Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Storyhouse: The Secret Seven Review

When Storyhouse announced that its first Christmas show was to be a live stage adaptation of The Secret Seven, it was as if a childhood dream had come true. The classic Enid Blyton stories were a firm favourite of mine growing up.

As much as I loved The Famous Five, also famously written by Blyton, The Secret Seven just felt more relatable to me. They made their plans in the garden shed, their adventures were set locally with parents often getting in the way, ruining their best laid plans with talk of bedtime and chores! By contrast the Famous Five spent a questionable amount of time alone, visiting strange island’s and doing what they pleased.  So, whilst the Famous Five books are arguably more widely known and may have been a more obvious choice for an adaptation. I think we can all relate to those early childhood dreams of seeking adventure, sibling rivalry and getting told off in front of your mates by your Mum. More so, than being packed off for the summer to a great Aunts, following bearded strangers and finding hidden treasure anyway.
I was lucky enough to attend the press evening of the Secret Seven with my daughter, Seren who has never read the Secret Seven books before, so was looking at the show with a completely fresh pair of eyes. I am thrilled to say she loved it just as much as I did, so much so that she has now added all of the books to her (still ever growing) Christmas list.

Seren is an avid reader, just like her Mum, and she always say’s that the best stories are the ones where you feel as if you are transported into another time and place. Where you feel like you are part of the adventure itself, and both Seren and I can honestly say that Glyn Maxwell’s stage adaptation did just that!

Directed by Storyhouse’s very own artistic director Alex Clifton, The Secret Seven is set at Christmas in the quintessentially British village of Cherrydale, and the austerity of a post WW2 Britain. It is here the seven friends unwittingly stumble into the adventure that they have been so desperately looking for.
Despite the lack of a saucy pantomime dame or a nativity donkey in the show, it really does feel very Christmassy! I’m not sure if it was the Christmas carols, or the beautifully decorated trees which set the scene, as you enter Storyhouse that did it. Or, if it was the set cleverly designed by James Perkins adorned with branches, twinkling fairy lights and dark corners.
I could almost feel the warmth and cosiness of Peter and Janet’s garden shed, see the snowy rooftops. and feel the cool crisp air of Cherrydale at night.
Seren also really enjoyed the use the cast made of the stage, climbing telegraph poles, being strung from the ceiling, going down into the stage floor, running on and off the stage. The set felt ‘bigger’ than it actually was because of it.
The story itself starts with Joko the baddie – there’s got to be a baddie in a Secret Seven story and Joko is certainly that – and Goldie, a young girl who is a clown in the local circus, and who he has stolen. Goldie never speaks, yet Seren said she still understood everything Goldie was trying to say. An understated and yet captivating performance by local student Evangeline Hartley. We learn that Joko wants his revenge on Cherrydale, and he is going to steal all the presents from the children on Christmas Eve using Goldie to do it. The opening scene was dark in both mood and lighting, but then kidnapping a girl from the circus and keeping her in an abandoned house will do that I guess.
Joko played by Nick Figgis and had a bit of a Jonny Rotten, cockney wide by persona going on for him, he also played the role of Peter and Janet’s Dad, I had no idea!  As the bad guy, Joko doesn’t redeem himself in any way as you would expect in a Christmas show, unlike his somewhat bumbling buffoon of an accomplice Nimms, played by Joel Sams. A hapless, blundering council employee, and you could see he was wondering what on earth he’s got himself involved in with every arm jerk, face twitch and blinking eye.

The Secret Seven come across their sinister plan one dark, cold evening and make a pact to not involve their parents or police and solve the mystery themselves. so standard Secret Seven behaviour! In the books, as much as I loved the adventures they had, it did kind of feel to me that the characters of the seven kind of morphed into one another, They were sometimes almost secondary to the story. That is definitely not the case in the stage show, they seven really do come alive in every way!

Pic: Mark Carline 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

We Need To Talk About The Elf....

Firstly, I just want to make it clear that I absolutely LOVE Christmas, it really is my favourite time of year.

I love everything about it, from decorating the Christmas tree, filling the house with gingerbread scented candles, and strings of fairy lights. Choosing and wrapping presents, ALL the Christmas films, but especially the rubbish made for TV ones on Netflix! Festive food and drink and browsing Christmas markets. Markets where you find yourself forking out £4 for a cup of mulled wine that you don't even like, but drink anyway because hey it's festive!

I love the Christmas traditions that we have continued from when I was a child, like a family walk, new P's and watching 'It's A Wonderful Life' To the new traditions hat we have formed; such as Christmas Eve boxes, 'Tracking Santa' and our family and friends getting together in the local pub. Before walking home to put a carrot out for Rudolph, and a glass of Baileys for Father Christmas.

Oh how could I forget a Christmas Baileys? You can't put up the Christmas tree in our house without a Christmas film on the TV, and a big glass of Baileys it's the festive law. Another thing I never drink at any other time of year, but for some reason must have at Christmas!

I try to do everything I can to make it special, and put a huge amount of pressure on myself to try and make it  'perfect'  for everyone. Why I do that? Well that's probably a therapy session I can't afford right now because, you know it's Christmas.....

However there's one thing I just can't get on board with.

The Elf On The Shelf.

I know, I know! This possibly makes me a terrible parent as it seems most people LOVE him, and really enjoy doing it, and I get that to younger children especially, he must bring great excitement every morning seeing what mischief he's been up to.

Not this much, hopefully.

Friday, 20 October 2017

I Haven't Always 'Got This Mama'

I see this on social media All. The.Time.

"You've got this mama"!

