The Quiet Caravan

Gamekeepers leave some odd things lying around. Old oil drums and plastic dustbins for keeping feed in, mouldering timber sheds and somewhere to have a stiffener on a pheasant shoot. I'm not quite sure what this caravan was used for, slowly succumbing to lichen and moss in a woodland clearing in a lonely Northamptonshire wood. There is something very eerie about the curtains still up at the windows, and the neat bow of net on the door has chilly undertones of Miss Havisham's wedding dress. And it's hardly a love nest for Mellors and Lady Chatterley either, although round here you can never be quite sure. Somebody may recognise it from long gone holidays- perched on a clifftop at East Runton perhaps, or holding up the traffic on the Fosse Way. Nearby is a Zetor tractor that is virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding trees and undergrowth. Nature takes over quite quickly when left to its own devices.

Pandemic flu vaccinations: No time for ‘cutsies’ in line

If a pandemic flu hits and there is a vaccine available, who will get vaccinated first? According to the federal government, people working on the front lines — such as health care workers, firefighters and police, among others — will be first in line. That’s good, because they will be the ones out there trying to help during a crisis. Also at the head of the list for receiving vaccinations are those who are at higher risk of becoming very sick, such as pregnant women, infants and toddlers.

What about the elderly, and other adults? In a severe pandemic scenario, children between the ages of 3 and 18 will be vaccinated before people who are 65 and older, according to plans that are now in place. Healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 64 will come in last.

Depending on the type of pandemic we’re faced with, however, this order may shift. For example, healthy adults could become a higher priority if the pandemic looks anything like it did during the 1918 flu pandemic, during which nearly half of all deaths that occurred were among people ages 20 to 40.

Because vaccines may not be easily available during a pandemic, vaccination won’t be the only way to fight disease. Simple acts such as washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying home when you are sick will make a huge difference. That’s not just sound advice while living through a pandemic. It’s a good lesson for your everyday life.

Do you think the government’s plan makes sense? Is this the right order? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Castles in the Cabbages

It must have seemed as though England woke up one morning in 1940 to find the countryside suddenly littered with anti-tank barricades, vehicle traps and the ubiquitous pill box. The threat of German invasion in 1940 resulted in 28,000 of these little concrete fortresses being placed in strategic locations- hidden in spinneys on the crests of fields, on the bends of rivers and at road junctions. All for a war that never came. And so instead of heroic tales of rattling machine gun fire raking across canals and cabbage fields, there must be countless tales of rehearsal, all-to-real manoeuvres or simply just rotas of guard duty that involved enamelled coffee pots and poaching in surrounding woods. I can't be precise as to the exact location of this one (this is the fens after all) but it can't be far from my smoking railway carriage. Just one of less than 6,000 still extant in the countryside. Find out more at

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: More bird flu outbreaks reported in poultry

More cases of H5N1 bird flu were reported in poultry around the world this week, with at least five countries experiencing new or reoccurring outbreaks, according to headlines reported by APHA’s Get Ready news Twitter. The bird flu cases came as more and more countries work to come up with pandemic flu plans and as world health leaders struggle to reach common ground on virus sample sharing.

Among the week’s bird flu highlights reported by the Get Ready news Twitter are:
South Korea reports new low pathogenic bird flu case
Japan bans poultry from South Korea
Myanmar reports fresh bird flu outbreak
Another case of bird flu in Hong Kong
Deadly bird flu found on Saudi poultry farm
Bird flu found in market near Saudi capital
Cull ends at bird flu-hit farms in UK
UK bird flu poses no food safety risks, officials say
UK poultry owners urged to register in fight against bird flu

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Railway Echo No 5

A very evocative find out on the fens. An abandoned railway carriage sits at a deserted platform as if having collapsed on its final run up from March to Spalding. Sun-bleached peeling paint, cobwebbed windows, but still the sandblasted glass firmly saying 'It's OK, come in here and light up your Woodbine, Churchmans, Passing Cloud or Sweet Afton. No 'customer services team member' to report you to the Tobacco Police, no disapproving looks from your travelling companions. Now it's just the wind through the hawthorns blowing in from the quiet fields, the occasional badger or fox stopping momentarily to sniff the cold air. Do they catch the ghost of the last blue wreath of smoke curling up out of the ventilator? I do hope so.

