How amazing to see live theatre again but boo to the ‘great’ British weather

I’m sure we have all experienced cancelled holidays, events and weekends away during the past 18 months. Some may have been cancelled altogether and some may have been rescheduled. Last weekend, the munchkin and I went away to Leeds to see Six the musical – a theatre trip rescheduled from last June. But even the rescheduled trip nearly didn’t happen.

We’d decided to make a weekend of it when I discovered I could book two nights in a chain hotel using loyalty points I’d gained from when I used to travel a lot with my day job. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the deal again for the rescheduled dates but I’d promised my daughter a weekend away and didn’t want to pull out of that after such a tough 18 months just because I now had to pay for accommodation.

The train journey is usually a smooth no-change one but, when we went to book the train tickets, we discovered there were disruptions both ways so travelling was not going to go as planned either. 

And the delay in restrictions being lifted meant a reduced audience at the theatre. If we hadn’t got our tickets for this year, I’d have lost my hotel money (as it was on a non-refundable deal) and most of my train fare. Thankfully it transpired that we’d booked really early so we had priority over keeping our seats.

Then the munchkin had to isolate after positive Covid cases in her school. Thankfully she tested negative in a PCR and subsequent lateral flow tests and the isolation ended just in time to travel.

I felt a little apprehensive about the trip as was so many firsts for me since before the pandemic began – first train journey, first night in a hotel, first visit to a city and first peopley event, even though it would be reduced capacity – but I was determined we’d have a good time after being stuck at home for so long.

The show itself was phenomenal and, if you have a chance to see it, definitely do. I have to give huge thanks and praise to the staff of Leeds Heritage Theatres, specifically the Leeds Grand Theatre, as it was a really smooth process getting in (via temperature check and track & trace logging) and all the staff were really friendly.

It was really good to be back in the theatre and especially lovely that we’d booked a box which we’ve never done before. With social distancing, we had the box to ourselves!

I’d wondered how they’d manage the social distancing but it was fairly straightforward: every other seat had a covering over it and boxes only had people from the same booking in them with every other box empty.

If you’re not familiar with Six, it’s a musical about the six wives of Henry VIII. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d seen some of the cast performing as an interval act on Britain’s Got Talent years ago which is what prompted us to want tickets, but I hadn’t heard anything about it. 

It’s different to any musical I’ve seen before in that it’s just the six wives on stage throughout the whole show (1 hour 20 mins) alongside a four-piece all-female band (keyboard, lead guitar, bass guitar, drums). They sing and there’s a bit of talk but no set changes/costume changes/long acted segments which was different to any musical I’ve ever seen but it absolutely worked. The songs were amazing with funny/clever lyrics and oh my goodness those voices! Wow, those actors could belt out a tune!

I was on the verge of tears all the way through the first song. It felt so emotional being back in live theatre and thinking about all the struggles that those involved in the arts have faced during the pandemic. Actors, producers, musicians and so on are mainly freelance and would have fallen through the gaps in financial support. The theatres – usually beautiful old buildings with expensive upkeep costs – have struggled so much with the lost income and the staff have had all the extra work of cancelling and rescheduling then rescheduling again and probably some very angry customers to deal with for something the theatre couldn’t control. Add to that the amazing voices and how resounding music can stir the soul, I had to give myself a stern talking-to not to turn into a gibbering wreck!

The audience were wearing masks and I wondered how that would feel from the stage, not able to see the smiling faces, but there was plenty of audience engagement with laughter, cheers, clapping and dancing in the seats. The cast and band absolutely deserved the standing ovation at the end.

If you have a chance to see this, do grab a ticket as it is interesting, funny, and fabulous. I have learned a lot more about history and I now don’t just know the rhyme we all know – divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived – without being able to tell you which wife was which. I now know which is which and why they met their fates. If you’re interested, check out my list under my signature for a little slice of history.

So the show was definitely worth seeing, but the rest of the weekend was a bit of a wash-out – literally. Yes, the great British weather did a number on us. We had steady rain, torrential rain, and thunderstorms. So we got wet. A lot.

I don’t like shopping but was happy to traipse around with the munchkin knowing I’d be able to treat myself in my favourite shop in Leeds – specialist teddy bear shop Mary Shortle. Only it has closed. No!!!!!!

