The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Royaly Military Tattoo has been part of the August Bank Holiday viewing for as long as I can remember, always looking like one of the greatest shows on earth. Miss W asked if I would go and see it, as it is also something that holds happy memories for her. And, I am so, so glad that we went; it was one of the best evenings of entertainment I have been to.

The theme of this year’s Tattoo is Kaleidoscope (a celebration of glorious symmetries), a celebration of the colour that makes this world the wonderful place we live in; a mixture of fabulous culture that makes up the rainbow of the world.

Military music has so much power and emtion behind it, from the moment the first note is heard, you have goosebumps and are engulfed in the Tattoo.

I don’t think I have the skill to describe how truly wonderful every moment of the Tattoo was. However, I can share that there were stunning performances from military bands from Nigeria, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, France, New Zealand, China and the Shetlands Isles. As well as dancers transporting us all around the world and putting us right in the middle of their culture.

And then we are returned to the massed military bands, and massed pipers and drums. Together they create a human kaleidoscope as they continue to engage and entertain the audience.

However, for me, even more powerful than all of this and seeing a whole audience join for ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is when we were asked to remember all of those who have fallen or been impacted by war, supported by the projection of candles of remembrance on the castle and concluding with ‘The Lone Piper’ on the castle walls.

I may not have summed up every detail of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo because I am not sure words do it justice. However, military music, colour, dancers and fireworks make for one of the most marvellous shows I have ever been to. I would love to go back!

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 – Part Two

There is so much at the Edinburgh Fringe – it is like an assault on the senses – but this also means that there is lots of choice. So, the main theme of the rest of the trip was music.

All the King’s Men

From the moment I finally caught up with the real world and saw ‘Pitch Perfect’, I became fascinated by ‘a coppella’ music. So when we spotted the opportunity to see the all male a cappella group ‘All the King’s Men’, we could not turn it down.

Their covers of a range of tunes were brilliant. They engage the audience with their slick choreography and amazing vocal talents.

The favourite for me was the cover of ‘I wanna dance with somebody’. Who can’t enjoy a singalong to such a classic? However, every song was brilliant, and you can not help leaving with a smile on your face and singing some tunes.

Avenue Q

This is a musical I have seen before and this production did not disappoint.

Avenue Q is Sesame Street for adults (and is certainly full of adult themes – this is not a family show). Part of the charm is that we all remember Sesame Street with rose-tinted glasses, and this gives us an excuse to enjoy such things again.

The laughs in Avenue Q are continuous (even if you are not sure if you should laugh at every song and joke). The talent of the puppeteers is impressive, the taking on of their puppets’ characters as well as working the puppets themselves.

It was a great production with a minimal set that worked for all the scenes, and talented actors who took on more than one part.

The Dolly Parton Story

Miss W is a huge Dolly Parton fan, so we could not turn down the chance to see ‘The Dolly Parton Story’. This is a show which tells the story of Dolly Parton’s career up until the 80’s – and, as we go, songs are sung along the way.

The songs in thsi show are sung by Hannah Richards, and she does this beautifully. Dolly would be proud of the show that is put on for the audience.

The audience is offered the stories behind some of Dolly Parton’s famous songs, as well as learning what a real rags-to-riches life the Queen of Country has led, with its ups and downs.

It was wonderful to see the audience really embrace the chance to have a singalong to end the show. After such a brillaint morning, it was an afternoon of Dolly Parton earworms.

Unfortunate

This was a surprise favourite of the Edinburgh Festival for both of us, I think. A friend recommended that we should go and see the offering from the ‘Fat Rascal Theatre’, and so we went to see ‘Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch’. As ‘The Little Mermaid’ is my favourite Disney film, this seemed like something I would enjoy!

And, oh my word, we enjoyed it. It was laugh-out-loud funny from almost the very first moment. The songs are truly wondeful (and, no, you won’t them before you arrive), as they create quite a parody of that classic film. This is not a family show – it has rather adult humour – Ariel has a whole different character to the film.

