This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Again, I am late to the book party. ‘This is Going to Hurt’ has been all over the book world since it was published, however I was never sure it was the book for me. Yet I gave in and decided to give it a go. My word, it really is a book for me.

Adam Kay has shared with the world his diaries from his medical days. His own secret diaries from his shifts on the front line working for the NHS. This is one of the most revealing books about life on the hospital wards that you are likely to read.

There is such humour in the writing (not sure it is always intentional) some moments of horror (especially if you are squeamish) and real heartbreak. In fact, never has a book had quite such a powerful ending.

What is clear about this account is that it has not been written to name and shame the NHS. However, it does show the frustration that Kay felt working in such a profession that is being forced to survive in such difficult circurmstances thanks to outside factors. It is obvious why so many are forced out of such careers, despite their best efforts.

This is a book that I hope mamy of the readers in the UK – and maybe even the world – will pick up to educate themselves and raise their awareness of the medical world.

Have you read a memoir that is like an education?

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.

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

One of the best thigs about summer is that I seem to fit a lot of reading time in. Therefore, I discover some gems which have been on my ‘to be read’ pile quite some time, and ‘The Cactus’ was one such title.

I had seen a lot of love for ‘The Cactus’ on social media and in the bookshops, so I was quite excited to give it a go when it became the next book to read.

‘The Cactus’ is such a charming book, full of warmth and humour throughout, even as it tackles some tough subjects. Susan Green has always thought she is fully in control of every aspect of her life; a strong, independent and very organised lady. She does not need anyone else, and enjoys her own company. That is, until she is 45 and life appears to be changing, in ways she can not control – in fact, was it ever as she thought it was?

This book creates characters you can really warm to, and probably represent people we all know. You really find yourself rooting for Susan as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery she didn’t know she needed. In fact, by the end, it is almost as if she has become a new person.

This is a novel that fans of ‘The Rosie Project’ or ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ will enjoy. Not sure I could rank them, as they are all marvellous in their own way – but if you have not read ‘The Cactus’ yet, make sure you do soon.

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence

When I spotted that ‘Rose, Interrupted’ was out in the world I knew I had to read it. ‘Orangeboy’ and ‘Indigo Donut’ had both been books which I adored and I could not wait to read more from the pen of Patrice Lawrence.

I did not even read the blurb to this novel because I was convinced that, whatever the tale may be, I was going to enjoy it and I did. Patrice Lawrence again tackles some key topics that become entwined in the fascinating tale of Rose and her family.

Rose, and her brother (Rudder) and their mother are now part of the ‘real’ world after leaving a strict religious cult which their father is still part of. However, neither Rose or her brother, are really fully equipped for some of the modern dangers that young people face everyday with our internet world. So, they may now have more freedom, but does that also mean more danger – was the world with their father safer after all? Or does it have dangers of its own?

This book does not just tell a fascinating tale, but handles the ideas of liberty, identity and internet safety really well. It educates the reader as well as engaging them in the story of Rose and Rudder.

This is a YA book that I would recommend all young people and adults should read, as I think we could all learn a lot from such a wellcrafted tale.

I hope that there is more to come from Patrice Lawrence because I have enjoyed every book that I have read so far, and would love to read even more.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

This was a book I knew nothing about other than that I had seen it in the bookstgram world. Oh my word, I am glad that I had found it in the real world, because it was quite a read.

The brilliant thing about YA fiction is that many of the authors have the confidence to tackle some topics that, not so long ago, people may have considered a little taboo. ‘Beautiful Broken Things’ tackles the subject of mental health, which is something that is becoming much more talked about – and rightly so.

When new girl Suzanne arrives in Brighton and becomes friends with Rosie and Caddy, she turns their lives upside down. Is she new and exciting? Or is there something deeper that appears to fuel this fun-loving girl? As the story unfolds, and clues to Suze’s past begin to be revealed, Caddy and Rosie are forced to reflect on themselves and their friendships – and how far do things have to go before things go too far?

