Gateway Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's Star WarsThis arrived yesterday.

It might seem like a bit of a silly novelty, but it’s extremely well done – the Star Wars (Episode IV) story told in Shakespearean style.

Ian Doescher, the writer, has had something of a genius idea for helping people understand Shakespeare, as I realised when Millie got home from school yesterday.

It was just Millie and I at home (Amber had gone to her friend, Izzy’s, for tea). So, knowing her love for Star Wars, I showed her the book and suggested we “perform” some of it.

I thought she’d soon get bored and maybe not be able to follow the language, but because she already knew the story well the language wasn’t really a problem. Sure, I had to help with some of the archaic words and explain what a “Chorus” was, but we stood in the kitchen and “performed” for a good 20 minutes.

Millie did a very good R2D2 and Rebel Captain, and I did my best switching between C3P0 and Darth Vader, and both of us laughed, which was lovely.

And I hope we can do it again when we have some free time. I think it’s a fantastic way to introduce Millie to Shakespeare. If she can become familiar with the way he writes by following a great story she already knows well, it’s a relatively small step to understand and enjoy his other works.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is “gateway” Shakespeare – an entrance point to more, harder Shakespeare.

I wish we’d had this when I was younger!

East London zombies

wpid-wp-1429514732410.jpegwpid-wp-1429514752539.jpegOn Sunday I popped out to be chased around East London by zombies, and this happened.

It’s not the kind of thing I expected to return to having escaped the dread hordes of screeching, clutching undead!

(it was all the more disconcerting because the girls look a bit zombie-like with all that stuff on their faces).

But never mind my continuing battles to raise feminist consciousness – what about the zombies??

My friends Si, Jo, Lutfah and I went to East London to take part in The Generation Of Z, a live action immersive theatre sort of thing: 60-odd minutes of being chased, scared, shouted at, shot at and threatened with imminent death by an enthusiastic collection of mad scientists, soldiers and – of course – blood-soaked zombies!

Herded into the basement of an abandoned department store in Whitechapel, a small group of desperate soldiers rescued us from a horde of “infected” before being overrun. We were forced to flee with them through the dark and bloody remains of a “rescue centre” to catch a transport to safety.

There were some nice set-pieces, the acting was mostly pretty good and you couldn’t help but flinch when zombies hammered on the door or popped up from behind some rubble. It was an hour of pretty ghoulishly good fun.

The hardest part was understanding my part in the drama: was I expected to do stuff? Would not participating affect the story? Could a zombie actually “get” me?

There was no introduction to explain this, and only after about 15 minutes (and being shouted at by a mad scientist for not paying attention and helping him!) did I get a sense of my role.

“Getting a sense of your role” when being chased by zombies sounds a bit silly, even to me, but everything became a lot more enjoyable once I understood what was expected of me.

You’re at a performance, obviously, but you’re on the stage, in the middle of it. It’s a cross between seeing a play and playing a first-person shooter computer game.

My only real criticism was the large size of the audience – much of the urgency and panic was lost as we moved between rooms/scenes. The soldiers did a good job shouting, screaming and opening fire on pursuing infected while we moved, but we still had to patiently queue behind 20-30 people to get through a doorway. More panic, more sense of pursuit and danger were needed.

My advice? Do smaller groups but do them faster.

The struggle with Dabs – Part 2

(see previous post if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about here).

and so it came to pass that the man tired of dabs’ silence and did call them on the telephone!
after a great time was the telephone answered and dabs did thank the man and praise his family.
“why hast thou forsaken me, o, dabs?” asked the man,
and dabs did sound very sad and called upon the man to reveal his order number.
and there was much listening to of hold music.
and after 42 days in the on hold wilderness Dabs did return to the man.
“what is thy question about thine order, man?”
and the man was somewhat flummoxed, asking once more: “when will thy courier arrive, o, dabs?
“i am desirous that my order be restored to thy sight.”
and it was the turn of dabs to be flummoxed, saying “thine order has not been returned to my sight, nor has any courier been sent.”
and the man did remind dabs of their promise to send a courier on the wednesday and on the tuesday.
and dabs did apologise, saying, we know not of what you speak – no courier hath we arranged for thou!
and the man did once more gnash his teeth and beat his breast in anger and frustration.
and gently dabs did speak to the man, promising the coming of a courier on the monday
and much forgiveness did dabs desire from the man, but forgive them he could not, saying only,
“well, let’s see if anyone actually turns up on monday, shall we?”