The show is wonderfully presented with a brilliantly simplistic stage, and costumes and all parts played by one of five members of the company. It is brilliant how they manage to play such a range of characters.

I am really keen to go and see more shows by ‘Fat Rascal Theatre’, because it was all comedy gold.

Legally Blonde

Our final show was a production of ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’. This production was put on by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. This is a full production and is good fun.

This is the tale of Elle Woods as she wants to prove she can be the woman her ex-boyfriend wants. However, she shows she can be so much more. The tunes in Legally Blonde are good fun and were performed beautifully. The jokes were brought right up to date for the audience. It was a great production of a fun musical with very talented actors on the stage and another simple but impressive set, and was a great way to bring our awesome Edinburgh experience to an end.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 – Part One

At the start of August, I went to Edinburgh with the lovely Miss W. She had planned a little trip for us to attend the Edinburgh Fringe; something that has been on my bucket list for years. Having grown up listening to brilliant radio comedy, I had always heard of the Fringe and it always sounded like it would be great fun – and the event did not disappoint.

So, in order to share my thoughts, I have decided to create two posts – one that focuses on the spoken word events we saw, and a second that share the music and theatre we saw. So, I guess I should begin…

Evil Genius with Russell Kane

Attending a recording of radio show is something that (again) has been on the bucket list for quite some time. So, I am over the moon that I have managed to tick that off by attending a recording of ‘Evil Genius’ with Russell Kane. This started life a BBC podcast, but is moving to BBC Radio 4. The concept of the show is that the panel must decide if a celebrity of choice is ‘evil’ or ‘genius’ – there is no grey area.

The focus of our show was Bernard Manning (not the turkey man, Miss W). I won’t spoil the outcome but the panel chaired by Russell Kane, discussed the subject with a balance of humour and serious focus to make for a very entertaining show.

I am looking forward to the episode being broadcast to remember I was there (and love Russell Kane, Miss W even let me swap seats so I could see – haha).

The Empathy Experiment

One of the great things about the Edinburgh Fringe is that there are a number of shows that are free. One such show was ‘The Empathy Experiment’.

This was a spoken word show by Rose Condo, sharing her experiment that suggests if we give up our phones, we will show more empathy.

The audience are taken through the steps of the experiment. An interesting comment on the world of modern technology we live with every day. This show certainly makes you consider the pros and cons of a world of devices.

Will you leave looking at your use of devices or level of empathy differently?

Age Fright: 35 and Counting

Wow, this was a brilliant piece of stand-up comedy as, let’s be honest, it spoke directly to me and Miss W. We were the perfect target audience (and even managed to get over our fear of being involved).

Jaleelah Galbraith leads us through the nineties again, reminding us of all theose things that made grwoing up in thet decade great fun. (Dean Cain was one of my first crushes too). It was such a giggle as we all together remember the retro decade.

However, something this show did well was not just to focus on the rose-tinted nineties, Jal also thinks about make the most of our age and the life we have, because not everybody is so lucky to see all the ages that they could go through.

Buffering

The final piece of spoken word stand-up comedy we saw was ‘Buffering’. A show based on the idea that the women feel that their life is buffering, waiting for their children to leave home, or caught in the middle of elderly relatives and children (and maybe the odd glass of wine).

Jenny Laville and Pauline Eyre take to the stage as a double act who then split into their individual stand-up acts. They use their experiences to create a relateable set of routines for all. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments and jokes for all.

There is a great chemistry between both Jenny and Pauline, which make it even more fun, and giggles galore.

We were lucky that every show we saw was absolutely brilliant, and I would recommend each one to anyone who see a good show when in Edinburgh enjoying the Fringe.

Simon Reeve – The Tour

As you may know, my lovely friend Miss W and I love an adventure. This time it was a trip to Birmingham Town Hall to hear the travel presenter/adventurer Simon Reeve speak on his tour, which has coincided with the release of his book ‘Step by Step’.

