Gr8at – Royal Horticultural Society 2013 Photograph Competition

The Royal Horticultural Society has just announced the winners for their 2013 Photographic Competition. Covering eight categories, the successful entrants were shown in Details, Garden and People, Plants, Season and Wildlife and Young Photographer and Children’s Photographer. Here are my eight favourites. Do you have a favourite?

The beautiful In Mastels by Mateusz Piesiak won first prize in the Young Photographer and Children’s Photographer category. It also won the title RHS Young Photographer of the Year 2013.

Pigeons over my Garden

The neatly taken Pigeons Over My Garden by Laura Grimsley was highly commended in the Young Photographer category. Just need them to spell Alex next time 😉

Morning Magic

Who wouldn’t want to see this looking outside your window every day? Morning Magic by Annette Lepple was highly commended in the Gardens category.

Autumn Light

I was born in Autumn and it’s always been my favourite season. This ethereal effort entitled Autumn Light by Brett Critchley won first prize in the Seasons category.

Winter Morning at Water'sEdge

The magnificent Winter Morning at Water’s Edge by Lee Beel could almost be a painting, and won second prize in the Seasons category.

Angry Bee

Getting second prize in the Wildlife category, Angry Bee by Jason Canning is a striking photo that shows real flair and detail.

Winter Pose

Nature is full of the most delicate beauty, as wonderfully captured by Sarah-fiona Helme in her photo Winter Pose in the Wildlife category.

Cold Frame

The subtle, dreamy photograph Cold Frame by William Black in was highly commended in the Seasons category.

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Gr8at – George Bellows

George Wensley Bellows was a hugely talented American realist painter who arguably captured better than anyone else the life of the city working classes.  He may have died at 42, but his phenomenal way of looking at regular people and the landscape around them, will live on. I saw his retrospective in The Royal Academy last year and not having heard of him earlier, I was utterly mesmorised by his depictions. Here are my favourites.

New York (1911)

New York (1911)

North River (1908)

North River (1908)

Blue Snow (1910)

Blue Snow (1910)

Men of the Docks (1912)

Men of the Docks (1912)

Rain on the River (1908)

Stag at Sharkey's (1909)

Stag at Sharkey’s (1909)

Snow Capped River (1911)

Snow Capped River (1911)

Pennsylvania Excavation (1908)

Pennsylvania Excavation (1908)

Gr8at – Bob Monkhouse one liners

A supremely gifted master of the one-liner, the much loved comedian Bob Monkhouse may know longer be around, but his talent will always resonate.

Bob Monkhouse

They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian … They’re not laughing now.

I can still enjoy sex at 74 – I live at 75, so it’s no distance.

I want to die like my father, peacefully in his sleep, not screaming and terrified, like his passengers.

Silence is not only golden, it is seldom misquoted.

I tend to sleep in the nude. Which isn’t a bad thing except for maybe on those long flights.

Marriage is an investment which pays dividends if you pay interest.

My wife said: “Can my mother come down for the weekend?” So I said “Why?” and she said “Well, she’s been up on the roof two weeks already.

Where do the homeless have 90% of their accidents?

Gr8at – Cracker Jokes

Hey funky readers! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful 2013. Thanks so much for your support, your likes and comments, and for your own blogs which I enjoy reading so much and just can’t stay away from. I’ve only had this blog for nearly 4 months, but the continued kaleidoscope of eclectic stuff really is something else.

Whatever your resolutions, wishes and dreams you have for 2014 I hope they all come true and your blogs set an even higher standard. And here are 8 very silly jokes to set you on your way, courtesy of the Christmas crackers we opened as a family and finished opening today. As bad as they are, please feel free to react like Sheldon.