Guest blog: Today is first-ever National Children’s Flu Vaccination Day

Today's blog entry is authored by Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, former U.S. surgeon general and chair of the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition; and Carol J. Baker, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and moderator for the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition.

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, which was created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage more people to get vaccinated against influenza, also called the flu, in November, December and beyond.

For the first time ever, CDC, along with Families Fighting Flu -- both members of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition -- created a day within National Influenza Vaccination Week that focuses on children. Children's Flu Vaccination Day is today, Nov. 27.

Americans are for the most part unaware that influenza can be a serious risk to the health of our children. Children are two to three times more likely to come down with the flu than adults because their immune systems are less developed. Children are also very good spreaders of the flu since they wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes less frequently than adults.

Seasonal flu is very serious. Each year, thousands of Americans are hospitalized and some even die due to the flu and its complications.

Annual influenza vaccination is safe and effective and is the best way to protect anyone from getting sick with the flu.

So get vaccinated against influenza every year, beginning in the fall and continuing through the winter -- December and beyond. Creating healthy family habits will help protect our nation from influenza each season and in the case of an influenza pandemic.

On behalf of the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition, we thank our members, including APHA, for the important work they do throughout the year to educate people about the importance of flu vaccination.

It’s not too late to get your seasonal flu shot

Still haven't gotten your seasonal flu shot? Well, now's the perfect time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named this week National Influenza Vaccination Week. This week is here to remind us why it is important to get our flu shots. It is also a good time to make sure that everyone who hasn't gotten their shot yet gets them through the months of November, December and into the new year.

Each year in the United States, around 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized because of seasonal flu. People who don't get a flu shot are putting themselves at risk for the flu, which can be a serious illness. If they get sick, they are also placing their close contacts at risk for flu. And even though our families might drive us crazy at times, we don't want to make them sick!

Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself and the people you love from seasonal flu. And there is still plenty of time left in this flu season to make getting the flu shot worthwhile.

Also, tomorrow, Nov. 27, is set aside as Children's Flu Vaccination Day. Each year, more than 20,000 kids younger than age 5 are hospitalized because of the flu. This day will focus on making sure that everyone knows how important it is that all kids get their flu shot.

Record amounts of flu vaccine are available this season, so call your doctor or health clinic and schedule a time for you and your loved ones to get your flu shots. Take the flu seriously and make sure you get ready for this flu season by getting your shot!

Harbouring Thoughts

All the horrible stuff going on in a Margate back garden reminded me that I'd been there once. Veering away from Dreamland and the pleasure beaches I came across this marvellous little building on the harbour. Once the Customs House, it was built in 1812 and sported the official coat-of-arms with its motto 'Dieu et Mon Droit' (God and My Right). Known ever since as the Droit House, it is now the worryingly- titled 'visitor intrepretation centre' for the planned Turner Contemporary Art Gallery which I think was once going to be a huge sail-like building anchored to the sea bed. Turner lived in Margate for twenty years. The only other astounding fact I know about Margate is that the railway once proudly claimed that it had the longest station lavatories in Britain, to accommodate the urgent rush of daytrippers from trains arriving from London. Ron Combo, a frequent visitor to the comment pages of this blog, and myself can attest to the fact that not only is it no longer true but on our desperate visit it was also locked.

Creaking Oars

Old boathouses are wonderfully evocative places. Once alive to the sound of laughter as the picnic baskets of house guests were loaded into skiffs and rowing boats, many lie forgotten on the banks of lakes and rivers. I even remember finding one falling to pieces on a beach up on the west coast of the Isle of Arran at Dougarie, with a boat half-submerged in the water and sepia photographs of parties from the nearby big house still in broken frames on the wall.
This example is at Elvaston near Derby, quietly rotting away thanks to the vagaries of Derbyshire County Council who used the excuse of foot and mouth to point to falling visitor numbers in order to close the castle (designed by James Wyatt in 1812) and its museum, just so they could lease the whole estate to a private developer. How many times have we heard that one? The park is still open, and it's worth a trip off the M1 just to lap up the atmosphere and discover the 1860 Moorish temple hidden in the gardens. Ken Russell shot scenes for his memorable film Women in Love (1969) here, but if you want to find out who's shooting who now, take a look at

