A charity is appealing for help tracing two former schoolgirls who penned touching letters to an elderly stranger more than 60 years ago.
Sheila Scott and Brenda Barker, of Newcastle, were 12 when they contacted an 80-year-old living in a London home run by the Abbeyfield Society.
The hand-written messages were discovered in a scrapbook which belonged to the organisation’s founder.
The charity described them as a “wonderful snapshot in time”.
The girls – pupils at North Heaton Secondary Modern School and St John Ambulance Brigade cadets – wrote to a pensioner called Mr Halnan in May 1956.
The former newspaper seller, losing his sight due to cataracts, was set to undergo an operation.
Sheila, a fan of needlework and swimming, told him: “I took it upon myself to write to you. I hope it is a comfort to you.”
Brenda said she was 5ft 7in tall with light brown hair and hazel eyes, that her form mistress was named Miss Booth and her favourite lesson was maths.
Mr Halnan lived at an Abbeyfield property in Eugenia Road, Bermondsey, the first to be opened by the society set up by Richard Carr-Gomm.
Mr Carr-Gomm, who had given up his military career to help the homeless and lonely and was later awarded an OBE, kept the letters in a scrapbook.
He died in 2008, aged 86, and his family donated it to the society two years ago.
Abbeyfield research manager Sarah Heaney said the girls possibly wrote the letters after seeing publicity around the home’s opening.
“He [Mr Carr-Gomm] was very well networked, was friends with Audrey Hepburn and her mother who were benefactors of the first home, knew Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, and was close to King Freddie, the deposed king of Uganda,” she said.
“Yet amongst all this we find two extraordinary letters from two ordinary schoolgirls.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Abbeyfield Society’s national headquarters.
Fleabag must have sounded like an odd prospect on paper when it was first performed in 2013.
A monologue about an unnamed woman with a considerable sexual appetite who runs a guinea pig-themed cafe while mourning the death of her best friend is an unconventional premise to say the least.
But the TV series which the original play birthed has since become hugely successful and made a bona fide star out of its creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
The second and final series concluded earlier this year and now Waller-Bridge is back in the West End performing the original play. “As a hot ticket, it’s on a par with Harry Potter, as high on the list as Hamilton,” wrote Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph.
It’s a fair assessment – the press night on Wednesday evening was an A-list event. Cast members from the TV show like Andrew Scott (the “hot priest”) and Fiona Shaw rubbed shoulders with Oscar-winner Rami Malek, 6 Music presenter Lauren Laverne and journalist Caitlin Moran.
But it’s the fans queuing at the stage door every night to meet Waller-Bridge who are the real testament to just how much the show has connected with audiences on a deep, emotional level. Young women in particular saw a lot of themselves in Fleabag, and grapple with the show’s same issues surrounding dating and feminism.
For fans who don’t have tickets, Fleabag is also being broadcast live in cinemas on 12 September and it could be the last chance to see Waller-Bridge play her most famous role.
Here are a few things to know about how Fleabag differs on stage and screen.
1. The core storyline is the same as the first TV series
Ironically, considering the theatre show came first, those who have watched Fleabag as a BBC series will feel like they’ve had several spoilers for the play.
Whether it’s the dates Fleabag goes on, the interactions she has with her family, or the underlying grief and guilt she feels about the death of Boo, there won’t be many surprising twists for Fleaophiles.
“After the TV show, the play felt like going to a gallery and looking at the artist’s sketchbooks,” said Kate Wyver in The Guardian. “The show is just so much more developed, so the play can’t help but feel a little disappointing.”
“I liked seeing the original source material,” added Laura Snapes in the same article. “But the play was originally such a bolt from the blue. If you see it now, you’re always aware: that’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge. When it’s freighted with the phenomenon, it doesn’t work.”
2. There’s no hot priest
The second series of Fleabag focused on the lead character’s relationship with a priest, played by Andrew Scott. The pair’s relationship was the focus of scrutiny from fans and critics alike.
“Why are we so horny for Fleabag’s Hot Priest?” asked The Huffington Post in one of many, many think pieces about the storyline.
“The real bedrock of [series two] was tied up with the idea of religion,” Waller-Bridge told BBC News earlier this year. “I was starting to write jokes about perspectives on the Christian faith and Catholicism, and that bled into the show.
“I liked the idea of Fleabag meeting her match in someone with the same intelligence and wit she has who leads a completely different life.”
Sadly, however, the hot priest is nowhere to be seen in the stage show. While some jokes and plotlines from the play are sprinkled through the second series (such as Fleabag’s sister’s disastrous haircut), the central storyline involving the hot priest was entirely new and written specifically for TV.
There was only ever meant to be six episodes of Fleabag, which is why the play has far more similarities to the first series than the second.
