All posts tagged 'Christmas'

Smartphone and fags or food on the table?

by The Codgers' Club Sunday, December 15 2013

by David Jones

All right, call me Scrooge, or worse, if you like, but foodbanks present me with something of a moral dilemma.

Of course, there are many families struggling this Christmas for genuine reasons, but there are also many struggling because they are their own worst enemies. They buy luxuries instead of essentials.

Yes, let’s help those genuinely in need, but let’s not turn foodbanks into a crutch for the irresponsible who spend their benefits on state-of-the art mobile phones, X-boxes and fags at £7 a packet and then complain they haven’t got enough money to pay for food or heating. And there are plenty of those about.

I hope the weeding out process is robust, so that those who have only themselves to blame for the mess they are in don’t benefit at the expense of the genuinely deserving. Foodbanks, laudable though they are, run the risk of making the culture of dependency on handouts even worse unless they are carefully controlled.

Talking of festive dilemmas, I get really irritated by the charities which send out unsolicited items in the run-up to Christmas. You feel guilty if you don’t send a cheque by return, which is the object of the exercise.

Over the past couple of weeks, a CD of Christmas music from the Royal British Legion and a pack of Christmas cards from a disabled charity have dropped through our letterbox. Good causes, both, but I don’t want to be forced through a kind of moral blackmail into buying things I don’t want.

We buy our Christmas cards from our local Cancer Research shop, as over the last two years we have lost one dear friend to cancer and have two other close friends who are fighting it. We can’t support every charity, so I regret that those unsolicited items go straight in the bin, which is both a shame and money wasted in production costs and postage the charities concerned can ill afford to lose.

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Categories: Moans and groans

It's all about the giving as it starts to look a lot like Christmas

by Tuned In, with kmfm Breakfast Show's Emma Saint Friday, December 6 2013

As the song goes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas now!

We played our first festive song on Monday’s Breakfast Show, the Christmas adverts are on the telly, and the shopping centres are full of frantic customers rushing to get their turkeys, Christmas puddings and presents.

If you’ve been tuning into the show then you’ll know we have been helping people with their Christmas shopping by giving away some amazing prizes including the brand new Xbox One that has sold out everywhere.

Other goodies up for grabs include perfume sets, designer sunglasses, Beats headphones, CDs, chocolates, watches, jewellery.

And the best thing is there’s more to come. Make sure you’re listening to kmfm Breakfast this week, as my co-presenter Rob Wills and I will also have panto tickets up for grabs.

Christmas can get expensive, so as we are counting the pennies with our new arrival on the way, this year I’ve decided to make hampers for the family.

Your hamper can be as big or as small as you like. You can make them look more expensive than they are and the person receiving it will know that you really thought about them.

Firstly, find a cardboard box, and cut the front edge so that it displays the gifts better.

Secondly, pick some wrapping paper to cover the box – cheap paper will be fine, don’t spend more than you have to.

Thirdly, pad out the bottom of your box. I scrunched up an old newspaper and covered it with a layer of wrapping paper, but you may wish to shred tissue paper.

Then it is on to the really fun bit, buying the goodies to put in it! I’ve bought things like chocolates, biscuits and wine to put in mine.

Finally, cover your hamper with a cellophane wrap. You can get this at the Post Office or most card and stationery shops. Use ribbon and a few sticky bows to make it look that bit extra special.

This hamper cost me a total of £17.89 and took me 30 minutes to make.

A bargain, and I think it looks great – even if I do say so myself!

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Categories: kmfm

Where will you spend Christmas Day?

by Tuned In, with kmfm DJ Andy Walker Friday, December 6 2013

It is that time in December where we are here there and everywhere. Christmas shopping takes us on all sorts of adventures through department stores, supermarkets and pit stops at coffee shops.

Christmas parties are being arranged, emails are being chased up to see who will be attending and friends and family want to see us and know, “what are you doing for Christmas? You are more than welcome to come to us”.

Last year you may have been at the in-laws, this year that may mean that they are they coming to you.

Or you maybe have decided that “this year we are staying at ours” because “it is too much running around”.

This decision alone is like a military operation. We have to first ask our other halves what they would like to do - well it is polite. Then we each branch off to ask our direct families what they are doing, who in turn may have to ask their other halves and so it rolls on.

After two weeks we finally know what we are doing, apart from at least one member of the family who still cannot make their mind up.

That results in us not knowing what size turkey to buy and a little bit of stress starts to build. We do not want to push our family member who can not make a decision as it is Christmas, but we can not get on with what we need to do.

