Look At It This Way - December 18, 2015

Gwendoline Christie as the warlike Brienne Of Tarth in the hit series Game of Thrones.
Gwendoline Christie as the warlike Brienne Of Tarth in the hit series Game of Thrones.
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It takes just one word – Jackie – to make the years roll away.

The magazine – and now stage musical heading to Blackpool’s Grand in April – defined my teenage years.

Cliff Richard graced the very first Jackie (‘for go ahead teens”) in 1964 but I was still reading Beano back then.

I graduated to Bunty and remember the dismay felt whenever the regular artist went on holiday and The Four Marys started looking like The Four Scaries.

My Jackie era was the 70s, the golden age of Jackie – if not Jacqui. By then they had dropped the “go ahead teens” in favour of “the best thing for girls – next to boys” which made it a bit daring in an otherwise innocent age. After the contraceptive pill became free on prescription in 1974 the agony aunt had a lot more to deal with than ‘I brushed past a boy on a bus - could I be pregnant?’

My era had the dishiest – as we called them then – cover stars. Donny Osmond was too toothsome for me and Michael Jackson too sweet (come on, it was the 70s) but anyone called David made the cover star grade: Cassidy, Essex, Bowie, even the little ‘un in the Monkees. Davy Jones. I wasn’t choosy. Not that I liked their music then or now.

Today, I’m more of a Jacqueline as I turn 60 next year. The diminutive Jacqui still graces this column. I lost my old ‘e’ from Jacquie to cutbacks – a boss who wanted snappier by-lines.

Mess with names at your peril, pal. I’ve got a niece called Cloe. Even spell check red lines that as a mistake. It should be Chloe. Just don’t tell her dad, aka my brother Robert … or Trebor as my mum still calls him. (It’s Robert backwards.)

He justified the missing ‘aitch’ by claiming this was how the English spelt it.

They live in France. Not that we drop our aitches in this part of the country.

And it’s done me out of a range of personalised Christmas gifts for my niece over the years.

Which is a bit of an irony as Trebor inflicts personalised gifts upon his mother every year – there’s even a star called ‘Ma’ in the cosmos, according to the star chart she got on her 79th birthday last January.

I was reminded of that the other day when Children in Need dropped round to meet some young carers at the charity for which I work. Two little girls, twins, talked of how they looked after their mummy, who has MS.

What’s mummy’s name, they were asked. “Francine,” said one. The other was aghast. “It’s not,” she cried. “Mummy’s name is MUMMY!”

The first personalised gift I sent to Cloe was demolished with all the disdain a five year old French girl could muster – which is a lot, actually.

“Zer is no H in Cloe. Pah. Bof.”

Yeah, but just don’t let daddy kid you this is how the Brits spell it, kid.

I used to get Christmas cards addressed to J Marley, which always put me in mind of Jacob Marley. Not such a stretch as I felt chained to that desk at times. Bah humbug indeed.

For now is the time when reporters look forward to featuring Christmas Day babies. All those Hollys and Hollies. Not so many Ivys.

Jack is still popular with the Frost family. Jon is making a comeback to the Snows. Winter is coming and with it ‘Name’ of Thrones – the cult series Game of Thrones inspiring a host of little nippers called Tyrion, Theon, Sansa and Daenerys.

I kid you not. Last year 244 Aryas and 53 Khaleesis were registered.

I can smell those burned fish fingers now as some mum bawls out: “Come on in, Khaleesi. Your tea’s on t’table. “

Major Tim helps the space race heat up

Major Tim to ground control. There’s a turn up for the books. Britain’s first astronaut Tim Peake is on international space station duty after responding to an online job advert ’astronauts wanted’.

The stuff of dreams, as Rossall’s astronomer in residence Dr Nick Lister points out.

Tim’s four-year-old son Oliver cried ‘I want to go with daddy’.

We all do! What an adventure it must be.

Closer to home, another Oliver, Oliver Giddings, five, from Ansdell, tasked the best brains in Royal Mail with the query how much does it cost to post a letter to Mars?

NASA Mars Outreach did the maths and worked it out at £11,602.25.

Which isn’t that bad considering it’s, on average, 225m km away from Earth. It’s the equivalent of 18,416 first class stamps.

This is around 18,390 more than I needed for my Christmas cards this year… as my universe is shrinking.

Next question: how much to send a Mars bar to the Moon? That old guy must be sick of his telescope by now.