Tuesday, 31 May 2016

"Forever & Ever" the Graphic Novel - The Co - Creators have their say.

had the immense  pleasure to review the latest instalment of Forever Spin Off story "Forever and Ever" last week.


The content of this third chapter was so complex and faceted that I thought readers might enjoy hearing a few insights from one half of the Dynamic duo of Brian O’Marra and Jeff Sack, the two gents who decided to continue the work of Matt Miller and the other writers ,so Foreverists could still experience the joys of spending time in the company of Henry, Jo and the rest of the Gang. 

I got a chance to sit down with Jeff Sack, who shared the pair's thoughts.   

 E: Hi Jeff , Thanks for letting me quiz you again about your story, I am loathe to call it a graphic novel, although technically that is what it is, it is almost a screenplay in storyboard format, would you agree

Jeff: Hello Emma and thanks once again for an opportunity for Brian and I to talk about this project. The term "Graphic-Novel" of course stems from the comic book industry and of was created for an older crowd as it contained far more violence and possibly language that was not meant for a young boy or girl! The Watchmen, a "Graphic-Novel" written by Alan Moore with art provided by Dave Gibbons and John Higgins is one of my favorite pieces of literature in any genre. 

However, the story does play out as a screenplay in my head as I'm creating it. Brian and I confer on who fits the role the best before I write a word and he certifies that we've got the images to fit the outline of the scene. There are certain scenes that sometimes seem to write themselves, the conversation between Jo Martinez, Henry Morgan and Veronica Carson's a prime example of that.    

 E: You and Brian have obviously been exceptionally busy this past couple of months, the chapter is a behemoth and is a work of massive effort from you both!
Tell us about the process you have used to marry words and visuals to create the continuing story? 

Jeff: There are tales about "Tin Pan Alley" composers that constantly fed off each other and I think that accurately describes the partnership that Brian and I have developed. The best teams exceed the sum of the individual parts and I think our venture has caused both of us to have raised the level of our individual games. 

The current timeline is far easier to deal with, given the wealth of material that Matt Miller and his team provided through 22-episodes. The series' also has Henry periodically in other time-periods, one of which we used in this past instalment, as Henry confronted his father Robert on being engaged in the slave-trade. 

However, we've had to rely on Mr. O'Marra's resourcefulness to provide the characters that we've used as we've flash backed to the 17th Century. There are many scenes he's had to digitally manipulate, whether it's superimposing a character into a scene, or eliminating characters that don't belong in other cells.  

E: This particular Chapter Introduced a very ominous Svengali figure into the mix , how much fun was it creating a villain to play foil to Jo and Henry? Do you have a blueprint for who they are, what their motivations are and was it intentional to lead reader’s minds back to Adam even if his involvement is swiftly debunked? 

Jeff: Let's start with Adam first; we've gotten many questions about him from readers inquiring if he'd appear in this Volume or Season. Adam won't figure into our current storyline. However, if there's enough interest to mount a new story after we complete our current project Adam would reenter Henry's life.

As for "The Master" and "The Brotherhood," yes their origins and story figured prominently in our original plot. "The Master" will be a central character in our story and this was just his introduction. 

E: Adam was personally one of my favourite characters, he is the anti Henry, could it be that Adam might appear in Henry’s past (unbeknownst to the good Dr of course) beyond his involvement in Abigail’s untimely demise and if this was not a plan, can I make a fan request that he might? 

Jeff: We're aware that Adam learned about the existence of another immortal back in 1986, due to his encounter with Abigail. Still that doesn't rule out that they have encountered each other earlier and possibly numerous times, leaving them each with a vague feeling of Deja-Vu.   

 E: Like the show, the beauty of the piece is your linking back into the past to inform the future.

In your ever expanding Universe, you are gradually introducing your readers to the Line of ancestors who will ultimately lead to Henry. I am interested in your creative process for that, Have you a family tree mapped out with bios of how they will affect plot or are you allowing the characters to create their own destiny as they come to mind? 

J: We call it "The Bible" and each generation's birth, death and notable accomplishments are listed. However the two tent pole characters in the universe that we've created, Isaac and Robert, Henry's father. 

