Tag Archives: Christmas

Review of Cinderella, with John Partridge and Cbeebies’ Sid, at Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 2015

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John Partridge as the Prince Sid Sloane as Dandini Pics by Robert Day

Cinderella Review, Derngate theatre Northampton.

THERE’S a tradition with many families at Christmas that shows more faith than going to midnight mass – and that’s booking a year in advance for the Derngate panto.
Lots of Northamptonians do it – after all, the Derngate pantos are fairly traditional and you should reasonably expect something with a famous face, some sparkly costumes and the requisite number of ‘He’s behind you!’s.
They are always Qdos productions, a vast entertainment group who put on commercial, traditional pantos, usually with at least one celebrity turn, up and down the country. Next door at the Royal you’ll find something a little less panto and a little more ‘Christmas play’, and this year it’s the Snow Queen.

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Bobby Delaney as Ugly Sister (Cheryl) Ben Stock as Ugly Sister (Rita) Pics by Robert Day

If it’s dames and double entendres you’re after, Cinderella has those in abundance. Ben Stock and Bobby Delaney as the Ugly Sisters give it the full-on panto dame routine, with amazing costumes and good comic timing. But they get rather pushed into the chorus by ex-Eastender and rumoured Big Brother contestant John Partridge as Prince Charming, whose stripping and whooping and winking make you think that Cinderella would be furiously swiping left on the fairytale version of Tinder.
When Partridge started singing, and he can certainly carry a tune, my 7-year-old turned to ask: “Is it the interval soon?” She and her 8-year-old friend fidgeted far more than they usually do at the theatre while our 12-year-old, trying his hardest not to sound un-cool, asked if some of the jokes were really suitable for kids, “as it isn’t even like you have to work out what they really mean, it’s just rude stuff.” Then he went back to playing games on his phone.
I’ll admit I was watching through gritted teeth through quite a lot of Cinderella, as young actress Rachel Flynn battled to be heard above her braying prince and the whiney Buttons, played by Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Danny Posthill, whose main talent was rapid-fire impressions.

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John Partridge as the Prince Sid Sloane as Dandini Pics by Robert Day

There was a big cheer from the audience when Cbeebies favourite Sid (Sloane) appeared, and he made the cheerful most of his role as the prince’s servant and sidekick Dandini. The beautiful glittery costumes and athletic dance moves of the girl dancers got our seven-year-old back watching and the audience seemed to be whooping along with it all. Either that or they’d been wise enough to have a proper drink beforehand.

There is an intended ‘wow’ moment involving a mechanical horse, some bubbly snow and some stage flying work, but I’m afraid I couldn’t stop laughing at the horse’s gammy leg.
I’ve been to a lot of pantomimes over the years and despite the jokey reputation for it being a long way from high art, the writing has to be good to carry the clichés and flamboyance that comes from having to recycle much-loved stories and carry slightly-famous non-actors.

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Rachel Flynn as Cinderella

With Cinderella I got the feeling that the production bosses just couldn’t be bothered this year. Stick some faces up there, work some good dancers into a few routines, call the local dance school for some sweet kids for the chorus, find someone off a TV talent show that at least the teens will recognise and shove in some fart jokes. Work them all solid for a couple of months and take the cash that people effectively pledged without knowing what they were really going to get.
If you’ve already got tickets, or were thinking of going, don’t let this put you off. But if you can, make sure you drop into the theatre’s new Bar Hygge beforehand, for a ‘quick stiffener’. There you go Qdos scriptwriters, you can have that one for next year.

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Son’s £70 phone bill an expensive lesson learned all round

IT’S a different world these days, isn’t it, when bills no longer plop through the letterbox, but drop soundlessly into your email inbox.

But in the same way that you’d put those envelopes to one side to open later, when you have more time, you ignore the inbox reminder.

If it looks on first glance roughly about the same as last month, do you need to look any closer?

The utility companies – those unavoidable gas, electric, phone, mobile, TV, credit card and water firms – are onto a winner aren’t they? We’re too distracted to check the bill, too busy to pay the bills individually, manually. We click the direct debit box and off our money goes into the ether.

But on one odd occasion between Christmas and New Year, the figure on the phone/TV/broadband company bill caught my eye: It was more than twice as much as usual.

All right, so we may have watched an ‘on demand’ film with the kids over the holiday, but we use pre-paid mobile minutes to call each other, so why is the home-phone part of the bill SEVENTY POUNDS rather than the usual six or seven? Have we been hacked? Has the phone company made a terrible mistake?

No, it was a much simpler, old-fashioned explanation: We have a teenager in the house.

My children find it hard to believe that we were teenagers once, when PC stood for Police Constable not personal computer, mail came through the letterbox and a mobile was a thing you hung above a baby’s cot.

