Friday, 21 September 2018

Blood Brothers Review

A What's Good To Do Review

On Monday night we went to Preston Guild Hall to review Blood Brothers for the What's Good to Do website. We had a fantastic night out and the musical was brilliant, even Mark, who is not a fan of musicals was impressed!

Blood Brothers, written by Willy Russell, tells the story of twins Mickey and Eddie who are separated at birth. Eddie lives a life of privilege with the wealthy Lyons family whilst Mickey stays with his birth mother, Mrs Johnstone, in the slums of Liverpool, eventually taking to a life of crime. The musical tells the story of how they came to be separated, of Mrs Johnstone’s feelings of guilt and how despite not knowing of the other’s existence their paths manage to cross repeatedly becoming best friends, blood brothers, without ever knowing the truth. Eventually they both fall for the same girl leading to tragedy and the truth is uncovered.

Presented by a narrator, the opening scene shows the two brothers dead on the stage with their mother crying over them, he then goes on to present the story and explain what terrible events have brought about this ending. Throughout the musical the narrator talks to the audience but also questions the morality of what the characters are doing, he is always there in the background, watching events unfold almost on our behalf. This works really well and ties the story together. 

Sean Jones as Mickey and Mark Hutchinson as Eddie were cast brilliantly as the two brothers, playing carefree children aged 7 “but nearly 8” through teenage years, taking their first steps into adulthood and finally as adults now having to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. In particular Sean’s depiction of young man struggling with mental health problems really changed the mood of the story and heightened the tension on stage.
The star of the show though has to be Linzi Hateley as Mrs. Johnstone, the struggling single mother of 7 children who makes the horrendous decision to give away one of her babies so that she can afford to feed the others. Almost always on stage she wonderfully shows the agonies of her decision and the love for her children. This acting ability on top of her amazing singing voice makes her a real star.

The stage was transformed into a typical Liverpudlian street scene with a view of the famous Liver Building in the background. It looked effective and was quickly adapted to reflect the different locations in the story.  
Despite tackling the very serious issues of class, poverty and mental health there was plenty of humour and we found ourselves on a rollercoaster of emotions, laughing one minute and almost crying the next.

The musical took place in a packed Charter Theatre which is a great venue with comfortable seating and a good view of the stage. The Guild Hall complex has a range of bars and restaurants available for those wanting to make a night of it and parking is available in the recently modernised multi storey car park which adjoins the Guild Hall.

This was the first time I’ve seen Blood Brothers and I have to say, in my opinion, it is one of the best musicals I have ever seen. Along with a good storyline and catchy songs it also has drama, excitement, humour and is such a good night out. The musical was 3 hours long including the interval and the time seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. The show is on in Preston until the end of the week and then continues its tour of the UK until December. I’d definitely recommend a visit especially if you’ve never seen it before.

We received frr tickets for the purpose of this review.

Friday, 20 July 2018


A couple of years ago Mark's Mum said she had always wanted to climb Snowdon, Mark has been up a few times but I hadn't so we said that we would go with them and make a weekend of it. We did lots of practicing, walking on the local fells to get fit and I am really glad we made the time to fit in all the fell walks as it really did make a difference. Mark's friend has climbed Snowdon a lot so Mark asked him which was the best route to take and we chose a quieter route setting off from Rhyd Ddu station. We arrived just before 9am and although the car park was filling up we managed to find a space. 

Even at 9am it was lovely and warm and the forecast was perfect all day so we left the water proofs in the car, slapped on the sun lotion and set off.

The views on the walk were amazing, Snowdonia is such a lovely area and I never tire of the scenery.

Most of the walk was on tracks but there were a couple of scrambles which Luke enjoyed.

It was a very nice walk to the top, it took us about 3.5 hours but we did stop a lot to look at the views and have a drink. It was so hot we needed to make sure we stayed hydrated! 

As we approached the summit you could see the other paths leading to the top and we couldn't believe the number of people who were on the tracks. We had only met a few people on our route and all of a sudden there were people everywhere! When we reached the very top it was even worse because the train had just arrived and there were hundreds of people sat chatting and eating lunch. I really didn't like the top at all, there were just too many people about and after eating our lunch we quickly set off again. 

The descent took much longer as it was so hot and there were a lot more people about. As soon as we left the top the cloud rose again and we had brilliant blue sky for the rest of the day. We had a really nice day and it was good to spend time together. We finished the day with a nice meal at a pub and are planning to try Ben Nevis next!

Friday, 18 May 2018

Mountain Biking

We are so lucky living in the North West, we have lots of fantastic roads and tracks to cycle on and the scenery is amazing. We first started mountain biking many years ago before we were married and when the boys were old enough to ride their own bikes we started taking them too. 

