Friday, 1 October 2010

T -9

It’s Friday. In 9 days time I will be spending my first evening as an official London resident. In 7 days time I will have finished my final day at my current workplace and will be starting 2 days of unemployment.

So, how do I feel ? - Nervous, excited, scared (a bit), happy and sad.

I’ve been in my current job for just under 6 years and, at the time I started there, I was just beginning to crawl back up from a pretty horrendous year (Paul had died in February that year). Emotionally I was very unstable and, I suppose, I was still very raw from everything that had been happening. The support of my close family and friends was continuing to be absolutely fantastic throughout and I honestly don’t think I would still be around now if it hadn’t been for their tremendous support (and some additional help from CRUSE).

In 6 years a hell of a lot has happened to me. I’ve had 3 jobs, worked as a Helpliner for the Leicester LLGBT Centre, rediscovered and been amazed by some truly special friends, got engaged and then been taken for a mug (boy was that a mistake and, thankfully, a lucky escape, but I learned some valuable lessons from it), been a regular member of a pub quiz team, said goodbye to my local pub (RIP Pump & Tap), started travelling abroad again and regularly attending theatre shows.

Then, very importantly, I met this guy who waited around for 3 hours for our first date (traffic - he’s never forgiven me) and, because of that date, I am now about to begin a new adventure. He’s turned my life back around and given me strength and purpose, along with a hell of a lot of fun times.

So here I am, trying to decide what the hell I’m going to take to London, looking forward to a new job and an (almost) new city. I can’t wait to get there and settle with Lee but I’m also sad to be leaving my hometown and my friends & family. The flat hunting was a total disaster a few weeks ago (and caused a lot of stress) and we’re now staying put in Sydenham, although still looking into getting a bigger place so that we can fulfil our plan of having a guest room so people can visit and crash whenever they want.

The good thing is that I’m not really saying goodbye, I’m keeping the house so that we can travel up regularly to see everyone.

This is just “see you soon” really.

Friday, 10 September 2010


One of our regular theatrical outings is to the musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria. Loosely based on the book by Gregory Maguire, it tells the story of the most famous Witches of Oz from their schooldays as friend’s together right up to the events involving Dorothy and the Ruby slippers.

So, off we went to see it again (6 times for me and 4 for Lee). It’s a great show and we never tire of it. The whole production is fantastic and it’s a real crowd-pleaser, having won numerous awards including Best West End Show, Best Musical of the Decade and the audience award for Most Popular Show.

This time around there’d been quite a few principal cast changes and, I have to say, it was a vast improvement in some cases. We had seen Oliver Tompsett in the role of Fiyero a few times and he just never seemed right for the part. However, Lee Mead has now taken over and he fits in extremely well (Denise Van Outen is a lucky girl !). Rachel Tucker as Elphaba and (the understudy) Sarah Earnshaw as Glinda were also both excellent. We’ve seen Sarah Earnshaw in the role a couple of times and I, personally, think she is definitely best suited for the role. Her rendition of ‘Popular’ is always hilarious.

The big show stopper of the Wicked is Defying Gravity, a song now made popular through being showcased in the hit TV show Glee. A really great end to the first act and certainly supplies the ‘wow‘ factor. (Incidentally both the original leads from Wicked - Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith - have ongoing roles in Glee).

Defying Gravity - Kristin Chenowith, Idina Menzel and the Broadway cast of Wicked

Undoubtedly we will be seeing it again in the near future. We just have to bide our time until the next captioned performances by Stagetext (well done again guys). I have to give big pat on the back to the Apollo Victoria and the Producers of the show. It is, by far, the most accessible show in the West End, providing regular captioned, signed and audio described performances. Bravo to them.

It’s such a shame that other venues cannot lead by their example. Certain long running West End shows have never been captioned and others just don’t appear to be bothered (Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre hasn’t done a captioned performance for over 2 years). I guess they just think they can afford to alienate potential audiences while they’re still raking the money in.
Very poor really when you have a show such as Hair with an extremely limited run (about 6 months) yet they ensured that the show was given full audience access.

Anyway, I digress. If you want a good, fun show for all the family with lots of magic, glitz and glamour, along with some great songs, then go and see Wicked – you won’t be disappointed.

You never know, we might even see you there.

