If you’re new to my blog ( where have you been?) when I talk of chronic illness and chronic pain it’s because I am diagnosed with M/E/CFS, Fibromyalgia and Joint Hypermobility. Which in very simple terms means I am constantly exhausted and I’m in pain ALL OF THE TIME! Yes that is possible. We may say we are ‘fine’ but internally our bodies are screaming. So you can also find out what we say and what we actually mean here in a post a wrote a while ago. However, I’m now 10 years into living with these conditions and I have become a dab hand at being resourceful at keeping warm in the winter without actually having to blare my heating 24 hours a day.
If you are newly diagnosed with any of these illnesses these tips will not only be helpful but will also hopefully save you a fortune in heating bills!
Our house has been extended and our bedroom is in a Dorma loft so that would mean me having to heat a 3 storey house with only me in it when my husband and son are at work. That just doesn’t make any financial sense to me to do that. I refuse to have the heating on full time when it’s not necessary. Just call me Scrooge!
The Canterville Ghost has always been one of my favourite stories from when I was younger, along with the play The Rivals which I studied when doing my A Level In English Literature and both have stayed firm favourites as I have grown older, and so I was really curious to see this adaptation at the Unicorn Theatre near London Bridge. This was my first time visiting this particular theatre and I was impressed with the actual working theatre space inside. The Unicorn is the UK’s leading theatre for young audiences and has an extremely wide programme for children up to 18 yrs old.
So for anyone who isn’t familiar with the Oscar Wilde piece,The Canterville Ghost is a story about an American family who move to a castle that is haunted by the ghost of a deceased ancester, Sir Simon Canterville, who killed his wife and was then starved to death by her brothers! What makes it different from other ghost stories is the fact that it’s funny rather than scary and the characters are not frightened by the ghost at all.
Although the story itself is set in a time gone by era, the humour is most certainly modern and directed at the younger audience of today (and us that are young at heart) which definitely captures their interest right from the start.
The play 4 Stages ( by BC Allen) at the Bread and Roses Theatre is directed by Natasha Kathi-Chandra and centres around 3 characters, Alex (Andre Skeete), Ben (Brett Allen) and Cat ( Natasha Redhead) on their monthly games night. It’s presented in four parts which represent four separate nights spread throughout one particular calendar year. Ben and Alex interview each other over the four nights about how and where they grew up and as the nights go on there are some startling revelations which lead to some very frank discussions along the way.
‘ Two best friends Ben and Alex, who grew up together, now in their 40’s, meet every last Sunday of the month for ‘Games Night’. They are from different backrounds but are as close and tight as brothers. Ben has recently had a child with his partner Cat.’
This theatre is extremely intimate and is set with seats on opposite sides with the ‘set’ in the middle dressed as a room in Ben and Cat’s home which works perfectly as they use the exit door as their door to the rest of the ‘house’. With the space being small it enhances the feeling of being a ‘fly on the wall’ overlooking events unfolding in these characters lives. Each night is cleverly separated in a way that you know the story is moving on and yet works perfectly in the small space they have with regarding the set.
I want this to be a no spoiler review as I think that adds to the shocking revelation in the third part of the play where the whole thing takes on a very different feel. Up until then it really does feel like three old friends who are completely comfortable with each other as family would be. There’s typical lads banter between the two longstanding friends and that creates laugh out loud moments throughout. Ben comes up with the idea of recording an interview style chat to discuss where and how they grew up highlighting the fact they are from very different backrounds and yet are still as close as family.
This essentially, in this day and age, could be anyone’s story which is why when the play takes a shocking turn it hits home hard. This is definitely an emotional ride. The fact that they have been talking about how they grew up, their family backrounds ( which touches on racism) and also the strength of their friendship means that you are completely invested in their lives by the time the sucker punch comes!
It then centres around the extremely frank and tough discussions that anyone in this position must have to have with the people closest to them when in this situation. It doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff and creates a thought provoking feeling of ‘what if’. It’s well portrayed and naturally acted and completely draws you in to their story, which is why it becomes a tough watch the further it goes on.
Gutted is a black comedy that is set in a fish factory in 1980’s Dublin written by Sharon Byrne and directed by Chris White. It explores the lives of three strong women who are friends through working in the same dead end job, and yet all have dreams of something bigger and better than what their lives are at the moment.
The stage is sparsely set with nothing but a plain white backdrop with strip lighting, standing lamps and ceiling lights, however, the lights are cleverly linked and used as extra characters throughout and this is incredibly well presented. The story is told in interlinking comic monologue from the three women Deidre ( Niamh Finlay), Delores ( Sarah Hosford) and Breda (Eleanor Byrne) covering just one particular night of their lives.
It is Irish storytelling at its best with comedy concealing a powerful undertone of hurt and heartache that is hinted at throughout. It’s raw and relatable and immediately transported me back to my teenage years with the girls singing excerpts of some songs of the time – notably Tainted Love (oh the memories!) and yet tainted love can totally sum up the underlying theme of the play.
