Category Archives: Fun

Try- Dry- Veg-

In the style of Only Connect (which I’ve recently begun catching up on, and Victoria Coren-Mitchell is just ever so fabulous), my post title today is a guess-the-connection challenge.

A fairly poor challenge, given I’m about to explain, but let’s ignore that for a second.

The context is -anuary. Or, January. As in, first month of the year (according to the Gregorian calendar), everyone is sad, everything is cold, and we all have to do work we’d forgotten existed for a brief time over the festive period.

How do we solve the January Blues you ask?

We create ridiculous challenges for ourselves, and give them silly nicknames, that’s what. Following on the heels of Steptember, Stoptober, and Movember, welcome to a whole series of bizarre things you can do in January. To caveat this post, I’m not doing any of these things – not for the entire month at least.

  1. Veganuary
    Ok, so I’ve gotten a bit involved in this already, accidentally. By having vegan friends. And by wanting to annoy the anti-vegan-sausage-roll-brigade because honestly, that just feels like fun. So far I’ve had vegan chili chips, and vegan mac n cheese, and I’ve not hated either
  2. Dry January
    I have donated to other people doing this. I have had a number of days where I haven’t had an alcoholic drink. But honestly, it’s just not that huge of a challenge for me since I don’t drink that much anyway, and why do a challenge that’s not a challenge?
  3. Tryanuary
    In an unexpected reversal of fortunes, I’ve started to see things around about ‘tryanuary’ which is where you spend this month trying new beer. Which honestly is probably more my speed, if only because the pub is probably warmer than my freezing house
  4. RED January
    Wear red in January for mental health. Not a terrible idea. Except that I don’t want to wear aggressive colours right now. I want to wear black, and possibly occasionally grey. I am all about improving mental health, but I honestly think people wearing red around me would be negative at this point
  5. Manuary
    In what I consider to be a slightly poor PR exercise, Manuary encourages you to grow a beard to raise funds for head and neck cancer. In Canada. In 2017. Which probably shows that I was surprised at how few January-themed “punths” there actually are.
  6. Janu-hairy
    Listen, you’re being silly now

So, I’m not subscribed to any of the above. It’s all a bit much for me, and I feel like launching Elevensanuary, which is where you’re only expected to be places by 11am, because the world hasn’t woken up before then. I think it’ll catch on.

525,948.766 Minutes

In 2011 I posted a different story with the title 525,600 minutes – in which I found that the song is incorrect in suggesting that is how one should measure a year.

This year, I have decided to measure my year in shows I have seen or participated in, because I figured it was probably a lot. But honestly, I feel like I’ve been writing for hours now, which I think shows that I potentially spend too much money on this stuff.

January
Aladdin – my first LIDOS experience, trying to shift book flats 3 times my height
February
Hello Dolly – supporting the MD, at the Alhambra
Rent – honestly, I only stayed for half
Marriage of Figaro – OperaSoc (who nailed it)
Madame Butterfly – Opera North
Un Ballo In Maschera – Also Opera North
March
Don Giovanni – I really like Opera North (also I got the keys to my house on this day, and my wonderful friend Lorna was the lead, it was amazing)
All Shook Up – Probably the best student show I saw this year
The Mikado – I helped build the set for this Leeds G&S production
The Pirates – Northern Opera Group resurrected this little-known show with a wonderful community cast
April
Salome – Dramatic and in the town hall
The Rileys – (it counts)
May
Orpheus in the Underworld – Another fab outing from OperaSoc, reminding us that #rushtonmustplaybass
My Favorite Murder live – My fave American story ladies told stories about murders and it was great
Hamilton – I HAVE NO WORDS
June
The Wedding Singer – high points of being in this show included being a hideous bridesmaid and “dancing in a club”
Guys and Dolls – more supporting of friends in their excellent ventures
July
Leeds Haydn Players – more friends, awesome music
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – watched this live-streamed to the cinema. Didn’t love the plot, but the set was AMAZING
August
Macbeth – visited good friends in York for an adventure to Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre
The Original Chinese Conjurer – part of the Left Bank Opera Festival, and I was lucky enough to host one of the cast
La Princesse Jaune – another Left Bank Opera show
Calcutta – the final Left Bank Opera show, by the fabulous ensemble Tempus Fugit
September
Joel Dommett – he made jokes about the theatre I built, but I liked him anyway
Sister Act – more talented friends, this time more than one in the same show
October
The Merry Widow – back to Opera North
Light Night – Leeds’ annual festival of light installations (worse in the rain)
Tosca – Opera North, but with the most insane set on Earth
Matilda – horribly talented children
The Dresden Dolls – one of the best gigs I have ever been to, or will ever go to
November
Left Bank Choir Festival – singing pretty music with a number of choirs from the city
Chicago – more talented friends (it’s actually quite sickening how many talented people I know)
Urinetown – comedy from LUUMT
West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra – more talented friends (plus fun locations and great music)
December
In The Heights – I only saw the tech run of this, and it was still incredible
Six – History meets Little Mix. I bought the album
Ross Noble – He says a lot of words, and most of them are funny, and many of them are chihuahua
LVM Winter Concert – The best thing I’ve done this year. Watch the video below. For serious.
Shrek the Musical – Birthday theatre to top off the year

