Saturday, 27 February 2010

Should Know Better

My first night coach was surprisingly smooth running and comfortable considering I was in Peru, and had expected the worst. Embarking on a National Express Eurolines coach journey from London to Holland I wondered if I would also get a blanket, pillow, food and drinks provided, as well as DVDs playing to fill the long journey time.

Surely us Brits boarding a coach should be a sedate affair with our regimented systems, manners, niceties and over-apologetic tendencies, not like the all out survival-of-the-fittest mentality I experienced in China where men in business suits used small children as stepping stones to the coach door and women lashed out with fully developed talons to delay anyone attempting to board and claim the limited seats.

Unfortunately this British stereotype seemed to belong to a lost time as bodies bundled around the coach door occasionally surging forward with the force of the few particularly desperate borders propelling their weight forward with a complete disregard for the queuing system we had been asked to follow. Amid all this chaos, two well dressed middle class women who should know better and should have been at the back of the queue, if there had been one, instead stand near the front of the bundle with the audacity to loudly complain that people are pushing in: “But we were at the front of the line.” Meanwhile someone who has lost all logic and reason tries to bribe the driver £20 for a good seat, failing to consider that for the price of the return coach tickets and the additional £20, they may as well have flown in greater comfort.

Finally all seated and ready to depart, there is still time for one last confrontation. Tickets advise passengers to arrive one hour before the 7pm departure time – something that five latecomers who arrive at seven clearly never read, much to the driver’s glee. He seems to relish informing them through the still open coach door that the coach is ready for departure and the door is now closed. No it isn’t. After a loud altercation and someone obstructing the coach’s path by refusing to move, we finally set off with our smug driver.

Much of the journey to Dover was uneventful. No DVDs, just a radio station and the sound of a female passenger loudly singing along, much to the driver’s admiration: “You’re a good singer.” No, you are a good liar. Her unrelenting chorus reminds me of my oblivion to others as a child – plugged into a walkman enthusiastically singing along during long coach journeys on school trips. No-one ever complained but maybe the rest of the coach in their adolescence shared my complete disregard of others and lack of shame. This tuneless songbird is also old enough to know better but is at the same time protected by her age. If I was to interrupt her private concert and start playing music through my phone, I am sure she might have something to say!

Saved from the drone of our tone deaf songbird, the coach pulls onto the ferry – a strangely nostalgic exciting experience as a mode of transport I used to regularly use as a child at the start of family holidays to France in the days of Hovercraft. I am warmed by the pairing up of two singular travellers, declaring: “Two minds are better than one.” Amid their solidarity is the uncertainty of the lone traveller - a Bulgarian girl asks us several times where to meet to re-board the coach and then seems to follow us around the duty free shop, always keeping us in sight.

As we peruse the overpriced selection of duty free, a sickening smell of perfume fills the air. Having scoffed at the Bar's appalling cider selection and escaped the stench of eggs the quiet lounge area exuded, we tour the boat. The most popular way of passing journey time seems to be in the games area. Bursting full of tracksuit clad teens clutching cans of aptly named Relentless energy drink with gold chains carefully displayed; the ‘amusement’ area is a Paedo’s heaven. At this moment it seems the world is full of chavs and I am in the minority. Their fervour with the games machines reminds me of my childhood belief that, like traffic lights, the more you press the fruit machine buttons, the more likely they are to suddenly allow you play time, despite depositing no money in the coin slot.

Keen to escape the relentless flow of track suited youths and exhausted by the dizzying motion of the ferry combining with the draining stuffiness, we retire to a less smelly lounge area. Here, a man is watching Tom and Jerry cartoons – open mouthed with enormous protruding gnashers and a half-smile on his transfixed face, omitting the occasional eruption of laughter. Even the neat row of children positioned directly in front of the TV aren’t laughing. How can a man that old be this entertained by a lame Tom and Jerry cartoon? More to the point, how can a mouse drag a cat in on a fishing line?

Two men in suits lean around to get a better view of the screen – maybe they are not watching and just in the throes of thought, doing the scary slightly deranged blank looking face my dad sometimes pulls when his “elastic band” has rescued him, dragging him back to the momentary peace and safety of his “man cave”.

The “Tom and Jerry Room” starts to fill up and much to my surprise even one of the tracksuit wearing teens expresses joy when a new “episode” comes on: “Oh, I’ve seen this one.” I recall that even as a child the cherry Tom and Jerry shaped ice lollies you could buy were preferable to watching the cartoon. But maybe even at that early age, I knew slapstick comedy wasn’t for me.

