‘About Me’

Hi everyone! 

Welcome to my little slice of the internet, here you’ll find details on my performing and theatre work, writing and other interesting projects I get up to!

With this post, I’m going to try and lay out a few of the basics. Like a little map to me. Hopefully it’ll help you navigate your way around if you’re new to my site, (or even if you’re old to the site – hello to you too!)

I blog every Tuesday about a range of things, from my very wise and wisdomous tales and tips from travelling for work (Parts 1 and 2!), to reviews of shows, festivals, experiences and products I enjoy. You might also come across some of my creative writing, reflections on life as a freelancer and other stuff, like how getting married impacted my career.

So what ‘about me‘? In short, I live on a narrowboat with my gorgeous husband Ryo. (Get the answers to the ten most-asked questions about boat life here!) From the boat I write, plan, knit, sell, and develop shows and storytelling experiences – and more. I love my little freelance life, and I hope you enjoy reading about it!

If you can think of a way we could work together, or have a product/service/event you’d like reviewing, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact form.

I love hearing from you too – let’s make this thing go both ways! What did you think of the post? What would you love to read more about? How are you doing? What did you have for lunch? How’s your new puppy, do you have pictures, can I hold it, do you need a dog sitter?… and, er, so on! Feel free to drop me a little ‘hi’ in the comments section, I’ll read them all and may say ‘hi’ back!

If you enjoy the posts, you could click the ‘Follow Me‘ button below to make sure you hear all about new posts – and be the first to comment and share… you trend setter you.

Thanks for sticking with me, welcome to the site and have fun exploring!

Canal, Ducklings, Roar!

Welcome to my boat life and other freelancer adventures!

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Body Positivity, Losing Weight, and Mental Health.

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** This post is very personal to me. My numbers, measurements, timescales and goals are all very specific to me and not necessarily transferable or appropriate to you. If you want to lose weight, seek professional advice. If you are affected by any of the issues in this post please get in touch with the following organisations – Mental Health: www.mind.org.uk Eating Disorders: www.b-eat.co.uk.**

In one year, I have lost 3st 9.5lbs.

That’s 51 and a half pounds.

That’s 23.3 kilograms.

It’s two or three dress sizes. (Depending on where you shop – ugh.)

And I feel great.

I recently shared a pic of me ‘then and now‘ to celebrate my victory, and got a little heat from a friend who gently reminded me that ‘it’s not all about how you look.‘ I’m not saying looks are the most important thing, I’m not even saying they’d rank on my ‘top one hundred things that I care about most’ (we don’t even have a proper mirror on our boat), my friend had missed my point.

Well, I hadn’t made my point clear.

I’d failed to highlight everything I’ve gained with the weight I’d lost. It had been a huge journey and a massive feat of determination, motivation and will power.

For me, losing weight was never about the numbers. When they told me I weighed almost fourteen stone, I had no reference point for whether or not I was supposed to think that was a ‘good‘ or a ‘bad‘ thing (spoiler alert, it’s neither!). I hadn’t weighed myself since I’d left home, six years ago. When they asked me for a personal target, I could only shrug and say ‘Um… less than that?‘ I joined Slimming World with my mum as moral support. Although I knew that I had ‘chubbed up’ over the last few months (… years), I was all about body positivity, even though I felt anything but positive about my body.

BeYOUtiful. Be happy in the skin you’re in.

These were my mantras for my friends, family and fellow ‘bigger ladies’ (??!??) when they shared their doubts or insecurities with me. They were even the mantras I tried to tell myself. Because I do believe in them. You should be happy with the way you are, no matter what. If you decide to lose weight, it shouldn’t be to gain confidence in your looks, that’s got to come from within. It’s got to be more than skin deep. 

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I could smile for the camera, but I couldn’t feel beautiful.

But I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t loving myself. I was making poor choices that were coming from a bad place. I was punishing myself with food. I didn’t feel as though I deserved healthy meals full of nutrients and goodness. I knew it could shorten my life, but I didn’t feel as though I deserved to live longer. I was suffering from low self-esteem, low-confidence and some serious anxiety and depression issues.

Food was not my friend.

With one breath I was telling myself to be happy with the way I was. With the next, I was downing an entire family-size chocolate bar (or two, or three…) as a paradoxical punishment / pick-me-up for being fat and rubbish and of no worth.

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I had takeout pizza for dinner that evening. I laughed it off.

I was not happy with the way I was, and it had little to do with my size.

I would sometimes starve myself and skip meals because I couldn’t find the motivation to take care of those basic daily needs. I didn’t care enough about me to look after myself.

Being ‘big’ was symptom of a very unhealthy relationship with myself and with food. It became a treat, a punishment, a reward, a way of controlling myself, sabotage… I believed (and still do) in all the body positivity messages, but I wasn’t living them or applying them to myself, and to make things worse, I felt like actively trying to lose weight would go against those principles of self-acceptance.

That was my excuse.

I was wrong.

But things didn’t get better as the pounds came off.

With Slimming World, I was starting to develop a much healthier relationship with food. I rarely ate just because I was in a ‘low place’, I’d completely cut out using / withholding food as a punishment and I was filling my plate, and my body, with yummy nutrients that gave me more energy and a zing in my step.

However, give someone with OCD, a compulsive person, weekly weigh-ins and targets, and the result can be ugly.

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My excitement for hitting targets got muddled with a pressure I didn’t deserve.

On one Tuesday (weigh-in day) I weighed myself twelve times in an afternoon. This was ridiculous for several reasons, least of all because you’re not meant to weigh yourself at home between weigh-ins, but mainly because I was using my mum’s scales, where you could step off, then step straight back on again, and there could be as much as a six pound difference.