For further information about the great work Stagetext do, click on the logo above

(Photos and videos © of the respective owners of the material)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Love Never Dies

Wednesday evening was spent at the Adelphi Theatre seeing the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Love Never Dies”. The show is the continuation of the story of the Phantom of the Opera and takes place 10 years after the events at the Paris Opera House.
With the help of Madame Giry and her daughter, Meg, the Phantom has moved to New York’s Coney Island and is now managing a Carnival Circus with various traditional side shows – bearded lady, Siamese twins etc. All of whom have welcomed the Phantom’s assistance as they have finally found a place of sanctuary. The Phantom, still in love with Christine, plans to lure her to New York so he can pursue her once more and the plot unfolds with various discoveries along the way.

'Til I hear you sing once more (subtitled)

The show itself is extremely lavish and, visually and creatively, on a par with Phantom. However the story and direction, sadly, let the show down. I found that it tried to take itself far too seriously, turning it from being an epic love story into an over the top, camp affair, full of desperation to tug on the audience’s heart strings. There was way too much angst and high drama to make the characters believable. That said I will, more than likely, see the show again to try and appreciate it more and focus on the music and lyrics.

Lee made a very accurate and amusing observation when he said that Love Never Dies included cameo appearances from Mary Poppins, The Rocky Horror Show and the Milky Bar Kid !

In Lloyd Webber’s and the Producer's defence I do think that the critics were extremely unfair on the show and just used it as a chance to have a go at Lloyd Webber. I will say that, although a little weak, it is still a show worth seeing at least once just to see what happens to the original characters and to appreciate the sheer spectacle of the show with all its magic and technical wizardry.

Although this is, obviously, my personal opinion of the show, I think everyone should be given a fair opportunity to make their own judgement as to whether it has merit. After all, plenty of people must be enjoying it as it is certainly still selling well and new productions are planned to open shortly in Australia, Toronto and possibly New York later.

Special credit, as always, to Stagetext who captioned both the matinee and evening shows on Wednesday, without whom we wouldn’t have the opportunity to see the show. It was also good to see that the staff at the Adelphi theatre were fully briefed for the captioning and extremely well prepared to assist patrons.

My only (and quite regular) bug-bear, which I know Stagetext always try their very best to address, is that, although it is very much appreciated that a lot of theatres make the effort to provide assisted performances, it is such a real shame that they tend to select relatively inappropriate dates, particularly with West End shows. I only hope that, eventually, the theatre managements will appreciate that people with disabilities also work, so weekday performances are not really that suitable as it means people outside of the area regularly have to take time off work to attend the shows. This problem could so simply be resolved by providing assisted performances at the weekend particularly Saturday matinees so that people can travel to the shows in their free time. At the end of the day, “joe public” have a choice of about 8 performances a week for most West End shows, whereas captioned performances only tend to be provided for about one performance every 6 months and quite often shows with relatively short runs don’t get captioned at all.

Anyway, go and see Love Never Dies. It’s certainly worth a look but do see Phantom of the Opera first. You can then fully appreciate the sequel. As long as you have an open mind, you should have an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

For further information about the great work Stagetext do, click on the logo above

(Photos and videos © of the respective owners of the material (Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Really Useful Group, Stagetext et al)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The hunt begins

Having both planned this week off work some time ago, it has now turned from being just a break into flat/house hunting week.

The desirable area would be somewhere in Richmond or the surrounding districts. Richmond itself would be ideal as I will be working there and it has a direct tube line to South Kensington (where Lee currently works and the commute for him will then be a lot easier).

Yesterday we started in earnest with our search. We spent the day in Richmond and trolled around all the Estate Agents we could find. We managed to see 3 properties, none of which turned out to be suitable but, by the end of the day, we felt quite hopeful in finding a property fairly soon.

Today, after advice from a very helpful Estate Agent at Hamptons, we broadened our search towards Twickenham. This seemed to be more promising but, unfortunately, there appears to be a bit of a shortage in availability currently. We did the rounds again and have ended up making appointments to visit about 4 properties tomorrow.

There was also a bit of better luck later this afternoon when we found a very friendly Estate Agents - Milestone & Collis. They had a property on the market within our budget and relatively well located. The only thing we were warned about is that it was a little "dated". We were taken to see it straight away and it looks pretty good. The area was nice and quiet (not that Lee is bothered) and there is plenty of parking available. The flat itself is in very good condition with 2 good sized double bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and bathroom. There is also a private garden area. It does feel a little as though you step back in time as the decoration is very late 60's/early 70's (including some fantastic retro linoleum tiles in the kitchen which will be staying if we get the place). Unfortunately the kitchen is in serious need of reorganisation and will need some work, but we're well up for doing it.