Sunday's End

Merchant Ivory films tend to get judged as 'Laura Ashley dramas'. Comments which are as obtuse as they are ignorant. So after a magnificent Sunday lunch with loved ones of roast pig and parsnips I retired to my village fastness and, after having poured myself a large snifter, I put on my DVD of Howards End. This must have been the fourth or fifth time I'd watched it, but yet again I was utterly absorbed. Everyone dresses up because this is Edwardian England; the period detail is as meticulous as it is unsurpassed. The social mores of the turn of the century brought to life by superb performances from everybody. But in particular I like Samuel West as Leonard Bast in his ill-fitting bowler and the infinitely watchable James Wilby who, with his eye-rolling, pipe-smoking characterisation of Charles Wilcox manages to overtly steal every single scene he's in, from even the august Mr.Hopkins and Emma Thompson. And of course there are veteran cars with original AA badges, steam trains and a walk-on part for St.Pancras as it was, complete with the wooden panelled booking office and a trainshed wreathed in smoke. I first saw this film when I scived off work to watch it in the Curzon cinema in Mayfair, (is there a better place to watch films?), and found myself alone in the red plush seating. And not a popcorn remnant in sight.

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Time to get your seasonal flu shot!

Reports of seasonal flu cases are trickling in from across the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting elevated flu activity in the Mountain and New England regions and localized outbreaks in three states as of Nov. 10. Headlines reported this week by APHA’s Get Ready news Twitter show that now is the time to find a flu clinic and get your vaccination.

Among the week’s seasonal flu highlights are:
Seasonal flu outbreaks in three U.S. states
National Influenza Vaccination Week is Nov. 26 to Dec 2 in U.S.
• Have you received your seasonal flu shot yet? Take our poll!
Flu season hits Lower Hudson, N.Y.
How to find a seasonal flu shot: Web site helps find flu vaccine
Delaware’s first flu cases of season reported
Florida flu season is under way
Central Florida worst in U.S. for seasonal flu

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready news Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Glass in the Face

I learn from the inestimable 'Piloti' in Private Eye that the oafish Abingdon Council in Oxfordshire want to put a glass lift up to the second floor of the old Town Hall, built by one of Wren's masons in 1678-82. On the outside, if you can possibly believe it. Of course it's the usual insistence on disabled access, whatever the cost and accusations of vandalism. And on top of all that the curator of the 'museum' upstairs thinks that the open space at the bottom, framed by the arcades, is 'dark and dismal' and so wants it all glazed in. Doubtless to let out to a burgher franchise or dodgy building society. And the cost? £5 million. Thank God English Heritage have now got involved. But I do hope that if ever I have the awful misfortune to be unable to climb the stairs through either a disability, or from being morbidly obese, that I will either forgo the experience or be able to summon a couple of council officials to take me up there piggy-back style. They've patently got nothing better to do.

When planning for a pandemic, let's not forget the kids

When planning for a pandemic, there's one item you should be sure not to leave off the list: the kids. But a recent report suggests that's exactly what's happening.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Trust for America's Health, children are being left out of pandemic flu planning around the world. Even the U.S. flu plan does not fully address how to care for children if we have a pandemic.

Making matters worse, since 2003, nearly half of the more than 200 people who have died from H5N1 bird flu -- the strain scientists have considered being the greatest pandemic threat -- have been younger than age 19. Children are more at risk for contagious diseases, including the flu, because they have less immunity. They also are more likely to spread the virus because they come in close contact with other children.

To improve flu planning for kids, the report recommends that the U.S. government:

*include pediatricians in pandemic flu planning;
*test vaccines, medicine and medical equipment to make sure they work and are safe for children;
*store enough vaccine and medicines to treat at least 25 percent of children in the United States -- about 18.4 million people;
*teach children in school to wash their hands, cover their mouth when they cough and other ways to prevent viruses from spreading; and
*figure out what would happen if schools close for a long period of time.

If you are worried about what you can do to keep your kids safe from infections, check out this Q&A from APHA experts with tips you can use.

What special planning have you done to protect your children? Let us know by clicking the "comment" button below, and sharing your experiences!