Laughter

What do you get if you cross a fish and two elephants?
Swimming Trunks

What do you get from a pampered cow?
Spoilt milk

What do you get when you cross a snowman and a vampire?
Frostbite

What starts with T, ends with T, and is full of T?
Teapot

What is a frog’s favourite drink?
Croakacola

What do you get if you cross a chicken with a bedside clock?
An alarm cluck

Why are police officers so strong?
Because they hold up traffic

What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck?
A Christmas quacker

Gr8at – Best Songs of 2013

Pompeii

It’s not just any band that is asked to play their debut song at The British Museum as part of its opening of a new exhibition. But then not just any band writes songs about the effect that the volcano Mount Vesuvius’ eruption had on the island of Pompeii. Just failing to top the UK charts, its Gregorian style background chanting and lead singer Dan Smith’s poetic voice continues to charm me every time I hear it.

Blurred Lines

With a video featuring three fawning scantily-clad ladies (and naked in the other version) and non-feminist lyrics causing a backlash, it is still an incredibly catchy song. A glorious bassline and a beat you just can’t stay sat down to, it became a worldwide smash and the year’s biggest selling single.

get Lucky

Daft Punk’s repertoire is filled with fantastic riffs so its no surprise that linking up with funky musician and Chic band member Nile Rodgers, and musician/producer extraordinaire Pharrell Williams has yielded such a great song.

Counting StarsLately I been, I been losing sleep / Dreaming about the things that we could be. The opening lines of this One Republic gem could be a daydreamer’s mantra, and wonderfully sets the scene for a guy determined to more with his life. It also merges with the hypnotic melody that plays at different speeds to an amazing effect.

Young and BeautifulI can’t claim to be a big fan of the film, but I really do like this song. It’s haunting vocals, it’s melancholy, sombre tone and reflective lyrics that wonder what will be left when the glamour and beauty has faded away, are a wondrous joy.

RoyalsFor the New Zealand singer-songwriter fascinated with the aristocracy, the song and topic were a natural fit. Lorde’s lyrical admiration, envy and interpretation of what it must be like to be part of royalty helps make this one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. A huge future beckons.

The ReflektorsThey really are one of the best bands around, and have been one of my favorites since their debut release Funeral nearly a decade ago. No surprise then, that their debut song from their fourth album should be so mesmeric. The shortened single release is good, but the extended 7 minute 34 second edit really shows off the song in its glory.

FallingThe back end of 2012 showed how talented this new musical trio are, with the releases of ‘Forever’ and ‘Don’t Save Me’. Haim’s third single is an echoic delight of hypnotic musical sound, and seems to transport you into the California hills where the video was set.

Gr8at – Non-festive UK Christmas Number Ones

Amidst traditional classics, Christmas Day also provides the chance for completely non festive songs to top the charts. And there have been plenty down the decades. Here are eight of the best.

Moon River – Audrey Hepburn (1961)

Moon River

Used in the much-loved film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Moon River wonderfully captures Holly Golightly’s adventurous and caring spirit and became a huge hit. The fact it came close to not even being in the film just goes to show how many strange decisions there can be behind the cameras.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (1975 and 1991)

Bohemian Rhapsody

No matter how many times I hear it, I still can’t help but be amazed at just how brilliant this song is. Innovative doesn’t even begin to cover it. Spending 9 weeks at number one, after Freddie Mercury’s untimely death in 1991, it became number one again for five weeks as a double A-side with ‘These are the Days of our Lives’.

Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd (1979)

Another Brick in the Wall

The single and album are so interlinked it’s tempting not to distinguish them, but the seminal album’s leading track sold over 4m copies worldwide and even topped the US chart. Christmas is an unlikely time for a protest against education, but then again all the schools are closed at that time of year.

Always on my Mind – Pet Shop Boys (1987)

Always on my Mind

Elvis already had one Christmas number one with ‘Return to Sender’ in 1962, but a cover of his 1972 classic gave the Pet Shop Boys their only UK Christmas Number One. One of the rare times it’s possible to rate a cover as well as the original. A slightly peculiar video mind.

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston (1992)

I will always love you

Considering the song was Number One for 10 weeks, there was always a good chance this would be a Christmas chart topper. Though originally sung by Dolly Parton who composed it, this is Whitney Houston’s song through and through. Best avoided on a karaoke machine.

