Cinderella – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Hello Loves!

Happy summer! I’ve finally made it to my summer holiday where I can rest, relax, read and catch up with my wonderful blogging friends. I hope you’re all well and enjoying the summer vibes. We’ve been having some beautiful weather but a splash of rain yesterday has been really welcoming.

Today I want to share with you a theatre review. When I say today, I mean, this morning as it’s 4:30 am in the UK. Regardless, I’ve not had the opportunity to do one of these for ages so I’m really really excited to be writing this one today! You may have seen in my previous post that I was lucky enough to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, Cinderella, on the second night of previews. We booked it last year for my birthday but it was one of many things to be postponed. Like everyone, we were feverishly absorbing any pre-released songs, desperate to see when restrictions would change so we could be back in the theatres once again. I really hope you love this review as much as I’ve loved seeing it and sharing it with you.

The Plot

We all know and love the tale of Cinderella. Without spoiling anything for you, this Cinderella is very different. Webber takes the conventional Cinderella and literally turns it on it’s head. Everyone in Belleview is exactly the same: tall, blonde, beautiful, in love with Prince Charming. Cinderella is alternative, different and loud mouthed. Her best friend, Prince Sebastian, has to step up and marry when his brother, Prince Charming, disappears. What happens next is a fairytale but a tale with a difference.

The Cast

The cast for this production have been widely shared. Cinderella is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Prince Sebastian is played by Ivano Turco. There’s also Rebecca Trehern and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as the Queen and the Step Mother respectively. I also have a huge soft spot for the step sisters too. The cast are simply wonderful. Carrie Hope Fletcher is a perfect Cinderella and Ivano Turco is a dashing prince. They also have such chemistry between them – they really do come across like best friends. In fact, the whole cast seem like a genuine group of friends which really helps. It was a privilege to see them all on stage together.

Staging

When I was a very little girl, I went to see Cats at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Home to The School and Rock and now Cinderella, I remember how magical I thought it all was. I still do. I don’t want to ruin the surprise but there is a surprise with the stage which means you’re all the most closer to the action. It takes place at the ball as well, meaning the beautiful dresses are closer than ever!

Singing and Dancing

It’s a musical, so singing is an integral part of the show. There are a huge number of songs, all as catchy as the next. You can guy the album now (I’ve had it on repeat ever since it was released…) Bad Cinderella is arguably the song we all heard first as it was released as the show was announced. However, I really love Unfair by the sisters and also Beauty Has A Price. Carrie Hope Fletcher has three solos within the show, my favourite being I Know I Have A Heart. We absolutely have to give credit for Only You, Lonely You which is Ivano Turco’s solo song. It’s tender and moving and sung beautifully. It’s honestly an incredible album. I urge you all to buy this at least! More information can be found here!

Overall

I can’t tell you how much I loved this show. Being back in a theatre was an absolute joy. Being surrounded by likeminded people too really meant that the atmosphere was electric. I have so much awe and admiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber for making this show in lockdown. It’s got everything – singing, dancing, laughter, emotion, a fairytale, modern twists, excitement, love. It’s a show I’d go back and see in a heartbeat. I obviously made full use of the merchandise shop and left with t shirts, hoodies, face masks and key rings. I’ve missed the arts so much.

On the opening night of previews there was a standing ovation. On the second night where I attended, there was a standing ovation. And it was so deserved. Theatres are alive again! It’s such a joy to see, hear and feel it’s heart beating. This show is the perfect antidote to Covid 19, lockdowns and restrictions. It’s brilliant in every way.

Continue to enjoy the summer weather lovelies. Big Love to you all!!

The Book Lover’s Bucket List – Caroline Taggart

Good Evening Book Lovers!

How are you all? I do hope May is treating you well and is providing you with some much needed sunshine and lighter days. I have say, it’s glorious not arriving and leaving work in the dark. It definitely does something to your mindset – that’s for sure.

Well, on the eve of the UK opening up a little bit further, following our roadmap out of lockdown, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a stunning book I received this week: The Book Lover’s Bucket List by Caroline Taggart. Like the rest of the world, I’ve really missed visiting places, seeing new things and making memories. Don’t get me wrong, I love home and the comforts of home, but I’ve missed exploring too. It’s like we all pressed a pause button on the past year. Yet, we have made it and there are many more beautiful times to come. I, for one, am using this delightful book to make plans for the not too distant future and I literally cannot wait! Thank you so much to The British Library for this copy.

What’s it all about?
First and foremost, this book is stunning. It’s got a beautiful cover and gorgeous coloured and black and white photographs inside – some of which I will share with you. It takes some thought to piece together out literary heritage. There are the obvious places in the United Kingdom that are synonymous with the writers that come from there or wrote there. For example, my beloved hometown of Stratford upon Avon and the playwright William Shakespeare. What this book does beautifully is takes the four corners of the United Kingdom and gives bookworms an itinerary and ‘to visit list’.

The book starts with our capital, London, a hive of literary history. As we read this chapter, we travel from Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey to P.G. Wodehouses’s Mayfair, from the Dickens museum to Dr Johnson’s house. London is a home across decades of literary genius. It also is a home to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (a place I am still yet to visit!) to Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park – prominent features of the works of Dodie Smith and A.A. Milne. Platform 9 3/4s aside, my second favourite place in London is Paddington Station. Who doesn’t love that little bear and his marmalade sandwiches?

‘…It’s the bronze statue in the station that brings Paddington (Bear not Station) to life…In fact, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that Paddington’s muzzle is a good bit shinier than the rest of him. Lots of passers-by have succumbed to the urge to stroke it.’

From here, we travel to the Southwestern points of England where we encroach upon Agatha Christie’s sublime Devon. The picturesque scenery is one that always makes me feel like I’ve probably rested and rejuvenated myself. One of the most popular and prominent places is of course, Hardy’s Dartmoor.

Central England boasts such names of literary heroes like Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis and George Bernard Shaw. Years of my own existence have been spent in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, home of Shakespeare’s plays. Somewhere else I really want to visit is D.H. Lawrence’s Birthplace and Museum. I feel in love with Lawrence’s work whilst at university but I fear this is a love I have since neglected.

‘…If you want to make a day of it you can take a walk in Lawrence’s footsteps. Heading northwest out of the village you soon read Colliers Wood Nature Reserve, whose reservoir features as Nethermere in The White Peacock and as Willey Water in Women in Love.’

From here we head towards Eastern England which gives us the locations for George Elliot, Rupert Brooke and W.H Auden and Anna Sewell. Let’s continue to the North of our country where we see names like Elizabeth Gaskell, Ted Hughes, Winifred Holtby and Philip Larkin. I studied at the University of Hull. Larkin runs in the academic blood of the north. One of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited is Lyme Park which is a National Trust property. Lyme is infamous for it’s setting of Jane Austen’s BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Know the novel or not – you will absolutely know Colin Firth as the ridiculously handsome, Darcy. The North also gives us the indescribable Lake District, home of Beatrix Potter and the Peter Rabbit stories. Again, I am lucky enough to have visited here but I am desperate to get back.

Wales and Northern Ireland have produced some of the most influential poets we have ever experienced. Poets like William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney. The beauty of these two locations are seen in countless poems, for us all to enjoy and experience together. Lastly, Scotland too has gifted us with some talented writers over the years too. Who could forget Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and J.M. Barrie. Whether it be their childhood setting or where the most famous books and poems are set, we really are incredibly lucky to have all of these at our fingertips. Who could forget Dunsinane Hill and Birnam Wood, from Macbeth?

‘And here you are, in the very same wood, nearly a thousand years later. Gosh. Pause. Time for tea? There was a nice-looking place just over the bridge. What do you fancy? Eye of newt? Toe of frog? No? Well, I expect they have scones. And we don’t have to talk to each other. We can just sit and read a book.’

Final Thoughts
This book has given me a real boost. Just as the world is waking up again from what feels like a very long hibernation period, we can start to plan and explore and live again. Pick a writer and visit all the places associated with them. Pick a location and see what you learn. Either way, if you love books as much as I do, this book is a must for your shelf. It’s more than that. It needs to be with you at all times, just in case you get an opportunity to explore someone or some place new.

I hope my small glimpse into this book gives you a gentle push to get out there and explore again. Thank you so much to the British Library for sharing this with me. I’ve loved it and will continue to love it the more I experience it. If you see a girl with her head in this book and a range of post-it notes sticking out of the top, the likelihood is, it’s me on my next literary adventure.

Big love all xx

The Ravenmaster – Christopher Skaife

Hey Loves!

Happy Halloween! 🎃

I hope you’re all well. Whilst the rain is sloshing down my windows, I wanted to share with you a little gem of a book I’ve recently finished. I had written this post once but somewhere along the way it did its own Halloween trick and vanished. So, I’ve written it again!

As you may be aware, I’ve spent a lot of time this year branching out into non-fiction. It wasn’t a genre I paid much attention to if I’m honest but I’m so glad I’ve pushed myself because I’ve found some absolute wonders along the way. Today’s post is all about The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife. I absolutely love London and I’m saddened that it’s been nearly a year since I was last there. In my eyes it’s a vibrant city full of life and wonder. This book then became a treat for me really because it meant I got to visit the Tower of London, in my head at least. I hope you enjoy it a much as I did!

What’s it all about?

Told through the eyes of the current Ravenmaster or Yeoman Warden, Christopher Skaife tells us what his job is like at the Tower of London and the history surrounding the Tower. It was Charles II who insisted that the ravens of the Tower be looked after and protected because without them, the kingdom will fall. There has to be six ravens at the tower for it to be deemed safe and for the kingdom to reign supreme. This has now become legend and firmly part of British history.

“And a good morning it is. The ravens are at home in the Tower. I can breathe easy again – the kingdom is safe for another day.”

The book begins with an explanation of what Skaife’s job actually is. It goes beyond feeding, nurturing and protecting the ravens, it’s about protecting the Queen. Likewise just like in his previous job as a soldier for the British army. I naturally warmed to him and desperately want to meet him now! As only the sixth Ravenmaster, Skaife is privileged to see another side to the ravens that challenges the historic and common perception of them. We learn that there are a number of rules regarding the ravens but the biggest one I related to was that they like routine and if their routine is disrupted, they don’t take too kindly to it!

“There was the time one of our ravens affectionally pecked a cameraman on the back of the leg during a television interview about the Tower, for example: that caused a bit of a commotion.”

We are introduced to the ravens of the book: Munin, Merlina, Erin, Rocky, Jubilee II, Gripp II and Harris. I am pleased to see that the majority of these ravens still remain at the tower, despite the book being published in 2018. Regardless, each raven has their own personality traits and quirks. I guess it is easy to forget that animals can be like us too. I particularly enjoyed the anecdote of Merlina and her love of Pringles – a girl after my own heart, clearly!

“She has a particular ability to be able to spot a tube of Pringles from the other side of Tower Green, hop right up to an innocent member of the public, steal the whole tube, pop off the lid, and cram as many crisps into her mouth as she possibly can before being noticed.”

Some days are more challenging than others. We get given an insight into days when ravens escape, causing panic and concern. We see the lengths Skaife goes to to rescue and continually protect the ravens. Even so, the paying public are there to hear the story and the story needs to be told. I am and forever will be grateful for the heritage, culture and history that we have in Britain. This book joyfully shows us a small part of it. I also really enjoyed the communication and understanding between Skaife and the ravens: the language they have between them. It isn’t a case of humanising them, it’s purely based on understanding them.

“They certainly seem to have the capacity to remember. When former Ravenmaster Derrick Coyle visited the Tower some seven years after leaving… Merlina came straight over to him. It was as if he’d never been away. Seven years!”

As an English teacher, I’ve taught Macbeth every year and every year have the same conversation about ravens in the Lady Macbeth scene. Ravens are prominent in English Literature from William Shakespeare to Edmond Spenser, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe. Personally, the next time I teach Macbeth I will be mentioning this book for sure. Ravens may have been associated with death but there is such more to them which is fascinating. As another day ends at the Tower, so does the book. The ravens are at home once more.

“Rising above it all were the birds. They rise above it still.”

Final Thoughts

I love, love, love this book for SO many reasons. We are so lucky to have such a rich and deep history. This book made me want to return to the Tower of London and when the world returns to some sense of normality, whatever that may look like, I absolutely will. For now, I’m pacifying it by looking at Twitter where we can keep up with updates from the ravens and the Tower. I’m thrilled to see the beloved Merlina is still there, bless her! (See for yourself here!)

Despite being a short book, it is packed with the here and now as well as the history. I’ve definitely grown in appreciation for the ravens and for the role of the Ravenmaster. I’m SO glad I found this book and it’s one that will be a permanent feature on my bookcase as well as a gift for my friends and family.

Enjoy the rest of Halloween loves! 🎃 Stay safe and well.

Big love xxx

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling

Hey Everyone!

Happy October. 🎃 Well, I’ve survived week four of school. Naturally, the weekends mean I retreat into my little house and read and recover. I’ve also got the added advantage of seeing my lovely parents for my Mum’s birthday too. However, I’m still squeezing in reading time!

You may remember I decided to reread all the Harry Potter books. Well, I’ve managed to review all of them apart from the final one. So here goes!

What’s it all about?

The novel begins with the aftermath of Dumbledore’s death. At this point, Voldemort is attempting to take control of the Ministry of Magic. At the same time Harry is about to turn seventeen years old which will result in him losing the protection he gained from his mother. Members of the Order of the Phoenix relocate to the Dursley’s and prepare to move Harry to the Burrow. For this, they need a plan and decide to use poly juice potion so they all look like Harry.

“The last words Albus Dumbledore spoke to the pair of us?’ 
Harry is the best hope we have. Trust him.

Unfortunately, the Death Eaters seem to be aware that this was the plan and attack the party. Mad-Eye Moody and Hedwig are killed and George Weasley is severely injured. Voldemort arrives to finally kill Harry but Harry’s wand keeps the spells from Voldemort away.

Harry, Ron and Hermione prepare to search for the final four Horcruxes. They are also the benefactors of gifts from Dumbledore: a Golden Snitch for Harry, a Deluminator for Ron and The Tales of Beedle the Bard for Hermione. They also receive the sword of Godric Gryffindor which has the power to destroy Horcruxes but it is prevented by the Ministry of Magic.

“I’m going to keep going until I succeed — or die. Don’t think I don’t know how this might end. I’ve known it for years.

Bill Weasley and Fleur continue with their wedding plans and the day of the wedding is the day the Ministry falls to Voldemort. The wedding is attacked by Death Eaters. Harry, Ron and Hermione flee to Sirius Black’s family home, 12 Grimmauld Place which now belongs to Harry.

Whilst here, Harry manages to work out that the late brother of Sirius, Regulus, had stolen the Horcrux locket and hid it somewhere in the house. Unfortunately, this was then stolen by Mundungus Fletcher. The house elf, Kreacher, locates Fletcher but he reveals that the locket has been stolen by Dolores Umbridge.

The trio decide to infiltrate the Ministry and steal the locket from her but as they escape, Ron is injured and Grimmauld Place is now compromised. The three are forced to hide in the wilderness, with only their spells to protect them. No matter what they try, they are unable to destroy the locket. Time ticks by before they realise the negative effect the locket has on them. It leads to the desertion of Ron, leaving Harry and Hermione left to continue alone.

During their time together, Harry and Hermione learn about Dumbledore’s past, including the death of his sister Ariana and his connection with the dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald. They travel to Godrick’s Hollow, Harry’s birthplace. There they meet the historian, Bathilda Bagshot. However, they soon realise that all isn’t as it seems. The real Bathilda has been killed and replaced with Nagini, who attacks them.

The two manage to escape but Harry’s wand is damaged beyond repair in the process, leaving him immensely at risk. A few days later, a doe Patronus guides Harry to a pond where he sees the Gryffindor sword. When Harry tries to to get the sword, the locket also nearly kills him. What’s more surprising is the Deluminator guides Ron back to Harry and saves him. He also manages to destroy the locket with the sword. Another Horcrux down…

Hermione is certain there is a reason why Dumbledore left her the book. The penny drops and Hermione spots a symbol that they have seen before, on an item that Luna Lovegood’s father, Xenophilius, has worn. They visit him and he eventually shares with them the symbol and what it represents: The Deathly Hallows. It contains the Elder Wand (an unbeatable wand), the Resurrection Stone (which can summon the dead) and the infallible Invisibility Cloak.

Xenophilius acts incredibly strangely and they soon realise that he has summoned the Death Eaters to catch them, in exchange for Luna’s freedom. The three manage to escape but Harry works out that Voldemort is hunting for the Elder Wand. This wand has been passed to Dumbledore after he defeated Grindenwald. Finally the pieces come together. The third Hallow is in his own Invisibility Cloak and the Snitch contains the Resurrection Stone.

A slight problem follows as they are captured and taken to Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix tortures Hermione, believe they stole the sword of Gryffindor from her vault at Gringotts. With the help of Dobby the house elf, Harry’s friend, they escape to Bill and Flyer’s house along with fellow prisoners, Luna, Mr Ollivander, Dean Thomas and the goblin Griphook. During the escape, Peter Pettigrew is killed for showing an ounce of mercy towards Harry. The absolute worse part for me was the death of Dobby.

‘Here lies Dobby, a free elf.’

Harry’s visions continue and the next is of Voldemort stealing the Elder Wand from Dunbledore’s tomb. Time is running out so the trio then decide to break into Bellatrix’s vault, believing that another Horcrux is hiding there. With Griphook’s help, they manage to break into the vault. There they retrieve the cup of Hufflepuff and escape on a dragon.

Amongst the chaos, it gave Griphook an opportunity to steal Gryffindor’s sword. Harry has another vision of Voldemort being informed of the break in. Enraged, he decides to check on Horcruxes, revealing to Harry what the final two are: Nagini and one at Hogwarts.

This makes the decision easy for them and they head to the beloved school. It wasn’t easy as Death Eaters are everywhere but make it with the help of Aberforth, Dumbledore’s brother. Voldemort is alerted to Harry’s whereabouts and decides to mount an attack on the school. The teachers and students alike defend the school whilst Harry, Ron and Hermione destroy the cup with the basilisk fangs from the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry discovers the final Horcrux and heads towards the Ravenclaw tower looking for the diadem. It is located in the Room of Requirement but in the process they are ambushed by Draco, Crabbe and Goyle. Crabbe attacks using a cursed fire but is unable to control it. The fire kills him and in turn, destroys the diadem. In the meantime, a number of characters are killed in the Battle of Hogwarts.

Voldemort is becoming increasingly annoyed that the Elder Wand isn’t performing as he expected it to. His reasoning is that Snape is the true owner of the wand as he is the one who killed Dumbledore. Voldemort murders Snape but Snape dies just as Harry arrives. Snape gives Harry his memories for him to see through the Pensieve.

These memories show a completely different side to Snape that no one expected. What appeared on the surface as absolute dislike for Harry, has roots in much more complicated grounds. Snape was a double agent, continuously watching over Harry and his friends, conjuring the doe Patronus because he was in love with Lily. We also learn that Dumbledore was dying after mishandling the ring Horcrux. His death with Snape was planned all along.

‘Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.

Harry also now realised he is the final Horcrux, unbeknownst to Voldemort, and must die at Voldemort’s hands to render him mortal. Harry gives himself up and instructs Neville Longbottom to kill Nagini. Harry embraced his fate and takes the Resurrection Stone to reunite himself with his dead parents and Sirius. Voldemort casts the killing curse on him.

What comes next is a dreamlike state where Harry is greeted by Dumbledore. He tells Harry about the original killing curse and how it left a fragment of him creating a connection but now the killing curse has been cast again, that fragment has been killed. Dumbledore also admits that his friendship with Grindelwald caused the death of his sister and estrangement from his brother.

Following this, Harry decides to beat death and head back for Hogwarts to end this for once and for all. He pretends to be dead and Voldemort buys it. Neville pulls the sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat and beheads Nagini.

Harry hides under his cloak as the battle rages on. Bellatrix is killed by Molly Weasley and Harry then shows himself to Voldemort. He explains how the Elder Wand’s loyalty transfers upon defeat, not the killing. Therefore, the previous master, was Draco not Snape. Harry then disarmed Draco at Malfoy Manor which means that Harry is the master of the Elder Wand.

“Not my daughter, you bitch!”

In retaliation, Voldemort attempts the Killing Curse on Harry but the spell rebounds, killing him. Harry used the Elder Wand to repair his own wand, intending to return the Elder Wand to Dumbledore’s tomb. He keeps his Invisibility Cloak and leaves the Resurrection Stone as forever lost. The wizarding world can live in peace forever more.

19 years later and once again we are on Platform 9 3/4s. The difference now is that we are seeing the children of the trio head to school. Harry and Ginny have three: James Sirius, Albus Severus and Lily Luna. Ron and Hermione have two: Rose and Hugo. Albus is worried he will be sorted into Slytherin. Harry tells him all about Snape’s bravery and that the Sorting Hat would consider his wishes. The novel ends.

‘All is well.’

Final Thoughts

It’s really no secret how much I genuinely love the Harry Potter series. I felt the same sadness that I felt when I finished it the first time round as a geeky kid who grew up with this. I still cry when I think about the death of Dobby. (I know, it’s silly! But he’s just too adorable!!) It’s a book I desperately try and get the kids in my school to read. It’s a book I try and reference as much as I possibly can as it is just magical. Every page is magical. There’s not been anything like it and I doubt there ever will be in my lifetime.

Thanks for sticking with me as I relieved this series. I hope you loved it as much as I did.

Big love all! Xxx

What Makes Us Stronger – Freya Lewis

Hey Loves!

How are you all? I hope you’re all enjoying the incredible sunshine we are getting at the moment. I must say, I do feel quite lucky to be living near a little park to enjoy it. I wanted to share a review with you today about a book I read recently. I finished it in a few hours and I finished it thinking, wow what a girl. I’m talking about What Makes Us Stronger by Freya Lewis. I remember the reading the news before I left for school. It was a very strange day for me, because I saw students in front of me that were the same age. It puts things into perspective completely.

Monday 22nd May 2017. Ariana Grande was performing in Manchester to a packed arena. Freya Lewis was there with her best friend Nell. At the end of the show a bomb went off. This is her story.

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What’s it all about?

The book opens with Freya talking about what her life was like before the concert. Freya was just a normal, fourteen year old school girl with a loving family around her feeling excited about her upcoming concert. This one was different: she could take a friend. She knew just the girl to take – Nell, her beautiful best friend. Freya wanted it to be a surprise so played along with the notion that she was unable to get tickets, until Nell’s birthday.

“For the rest of the day I basked in a halo of happiness as Nell jumped up and down telling everyone at school that we were going to see Ariana. It was the first concert she’d ever get to go to, which made it all the more special.”

Each chapter splits between before and after the concert. The following days were a strange haze for Freya. No part of her body had escaped injury from the explosion. However, the kindness and strength from those around her helped her to recover. In the early days Freya felt like she was recovering at a snail’s pace. Yet, slowly slowly, over time she did make some huge leaps. Her family visited and continued to give her the courage she needed, especially her sister, Georgia. The NHS professionals around her motivated her to believe she could and would get better. Eventually, Freya felt like she was beginning to make progress starting with scratching her head.

