Thursday, 24 December 2015

Blogmas - The Man Behind the Myth

Everyone knows Santa. At least I hope you do. Surely you must do...he's the most famous man on the globe. Yes, even more famous than Kanye West or Barrack Obama or Benedict Cumberbatch. He's the man who brings hope and gifts to children everywhere. You know, the old one, in the red suit with the beard as white as the snow we always hope for on Christmas day.
But he wasn't always old! In fact, once upon a time, little Nicky Claus was a young boy.

A lonely little boy. No brothers, no sisters, not even a friend. He lived in a tiny village somewhere in the freezing cold wastelands of the very north. And all he had to keep him company was a smelly old dog called Rudolph.

They would often go walking together throughout the village and the surrounding woods. As he went, Nicky would wave at his neighbours who all smiled and waved back. They all adored him. He was sweet and polite and they felt faintly sad that he had no friends his own age.

To try and make him feel happier they would often give him gifts. A pair of shoes from the cobbler, a warm cake from the bakery and seeds for his vegetable garden from the general store. Other families might give him a piece of wood they had carved into a figure, or a new collar for Rudolph or a cup he could use every day. He was so sweetly grateful in response that they would give him more and more gifts until he barely knew what to do with them all.

One day, he had reached the woods on one of these walks. It was a freezing cold day in November and he was wrapped up warm in a coat and gloves and a hat. But it was beautiful too. The snow glinted in the trees, reflecting the pale winter sunlight so it danced around in front of him. He crunched onwards, looking up all the time and was so engrossed by the beautiful winter scene that surrounded him, that he barely noticed where he was going. Before he knew it, he realised he had tramped further into the wood than he had ever done before and had no idea where he was.

He didn't panic though  - after all, Rudolph was with him - and instead he pressed on. As he walked deeper and deeper into the wood, he become more entranced by the nature around him. Until suddenly, the trees became gradually thinner and he was out the other side.

Below him, at the bottom of a fairly steep hill, was another village that looked very similar to his own. He and Rudolph approached it cautiously, nervous of what they might find. Or who they might find. They'd never met anyone from outside their village before.

As they entered, Nicky noticed a little girl sitting on the ground.
'Who are you?' she asked 'I haven't seen you before!'
'I'm Nicky. Who are you?'
'I'm Donna.'
There was a pause as she looked him up and down.
'You came from the wood' she said at last 'Do you live there?'
'Of course I don't. I live in the village over the other side of the wood.'
'There is no village there. And the woods are dangerous, everyone says so.'
'No they're not! I can show you if you like.'

She agreed so Nicky led the way back through the wood and showed her his village and everyone who lived in it were so happy that he had a friend that they started giving her gifts as well.
'Wow!' she cried 'Thank you so much! I have never been given a present before!'

Throughout the next month Nicky and Donna (and Rudolph) became the best of friends and were barely seen apart. They often played in the woods and she introduced him to lots of other children who lived in her village.

Nicky found out that none of them had ever received a gift either. So, one day, in late December, he and Rudolph to decided to plan a surprise for them.  As normal, all his neighbours had given him gifts. But instead of using them, he had stored them away in a sack under his bed. And very early one morning he set off through the wood.

He walked on and on until he reached the other village. Normally when he reached it, he would find Donna immediately and they would go somewhere to play together. Not today though - it was still so early so she was probably asleep. He wandered the village alone and by every house he left a little present on the doorstep for one of the children. Something they needed. Shoes for the child who always went without, a cake for the boy who only ever ate bread, a brand new collar for the girl who was always chasing after her puppy and so on and so on, until all the children had something.

He knew how wonderful it was to receive a present and from that day forward he vowed no child would ever go without again. And so it all began...

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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Blogmas - The Carols Updated

It's the second of my Blogmas Posts that I have been writing this month and for today I thought we would take a look at Christmas Carols.

*Sighs Contentedly* Aren't they just one of the best things about Christmas?

I love singing and I love the wonderfully upbeat songs that follow us around during November and December. But if the whole 'Baby it's cold outside' thing is anything to go by (if you don't know what this Thing is then Google Funny or Die's re-enactment of it and you will see what I mean) then they are not entirely relevant to our times any more. I mean, do people actually watch their flocks at night any more? And do modern children actually know what a manger is?

Therefore, being the kind and helpful citizen that I am, I thought I would rewrite a few of the carols to be more appropriate to the modern age. See if you can work out which carols I have decided to update...

