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If ever a band left us wanting more, it was Abba. The musical phenomenon of the 1970s, two married couples who produced the most perfect pop of the time, Abba went their separate ways in 1983, never officially splitting up, but also never making a real comeback, despite lots of rumours that they would. But 2019 is the year when Abba return, in the form of some new material and a hologram tour, so it it the perfect time to revisit their musical legacy in the form of a new book from Carlton Books.

Abba The Story Behind Every Song is a wonderful hardback treasure that documents the making and the story behind every hit single and album track in the Abba cannon. It starts with their early beginnings as solo artists in their native Sweden, goes through their marriages and burgeoning career as a four piece, and takes it up to Eurovision (Ring Ring was the first song they tried to enter with, before their 1974 win with the classic Waterloo.) It then goes on to document how a follow up to Waterloo at first alluded them, giving them the appearance of a novelty act, until the 1975 breakthrough of the gorgeous SOS. Hit after hit followed, many of them total classics including Dancing Queen, Gimme Gimme Gimme and Money Money Money. But the marriages of the band members floundered, giving rise to the most beautiful of all break up songs ‘The Winner Takes It All’.

The book is currently in a hardback edition and is a must for all Abba fans, it is packed with iconic black and white and colour photographs of the band from their earliest days to their break up. It gives information about even the most obscure of the bands hits, as well as chart positions, and also has a chronology and completely discography section for Abba scholars at the back of the book.

Abba remain the epitome of perfectly crafted pop and show no signs of losing their enormous popularity. This book shows exactly why this is so.

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When it comes to amateur sleuths currently on television, it is hard to find one more stylish than Agatha Raisin. Back for a second series, Agatha Raisin tells the tales of an advertising executive who descends on the Cotswold’s for a quieter life, only to find all manner of crimes on her doorstep which she tries to solve with relish, all the time wearing a wardrobe to die for.

Agatha is played by Ashley Jensen and is the Carrie Bradshaw of the sleuthing world. Never without a designer bag held in the hook of her arm and a pair of vertiginous heels that are most unsuitable for solving crimes, Agatha takes her London exec look and wears it with aplomb amongst the fields and cottages of the Cotswold’s.

Series two begins with Aggie returning to the village after adventures in Cyprus. She chooses the most gorgeous, colour clashing, show stopping outfit to return in, a hot pink jumpsuit with flared legs, and a stunning orange bucket hot that is as chic as it gets. Within minutes a small dog has used the leg as a toilet, but it is still an incredible style statement. What a way to wear colour clash and totally make it work.

Agatha Raisin

Colour is totally the key to Agatha’s wardrobe, most of her outfits are vibrant and combine some primary colour, totally making her stand out from the other, quieter, less flashy characters in the series. Another hot look from series one combined sassy red and navy and again was a winner, especially when combined with a neat blonde bob and trademark red lips.

Sassy and vibrant, with a wardrobe full of sleek, fabulous outfits that are like a ray of sunshine, Agatha Raisin fills a television style gap left by Carrie Bradshaw and Blair Waldorf.

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Remember the film Little Miss Sunshine? It was the heartwarming tale of a disfunctional family with the adorable, if unlikely, beauty pageant queen Olive at its heart. Well now Little Miss Sunshine has been transformed into a wonderful musical that is just as funny, as loveable, as sad and as quirky as the source material. It had it’s press night in Birmingham last night at The Alexandra and I absolutely loved it.

Olive lives in Albuquerque and is determined to be the first Little Miss Sunshine from New Mexico. She lives with her family, mom and dad Sheryl and Richard, falling apart as they argue due to money worries, grandpa Hoover, banned from every retirement home in the state and brother Dwayne, who hasn’t spoke in 85 days and reads Nietzsche. Then there’s Uncle Frank, returning to the family home after an attempted suicide attempt. A phone call saying that Olive has reached the final of the Little Miss Sunshine competition sees the entire family begin a road trip to Rodondo  Beach, a road trip that promises to change the family forever.

This is a musical with a difference, veering well away from the wholesome, despite having a child at the heart of the story. The family are disfunctional, with grandpa suffering from some severe sex and drugs problems, hilariously highlighted in the song Sex, performed with hysterical verve by the brilliant Mark Moraghan. And yet despite the laughs, of which there are lots, not least in the show stopping ‘Shake My Vesuvius’ finale, there are also moments of real sadness, particularly in the tense scenes between Lucy O Byrne as Sheryl and Gabriel Vick as Richard, both are very good as a couple who are sinking beneath the weight of debt and worries.

Paul Keating is great as Uncle Frank, and forms a great partnership with Sev Keoshgerian as nephew Dwayne. Sev, although not speaking for much of the show, is also very good, the epitome of depressed teen. There are also hilarious cameos from Imelda Warren-Green as the barking mad Miss California, and Ian Carlyle as pageant presenter Buddy.

