10 valuable life lessons I learnt from The BFG

So who wants to come and see The BFG with me next year?

I’ll admit I had my doubts when I heard there was going to be a new movie version of Roald Dahl’s book. I even seem to vaguely remember threatening Steven Spielberg with – if not exactly violence, then certainly a strongly worded letter, if he messed up one of my favourite stories of all time.

Then I heard that the brilliant Mark Rylance had been cast as the BFG, and I felt a bit better. And now that the first teaser trailer’s been released, I could not be more excited.

The BFG was my absolute favourite book growing up, and when I re-read it recently, it brought back all kinds of happy memories, of belly poppers, snozzcumbers and gobblefunking around with words. The story of a lonely little girl and the kind-hearted giant who kidnaps her never fails to make me smile, even if it is accompanied by quite a lot of other children being eaten alive. But hey, you can’t have everything.

So I thought it was only right to share a few of the valuable life lessons I learnt from The BFG, starting with…The BFG by Roald Dahl

  1. If in doubt, ask The Queen. Because she can solve anything.
  2. Frobscottle is the best drink in the world: ‘”Whenever I is feeling a bit scrotty,” the BFG said, “a few gollops of frobscottle is always making me hopscotchy again.”‘
  3. Turkish people taste of turkey, people from Panama of hats, Swedes of sweet and sour, and people from Wales taste like fish.
  4. Humans are the only animals that kill our own kind: ‘”Even poisnowse snakes is never killing each other,” the BFG said. “Nor is the most fearsome creatures like tigers and rhinostossterisses. None of them is ever killing their own kind… But human beans is squishing each other all the time… They is shootling guns and going up in aerioplanes to drop their bombs on each other’s heads every week. Human beans is always killing other human beans.”‘
  5. Nicholas Nickleby (by Dahl’s Chickens) is a scrumdiddlyumptious story.
  6. Always go to bed before the witching hour, or who knows what you might encounter: The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world all to themselves.’
  7. Two wrongs don’t make a right. And two rights don’t make a left.
  8. Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness. (If you don’t know what whizzpopping is, think brussels sprouts…)
  9. Just because you don’t know a lot of big words doesn’t mean you’re stupid; you might end up saving the world: ‘I know exactly what words I am wanting to say, but somehow or other they is always getting squiff-squiddled around.’
  10. The human bean is not a vegetable.

So there we have it.

What was your favourite book growing up?


20 signs you’re definitely getting old

Last Sunday, something AMAZING happened. Like, it was possibly the greatest day of my life. I’m not even exaggerating, because last Sunday, I was followed on Twitter by one of my childhood heroes.

Yep, that’s right. Gordon the Gopher, who’s all set for a comeback after over 20 years out of the public eye, is now following me on Twitter.

I KNOW, right?!

If – like many of my colleagues – you read that and said ‘Who?’ then this may not be the post for you. This post is for the people like me, who remember Gordon the Gopher, and the Broom Cupboard, and the days before Phillip Schofield had grey hair. Yes, there was such a time. See?

Phillip Schofield in the CBBC Broom Cupboard

But Schofe’s hair isn’t the only thing that’s changed since I was a yoof. So, just to make us all feel like old folk, here are 20 signs we’re not as young as we used to be. I’ve probably forgotten loads, so please share your suggestions too, and let’s all be ancient together…

20 signs you’re definitely getting old

You remember when this was a shock twist.

You reminisce about the Great Storm of 1987, even though you were only five when it happened and you don’t really remember it at all.

You used to actually talk to your best friend on the phone, while sitting in the kitchen or your parents’ bedroom, because that’s where the landline was. And you knew her phone number off by heart, whereas these days you have trouble remembering your own.

You remember when Robbie left Take That, the first time.

When you said ‘I’ll just read to the end of this chapter,’ you had no idea how long that would be, unless you physically flicked forward (which all readers know you should never do).