3. But there are still some surprises in the stage show
Many of the jokes in the play haven’t featured in the TV series, so there’s still plenty to enjoy with the stage version.
But that also applies to some of the more heart-breaking elements of the plot.
“There’s one emotional absolute gut-punch in the stage version that – presumably having been deemed just too upsetting for telly – may be new to much of the audience, noted Holly Williams in The Independent. “Guinea pig lovers be warned: it destroyed me.”
4. The staging is minimal, but effective
A monologue show in the West End is a pretty rare event, particularly in a large theatre space, and its success is reliant on a powerhouse performance from a single actor.
Speaking about seeing the play in the Wyndham’s Theatre, Holly Williams in The Independent wrote: “She probably wouldn’t have written this kind of show for such a grand old space. It inevitably feels rather small, just Waller-Bridge sat on a tall stool on an empty stage.”
Although Fleabag darts around from her cafe to job interviews to taxi rides to dates, those surroundings are left entirely to the theatre audience’s imagination as Waller-Bridge barely shifts from the tall stool she’s sitting on for the 65-minute duration.
The only aides are the changes in lighting and a few audio clips of some of the other characters, to help viewers with the different scenarios.
5. The “fourth wall” dynamic is different
A key element of the TV series was when Fleabag “broke the fourth wall” to speak to the viewer directly, adding in-jokes and her own analysis to the situation she was in.
The play is different, insofar as Fleabag is effectively addressing the audience for most of the show, but she does still clearly separate the moments where she’s speaking to another character. There are benefits and drawbacks to the slightly different dynamic she has with the audience on stage.
“Delivering a manner of monologue – she does many voices, and there is disembodied dialogue at certain moments – Waller-Bridge shows herself to be skilled at story, deadpan comedy and one-liners” wrote Craig Simpson of the Press Association.
“Added to this is a stunning ability to mime and do impressions which sets the stage show apart from the restrictions of a TV show, where her sudden comic personifications become scenes and other characters, actors with faces of their own.”
6. There is still a lot of sex
From literally the first scene of the first TV series, it was clear Fleabag wasn’t a show to watch with your family. But that is partially what has driven its appeal.
While the impact of porn on young people felt like more of a hot topic in 2013 than now – other elements of the show haven’t dated, and if anything feel more relevant now.
“I now wince a little at all the reviews of its original run – mine included – describing it as filthy, as if female sexual desire was inherently unclean,” acknowledged Natasha Tripney in The Stage.
“The show would never have achieved quite such a level of success if it were simply a collection of gags about anal sex and [pleasuring herself] over Obama. It’s subtler and smarter than that, incisive about self-sabotage, grief and the endless pressures women put upon themselves.”
More than 350 people were arrested across both days of the Notting Hill Carnival, the Met Police has said.
A Section 60 order, giving police additional stop and search powers, was enforced on Monday after reports of “incidents of violence”.
Thirty officers suffered minor injuries at the event, with 37 people held for assaults on police.
Cdr Dave Musker said he was “happy” with how Carnival went but “extremely disappointed” by the attacks.
“Officers put themselves on the frontline and should, under no circumstance be assaulted for protecting the public,” Cdr Musker, who was the Met’s lead officer for the event, said.
By 22:00 BST on Monday, 353 arrests had been made with 111 on Sunday and 242 on the second day of the event.
The majority – some 162 – were for drugs, while 34 were for possession of offensive weapons, 31 for public order offences and 10 for sexual attacks.
An additional 30 arrests related to the event were made by British Transport Police on London’s transport network.
A Section 60 order had been authorised for specific stations, lines, and trains on Monday “to protect the travelling public and prevent serious violence”, the force said.
More than one million people attended the festivities as record temperatures were recorded in west London.
British Airways passengers have expressed their anger at being unable to get through to the airline following the confusion over cancelled flights.
BA pilots are due to strike on 9, 10 and 27 September, but BA also told customers with tickets booked on other days that their flights were cancelled.
The company admitted on Saturday that it had told some passengers to rebook or get a refund by mistake.
BA said it had received nearly 40,000 calls and was working around the clock.
After initially sending one email informing customers of cancellations, BA then sent a second email to some people saying their flights would go ahead as planned.
But in the second email, passengers were not given a link to automatically rebook onto their original flight, meaning they had to contact BA directly.
Some customers say they have spent hours trying to get in touch with BA’s customer services.
The company’s Twitter feed has also been inundated with messages from frustrated people.
In response to one passenger, BA said: “We’re extremely sorry that you’re having difficulties trying to rearrange your flights. Our teams have been working tirelessly to help as many of our customers as possible, in these unprecedented circumstances.”
Some customers who were told their flights were not scrapped after all have been left confused about whether their decision to accept a refund has now been cancelled.
Others have complained that they have been left out of pocket.
