London Escaped Vampire Slayer escape room – Review

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.

At the start we are given some props and a walkie talkie, told the general story and advised to think outside the box!

When we went in I took a moment to just step back and observe the more experienced players in action while one of our group read out what was written on our scroll ( this is the general lowdown on the story and prompts to guide you into thinking about what needs attempting first etc).

Obviously I don’t want to give any spoilers away for anyone thinking of doing it, however, I will say that at times this particular room was a little confusing with some things not making any sense. At these points I stepped back and let the more experienced players take the lead so I could at least try and learn something to take forward into other escape games in the future. We did in fact ask for clarification on 2 separate occasions in order to go forward with the game. All of this at no point dampened my novice escape room spirits as I was also getting swept up with watching how people worked out clues and took leading roles in projecting the game forward………………..this in itself is a bit of an eye opening crash course into how others see things that either you don’t, or how they see and think differently and can therefore keep the game going successfully.

So, for me I was very thankful I had this merry band of escape room veterans that helped us actually ‘escape’ the Vampire Slayer room in 54 minutes *insert proud face and don’t mention the fact they did all the work!

After exiting and chatting about the game I was told by a few in the group that this particular room was probably not the best one for a novice to pop her escape room cherry in!

Did it put me off?……………………………..not for a second. I enjoyed it all as an overall experience and it definitely, in my case, got this 49 year old’s grey matter working overtime.

Would I do another escape room?………………………ABSOLUTELY. This has given me a thirst to definitely do more.

So I would love to know if you have you been to London Escaped?

What room did you try?

Also,if you do go, let me know if you escaped or were turned to dust for the rest of eternity!

 

** this experience was gifted for review purposes. These views are just my honest opinion of my experience there on that particular day**

**Prices start from around £30 per person and games can be booked online……but check out their offers available on the website before booking – they have a school holiday offer advertised on there at the moment**

Review- Buck Buck Games – The Hunt for the Smoking Caterpillar

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.

We were met by one of the characters who came down and rounded us up and gave us our little bag of ‘golds’ and the rules to play by. Then we were taken upstairs where we met the Baron who explained loosely what we had to do ( get as many ‘golds’ as we could by solving the clues as well as bartering and bribing others), he warned us to watch out for the ‘serpent’ and when we heard the horn being blown we had to ‘drop to the deck’ to escape the serpent and if we didn’t or we were too slow we would have to forfeit some of our collected golds. Believe me this is no easy feat when you use a walking stick like me, but there was no way I was getting caught out……………..and either I was a bloody fast mover, or they took pity on me, but I didn’t get caught out! My competitive nature must have kicked in at that point.

Now, what I don’t want to do is give anything away that would be considered a spoiler so I didn’t take any pictures inside the rooms. What I can tell you though that this immersive game is completely BONKERS BUT BRILLIANT! Bonkers as in the characters were fabulous at spinning the story and getting you to fully immerse yourself in what was going on, however mad it was………….and it was completely mad. There was about 20 of us in the group we were in and some of them were brilliant at getting involved ( I’m looking at you lot in the dunces hats that evening). This, I can imagine, only makes the game much more fun for all involved. My husband was sooooooo far out of his comfort zone at the start ( not having done anything like this before) but once we got started on the clues and what was going on he was fully into it and we had such a laugh between us. Do not be afraid to barter with or blackmail the other people there, it can make all the difference to what you find out and what alliances can be made – that’s all I’m going to say.

I can happily say that in our game we did in fact find the smoking caterpillar and I did receive my Certificate of Cooperation!

If I tell you anything else I think it would spoil it though so I’m going to leave it there. We loved it. It was a new experience for us and we were so glad we were invited along to review it. Honestly, if you are looking for something different and completely bonkers to do then I cannot recommend this enough. Get a big group of you along for a great night out or just go as a couple like we did, either way leave any sense of normality at the door, let yourself just enjoy the madness going on around you and I guarantee you’ll have great fun.

If you get a chance to go early to have some food in the pub first, or stay after to enjoy a few drinks in a great friendly atmosphere afterwards, it’s worth the trip.

These were some of the characters there that evening ( although I’m sure these must change depending on when you go obviously), these guys were amazing at getting everyone involved and into the story………….they work bloody hard too as it must be difficult to keep very enthusiastic participants on track in order to finish in time and yet still stay fully in character! ( the game lasts around an hour and a drink is included once you are taking up to the room). Word of warning it gets very hot up there with all of the participants in the rooms together and we did attend on the hottest day on record! The good news is the actual pub downstairs is gloriously air conditioned and believe me you will want a drink and a cool down when you come out.