I don’t “do” new years’ resolutions, but if I can continue the trend above next year, I think I’ll be pretty happy. I already have my eye on a number of upcoming community shows as usual, and I’m starting my year with another panto (Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs, come!)

Also next year I’ll try and write more. Maybe. Probably.

See you in 2019!

The Heart of Art

The two things I love the most in the world are the arts, and community arts.

The arts I love because they are the thing which makes us humans so unique. We create beautiful, thought-provoking, subversive things and then we share them with other people and that makes them happy, or widens their perspective, or teaches them something. And we do it out of sheer brainpower diverted into a huge range of creative pursuits.

I firmly believe art is one of the most significant things we contribute to the universe, and the fact that our government continues to devalue it, as does the world in general, is so painful to watch.

But that’s where my second favourite thing comes in, which is community arts. Because what is more pure than taking the arts, and making them for everyone. I worry that we will never reach a place where artists and their skill are truly valued (we still constantly offer people “exposure” or “experience” instead of “money” in the arts) but the beauty of community arts is that those of us who know the arts will never be our profession can still get involved. Singing, dancing, pottery or poetry, there are more and more community-led opportunities springing up than ever before.

Community arts, and community in general, is really important to me, because as our world declines into political chaos, there is less and less hope of the government ensuring that arts are any kind of priority (or welfare provision, or equality and inclusion, or really anything we care about and actually value, but whatever. Y’all wanna go spend our money on missiles, FINE. We’ll sort out our own stuff). So we have to do it ourselves. We have to create space and opportunities which allow everyone to get involved and access creativity which broadens their horizons.

There’s only one way it works though, and that’s if everyone gets on board. So, here’s the deal. If you have a concert, a show, a display or a workshop, let me know, and I will do my best to come. If you run a raffle or a fundraiser, I’ll buy tickets or buy in. And in return, you have to do the same with every opportunity you see.

Community arts is thriving, but it needs the community to be fully behind it if that is going to continue. We need an audience, we need participants, and we need supporters.

Things I learnt on my holidays

I’ve spent the last week in Northern Ireland, and it has been AMAZING. Other than the Giant’s Causeway I really didn’t know what I wanted to see, but I’m lucky enough to have a best friend with all the right knowledge, and a welcoming family to boot. So I couldn’t have been in better hands.

Here are the things I learnt:

  1. The Giant’s Causeway is totally worth it, but definitely go in a storm so that you can combine fear of being blown into the ocean with actually getting to be the only people on the Causeway.
  2. Northern Ireland is excellently provisioned with public toilets.
  3. If you want my money, just make a fridge magnet of your attraction (I came home with 3)
  4. Potato bread is king of the breakfast potato products.
  5. I can withstand gale-force winds.
  6. Rope bridges are fun.
  7. Safely make it across a rope bridge suspended above the tumultuous waters of the Irish Sea? Easy. Just walk along a promenade without throwing my own face at the floor? Can’t do it mate.
  8. I still know all of the words to “Unsinkable Dream” from the Titanic musical I was in when I was about 12.
  9. All of Northern Ireland is in fact Game of Thrones.