Back on the coach, relievingly our resident entertainer appears too tired to sing – instead the door has jammed and the driver is struggling with it while various passengers share useful insights and discuss possible solutions: You should be able to manually shut the door. What about removing the fuse and putting it back in? Maybe something is stuck in the frame. Perhaps we could superglue it… After 50 minutes of battling with the door, a ‘slow’ passenger goes to ask if something is wrong. A small crowd is forming at the front of the bus watching over our increasingly irritable driver who is losing his patience and phone credit as a co-worker talks him through the correct procedure to follow on his mobile phone. Finally our driver appeals to us passengers for the use of a belt with the right number of holes to tie the door shut.

The rest of the journey was spent with an unrelenting loud ringing noise emanating from the faulty door and a slightly less grumpy driver marginally appeased by the feeling of solidarity in a crisis, trying to encourage all passengers to sing “The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round” with some success, honking his horn twice in victory.

Amazingly, despite all this drama and delays caused by the door and the driver’s apparent constant desire to stop for lengthy rest periods, we arrive earlier than scheduled – something the return journey cannot boast after three hours waiting at the channel tunnel, repeatedly being given conflicting information. Perhaps sometimes the older methods are the best?

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Self-Reflective Sleeper

As with many nights, last night I found myself lying in bed unable to sleep, but unlike most nights, I started to contemplate sleeping positions. I recall discussing them many years ago and confidently confiding I was a foetal sleeper. Examining the lie of my body last night, I realized that this is no longer the case and wondered why, and if this change meant anything.

Exploiting the joys of Google today, I discovered that sleeping positions supposedly give insight into personality traits and physical fitness. Apparently Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, has analysed six common sleeping positions, finding each one is linked to a particular personality type: “We are all aware of our body language when we are awake but this is the first time we have been able to see what our subconscious posture says about us. What’s interesting is that the profile behind the posture is often very different from what we would expect.”

Last night’s revelation challenges the research that also found most people are unlikely to change their sleeping position – 5% of interviewees claim to sleep in a different position ever night. In terms of duvet coverage, I seemed to be at least pretty average there – Professor Idzikowski found that one arm or leg sticking out of the duvet is Britain’s most common position, followed by both feet poking out of the end and one in ten people covering themselves entirely with the duvet.

Interestingly my new preferred sleeping position, the recovery position, is not included in Professor Idzikowski’s findings. My previous favourite gets a mention and the position closest to the recovery, The Yearner. According to his findings, also helpfully listed by Horlicks on their website, I am one of two personality profiles:

Foetus - Tough on the outside but soft and sensitive on the inside. Shy around new people but bubbly and open when you get to know them.

The Yearner (Lying on the side with both arms out in front) – A slightly suspicious and cynical character but also generous and giving. You take your time to make decisions but once you have made up your mind, you stick to it.

After more investigation I discovered my sudden adoption of the recovery position, is certainly not unheard of with a facebook group dedicated solely to this subject and other much stranger sleeping positions to be found.

After a bit of self-analysis, I decide that perhaps transforming from a foetal sleeper to someone favouring the recovery position is symbolic of growth - maybe as a foetal sleeper I was less sure of myself and dependent whereas now I am worn down and in need of rescuing. Then I discover a message board with a pregnant woman announcing she adopted this position when she was heavily pregnant. So what does this say about me?

Deciding I need an answer I travail through a trail of sites and message boards that lead me to a whole new analysis. I discover according to another site that the way I sleep when with my other half also reveals something about our relationship:

“Loosely Tethered Sleeping Style

This is a variation of the spoon – the most common position adopted by couples in the first few years of marriage. Comforting and cocoon-like, it’s semi-foetal position with genitals against buttocks to provide maximum physical closeness, though it’s not necessarily an erotic position. The man is usually the embracer. A few years later, couples feel secure enough to allow space – and comfort – into their bed. Often, they sleep tethered, like Spoons but with distance between them. A touching hand, knee or foot sustains the emotional current. This ‘affectionate’ position seems to diminish the pressure for sex.”