This is me and my husband with the ‘mad hatter’ style character- she was our meet and greet at the start and played a great part throughout

 

This was Polly the Barons daughter………this guy was brilliant and completely bonkers!

 

This is the Baron, don’t be fooled by the smile – he takes no prisoners………..in fact at the start when he ushered everyone to the front I was too nervous to go- so I stayed at the back and drunk my gin!

 

So, have you been to anything like this before? I’d love to know what you think………..and if you do go to The Hunt for the Smoking Caterpillar let me know how you got on!

Chernobyl – TV Mini Series Review

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.

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Our weekend celebrating in Dublin

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!

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Things I have learned from 25 years of marriage

This week on 23rd April marked my silver wedding anniversary, 25 years of marriage and still standing.

I know its totally cliched but I really do not know where the time has gone, I mean 25 years sounds a long time and we have done lots in that time, but it does feel as though it has shot past us in the blink of an eye.

This is us taken recently on our trip to Dublin

So how did we celebrate and mark this momentous occasion. Well our eldest also turned 21 recently so we decided a little while ago that we would combine the 2 occasions and have a family trip away in Dublin. Somewhere we all have wanted to visit but I really wanted the boys to be of legal drinking age before we went so we could all participate in all the typical touristy things. We chose to do this instead of having parties as we have rarely been able to afford to take the boys on holidays while they were growing up and we thought this would be money well spent as an experience rather than a party.

Therefore, the actual day on our anniversary was a quiet, chilled affair. My youngest was at school all day and then went to work and my eldest was revising for his impending exams for uni. So we knew we had the day to ourselves…………so what did we do? We booked into the Flashback cinema to see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen as its one of our all time favourite classic films!! I bet you wasn’t expecting that little bundle of excitement.

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After Life ( Netflix TV series) – review

Ok so I would like to get it out there first that in truth I’ve never been a huge Ricky Gervais fan (which stems from seeing a clip of one of his stand up shows where he takes the piss about M.E ……….no, I’m not just a bit bloody tired!) anyway, I wanted to be honest and say that up front now.

My son however is a MASSIVE fan of him and watches (and re watches) both The Office and Extras some of which I love……..favourites being the Sir Ian McKellan and the Ross Kemp ( super army soldiers) episodes. I even a few years ago managed to get BBC audience tickets for a recording of him doing the David Brent song to be used in a show, so you know that shows a mothers love doesn’t it? On said outing my son lost his wallet and had to back into the studio to look for it, everyone else had gone and because we had been delayed leaving we were lucky enough to see Ricky Gervais come down the corridor past us………………………we didn’t stop and ask for a picture but did the casual look and nod instead………..honestly I think my son would have died of embarrassment had I asked for a pic but looking back I really should have for his benefit at the time.

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Film and TV reviews

This is something I have pondered about for a while now. My teen and I have always enjoyed going to the cinema and will talk non stop all the way home about whatever film we have just watched. My son has always been into his films and TV series from a young age, now at age18 he has developed into a great critic looking at actors, directors and how the film was shot, along with what he thought worked and didn’t. Its one of the things we really have in common and quite often he will ask to go with me rather than his mates as he knows I watch with a similar keen eye. I would love to start a blog/ Youtube channel or podcast with him as we have some great discussions after watching something either in the cinema, on Netflix or Now Tv………………..but to no avail……….he wont do it!

So, I have decided to do my own reviews on this little corner of the internet and hope they help someone along the way. They will not all be the latest releases from the cinema (although some will) but will also include binge worthy Tv series and those films released onto streaming services too. The aim is to help people find something to watch next, especially with so much on offer from so many streaming services it can sometimes be difficult to chose. I see people on Twitter a lot asking for recommendations of what to watch next and hopefully my reviews will point someone in the right direction along the way.

My son has always been one to watch on his Ipad as he can pop his headphones on and bring it around the house with him ( especially when he goes into cooking mode in the kitchen!). I actually get a lot of recommendations from him of decent films to watch, he has great taste and generally won’t be what you would expect from his age group. From about the age of 14 films such as Schindler’s List and Shawshank Redemption have been in his top 5. Even at the age of about 9 or 10 he would speed watch the likes of Jaws in about 10 minutes literally fast forwarding (think DVD’s) to the gruesome bits! His DVD and Blueray collection has the likes of American Psycho, Birdman and Saving Private Ryan, so not your typical collection for his age group.

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The Favourite – film review

Ok, so I haven’t been the quickest off the mark to go and see The Favourite and obviously saw that Olivia Coleman had won the Oscar for her role as Queen Anne.

