Sunday, 28 February 2016

Commuters I meet on trains

I spend a lot of my time on trains. And I mean A LOT. As in, sometimes I swear it feels like I spend 90% of my life working and the other 10% on trains.

While I am traveling the networks of rails all over the south I do come across some really um...interesting characters lets say. I don't even bother to listen to music anymore, I get all my entertainment from people watching and eaves-dropping on other people's conversations. Some of them are so hilarious and it's all I can do to not giggle in their faces. People have no idea how stupid they appear to those around them.

This evening, on my 1.5 hour journey back from Clapham Junction, I came across the four main types of people who I have noticed on many of my commutes. All in one journey as well. So I thought I would introduce them to you:

The hot guy minding his own business
I should probably not admit this, but I have started playing a game called 'spot the hot guy' where I choose the hottest guy in the carriage and see if I can get him to smile at me. A little lame I know but I have actually got quite good at it (all down to my natural charm, of course. Ahem!) This particular one was not only cute and nicely dressed but also writing in a notebook with a fountain pen. And then he offered his seat to another elderly lady. Could he have been any more perfect?

The very British one
We don't actually speak ever but we might roll our eyes at each other or exchange sympathetic smiles when our trains are delayed or somebody is being a nuisance (due to commuter example 4 in this particular case)

The lovely elderly one
I somehow always get chatting to people on trains, particularly when I am coming back from London and have lots of opportunity. This evening's example was the elderly gentleman opposite me who was reading The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer which I LOVE and had to tell him so. Which started a very interesting discussion about books. That made the journey pass so much more quickly and I was so thankful to him for that.

The drunk ones
I saved the best till last. This particular group was LOUD and chavvy and so very very drunk. And I had to put up with it for about an hour and 10 minutes of my 1.5 hour journey. I genuinely had a headache by the end. I could actually name and shame them because I learnt everything about them, right down to their address. But I am a better person than they are so I won't. What I will say is that I am not sympathetic that you got chucked out of the hotel where you had unlimited bubbles because I was becoming sorely tempted to chuck you off the train.

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Thursday, 25 February 2016

It's all about the cast not the theatre itself

I have a bit of a bone to pick with theatre-goers. And no, this is not another rant about theatre etiquette although I could quite easily talk about that again. Apparently someone brought fried chicken into the front row of Miss Saigon recently - like SERIOUSLY? I genuinely think there should be an audition for people to even be in the audience at the West End.

Anyway, moving on...

This is actually about the What's On Stage Awards.

The What's On Stage Awards, in my opinion, are the best awards out there for the very fact that all the winners are voted for by the public. And I think that is just wonderful. After all, we are the people who are keeping the theatre alive through our attendance of its shows so it is only fitting that we reward the ones that we think are doing particularly great.

What saddened me though, is that the majority of the winners were ALL celebrities: Benedict Cumberbatch and Nicole Kidman won best actor and actress in a play while Matt Henry and Imelda Staunton won best actor/actress for musicals. And Lara Pulver, Imelda Staunton, and Mark Gatiss won the supporting actors awards.

These days so many people go to the theatre because of who is in it rather than what is in it and the results of the What's On Stage Awards just proves this. I think it is plain wrong.

When you are deciding whether to go to the theatre or not, it shouldn't matter whether there are any  famous people in a show. In fact on many occasions they do not have as much skill as ordinary theatre actors (although the celebs mentioned above are all INCREDIBLE!) What does matter is the show itself: who wrote it, what the songs are like, the plot, the book, the direction, the set.

It's ever so slightly different when it comes to 'theatre-famous people' -- I would follow Jamie Parker and Killian Donnelly to the ends of the earth watching them act out shopping lists. But the reason is I know that they are going to be fab.

I feel like this isn't the reason that people follow celebs into theatres around London. It seems to be more a childish urge to boast that they have seen a famous face in action rather than truly appreciating the work that is being done. And although I of course advocate anything that gets bums on seats (a professional ticket-selling term) and therefore keeps the West End alive, I do fear there is something being lost when the West End is becoming little more than an extension of Hollywood. I do not envy anyone with dreams of entering the West End at all.

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Sunday, 21 February 2016

Ode to my bed

I never get enough sleep
and I am constantly tired.
I don't know why I think it's a good idea
to stay up when everyone else has retired.
But so it is and to you, dear Bed,
I offer my sincerest apologies.
Because I do not spend enough time with you
and for that I am truly sorry.
Do not give up on me,
for one day I will learn
that you are the only one who knows me
and you're the only one I can turn
to when I am sad or alone.
You will always be there
offering me comfort and warmth
and showing me that you care.
I may stray from you every now and then
but I will always come back to you
for that wonderful hug between the sheets,
before I'm ready for the day brand new.

