Thursday, 21 May 2015

Upcoming Children's Theatre in Manchester

The first show I took Ebony to see at the theatre was What The Ladybird Heard Live. It was three months before Ebony's birthday, and I was slightly worried that she might not sit still for the whole hour. There was no need to worry, because she was completely infatuated throughout. It was an amazing performance, and remains one of the best things we've seen simply because the set design was so clever. The absolute best thing we've seen was the ballet, nothing will ever compare to that because Ebony's reaction was one of amazement and wonder the whole way through. 

I really love taking Ebony to the theatre. Our theatre trips are definitely some of my favourite days. She always wants to wear her party shoes, and we always stop off for lunch on the way. She's always excited on the way there, and then talks me through exactly what happened on the tram home. It's one of the times that I truly feel we are just like Lorelei and Rory. There is no such thing as a bad mood on theatre day. 

That's probably at least one of the reasons why I spend a small fortune on theatre tickets. That and the fact that I might be not-so-subtly trying to push my love of theatre onto Ebony. I feel like since we only have a few months left together before Ebony will be in nursery five days a week, we should make the most of this time by having as much days out as possible. And that means my bank balance is taking a hit. Since promising that I wouldn't buy anymore theatre tickets, I've already booked a few more. There are just too many things to see. Here are just a few of the things we've booked tickets to see so far this year:

The Journey Home
This is such a beautiful children's book. I first read about it about a year ago, and then finally tracked it down in my local Waterstones. There are few things I love more than a children's book with a moral message, and this one focuses on conservation as the characters try to find somewhere to live. The gorgeous book has now been adapted into a puppet show by Little Angel Theatre and is now touring the country. We're seeing this on Friday in Chorlton and I'm really excited to see how they bring the sweet illustrations to life. You can see tour dates and book tickets for The Journey Home here. It's on at The Edge Theatre in Chorlton on 25 May, tickets are £6-8 and can be bought here

Stick Man 
The following week, we're off to see Stick Man Live on Stage at The Lowry. If you haven't read it, Stick Man is a children's book by Julia Donaldson, and it's one of our favourites. We gave it Ebony for her second birthday and it quickly became a firm favourite. I'm looking forward to seeing how they turned it into a show. Stick Man Live on Stage is on at The Lowry from the 26th until 31st May. Tickets cost £6-13.50 and can be ordered hereStick Man Live on Stage is currently touring the country, you can check our tour dates and book tickets here

First Steps: A Child's Swan Lake

I'd never seen the ballet before I took Ebony to see First Steps: A Child's Copellia earlier this year. The production was amazing, I was totally in awe, and Ebony was even more impressed. She loved every second of it. After the show, the audience were given the chance to go and visit the ballerinas and I cannot emphasise how much Ebony loved this. I have the most wonderful photo of Ebony giving the lead dancer an unexpected cuddle, you can see it on my review here. In September, Birmingham Royal Ballet are coming back to The Lowry and putting on a child's performance of Swan Lake. I booked tickets as soon as I found out, and Ebony is absolutely thrilled to be going to the ballet again. First Steps: A Child's Swan Lake is on at The Lowry on 25th September. Tickets are only £10 each, and you can book here.

Mr Popper's Penguins
I'm not familiar with the children's book this show is based on, but have booked tickets to see this musical in December. The show uses puppets which I thought Ebony would love, and it's by the same company who devised What The Ladybird Heard Live so I have high hopes. We're going to see it a few days before Christmas, and I think it's going to be an exciting start to Ebony's Christmas holidays. It's on at The Lowry for a month starting on 10th December. Tickets are £17 each and can be booked on The Lowry website.