We have heard Simon Reeve speak before as an ambassador for Kuoni, so we knew we were in for a good night. We were looking forward to hearing which stories he would share at this event.

To begin with he shares some information about his background – which, although he has never hidden it, may surprise some. Then he discusses and shares the different series of events which led to him presenting the amazing BBC documentaries. The joy of listening to Simon Reeve speak is not only the passion with which he speaks but also the humour. It is clear that he appreciates every chance he has but he also wants people to understand that we can all learn from travel. We can all be enriched by any kind of travel; we do not have to go far to experience adventure.

Also, the emotion with which he tells some stories shows that maybe we have to really appreciate the privileged position that we are in and build out cultural literacy and understanding of those that may not be so lucky. A chance meeting could also change lives forever (a little like my friendship with Miss W).

I certainly left the show ready for an adventure, ready to read my copy of ‘Step by Step’ and with a desire to have even more awareness of the world around us. We do not need to experience life on a screen – we need to go out and adventure. So, thank you Miss W for an amazing birthday present – where are we off to next?

Bath, Bristol and Birthdays

I am a huge fan of the art trails (if that is the correct name for them) that pop up in our cities in the Summer. When I spotted that both Bath and Bristol had them going on this year (as well as a number of other cities), I knew the destination of a little adventure.

Bath – The Owl Trail

The joy of Bath is that it is so close to Bristol so both cities can be visited easily. After a good night’s sleep at the IBIS Hotel at Temple Meads we set off early to beat some of the tourist crowd.

Immediately on leaving the station you can spot owls. So, of course, the photos started straight away. We began our tour just randomly spotting owls and owlets as we found them. There were two reasons for this: one, it was early and we like a stroll and, two, we wanted to find breakfast. (Cafe Rouge became the destination of choice.)

Once we had refueled, we grabbed ourselves a map (you offer a donation) and carried on. Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse took control of the route we took. The best thing about these events is you see so much of the city without realising. It also introduces you to parts of the city that you would not normally visit. Bath is so beautiful that there is always something to catch your eye.

We also took the chance to visit Bath Abbey, as we have never been before. You do have to pay an entry fee, which I know divides opinion – some say a donation would be better. But the important thing is that it supports the upkeep of important cultural sites. Bath Abbey is a beauty and oozes history, which is where my interest in such buildings lie.

This was a brilliant day; my only disappointment was that you would have had to enter the Roman Baths to spot all the city centre owls. However, we managed over 50 of the city centre owls. A great day!

Bristol – Gromit Unleashed 2

Day two was all about Bristol and my birthday (woohoo!).

Aardman Studios has its home in Bristol, so therefore it is also home to Wallace and Gromit. This is the second ‘Gromit Unleashed’ and it is in aid of Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Our first stop was an amazing bakery, ‘Hart’s Bakery’, which is among the arches at Temple Meads Station. I do not think I have ever seen such a huge Almond Croissant. A croissant connoisseur Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse was in his element. Coffee was amazing too.

Energised and ready to go, we started off on the harbourside trail, taking in the sites such as the SS Great Britain. What was lovely about this is not only were there statues to spot, but you have Wallace, Gromit and Feathers McGraw to look out for. Wallace is also always on a bench, which is great for photos and avoids the temptation for some to climb.

Lunch break was a delicious birthday meal at Loch Fyne. The fish your way on the menu is perfect: pick your fish, sauce and sides – yummy!

In the afternoon, we focused on the city trail. Again, you see parts of the city you would normally miss.

By the end of the day, we had found all the Gromit Unleashed 2 statues in Bristol itself (minus the one in the M Shed exhibition hall).

These trails were both brilliant fun and we can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Have you completed any of the city trails this year?