There are four generations between the two men and we've already introduced two of them in Benjamin and Andrew. We will spend far less time focused on the intervening generations than we did on Isaac, but when we reach Robert, he'll receive the same attention that Isaac got.  

 E: This chapter is heavily focused on the line of descent and the ultimate decision for the family to become abolitionists. The Anti slavery issue was the catalyst in Henry’s life that created the rift with his Father and led to Henry trying to redress his own guilt at the estrangement by being a model Father to Abe, how are you using it as a device in your stories? 

Jeff: Truth be told, our entire backstory was inspired by the episode when Henry discovered that Robert was engaging in slave-trading. Hence Isaac and Robert being our two central characters, as we watch the rise and fall of the Morgan Clan. Robert's untimely death and Henry's lack of desire to have anything to do with the family business, leads to Morgan Shipping becoming the corrupt entity now known as Morgan Industries.

E: In the modern scenes you are very centred on interrogation, you had a lot of plot lines to introduce from those interview scenes.. 

Jeff:  Well the series is set in a Homicide Division of the NYPD and our central character's a coroner. So we are dealing with some sort of death and crime in each chapter. It's also important in our view into maintaining Mike Hanson and Jo Martinez as three-dimensional characters and the chance to work Lieutenant Reece into our storylines. 

Martinez and Hanson are both exceptional detectives which is one of the factors that drew Henry to them when they first met. (Plus the undeniable instant chemistry between Morgan and Jo didn't hurt!) We do enjoy using Mike as a Wise-guy and in comedic situations, but his true value is due to his police skills. 

We certainly don't want to make Martinez just Henry's love interest and she's at her best when interviewing suspects and witnesses. We do utilize the interview room often, however many times we have our characters talk to those involved in the crime in other venues. The Veronica Carson interview in this instalment took place in her apartment and Fletcher Williams in our second chapter got questioned in a parking lot. 

 E: Can you speak to the challenges of creating new more far reaching storylines when you are adapting the plots away from a weekly forty five minute “crime of the week“ format? 

J: We can't lose sight of what drew fans to the series in the first place Emma, so it becomes a delicate balance. Our saving grace is that the show was never a strict "Procedural-Series" which unfortunately stymied the marketing department at ABC. 

Was Forever a procedural, a science-fiction tale, a love story, or just a battle between the forces of good and evil? YES, it was all of that and more, but instead of embracing the uniqueness of the series, ABC dropped the ball and didn't promote the series. The fan-base became far larger after the show got cancelled, due to the publicity the outrage from the viewers generated. 

Part of the charm of the series, was the exploration of other eras starting in the early 19th Century and taking us through Henry's exploits during the 20th Century. We've just expanded that concept and have concentrated on Henry's ancestors trials and tribulations instead of the good doctor's. 

However, there's always been a method to our madness and the two eras will eventually intertwine and reveal why we believed that we had to start our story with the life of Isaac Morgan.  

E: How about other fan favourite aspects that kept viewers rapt, will we see more of the interpersonal stuff? Will Fans who prayed for the entirety of season one for a coupling between Jo and Henry or who enjoyed the often hilarious interactions between Henry and Lucas and Mike Hanson be indulged in our obsessions?

Jeff : Henry after all is a product of early 19th Century London, so he prefers to take things slowly in the romance department. His only exception to that was with Abigail, due to the fact that they decided to become Abraham's parents. So expect Morgan and Martinez to stay at what they consider a comfortable pace for a while. 

Lucas' fondest wish would be to become Henry's BFF. He idolizes Morgan and lives for his approval. However he's definitely quirky and he veers from acting pensive in front of Henry, to sometimes becoming overly familiar. Morgan became part of the world again after he met Jo and he's now far more tolerant of Lucas than he once was and actually has developed affection for his assistant. 

have to admit to a special fondness for Mike Hanson. Matt and his writer's could have taken the easy route with Hanson and just made him the stereotypical "Doubting Thomas," dismissive of Henry's methodology. Instead Mike's the opposite, he quickly saw Morgan's brilliance and he respects the coroner and values his opinion.

