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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

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Filed under Book review, Books, Children's Literature, Harry Potter, Reading

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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Filed under Book review, Books, New Books

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

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Filed under Children's Literature, Musicals, Play, RSC, Stratford upon Avon, Theatre Review, UK

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

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Filed under Book review, Christmas

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

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Filed under Animals, Days Out, Photography, Places, Seasons, UK

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

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Filed under Days Out, Harry Potter, London, Photography, Play, Remembrance Day, Theatre Review, UK, Weekend Trips

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

 

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Filed under Alternative Heritage, Hull, Photography, Places, UK

BIRTHDAY Explorations – Gunby Estate, Hall and Gardens

Morning Lovely People!!

Yesterday was my birthday so to celebrate my lovely family and I went and did a little exploring. We visited a beautiful place called Gunby Hall in Lincolnshire. As you may be aware, we really enjoy visiting National Trust places and learning all about the people who lived there.

This year, the trust are celebrating 75 years of having this property and the best thing about that is, despite having tenants until 2010, the property hasn’t changed much. Dated from 1700, we were lucky enough to see some black and white photographs which show the rooms haven’t changed much at all.

The building is grand and you can see yourself living there quite easily. It’s one of the few properties I’ve visited where you can see modern(ish) touches. I do have a bit of a thing for really beautiful wallpaper and this place has its own far selection. This below was my personal favourite.

For me this property is a tale of luck. There were plans to fell 800 trees and flatten the estate to make an airport for the Second World War. Thankfully, this did not happen so we are able to enjoy everything this has to offer still today. The bright, airy rooms live on to tell their story some 300 years later.

It wasn’t just about the hall here. The gardens are stunning, with the Victorian Walled Garden helping to protect the gorgeous flowers from the recent rain. The roses were sublime and make me think of the roses at home. The gardens are living, breathing splashes of colour. It was so easy to get lost there, mentally. I especially liked how they’ve trained their apple trees to grow over an archway.

A personal highlight was the opportunity to go on a tractor tour of part of the working estate. There’s 1500 acres of land here with working farmland. So these tractor tours only run for one day. It was awesome! I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. We also saw four deer jumping about the corn fields. What a treat for my birthday!

If you’re interested in visiting this estate, and I couldn’t recommend it more, please click here for more information.

Now, I’m sure you’ve seen from the subtle hints throughout this post that it was my birthday. (I’m not even going to apologise for this!) For me it meant that I could have a day off from exam marking (still feels endless) and I could readdress the balance between my living life and my working life. It was so important to spend quality time with my family. Life is all about making memories after all. I’m so so lucky because where I live currently looks like my own personal florist.

To end the day we had tea at an all you can eat Brazilian steak house which was great. Who doesn’t love endless meat? I even squeezed in a pudding – lord only knows how. I love cake so I’m assuming that’s not too predictable. I’m so so full today though. Cake for breakfast? Maybe not. However, I give you permission to! The staff were so lovely and all sang to me – including the rest of the diners! The atmosphere was electric.

I know that I’m behind on my beloved blog. I’ve not been reading too much so I’ve not written the May review, read the June book or even decided or bought the July one. However, it would mean a lot to me if you guys did a little something for yourself today. I know you’ll read any reviewing I do when I get back. I know you’ll be patient with me whilst I catch up on any amazing posts that I’ve missed. Basically, thank you for supporting me and seeing another birthday with me!

Big love to you all. Happy July!! Summer is here! Xx

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Filed under Birthday, Days Out, Gardens, National Trust, Photography, Places, UK

Brick History

Hello you lovely lot!

Hope January is treating you well and you’re all embracing the joy that 2019 has offered so far. For me, it’s work as usual. However, I have managed to keep reading and visit a local exhibition that I want to share with you all today. It bought out the inner child in me again and I was completely amazed as I was walking around. Of course, I am talking about Lego. Who didn’t play with Lego when they were younger? It provided hours of fun!

Brick History is a free event which is currently on at the Hull History Centre. It takes famous moments in history and creates them all out of Lego blocks. Lego artist, Warren Elsmore and his team have created a celebration of our most famous moments in time. It features Mozart, Martin Luther King, the discovery of DNA, Viking Invasions, castles at war and everything in between. It was awesome!

