Pride and Prejudice at The Lowry (Review)


Pride and Prejudice Regents Park Theatre Lowry
Tafline Steen and Benjamin Dilloway as Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy

There was a period of time in my late teens when I discovered Jane Austen.  I remember my welcomingly thick Collins compendium of her works, which still sits in a box of my University books somewhere, waiting for the moment when my two girls are old enough to begin to appreciate them.

Ever since, Pride and Prejudice has been one of my favourite novels.  The journey of Lizzie Bennet as she discovers her love for the distantly brooding Mr Darcy (“Until this moment, I never knew myself” – cue flutterings of the heart!) amidst the surrounding comedy of a highly-strung Mother of 5 girls and the hapless Mr Collins mesmerised and stayed with me.

Last night, I was invited to see Pride and Prejudice at the Lowry in Salford.  The invitation seemed to arrive at just the right time; Pride and Prejudice has influenced so much of our culture, including the fantastic 1995 BBC TV series and the subsequent Bridget Jones series which cast the same Mr Darcy.  I went to see the latest Bridget Jones film featuring Colin Firth’s Darcy just last week – so I feel I’ve had a double dose of Darcy!

The play is a Regent’s Park Theatre adaptation by Simon Reade, with a cast that includes Matthew Kelly as Mr Bennet – played brilliantly (he is so tall!).  We had a few laughs at Mr Bennet’s withering comments to Felicity Montague’s Mrs Bennet.

Pride and Prejudice Regents Park Theatre Lowry
Matthew Kelly as Mr Bennet

It’s hard to top Jennifer Ehle’s Miss Bennet in the 1995 TV production.  However Tafline Steen did a good job.  A little more carefree than the Ehle version, the proposal scenes were nevertheless pleasingly tense, with Benjamin Dilloway’s Darcy delivering his declaration of Elizabeth’s inferiority convincingly.

He didn’t emerge from a pond with a wet shirt at any point in the show, however.

Pride and Prejudice Regents Park Theatre Lowry
Steven Meo as Mr Collins

By far the most enjoyable character to watch last night was Steven Meo’s Mr Collins.  He was just so funny!  His silly dancing – I need to try and emulate this at the next wedding I go to, just for fun.  I could have spent the entire evening watching just Mr Collins.

However, Montague’s Mrs Bennet was a close second.  Clinging to the banister at one point (half way up) in an attempt to convinced the escaping Mr Bennet to force Lizzie to accept Mr Collins’ marriage proposal, she was absolutely hilarious.

I enjoyed the evening and would recommend you go and see Pride and Prejudice. It’s at The Lowry until Saturday 15th October, and further tour dates and venues are listed here (or follow @DarcyOnTour on Twitter).

Outside the Lowry
Outside the Lowry

The Lowry is a great venue, for both adults and children.  It’s easy to get to and is an impressive building, with lots of eating and drinking places.  The play was in the Lyric theatre. it’s spacious, comfortable and we had good stalls seats with a decent view.  We ‘retired’ to the Circle bar in the interval for drinks which is really nice – low lighting, comfortable tables and seats and view of the theatre. I’ve also seen previous shows in the Quays Theatre, which also has a great bar adjacent to it overlooking the Quays.

We’re looking forward to our next trip to the Lowry.  I’ll be looking at what’s on in the next few months and the lead up to Christmas.  I may also re-read Pride and Prejudice!

Disclaimer:  We were invited to watch Pride and Prejudice free of charge.  All opinions are our own.

Flaming hot pizza with Pizza Express & Deliveroo

We love hot food here in the Expression household.  The hotter the better for my husband and I – plus our girls (now aged 6 and 4) got used to a bit of spice in their food from an early age. 

What else is a favourite? Pizza of course! What family doesn’t love a cosy Saturday evening in with a big fat pizza? Even better, a big, fat, HOT and SPICY pizza? 

This is exactly what we did last night.  Strictly was on TV (yes, after years of holding off our 6 year old is now smitten with the sequinned, spinning wonders parading before us) and we ordered the Pizza Express Etna pizza which is currently available via the Deliveroo app or site. 

Apparently, Pizza Express fans have been clamouring for the return of the flaming hot Etna pizza recipe, which was removed last year. It’s now back – exclusively via Deliveroo. 

The pizza contains spicy ‘nduja sausage paired with sweet and spicy roquito chilli peppers.  We added the Romana base (bigger, nice and thin) and also a side of formaggi dough balls. 

Pizza Express Etna deliveroo
I forgot to mention that wine was also involved

I can report that this was a big hit with the family. I was variously told “nice sausage”, “hmmm, spicy” and “hmmm, melting cheese!”