Cast Iron Constitution

Drink was taken yesterday at the all-new St.Pancras railway station. Ejected from the 'champagne bar' (which looks like the kind of dull cabin favoured by Costa Coffee) for attempting to jump the patient queue that stretched down the platform, (in line for the shock of bubbly at £6 a glass), my friend and I repaired to the slightly queezy-sounding Baby Betjeman Bar. The station itself is astounding, bright Midland brick and Ancaster stone showing off the cast iron buttresses that support the stupendous glass roof, now finished in the sky blue as originally applied in the early 1870s. We needed a few vodkas ('Do you want ice in that?' 'No, you should be keeping it in the freezer') and glasses of fizz to contemplate it all. We liked the Betjeman statue in classic pose looking up at the arch of roof, but had mixed feelings about the nine metre high couple nearly snogging under the clock. I liked her legs but my companion complained bitterly that it was just too Jack Vetriano. There's something in that. Anyway, I scooted off to catch my local train, (thirty four quid for a single ticket to Market Harborough), running past the sleek streamliners humming out to Liege or wherever, to where it's still the same old Midland Misery Line. Pushed out of sight like the branch line it has now become. But do go and see the station, and raise at least one glass up to the roof.

Railway Echo No 4

These days 'luggage', to train operators at least, means something that's left behind a seat at the terminus or destroyed in a controlled explosion if we leave it in the toilets by mistake. We trundle and stagger about with cabin trunks on our backs and induce hernias by lifting our Globetrotter suitcases onto aluminium racking. As our fellow passengers groan because they can't get by and the automatic carriage door keeps opening and shutting with robotic randomness. Nobody wants to know anymore. Once, every station had a big set of pigeon holes that contained printed luggage labels for every other station in the country, even if it was on another company's railway. So our cases, trunks, parcels, bicycles and pigeon baskets could be sent on in advance. Or the valise we'd left on the string rack in our compartment could be forwarded to the correct destination. With a porter to help us out with it all. Imagine the present day soulless franchisees trying to get their heads round that one.
Really expensive railway relics today can cost the price of, oh, a single ticket from Market Harborough to the gleaming new St.Pancras. But old luggage labels will only set you back the loose change you'd otherwise find being snatched by a platform vending machine without delivering your bar of Nestles. Not only are they a wonderful gazetteer of railway topography, they are also simple reminders of just how rich an everyday piece of print could be in terms of typefaces and texture. Porter!

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Seasonal flu vaccinations on agenda

Seasonal flu is here, and health workers around the globe are using innovative methods — from drive-thru clinics to talking posters - to encourage people to get their annual vaccinations, as evidenced by some of the news headlines reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter.

Among the week's seasonal flu highlights are:

*Scotland uses talking posters, graffiti to promote flu shots
*Free flu shots will be given in Paris
*Children's books to help fight bird flu in Australia
*Baltimore to monitor severity of flu during season
*Banks, nurses team up to give out flu shots in Michigan
*Flu vaccination should reach more people says U.S. CDC

Have you received your seasonal flu shot yet? Take our poll now on the right-hand side of the Get Ready for Flu blog!

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Help make sure the nation is ready for pandemic flu

It's important that each and every one of us takes steps to prepare for pandemic flu. But what is the government doing to help? Quite a bit, actually. In fact, a few years ago, U.S. leaders released an ambitious plan that lays out the steps that the government- along with states, communities, businesses and families- should take to get ready for a flu pandemic. It's a wise start, but the plan needs more money.

Congress has already given the plan some funding, which is being used to stockpile drugs called "antivirals" that are used to help treat people with flu. Some is being used to store vaccines that would protect people against H5N1, the strain of bird flu that is causing concern around the world. And some of the money is also being used to increase our nation’s ability to make vaccines- which are all positive steps.

Unfortunately, not enough money is going to help states and communities prepare for a flu pandemic. Funding is especially needed to make sure that there are enough health workers on hand if a pandemic occurs and that hospitals have enough medical supplies and beds. That way, you, your family and your community will be protected. And isn't that what we all want?

You can help make sure that there is enough money in place to prepare the nation for pandemic flu. Let your legislator know you support preparedness and public health by contacting them via phone, e-mail or even old-fashioned snail mail. You could even go a step further and set up a meeting with your elected official and deliver your message face-to-face. Legislators are working on budgets now, so this is the time to make your voice heard!

