A Long Weekend In London

I had arranged to go to London to visit my eldest daughter who moved back there in March. She came home last summer after working abroad, but it was always her intention to go back down to London when she had saved up enough for a deposit. She had come home a couple of weeks ago as she went to look at bridesmaids dresses with her cousin who is getting married next year. Other than that I had not seen her since March, so I was really looking forward to seeing her and spending some time in London.

A Relaxing Train Journey

My husband normally drives us down to London, but on this occasion I thought it would be nice to travel by train. I booked the tickets in advance which is always much cheaper and you also book seats which means you are not going to end up standing all the way. The journey from Wakefield to London Kings Cross is only 2 hours and it was a really smooth, easy journey.

We arrived in Kings Cross at 3 and then took the underground to where our daughter lives on the outskirts of London. We had time for something to eat and a quick freshen up before we headed back out to the theatre

The Book Of Mormon

I absolutely love The Book Of Mormon. It is such clever writing and the songs are amazing. I have seen it once before, but my husband hasn’t. Once again the performances from everyone were amazing. The singing and acting is superb and the dancing is very slick. It’s a real mood lifter and has a good moral, despite the adult themes and very sensitive subject matter. I was so glad that I got to see it again and I certainly wasn’t disappointed the second time around.

After the theatre we walked in to Leicester Square to have a drink at one of the bars. It was still really warm and there were lots of people still around. We got a round of drinks and sat outside one of the bars. It was a lovely evening and it was great just people watching.

Pride In London

The following day was the Pride Parade in Central London . It’s something that I have wanted to see for quite a while, especially as my youngest daughter has been to the Leeds Pride over the last couple of years and has said what an amazing experience it is.

We travelled down to Trafalgar Square, where there was live music playing and we were able to sit on the steps and watch it on the big screen. Once we knew that the parade was approaching we walked down to the road. The parade was amazing, with all different walks of life represented. The crowd was huge (the news said the following day that there were 1.5 million people there!) It was great to see people dressed up, joining in the music and celebrations and cheering the parade on.

It had a real feel of celebration to it, but also a really serious message about tolerance, acceptance and understanding of other people’s lives. I have been fortunate to love and be in a relationship for many years with someone who is accepted by my friends, family, work, faith and society in general. I know that some of my friends are not so fortunate and that life can sometimes be really difficult for them. It would be an amazing world if people were free to love the people that they love, without being judged or condemned.

9 to 5

That evening we went to see another theatre production, 9 to 5. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I have to say that it was amazing. The singing was impressive as was the dancing. The story was really easy to follow and it was also very funny, but with a really topical theme of equality. One of the most impressive performances was by Bonnie Langford, who is so fit and flexible and such a strong performer, as well as being really funny. I was also impressed with Amber Davies, who had an amazing voice and was so much better than her “Love Island” persona. Again it was a really uplifting show and so enjoyable, leaving me feeling very upbeat and happy.

Red Bull Soapbox Race

On Sunday we travelled to Alexandra Palace to watch the Red Bull Soapbox Race. We have loved watching this as a family when it is on the TV and we have always said that it would be great to go and watch it live.

After a bit of a walk to the venue from the underground station, we arrived at Alexandra Palace. The day was amazing, really well organised, well set out and very entertaining. We managed to get a spot where we could see the start of the track where the teams do a short performance, we could see them coming down the track and then over the first water jump. We could then see the rest of the race on a big screen.

For anyone who does not know what the race is about, it is basically teams that build a structure on wheels and then push it down a big ramp, where it picks up speed and has to be steered through obstacles and over various jumps. Needless to say, some of them crash, some of them fall apart, but some of them do make it to the bottom in one piece. It was a great day and really amusing.

Heading Back Home

Om Monday, after a lovely breakfast it was time to head back home.  We got the train back to Wakefield and were home by the late afternoon. We quickly unpacked and put some washing in. I felt like I had had a really long weekend and packed so much in to it.  But by this point I had blisters on my feet and felt like I needed a rest before going back to work! Well worth it though

 

 

 

Happy Birthday To Me

So last weekend was my birthday . It has actually turned into more of a “birthweek”, as the celebrations seem to have gone on for much more than a day. I can’t believe that it is now two years since I began my blog and celebrated my 50th birthday.

