Edinburgh Fringe Festival!


On Thursday this week, I went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the very first time. Despite having lived in Kirkcaldy (which is only a couple of train stops away from Edinburgh) for the guts of four years, I’d never made it to the festival… Until now!

I was part of a team of people from Northumberland scouting some of the shows to possibly bring to our area (if not them, then shows like them), and so we all hopped on a mini bus at silly-o-clock in the morning and headed to Scotland for the day.

We saw four shows in total – all completely different from what we’d expected and totally different from each other, and each of them was wonderful in their own way.

The first show was Anatomy of the Piano (for beginners) by Will Pickvance at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. This show was aimed at a younger audience, but there was plenty to entertain folks of all ages. The music was fabulous, and the story behind his love of the piano, accompanied by quirky animation that was perfectly timed, was absolutely adorable. This is a children’s version of a show he’s done for adult audiences, but it was well worth seeing.

After that, we went for lunch at Circus Bistro, which was just around the corner from the Scottish Storytelling Centre. It was crammed full of people who were in Edinburgh for the festival, but the atmosphere and the food were great. and then we were off again.

Next we saw Pss Pss by Baccala Compagnia at Assembly Roxy. When I saw the write up mention mime, by heart sank, because I don’t like mime and never have (I subscribe to Lord Vetinari’s idea of hanging mimes upside down in a dungeon opposite a sign that reads “Learn the words!”), but this couldn’t have been more different from my preconceptions if it had tried for a hundred years. There is no accurate way to describe this act – it’s like traditional clowning-come-acrobatic act with a storytelling element that is utterly delightful – we understood every single word they didn’t say (the only sound they uttered was a whispered “pss pss”). There was so much going on between the two characters on stage, and within the audience participation sections, that to write it all out here would take forever – what they conveyed with the slightest movement or facial expression was immense. They thoroughly deserved the standing ovation they received at the end.

After the highs of Pss Pss, I feared that the next act would be a little depressing, based on the two-sentence summary I’d read. I have never been happier to be proven wrong!

One Hundred Homes by Yinka Kuitenbrouwer was presented in a large wooden hut at Summerhall, with the seating crammed together, There were blankets on some of the chairs, in case it got chilly, and we were all given cups of hot tea and homemade biscuits shaped like little houses (they were delicious, by the way!). Yinka visited over one hundred people, and talked to them about the idea of home. The resulting show, where she relates their stories and links the together in the most unusual manner, was most uplifting, filled with warmth and hope and the friendship she had developed with the people she interviewed. We were very pleased to be there when it was announced that she was the winner of an award – I think we all got a little emotional along with her, as it was very well deserved!

After being left almost completely speechless by Yinka, we headed to a giant  up-turned purple cow at George Square, where we watched Closer by Circa. This was another acrobatic show with elements of dance involved – it was a very lyrical performance showcasing strength and agility, with moves that had the audiences collectively holding their breath as they performed high above us. It was quite indescribable!

Everywhere we went throughout the day, the air was crackling with excitement – the atmosphere was electric! I don’t think any of us wanted to come home at the end of it, despite being completely exhausted. The entire experience was out of this world and I know that although this was my first time at the festival, it most certainly won’t be my last! I look forward to returning for future festivals, and also to taking Tadpole and Choochie along when they’re a little older, because this is something that everyone should experience, at least once, and it will never be forgotten!

Busy, busy, busy!


I’ve been pretty much AWOL for a little while, simply because I’ve been so busy!

06.03.16 bTadpole has been preparing for his key stage 1 SATs (he started them this week), which I hate, because he’s been stressing out and personally, I think six and seven year olds are far too young to be sitting formalised exams, but that’s beside the point – he has to do them, so doing them he is! His first two papers were yesterday, and thankfully, he seemed to find them not too taxing (in fact, he said they were “A piece of cake!”).

17.03.16I’ve also just applied for Choochie to start nursery in January. He can’t start till then, because they can only start the term after their third birthday, so he’ll have to wait till after the Xmas holidays. Still, I wanted to get the application in early to make sure he gets a place – I can’t be traipsing between two different schools! Choochie also finally weaned (31 months of breastfeeding!), and has started potty training. He likes to sit on the toilet, but so far has only managed to squeeze out a tiny tinkle each time – he’ll get there eventually though!