William started with a couple of second hand bikes which were perfect for him to start on and once William had outgrown them Luke inherited them. A couple of years ago we decided that it was time Luke had a new bike so we went to Halfords and bought Luke his current mountain bike which is a Boardman mountain bike. We were very impressed with the staff who measured him for the bike as they actually knew a lot about bikes, unlike many staff we have come across in other shops we have visited! I always take Mark with me when we are looking at bikes as he is the expert in our family but a lot of people starting off in mountain biking don't have that knowledge and we were really impressed with the service at Halfords.

It is so much fun being outdoors in our beautiful countryside and you get to see so much more on a bike. I love riding around forest tracks and the boys especially like the downhills. One of the places we go to is Gisburn Forest which is a great place for bikers of all abilities. There are four grades of trail, green which is easy and aimed at beginners as the tracks are wide and fairly flat, the blue trail is slightly harder and for those are a bit more confident mountain biking. Once you have mastered the green and blue trails you can try the red trails for more experienced riders, these trails have challenging climbs and obviously more descents and usually a few obstacles along the way. We tend to stick to the blue and red trails and in some parts I let the boys take the trickier route whilst I take the slower and more scenic route! For the very brave there is a black route which is definitely for the experts! 

We generally take our bikes on holiday with us and Mark always looks at what bike rides we can do whilst we are away. Luke much prefers mountain biking to road biking and will happily ride for miles on the tracks. We usually take plenty of snacks and drinks or a packed lunch if we are going to be away all day. Another essential is spare inner tubes, it is much easier to change an inner tube if you get a puncture rather than having to change a puncture when you are out.

Halfords have a great range of mountain bikes and their adult bikes start from only £99 so there should be a bike to suit everyone's budget. They have also produced a handy beginners guide to mountain biking which is definitely worth a read if you are interested in starting mountain biking. We have so much fun exploring the countryside and it is so much nicer than exercising in a gym so I would recommend that you have a look and get exploring too!

This is a collaborative post

Friday, 11 May 2018

Walking on the fells

In preparation for climbing Snowdon we have been doing lots of walks on the local fells. The weather has been lovely and the views are magnificent. 


Last weekend as the weather was so nice we took the opportunity to have a good tidy up in the garden. When Mark was clearing one off the borders he found this hedgehog under a discarded pot.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Educating Rita

A What's Good To Do Review

Last week we went to see Educating Rita at the Dukes, Lancaster. We love going to The Dukes as it is such a lovely theatre and you are always made to feel very welcome. 

The Dukes are always looking at new ways to bring the arts to Lancaster and Educating Rita is a production co-produced with the New Vic theatre, Newcastle under Lyme. It will be performed there once the run at The Dukes ends and will then go on tour to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. 

Educating Rita is a play is about Rita, a 26 year old Liverpudlian hairdresser who has spent her life following the crowd. Fed up with her job as a hairdresser and a husband who only wants her to have children she wants more from life so decides to better herself and break free by enrolling on an Open University course in English Literature. The play takes place entirely within the office of her tutor Frank, played by Andrew Pollard, who himself is bored with his life of poetry and academia and is a confirmed alcoholic, taking on the role as tutor to pay for his drink. Rita sees in Frank a part of life that she always knew existed but never had access to, whilst Frank loves the simplicity and innocence of Rita’s views on life.

Lauryn Redding was very well cast, her accent was good and she played her role compellingly as the strong willed Rita against Andrew Pollard’s cynical Frank. The characters had an excellent rapport and Andrew Pollard was convincing as Frank, the alcoholic lecturer stumbling around the stage.

The set was fantastic, transforming the central space into a stereotypical university professor’s study, littered with books and papers and a selection of dog eared furniture hiding Frank’s inexhaustible supply of whisky. The actors used the area well, moving around so that all parts of the audience were able to take in the story. Whilst Frank wore a shabby brown corduroy suit, Rita’s 1980’s outfits changed throughout the show reflecting her increasing confidence and new-found comfort with university life. The 80’s feel was backed up with music from the decade playing in the background between scenes.

Educating Rita is a comedy by British playwright Willy Russell. The stage version debuted in 1980 but the story was made famous in 1983 when Michael Caine and Julie Walters took the lead in a very successful film version of the play. Whilst we have heard of the film neither of us had seen it before but after reading a synopsis on the internet we both decided that it sounded good and were looking forward to a good night out. We were not disappointed at all and really enjoyed this new version directed by the artistic director of The Dukes, Sarah Punshon.

