The Best of British

I’m back!

And what a week it’s been… I left you last week on the way to the Queens Jubilee Arts Party, and it was truly a night like I have never seen before. I wore a stunning electric blue Cavalli dress picked out for me by the wonderful James at Selfridges personal shopping, so thank you James I felt fabulous! I wore it with my hot pink Prada shoes and matching Aspinal bag, and of course Alana on hair and makeup completed the look with smokey eyes and nude lips.  

I attended the party at the very grand Burlington House on Picadilly with my dear and long time friend Michael Crawford, and I could feel his grip tighten on me as we approached the grandest red carpet either of us had ever seen and stood as thousands of flashbulbs went off around us.  As we reached the main event, a sea of artists, writers, musicians, directors, ballet dances, comedians and actors stood before us, and it felt like we had entered entertainment heaven.  I chatted with so many people including the magnificent Ed Watson  – one of my current favourite principal ballet dancers from The Royal Ballet, David Walliams, Dame Shirley Bassey, Joanna Lumley, Rob Brydon and Jo Brand. However the most exciting moments were when Paul McCartney and then Grayson Perry came up to chat to me!  The food was magnificent and there were famous chefs and their food in every room including my favourites Richard Corrigan and Yotam Ottolenghi.

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Michael and I arriving at the Burlington House.

By the end of the night I was all talked out, and rather overwhelmed if I’m honest that me, a little girl from Manchester, was now bowing to The Queen at a party to honour her Diamond Jubilee.  It was a real Cinderella moment, and more than anything I felt proud. 

The next morning I woke up as if the party was all a dream, and it was back to work, and back to Baku! It was nearly time for the main event, I had done all I could and it was now up to Englebert to lead us to victory. Ok well maybe we weren’t victorious, as I’m sure you saw, but he did us all proud and I for one was thrilled to be involved and can’t wait for it to come around next year in Sweden!  You can watch the performance here. Any thoughts on who you’d like to see represent our country? I think my detailed memories of the past few days have faded into the fact that I had not a peep of sleep! 

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The incredible Crystal Hall, where the show was held.

 

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‘The Hump’ and I arriving.

 

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Baku by day.

 

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The Russian Grannies.

 

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A Jedward sandwich.

 

In other news, I have waved Starlight Express off on it’s journey round the UK, and this week it’s rolling into Bradford.  Keep a look out for it skating into a town near you here.
I also had a fantastic meeting with the lovely Pamela Stephenson all about… well I’m sure you can guess, dance!

Today I am up and off to do some top secret and very exciting filming with some of your favourite celebrities getting involved with one of your favourite tv shows… and that’s all I can say for now…!
So I’m off to work, and I want to wish you all a wonderful bank holiday Jubilee weekend, and hope the weather stays as glorious for you all to relax in the garden with tea and cakes, let’s make it the best of British! 

Much Love

Arlene x

The Queen of Birthdays and Baku

The Queen of Birthdays and BakuHi all! So I’m back from Baku, trip one, which has been an incredible and very exciting start to our Eurovision journey. Being there with Englebert and the fuss surrounding him was fascinating, everyone was just clamouring to talk to him at the press reception. I had the most stunning view of the Caspian sea from my fabulous hotel room, and the food and drink we had for a dinner hosted for us on the roof of the Hilton one night was just exquisite. The finest wines chosen by Englebert himself went straight to my head as we watched fireworks exploding above us and took in the sea breeze, it was magical. I’m doing two trips as I had two very special events to come home for in between the rehearsals and the main even this coming Saturday, a Diamond Jubilee dinner with the Queen herself this evening, and of course my birthday which was yesterday, and I was spoilt rotten which I’ll tell you about in just a moment.

I almost didn’t make it back for it either! I had the adventure of a lifetime getting to the airport … I was up bright and early ready to leave, and there outside the hotel waiting for me was a beautiful black car, I thought “aah this is the life”! The driver asked me if I was going to the airport and was I from London, I said yes that’s me Arlene Phillips, and got in the car. Driving to the airport, we went through an unbelievable amount of slums and areas I’d never seen before, it was quite an eye opener. After about 10 minutes, my driver stopped in some strange place and went to ask two policemen something. I opened the window and thought “what’s going on, where am I being taken?” I saw lots of shouting hand waving and the driver nodded, and we continue on our way. We drove a bit further, my driver kept looking round, got on the telephone, off the telephone and drove to another area where on right hand side a large van had stopped. The driver once again got out and I realised he was asking for directions! The bus driver waved his arms in a ‘follow me’ sign and we went off with my driver dutifully following. After we went a bit further the bus hooted and went off leaving our driver once again stranded on the road, not knowing which way to go. He turned left onto a round about, went a little bit further and stopped again to ask somebody else the way to the airport. He then set off on the path to the airport and suddenly we hit a wide road that looked familiar to me. The road we had originally come on in the bus! We hared down it at breakneck speed driving past every sign that said airport until the road narrowed, where lots of people were waiting on the left hand side, just before it turned into a dirt road. The driver did a U-Turn and asked some men who were standing there, obviously how to get to the airport, while I tried to explain he had driven past it, in broken English, though why I bothered speaking any kind of english at all I have no idea! One of the men jumped in the car and guided the driver back to the airport which we had passed a good ten minutes before, and I finally arrived at the airport, where I was met by a lovely Eurovision helper. I was rushed to the correct terminal and just made the flight! Now anyone that knows me will be aware I am not the calmest of travelers, so this was like some kind of personal hell for me… However I made it home safe and sound to enjoy the most wonderful birthday with my family.