It’s as much of a rollercoaster of a decision as reading this piece.

I took some time out from decision making when Rebecca Ferguson came in to kmfm. She is so lovely, friendly and her voice is wow!

When the team knew that she was coming in to the studio everyone said the same thing: “I love her voice.”

One great thing with the former X Factor contestant is that her voice is so distinctive that you know it is her when you hear her song on the radio.

“I Hope” is a catchy single that will have your attention from the moment Rebecca sings the first note.

Her album, Freedom, which is out now, I hope does wonders for her.

Her first album sold more than a million copies.

It’s always a pleasure to play her music and speak to her.

Talking of the stars, listen out for kmfm’s Christmas With The Stars. Over Christmas The Saturdays, JLS, McFly, Lawson and Rebecca Ferguson will be on kmfm presenting their own shows!

The JLS boys kick it off on Christmas Eve from 1pm.

Right, I must get back to sorting out Christmas. Why can I never find pigs in blankets between February and November?

I’ll speak to you on your way home on kmfm Drivetime from 4pm.

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A visit to Santa proves magic is still in the air

by The Codgers' Club Friday, December 6 2013

by Alan Watkins

For years it’s been “Bah! Humbug!” every time someone mentions Christmas.

Maybe it’s all the photos, the invites, the light switch-ons and the myriad other things which give most reporters a jaundiced view of seasonal merriment encountered around year’s end.

Perhaps it’s the knowledge that hard news is likely to be rare over the holiday season – but we still have readers who expect to find the paper full of articles and pictures.

Each year has been a drag – until a few days ago.

We were babysitting our grandson for the day and decided it might be fun to take him to meet the Big Man, FC or SC or.... well, you know who.

We went a little off the beaten track and ended up at a garden centre that was oozing ho! ho! ho!s, staff dressed in green and red elf costumes and displays of trees, seasonal flora and artificial snow everywhere.

“Bah...” I started.

“Remember Max!” came a swift rejoinder from my fair lady.

Our toddler will be two in the New Year.

He looked this way and that, jumped on to lights that danced across the floor in front of us, prodded over-sized polar bear soft toys and clearly wondered what all the fuss was really about.

We took him into Santa’s Grotty .This one was actually anything but grotty. Supercilious reindeer stared us down as they chewed the cud and bleating goats got ready to butt anyone who tried to get too close.

Finally, we were ushered into the presence of Father Christmas and a jolly man he was too. Max was puzzled over such a long beard (he was used to my bit of fluff, not 2ft of rolling whiteness that masked all but the old gent’s glasses). Yet he said nothing.

Santa tried everything to get him to say what he really wanted for Christmas. He failed.

All he found was Max had been a good boy (though before we went in he insisted he wasn’t).

And after a handover of a superb toy worth the admission fee, we all said goodbye to each other – until December 25.

Max got outside, still silent. Had he enjoyed the visit? Was it good? Did he like Santa?

There was a long pause.

Then he said in a quiet whisper: “Thank you very much.” Christmas can still be truly magical.

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Categories: Moans and groans

It's now time for Christmas classics

by Tuned In, with kmfm DJ Andy Walker Monday, December 2 2013

The Christmas lights are up and on and making every major Kent town festive. Thank you if you came to Tonbridge High Street last Sunday.

Six thousand people turned up to watch the lights followed by a firework finale. It was my fourth time and every year the turn out is so vast.

If you have yet to come to a kmfm event, you still have time to catch the team out and about. On Saturday, December 7 you can catch the team at Hempstead Valley from 11am-3pm for some festive fun and your chance to win a hamper and vouchers.

On the same day the kmfm team will be opening the Leeds Castle Christmas Market. Having heard some ‘inside information’ on what to expect, it is going to look amazing with German market style chalets and traditional carousal rides.

There will be homemade decorations and perfect gifts as well as festive food, and of course Father Christmas will be there. We open the festive gates at 11am. Hope to see you there in amongst the glittering woodland decorations.

Now we are very much all about Christmas, from today kmfm will be sprinkling in some Christmas classics through your day. Expect Slade, expect East 17 and most definitely expect Mariah’s All I Want For Christmas Is You played at high volume.

As a final thought for this week – and answers on an email to andy@kmfm.co.uk if you know – why oh why is olive oil so popular at Christmas?

Every other shop is selling it as a set. So not even one bottle, but three or four. How much drizzle does one person need. It is the same substance found by the cooking oil in Sainsbury’s. I have never known anyone to say: “I really want some olive oil for Christmas.”

I’ll talk to you on your way home on kmfm Drivetime from 4pm.

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Categories: kmfm

Is it time to throw some light on festivities?

by Tuned In, with kmfm DJ Andy Walker Saturday, November 9 2013

The heating is on and the nights are chilly. The fireworks are out of the way and the Christmas lights are on at shopping centres.

Is it too early to do your Christmas shopping?

With eight weekends to go you may think, “oh yes another few weeks yet” and “I will start it two weeks before”.

Listeners got in touch at the weekend to say that they were already on it.

One listener texted me on Saturday morning to say that she had just wrapped her presents and could now “chill out and listen to kmfm.” That is very well prepared.

Another listener tweeted me to say that her friend had her Christmas tree up already. I have asked for photographic evidence.

I often drive past a house that for two years running now has not even bothered to take down its ‘Merry Christmas’ sign. It sits underneath their front bedroom window.

I drove past in March it was there. I drove past this summer and it was still sitting there.

Okay, admittedly they do not light it up all year round and it is not worth taking it down yet as in a few weeks they will be switching it back on again.

Every year there are always one or two homes in every town in Kent who goes all out and lights up the street with their Christmas lights.

It is as if they have just bought a football stadium floodlight and erected it in their front garden, the lights are that bright.

Light up reindeer, waving Santa, and rainbow coloured lights run from the roof to the bottom of the door step.

It will all be in place soon, and it all looks superb.

This year I would love to mention these homes that go all out with Christmas decorations.

Let me know and I will give them a mention on kmfm. Email andy@kmfm.co.uk

Right, I am off to write my Christmas list. I am a man and if it is not written down I won’t remember.

I’ll speak to you on kmfm Drivetime from 4pm

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Categories: kmfm

Why I'm craving peanut butter with marmite

by Tuned In, with kmfm Breakfast Show's Emma Saint Friday, October 11 2013

It has been a very special week for me as I got to meet one of my all-time favourite showbiz stars - Gary Barlow.

My fellow Breakfast Show presenter Rob Wills and I headed up to London to see the Take That legend, and chat to him about his new album.

It is called Since I Saw You Last, and is his first solo album for 14 years – can you believe it?! He was absolutely lovely, a real gentleman, and we had a fantastic time.

If you didn’t manage to hear our interview with him on the Breakfast show on Tuesday morning, you can find it at www.kmfm.co.uk.

Rob and I also had another showbiz encounter when we introduced Britain’s Got Talent finalists Luminites and singer songwriter Charlie Brown at kmfm’s Secret Concert.

We have been inviting listeners to apply for tickets to attend the intimate gig at a mystery location - which we finally revealed to be Mid Kent College in Gillingham.

kmfm gave away 250 tickets to listeners, and everyone had a fantastic night. A huge thank you to everyone who entered the competition, but if you weren’t one of the lucky ones then don’t panic, because we have a few more surprises on the way in the run-up up to Christmas.

Make sure you find out about it first at facebook.com/kmfmofficial and by following @kmfmofficial on Twitter.

It seems to have gone amazingly quickly, but I have now reached 21 weeks in my pregnancy.

Before I became pregnant, I never believed it when mums-to-be said they had bizarre cravings for things – I thought they were just making it up. But I can now confirm that it is very real.

At the moment my top treats are steak and salad cream sandwiches, chicken wings with tabasco sauce and peanut butter with Marmite on toast!

My partner Mike is really not pleased, as he is the unlucky ‘volunteer’ who ends up making a lot of the food for me, poor thing.

Being able to eat whatever I want is definitely a perk of being pregnant, though!

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Categories: kmfm

Christmas is coming... but Kent's divided

by Tuned In, with kmfm DJ Andy Walker Friday, November 23 2012

Is November too early to be playing Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You - or even Fairytale In New York come to that?

That is what I was asking on kmfm Drivetime last week. I know there are five weeks to go until Christmas but Coke’s ‘Holidays are coming’ TV advert aired during the X Factor two weeks ago and to me that means Christmas has started. The lovable John Lewis snowman advert is capturing our attention too, so Mariah’s top festive tune is acceptable, right?

Kent was divided with their answers so I held off from playing it – for now.

But whatever happens, the festivities are just around the corner and I’m looking forward to them with the same excitement as the children have in the Coca-Cola ad when they see the lorry approaching. But why has no one ever questioned what a 50 tonne lorry is doing driving through a village?