After nearly nine years of sleeping in this position, we are obviously not ready to allow “space” in our relationship! If I ever find myself arguing about who sleeps where and how, at least I now know there's an on-line couple's quiz ready to resolve the dispute. Now I just have to find out where the wondering mind of a minor insomniac takes me tonight.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

'The Love Doctor' Takes Control

Ten years ago Internet dating was relatively unheard of and five years ago meeting your partner this way was viewed as something to be ashamed of and either conceal or sheepishly admit with caution. Today, Internet dating is not only fashionable but actively encouraged by the media through features actually suggesting sites to sign up to for different types of people - gay, sporty, wine lovers, beautiful people, folks with a uniform fetish... the list is endless.

As the pace of life has got faster and working days longer, it has become more difficult to meet that man or women of your dreams. If you didn't meet anyone in the hedonistic university days when drunken snogging would herald the start of something, it becomes less and less likely you will meet someone out and about with the same ease. As work increasingly becomes your skeleton with the money earned supporting your lifestyle, alcohol takes a less dominant role in weekly proceedings and unfortunately so do nightclub flirtations.

There is a chance you might meet that special someone through friends but if you are like me, most of your friends are probably already paired off and nights out are often very couple heavy. One of the reasons for all these happy couples is the Internet. In the last few years, several of my friends have met significant others this way and I am attending my first Internet fuelled wedding later this year. Dating sites have allowed my single friends to find a set of people they actually have something in common with who are also single and interested in them and then through trial and error whittle this list down to one. Unlike in a club, pub or bar, all the people in their "inbox" are actively interested and have something in common with them. The probability of finding so many eligible suitors on the course of a night out is pretty low - reportedly one in 285,000. Dating sites remove the embarrassment and disappointment of knock-backs, approaching the unknown and the expectations that used to come with a night out. It also allows people to discover whether a potential partner is interested in having children any time in the future which is an awkward and scary question to ask early on but for some, means all the difference later.

Sure the person on the site might have posted an old picture, be stretching the truth about themselves or even outright lying but one meeting in a safe place will confirm or challenge whatever they have claimed about themselves and after chatting for a while on-line that first meeting will be marginally less awkward. Another friend of mine has recently rather tentatively joined a dating site. Not sure if she really wants a relationship yet or that she will even be in the country for much of this year, she is using it to test the waters.

I am rather ashamed to say that although I am firmly with partner, browsing the site is rather addictive, especially when my friend has allowed me to write the feeder messages initialising first contact. Several hours were spent browsing at the weekend and after several glasses of wine it became hysterical entertainment. The friend who is actually signed up to the site went to bed as the two of us remaining eagerly awaited a reply.

After hours of browsing, replying and waiting, I am surprised by how many people are on these sites and how variable they are. After sending one message, we managed to wheedle out the sleaze bag in one potential suitor:


How you going? I'm 30. I'm not sure about a white dress but I am single too. I've been doing this job for far too long but have finally got the guts to make a change and I am about to break out of the mould.

I am curious to get to know you and your "learnings"...”


Good morning, how did you sleep? That was very funny :) Are you indeed.. You are very attractive, wouldnt have thought you would have been single.

Whats your origin, as thats not the typical name I hear over here. Where do you work? London? What are you going to go and do if you change jobs?

Thats good to be curious! I always am. I suppose learnings come if there is a spark between parties, and both feel very relaxed but at the same time curious about how each other feels close by. I am very different to most men, in the way In my mind, the woman has all the power and should be treated and touched unselfishly. Nothing better in the world than seeing a woman judder and shake.

Hope you have a nice day.”

Another guy online at the time immediately attracted our attention by his witty opening:

“I debated about posting a picture because I was afraid I would be recognised from the episode of Jeremy Kyle I was in last year when my wife told me she was having an affair with my best mate. Boy did she regret doing our laundry in public, I cut her good. I was off my medication at the time, so I managed to get off with just being electronically tagged. Anyways my psychologist says that I need to feel more confident and move on in my life, so I'm taking the first step.

If your name is Rita, that would be great as I already have that name tattooed on my forearm. If nothing else, I'd like to find a bird, who doesn't mind doing all the housework, mainly just with the gardening as I keep setting my tag off when I go outside.

I did have children but Lee’s in a young offenders institute and my Shane’s now with the social services. I’ve been re-housed a few times as I just don’t get on with my neighbours, all they seem to do is video me through the curtains and call the police about my music. I really like Jungle. So?

I’m off all the drugs at the moment and the doctors put me on Metronidazole so don’t go bringing me cider on our date as I’ll probably puke all over you.

