Family prom at the Welsh Proms 

How do you give young children their first taste of live classical music? That’s the question Cardiff’s St David’s Hall was answering in its family-friendly prom performance as part of the Welsh Proms.

Running for around an hour, the family prom took the audience through a journey of family-friendly classical works from Swan Lake to West Side Story to Disney.

The show was presented delightfully by Connie Fisher, who introduced each score and the accompanying dancers. Each work featured talented performances from young local dancers, bringing each piece to life with lively and well-executed choreography. 

Our almost three-year-old was mesmerised by the young ballerinas performing Swan Lake with such poise and grace. She didn’t move from the spot. 

Both our son and daughter relished the opening Pirates of the Caribbean performance, which saw the stage invaded by rafts of young ballerina pirates. A performance of such personality.

I particularly enjoyed the engaging way Connie introduced the orchestra. I’d taken the children to give them their first experience of an orchestra so it was fantastic to hear her explain the different sections, each of whom then played a snippet of music including Uptown Funk and Gangnam Style.

Unfortunately our youngest voted with her feet just before the Beauty and the Beast segment meaning she (and my husband) missed it. I was so sad she didn’t get to see it as it was beautiful. From the delicate Disney-inspired costumes to the thoughtful choreography, it was a definite highlight.

Overall, the family prom was an accessible way to introduce our young children to the experience of seeing (and hearing) a live orchestra. 

With inspired music selections and choreography from local young dancers, it was a great family performance. Bravo!

Blogger note: We paid for our tickets to the family prom and the venue wasn’t aware we were writing a review.

Did you attend the family prom today? I’d love to hear what you thought.


15 things you’ll learn as a parent on a day out at a theme park

1. Someone always needs a wee at the worst time. Either when you’re 50 miles from a service station or mid-way through a mind-bogglingly long queue for a ride with no loo nearby.

2. When you do locate a loo, the queue will be as long as the one for the rollercoaster.

3. You will fantastise about ankle-ramming the people who absentmindedly stop in front of your buggy. Look where you’re going people.

4. You will have arms of a weightlifter by the end of the day from carrying your toddler who has to walk absolutely everywhere and then needs to be carried absolutely everywhere as their little legs can’t cope.

5. You start to question your principled decision to refuse forking out for queue jump tickets after enduring 45 minutes waiting for a two-minute ride with an energetic and impatient toddler. There will be tantrums, tears and short-lived bribery snacks. 

6. And those smug queuebuster pass holders will always turn up when you get to the front of the queue meaning you have another final wait to go. And you will hate them for it.

7. The drinks and snacks you’ve lovingly prepared in advance will be refused in favour of a soft drink and packet of crisps that cost £3.99. Each.

8. You will fork out a small fortune at the gift shop while knowing you could get the same thing much cheaper on Amazon. Much cheaper.

9. Your child will find it impossible to chose what they want in said shop. And they’ll always insist on something that costs the same as the theme park ticket. You’ll then face a miserable battle of wills trying to convince them that the small teddy is just as good as the £65 play set they’ve set their little heart on.

10. Someone will always end up getting their clothes (or shoes) soaked. 

11. You spend an age getting into the car park and have to park a long walk from the theme park entrance. That walk feels even longer when walking back there and trying to locate your car with overtired children. What row were we in again?

12. You need to be prepared for all weather eventualities so you’ll be carting around enough gear for a week abroad. Coats ✅ sun hats ✅ wellies ✅ sun cream ✅ 

13. Finding your way out is as difficult as finding your way there. How is it so complicated? 

14. You’ll feel like you’ve walked a marathon by the end of the day but your Fitbit only says 8,000 steps.

15. You’ll forget all of the above when you and the children remember the day and look back at magical photos. All completely worth it. Now, where’s the wine? 😉

To my son on his sports day

Today was your sports day, marking the near end of your Reception year. 

In that year I’ve watched you grow taller, more confident and learn more with each passing day. Your interests have changed, your sense of humour is cheekier and you are a fantastic, compassionate big brother to your sister (when you’re not scrapping and teasing each other). 

And today, your sports day, the sun shone. I was hoping it would. We parents, grandparents and loved ones gathered around the yard, chatting with excitement. 

You and your classmates filed out, took a seat and scanned the crowd for those familiar faces, lighting up when you saw them. You waved, gave us the thumbs up and proudly told your friends you’d seen your dad. 

That morning, we’d told you to try your best and not worry about winning. You, like me, are fiercely competitive so we worried you’d be sad if you didn’t come first.

We needn’t have. Because you tried your best at everything with a smile on your face. From bean bag balancing to running races, you  tried your hardest.

One of the loveliest things was seeing you with your friends, observing those friendships, hearing you laugh together. Just so happy.

And that’s all I ever want from you and for you. Try hard and be happy (showing a lot of kindness along the way). 

You make us prouder than I can ever say and watching you grow, change and learn is a privilege.

Well done darling boy. 

50 days of mindfulness

Mindfulness. It’s been the health and wellbeing buzzword of recent years and hailed as a way to find calmness and clarity in our busy lives.

It’s a word I’d heard bandied around lots in recent years and, to be honest, I was an eye-rolling sceptic.

But as a mum of two lovely young children who works full time, I find my mind is often a buzzing list of to dos from paying for school dinners to keeping up to speed in a job that is fast-paced to writing out our weekly meal planner. 