But mental health does not use your clear, sensible logic. Metal health creates a panic-attack of tears and the feeling of imminent vomiting at the thought of having gained weight this week, or not having lost as much as hoped. However irrational (I actually lost that week).

There’s no shame in a gain or a maintain.

This is slimming world law. They know that if you beat yourself up about it, then getting back on the wagon is even harder, and you’ll throw the whole day, weekend, or even week, away, rather than just drawing a line under it and moving on.

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When I was feeling low, I couldn’t see the positive changes I’d already started to make.

But I’m goal driven. And I’m a people pleaser. The thought of having my brilliant consultant, Gerry (all hail) , announce a gain in front of my new slimming world family was too much. I was putting myself under pressure that no-one would have wanted me to feel in a hundred years. Add to the mix an unhealthy dose of obsession and anxiety and we’re back to that twelve-weigh-Tuesday, with a hyperventilating Lyds on her parents’ bathroom floor.

But it did get better.

I had to reexamine why I was doing this. I could no longer pretend that it was just for mum. It also wasn’t because I’d recently been proposed to and was now armed with renewed motivation to ‘look my best’ (bleugh). It was for me. I had begun proving to myself that I was Capable. Strong. Willing, and able, to take care of myself and give me the self-love I deserved.

That journey could well include weeks where I lost nothing at all, or even put weight on. But I was working on a downward trend. A bigger picture. A personal crusade.

I’m not fussed too much about being in my ‘target range’ forever. But I owe a lot to the organisation that helped me reset my relationship with food, and my body, and me. Even when I was near the middle of my journey, when I still wasn’t as slim as ‘before’, I felt the most confident, and body-positive I’d ever been.

Now I am smaller than ever before. And I’m happier, and more confident, than ever before. But those two things are both separate symptoms of the same, much bigger, picture.

They are symptoms of me taking care of myself, eating fresh, cooking from scratch, loving food and relishing new recipes. They are symptoms of a me that is more caring, forgiving, and loving, of myself.

The new me.

The one that’s here to stay, regardless of size.

 

The Adventure of Instagram

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I mean, who doesn’t want to see cute doggo pics? #InstantWin!

 

Imagine that you’re explaining Instagram to your nan.

Who are we kidding? Your nan’s already on Insta, isn’t she?

Sigh.

Imagine I know less about Instagram than your nan. But you don’t need to imagine, because – I. Know. Nothing!

Someone said that ‘All the kids are on Insta, and all the old folks are using Facebook’… My immediate response was ‘Great, let the kids have Instagram, I’m happy right here.’ I’ve never really got the hang of Twitter (though I’ working on that), and LinkedIn is still a mystery to me (working on that too…) But I love Facebook, it’s how I connect with people around the world. I keep up with travelling friends and family, loved ones over seas… but… apparently, you can do that with Instagram too… who knew?!

My foray into Insta all started as part of my new initiative to build my online portfolio and readership. After taking a little online course with blogging beaut – Helene in Between, I read that I should be focusing on Instagram to help build my blog.

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Did she mean blurry pics of my dinner? … I don’t know…!

 

Aside from the business implications (if I can ever get my head round them…!), I also just wanted to see my friends’ pics as Facebook began to take a back seat….

Me: (Refreshing Facebook) When are you going to upload that super cute pic you took of us on my boat last week?

Them: I did it straight away, on Instagram.

Insta-gratification as my lovely friend (and Instagram pro) would say…!

There are still many things I don’t understand (Can you ‘share’ or ‘re-blog’ photos? Will someone know if I unfollow them? Should I always follow someone back? Can I ‘tag’ myself in someone else’s photo? Why can’t I tag Shania Twain? What’s an Instagram story? Can I have a secondary account with my Parties page?…) but, I’ll get there in time!

The general gist, as I see it is:

  • Take a pretty picture that you think people might want to see,
  • Either chose a nice filter, or tag #NoFilter to point out that you didn’t use a filter,
  • Caption it with something engaging, maybe include a call to action,
  • Hashtag it with tags that will help people find it based on shared interests.

I must say, I’m enjoying a good hash tag, caption and filter combo! Following Helene in Between’s advice, I’m (trying!) to create a cohesive and helpful feed that supports my other online presences too! So watch this space!

If you have any top tips on how I can get better at this world of filters, pics and hashtags please drop me a comment below!

In the mean time, if you’d like to see how I’m getting on, check me out on the app itself! @LydiaTabusa

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Prepare for a *LOT* of cheese….

 

How To Achieve All Your Dreams

(Don’t you hate those headlines that promise things they can’t deliver…?)

 

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Making it happen in my happy writing place of dreams!

 

Goals. Dreams. Aspirations. We all have them right? Whether you are in work or self-employed, or unemployed or ‘funemployed’ or part-time or a stay-at-home parent (who rarely ever gets the chance to actually stay at home…), or a full-time mum to your cat-children… you got goals.

I’ve recently been complaining to my husband that I’ve had no direction recently, just sort of bumbling from project to project and falling into things via chance, meeting the right person at the right time, etc.. He tells me that these things don’t ‘just happen‘ and I’m doing lots of things right, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be making more out of the time I have at this point in my life, free from responsibilities and ties, free to take chances, risk ‘failure’ and just generally experiment.

I’ve written before about how we live in a time where we can define what we ‘do’ just by doing it. We live with these great opportunities and resources for creating our own creative work. But this can be problematic without discipline and direction. How do you achieve those big ol’ pie-in-the-sky dreams? I’m full of ideas. Great ones too.