I do however, with regards to cinema, like to let all the fuss die down before going on a quieter afternoon to allow myself to fully enjoy ( or not) whatever film it is at the time, without all the residual underlying noise of a full cinema……yes I’m one of those people! There are only a few films I will book to see on the opening weekends for fear of spoilers hitting me from Twitter and elsewhere.

So, let’s get the obvious out of the way now……………Olivia Coleman is outstanding  ( no shit Sherlock!) and she is compelling to watch. She’s always been pretty underrated for my liking ( I feel the same about James McAvoy just so you know) she has a total naturalness about her in any role she plays, but it’s so much more obvious in this film. It never seemed forced in any way from her throughout.

In fact, all 3 main females are strong in this film. That said I felt that Rachel Weisz the absolute glue that stuck the film together, she was sharp, ruthless and able to switch temperaments in a split second for full effect of her character. Her character was menacing but without force, just a slight change in the tone here and there and you literally didn’t know how far she’d actually go. The director Yorgos Lanthimos has a feel for showing the strong power dynamics of relationships and I loved that all 3 characters were entangled showing the underlying skulduggery that was typically present in those times in order to keep favour in court.

As for ‘THE’ sex scene, I’m not sure what I was expecting but certainly it wasn’t as shocking as it had been made out. It was perfect for the story, cleverly done and kind of subtle- again I think this benefited from Coleman’s overall naturalness. I was also prepped for the ‘C’ bomb being branded about, it was almost with spitting force here and there and again it wasn’t out of place in the way it was used, but I guess if you’re easily offended then overall it probably wouldn’t be the film for you.

The costumes were absolutely magnificent, and as a very novice sewer I can fully appreciate the work that went into making them. Having been filmed at Hatfield House along with Hampton Court Palace you can imagine the sets were stunning and beautiful which only added to the quirkiness of what was actually happening inside.

But I must say Downton Abbey IT IS NOT!  So if you love your typical period dramas, full of stuffiness and polite wordy exchanges this is probably NOT FOR YOU. In fact. I chuckled to myself in the bathrooms afterwards when an elderly lady ( clearly there with her daughter) stated………. ‘ I can’t say I disliked it………but it was a bit odd!’

I didn’t dislike it- I liked it very much. I loved the fact it was ‘off kilter’ from the start and throughout, I loved that it caught me off guard occasionally and the characters and story had me hooked from those early minutes. I loved the unconventional camera angles in some scenes along with the stark unforgiving lighting, and even though some of the music was grating on me, with it’s harshness in a couple of scenes, it worked and only enhanced what was happening at the time. I can see why Olivia Coleman won the Oscar for her role and I’m glad at least that Rachel Weisz was recognised with a nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting role.

 

                                                     Have you seen it and what did you think?

 

 

 

 

Confidence- where to find that stuff and how to get some!

I think most people, if asked, would doubt their own abilities in most things, we never really say out loud what we think we are good at- do you agree?

I was never a confident person by nature, I hid from photos as a teen, I always felt like I was the ugly duckling of my group of friends and was always very quiet in social situations ( unless I was at home, in which case my Mum would vouch for the fact I can be a mouthy cow!).

However, when I look back I had the confidence to join the armed forces ( Royal Air Force- literally 30 years ago when it definitely wasn’t the norm to do so), to leave the security of my family at aged 18 and pushed myself to do things I literally had no clue I could do ( shoot an automatic weapon, do gas mask drills in confined spaces with the unmistakable effects ‘tear gas’ , being dangled out of search and rescue helicopters as a ‘patient’ and even wing walking, twice, one of which was at an international air display!).

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How to stay in control of the housework with chronic illness

There is no denying the cleaning frenzy that has spread like wild fire online over the last few months, so I would like to say from the start this is NOT another jumping on the bandwagon post but more of a recommendation of what I found has worked for me. First of all I would like to make it clear that I’m not judging all of these accounts or slating one because I like another………..nope, I’m firmly in the camp that there is enough room online for everyone doing  their own thing in the way that suits them! So this is just a recommendation on what works for me ( and hopefully others too) in regards to my illness and pain levels.

I make no secret of the fact I have chronic illness which sees me deal with chronic, persistent pain daily…………in fact I cannot remember the last day I was pain free………….to be fair if I woke up pain free I would probably think I had died.

Anyway, before this HUGE cleaning frenzy craze took hold of everyone I literally stumbled upon an Instagram account that was less about just cleaning random things at any time and more about a cleaning method that allowed people to be housework free for the whole weekend ( I mean who wouldn’t want that anyway!) but was well thought out and covered the whole house on a weekly rotation while keeping to a minimal amount of time………. 30 minutes a day in this case. The more I read the more I knew this method would work for me as I like that sort of routine to follow.

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