The friendship that's developed between Mike and Lucas, would likely never occur in any other series. Hanson was likely a Jock while Lucas probably hung with the Art Crowd. They should react to each other like oil and water, but they get along quite well, dashing another stereotype in the process. We've delved into these areas in our first three chapters, but expect to see even more in upcoming installments. 

E: Thank you for taking time out of your downtime to speak to me Jeff, what message do you have for your readers as we await Chapter Four? 

Jeff: Brian O'Marra and I have been blown away by the reaction from the fans so far Emma. There have been several messages we've received that convey the writer felt like they just finished an episode of the series. To receive that kind of praise makes this whole effort worthwhile to both of us! 

As we've stated from the start, this is purely a labor of love. Brian nor me will ever receive a penny for our efforts and we realized that heading into this project. Still there were far too many stories left untold at the end of 22-episodes and we couldn't bare to part with the characters. 

Matt Miller has expressed his support both privately and publicly, which is the greatest compliment we could ever ask for. Given that we're trying to continue telling these stories through a "Graphic-Novel" rather than through a TV series has it's limitations and we can never hope to replace the brilliant show that we enjoyed for 22-episodes. However our characters never ask for a raise or question a line, so this format does have it's advantages!

And on that encouraging thought I leave you. Jeff thank you again, a pleasure as ever!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

TBC 20/20 bloggers event Book Twenty The Fireman. By Joe Hill

It is no secret that I rather like the books and short stories of a certain Joe Hill.

This time last year I was preparing to go to a Q&A at Foyles in London.

He is the only Author on this planet who has ever drawn a monster in my book and offered me a battle axe to pose with in our selfie… So to say he holds a special place in my heart is an understatement, so I fully expected to enjoy the latest offering :

The Fireman.

I did, but NOT because this is a Joe Hill book that I was predisposed to like ( And as with other favourite authors, willing to overlook minor niggles in the process).

I do not précis plots in books preferring to allow folk to discover the story beyond the jacket blurb for themselves. It is enough to say I absolutely loved this book for the purity of the story despite it’s complexity. It is undoubtably the most complex of his books so far, touching on themes of

Social networking 
Societal breakdown

 It has a really interesting protagonist,Harper Grayson, nee Willows (this will become important on reading the book) is a brilliant creation. Married to the slightly overbearing and infinitely opinionated Jakob, she is on the frontline of the onslaught that the seemingly unstoppable contagion
Kind hearted, she cries at kittens and tots in the commercials, but is unfailingly  steely in her dedication to her role as school nurse as the book opens. Her Mary Poppins Lunchbox, containing chocolate bars, a radish and a potato are  her weapons against youthful tears when pain and fear hit, but no  amount of delicious  produce will prepare or protect  her or the entire world  for what is to come.
When the  school, like the rest of society becomes a breeding ground for the disease, she drops all , risking her own infection daily to assist at the hospital where the infected are congregating, lost, Afraid and devoid of hope. A  devotee of what I am going to call brisk  Poppins -esque   efficiency and propensity to drop "Mary" into conversation, It is at the Hospital that she meets The Fireman, a  surly brash man of Mystery who brooks no argument when he brings a small child into the ER.  A Brit into the bargain, it is no surprise she will be intrigued and attracted by his lack of fear  in the face of a frightening scourge and the adventure really begins.

Her story arc goes from unsuspecting Victim,to supplicant and finally to a flaming Amazon of righteous fury.

Harper is my kind of Gal.  Interesting that this is the second Hill book in a row where a female is the main narrator! ( A  reason why I love it so much perhaps ? )
The References Harper invokes to counterpoint her thinking and beliefs are perhaps even more delightful to me in particular as I sense with relish that Joe Hill and  I might  be able to converse easily  over a  really good cup of tea and talk about all that is so clean cut American and yet so secretly British and lovable about his heroine!

The books and songs and joys  she revels in are in part , things that I suspect Mr Hill himself also gets an immense delight from (even if he is gently mocking of saccharine sweetness and that chipper stiff upper lip of Brits in popular culture !)

Other characters range from the requisite  truly Abhorrent creatures to the more insidiously frightening zealousness  of  the inevitable “Saviours” who seek to cleanse society of all that might besmirch, on both sides of the apocalyptic divide and what an INTERESTING apocalypse it is! 