This is the card I got for my youngest son this week at he turned 19!
We bought the card as joke which he loved, but as I keep looking at it the reality has actually hit home.
My eldest son is 21 and is still away at uni. My youngest decided against uni and is taking a year (while he works a part time job) to do as much solo travel as possible before actually deciding what route he wants to go down.
I’m extremely proud of how both my boys have grown and support them fully in choosing their own paths to walk down.
However, for me as a mum it’s bittersweet. I literally have ‘grown ups’ now instead of children, and with that comes a level of enforced ‘mum redundancy’ as they branch out and need us less. I have much more time for ME and whatever that entails and this year I have really struggled with that if I’m honest.
I’ve had a lot of firsts for me this year on the blog and now I can add Fringe Theatre to that list.
When someone says Fringe Theatre what do you think?
I literally had no clue what to expect when I was invited along with another theatre lover to the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in the Kentish Town area of London to see the production of At Last by Proforca Theatre Company, written by James Lewis and Alexander Knott and directed by David Brady.
The pub itself looks as though it has been quite newly refurbished and was inviting and welcoming inside. The theatre is upstairs and reminded me of my son’s blacked out school drama theatre, so think small and intimate and as a guesstimate there was about 45 of us there last night (give or take a few). So it was a sold out performance.
First of all I want to make it clear that this was my very first time in an escape room ever, so this review is based solely on that one experience rather than a comparison to other escape rooms of other styles.
London Escaped have a couple of different rooms to experience such as the Da Vinci and The Prisoner, but I went with a lovely group of escape room veterans via Love London Pop Ups to give their new Vampire Slayer game a try.
So, as someone who hasn’t been to an escape room before I was literally going in blind with absolutely no clue of what to expect. I knew there would be clues and puzzles to work out and obviously you are under a time pressure to ‘escape’. We were a group of 7 people and for this game they advise between 2-8 people but it can accommodate up to 10 people if necessary and it lasts for 60 minutes. We were there for a 4pm start and at that point in the reception area it wasn’t busy and it was great for a novice like me to get a sneak peek into some of the other rooms.
I was recently invited to attend the new immersive theatre game, The Hunt for the Smoking Caterpillar, by Buck Buck Games in their residency at The Owl and the Hitchhiker pub on Holloway Road, London.
I’ve never really attended anything immersive theatre related, or escape room related before so I literally had no idea what I was walking into, but the Buck Buck Games website describe it as ‘ Our event games and characters combine escape rooms, immersive theatre and murder mystery with fun fuelled challenges’ so I thought I would take my husband along for unique evening out!
The pub itself is a complete hidden treasure in, it’s quirkiness is apparent as soon as you walk in ( it has hairdryers all hanging from the ceiling above the bar!). It has a table tennis table around the back of the bar and there were a group of people playing card games at one of the tables and a couple in one of the booth seating areas playing monopoly……….so not your typical pub in any sense. They have a great menu ( our plan was to eat before we played but unfortunately the traffic was not on our side that evening and we didn’t have enough time) including an extensive vegan selection, and although we didn’t get the chance to eat, the food that was coming out of the kitchen looked very good.
Anyway, on to the games. As we arrived and got a drink we could see more groups turning up and congregating at the bottom of the stairs were the games were advertised.
Have you heard of this new mini series on Sky/ Not TV called Chernobyl and have you watched it yet?
I’m generally a binge watcher when it comes to a TV series although it can be quite hard to avoid spoilers occasionally. With this I didn’t really worry about the spoiler side of things as it’s more of a retelling of real life event from 1986. I was turning 16 when this happened and I can remember it being reported on the news on a daily basis for a very long time.
This series has only 5 episodes and covers in depth what happened from those who were closely involved with dealing with the disaster at the time. It has the highest rating on IMDb in a very short space of time, so that really has to tell you something about the quality of this series.
In April this year my eldest son turned 21 and it was also our 25th wedding anniversary. Instead of having a big family party for both ( which my son would have hated, and my husband would have hated) we decided to do a shared celebration with just us four. I’m not being funny but with the amount you spend on a party ( with food, drink and decorations etc) we have always been the type to put the money to a better use ( for us anyway) to go somewhere and have an experience instead. The amount of effort involved with food alone would put me under pressure illness wise and by the time I would have done all the organising for it I would probably be too exhausted to actually enjoy it! Anyway, we decided before Christmas that a weekend in Dublin was our plan and so we all had something to look forward to.
I’ve been to Dublin many years ago with a group of friends and had a great time, but as I’m from Belfast myself it’s always been a place I wanted to take my boys and we agreed we would wait until they were old enough to drink legally! So we decided we would combine the celebrations and take ourselves away for a long weekend there as a family. We were actually looking forward to going away with our boys who are now 21 and 18 years old, it’s a whole other experience when they are this age. Less arguing, less faffing, less stress, more fun, more easy going and well, more enjoyable!