Snow Child
This show is based on the book The Snow Child. I read the book a few months ago and it is just beautiful. If you haven't read it, you should. It's a lovely story about a couple who wish for a child and a snow child appears before their eyes. I'm really looking forward to seeing this adaptation, and have no idea how they will turn this tale into a children's book. I've booked us all tickets to see this on Christmas Eve, and can't imagine a better way to spend the day before Christmas. Snow Child is on at The Lowry from 22nd December until 3rd January. Tickets cost £7-£10 and can be bought here.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Read All About It: Racist Beliefs Held by School Pupils

We live in a society where it seems to be accepted that newspapers will hold far right views, print misinformation, and scapegoat minorities. This culture of newspapers talking absolute bollocks is contributing to the racism that exists within our society. When newspapers describe children dying at sea after fleeing danger in their home countries as ‘migrants’, is it any wonder people fail to feel empathy towards them? Newspapers don’t focus on the fact that the people on board those ships are men, women and children fleeing from danger and persecution, just that they are ‘migrants’. And we have people with a public platform describing migrants as ‘cockroaches’ in one of the country’s best-selling newspapers.

There is often a debate over whether the media simply represents the views of the people. If you look at the anti-Muslim stance held by many papers, does that stance represent the views of the majority, or does the paper’s language and narrative influence the views of the people? I think our press can be quite a dangerous thing, where misinformation and hate is spread for profit. Of course, not all newspapers are like that, though many of the popular ones seem to be. Attention grabbing though misleading headlines. Statistics and facts that seem to have no bearing in reality.

And yet, many people accept news to be true. If the tabloids say something often enough and loud enough, many people accept is as fact. And now matter how many times other people try to share the truth, this falls on deaf ears. And so, there are lots of people wandering around who have very horrible beliefs, and some of these people have children.

A study of almost 6,000 secondary school children found that many of them held racist and anti-immigration views. This included anti-Muslim views, a distorted view of how many immigrants currently live in the UK, and blaming immigrants for potential future problems finding jobs. How have we gotten to a stage that people in full time education are already blaming their future unemployment on immigrants?!

The study found that over half of the participants believed that asylum seekers and immigrants were stealing our jobs. Whether they got this idea from tabloid newspapers or their idiot parents, it is terrifying. These young people will be voting in just a few year’s time. It is pretty clear from the latest election results and the popularity of UKIP that our current voters aren’t much better, but these people are out of full time education and so it is perhaps less surprising that these people have heads filled with nonsense.

I think it’s terrifying that people still in school to have a crooked view of the world. I really hope that now that the survey results have been announced, schools take a more active role in educating their students on racism, the truth about immigration and the fact that we have a right wing press.

What action do you think schools should take to tackle this problem?

This is my (very late) post for Read All About It. This is a fortnightly link up (yep, I’ve just changed it to fortnightly so I don’t have to keep being late because I can’t stick to my own schedule) for any bloggers who want to take part. All you have to do is write a post related to news or current affairs. It could be in relation to something you saw in your local paper, or a reaction to some national or international news. It can be funny, serious or inspiring - it’s totally up to you. Any and all posts related to recent news are welcome, I’d love to read your submissions. This link will be open for just under two weeks, and then I’ll post again. All linked up posts will be shared on social media. Link up below by grabbing the linky badge, and then entering your details below. Thank you!

Read All About It

Thursday, 14 May 2015

A (very late post about a) Vegan Easter Egg Hunt in the Garden

To describe myself as a little behind would be an understatement. Clearly, from the fact that I'm writing about Easter weekend in the middle of May, I'm doing so great at blogging at the moment. I'm always too tired by the end of the day to sit down and start typing, and when I have time to write in the day I really need to focus on work. And as a result, I haven't been blogging as much as I would like. I really need an extra day a week I think, or at least a few extra hours sleep so I'm not as exhausted by 7pm. 

These photos are very outdated now, but I wanted to share them anyway because this post has been sitting in drafts for well over a month. I apologise for Ebony's crazy bed hair in the top photo, this is pretty much what she looked like for about three whole months. She would look totally normal from the front, then as soon as left the house she'd run ahead of me and I'd realise I had forgotten to brush her hair. Again. Since this photo was taken, she has had her first haircut and we no longer deal with this crazy backcombed mess every morning. Thank goodness. 

Ebony had her first chocolate Easter Egg this year, her carob days are now well behind her. I went for this Choices egg, and I got one too. They were quite small which I definitely see as a good thing, I don't really see the attraction in pumping kids full of sugar and chocolate, it only makes them harder to look after. I also got some of the Divine fair trade dark chocolate little eggs so we could do an Easter Egg hunt in the garden. Mostly because I'd forgotten about the state of our garden at the time which was covered in piles of mud, random bricks and huge concrete slabs. When I walked out of the house on Easter morning to hide the eggs, I had a 'duh' moment where I realised our garden was really not a suitable venue for an egg hunt. We managed it though, just about, and Ebony enjoyed scrambling around the precarious piles of rubble to find the eggs. 