If there are any lawyers out there I’d really like to hear from you as I’m up in court soon for a section 5 offence but I’m denying it, told 'em I was tying my shoelace and my pants fell down.

Okay, I'll be serious..

I must admit I initially joined this website for a laugh and assumed people on here must be desperate and or socially inept. But I was wrong, I've spoken to and gotten to know some great people on here.

I'm looking for someone with similar interests who's up for a random chat; and if we find we have something in common, maybe hang out and do a bit of sightseeing, go for a meal, dig for treasure, tip over some cows or something. I've listed friends as my motive but I could be interested in something more if things turn out well.....”

So after all this time spent browsing men I do not need or want, all I can say is, if you are single, sign yourself up and give it a go, either as a private project or as part of a girl's night in. There are so many people out there, sure some are slightly strange but others are worth getting to know if you will take the risk."

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Binge Fitness

In the last week, I have done my first exercise since October, aside from walking of course. Unless you are into running or team sports or have the space to do exercise DVDs, it can be rather pricey. As I seem to be perpetually penniless, a bit of a charity case and have no space for home workouts, (other than on my exceedingly squeaky rickety fold-out double camp bed!), I have had to forfeit regular exercise. You could argue I can run or jog but ever since Primary School running has led me to hyperventilate, go red faced and sweat profusely. Some might say this is normal but not if you saw me when all this is going on; the reactions were so alarming that even those sadistic P.E. and Games teachers of old would tell me to stop.

Everything changed when the lady I lodge with kindly gave me radically discounted vouchers for local fitness centres - all valid until the end of February. In true Leo style, I have set myself the task of trying to use all the vouchers before the end of the month, despite the fact I will not even be in the country for a substantial part of the few remaining days. Last week I attended two Yoga sessions, an hour of aqua aerobics and a Pilates class, as well as the lengths I used to so faithfully do three to four times a week.

Aside from shortness of breath and rather achy limbs, all this exercise caused me to reflect on the different reasons people actively seek exercise. From my observations, there are those who exercise because they like to look buff with bulging muscles; others merely want to turn fat to muscle and squeeze into certain clothes; some folks actually care about their body being a finely tuned machine; some weirdos actually enjoy it; some people reportedly get some kind of buzz like an adrenaline rush and there are those who have been informed by their doctor certain forms of exercise might be wise. I am sure my tone gives away which category I fall into and if you know me, it will be quite obvious.

Swimming with its ability to mask the sweat I might produce if not in water, has always been my exercise of choice so how did Yoga, Pilates and Aqua fair? I used to do Yoga as a games option in school, preferring what seemed to be a few stretches and relaxed lying around to running across pitches holding a Lacrosse stick. Since those days I have sampled it a few times and enjoyed Yoga but never understood breathing techniques. Two hour and a half sessions have confirmed that Yoga Iyengar isn't for me. I just don't really care what is going on inside of my body and am not in tune with my internal organs (my interest or should I say lack of interest in Biology hasn't changed much since the days of G.C.S.E.s) - so long as I am not dying and fit into my clothes, I am happy. All this talk about feeling the skin on the hip bone moving this way and the bone on the other hip moving another way is lost on me. I either feel a burning pain or the move seems pointless. As for inhaling and exhaling at the right times or through the correct nostrils, I have decided that can get lost too. The amount of props needed for this type of yoga shocked me. As far as I was aware all you needed was a cushioned surface or a mat - no, not with Yoga Iyengar! I was instructed to get a chair, two types of mat, foam bricks, wooden bricks, a blanket and a kind of strap to aid stretches - some folks seemed to be even getting what looked like medium sized bean bags to use as soft weights. The one thing I did like about the class, was the strange man who attended both times and seemed to sit in a corner doing his own stretches for the entire class wearing chequered boxers, a fleece shirt and a white head band. Why bother showing up and paying? As far as I could see he may as well have done his personalised "work-out" at home. His presence fascinated me.

Unfortunately activity number two, Aqua, had no apparent eccentric regular. I went in to Aqua thinking it was strictly for old women but I owed it a go. In the days when I had the cash to be a Virgin Active member, I would resent the predominantly older and all female aqua crowd for stealing half the pool and causing enormous tidal waves across the water when I was battling to do my lengths. After an hour of aqua I have to take back everything I said. Aqua was actually exhausting - that may be because I am so unfit at the moment! Its appeal is clearly still more for females, although a much more mixed age group than classes I had previously seen. A supportive boyfriend did show up to the second session I attended, looking slightly bemused. Pilates on the other hand, seemed to attract a real mixture of ages and abilities with a greater male representation. An hour of Pilates and I could feel the burn immediately and three days later my body is still complaining.