Nicola, the agent, told us that another couple had seen the flat yesterday and had put in an offer with a lower rent and certain conditions for the landlord to meet (changing some carpets etc). We have now also put in an offer, slightly higher than the other one, and have given some "suggestions" to the landlord for improving the flat which we are happy to carry out ourselves with some financial backing from the landlord. The changes will definitely improve the value of the property and, hopefully, the landlord will be up for it.

So, it was a pretty good afternoon. We're still not 100% definite about this place and, obviously,  we will need to see whether the offer is accepted first. We've also got the 4 places to look at tomorrow so we may still find something we prefer then.

It's going to be another very busy day with lots of running around. We're also off to see Love Never Dies tomorrow night. Hopefully we won't be too knackered and fall asleep during the show (unless it's truly boring).

Keep you posted soon.

P x

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Into The Woods

Yesterday Lee and I went on one of our many theatre trips, this time to the Open Air Theatre at Regent's Park to see Into The Woods. I've been looking forward to seeing this show for quite some time as I think it’s one of my favourite Sondheim musicals and probably his most accessible piece, as an introduction to his works. Also, being captioned by Stagetext, it gave Lee the opportunity to see another brilliant musical and, hopefully, a better appreciation of this particular musical genius. Stephen Sondheim is 80 this year and this is one of the many celebratory events being held in his honour around the world.

Into The Woods takes the stories of the Brothers Grimm and gives them a dark and humorous twist.  The popular tales of Red Riding Hood, Jack (of Beanstalk fame), Cinderella and Rapunzel are interwoven with that of the Baker and his Wife and their quest to have a child. However this re-telling goes beyond ‘happily ever after’ as the familiar characters deal with the consequences of their actions and find themselves in unfamiliar circumstances where hopes and dreams are questioned and revisited.

Brief show trailer with captions

The staging at Regent’s Park was absolutely perfect for this show, the open space with its natural backdrop of trees and bushes (and the occasional Pigeon flying onto the set) worked brilliantly and the design and clever incorporation of woodland themes truly made the audience feel enveloped by the “magical” forest. Of particular note was the Witch costume that gave the idea of her gradually assimilating with the forest over the years and also the use of branches to represent Cinderella’s birds.

The set was a simple mixture of wood and metal steps and platforms which allowed for a continuation of the themes into the various creatures encountered along each characters journey’s – the Golden egg-laying Goose created from lawnmower parts, a beanstalk from umbrellas, the Giant’s wife from dustbin lids, garden tools and an oversized man-trap.

Time lapse showing the creation of the set

Link - BBC News takes a look at how the set for Into the Woods was constructed in just one day (no captions, I'm afraid, but still interesting to see an actors-eye-view from the set)

An interesting change to the usual interpretation of this show was the use of a boy as the Narrator. In previous productions I’ve seen, this part is normally played by the “mysterious man” who also turns out to be the Baker’s estranged father. Using the boy brought another dimension to the story as he has also run away from his family into the wood and from there he “creates” the story using his imagination and the various toy figures he carries in his backpack.

I personally think this change to the original casting works much better and brings more clarity to the whole piece as it now keeps the narrator and the Baker’s father totally separate, yet also provides a reason why all the characters are planted into the woods in the first place and how the plot has formed from the boys imagination. (It was also great to have the voice of Dame Judi Dench as the Giant’s Wife – a lovely touch to use an actress of such well renown. This was especially fitting for someone who received critical acclaim and Sondheim’s personal appreciation for her performance in A Little Night Music back in 1996).

The show was wonderful and the best interpretation I have seen so far. We were so pleased that the Open Air Theatre captioned the show and a big thank you to them and also to both Stagetext and the hard work of the captioner to put together this show. This is not an easy one to caption as the pace throughout is particularly fast and can be very difficult to follow. However a stirling job was done and nothing was lost in the caption translation. In fact it was so good that Lee would love to see it again.
Our only minor disappointment was that the only performance captioned was the Saturday matinee. Under normal circumstances this would most certainly be the best performance to caption as it allows the majority of people the opportunity to travel to London to see these outstanding shows, during their leisure time, without the need to spend a fortune on an evenings accommodation. However, this stunning show benefits even more from the onset of nightfall during the performance and, from what I can gather, this, along with the excellent lighting, add even more to the production. Maybe something the theatre could bear in mind for future captioned performances – put on both a captioned Saturday matinee and evening performance.