I only hid 10 of the Divine eggs, thinking that would be more than enough chocolate for one Easter. But she shared them fairly with me and Laurie so really ended up with three. I wasn't expecting her to share them, but was really touched that she did. We spent the weekend soaking up some  much-needed family time after my trip to Amsterdam. It's always lovely when Laurie has a little longer off work, the weekends go far too fast. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Read All About It: A Call For Electoral Reform

This post is late. I sat down on Sunday to write it but still felt so miserable about the election result that I couldn’t force myself to say anything useful. So here it is, a day late, and still pretty damn miserable.

On Thursday night, you could almost smell the hope in the air. People on Twitter were talking about what they were doing in 1997 when the news broke that Labour had won the election, and the Tories were at long last out of power. I was a bit young to remember the exact moment, but I can certainly recall the atmosphere of that time. My mum was actively involved in the Labour Party, and worked at the local MP’s office. When Labour won the election, my parents threw a big party to celebrate. I was in charge of the playlist, Spice Girls, obviously. I can remember how excited and happy everyone seemed. And I can remember feeling that myself, though I didn’t really know much about why I should dislike John Major, I can definitely remember feeling glad he was gone.

As I was reading the tweets, I could feel the excitement growing. I’m not a Labour Party member, I’m Green all the way. But I was happy with the thought of Ed leading a minority government with the help of the Greens and other parties. I definitely didn’t think the Tories would end up staying in number 10 for another five years.

And yet, at 10pm, that’s exactly what the exit polls predicted. I’m not exaggerating when I say I felt physically sick. The thought of another five years under the Tories, and without even the Lib Dems to prevent some of their more damaging manifesto pledges, is just awful. We stayed up for most of the night, watching depressing result after depressing result until it became clear that the exit polls were spot on. We would have a Conservative government. And all that comes with that - fox hunting, the privatisation of the NHS, even more welfare cuts, and tax cuts for the wealthy. Because, you know, it makes sense that the most vulnerable in society should be pay the price and help to keep the bank accounts of the wealthy looking good.

One of the most frustrating things about the election, was that I knew going in just how unfair it all was. I’ve always known politics was a bit skewed, and that a lot of people were essentially forced to vote tactically in order to keep less desirable candidates out, but now I know just how unfair it is. In 2011, we had a referendum on the voting system. The proposed change was to the Alternative Vote system, it’s not perfect, and probably isn’t the one I would choose, but I do feel it would have been an improvement on the current First Past The Post (FPTP) system we currently have in place. After a turnout of just 42.2%, the results dictated that people had voted against AV. I think this was largely thanks to the huge No2AV campaign funded by wealthy Tory party donors who obviously didn’t want a fairer voting system that might actually reflect the views of the people (and thus not let the Conservatives into power). After a lot of confusing misinformation and scaremongering, the campaign was successful and we were stick with the FPTP system for a while longer.

To give you an idea of how unfair our voting system is, here are some facts:

Only around one fifth of the eligible population voted for the Conservatives, and yet they now have a five year term ahead of them.

The Conservative’s 11 million votes secured them over 300 seats. The Greens received over a million votes (so about an eleventh of the Tory’s total votes) and now have Just One Seat.

Thanks to the way our voting system works,each Tory seat is worth just 34,348 votes. For The Greens, a single seat was worth over a million votes. And for UKIP, almost four million votes were worth just one seat.

The SNP didn’t get many more votes than The Greens, and yet they now have 56 seats in parliament and the Greens have just one.

Now, I’m not saying I want to see UKIP with more power. I don’t, obviously. But, if 12.6% of the population voted UKIP, then this should be represented in government. People often use far right parties as an excuse for keeping FPTP. But, the current system is pushing all of the parties to the right anyway. As the fight each other for votes, all of the mainstream parties are moving further and further to the right in pursuit of UKIP’s votes. You only have to glance at the immigration policies of the major parties to see that they aren’t a much more compassionate option anyway. And, it’s important to remember that if we had a fairer voting system in place, people would vote differently. People wouldn’t need to vote tactically, or use their votes to rebel against parties, instead people would be free to choose the parties they actually want to vote for. Doesn’t that sound like a better system?

