#OnThisDay in 1934 Maggie Smith was born.

Margaret Natalie Smith

was born in Ilford, Essex on 28 December 1934.

Now, eighty three years later, Maggie Smith is one of Britain’s most well known actors.

Appearing in over fifty films, innumerable TV productions and countless stage performances, Dame Maggie Smith has dominated British drama for six decades.

Maggie Smith first appeared on stage in 1952

in an Oxford Playhouse production of  Twelfth Night. Her first TV role in 1955 was an episode of the BBC Sunday Night Theatre and her first film role was as a party guest in Child in the House in 1956.

Fast forward and Maggie Smith’s most recent stage performance was in 2007:

The Lady from Dubuque by Edward Albee. Her most recent TV was Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015) as Lady Crawley and The Lady in The Van (2015) was her most recent film.

I enjoyed Maggie Smith’s Oscar winning performance in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in 1969.

By then Maggie Smith was a well established stage, TV and film actress with a formidable reputation.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was a fantastic film with a brilliant script based on the novel by Muriel Spark. Maggie Smith played the role brilliantly and the novel is still worth reading.

A few quotes:

For those who like that sort of thing,” said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, “That is the sort of thing they like.

It is well, when in difficulties, to say never a word, neither black nor white. Speech is silver but silence is golden.

These years are still the years of my prime. It is important to recognise the years of one’s prime, always remember that.

I was about to start teacher training when I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and saw Maggie Smith in the film. This quote stayed with me during training and throughout my career.

To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul.

Maggie Smith continues to perform.

A TV documentary Nothing Like a Dame is in post-production. And Sherlock Gnomes, an animated film in which Maggie Smith is the voice of Lady Bluebury, the leader of the blue gnomes and Gnomeo’s widowed mother, is scheduled for release in 2018.

Happy Birthday Dame Maggie Smith!

happy birthday
image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/birthday-background-happy-937520/

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like to read Celebrate the birth of Hermione Gingold #OnThisDay in 1897

or check out my book of the day at http://www.spurwing-ebooks.com/












We enjoyed watching “Gunpowder” on BBC1.

The series is a beautifully produced drama with lovely lighting in some of the interior shots. The graphic punishment scenes are convincingly gruesome and serve as a timely reminder of what was commonplace in England not all that long ago!

Not being Game of Thrones viewers we’re unfamiliar with Kit Harington, the mover and shaker behind “Gunpowder”. It’s interesting to read that Harington is descended from Robert Catesby (the ring-leader of the plot) on his mother’s side; and through his father’s family history he’s related to James I, the target of the assassination attempt. Another ancestor is Lord Harington who was in the Houses of Parliament which Catesby and his co-conspirators tried to blow up.

I don’t usually read the Daily Mail but I stumbled on this interesting article which shares  a different perspective of the show.

I know too little about the period to judge the historical accuracy of the production. But it’s been great drama for Saturday night viewing!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like to check out my Book of the Day.

Gogglebox Celebrity Special

We watched the Stand Up To Cancer Gogglebox Celebrity Special last night on Channel 4.

We don’t usually watch Gogglebox and weren’t planning to join in the show’s fund-raising as we already make a donation every month to Cancer Research UK. But we wanted to see Jeremy Corbyn.

In the current febrile atmosphere of  Westminster politics, Corbyn stands out as a beacon of hope. I can’t recall any politician ever having to contend with so much abuse and personalised vilification. Ed Miliband and the bacon sandwich, which plumbed new depths a couple of years ago, now seems moderate by comparison. And Corbyn has risen above all the abuse without biting back and now occupies the high ground. Hopefully he will be given the opportunity to lead others to his personal standards of respect and integrity.

So, having seen the hype about Corbyn’s appearance on the Gogglebox Special we were interested to see how he would handle it. And, of course, he was modest, quietly humorous and actually had quite a low-key part in the programme despite the fuss.

Without Corbyn’s involvement I wouldn’t have watched the show. My own cancer diagnosis is too recent and raw to go looking for TV programmes about the disease. And so I would have missed two of the most inspirational stories that could ever be told. A young girl was diagnosed with a rare childhood cancer and faced up to the disease and its treatment with a maturity that most adults would struggle to achieve. Two young parents kept their children closely involved in the mother’s struggle with cancer while sustaining their loving family unit. The stories were told with honesty and truth; there was no sentimentality. And there was the inevitable conclusion.

