War Horse – Liverpool Empire

I find it hard to write reviews as everyone’s experience is individual. However, I just wanted to share with you all what I thought of The National Theatre’s production of the 10th Anniversary UK tour of War Horse.

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I booked our tickets some two years ago after reading the book by Michael Morpurgo and watching the acclaimed Steven Spielberg film. I found the book largely more emotive than the film. Though come the day of the stage production I had somehow forgotten the plot of both book and film! I recalled battles of World War One and the part horses took in the human struggle.

Our visit to the Liverpool Empire Theatre, was not without hiccup. I thought a good 40 minutes would be enough to get us through the busy streets of Liverpool and to parking at St. John’s shopping centre. Unfortunately I had not accounted for the popularity of the Christmas market and Saturday afternoon shoppers! By 2.15pm we were stuck in traffic by Lime Street Station. The matinee performance started at 2.30pm! I began to slowly panic!

‘If there’s no parking spaces here, we’ll have to go to Liverpool One.’

‘But that’s miles away!’ I said. ‘We’ll be late.’

‘You go ahead then. I’ll catch up with you once I’ve parked the car!’

‘But you’ll miss the beginning of the show!’

‘You’ve waited two years for this,’ David reasoned. ‘It’s better if you go; at least one of us will see the start. They may not let us in until the interval if we are both late!’ I sat with a heavy heart, as rain showered down upon the window screen.

‘You don’t mind?’ I asked. ‘I’d rather both of us see the show.’

‘You go ahead.’ David was rational but my heart lingered until I handed him his ticket and kissed him good luck. The cold wind buffeted me as I stumbled through a thickening crowd. My feet splashed through puddles. I noticed the traffic in Lime Street was at a stand still, car horns blaring (as if that would help!) The stench of roasted meat from the Christmas market on St Georges Plateau was heavy on the air and made me balk. As the clock ticked I worried for David. In my rush I turned an ankle, and cried out into the cold, grey afternoon. I made my hurried way towards the theatre where I showed my ticket and then in bewilderment looked for my seat.

The Empire Theatre is a bit of a maze, with automatic doors and signs that are not very helpful. I thankfully managed to find my seat before the show started and sat hoping David would be following soon after. The lights dimmed and a young horse puppet (Joey) pranced around the stage. I couldn’t settle. Every-time I saw someone enter the shaded theatre I thought maybe it was David. However some 15 minutes into the show, after the auction scene, I saw David walk past. We laughed afterwards that he could have entered the auditorium shouting ‘Christine, where are you?’ but in reality I wondered how to catch his attention while he found a seat at the front. We sat the first half of the show separately.

For War Horse itself, the show was amazing. I thought it much better than the Lion King a few years ago. Perhaps having no assumptions of the show helped? The puppetry was superb, the story emotive and the stage production highly visual. The acting from the company was top notch and though there were no tears there was a lump in my throat at the end.

What makes War Horse a successful stage production is the multi disciplinary team behind it. From stage design to lighting effects. The score by Adrian Sutton though subtle was effective to promote emotion. John Tams’ folk songs bring the essence of rural Devon to life, (though I wasn’t too enamored with the songs within the play.) I loved the artwork by Rae Smith evoking powerful symbols of World War One. The lighting by Paule Constable was breathtaking! A scene that stood out for me was when when Albert and co. ran in slow motion towards the enemy. From the mist they emerged to run into the bullets and the shells. When the men fell one by one, it was painful to watch. It felt realistic.

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Talking about realism the puppetry by Handspring Puppet Company was outstanding. You connect instantly with Joey. Albert’s reaction to Joey is a reflection of our own. There are other puppets within the show, from swallows flying in the peaceful Devonshire sky to a cheeky goose who received a lot of laughter for his aggressive antics. But the horses is what many have come to see. The scenes of war are the most vivid and stay with you long after the show. I cried in dismay when Joey was caught among the barbed wire in No-Mans-Land. You forget that they are just puppets.

The play has the human condition at the very core. From the dogged determination of  Albert, to the sadness that drives Arthur Narracott and the despair of Friedrich Müller. Joey and Topthorn suffer in a man made situation.