NI

Credit to the lovely Mr Gordon for photos containing me (because we all know I can’t take photos of myself on account of my tiny arms)

Secret Boudoir, Ultimate Man Cave, Apocalypse Bunker

If you haven’t watched “Amazing Interiors” on Netflix then I thoroughly recommend it. It has been a long day, but now I get to relax and watch a mad American transform a field of bunkers into luxury survival palaces, while a little Italian man expounds his love of faux-baroque design in totally comical French.

It does remind me, however, that I really need to do something with my house. Not that I haven’t done *things* since I moved in, it’s just I haven’t really got round to many of the fun things. I’ve repaired the roof (or rather a fully qualified team of people repaired my roof), I’ve had wiring checked and amended, and I’ve had meters installed. But that’s not fun.

The next plan is to sort out the kitchen. It needs a couple of coats at least of magnolia or cream, to brighten it up and to cover the greasy hand-marks left by my predecessor’s kids. I’m looking forward to getting my Cinderella poster up on the wall, though the fact that it is 5 and a half years since the show is a bit of a sore point.

Next, I’ll move onto the office, which is currently a very fetching shade of yellow. I haven’t decided yet what to do with it, so all suggestions are welcomed – it just needs to continue to house all of my many things, so I’ll probably be avoiding busy wallpaper and things (though there is one wall which is a contender for Marvel wallpaper – depending on quite how young I’m feeling on the day).

In the meantime though, I’ll keep watching Amazing Interiors and making plans for the madness I can inject into my tiny piece of land – maybe by hiding exciting graffiti behind every door, or painting all of the ceilings gold. The possibilities are endless.

Craft Corner

This week I have been *tired*. I mean it. Today I was basically a zombie at work all day. I can’t tell you a single thing I did (but I can tell you that I definitely did lots of work – hi there any colleagues reading this).

I’ve been that kind of tired where your body just feels a bit too old for your skin. Everything aches, my eyes can’t focus properly, getting off the sofa every evening to go to bed has felt like a trial.

And then, I got home this evening and suddenly had all the energy.

So, I made a pinafore dress out of all the jeans I’ve recently ruined. I ruin jeans fairly often because I have Thighs For Days. I think if I were body-confident and also 10 years younger I’d potentially describe them as thicc. Instead, I’ll just go ahead and describe them as “fairly stocky”. For a tiny little lady, I have quite a lot of thigh, and my cheap high-street jeans just cannot cope.

The big issue with women’s clothing (as we know) is lack of pockets, so I decided I’d make a dress out of all the bits of the jeans which include pockets. I chopped out a number of panels before deciding that really the only pockets I wanted to keep were the back pockets (sensible patch pockets without additional faff, basically). I saved the waistbands to make the straps, because they are already the right shape, and the buttons make for handy fastenings.

Ultimately, it’s not exactly the height of fashion, but it has pockets pockets pockets, and it’s dead comfy.  And having had absolutely no energy all week, I’ll take whatever results I can get.

(Not a professional model, or photographer, just to clarify)

Starter Pack

Straight out of 2014 (because I absolutely do not conform to trends/am always quite late to everything because of who I am as a person) I decided it might be fun to create a ‘Sally’ starter pack.

I honestly don’t know why, but it’s Sunday and I’m not really that interested in the football, so you’re welcome.

So now you know how you can get my life in just a few simple steps (which I know is what you’ve all been waiting for, you’re [doubly] welcome)

Elite Pastry

I tried to call this post “cake or death?” but it turns out I’ve used that one before. The problem with writing a sporadic blog over an 8 year period is that occasionally you have the same thoughts twice.

Also 8 years. Let’s just all take that in a bit shall we. I have been wittering on the internet for 8 years, and people have been reading it. I had 18 views today. From who? Who knows? It’s all very exciting.

The length of time I’ve spent writing this blog was highlighted to me today because one of my former colleagues graduated from her undergraduate English degree today, and it reminded me that I graduated from my first degree five years ago. Which feels like a mix of no time and just a huge expansive amount of time ago.

But Sally, wasn’t this going to be about cake?

Yes it was, but I sidetracked myself with nostalgia, you’re welcome.

For the uninitiated, I love baking. One of the greatest joys of owning a house has been the ability to bake almost every weekend, and sometimes mid-week as well. I bake cakes mostly, and buns, sometimes scones. I’ve yet to do bread, but have big plans for later in the summer.

