Friday, 31 March 2017

Classic Memories... Looking back to meeting Geoffrey Hughes

Meandering through the misty, cobweb-strewn Words & Images archives, we came across this photo that we took of comedy actor Geoffrey Hughes at a Collectormania show at Milton Keynes way back in 2009.

Many will remember Geoffrey as Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street, or as Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances. In fact he enjoyed a long career in TV, film and the West End stage. You'll probably also remember him as Twiggy in the Royle Family and Vernon Scripps in Heartbeat.

However, I wonder if you knew that he was also the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine? Other voices for the FAB Four in the animated film in case you were wondering, were John Clive (John Lennon), Peter Betten (George Harrison) and Paul Angelis (Ringo).

The Words & Images team of Rob and Ann chatted to Geoffrey and found him to be a really friendly guy. He was actually making his début appearance at Collectormania and finding the whole thing very enjoyable.

I've done a Doctor Who convention,” Geoffrey told us, as he took a break between meeting his fans. “But this is my first Collectormania show and I'm really impressed. It's well organised and there's all these characters in costume walking around, it's great.

People know me from the different characters I've played and what surprises me is the kids who know me as Eddie Yeats from Coronation Street. I suppose it's because of the repeats on TV.”

Chatting about his career Geoffrey said, “The joy for an actor is when the writers want to write for you. With the four characters I'm best known for, the writers really did want to write those scripts. You can't ask more than that.”

Sadly Geoffrey passed away in July 2012, but leaving behind a legacy of great entertainment. Which of Geoffrey's immortal characters do you remember him best for?

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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Top Dogs!!

Another enjoyable day at Crufts, and congratulations to the American Cocker Spaniel, Miami Ink for taking Best in Show. But Crufts isn't all about winning, and today the Words & Images UK team of Rob and Ann particularly wanted to concentrate on some of the charities and organisations that see wonderful partnerships between dogs and people.

One of the best known charities is Guide Dogs for the Blind. They were out in force encouraging visitors to sponsor a guide dog puppy. A spokesperson pointed out that every single hour someone in the UK loses their sight. And the cost of a guide dog from birth throughout its life amounts to £55,000. That money comes from the generosity of the public through fundraising, legacies, sponsoring etc., so our continued support is vital.

In January of this year, Guide Dogs fully integrated with the charity Blind Children UK, so that they can build on existing services and support more children with sight loss. Visit their website to learn more of their work – and perhaps sponsor a guide dog puppy.

Guide dog brood bitch, Tess.

So how well behaved, well mannered, calm and friendly is your pet? Perhaps your dog could become a Pets as Therapy (PAT) Dog. Volunteers work with their own pets to bring joy, comfort and companionship to others in need. Pets as Therapy volunteers go into residential homes, schools, hospitals, hospices, day care centres and prisons, allowing individuals to stroke and touch them.

PAT Dog Lulu and Nadine Waghorn

Nadine Waghorn's three-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, Lulu has been a PAT Dog for the last year. She said: “Lulu has such a lovely nature. We mainly go into homes for the elderly and she makes such a different to their lives. Even individuals who rarely come out of their rooms will come out when they know a dog is coming.”

Angie Seedhouse and PAT Dog Sausage.

Angie Seedhouse's Staffi, 9-year old, Sausage, has been a PAT Dog for 4 years. “He loved doing this straight away,” said Angie. “We have to go around a lot of people and he judges the length of time spent with each person. He decides when it's time to move on. But he will stay with someone for longer time if he thinks they need it – if he hasn't got a smile out of them. He also senses when someone has been ill and gives them extra time and cheers them up!”

Sausage's intelligent and kindly nature has not gone unnoticed, as he was awarded Hi-Life PAT Dog of the Year in the Crufts arena. So no doubt an extra sausage in Sausage's bowl when he got home!

Cate Archer and Doug the Pug Therapy Dog

Doug the Pug Therapy Dog was attracting lots of attention looking very cute sitting in a basket, proudly displaying his 'Most Heroic Hound' award rosette, from the Super Dogs Live tour at the National Pet Show last year. But apart from looking cute he'd also had a book written about him. His owner, Cate Archer has written a book highlighting the joys of the human/animal bond based on Doug's working life as a PAT Dog. All royalties from every book sold go directly to Pets as Therapy. Learn more:  And more on Doug's book at:

Support Dogs

Support Dogs is a national charity dedicated to training assistance dogs to transform the lives of people with epilepsy, physical disabilities and children with autism. The charity celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Like most of our national charities they too rely on the generosity of the public to continue their work.

