, where a group of historical music performers presented a musical biography of Richard III's life, of music from 1452 to 1485.

The group are TritonE - a professional recorder trio which specialises in the performance of historical music.
According to Professor Lin Foxhall, Head of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, at the University of leicester who was so heavily involved in the search for for Richard III,  “This concert offers another perspective on the life and times of Richard III, presenting the sound world in which he lived."
So why not have a listen and transport yourself back to the fifteenth century? 


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Richard III -days of hype and hope

Within the next twenty four hours we will know the outcome of one of the biggest historical cliffhangers for many years .

Are the bones that were found in a Leicester car park back in September last year, really those of the last Plantaganet King, Richard III?

 It's a story, which quite rightly has captured the imagination of millions worldwide, and like others , I've been following the story very closely. I was there broadcasting from the car park on the day it was announced that the body COULD be that of Richard III. There's more on that here

 I was there at the press conference  where there was a very real sense of wonder as archaeologists Richard Buckley and Lin Foxhall from the University of Leicester itemised their findings so far. And I've interviewed Lin several times since then...she's so upbeat, so engaging about the quest but giving nothing away.

Since then, everyone's been playing a waiting game. Waiting for the DNA results on the body...which locally sparked off jokes about why they would take three months to connect the DNA from the body to a descendent from Canada. when people featured on the Jeremy Kyle show on television can get instant access to their DNA results.

But it's not a question of  just DNA results, the remains have been carbon dated and analysed environmentally in an effort to confirm the identification. Meticulous records, time consuming tests  on a  body in a secret location, baby sat and protected by volunteers for months.

In Leicestershire though, there's a real conviction that the body must be Richard III. Why else would Leicester City Council buy an empty Victorian building next to the site where the body was found?
St Martins Place,which cost £850,000, and formerly owned by Leicester Grammar School until five years ago, could potentially be used as a visitor centre.

I hope with all my heart that it is King Richard III who lay buried for over 500 years a stone's throw from where I work.

Firstly, because I've always been interested in this period of history, subscribing to the belief that yes, he was a "much maligned King", and always hating the thought that his body had been thrown in to the nearby River Soar.

Secondly, if it is Richard, then visitor numbers to the city will rocket... will be such a brilliant archaeological coup for the University of Leicester.

And  fourthly, ...and this is the big one.....after some banter on twitter with some other local journalists the other week , I did vow to show my knickers in Leicester's mediaeval Guildhall if the body wasn't Richard.

So there you have it. Until tomorrow I'm wishing and hoping  - that there'll be celebrations  that the King has been found...and that my knickers do not get an airing in the Guildhall.

Today's track is by Dusty Springfield...."Wishin and Hopin"