Escape Rooms

I know that Escape Rooms have been around for some time, but I have discovered them only recently. Our daughters bought us tickets for one at Christmas and then we went to one in the Lake District shortly afterwards. They really grab my attention, as I love puzzle solving, it really gets you thinking and it also gets you working as a team.

On the day of my actual birthday, I had to work, but in the evening had arranged to go out for a lovely meal with my husband, brother and sister in law. We then went on to play one of the escape rooms at the Escaporium at The Piece Hall in Halifax. I had chosen the Halogorian, which was based on the history of Halifax. We had a really great night and also escaped with eight minutes to spare. We were pretty pleased with ourselves I have to say!

Brunch at The Ivy

The following day, I had arranged to go for Brunch at The Ivy in Leeds. This wasn’t particularly for my birthday, as it had just been a date when everyone was free. I had been to The Ivy in Harrogate before, which I had really enjoyed and the one in Leeds didn’t disappoint either.

I think that prior to going, I would have said that I am not an Ivy type of person. I would have expected it to be overpriced and pretentious, but in fact it is a really classy restaurant, with lovely food, in a great setting and not too expensive at all.

Kinky Boots

The next event was to go and see Kinky Boots at Leeds Grand Theatre. I had heard the soundtrack on a number of occasions and it certainly sounded upbeat. I knew the basics of the story, as I had seen the original film several years ago. It is about a traditional shoe factory which is struggling to stay in business, but the owner meets a drag queen and discovers a niche market making boots with heels for drag queens.

The show was absolutely amazing! The singing blew me away, the songs veered from uplifting full song and dance numbers to full on emotional ballads. The dancing was so impressive, particularly from the “Angels” who danced expertly in high heels. The story teaches us a lot about accepting people for who they are, not assuming things about people and getting to know people and what makes them tick.

The whole show left me feeling completely elated and I wanted to dance and sing all the way home (and at work for the whole day after)

A Sunny Easter Holiday

You would think that all that would have been enough, but the week following my birthday was the Easter weekend. It was an absolutely beautiful weekend, with the sun shining and hardly a cloud in the sky.

On good Friday I spent a couple of hours helping at messy church, which was held outside thanks to the beautiful weather. The families that came had a great time and it was lovely to see them enjoying the sunshine and learning about Easter.

Over the rest of the weekend, we had a craft fair, spent some time sitting out in the garden with family (drinking slightly too much prosecco) and walking in the Yorkshire Dales on Easter Monday.

All in all I had a great birthday, on the day itself and for all of the following week. When people tell me that birthdays are just for children and that you get too old to celebrate them, I have to disagree. Birthdays are there for celebrating and enjoying, despite your age!

 

A Fitting Farewell

I’m not sure if it appears strange to write in a blog about a funeral. The last few weeks of my dad’s life were really hard and I thought that the funeral would be too, but although it was a difficult day, I write this feeling very peaceful and calm, honestly believing that my dad is now at rest. Yesterday, the funeral was very sad in many ways, but mostly it was a celebration of his life and a chance for us to share our memories.

Well Made Plans

Although dad was a great storyteller, he was never someone who really discussed personal issues or emotions. I guess he comes from that era of “stiff upper lip”. However, a few days before he died, during the night he sat in the living room with me and my mum and told us what he wanted us to do when he died. This made planning dad’s funeral a much easier process.

He said that he didn’t want a massive fuss, he didn’t want a fancy coffin or to spend a fortune on flowers. He wanted to be cremated.  He chose the music that he wanted, said that he wanted to go to church, but most importantly of all, he wanted us to be together as a family and he wanted to go on a bus.

Dad was a massive fan of buses and trams throughout his life, so it was inevitable that this would appear somewhere in his final wishes. We discussed as a family that it would probably mean hiring a bus and travelling together as a family to scatter dad’s ashes. However when we began to discuss this with the funeral director, it became apparent that in the world of funerals, almost nothing is impossible.