It was time to stop moaning about it.

It was time to do something about it.

It was time to make a list.

So I did. I made a list of all my big dreams and goals for the short and long-term future.
It was scarier than I thought, writing it all out in the open, with ink on paper (though, I have a special pen that rubs out so… how permanent is anything anyway…?)

I came up with a few steps to make the process clearer and easier. Here they are, (with more detail below). I hope they help you too!

Step One: Write out Goals.
Step Two: Work out time-frames and tangible ways to make progress to achieving them.
Step Three: Give yourself stretch goals, ways to take your dreams to the next level.
Step Four: Make a to-do list for today. Include one thing from your goal and dream list every day.

 

Step One: Write Out Those Goals.

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Rub out-able pen though…

Be honest with yourself, what do you want do achieve? Think big! For me, this included where I wanted my businesses to be by the end of the year, finishing my novel and, um, finally doing my tax return…!

Having it all written out is a great start. Put it somewhere inspiring that you will see often, like the beginning of a ‘get it done’ notepad, or on the fridge! Wherever it’ll motivate you!

 

Step Two: Time-Frames and Tangible Progress Markers.

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I love my supportive and self-affirming diary!

Thinking about your goals doesn’t get them done. What does success look like to you? How would you recognise it? Break down your success and how you would achieve it.

E.G. To complete my novel, I’m going to take part in NaNoWriMo next month and I’ve set myself recognisable, tangible, achievable word-counts and targets (and dates I’d like to achieve them by!). Those targets are written down on the next page, and I’ll be ticking them off as I pass them!

‘How would you eat an elephant?’ as my husband would say – one bit at a time. (A terrible analogy for his vegetarian, elephant loving wife…. Though to be fair, when he adapted it to ‘How would you eat a chocolate cake?’ my ‘ALL AT ONCE WITH MY HANDS’ answer wasn’t helpful…)

 

Step Three: Stretch Goals!

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The ever-changing landscape of my ‘desk’ on the boat!

When you’re crowdfunding online and you reach your funding goal, you often get the option to add a ‘stretch goal’ – what would you do with another few thousand, how would you take things to the next level?

Do the same for you goals. Finished the book? Publish it! Sequel! Franchise! Merch! I want to have my Party Business booking 2-4 parties a month. Stretch goal: 4-8 parties and hiring and training a second entertainer. Why not?

Sometimes my stretch goal is simply – make money from doing the goal. Turn that passion into provision!

Step Four: Work at it every day.

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To Do: Get apples, tidy living room area, washing up, write another 500 words.

You know those tangible chunks from step two? The ones we will recognise and can easily achieve? Do one a day. Fit them in around the ordinary and they stop being that scary and overwhelming. Your goals will be realities in no time! (One bite at a time!)

My to-do lists often have stretch goals. E.g. Stretch to-do: write 1,000 words, clear inbox, sort through that box in the living room…!

 

I’d love to know your advice and tips too! Let’s boss it together – comments below!

 

DISCLAIMER: Look, I’ve written this like I’m an expert, someone who has it all figured out and can achieve anything I put my head and heart to – because, why not? In true ‘fake it ’till you make it‘ fashion, why not just believe that you can, and maybe, you just might!

How to Survive the Tax Return

Oh forgotten friend,

Unknown, unloved and rejected.

Unkept, unhounoured and neglected.

The self-employed fear you. But today, this freelancer frees you.

Releases you from the imposing confines of the ‘To-Do List’, out into the sweet unknown of the ‘Completed’ list.

It’s me versus you old friend, today we battle once more ’till the end, when I’ll send you away, with a whoop and a cheer.

Until, of course, we do it all again next year.

Tax returns… Am I right?

I cannot be the only artist / creative / wishy washy freelancer who hates this number crunching time of year. Yes, I realise the tax year ends in April, and yet, here we are, September winding to a close, and I’m surrounded by envelopes, receipts, pencils, calculators (my phone), invoices (also my phone) and bank statements (seriously, where would I be without my phone?!).

Deep breath.

I have it easy, my (delightful) cousin is an accountant and endures my mahemic chaos once a year in return of socks, chocs and lots of love.

If you hold a similar disdain for taxes, calculating taxes, paying taxes and P45s as much as I do, here are five easy aides to get you through your tax return without eating your feelings or throwing yourself into a canal…

 

1. Procrastinate.

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Couldn’t find my receipts on Friday. Took it as a sign…

 

Today’s non-tax-return related activities include:

  • Writing a poem about how much I can’t stand tax returns,
  • Writing a blog about said feelings towards tax returns,
  • Food shopping,
  • Writing an extensive to-do list,
  • Visiting a friend,
  • An hour’s volunteering,
  • Planning the week’s meals,
  • Tidying the boat,
  • Calling clients,
  • Making plans with friends,
  • Taking bookings,
  • Scheduling meetings,
  • And making a list of all the things I’ve done that aren’t my tax return…

And that’s just today, I’ve been meaning to get this done since April. You want a tidy house and a well-fed family? Want to clear your to-do list? You get yourself a tax return to do my friend…

 

2. Embrace the British – Drink Tea.

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Virtuous minty goodness…

I don’t even like tea! And yet, here I am, with a cup of green tea with mint. It came about from the strong urge to eat my feelings, but being on Slimming World, I can’t do that. So I’m drinking tea and feeling virtuous. And bitter. I mainly feel bitter that my tax-returns have taken chocolate from me.

Logic is gone. Only tax-returns remain.

 

3. Pencil and Paper.

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Yes, taking a dance break was on my to-do list. Priorities people.