I came down in the morning to the most beautiful array of flowers and cards and presents all laid out across the table, which of course I took no time tearing in to! I rushed off to do a quick interview with channel four, yes I was even working on my Birthday! Half an hour later I was back home and ready to head off to lunch with the family and Coco at an italian restaurant I had never been to before called Il Baretto in Marylebone, and I can not recommend it highly enough. We ate enough to feed a small army, the pudding alone could have fed the five thousand… and when it came to the question of dinner later that evening all of us agreed we couldn’t manage even a bowl of soup! I also must say a huge thank you for all the wonderful messages I received on Twitter and Facebook were so overwhelming, so thank you all.

 

Abi has written a short piece for you, all about my birthday flowers:

Birthday Morning
 Yesterday me and my papa woke my mama up super early to come downstairs to a table that was laid out with potted white orchids, two bunches of flowers, one from mothers truly, me 😀 ans another that I made from the dearest Tully 🙂 one included pink peonies and the other purple calla lilies, she adored everything we got her so everyone was super happy, we took her for the most beautiful lunch that was spent in glorious company with myself, my farther, sister and the lady who keeps the household in tact, Coco 🙂 we tried to make the day as glamorous as you are mummy and I hope you loved it as much as I love you, your little girl Abigail 🙂
Flower Heaven
Well mother has been sent some truly beautiful flowers, one bunch including yellow and white spray roses and big white avalanch roses, another with dark and light pink piones, another with big beautiful pink and white lillies and pink piones, another with dark purple calla lilies and sweetpeas and a big white bunch of crysanthamums! The house is a haven of beauty to match a beautiful woman 🙂

One thing I forgot to mention earlier was that before I left for Baku, I attended the most wonderful and intimate dinner with Sir Terry Wogan and a few of his select guests who are all ambassadors for Children in Need, and it was such a fascinating evening. I was sat between Sir Terry and the incredible chef Richard Corrigan who had prepared the dinner that evening, and they were telling tales I was simply transfixed by.

In other news, I have an exciting announcement coming soon about a range of leisure wear I have coing out with Marisota, so keep your eyes peelend for that…

So I’m off to get ready for Her Majesty, I have Alana standing by armed with brushes and rollers, and I’m going to be wearing a stunning blue dress by Roberto Cavalli I picked up from Selfridges yesterday, so I’ll make sure to post lots of pics!

Next week I’ll be writing all about my upcoming trip back to Baku and the Eurovision final, so make sure you’re all watching and voting away, let’s show Europe weve still got it!!

Until then… A x

Simply Starlight Express

It’s finally the day I can say it’s done, Starlight Express is officially open!Image

The past few weeks seem like a dream, especially the endless hours spent traveling to what seemed to be the four corners of the earth to get to rehearsals… It has all skated past in a blur and all I can see now is the incredible and truly overwhelming standing ovation we received on Friday night – and every night since. The show has had such a wonderful reception from the audience of all ages, and even the creator the one and only Andrew Lloyd Webber has been blown away by what we’ve achieved in just a few short weeks. It’s been wonderful to have his input on all the new musical arrangements and songs, and the cast have really proved themselves the quadruple talents they are and shown us there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. I want to thank all involved, now lets get this show on the road! Don’t miss out and book your tickets here.

Early Friday morning before our first preview, BBC Breakfast were broadcasting live from the set for the first time ever with all the cast skating past doing their tricks and flips, and what an event it was!  Alongside interviews with the cast and some of the creatives, they also performed one of the numbers from the show which you can see here.

The actual Press night was a double whammy for me as it was also the 10th anniversary of We Will Rock You, so as soon as last minute Starlight rehearsals had finished in Wimbledon, I found myself running for the train in my heels and fabulous Swarovski studded Philip Lim jacket to walk the red carpet over at the Dominion Theatre, alongside Queen and Co.’Co’ being of course my dear friend and writer of the show Ben Elton, whom it was so lovely to catch up with after such a long time, we couldn’t stop talking – until we were both silenced as the all powerful Robert De Niro, one of our original producers of WWRY, drifted past honoured us with a smile and a hello.  Russell Kane was there looking super gorgeous and my old friend from Strictly Dance Fever days, Rufus Hound.  Once I was done and dusteddancing down the red carpet, it was back over to Wimbledon and back to Starlight where my friends and family were singing along and clapping away as loudly as can be.  