I am ashamed to say I have not seen the most recent season of GBBO Professionals (I have sworn off normal GBBO since the Channel 4 move, but Creme de la creme was too good to miss) but I do plan on going back to it. I’ve seen all of Nailed It (if you haven’t then get yourself over to Netflix NOW).

But my new hobby and secret passion is watching baking montage videos on Instagram. In particular I’m a fan of an account called pastry_academy_of_elite (and no, not just for the name). The account reposts the most amazing baking, stunning mirror glazes, and just insanely detailed and beautiful pastries. As you’d probably expect really. I find myself just scrolling through on autopilot now, admiring all their beautiful creations.

As for me – some of my baking is moderately pretty, but there’s a way to go. All tastes nice though.

Things I learnt during show week

(Listicles are still a cool and popular format, right?)

  1. I am quite good at folding large numbers of costume bags
  2. In general life I am quite body-conscious and avoid showing skin if I can help it. But I will absolutely strip to my undies in the corridor of a theatre for a quick change and not bat an eye
  3. I still can’t dance.
  4. Dressing-room camaraderie is just lovely, and during a stressful week I could not have wished for nicer people to share a bench with
  5. There are levels of tired I haven’t reached yet, but dear lord I have been close this week
  6. Children are better actors than everyone, I’ll hear no more on the matter.
  7. Children are incredibly strong (or I am incredibly weak)
  8. Nothing beats a good pair of legwarmers.
  9. I am wife material, if your definition includes turning up in hotpants with cupcakes.
  10. Creative people can do amazing things with a few square foot of space and I am in awe of the crew.
  11. I want to do props for the rest of my life
  12. It is possible to do a choir concert and then 6 all-singing all-dancing musicals, but it is not advisable
  13. If you leave my parents alone for 24 hours they will completely re-landscape your garden
  14. I love theatre. I don’t understand how I forget this. It’s just brilliant. Get yourself down to a theatre and get involved (and if you’re a bit inept like me, find the friendly and inclusive people because it makes all the difference in the world).

The Wedding Singer was incredible, and I am ever so sad to say goodbye to it. I’m excited to revel in my free time of course (barring the two board meetings and two subcommittees I have this week) but I’m so excited to be part of a new community of people and I’m excited for the next thing, whatever it is. Probably panto to be honest. Remember the time I dressed as a fish for a pantomime? A story for another day.

LIDOS, it has been swell.

…and if you need something to do over the summer, can I recommend the fabulous Left Bank Opera Festival?

Left Bank Opera Festival

Left Bank Opera festival – 22nd-26th Aug, Left Bank, with Northern Opera Group

Happy

Happiness means different things to different people.

For example, to some people (Pharrell Williams), happy means feeling like a room without a roof. Some people (Pharrell Williams) have an odd description of happiness.

I think my definition of happy is a pretty standard definition. I feel happy when I see other people smiling. I like knowing that the people around me are having a good time, and that they have the things they need and that they are enjoying life. Sometimes (read: literally constantly) I help people feel happy by providing them with copious amounts of baked goods. Less frequently I give people hugs. Sometimes I make jokes.

Normally my jokes are terrible and don’t make people happy.

I’ll do just about anything though, to put a smile on someone’s face. It’s utterly selfish. I truly believe that we all deserve to get that warm fuzzy feeling of genuine proper happy, which is a little bit lacking in the world at large these days.

Sometimes I get caught by surprise by happiness, because it turns up in unexpected forms. Today, for example, I was thanked for a bunch of things I barely realise I’ve even done. It was so unexpected that I caught myself actually grinning (which is terrifying and I think we can all agree should be avoided). I hope that someone else got their happy from knowing how happy they made me. God bless all the happiness vampires of the world.

Given that this has taken a turn, it’s probably time for me to set my keyboard aside and go back to the other things that make me happy (my bed, netflix, late-night coffee) but before I do, please don’t forget that the best way to make me happy right now is to come to all of the things – as a reminder, they are:

Leeds Vocal Movement

Leeds Vocal Movement summer concert, 16th June, Left Bank

The Wedding Singer - LIDOS

Wedding Singer – 19th-23rd June, Carriageworks Theatre, with LIDOS

Left Bank Opera Festival

Left Bank Opera festival – 22nd-26th Aug, Left Bank, with Northern Opera Group