The biggest A list celebrities to grace us with their presence recently have been Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The Hollywood stars have been living in Ickham, near Canterbury, whilst Brad finished his forthcoming zombie movie World War Z. With this in mind I was asking on kmfm Drivetime, “Have you ever physically touched a celebrity?” For example, has someone on TV brushed past you? Has a star shaken your hand?

Nick called me to say he stood next to Des Lynam at the urinals at a Kent golf club. He was claiming air was the physical contact so I could not ‘grade’ his effort. However, Ceri from the coast called to say she once received a kiss on both cheeks from actor Ray Winstone. He’s a big name so I graded that a seven out of 10. Then followed a succession of celebrity stories; Sarah Hodgkinson revealed that Jonathan Ross was behind her as she exited a plane and he breathed on her hair. He’s a TV household name– that was also a seven out of 10.

Lynnette Hanson measured the inside of Wet Wet Wet’s Marti Pelow’s leg. That’s impressive and received eight out of 10. Denise Bottali posted on Facebook to say she once drove her trolley into Joanna Lumley’s heel at Safeway in Canterbury. Not only was there physical contact, but Denise nearly injured a celebrity – and that is a totally new topic!

Stay listening to kmfm as you can win Kent’s Biggest Hits throughout December. Not only are we playing you the biggest hits, we are now giving you the chance to win them too. Plus, we have the biggest artists taking over kmfm over Christmas. JLS and The Wanted are just two of the bands you can hear soon. Speak to you on the way home!

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The danger of too many celebrations

by The Codgers' Club Friday, November 23 2012

by David Jones

Life can become one big Groundhog Day if you’re not careful as your dotage beckons.

You get the feeling you’ve done that before, only yesterday, or was it the day before? But in fact it was last year.

It’s an age thing, of course. Time flashes by more quickly as the years pass. This phenomenon has no scientific basis but most people of mature years will know exactly what I mean.

And with every special day, it feels as though we’ve been there before but it can’t possibly be a year ago. Indeed we have been there, but the rollercoaster of life spins ever faster as we get older, creating the illusion that the big memorable events come round every few months, not every year.

I am now convinced that Children in Need is staged at least every four months.

Supermarkets must take a large share of the blame for creating what I call the Codgers’ Time Machine, where festivals, birthdays, anniversaries and various celebrations pass before our eyes in an instant and the future arrives even more quickly.

It’s August. Christmas is almost upon us. It’s September. Bonfire Night can’t be far away. It’s February. Easter must be just around the corner.

Supermarkets foist their own timetables upon us with increasing aggression. Easter eggs are on sale before the last few slices of turkey in the freezer have been used up and Christmas cards on the shelves while it can often be hot enough for a barbecue.

The sound of fireworks exploding for two weeks before November 5 brought home to me once again how commercialisation is cheapening, or even destroying, our most cherished festivities. There’s a danger they will morph into one huge event.

Time was - or at least when I was growing up – that fireworks were set off and bonfires lit ONLY on November 5, irrespective of how close that date was to a weekend. It was unthinkable to let off fireworks on any other day.
Supermarkets and discount fireworks shops now flog fireworks for weeks before November 5.

Firework “overkill” has long since removed the fun and the anticipation which was the essence of Bonfire Night. Now you can hear them being set off on New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, Halloween, every Saturday and Sunday night for two or three weeks before November 5, and even afterwards.

On a wet Monday evening, exactly a week after Bonfire Night, fireworks were going off in several back gardens near us. Why bother with November 5 at all?

And, of course, firework displays are now an integral part of any national celebration, whether it be the Olympics or the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and even these national celebrations are often replicated at local level with still more firework displays.

Talking of national “celebrations,” I managed to get through Halloween with only one group of kids knocking at our front door. Perhaps the fact that I turned the porch light off helped to dissuade them. It would have been much better if my wife had let me pin to our front door the “typhoid outbreak here” notice I printed out last year.

Kids going from door to door demanding trick or treat is, of course an American “institution,” largely encouraged in Britain by pound shops and supermarkets anxious to shift as much Halloween junk as they can on to hapless parents before October 31.

Most people under 30 have no idea that it hasn’t always been like that. No pumpkins at £3 a time when I was a youngster and certainly no wandering the streets knocking on front doors. It was unheard of.

When I was about six or seven – like every other kid – I wished it could be Christmas or Bonfire Night every day. The way we are going it won’t be long before supermarkets make that “dream” come true for every kid, for Christmas, Bonfire Night, Easter and any other celebration you care to name. And then there will be no sense of excited expectation as that special day, whatever it may be, draws near.