Earlier in the week I did actually do something totally un-Starlight related and that was appearing on a cookery show, with the special guests being myself and the adorable Levi Roots, of the Reggae-Reggae Sauce!  What a lovely man, and of course wonderful cook.  Fortunately I wasn’t there for my cooking skills – or lack thereof – but to judge a ‘cookoff’ and talk about my favourite foods. The chefs made truly delicious fish dishes, but you’ll have to tune in later in the year to see which one I chose… I’ll keep you posted when it’s going to be on.

As for me now, it’s all things Eurovision and there’s no rest for the wicked as I launch myself into another week of rehearsals and then it’s off to Baku! 

So until I return with the hot gossip, it’s love from me, and Engelbert…
Arlene x 

Below The Line to the Finishing Line

Hello all,

So as I’m sure you know last week I was tackling my Live Below The Line challenge, where I had just £5 to feed myself for five days. I wrote a food diary about how I got on, and here it is…

I’ve found this week more challenging than I thought I would, not really because of hunger, but more because of the repetition and lack of flavour in my food. My budget didn’t allow for my usual ‘luxuries’, such as balsamic vinegar or herbs, and certainly after only being able to make my porridge with water instead of milk, by Thursday I just couldn’t face it again. 
I think it was also the restrictions of not being able to have what I wanted, when I wanted it.  The snacks that I always carry with me to keep my energy up such as a bag of grapes or chicory weren’t available to me, I had a limited few ricecakes with a bit of honey or marmite, and if I was desperately craving sugar I had three 15p chocolate bunny lollies I had to carefully ration out for those quick fix moments.  The rice was a bit more varied as some days I would have it with a tin of tomato sauce, others with a tin of low cost beans.  My lunch every day bar Friday was the cabbage soup I made a huge pot of at the beginning of the week, and every day I’d add a little more of my stock cube ration to enhance the flavour, so by Thursday it was actually quite tasty!  I more than missed my daily morning espresso, but thanks to my cunning use of the fresh mint free from the garden, I got by on fresh mint tea, and I definitely think a week off the coffee did me good.  My only worry was how to get my ‘five a day’, and were I to do it over again I’d try and work out how to get more fresh fruit and veg into my meals, possibly making smoothies or having a jacket potato with cottage cheese as a one off treat. 
It’s by no means impossible to do, but its by no means fun, and really brought home just how much I take for granted with my food, the money we as a family spend on a weekly shop, not even including what we spend on eating out.  It’s definitely made me more aware when picking up items in the supermarket just how much things cost, and I certainly will be on the lookout for bargains when I next head to the shops.
I’d urge everyone to do a week ‘living below the line’ to get a real sense of the unimaginable poverty 1.4 billion people worldwide are living in, it gives a true understanding and you will want to help, however you can. If you are thinking of taking up the challenge or are already doing it, I’d love to hear from you about how you got on, and any ideas or recipes you came up with. 

You can still donate to my Malaria No More UK, Live Below The Line challenge here.

So that was my week on £1 a day, and I have to tell you on Friday night at exactly midnight I was down in the kitchen stuffing my face with grapes, tangerines, chicory and of course a bit of chocolate and all of it had never tasted sweeter! 

That Saturday morning I was still chomping through bags of fruit and veg as I made my way out to the Park Royal studios for the last time (yay!) to watch the final run through of Starlight before we hit the theatre.

The show is looking in fantastic shape, and I can’t wait to get to Wimbledon on Wed for the final push towards opening night on Friday! But more about that next week, I’ve still got a very exciting Saturday night to tell you about…

I was thrilled to be asked alongside several other celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment to be involved in the official opening of the Olympic stadium.  I was taking part in a tug of war, and then possibly if my team won, a tandem race!

I ran out on to the pitch alongside Jason Gardiner, Iwan Thomas, Sir Steve Redgrave, Mark Foster, Matt Johnson, Mel C, Sam and Mark, Rav Wilding and the Hairy Bikers just to name a few. Of course it was freezing and I felt ridiculous in my electric blue tabard, so much to everyone’s amusement came running out with my big fake fur jacket over the top! Sadly we lost the tug of war in about 5 seconds which meant no tandem riding for me. Can’t say I was too disappointed though…

The evening culminated in me running the 400 meters being spurred on by Matt Dawson which was quite exhilarating, if not exhausting, but nonetheless a real honour to say I ran it at the Olympic Stadium.
All in all it was a fantastic night, only marred slightly by the 45 minutes it took to get out of the Westfield carpark, grrrr.

Here are some pics from the day:

 

The Olympic Stadium

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The ever gorgeous Mel C and I

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I love the Hairy Bikers, I wish I could cook like they do.

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Two hunks in the shape of Iwan Thomas and Rav Wilding.

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Team Blue.

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Kenny Logan, or should I say, ‘Kenny Bolt’.

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With the amazing Mark, the winner of the Olympic Stadium event.

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The rest of my bank holiday was spent on the sofa with food, family, and several episodes of Poirot. Heaven. 

I’ll be back next week to tell you all about the lead up to the opening of Starlight, (you can still get your tickets here!) and the fantastic musical morning I spent in the kitchen with Levi Roots!

Have a wonderful week,
Much love 
Ax