Support Dogs is the only organisation in the UK to train Seizure Alert Dogs. They are trained to give up to a 50 minute warning prior to an oncoming seizure, so that person can prepare for the seizure and so avoid injury. Also, the very fact that the person knows they won't be taken by surprise by a sudden seizure has shown to increase their independence and reduce seizure frequencies – and of course can be life saving.

The charity also provide safety and companionship for children with autism, bringing more independence for the child and the family. Having an Autism Assistance Dog in the family has shown to reduce stress in the family, promote positive chances in behaviour, provide comfort for the child when upset, and enhance verbal communication.

Support Dog, Oscar.

For people with physical disabilities, Support Dogs work to improve their quality of life and independence by training their own pet dog as a Disability Assistance Dog. Each dog is specifically trained to help its owner with their individual needs. In general they are trained to pick up dropped objects, to help the person get in and out of bed and to get dressed and undressed; they're able to operate control buttons, load and unload the washing machine, open and close doors and raise the alarm if their owner is in difficulties.

We chatted to Wendy Martin who has disc degeneration and fibromyalgia. Talking about her Support Dog, Oscar, she said: “He's my second Support Dog and he's nine and a half now. He gets me out of bed, fetches the phone and the mail, he puts washing in the washing machine, picks things up that I drop. He's made such a difference to my life. I don't know how I would manage without him.” When the time comes for Oscar to retire, he'll be spending more time relaxing on Wendy's sofa, while a new Support Dog will be assisting her with her everyday tasks. 

Support Dog, Baby, just chilling!

Kathy Wylde's Support Dog, a lovely King Charles Spaniel named Baby was her own pet to begin with. As a double amputee, and confined to a wheelchair, Kathy relies on Baby a great deal. And in addition to the tasks mentioned, Baby also provides Kathy with a little extra TLC.

Kathy said: “I suffer from phantom limb pain, and Baby senses when I'm in pain, and comes and sits on my lap, allowing the warmth of her body to ease my pain. It's just something she does of her own accord, it's not something she's been trained to do.”
Discover more about Support Dogs:

Dog handler, Julie Hargreaves with Emma

Retired Police Dogs Benevolent Funds are schemes set up to help with the cost of on-going care and treatment for retired police dogs to ensure they have a healthy and happy life in retirement. Police dogs undergo years of vigorous training and work hard making sure we stay safe. As they grow older, as well as suffering from the usual ailments associated with age, but quite possibly arthritis, hip and knee injuries, torn ligaments and spinal problems.

In retirement they may need operations, blood tests, x-rays, hydrotherapy and other treatments, so the Benevolent Funds will be to help the retired dog's owner, whether that's its handler still, or a kind hearted new owner. The fund will ensure the owner can afford this treatment and help the dog have a well deserved happy and healthy retirement.

Officers from the West Midlands and the Staffordshire Police were talking to the public at Crufts. So we spoke to Julie Hargreaves, a dog handler for the Staffordshire Police. Julie has two police dogs, Razor a 7-year-old German Shepherd who is a general purpose police dog and 4-year-old Labrador, Emma, a drugs and firearms recovery dog.
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Julie said: “When the dogs retire usually the handler keeps them, or at least they get first refusal. If they aren't able to keep the dog as their pet, then there's a waiting list of people wanting a former police dog.”

Enjoy more of our photos taken at Crufts.

Lisa with Gracie and Finn

Iwan Thomas MBE enjoying Crufts.

Argo, a 8 and a half month Akita puppy
Won Minor Puppy class.

Ann testing Eurotherapy treatment pain relief for
dogs, horses and writers!

Regan, a 1-year-old Australian Shepherd dog

Australian Shepherd dog, Emily, aged 15 months

So well done to the Kennel Club for organising another great Crufts Show! Additional news and information at:

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Telling tails about Crufts

Crufts! The world's biggest dog show is drawing in tens of thousands of dog lovers from all over the UK and abroad. It's one of our favourite events – the Words & Images UK team of Ann and Rob have been going to Crufts for years, always looking to see what's going on in the canine world.

Today was especially good as we bumped into a couple of people who we've written about in the past in the doggy press. One being Mrs Averil Jarvis MBE, the founder of the charity The Cinnamon Trust. This it the national charity for the elderly, the terminally ill and their pets.

Mrs Averil Jarvis MBE (centre) and some of the Cinnamon trust team.

Back in the early 1980s Averil saw how important pets are to people, especially the elderly and those living alone. She also saw how the elderly worried about what would happen to their pet should they fall ill, have to go into a home, or pass away.