And while we’re at it, why do we have a House of unelected representatives who get to make decisions about how the country is governed? This is ridiculous, no?

If you think we deserve a fairer voting system, please sign the Electoral Reform Society’s petition calling for one. You can find the petition here, also check out their website when you get a minute. I think I’m going to join. Electoral reform might be unlikely under the Tories, but that means it’s more important than ever before.

This post is for the Read All About It linky. The idea is that each week bloggers link up their news related posts here, and then we can read, comment on and share each other’s posts. I’m always looking for new blogs to read, and especially love reading news posts so please do link up. I’m guessing quite a few bloggers will have written about the election results this week! Your posts don't have to be about the election though. They can relate to absolutely any news story from this week or last. It could be local, national or international news.

To link up, all you need to do is grab the linky badge (below) and feature it at the bottom of your post. Then link up your post using the form below, and have a read of the other posts too if you have time. I’m looking forward to hearing what others made of the results!

Read All About It

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A Little House & Garden Update

We’ve been living in our house for a year now. It’s hardly new anymore, but I still think of it as our ‘new house’. It felt like home straight away, I think houses do when you have small children running around them pointing out their bedrooms and playrooms.

When we first moved in, the house needed quite a bit of structural work doing, and we still have a couple of plastered walls that we haven’t quite got round to repainting (it’s fine, we never entertain people in the utility room). After that we sorted out the kitchen. I can’t explain how awful the kitchen was when we moved in. The cupboards were rotten, the drawers had collapsed, everything was brown and the whole thing, no matter how much I scrubbed, just felt unclean. Having the old kitchen ripped out was really satisfying, and I really love the kitchen as it is now. It’s still not fully finished, there’s still a layer of kitchen paint to go on the walls (hint hint, Laurie), and one of the barstools needs painting (that’s on my to do list), and there are still extra bits to be bought, but it’ll do for now.

A lot of the rooms have different light fittings meaning we have to have about a million spare bulbs in at any time (or, more likely, live in the dark for ages when a bulb goes), so I’ve been looking for better lighting options. LampCommerce has a good selection, so I’ve been having a nosy through some of their pendant lights. Ebony’s room has been decorated (in fact it was featured in this roundup of children’s rooms here), and Laurie’s office is done, but there are still plenty of rooms painted in magnolia that are crying out for a lick of paint.

One of the major problems for me at the moment is working out exactly how we should use the house. Both the playroom and living room are untouched at the moment, so we could quite easily switch them, but it’s difficult to decide which room works best for which purpose. At the moment the playroom is a walk through room, and it’s also a messy room which isn’t really a great combination. Both rooms need quite a bit of work, so it’s not something I need to decide right now. Though I would like to start thinking about things like paint colours, layout and floorings. I can’t wait to rip up the horrible brown carpets that cover the floor and have a peek at the floorboards beneath.

After spending all of our money on structural work and a kitchen last year, I thought it would be better to focus on the garden this year. It’s hard work, but doesn’t cost that much to do. So I’ve been digging out beds, laying turf and painting sheds (well, shed) for the past month or so. It’s not finished yet, partly because I ran out of paint, and partly because I need the turf to fully take before I can move onto my next jobs, but it’s already looking loads better. When we moved in, the garden was totally overgrown and looked more like a (very tiny) meadow. Now it’s looking more like a family garden.

I was pretty surprised to discover that I actually really enjoy gardening. We’ve spent hours in the garden so far this year, Ebony playing next to me whilst I’ve been busy lugging mud and stones about. I hope the weather picks up soon so that I can finish it off, because one thing I’ve learnt is that gardening in bad weather is no fun at all. Especially with a three year old in tow. I hope we get it finished in time for summer (assuming we get one) so that we can spend lots of time out there as a family.

It’s weird to think we left our old home a whole year ago (you can read about that here). And though I know there’s still plenty (and plenty) of work to be done, I already love the changes we’ve made here.


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