But this show is all about Olive, and, in Lily Mae Denman, the show has a real star, a non precocious, gorgeous bundle of energy who excels throughout the performance, winning hearts with her very matter of fact attitude.

Little Miss Sunshine will make you laugh out loud, and then stifle the tears. Heartwarming and lovely, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Little Miss Sunshine

The Alexandra Until Saturday 20 July

Click here for ticket information

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This Summer there is most definitely a dark theme when it comes to our Midlands museums and art galleries. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has a Summer exhibition dedicated to Black Sabbath, and, running in tandem with this exhibition is the intriguing ‘4 Bed Detached Home of Metal’ exhibition that is on show at the New Walsall Art Gallery.

The 4 Bed Detached Home of Metal exhibition is part of the Home of Metal series of events and exhibitions that shine a light on Heavy Metal music and its foundations in the Midlands. The exhibition has been curated by Alan Kane and features metal in all it’s connotations, from it’s use as a material, and as the global music phenomenon. It features items from personal collections of metal memorabilia, as well as art work from the likes of Jeremy Deller, Jim Lambie, Sarah Lucas and Jessica Mallock, showing metal with a domestic feel, in living rooms and bedrooms, as a homage from fans and portrayed in art. A particular favourite of mine were the old master style paintings that actually portray Ozzy Osbourne. There is also a Coca Cola Zeppelin, bringing to mind another legendary metal band from the Midlands.

The exhibition is free to attend, and is a warm and loving tribute to a musical style that was born and bred from the foundries and factories that made up the Black Country and yet reverberated around the world. I love the reverent ways that the precious memorabilia has been presented, given a wonderful display space where it can be truly appreciated (the collection for the US band Halestorm owned by Kayleigh Archer, displayed in a bedroom,  is very impressive).

The 4 Bed Detached Home of Metal is on display at the New Walsall Art Gallery until the 1st September.

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I’m sure many readers will know that UK Swimwear is absolutely the best site to visit if you are looking for quality swimwear that comes in a wide range of sizes, but how many of you know that it also has a fabulous range of resort wear and beach wear too. I have to admit this was something that had passed me by, but I have now totally fell in love with the luxurious resort wear from Pia Rossini, with the Saffron Maxi Dress from the brand becoming one of my favourite pieces on my recent trip to Rhodes.

Pia Rossini Saffron Maxi Dress
£76.95 click to visit UK Swimwear

The Pia Rossini Saffron Maxi dress is just gorgeous. A true boho style dress, with a gypsy effect, off the shoulder look, the dress is in the thinnest of polyester fabrics with a silk feel, making it a really cool option for those hot Summer days. The dress is a mish mash of patterns, combining vibrant stripes on the shoulder frill, with an all over floral print on a lovely yellow background.

The dress has a tie string waist detail, but other than that this is a pull on dress that is very easy and comfortable to wear, whether you throw it on over a swimsuit, or wear it for a day of sightseeing like I did. With so many colours in the dress, it is also very easy to accessorise with a range of different colours, whether you opt for one primary colour like my green hat, or wear it with neutrals like my straw bag.

This is the perfect maxi in that it isn’t sweeping the floor like some maxi dresses do. I am 5ft 7inches and was wearing the dress with flip flops, so you can get some idea of the length from this. On the day I wore the dress the temperatures reached 35 degrees and yet I still felt very cool and comfortable in this dress, as well as pretty glamorous too.

The Pia Rossini dress is available from UK Swimwear priced at £76.95.

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fashionmommy's Blog by Fashion-mommy - 3d ago

It is often considered to be fun, frothy and frivolous. The obsession of the young, those with disposable income, wanting the newest trends as quickly as possible. Yes, fashion often gets a bad press from those who consider clothes to be a functional necessity rather than an obsessive passion. Those who indulge, and indeed love fashion can be labelled shallow, but, in reality, there is so much more to fashion than simply getting a ‘look’.

The Fashion Industry is one of the crowning glories of the British Economy, with London Fashion Week now firmly entrenched amongst the most important in the fashion calendar. It has been estimated that more than 105,000 visitors attended the shows and off schedule events at last years Autumn Fashion week in London, and this, in turn generated an estimated 269million in revenue, making it second only behind New York in terms of profit. This is no mean feat in challenging times. Tie this in with the respect and veneration that some of our greatest fashion exports are held, the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Victoria Beckham, Giles Deacon and Marchesa are all British born talent, with Osman, Alice Temperley and Molly Goddard all generating excitement (and A list fans) as their products are displayed on red carpets all around the world. Clearly the fashion industry is more than fun and frivolous.