The Gogglebox participants were overwhelmed with compassion for both families and so were we. Who could fail to be moved to tears by the stories of such young lives stopped short? I’ve been devastated by my own cancer diagnosis but I’ve enjoyed a full life of opportunities and experiences. Listening to these young individuals, and their families, talking about cancer with such fortitude, resilience and determination was a privilege and I am grateful to them for sharing their stories.

Last year Stand Up To Cancer raised over £15 million for cancer research. I’m sure that will be exceeded this year. We enjoyed watching the Gogglebox Stand Up To Cancer Celebrity Special and if you missed it you can catch it here.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like Don’t Leave It Too Late on Cabbage and Semolina Blog.





Prime Suspect 1973 | Final episode tonight

Yes, it’s Thursday again and tonight is the final episode of Prime Suspect. I’ve enjoyed this series and am looking forward to the ending. Meanwhile I’ve downloaded to my Kindle the original Lynda la Plante Prime Suspect novels to read again.

The Radio Times doesn’t like this series one bit:

It’s the final episode of an unremarkable prequel and by the end we still have no real sense of the woman and the police officer that Jane Tennison will become.

Well, I don’t agree with that.

We know that Jane is:

challenging received wisdoms at home and at work,






imaginative and


More details about Prime Suspect 1973 here.

9.00pm ITV

Everything you ever wanted to know about the spaghetti harvest

I started the day reading on Facebook that an ex-UKIP MP had defected to the Labour Party.

Three “Never”s and one “Would you believe it?” was quickly followed by “April Fool”. Good spoof!

Which set me thinking about the famous spaghetti harvest April Fool’s joke.

I remembered the spaghetti harvest on a BBC news magazine show, “Tonight”, but in fact it was on “Panorama”. And I thought the spoof was narrated by “Tonight” host Cliff Michelmore when it was actually fronted up by the voice of Britain, Richard Dimbleby.

Funny what tricks memory plays!

The spaghetti harvest was a 1957 phenomena and you can read all about it at The Museum of Hoaxes.

The story behind the hoax is hilarious – almost as good as the joke itself. And the BBC was still fielding calls about the spoof weeks later.

I’m sure there’ll be some good April’s Fools around today. I thought this was a spoof when I read it but it’s actually got a website…….

Have a great weekend!

You might also like BBC, BBC, BBC.


5 Reasons why Prime Suspect 1973 is so good.

If it’s Thursday, it must be Prime Suspect 1973.

This week (so it says in the Radio Times) we’re getting:

a 1970s wedding

“all floaty Laura Ashley dresses and big hats” as Jane Tennison is her sister’s reluctant bridesmaid.

Meanwhile DI Bradfield is obsessing over the East End Bentley family

even though Jane tells him he’s got it all wrong.

The plot in this wonderful adaptation of Linda la Plante’s novel, “Tennison”, is stodgy and predictable so why is Prime Suspect 1973 the highlight of my viewing week?

1. Costumes

The costume designer is Amy Roberts who, according to the IMDb website, was nominated for an Olivier Award for best costumes for the 2009 stage production of The Misanthrope starring Damien Lewis and Keira Knightley. Well, Amy certainly deserves an award for the costumes in Prime Suspect 1973. She’s captured the spirit of the era beautifully and the series is worth watching for the costumes alone.

2. Music

The music draws on some of the more obscure pop and rock hits (and misses) of the period: songs I haven’t heard in decades plus a few of the better known efforts. Mixed in are some original pieces specially composed for the series which blend seamlessly with the authentic sounds of the 70s.

3. Lighting

The lighting is the ultimate stroke of genius in the series. A drab lighting pallette conveys the depressed nature of the economic state of the country and reflects the low tech quality of the TV camera work of the day. Brilliant!

4. Acting

A strong cast including a couple of veteran household names (Alun Armstrong and Ruth Sheen) bring real commitment to their roles. They’ve got the attitudes perfectly and the ensemble playing of the various groups within the cast is exemplary.

5. Attitudes

Every prejudice that manifested all day and every day in the early seventies is captured authentically in this production. The embryonic feminism displayed by Jane Tennison is tempered by the chauvinistic prevailing norms of the era. Shocking levels of racism and homophobia percolate the script presented head on with no compromise. If nothing else, this series is a celebration of progress. Yes, of course, there’s further to go and more to do. But compared with thirty years ago it’s encouraging that attitudes have changed so much.

If you want more blasts from the past check out Cabbage and Semolina, my memories of a 1950s childhood.