Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Chef Show, The Dukes

Last Friday night we went to The Dukes to see The Chef Show. We were told it was a combination of a play and a cookery demonstration so I have to say we were intruiged! We enjoy going to the theatre and Indian food so this sounded like a winning combination.

The Chef Show is written by Nick Ahad and stars Rohit Gokani and Kamal Kaan and is currently touring the North. We were invited to the opening night of the 2017 tour at The Duke’s Lancaster. 

Before we arrived we really weren’t sure what to expect, a two man play about life in an Indian restaurant, with a real chef on stage cooking during the play; how would it work and more importantly would we be able to taste the food! We liked the sound of it and when we walked into the Round Theatre there was a lovely atmosphere as Rohit and Kamal were mingling with the audience and chatting, making everyone feel very welcome.

The idea of the Chef Show came to Nick at a curry night in a village hall near his home and now we have seen the show we feel it was a fantastic idea and wonder why no one had thought of it sooner!. The chef cooks whilst the play carries on around him but at a couple of points in the play the dialogue stops and he talks about what he is cooking and we learn a little about the food and his own experiences of life in the restaurant trade.

The set was very simple but the presence and skill of the cast meant they needed few props. Rohit plays Abdul, who emigrated to England with just £12 in his pocket and now owns a successful Indian restaurant in a small village in Yorkshire. His son, played by Kamal, thinks his dad, who isn’t in the best of health, should transfer the running of business over to him. What he doesn’t appreciate are the various relationships that have been built up with the locals over many years. The events of the play teach the young man that there is more to running a restaurant than just cooking and serving food.

The two actors play a great many roles, from other staff members to the various stereotypical customers (both male and female) switching seamlessly from one to another. The problem with actors playing multiple roles is that it can be confusing but the characterisation was so good that we were never unsure as to what was happening.  Whilst dealing with some more serious themes like racism there is also plenty of humour, we especially liked the portrayal of the drunken hen party and the couple on their first date. Whilst the set was minimal, the sounds of cooking and the delicious aromas of spices really drew us into the story and placed us right into an Indian restaurant without using a single piece of flock wallpaper! 

The chef changes with every venue, Nurrul from Lancaster’s Bombay Balti was our chef for the evening and his food was excellent, we tasted a vegetable bhuna during the interval and a chicken shatkora, a traditional Bengali dish, at the end of the night.

We really enjoyed this production at The Dukes, and would definitely recommend that you go and see the show on its 2017 tour. It’s a great night out, something a bit different from the norm and there’s even food provided!

We received free tickets for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are our own

Monday, 2 January 2017

Write Size Pencils Review

Whilst Luke is very good at doing his homework his handwriting is atrocious, he just doesn't care what his writing looks like as he is more concerned with getting the homework finished as quickly as possible, rather than what it looks like. Since he started doing cursive writing I think it has got worse, so with him starting high school in September I have been trying to encourage him to take more care with his writing. I was thinking of ordering some handwriting pencils but with Christmas I hadn't quite got round to it so I was very pleased when Write Size sent us some of their pencils to review as they were just what Luke needs! 

Write Size say "we buy the right size shoes, the right size uniform and bags for our children, yet the most important tool in their pencil case is the wrong size for their hands making learning and perfecting the art of writing harder, with Write Size pencils they will have better control and better results."

After reading this statement on Write Sizes's website I know exactly where they are coming from, it's not something I have had thought about before but they really have hit the nail on the head. I have watched many Cub Scouts over the years struggle with the simple task of holding a pencil and now I can see why!

The pencils are available in three different sizes and are designed with smaller hands in mind. 

Ages 2-6 – These pencils are engineered to perfectly fit 2-6 year-old hands. Children can learn to grip the pencil correctly, whilst developing control and letter formation.

Aged 6-10 – These pencils are less chunky than the age 2-6 pencils and help improve confidence in their writing, easing the strain on a child’s whilst increasing ability in quality cursive.

Aged 10+ – Ensuring clearer handwriting to deliver good grades, by making writing easier to read for teachers, exam invigilators and peers.

We received a pack of the age 2-6 pencils and the age 6-10 and after a bit of persuasion (Luke wasn't impressed at having to write anything in the school holidays!) Luke sat down and tried out the pencils. He said that the pencils are much easier to hold and aren't top heavy like a normal sized pencil which make it more difficult to write. The pencils were easy to write with and Luke said they didn't snap as much as the pencil he uses at school does. He said he prefers theses pencils and will be taking them to school with him next week.

I asked my niece Daisy (aged 6) to try out the smaller pencils, she enjoys writing and drawing and was much easier to persuade to do some writing than Luke had been. She agreed with Luke that they are easier to hold and write with and was really excited about having some new pencils.

The pencils cost £3.99 for a pack of 5 and I think they are well worth the money.

Discalimer - we received two packs of pencils for the purpose of this review but all words , images and opinions are our own


Whilst it has been dry Mark has spent a couple of days in the garden, he has trimmed the laurel hedge which was getting a bit overgrown and also dug over the new border ready to move the roses. 

He has re-tied one of the roses to the trellis, this is the only rose that we are leaving in it's original spot as it was already trained to go up the trellis and we will still be able to see it when it starts flowering. 