Special Messages Or Coincidences

Yesterday dawned, clear, bright and sunny. It reminded me of days when we would be complaining that it was cold and dad would say “It will be too hot to walk about by dinner time”. I was awake early and was watching the news. There was an interview with Michael Caine and during it they showed a clip of the film “Zulu”. This was my dad’s favourite film ever! At that moment in time I felt that dad really was watching over us and that all would be well.

Just What He Wanted

All the family met at my mum’s house. We were all quite anxious. Me and my brothers had all chosen to be involved in the service. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who doubted that I would actually be able to hold it together at the time.

Dad’s hearse then arrived. This was a vintage red London bus. It was really emotional to see my dad’s coffin inside initially, but then we knew that it was the right thing. He would have loved travelling on the bus and it also meant that as a family we were all able to go to the funeral together.

When we arrived at the church it was moving to see how many people were there. The first hymn was “The day thou gavest Lord is ended”. My older brother, sang the first verse as a solo. A very brave thing to do, which he managed with hardly a wobble in his voice. I manged to read a poem ” Remember me”, by Anthony Dowson. I had a few wobbles, but managed to get through it with a few pauses for deep breaths. My youngest brother then read a eulogy, which contained some lovely memories of dad. Again he held it together throughout.

We then had the hymn “I vow to thee my country”. We picked this as dad had been a rugby fan and liked a rousing patriotic hymn.

Afterwards we had a slideshow of photographs which were accompanied by Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez. Dad asked for this music as he loved the film “Brassed Off” and this particular part, where the piece of music is referred to by the band as “Orang Juice”. The photos were very moving, but there were also some really happy memories of dad and of us together as a family.

At the end of the service we left the church to  “Land of Hope and Glory” Dad had asked for this music, which we were we going to sing as a hymn, but we realised when making the plans that it is not actually a hymn and that other than the chorus from last night of the proms, no one actually knew any more of it.

After church we went to the crematorium, which was the hardest part of the day. Mum had chosen two songs from my dad’s favourite singer, Doris Day. On arrival we had “Que sera sera” and on leaving we had “I will always love you”. It was difficult leaving the crematorium, knowing that we had finally said goodbye to dad.

 

 

 

 

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Getting Together

We then went on our final bus journey to the local Golf Club, to celebrate dad’s life and share memories of him. It was lovely to chat about the good times we have shared as a family and as friends, what we will do in the future and to know that we had done the best that we could do to give him a good send off.

Families can be funny things and our family is no different. There are always people that you are closer to and those that are not so close. There are celebrations, disputes, disagreements, laughter and tears. There are those that you get on with really well and those who you have little in common with. There are friends who support you through the hardest times who become as close as family. There are those friends that you don’t see for ages, but are there when it counts. Yesterday,  we all worked together as a team and made it a day to remember, just as my dad wanted.

A Few Thank You’s

In ending this I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has sent good wishes, cards and flowers to me and my family. For those who have helped to support us over the last few weeks in every way. For those who have put up with the varied emotions that I have gone through, particularly my husband and children who have had to live with me.

In particular I would also like to thank

The nurses and carers that looked after my dad in his last days

Andrew Box and everyone at the funeral directors, Eric F Box, who did everything possible to grant my dads, last wishes, making the planning less painful and helping the day go smoothly and of course, finding “the bus”

Father Martin Naylor and Tineke Bentley and those at Batley Parish Church for the warm welcome, prayers, eulogy and commendation

Hanging Heaton Golf Club, for the food, drinks and lovely surroundings

And lastly to my mum, who is an amazingly strong lady, who has lived through so much and faced it with strength and dignity, an example to us all.

 
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Everyone’s Talking About….

Well another month has gone by and a few things have changed. We have had another baby in the family, which is always a lovely thing.  She is my great step-niece (if that’s an actual thing) I haven’t met her yet, but from the photographs she looks beautiful, so it will be lovely to see her. Unfortunately last night my brother told me that she is in hospital, so I’m keeping my fingers (and everything else crossed) that she is okay.

My eldest daughter has returned to live at home, after working abroad for a few months, she was really unhappy, so is now back with us. It’s nice to have her home, but I’m sure it won’t be long before she finds some work again.