Last month, I worked backstage on a pantomime – I did make-up for the Dame, which was great fun, and reminded me how much I missed the theatre, so I then went and auditioned for a show for the first time in 15 years! As a result, I have a very small role in a production of Sister Act, which will be performed in October. Officially, I am “Nun #11”, so as I don’t have a given name, I’ve chosen one for myself, and I shall be known henceforth as Sister Sara of the Two Mules (simply because I love Two Mules For Sister Sara). I’ve also decided to audition for a part in Annie later this year, so watch this space!

I was also part of the centenary celebrations at Blyth Battery this past weekend! Blyth Battery Goes To War is an annual event local to me, and it’s always a fantastic weekend, but this year marked 100 years since they started building it (it took two hears to complete), so it was extra special. And we got some wonderful weather for it too – the place was absolutely heaving all weekend, and the audiences were very appreciative. I got such lovely comments from people who watched my performances, my confidence was boosted a hell of a lot (I have an ego the size of Texas now!), and I was pleased to see  from photographs that I look half the size I did last year when I performed! And the most adorable little girl (who I think may well be my number one fan!) came up and danced with me during my instrumental sections – she was a superstar!

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Finally, I’ve done a fair bit of work on my Sky Blanket since I last did an update on it. I now have eleven rows joined, and I think it’s looking pretty neat! As Tadpole has been asking for a new “lovey blanket” since Choochie got his full-sized one at Xmas, I thought I’d give this one to him for Xmas this year. He’s been admiring it as it grows, so I think he’ll be very happy with it, and as I won’t actually have a section for every single day (or I’d have the wrong number of yo-yos for my rows), I will hopefully be able to finish it just in time, although it could mean a hell of a lot of border crocheting on Xmas Eve!

13235220_10156817102490386_7625483622086569872_oOn top of all that, I’ve picked up my cross stitching in earnest again for the first time in a good few years – I stitched a little sampler for my best friend’s wedding last November, and now I find the bug has crept up and bitten me again, so I’ve taken up a few of my UFOs to see if I can finish a few of them. I’ve stitched a few bookmarks to send off to my pen pals, but I’m also working on my Rules For Life sampler, which I started before Choochie was born – hopefully it’ll be framed and up on the wall before the end of the year!

Speaking of pen pals, I’ve picked up a few new ones, and I have been involved in making pocket letters and flip books for them – I’ve been going paper-crafting crazy, and writing letters like a mad woman. Actually, I have one to write today, so I’d better get a move on!

And so, I hope normal service will now be resumed, although I seem to have even more things demanding my time and attention than ever, what with getting involved in a show again!

 

 

There’s a Star Man, waiting in the sky…


David-Bowie_Chicago_2002-08-08_photoby_Adam-Bielawski-cropped
David Bowie. 1947 – 2016

This morning we woke to the sad news of David Bowie’s death, after an 18-month battle with cancer that he’d fought privately, and without alerting the media, which meant that, despite not performing live for several years, it came as something of a shock. Just days after his 69th birthday, and also the release of his latest album, we have lost one of the greatest stars in modern music history – a man who successfully reinvented himself over and over again, and whose music is still relevant and fresh today, despite his career spanning an amazing six decades!

I’ve been a big fan for as long as I can remember, and Tadpole has always particularly liked his music – when he was two years old, I took him to a local story and music time session at the local library, While everyone else was singing, “Wind the bobbin up,” he stood up, stamped his little foot, and declared, “No! I don’t like this song! I want proper music! I want David Bowie!” It was one of my proudest moments ever!

Bearing that in mind, I knew he would be as saddened as I am to hear the news. I told him shortly after he got up this morning. This was the conversation we had:

Me: Darling, I’ve heard some sad news this morning. David Bowie has died.
Tadpole: Oh no! That’s so sad! Was it cancer?
Me: Yes, sweetie. He’d been ill for quite a while.
Tadpole: It’s always cancer. I hate it! I just wish cancer wasn’t real!
Me: Yes, so do I, darling.
Tadpole: We’re running out of singers. There’ll be no good music left at this rate!