 

Good old lead on wood. Well not quite, but there is something to be said for getting back to basics. I have laid out all my incomings and outgoings on paper, written in pencil, on a separate sheet of paper for each month. This piece of paper then goes in the relevant marked envelope with all the supporting receipts. Old School Style.

Yes, why my cousin continues to offer me his services is beyond me too…

 

4. Appy Days.

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Pretty to-do lists and ticks motivate me.

Having said that, my phone (actually, my tablet, my phone has buttons and no internet access. Told you I like old school) … My tablet has a calculator for totting-up expenses; banking apps for checking incomings / outgoings; Google maps for working out mileage; Google drive where all my invoices are stored; and Gmail for searching project titles to try and work out from old emails what month I did something in, and in which month I was paid for it…

I’d be lost without the tablet. I’d be lost without Google and all its various products. Maybe Google would sponsor my tax return…. maybe Google would do it for me?

Probably not. Ugh I can’t stand tax-returns.

Did I mention?

 

5. Envelopes within envelopes upon envelopes.

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The ‘done’ pile…

 

Ages ago, a fellow tax-return survivor recommended that I kept a folder with twelve plastic wallets in it, each marked with a month of the year. Every now and then I should dump my receipts from that month in the relevant plastic wallet, then, at the end of the month, I could go through the wallet, organise the receipts, log my income and expenses and at the end of the year it would just be a case of sending off these folders to my cousin. This woman is a genius. Did I implement this life-changing system?

No. No I did not.

I have one plastic wallet, with a year’s worth of receipts in it. And no coherent record of the work I’ve done. So I get envelopes with months written on them, and spend half an hour to an hour every year thumbing through receipts and putting them into piles according to their months. Then I go through them, categorise them and list them on a bit of paper, tot up their total and write that down too. Then I go through all my email and bank histories trying to work out what projects I’ve done, when I did them, and whether or not the will to live is hiding under an unread email somewhere… Is that even necessary? I don’t know what I’m doing. I never have.

Thank goodness for cousins.

 

To conclude, if you are about to do your tax return. Don’t. Get someone else to do it. Stay on top of it throughout the year. Failing that, take a deep breath, clear your mind (and your living room, and your bedroom, and your car…) and then face it with a cup of tea.

You can do this.

I can do this.

We all can.

We are freelancers and the self-employed.

Hear. Us. ROAR!!*

 

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So. Many. Receipts.

 

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for getting through the mire that is tax-returns! Leave them in the comments below! Loved the post? Be sure to click ‘Follow Me‘ at the bottom for updates on when new things are posted!

 

*At the time of writing this, Lydia still had four months of tax returns to complete. But at least the blog post was another thing off of her to-do list….

 

The Globe Three Ways.

I’ve grown up loving Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Yes, my husband works there (proud wife brag) but my love for the project and what they achieve has been a long-time inspiration for me and my work – It was with glee that I agreed to see three shows in three nights!

Tuesday night I sat in one of the Globe’s benched seating areas and watched Much Ado About Nothing with my husband, mother-in-law and one of her friends (Shirley).

Wednesday night I stood in the Globe’s yard and watched Boudica with my husband.

Thursday night I sat in an Odeon in Milton Keynes and watched King Lear with my mum while my husband watched from beside the cameras in London.

Here’s how my different vantage points influenced my experience.

 

Tuesday – Much Ado About Nothing from the seats.

Much Ado, Mexican-style, at Shakespeare's Globe

Much Ado Ensemble ©Tristram Kenton via WhatsOnStage.com

Most Distant Experience.

Beatrice and Benedick are simply brilliant characters – sparring, sparky, fierce and, above all, witty. In a Q and A (presented by my husband, seriously, he’s great), when Beatriz Romilly (Beatrice) and Matthew Needham (Benedick) were asked which other character they would be in the play, they both said each other’s. You can’t blame them, the lovers dominate the production – if people aren’t talking to them, they’re talking about them (even though the action of the main plot line revolves around Hero and Claudio.)

Watching from the seats is a weird one. There is no spot on the Globe’s stage where you can be seen by every audience member, this incentive for the actors to keep moving brings energy and pace to anything staged there. As a groundling, you adjust and shift around to see better. Watching from a cinema, the camera operators and live-editors make sure you don’t miss the action. But, as someone sat on a backless wooden bench behind a pillar, you don’t have these privileges, and something is certainly lost.

Prices for the seats start at three times the cost of a groundling ticket, and in the Globe’s dedication to authenticity; the seats are as uncomfortable as they (probably) would have been in Shakespeare’s time. This virtuous feat of historical accuracy is not necessarily appreciated by the time the interval comes around, our bay became a stretching ground of groans and grimaces as people tried to regain feeling in their legs, backs, arms, core muscles…

If you can’t stand for three hours, the seats are a great way to still experience the show live, and meant that we could share the experience with Ryo’s mum and Shirley – especially with the knowledge that we’d be standing the following night! If you love being a groundling and want to see what life is like the other side of the barriers, it’s worth a go. But for as long as you are physically able, the yard has got to come top of the list.

Sat side-on and so separated from the actors means that there is not as much interaction or investment with the characters. As we rediscovered the following night, as a groundling, there’s no escaping becoming part of the play…

Wednesday – Boudica from the yard.

Gina McKee in Boudica. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Boudica ©Tristram Kenton via TheStage.co.uk

Most Engaging Experience.

For those of you who haven’t been to the Globe (fix that), the yard is where audience members (known as groundlings) stand right next to, and in front of, the stage. They pay a fiver for any show, and there are 700 spaces available. This is a direct replication of the experience of those going to see Shakespeare’s plays in their original productions, the cheapest seats in the house being without seats at all!