The struggle with Dabs!

dabs-comA shiny new 28″ computer monitor bought from has been sat inside its box in our hallway for almost a month now.

My struggle to return it has become EPIC.

Once, there was a man who ordered a 28″ monitor from the hall of Dabs, it being of a goodly price.
The man, knowing his abode would BE unoccupied upon the next day (a Tuesday) did speak to Dabs and asketh them to deliver it upon the WEDNESDAY.
Dabs pondered the man’s request and did decide he was a fool to leave his abode vacant upon a Tuesday, for this was when prophecy specified the monitor would be delivered!
And lo, at sundown on a Tuesday the monitor was presented to the man’s good wife, as she arrived home from toiling in the fields with her children.
And Dabs was greatly pleased with itself, whilst the man could only admit his foolish error in asking for a Wednesday delivery.
But lo, the monitor was found to be faulty and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth!
And so the man did read the website of Dabs and there learned how to RMA the faulty monitor.
Also did he learn of Dabs’ returns policy and commitment to customer service, such that all emails would be answered within 72 hours.
And verily, following the law of Dabs, the man requested of Dabs that they refund his gold and taketh away the faulty monitor.
And in reply Dabs did say…nothing, for 72 hours had not yet passed!
After 72 hours did the man return to his emails, and there didst he find a communication from Dabs.
And Dabs did thank the man for his RMA and heaped much praise upon him and his family and requested of him a task:
TO NAME a convenient day for the monitor, damned now in the sight of Heaven, to be collected!
And the man did give unto Dabs a number of days for collection and then did wait for the 72 hours to pass.
And once 72 hours had passed did another email from Dabs arrive, thanking and praising the man and his family,
But alas, the email was false! It did proclaim all his chosen days unclean in the sight of Dabs and did ask him to choose again – this time more wisely.
And the man did elect to stay home from his fields with his children to await the arrival of the Dabs Courier!
But there was much anger on the chosen day when the Courier of Dabs did prove false in his promise.
The man and his family were greatly vexed and did write to Dabs asking “Why hast thou forsaken us, o Dabs?!”
And once the 72 hours had passed another email was received by the man, giving great praise to him and his family and much thanks for his patience.
And Dabs did give unto the man a promise that the Courier would return on the very next day.
But great confusion was there because the Courier’s destination was not the man’s abode, but another house of unknown address!
With sadness of heart did the man beseech Dabs to heed his house number and postcode,
And with growing shortness of patience did he inform Dabs that no one would be home upon the next day.
But – foolish man! – the ways of Dabs are plain for all to know upon their site of webs, and he could not receive an answer before 72 hours had elapsed!
And the Courier did Fail to appear at the man’s abode – although possibly, another unknown house did receive His shining visitation!
And the man did swear a solemn oath not to use Dabs again!

Our friends in the north

My children are southern children, born and raised in the south of England. But I want them to grow up aware that the UK is a wide and varied country – in people, cultures and traditions if not in landmass. So, this weekend we all went to the very top-corner of England – and even further, to the bottom of Scotland!

Thanks to our friends Adam and Sadie for inviting us, letting us stay in their new home and making us feel all-round super-welcome.

We travelled up Thursday afternoon, covering hundreds of miles in just three and a half hours on the train, which was pretty impressive; and we came back on Saturday (because: cheap train fares) in about the same time.

Hadrian's WallI’ve put up a whole album of Cumbria pictures on Flickr, if you’re interested in seeing our adventures. We visited Hadrian’s Wall – which was a real treat for me, to see all that 2,000 year old history still standing – and Birdoswald Roman Fort, part of the Wall defences.

Despite it being April the sun was out and it was (mostly) t-shirt weather, so of course when we found a river the kids all wanted to go in for a paddle – and of course some of them got wetter than planned!16499009023_7b5b046d82_o

The next day we took the girls further north than they’ve ever been before in their entire lives – to the wilds of Scotland!

The Lovely Melanie and I have been there before, of course – on our honeymoon – but that was almost 15 years ago and to Edinburgh rather than the west coast, so it was all new to us.

The weather was MUCH colder that day (I put on every long-sleeved top I had!) when we stepped out at Gretna Green to see what all the fuss was about regarding elopement and marriages and so forth.

Welcome to Scotland!After Gretna we came “back home” to England, visiting nearby Carlisle, which was nice enough. The cathedral, in particular, though tiny by cathedral standards, is a gem, and our girls and Adam and Sadie’s boys, were happy enough on an Easter Egg hunt while we marvelled at the architecture and history.

I also got to see the McVities factory, too. Only from the outside, but it was a great moment for me, to understand where Digestive biscuits are born…

And then, after a whirlwind 48 hours, it was back down south to the nation’s capital – our home.

As much as I genuinely love the bold, open scenery of the north it’s not my natural habitat. I don’t think I could ever live there, and was glad to hear the Lovely Melanie say the same as we pulled into Euston station. 🙂

Easter at Eltham

Eltham Palace – a pleasant change from your usual English stately home.

Bought by the Courtauld family in the 1920s and extensively renovated to a classic art deco style, the Carter family went to see it in the 2010s. We enjoyed it all, from the brand-new adventure playground to the modest gardens. But it was the house itself that we enjoyed most: all those sweeping art deco curves everywhere, beautiful light uncluttered rooms – even an air-raid shelter!

17058590671_4df3758381_oThe girls could try on some of Virginia Courtauld’s clothes (none of Mr Courtauld’s clothes were available for me to try on unfortunately) and there was even a Rolls Royce parked out front, unlocked and unattended, which fascinated adults and children alike – until someone from the house came out to chase everyone out of it.

16851993667_d0055365cd_oBut not before we got plenty of pictures of Millie chauffeuring Amber!

In fact, this was the only real downside of Eltham Palace – the organisation. It’s only been open for a few days, after being shut for renovations for a couple of years, and they’re obviously still finding their feet.

Signs were missing, crowds tended to meet head-on throughout the house and some of the rules could be better explained. But these were small little niggles that I’m sure they’ll soon fix.

1920s chicIf you love your 1920s chic and architecture then Eltham Palace is a gem hidden away in an otherwise unpromising district of SE London (although, it is where Kate Bush grew up).

However, it’s easy to reach by public transport and there’s a good mix of things to see and do. In fact, we found it the perfect amount of things to see and do – a relaxing day where we nevertheless managed to see and do just about everything on offer.

Winning in Weymouth

It’s a quiet week here in Bexley – but an easy one, with the girls away in Weymouth with their cousin, Izzy, and  my parents.

Waking up Monday morning I was quite confused – should I get up now and go into work nice and early, or enjoy the peace and quiet in bed for another 45 minutes? Which train should I catch to work? What time did I want to get home in the evening?

All decisions normally made for me by having to take the girls to school then catch the next available train (the 8.59, timetable fans).

In the end, I compromised and caught the 8.34. Mind you, yesterday I went crazy and caught the 7.46!

The Lovely Melanie hasn’t altered her schedule one bit – she’s still catching the very first train in the morning.

Speaking of trains, we had some lovely news for Millie: her entry for a competition with Southeastern Trains, to draw and colour the station cat, has been chosen as the winner. Out of all the entries received across the Southeastern region!

Millie’s won a family day pass to travel anywhere in the Southeastern region, a family pass to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and a goodie bag of some kind.

Penny FallsBut she was more interested in her winnings on the Penny Falls in Weymouth when we spoke to her on Ooovoo her last night.

Sadly, we don’t have a photo of the winning entry; it was done on a school morning so there wasn’t really time. However, Millie put a lot of thought and effort into hers – as she always does with drawing and making things, so I’m quite pleased she won.

Amber’s effort was nice, but nowhere near as patient or polished – again, as always.

Millie’s talents lie in the visual and the written arts; Amber’s more towards the performing arts. 😉