Let’s All Dance delivers a Christmas ballet at family-friendly prices

It’s not that I don’t like ballet – I absolutely do – it’s just that I don’t really want to pay upwards of £25 a ticket (and upwards of £102 on some days) if I want to see English National Ballet’s Nutcracker this Christmas.  So it’s lucky that Granny loves ballet and has diligently investigated more affordable ways to see it (thank you, Granny).

As a result, on Saturday we took my two daughters to see Let’s All Dance‘s performance of The Nutcracker at Blackheath Halls, for the bargain price of £14 for my ticket, and only £10 a ticket for Granny and the kids.

Let’s All Dance’s website describes their version as ‘kid-size’ and I would agree. Not only is it shorter than the full ballet – reflecting a younger audience’s ability to concentrate – but the small venue means that everyone is close to the stage and can clearly see the dancers – no fancy opera binoculars needed here!

Using all the original music, and with very simple staging, they beautifully recreated the ballet. There are only six dancers, but I actually enjoyed the simplicity of it, as it makes you really appreciate each dancer’s every move.  It certainly kept the young audience captivated (virtually every other chair had a little person in it sitting quietly and staring at the stage).  Although, I have to say, my favourite parts were the set pieces with all six dancers on the stage.

Afterwards there is an opportunity to have your photo taken with the dancers, which is a lovely way to get the children involved.

There are more performances still to come at other local venues (see their website for details), and I was sufficiently impressed that I picked up a flyer about other ballets Lets All Dance will be performing in 2018.

Family-friendly prices, intimate venues, and performance tailored to a younger audience – that’s ticking my boxes!

The great scooter controversy

If death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down, then scootering must be her way of telling you to speed up.  Freewheeling along the pavement is the most fun a woman of my age can have in public and still keep her dignity.  It’s certainly the most fun you can have whilst trying to get two grouchy children to school.  When I’m on a scooter, with a fair wind behind me and a downward slope ahead, I feel like a rock chick.  I am the queen of the pavement, and I am living the dream.

The scooter and I have history.  In our years together I have worn through two brakes, a set of foam handles and a rubber thing that snapped off and was never replaced.  So I have been resistant to suggestions from Mr B that the scooter is past its best.  He doesn’t like the way it’s battered and scratched, or that it clatters and jangles as I career along the pavement.  Mr B thinks scooters should be shiny and inaudible.  He especially thinks they should be inaudible.  So for Christmas he said he would buy me a new one.

I greeted this generous offer with the same enthusiasm as if he’d said he would set fire to my hair.  But I am a good wife, and so, with heavy heart, I trawled the scooter catalogue for a suitable option.  And after some deliberation, I decided that a new version of the scooter I already have would be the perfect replacement.

Of course, I hadn’t taken account of the fact that Mr B had already picked the scooter he wanted to buy, and it wasn’t the one I’d chosen.   So on Christmas day I unwrapped the shiny, silent new scooter that I hadn’t chosen, and I have been waiting eagerly for the children to go back to school so I can put it through its paces.

scooter-ladies

These ladies look nothing like me. Picture someone much more dishevelled

But here’s the problem.  My husband assured me, despite my protestations to the contrary, that I needed a scooter with a soft suspension (wooden footboard) not the ‘sporty’ suspension (metal footboard) of my old scooter.  But now I have it, I have found out that the soft suspension is like scootering along the top of a very large marshmallow, with the effect that the new scooter’s maximum speed is more of a ‘disappointing dawdle’ than an ‘exhilarating dash’.  Although I would have to say that this is probably a safety feature, since it is nearly impossible to use the brake on the thing.

For those unfamiliar with the engineering subtleties of a scooter, the brakes are on the back wheel and operated by your foot.  Only this one is cleverly positioned so as to make it nearly impossible to actually get my foot on it, and when I do make contact, the brake has no sense of urgency.  In fact, it seems entirely oblivious to the importance of slowing down before I hit an ambling pedestrian or darting toddler.  This certainly makes for a more exciting journey, but, overall, I would have to say that it is not a benefit.

So I am back on the old scooter, rattling along the school-run with the sun in my face and the wind in my hair.  Meanwhile the new scooter is languishing in our hallway creating a health and safety hazard for anyone who wants to go up or down the stairs.

I love my husband.  I love that he thinks I need and deserve shiny, new, things.  It’s just that the stealth scooter isn’t the one for me.  After all, if I changed something every time I’d had it a while, or it rattled a bit, I would have gone through at least three husbands by now.  And, to be honest, I’m more than happy with the one I already have.  Whoever said ‘out with the old and in with the new’ really didn’t know what they were talking about.

PS  Unless it’s a full-on hurricane with a snow-storm chaser we always scoot to school and I love it.  Both my old and my new scooter are from microscooter and they have lots of options for children and adults.