You get let in and go and stake your spot. For the first time, Ryo and I got close enough that we could lean on the stage when our legs got a bit achy.

The production was brilliant and bloody, and being in the yard means there is no escape, no detachment from the gore. When Boudica cut out the Roman’s tongue, the bloody prosthetic plopped delightfully on the stage, just centimetres from our faces. Where else do you get that?

As they roused the troops, the performers addressed the groundlings directly, implicating them, urging them to join the Britons’ cause against the Romans. As they walked, sung and carried torches through the audience there was no escaping the fact that we were all part of this gory revenge plot, whether we liked it or not (and we did!)

This camaraderie came to an explosive climax at the opening of the second act. If you’ve yet to see the show, skip this paragraph and come back after! Music, drums and singing had been expertly woven throughout the first act as we followed Boudica and the Britons to the point where they were just about to take Londinium. We had been encouraged to cheer, jeer and roar with the characters. We were onside with the brilliant Forbes Masson as the pacifying Cunobeline who captured the audience with apparent ease. So when act two started with Masson leading the ensemble in a rocking rendition of London’s Calling, the audience couldn’t contain themselves! None more so than the groundlings, who had suddenly, and unwittingly, turned concert-goers as they screamed, cheered and bounced along to the Britons’ march on London, courtesy of the Clash.

There is no substitute, or even comparison, for the experience of a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe. It’s a fiver. £5 guys. Take yourself to the next thing you can because it will be worth it.

Look, I love Shakespeare’s work, I really do, but this production was the stand out of the week for me, in no small part because of our proximity to the action. Energetic, fierce and fiery, it claimed the historic space as its own and took no prisoners along the way. (Literally. They all died. Spoilers…)

 

 

Thursday – King Lear from the cinema.

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O’Dair as Fool via shakespearesglobe.com

Most Comfortable Experience.

On Thursday night, I was part of history. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre had its first ever live-stream broadcast. (And my husband’s name was in the credits!!!) King Lear is one of my favourite plays of all time, and, whilst the depressing tragedy of misinterpreted love and power was an odd one to start with for cinema broadcasts, I was thrilled to see it listed. The cinema was fairly empty, perhaps fifteen people in the whole auditorium, which did suck some of the energy from the atmosphere. Lear is a hard sell, and I can’t help but wonder if Emma Rice’s sparkly Twelfth Night with Le Gateau Chocolat may have sold better.

It was incredibly strange to be sat in luxury, with my popcorn and soft-drink, square on to the stage I know better from a craned-neck, why-I-am-standing-for-three-hours, position. I’m glad I was comfy though, it was a long show, and not the most gripping production of Lear I’d seen (though in no way without merit, Kevin R McNally brought a really fresh take to Lear, a mammoth task for the iconic role, and Loren O’Dair as the Fool brought a beautiful and gentle pathos to the production.) Had I been standing, I wonder if the awkward death scenes and strange take on Gloucester by Burt Caesar may have been a bit too much for this weary watcher. As it was, the luxurious comfort, the close angles, the skilled camera work, the footage of live-audience reactions – it all worked together to capture some of the Globe’s atmosphere and deliver it to audiences it may not have otherwise reached. My mum, for example, finds the backless wooden benches too uncomfortable, and so wouldn’t get to enjoy anything at the Globe were it not for the broadcast.

A successful first broadcasting venture that I hope they repeat often. Will it ever be the same as experiencing it live? No. Will it replace the desire to travel to the Globe for productions? Absolutely not. But it removes some of the excuses people have for not wanting to invest an evening of their time getting to London and standing through three hours of a dead man’s stories.

And, after propping myself up on those benches for a night, then standing through Boudica the next evening, comfy leather seats came as a welcome refuge from which to watch the third Globe show in as many days.

 

Overall…

I loved all three experiences, probably due in large part to my love of the Globe, and Shakespeare’s plays. The broadcast worked smoothly and is a great way for the Globe to reach new audiences.

How do I think the shows are best experienced?

As up close and personal as possible, from the yard, where you can see the steam rise off of the heads of the actors and feel their spit land on you as they proJECT.

Glorious.

Check out tickets for all these shows here. Most run for another week or two, winding down in October.

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10 FAQs on boat living.

Ready for a quick-fire round of boat living FAQs?

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The most asked questions from friends, family and strangers when they find out we live on a boat:

Here we go…
1) What do you do about the toilet?
We have a chemical loo, you put (eco friendly-ish) chemicals in it with your business, then carry the whole lot to an ‘elsan’ where you pour it away. What comes out is a green/blue mushy liquid that smells sort of sweetish.
2) Where does your normal rubbish go?
We collect it in small bags and then Ryo takes it to public bins / recycling bins on the way to work.
3) How often do you have to move?
We’re ‘continual cruisers’ which means we move at least every two weeks to the ‘next neighbourhood’ (or further), this can mean many things, we try and get to the next station to help Ryo’s commute!
4) Where do you get your water?
There are free (yes, free!) water points up and down the canals where we attach a little hose to our enormous water tank, it takes about 30 mins to fill and lasts us weeks.
5) How do you get fuel / gas?
It comes to us! ‘Jules Fuels’ come to our boat, on their boat, and fill up the tank with discounted diesel and replace empty gas canisters. If we’re not in, they do it anyway and leave us an invoice!
6) Is it cold?
Yes, it can get chilly! (And in summer it can get super hot because it’s made of metal!) But we’re getting a wood burning stove soon, and until then, we just keep adding more layers!
7) How do you get electricity?
Running the engine generates electricity that charges our batteries. But it doesn’t last that long, so we’re getting solar panels to support our poor fridge!
8) Can you moor anywhere?
Pretty much! There are some restricted areas, for example 24 hour moorings or permanent spots, the Tesco in Leighton Buzzard has a 3 hour shopping mooring next to the car park!!
9) Can you stay in one spot if you like it?