Adventures in Antwerp

When Miss W suggested we had a girly city break to Antwerp I jumped at the chance. I absolutely love adventures with friends, and with Mr Bookwormandtheatremouse at work he was not going to miss me. Hehe!

So, at the end of July we jumped on the ever so speedy Eurostar to Brussels, then changed onto a local train to Antwerp so our adventure could begin.

We arrived on a beautiful sunny Tuesday afternoon to be greeted by the amazing Antwerp central station. It is absolutely stunning, fabulous architecture and a truly amazing atmosphere. The camera was straight out to try and snap the magnificence of the building. As you leave the station you realise how much it dominates the skyline and oozes stories of arrivals and departures.

Miss W had found a great hotel, Hotel Rubens – Grote Markt, it was central but slightly off the tourist trail (only by metres) so was peaceful. It was gorgeous and we were lucky enough to have a courtyard view. At the corner of the courtyard was the oldest tower in Antwerp, which had carefully been incorporated into the architecture of the hotel.

Afternoon one was all about taking in the beauty of the city and adopting the continental culture of eating and drinking al fresco. We enjoyed delicious open sandwiches (once we deciphered the menu), pizza and wine (not all at the same time I hasten to add). The simple joy of socialising in Antwerp was lovely to see and the slower pace of life was perfect for a chilled out city break.

Wednesday

The real adventure began. After a delicious breakfast we walked to the Antwerp Zoo. This was a trip we thought would just fill a few hours but instead lasted all day.

The zoo is set in wonderful gardens (which means you can’t walk on the grass) with benches placed all around to allow you to take in the views. The zoo is also bordered by Central Station which means you can appreciate it from another angle to the one you see on arrival.

There is a great collections of animals and we enjoyed seeing them all, especially the rather elegant flamingos who greet you as you enter the zoo.

We took a break for lunch at the zoo’s cafe. We each had a great Salmon and Courgette Quiche, made using puff pastry. It was packed full of flavour (and really put the British tourist food to shame).

There were talks and so much great information signs – not in English – but we liked picking out the words we could understand and having a good guess at others (the pictures helped).

Our evening consisted of amazing Belgian Waffles and crisp cold white wine at a fabulous Belgian bar with tables in the shadow of the Cathedral (all after a bit of a cultural stroll of the city).

Thursday

After a second epic breakfast (I promise that Miss W and I do not totally judge our trips on food) we decided to explore the city.

Miss W took the lead and guided us, after a walk along the river, to the most stunning museum. ‘MAS’ is a beautiful, modern museum which tells the story of Antwerp but from the point of view of all the diverse cultures which make the city what it is. It shows how the rich tapestry of Antwerp has been and continues to be formed.

The current promoted exhibition is ‘Celebration! Colourful rituals’ a wonderful guide to celebrations and festivals that mark life’s moments, not just in Antwerp but around the world. It is fascinating and you will come away having learnt something and realising how small the world is as we embrace all the different celebrations from the diverse cultures of all our countries.

When you reach the top there are the most stunning views of the city and the surronding area. You can really appreciate what makes Antwerp what it is.

After a delightful al fresco lunch of burgers, fries and pancakes (again – not all at the same time) we walked the zig-zag narrow streets back to the centre and visited the Cathedral. It makes a statement as all such buildings do. Towering over the two main squares, you can not avoid all its majestic glory. Inside it is beautiful, with stained glass windows and brilliant stone and wood work. There are currently some pieces of art on loan, with a religious theme, but they can be appreciated on all sorts of levels (the History Teacher in me was fascinated by the social commentary the paintings offered).

After out very cultural and educational day, we spent our final evening very much like the one before: waffles and wine (although ice cream and wine for Miss W).

So, if you fancy a great city break, Antwerp is a wonderful place to visit. We didn’t even cover all that the city had to offer and would happily go back.

This summer, have you been on any adventures?