If you have the opportunity to go see War Horse, then I would highly recommend it. As a spectacle it is a feast for the eyes! Don’t forget to take your handkerchief!

Have you seen the show? Read the book or seen the film? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

*Pictures taken from various productions of War Horse.

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My Father’s Daughter.

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. It was a precarious balance on slippery rocks, before I lost my footing, gasped as my whole body plunged under the waves. Though it was September and there was still warmth to the sun, the body of water that lay before me was chilling beneath the wind that whipped the surface into tiny white peaks. ‘Keep swimming,’ was the motto, and swim I did, even if the cold of the water numbed my fingers, made my skin tingle. 2 km didn’t sound like much, but previously I hadn’t had much practice. I was rusty and my muscles let me know it!

As a child, my family would have weekly swimming evenings at the local pool, followed by a chippie tea and Doctor Who on the TV. I was lucky to be born when the old Victorian school buildings still stood, before modernisation bulldozed them for clinical, soulless buildings. My school, red bricked and full of ghost stories had a wonderful heated swimming pool alongside it. Even before entering the building, with towel rolled under an arm, the smell of chlorine always tickled the nose, cleared the senses.

The noise at poolside was often deafening! Children shrieked with nervous excitement, trying to stay afloat with giant orange inflatables around their arms. I would emerge from a blue curtained cubicle like a butterfly from its chrysalis, proudly wearing my red swimsuit. Always, my father would be in the pool first, beckoning me into the cradling waters, challenging me. In his youth he had been a finalist in the inter-city championships, had numerous certificates and badges. He still enthused about the sport and would encourage me to swim further than I could ever think possible. 100 metres was a long way for a young girl.

Where I swam now was very different to a pool and I was no longer ‘Daddy’s little champion.’ I was a woman of 40. An infinite expanse of sky, pregnant with clouds arched overhead. Shingle beaches lined the shores and jagged mountains crowded around, like they were bringing me into their confidence. Crows shrieked their good morning. Day would soon arrive and with it the chance of rain. As I pushed my body through the water, soft like silk, Nathan sat alongside me, paddling silently.

I met Nathan at a turning point in both our lives. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen of a hostel, where I was holidaying in Scotland. Onions sizzled in a pan while tears tore down my face. ‘Something smells good!’ I started and the knife I held clattered to the floor.

‘It’ll be a chilli once it’s cooked.’ I turned to face a larger than life man. He was still wearing his hiking gear and had trodden mud through into the kitchen. ‘Hungry?’

‘Famished!’ He grinned.

The evening sun dipped beyond the horizon, turning the clouds into a kind of pink blancmange. The air was still, sweetly scented. Spring in Scotland has its own beauty. Trees slowly unfurled their tender leaves and rivers raged with melt-water from the mountains. Nathan, freshly showered, and I sat on a bench eating our bowls of chilli in the hostel’s garden. A bottle of wine shared between us. ‘What brings you to Scotland?’ I asked.

‘Adventure,’ he shrugged, then looking up at me he said shyly. ‘A broken heart. You?’

‘I recently lost my father.’ I took a mouthful of bitter wine. ‘We had been estranged the last couple of years, so the news was pretty hard to take.’ I paused. Nathan sat silently, listening. ‘I just had to get away, escape. You know how it is?’ He nodded. ‘I just packed the car and headed up here.’

‘Planning on staying long?’

‘A day or two. Depends if there’s anything to stay for.’ It was then that we shared one of those looks and the world suddenly shifts. Two people, lonely and broken, found comfort in each other’s arms.

Two years later, I found myself immersed in nature, practicing for a charity swim. The northern shore of the lake loomed ahead, trees, tall and prickly stood sentinel. From the water’s surface I suddenly noticed a familiar figure standing motionless by the lakeside, his arm raised in a wave. I stopped kicking, felt my body suspended by the water, while minnows gently swam between my fingers. ‘Sarah!’ Nathan called. ‘Don’t stop!’

‘Do you see..?’ I shouted, treading water.