Not really, but if we liked the location we could find a marina or permanent mooring spot near by. You pay rent on these based on the length of your boat.
10) Are you glad you moved onto a boat?
Absolutely! It’s a learning curve, but one we’re embracing, and the benefits far outweigh the challenges! We’re sustainable home owners – we love our happy, peaceful, off-grid life!!

 

Thanks for taking the time to get to know our boat life! Found it enlightening? What questions would you have wanted answered? Comment below! (There may be a follow up!)

 

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Why I Don’t Do Disney.

Belle and Lyds

Disney Goals.

I love Disney.

But they are fierce protectors of their brand, their products and their characters. (Even if they did rip most of them from somewhere else…) Of course they are, they have worked hard to build a muti-platform UNIVERSE of characters, stories, parks, merchandise, live shows… the list goes on and on. When you pay attention to the details as closely as they do, you are going to want to protect it from people making money off of your work by creating second-hand copies.

So I don’t do Disney in my Peapod Parties. Instead, I have three themes, Pixie, Pirate and Princess, each with their own character and logo that me and my partner have lovingly designed ourselves.

I used to work for a fantastic company where I would often be characters very similar to the Disney classics. There’s a clear case of supply and demand in the market, this is what parents want. It sometimes made me a little uncomfortable, but I loved the dressing up, and the interaction with the kids. You can make a lot of money from brining Belle to the ball – mums and dads are looking high and low to find entertainers that will turn up as their little darling’s favourite character and make their little day. Bookings come in thick and fast, and people will pay good money to get that princess to their party. However, here are the three reasons why I won’t do a Disney booking now that I have my own company.

 

1. Copyright.

Bride, Groom, Mickey...

I’m with the mouse on this one.

 

Legally, and morally, I can’t rip off Disney. You can ‘get away’ with derivations of their characters, or their original forms, like a blonde ice queen with a side plait and a blue sparkly dress, but even this is a very murky area, and not one I want to muddy my feet in.

Disney have been known to flex their muscles and protect their copyright in court. It’s just not worth it for a small business. If they came after me for $1,000,000 I would lose my business, my reputation and my legitimacy amongst other clients and employers that aren’t even related to the entertainment side of things. I would probably not be able to own or set up any other small businesses again.

And, if I upset Disney, my heart would break.

 

2. Consistency.

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Pre-party selfie to check it’s still on my head right… #WigProblems

 

When you decide to be Belle (or that totally different, book loving princess with a yellow dress who also knows a talking teapot…) you need the hoop skirt, the velvet dress, the gloves, the long brown hair and whatever accessories you can find to make your look more ‘realistic’. This can all start to add up financially – Cinderella’s glass slippers don’t come cheap! So you either spend a fortune trying to look as close to the original as possible…

Or, you look sub-par. You get what you pay for with fabric, dressmaking skills, and wigs. And if you don’t invest your small fortune, you can end up looking pretty naff, or, even worse, pretty scary! (And you will incur the wrath of parents for this.)

Also, no matter how accurate you are… I once had a kid criticise the colour of my eyes when I was trying to pass as an ice-queen in a beautiful, but itchy, dress (because – sequins) and an uncomfortable wig (because – head of a Thunderbird.)

There’s also very little room for diversity here. If your team is made up of white girls, you can’t run a Tiana, Jasmine or Mulan party. Equally, it makes it hard to justify hiring anyone of colour when the most sought after characters are Elsa, Anna, Belle, Ariel and Cinderella. And that’s not even accounting for different sizes, disabilities etc..

If I get busy enough to get hiring, and I end up with an asian pirate with blue hair. Cool, why not? If my princess has a head covering – still fab. If my pixie’s in a wheelchair – no biggie! I could even hire a guy! While it’s still just me, I can cut, colour and change my hair without having to stock up on pricey wigs, because if Pirate Patsy turns up with rainbow hair, then I guess that is just what she looks like!

 

3. Creativity.

Imagination

Pixie Poppy making magic with little adventurers.

The company I trained with gave phenomenal training and really cared about making a magical experience for the party guests and their parents. But, some companies think the job begins and ends with (more or less) looking like Elsa. Some let the popularity of the character secure the booking and hope for the best.

If a mum calls and asks for a Frozen party, it’s up to me to think laterally and sell her on a cheeky ice fairy that will entertain her guests with magic, glitter tattoos and other skills that I have up my sleeves.

I’m not relying on the popularity of the character to carry me through the party or create a rapport with the kids. That’s got to come from me. And I’m proud of the characters I’ve created and love seeing guests get to know them and go along with their stories.

I also don’t have to follow a find-prince-fall-in-love-happily-ever-after narrative (which I would be bound to if I turned up as Cinderella!) I can react to the kids’ own ideas and energies and build on their imagination – my princess Penny can help them kick butt as they protect their living room from invading Pirates, Transformers and Wookies. Don’t see Elsa doing that now, do you?

 

I love Disney, so I’m going to keep watching their films, going to their parks and just generally revelling in the magic of the universes they’ve created. And with them in charge of the Disney magic, I’m free to get busy creating some my own!