I mostly see it on Instagram in those perfectly filtered little squares, posted by someone who looks EXACTLY like she has indeed  'got this . Often accompanied by bunch of pretty peonies with a link to where you can buy them, naturally #AD

One post I read, was by a reasonably well known 'Mom Blogger' .

It was about how she will sometimes stop to connect with other 'Moms' when they look like they're having a bad time. Maybe their toddler is kicking off in the supermarket, or whilst they are out for lunch or something. She stops to look at the Mom, "really look at her" (which to me just sounds a little bit like staring.but there you go) Then she hugs the Mom and say's "You got this, You're doing a great job"!

No one has ever done this to me. Ever.

No one stopped me when my then toddler was mid meltdown in Starbucks, and I was trying to navigate a pram, overpriced coffee and a 3 year old out the door. One who has suddenly lost the ability to walk, talk or be reasoned with.

No-one ever hugged me and told me I 'got this' when my daughter was in a wheelchair and I couldn't get around the aisles of the local supermarket. Where I managed to knock a carton of cream out of someones basket and all over the floor. That lady didn't look like she wanted to stop and hug me, quite the opposite in fact.

No one came over to me in the park when I was watching my child take part in what appeared to be some sort of crips vs bloods showdown over the play equipment. No -one shouted over and said "Hey mama you got this"!

Because the truth is? Right there and then in those moments I hadn't 'got it' at all.

I wouldn't have wanted anyone 'really looking at me'

I wouldn't feel comfortable with any awkward hugging or motivational speaking from a complete stranger.

Do you know what I'd have liked? Just 'The look'

You know the one I mean, It's done in that very British way of firstly completely ignoring the other Mum so they don't think that you're judging them. Then you panic that this looks exactly like your judging so you spend the next few minutes desperately trying to catch their eye.

And when you do? You give 'the look'. That small smile and sympathetic eye that says "We've all been there" nothing more needs to be said, nothing more needs to be done.

Because I don't always feel like I'm doing a 'great job'. I don't always feel like I make the right decisions, taking a wheelchair out in the pissing rain food shopping, and visiting the play park after a busy day hyped up on Haribo should of taught me that.

And that's normal right? It's normal to not always go around patting yourself on the back on the wonderful job you're doing at work, life and parenting.

If you do? Well as my wise Nana once said "The problem with pedestals is they can be too easy to fall from"

I don't always feel like I got this.
I don't always feel like I'm doing a great job.
Sometimes it feels like everyone is doing a better job than me, and there's actually a secret 'proper Mum club' I haven't yet gained entry too.

And that's OK.

It's OK to not always 'Got this Mama'

And if I see you? And you're having a moment when you haven't  got this either? I'll give you the look, I'll pass you the cup that's rolled on the floor in the cafe, hold the door open in Starbucks.
Definitely not push past you in the supermarket or judge you for having a kid that's involved in a zip wire stand off in the play area.

Like I said, we've all been there.

Rachel x

Is it just me or am I just showing my age because when I hear the word "Mama" this is what I see.

OK, so I'm definitely showing my age.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

How Not To Vlog

So, despite S's best intentions to vlog our summer holiday this year, it just didn't happen.

I had watched a lot of these holiday vlogs when she announced her new hobby, and at first I was happy to get involved. This is the first time in 10 years that our daughter has shown any nerves with regards to flying, so I wanted to alleviate them quickly before it escalated.

And believe me, it could of escalated. This is a girl who,after hearing a story in school about someone getting trapped in a lift, has steadfastly refused to step foot in one for  over 3 years. Yes, even at Covent Garden tube station. Where there are 193 steps equivalent to a TEN story building. S gave zero shits, she buggered off ahead, Mark got the lift and I was pretty sure I passed out for a brief moment half way to the top.

You see the problem with this 'vlogging' malarky is that your family needs to be relatively normal in order to to do it, and we're not. It's not that we don't try, boy do we try, but I think it's just time to accept that we're far from your average family, especially when it comes to holidays.

I mean grounding an outbound flight to Alicante in Madrid 5 years ago over a spilt cup of tea should have taught me that.

Yes this happened.

Friday, 18 August 2017

10 Not So Simple Rules For Looking After Our Pets

Hello Friend,,

Thanks so much for agreeing to come into our home and care for our animals whilst we are on holiday. The animals being one atopic dog, one naughty kitten, a grumpy old Cat, and of course 6* pond fish.

As well as generally keeping the animals fed, watered and alive, we also thought it might be helpful to have a list of little tips and advice that you might find helpful during your stay.

This list is by no means exhaustive of course, they also like to throw you a curve ball occasionally, by doing such things as:

Going missing for 2 weeks - the cat.
Running and jumping out of the bedroom window - the kitten
Chasing a ball so fast into a hedge that you get stuck in it - the dog.
Getting stuck up a tree - the kitten

Don't worry none of the above were seriously harmed during any of these escapades, thanks to several relatively large vet bills over the years all are still alive and well.
Touches wood, touches all the wood

So here goes....

1. Hunger.
As well as the timetable of feeding times I also thought it would help to inform you of the mind tricks each animal likes to play when it comes to their alleged  'hunger'
Each will at some point behave as if they have never seen food before, they way they exhibit this is as follows

The Cat - The cat get's 'hangry'!

If you have not fed the cat at the specific times given she will alert you to the fact she is hungry by howling very loudly outside the cupboard that stores the food. She will also paw at the door and look at you scornfully, as you are an imbecile that has somehow forgotten she exists.
If this still hasn't got your attention she will then decide to regurgitate her last meal, by retching and stretching as if she is turning herself out, then leave the gift of vomit somewhere for you to find.

The Kitten - Will look sorrowfully at his bowl and pat at it with his paws. If he had the ability he would hold it up and say "Please Sir can I have some more" he would.

The Dog - A Lab always hungry.

