Reading Time: 3 minutes


As I watched the Downton Abbey movie, it occurred to me that a good film provides the formula for success, a bit like a great recipe or fabulous banquet.

Downton has been a success story from the outset, and the film reflects every element that made it such a huge hit with audiences across the country and indeed the world.


The characters are key to every good story, and these are in abundance from the haughty Lady Mary played by Michelle Dockery to the deliciously wily Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley, played so deftly by Maggie Smith.  You will adore her beautifully placed quips and relish her ‘put downs’ to all and sundry as she weaves her wondrous web of cunning against her less devious cousin who does her best to hold her own.

The storyline is artfully interwoven with both pathos and genuine emotional engagement, from Tom finding love again, to now Head Butler, Thomas Barrow finding a like-minded partner, albeit in secret.

The charm of an era that was already fading, was depicted in the pomp and ceremony of the day, with the visit from the Queen to Downton Abbey and the Ball held in her honour at a nearby Country Estate.  The hierarchy of the servants as they vie for position within their own household, and their own delightfully devilish plan as they endeavour to dethrone the overly zealous Royal servants ‘in waiting’.

I defy anyone not to love the movie, as it is beautifully filmed and wonderfully performed, the script providing all the humour, drama, sentiment and excitement of the day, whilst raising questions of class and prejudice that still exist a hundred years on, and rear their heads in our Society today.

Downton Abbey is pure escapism, and I can only fully recommend this film which will no doubt stand the test of time, in a World where everything took just a little bit longer.


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Reading Time: 5 minutes


More than 20 years ago, when juggling a multitude of ‘strings to my bow’, I had a phone call from an Actor friend who was desperate to fill a teaching role at the City Lit in Public Speaking, as he had been offered a major role in a television series.

My buddy, who prefers to remain anonymous had been ‘filling in’ between acting jobs as he also had a teaching diploma, and now could no longer fulfil his course as a teacher, due to this incredible coup in his acting career.

At the time I was also in between acting jobs and was also a young parent, and so the opportunity was tempting but a bit scary.   I was familiar with teaching, but had been trained alongside my acting course for far younger students and in drama, and so was also wary that his classes were adults ranging from 25 to 70 and were on a different subject altogether.

Encouraged by my partner, I agreed to take over my friend’s class, and with great trepidation took myself along to the City Lit and promised to ‘give my all’ to the very diverse group of individuals who I encountered in my first session.

The session was over an hour and a half, with a break in between, and I had little time to prepare, so decided that I would utilise all of my acting training.  After all, Presentation and Performance skills are closely aligned, and so what could go wrong!

I veered between emotional recall, a device to relax and bring awareness to the student, and trust exercises, and then had a brainwave.  I would get each student to think of an icon, either from history or a movie or television series they most admired, and deliver the speech as that person.  It was a risk, and when they all went off for their break, I thought they wouldn’t come back.  But they all did, and embraced it with open arms.  I told them I didn’t expect perfection, and in fact encouraged them to have fun with it and send it up.  The class ended on a high.

Fortunately, my theory was right, and the students loved every minute, so much so that the following week I was contacted by the Head of the City Lit Course Studies, and offered my own course.  The feedback had been really good.

It was then I realised I had a talent for teaching this subject, and after all it was ‘giving back’ some of my own talent for performing that was inherent from childhood, especially having grown up in a world of entertainment.

At the time I was also studying psychology, and found it fascinating to incorporate the core issues around self-confidence with the ability to stand up and deliver a speech.

So I then decided to add this to my own curriculum, and the combination again proved to be successful, with students telling me that they had major breakthroughs with their delivery and ultimate self-belief.

The other revelation is that everyone of any age or gender has the ability to deliver a Powerful Presentation if they are given the tools to do so.

We may not all be Actors or Politicians, but we are all asked to speak publically at some time in our lives, whether it be when promoting a business, at our kids’ school or at a friend or family wedding.   Speaking in public is also one of the top fear factors in many people’s lives, and I have found a way of helping people to overcome and manage nervousness in delivering a speech.  Many of my more reticent students have gone on to be really strong speakers.

Mentoring in Public Speaking has now become one of my passions as well as performing and running my magazine and events business, and I dedicate time each month to help people Break the Deadlock to enable individuals to deliver a Powerful Presentation, which can be a life changing event.





Reading Time: 4 minutes


The Edinburgh Fringe has grown in stature beyond recognition since I used to hang out there as a jobbing Actor back in the day.  It was a place to see new writers, converse with the like-minded and indeed revel in the party festivities of which there were many.

One friend I had spent time with on my first evening at one of the festival parties, saw me the following day commenting on how long it had been – years in fact since he had seen me.  Temporary memory loss from the inevitable drinking spree that was a given in those days.  We still comment on that hilarious exchange when we see each other!