The deliveroo service is also really handy for those evenings when you just can’t be bothered to go out and yet would still like restaurant quality food.  We’ve used deliveroo quite a few times, for local independent restaurants as well as the larger chains such as Pizza Express.  Our pizza arrived within 30 minutes, nice and hot and delivered by a very friendly chap. 

The Etna recipe  is exclusively available for customers to order by logging on to the Deliveroo mobile app, the Deliveroo website or the Pizza Express website. 

Disclosure:  We were invited to try the exclusive Etna recipe free of charge.  All opinions are our own. 

Me time: Volair Spa, Knowsley

It’s hard to find time to relax as a parent of young children.  Even those times when you do have a few moments to yourself, you can find that your mind goes into overdrive with a mental list of tasks you ought to be either doing or thinking about.

As Mum to nearly-6 and 4 year old girls, I was delighted to be invited to the Volair Spa in Knowlsey this week for a pampering spa day.  A whole day just for me? Doing lovely, relaxing things? Unheard of!

Volair Spa Knowsley
I set out to Knowsley this Tuesday with my fellow blogger HodgePodgeDays anticipating some serious Zen time and we got just that – and more. 

The spa is set within a multi-million pound leisure complex so we had a nosey around there first as we approached the spa. There’s a huge swimming pool for example, coffee shop and welcoming sculpture and art work.

In the spa, we were greeted by the lovely Hayley and her team, who I must thank as they looked after our every need all day.  Hayley showed us to the spa’s relaxation room which was so inviting- full of cosy chairs, squishy beanbags, fleecy throws with dimmed lighting and chill out music.  Every spa should have one of these. 

We had a welcome drink (I chose a fiery rhubarb and ginger tea) and pastries and Hayley explained that our group would be split into two, experiencing the thermal suite and cleansing/facial interactive demonstrations in turn.

Volair Spa Knowsley
HodgePodge and I experienced the thermal spa first, which consists of jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.  But first, a member of Hayley’s team gave us some beautiful-smelling body scrubs to try.  These were by Lycon and I tried the lavender and chamomile scent which made my skin feel so soft and exfoliated – great to do before a sauna/steam.  

As you can see from the above, we spent a lot of time in the jacuzzi! The thermal area is really nice, with beds you can also relax on as you move from room to room, detoxifying.

Volair  Spa  Knowsley
We had to shift ourselves out of the tub however and move to our buffet lunch, followed by the demonstrations.

Here Hayley talked us through how to cleanse and take off makeup effectively – with a real handy hints and using AromaWorks products.  We tried their cleanser, toner and facial oil range.  I do like to use a facial oil on some evenings of the week as I find my skin can get quite dry.  The AromaWorks oils smelt gorgeous, with lots of essential oils to treat the skin.  

Hayley explained that it’s best to cleanse twice, particularly in the evening as the first cleanse will loosen the grime and pollution of the day and the second will then take away any final traces and allow any oils to penetrate the skin. Also, using a wet cotton pad to apply toner means you will use less product each time.  Finally, tapping the skin lightly with your fingertips as you apply moisturiser will ensure the cream is applied evenly and also help the circulation, helping the moisturiser to sink in. 

Our group then watched Hodgepodge have a CrystalClear microdermabrasion facial.  Fascinating! This used an electric tool which gently exfoliated the skin using very fine crystals.  The result was very good- take a look at HodgePodge’s site to see the results.

We felt really looked after at Volair Spa.  I’d certainly go back there (already booked in, in fact).  It’s a lovely, small spa with a personal feel to it.  If you’re in the area and have time for a pamper- give it a go.

Disclosure: We were invited to Volair Spa, Knowsley free of charge.  All opinions expressed are my own. 

Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park 

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
The fairground and exploring the beautiful gardens.

Hot on the heels of my recent posts bemoaning the end of the summer holidays, I wanted to sneak in a piece about our recent trip to see Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park.  As ambassdors for Roald Dahl at Tatton Park (hooray!!) we couldnt’ wait to visit again. Our last visit in April this year was a huge success; we loved every minute.

The thing is, this summer has been so wet! Luckily, there’s still lots to do at Tatton and particularly with the Roald Dahl activities and events, such as Matilda at the Mansion house and Fantastic Mr Fox at the Farm.  However, we really wanted to wait for a terrific sunny day so that we could spend time in the gardens once more.

Roald Dahl aside, as you can see from our photos, Tatton is always a great place to visit.  Last week, there was a mini-fairground adjacent to the adventure play area, so we began our day with carousel rides and ice cream.