The Dragon Scale phenomenon  is a truly BRILLIANT device and  catalyst and is all at once Evil, Good and  something  much more visceral that is neither, it is almost a metaphor for Human frailty which is neither Good  nor Bad and a clear sign that Mr Hill is only ever getting better as he gives us another cracking  story to devour and much to ponder in our own daily existence within the fast, frenzied and fickle  world where we are all connected by gadgets across oceans, able to communicate instantly, aware of every facet of each other’s lives in the moment, but never a fully cohesive group.

It is a story that loudly and with shockingly clear tones resonates with anyone who has felt they are outside the pack. It demonstrates with some worrying clarity the way that groups of humans will ALWAYS descend into hierarchies, where the party line is heralded and even innocent descent is looked upon as threatening and even dangerous.

Anyone  who has seen prejudice meted out for things totally outside a person’s CHOICE, be that racism, sexism or even the societal mores set by the well meaning ruling classes  will see echoes in the story  here. Be it  nationally, globally or within that Slow cooker group you joined for a recipe for chicken wings that now collectively shouts at you that you are an idiot for wrapping your potatoes in foil when you bake them! We seek approval from our peers and when it is withheld for things that seem wrong in our our assessment, we become a target for unwarranted attack.

It speaks to the paranoia that seems prevalent, particularly in so called “civilised”countries; where fear of difference , fear of what is not “Us”, the people we pigeon hole as  “them” because we think they might take from our mouth, our home, our faith. When really, we are all as Humans subject to the same trials, fears and tribulations wherever we were brought onto the planet and whichever deity we call to in our times of need.

If this was only a sad indictment of the modern  human condition wrapped up in an apocalypse story, the book would not have been half as satisfying. I think Conversely it spreads hope that there is true strength in togetherness, in the purest intentions to maintain community and that doing the right thing, that the best of people normally comes when they are in the direst of circumstance, when parity is thought long since departed and when adversaries seem to be  all around, that simple kindnesses, doing what your own moral compass dictates as right is often the difference between survival and destruction.

I cannot review this book without a passing comment to some of the inevitable comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand, particularly in view of the fact that The Hand of God comes into play. There are some correlations  between the two stories, two factions based in near proximity,  the good guys led by an ultimately flawed  but highly spiritually motivated female matriarch leading to a final confrontation  with a sacrificial imagery akin to a crucifixion.

However this is not a copy of Dear Dad’s story. The Stand is one of my top three King books so any form of copying would grate ,even when that imitation is by someone as skilled as Joe Hill. The similarities are there, but I think accidental and the depth and breadth of  the thematic aspects and the rollicking good story of The Fireman , I think surpasses that of the Stand. Here a much shorter book, packs a veritable punch!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Forever Show favourites live on vividly in the continuing saga " Forever and Ever"

The stalwart fans of the ill fated  ABC Show “Forever” , have been without new episodes for some considerable months, but they have not been bereft of further tales of the intrepid immortal  medical examiner  Henry Morgan and his adopted Son, the witty, Wiley and just a little bit naughty, Abraham . 

That  central relationship was  the beating heart of the show and thanks  to the symbiotic efforts of “weaver of words” Jeff Sack and “imagery manipulator extraordinaire” Brian O’Marra, any true  fan of the show still has a whole raft of things  both familiar and freshly imagined; to get their collective teeth into.

The  Graphic Novel “Forever and Ever”  available through Facebook, is a  gift for fans driven by the fact that the potential for continuation of the stories of the crime fighting team of police and and Medical Examiners that intrigued viewers every week was just too huge to leave as a void in Foreverist's lives.

Tying up loose ends and creating a richer; more wide- ranging universe for Henry and the gang to inhabit , Brian and Jeff have succeeded in creating context and setting by using the past to punctuate the action in the present. 

The second half of the third Chapter of the novel  entitled “Reputations do not Tarnish Themselves ” is a tremendous confection of modern day crime investigation with Jo, Mike and the team doing what they do best, as they investigate the evil machinations of  Morgan Industries and also a well researched back story. Here we are treated to  more expansive Historical sequences than a forty five minute procedural was ever going to make possible and the richness this evokes is a joy for all fans of the show.