If you're eating he'll look at you with his brown eyes and stand stand closer and closer until he's practicaly sat in your lap, will also try a sly lick of what's in your hand. If you lock him outside then you'll hear him sighing loudly or he'll come to the window to stare at you while you eat, never once blinking - it's quite an ability.

2. Stairs are death traps.

One or sometimes all three animals will actively try to kill you as you walk down the stairs.The dog likes to race past you and stop dead immediately in front of you. The kitten will often be found sleeping on one of the stairs so check. Especially if you're getting a drink in the night as I learned the hard way, oh and the grumpy old cat will often try to take a swipe at you through the banister.
Be on your guard when using the stairs at all times!

3. The dog has selected deafness.

If you shout his name for telling him off for eating the cats food, humping an animal outside the co-op, or for sniffing the crotch o a guest then he's deaf as a doorpost.
Open a packet of biscuits in the kitchen? He's by your side in less than 2 seconds.

4. Thirst.

Despite all three having access to fresh water at all times they all prefer to drink out of the pond, a random dirty puddle or just any spot where water has collected. The cat has been known at times, especially when we have company, to be found desperately licking the bottom of the tap in the downstairs toilet, as if to show that we are mistreating her by withholding water.

5. #Weegate

The dog will need to go out for a wee before bed, when you let him out he will go outside and sniff at a few things and then come back in, giving you the illusion he does not need one. And knowing he had about 40 on his walk you think you can go straight to bed right?


Just as you are about to drift off in bed you'll hear him get up from his spot of the bedroom floor and go downstairs, he will lull you into a false sense of security at first thinking he just wants his own bed for a bit, but NOPE just as you close your eyes again he'll whine at the back door. You argue with your other half, and one of you gets up to let him out.
He looks at the open door as if you are showing him the magical to entrance to Narnia and looks back at you blankly. You gently coax him outside Mutter through gritted teeth to bloody go for a bloody wee   and he will finally wander around the garden as if it's the first time he's drawn air.
When you finally look like you are about to break down, that is when he will piss up the swing set or garden furniture and come in.

6. Identity crisis

The kitten is a bit confused. We think he believes the dog is his parent, he follows him everywhere, and they sleep cuddled up together. He allows the dog to sniff his butt for uncomfortable periods of time and enshues any kind of cat related fun - ball of string? toy mouse? Dreamies? No thanks! Will try and chew the dogs bone, eat his food and chase a ball though.

7. Attention

The dog likes to be fussed all the time, the kitten likes to be fussed all the time, but the cat? No. Only when she actively seeks you out are you allowed to touch her.
Do not, I repeat do not make eye contact with the cat if she jumps up on your knee for a fuss, she will scratch your eyes out for noticing her weak moment. Just stroke her until she has had enough and then she'll jump down.
If she's decided your knee if her's for the night? It is, send out for help to bring you food, water and a wee will have to wait.

It's her house we just live here.


The cat does not like closed doors, it's her house remember she likes to know whats going on at all times. Bathroom time? She'll knock on the door with her paws until you give in and open it and then walk off.

The dog will let himself in through the back door when he's had enough, yes he can open the back door. Still chases his tail though.

The cat and kitten only like to leave the house via a window, kitchen or living room. Yes even if the back door is wide open.
If it's raining or they want to come back in they will sit on the windowsill glaring at you until you get up, they may choose to come in then, they might not it's like some sick mind game they play until they finally come inside.

13 times is the record. I think I actually wept.

If you forget and go to bed or have drifted off on the sofa? Good luck with that.

9. Sleep

Despite the dog having a bed in the hall he sleeps where he damn well likes, mainly the bedroom floor at night. Sometimes tries it on by putting a paw on the edge of the bed.

The cat sleeps at the bottom of the bed but only if I am there, we have an understanding you see. She takes the whole of my side of the bottom of the bed, and I sleep with my legs hunched up or face an excessive scratching. It's an agreement that's worked well for 12 years, when I am not there she sleeps elsewhere, I like to think it's because she misses me , and not because she's actually made me her bitch.

The kitten

10. Seperation anxiety.

The cat hates us going away and shows her displeasure by doing things such as sleeping in the suitcase, rolling around on freshly laundered clothing, and throwing up on my new beach towel as an angry protest. Whilst we are away you will notice she will have a permanent resting bitch face, please note it is nothing to do with you! When we return she will secretly be pleased but will punish us by ignoring us for several days, and also by refusing to eat for several days. Every time I say I won't give in to her behaviour, every year I break and can and am found on all fours coaxing her from under the kitchen table with salmon.

She judges, everyone judges.

Nice holiday? Good because you will pay for it no.. B******S.

The dog is pretty disloyal, apart from the kid who he adores, he won't care that his primary care givers have left and you have moved in, as long as you feed him, fuss him and tell him he's a good boy.

The kitten gives zero fucks what we do as long as the dog is around.

Anyway I know they are in good hands, please don't let this out you off staying!

Oh and the fish, there's now 5 the kitten left a gift at the back door.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Cbeebies Land Hotel - A Few Thoughts


I saw your hotel advertised on TV recently.

As I watched a giant Iggle Piggle and his red blanket, looming over a child's bed. My initial thoughts were that perhaps I'd over indulged it a bit on the wine whilst Netflixing.
A quick perusal of social media however, told me that no, this wasn't some pinot grigio induced nightmare, you were actually opening a Cbeebies themed hotel.
So, with that in mind as I was no longer following what we were watching on Netflix, likely due to the wine consumed, I decided to have a little look to see what it was all about.