And of course the worry that I’m perhaps not quite good enough at juggling it all.

Earlier this year, this to do list meant I was a regular member of the 3am club. Everyone in the house would be asleep and I’d be wide awake mulling over the things to be done. By the time I’d get back to sleep, it would be 5.30am and the children would be wide awake and the day would begin.

This meant that by late April, I was run down and poorly with a chest infection that was so bad my GP thought I had pneumonia (I didn’t, thankfully).

It was a wake up call that I needed something to change. About 18 months ago I’d tried the Headspace app. I got to two days and fell off the wagon. I didn’t have time for 10 minutes a day between washing uniforms, ironing and doing the food shop.

But after getting so run down I decided to make time. I sat down and committed to those 10 minutes. It wasn’t easy, but I prioritised it.

And something funny happened. Every weekday when I’m working I go for a walk at lunchtime to get moving after a morning at my desk. I walk the same route and have done so for well over a year. 

But on day four, I started noticing things. The trees that dotted the route. The beautiful gardens I walk past. And the roses in these gardens.

That’s the biggest shift for me – noticing. Noticing the children’s smiles, soaking up their giggles and how peaceful they look when they sleep. 

Noticing when my mind is wandering to start to do lists when I should be paying more attention to what’s happening now. And noticing the little things we can miss when caught up in our busyness. 

I’m not going to pretend that I do the 10 minutes every day. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. But the strategies from mindfulness are there every day to remind me to pause and pay attention.

My mindful list

1. The Headspace app. I’ve found this an easy way to introduce mindfulness into my day.

2. Ruby Wax’s Frazzled book is an excellent insight into her experience of mindfulness and the science behind it. It convinced my cynical side to give mindfulness a go.

3. Mindfulness for mums by Yvette Jane. I bought this lovely book in a gorgeous independent book shop in Cowbridge one Sunday. Lots of lovely phrases to help you be a more mindful mum.

Have you tried mindfulness or are you planning to try it soon? I’d love to hear from you.

Funny Girl – A review

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of the theatre and shows of the musical variety. It stems from a  musical childhood, years of singing lessons and performing on the stage at school. A time where I didn’t believe – I knew – I was going to play Eponine in Les Miserables when I grew up.

So when I heard the award-winning West End production of Funny Girl was coming to Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre with its star Sheridan Smith I had to get tickets.

The musical tells the tale of singer and comedian Fanny Brice and her rise to fame from Brooklyn to Broadway with Sheridan in the starring role.

Apart from being introduced to Funny Girl through Rachel’s love of it in the TV show Glee, I knew very little of the show, its plot or score.

But Funny Girl had me hooked from the opening number. Sheridan fizzed with wit, energy and sparkle as she stepped on stage, setting the comic tone with her offbeat dancing.    

She soon showed she was much more than a slapstick comedian though with her confident and skilled vocals. And she brought a real depth to the role, meaning you were laughing along one minute then feeling her vulnerability the next.

Although Smith was the standout star, this wasn’t a one-woman show. She was supported by a talented cast of singers, dancers and comics who held their own. The score was melodic, filled with catchy and memorable numbers.

The set was simple, but effective. The vanity table with its trail of lights where Fanny finds herself reflecting and preparing to step into her stage self; the theatre backdrop to which the actors at times perform; the poker table at which her mother and friends gossip and tussle over games of cards.

And the costumes added to the storytelling. We see Fanny transformed from a comic figure in oversized bloomers in scene one to a woman with tailored, shimmering dresses as her star ascends. 

But as her career flies, her husband’s wheeler-dealing leaves him out of pocket. We see their marriage crumble slowly as he relies on Fanny’s money and can’t bear to do so.

As he walks away, and a heartbroken Fanny summoned the energy to perform for her crowd, I was done. I started to tear up. 

And as Sheridan owned the closing bars of Rain on my Parade, I got to my feet like the rest of the audience. A well-deserved standing ovation for a show – and star – that shone.

Funny Girl finished its run at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 8 July. 

Details of forthcoming tour dates and venues are here.

Jane Eyre on tour – a review

As an English Literature graduate, I have long been a fan of Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre so it was on my must-see list at the Wales Millennium Centre.

It always struck me to be a tale of great passion and this National Theatre production brought fierce energy to the stage. 

Aside from Jane, the small cast played multiple roles to bring the novel to life. From Pilot the dog to  children, the cast were excellent at performing more challenging roles.

The simple set uses a network of ladders, levels and steps to transform into Lowood School, Thornfield and Jane’s childhood home. The set gave the cast the space to perform energetically, hurrying up ladders, swinging from underneath the platform, rushing down stairs. All this added to the vibrant production.

Use of props such as mirrors and frames helped to tell the story while the set was decorated by simple but effective props such as strings of lights, clothes on hangers and Jane’s floating veil and wedding dress.

A small band of musicians provided music and percussion to animate the production from the caning of Jane’s beloved friend Helen to the sounds of the carriage travelling along as the cast pitter pattered on their feet. And the cast’s singing had a haunting quality with stunning covers of Mad About the Boy and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy.

At three hours (including an interval) it is a long play, but I was engrossed. It was fantastic to see the play performed so creatively by a talented cast who proved that Jane Eyre is as fierce a story as ever.

The production ends at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday 1 July, but the UK tour continues. Find out more here.