Won't you be my neighbor? Community preparedness and pandemic flu

Neighbors. Whether we live in a city, suburb or rural area, we've all got 'em. Whether or not we've actually met any of them is another story. But recent work by public health students at Indiana University suggests that now may be the time to whip up a batch of cookies and make a call on the folks next door, as getting to know your neighbor can play an important role in the event of a flu pandemic.

Working at the request of a community in Indianapolis, students at the university's School of Public Health developed a plan known as "Healthwatch" that can be used to link up neighbors. At the heart of Healthwatch is the idea that neighbors can work together on preparedness, communication and awareness and rely on one another during a flu pandemic. Even though the plan was created for a specific community, it can serve as a model and be used elsewhere, according to Victoria Russo, MPH, who discussed the approach during the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting this month.

"Our world is now faced with a deadly disease," Russo said. "The impact will be local, therefore preparedness must be at the local level also."

Based on the Healthwatch plan, here are some tips that you can use in your neighborhood:

*Bring together residents on pandemic flu planning through a community or neighborhood organization, which can serve as the coordinator for the effort.

*Getting a handle on a whole community of residents at once can be daunting. Try organizing neighborhoods into smaller units, such as 10 households each (be they apartments, mobile homes or houses). Then pick a captain that will serve as the head of each unit.

*Ask residents to provide details such as how many people live in each home and contact information to the unit captain. Create a phone tree so that residents can stay up-to-date on the situation and check up on those who need help.

*Come up with a way that sick households can be identified during a pandemic, such as a flag on a mailbox or sticker on a door, and ask residents to call in their symptoms to their captains, who can relay requests for help.

*Encourage residents to plan ahead and stock up on supplies for their households now, and to think about who in their homes might have special needs, such as the elderly or pregnant women.

The bottom line? Get to know your neighbor today. Because in the event of a disaster- be it pandemic flu or a hurricane- your nearest neighbors may turn out to be your closest allies.

Photo courtesy iStockphoto

Mosquito Coast

It's that time of the year again when autumn winds presage the dusting down of dark overcoats and the button-holing of red paper poppies. Three years ago I wrote and photographed a little book on war memorials called Lest We Forget, and whilst putting a few pages front and back cataloguing a random selection from thousands of stone crosses, I was mostly concerned with discovering the more unusual memorials. I certainly found a perfect candidate out on the flatlands of the Dengie Peninsular in Essex. This aeroplane marks the passing of those serving at RAF Bradwell Bay where Spitfires and Hurricanes fought on the front line of aerial defence in the Second World War. This, however, is a depiction of a Mosquito, painted in the colours of an RAF Northern Europe day fighter. I find the image of what looks like a plane embedded nose-down in the earth slightly disturbing, but in its own way it perhaps reflects the outstretched arms of a more conventional cross.

Bamboo & China Doves

Oxfam shops can be showcases of startling juxtapositions. The genteel cast-offs of an English country town posed next to stark reminders of why the shop needs to empty our pockets. The impromptu window dressing can act as an almost surreal collage of objects: the paper flowers thrust into a tabletop ornament, plates with what look like Margaret Tarrant-inspired decoration balanced in a rickety bamboo bedside table. I tend to go in to scan the bookshelves or to rummage for pegtop high-waisted trousers discarded by retired colonels (I've never found any, and if I ever did they wouldn't fit me without an unseemly struggle). One of the best Oxfam bookshops is of course the one on St.Giles in Oxford, appropriately where the charity started. We don't think we'll ever get a bargain, and if we do discover something wildly under-priced we will of course alert the staff. Won't we? No, one has the distinct impression here that all incoming stock is severely scrutinised by someone with glasses on the end of their nose. Although once....

Wall of Silence

I suppose because I've known this wall (in Fleckney, Leicestershire) virtually all my life, I've tended to take it for granted. But looked at objectively, as I did the other day, it is rather odd. I know that there's a factory behind it (I'm not really sure what they make) and the pink rainwater heads and pipes correspond to the gutters that run between gabled roofs in traditional style behind the wall. Why did someone want to disguise the factory? Is this wall any better? What were they doing behind it? This being west Leicestershire it could be hosiery- Wolsey made socks in the village for Scott's Antarctic Expeditions or perhaps it's something to do with Furnival's of Fleckney Mineral Waters. Is it something so secret it only gets talked about in hushed tones? Maybe I should have found out properly before writing all this, but it's the wall that really worries me.

