Monday, 6 November 2017

Why I Love Warkworth

I basically love everywhere up North but a sleepy little town in Northumberland truly holds my heart.

I'm not sure when I first went to Warkworth. I suppose it much have been on a school trip to see the magnificent castle or the World War II defences on the beaches.

But I know that I love it.

I try to go as often as I can, despite it being a bit of a trek. I have to first journey into Newcastle before heading back North for an hour on the bus.

But I love it so much that at least once I year I pack my bags and stay for a week or a long weekend, and below are some of my favourite places, both to visit and to stay.

Favourite Places in Warkworth

The Castle
It goes without saying. Even from miles away you can see the tall, proud ruin standing out against the landscape. I loved the tranquillity, the views, the shadows and the surprises. I love how huge it is, a true stronghold.

It's owned now by English Heritage so there is a charge to get in, but there is a free audio-tour (I get it every time even though I know it by heart) and the staff are so amazingly friendly. When the weather is nice they will even lend you a blanket for picnics (and considering the blankets are £60 to buy from the shop this is a massive trust exercise).

I make sure to come here every November and do my Christmas shopping. This little gem is the most amazing place. Everything they do is to make you feel special, and for gifts it is amazing.

They box everything in luxe boxes with tissue paper and ribbons and it feels so exclusive. But everything is incredible value for money. Despite coming out with bags full of beautifully boxed jewellery and accessories I have never spent more than £40, and that's gifts for my whole (huge) family.

Hotspur Cottage
This is my absolute favourite place to stay. It's a little bolt hole for two with the comfiest bed, a luxurious welcome basket of local produce, and the cosy feel of home.

Sometimes when you stay away, you can feel exactly like that - Away. But here I always feel welcome and wanted, the atmosphere is incredible. It is probably smaller than your average static caravan, but it is luxurious and filled with every convenience. And it's dog friendly.

The River
Even if it's pouring with rain, sideways from the howling wind (we're on the coast) I love walking by the river.

I have my perfect, one hour route where I slowly walk from the castle to the newer part of town, then down to the hermitage, then along the river and looping around the village until I'm back where I started. I love the wildlife I can see, from salmon to seals  to otters to all manner of birds.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Disease Modifying Drugs (MS Diaries)

Today I am starting treatment for my MS.

I have met with my MS Nurse twice since my diagnosis last month, and after lots of research and reading I was pretty set on which way I'd go when it came to Disease Modifying Drugs (DMDs).

So what are Disease Modifying Drugs?
DMDs work with different parts of the immune system to reduce the inflammation caused by MS to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This helps reduce the number and severity of relapses. 
Source: Multiple Sclerosis Trust
Basically - they're a big thing and it's a big decision.

I settled on Tecfidera, as I feel it would suit my lifestyle well. Plus it's a tablet and not a needle, unlike 75% of other Multiple Sclerosis treatments. And if you know anything about me you'll know I don't like needles.

Tecfidera does come with some side effects, and my nurse gave me a "cheat sheet" of tips and tricks to help reduce them, so we will see how that goes.

One thing I will be doing is tracking everything. So I have bitten the bullet and invested in a dotted notebook, and I am starting a bullet journal to track my dose, when I take it, what I take it with, what side effects I have. Everything.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A Beautiful Ballet

Northern Ballet's The Little Mermaid

Theatre Royal, Newcastle

7.30 pm, Tuesday 31st October 2017

Tickets from £14.50

One Word

Before It Started
I am a wonderful daughter, and I love to treat my mum. This was the third ballet we had been to, and her first with a live orchestra, so we were very excited for a fantastic night. Dinner then the ballet.

Unfortunately traffic was hectic and it took more than twice as long as usual to get in to town, so we didn't have time for dinner. What we did have time for was a quick drink at Lola Jean's down the road. We'd never been in the Newcastle Lola Jean's - only the Tynemouth one which we love - and we were very impressed by the service and the decor.

After our pre-ballet drinks we trotted around to the theatre, and while it was a little busy in the foyer it wasn't too bad and it was easy enough to get through the people.

First Impressions
Straight to the stalls bar to order our interval drinks! With a full bar and only two staff, service was a little slow, but the staff were lovely when they did serve us, and we got a bottle of wine to share at the interval, which would be waiting for us on a

Then to our seats - and boy had I picked some good ones. The only down side was someone who was easily six foot tall sat directly in front of use. We're both short enough to have to shop in the Petite section so it's always a bummer when someone super tall blocks the stage (or screen or view, tall people step back please!).

The Main Event
I was lost for words, completely speechless. It was so amazingly beautiful.

I always expect something wonderful from Northern Ballet, and I try to see them whenever they come far North enough (hint: it's never enough, and I'm still bitter Casanova didn't come up Proper North). And I was in no way disappointed.

From the music to the dance, the whole performance was exquisite. Watching, I was completely lost.

I love how the story flowed, how the narrative behind the dance undulated, changing pace like the sea in which it was set.

The choreography changed throughout, the style changing almost imperceptibly as the story moved from sea to land. The personality of each character shone through.