Bearing in mind that Tadpole is only seven years old, I thought he showed a startling grasp of the tragedy of Bowie’s death, his illness, and also his loss to the music world, all in one fell swoop.

Farewell, Major Tom, Ziggy Star Dust, and my favourite, The Goblin King. You will be sorely missed, but your legacy will continue to delight generations of music lovers forever.

Let the music play!


Blyth has loads of free events all year round. Today there was a live music festival down at the beach, so I took the boys down to see the bands play, and have a little fun. We packed a nice little picnic for us all, and headed down to the beach.

We had a fabulous time – the boys both had a go on a couple of rides that had been put on for the kids (I tell you what, those people know how to make money – it costs a fortune to have a go on a bouncy castle or a teacup ride these days!) – and the atmosphere was great. We didn’t stay all day, but we did stay long enough to hear Driven Serious play (they’re a folk punk band from the north east who wear pirate costumes and are seriously awesome!).

We met some minions and some very friendly pirates (not Driven Serious – these were different guys dressed as pirates), who were definitely not looking for their lost treasure and definitely not stealing anything, honest guv!

The sun was shining and it was scorchio – perfect weather to be out of doors and having fun!

Blyth Battery Goes To War


blyth-battery-goes-to-war

Blyth Battery Goes To War this weekend, with all manner of fun things to see and do, including a battle re-enactment (complete with pyrotechnics), and musical performances from various wonderful artsists (myself included!).

I’m looking forward to curling my hair and warming up my voice for this afternoon!

I’ll be singing solo at 1.45pm on Saturday (outside the cafe), and with friends at 2.30pm. Then solo again on Sunday at 1.30pm, and with my friends at 2.30pm.

It’s going to be a really fun family day out, and it’s all free, so if you’re in the Blyth area, be sure to come along and sample some wartime sights and sounds.

See you there!

ULLAdubULLA or The Chances Of Anything Coming From Mars…


WayneWOTW-TNGThis year we planned a very special pre-Xmas treat for ourselves (ie me, Hubby and Tadpole – Choochie is too little for this one) – a treat we waited for an entire year – we bought three tickets to see Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds: The New Generation at the Newcastle Metro Arena.

There were a few “will we?/wont’ we?” moments as:

  1. The tickets were kind of pricey,
  2. It started at 8pm and finished late, meaning, that with travel included, it would be a VERY late night for Tadpole, who is usually in bed by 7.30pm, and
  3. It was on a school night.

We quickly decided, however, that we would do it, because:

  1. It’s the final arena tour, and we’d not get another chance to see it,
  2. We don’t often treat ourselves to something so extravagant, and
  3. Tadpole loves it as much as we do. In fact, he knows the whole score backwards.

As a one-off late night on a school night, for something so special, we decided it was worth it. And we weren’t wrong!

Tadpole was initially a little overwhelmed – the anticipation of waiting a whole year to see it, the massive size of the arena, and the excitement of actually being there in the arena where the music would be played, live, and directed by Jeff Wayne himself, well, Tadpole burst into tears for a moment or two. Not entirely unexpected for a little lad who is only just six years old and attending his first very concert, and one he absolutely adores. He quickly composed himself, however, and could barely contain himself when the show began.

The massive Martian descending right onto the stage was particularly impressive, but one of the most magical moments was during Forever Autumn (beautifully, hauntingly sung by Brian McFadden), when thousands of tissue paper leaves in red, gold and brown, came tumbling down onto the audience. During the interval, Tadpole collected a few of them to keep as momentos, and they are safely pressed between the pages of the programme we purchased (for £15 – a wee bit pricey, but, well, it was a once in a lifetime event for us, so we splashed out on one between us).

The look of total enchantment on Tadpole’s face, as he sat with his eyes glued to the stage and sang/hummed along with the entire score, made it worth every single penny. He was in raptures. And to be honest, so were we. It a a wonderful night out, and I am so glad Tadpole is of an age where he’s old enough that he’ll remember it.

Tadpole fell asleep in the car on the way home – and it’s hardly surprising, as we got home around 11.30pm – and then went straight to bed. The next morning, he got up for school, tired, but without complaining, saying he felt a little sleepy, but he’d had excellent dreams, and he hummed the music all through breakfast and on the way to school, where is proudly told his classmates about his exciting and grown up night out.