‘What?’ I looked back towards the shore, to where only trees huddled around a burnt shell of a building. ‘It was probably a dog walker.’ Nathan encouraged. ‘You’re almost there! Don’t give up!’ I stretched my tired arms forward and pressed on for the last 50 metres or so. Soon my legs hit rocks as I crawled out of the water. My muscles ached, my skin purple with bruises. ‘You made it!’ Nathan cried jumping out of the kayak, ‘and in under an hour!’ His feet splashed in the shallows before he draped a towel around my shivering body.

‘Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all,’ I panted.

‘And more,’ Nathan cupped my face in his hands. ‘He would have been amazed at what you can achieve.’ Wells of tears unexpectedly flooded my eyes.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Sure, he would have been jealous. Swimming in a lake! That has to beat swimming in a pool any day!’

‘I suppose,’ I smiled through chattering teeth.

‘You’ve swam further than you’ve ever done before. He would have been so proud of you!’ I felt Nathan’s lips, hot on mine as he wrapped his arms around me. I leant into his warm body.

‘I know it sounds silly but I could have sworn I saw him standing by the boathouse.’ Nathan looked to where the wooden structure stood derelict. There was no other living soul, save them at the lake.

‘Perhaps he was, cheering you on as he used to.’

‘It’s a nice thought.’

‘Come, let’s get you warm. A strong, celebratory coffee is in order. Perhaps I’ll buy us cake!’ We turned our backs to the lake laughing as we went, and the rain that was promised began to fall.

© 2016 Christine Lucas


I haven’t written anything of note in a while. The above story was written in response to an advert for submissions for an anthology on wild swimming. Needless to say I was not successfully chosen, so I’ve posted the piece for you, my lovely readers. It was written with a word count restriction, so forgive the fractured feel to the narrative.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine x

Remeniscing

Last night while relaxing, snugly before bed, with Classic FM playing on the air and the lights turned down low, an image from my childhood played before my minds eye. I lay thinking of when I was a child, no older than ten years old. I used to love dancing, to throw my arms and legs wildly around to the music, in no planned coordination. I used to whirl around my bedroom for hours, in my favourite red leotard stitched with gold tinsel. As gloaming approached, I whizzed my preadolescent body around the floor. I danced to (if you can believe it) my mum’s old 33 1/3 RPM’s, called The World of your 100 Best Tunes, which originated from a BBC radio programme. The LP’s featured Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Ronald Binge’s Elizabethan Serenade, (a piece of music that always sends me reminiscing when I hear it on the radio). Among others was Holst’s The Planets. My favourite of all the pieces is Uranus, The Magician, (it’s not played half as much as it should be!) The music is so theatrical! To my child’s mind the music imagined a fantastical parade of skeletons and wild beasts, overseen by a master who wore top hat and tails!

While thinking of this happy memory, lines from a poem by Ted Hughes, part of his award winning Birthday Letters, popped into my thoughts. The poems all address his marriage to his first wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. The poem in question is called: God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark. I think it was the image of my younger self dancing and tinsel adorning my clothes that brought the lines of the poem to my mind.

‘You danced on in the dark house, Eight years old, in your tinsel. Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced… Then dancing wilder in the darkness…’

‘Nobody wanted your dance, Nobody wanted your strange glitter –

With Hypnos caressing my eyes and Morpheus awaiting to lace my sleep with dreams, I decided to dig out the poem the next day, re-listen to Holst’s The Magician and write a post bringing them both together. Which I hope I have succeeded.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x


God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark

By Ted Hughes.

There you met it – the mystery of hatred.
After your billions of years in anonymous matter
That was where you were found – and promptly hated.
You tried your utmost to reach and touch those people
With gifts of yourself –
Just like your first words as a toddler
When you rushed at every visitor to the house
Clasping their legs and crying: ‘I love you! I love you!’
Just as you had danced for your father
In his home of anger – gifts of your life
To sweeten his slow death and mix yourself in it
Where he lay propped on the couch,
To sugar the bitterness of his raging death.

You searched for yourself to go on giving it
As if after the nightfall of his going
You danced on in the dark house,
Eight years old, in your tinsel.

Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced,
Floundering a little, crying softly,
Like somebody searching for somebody drowning
In dark water
Listening for them – in panic at losing
Those listening seconds from your searching –
Then dancing wilder in the darkness.

