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Well I think we can all agree that this week’s episode of Doctor Who was terrifiying. Set on a troubled space station, Oxygen saw the Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive to answer a distress signal. As if dealing with the space-zombies (dead astronauts being carried around by their smart-suit) wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with the lack of oxygen. Stressful stuff.

It feels like the Doctor has been travelling to increasingly darker territories since the show’s return in 2005. We’ve had everything from face-consuming gas masks to shadows that will eat you alive but it seems the show is still finding new ways to make us shudder.

Whilst Russel T Davies injected fresh new life into Doctor Who, it’s been Steven Moffatt who is responsible for giving it that chilling streak. Since the beginning of his reign we’ve had the Weeping Angels (terrifying!), Dream Crabs (bloody terrifying!) and the Silence (Oh good God, I’d forgotten about those!) – all suitably creepy enough to give us nightmares. But is this what Doctor Who is about? There’s plenty of criticism online that recent series’ have been too dark and scary for children and there’s lots of people who would like to see it return to its warmer, family-friendly roots.

Take Oxygen. I have to admit, I was freaked. The imagery of the dead astronauts stomping around the space station was effectively eerie, an image I can’t imagine many children will be forgetting in a hurry. But, to me, that’s what it’s all about. Yes, I like watching the Doctor travelling to different planets and having banter with his companions but I also like it when it scares me. When I’m still thinking about it as I go to bed. The Doctor lives a dangerous life and it does the audience good to be reminded of that. It’s not all Oods and Robin Hood. One of the most powerful sequences in this episode was the moment Bill is exposed to the vacuum of space. The peril felt real, aided by a great performance from Pearl Mackie. Bill’s genuine fear throughout the episode came across really well, adding to that feeling of unease as you watch from behind your cushion. Then, ofcourse, the suckerpunch of episode came as the Doctor paid a price for his adventures and lost his sight. Grim stuff.

It’s not just the monsters. We’ve been hit with a different kind of scary several times in recent series as the show has proved it can do psychological terror pretty well too. For example, the words ‘Don’t cremate me’ are enough to give you goose bumps. Doctor Who is able to show us just how awful our own world can be, because anything is possible in the Whoniverse, even the most horrendous of situations.

But should Doctor Who tone down the fear factor? Of course not! Classic Who is remembered most for being terrifying (if a little shoddy on the special effects) so NuWho is simply bringing that thread into 2017. It’s a rare breed of show that has a license to do whatever it wants, so it should always be finding new ways to scare us. The best episodes are the ones we’re stilling thinking about and shuddering days later. Doctor Who should always have the ability to send us diving behind the sofa.

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Drama and performance is a passion for me so I was really pleased when I was asked to take over the Performing Arts club. We’ve got a bunch of very talented and enthusiastic children this year, and they’ve been working super hard since January to put together a show based on (a topic of their choice) Welsh Myths and Legends.

We’ve seen everything – from costume confusion to corpsing to totally improvised dialogue! Now we’ve got two weeks left until the performance date. Rehearsals are going well but that anxious ‘oh-my-goodness-two-weeks-left’ feeling is starting to trouble me. We’ve got a child who doesn’t know how to yawn, a tyrannical barber’s wife and I’m having to give lessons in villainy at lunch time. The children have done a fabulous job at learning their lines so I’m not too concerned about that, but I am concerned about what I can do to aid their performance. They’ve worked tremendously hard – fashioning a story, a script and creating some brilliant performances – so they deserve the best support they can get. So it’s a shorter blog post from me this week, because I’m neck-deep in music-editing, prop-sourcing and set-designing.  Wish us luck!

A few weeks ago I had a burst of inspiration. I was adding to old material and creating new work for what felt like a whole week solid. It was just pouring out of me and I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) stop it. The last few weeks that wave of creativity has truly crashed and become a pathetic dribble of vague ideas, all due to that frustrating mess of distractions – life. In the past, when I’m struggling, I find I can take inspiration from music. I’ve said before that music is a large part of my life and, aside from the stuff I might sing along to in my car, I’ve got a bank of music I turn to if I want to jump-start a story in my head. Below are five of, what I think, are the most inspirational musicians for writing (as well as providing dramatic soundtracks for your day….or am I the only one who does that?)