Laura Gillespie, 48, from Perth, said she accepted a refund and booked new flights and trains after being told her flight from London to Edinburgh had been axed.
But she said BA now say they won’t give a refund as the flight has not been cancelled.
“I’ve now got flights booked with two different airlines going to the same place and I’m £140 down. I know it’s not a lot of money compared to some folk who have spent thousands but it’s so annoying.”
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said on Friday the strikes were a “last resort” born out of “enormous frustration” with airline management.
Pilots have rejected a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years, which the airline put forward in July.
BA says it carries 145,000 customers every day – with a fleet of more than 280 aircraft – and a BA plane takes off from somewhere in the world every 90 seconds.
What can I claim if my flight has been affected by the strikes?
BA advice says you can request a full refund, rebook your flight for another time in the next 355 days, or use the value of your fare to fly to a different destination.
If your flight has been cancelled because airline staff are striking, the the Civil Aviation Authority said, then this would be considered within the airline’s control, and therefore you have a legal right to either:
- A full refund, and this includes flights in the same journey that might be from a different airline (for example, an onward or return flight)
- A replacement flight to get to your destination
- Or, if you are part way through your journey and don’t want a replacement flight, you are entitled to a flight back to the airport you originally departed from
In some cases, passengers may be entitled to additional cash compensation for the inconvenience – but only if you receive notice that your flight is affected less than 14 days before departure.
Charlton midfielder Darren Pratley has signed a one-year contract extension.
Pratley, 34, was signed from Bolton in 2018 and helped the Addicks win promotion to the Championship.
His deal was due to expire at the end of this season but he is now under contract at The Valley until 2021.
“Darren has been immense at the start of this season and played such a valuable role at the end of last season,” manager Lee Bowyer told the club website.
“He’s been outstanding. You can’t buy his experience and he’s great with the young lads.”
Police surrounded flats in east London when a man barricaded himself in and threatened to blow up the block.
Nearby residents in Barking were forced to leave their homes after the man also threatened to burn down the building.
Fire and ambulance crews were called to Elsdown House, Wheelers Cross, late on Tuesday, although there were no injuries reported.
A man was later detained and was given medical treatment by paramedics at the scene, the Met Police said.
Evacuated residents, who had been told to go to The Gascoigne Community Centre, in St Ann’s, were later told they could return home.
E-scooters and e-skateboards have been riding around many of the world’s city streets.
But while some countries have welcomed them, they are illegal to ride on public roads and pavements in the UK.
Some riders are now calling for regulation rather than an outright ban.
BBC Click finds out more.
Huddersfield sacked head coach Jan Siewert an hour after losing at home to Fulham, with Ivan Cavaleiro’s superb goal securing victory over the struggling Terriers.
Huddersfield remain winless this season and Siewert had been under growing pressure following Tuesday’s home Carabao Cup defeat by League One Lincoln City.
The visitors had the better of an even first half and took the lead after the break when Juninho Bacuna’s horribly miscued clearance proved to be the perfect cross for Aleksandar Mitrovic to head home.
Town levelled when Karlan Grant’s header from Flo Hadergjonaj’s centre just crossed the line despite the attempts of Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, but Cavaleiro won it with a wonderful curled finish from just inside the area.
Huddersfield, relegated from the Premier League alongside Fulham last season, have not won in any competition since February and have taken just one point from their first three games this season.
Grant’s header, awarded by the referee with the aid of goal line technology, had looked set to give them a second successive 1-1 draw.
But Wolves loanee Cavaleiro was afforded too much time after Town failed to deal with a looped Steven Sessegnon cross and the Portuguese forward showed his class to secure a second successive league win for Fulham.
Terriers goalkeeper Kamil Grabara had earlier made two good saves from Anthony Knockaert and the score would have been worse but for the performance of the Liverpool loanee.
Siewert said after Tuesday’s defeat by the Imps that he did not fear for his job, but his record stood at one win from his 19 matches when his departure was confirmed.
Huddersfield travel to fellow relegated side Cardiff on Wednesday, while Scott Parker’s side host Millwall on the same evening.
A teenager found dead in Malaysia after vanishing from a family holiday died from internal bleeding probably caused by prolonged hunger and stress, a post-mortem has revealed.
Nora Quoirin’s body was found beside a stream about 1.6 miles (2.5km) from the jungle resort of Dusun on Tuesday.
Malaysian Police said there was no suspicion of abduction or foul play.
The 15-year-old’s body was discovered following a 10-day search after she disappeared on 4 August.
The teenager died two or three days before she was found, police believe.
Nora was born with holoprosencephaly, a disorder which affects brain development, and had been described by her family as vulnerable.
Her parents had previously said they didn’t believe she would have wandered off alone and suspected she had been abducted.
Negeri Sembilan state police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop said a post-mortem examination had found no evidence that was the case.