“A week ago, the mere suggestion that I’d be able to make such a tiny movement had seemed impossible. I’d achieved two big small things in one day: sitting up and scratching my head. They were definitely steps forward. And having Dad and the nurses celebrating with me in that moment, at this crazy house of four o’clock in the morning, made it all the more special.”

Ariana made the decision to visit the hospital in Manchester to see those who had been injured. I remember this being documented on the news. Reading Freya’s experience of this shows how innocent these victims all were. They were just out, listening to the music that they loved, watching their idol on stage, living their lives. The fact that their hero then went to visit them was something else. Freya admits it is something that she will never forget. I doubt anyone would! Ariana is presented in this as humble and dedicated to her fans. It is Freya’s mother that evoked the strongest emotion from me. The words of a mother.

‘As she turned to leave, Mum was hovering by the bed. She and Ariana looked at each other for a moment, then Mum’s face went serious. “Don’t worry, it wasn’t your fault”.’

Whilst her recovery was slow and steady, Freya was consumed by guilt. She knew she would putting her parents under significant strain. She knew that she was alive and her best friend wasn’t. She wondered how Nell’s family were and if they hated her for surviving. The same thoughts were had about school. Would they hate her for surviving? After these thoughts, Freya decided she was going to be positive and recovery quickly to help the pressure on her family. Knowing that the whole world was sending her cards, gifts and get well messages meant that it wasn’t just her family and friends that were willing her on. It was the public too. She would do it for all of them. Whilst her dad continued to update the world on her progress with his blog, Freya knew that if she gave up, the terrorist would win. She wouldn’t let that happen.

“The love those cards contained was really beyond words, and I wished with all my heart that Nell, who had been so loving and caring herself, was here to see it.”

Writing became therapy for Freya and thankfully, for us, that means that this book was born. We hear through Freya’s own words what the concert was like and immediately after. We see the people who went out of their way to stay with her until help came – the incredible Kim and Phil. We learn about the professionals who were there at the time, keeping her safe and alive. I don’t think any of us can imagine what the people that night saw, felt and experienced. It is here that Freya’s narrative splits so we hear her Dad and her Mum’s experience. It was her Dad that went to pick them up from the concert only to be greeted with chaos and destruction.

“In total, Freya was missing and in our minds probably dead for almost exactly one hour. The depth of pain that we felt during this hour, which was the longest of our lives, is indescribable. If I then reflect upon the situation for the families of those who were lost in this tragedy, including Nell, many of whom were uncertain of the fate of their loved ones for up to forty-eight hours in some cases, I simply become numb.”

Freya’s mother was at home waiting for her husband and daughter to return. Her experience is one of waiting and waiting. There was absolutely nothing she could do and no where to go. What really broke me was the fact that she was completely alone. She sat and cried silent tears, not wanting to wake Georgina as she had an exam at school the very next day. It is unimaginable to think how time felt at that moment: never ending I guess, but that is putting it lightly. Eventually, she receives news and heads to hospital. What is waiting for her there is similar to what greeted Freya’s father. Utter despair and carnage.

“We were able to observe her injuries and see just what a terrible state she was in; it was like a scene from the worst horror movie you could imagine. When they cut her clothes, they were recovered very carefully and placed in plastic bags which were then labelled. We were told that they were being sent to Forensics and would be used as evidence.”

Hearing the narratives of her parents inspired Freya further to make as much progress as quick as possible. Her parents were exhausted and she still felt bad for putting people out. However, the realisation of that night on them, spurred her on further. She started to feel hungry and begged for her mother’s spaghetti bolognaise. She was desperate to improve further and get herself into a wheelchair. Whilst physically she was recovering nicely, the emotional trauma was still something that she was struggling with. Missing her friends funeral also caused her upset. What is beautiful, is we do hear Nell’s voice throughout this narrative. It is dedicated to her and closes with a poem for her so this means that she is the first and last mention in the book.

“I think that the strength and bravery that I have now was passed on from Nell, because I always admired her courage and determination in life.”

Freya was now able to go home and this in itself created new challenges. But, with love, tough love and support she was able to succeed. Freya gave a speech at school, went out for lunch with her family and became exceptionally close to her sister. Freya had the opportunity to meet another idol, Harry Styles, at a concert where he dedicated a song to her and the new normal seemed to be falling into place. Jack, her personal trainer was helping her to build her strength at home and eventually she was able to walk again. This meant that it was also time to go back to school – after all, there was still learning to be had. Lastly, after all the fundraising, Freya won the NHS Hero Young Fundraiser Award. Freya’s attention was firmly on giving back to those who had helped her.

“Later, when we all gathered around the computer at home to look at our JustGiving page, we couldn’t believe the figure staring back at us: £40,000. In two days time, it would be the one-year anniversary of the attack – and the day our lives changed for ever… it gave me strength to know that, out of our heartbreak, we would be giving hope to others.”

The book ends with the closing reflective remarks from Freya. The lessons she’s learnt at such a young age, how she has had to rebuild her life despite the fact that is has been completely changed forever. Freya is honest about her up and down days but now knows that this is absolutely normal. What is especially lovely is the book ends with her thank yous to those who have been there from the moment she was found on the floor following the explosion, to those who helped her move and walk again. The book closes with a poem for her best friend.

“I will, and always will love you, my gorgeous Nell Jones.”

Final Thoughts 

There were a lot of tears from me when I read this book. It is always very refreshing and shocking to read a child’s perspective. Whilst showing maturity beyond her years, Freya and her family faced unimaginable challenges. Not only did they come out the other end stronger, they have used this to do so much good. This book obviously means so much to Freya and I genuinely enjoyed it. It makes you reflect upon just how lucky we really are. This book was an emotional rollercoaster but it was an excellent gift from a teenage girl. Hope will always win. Good will defeat evil. I urge you all to read this.

Big love all xx

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The Boy In The Dress – RSC Production

“I think I might be different. I might not be the same.”