There are plenty of signs of new life, the magnolia is just starting to bud and there are buds on the camelia too. 

Mark also cut back a lot of the shrubs so they look much tidier and will be a more manageable size this year, everything had got a bit overgrown last year so we decided to cut everything back and keep the shrubs smaller this year. 

There is still plenty of work to do which will keep us busy in the coming weeks!

Baking Day

Today we have been baking, we made 24 small chocolate buns and some mini meringues that we dipped in chocolate. Luke helped mix the cakes and William made the meringues so it was a real family effort!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

1284 Miles

At the start of 2016 I challenged myself to cycle 1000 miles in the year. I wasn't sure if I would manage it but as the year went on and we ate up the miles I was confident that we would get there by the end of the year. We had a slow January, the weather wasn't great so we only managed 15 miles but February, March and April were better with around 90 miles per month. In the winter months we only managed to get out at weekends but with the lighter evenings in May we covered a lot more miles. Dad was in hospital in June so we didn't go out very much but we made up for it in July and August with 458 miles over the two months. I reached 1,000 miles at the beginning of September which I was really pleased with and even though I had reached my target we kept on cycling to see how far we could cycle in a year. A mild October meant we clocked up another 158 miles but the dark nights in November meant we hardly went out and only managed 15 miles. December has been better and we have been out a couple of times adding 51 miles to the final total. 

We are very lucky having lots of quiet county roads to cycle on and we have such beautiful scenery on our doorstep. We have plenty of choice for rides, if we turn left at the top of the drive we have a hilly ride and turning right gives us a flatter ride if we want to cover more distance. We haven't done many long rides this year, the majority have been 15 to 20 miles with an odd 30 mile ride in the summer. Next year I would like to do a couple of 50 mile rides and I will increase my target to 1,500 miles!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Winter Walk

When we woke up this morning it was a lovely crisp morning so we decided to go for a walk on the fells. Everyone else obviously had the same idea as there were loads of people up on the fell! Normally we rarely see anyone but today we saw lots of people including William's old teacher and a couple of friends.

It was cold but we had wrapped up well, the boys had new Canada hats and I tried out my new ear-muffs which were lovely and warm.

Monday, 26 December 2016


I bought a lovely tree on Friday and it looks perfect in the lounge. I love the smell of Christmas trees but unfortunately this one doesn't have any scent at all!

Jack and the Beanstalk - Preston Guild Hall

A What's Good to Do Review

It’s that time of year again; little girls get out their party dresses, dads dust down the Christmas jumpers and families head out into town to see a pantomime! We were invited to to the opening night of Jack and the Beanstalk at Preston Guild Hall and took two very excited boys with us. I used to go to the pantomime at Preston Guild Hall with my grandparents so I was really looking forward to taking Luke and Charlie. I still remember the excitement of seeing my first pantomime there which starred Stu Francis of Crackerjack fame and I hoped they would enjoy the pantomime as much as we used to. 

This is the second year that Phil Walker has written a pantomime for the Guild Hall, his production of Sleeping Beauty last year received rave reviews so we had high hopes for Jack and the Beanstalk. Multi-talented Phil also directs and plays the title role of Jack in this magical show, packed full of singing, dancing, pantomime jokes and traditional family fun. 

From the moment the fairy, played by Linda Nolan, arrived on stage and we heard the Fee-fi-fo-fum of the giant we knew this was going to be a great pantomime. The special effects and illusions by The Twins FX were simply outstanding and among the best we have ever seen, I would even go as far as to say that they were far superior to some of the bigger shows that we have seen in much larger theatres. Over the years I have seen lots of Jack and the Beanstalk pantomimes but what made this pantomime memorable for me was seeing a real giant on stage. Usually all you get is a booming voice from the wings so we were all really impressed with a real giant! 

There were five main cast members who were all very talented. Phil Walker as Jack really carried the show along and his humour especially shone when interacting with the children. Local girl Charlotte Dalton as Jill was brilliant; I knew she was a singer but it turns out she can act too. The villain, Fleshcreep, was played by CBBC’s Marvyn Dickinson, who managed to add creepiness without being too scary.

Linda Nolan is obviously the most well known (at least to the adults) and was well cast as the good fairy guiding the story along. Every pantomime has to have a dame and Ian Good, with 40 years’ experience is obviously well practised at playing the pantomime dame. He was everything a dame should be, big makeup, big hair and just a little bit saucy. There was a slight technical hitch with his microphone but he just took it in his stride, made a few jokes and got on with the show. The cast worked very well together, this was the opening night and the rapport between them was obvious.

The dancers were very skilled and the junior dancers from Sanham Fitchett Dance School deserve a special mention, they all performed perfectly and you could tell they were enjoying being part of the show. 
The pantomime had something for everyone, the boys especially loved the jokes and were singing the “One Smart Fellow Felt Smart” song all the way home and I’m sure they weren’t the only ones!  It wouldn’t be a pantomime without audience participation and with a packed theatre it was good to see everyone joining in.
We had a fantastic night out; it was the best pantomime we have seen for a long time. Jack and the Beanstalk is showing at The Guild Hall until Thursday 5th January and is well worth a visit.

Disclaimer - we received free tickets for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are our own