Murray Gold – I’m a Doctor Who fan and Murray Gold’s soundtrack comes with a whole TARDIS full of inspiration. Tracks such as ‘The Master Tape’, ‘The Majestic Tale of the Madman with a Box’ and ‘The Rueful Fate of Donna Noble’ are awesome kick-starters for a dramatic showdown or fully-charged finale. A lot of Reset was written with Murray Gold’s series 4 soundtrack blasting in the background, particularly tracks from latter episodes. Not only has he composed some deliciously dramatic pieces, but his tracks, such as ‘The Dream of a Normal Death’, ‘Goodbye Pond’ and ‘The Long Song’ can also be beautifully poignant. I’ve used Murray Gold’s music to inspire my own work but I’ve also played it many times in the classroom to inspire creative writing (and the children always love it). It’s also worth noting that Gold has composed some wonderful incidental pieces for Torchwood, such as ‘Death of Toshiko’ which always makes me a bit damp around the eyes.

Scala & the Kolacny Brothers – I first heard their take on U2’s ‘With or Without You’ some years ago on an advert for Downton Abbey. It was such a haunting piece of music that I had to find out more, and I’ve since added their versions of ‘Use Somebody’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Every breath you take’ to my writing playlist. Nothing quite tops ‘With or Without You’ when it comes to sending shivers up your arms, though.

Michael GiacchinoLost was one of my favourite TV shows and, apart from the bonkers characters and quirky mysteries, I loved it for its music. My favourite piece of incidental music from Lost is ‘Moving On’. I love how it rises and falls, from soft and gentle to a breath-taking crescendo that just makes you cry! (It’s also great for calming down rowdy Year 6s, I’ve found). Giacchino is also behind some amazing scores from films such as Up and Jurassic World.

John Williams – Speaking of Jurassic World/Park, I had to include the film’s original composer, who created that iconic theme tune (and, alright, I may have been guilty of playing it at full blast as I’ve driven around Wales). Whether you’re into dinos or not, it’s really difficult not to get excited when the music swells. Of course, Williams is also famous for the Star Wars soundtrack, which is equally as inspiring for dramatic writing.

Alan Menken – Responsible for creating some classic Disney tunes, I had to include Menken’s work. Regardless of the catchy songs, Menken’s back catalogue of instrumental scores alone is worthy of this list. From The Little Mermaid to Tangled , Menken has created many breathtaking pieces of music. One of my favourites is ‘Transformation’ from Beauty and the Beast. (Close your eyes, have a listen and feel happy!)

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There are two inspirations for this week’s post. The first is a festive memory, so let me take you back to Christmas Day 2016. Picture the scene:

Christmas dinner has been eaten. We’re all crashed out in the living room, Grandad flicking through the channels with the remote control. He stops at a cartoon meerkat and warthog. It’s Disney’s The Lion King. We’re all enjoying watching Timon and Pumba through the fuzzy full-of-food-ness when my Nanna pipes up. ‘What on earth have we got this on for? Load of rubbish…’. Me and my brother are obviously horrified. It’s The Lion King! Although our efforts are in vain, we try to convert her. We explain that it’s a classic that we watched as children and she sighs ‘Well, you’re not children now. I prefer things for adults. So should you.’ (My Grandad took a lot less convincing and he was soon gripped by Simba’s saga.)

Alright, she might have a miniscule point but my argument is – children’s films can be enjoyed by anyone. Some of the classics might seem fluffy and sickly on the outside but they are actually works of art. Someone’s livelihood has gone into creating this piece of film. The superficial piece of fluff my Nanna saw is actually the end product of many people’s hard work, so to class it as unworthy of adult attention isn’t very fair.

Many children’s films carry very grown up themes and dark moments, especially those that have taken inspiration from traditional tales. Look at Hercules, for example, Meg sacrifices her soul to the underworld. In Robin Hood, the villagers are being taxed into poverty. In Pinocchio the orphan boys are promised paradise and turneImage result for pinocchio gif donkeyd into donkeys! Some of these tales can be pretty grim (Pun fully intended. I make no apologies). And anybody who doesn’t cry during the first ten minutes of Up is simply inhuman. In The Princess and the Frog, the Ray the firefly dies! That’s right, Disney heartlessly kill off a character and audience members have to just get over it, whatever age they are. I was twenty when I was forced to watch the characters of Toy Story 3 accept their death in the incinerator and the tears still dripped from under my 3D glasses. Of course, before that, we had The Lion King, where Simba is led to believe he has killed his own father and lives with that guilt for years before learning the truth. Dark stuff for children to handle but they do so all the same. It might give us a few nightmares when we’re younger but it armours us for real life. The world isn’t sweets and bubblegum.