So what have I learnt from my fitness frenzy? Perhaps not to judge an activity without trying it and that unless I want to try to get in tune with my body, Yoga Iyengar isn't for me.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Precious Little to Complain About

Feeling down and hard done by, I always try to convince myself that everything happens for a reason. I haven't turned into a mystic or a hippie, it's a coping mechanism I have employed sometime since my mid 20s - maybe fatalistic or perhaps just a way of de-stressing by removing the onus. If I don't get that interview, job or work; if something I am looking forward to gets cancelled; if the bus turns up late or if I get a horrific cold, it is meant to be. I'm not sure why but there must be a reason.

Lying in bed unable to breathe, fearing I might suffocate in the middle of the night if I ever finally get any sleep, I found it hard to apply this theory. Going to see Precious or seeing my sister's cone-head cat Fingerling remind me that there are much worse things and however I may feel, it is only temporary.

Fingerling has got inexplicable rashes that cause him to furiously itch leaving patches of his coat bald and bloodied. After various attempts to stop his incessant scratching he has been given a neck cone. Remember that cats navigate and have a sense of balance through their whiskers so having these encased inside a giant plastic cone results in severe misery – not to mention difficulty performing daily tasks like getting the large and slightly comical cone correctly aligned over the smaller food bowl. Not only is it hard to walk around, it is unsafe to go outside and watching the food he has accidentally vomited swill inside the cone, is pitiful. Yet, despite all this, a determined and habitual Fingerling still attempts to keep his pride in tact by constant self-grooming, although unfortunately he is licking the inside of a cone!

The same persistence and survival instinct is seen in Precious. The film received mixed reviews as either a film that inspired or was depressing from start to finish in the unrelenting knocks the protagonist takes. Having finally got round to watching it, I find it difficult to understand how anyone could misinterpret this film as negative. The lead is illiterate, mentally and physically abused, obese, pregnant for the second time at 16 and diagnosed as HIV positive but still manages to trudge on and enjoy what tiny successes she accomplishes. Suddenly a few knock backs, cancellations and a cold seem like nothing.

Sure there are always others in the world much worse off but when self-pity kicks in sometimes it is strangely therapeutic to be reminded of this.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Are Clowns The New Vampires?

I like a good lie in and have to have a good reason to abandon this luxury so you may ask why I voluntarily did just that. Or perhaps you don't care.

I don't have much enthusiasm for churches or clowns but the surreal concoction of the two was just enough to tantalise and peak my interest to force me out of bed before midday. The first Sunday in February is dedicated to the annual Grimaldi service, otherwise known as the Clown's Service. The service has been going since 1946, in memory of London based Joseph Grimaldi who died in 1837 and is apparently arguably England's most loved and famous clown.

What interested me most about the service was that in 1967 clowns were given permission to attend the church in full costume. Envisaging a sea of brightly coloured wigs, red- noses and over-sized shoes taking over an enormous church, my partner in crime and I raced through the traffic and fought a series of road works, failing to get there on time but making it before the service was over, secretly slightly relieved we wouldn't have to attend a full hour of hymns and prayer parroting while also rather apprehensive that we wouldn't be allowed in. Surely churches are all about forgiveness and being inclusive? But maybe not to arrivals 45 minutes into an hour service, after all a theatre performance would never allow it and you have to pay for that!

After testing my best journalist's blag bullshit on the people manning the door and initial protestations, we made it in to stand at the back of a pretty full church. Still blurry eyed from my forfeited lie-in and famously squinty sight, something was very wrong - far too many people, like me, were in drab Sunday slob clothes. My visions of colour overkill died. There were more people clutching cameras and recording equipment than clowns wearing their trademark glare.

After a prayer thanking god for the gift of laughter, remembrance of clowns recently deceased and the “Clown's Prayer”, those wearing the “uniform of their trade” paraded down the centre of the church ready to perform to an adoring public. The show that followed reminded me why I have never found clowns very funny. I am sure as a small child I stood cynically at the side, was too serious to “get it” or perhaps burst into tears at the sight of them. I never remember being terrified of clowns, even when Pennywise came along - I think the Wimpy Man was a more affective trigger.