Especially if you were reading Point Horror – which obviously you were, because everyone was.

You had to plan how to get to places before leaving home, using an atlas.

Getting your photos back from Boots after a three-day wait was literally the most exciting thing ever – until you realised that half of them were rubbish.

Photos from Boots

You remember when phone boxes were used to call people, instead of just for tourist selfies.

You used to buy a TV guide every week, set the video to record things, and you had to actually watch the adverts.

Oh, and you remember Ceefax.

Compiling a playlist meant hours of going through your tape collection, then figuring out how to use your parents’ stereo system to record the tracks.

You remember when Ant and Dec were PJ and Duncan. And not just the pop band; you actually remember when they played PJ and Duncan in Byker Grove.

Speaking of which, Byker Grove and Grange Hill were your compulsory after-school viewing.

All your favourite movies have by now been either re-made (seriously, why?) or re-released in 3D, at which point all your younger friends get super excited because they weren’t even born the first time around.

You used to eat meals without photographing them from every angle first.

You watched Popstars, and actually cared who won.

Going on holiday used to mean cutting off all communication with anyone back home for a week, except for a postcard. Which always arrived after you got home, and so was essentially pointless.

You researched all your school work using books. At a library.

And finally…

No matter how many may follow in his footsteps, you know that Colin Firth is the only true Mr Darcy.

What makes you feel old? Let me know in the comments!


What makes you happy?

So apparently today is International Happiness Day. I had no idea this was a thing, but I like it. So I figured it was a good opportunity to think about some of the many things that make me smile.

What are your happy things? Share them in the comments! 🙂

Things that make me happy

White chocolate and strawberry


Coming home, whether it’s after a day or a week, or more

Catching up with friends


Tigers (I want to get one of my own, but apparently they’re a bit of a handful)

Meeting the tigers at Port Lympne, Kent

Going to the theatre

Listening to rain when I’m inside in the warm

My bed

Making new blogger friends

Borrowing other people’s cats

Tommy the cat

Saturday morning lie ins

Sunday morning lie ins (you see where this is going)

Bacon sandwiches

Curling up with a book

Hitting publish on a blog post I’m proud of

Mr Darcy


Sunset over Fulham, London

Garlic bread

My fantastic family

Having a good hair day (I’m growing it out at the moment, so these are worryingly rare)

Looking at snow when I don’t have to go out in it

Belting out show tunes, particularly when in competition with noisy neighbours

Cups of tea

Recommending something to someone and hearing that they liked it

The most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned – currently trying to determine how long I can keep wearing them now that spring is arriving…

Skechers boots

Johnny Depp

Rum and coke

Scottish accents

Long walks

Harry Potter – the books more than the movies, although they’re good too

Bonus sleep (when you wake up early and realise you’ve still got time in bed)

My flat

Cute babies (not just human – baby anythings)

Visiting my friend in Guernsey

St Peter Port lighthouse

Any time I complete a journey without getting lost (seriously – my sense of direction is shocking)

Watching Friends repeats

Getting dressed up for a black tie do

Laughing till you can’t remember why you started

Happy dogs


My car, Pierre


Despicable Me phone case

My Mum and Dad’s house

New Year (the fresh start, not the night itself)


Love Actually (or more accurately, Richard Curtis movies in general)

The Sagrada Família in Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Apple crumble and custard

Making lists, apparently

I’m slightly concerned about how many of these involve my bed. Honestly, I’m really not that lazy…

Your turn!

And check out these lovely posts from Francesca at Frantastic View and Lexie at Those Words She Wrote. Great lists, ladies! 🙂

The Theory of Everything – movie review

It’s now been a few days since I watched The Theory of Everything, a film based on the memoirs of Professor Stephen Hawking’s first wife, Jane. And I’m just about ready to talk about it, because at the time it basically reduced me to an emotional wreck.