It’s a fact that as adults we get bogged down by all the life-stuff like careers and relationships and paying bills, we forget to let our imaginations stretch. Sometimes, opening your mind to a fantasy film is the perfect form of escapism. Sometimes after a day of work, when I’m flicking through my on-demand movies, I don’t want a gritty thriller that’s going to make me think. I want something that’s going to be visually appealing, some catchy tunes and perhaps a bit of magic on the side. That’s when I’ll unashamedly head for the family movies section.

Anyway, now that I’ve shared my Nanna’s disgraceful lack of movie taste, the second inspiration for this post comes from my favourite Disney film *drumroll* Beauty & the Beast. As I child I was desperate to be Lumiere. I love everything about the cartoon from the characters to the music so I was so excited to see the live action version this week (my review – perfect. My favourite character was the wardrobe. I’m only disappointed the wardrobes in my bedroom aren’t as fabulous.) Watching the new version transported me back to my childhood but I could also appreciate it from another point of view. I noticed the new variations on the score, beautiful visuals, easter eggs and subplots – stuff I might not have spotted as a child. Incidentally, this new version included Disney’s first ever ‘gay moment’ and first ever interracial kiss. So, in the world of film, it’s groundbreaking. Not bad for just a kids’ movie.

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Alright some of the old Disney stuff can hardly be seen as feminist (Cinderella and Ariel both changing in order to get a man? oi vey!) but a lot of these films can give good lessons to both children and adults. If you look at some of the more recent films, realistic relationships and moral dilemmas are being explored more and more. Big Hero 6 has the main character dealing with death twice. Up explores moving on after the death of a loved on. Frozen has Anna and Elsa realise they don’t need to marry princes, and instead the focus is on their sibling-love for each other. Things still aren’t perfect but the movie world is making small steps towards sending healthier messages to our children.

So I suppose I’m saying don’t judge a book by its cover….OR a film by its poster. Films for children were made by adults and it’s important we acknowledge the end product because some of them are works of art. Don’t be put off by their label. Release your inner-child, let your imagine run wild and be free!

Oh, and never diss The Lion King in front of me.

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So it’s back. I always forget just how much I’ve missed Doctor Who until those opening titles of a new series roll out.  Series 10 kicked off on Saturday with the introduction of a brand new companion – Bill Potts. After the initial intro clip last year I wasn’t too sure about Bill. She came across as a bit too cartoony and goofy and I could see her being very annoying very fast. However…(wait for it….rare moment coming up) I was wrong. Bill definitely made her mark in her premiere episode – showing that she was an intellectual match for the Doctor and adding a fresh new dynamic on board the TARDIS.

Bill is a new kind of companion. She sees things from a view point we’ve not had before. (She even asks the classic question in a different way – ‘Doctor what?’) She is refreshing for many reasons but mostly because of her humanity. I loved Clara, but by the end of her run if felt like she was saying the same things over and over again. The same quizzical expression. The same sarcastic comments. The same sort of cutesiness. Bill is different. Bill isn’t afraid to call the Doctor out on his faults – which of course Clara was happy to do too – but I can imagine Bill doing it with a bit less sass. She’s honest, grounded and flawed. She’s just a bit more human! The ways she’s written comes across so naturally. Perfect qualities for a classic companion. Bill also had one of the best introductions to the TARDIS, with the lights slowly booting up as the camera pans out…..only for her to liken it to a kitchen (its’ true) and a lift (also true). In her first episode she experiences heartbreak as she is forced to let Heather go. Her strength, complexity and emotional depth in these scenes are promising. It’ll be interesting to see how her story unfolds…

One thing that did stick out as odd was the re-appearance of Nardole. Nardole seems to have just…happened! Probably due to the large gap between his introduction in the 2015 Christmas special and his more recent appearance last Christmas.  Nardole just doesn’t quite seem to work yet. Still, I’m hopeful a satisfying explanation as to why the Doctor has him sticking around will be revealed as the series rumbles on. Though at the minute it does sort of feel like Moffatt is keeping him so he can kill him off in the finale (he’s promised it will be a ‘bloodbath’.)