Not that we're planning on staying anytime soon*or anything, our daughter is no longer of an age where she watches Cbeebies. She's moved on to the world of YouTube, and watches videos of gamer's playing and talking all things Minecraft, and annoying American kids reviewing toys now.
It's an improvement on wanting to punch Postman Pat in the face and being creeped out by Baby Jake though, no offence.

Anyway after I had finished having a look at it all, I found I had a few questions, and also some suggestions for you to take on board before you open, on the 8th of July.

I hope that's OK with you?

Firstly - where on earth is Tom Hardy?

You tease us with him reading the bedtime story, making the witching hour of bedtime somewhat bearable, and yet there is a distinct lack of him anywhere in the hotel or Cbeebies land.
What's that about! I thought he was quite the marketing ploy for the BBC, something for the Mum's eh? (And we thank you we really do) Not that i was expecting him to wandering around shirtless around the park but you come on, you could have given us something!

Mr Bloom and Andy are NO substitute for Tom Hardy! No matter how tight their trousers are. Sorry boys.

Where's Tom *sobs* 

You gave Postman Pat his own ride? Really?

Pat's parcels have been mixed up! The rides say's! Well of course they have, because Pat is absolutely bloody useless at his job. He shouldn't have a ride based on this fact, it'll make him even more complacent.

Report to the sorting office to receive your instructions and become part of Psstman Pat's 'Special Delivery Service'  Does the ride involve such things as bumbling around, chatting to a cat, losing parcels and generally getting on everyone's nerve's? Because that seems to be all it takes to be part of The Royal Mail's Special Delivery Service according to Pat.

Speaking of Pat, please please do not give him any customer facing job roles. Or any job roles come to that matter. Could you imagine him on reception? I mean he can't even deliver one measly letter
without completely cocking things up .How would he manage to check in a coach load of guests at the same time? You'd find him rocking under the reception desk, stroking Jess (NOT a euphermisim) and mumbling to himself. He is also incredibly wasteful of company resources, for someone who once called in a helicopter to deliver ONE parcel who would he call on if someones suitcase went missing? The Navy?

Hello I'm useless at absolutely everything.

The Octonauts

Is it safe to have a polar bear, on reception? How do you find a suit that fits?
Why hasn't the polar bear eaten the penguin or the cat? Why are they all the same size?

So many Octonaut based questions.

I liked the themed bedrooms.

But Postman at isn't really going to be knocking on the bedroom door as the advert shows surely? Bit creepy.

Any plans for a Tom Hardy themed bedroom?

I believe the 'In the Night Garden' Bedroom suite plays the theme tune as you enter the room?
I think it's far to say that after a day with toddlers, in a theme park. The last thing I would want to hear is anyone singing about Iggle piggle as I step through the door.
Especially after my child has possibly had a meltdown whilst waiting for the 'In the Night Garden' boat ride.  A strong G&T waiting would be preferable.

Right, where's the mini bar.

Will Mr Bloom be your on site gardener? 

Asking for a friend.

Will Charlie and Lolas parents be making an appearence on their ride?

Or are they still being neglectful T***s and letting Charlie raise his little Sister single handedly on a concoction of pink milkshakes and biscuits?

Yup, looks like it!

Does the Hotel have an infirmary aka a Bar?

After a day of primary colour based overload, Mr Tumble, Iggle Piggle and bloody Pat all in such close proximity. Do you have a place for stressed parents to rock in a dark corner at night? Perhaps with booze and moderately priced maize based snacks.

So just a few thoughts Cbeebies - good luck with the hotel launch.


* happy to come along for a honest review if you want to watch a middle aged Mother try and get her 10 year old daughter to go on an In The Night Garden boat ride. And her husband to stay in a Octonaut themed bedroom.

Keep Pat away fro me though, he gives me the rage.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A love letter to Storyhouse

This may come as no secret to those who knows me in real life, or to those who follow me on social media, but I am just a little bit love with Chester's Storyhouse. OK, a love, and I don't throw that word around lightly. That's usually only reserved for my very nearest and dearest, a cold glass of pinot grigio. Oh and Tom Hardy, obviously.

It's just that my feelings for Storyhouse go beyond being just a crush, or a brief encounter, like my flirtation with a gym membership did. I'm not going to turn my back on it if the plush red carpet fades, or if the furniture that looks like it belongs in a luxury hotel get's a little bit grubby.

We might not always get along all the time of course, we nearly fell out as I navigated the website one evening, and when I felt like I might develop claustrophobia stood in the Queue of one of the smaller ladies loos! But getting through little bumps in the road like that, are the sign of a good relationship I think.

So Storyhouse, thanks for coming into my life. I love thee. Here's why.

 1. You came along at just the right time

We have no culture! We need a cinema they said, we need a theatre, they said. We're losing people to Manchester and Liverpool! I know, things were starting to get a bit manic .....

So what happened? Well you came along and gave them exactly what they wanted. A £37 million pound investment in our beautiful city. A 100 seat cinema, showing the big hits as well as smaller independent films. A theatre sitting up to 800, a restaurant and bar, and wrapping it's arms lovingly around the whole building, is the library.
You gave us everything we needed and more, all in one space. And all by redeveloping one of the city's most iconic buildings. The 1930's art deco, Odeon building.

Thanks Storyhouse.

Merging the old, with the new.

2. I can read, and eat, and drink wine....all in one place and nobody will judge me!

Storyhouse has genuinely become one of my favourite places to spend some free time. I can change my book, read a newspaper and grab a coffee. Or a wine, if it's at a reasonable time in the day of course *cough* I can order a bite to eat and take a seat to settle in and read for as long as I wish. You also never know who is going to be there, I've had a coffee listening to live music, and read a book whilst watching children excitedly dressing up in Alice in Wonderland costumes, it's a real hub of activity.