Hello lovely people!

Well the first two weeks in the new role has hit me like a brick in the face – that’s for sure. I hope everyone is having a lovely and positive start to January 2020.

I am hear today to tell you all about my evening at the RSC in Stratford – upon – Avon where I saw The Boy in the Dress.

You may remember back in April that I managed to bag myself a front row ticket, something I don’t think I’ve ever done before in my life. Therefore, I was VERY excited. Let’s get on with the review!

Plot

Back in April I did review the book written by David Walliams. You can read this here. In summary, the story follows a young boy called Dennis, who at 12 years old, is the schools star striker. However, when his mum leaves home, life isn’t all that great. The only reminder he has is a photograph of her in a yellow dress. A similar dress is also on the cover of Vogue magazine in Raj’s shop and Lisa James, the most beautiful girl in school, is sketching in her pad. How can the world of football and dresses collide? Especially when the mean headmaster, Mr Hawtrey, likes things to be very normal…

Cast

I always get myself a programme whenever I see anything and I’ve kept them all from any show I’ve ever seen. It’s just a bit of a routine to mooch through and see who I know in the cast. This was no exception. I saw faces and names that I knew and had seen them perform in other RSC shows. However, what was most excellent was seeing names from Matilda the Musical. Toby Mocrei played Bruce Bogtrotter in the production I saw and I was so thrilled to see him again as Dennis. He is an inspirational young chap indeed.

Also, the role of Dennis’s Father is played by none other than Rufus Hound who was excellent! His part was emotive, relatable and sensitive which struck a chord with the adults in the theatre.

I also really liked Asha Banks who played Lisa James. She has an incredible voice and because I was lucky enough to be at the front and her stage position was mainly in front of me, I could hear her most. That being said, her powerhouse voice filled the whole theatre. She played the part really exceptionally well.

One particular highlight is the casting of Oddbod the dog. I won’t spoil that for you but it really is genius! I’ve never seen a better dog in a theatre ever.

I could use the same superlatives for all the casting really. You can get more information regarding casting via the RSC website.

Staging

Like Matilda, the staging for The Boy In The Dress is full on! There’s doll houses, footballs, numerous disco balls and a variety of different back drops. Basically, the stage is constantly moving and changing. I took a picture at the start, during the interval and at the end, just to give you an idea.

Singing & Dancing

There are a number of quite complex dance numbers with up to twenty actors on stage at one time so I was really mesmerised and found myself wanting to join in. (I didn’t because that would have been embarrassing!)

The music team on this production has some big names: Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers and Chris Heath, to be exact. It’s easy to see why the songs are catchy and good fun.

There’s 19 songs to this musical, opening with Ordinary and closing with Disco Symphony. Some notable songs are Mr Hawtrey’s I Hate Children and Is There Anything More Beautiful Than Lisa James and If I Don’t Cry sang by Dennis and his father.

Overall

I left feeling positive, upbeat, singing the songs, wearing the t shirt from the shop and wanting to install a disco ball when I got home. I also booked tickets to see the show again. It’s just THAT good. So far in my life, I’ve only seen the same production of a show twice and that was Matilda. I just can’t wait to go back and see this all again.

Also, the fact that the novel has translated so well onto the stage is a real bonus. All the characters are included, the plot is the same. It’s just brought to life the whole book. The biggest thing for me is the joy of celebrating the fact that you can be different. Boys can wear dresses and play football. People are just people. This should always be championed and this show is the epitome of that.

View the trailer for the show here and book your ticket right now!

Big love all xx

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas – Adam Kay

Hello Everyone!!

We are in that very strange period of time in between Christmas and New Year where it is perfectly acceptable to have biscuits for breakfast, chocolate for lunch and mince pies for dinner. Heavenly Christmas food! I hope you’ve all had a peaceful festive period and enjoyed yourselves immensely.

Today I want to share with you a book that I’ve now read twice this year because it is just that good. Adam Kay is back with his festive tales from the NHS frontline: Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas. You may remember my review of Kay’s first book, This Is Going To Hurt, which you can find here. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Overview

This book is much like Kay’s previous one but with a more festive edge. You may recall that Kay spent a number of years as a junior doctor in our beloved NHS and the novels come from his diaries he was writing whilst working. Kay omitted any festive stories from the first book so it didn’t become too Christmassy and here they are for us all to laugh, cry and read.

It starts off with a open letter really to the reader reminding us that despite it being Christmas time, there will be doctors and nurses who are working Christmas Day. Written with humour, it is a humbling start to jolt us back into the grim reality of the present regarding the NHS.

“A&E departments are busier than turkey farms, thanks for black eyes from carelessly popped champagne corks, fleshy forearms scares by roasting tins, and children concussing themselves by hurtling down the stairs in the box their Scalextric came in.”

Following this introduction, the book takes a simple structure: one chapter for each Christmas Kay spent in the profession. He openly admits to working 6/7 Christmas Days in obstetrics or gynaecology during his practising years. In his first year, Kay tells the story of a family member who has taken a turn for the worst, with the reality of there not being too much the doctors can do now. This moving aspect is something we can all relate to. However, I bet a fair few can say that they ended up laughing hysterically.

“Hoping to show empathy through my body language, I lean in to say all we can do is keep her comfortable and concentrate on her dignity. As I do so, I inadvertently lean on my tie. It is a seasonal tie…Crucially, and disastrously, underneath Rudolph’s red nose – and now the pressure of my elbow – is a button that activates a tinny speaker to blast out a frantic MIDI rendition of Jingle Bells.”

Thankfully the family took it well – hence the laughing!

Christmas Eve 2006 and a number of doctors are being quizzed about a child with an impressively luminous green nose. What could it be? How on earth did this child become so green?

“Answer: he’d dismantled his mum’s novelty earrings and shoved an LED up his nose…”

Kay writes with what I’d call, ‘knife edge humour’. We laugh yet we know we shouldn’t. However, these type of events happen on a daily basis with NHS, all 1.4 million of them, dealing with the consequences of our behaviours which are arguably worse over the Christmas period.