It would certainly be great to be able to see this show again if they would consider bringing it back for a rerun at Regent’s Park. Lee has said that he would love to see this production again so that’s a big thumbs up from both of us.

For further information about the great work Stagetext do, click on the logo above

(Photos and videos © of the respective owners of the material (Catherine Ashmore, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, BBC Worldwide, Stagetext)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A tough one

This was never going to be easy.

Having finally got confirmation of the new job and handing in my notice, there was now the task of telling Mum and Dad.

So, I had already arranged to visit them last night and we all decided to go out for a meal. The evening was fraught with various mini nightmares (not worth going into detail, but certainly didn't help the situation - Lee is probably chuckling to himself right now !) and, by the time we got to the restaurant, I had almost given up on finding a suitable moment to give them the news.

Conversation was a little dry at one point so I decided to take the plunge. I'd already sorted out an application form for a disabled persons railcard for them (with the thought that they will definitely be needing one to travel to London). I handed the forms over to Mum and just said "You'd better fill this in because you're going to be using it quite regularly soon". The penny dropped at that point and the next hour or so was taken up with discussing all the details. I put a very positive spin on everything (regular visits, a bit of a break, opportunity to see lots of shows and stuff) but the whole thing was a shock for them, understandably.

I'm hoping that this move will be a good incentive for them to get about more and to do more things in general. I also see it as a means for me to have more regular contact with them as there's always a risk of becoming a bit complacent when people are just around the corner.

This move is going to mean that more effort is put into regular contact and I think it will work out very well, not just with seeing family but also staying in touch with friends more (this blog being one of the first steps).

The end of the evening was a little downbeat, unfortunately, and they were both very deep in thought. It really got me down and very worried about leaving them....

However, today was a different story. I had a call at work from Mum. She's already filled out the form and found the necessary documentary proof for the card. I've just got to pick it up from them and sort it out now. Mum also said that she wished she could come flat hunting with us so she could have a good old nose around other people's homes (I've told her that I'll take plenty of photo's).

All in all a much more positive reaction and I was very relieved after the call as it has been preying on my mind somewhat all day.

Phew !

So tonight is now taken up with sorting out and packing clothes for a week in London with my better half. Lot's of exciting things going on - theatre and exhibitions, flat hunting and general snooping around at the areas that we could potentially be calling home very soon.

More updates as and when there is news. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Big News !!!!

Hello peeps
I have big news and so I’ve decided to start this blog as a way of spreading the word on what’s happening. Please "follow" on the right, "subscribe" below or bookmark so that I can keep you all updated on events.
As some of you are already aware, there has been something going on for the past few weeks but I’ve not been in a position to say much (mainly because I didn’t want to jinx anything). Finally today I am able to reveal all.
From 11 October 2010 I will have a new job. I am going to be working for a company called Union Street who provide billing and BT provisioning software to telecommunications companies (mainly). I work closely with Union Street in my current job so I made enquiries about vacancies a couple of weeks ago and they were interested in seeing me. Things went well and they were very keen to get me on board and offered me a job.
The “biggy” is that the company is based in Richmond so I will be moving down South in just over a month’s time. This means that Lee and I can finally be together. We will be looking for a flat to rent in the Richmond area (the plan is to get a two bedroom place so that you can all come and visit, but not all at once though !). Once we’re settled Lee may also apply to transfer with his work to Richmond although, ideally, he would also like to find a new job.

There is also the possibility of getting Lee a hearing dog in the near future (ideally a Goldendoodle - see Google for further info) but we need to do some investigating first.
So, all in all, it’s been extremely eventful for us recently. Next week we’re on holiday in London and will be flat hunting and generally starting to prepare for the move. News on that progress will be put on here.
I will, of course, still be back and forth to Leicester regularly for family visits and to catch up with you all. I also plan to start updating this blog regularly to keep you all posted.
I’m very excited about all this and also pretty scared as this is such a big change for me and I will be leaving my home town (something I never expected to do after all these years). I’m very positive about everything and really looking forward to finally being able to settle down with Lee. We also want to make this an opportunity to keep in better contact with all our friends and, hopefully, get to see you more often. I think the distance will actually help to achieve this because it will make us put more effort into keeping in contact and planning to meet up.
Well, that’s pretty much it for now but there will be further updates soon
P x