If it's peace and quiet you want, then you can sit upstairs in one of the quieter reading areas in Storyhouse. .

No disapproving looks if you drink wine in a library! Not that I've tried.....

3. You like Kids!

Kids are welcome, kids feel welcome and as a parent? That's a big deal.

Firstly the kids library, it's a joy to enter with it's bright colours, decorative items and the comfy window seats. You don't feel you have to hush them every five seconds through fear of disapproving tuts and stares They have their own small theatre space where story time, and music time takes place, They can also do arts and crafts here, dressing up, puppets I've seen it all.

My 10 year old feels like she can walk around the building, interact, look at books and feel's as if this is much her library as much as the adults, I love that.

Best of all Under 12's go free! All children can experience the joy of theatre as they are free under 12 (with accompanying paying adult) Whilst some may, and do take advantage (an entire row of loud schoolchildren sat behind me at one show) You can't deny it makes theatre accessible to all, and listening to the children laughing and clapping and gasping along to Shakespeare? Whats not to love about that.

No parenting with hushed whispers needed here at Storyhouse!

4. You can take classes.

Storyhouse also offers a wide range of classes suitable for all ages and open to everyone. From sewing club, to creative writing and scrabble club. Sessions to help those looking into their family history, work club - which is free to anyone unemployed, to give them the skills they need to look for work. And an online basics class, a reading group for the visually impaired. Hey, there was at one point a Beyonce dance class! Yes really.

5 The Library won't mind if you talk

I think this has to be the most controversial part of Storyhouse. The library.
Now some HATE the fact that you can actually speak in a library. Personally? I love it. I love feeling like I can walk around and not feel like I'm in a museum with a squeaky shoe. Some people hate this and need peace and quiet, for this there are the reading rooms upstairs, and lots of nooks and cranny's you can hide away in. If you really need absolute peace and quiet to read you could you know, always take the book home, That's kinda the point of the library anyway right?

Quieter reading areas.

6. It's open until 10 pm

Why do we need a library open until 10 pm I've heard people moan. Well, why not?
People can pop in after work, and not everyone's work finishes at 5 pm! They can use the library, or grab a bite to eat before the cinema or theatre. Parents waiting to pick up kids from town/parties can do so without mindlessly wandering around Tesco buying £35 of stuff you didn't really need in order to not pay for parking, we've all done this!.
You can grab a drink in there, Students can study.

I've seen the building abuzz with activity, yes even after 7pm.

Open for good times, even past 8 pm.

7. There's always someone around

Not following you around to make sure you don't slip a book under your jumper, or sneak popcorn into the cinema...which is actually fine to do btw. These are the fabulous Storyhouse helpers.
Wherever you look, from the lobby to the library, and the theatre spaces. If you need any help to navigate the building, the bookshelves, or to check out or return a book, they'll be right behind you. In a totally helpful and non creepy way as I've made it sound.

8. They like a Tweet.

If your on Twitter give them a follow, They are not only are pretty hot at tweeting about whats coming up. they are also good getting back to you with any complaints or queries.
They also have a sense of humour. A must in any good relationship.

Ahh Storyhouse, you smooth talker.

9. They cater for all tastes.

Chester wanted a theatre, they got a theatre. Ahhhh but is it bringing the shows that we see in Manchester and Liverpool? (It's always Liverpool and Manchester)
Yes, Yes it is.
Blood Brothers, Footloose, Spamalot. Along Shakespeare, The Beggars Opera, comedy and children's favourites such as Alice in Wonderland, There is something for absolutely watch at Storyhouse.

10, But they don't sell pints.

And if that's the worst part of this relationship Storyhouse? You and me will be just fine.

Here's to a long and happy future Storyhouse


Find out what's going on at Storyhouse here

Pictures with thanks from Rob Jeffries, mrsrachelokelly, Storyhouse and The Chester Blog 

More like this one? Why not check out these

Dear WHSmith

Dear Victoria,

Friday, 19 May 2017

The 10 Rules Of A Mums Book Club.

"For a book club to be successful, thrive and grow, it is important that certain rules and standards for behaviour are adhered to. Take some time when starting a book club to sit down and draw up a list of rules and standards of behaviour which all starting members agree upon. 
Make sure that everyone is agreed on what is acceptable behaviour within the club" Actual rules there on how to run a book club from The Reading Club. 

Gulp. So Book Clubs have rules and regulations that are all sensible and stuff? Who knew!
Well here are the rules and regulations from our book club. Every Thursday 8 pm.

1. You bring along the book obviously.

2. You also bring wine and chilli heatwave Doritos as this is a proper classy book club.

Wine, Doritos and cats! What's not to love about our book club?

3. You lie to the (only) other member about reading a couple of chapters each night before bed like a normal person, and don't admit that you actually binged read it whilst steadfastly ignoring all housework and jobs that needed doing on your only day off this week.

4. You both finish your first glass of wine and pour another.

5. You are meant to start talking about the themes within the book but get distracted with talk of playground gossip.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Lost Boy Review