Earth Song – Michael Jackson (1995)

Earth Song

It’s not just anybody who could get a Christmas Number One with a song about how we are failing the environment, as well as keeping the first new song released by The Beatles in 25 years off the top spot. But Michael Jackson reigned in his musical genius stratosphere, and this is still his biggest selling song here.

Mad World – Gary Jules (2003)

Mad World

I’m hugely fond of the original by Tears for Fears, but there’s something so haunting about this stripped-down Gary Jules cover. Used in the film Donnie Darko, the sombre tone reflected the mourning the world still had trying to come to terms with the 9/11 attacks.

Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine (2009)

Killing in the nameThe first song to reach the UK Number One on downloads alone, there’s plenty more distinguishing features for this song, not least it’s colourful language and supremely aggressive guitar riffs. The anger in the song capture’s a lot of the attitude against the possibility of another X-Factor contestant getting a Christmas number one for a fifth straight year.

Gr8at- Father Ted

Father Ted Crilly

With a violent drunken priest, a simple-minded idiot and an eccentric housekeeper as company, Father Ted Crilly had quite the supporting cast. Affectionately able to mock Catholicism, Ireland and small town characters, there may well never be a sitcom like Father Ted. 

Father Ted: His note from the bishop said they never really found a suitable place for him… he’s not a very nice man, is he?
Father Dougal: God, Ted. I’ve never met anyone like him anywhere… who would he be like – Hitler or one of those mad fellas.
Father Ted: Oh, worse than Hitler. You wouldn’t find Hitler playing jungle music at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Father Dougal: Who would have thought being hit by lightening would land you in hospital?
Father Ted: What? What are you talking about? Of course it can land you in hospital
Father Dougal: Well it’s not usually serious is it Ted. I mean, I was hit by lightening a few times and I never had to go to hospital.
Father Ted: Yes Dougal, but you’re different from most people. All that happened to you was that balloons kept sticking to you.

Father Dougal: God Ted, I’ve heard about those cults. Everyone dressing in black and saying our Lord’s going to come back and judge us all.
Father Ted: No… no Dougal, that’s us. That’s Catholicism you’re talking about there.

Mrs. Doyle: There’s always time for a nice cup of tea. Sure, didn’t the Lord himself pause for a nice cup of tea before giving himself up for the world.
Father Ted: No, he didn’t, Mrs Doyle!
Mrs. Doyle: Well, whatever the equivalent they had for tea in those days, cake or something. And speaking of cake, I have cake!
Father Ted: No, thanks, Mrs. Doyle.
Mrs. Doyle: Are you sure, Father? There’s cocaine in it!
Father Ted: WHAT?
Mrs. Doyle: Oh, no, not cocaine. God, what am I on about? No, what d’you call them. Raisins.

Father Ted: I’m not a fascist, I’m a priest. Fascists go round dressed in black telling people what to do, whereas priests… er… More drink!

Mrs. Doyle: Are you looking forward to your lunch tomorrow, Father?
Father Ted: Hmmm? I suppose so.
Mrs. Doyle: You do like pheasant, don’t you Father?
Father Ted: Pheasant? I love pheasant.
Mrs. Doyle: Well there’s a little clue. The thing you’ll be eating likes pheasant as well.

Father Ted: The holy stone… It must be even holier than we thought. Perhaps it’s something to do with that fellow who came over from England last year. He touched it – and he grew a beard!
Father Dougal: Wow. Weird. That’d be nearly enough to upgrade it to a Class 1.
Father Ted: Ooh, Class 1’d be very rare. That’d be bringing people back to life… time travel… cloning dinosaurs… Very rare.

Father Ted: Dougal, you don’t think I offended those Chinese people?
Father Dougal: I don’t know ted. It’s like that time we did the variety show and you decided to do that impression of Stephen Hawking
Father Ted: Well he’s the last person you’d expect to turn up. That was a million-to-one chance. God, he can fairly move in that wheelchair when he’s angry.

Gr8at – Wildlife Photographer of the Year

I recently went to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in the very wonderful The Natural History Museum in South Kensington. It was so good I just had to share some of my favourite photographs. If you are anywhere in and around London, I really recommend you go. It runs until the 23 March 2014. Even if you can’t go though, you can still buy either a print or canvas of the entrants in different sizes. Below are eight of the ones that caught my eye but there are plenty of others. If you hover on each photograph you’ll get its name and who took it.