Single Now
Single now, single now, single all the year.
It is no fun to have no one to share this Christmas cheer.
Oh...Single now, single now, it kind of makes me mad.
No one there, to form a pair. This really is quite sad.

Dashing through the bar, Shouting for a drink
Then into a car, trying not to think
how alone I am, at this merry time.
I know there's a man somewhere out there for me to find.

Oh single now, single now, better luck next year.
I will have fun with anyone who happens to appear.
Oh single now, single now, I shall find him soon.
He'll be hot and love me lots and sure to make me swoon.

12 completely unattainable gifts
On the 12th Day of Christmas dear Santa brought to me:

12 months of holiday
11 famous friends
10 million pounds
9 private jets
8 maids a-washing
7 non-rainy days
6 days in bed
5 diamond rings
4 stretched limos
3 mansions
2 cute puppies
and a man who loves me dearly

Party Night
Party night! Drunken night!
Alcohol has blurred my sight. 
Round the pubs in the town we all go
Drinking steadily, gently and slow. 
Till we pass out on the ground! 
Till we pass out on the ground! 

Party night! Drunken night! 
We stay out late until it's light! 
Sun shines down on to our face 
Then it's time to go back to my place 
To sleep off the hangover 
To sleep off the hangover 

O Christmas Eve
O Christmas Eve, O Christmas Eve,
the best day of the year.
O Christmas Eve, O Christmas Eve,
I am so glad you're near.
In ev'ry home, there is a tree
and lights and gifts and food to eat.
O Christmas Eve, O Christmas Eve,
You're here and the Day is soon.

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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Blogmas - 22 Things to Love About Christmas

This is my first of three blogmas posts that I have spent the entire month of December preparing. So make sure you check back every day in the lead up to Christmas, to see what I have come up with in celebration of this wonderful time of the year.

In today's post I have been thinking about what exactly makes Christmas so perfect. And, as it is 22nd December, I have come up with 22 answers.

1. Christmas Lattes
The only thing that makes saying goodbye to Pumpkin Spiced Lattes bearable, is saying hello to all the Christmassy delights that Starbucks, Costa and the rest offer. They are all full of sugar and terribly bad for you yet they taste so so good.

2. Adverts
For a long time the Coca Cola advert and its red truck has signalled the beginning of Christmas. But now the John Lewis advert has almost overtaken it in popularity. These mini films barely even seem like adverts and they always tug at the heart strings. The rest of the major companies try to keep up too. This year I think I actually preferred the Sainsbury's depiction of Mog (beloved from my childhood) causing havoc.

3. TV
Christmas and new year specials are always the best. I watch more telly at Christmas than the rest of the year put together.

4. Films
These are always heartwarming and make you feel so gooey inside. Arthur Christmas is by far my favourite but no one seems to have seen it??

5. Cosy nights in
With so much good TV on and horrible weather, why would you need to step outside? Better just to throw on your PJs and curl up by the fire, in warmth and comfort. During the summer months, I always feel guilty if I am not out and about, taking advantage of the sun...but Christmas is the perfect time to relax and take it easy while recharging your batteries a little bit.

6. The parties
If you can bear to step outside your front door, there are so many different parties to attend. Work dos and family dos and Christmas drinkies with friends. So many great chances to dress up in sparkly bright colours and dance the night away.

7. Mulled wine/cider
Yummmmmm. That is all.

8. Allowed to drink all day every day
For instance, you can go out for a Christmas drink on a Monday or start drinking Bailey's at 10am on Christmas Day (just me??) During Christmas you don't need to feel guilty about the amount of alcohol you are consuming at all. It's Christmas after all, it's time to celebrate. You can think about the consequences later.

9. Food
And that goes for the food as well. Ah the food! This blogpost could have literally just been a list of all the things that feature in our Christmas lunch. It is all so good and there's so much of it - I swear they consist of about five meals in one.

10. Chocolate for breakfast
Yep that's also a delightful little tradition. Just starts the day off right...

11. Hunting for presents
Now I might be unusual in this respect as I know for lots of people this is the worst thing about Christmas. But I love shopping for presents. It gives me such great joy to think about what they might like and track it all down to make a really nice gift. Plus it's guilt-free spending - you can really spend as much as you want and, for once, the more you spend, the better you will feel.