The Lost Boy is the latest production from Theatre in the Quarter. 2 years in development the play emerged from work done by musical director Matt Baker with local schools.  A play for today’s troubled times, The Lost Boy , acted by a cast of 4 professional actors and a community chorus tackles the topical issue of the worldwide refugee crisis, as well the response to the 2016 EU referendum. Tuesday’s press night began with a chance to meet the creative team as well as some real life refugee’s whose stories were the inspiration for the play. Jeff Morgan of City of Sanctuary was also in attendance, noting the historical attitudes towards refugees, pondering if they have changed over the centuries and also looking for the facts behind alarmist headlines about refugees.  Review by Rachel O Kelly :
Last night, I was invited by 'that' popular Chester based Twitter account, to attend a theatre production in the beautiful St Mary’s Centre in Chester.
Now, I have to be honest here, it’s not somewhere I had ever been to before and when I stumbled across the building I had to ask myself why? And made a promise to myself to make sure I visit again, and again.
Not only is the former church impressive from the outside, it also feels as if you’re stepping back in time as you walk through the pretty cobbled streets leading up to it. Once inside, the size of the church although impressive with its high ornate ceilings and gothic architecture, didn’t feel overwhelming or imposing. It still felt like a comfortable, inviting and intimate space, and I can see why it is so popular with theatre and musical productions both large and small.
The play was the latest production by Theatre in the Quarter 'The Lost Boy', written by Stephanie Dale, and directed by Kate McGregor. It is an emotional and thought provoking piece of theatre highlighting the current refugee crisis, and it kept me awake thinking about it long after I went to bed.
Telling the tale of Karem, a teenage boy who finds himself fleeing his home in war torn Syria. Leaving behind everything and everyone he knew and loved to be free, and to be safe. Karem is played by Andrei Costin whose performance was simply spell bounding, and whose voice simply blew the audience away.
Through Karem we hear stories of other children in similar circumstances, and what we hear and see on stage are their true first hand, personal accounts. These were their stories and their experiences, and Theatre in the Quarter worked closely alongside the charity City of Sanctuary to deliver them.
Producer Jo McLeish had said earlier in the evening at the Q&A that proceeded the show, that one of the aims of the play was to “show the human behind the headlines” and The Lost Boy most certainly delivers.
Karem is first seen hiding on the beach injured and starving, in a small, close knit fishing town that I feel I’ve been to on holiday many times before. He is discovered by grumpy teenager Maddie who is excellently portrayed by Jill McAusland, I honestly believed every eye roll, foot stamp and exasperated sigh! As well as every shoulder slump, fear of saying the wrong thing, nervous bundle of energy that was her Mum. And to every Mum of a teenage daughter I’m sure, achingly identifiable and played by Victoria Brazier.
We see that the town is in its decline. The cinema has closed down and the theatre. Jobs are scarce, money is tight and people are worried. They are desperately holding on to the past ‘the way things were’ with the rotary club meetings and the swift pint afterwards. The Christmas lights switch on and annual choir performance, and no one more so than Maddie’s Dad Frank, with a very strong performance by Jonathan Markwood.
I felt his desperation and his frustration not only his words, but he carried them with every step he took on stage. We could see felt like a failure, he had lost not one but two jobs and neither by any true fault of his own. He had a family he wanted to provide for, to look after and he simply couldn’t. When that happens it makes you afraid, it makes you feel worthless and that makes you angry and bitter, and Frank encompassed all those things.

Our Town. Pic by Mark Carline

I veered from feeling desperately sorry for him, to feeling uncomfortable and angry with his words. The blame for the town’s decline was placed firmly on the shoulders of refugees. “Coming over here taking our jobs” “Invading us” Frank cries in a march with his band of angry villagers holding placards, chanting and cheering alongside him. As if it’s almost safer, stronger to be angry about all of those things together, they don’t feel so alone in their fears.
But his fear, his unwillingness to listen, to learn and be open finally alienates himself from his wife and daughter and he finds himself alone, leaving his home and his family.  Like Karem, leaving behind those he loved and wanted to protect.
Despite Claire and Maddie being unsure at first, tentative, a little afraid. They learn about Karem, they listen to his story, they look beyond the dirty clothes, the desperation and see who he was before. I think sometimes we are all guilty of not doing this, myself included. When I open a newspaper and see the pictures of refugees in Calais, and Syria am I always really looking at the people? The individuals that find themselves there? And no, it’s not by choice, don’t listen to the crap you overhear on the Bus.

Do you? I know I don’t, not always.
That needs to change, and what the Lost Boy is trying to do is to try and change the opinion of a Frank and one of his rotary club mates. It wants to spark a conversation, a debate. It wants to challenge opinion, to open our eyes and as Jo said to show us the human behind the headline.
It achieves all those things and more in the most beautiful way. I honestly don’t think there was a dry eye in our row at the end of the show.
I have to say beyond the main cast, I could not take my eye off each and every other member of the Theatre in the Quarter team. From the choir, the young children running around, the protesters and the musicians. Each and every one played their part with such conviction, what a team.
With thanks to Matt Baker and Erin Elston, Theatre in the Quarter and reviewer Rachel O Kelly.
The Lost Boy runs until 7th May. Tickets  can be found here:

Monday, 10 April 2017

The 10 Stages of a Family Trip To Ikea

1. Preperation.

You tell yourselves you'll make a list beforehand, taking down each items product code so you can go straight through to the warehouse and not get distracted in the Marketplace.
You'll leave the kids at home, and go one evening after work. Hey it'll be nice to get out just the two of you! You laugh when your husband suggests all you'll come back with is "Candles and shit"

2. The Journey.

Childcare has fallen through so you make the first mortal mistake of going at the weekend.
You're desperately trying to convince yourselves that it "Won't be that bad" but you both know deep down it will be. It will be just as bad as you remember.

Halfway through the journey you both realise that one of you the husband  has forgotten the list of things you needed and all the product codes. You try to log in to the Ikea website on your phone but have no wifi Consider throwing phone out of window. You have the first row of 547 rows that married couples have during a trip to Ikea.

Your 10 year old looks at you with disgust when you suggest her playing in the Ikea soft play.

3. The Car Park.

Point out several perfectly good car parking spaces which your husband obviously ignores. He decides he's going to park "A bit closer to the entrance" You helpfully remind him that it's Ikea, on a Saturday and there won't be any but hey, he knows best.
He clearly doesn't because there ARE no spaces. The ones you pointed out? Have now all been taken by husbands who actually listen to their wives.
Drive around the car park 48 times. Want to punch husband in the face.