But as the fashion industry grows, the nature of the selling of High Street Fashion changes. We are seeing more pop up shops and collectives, as shop fittings for temporary stores become more affordable and portable, meaning they can be moved from place to place as small businesses move around.

Fashion is also becoming much more universal in terms of entrepreneurship and business. As the High Street continues to struggle, more and more individuals and independents are starting small businesses and online stores that offer something different from the general High Street fare. Ebay and Etsy stores are becoming increasingly popular, selling a range of fashion products from independent designs to trendy imports that tap into the market. It is becoming far easier to make online stores look attractive and professional, using acrylic display units for jewellery and accessories in order to market your products is now an effective way to add sales.

Plus size stores that avoid the usual cliches of tents and butterflies are also a new and attractive business idea, with the added help that companies like TNT, who consider fashion to be important, giving lots of sound advice on issues like packing your items for delivery, transporting items safely, and even hosting your own fashion show, all important ways of getting your own small business out there onto the fashion radar.

SJP Front row

Whether you look at fashion from a designer point of view, or from the point of view of an etsy store holder taking their first tentative steps into the industry, it is clear that far from being frivolous, fashion truly is big business. All this, and fabulously stylish too.

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For many people, a dream of owning your own company is a real fairytale, a chance to be your own boss and to do something you’ve always wanted to do. But that dream can quickly become a nightmare if you suddenly face problems with your premises. If your business is based around food, either in the form of a restaurant or cafe, or in a store like a deli or independent farm shop, this can be even more desperate, as your stock is perishable and has a short shelf life.

Here are some contacts that you will need to have in order to make your food business safer and more viable.

Cold Storage

Safe cold .food storage is absolutely essential for a cafe or food shop and you may need to consult a company that specialises in commercial refrigeration services.This is even more important if your restaurant or store specialises in meat, fish or poultry and needs to be kept at a set temperature.

If you are looking for commercial refrigeration services, I would strongly recommend looking for one that has a good level of aftercare in case of emergencies. Look for one that also offers fast repairs and a twenty four hour repair service so you can sort problems if they occur without too much downtime and loss of business.

Your Local Food and Safety Team

When you start any new business that concerns food you need to contact your local council food and safety team. They will give you lots of information in regards to food standards, hygiene requirements , and will also be able to address and answer any questions you might have, whenever they occur. Remember, at the very least you need to have food hygiene certification, whether you are opening a chip shop or hoping for some Michelin stars. Most local colleges offer this sort of training, and all your eventual staff need to make sure that certification is up to date.

Your Suppliers

You need to keep your list of suppliers updated and they need to be on speed dial. Try to build up a good relationship with your suppliers, have regular delivery times and days so that you always have exactly what you need and there are no misunderstandings that can leave you in the lurch.

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While most of us marvel in memories of the good ol’ days of living at home, there is something that’s often not considered – the frustration of having to share a bathroom with the entire household. If you have a big family that shares a bathroom, here are a couple of tips for creating a bathroom that will serve everyone’s needs. We put this list together with bathrooms Newcastle experts at Bespoke Interiors.

Functional and stylish

When accessorising your bathroom keep in mind function as well as style. Choosing a soft close seat for your toilet will help protecting fingers of your little ones – wouldn’t want to get those caught in a hard seat. 

Relaxing bath

If you and your family enjoy a bit of destressing by taking a relaxing bath with the latest bestseller book factoring in a freestanding bathtub will add a level of luxury to your bathroom that couldn’t be achieved otherwise. 

Freestanding baths while luxurious and becoming increasingly more popular can be impractical if you are tight for space. In that case, you can always opt for a multifunctional shower bath, allowing your family to enjoy an occasional soak but otherwise opting for a quick shower. Hey, showering is better for saving water anyways. 

Thermostat

If you share a household with elderly or kids, investing in a temperature control thermostat for your showers is a smart move. Thermostats ensure that the water temperature will remain the same as pre-set; this will give you peace of mind and prevent accidental scalding. 

Have storage that is accessible

Be smart about how you design your bathroom storage. Don’t put your children’s towels at the top shelves where they won’t be able to reach them. Additionally, if you are redesigning your bathroom, keep your children’s height in mind. Too often, we see basins that are simply too high for their little ones. An excellent solution to this would be seeking out vanity units with built-in step-ups. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference!

Keep harmful things out of reach

When sharing a bathroom with young kids, ensure that razor blades, any medication or cleaning supplies are stored away, where the little ones can’t reach even if they’re stood on a stool. This is important to retain their safety!

This is when the higher shelves will come in handy in your bathroom. Remember if you have very small children, you can always add kid-proof locks to your bathroom vanity unit. 