A trip to Portugal

As our daughter was working out in Portugal, my husband and I decided to go out and visit her for a few days. We stayed at the Vila Gale Cerro Alagoa in  Albufeira. The hotel was really lovely, set in really beautiful grounds with a really big pool. The rooms were really nice and we had a room overlooking the pool. We only had breakfast there, which was amazing. There was some much delicious food to choose from, both healthy and not quite so healthy.

When we left the UK the weather was amazingly hot, so arriving in Portugal to an overcast, but warm day was a little bit disappointing, but as the day wore on, the sun came out and it stayed hot, but quite windy for the rest of the days we were there.

Albufeira was quite nice, although quite a busy place. We only got to see a small part of it over a few days, so it’s really difficult to give a proper opinion. Maybe we’ll go back one day and see a bit more of it.

Everyone’s talking about Jamie

On Sunday afternoon I went to see Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. This was recorded from the theatre, but shown at the cinema. I have heard some of the music from it previously and knew that it was about a sixteen year old boy who has the dream of becoming a drag queen.

I was absolutely blown away by the show. Everything about it was absolutely amazing, from the set, the singing, acting and dancing. Everyone who was in it was so talented. The story has you laughing one minute and crying the next. It is a really feel good show, but with the message that you should follow your dreams and accept people for who they are.

I have to say that I would love to see this live now at the theatre, so I’ll add this to my “must see” list.

 

 

 

 

Back to reality

Our final leg of the canal journey took us through beautiful countryside, with glorious sunshine.

Peace and quiet

Friday started off with a gentle mist rolling down the canal. The sun was out and the sky was a clear blue. Other than the birds singing there was hardly a noise. It was so quiet in fact that when a hot air balloon passed overhead you could actually hear it. I live in a town, near a road and it is unknown for it to be so quiet.

There were fewer locks today, but the ones we passed through were very pretty and well kept. We moored up at Penkbridge, where we had a lovely meal at the Littleton pub, which was a short walk into town.

On Saturday we were up early as we had to make our way through the last few locks before returning our boat. We had a short stop off for breakfast before heading off home.

An American in Paris

Most of the weekend was spent washing and sorting out after our holiday. The weather was still beautiful, so we had all the garden furniture out and washed that too.

Later, on Sunday afternoon, I had booked to go to the cinema, to see An American in Paris, which had been filmed from the stage show. It was absolutely amazing!

The singing and dancing by all the cast was superb. It was a really great end to what has been a wonderful week.

Old Friends and Fat Friends

Dealing with change

This week I went to a leaving “do” for a friend that I used to work with. I left the department almost two years ago, as it was time to move on and have a change in direction with my career. Since then it seems that a lot of my old friends and colleagues have also moved on. Some have moved to other departments, but this particular friend has moved on completely, leaving the job and starting a new career and a completely new direction.

It was lovely to catch up with old friends and colleagues during the course of the evening, but also quite emotional, as it was the end of an era, with the department that I worked in completely changing. The sad thing is that a lot of the staff who work there are very disillusioned and demoralised. It is such a shame as it used to be such a great place to work, with a brilliant team spirit. Hopefully as new staff move in, it will have a new lease of life and will become a great place to work again.

To all those that are leaving, I hope that they find a new challenge and a role that they love and are passionate about. I certainly feel that I have found that in my role, although it doesn’t stop me moaning and getting frustrated at time.

 

Fat Friends The Musical

This weekend me and my husband went to see Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends The Musical at Leeds Grand Theatre. I like Kay’s writing and have enjoyed the different series that have been on TV. I definitely liked the Fat Friends series as it was really funny and was so recognisable by anyone who has ever had a weight problem or attended a slimming club.

The show was really funny. It’s a long time since I heard my husband laugh out loud like that. The cast were really good, with some really strong singing and acting. It was nice to see local actors, particularly Neil Hurst, who we have seen many times in pantomime at Halifax. My only real issue with it was Freddie Flintoff. I know that having a celebrity sells tickets to a show, but there are loads and loads of young people out there who have studied drama or musical theatre that are desperate for work, that I fail to see why an ex cricketer who cant really act and definitely can’t sing, would be offered a role like this.