12. Christmas/New Year sales
Ah sales. I have my sale shopping down to a fine art. I go at about 10-11 on Boxing Day morning. Once the rush has happened and it's slightly calmer in the highstreet. That's the best time to get the best items and I always find something I want, *cough* I mean, need.

13. Shops being busy
Again, I think I might be unique in  this. But something I love about Christmas is how busy the shops get. The whole place is buzzing and people are often so excited. And we feel such an affinity with each other, all kind of sympathetic with how many presents we need to buy etc. It's a much more friendly time at Christmas.

14. Decorations in the town
On top of that, with all the lights and everything, towns look absolutely beautiful. London at Christmas is just stunning.

15. Theatre
Pantomimes, musicals, much to see, so little time...

16. Carols and singing
Like Christmas movies, I think Christmas songs (be they pop or traditional) are the best of the bunch. All about love and acceptance and having a good time. They are so upbeat too, you can't help but feel happy when you hear them.

17. Kids' excitement
Have you ever been around kids in the lead up to Christmas?? They just go nuts and it's totally infectious. Teaching in a primary school around Christmas is such good fun although totally exhausting. I have no idea how little people have so much energy.

18. Fashion
Winter fashion is the best, there is no doubt about it. Summer fashion can be a bit bright and brash and make you expose bits of your body you don't necessarily like. But winter fashion is so cosy - chunky jumpers and scarves and warm colours, and boots and thick socks. It's all lovely.

19. Christmas Jumpers
And these had to have their own section - they are just so delightfully hilarious. Every single one brings a smile to my face.

20. Time off
It's always good to have a few days off to relax isn't it? Although it does seem to go a lot faster than I would like...always.

21. New Year
After Christmas Day, some people feel a little bit down. But I'm only just getting started. I love New Year. I normally head abroad to celebrate in a slightly different way every year, but if I don't I am always surrounded by a huge bunch of friends. And I always drink too much and have a giggle of a time. It's all about new beginnings and I always feel so upbeat and positive about it. I have so so many good intentions to have a fabulous year. Every now and then, I even stick to them.

22. Being with your family
I left this until last because it's definitely the most important thing as well as the most delightful thing about Christmas. I have four siblings and we are a little scattered about. So I love the time we can get together to just be with each other. It's perfect. And if none of the other things on this list happened, I wouldn't care, as long as I can spend the day with my family. That's what is truly important.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

12 Things you should know when doing your Christmas shopping

This is the 5th year I have worked in retail throughout the Christmas period but it's the first time I have been in a clothes shop. During the past 3 and a half months since I started at the high end fashion store, I have noticed there are a few little things that really really irritate the staff. And, as we are approaching Christmas, I thought I would share these with you - everybody wants the shopping process to be as smooth as possible in this final mad week. So just you make sure you follow this advice, or you might find your Christmas shopping doesn't go as well as you hoped.

1. If we greet you as you walk in the door it's because we have been told to, not because we are going to jump on you and make you buy clothes
This is a common misconception. All you have to do is smile and say hi back and then walk on purposefully through. We are human beings who are fairly adept at reading body language - we can tell you don't need help without you saying 'I'm fine!' really shirtily.

2. If you mess up the rail I have just tidied, there is a possibility I might kill you
This all depends if you mess it up for a reason. It's perfectly ok to go through a rail if you are looking for a size to try on. But you people who just move the clothes around and then move on - murder may happen. I swear some people do it on purpose - they are on their way out, see me crouching, sorting a rail of clothes, come over, swish it about a bit and then run out the shop. Yeah you'd better run...

3. Ditto with the table
I have just folded a load of t-shirts and you pick up a couple, hold them up and then chuck them back down. I don't like you people either. In fact, I dislike you more. Do you know how long it takes to fold a whole pile of jumpers perfectly!!!!!

4. If all hangers face one way and you place it the other way, we think you're dumb
Are you stupid? It actually takes more effort to hook it across the rail from behind. We try to make it easier for everyone by having the hangers hook on forwards but no no, some people just want to challenge themselves.

5. Politeness is key
If you smile at us, say thank you and don't treat us like dirt, we will do whatever you want. In fact, we will basically be like personal shoppers, running around and finding bits for you. Be rude to us and be warned - most of us do own a voodoo doll and it may be used on you.

6. Don't tell me the products are too expensive
I don't care - I get a 50% discount. But do you think I have any control over the price? At all? Like I can text the CEO and tell them to lower it for you...get a grip.