How sad if every day became “special” and, at the same time, devoid of the magic which made it special. We seem to be heading that way fast.

What? Surely it’s not Christmas again already.

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Categories: Moans and groans

The reasons why Christmas was more enjoyable when I was young

by The Codgers' Club Friday, December 10 2010

by David Jones

Have you ever tried to persuade your Christmas dinner to come down from a tree? It’s not easy, I can tell you. But more of that later.

Alan Watkins’ splendid Codgers’ Club piece last month about growing up as a kid and the complete absence of the health and safety police struck a chord with me.

Strange, isn’t it, that as Codgerdom arrives, it’s easier to remember events more than half a century ago than to recall what happened last Wednesday.

Having fun required a great deal of creativity when you were growing up, as I did, in the early to mid-Fifties. Britain was a drab place then, still in the grip of post-war austerity.

Hard to believe now, but many people were still wearing the suits and coats they had worn during the war years. Of course, I didn’t know that then, aged only 10 or so, but later I realised that domestic life in Britain had barely changed at all between 1939 and 1955.

We lived in what could be described, in estate agent’s parlance, as a semi-rural location. Our small, old-fashioned bungalow had a large, rambling garden, about the size of half a football pitch.

My dad worked, just like everyone else, but we also had a smallholding. My parents kept chickens, rabbits and half a dozen geese in that large garden. It was wise not to upset the geese. They would advance, like a line of infantry, necks extended and hissing furiously. They were scary.

To the left at the bottom of our garden was a cornfield, swarming with rabbits. My father owned a shotgun and occasionally he would bag a couple for Sunday lunch. I had an air rifle but never managed to shoot anything. To the right was a meadow, with a grassy path leading down to a couple of unmade roads.

Like Codger Watkins, we made our own fun. Bike rides, daring each other to run through a field with a bull in it and endless fun with fireworks in the run-up to Bonfire Night.

Penny bangers which exploded with a thunderous crack and jumping jacks which would leap about unpredictably were affordable even on limited pocket money. Oh, and I’d also better mention the catapult I made to fire at old tin cans, using stones picked up from the beach as ammunition.

We had a huge poplar in our garden and I built a crude tree house in one of the massive forks in the branches. It was a 20ft climb to reach the platform. I never once put a foot wrong. We walked to school and back, on our own. There were no parental obsessions about paedophiles lurking round every corner.

It was a different, safer era, not least because there were far fewer cars on the roads. The real dangers for today’s kids are nearly always created by someone other than themselves.

At this point, I know that this Codger’s contribution is beginning to sound like an episode of the Darling Buds of May. It wasn’t idyllic as in the fictional world of Ma and Pa Larkin, but it was a pleasure growing up where there were more fields than houses.

Like all good things, it eventually had to come to an end. We grew up and our parents moved to a more urban location. Today, all the fields around our old bungalow are now housing estates and even our large garden has three or four houses on it.

But back to that Christmas dinner in the tree. One year, my parents bought a young turkey in Maidstone Market – not a frozen one but a turkey very much alive and kicking.

It used to run around with the chickens. It was one of my jobs to feed it and it grew rapidly. Every evening, as dusk approached, it would fly up into a tree and refuse to come down, despite my best efforts to persuade it to rejoin the chickens by doing a passable impression of a turkey calling to its mate.

There were no credit cards then and if your parents didn’t have the money, it didn’t get bought. There were no supermarkets either, shelves bursting with festive goodies – just butcher’s shops, greengrocers, corner stores and the occasional toy shop.

Britain today is a land of plenty compared to those grey days of the Fifties. The range of festive food, toys, and Christmas decorations now available and affordable to some degree by virtually everyone would have seemed like a fairytale paradise to a kid growing up in the Fifties.

This Christmas, however much you might moan about your stretched family finances, however hard-up you claim to be, I can guarantee that your home will be stuffed with more festive treats than any average youngster in the Fifties could ever have imagined.

It was in 1957 that the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously, or perhaps infamously, remarked: “You’ve never had it so good.”

For most families then, that was sheer nonsense. More recently, Lord Young, David Cameron’s adviser, was sacked for using almost identical words. But in my view, Lord Young got it right.

Today, most families have a far better standard of living than could ever have been dreamed of 50 years ago, despite the problems caused by recession.

That said, did we enjoy ourselves just as much on Christmas Day 1957, when the food and the presents were far less lavish, when life was far less complicated, and the festive fun simple?

The answer to that is a resounding “yes”.

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