The Pilot demonstrates one of the shows keys themes – regeneration. Doctor Who has the gift of being able to overhaul everything once things start to get a bit stale. It’s great to keep things fresh and allow a ‘stepping on’ point for new viewers….but what about old viewers? Doctor Who has gone through a lot of changes over time, particulary since it’s return in 2005, and next year will see the show have a new Executive Producer, a new Doctor, a new look and possibly a new companion. So did we really need this new revamp so soon? Sometimes the constant changing between series’ can be off putting to those who want to immerse themselves into a story they have already invested so much in. It can be a bit frustrating when the reset button keeps being pushed. Take Capaldi’s Doctor, for instance. This is only the beginning of his third series and he has transformed so much. He’s gone from grouchy and dangerous to a wise old grandfather figure. What happened to the snarling beast Moffatt promised after Matt Smith’s regeneration? I’d have liked that process to take a little longer, to have really been explored. It’s a shame this is to be Capaldi’s last series as his Doctor hasn’t really had much chance to shine.

So, overall a good opening episode but I’m hopeful for a bit less re-booting and a few more references to the show’s history in future episodes. Having pictures of River Song and Susan on the Doctor’s desk was a nice touch. The new TARDIS dynamic is going to give us some interesting moments in the lead up to Capaldi’s exit. I think it’s gonna be a good one.

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In my classroom, the word ‘No’ is used a lot. Never in an unkind way, but regularly throughout the day will I find myself saying ‘No I can’t do that for you.’ Alright, when a child is making an awful mess of gluing work into their books or tidying the role play in the way I don’t like, it’s bloody hard not to interject, But then I use the ‘no’ on myself to remind me that they need to learn.

In year one, it’s very easy to take over. It’s easy to do everything for the children. They do need more support than the juniors, obviously, but it’s so important to find the right balance between helping and hindering. It might sound cruel, but they need to learn to do things for themselves.

It’s a sad fact that the world we live in is not fair and not kind. Whilst I aim to make the time in my classroom a happy one, I don’t hide from the children the fact that things don’t always go the way we want them. I think some people might be guilty of over-protecting children from that fact.

For example, a friend of mine works in a school and is in charge of the football team. When choosing a squad for a match, he was faced with a backlash of complaints from parents of the children who didn’t make it. This made his job impossible. How was he going to please everyone? There more children wanting to play than there were spaces on the team. He couldn’t please everyone, so he chose the players who would work best in the team. Parents complained that their child hadn’t made it and took their anger out the teacher, who was only really doing his job. It’s sad that not everyone could get on the team, but it’s an unavoidable fact. Here is what should have happened – the opportunity should have been taken to explain to that unlucky child that although they didn’t make the team this time, there would always be other times, and if they continued to try hard, they’d get their chance.

When I was younger, I was part of a theatre group and there were occasions when I didn’t get the role I wanted. But I got over it. I told myself that next time might be different and I got on with it. I always ended up enjoying the part I was given. I needed to be told ‘No’ to learn and develop a stronger resistance to disappointment. My parents didn’t know I was disappointed and certainly didn’t march down to the theatre to have it out with the director…..and I’m bloody glad they didn’t!

When applying for post-grad courses at university I was rejected twice and had to spend a further two years in a part-time job that I despised. At the time it was the end of the world for me but as time ticked by I stopped seeing it as a failure and more of a learning curve. I worked harder on future applications, clocked up a lot of voluntary experience and did my research. I’ve achieved that goal now, and it might have taken me a bit longer than I planned, but I believe I’m better off for the setbacks. I appreciate my position more because I know just how hard it was to get here! I could have thrown a tantrum and given up. But I didn’t.

The children in my class know that the world is not perfect but they’re still very happy children. I think one of the kindest things you can do for a child is armour them with steely determination and resilience to disappointment. Not through cruelty, but by allowing them to grow, be independent and foster a realists view of the world.

I’ve always fancied writing about living in London. I tried to do it once when I dabbled with a sequel to Reset but the whole thing fell flat because….I’ve never lived in London! How could I write about something that I don’t have a clue about? I don’t know street names, hidden locations, shortcuts. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up there every day. To have my faced pushed against a tube window during a morning commute. To dash through the rain and streetlights in the middle of the night. To sip a drink in the shadows of a bar. I don’t know what it’s like to live in London. So I couldn’t possibly write about it.