I think he had fun! 😉

A quick run-down of the cast:

  • Jeff Wayne – Composer / Arranger / Conductor / Producer
  • Liam Neeson – George Herbert, The Journalist (interactive hologram)
  • Brian McFadden – The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist
  • Jason Donovan – Parson Nathaniel
  • Shane Ward – The Artilleryman
  • Carrie Hope Fletcher – Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s Wife
  • Joseph Whelan – The Voice of Humanity
  • Anna-Marie Wayne – Carrie, The Journalist’s Fiancee (hologram)
  • Michael Falzon and Lilly Osborne – spoken words and understudies
  • Black Smoke Band
  • ULLAdubULLA String Orchestra

All were excellent, turning out brilliant performances that blew us all away. And at the end, Mr Wayne got a very well deserved standing ovation from his elated audience, which included one six-year-old little boy who couldn’t stop cheering and clapping.

Blyth Battery WWII Re-enactment Day


Today was a WWII re-enactment day at one of our local attractions, the Blyth Battery. And for the first time in eleven years, I performed in front of a live audience, singing a couple of wartime songs. I was absolutely terrified, but I enjoyed it, and I was received very well – a great round of applause, and many compliments on my singing, so that certainly bolstered my confidence for next time. And there will be a next time, as Ive been asked to sing at the Battery Xmas Dance.

So, anyway, I sang my heart out – Chattanooga Choo Choo and We’ll Meet Again – and I enjoyed it, even if I did shake like a leaf the whole time and for about an hour afterwards!

My greatest compliment came from Tadpole, who said he though I should do that all the time and that he wished I had done more songs.

I wasn’t the only one dressed up (yes, I was all doled up, 40s style) – Tadpole decided to don his soldier gear and smartly salute every person he saw dressed up in a military uniform. For his efforts, he was gifted an official Airborne badge to have sewn onto his kit – his smile on receiving it from one of the officials almost split his little face in half!

It was interesting checking out the view form the observation point, and having a good look at the room decked out like a 1940s living room. Of course, there was also the battery itself with all its weaponry on display, and also a pyrotechnic display which made some very loud noises and had Tadpole full of the gleefuls again.

All in all, a good day was had – and when I asked Tadpole what his favourite part of the day was, he told me it was watching me perform, so I cannot get higher praise than that!

It’s Eurovision day!!!


Eurovision-Song-Contest-2014-MAINAnyone who knows me, knows I’m a massive fan of the Eurovision Song Contest. I don’t care if it has a reputation for camp cheesiness and rubbish music, because I know that if you actually listen to entries from more recent years, even the most hardened sceptics might be forced to admit there are songs that will appeal to any audience.

I’m a long-time fan. The first time I remember watching the show was back in 1987. I know it was 1987, because I remember talking about it with my school friends in middle school the morning afterwards. I only did one year of middle school before moving to Scotland, and that was the school year of 1986/87, ergo, that was my first Eurovision song contest. I don’t remember any of the songs from it outright – I just remember being blown away by how different music from other countries was from that of our own.

Eurovision_Song_Contest_2014_logo.svgI didn’t see it again for a few years. My parents weren’t fans, so to be honest, I’m not sure how I came to watch it that first time, and the next time I saw it was when I got a TV in my own room, which would have been when I was 15 years old, so that would have been the Eurovision Song Contest broadcast in 1991. Again, I don’t remember much about the individual songs, but I remember the spectacle of the show and the fun comments made by Terry Wogan. I was hooked. Since then, I have only missed one Eurovision final, and that was because I couldn’t get the night off work (the year was 1998. and Dana International won the contest for Israel, singing Diva). Since then, even when working an evening job, I have made sure I have the night of the Eurovision Song Contest Final off work!

When Hubby and I got together in March of 2000, Eurovision was fast approaching, and I worried what my new boyfriend might make of my wanting to stay in on a Saturday night to watch the most camp musical spectacle on television. I needn’t have worried – it turned out he is as big a fan of Eurovision as I am. It was kind of a deal maker for me and we moved in together a few weeks later.

Since then, we have watched Eurovision together every year. Indeed, we look forward to it all year long! Yes, we love it that much!