7. If you are going to stick around until after closing you had better buy something
Anyone who comes into browse at 5.28 may be hunted down and shot....especially at Christmas when really all we want to do is go home and drink.

8. There is no such thing as a cleaning fairy
If you drop clothes on the floor, or spill something, it isn't going to magically disappear. Somebody somewhere is going to have to clear that up. And if it's me, I will not wish you good tidings or a merry Christmas

9. I will not be impressed if you give me a £20 note when you're only paying £1
Did you know torture is illegal? What kind of sick pleasure do you get from watching us scrabble around attempting to scrape together enough money from both tills to give you your change?

10. Flattery gets you everywhere
All those wonderful people who tell me I look lovely or am lovely and slim or lovely and tall...thank you...I am very insecure and your compliments are just what I need to hear sometimes. Especially if it has been a long day and customers have been hell. I will literally do anything for anyone, but I will give it an extra 100% if you are nice to me.

11. We do care
This might not be the same for everyone but I know in my particular shop, we are not going to let you walk out of it unless we have done our very best to help you look amazing or buy amazing gifts. If you look bad, we will (politely) tell you so. So politely that you may not even notice (eg. we would try and find you something else!!). And if we say you look good, it's not because we are working on commission, but because we genuinely want you to be happy and to look/feel amazing. It's called job satisfaction. So don't doubt and question us a million times about our motivation. It gets boring after a crazily busy afternoon...

12. We are people
This may come as a shock to some, but we Product Advisors/Sales Assistants/General Assistants/Fashion Advisors are actual human beings. Not robots, not droids sent from head office to do their business, actual people. Please bear that in mind when you are shouting about something which is out of our control. Or if we make a mistake. Or if our smile is more of a grimace because we have had a horrible day. We deserve the same respect that you expect from us. Yet how many of you give it?

Merry Christmas to you all and may your shopping days be merry and bright this week!

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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Why The Hunger Games is so popular

As you may or may not have noticed, I have been a little neglectful of my blog over the past couple of months. I have definitely not updated it as much as I would like and the posts have been a little shorter than they have been in the past.

The reason/excuse for this is because I have been doing a lot of creative writing recently. Creative writing has always been my passion - ever since I can remember I have been writing stories and poems and novels. But now I am becoming ever more determined to turn it into a career.

Not only that...I am aiming a bit higher than just becoming an author. I want to become a great author. I want to write a great book with great characters (although potentially, if I want to succeed with this, I should think up a few more adjectives other than great...) that will live on long after I am gone and continue to be loved by thousands of people.

This is what I decided when I was in the cinema watching the final instalment of The Hunger Games a few weeks ago. A funny place to be considering my career, I know. But as we sobbed our way through various parts in the last half an hour (you know the bits I am talking about and don't deny you cried too!!) what struck me was we were crying about deaths of people that never existed in the first place. Suzanne Collins had done an epic job at creating such wonderful characters that we cared about them at a deeply emotional level as if they were real. That's an incredible thing to be able to do considering that a few years ago, those characters only existed in her head.

And I want to do the same thing!

There are several characteristics that make up a great book.. The plot of course is important (an addictive one with an ongoing theme to keep you turning the pages is ideal) but what is absolutely crucial, is that the book contains great characters. The main character has to be pretty badass to keep you interested in him/her (and their various antics) throughout several novels and films. But they don't have to be perfect. Far from it. To be relateable and for people to care, they have to be flawed.

As does the villain, because you need to be able to understand why they are acting the way they are. No one is simply evil for the sake of it. They all act in a certain way because of circumstances. As for the other characters, there are a whole host of friends who represent certain personality traits so they can help the hero/heroine in every way possible. And there will be a leading lad/lady to play opposite the main character: Peeta in the Hunger Games, for example. He is there to be the male equivalent of Katniss and so all the girls can fall in love with him.

There are already plenty of brilliant books out there which entice you into beautiful worlds and include amazing people who become extraordinary due to various talented writers. And I am more determined than ever to join that group of authors, producing something which people will fall in love with. I am giving my writing more time than I ever have before. So keep an eye out for this name - because one day I am determined it will happen!!

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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Why I don't go to Stage Door any more

This week I was reunited with the London West End which was absolutely wonderful. I do miss being able to just pop into London whenever I want. It is slightly more of a trek from all the way down on the south coast.