Bath salts and surreptitious sweets: let the festivities commence!

I imagine that, if you are a celebrity, Christmas is a perfectly curated thing.  It is a Winter Wonderland of glitter and fabulousness in which everyone looks elegant, the children are charming and the presents are impressive (because no-one can truly be happy unless they have a soft-top sports car, right?)

But I am not a celebrity, so in my house things are a little more shambolic.  Christmas at Boudicca HQ goes something like this:

  • Get woken by the children at 4.30am, because Santa has been and there is every danger they will burst if they wait even a second longer for Christmas to start.
  • Admire all the thoughtful and well-informed gifts Santa has left in their stockings.
  • Discover that my dress no longer zips up and regret spending the whole of December gorging on mince pies, pigs in blankets, Christmas cake and anything coated in icing or dusted with sugar.
  • Decide to stand side-on for photos.
  • Watch my children spend three joyous minutes ripping the paper off the presents that I spent hours lovingly wrapping.
  • Pretend to be delighted when my partner gives me bath salts.  Again.
  • Spend the rest of the morning with one hand up the turkey’s bottom whilst shelling brussel sprouts with the other.  Yup.  It’s all glamour in my house.
  • Eat enough food to sustain a village in Africa for a month, whilst wearing a paper crown and listening to terrible jokes.
  • Convince myself that having a large helping of Christmas pudding with cream and brandy butter does not rule out bingeing on mince pies and ice-cream later.
  • No matter how bleak the weather, no matter how much the children protest, insist that we all go for a walk to ‘get some fresh air’.
  • Put some sweets in my pocket to sustain me whilst we’re out and eat them surreptitiously when everyone’s attention is elsewhere.
  • Slump on the sofa and munch my way through a box of Quality Street, a half-eaten mince pie that one of my children has abandoned and anything left-over from lunch.
  • Feel bloated.
  • Declare that this was definitely the best Christmas ever.

I wish you the best Christmas ever and a happy New Year!

Bethlehem or bust: why you should never try to persuade a pregnant woman to travel by donkey

If you think shipping Mary across the Middle East on a donkey was easy, then you have never lived with a woman who is heavily pregnant.  The Bible may gloss over it, but you can be sure that Joseph had his work cut out persuading Mary to go…

Joseph:  My darling, darling wife, I know that you’re exhausted from carrying our wonderful baby, so I’ve arranged for us to go away for a relaxing little mini-break.

Mary:  Are you kidding me? I’m eight months flipping pregnant.  It took me half an hour just to get my knickers and socks on this morning.  The last thing I want to do is go on a mini-break.

Joseph:  I’m sorry to hear that, my angel, but unfortunately we’re going to have to go, because Caesar has decreed that everyone has to go back to the town of their birth to take part in a very important census.

Mary:  Who does Caesar think he is?  Come here, go there, decree this, census that.  Well, we’d better be going somewhere good, because I’m not trekking about in the heat and the dust to go somewhere rubbish.

Joseph:  We’re going to Bethlehem, my angel.

Mary: Bethlehem??!!!  Bethlehem is the fungal toe on the arse-end of nowhere. Why can’t we go to Jerusalem?  At least I could go shopping in Jerusalem.

Joseph:  I would love to take you to Jerusalem, my sweetheart, and I definitely will one day, but this time we have to go to Bethlehem.

Mary:  Ok, but I haven’t been able to see my feet for the last two months, so there’s no way I’m walking anywhere.  You need to arrange door-to-door transport, and it had better be luxury.

Joseph:  Um, bit of a problem there, my most beloved.  Everyone who’s got a horse is already using it.  I’m going to have to walk, but I’ve managed to arrange a lovely little donkey for you.

Mary:  A mangy old donkey?  Every time I sit down to go to the loo, I wonder if I’m going to be able to get up again.  There’s no way I can get on and off some filthy donkey.

Joseph:  I think you might actually enjoy it, my darling.  Think of it as our last adventure before the baby comes.

Mary:  Well we’d better be staying somewhere classy.  I’m not staying with your Aunt Aphra again, she smells of goat excrement and I’m pretty sure she cooks with it too.

Joseph:  Um.  Well it was quite hard to get a room – I mean this census thing has made it a very busy time of year in Bethlehem.  Luckily my cousin Hezekiah knows someone, who knows someone, whose inn is so fancy that they’ve got a stable block, and he reckons that if we show up looking stressed enough, he might let us stay there.

Mary:  A stable block?  We’re staying in a stable block?  What if I have the baby whilst we’re there?   If I have the baby in Bethlehem, my mum will miss the whole thing.  And I’m telling you now, if my mother misses even one second of the birth, she will never let you forget it.

Joseph:  Don’t worry, my darling.  We’ll totally be home before then.

The picture above is a photo of Bethlehem taken in 1898.