The” crime of the week”   is (dare I Say it?) more complex and twisty than even the efforts the  show writers gave us. This is thanks in part to the scope that a book style allows and it is obvious that this will be a sweeping story to keep ardent fans enthralled for some considerable time to come.

This second instalment has rather marvellous overtones of secret societies,a mysterious  Svengali figure, the passing  return of some familiar faces and plenty of medical elements for Henry to examine and comment upon in his own inimitable manner!

The beauty of the Graphical novel that Brian and Jeff have crafted is the true essence of the show; the parts  that fans loved are still front and centre but they are accentuated by the vignettes from the past.

Archivists and History Buffs are being treated to an ever burgeoning Family tree that is gradually unfurling it’s branches back towards the Good Doctor and seemingly  Jewish Son Abe,who viewers of the show already  know shares  a Scottish Heritage with his Adoptive Father.

 It is this plot device,  Abe's historical explorations that enable us to reach into the past with him and learn more about the Morgan family,whose trials and tribulations will ultimately shape Henry into the extraordinary man he is. He is immortal through chance, he is not a genius or a super hero; No he is, “but a man “ who gleans and learns from the good and bad experiences of the past to inform his present and hopefully propel him into a productive and fulfilling future.

It is a very effective hook and if this tale does not have you dashing to your nearest genealogy site to start a trawl into your own Family History, I will eat my three cornered hat and whip myself with a Cat’O’Nine-Tails!

The complexity of the story is a tribute to the obvious amount of affection and respect both men have for the source material. It is also a huge burden! The  amount of work needed for  both copy and image to be painstakingly rendered is a gargantuan undertaking and explains why  ( like all “popular” sagas of our age, Potter, Hunger Games et Al)  we needed chapter three in two instalments. This gives the reader time to digest a growing narrative that truly is becoming a History in the truest sense of the word.

Read Chapter Three part two here or  even better start the story from the very start, you will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

The Face behind the Wig and Wind Section - The Salvation Army's raucous Recruit. Paul O'Grady.

Paul O’Grady the star of perennial favourites For the Love of Dogs and now The Sally Army and me  is as unlikely teatime tv star as  you can imagine when you look at his Entertainment Origins. I wanted to learn more.

 In 2003 Paul sat in with Sue Lawley for a stint on Desert Island Discs. This is a précis of that show.

Best known for his loud mouthed Alter Ego Lily Savage, the Liverpool Tart  not adverse to drugs and alcohol and two children out of wedlock. This abrasive and ,you would think acquired taste was a household favourite . She became a regular on mainstream TV, even presenting Blankety Blank when Terry Wogan left the show. Even more strange, Lily won BBC personality of the Year!

Lily was a different sort of drag act, she appealed to the masses, before with the  history of Hinge and Bracket and Dame Edna, matronly characters all sequins and tiaras or lumpy bumpy harridans in the Les Dawson Stanly Baxter Tradition, Lily was a breath of fresh air. Paul says his mother described his legs as Two woodbines sticking out of the packet. But in tights with ladders, old leopard skin and mini skirts, Lily was uncouth and spoke her mind.

Born to Paddy and Molly in Birkenhead in Merseyside, a staunchly Catholic family, Paul and his siblings were raised by his Mother and his aunts as many of the Menfolk were away at sea in the Merchant Navy and would often be away from home for two years. 

They would bring back all manner of strange things from afar, one brought a bush baby home and it gave a really false sense of security by being dozy on arrival, but as a nocturnal mammal it found it’s energy while the family slept and after snatching the glasses off his Auntie Annie’s face, the poor creature was despatched to Chester Zoo forthwith.

Auntie Chrissie was perhaps the biggest inspiration for Lilly, a brassy lady who was a clippie on the Buses. Smart, sassy and independent.

Holidays in Ireland  with other Aunts resulted in faddish eating, although I cannot really blame him, eating a chicken for dinner whilst hens roam under the Kitchen Table must affect a small child, but older sibling and relatives were very sweetly accommodating  and because of a childhood adoration for Popeye, all foods were served in a tin can to emulate the spinach and his sister would test his muscles when he had eaten. 