Stuck for what to do in the bad weather on Sunday, we went to the cinema to see Peter Rabbit 2. We’d loved the first one but I felt that this one lacked the same humour and charm so was, for me, pretty disappointing. I’m sure plenty will love it, though, so please don’t be put off by my verdict.

We had an unpleasant run-in with a frazzled server in a famous doughnut chain who told me off, gave me filthy looks and was extremely rude. I understand that retail staff have very unfairly had abuse from customers about masks and social distancing but I’m not one of those customers so there was no need to direct the anger at me. To top it all, the doughnut bags got wet because the rain soaked through the bag I had them in, and they got squashed, so the eating pleasure wasn’t quite the same and didn’t make up for the experience. 

The stress of all the arrangement changes, the horrendous weather, the bear shop closure, the disappointing film, the transport problems, the doughnut incident, and the Covid restrictions made everything about this weekend so difficult. I loved the show and the time with the munchkin but I kind of wished we hadn’t booked our tickets early and had had to defer until next year instead. I’d rather have stayed at home where it’s safe and dry and there are no angry doughnut sellers! Hopefully our next trip out will be more successful.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Wife 1 – Catherine of Aragon – divorced for not bearing a son as Henry VIII was obsessed with keeping the tudor line going. The Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t grant a divorce so the monarch broke away and formed the Church of England

Wife 2 – Anne Boleyn – beheaded. Henry lost interest in her when she didn’t give him a male heir. She was accused of adultery and treason and their marriage was annulled two days before her execution although the exact legal reasons surrounding the execution remain a mystery

Wife 3 – Jane Seymour – died. Finally Henry had the male heir he wanted (Edward VI) but she died from birth complications a few weeks later 

Wife 4 – Anne of Cleves – divorced. This was a strategic European alliance to marry one of the daughters of Germany’s Duke of Cleves. Henry wanted to see a portrait of each to decide which one to marry and he choose the best-looking. Except the portrait was super flattering and he was shocked at the lack of likeness when he met Anne. It was too late to halt the wedding (he tried!) and his “ugly wife” (isn’t that awful?) agreed to a divorce and generous settlement after six months. She lived in luxury on the back of that

Wife 5 – Catherine Howard – beheaded. She was only 19 and he was 48 (if I’ve done my maths correctly) when they married but he was overweight and unable to walk by this point. Rumours of infidelity on her part surfaced after less than a year of marriage and she was executed for adultery and treason

Wife 6 – Katherine Parr – survived. She was known as a peacemaker and had great influence on so many aspects of court and European relationships. She outlived Henry by a year.

Images courtesy of the programme.

An Interview With: Jessica Redland

Hannah from This Hannah Reads has interviewed me about the Hedgehog Hollow series. Here’s the interview and some gorgeous pics of hedgehogs. Thank you so much, Hannah xx

This Hannah Reads

The other week I posted my first interview post with Heidi Swain and it went down a storm! If you’ve not seen it yet you can check it out here but today I’m spending some time with the lovely Jessica Redland, another of my auto-buy authors and I’m so excited to share this with you all!

She is now working with Boldwood and has written a number of different books, but all with a little touch of magic. I’ll pop some links to all of my reviews for her books at the end so you can check them out if you want to know more!

Let’s getstarted

Hi Jessica, first off can I just say a massive thank you for letting me interview you and appear on my blog. I’ve discovered your books over lockdown, starting with Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes but I’ve recently been reading the Hedgehog…

View original post 2,433 more words

My Favourite Reads of 2020

Delighted to see Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow on the EchoesInAnEmptyRoom blog. Thank you so much Hannah for including this book. So very kind of you xx

Echoes In An Empty Room

I think most of us have found solace in books this year, I certainly have. These are my favourite reads of this year in no particular order. It was hard to whittle them down to just 26. There have just been some brilliant books out this year.

Hunting Abigail By Jeremy Costello

Six idiots witness a murder By Rob Hickman

Mainely Fear By Matt Cost

The Boy Between Us By Amanda Prowse and Josiah Hartley

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside By Jessica Ryn

Your Life for Mine By Karen Clarke

Hungry By Grace Dent

Silent Night By Nell Pattison

The Silent House By Nell Pattison

The Chalet By Catherine Cooper

Remember Me? By Shobna Gulati

Too scared to tell By Cathy Glass

One More For Christmas By Sarah Morgan

A patchwork Family By Cathy Bramley

The Lonely Fajita By Abigail Mann

The Minute I saw you By Paige Toon

View original post 91 more words

Romancing The Romance Authors… with Jessica Redland

I’m the guest on ‘Romancing The Romance Authors’ over on A Little Book Problem’s blog today so I thought I’d share the interview here x

A Little Book Problem

Romancing The Romance Authors

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I write uplifting stories of love and friendship set in Yorkshire. There’s always a romance in them but I place a lot of emphasis on exploring friendships and family relationships too. Friendships in particularly fascinate me in the way they can change with time and circumstance.