Nevertheless, it is always the harsh reality that brings us to tears. 2006 brought Kay an opportunity that would shape him and change him. Patient SH has a cardiac condition which means that if she continues with her pregnancy, she is unlikely to live. The procedure is grim, not for the faint hearted and highly emotionally charged. In Kay’s words:

“If Patient SH is brave enough to go through this, then I should at least have the balls to step up for her.”

Kay admitted for previously keeping this out of his first novel and still feels the pang of uncertainty in the editing process of this one. Yet, it stays because it was such an impactful moment. Again, it is reality.

Another Christmas Day, another day on the ward. Kay doesn’t even bother to complain and routines are forming – alarmingly. For the next Christmas on the ward, Kay was treated to a nice festive fragrance, cinnamon and mulled wine scent, mixed with every smell to do with childbirth. This did make me laugh out loud.

“It hangs in the air like some kind of acrid death-gas in a James Bond film, its putrid cloud choking every airway, blunting every nerve ending. We’re having the room deep cleaned, but they may well have to knock down the entire hospital.”

It’s Christmas and more often than not workplaces hold an annual Secret Santa and it’s sod’s law that you pick someone out that you don’t like. You hope and pray for the person you desperately want or even for the person you could merely tolerate in the name of the season. Life, or Secret Santa, never seems to go that way. Kay also picked out someone he despises and who despises him in return. H suggested a guinea pig, which was declined.

“I bought him a set of sandalwood styling wax and hair pomade. He is bald.”

I have so much admiration for our doctors and nurses. The hours are relentless, the breaks nonexistent and the patients and their families are sometimes downright rude. However, it is the glimmers that mean the most. The acts of kindness, the ‘thank you’ which make the job bearable. The only other thing that makes the job easier is humour. Those stories that stay with you forever. There’s some right corkers in this book but I think the story next is my favourite.

A child asks his mother if his father was there the day he was born. The answer is no. The reason why – hilarious.

“Well, darling, he made it to the hospital on time, but he was so drunk that he whipped out his cock when the doctor was putting forceps on your head, and they had to call security to boot him out.”

Is it just me or is this hard to believe? Only in England…

The final Christmas is one where, amazingly, Kay doesn’t need to work. Here we see descriptions of Christmas day’s as we know it. The food, the fizz, the party games and the television. Deep down though, any NHS worker will know, it is in your blood and you come to miss it. I feel the same about teaching. I’m so grateful for my time off but in a strange way I do miss not being in the classroom. I feel it more in summer though to be fair.

Finally, The Queen’s Christmas Message is a very important part of Christmas Day for some. Kay offers his own alternative message for us all to reflect upon. Thank your doctors, nurses and ward staff, if you’ve been in hospital. If not, remember the following:

“Stop sticking root vegetables, remote controls, chocolate wrappers, fairy lights – or indeed anything else that’s irretrievable and inanimate (or, god help us, animate) – up your interval cavities for one day a year. It’s only twenty four hours, guys, and you’ll make all their Christmases come at once.”

Final Thoughts

I loved this book just as much as I loved the first. It’s incredible to believe what people get up to over the Christmas year and what foolish and sometimes humorous decisions people make. Kay has such a unique writing style. He can make his readers laugh and cry and feel utterly dismayed. Massive respect for those NHS workers this Christmas and New Year. We wouldn’t be healthy without you. For all that you do, thank you.

Read this book. Feel it with your heart.

See you before the New Year guys!

Big love all xx

Day Trippin’ – Donna Nook

Hello Lovely People!

Happy December! 🎄🎅☃️🤶 This is such a wonderful time of the year. I love to see all the decorated Christmas trees, the sparkly lights, the luscious foods and of course, the festive reads. I have indeed read one festive read this month: Sophie Kinsella’s Christmas Shopaholic which I will be reviewing this month.

Anyway, I hope you’re well and December is treating you kindly. If you’re anything like me, you’re loving the fact that we can legitimately eat chocolate every day for the sake of the season! 🍫

However, before the excitement of chocolate and all things Christmassy kicks in, I wanted to share with you a rare day off that I had this week. I’m crazily marking away in the mock period (drowning is a better choice of word) but our heating broke at school which meant that on Tuesday we all had a day off. It was incredibly strange being out and about on Tuesday but I wanted to do something that really made it count. I’ve always wanted to go and see the seals at Donna Nook but never really got there. This was my moment. It was meant to be! It was a cold, crisp yet sunny day. The view was incredible.

Donna Nook Info:

Donna Nook is a beautiful stretch of coastline between Grainthorpe Haven and Saltfleet in Lincolnshire. It covers more than 10 kilometres and every year along this coastline, grey seals come to give birth to their pups near the sand dunes. The Ministry of Defence still maintains part of the area and it is still used by RAF Donna Nook as a practice site. The sign below did make me chuckle.

As soon as I saw the seals I was just in complete awe. They were perfectly relaxed and so beautiful. I took about 100 photos – no joke. I’ve never been so close to them. I felt like Sir David Attenborough. What I found most endearing is that they snore when they’re sleeping so naturally I made about 10 videos of that too.

So for this festive Saturday morning, one of my gifts to you are these ridiculously cute photos, taken by yours truly. I hope they bring you as much squealy delight as they did me. ☺️🥰

There are just no words for how beautiful these animals are. We are so lucky to have them pick a place near us where we can see this wonderful spectacle.

My Christmas gift to myself is to blog more so stay tuned!

Big love to you all. Let’s catch up soon! Xx

A London Adventure

Hello Loves!

So, I appears that I disappeared again. I wish I could pinpoint a reason for this absence but I honestly feel like I say the same thing repeatedly. The only thing I seem to do is work and go to the gym. This is indeed new! More on that another time. I made it to half term thankfully and jetted off to Cyprus for some last minute summer sun.