One of my favourites was the Lego picture of Martin Luther King. I Have A Dream is one of the most important events in history so to see this represented in Lego was truly special. What a way to inspire the next generation.

I also really admired how they made a globe from Lego too. It has numerous lights on it and it spins to replicate our real globe. I was amazed to learn that the making of the globe is over 2000 years old. I never knew this before and I was really really shocked about its age. Fantastic really!

Next, I really loved the Lego model of the Viking Invasion. The colours were really bold. It’s so intricate and wonderful to see. It’s also incredibly lifelike too.

As we all know, I love my books, so I was excited to see a Lego version of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Written in 1859, it has stood the test of time as this contains our believes and accepted understanding of how things evolve.

2018 marked the 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote. Therefore, it is only fitting that the suffragettes were also part of this Lego exhibition. In this piece, you can see a female Lego character chained to a railing, mirroring many protests from the suffragettes.

2009 brought another significant even in American history: the first black president was elected and sworn into office. Barak Obama changed the face of America for his years in office. I was chuffed to see this in Lego too.

The largest pieces are two castles depicting peace and war. Once again, the detail is just incredible. It’s hard to believe that everything is made just from Lego.

I was really blown away by this exhibition. I thought it was genuinely fascinating to see how such amazing moments in time could be made in Lego. It really does show you that the opportunities with Lego are endless. I think projects like this are so important for the next generation. For me, this was an excellent way to show history ready to inspire the next generation.

For information on Brick History at the History Centre, click here.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. Big love all xx

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Filed under Days Out, Photography, Places, UK

I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

Hey Lovely People!

How are you all? I hope that September has treated you well and like me, you’re keeping warm from the rain outside. I noticed yesterday the leaves are starting to turn, clearly Autumn is upon us. Today I wanted to share with you one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read: I Am Malala. Wow. There aren’t enough words for this book. Malala Yousafzai is a name that everyone has heard of so I wanted to read her story and what an amazing story it was for me.

What’s it all about?

The book is written in five parts, covering various points in Malala’s life. Part One covers Malala’s life ‘Before the Taliban’. She describes her childhood home in Swat Valley where Malala, her father Ziauddin, her mother Toor Pekanbaru and her two younger brothers Khush and Atal, lived. Ziauddin’s father, Rohul Amin was an imam and a teacher. Ziauddin studied a Master’s in English at Jehanzeb College. Malala was therefore surrounded by great thinkers and educated minds. Malala is very honest in her narrative, they are a normal family and her brothers irritate her.

“I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.”

Her father opened the Khushal School with a partner Naeem, who had to leave himself due to financial problems. So, Ziauddin found a new partner, Hidayatullah, who helped him to bring the school into profit. This profit enabled them to open more schools in the area. Toor Pekai would bring any children who were in need to live with them and Ziauddin would give them free places in the school where they could learn and thrive.

Malala spends time in her narrative explaining the changes in political regimes in Pakistan, the first drone strikes in Pakistan in 2004, following 9/11 in America and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake. I remember 9/11 in particular because it was my first day at secondary school. Just like Malala, many of us can relate to and remember events in history that have happened that have shaped our world today.

In Part Two, subtitled ‘The Valley of Death’, the narrative centres on the growing rise of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Swat. Back in 2006, Fazlullah began an ever increasingly popular radio broadcast where, initially advice was given on matters such as ritual ablution and drug abstinence. However, the focus of this changed to the condemnation of music and dancing. Finally, the instruction came that women were to stay in the home. To Malala, who loved to go to school with all the other girls, this was a complete travesty. Nevertheless, this did not stop her from getting her education. Malala was absolutely determined to go to school.

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.” Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

The war in North-West Pakistan was still raging and the return of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan has devastating results. As an activist for women’s rights, her return led to her assassination. This murder was just the start as the Taliban began to commit further murders. Ziauddin Yousafzai continued to speak out against such violence. His daughter, Malala, began to write a BBC Urdu blog under the pseudonym Gul Mukau, sharing tales of how life was during this time.