Before watching the film, I knew very little about Stephen Hawking, besides the fact that he has motor neurone disease (known as ALS in the States) and speaks through a computer. Oh, and he’s been in The Big Bang Theory. I’m not even sure I realised he was British before.

The movie charts Hawking’s relationship with Jane from their first meeting in Cambridge and throughout their marriage, simultaneously plotting his deterioration as the motor neurone disease takes hold. If you’re after the story of Hawking the physicist, you might be disappointed – although of course there are references to his work. But what you do get is the story of a woman standing by her man, even faced with a condition that she knows will make him dependent on her and unable to communicate, and could kill him at any time. The scenes where he tries to push her away, and she refuses to budge, had me in floods. But then again, I am a bit of a cry baby these days.

It’s a moving love story, but possibly nothing that original. What makes this film different is Eddie Redmayne, who’s almost unrecognisable as Hawking, transforming before our eyes from a healthy young man, falling in love for the first time and on the verge of his first scientific breakthrough, to the familiar figure in the wheelchair that we all know today. It’s an incredible performance, and well worth the Oscar buzz it’s generated. Some of the hardest scenes to watch are of him coming to terms with his new limitations – trying to pull himself up the stairs as his baby son watches, or, after the tracheotomy that leaves him unable to speak, faced with the prospect of communicating through a letter board. But he also has a cheeky grin and a mischievous twinkle in his eye, a reminder that Hawking himself is much more than just his disability, or his professional reputation as a scientist. The movie may be about how Hawking became a legend, but it could well also be the making of its star.

Besides Eddie Redmayne, the movie also stars Felicity Jones as Jane and David Thewlis (a.k.a. Professor Lupin from Harry Potter) as Hawking’s academic supervisor and friend, Dennis Sciama. And if, like me, you’re the type to spend the entire two hours trying to figure out why you recognise someone, let me put you out of your misery: the guy who plays Brian is Viserys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. You’re welcome.

Other highlights included the welcome appearance of the lovely Charlie Cox (who I’ve been missing since Stardust) as choirmaster Jonathan, and Jane’s attempt to explain to him the difference between quantum theory and general relativity using peas and potatoes. I didn’t understand any of it, but I did enjoy the bit about ‘when you bring peas into it, everything goes tits up’. Forget science – that’s just true generally. (I really hate peas.)

The Theory of Everything is much more than just a love story. It will leave you feeling inspired, entertained and more than a little tear-stained, with a new respect for both Stephen Hawking and Eddie Redmayne. Not only that; it raises awareness of the effects of motor neurone disease in a way no ice bucket challenge ever could, and that can only be a good thing.

2014 – the highlights

Happy New Year (nearly)! I hope that 2015 will be a good year for everyone. Thank you as always for reading the blog and joining in with my mayhem over the past twelve months. In case you missed them, here are a few of my highlights:

In January, I took on the 100 Happy Days challenge – sharing a photo of something that makes you smile every day for 100 days. It wasn’t always easy, which is why some of my pictures were of such exciting things as shower gel or an umbrella, but it was a lot of fun and it was definitely a worthwhile experience to look for something positive in every day. It’s easy to forget that sometimes.

Here’s one of my favourite Happy Day photos, taken on an afternoon walk at Bluewater in Kent:


February was pretty quiet – I was still doing the Happy Days challenge though, so plenty to smile about. And it was in February that I had the Big Idea, which would prove to be very important later in the year (more on that in a minute).

Ideas notebook

March was the Month of Mabel. A brief note of explanation – I’m a member of a pub quiz team, and each week, the winning team was handed a sheep and challenged to take a photo of her in some location or other. My first outing with Mabel was to London, and was a lot of fun, even if I did have to adopt the ‘if I don’t look at people they can’t see me’ approach a lot of the time. Mabel’s subsequent adventures included going to work, having a pub lunch, playing tennis and going on The X Factor. (That one took a bit of imagination.)