Averil set about doing something to alleviate that fear. She founded The Cinnamon Trust, created two home-from-home sanctuaries and amassed an army of volunteers – some 16,000 people now, who help out in practical ways to assist an elderly or housebound person care for their pet, such as walking their dog, cleaning the budgie's cage, taking the cat to the vet; and providing life-long foster homes for pets, if the owner is no longer able to look after them.

Later in the day, Averil later presented the Cinnamon Trust Young Volunteer of the Year Award to Ayrton Cooper, a student at Nottingham University. Read his full story here:

The Cinnamon Trust's motto is: “Peace of mind and practical help for people – love, care and safety for pets.” We'll be writing about their work again soon. But in the meantime read more about them here:

Canine artist, Christine Varley

We also met up again with canine artist Christine Varley, who we interviewed when her youngest son was at nursery. Now aged 17, he was helping mum and dad on their Waggydogz stand. How time flies! Christine does pet portraits as well as reproducing her animal paintings on cushions and mugs etc. See her website:

We stopped for a chat with Corporal Briggs of the RAF, and Air Dog, Geo, a gorgeous Golden Retriever, trained as an arms and explosives sniffer dog. Geo's handler is Corporal Webb who was off getting a much needed cup of tea, leaving Corporal Briggs holding the lead. He explained that the Air Dog's role in this country is to carry out searches prior to major gatherings and VIP events. When working overseas these brave dogs will be at the head of the infantry, making sure that the way is clear and safe for the patrol to follow.

Corporal Briggs and Air Dog, Geo of the RAF

We discovered a number of rare breeds in the Discover Dogs zone. One being the Entlebucher – a Swiss mountain dog which is pretty rare in this country, with only 77 known to be living here at the moment. Owner and breeder Rosemary Kind told us that Wilma, pictured here, is currently blogging about her time at Crufts – clever dog! You can read what Wilma and fellow Entlebucher Alfie have to say on their blog at:

Entlebucher Wilma with owner, Rosemary Kind.

Neither Rob nor I had heard of the Eskimo Dog, and we discovered unsurprisingly, that they are a sled dog. These dogs hit the headlines back in 1925 when they heroically saved the small town of Nome in Alaska which had been hit by an outbreak of diphtheria. Around 150 dogs and 20 mushers raced across the Alaskan wilderness with supplies of diphtheria antitoxin. They covered 674 miles in five and a half days – saving the lives of the townsfolk and those in the surrounding communities. Today this event is known as the Great Race of Mercy.

Eskimo dog.

We also came across possibly the cutest dog of all time – the little Affenpinscher. Also known, as the Monkey Terrier. They originate from Germany and grow to be only 9-11 inches tall, weighing between 6.5lb and 13lb. However, these little dogs stand their ground and are renowned for living happily with extremely large breeds. Nine year old Topsy here shares her home with a Newfoundland and a Great Dane. Visitors to the show, Lacey and Bella couldn't resist a cuddle with Topsy either.

Affenpinscher, Topsy.

Topsy with Lacey and Bella

Another face that was also irresistible was Bull Mastiff, Able.

Bull mastiff, Able.

And finally, we were stopped in our tracks by this adorable line up of Golden Retrievers heading into the show ring.

Roll on tomorrow and more doggie tails.

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Thursday, 2 March 2017


We all have our favourite kinds of music, it could be disco, rap, hip-hop, blues, ska, punk – the list goes on and on. But I find it’s always great, when a new band comes along with just the type of music you've followed for years, which takes you back – yet brings you bang up to date.

This for me was last year when I found out that one of my all time favourite bands, Rainbow, were doing a gig at the Genting Arena in Birmingham and in Europe. As usual with this band all the members would change except for one – Richie Blackmore. But my ears pricked up when I heard the new singer, Ronnie Romero. He sang exactly how I want a rock/metal singer to sing – powerful with great range, good diction, and be able to do it live. And he can do the lot!

Then I found he had his own band – Lords of Black! Well, I had to check them out! I was not disappointed. Listening to the new CD, Lords of Black II was like a breath of fresh air. I was keen to find out more.

I discovered that Tony Hernando is a brilliant and successful guitarist in his own right, producing five solo releases. He's played with some of the finest musicians in the business and has been guitarist for the popular Spanish Metal band, Saratoga for the last seven years. On drums is Andy C, an accomplished musician, producer, composer, drummer and pianist who has also been with Saratoga for the last eight years. The newest member to the band is Javier Garcia on bass who took over from Victor Duran earlier this year.