He was sexually precocious and despite being self assuredly Gay, he had father a child by age Seventeen. Not willing to “be a father”  Paul left school with 5 O'levels and and three A levels and was destined for a job in the Civil Service.

After realising this was not a good fit , he went to Manila and lived in the Orient for a couple of years, working as a Barman, he had the time of his life and even today says that when he goes to Manila he feels at home. Returning for the documentary Paul O’Grady does the Orient, he revisited his youthful apartment and is deeply affected.

A return to the UK and a court order to provide for his daughter Paul Moved to London and got a job with Camden Social services, going into troubled homes to provide care for children to keep families together when one or both parents were indisposed. Paul  describes some of the families as the Anti-Christ  version of the Waltons. The shadows of the caring man we see today in the Documentaries that have made him so popular are plain to see in the work he did with the vulnerable. 

As overtime was not paid, the social workers got a great deal of time of in lieu and a bar job in the Famous Vauxhall Tavern that Lily first stepped on stage as the Compere of Drag acts. A successful stint at the Edinburgh Fringe led to a call from the BBC and Paul (And Lily ) have worked consistently since then. Lily starred as Miss Hannigan in “Annie” on stage and as Lily in “Prisoner Cell Block H the Musical.

Paul is successful as a afternoon chat show host, his down to earth nature is perfect for teatime viewers and the appearance every afternoon of Buster the Shitsui was also a pointer at the absolute joy  Paul has in Dogs and his subsequent stratospherically  popular  series at Battersea Dog’s Home and the infamous beautiful friendship with Carmine the Boxer.

Paul now lives happily with Cows, Pigs and dogs on a small holding, a quieter existence after his heart attack in 2002, no longer setting a bad example for Ronnie Wood (Mick Jagger banned him from Rolling Stones outings for just that!) Paul has taken up other pursuits learning to Drive, taking Driving Lessons, learning computer skills have all come after his heart attack which left him  pondering life, if not the afterlife.

His stint with the Sally showed his less than spiritual side, but showcased his towering humanity and empathy and he will remain one of my favourite celebrities.


I'll take you home again Kathleen - Josef Locke
You gotta get a gimmick -   Linda Hart/Anna McNeely, Christine Ebersole
The Blue Pacific Blues  -Rita Hayworth

I'll take you home again Kathleen - Josef Locke
You gotta get a gimmick -   Linda Hart/Anna McNeely, Christine Ebersole
The Blue Pacific Blues  -Rita Hayworth
Meditation from Thais, Act 11 - Philippe Graffin
 I put a spell on you - Nina Simone
 Trouble.    - Elvis Presley
Hurry it's lovely up here - Barbara Streisand
La Cumparsita    - Carlos Gardel

Book choice:  The Borrowers - Mary Norton

Luxury – Avon Skin So Soft.   Effective mosquito repellant.


Monday, 2 May 2016

In the final Episode of the series, Paul meets people in Palliative Care and Finally gets to bang his Drum!

In this, the last and in my opinion the most moving episode  of the seminal series about the Salvation Army, viewer favourite Paul O’Grady is nearing the end of his bespoke training course with them.

This week as one of his final challenges,  he visits a hospice for the terminally ill. 

Paul is entirely honest about his opinions on  mortality, he is not scared of dying, but is worried more about the way that he might die. It is that loss independence, having to be reliant on others. He says wryly that when he had his heart attack, Paul had to all intents and purposes died in the ambulance for three minutes,  when asked, he says he saw no white light and awoke to a paramedic forcing dissolvable aspirin into him.

St Christopher's is one of two hundred Hospices in the UK that provide palliative care nursing and family support.  Funded by Public  Donation, the hospice treats about eight hundred people a year who are facing the end of their lives.

Jo accompanies Paul. It is a huge privilege to be allowed to  spend time with people and their Families at the end of life.  They meet with Revd Andrew Goodhead He  says the main skill is to allow folk to Talk and listen how people are really  feeling. The average stay for most patients is eleven days on average. 