I know that I am biased as my daughter and many of her friends are seeking Musical Theatre work, but the same goes for pantomimes who have “famous” people in them, with current or former careers (or who are famous for being famous), rather than employing talented actors singer or dancers.

I am also a bit of a theatre snob and find it a bit annoying when someone famous comes on the stage and everyone cheers. Not particularly a problem in the Fat Friends production as it was very light hearted and a little “pantomimey”, but in a serious moment in a production when people screech and whistle, I find this irritating.

At least there was no one texting, facebooking or taking photos in the middle of the performance for a change, which is another pet hate of mine.

Shows and Showers

Life is a Cabaret

On Friday evening I went with a couple of friends to see Cabaret at Leeds Grand Theatre. I have only ever seen the film version before. My eldest daughter had seen the stage version a few years ago and had been really impressed by it, so I thought I’d give it a whirl (Mum, it was amazing… you have to see it!)

The production was excellent and I really enjoyed the show. All the performers were amazing, particularly Will Young and Louise Redknapp. The ensemble were pretty stunning too and showed off some impressive dance talent. I hadn’t told either of my friends anything about it, as I didn’t want to spoil it.

The first half is pretty crazy, set in Berlin, mainly centred around the Kit Kat Klub and its eccentric performers. It’s definitely not for those who are easily offended, but does a really good job at getting the point across.

One of my friends wasn’t really sure whether she liked it or not. However during the second half, the mood changes as the Nazis start to make their presence known, culminating in a pretty shocking ending (even though my daughter had told me about it, I wasn’t really prepared for how gobsmacked I would be).

All in all it was a great show. It wouldn’t be on my list of must see again, but I’m definitely glad that I went to see it. In this age where tolerance (or lack of it) is in the news all the time, it certainly makes you think about how we treat others who don’t necessarily fit in with our ideas of what is “normal” or acceptable.

 

On a lighter note

On Sunday I was invited to my niece’s baby shower. I’ve never been to a baby shower before. They weren’t really around when me and my friends had our babies. If I’m honest I wasn’t really sure what the purpose was, or what would be expected of me, whether I should buy a gift now or later, or both?!

My youngest daughter and I went along to the baby shower, armed with cup cakes with blue icing and appropriate “it’s a boy” toppers. I didn’t really want to take a present for the baby as I want to do this when he is born. I know this is probably an old fashioned view, but that’s just me. We did however take her a little present, just for her, rather than baby.

To be honest it was a really lovely afternoon. It was nice to see everyone and catch up and it was particularly good to see my lovely niece looking so well and clearly enjoying being pregnant.

On the way home my daughter said that it was probably the last time we would all be together for a while, as once she has the baby she won’t want everyone there at once (Sometimes she speaks a lot of sense). I guess that this is one of the purposes of the baby shower, a chance for us to be together, to celebrate her pregnancy and wish her well, rather than everyone turning up within a week of her having the baby, when she is just getting settled with her new family.

Now it’s just waiting and wishing her all the best and lots of love x

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A Lottery Dream

Just recently some friends and I got talking about what we might spend our money on if we won the lottery and also about the things that we would like to do when we retire. I find it fascinating how different we are and what we think would make us happy if money was no object.

Some wanted new houses or very elaborate home improvements, some wanted to buy a fancy car. I don’t have particularly expensive tastes and I’ve never been a big fan of “things”. My house is somewhere that we live as a family, where people can come and feel comfortable. It does need some refurbishment, but it wouldn’t be anything particularly swanky or expensive,

I don’t particular wear a lot of jewellery and I’m not really into designer clothes. I do quite like a nice pair of shoes, but I’m not sure I’d spend my full pension or lottery win on shoes!

My ideal way to spend the money, would be to travel and see all those places that I’ve not been able to see, either due to lack of finances or lack of time. There’s lots of places in America that I’d still like to visit, Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, Lapland, in fact there is plenty of the world that I’ve not seen. A lot of the holidays that we have had have suited us as a family and it’s only been very recently that me and my husband have started to visit some of the places that we want to see, that the girls may not have been particularly interested in.