The Edinburgh Festival today is far more respectable and widely attended from visitors from all over the Globe.    It still showcases new writers and shows, but is far more contained and deftly organised than in the past heady days of raw experimental theatre.

There is however a positive side to every evolution, and The Edinburgh Fringe is no exception.  Rather than rubbing shoulders with young hopefuls and drama students, if you are thinking of attending, you will be in the company of the rich and famous as well as curious corporates and the numerous visitors who want to experience new plays and entertainment.   Plus there are thousands of new shows and performances to see.

Edinburgh itself is also a joy to visit, and you will find something that will appeal to every taste, from the extraordinary architecture and surrounding landmarks like Arthur’s Seat which towers over the City, to the fabulous restaurants and bars.

There is still time to attend this year if you hurry, or you could really plan ahead and book accommodation for next year.

If you are still baffled by the concept of the Edinburgh Fringe but want to experience it for yourself, head over to their website and start with the ‘Fringe Inspiration Machine’ to see whats to see and to be ,well, inspired….

check out all the latest info on the EdFringe website.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes


Horrible Histories is no doubt one of the most popular kids shows of the past decade and it is also evident that the movie, due to be released on 26 July, has captured all the magic without losing the essence of the original show.

The concept was initially devised as an educational tool to teach kids historical facts through the fun imagery of blood and gore, and remains unique in its endgame of capturing their imagination and enabling kids to retain the knowledge through sheer shockwave entertainment.

I remember as a kid growing up with the creators of Thunderbirds, my parents Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who told me that they always targeted both adults and kids – which was then labelled ‘kidult’.  They always felt that this was one of the most important factors that contributed toward their success.

Horrible Histories the movie has done just that, and as well as the obvious ‘toilet’ jokes that kids find funny and the ‘vomit’ humour which make adults heave – they have skilfully incorporated historical and legendary warriors, facts and figures, and even managed to include a storyline between a young couple fighting on opposite sides of the divide.

Even as a parent or grandparent, you will enjoy many elements of the film, knowing that your offspring will benefit from it and you will all learn something new and retain some knowledge even by yucky image association.

Atti, played by Sebastian Croft, is a Roman teenager who is always coming up with schemes, but one of them really upsets Emperor Nero.

For his punishment, he is sent to cold wet Britain, called ‘the Stain’ by Nero, as it is on the fringe of the Roman Empire. Whilst in Britain, he is captured by Orla, a feisty Celt, played by Emelia Jones, and they inevitably form a firm friendship.   But to Atti’s horror, when he is returned to his regiment, he finds himself pitted against Orla and her tribe at the Battle of Watling Street

How’s that for historical name dropping!!    Well, the best is yet to come, and if you get you and your tribe along to see the movie from 26th July, I guarantee you will come out by far the wiser!

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Reading Time: 4 minutes


Just when I thought we had done all we could toward helping animals in need, or created the ultimate furry ‘International Rescue’.  I attended The Ramsgate International Film and Television Festival this weekend, and a whole new world of animal rescue opened up before my eyes.

One of the films screened at The Granville in Ramsgate was entitled ‘Flying Fur’ which told the story of a courageous and dedicated guy who has set up a rescue mission in The States, entirely self-funded, to rescue dogs and cats who are fated to be ‘put down’ due to an injury or homelessness.


Paul is the founder, pilot, scheduler, social media, accounting, web design, and fur parent.  Paul is a U.S. Army veteran, and currently a network engineer by day, specializing in Cisco collaboration technologies, including VOIP, route/switch, and security.  In his spare time he enjoys cooking and classic autos.


Tessa is Paul’s rescue pup, and the inspiration for the founding of the organization.  Her day job includes sleeping, eating, barking at random delivery people, and general doggy shenanigans.  She enjoys playing, long walks on the trail, chewing on stuff, and licking people.

This compelling and beautifully shot film tracks Paul on one of his missions, as he flies off in his single engine plane across mid America, in often treacherous weather conditions, to deliver his animal Pawsengers to either their new home or an animal hospital designated to take them in.

There was not a dry eye in the house, and this was evident by the reaction to the movie and the Q and A after the screening.

Paul himself was in attendance and the questions ranged from a proposal of marriage (to Paul!) and how we could get involved in this wonderful organisation.

Paul came across as a humble self-motivated man, whose love and passion for the furry kind had compelled him to set up this unique rescue mission.

It portrayed beauty and kindness in this dark age of violence and devastation, and gives us a glimpse of hope in humankind and a reminder that we share the glorious planet with other living beings, who sometimes need our help and whose love is unconditional as they give back in so many ways.

I hope this may inspire you to find a way of becoming involved in one of your local dog or cat rescue centres, or even set up your own animal National Rescue campaign.

Here’s Paul to tell you a little on how it all started

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