Moving onto the gardens (via coffee at the excellent cafe/tea rooms – a recurring theme of my posts!) I always take the opportunity to take lots of photos of the girls (aged nearly 6 and nearly 4) here.  They really are beautiful and looking so amazing at this time of the year.  A big favourite with my girls is the rose garden, where they smell the different varieties of rose and avidly watch the pond for creatures and critters!

The girls are already huge Roald Dahl fans, which is great as I used to love his books when I was young (and still do).  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a big hit with them, and on that note they were overjoyed to see the huge replica of a ‘golden ticket’ chocolate bar adjacent to the entrance road as we drove towards the parking area.

In the gardens you can find activities and exhibits relating to Danny Champion of the World, The Twits and the BFG.  A big favourite here for my girls is the Twits – check out the Twits grumpy faces my youngest is pulling.

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
Pulling silly Twits faces, getting smaller, The BFG and The Twits in the Tower Garden.

I don’t think I could do better myself!   The Twits’ House is set in the Tower Garden and really well done, with the silly  Twits dangling upside down from the ceiling and mirrors, pictures and the like also upside down.

They also love the Twits’ oversized and undersized chairs…because of course a silly trick is played whereby Mrs Twit thinks she is shrinking (might try it on the husband).

There’s lots to get through just completing the Road Dahl activities in the garden alone.  The Danny Champion of the World trail is amazing, with lots of well crafted huts, a wooden adventure trail and fire station.

We found the BFG hiding in the conservatory – peering out from the tall tropical plants, surrounded by snakes and other various creatures.  We also saw where he kept the dreams of children – suspended from multicoloured jars from a colourful tree.

We spent the best part of an entire day in the gardens, in part because the Roald Dahl exhibits (see his own writing hut, below) fired the girls’ imaginations meaning they spent a long time at imaginary play.  It was lovely to see.  I got a nice sit down too, of course, as they ran in and out of the bushes, pretending they were in their very own writing hut.

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
Roald Dahl’s writing hut


Next up is a Frightsome Halloween from the 22nd – 3oth October, based on The Witches! There’ll be activities galore in the Mansion, Old Hall, Farm and Gardens.  I really can’t wait for that.  I love a good spookfest! A family ticket for all of these activities is £27.50 which I think is really reasonable.

Well, summer is over, but autumn is here.  Happy new term everyone!

Disclosure:  I am an official ambassador for Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park and was given a free pass for my family.  All opinions are my own.

Summer fun at Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester

Well that’s that, the summer holiday period is over (boooo!) but there’s lots to look forward to (hooray!) as we settle into a brand new routine.  My eldest girl (nearly 6) enters Year 1 this September and my youngest (nearly 4) will be skipping into Pre-School.  She can’t wait – but I admit I’m feeling a little tearful at the thought of my littlest sausage-loving pink princess leaving me.

I wanted to make this summer really special and as you’ll see from some of my posts, we’ve been keeping ourselves active and getting out as much as possible. Luckily for us, Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester and Sealife Manchester have very kindly provided us with a year of fun via an annual family pass!  We’re feeling very lucky; my girls love both of these great attractions.  We had such a good day viewing the Octopus Hideout at Sealife during the Easter holiday back in April – the girls could!n’t stop talking about it.   They’re also accessible and easy to get to – located at Barton Square in the Trafford Centre. Great parking and ease of access, which is always a bonus if you have young ones and you’re lugging prams and bottomless ‘Mary Poppins’ changing bags around.  Luckily, we left that stage behind, only to be replaced with “bottomless snack rucksack” (however, Legoland has a really good cafe…more on that later).

Last week, after much deliberation (Legoland or Sealife? Both in one day? Or savour one at once?) we settled on a trip to Legoland again.  Recently, and after 6 hugely successful years the Legoland Discovery Centre has welcomed its 2 millionth visitor!  I was excited to hear that Thomas and Rebecca Stevens alongside their father Andrew, and his partner Karen, were welcomed into the attraction in a fanfare of balloons and prizes on Friday 26th August and were also awarded with an annual family pass.  Have fun guys – it’s an invaluable family bonus and you’ll find yourself using it lots.

Legoland Manchester
Mr Brick and his Brick-ettes

Inside Legoland we were greeted by Dr Brick, a really friendly character the girls were immediately in awe of! He explained to the girls how the Lego bricks are made, with his colourful machinery. I thought this was really magical for the girls. They had a chance to engage with Dr Brick; he asked my 6-year-old to pull some levers, press buttons and jump up and down and out popped some special Legoland bricks!  My girls like nothing better than jumping up and down.

We then entered Legoland through a set of huge colourful doors and made our way onto our first interactive ride – shooting the baddies with laser guns and saving the princess!   They were so thrilled and would have had about 80 turns if we didn’t have so much else to see.