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To choose the right sofa for your home, it’s essential to become more aware of different types of sofas, what functions they’re the best fit for and what do they look like. Additionally, you have to consider the space you have and what model will suit that space best.

Mid-century

If you’re after a minimalist sofa with clean lines, simple design and that comes in a variety of materials this sofa is the one for you. It’ll work best in a modern or casual design with its gentle curves, smooth lines and organic forms.

Basic features of a mid-century sofa are:

functionality;

minimalistic, clutter-free design;

comes in a range of colours and materials;

rectangular cushions;

stands on tapered wooden legs.

This one is an especially good option for those looking for both design and functionality. There are many types of convertible sofas – futons, pull-outs and two/three-seat sleepers. As the name suggests, convertible sofas can be used as a sofa during the day, and at night time it converts into a bed. The conversion mechanism varies based on the type of convertible you choose. 

Basic features of a convertible sofa are:

  • variety of types of conversion mechanisms;
  • available in a spectrum of colours and finishes;
  • 2in1.

Daybed

Daybeds are a cross between a bed and a sofa to fit a specific set of needs. Especially useful for small spaces where you require a sofa that will double as a bed without needing any extra space. Additionally, an excellent option for guests.

Basic features of a daybed sofa are:

  • Typically contains a backrest with arms on each side – kind of like a baby crate;
  • Usually twin size (seats two, sleeps one);
  • Can come with a trundle that expands, allowing for it to extend out like a convertible sofa.

Loveseat

As the name suggests, a loveseat is a tight sitting for 2 people that don’t mind a bit of thigh brushing and don’t need much personal space. It’s a compact design that seats 2. It’s convenient for a small area that needs to seat multiple people as it usually takes up less space than individual lounge chairs. 

These can usually be purchased in individually or part of a larger sofa set. 

Basic features of a loveseat sofa are:

  • petite size;
  • available in a variety of colours and finishes;
  • can be purchased individually or as part of a larger sofa set. 

Chesterfield sofa

Chesterfield sofa adds a bit of elegance and class to a room hence why they are so popular with homeowners. Usually in leather finish, however, available also in other materials. 

Basic features of a chesterfield sofa are:

  • quilted or tufted backrest;
  • rolled arms usually equal to the height of the back;
  • stands on a set of legs typically wooden.

Sectional sofa

The versatile style of sofa, usually available in a variety of shapes. Best fit for large spaces that require seating lots of people such as a large family living room. Generally available in two main shapes: L-shape and U-shape. 

L-shape models are usually best fit for smaller rooms versus U-shape sofas are usually best for large living rooms for seating a lot of people. 

Basic features of a sectional sofa are:

  • large seating area;
  • two main shapes L-shape and U-shape;
  • available in a range of colours and materials;
  • often sat in the floor and not on a set of legs.

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Being a parent means you have got to be a budgeting ninja! You have to plan ahead, have emergency plans in place and be money savvy – if you can save on something, do it! A significant expense but often argued as a necessity is a family car – it’s a hefty purchase, but there are ways to save significantly save some money.

Research

Before making the purchase research your options. Not only research the car type that would be the best fit for your needs but also look into different brands and dealerships.  When purchasing a used car, this is especially important. 

You know what they say about cars salesmen… When you have settled on a model, look into different car dealerships as with used cars the prices may vary significantly between different dealerships. It’s advisable to use this to your advantage when negotiating the final price. 

Don’t feel restricted to only your geographical area, chances are used cars Aberdeen has a better offer than used cars in Edinburgh, for example. This often has to do with the city you’re based at, if the expenses of running a business in your area are higher (usually is the case in bigger cities), then the prices will be higher too – after all, they’ve got to make a profit. 

Used holds better value

When you buy a brand new vehicle, it loses its value rapidly starting from the first time it’s driven, this is due to depreciation. New car’s value falls overtime versus used vehicles are much better at holding their value over time. Because of this, there are wide ranges of used cars available. Thus it allows you to find the best fit for your needs. 

Take it home right away

One of the better advantages, often forgotten, is that when buying a used car, it’s yours there and then. There no waiting for the car to be delivered from another dealership, you can test drive it the same day you purchase your vehicle and take it home. If you are in a pinch and require a new replacement vehicle quickly – going used is the way!

This won’t affect your insurance

The price of your insurance is affected by two factors:

  1. your past driving history;
  2. type of car.

It’s not necessarily that your insurance will be higher if you buy a used car. Opting for a newer model sometimes means safer, which might help with your insurance quote. It’s good practice to request an insurance quote before making a purchase, especially if you’re buying a used car as a means to save a bit of money.  

Whatever your choice is, the used car route is more affordable, accessible and time-effective. The financial savings of buying used are hard to look past.

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