Ikea. Causing marital rows since 1987

4. The Doors of Doom

You've parked up and you walk through the sliding doors into self assembly hell.
It's rammed with couples who look like they want to kill each other because A} they have been made to come to Ikea on a Saturday or B} Because they couldn't find a parking space either.
Children are either strapped inside a trolley they're too big for OR running around dangerously close to baskets of glasses and kitchenware.

You tell yourselves it's going to be a bit like a shop raid. In and Out as fast as you can, you won't stop for meatballs or a hot dog.

5. The Cafe.

You decide food is needed for fuel. And that fuel is meatballs.
You try and find a table whilst your husband orders the food and attempts to keep an eye on your child who has disappeared into the abyss of the drinks machine.
He clearly isn't doing a good job of keeping an eye on her as you spot her mixing about three fizzy drinks together, so that'll be something to enjoy later when the buzz has worn off.

Finding a table is worse than finding a parking space and you tut loudly at people who have finished but are still sat chatting. Putting off the inevitable doom like you probably.....

6. The Showroom

You're pretty sure they design the showroom as some sort of maze to stop you leaving. Because after you've done one lap of it, you find yourselves at the beginning again and no where near the exit.
You see lots of inspirational, clever space saving and storage solutions and realise your house lacks all of them. You decide you need them all, they will make your house more organised and therefore your LIFE more organised.
Ikea has given you a bit of a spiritual awakening to be honest, your husband is just shaking his head at you a lot, muttering about how much all this is going to cost (hardly anything it's all so cheap you say) and shutting the draws that your child keeps opening to look inside.

7. The Marketplace.

It's designed basically to make you BUY stuff you don't need, but it's cheap so you find yourselves falling for it. You fall for all of it.
The first thing to go in your trolley are candles obviously, then picture frames and candle holders. Basically all the shit your husband said you were going to buy. By the time you've got to the glassware, that looks like it's been stacked to actively encourage small children to knock them on the floor, you've forgotten everything you went in there for.
You take one of those pencils and pieces of paper to note down all the clever storage solutions you are buying.

8. The Self Service Furniture Area.

You are trying to help navigate the trolley your child is insisting  they push, but actually can't because it's too heavy. At this point you are too drained to argue, the trolley is overflowing with crap that even you know you didn't need. Everything keeps falling out and you keep putting it back in, you want to punch yourself in the face and wish you'd ordered all this shit online.
You are trying to be helpful by shouting out the product codes and aisle numbers to your husband for the stuff you have no idea how your going to get home. Your husband then proceeds to not find any of them.
When he finally does, you've wandered off to the sale area and wonder if you need a sideboard with a massive scratch down the side?  When you spot the other half sweating and dragging flat pack furniture behind him looking a bit cross, you decide not to ask.

9. The Till

You argue over which till to use, then pick one that obviously is going to keep you there until closing. You also keep picking up random crap dotted around, as if you are appearing on Supermarket Sweep.
The tilling process in Ikea is more stressful than Aldi any day. You try to make sure your husband packs everything properly and doesn't smash all the glassware you didn't need into the trolley.

You ask your husband if you should get this delivered, he say's it will easily fit in the car. You think it won't. You quietly row about this under your breaths, with fake smiles on your face  until the cashier looks a bit uncomfortable.

This little trip to Ikea for a few essential bits and pieces has cost £323.95 and obviously you haven't got any of the 48 blue Ikea bags with you from home.

10, The Return Journey.

After you have navigated your way to the car, and your child has attempted to steer the trolley directly into oncoming traffic. You both look at the boot and then the trolley, and then you panic.
Your husband tries to cram everything in, using every available space.

Flat pack furniture is dangerously close to your child's head on the back seat and when you helpfully suggest home delivery again he mutters the F""" word a lot under his breath. You decide to pop to the loo and  just leave him to it.

When you return 30 minutes later as you get distracted by diam bars, he's gone.

Several sweary phonecalls later you find out that he's driven around to the exit to collect you.
You drive home  in silence, apart from your child whose fizzy drink buzz is still strong and bouncing off the car roof. Well,  if her head could reach the car roof that is. It is currently pinned to the window by a shelving unit.

You decide not to mention the fact you have now found the Ikea shopping list, and have come away without  at least 80 per cent of it.

Maybe another trip next week?

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

5 Disney Princesses Who Could Have Done With Some Relationship Advice

I loved Disney films growing up, and not going to lie, I still do.
However, as a Mum to a real tom boy I don’t get to watch the Disney Princess films very often, apart from Tangled that is. That's the the only 'Princess' film my daughter will get on board with. I mean a Princess that runs around barefoot and doesn't like to have her hair brushed? Who doesn't need a man to save her, and will knock you the hell out with a frying pan if needed? 

Yup, that's my kind of heroine too.

Rapunzel. She's ain't no damsel in distress. 

So, I therefore may have to watch some of those Disney Princess films all by myself, and if you could possibly imagine me doing this in a way that does not make me look in the least bit sad? That'd be great.

I used to love all of the classics, especially The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella. But nowadays, as much as I still enjoy them and the magic and pure schmaltz that a Disney film brings. I also find I get a bit, well, judgy when it comes to the girl's relationship choices.

You see if I were the Mum of a Disney Princess? Well I’d be having some serious words.
Not that many of them have Mum’s do they? Not real ones anyway. Walt Disney seemed to have a real issue with the ‘Mother’ figure, they either appear to be dead, an inanimate object such as a teapot or just plain evil.