Speaking after her body was found, Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin, Nora’s Irish-French parents, said their “hearts are broken” and paid tribute to their daughter as “the truest, most precious girl”.
It’s the time of year when many parents are buying their children’s school uniform – which some say can cost in excess of £200. Do schools need to relax their rules on branded clothing to help make it cheaper? Or can online swap groups and recycling schemes cut the cost of going back to school?
The cost of school uniform
Research by market analysts Mintel suggests British parents spend about £1.2bn on clothing and equipment for school.
The Department for Education (DfE) asked 1,183 parents about uniform costs in 2015 and found it came to almost £213 per child. Adjusting its figures for inflation, it would make the average cost of uniform in 2019 almost £230 per pupil.
What parents recalled spending
Source: DfE survey of 1,183 parents in 2015, figures adjusted for inflation
Adding in PE kit, parents recalled paying the equivalent to £70 more for primary school children and between £111 and £140 extra for those of secondary school age.
Separate estimates from The Children’s Society in 2018 put the total cost of uniform at £256 per primary school child and £338 per secondary school pupil.
How to cut the cost: Online swaps
One way of cutting the cost is to swap uniform with other parents. Thousands of people are members of social media groups that do this.
Yvonne Hall, 38, from Stockton-on-Tees, set up a Facebook group for parents to donate used school uniforms.
Her 16-year-old son changed schools in the first term of last year and Mrs Hall said she found herself with “another hefty uniform bill” of about £100 on top of the cost of the old uniform.
“I decided to donate the brand new uniform my son had only worn for a week on Facebook and it was snapped up instantly,” she said.
The page now has parents sharing uniforms, PE kits and revision guides.
A sample of 100 Facebook groups set up in Britain and containing the words “school uniform” and “swap” or “free” showed they had 34,110 members between them, an average of more than 340 each.
Does it have to be a new uniform?
Kate France wants to challenge what she calls the UK’s culture of “always buying new” school uniforms.
She set up the charity Uniform Exchange in Huddersfield in 2011 to help families who were struggling with the cost of basics items, but now says the project is also about reducing waste.
“If anything has got life left in it then we should be recycling,” she said. “By the time my kids get home in the evening, their uniform is covered in pen or mud.
“Any school uniform will look second hand by the end of the first week.”
What help is available?
Some councils or schools offer financial support.
In England schools can use the funding they get from the DfE’s pupil premium – money allocated for children from poorer backgrounds.
Hackney Council spent £72,300 on school uniform grants in 2018-19. Manchester City Council spent £208,529 on school uniform grants in 2014-15 but stopped offering them the following year.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said funding cuts from central government had resulted in councils finding it “increasingly difficult” to provide grants for school uniforms.
In Scotland families can apply for a £100 grant in the same way they apply for free school meals.
From September families in Wales can apply for a £125 Pupil Development Grant, which comes alongside advice to schools to have gender neutral uniforms and minimal branding.
In Northern Ireland funding varies from £35.75 to £56 depending on the age of the child.
Is uniform cheaper in the supermarket?
The BBC compared school clothing on the websites of four large UK supermarkets and found the average prices were about £58 less for a primary school uniform and £118 less for a secondary school uniform than in the government’s survey of parents.
The saving is likely to be higher as the analysis is based only on buying one of each item, excluding any spares parents would typically purchase.
It also depends on whether schools would permit parents to use supermarket uniform or whether they have to have items with the school’s logo.
Can school uniform be cheaper?
Difference (£) between average cost of uniform in supermarkets and government estimates
What do suppliers say?
Suppliers of school uniforms said their costs were lower than the estimates in the government’s survey.
A spokeswoman for Price and Buckland said uniforms should be affordable for everyone, adding: “We work with some schools that offer pupil premium and offer vouchers to parents to support them with purchasing uniform.”
Michael Franklin from National School Uniforms said supermarket clothing, while cheaper, was generally “far inferior to the norm”, with bespoke items lasting “three times as long”.
Carolyn Budding from YourSchoolUniform.com said schools should take out contracts with single suppliers, who could “offer more competitive prices”.
“This is contrary to government advice to schools to offer a choice of suppliers,” she said.
What is the government doing?
Emma Hardy, Labour MP for West Hull and Hessle and a former primary school teacher, said schools needed to “poverty proof” their uniform policies and remove the need for clothing with school branding so they could be bought “from any shop”.
“I think if you can make uniform more accessible parents can make it just as smart as if it’s been bought from a specific school retailer,” she said.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Our guidance states that schools should prioritise cost when setting uniform policies, including making sure uniforms are easily available at different outlets, and keeping compulsory branded items to a minimum.
“We have been clear that when there is a suitable time in Parliament, we intend to make this guidance statutory.”
Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways: