Tag Archives: me time

Impractical Jokers – Birmingham 2017

The last month or so has been filled with an unusual number of opportunities for Mike and me to take a little time off from our jam-packed lives at home and have some much-needed time to relax, rejuvenate and re-find ourselves as a couple. We’ve been fortunate that, just as she did last June when we enjoyed my surprise holiday win to Italy, my Mum was willing to take charge of G and M for the duration and we’ve been celebrating our 40th birthdays in style. Our first treat involved a road trip to Birmingham, an overnight stay near the Barclaycard Arena (previously the National Indoor Arena) and an evening spent laughing, courtesy of the tickets I had bought for Mike as part of his 40th birthday present.

img_13471Just over a year ago we discovered the American hit comedy show, Impractical Jokers and have spent many hours curled up in front of the TV, often with the children added to the mix too, giggling and guffawing at the escapades we’ve watched unfold in front of our eyes. For those of you who have never heard of the Impractical Jokers, this hidden camera show follows 4 childhood friends from Staten Island, Sal, Joe, Murr and Q, as they play a series of practical jokes on each other and the unsuspecting general public. In a hyped-up version of “Truth or Dare”, they challenge each other to complete a string of ridiculous tasks, knowing that failure to complete or achieve the goal will result in the biggest loser of that episode having to undergo a punishment at the hands of their friends.

The Jokers usually do not know the details of the pranks until the moment they have to do them and are often pushed to say and do things that are well beyond most people’s normal comfort zones. From saying outrageous comments when serving customers at one of the many stores, fast food joints or cafes featured from New York, to having to convince strangers that they have met before in the most unbelievable set of circumstances, the pranks nearly always have us all laughing out loud. I’d be hard-pushed to say which part of each show we most enjoy, but the final punishments are almost always as funny as the pranks themselves and go from the sublime to the ridiculous. img_13531In many ways, it’s seeing the response that adds to the humour of the situation. My Mum freely admits that she can’t see what makes us laugh so much and perhaps it’s true you require a certain quirky sense of humour to enjoy the half-hour episodes.

Having missed out on tickets for their first UK tour in February 2016, I was determined to get some for January 2017 and was delighted when I managed to secure 2 great seats at the Birmingham Barclaycard Arena. It took some strategic planning with my Mum – well, I had to check she’d be in the country to look after G and M for the night! – but we got there in the end and I even managed to keep it a secret until the big reveal on Mike’s birthday in October. M was not so impressed with our planned night out, but Mike was as thrilled as I was and the time just flew past until we found ourselves taking an afternoon off from work and bombing down the motorway towards our final destination. We found a great place to stay – City Nites Serviced Apartments – within walking distance of the Arena that included a secure location to park the car and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Thai Edge before the show itself started.

We were hoping for a great night out and weren’t disappointed. The Jokers, also known as The Tenderloins comedy troupe, have been performing stand-up for years and their show was filled with a skillful mix of scripted jokes, some improv and the inevitable reveal of previously unseen clips from their successful TV show. I’ll be honest, a few long days and nights on UK tour had obviously taken their toll on all their voices and a heavy drinking session meant that one member of the group in particular was not as sharp as he usually is on-screen, but my favourites, Sal and Joe, were in fantastic form and made the night for me. Mike loved being at yet another live comedy show, having already enjoyed seeing Josh Widdicombe and Dave Gorman for previous birthday treats. It was a brilliant overnight break from the children and one that we both needed after the medical stresses that had stalked us at the end of last year.c2dvr6txeaan_op

Musical interlude

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent

                                                                                                                             – Victor Hugo   

Everybody needs a release for the stresses and strains of day-to-day living.  For some it may be sitting down in front of the television with a large glass of something cold, for others it could be something more active to challenge the body to see just what they can achieve.  For me, there are three things guaranteed to lighten my load:  a good book; a successful bake; and music.


For as long as I can remember, music has been a huge part of my life.  When I was growing up, my parents always said they knew when I was finding life tough because the music would slowly disappear from my daily routine.  I would no longer sit at the piano and sing, until eventually that dark cloud would pass and I could let the music back in.  It is amazing to me how certain songs or tunes can evoke powerful memories and the emotions come rushing back.

clarient These days, whilst the piano sits proudly in our sitting room as an important member of our family that I cannot imagine being without, I rarely find the time to bash out a tune or two.  All too often, I find myself surrounded by small children who want to play alongside me, but who don’t have the patience to allow Mummy to teach them the basics.  However, despite a certain reluctance to put in much practice at home, both G and M have chosen celloto learn instruments to play.  We were recently treated to the school summer music concert, which saw both children playing solo pieces, though I’d be hard-pressed to say who had the greater look of concentration on their face – G with her clarinet or M with his cello.