My First Festival (In a Day)

Lyds and Shania at Hyde Park

Who has two thumbs, (is soaking wet) and is manically excited for Shania Twain?

 

It all started months ago when Radio 2 announced their Hyde Park line-up and, driving along in my little Beetle, I heard them announce Shania Twain as one of their acts.

Shania Freakin’ Twain.

She was the first music I ever owned (if pinching your mum’s Come on Over cassette counts…) and continues to be a huge inspiration to me as a professional woman, overcoming everything life throws at her and focussing on being positive and giving back to the community more. So, I rang my partner, he booked the tickets as a special treat, and we waited for the September that felt like it would never come.

But it did! Here are my musings from my first ever ‘festival’.

 

Stereophonics.

Sterophonics at Hyde Park

Cool use of the LED screen though.

Personally, I couldn’t help but feel like Kelly and the boys were phoning it in. Maybe they didn’t want to be first out, maybe they were too cool for Radio 2, but with barely the occassional glance at the audience, there was a definite vibe of going through the motions.
He became much more animated during a guitar solo of his and things did pick up as he messed with the crowd at the end… as he walked off… but it didn’t, for me, make up for all the long loving looks he gave to the cameras whilst ignoring the crowd in front of him.
The drummer and bassist seemed to be having a much better time though, so that was great to watch.

 

Seth Lakeman and Winwood Kin.

Winwood Kin at Hyde Park

Their first go of the song.

Ugh! These poor women! After a rushed set up and hand-over from the R2 presenters, the three singer-muscicians took to the stage and started their first number. But they had a few false-starts due to a mic failure. Maybe there was a techie off-stage furiously twisting knobs and sliding faders, but, from the audience’s point of view, and that of the band, nobody seemed to be doing anything about it. They tried a few different things, asked if anyone was going to come and help them, then eventually gave up and had to shuffle off stage because nothing happened.

On leapt Lakeman, gave a very rousing fiddle song which really was brill, if bittersweet after the glitch. He was then joined by the band, and eventually Winwood Kin again (though still no fixed mic…) and they gave a few really great tracks, full of energy and a very folky vibe, which is right up my street.

Winwood Kin came back on stage to try again, still nothing had been done about the mic, a techie came on, wiggled a few cables and concluded that the show must go on, so the women thanked the crowd and shuffled off again, having not been able to give one full song of their own.

 

Rick Astley.

Rick Astley at Hyde Park

There’s no shame in a bit of Rick Rollin’!

Astley was great, he knows how to work a crowd, gave enough of the old numbers to keep everyone happy, and was supported by an incredible band and truly excellent back-up singers. Good show, bit o’ Rick Rolling, no complaints.

Craig Charles!!!

Craig Charles at Hyde Park

Funk. Soul. Groove.

I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HE’D BE THERE!! I am a huge Craig Charles fan, I love his funk and soul slot, and I love him for bringing Lister into our lives. He snuck on during Astley’s set and I grabbed my husband’s arm – it couldn’t be.

It was, and he was fantastic! Highlights definitely included Jeremy Vine coming on stage and dad dancing (/flailing) to the groovy beats! Flat out fun and kept the crowd in the palm of his hand! I’m SO glad I could tick off the only other artist on my bucket list! (Ok, it was just a list of Shania Twain and Craig Charles…)

Emeli Sande.

Emeli Sande at Hyde Park

Epic footage took her set to the next level.

What a stonking performance! An incredible woman, professional through and through. Sande stormed through her big, powerful and emotional tracks, calling for love and unity in this time of difficulty. Her crew also, in my opinion, made the best use of the enormous LED screen, backdropping her performances with epic, huge-scale footage of sweeping landscapes, towering cityscapes and even outerspace!

Amazing singer, socially responsible, and a fantastic band to boot. Loved her! (As did the crowd!)

 

James Blunt.

James Blunt at Hyde Park

Reliable. Good with crowds. You get what you pay for.

James Blunt was ridiculous. He set was fine, you know, very James Blunt, good. Cool. Then he jumped on to his piano, gyrated for a bit, then leapt off of the stage, got in a union jack rubber dinghy and crowd-surfed out, before being dropped and having to battle his way back to the stage for his post-set interview – bonkers.

 

Shania Twain.

SHANIA TWAIN at Hyde Park

Look at that sparkly woman go!

Shania Twain was everything I wanted and needed her to be. There were times when she looked a bit distracted or we couldn’t hear her that well, but boy, does she know how to entertain. She rose through the stage floor, had fireworks, extra haze, other pyrotechnics and an enormous confetti cannon filled with bio-degradable confetti that immediately disintegrated in the rain. She bounced around the stage, interacting with the audience, singing with them and drawing them onside.

My little heart pounded as the one (celebrity / music related) thing that I’ve ever really wanted to happen, happened right in front of me, less than a hundred metres away. Thanks Shania, you were a dream come true!

 

Blondie.

Blondie were alright, again, just seemed to be going through the motions. To be honest, we used their set as an excuse to grab food and head out.

 

Take That.

We’ll probably catch Take That’s set on the iPlayer. My heart sank when they were announced as headliners, because I knew it would make getting tickets to see Shania so much more difficult! Having stood for the best part of ten hours, and not being huge TT fans (a lynch-able offence at this event…) we made the most of beating the crowds and were on the train home before they even got to the stage. Sorry boys.

 

Overall.

Soggy Faces at Hyde Park

Bit of rain? We weren’t too fussed..!!

The event was, sadly, plagued by tech difficulties throughout, a few delayed starts and stressed techies running onto stage between sets, peaking in letting down Winwood Kin. It’s a shame, because you know it took so long to plan, and set up, that you really felt for the tech team.