But like today, being on the phone was one of the major ignition points for a family row. You were far more conspicuous of course, being stuck in the hallway or front room, tied into a conversation everyone in the house could hear because the one phone in the house had a cord that stretched about as far as your arm.

But I used that phone at any and every opportunity. I can even remember our phone number, back in 1982. It wasn’t hard: 203. Yep. Three digits to freedom from my family.

And I got into trouble for running up phone bills – although I can say with all certainty they weren’t anything like £70. Nonetheless, it would be me getting berated by Dad for being on the phone all the time.

And now, of course, I’m saying the same thing to my own offspring:

“Why are you on the phone, you just saw *insert name here* five minutes ago?”

“Who is ringing who? I thought you said you had no credit?”

“Why don’t you text? Or use Facebook? Or Messenger? Here, use my phone. . .” (OK, I made that last part up).

How on earth did our mostly-monosyllabic First Born manage to ring up seventy quid’s worth of calls IN A MONTH!

Yes, so I did tell him it was OK to use the home phone to call landlines at evenings or weekends as long as he hung up after 59 minutes, because it’s free to ring at that time if you don’t exceed an hour. But he ‘forgot’ the ‘landline’ part and has been ringing his girlfriend/mates ON THEIR MOBILES for up to 59 minutes at a time. (The itemised bill also showed he’d been calling at midnight, when he’s supposed to be tucked up in bed asleep, but that’s another issue).

Needless to say, we hit the roof, and he voluntarily coughed-up his £45 Christmas money to pay for his mistake. (Cruel, cruel parents). Landlines only from now on, and no midnight calls. Lesson painfully learned.

Don’t tell him, but we’re going to give him the money back in return for a series of tedious chores . . .

Happy New Year kids!

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Resolutions suck

RESOLUTIONS that last about four days, diets, detox, exercise plans, gym membership. Yeah, yeah, New Year, New You and all that.

We can scoff, and resolve not to make them, but I bet you’ve thought “I’ll start that in the New Year. . .” at least once in recent weeks.

My regular, but short-lived, January plans include eating less, shouting at the kids less, spending less, getting less irritated about stupid little things and exercising more and being more organised.

It doesn’t last. I know it won’t this time either but it won’t stop me. After all, finding fewer things to feel guilty about doesn’t ever seem to enter my head when January comes around.

Happy New Year fellow resolvers! May your bodies be healthy and your minds be free of guilt in 2012. Or until February, at least.

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Christmas cake, no recipe, no marzipan, home-made


Balls to #nigella and #lorraine. It might look rubbish but home-made made by me and a three-year-old

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It’s panto season (oh no it isn’t. . .)

It might be eight months until Christmas, but the theatres are already taking bookings for their Christmas pantomimes and seasonal shows.

There’s a newish addition to the venue list this year as the Core at the Corby Cube, managed by Royal & Derngate, will be offering its second season of seasonal, er, stuff .

It may feel odd, but now’s the time to book as there are usually early-bird discounts and panto tickets are notoriously expensive, especially if you have a stupid amount of children like I do.

Here’s the press blurb, stay tuned for more panto news. . .

“The Core is delighted to announce that this Christmas they will be presenting not one, but two, great family shows for Corby audiences to enjoy. One Snowy Night, from the popular Tales from Percy’s Park series by Nick Butterworth, can be seen from Tuesday 29 November to Sunday 4 December, and then CBBC’s Dan and Jeff present the hilarious Potted Panto from Wednesday 7 to Sunday 10 December

One Snowy Night is a wonderfully heart-warming winter’s story. Percy the Park Keeper always feeds the animals in the park where he lives. But one cold winter’s night, Percy finds his little friends shivering on the doorstep – they need more than food and he must find a way to help them. With delightful handmade puppets, an original soundtrack and dance, Nick Butterworth’s well-known and well-loved tale is brought to life in a magical show ideal for three to six-year olds.

The creators of Potted Potter and Potted Pirates, Dan and Jeff, perform seven classic pantomimes in just eighty minutes, in Potted Panto, their most extravagant show yet, in glorious 3D. In a madcap ride through the biggest stories and best-loved characters from panto, the dastardly double act dash from rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to roaming the golden streets of Dick Whittington’s London. Searching for Cinderella’s lost slipper, they try to wake Sleeping Beauty before the giant climbs down Jack’s beanstalk to squash Snow White’s seven dwarves.

Nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment after a successful West End run, Potted Panto is unmissable fun for all ages, from six to 106.

Tickets for One Snowy Night are priced from £8 to £12.50 and Potted Panto tickets are £8 to £13, with concessions for families, groups and schools. For more information or to book, call the Ticket Line on 01536 470 470 or visit http://www.thecorecorby.com.”