I went through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and secured a publishing deal with the book I put through that but, after releasing four books with that company, they ceased trading. I republished those titles as an indie author and released several more but decided in 2018 that I wanted to try for a traditional publishing deal again. I was one of the first twenty authors to join the newly-formed Boldwood Books last year and my first book with them, The Secret to Happiness,

View original post 1,791 more words

Introducing Jessica

As a little break in the imposter syndrome series, I couldn’t resist re-blogging this absolutely gorgeous post from Eloise about my books. It has given me the warm and fuzzies. Thank you so much, Eloise x

This is Sixty ... at the weekend

Aside from reading the distinctly un-joyful newspaper, and I no longer even do that every day, I rarely read anything nowadays other than that which is intended to bring pleasure. I regularly reject recommendations (usually by one of those people who admit only to picking up something they consider highbrow rather than what most of us actually read), I’ve put aside the research books which supported the writing of my novel*, and abandoned altogether the hard-going canon of so-called literary masterpieces.One of life’s best little luxuries is to find a new-to-me author whose writing I like. And it’s a bigger luxury to find that she’s written not only the book I’m reading, but several others too. Shortly before our recent holiday in Devon and whilst partaking of one of my favourite activities – drinking coffee with a good friend – the conversation turned to books and knowing that friend L…

View original post 645 more words

What’s on my wall? (Part 5) Monday Motivation

Happy Birthday AliceWelcome to another #MondayMotivation ‘What’s on my wall?’ post, showing some of the quotes and pictures in my office that inspire my writing.

Today I have two canvases (prints) because they’re by the same artist and they inspire me in the same way so it makes sense to talk about them together. They’re by Staffordshire-born artist and card designer Peter Adderley who is now based in North Devon.

IMG_8713

My collection – if you can call two prints a collection – started with the smaller lighthouse picture which is captioned ‘A Close Shave’ according to an art gallery but ‘Lighthouse’ according to other sources. So not really sure which is correct! Lighthouse certainly says what it is, though!

We live a few miles from a farm called Redcliffe Farm where there’s a farm shop, cafe and gift shop called Carbis. I spotted this in Carbis and fell in love with it immediately as it had a red and white striped lighthouse like the one in my Whitsborough Bay stories (although mine isn’t in the middle of the sea like this one).

The person who served me in Carbis told me that Peter’s seascapes always include a cat and a dog, sometimes prominently, sometimes less visible. Can you spot them? The cat’s a little more challenging on the photo (answer at the bottom of the page). I haven’t been able to find anything online to confirm whether this animal detail is true but I hope it is as that’s a lovely idea.

When I refurbished my office last year, I decided I had the perfect space on the wall for another of Peter’s prints so returned to return to Carbis to get another. They were struggling to get hold of Peter’s prints and only had one picture left which was about three times the size of my first one so it wasn’t an option and I returned home empty-handed.

IMG_8714

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, though, and ended up re-arranging the whole wall just to fit in this gorgeous harbour scene. The colourful houses very much remind me of Whitsborough Bay’s Old Town. I’m afraid I don’t know what this one is called. It doesn’t say it on the print and I can’t find the answer online. If the smaller one is ‘Lighthouse’, I’d imagine this is probably ‘Harbour’!

You shouldn’t have too much difficulty spotting the cat and dog on this one as they’re very prominent in the foreground. But can you see the second cat?

These two canvases sit to the side of my desk but I often turn to gaze at them. They’re so colourful and calming and transport me immediately into my fictional seaside world.