What this does mean however, is that I completely abandoned you all again. For this I can only apologise. Work feels like a battle at the moment so it’s very much a case of ‘head down, get through it’ mentality. I’m not feeling particularly great this weekend so it’s an opportunity to catch up! I promise I’ll catch up with you all as soon as I can. Please forgive me.

I wanted to share with you the utter joy that was my adventure last weekend. After waiting for three whole years I finally got Harry Potter and the Cursed Child theatre tickets. This of course meant a weekend away full of all things Harry Potter related and Christmas shopping. 👦🏻⚡️🚂

Saturday

Saturday started with waking up in a BEAUTIFUL hotel near Buckingham Palace and getting ready for a day of hitting the shops. 💂🏻‍♂️🛍 I went to Christmas World inside Harrods which was just incredible. I got some beautiful Christmas decorations and presents for my family. It’s a really glorious place with stunning presents. 🎄 The window displays are lovely too. (Sorry about the reflection!)

One of the things I really love about Harrods are the staff. They’re just so so polite, courteous and lovely. This gentleman below, was one of the stars from my weekend. 🌟

From shopping it was time to get ready for the theatre. I was fortunate enough to see both parts in the same day so the first show was in the afternoon and the second was a couple of hours after in the evening. Every Potterhead knows to #keepthesecrets but all I will say is: it was awesome, amazing, incredible and the best show I’ve ever seen.

That’s all you’re getting from me about it but honestly it doesn’t disappoint. It’s funny, dark and incredibly clever. Get your house scarf on and head down there. 🧣 (I absolutely did not end up buying a Cursed Child hoodie, programme, tote bag, pens, owl toy and ANOTHER Gryffindor scarf…)

After the show I took a walk back to my palace of a hotel to see all the pretty lights and sights of London. The outside of the theatre was absolutely stunning.

First stop, Fortnum and Mason. Their Christmas windows are SO divine. I bought my own body weight in biscuits so I’m already feeling pretty festive to be fair! 🍪

I genuinely believe we are so lucky to have a capital city that is just so beautiful. Millions of people visit every year just to be a small part of it. The London eye was looking lovely as was Westminster Abbey which was all lit up ready for the night time. What I enjoyed most was that the streets were pretty quiet which meant a clear view for photos! 📱

Sunday

Day two in my palace of a hotel and time to check out. The plan for the day was to visit Hyde Park, the Princess Diana Memorial and Kensington Gardens. The sun was shining and it’s that time of year when we can wrap up and bring our the fluffy scarves we bury ourselves in.

I’ve never been to Hyde Park so I was really thrilled to see it. It’s beautiful! You kind of forget you’re in the middle of a big city. The leaves are changing as we embrace Autumn with open arms. 🍁 It was also VERY exciting to see them setting up Winter Wonderland.

Kensington Gardens are equally lovely and home to the Peter Pan statue that I’ve always wanted to see but never quite got there. Just like Hyde Park, the leaves are changing but the sun was shining down offering some autumnal warmth.

The last part of my weekend away was to visit the Cenotaph. It was the Remembrance weekend so there was a real buzz around the city. I was fortunate enough to hear the cannon to mark the silence first hand. It was a humbling experience to be in the city at the same time as this occasion. It’s so so important that we remember all those who served and fought for our protection and freedom. #lestweforget

Overall

This weekend was amazing. I feel so lucky to have these opportunities and experiences. I hope you all enjoy the post and hopefully feel like you can experience this with me! Right now, I’m off to check out all the posts I’ve missed from you wonderful people.

Big love all

Xx

Hull’s Alternative Heritage Plaques

Morning Beautiful People!

First of all, I’M FREE! No more marking, no more school and finally summer is here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely exhausted but at least another academic year is over. I hope all you lovely people are well and are enjoying the weekend.

Today I wanted to share with you a little discovery I’ve made in Hull. My previous post was about my birthday meal and walking home from there I passed a quirky blue sign. Hull has numerous heritage signs all around the city, but this one was ‘alternative’.

I researched into this and was absolutely amazed! I spent a couple of nights this week going round Hessle, the city centre and Newland Avenue to find more.

Firstly, some background information. The original Heritage Plaques, produced by English Heritage, originated in London from 1866. They celebrate notable figures and the buildings they lived or worked in. However, there was strict rules into obtaining one of these blue plaques. So, a local company, Drunk Animal Creative Studio created these plaques to celebrate the people of Hull who make up its beating heart now.

“The weird, the wonderful, the obscure, the fascinating stories and facts that permeate every street and every community in the city are now celebrated through out Alternative Heritage plaques.”

Clearly, this was going to be an opportunity for explorations. I started off dashing to Hessle for a food related sign. The heart wants what the heart wants, after all.

Then I drove back to the centre of down and had a mile and a half walk to locate the following, including finding the studio where these gems are created.

These were in the local shopping centre to celebrate the amazing Bee Lady, parks, on pub walls and on the wall by the always busy A63. As you can see, they celebrate the every day, the people in our community now.

The second evening where I went exploring was the other side of Hull really, around the Drypool Bridge area. Here I found links to mathematicians, food inventors (that can only be found in the city) and the controversial sporting decisions.

My final little walk was along Newland Avenue. I used to spend a lot of time down here at a student. It is down here that one of my favourite signs is. I’ll leave you to work out which one it is!

There’s 22 of these plaques in and around Hull so I guess I consider this part one. It’s become a bit of an obsession of mine to try and find them all. If I accidentally bump into you because I’m looking on walls instead of in front of me, you’ll at least know why.

I love everything about this. Hull has a deep and rich history, something which it’s residents are adding to daily. This is like something I’ve never seen before and it is awesome. Time to start researching where the next ones will take me!

Lastly, I hope you all have a fantastic summer. I’ll be catching up on everything I’ve missed – both commenting on your amazing posts and catching up with my own. My little blog has been a bit neglected but I’ll be back on it! I’ve also got some more books to hide for Left & Found this weekend too.

Big love all! Xx