We listen to each country’s entry as it is announced and start making our opinions on the songs from then on, eagerly awaiting each release till we have them all. Then we have fun compiling our lists of who we think will qualify from the two semi-finals (semi-finals were introduced in 2008 when it was decided that there were, with 38 entrants other than the automatically qualifying Big Four, too many entrants for the show), and then working through the qualifiers to see who we think will win.

10176010_10154062854665386_4319852791908263037_nOver the past decade in particular, there have been some cracking songs and we listen to quite a few songs from past competitions even now. The UK has had a pretty bad reputation for a while, and has even had the dreaded Nil Points (and deservedly so) for Jemini’s disgraceful rendition of Cry Baby, but this year, I think we’ve really brought our A-Game with Children of the Universe performed by Molly . I don’t think we’ll win it, but she’s our best chance since Katrina and the Waves won it for us in 1997 with Love Shine a Light, and I think we’ll probably finish in the top five, if not the top three. Hopefully this will see a turn of fortunes for the UK’s future entries.

So, we’re all set for the final tonight. Personally, I think Austria has it in the bag, as Conchita Wurst’s performance of Rise Like a Phoenix in the second semi-final on Thursday night was nothing short of brilliant, but I wish Molly the very best of luck as she flies the flag for the UK!

Let the music play!

52 things – week 20


52 things in 52 weeksTime is slipping by ever faster and I still have lots to do if I’m to complete my list of challenges! I know there are one or two that are now written off due to pregnancy, but I’d still like to complete most, if not all, of the rest…

Still drinking the daily green smoothies (check my list of recipes HERE if you’re interested!). They definitely make me feel healthier and keep me full till lunchtime when I have them for breakfast!

Today is Saturday and I have the night off work, so normally I would have watched a movie, but it’s the Eurovision Song Contest Final tonight, and we look forward to it all year long, so no films tonight! Tadpole’s too young to stay up late and watch the show, but he’s listened to all the songs and definitely has his favourites! Incidentally, if you’re interested, my lovely Hubby has done a whole series of blog posts on Eurovision which you can see HERE. Join us for the Euro-party! 🙂

Books:
1. Read 52 books in 52 weeks (36/52)

Finished: George RR Martin – A Dance with Dragons Pt 2: After the Feast (A Song of Ice and Fire #5b)
Finished: Terry Pratchett – Dodger
Reading: Jane Austen – Persuasion (Kindle e-book)
Reading: Brom – Krampus: The Yule Lord

4. Read only books that I already have, have been given as gifts/to review, or have borrowed from the library for 52 weeks (20/52)
Still managing to resist buying myself any new books. It’s getting a little easier, but not much!

Film and Television:
7. Watch 52 films in 52 weeks (29/52)
Watched: Imaginaerum (2012)
Watched: The Reef (aka Shark Bait) (2006)

Food and drink:
38. Eat only vegetarian meals one day every week (20/52)
Vegetarian day: Tuesday

Finances:
45. Save all £2 coins for 52 weeks (20/52)
Total saved in £2 coins: £58.00

46. Save all 1p/2p/5p coins for 52 weeks (20/52)
Total 5p pieces saved: £11.35
All coppers have gone directly into Tadpole’s piggy bank.

Other:
50. Self portrait picture every week (20/52)
Another week, another photo… this time it’s one of me with Tadpole, outside our home on a rare sunny day.

Tadpole and me
Week 20
13.05.13

51. Post a weekly update of my progress on my blog (20/52)
Done!

Merry Cliff-mas


When I was a kid, it felt like you could guarantee the Christmas #1 spot in the charts would go to one man, and one man alone – Cliff Richard. Every year there was another seasonal song, and Sir Cliff would be swaying in front of a bunch of children in the snow, singing about peace, giving, sharing, wine and the delights of mince pies. OK, I’m pretty certain that last one wasn’t mentioned in any of his songs, but the rest were!

If you look back fondly on that time, or even if you enjoy it “ironically” (as seems to be the fashion these days), you can enjoy this slightly subversive sampler celebrating the Cliff-ness of Christmas. It’s even small enough to fit on a card, so you can send it to your gran.

Download the FREE chart from my Kincavel Krosses blog HERE.

cliffmasPS I know there’s a spelling error in this stitched view – it is corrected on the downloadable chart