It exceeded our expectations, absolutely blew us away. It was a wonderful night and a beautiful performance.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Time for a SCARE!

Little Cat Theatre's Scary Tales at Tynemouth Priory

Tynemouth Priory

6 pm, Thursday 26th October 2017


One Word

Before It Started
To get there in time we had to go straight from my work to Tynemouth. My dad picked me up with my mum, and we had originally planned to drive through Seaton Delaval then along the coast via Whitley Bay, but there was an accident on the Avenue and we had to detour through Holywell and Earsdon and skip the seaside drive. Luckily we made it just in time!

First Impressions
There were more people queued up than I was expecting. It was as I rooted around in my bag for my ticket that I realised I had left my print out at home, but at the gate they just asked for names before letting my mum and I through. Then we waited for a little while, everyone taking in the amazing sunset and watching boats come in to port, taking pictures of the Priory and Castle against the darkening sky.

Just before 6.15 pm, the guide gathered us all round, explained the dos and don'ts. Unfortunately no pictures was one of the rules, so I had to tuck mine away. And then we were off.

The Main Event
Going between the points of this interactive performance was at a bit of a pace.

First stop was the gatehouse, and it was straight into the action. One of the performers greeted us and asked for a brave volunteer. Naturally it was a seven year old girl who rolled her eyes at the older (and considerably more scared) boys and stepped forwards. She was so brave, as it was not getting darker, the guides has torches out, and we were stepping into the confines of the gatehouse.

The mini-performances across the site were a mix of all sorts. A bit of loud scares, silent creeps and dark figures. There was so much drama and conviction and honestly it felt so real at parts.

There was one part where my mum and I both ended up in silent hysterics. We didn't mean to, but it always seems to happen when we do something like this. Huge, creepy, heavy-breathing, imposing shadow guy is staring my mum down and she starts sniggering. So he moves on to me. And I ended up burying my head in my mums shoulder to stop from laughing out loud. It's the kind of behaviour you'd expect from someone who'd had a drink, but we were stone cold sober.

The walk led us around some parts of the Priory I have previously been to, other parts I have not. But as it grew steadily darker, suddenly I was in a completely different place.

And yes, I was creeped out.

It was fantastic. I'm not sure quite what I was expecting but this was excellent, and would be perfect for families. I can't wait until my nephews are both old enough to take in future.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

It Only Happens in the Movies Party

Holly Bourne’s It Only Happens in the Movies Newcastle Party with presenter and author Katie Thistleton

Waterstones, Newcastle Upon Tyne

7pm, Wednesday 25th October 2017

£5 - redeemable against a copy of the book on the night

One Word

Before it Started
As usual on a weekday, it was a race against rush hour traffic to get in to town from work. I ended up texting ahead so a friend could get me a cuppa before the cafe closed, as I knew I wouldn't make it in time. A group of Northern bookworms were going and we'd arranged to meet a little ahead of the event to chat books, look at books, buy books and generally be around books. Because that's what we do. And also we wanted good seats.

First Impressions
We were super early for the event itself, so once we were down in the basemnet we unloaded coats and bags onto seats to reserve them and launched ourselves at the YA section. It was pretty quiet so early, but even then we were a few rows from the front as there were some people more eager than us. It did quickly start to fill up, so I purchased my copy and we all took our seats, stopping to grab some juice (I went for the cranberry).

The Main Event
It was pretty packed when the event started, there were very few empty seats and even the hot seats on the front row were taken.

Confession: I did't know who Katie Thistleton was. But by the end I had an idea and her own book, Dear Katie looks excellent.

There were hilarious conversations around the book, the general themes, how Sheffield isn't Proper North, whether characters should be kissed, married or killed... And all of it had everyone in stitches.

This is not to say that there wasn't a serious note to the event. With the subject matter of the book there was a lot of tearing down of the patriarchy and girl power and discussion of what is right and what is harmful and how the world sucks for women but it can be changed. I loved the discussion of bad romance, and how a lot of "romantic" tropes are terrifyingly harmful, and Holly Bourne's own background working with teens who experienced this made me want to cry.

There were some games like film trivia, Kiss-Marry-Kill and questions from the audience to wrap it up. I think everyone tried to wheedle something about Floored out of her, but her lips were sealed.

After the main event itself it was book signing time and there were goody bags! Inside was some cinnamon popcorn (a reference to the book) a fan, a 2018 sampler and an advanced copy. Unlike previous events (perhaps because Newcastle tends to be last on the list) there were only two books to choose from. I ended up with The Unpredictability of Being Human, but looking back I kind of wish I'd gone for Orphan Monster Spy.

In the signing queue I got a post-it note with my name on and at the signing table I just squealed as Holly Bourne signed my book because she is amazing and I was pretty much overwhelmed by that point.

It was so much fun! There was so much laughter and joy from a full house of bookworms, and I got to hang out with some fantastic people. I left feeling so happy and empowered and with a fantastic book in my hands.

Only when I opened it on the bus I realised my name was spelled wrong, despite the post-it.