 

Glorious Guernsey

So, we have returned to the routine like we never left it. After 6 wonderful weeks off, week one of the day job has been completed. This has left me reflecting on the adventures of the summer. Our big adventure was 5 days in Guernsey. The reason we went to Guernsey was simply because I had read ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society’ and I wanted to see if was as wonderful as the novel made it seem.

Destination: St Peter Port

This is the capital of Guernsey, a port town. It is a charming, historical town. So beautiful with wonderful architecture and cobbled streets. The views out over the harbour are stunning. For a capital is has a very relaxed vibe (although it is slightly hectic if the cruise ships come in). You easily find yourself wandering round, not noticing the time pass. Only a few paces up the hill you easily leave the hustle and bustle of St Peter Port and it is still all so beautiful. As you walk behind the city in a north east direction you find a part of the town with a very French style and atmosphere, to the north west you come across glorious gardens that could be in the English countryside. As capitals go – it is an adventure.

Day One: Castle Cornet

I LOVE castles; a sniff of history and I am in my element (another reason Guernsey is glorious) and Cornet Castle oozes it! You can do all the attractions at the castle in any order you like but we started with the story if the castle, short, sharp facts of its colourful history. Perfect to ensure we were out in time to see the firing of the Noonday gun. This was very History geeks dream, the men come out in period army uniforms, check and fire the gun. OH MY WORD, does it make you jump (I doubt anyone has a successful photo of the event), even though you know it is coming it always seems worse but it is worth it for the electric atmosphere of feeling like they are experiencing a historic tradition.

We then made our way round the other museums housed in the castle and explore the grounds. The views of Guernsey you can get from different parts of the castle are stunning. You spend hours exploring and learning so much history about the colourful castle. This is certainly one of the gems in the Guernsey crown.

Day Two: The Underground Hospital and The Little Chapel

A huge part of the charm of Guernsey is that you can so easily get round the island on the bus. So, we caught the bus a little further inland to allow us to explore the German underground hospital from the occupation during World War Two and follow that with a gentle stroll to the Little Chapel (in the rain).

The underground hospital is simply a route of tunnels but the atmosphere in unbelievable (especially on a very rainy day). As soon as you hear one echoing sound it sets your imagination firing about what it would have been when it was in full use. The two gentlemen who work there (and count you in and count you out again) are very knowledgeable and willing to share their vast knowledge of the occupation with the visitors.

The Little Chapel is a short walk from the underground hospital. It is stunning! Inspired by the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at Massabielle (a small market town in the foothills of the Pyrenees). The chapel has been rebuilt on a number of occasions, always by Brother Deodat (although he never saw the final version), and the chapel as it stands today was started in 1923 and decorated with pebbles and pieces of broken china as other materials were scarce. In 2016 The Little Chapel Foundation was established to work to preserve the chapel as little had been done for it several years. You can not visit Guernsey without visiting this chapel.

Day Three: Victor Hugo’s House

Guernsey is an island that is perfect for a book and theatre lover because this is the island that Victor Hugo spent his exile AND finished ‘Les Miserables’.

Nestled to the north east of St Peter Port is a rather imposing white house that flies French flag – Hauteville, the home of Victor Hugo and owned by France. You do have to book onto a tour in the language of your choice so you need to be flexible (we went for another beautiful walk while we waited for our tour).

The gardens are open to the public to stroll around at your own pace at any time Hauteville is open. The views are stunning out to sea. The garden is beautifully laid out with a great Oak in the centre planted by the great man himself. (LOVE!)

I can not out into words the interior of Hugo’s house ¬†you would have to see it for yourself (in some sense to believe it). However, the tour of the house is fascinating, the snippets the guides share are fascinating and I think you will leave with a desire to read Hugo’s books. (Especially when you see the EXACT spot he finished Les Miserables).

So, Guernsey is glorious. The food is fantastic. The views are stunning. The walks are wonderful. The people are friendly. You really need to visit!

Have you ever visited the Channel Islands? What did you think?