The Dukes have produced yet another winning show, adding a touch of the Duke’s unique magic to a well-known play by one of the great British playwrights.  This show is definitely worth seeing and we can guarantee you will have a fantastic night out.

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

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Night Hike

On a cold Saturday night when most sensible people are tucked up warm in front of the fire and TV we decided to do a night hike!

It was bitterly cold and blowing a gale but that didn't stop us and we had nice walk on the fells. Unsurprisingly we were the only people up there.

We used to go for a walk in the dark quite regularly however it is a while since we have been up on the fells in the dark. It was very cold but we wrapped up well and had actually got quite a sweat on by the time we reached the top! I love standing at the top and looking at the lights, it is surprisingly easy to get your bearings and you can see quite a distance.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Luke was very excited when it started snowing on Sunday night and was quickly outside in the dark making snowballs. On Monday morning he was outside at 7am making a snowman with Mark!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

The Rustlers Burger Hacking Challenge

I don't usually buy ready meals but with work being so busy and William now at college our teatimes are getting later. When I saw the BritMums Rustlers Burger Hacking Challenge I thought it might be fun to take part and see what the chicken burgers were like.

We went to Tesco to pick up the Rustlers chicken burgers and also bought the ingredients to transform them into "gourmet burgers"

Luke is quite a burger connoisseur, he always chooses a burger if we go out for a meal so he was quite excited about creating his own meal. He decided to have his burger with coleslaw, corn and salad and started by toasting some pine nuts to put on his salad.

Whilst they were cooling he made the coleslaw, we bought a large red cabbage, carrots and onion and he peeled and chopped them before putting them in a bowl. Normally I would just add salad cream but we found a coleslaw dressing when we were shopping so we thought we would give that a try instead.

Once the coleslaw was made he started preparing the salad. We bought some iceberg lettuce and baby cucumbers and then added some red pepper that we already had in the fridge. 

He then read the instructions on the packet and put the burgers in the microwave. Rather than heating the bun in the microwave we opted to toast the buns which made them taste nicer.

The burgers were really quick to heat in the microwave, only taking 1 and a half minutes to cook, perfect for a snack for the boys!

For the salad he had, lettuce, grated beetroot, peppers, a baby cucumber and added croutons, the toasted pine nuts and a honey and mustard dressing. He also cooked some corn on the cob meaning he got more than his "5 a day" in this meal alone.

The burgers come with a relish so he added this to his burger and said it was absolutely delicious!

The burgers are quick and easy to make but as my lot have huge appetites they aren't enough for a main meal but they would be handy to have in the fridge for a quick and easy lunch. They cost £2.50 so why don't you pop to Tesco and try the Burger Hacking Challenge yourself and see what you can come up with.

This post is an entry for BritMums Rustlers Burger Hacking Challenge, sponsored by Rustlers

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Happy Birthday Dad

Dad was 70 today, a birthday that none of ever thought he would ever see. He has been ill for a very long time and I remember us having a 48th party as he never thought he would make 50 and here we are 22 years later celebrating his 70th! Mum has been very busy making a delicious buffet with lots of delicious food and plenty of cakes and puddings. Daisy is 8 tomorrow so there was even a cake for her which she was thrilled with. Dad couldn't blow his candles out so Daisy stepped in for him.

Blackpool Winter Gardens

As reviewers for What' s Good To Do we regularly go and see shows at Blackpool Opera House.  When we heard they were having an open day we decided that it would be very interesting to go behind the scenes and explore the Grade 2 listed building. 

We have been in a few of the different areas in the complex but this was the first time we had been in the Spanish Suite and we were both amazed at the detailed decoration. There were plenty of informative banners to read and all the staff were very knowledgeable about the venue. We especially enjoyed looking at the blueprints and drawings that were displayed in the Arena.

The plaster work was incredible, we have been in the Galleon Bar many times and it never crossed my mind that all the woodwork wasn't really woodwork! It was quite a surprise when we read the information sheet and discovered that it was all amazing plaster work! I didn't manage to get a picture in there but this is a picture of some of the plaster work in the Baronial Hall so you can see how good it is.

There was a beautiful Art Deco room next to one of the bar areas and the carpet had been pulled back in another to show an Art Deco tiled floor.

It was very interesting walking onto the stage and seeing it completely bare of all scenery and being able to look out into the audience and see the whole theatre. We were able to go beneath the stage and see the stage lift and also peep inside the dressing rooms.

The Empress Ballroom is an amazing room and is currently being renovated. There are a lot of tiled panels which were done by the company that later became Royal Doulton.

 We really enjoyed exploring Blackpool's Winter Gardens and if you ever get the chance it is definitely worth a visit.