It was a very white audience, and a very white line-up. Sande and Charles both brought the house down, it would have been nice for the BBC to have trusted their hundreds of artists of colour and to have given more of a snapshot of who’s out there, and maybe more diversity onstage may have translated to more offstage too?

Great vibe, the rain poured, people alternated through their combination of jackets, raincoats and jumpers as the changing weather flitted through the seasons, but it didn’t hold anyone down. The vibe was truly uplifting, friendly and the sense of camaraderie was overwhelming. I loved getting to know the crowds around us – the people on front of us were from my hometown and we shared a few mutual acquaintances – crazy world, right?

And I got to see Shania Twain. My bucket list has only ever had Shania Twain on it, for the best part of my life (until I discovered that Craig Charles does DJ sets!). I’m so grateful to have been able to see her live, from so close, and to have shared that with my husband.

Now, armed with an empty bucket list, who knows what adventures we’ll share next!!

Juzu

Also, shout out to Juzu for some yummy veggie Japanese (inspired) food on the way out!

The Big Question

What Do You Do?

History Bombs - Jane Austen

What do I do? Isn’t it obvious..?

 

Ah!

What do you do?” is a pretty standard ice-breaking question, yet, for people like me, and maybe for you too, it’s a daunting one.

We tend to define ourselves by our jobs in this society. “What do you do?” is sort of shorthand for “Who are you?”, without actually having to ask anything too personal or find out anything too significant about our new acquaintance.

For me, it has a pretty complicated answer, I have so many jobs, roles and personas that it could take a while to get through them all, and ain’t nobody got time for that… So I refine my answer based on who’s asking – if it’s a potential casting director, I’m a “Performer / Storyteller.” If it’s a copywriting agency then “Writer” and so on… (If it’s my parents I just sort of shrug and laugh nervously until someone changes the subject…)

I have many hats, as do most people my age. Us ‘composite career’ers. At a friend’s wedding, I asked the “What do you do?” question to a peer and her response was

“I’m musician, singer and I write my own music. I also have a 9-5 doing financial administration.”

Her partner was a camera operator and filmmaker who also had a full time job in something very ‘ordinary’.

This isn’t the same as an out of work actor refusing to admit that they’re really a waiter.

We live in this incredible age where we can generate our own definition of what we ‘do’ because it’s so easy generate ways to ‘do ‘ it. Want to be a Youtube-er, singer, performer or writer? All you have to do is grab a camera, or start an online blog and BAM, you’ve got a new response to “What do you do?

You might sniff and say “Ha! He says he’s an actor, but he actually works in recruitment!” If he acts in some capacity, then he’s an actor. Why should the job we get paid for automatically define us more than the one we choose to do out of passion and dedication to the craft?

Does the fact that you don’t get paid for those things stop them from being legitimate answers? I don’t think so. If I write, and people read what I’ve written, respond to it, interact with it, and pass it on, I’m a writer. Actually, if I write then I’m a writer.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to make a living off of doing what they love. But everyone has a shot these days. At the risk of sounding like an absolute cheese-ball, we can be whoever we want to be, just by being it.

squad

They wanted to, so they did! (Picture: Hashtag United)

There’s a football team, #United, who have played at Wembley stadium, across the UK, and even globally. They are a group of friends and Youtube-ers who decided to make a football team and take on whoever will play them, filming and sharing all their matches. Are they the best footballers out there? They’d be the first to tell you that they’re not, but they are footballers, and video makers, because they just decided that’s what they wanted to be and started doing it.

It takes the right timing, a bit of good fortune (and some times a small fortune ££!) to actually establish yourself enough to make a full-time job out of doing what you love. But, why not just start doing it anyway? Can’t get an acting gig? Build up an online portfolio of vlogs, spoken word, monologues… I mean, with the technology available to us today, you could do a full production of Hamlet all by yourself, green-screen it and set yourself on the Globe stage, at the Old Vic, or even in outer space!

Shakespeare's Ladies

I decided that I wanted to write, produce and perform in an all female take on some of Shakespeare’s classics… so I did!

Ok, so green screens, video equipment, art supplies, and even internet access, are not easily available to everyone. There are other, lower tech, ways to do what you love too. But for those of us with a smartphone and a bit of data, are we really left with any excuses? You want to be an actor? Act. Want to be a writer? Write. I really do believe that it’s that simple.

And maybe you get spotted and make your millions starring alongside Harry Styles in the next historical epic, or maybe your home movies are only ever watched by your mum, it really doesn’t matter. Define yourself by what you love, if that’s what you want to do

(Heck, if you want to tell people that you run a museum of stuffed Gophers dressed as townspeople, make it happen and then – that’s what you do!)

Harry Styles

This Boy Can (Picture: Beretta/Sims/REX/Shutterstock)

When we do what we love, we hone our skills, develop our craft and build a portfolio of evidence that proves that we really do ‘do’ that thing. If we then decide to try and make a living out of it, all that experience is only going to help.

We also remove some of the exclusivity from professions that are normally considered pretty elite. That can only be a good thing. It encourages diversity, better access for all and grows the industry into something defined by the people who love it.

So do what you love, and don’t be afraid to admit it!

My name is Lydia, and I’m a writer, performer, storyteller, and all round ‘theatre practitioner’! (and children’s entertainer, and teacher of English as a second language, and dog sitting extraordinaire and….)

 

**Disclaimer: This works for most things in the arts, but if you reckon what you might really love is being an astronaut, you could struggle to find a way to do that one independently. But, you do you, you shiny bright star of a being!**