Sara Barnard creates characters that are relateable and reflect experiences many people have as teenagers, especially that difficulty many have in finding their identity. However, the bond of friendship is often the strongest, and young people are often far more willing to see past the potential character ‘flaws’ in others and support those around them to offer strength.

The subject of mental health is handled well, with great sensitivity, but is also makes it accessible as a subject. The great thing about books is that they start conversations and remove the stigma from some topics.

I can’t wait to read more of Sara Barnard’s work, as I could not put this book down. Have you read any of her novels? What are your thoughts?

Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie

July’s pick for ‘Maidens of Murder’ bookclub was ‘Destination Unknown’; one of the only works by Christie not to have been brought to life on the screen – big or small.

This has more the feel of a thriller than Christie’s usual works. A standalone novel set against the early days of the Iron Curtain it is a tale of secrets, science and suspicion. There is, of course, a hint of murder, but it is not quite as central to the tale as it would be with some of Christie’s more well-known works. However, it is enjoyable to read something that is not traditional for Agatha Christie, and that really reflects the post-war era she was writing in.

However, it is a little worrying that a novel that is 65 years old is still relevant today or seems to be as we live through some turbulant times. Certainly thought-provoking.

So, thank you again ‘Maidens of Murder’ for encouraging me to read a Christie I would never have picked up otherwise. As always, looking forward to next month’s pick.

Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen is currently on tour to celebrate his 80th birthday. Also, his aim is to raise money for the arts, allowing theatres and companies to decide what the money raised will be spent on.

I have been a fan of Sir Ian McKellen as long as I can remember. He is someone who I rank with many of Britain’s great classical actors such as Dame Judi Dench, Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Patrick Stewart, the list is endless. And when the opportunity came up for me to see him on the stage of the RSC theatre, I was over the moon. It has been on my theatre bucket list to see Sir Ian McKellen on the stage, and what better place than Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town?

From the moment he took to the stage, the audience was fully captivated. Especially as he opened with a passage from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. McKellen held the audience’s attention as he told tales about his journey to stardom. There was so much humour and emotion as he took us on a tour of his career, we were even given the chance to see his Dame Twanky. I was grinning all the way through the first half – and possibly a little starstruck.

The second half was a wonderful nod to Shakespeare and all his plays. Sir Ian McKellen told anecdotes of productions he had performed in, as well as performing extracts from plays – he must be one of the only actors who can create a Shakespeare medley. In fact, I may have shed a little tear when paid tribute to some of the family and friends he has lost over the years. It was beautiful.

An evening in the company of Sir Ian McKellen is one of the best moments I have spent in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (and that’s a bold statement). Everyon around me was also having an amazing time, which was a true tribute to the talent of the star that is Sir Ian McKellen.

The Taming of the Shrew

Well, a rather cutural weekend in mid-July started with a trip to my happy place (The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, for any newbies to the blog). The play of choice was the latest version of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ from the RSC.

This was an interesting adaptation of the classic tale, as the roles were gender-reversed. Kate and Bianco were the focus of the tale, men who came to the attention of the powerful women of Italy. However, still set in Shakespeare’s day, and the matriarchy of Elizabeth I. To begin with, I fully embraced the idea of strong females playing the game, having all the skill and focus to tame the men and achieve what they want. However, as you watch it, you realise that it is actually not a particularly friendly tale (as it is often romanticised as), but actually a tale of manipulation.

Now, this is a sign of a good production, as it makes you reflect and think about the tale that is unfolding in front of you. And maybe, as a female I was more aware of the tale as the women took the lead.

This was an excellent production. Purists may not enjoy the change of genders, but this does not take away from the tale at all. There is comedy and emotion in the production, and you are invested in the tale from the moment it begins. Bianco is fabulously vain; Kate is fabulously rough and ready, but goes through the transformation like a butterfly, and Claire Price makes Petruchia her own.

There was, of course, everything else you would expect from an RSC production. A simple but engaging set and a great use of music and costume to bring the tale to life. A clever reflection of past and present, I would recommend catching this porduction if you can, as I think it will lead you to reflect on this story a little differently to before.

Although, I have to admit that this experience was probably enhanced by spotting Sir Ian McKellen in the audience which will conviently lead to my next post…