The colleges lifted their heads. It did seem
You disturbed something just perfected
That they were holding carefully, all of a piece,
Till the glue dried. And as if
Reporting some felony to the police
They let you know that you were not John Donne.
You no longer care. Did you save their names?
But then they let you know, day by day,
Their contempt for everything you attempted,
Took pains to inject their bile, as for your health,
Into your morning coffee. Even signed
Their homeopathic letters,
Envelopes full of carefully broken glass
To lodge behind your eyes so you would see

Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give –
Whatever you found
They bombarded with splinters,
Derision, mud – the mystery of that hatred.

© 1998

A Year in Photos – 2016

Sharon from the wonderful Sunshine and Celandines suggested the topic for today’s post. I already do a yearly video compilation (watch out for that in the new year), but I thought I would post 12 pictures (or video) that give an impression of the year 2016!

So here goes!

January: 

The year began with a little trip to North Wales. On a cold, drizzly day David and I visited Rhosydd Slate Quarry at Cwmorthin. The weather made the scenery even more atmospheric! Who knows how many ghosts wander the rugged, unforgiving slate scattered landscape?

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Rhosydd Slate Quarry, Cwmorthin

February:

On another of David’s days off work, we visited the Lake District and took a leisurely stroll along Derwentwater. Little did we know, we would visit the shores of Derwentwater several times in 2016! I had discovered a new hobby!

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Derwentwater

March:

With spring just around the corner, March was all about the yarden! I busied myself with planting free packets of seeds that I’d requested from Grow Wild, a Kew Gardens initiative!

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April:

The much anticipated Hans Zimmer concert in Birmingham came and went in a blink of an eye! A good time was had by all that night! Hans himself introduced film classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy.

May:

In May, David and I returned to the shores of Derwentwater. This time I bravely stripped to my swim suit and slipped over rocky stones to embark on my first ever wild swim! It would be the beginning of many swims undertaken in 2016 in scenery that is nothing but inspiring!

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Facing Blencathra

June:

For the second year running I took part in The Wildlife Trusts, 30 Days Wild. This year I packed even more wild into June. We built a pond, harvested our first crop of maris bard potatoes, grew borage for bees, and I even went without technology for a day!

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Maris Bard Potatoes

July:

In July, David and I took a day trip to Sheffield to see their herd of colourful elephants.

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August:

The year wasn’t all fun days out and wild swimming! There was lots of hard work to be done on the house. With detritus clogging up the space under the hallway and sagging/rotten beams found under the dinning room, the long summer days were filled with the sawing of wood and hours of reconstruction.

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Dining room floor

September:

At Browns Liverpool, I partook in my first, but very rich afternoon tea. The red velvet cake was delicious but the whole afternoon was a sugar overload!

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Afternoon Tea, Browns, Liverpool

October:

Autumn became centre stage in all its colourful glory as I participated in Wild October! I watched a garden spider spin its web, relived childhood by kicking fallen leaves, turned 40 and holidayed in the Lake District.

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November:

The iconic Weeping Window from the Tower of London poppies came to Caernarfon Castle, just in time for Armistice. The poppies are touring the UK, thanks to 14-18 Now, and are a fitting memorial to the fallen.

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The Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle

December:

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Christmas Tree

December is all about Christmas and spending time with family. My little 3ft Christmas tree, adorned with birds and polar bears always goes up on the 1st. Artie once again had an Advent calendar to count the days to Christmas, and this year I managed to get a Christmas wreath for the front door!

So there you have it, my 2016 in pictures!

For some this year has been a harsh year, but for David and I there have been more happy times than sad. Indeed we have made many wonderful memories out of new experiences this year.

I wish you all good health and happiness for 2017! Let’s make it a year to remember!

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

#PoppiesTour – Caernarfon Castle.

If you have seen my previous posts about the poppies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Liverpool, you will know that I am trying to see them as they visit various places around the UK!

Sadly we never made the journey to see The Wave at Lincoln Castle, but I made sure we booked free tickets to see the Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle! The event was hotly anticipated and we managed to get a time slot on the penultimate day the poppies were being displayed. All other Saturday’s had been booked up! So on the 19th November, David and I headed for the A55 and Caernarfon.