It might sound like an obvious idea but this lesson has taken me a long time to learn.

When I was growing up my projects usually focused on characters in a theatre group or at school, because that’s all I knew. I didn’t click at first, but my projects all had similar threads. Reset is based in Cardiff because I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years. After Caitlyn focuses on a toxic friendship and the repercussions it can have. Alex’s story is about the struggle to find your place in the world. The strongest threads come from my own knowledge. Naturally.

A few weeks ago something happened and the more I thought about it the more I felt the need to write it down. I started with this tiny incident which grew, and is still growing, into a full story. I’ve got a character who is becoming more and more real and situations which I think are running very natural courses because the initial basis of the story is truth.

I’m sure it goes without saying that the best writers are those who have lived through pain and truly experienced life. It’s no wonder I’ve been getting so frustrated with my ideas, feeling like they’re old news, like my imagination is drying up. I’ve used up all my stock. How can I write about different cities if I’ve never visited them? About life experiences if I’ve never experienced them?

The message is to write about what you know. And if you don’t know it, go and find it.

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You know I love EastEnders. I’ve had a run for at least four years where I haven’t missed an episode. In the days of the Lucy Beale Saga I was even known to watch episodes twice in case I’d missed anything. Bordering on pathetic, I know, but this heart only beats for one soap and that’s Easties.

However, those days of double viewings are long gone. Since the autumn, it’s hurts me to say, EastEnders has been a disappointment, with the only bit of real excitement being the soon-forgotten bus crash. Gone are the firecracker episodes of recent years (the live episode, Sharon and Phil’s wedding, all the Carter chaos, Claw-dette and the aftermath of Paul’s death to list just a few), instead we’re left with pathetic, half-arsed sighs of episodes, like the writers have actually just given up. Lazy writing, boring storylines and character personality swaps – here’s just handful of reasons I think EastEnders is going wrong!

  • Ronnie and Roxy – I’ve already written about this but still….What the HELL?! Four months later and I’m still not over it. Two of the most iconic characters played by very skilled actresses bumped off in a very (ahem) damp storyline. Ronnie and Roxy deserved so much more than a hastily written exit clearly fashioned to grab cheap ratings. Please, EastEnders, let it all be a dream and just bring them back!
  • Mass Character Culling – it’s not just R&R who have been victims of an over-hasty axing. It seems to be the strongest characters who have left suddenly over the past few months. First, Pam and Les, a couple representing everyday folk, suddenly shoved in a taxi and sent off to Worthing. Then there was Claudette, a fiery matriarch with so many secrets yet to be uncovered. She had one hissy fit with Patrick and disappeared into the night. And don’t even get me started on Babe, who gave her finest performance yet in her last episodes. (I think I’m going to start cursing people too). That’s before we even mention Lee and Belinda! Jeez, Easties, get a grip!
  • Boring newbies – I’m talking about the teens. Stereotypical and dull. Teenagers don’t talk like that. It makes me cringe every time. Stop it, EastEnders. Stop it now.
  • Pointless returns – I am all for a return, especially if it’s an unusual one, such as Yolande or Derek, but what I don’t like is characters who are brought back for no reason. Yolande hovered about for a couple of minutes before disappearing back into the ether. WTF. In previous years we’ve had some fantastic surprise returns (remember Anthony when Patrick had a stroke? Rainie Cross revealing a secret bunk up with Ian? Morgan and Tiff for Whitney’s wedding? Not to mention Kathy. KATHY!) all of which have had a purpose and been really effective
  • Dull storylines – One word. Bins. Need I say anymore?
  • Mick and Whitney – The whole ‘will they, won’t they’ thing with Whit and Mick has been ridiculous. We all know Mick would never cheat on Linda, they’re the most solid couple on square. Stop trying to force this one on us, scriptwriters, it’s not working.
  • Ben and Johnny – Oh I could write a whole post about this one! Ben and Johnny have been mates for years, barely a hint at romance. In fact, years ago, when Johnny had a different face, he rejected Ben and that has sort of been the basis of their friendship since. Until last week when all the other characters suddenly and fleetingly decided they were ‘meant for each other’ (and kept repeating it throughout the episode just to really shove it down our throats). Of course, by the end of the episode they were in bed together. Because, of course, gay men can’t be friends, they always end up shagging their mates. *massive eye roll*
  • Pointless, slapdash storylines – the bus crash – no aftermath. Ronnie and Roxy’s deaths – pitiful aftermath. Johnny and Ben sleep together – agree to be friends again at the beginning of the next episode. Denise’s mum casually reveals she was adopted as she’s getting in a car to leave – barely mentioned again. On times it feels like the story threads have been planned by a hyper-active cocker spaniel. There such a lack of direction or continuity that it makes you think this new producer hates the show and is sabotaging it from the inside….
  • Michelle – It was very brave of producers to recast Michelle, and to an extent it has worked. It’s been good to see the Fowlers branch out a bit and perhaps, if a return of Vicky or Mark Junior was in the works, Michelle might stand a bit more chance of succeeding. So far her constant moaning and references to ‘the way mum use to’ do things is getting on my nerves. Though I must admit her special episode with Sharon was fabulous, full of witty, emotive dialogue. My advice – get rid of Preston, stick her with Sharon and bring in some of her kids. Oh, and let her carry on teaching.
  • Dreadful writing – I remember the days when the writing used to fizz and pop. With the exception of a handful of episodes, the writing this year has been pretty bland. Being able to guess what a character is going to say word for word is not a sign of good writing, and that seems to be happening a lot. We’re suddenly being subjected to a barrage of stock-phrases (‘poor kid’, ‘who does something like that?’, ‘Is this some kind of sick joke?’ *shudders*). Another hint that the writers have just given up.