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Sunday, 14 February 2016

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Today was Valentine's Day and guess what I was doing? Of course I was spending it with my one true love -- the theatre. And I keep making a joke about this but it is 100% true.

Today this London Theatre Blogger took a break from the West End scene and travelled to the Mayflower in Southampton (I like to play the field a bit! Ha!) to see the touring cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

For roughly the first 10 years of my life, I was OBSESSED by this film. Along with Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and Annie, I watched it on repeat and I basically wanted to be Jemima. So to finally see Chitty on stage was pretty amazing.

And I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I became a bit emotional and cried throughout the entirety of the title song. Yup that happened.

That was enough to show me that I had made the right decision in coming this afternoon. When I arrived and saw how many kids were there with me, I almost regretted it but actually they made the whole experience kind of charming. Their giggles at the funny bits were so cute. As was their obvious terror whenever the childcatcher came on stage. Music and projected silhouettes made him pretty creepy and one little girl hid her face by snuggling into her mother every time he was in sight. Bless her.

She was much happier when Jason Manford was on stage who played a wonderful version of Caractacus Potts (Is it just me who can never say that??!) His acting was a little bit OTT but it seemed to suit the children and I was hugely surprised by just how good his voice was. He carried off the melodic, wordy songs with ease and you could hear every syllable. No mean feat in the title song in particular which is a total tongue twister and needs perfect diction for the humour of the song to come across.

The thing about Chitty is that every single song is ridiculously catchy. 8 hours on and I am still humming all the tunes. Not just one or two. All of them. And you don't really get that in musicals any more. I am a sucker for the old musicals and this is definitely one of the best. One which will stay close to my heart forever.

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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

7 lovey-dovey musicals to watch with your Valentine

Anyone who knows me or who follows me on twitter or even who read my blog last year will know that I am not a huge Valentine's Day fan. I just don't see why we all have to be forced to show our love and appreciation to our partner when we should be doing that of our own accord every day of our lives. It's commercialised and sickly, awkward for those who are single and awkward for those in a relationship. And...yep I had better stop here before this whole post becomes a rant about that stupid day.

I am lucky this year though. Because I will be spending Valentine's Day with my one true love -- the theatre (I am super excited to be going to see the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in Southampton on Sunday). So along those lines, I thought I would examine some of my favourite love stories within musicals. There are some wonderful ones and, in no particular order, these are the ones which I have seen recently and believe are the best of the bunch.

I couldn't actually imagine a better way to spend time with a loved one than viewing one of these (particularly if he goes all out and takes you to the theatre itself!)

This closed a couple of years ago but my goodness it is wonderful. A young couple, known simply as Guy and Girl, meet and begin to play music together. Through their combined love of music they of course fall for each other. But life is complicated and neither are completely free so don't ever admit it to the other. Music and love -- isn't that all you need in life?

Miss Saigon 
You will have to be quick with this work of art, because it leaves the Price Edward Theatre at the end of February. Definitely see it though, it is one of my absolute favourites. It is worth seeing for the helicopter alone, but the characters in it are fabulous as well. There are some wonderful songs between Chris and Kim which will melt your heart and the tragic ending will then rip it out.

Les Miserables
There's nothing but love in this musical. Which, considering the title, may surprise you if you haven't seen it. It's actually not that miserable at all. There are so many couples and so many forms of love that you will barely be able to keep up with all the storylines. I have to say though that Marius is one of my least favourite 'romantic heroes' in any book, film or piece of theatre I have ever experienced. I mean seriously? You glimpsed that girl once and you couldn't even see her face properly and then you just go on and on about her. It's not all about looks you know... There is a great many fab things about Les Mis though and the lovey-doveyness is one of the main reasons it has stuck around in the West End for three decades no less.

Bend it like Beckham
This may not be an obvious choice to add to my list. But when I saw this at the Phoenix last year, I just loved the love storyline in it. Jess is so stubborn to get what she wants and that includes her love interest. And I adore that -- she is a fab strong-willed character. Loved the film, love the musical even more.

This is a firm favourite for most people. For me, I think it's a little overrated. BUT the soundtrack is great and the friendship between Elphie and Glinda is wonderful. The love between friends is sometimes stronger and more valuable and special than any other type of love. And this progression from enemies, to friends, to enemies to everlasting friends is so beautiful.

