10 reasons to be happy right now

I’m baaaack!

So first, an apology. I’ve been the world’s worst blogger lately (at least on here – over at Theatre Things I’ve been a busy bee). But I’ve been feeling bad about it, and then I got a lovely comment the other day from Sarah that inspired me to try harder. So here I am!

Now part of the problem with happy blogging has been that recently I’ve been slipping back into some bad habits, and keep finding myself moaning about stuff to anyone who’ll listen (and, I’m sure, a few people who look like they’re listening but have actually gone to their happy place).

So I decided to get back to basics, and make a list of 10 reasons to be happy right now. And here they are:

  • Tomorrow is a new day. More importantly, tomorrow is also Saturday.
  • It’s bluebell season.

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  • Next month I get to be bridesmaid for one of my bestest friends. In Greece. On the beach.
  • I totally got 100% on this Friends quiz.
  • The Kinky Boots London cast made an album – not that it wasn’t fun to listen to the Broadway actors attempt a Northampton accent. (I promise you, if you’re ever feeling a bit blue, this show will cheer you right up.)
  • One of my colleagues bought us profiteroles today. They were good.

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This is not my route home from work (sadly). But it’s a nice photo.

What’s making you happy today?

Happy Sunday: weird noises, rapping bridesmaids… and a kitten called Bum

Greetings from a wet and windy Kent! I’m very happy to be at home, in the warm, while outside it’s blowing a gale and pouring with rain. I hope, wherever you’re reading this, that you’re warm and dry too.

Anyway, here are a few of the things that made me smile over the past couple of weeks. Ironically, I started writing this post whilst watching War and Peace, which made me cry like a baby… but it’s over now so back to the good stuff 🙂

This week:

  • After waiting (im)patiently for a few weeks, I finally got my copy of the February issue of Dartford Living, which this month, for the first time, includes my local theatre round-up. (No, I haven’t stopped being excited about that yet.)

Dartford Living

  • A bus driver in Nottingham took a detour from his route to take home an elderly lady with dementia. Mark Feurtado, whose mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007, was concerned when the lady didn’t get off his bus at the end of the line, and made a special trip to make sure she got home safely.
  • I finally discovered the source of the strange noise in my building – a sort of scraping, banging noise that’s very hard to describe, and which I’d heard a few times over the past few weeks. It turns out it isn’t, in fact, the building falling down, or – as some of my Twitter friends suggested – a serial killer roaming the halls (thanks for that, guys). It’s just the door of the meter cupboard on the outside wall blowing about in the wind, which is a lot less interesting, but also less terrifying, so I’m taking that as a win.
  • In Alberta, Canada, Maggie the dog escaped from her kennel at Barkers Dog Motel in the middle of the night, to cuddle with two rescue puppies who’d just arrived.
  • My friend, who’s getting married in May, posted this video on Facebook earlier today with the suggestion that her sister and I should do something similar at her wedding. Funnily enough, I don’t see that happening… It’s a great video though 🙂
  • A mother and daughter from New York have been reunited after 82 years: Lena Pierce was only thirteen when she had her baby, who was adopted at six months. Betty Morrell’s been searching for her mother for 20 years and the two finally had an emotional reunion last month.
  • Last weekend I finally had time for a bit of a clear-out at home; I hate actually doing the clearing, but love it when it’s done and I can see my floor again. And I even got around to buying a box for all my theatre programmes, which is, er, already full…

Theatre box

  • This kitten called Bum is so cute I want to cry.
  • I completed my Welsh challenge – after only a few hours spent on it last weekend… (Now I just need some Welsh people to talk to – any volunteers?!) Next I’m learning Scottish Gaelic, because why not? Feasgar math!

How was your week?

Happy Sunday: fudge, friends and football

Hope everyone had a great week! As usual, I’ve been keeping an eye out for good news and happy things to share, both from home and away. What good things happened to you this week?

This week:

  • So technically, this happened a little over a week ago, but I’m still very excited, so it’s going on the list… On January 1st, my year got off to an awesome start when I was asked to write a monthly theatre feature in a local magazine. To say I was excited doesn’t really cover it – I can’t wait to get started.
  • Speaking of local, the youngest person on the New Year Honours List is 13-year-old Jonjo Heuerman from Wilmington. Jonjo’s raised over £235,000 for Cancer Research UK, in memory of his nan, who died of bowel cancer, and his football hero, Bobby Moore.
  • My friend Nina had her first article published on Elephant Journal this week. It’s a great piece about how to deal with life’s ups and downs, and well worth a read. And you can read more from Nina on her blog, The Pollyanna Plan – she’s brilliant and one of the most positive people I know.
  • Chris Dempsey from Illinois donated part of his liver to a complete stranger in 2015, after overhearing one of his colleagues talking about Heather Krueger, a family member who needed a transplant to save her life. Chris and Heather got to know each other in the time leading up to the surgery – which was a success – and now they’re engaged.
  • As part of a work project, I randomly decided at the end of last year that I was going to learn Welsh. The idea of the challenge is to learn as much as possible during January using our language app, and although it’s open to anyone, we’re having our own internal competition in the office, which – as of Friday – I’m winning! (I have a feeling when I go in tomorrow I won’t be any more, so I’m making the most of this small victory while I can.)