There was a time when, if you’d have said I’d be writing such a negative blog about my beloved EastEnders, I’d have told you to sling yer ‘ook and get outta ma pub. I’ve tried so hard over the last few months to ignore the building negativity but I just can’t handle it anymore! This week has been billed as ‘explosive’ with the reveal of Michelle and Preston’s forbidden relationship and a rumoured disaster. I’m pinning all my hopes on it living up to the hype, with some powerful performances and possibly some surprises in store, because if it’s another disappointment, I might be giving Easties the duff duffs.

Right, it’s official. I can’t stop buying theatre tickets. I’m seeing six productions before June and already looking for summer productions. I’ve been keeping up to date with West End productions lately and I noticed The Harold Pinter Theatre has become the first to request that audience members do not eat or drink during its performance of Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Apparently Imelda Staunton, who plays Martha in the production, is very much against people eating in theatres and has cited it as distracting and rude behaviour.

I must admit, I’m with Imelda. When you think about it, it’s an odd notion. ‘You just stand there and speak and I’m going to watch you whilst I eat popcorn.’ As someone who has dabbled with treading the boards, I can imagine just how infuriating it must be to be mid-monologue, only to have the tension broken by someone opening a bag of Doritos. Imelda apparently said she can’t understand why people can’t go a few hours without eating. Again I agree. It seems to be the norm to see people piling into theatres carrying bags of sweets and crisps and whatever-else, but really they have paid for a ticket to watch the play. Not shovel Rolos in their mouths. In most cases people would have perhaps gone for dinner beforehand too so….why all the food? I can understand an interval ice cream and I’m certainly pro-water. The last thing the actors need is to put up with one of my unfortunately timed coughing fits so I always make sure I have a bottle of water with me.

Imelda’s comments reminded me of something I’ve often thought when visiting the theatre. Whatever happened to Theatre Etiquette? I’ve been going to the theatre since I was a child and I was always aware there were some rules. No talking being rule number one. But in some productions I’ve been to lately, people just don’t seem to care! They’ll gladly and loudly chat to their friend, sometimes about the price of the programme, sometimes about the view (or ‘I can’t hear what she’s saying! Can you?’) and is there anything more annoying than someone providing their friend with a running commentary? (‘That’s the brother she thought had died….)

Another important rule – Make sure your phone is switched off. I went to see Stig of the Dump at the Open Air Theatre in Chester last summer. One man in the audience was talking so loudly to the people around him that we thought he was part of the production! Then, just as the story was really kicking in, this man’s phone rang….and he answered it! Not only that, but he continued the conversation for a good two minutes before an usher politely asked him to stop…and he shushed her! I’m sure you can imagine the huffs, puffs and glares coming from our corner. Ooh it makes me furious just thinking about it!