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Christmas veg from the allotment? Snow chance.

Yes, yes, laugh at me if you will. I went to the allotment for the first time in, well, a long while today.
Somehow, stupidly, I’d retained that elusive dream of the gardener that I could have vegetables I’d grown for Christmas dinner.

The spuds ran out a while ago (the ones I’d got around to digging up) and there are about six garlic bulbs left and a string of onions.
However, still in the ground, having had the alleged flavour-enhancing frost on them, sit several rows of fat leeks and a special row of parsnips, just for me (because no-one else will eat them).

Of course, trying to dig them up was impossible. I couldn’t even find the parsnips beneath the foot of snow. A fork got stuck. The spade just hot the surface with a dull thud, sending painful shock waves into my frozen hands (even in gloves).

Meanwhile, two-year-old Bonnie, the only one of my four children to ever volunteer to come to allotment, decided she’d had enough and started moaning. Well, whingeing.
I’m trying to dig frozen leeks from ten inches of rock-solid soil while she’s making that not-quite crying noise. Then she hits me with the killer punch – “I need a wee” – while wearing an all-in-one show suit.

I gave up on the veg. Took her back to the car where the emergency potty lives and went home. With just one frozen leek with a heavy, solid cube of frozen mud stuck to the bottom. Bloke laughed.

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She saw Father Christmas doing a dodgy three-point turn

Bonnie with Father Christmas

THE last week of school saw my elder two a little jealous of their younger siblings, for a change. The primary/nursery Christmas celebrations are great – party food instead of school dinners, toy-days and visits to panto (the Deco’s Aladdin was brilliant, according to seven-year-old Bill).

Two-year-old Bonnie has met Father Christmas several times this month, including at the aforementioned rugby club, where she jabbered away in the queue to anyone who’d listen: “I’m seeing Farver Kiss’mus!” As soon as she got in for an audience with the big man himself – silence. Completely mute. Refused to say a word. Bloke had to apologise for her manners as she took her selection box and toddled out.

We all saw Father Christmas last week, but in an unexpected setting.
A car was performing a dodgy three-point-turn at a junction and we had to wait for it to get out of the way.
Imagine our surprise to see Father Christmas at the wheel, full suit, hat and beard, cursing away to himself. Well, I guess we all get a little stressed at this time of year . . .

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The avoidance of shopping can only lead to Amazon guilt

I FEEL a bit of a fraud. I’ve done most of my Christmas shopping in a week without leaving the house.

Thanks mostly to the corporate beast that is Amazon, and the patient combination of our parcel postman and the ladies at Semilong post office, the packages are stacking up for Father Christmas to deliver.

Although clichés abound about women loving shopping, I really can’t stand it. I’d rather be cleaning, and I can’t bear that either.

But in these days where small local traders are struggling with the likes of Tesco and Amazon, I can’t help but feel guilty. I did order presents for my parents ‘oop North from a family farm selling local foods. But did I invest in Northampton? Er, no. Sorry. I’ve only left the house to go to work or deliver children about the place.

Second big chunk of guilt comes from the bare truth that our house is still full of the plastic cast-offs of Christmas past. Stuff that I fully intend to either eBay to pay for this Christmas, or give away on Freecycle to off-set some of that ever-present guilt. But it sits in numerous baskets and boxes, waiting for me to find the time to get around to following-up my good intentions.

This week the rest of the family is officially ‘off’ while I’ve still got work, more shopping, wrapping and packing to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Christmas. It’s a joy when you have kids – even if you have given up on getting embarrassingly hammered. I just wish that week in the middle could be extended to a fortnight.

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Christmas preparation? Major fail

Bonnie can't resist the sparkles

WHAT with work, and poorly children and nativities, I still haven’t got around to Christmas.

At least the Christmas tree is up. That’s a start. Cards still not written, presents still un-bought.

The family photo-calendars I have to dutifully upload and buy every year in quadruplet aren’t sorted. And there’s less than ten days to go.

Bonnie can’t resist the tree (fake). She’s two, therefore bewitched by anything sparkly. She did help hang some baubles but now knows she can’t touch. The temptation is overwhelming, bless her.

She’s a little confused and very over-excited by Christmas.

“It’s my birthday?” she asks, hopefully, on a daily basis, only to be told no.

She knows there’s presents, parties and decorations involved, but hasn’t a clue where this Jesus Baby comes into things.

Still, I think we’re safe until the Peppa Pig advert calendar runs out. Then we’ve got some explaining to do. . .

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Mince Pie Disaaaaster

Last year I made my first ever mince pies. From scratch. Own pastry, own filling (and I don’t even really like mince pies). 

Here’s this year’s effort: home made pastry, and far too much Robinsons’ filling, too long in the oven.

Ouch hot burny mess


Yuk. . .

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