Creature Feature 1

I'm gradually putting together yet another collection, this time of architectural animalia, if there is such a word. Pride of place at the moment is this stunning three-dimensional swan that stares out over a car park near Boston railway station. This was once Fogarty's 1877 factory, manufacturing pillows and mattresses that utilised feathers from the poultry that this part of Lincolnshire had in abundance. The name Fogarty disappeared for a while when the company was taken over by Coloroll, but a management buy-out means that the Fogarty name is back, and duvets and pillows are still made in Boston. This slightly ugly red brick building is now an apartment block. Ugly duckling perhaps, turning into a graceful swan against the sky.

Bonfires, Bangers and Beefburgers

Now that we don't let off fireworks in our back gardens anymore, living in fear perhaps of the Thought Police coming round and hosing us all down, we tend to gravitate towards our local recreation ground. So my boys and I stood around whilst two men ran about with a box of matches and a lot of rockets went up out of milk bottles (I assume). We tucked into big fat beefburgers with slices of processed cheese melting in them, but the bonfire was the best bit. There's something very primitive about a blazing pile of wood and straw bales, and I noticed a thoughtful, if slightly worrying, gleam appear in my four-year-old's eyes. He then thought that it would be a good idea to watch the display from one of the swings, so out in the peripheral blackness I pushed him higher and higher on his rubber tyre seat, a little black silhouette gazing up into the heavens as if he was part of the performance. Fantastic. When he started to fight with his elder brother on a seesaw, and I realised they weren't going to burn an effigy of a Pope, or anybody else come to that, I said 'Shall we go and watch Robin Hood?' and with shouts of glee they ran off back to the car, backlit by Whizzbangs and brilliant white Catherine Wheels.

Tulane student named as winner of APHA Get Ready Song Contest

A public health student and amateur song writer has been named as the winner of APHA’s Get Ready Song Contest.

“Get Ready,” an original song written and performed by Tulane University public health student Joy Elizabeth Sadaly, was chosen as the first-place winner of the contest. Judges praised the song, which featured Sadaly performing acoustically with a guitar, for its appealing tune, creative lyrics and “great hook.”

The contest, held in summer 2007, called on APHA members and the public to write and record a song in support of the Association’s Get Ready campaign. The campaign is working to help Americans prepared themselves, their families and their communities for pandemic flu and other emerging infectious diseases.

“Pandemic Blues,” by Lance Waller, PhD, and the Sinners for Disease Control, was named the second-place winner in the contest. Waller, a biostatistics professor with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, and his friends, John Cowden and Michael Starling, performed the song using primarily guitars and a piano.

Four songwriters also earned honorable mentions in the song contest: Glenn Hildebrand, Marina Kamen, Jenifer Kirin and Douglas Slaten.

You can listen to the songs online now via the Get Ready Web site.

Kirby Grips

Sometimes a building takes hold of you for many reasons, beyond the initial acts of appreciating architecture or landscape. Kirby Hall in north east Northamptonshire is probably the one 'heritage' building I've visited more than any other. It helps by being only a few miles from the two homes I've occupied over the last eleven years. Alone in the fields near Corby (the wretched Rockingham Raceway looms on the horizon) you approach it as if in a dream, finally walking down a rook-haunted avenue of chestnuts to the Weldon stone gateways. On the surface this is an Elizabethan prodigy with gables, obelisks and chimneys against the sky- started by Sir Humphrey Stafford in 1570, finished by Elizabeth's favourite Sir Christopher Hatton. In recent years many will have seen it, but probably not recognised it, as a film location: Mansfield Park, A Christmas Carol and A Cock and Bull Story. Inside, the bare wooden floors and the stunning curves of the bowed-windows are for me the backgrounds to thirty years of happy memories: girls sitting in window seats looking out over the fields, little children stamping their echoing feet from room to room. If you want a test bed for, say, a new relationship, and you love this sort of thing, then Kirby Hall is a good laboratory. If you've never been, get to grips with it soon.