There's no doubt that lead singer Chilean-born Ronnie Romero is world class, hence the confidence of Ritchie Blackmore to have Romero follow in the shoes of Ian Gillan, David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio.

Like many legendary vocalists, Ronnie began singing in a gospel choir at the age of seven but once he discovered rock music he knew what he wanted to be. So inspired by his favourite artists which included Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale and Steve Perry, he developed a powerful and melodic singing voice with an incredible vocal range. Ronnie moved to Spain in 2011, working and collaborating with other musicians. Then in 2013 he met the guitarist Tony Hernando at a Dio Tribute Concert. By the following year they had formed Lords of Black.

The band's self-titled first Album, Lords of Black has been acclaimed as one of the very best début rock albums of late. With great lyrics, powerful melodies, intricate and complex elements that all combine to create songs that will become classics of the future.

Their second album produced worldwide by Frontiers Records, Lords of Black II has 13 new songs, including Merciless, Everything You're Not, Insane and more. The Art of Illusion Part III – The Wasteland, is the conclusion to the trilogy story featured on their début album; while the song Cry No More is inspired and dedicated to the late Phil Lynott.

Lords of Black are rock/metal and I was a fan! I was quickly on their website to discover they were touring the UK on their Merciless Tour. So I contacted the lads to see if they needed a photographer for their gig in Stoke, and that was that…

They were playing at smaller venues but the fans were loving it. From the start it was a great sound and perfect playing. They went through both of their albums as well as playing some Rainbow and Deep Purple songs – bands which had influenced them. What a top gig, I feel they will go far and hope they will.

After the gig I had a chat with Tony Hernando about how the tour was going, and what they thought of England so far. Here's what he had to say:

Q. You've been busy touring – Japan, Europe and now England. How has it all gone so far? Any highlights?
Tony: Yeah, we’ve been pretty busy lately first with a great european tour as special guest act for Axel Rudi Pell, then playing some high profile Festivals like Loud Park Japan and Frontiers Metal Festival in Milan, now headlining for the first time in Europe in this three weeks tour – including our very first time in England, which is great. We love all places we play in and audiences are great everywhere, but sure, Japan was beyond our expectations. Such a great Festival, great bill, great experience.

Q. What do you think of England, and its music scene?
Tony: Well, when it comes to speak about Rock History, this is the place man! We really like to think we are playing on…like sacred ground, you know? Many of our fave bands and influences came out from here, like Purple, Rainbow, Maiden, Sabbath, you name it! You’re in London about to play and you can’t help for a moment to think about it. Or you’re in Birmingham and think about the whole 'Heavy Metal birthplace' – Black Country stuff, so it’s really cool.

Q. You've produced two great albums, do you collaborate when writing songs? Do you all have some input?
Tony: Yes, it’s pretty much a collaboration effort. It may depend on how many ideas any of us are putting out – in the first album I co-wrote many of the songs with Ronnie and Andy, but for some reason, for the second album I was more productive or more driven maybe, and at that moment it ended up with mostly songs I had writen myself.

Q. Where do you get your inspiration for your songs?
Tony: You never know, it comes from everywhere. Maybe just a concept or a title or a phrase that resonates inside you and guides you throughout the whole writing process of a song. Lyrically, if you pay attention you could even say we have a lot of 'love songs' but never in a cheesy way! I mean, I love the love-hate duallism and pretty much you can say everything that moves us, that moves the world is because of our human nature. And there you have the most powerful and unique side we humans have…love – or the lack of it. Some other numbers may be more epic or classic Heavy Rock stuff. I think we cover a lot of ground lyrically and also musically, with just some bits of proggy, power or just Classic Metal but with our very distinctive twist to it, due to Ronnie’s voice and my melodic approach to my writing and playin’.

Q. Fantastic that Ronnie is the new lead singer for Rainbow. How did he, and the band take that news?
Tony: Well, it definitely has been a game changer, since Ritchie Blackmore announcing Ronnie Romero as the new singer for Rainbow put all the eyes over him and over us! It’s been so great and we were huge fans of the “Man in Black” anyway, so it couldn’t be better.

Q. What is the next move for the band.
Tony: We’ll be writing and recording new stuff in the next few months, so I hope we have the follow up album before next year comes to an end. Sure we’ll have some more gigs and summer festivals, but I don’t think a another long tour as such. Also Ronnie will be doing a bunch of Rainbow shows in June, which is great.

We thank Tony for chatting to Words & Images UK and we thank the band, Lords of Black for the music – and wish them all the best for the future, which is going to be big!
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