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Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle has always been on my list of places to visit. Seeing the poppies and the castle together was a perfect combination. Then add the free entrance to the castle whilst the poppies were at Caernarfon and it made for a fantastic day!

The castle was already bustling with people when we arrived at 11am. (Having parked the car for £4 at the harbour carpark). I have a feeling the castle has never been so popular as it has been since the poppies arrived! I now understand why you had to book a time slot to visit. The narrow staircases going up and down the towers were treacherous. It was bad enough climbing single file but when faced with people wanting to go past you on a narrow stone staircase, things grew a little scary! Thankfully we were only stuck on a tower’s staircase once, and I came away with a slightly grazed hand!

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Stairway

The poppies were as I remembered them. Their emblematic hue made people pause, silently in awe. We took hundreds of pictures of the poppies and below are a selection of the best!

Once we had seen the poppies, we made the most of the free entry and explored the castle. We walked along curtain walls, took in the views from the towers and even managed to dress up at the Welch Fusiliers Museum.

We spent a good two – three hours at the castle and I would recommend a visit if in the area.


From Caernarfon we headed home via two llyns (lakes). I was on the lookout for prospective swims for next year and two I had in mind, fitted the bill!

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Llyn Cwellyn

The first was Llyn Cwellyn, actually a reservoir. Sadly there wasn’t much of a walk along the lakeside and we were only at the lake for about an hour. (Having paid £2.50 parking fee for four hours!) To make the llyn wheelchair accessable there is a wooden walkway but sadly, there was only one actual ‘beach’ in which to enter the water.

However the water was crystal clear and the shingle floor looked an easy entrance into the llyn that seemed to deepen quickly. David and I were the only people at the llyn, (while others headed for highs such as Snowdon). The area was so peaceful, the sun sitting low on the horizon, gave me a sudden wave of nostalgia. Wast Water came to mind. I wish I had brought my swimming costume with me and braved the cold!!

Afterwards, we headed towards Llyn Gwynant. Looking for parking places we passed Llyn Dinas which also looks a lovely place to swim!

We parked alongside Llyn Gwynant and headed for the shore. I got Terence (turtle thermometer) out and measured a very chilly 7°c!

 

Both llyns have got me super excited for next year. Spring/Summer 2017 can’t come quick enough!

Have you visited North Wales/Snowdonia? What are your favourite llyns?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #20

I thought I would participate in another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

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Christmas decorations

David and I have just come back from a visit to Grosvenor Garden Centre. While buying some bird ornaments for my little three foot Christmas tree! (I am so excited for the season!) David and I had fun making a wish and ‘drinking’ from a huge coffee cup!

I also bought a bird feeder in the shape of a poppy (a 50p donation went to the Royal British Legion) and placed it in the yarden!

I am still looking for signs of Autumn, and while walking to get the bus to work, I snapped this picture of a leafy coloured pathway.

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While grocery shopping yesterday I tried on some winter hats. I liked this cow hat and scarf!

The week began in celebratory mode. I dressed up as the devil for Halloween and I turned 40! (:o) I got lots of lovely cards, presents and well wishes.

David kindly gave me money to buy a new phone. (My old one is three years old and so slow!) So, I opted for a Samsung Galaxy S6 due to the camera quality! I can’t wait to use it!

David and I had the Monday off work. So we spent the day shopping, eating gingerbread and going to the cinema. We went to see Inferno, the third Prof. Langdon film in the series of Dan Brown adaptations. It wasn’t as strong a story as The Da Vinci Code but we enjoyed it none the less. Later back home, even Artie seemed to enjoy the left over popcorn! :p

Overall it hasn’t been a bad week. With the turning back of the clocks last Sunday it seems that the weather has grown colder too. 😦

Have you been to the cinema recently? Have you started shopping for Christmas?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

100 Years.

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7.28am on 1st July 1916 was the first day of the bloodiest battle in British military history, the Somme. 19,240 British men lost their lives that day. Multiple offensives would continue until November 1916. Over the course of four months, more than a million men were dead or wounded.

We should not forget their sacrifice.

Poppies: Wave and Weeping Window: from Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Liverpool, St George’s Hall, 2015.