So, in honour of Mother’s Day here are 5 Disney Princesses who really could have done with some relationship advice from their good old Mum!

1 Ariel – The Little Mermaid.

Ariel, you have just turned sixteen. You still like playing with your friends and collecting things. OK perhaps they aren’t the sort of things I collected as a 16-year-old. Like rubbers, scrunchies and body shop lip balm. No, you collect ‘artefacts’ like forks, bottle openers and “oozits and wotists” galore.

So bearing this in mind, do you really think you are ready to fall in love and run off with the first man you meet? You have never even spoken to this Eric person due to him being UNCONCIOUS when you saw him! Are you really going to pursue true love based on just his looks? He might be a completely sexist pig who leaves his clothes all over the floor.

Are you prepared to never see your family again, to sacrifice a possible career as a singer ‘under the sea’ and completely change your physical appearance just for him?

Oh. You are.

2. Belle – Beauty and the Beast.

Ah Belle, I see so much of myself in you, I too was a bookworm, seen as a bit of a daydreamer. A real Daddies girl.

You possess some wonderful qualities that make me so proud. You are feisty, and brave. You stand up for what you believe in. You saw straight through Gastons misogynistic advances, whereas your counterparts would have simply married a man they first met (Yes Aurora, Ariel, Cinderella etc I'm looking at you)

You want more than that, more than what you consider a ‘provincial life’ Which is amazing, a bit sneery perhaps. When I was growing up our ‘provincial town’ didn’t even have a post office. You had a Bakers, a book store and a pub so you should count yourself lucky really.

But, for someone who yearned for far off places and sought adventure, you ended up shacked up just down the road. With a man who has essentially made you his prisoner. That’s hardly what you had your heart set on is it Belle, why settle?
Now while  I agree you really shouldn’t have gone around poking your nose in other people’s homes, especially when you were a guest, and they expressly told you not to. T
hat does not excuse ‘Beasts’ quite frankly abusive behaviour. 

He shouts at you, smashes furniture, he’s controlling. He needs anger management Belle, not a wife.

I am worried about you and think you should seek professional advice from a counsellor. I think you may be suffering with something called Stockholm syndrome.

Get out Belle. You deserve better.

3. Snow White – Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.

I feel for you Snow White, losing both parents at a young age and having to be raised by a Step Mother. A woman so consumed with jealously over your beauty that she wanted you dead. I mean you’re going to have issues.

But I have to ask you something Snow. Why so stupid?

As a young teenage runaway what part of shacking up with not one, but SEVEN strange men in a wood, did you think was a good idea? You cook for them, clean, wash their clothes, essentially kept as some sort of slave.

To be honest it was a bit like watching Taken in parts, except Liam Neesons role went to the Step Mother “I have a particular set of skills. I will find you and I will kill you” And she did. 
OK, her set of skills was less arm to arm combat and more fancy dress, but she got to her target just like he did. She just used a poison apple instead of a gun.

And after eating the poisoned apple and falling into a deep sleep, and being kept in a GLASS coffin by the seven strange small men, which is in NO way creepy. You decide to marry the guy that likes to kiss dead girls in coffins!!

FFS Snow, sort it out.

And then she marries him, obviously.

4. Cinderella.

After the death of your Father, you spent your teenage years cooking, cleaning and sewing for your Step Mother and Step Sisters. Now, as far a Step Mothers go in Disney at least she didn’t want you dead. Just as an unpaid housekeeper. 
The fact that you seem OK with this change in circumstances is worrying, and say's something about your self esteem. As if it is perfectly normal to go from sleeping in a bed and eating around a table to sleeping in the cinders of a kitchen fire, and sharing cheese with the mice. 

I'm here to tell you Cinders, it isn’t. It really isn’t.

Living each day like this, it’s really no wonder you want a break from reality, and an evening at the ball. Being driven by a pumpkin turned carriage thanks to your Fairy God Mother it's certainly that!

So, what do you do with this rare night of freedom? Chat, dance, make friends? Get shit faced on sambucca and fall over in a hedge? Oh no.

You fall in love with the first man you meet!  

He comes looking for you to propose, as you do after one dance with someone. A romantic gesture slightly marred by the fact he doesn’t recognise you when you’re not dressed up, only when the shoe fits! So obviously, you accept.
What are you thinking Cinderella? Don’t you want to see what else is out there for you?

I just hope you haven’t swopped cooking and cleaning for your Step Mother, to cooking, cleaning and being a housewife for the Prince.

Meet Prince bloody Charming.

5 Ana- Frozen.

Poor Ana, you certainly haven’t had it easy have you? Having your big Sister give you a brain injury whilst playing. Beig healed by trolls and therefore having all your childhood memories wiped away.
Losing your sister because your parents decide to lock her away in her room, and then who die in a terrible storm. Which is what happens to most Disney parents to be honest.

So, after many years of what seriously looks like a case of neglect. Having to fend for yourself in an almost empty castle, devoid of any parental roles. It’s no wonder that when Elsa ‘opens the gates’ and throws a party you latch onto the first guy you meet.

Not going to lie though Ana, I feel as much of a cold hearted little ice maiden your Sister is – no pun intended. You could have spent more of that evening, talking to her and listening to her. Rather than dancing and singing with a guy called Hans you’ve just met and then agreeing you MARRY him.

It's no wonder your Sister goes cray and runs off.

After the drama of searching for your sister with an ice salesman and a singing snowman, and the heartache of finding out Hans was in fact a con man. Did you decide to have a bit of 'you' time, connect with your Sister?


You start a relationship with Kristoff the ice salesman. I think we should all be thankful here that at least it wasn't the snowman.

 Still, first Disney Princess NOT to marry the first guy she meets. #progress