I am delighted that both G and M love to have music in their lives, a fact that I like to attribute to my incessant playing of specially selected compilation albums during both of my pregnancies.  They both listen to CDs at night to help them settle to sleep and we almost always have a CD playing in the car, even for the shortest of journeys.  I maintain that there is a song for every occasion and have been known to coax M out of the darkest of moods by my rendition of any song that springs to mind, often with a slight change to the lyrics to suit the situation.

My biggest musical passion is, and always has been, singing.  Over the years I have had the opportunity and privilege to sing with some wonderfully talented musicians, from my competition-winning school choir to the history-making Cathedral choir and many more along the way.  I have sung with women-only choirs as well as mixed voices and have had the heady experience of performing on my own in addition to singing with groups that have varied in size from less than 10 to over 200.


My current choir is a wonderful group of anywhere between 10 and 20 ladies, who meet weekly to share our love of music.  Each Tuesday I abandon Mike and the children for an hour’s worth of music, laughter and the most amazing friendships I could imagine.  This group of ladies bring a smile to my face without fail and this week’s rehearsal found me giggling so hard that I couldn’t get any semblance of a note out of my mouth.  I was transported away from the week’s dramas with M and instead could just enjoy some time without that pressure overwhelming me.  No matter what the song, we have a great time and it’s been a pleasure to see the choir grow over the last couple of years.  Sometimes the lyrics of the songs really strike a chord and help me express something I had no idea how else to explain.  At our recent concert, one of the other choirs performing sang the song “There’s a hero” by Billy Gilman which really spoke to me of our journey with M and how I feel about our family.  If you don’t know this song, you can listen to it here.



A little act of thoughtfulness

Garfield and I have a lot in common!

Garfield and I have a lot in common!

I never used to dislike Mondays, but they are rapidly becoming my least favourite day of the week. I’m finding that the weekly treadmill of Monday to Friday work, school and home management is beginning to take its toll.  It’s not that I hate any one element in particular, but put them all together and I find my stress levels soaring.

This week started with a slightly louder bang than usual.  As well as dealing with getting the kids up, showered, dressed and breakfasted before school, I found myself having to make a doctor’s appointment unexpectedly.  Not, as you might well expect, for M, but this time for G. She suffers with eczema on her right arm, which flares in typical eczema fashion, but rarely travels away from the crease of her elbow.  I  have previously noticed that just like me, her eczema flares when she is worried or stressed and had sought a natural remedy to treat the area.


At the Allergy and Freefrom show back in June, I had come across the company Earthbound Organics, who’s highly knowledgeable representative was able to suggest their Chickweed & Calendula cream as a treatment.  It wasn’t a cheap investment – Mike gulped hard when I paid the price – but it sounded like a good, natural remedy for G’s skin irritation.  We’ve been using it as needed since June and have found it brings relief.  I’ve also used it when my own eczema has flared and even daubed it relatively liberally on M’s rash, which was the result of his newly discovered allergy to raspberries.

This weekend, however, G complained that the itching was spreading and when I took a look, I discovered that it had now spread up the length of her arm, under her armpit and was beginning to break out on her left arm too.  I suspected that neither the E45 emollient cream nr the Chickweed & Calendula cream would work this time and so off we headed to our local Medical Centre to see one of the team of GPs after school.  We were there barely 5 minutes, but he agreed with me and quickly prescribed a low dosage hydrocortisone cream to see if that would help.

45 minutes later, we were back home with prescription in tow and a sinking heart as I prepared to tackle that “homework vs. dinner v.s playtime vs. screen-time” argument that seems to break out almost every evening in our household.  It was then that I received my lovely surprise.

M picked the post up from the doormat and passed it to me. It consisted of an Amazon parcel containing my next book for my Book Club and a large silver envelope bearing my name.  I tossed the book to one side and eagerly ripped open the intriguing envelope. Inside, was a card emblazoned with the name of a local beauty salon and I opened it wondering what on earth I would find inside.


What I found was the lovely message you can see above.  An unexpected gift from an old school-friend and her family, who happen to be M’s godparents too.  A special something to treat me, realising that, as is the way of all mothers, I would come bottom of my list of priorities.  A treat to say “Relax” and “Spoil yourself”, when it’s highly unlikely I’d have stopped to take that me-time of my own volition.

A little act of thoughtfulness that let me know that there are people out there thinking of me, supporting me and reminding me to take care of myself as well as the children. Thank you dear friends for taking the time and trouble to show that you care and I promise I’m going to book in that stress-relieving massage before Christmas, even if it kills me!