“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”

More woe descended upon Swat when after a Taliban edict in 2009, Malala’s school was forced to shut down. Malala and her family had no choice but to move to Shangla for the next three months.

Part Three is entitled ‘Three Girls, Three Bullets’. It is in this part where Malala describes her horrific ordeal with the Taliban.

“The Taliban could take our pens and books, but they couldn’t stop our minds from thinking.”

By 2009, the army have fought off the Taliban in Swat and the Yousafzai family return home. Malala’s school re-opens and she visits Islamabad with her school friends. Here she meets Major General Arthar Abbas and gives a public speech. Malala is used to giving regular public speeches with her father in various interviews. Each one bares the same message: criticism of the Taliban and the ineffectiveness of the army.

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”

Mother Nature adds to the destruction of Swat, the 2010 Pakistan floods destroyed many buildings and left many people without food, clean water and electricity. Also, things are still very politically charged in Pakistan. CIA agent Raymond Davis murders two men and the Americans kill Bin Laden. The consequence of this is widespread mistrust of American influences in Pakistan by the public.

However, for Malala, it was like as usual. Malala began to win numerous prizes for her activism. She continues to speak out about a girls right to education. She appeared on Geo TV and visited the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Due to her courage at standing up for what she believes in, Malala started to receive death threats. This worried her parents immensely. In August 2012 when Zahid Khan was shot and killed, Ziauddin expected to be the next target. Malala also begins to worry that she too is a target but her focus is on her exams and she is desperate to study hard and do well.

“We were scared, but our fear was not as strong as our courage.”

However, what follows shocked me to my core, along with the rest of the world. After her Pakistan Studies exam on the 9th October, two men stop her bus and come aboard. They shout one thing: “Who is Malala?” Then three shots are fired.

“I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don’t be afraid — if you are afraid, you can’t move forward.”

Part Four is subtitled ‘Between Life and Death’. We learn that one bullet travelled from Malala’s left eye to her shoulder and her two friends, Shazia and Kainat were also injured. Thankfully, not fatally.

Ziauddin gave a speech with the Association of Private schools before rushing to the hospital to be with his daughter. Her mother was learning to read and rushed home to pray. Malala was taken by helicopter to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar where she was then airlifted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi. On the 15th October, Malala was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham aboard a United Arab Emirates jet. However, her father refused to come as the rest of the family could not travel without passports. She made the journey with her medical team, alone.

“I reassured my mother that it didn’t matter to me if my face was not symmetrical. Me, who had always cared about my appearance, how my hair looked! But when you see death, things change. “It doesn’t matter if I can’t smile or blink properly,” I told her. “I’m still me, Malala. The important thing is God has given me my life.”

Part Five is called ‘A Second Life’. Malala woke up in the Birmingham hospital on the 16th October. However, her thoughts were not of herself or her injuries. She was obsessed with the location of her father and the safety of her family. She knew full well that she and her family could not afford medical treatment. Finally the medical team answered her questions.

Malala received 8000 cards and many many presents. Her family arrived 9 days later to join her in her recovery. In November Malala underwent major surgery to repair her facial nerve. The following January she was discharged from hospital. In February she underwent further surgery to get a cochlear implant.

The story ends with her new life in Birmingham. She missed Swat and her friends terribly. Yet, she decided to continue her activism, to spread the word about the importance of education. She wants to become know for “the girl who fought for education” rather than “the girl who was shot by the Taliban”.

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

Overview

This book was so inspiring, so shocking and everything in between. Education is a massive part of my life. I remember as a young girl going to school, never questioning it or even realising how lucky I was. Reading this book has made me appreciate my education so much more. As a teacher, I want to share this book with everyone. I’m not really into reading about political history but because this was in my lifetime, I felt I appreciated it more. Obviously, it is something that has been in the press a lot so I valued having Malala’s own words. This girl is so inspirational, thank goodness for her.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”

Finally, on a different note, today is the first day of Autumn. To celebrate, I’m launching a new swoosh at the bottom of every post. Hope you like it!

Big love all xxx

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Filed under Book review, Books, Education, Reading