Hope you have an inspiring week, whatever you have planned.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

 

Where to find the cat and dog:

Lighthouse – dog on the boat, cat on the lighthouse on the railings around the light

Harbour – dog chasing cat in foreground, but there’s also a cat on the railings on the front of the red boat in the harbour

 

My Favourite 19 Books of 2019

Reblogging from The Cozy Pages onto my own WordPress blog. Absolutely thrilled to feature as two of Nina’s favourite 19 books of 2019, especially when that’s out of 119 books read across the year. Huge thanks to Nina for choosing Bear With Me and The Secret to Happiness. Congratulations to everyone else whose books feature too xx

The Cozy Pages

Goodreads tells me that I’ve had a very enjoyable year in reading. In fact, I gave 21 books out of 119 a five star rating; and gave an average rating of 4.1 overall. Once a story brings me joy and provides intriguing characters, I’m fairly generous with my stars (espresso shots on this blog). However, a few have really stuck with me since I first read them and stand out above the rest, so here are my top 19 reads of 2019.

Before I get into the individual books, I’m highlighting three favourite cozy mystery series. These are series I started on in 2019 and loved so much that I got myself fully (almost) caught up on them!

The Cat Latimer Mysteries by Lynn Cahoon captured my attention with its clever plots and behind the scenes view of a writer’s life (one who even hosts writers’ retreats)!

A Family Skeleton…

View original post 1,045 more words

The one where my daughter still believes in Santa

IMG_2727I have a daughter who will become a teenager six days before Christmas and she still believes in Santa Claus.

IMG_5766I can’t remember how old I was when I discovered – or perhaps was told – that Santa didn’t exist. It’s the sort of thing that I would imagine my older brother would have spoiled for me because it’s the sort of thing a big brother would do to his younger sister, but I don’t specifically remember it being him. Or maybe it was. We used to go Christmas present hunting around the house when Mum and Dad were out. We found gifts in the bottom of their wardrobe, in the attic, and one year we even found them in the bottom of the wardrobe of the caravan in the back garden. So maybe it was the finding of the gifts that kind of gave the game away. Sorry, Mum!

IMG_2734What I do remember is that I was definitely still at primary school when it happened.

My husband and I hoped that Ashleigh would make it through primary school still believing in Santa. We thought that there was more chance of her doing this with no older siblings to set her straight. There were a couple of moments where friends told her Santa wasn’t real and we would simply ask, ‘What do you think?’ Her answer was always that she didn’t believe her friends and she’d give some evidence as to why she thought this was the case.

She started senior school last year and we were convinced that, as Christmas approached, she’d declare that Santa didn’t exist. But she didn’t. Again, she was challenged by friends but she didn’t believe them.

IMG_2875We thought there was no way she’d still believe in Santa this Christmas but she still does. Her evidence is that she got a desk one year and there was no way that we could have stored it and made it without her seeing and hearing it. Bless her. There’s that much crap stored in our garage that a flat pack desk added to it would not be noticeable. And, as for making it, that was hubby’s delightful task on Christmas Eve.

So this Christmas she will have turned thirteen and she still believes in Santa. We’re actually quite thrilled by this because we have a very special holiday planned this year. We’re off to Lapland to see “the real Santa” just before Christmas and actually fly out on Ashleigh’s birthday. I didn’t think it would be quite as magical if she didn’t believe but, because she does, it will be all the more special.

IMG_5694What do we do after Christmas? Should we tell her the truth or let her come to her own conclusions?

I was concerned about her being bullied or laughed at for still believing and she admits that she has had some girls laugh at her at school but stuff like that just washes over her. She has always been fiercely independent and believes what she wants to believe, never influenced to follow the crowd. Who is therefore being harmed by her continued belief?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether we should break the news to Ashleigh or let her find out when she’s ready, no matter when that might be. I know what I think but I’m curious to hear your take on this first 🙂

Hope you have a fabulous December.

Jessica xx

 

What’s in a Character Name? #GuestPost Jessica Redland

I was a guest on Samantha Henthorn’s blog this week, talking about the inspiration behind my character names

Samantha Henthorn Finds The Right Words

This time last month, I promised to bring news about novels I had read as part of my creative writing degree. However, I am unable to share my thoughts with you until they have been marked by my tutor – don’t want to be giving my best stuff away – it’s getting serious. As an alternative, I thought, I’ll write about a beautiful book I’ve read recently. The Secret to Happiness by Jessica Redland – then shut the front door! Jessica Redland herself, one of my favourite authors only goes and volunteers to guest post!

Over to Jessica;

Jessica May 2019 MAIN

I believe that the genre you write very much influences the choice of character names. An author of sci-fi or fantasy stories is very likely to pick unusual, quirky names or, more likely, make them up themselves. An author of historical novels is going to need to do their research and draw…

View original post 1,381 more words