Mabel gets the tube

In April, I had a long weekend in Naples with my mum and my sister for the Davis Cup GB v Italy tie. Which we lost. But besides that sad fact, and the frequent biblical rain showers, we had a great time. And I got to practise my (very) basic Italian. (Hint: when you don’t know the word for ‘dessert’, just say ‘cake?’ with a hopeful expression. It works.)


And then in May, I discovered Guernsey. Lovely Guernsey. I went to visit a friend who’d moved there earlier in the year, and fell instantly in love with the beautiful island (and, most importantly, its stunning sunsets). It’s a strange little in-between world, neither England nor France, and has a charming, old-fashioned feel to it. Also, the weather was amazing. And did I mention the sunsets?

Sunset at Cobo Bay


In June, I enjoyed a brilliant and inspiring day at TEDx Houses of Parliament. This was my second visit, and once again, I came away feeling like I could change the world (which I still haven’t done, but give me time). This was the day that introduced me to the concept of outrageous optimism, and this immortal quote from wobbly comedian Francesca Martinez: ‘Even an arsehole can change your life.’

Houses of Parliament

July was most memorable in the UK for being very stormy. I’m not good with thunderstorms as a rule – I’m quite scared of getting struck by lightning and I’m fairly averse to loud noises too, so I was pretty proud of myself when I ventured out to take some photos of one particularly dramatic storm. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I look at this picture, I hear ‘There’s a storm coming, Harry…’


Technically July and August, but next comes our family trip to Scotland for the Commonwealth Games. We stayed in Edinburgh and commuted to Glasgow for the Games, then spent a few days exploring Edinburgh before returning home. We got rained on a lot, spent hours waiting for park and ride buses, saw a one-legged man throw a discus, watched a penguin parade and discovered literally the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten – so good that I haven’t really shut up about it since.

Strawberry and blueberry cheesecake, Dubh Prais, Edinburgh

In September, I got my Christmas present from my sister, which was a tiger encounter at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent. I adore tigers, but they tend to be a bit antisocial, so I was very excited at the prospect of getting a bit closer and actually seeing one for a change. But it was even better than that, and before I knew what was happening, I was feeding two beautiful Bengal tigers. I won’t lie, it was pretty terrifying – they were a lot bigger than me and on one occasion I did nearly lose some fingers – but I wouldn’t change it; it was incredible.

Meeting the tigers at Port Lympne, Kent

Also in September, because I can’t not mention it, I had a few days in Barcelona, and went inside the Sagrada Familia for the first time, which was basically breathtaking. I will be going back.

La Sagrada Familia, BarcelonaIn October, my sister Helen and I climbed the O2 Arena in London. It was supposed to be the sunset climb, although by the time we got to the top after getting suited up and having a safety briefing, we’d almost missed it. But even so, we had some great views across London and the South East, and the satisfaction of reaching the top without falling off. (This was a genuine worry before we started.)

Up at the O2

And so to November, when I wrote a book. And by that I mean I wrote 100,000 words of semi-coherent plot, which I hope to make into a book in 2015. This was all part of NaNoWriMo, and basically meant I had no social life for a month, but it was totally worth it. Not only was it great to get the Big Idea finally on paper, but there was also the exciting feeling of having set myself a challenge, and completing it. Which is probably why I’ve now decided to learn German in January. What could go wrong?

NaNoWriMo - 100,000 words!

As for December, that was mostly about panic-buying gifts for Christmas, because I hadn’t left the house at the weekend for most of November. But I managed to fit in a movie screening of Birdman, which is out in the UK tomorrow, at Twentieth Century Fox in London. This was the latest in a series of exciting developments over the last few months that have also seen me become a blogger for London Theatre Direct. I never thought, when I started this little blog, that it would take me anywhere – so again, thank you all for taking the time to read my nonsense; I would have given up long ago without you.

Twentieth Century Fox

Here’s to the new year and all the challenges, experiences and happy things it brings 🙂