Edward is suffering the final effects of asbestosis, 35 years in the building trade has left him with a lung full of fluid. A previously fit and strong man he has be brought down fast by the disease. He is a sweet man with a sense of humour that Paul Inevitably taps into, they joke of the wonderfully lifting power of a pain blocker, Edward says he almost drifted out of the window much to the amusement of Paul and Edwards family.

He meets Michael O’Grady, his namesake on the wards and discuss their respective family origins in Cork and Galway. He is suffering from Cancer  of the Bowel that has metastasised to the liver and kidneys. Having just celebrated his 70th Birthday and about to celebrate his Forty Ninth Wedding Anniversary. Paul tells the family to make sure the party Rocks the building.  Visibly affected by Michaels plight he wishes them all well, Th  family ask Paul to pose for a photo as they have been telling the grandkids for ages that they are long lost brothers!! Such a brave and noble man,Michael has asked that when the time comes that in lieu of floral tributes that all memorial gifts  go to the hospice.

Paul meets with Carers who take the world on their shoulders. For Six years Kaye has been  looking after  husband Len, who has been suffering from a heart problem due to medical accident whilst away on Holiday in Cyprus. Paul tells her to try to get some respite once in a while, he knows the burdens Carers take upon themselves.

Carers and patients both attend an art class , Carers find it hard sometimes to approach the subject of Death, but in the class, as Paul so rightly observes, they are all facing a common enemy. There is a real empathy from Paul to the plight of  Len whose problems began when he had a stent fitted. An accident caused a tear  in the artery and a bypass was necessary , given Seventy two hours to live , he made it but the damage was irreparable. Paul can sympathise, he has six stents fitted. He had a Heart attack in bed and was nervous to “bother “anyone. When telling the group about his  latest trip to the Cardiologist , he was told he had No pulse! This raises much laughter.

He tells the group they are inspirational  and they are, the stoicism and bravery of them all is so utterly commendable and heart breaking. Before he leaves, he wants to do something nice for Len and Kaye, so he arranges for them  to spend the afternoon with their feet in the sand on a deck chair, Pina Colada in hand  so they can be on holiday together again.unable to travel he sets it up in a room and Len light’s up. 

Paul’s philosophy is that Life is for living, be prepared that Death might come a calling  but do not dwell on it. This is a brilliant maxim as Paul goes to meet some very sprightly ladies whose Seniors exercise class is a joy to behold. Lots of ladies laughing, getting active and showing poor Paul up in the use of a resistance band, he almost has his eye out with his!!

He meets 94 year old Lily  who is fully in  control of her faculties. She has never smoked and never gets drunk and secretly utilises the exercises she has learnt here at home every morning too! She is delightful and Paul takes her on a circuit of the floor when they play tag dance.

Paul has successfully passed his Training! 

He gets to wear his Uniform minus the Two Salvation Army Collar S’s to signify his "Saving  to Serve". Proudly watched by several of the people he has helped along the way, he gets to March down  Oxford Street, quite literally banging his drum. Following in a great Salvation Army Tradition of brass bands. 

Since  1878 they have been calling out to the public to bring them to God  today there are now Four hundred bands and it is a childhood dream realised for Paul and the joy that He obviously experiences from that moment is visible in his beaming smile.

Immersing himself in every mission, dealing with people in need, people in emotional struggle and strife and working alongside people of Faith and HUGE hearts for giving, listening and empathising. He may not have been “Saved” but he most assuredly has re-learned to Serve.

This was a truly enlightening and entertaining show that was a perfect vehicle for Paul O’Grady and a brilliant advertisement for the truly tremendous work done by the Salvation Army. Paul was the perfect Host of the show, his animal programmes showed his empathetic and kind nature, but his time as a Trainee Officer opened him up in ways that I do not think that even he, ever felt possible. It was  an awful lot of fun but also got to the heart of some of the most pressing social issues affecting the UK and in fact the world. I hope that it increases the amount of donations in collection tins, Foodbanks and Sally Army shops because the work is just so worthy.

If you have been inspired by the blogs, I urge you to look into the many ways you might be able to help the Sally Army or  The Hospice association with their vitally important work.