As you can tell from my previous blogpost, I was there to see Bend it Like Beckham which I absolutely adored. I truly had a fantastic time and after it was over, I was debating whether to prolong it slightly longer by visiting the Stage Door to chat to a few of the cast (most prominently Jamie Campbell Bower who is rather dishy!!)

It is not something I have done for ages and, although I was sorely tempted to go and meet a celebrity as well as a couple of theatre celebrities I very much admire, I decided against it. Which got me thinking about why exactly I did come to this decision.

There are a number of reasons behind it. In a very simple sense, it is because I have grown up a little bit. I am not an adoring fan who wants to go and tell them they are awesome (although I am sure that is lovely to hear and I am not criticising anyone who wants to do that! Besides, I often do it on twitter anyhow). When there are a whole load of fan girls all jostling to see THAT celebrity who has been in THAT film, I just really can't be bothered to wait in a crowd of people to have a 30 second conversation with them and a scrawl on my programme.

Secondly, I do feel a bit bad for them. It's the end of their working day, it's late at night (either that or they only have an hour's dinner break) and they have just spent the past few hours pelting around a stage and singing their little hearts out. They are probably a bit knackered and kind of deserve a rest. But no no, we expect them to carry on talking to us. They just want to sleep.

Finally and most importantly, stage door destroys the magic for me. When I am in the theatre, I become so fully wrapped up in the show for those moments, I believe it is all real. I am so focused on the stage and become fully encompassed by the world that the whole company creates. This is why I am so touchy about Theatre Etiquette (do give my article a read if you are unsure how to behave!!) because if any of those rules are broken, my concentration is also broken and the moment is ruined. When the show finishes, I want to stay in that little bubble for a while longer and actually, going to stage door bumps you down to earth a lot quicker than is truly necessary. Seeing the actors as normal people in normal clothes, talking normally without breaking into song every other word, makes you realise that it was all just a story. But if you skip going to Stage Door, you can make that giddy, lovely feeling of joy last for most of the journey home. And that's no bad thing.

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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Bend It Like Beckham

I haven't written any theatre reviews recently. Which is partly laziness, I admit, but mostly because I haven't actually been to the theatre that much in the past 6 months. In fact, I have only been four times since the summer which is UNHEARD OF for me - but moving down to the south coast, and so far away from London evidently has its price. Plus I have a job now...yup...really... (I don't like being a grown up).

After I saw Bend it Like Beckham last night though (which you can buy tickets for here), I was adamant I wanted to discuss it with you all. I have been excited about this musical for a VERY long time, ever since it was announced that it was coming to the West End. I was a huge fan of the film starring Keira Knightley (did that really come out in 2002?!!!! That makes me feel old) so the story was always going to be a winner for me. And, as long as they didn't change it too much, they couldn't really go wrong.

They were very faithful to the story, which was great and I breathed a massive sigh of relief when I realised that they were sticking with it. They included all those little funny moments, which made the film so good.

The difficult part was always going to be the staging of the show though, particularly all the football bits. I was so interested to see how they were going to do it - and I am pleased to report it was very well executed. Sometimes they used lights in place of a football and sometimes they put the football on a string both of which sound a bit naff, but was forgivable due to plenty of actual football skill being included. I was very impressed to see that not one ball rolled off the stage or even where it shouldn't on the stage as it could have done so easily. There was headering, kicky-ups, kicking into a bag of balls (well caught Jamie Campbell Bower!!) and some gentle passing as well as all kinds of training exercises...I think I may be in awe of the fitness of the cast. There was a huge amount of running on the spot and pelting around the stage, more so than in your average musical but they did not let their energy dwindle throughout the entirety of the show. A feat in itself.

They were an extremely strong cast, both literally and figuratively. Newcomer Natalie Dew (playing the lead, Jess Bhamra) shone within the group of jewels and equalled Lauren Samuels' (Jules) slightly more experienced skill. They were incredibly well matched and I enjoyed the progression that their friendship went through. A lot of people come to see Jamie Campbell Bower playing Joe (who is famous for his film roles in Sweeney Todd and Twilight). I think he was potentially the weakest of the cast as his voice was a little thin, but that's not to say he was bad and I enjoyed the suavely arrogant portrayal of Joe he offered.

Bend It Like Beckham is not exactly a sophisticated musical but it is a fun, colourful production with some (perhaps a few too many) catchy songs that are emotive and funny at appropriate moments. It has so much going on you barely know where to look - really really worth a visit.

**This post was sponsored by the lovely people at but, of course, all the opinions expressed here are my own =]

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