Gr8at – Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013)

Nelson Mandela

One of the most loved influential and most loved people died yesterday, leading to a worldwide mourning. In tribute to the very wonderful Nelson Mandela, here is a Gr8at of his most inspiring quotes from his life.

When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for eternity.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.

It always seems impossible until it’s done. 

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.

Gr8at – Jerry Seinfeld

Seinfeld

Widely acclaimed as the best sitcom of all time and one of my personal favourites, Seinfeld is a phenomenal show that pushed all kind of comedic boundaries. And holding all the madness together was Seinfeld playing a semi-fictionalised version of himself. Below are eight of his finest quotes from the legendary show.

Jerry: All right. How ’bout this one: let’s say you’re abducted by aliens.
George:  Fine.
Jerry: They haul you aboard the mother ship, take you back to their planet as a curiosity. Now: would you rather be in their zoo, or their circus?
George: I gotta go zoo. I feel like I could set more of my own schedule.
Jerry: But in the circus you get to ride around in the train, see the whole planet!
George:  I’m wearing a little hat, I’m jumping through fire… They’re putting their little alien heads in my mouth…
Jerry: At least it’s show business…
George: But in the zoo, you know, they might, put a woman in there with me to, uh… you know, get me to mate.
Jerry: What if she’s got no interest in you?
George: Then I’m pretty much where I am now. At least I got to take a ride on a spaceship.

 

Kramer: No, she was completely topless.
George: How good of a look did you get?
Jerry: What do you mean?
George: Say she was a criminal and you had to describe her to the police…
Jerry: They’d pick her up in about ten minutes.

 

George: I got a message from the Ross’ at work today.
Jerry: Susan’s parents? When’s the last time you talked with them?
George: At the funeral, give or take…. You know, deep down, I always kinda felt that they blamed me for Susan’s death.
Jerry: Why? Because you picked out the poison envelopes?… That’s silly.

 

Jerry: So Miranda’s cooled on you?
George: I’m gettin’ nothin’!
Jerry: Yeah, me neither.
George: Really? I thought you and Celia were sleeping together.
Jerry: Oh, the sex is wild, but she’s got this incredible toy collection and she won’t let me near it!

 

Jerry: Hey, Kramer, if I killed somebody, would you turn me in?
Kramer: Definitely.
Jerry: You’re kidding!
Kramer: No, no. I would turn you in.
Jerry: You would turn me in?
Kramer: I wouldn’t even think about it.
Jerry: I can’t believe I’m hearing this. You’re supposed to be a friend of mine!
Kramer: Well, what kind of person are you going around killing people?
Jerry: Well, I am sure I had a good reason!
Kramer: Well, if you’ll kill this person, who’s to say I wouldn’t be next?
Jerry: But you know me!
Kramer: I thought I did!

 

Jerry: It’s amazing! You’re getting a secretary! Last week you were taking messages for your mother…
George: And now someone will be taking messages for ME!
Jerry: …From your mother.

 

George: So I’m the bad boy. I’ve never been the bad boy before.
Jerry: Why not? You’ve been the bad employee, the bad son, the bad friend…
George Costanza: Yes, yes, yes…
Jerry: The bad fiancé, the bad dinner guest, the bad credit risk…
George Costanza: OK, the point is made.
Jerry: The bad date, the bad sport, the bad citizen…
[George leaves]
Jerry: The bad tipper.

 

Jerry: Don’t you hate the “to be continued” ‘s on TV? It’s horrible when you sense the “to be continued” coming. You know, you’re watching the show, you’re into the story. You know, there’s like 5 minutes left and you realize “Hey! They can’t make it! Timmy’s still stuck in the cave. There’s no way they wrap this up in 5 minutes!”. I mean the whole reason you watch a TV show is because it ends. If I want a long, boring story with no point to it, I have my life. A comedian can’t do that, see, I can’t go “a man walks into a bar with a pig under his arms. Can you come back next week?”