The other thing that I would love to do is to be able to book and see lots of different musical theatre shows, without having to worry about the cost. It would be lovely to travel to London, Broadway or Las Vegas to see different shows every few weeks. I am very lucky in that I do go to the theatre fairly often, but tend to book things that I’ve seen before, or that I have a pretty good idea that I am going to like. It would be wonderful to be able to book something without having to think about paying a lot of money for something that I end up not liking.

To be fair there are very few musical theatre shows that I haven’t enjoyed. Even those where I have thought it wasn’t my particular cup of tea, I’ve enjoyed watching just for the sheer spectacle, the costumes or just seeing the wonderful talent of the performers. I love a good show or a concert and I would certainly be able to fill my time with these things.

Who knows, I might even be wearing a new pair of shoes !!

 

 

An Eventful Week (1)

On Monday my husband, youngest daughter and myself travelled to London for our eldest daughters graduation from The London College of Music at The University of West London. She has graduated with first in BA hons in Musical Theatre. Last week I mentioned how she had overcome the initial let downs and has worked hard and been so determined, that even though I may be biased I honestly believe that she deserves that achievement.

Proud parent moment

The graduation ceremony took place yesterday at Wembley Stadium, which in itself is a pretty impressive place. I’ve never been to a graduation ceremony before. Other than my sister in law, who I didn’t really know when she was a student, my eldest daughter is the first person in the family to go to university.

The ceremony ran like clockwork, from registering, collecting gowns, having photos taken to entering the Great Hall, it was obviously meticulously planned. The actual walking across the stage was a “blink and you might miss it” moment, but was still worth the wait.

Afterwards the graduates were allowed out onto the terrace to take photos, which was great. Then it was into central London with some friends and their families for a meal in the Coppa Restaurant next to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Afterwards the young people went off to party and us older folk went back to the hotel for a well earned rest.

It was a great day, marred very slightly by one of the mum’s not being very well at the end of the night, so I wish her a speedy recovery.

I want to thank everyone at the University, who has tutored, encouraged and inspired my daughter through the last three years. Particularly the group of friends who have been an inspiration, support and an endless source of entertainment for me.

I’d also like to wish them all the best of luck as they begin their new journey out in the big wide world. Continue to support each other as you’ve done over the last three years and you won’t go wrong.

Here’s  to the future, embrace it, whatever it may bring.

Just for me

Run Forrest Run

I surprised myself this week by taking part in a running session at an athletics track. I had signed up on line with Tingely Runfit and it seemed like a really good idea at the time. I thought that it would be fun and a bit of a new challenge for me. On the night however it was absolutely pouring with rain. I briefly thought about cancelling, but felt that this was unfair to the lovely lady who had organised it.

So I turned up in the pouring rain, expecting to absolutely hate it. Bizarrely I found myself really enjoying it. Running the different distances around the track was different and allowed me to get a bit of speed up (and I do mean a bit!) without worrying about whether I would make it to the end of the run.

On Saturday I also got a personal best (43;08)at Oakwell Parkrun. This may still be really slow for most, but I was really pleased with my progress. On the back of that I’ve also signed up for the Abbey Dash, which is a 10k run in November. Hopefully this will spur me on to keep training and hopefully get round the 10k in a fairly reasonable time.

If anyone had ever said to me that I would be running because I enjoyed it rather than because I had to, I would never have believed them. now I do it just because I can.

 

Just Sing!

On Saturday night, I was honoured to be part of the Summer Harmonies concert as part of Batley Community Choir.  Also in the concert was Batley Parish School Singing Group and the Gawthorpe Brass ’85 Youth Band. The Town Hall was full and the concert went really well. The children sang beautifully and the band were excellent. I loved singing with the choir and the evening ended with the whole audience standing up and singing and dancing to “Walking on Sunshine”. It was great! The money raise will go to #more in common, the charity set up in memory of Jo Cox.

Being part of the choir has been a great experience, as it was one of the first things that I did just for me. I’m not involved in the organising, the planning and I don’t have to feel responsible for anyone else. It has been brilliant to go along and do something purely for pleasure, which has got me involved in other community activities along the way.