Thirdly, and I’m aware this might be a personal preference, but I always thought of the theatre as a place you visit in your best clothes. I’m not talking tux and ball gown, but certainly smart/casual. I went to see Joseph last year and I was shocked at how many people had rocked up in tracksuits. TRACKSUITS! It’s also worth mentioning that at this performance of Joseph a bunch of people in front of me were singing along! Cue sighs, tuts and eyerolls from G. I prefer to save my singing for outside the theatre and let the performers do their job. I also prefer to shut up and allow the people around me to enjoy listening to the trained singers. Surely, it’s a mark of respect. These people are performing for us, putting themselves all out there and sometimes going through horrendous emotions. The least we can do is not dress like we’re going to a gym class.

I say bring back theatre etiquette. Oh, and next time you’re at the theatre, particularly if you’re sitting behind me, don’t eat, don’t talk, don’t sing and for God’s sake make an effort!

It’s Saturday. The high point of the week. The bottom of the countdown. I’ve been out to visit my family, as I do most Saturdays, and I’ve come back to the flat to carry out the traditional Saturday clean. I start in the kitchen and work my way through until every room is spotless. I feel like I can’t enjoy my weekend unless I’ve carried out this weekly routine. I check my phone at regular intervals. Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter. (No Facebook. I’ve mentioned before how I hate Facebook. In my opinion, it transforms friendships into cyber-friendships, and before long you’ve forgotten what this person looks like because you only ever communicate via memes of cats.)

On this particular Saturday, I’m feeling very perky. I’ve got my iPod plugged in and I’m belting out some classics as I scrub, because I am in a very good mood. Last night, I did something new. Something totally out of character that has recharged my batteries. Last night, I went out. Alone. OK, I didn’t go to a club or a bar, but I called in at my local theatre. I became a member late last year and have dropped in two or three times, so I vaguely know a handful of people.  On Friday they were having a bit of a get together so I got dressed up and strutted on over. It was awesome. Nothing major to report, but I was out, interacting with other people, face to face. Talking to people. And it felt good!

Don’t feel sorry for me. Put those tiny violins away, my friends. I’m pretty sure I’m just experiencing something a lot of people my age go through. The majority of my friends have moved away, got married, had kids, settled down etc. and I just…well…haven’t. No one is to blame. It’s just one of those things.

Anyway, I came back from the theatre on Friday with a great big smile across my face because I’d broken the routine. The monotony. I’d gone out!

Don’t think I sit alone in the flat every weekend. It’s not like that. I’ll occasionally go out with my wonderful work friends or visit the theatre with some old school mates, but most of my weekends follow the same template. There’s no spontaneity anymore. I never get a random text inviting me round and neither does my doorbell ring unexpectedly. That’s what I miss.

As a child, I remember how exciting it was to see the familiar car of a friend or relative who just thought they’d drop in for a cup of tea. That never happens anymore! I’m not just talking about in my own life but it seems to be a dying act. If anyone is going to visit you, you know about it, sometimes days, in advance. Is technology to blame? Has text messaging led to the death of spontaneous visits? Now I understand this isn’t for everyone. I would love it if someone thought to call in on me by surprise but I know my Dad hates having visitors, never mind unexpected ones! But it’s another arrow in my war against social media. Does it stop spontaneous visits? Even my grandparents tell me to call them before I visit to check they’re home (which I quietly refuse to do. If they’re not in when I rock up, I’m not bothered because I decided to visit them.)

It all boils down to my continuing argument – Does social media actually make us less social? Have we lost the art of being social?  Has the convenience of technology made socialising…well….inconvenient? And are we too caught up in creating false lives online that we forget to live real ones? When I was growing up I always imagined my life being a bit like ‘Friends’. People would drop in whenever, help themselves to my fridge contents and there’d always be someone around to have a coffee with. Now, I know that’s not really a realistic expectation, (and on reflection I’m not really sure I want you poking around in my fridge, thank you very much!) but it just shows how times have changed. Would Ross and Rachel be together if they met in 2017? This cynical sod says no, because they’d be too busy counting their Instagram likes to notice each other!

Anyway, here I am. Saturday. Hoovering the hallway, sink full of bleach water. Living room smelling like polish and incense. And then a sad realisation washes over me. Every Saturday I emulate my parents. When I was young, Saturday was the cleaning day. The house would be cleaned from top to bottom just in case anyone was to pop over. Twenty years later, I’m doing that in my own place.  Only, times have changed, and the doorbell doesn’t ring.

Bloody technology!