Welsh uTalk Challenge

  • Last week, commuters on a morning train from Ascot to Waterloo actually enjoyed their journey for once when the conductor posed a fun music quiz, repeating the question each time new passengers got on. Apparently this is quite a regular occurrence on South West Trains – are you listening, Southeastern…?
  • I was feeling a bit grumpy the other day (yes, it does happen – I’m only relentlessly cheerful when blogging) and then my friend Safia produced her latest amazing creation, Super Sinful Oreo Fudge. It’s basically a heart attack on a plate, but if it did kill you, at least you’d die happy. Unfortunately I was too busy eating to take a photo, but you can see Safia’s pictures – and check out how it’s done – on her blog, My Griffin Way.
  • A woman from Sydney, Meg Churches, has become famous for making tiny wraps to protect orphaned baby bats. The idea behind the wrap is that it replicates their mother’s wings, which is crucial for the bats’ survival. Meg’s design goes under the adorable name of Cuddlebatz, and here’s what it looks like in action:
  • Without wanting to bang on about theatre, this week I’ve seen three fantastic shows – New Jersey Nights (a celebration of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse, and a second visit to the hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong (the link is to my review from the first visit, when the show was touring – it’s now at the Apollo Theatre in the West End, and still brilliant).

Have a great week! 🙂

Abandoning the comfort zone

I’m a pretty cautious person, as a rule. I know what I like, and I tend to stick to it whenever possible. Some people might think that’s boring – but as far as I’m concerned, my comfort zone is my happy place, and I like it there, so why would I leave?

But every once in a while I have a mad impulsive moment, where I say yes to things I wouldn’t usually want to try. It’s generally accompanied by a fit of enthusiasm for broadening my horizons, pushing limits, and that sort of thing. (And just to be clear, we’re not talking jumping out of planes here; I’m impulsive, not insane.)

An example. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by the very lovely Caroline at Carn’s Theatre Passion to review FanSHEN’s Invisible Treasure at Ovalhouse, a show whose write-up begins: ‘No actors. No plot. But there’s you.’

Photo credit: Cat Lee
Photo credit: Cat Lee

Now – I love the theatre, but as a rule I like the kind of show where you sit in the dark, and everyone looks at the stage, not each other. So after spontaneously saying yes, it didn’t take long for me to start worrying about exactly what I’d let myself in for. And that anxiety only increased when it turned out all my friends were busy (or possibly they were just scared, too) and I would have to go on my own. The horror…

I don’t want to give away all the secrets of Invisible Treasure (and if you’re after a full review, you can find my thoughts at Carn’s Theatre Passion), but here’s a quick summary: a group of strangers go into a room, where a screen on the wall sets them a series of video game challenges, while a sinister giant rabbit with glowing eyes sits in the corner watching. To solve the challenges and progress with the game, the group have to work together to figure out what to do, and then everyone has to contribute to actually doing it.

Also, there’s line dancing in the dark. But that’s another story.

It soon became clear that there were some natural leaders in our group. These were the people who were quite happy to try anything, however mad – wave their arms about, go alone into small spaces, shout random words – and confidently issue instructions to the rest of the group.

Photo credit: Cat Lee
Photo credit: Cat Lee

It also became abundantly clear that I am not one of those people. I was one of the group who were happier standing back, keeping quiet and then joining in once someone else had figured out what to do. And occasionally just looking around in bewilderment going, ‘Huh?’ along with everyone else.

There are a few reasons for this, I think:

  1. I don’t like looking stupid – and I couldn’t quite shake the feeling throughout the experience that someone was watching us and having a good laugh at our increasingly desperate attempts to solve the puzzles.
  2. I hate being centre of attention. Which is why the bit where a member of the group has to come and dance on the spot in the middle of the room, while everyone else watches them, was never going to happen.
  3. I’m a thinker; I like to process ideas in my head first before I share them with anyone else. Which is probably why I’m not very good in a brainstorm situation; I tend to do all the discussion internally, and by the time I’m ready to share, everyone else has finished and gone to lunch.

So, yes. Invisible Treasure was definitely new and unfamiliar territory, but I’m glad I went. It was fun – even if it was often slightly bemused, uncomfortable fun – and I liked the fact that everyone, even us quiet ones, had a part to play in getting out of the room alive*. And I do think it’s important to try new things from time to time, however terrifying they might seem beforehand, if only because you can head back to your comfort zone feeling proud that you gave it a go.

I’m still not jumping out of any planes, though.

* This may be a small exaggeration.

Photo Sunday: Boughton Monchelsea Place

I haven’t been out with my camera for weeks, so it’s great to be doing Photo Sunday again. Yesterday, my mum, sister and I went to Boughton Monchelsea Place, near Maidstone in Kent, for a spot of open air theatre, courtesy of the Changeling Theatre company (review coming later to The Blog of Theatre Things).

When I say ‘a spot of theatre’, I actually mean quite a lot – we were seeing a double bill: Two Gentlemen of Verona in the afternoon followed by Hay Fever in the evening. Because Boughton Monchelsea is a bit out in the sticks, we decided to hang around and entertain ourselves for the two hours between shows, which gave me a chance to wander off with the camera for a bit.

Fortunately, it’s a beautiful venue, offering a view not only of the manor house but also of the estate’s deer park and miles of open Kent countryside. We even caught a brief glimpse of the world’s only Vulcan bomber, which made a rare appearance at the Herne Bay air show yesterday afternoon (although no pics, sadly; it was too far away).

If you have the chance to see Changeling in the future, I really recommend them; they’re completely bonkers, but in a very good way. And if you do go, Boughton Monchelsea is a great venue, so don’t forget your camera.