From Here to Eternity
This is a straight up lovey dovey one, there's no getting away from it. It's cute, but, again, not altogether happy. Why can't things just work out? I guess it wouldn't be realistic if it did.

Sound of music
This is an absolute classic. The 1960s original was one of the first musicals I saw as a child on television and the most recent live version starring Kara Tointon was fantastic. I am a sucker for stories where the guy starts off as brooding and severe and then the female softens him up. I wonder why that is...hmmm....but this isn't just about the love between a man and a woman. It is also about the love between Maria and the children. And their acceptance of her is just as wonderful.

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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Visiting Guildford

Have any of my lovely readers been to Guildford? I absolutely adore this pretty town on the hill. Great shopping check. Cute cobbled streets, check. Mysterious alleyways check. Loads of history, definitely check. Visiting it this weekend reminded me that it's right up my street (geddit? Ha-di-ha!)

I have been there quite a few times now, but every time I visit, I feel like I find bits that are completely new. There are just so many parts to it, it's ridiculously confusing. But I love that about it. It's a town which doesn't give up it's secrets very easily. The day I can walk around it without getting lost is probably the day I should move in and call it my home.

Getting lost, I think, is a very important aspect when exploring a new place. You won't ever find those by just sticking to what Google Maps says. It's when you wander around aimlessly, that you stumble across the most lovely things that are integral to the character of the town.

Now, me and Kim (my friend who I was meeting up with) are absolute experts when it comes to getting lost. Or maybe it's just my influence, because I am always wandering around with my head in the clouds, trying to get a feel for the wonderful new place I have entered.

After having a coffee and a catch up and doing a spot of shopping (do you like my new hat by the way, I think I may be a little obsessed by it!!) we headed outside The Friary Centre for a bit more of an exploration. And what we found was the delightful ruin of the Castle.

Even though it was blustery and cold, this was still such a pretty place. And this is where our top wandering skills came into play because we found, just by ambling around the pretty grounds, the Alice in Wonderland garden. Set right behind the wall from Chestnut House, where Lewis Carroll actually penned Alice through the Looking Glass (the book nerd in me went a little bit nuts, although you can only just see it through the trees); is a garden dedicated to the famous author's memory. And this sculpture was marking the spot. A little bit creepy, I have to admit but I still loved it. From where I am standing in front of her, it looks like I am greeting Alice as she enters wonderland. Which means, in all my explorations I must have found it...wonderland. In Guildford? Who would have guessed?

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Friday, 5 February 2016

Taking care of ourselves

Something I have noticed recently is humanity seems to be a pretty discontent species. I mean, look at a dog. They go nuts just to go on a walk with you (I have decided that dogs have the right frame of mind!) It isn't always a bad thing however -- I personally blame my constant restlessness on ambition which hopefully one day will lead me where I want to be. But it does sometimes cause us to become upset when actually we don't really need to be.

Taking myself as an example - I have a pretty great life. I live in a comfortable home, in a pretty village. I am surrounded by a very supportive group of friends and family who love me deeply and I have a job that I enjoy, which has the added bonus of enough free time to allow me to take part in other hobbies. I am well educated and in good health and I generally am able to do what I want. Like I say, my life is not bad at all. YET, I still find so much to moan about.

It is so so easy to get bogged down by the little things in life that may not be going as well as you hope but ignore the big things that you take for granted. Health is the main one of these. Being ill this week brought it to the forefront of my mind once again.

When we are well, we don't even notice it. Worse than that, we actually abuse our bodies by going to bed late, stressing, pouring alcohol into it and all those other things that we do without even thinking about it. Until our body can't take any more. It just stops, demanding rest and for us to actually take care of it for once. Meanwhile we wonder how we didn't notice when we were well because being ill reminds us how it absolutely SUCKS.

But the period where we actually take care of ourselves is very small. Before, again, we are lured into that false sense of everlasting health and the the process starts from the beginning.

Why does it take us becoming poorly, to notice that we are actually very fit the majority of the time?

What we really need to do (and by writing this blogpost, it is the beginning of my attempt to follow all my own advice!!) is ignore all that little inconsequential stuff, that doesn't even matter and concentrate on truly looking after ourselves and putting ourselves first. That will lead us to be healthier and less tired. Which in turn, will make us less stressy and less prone to emotional outbursts about how rubbish our lives are. Win win right?

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