Watching as a variety of clowns amused the group of hysterical and highly engaged children at the front, I found myself wondering how anyone could actively decide to be a clown – I mean, are they comedians at heart who have never quite succeeded in winning over an adult audience? It seemed to me that the main skills needed to be a clown were either severe or feigned clumsiness, a level of confidence that allows you to perform while masking your disappointment as no-one laughs, the ability to deliver particularly bad jokes (“My girlfriend is called Anet - she was quite a catch”), some kind of affinity with the little people, a few tricks up your sleeve and the ability to engage others in audience participation; all appear to indicate that clowning around is a profession particularly suited to older folk , despite the few younger clowns fighting for their corner.

Although I appreciated the efforts of the clowns performing in the free after service show (particularly the guy who did an appalling dance throughout a medley of songs as the audience watched united in disbelief until he was asked to leave the stage), what got me most interested was the camera crews? What were they filming for? Afterwards, asking a guy standing inside the church, I was told the footage was for a documentary, although where this would be showcased was clearly a secret, judging by his cagey responses to all my questions. So, it would seem the art of clowning remains a mystery to me and Hollywood will not be churning out clown films, at least not in 2010 anyway. Our vampire friends are safe for the moment.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Caught up by a Class Act?

"No one ever does anything to please me.” So in the spirit of doing things to make others happy I concede and agree to see Sister Act, the musical. Something that the boys around me are particularly revolted by. Musicals seem to be a mystery to a large percentage of the male population, at least many of the guys I have met around my age group. Why would people just keep breaking out into song after all?

When I tell them advanced tickets cost over £60, their disgust is magnified: “For £60 you could probably get another kind of sister act, maybe even one involving twins.” The Palladium isn't too far from Soho but I am not sure the change of plan is something my mother would be too happy about.

Not a huge fan of the film, Sister Act, I'm not convinced several hours spent watching the stage version would be a Friday night well spent but reminding myself we purchased reduced last minute tickets, I am not paying and it is for the greater good of Big G's happiness, I enter the stalls.

Two and half hours later I leave slightly flabbergasted; I actually quite enjoyed it. Plot slightly hazy, I had completely forgotten the whole premise for Doloris Van Cartier being safeguarded in a convent. The weakest sequence in the musical was unfortunately the opening as Doloris (Whoopi'scharacter for those who can't remember and are actually following this!) sings in the club before witnessing her gangster boyfriend killing someone and understandably freaking out, going on the run. I don't remember Doloris looking like a complete skank in the 1992 film with a wardrobe entirely comprised of different types of conflicting animal print.

Patina Miller dumbs down Doloris' feisty character, keeping her sassy but somehow unfortunately making her less likeable. Sure Miller is full of contagious smiles, has a strong enough voice to play the lead and is convincing in her version of Doloris but something isn't quite right and I'm a traditionalist, preferring adaptations to remain faithful, unless changes are justifiable or successfully enhance a performance.

A strong cast proved their worth in solo parts with smaller characters creating cleverly choreographed comical interludes. The set list does not remain faithful to the film after copyright battles but among the weaker songs, there are both cleverly penned and catchy tunes; particular favourites being the excellent Ako Mitchell as aspiring tough cop Eddie, singing “I Would be That Guy” and the gangster trio trying to woo the nuns by hilariously crooning “Lady in the Long Black Dress”.

Sheila Hancock successfully takes on Maggie Smith as Mother Superior, touchingly singing “Within These Walls” and Katie Rowley Jones is spot on as the shy Sister Mary Robert visibly growing in confidence as the clock hands turn, before belting out “The Life I Never Lead”. As in the film, Sister Mary Patrick's light hearted warm character creates much of the humour and is faithfully portrayed by Claire Greenway.

Cleverly manoeuvred sets revealed fast changing detailed back drops and the revolving section of the stage was put to inventive use. Costumes rang true to the film and the show ended with appropriately glitzy all cast costumes, including the obligatory spangly habits and the predictable feel good ending, complete with final all-cast ensemble.

The audience clapped enthusiastically until the stage was empty with some even standing. My red hands stung by the time the lights were raised but a red warning light was also flashing - something still told me this was no five star performance.

3 ½ (Just because this is my blog and I am allowed to give halves!)