When you enter the main area you are immediately struck by how much there is to do here!  There is over two million Lego bricks, with many impressive models for the children (and adults!) to view including a Manchester themes Miniland.  The centre provides an opportunity for children to explore and learn through interactive play, with huge vats of differently coloured bricks and different modelling stations (including a car-building area). Alongside the Lego, the centre offers a 4D cinema with different films on rotation and rides including, the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride and Lego City: Forest Pursuit.
Legoland ManchesterThere’s a cafe, where we had lunch. I found the pricing here reasonable. We bought a kids lunch box (sandwich, drink, fruit and crisps), the obvious latte for me and a toastie and we shared the lot which came to £12.99.  I can also report that there is nice coffee – not easily found in family attractions.
There’s a Lego kitchen area which was a BIG hit, particularly because it’s mainly pink and contains a karaoke machine.  There are also great soft pay areas – one for very young children and one with a climbing frame and slide.

My two had a great time. I think it’s well worthwhile checking out their offers on their website, both for family tickets and annual passes if you’re looking for a regular attraction you can reply on for your children, in school holidays, rainy days or just when you’re stuck for something to do.


We’re planning to visit at half term – and possibly before (I still get half days with my youngest as she’s pre-school and not yet in full-time education – yay!!).  As an ambassador for both Legoland and Sealife, I’ll be looking forward to telling about all the latest news and events.

Disclosure: I am a blogger ambassador for Sealife Manchester and the Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester.  I have been provided with an annual family pass by Merlin Entertainment.  All opinions are my own.

Forget-me-not-Friday #71

My husband was recently complaining that I haven’t done my Forget-me-not-Friday in a while – whereby I simply pick a funny thing my children have said that week.

So here’s a quick one from my youngest, age 3:

I’m happily relaxing in the bath after a busy day, whilst my husband finishes off bedtime with my two girls.

3 year-old barges into the bathroom, index finger held aloft.

3 year-old: “Mummy, I’ve come to wash my finger.”

Me: “Why?”

3 year-old: “Because it’s all trumpy.”

Me, not really wanting to ask why it’s ‘all trumpy’, but feeling like I should: “Why’s it all trumpy?”

3 year-old: “Because I sat on my trump.”


Moving on 

last day of reception
The last day of Reception.
Yesterday marked the end of an era right here.  The last day of Reception for my 5 year old (6 in October!) which was also the last day of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in educational terms.

It was also the last Thursday my youngest (age 3…nearly 4!) and I would spend just the two of us, as by September she’ll be starting preschool.  It seems only a minute ago that I was blogging about back to school last September!

So a lot of endings…but a lot of new beginnings.  The start of the summer holiday period with lots of activities lined up, including trips to SealifeLegolandRoald Dahl at Tatton Park and a holiday to Windermere.   It feels different, this summer.  The girls are a little older again – “stop growing!” I say, and yet it’s easier in many ways and new activities seem to become appropriate.  This can mean anything from trampolining to sticking a big drawing pad in the garden on a sunny day and letting them draw/write about their summer!

My 3 year old starts preschool in September
Also new on the horizon: starting Year 1 and the National Curriculum, which I believe is a big step up from the early years.  Luckily our 5 year old has had a morning of settling in which she enjoyed – “you have to finish your writing before you can play, you know!” I was reliably informed!

3 year old similarly had her ‘settle in’ for preschool and didn’t look back.  She wants to go right now! In that, there’s a bit of a theme occurring…I have moments of sadness that I’ll get less time with them now that they’re both at school, but they are just happy and keen to move forward and get on with it.  And that’s just how I should be, too (despite turning 40 recently…more on that soon! Could time slow down please?).  

To trot out an old and now slightly annoying (and usually corporate) phrase, “there’s nothing as constant as change.” Sometimes, it takes a while to get used to, to settle into it (and then change happens again).  I started this year by blogging about being more mindful.  I think I’m doing ok!  The moments of sadness about my little ones moving on have been fleeting, as I know there’s such excitement and rich experience ahead. 

Happy summer holidays! 

Fun at Geronimo 2016!

geronimo fest
Mr Tumble and more at Geronimo!
Last year I was lucky enough to be selected as a Geronimo ambassador.

Geronimo is the largest children’s festival in the UK and took place on the 29th and 30th May at Tatton Park during the summer half term.  It had a great line up packed with some of the biggest names in children’s entertainment and activities such as a fairground, circus zone, theatre and an adrenaline zone and much more.  

We went last year as a family and had such a great family day. This year, as we were unable to go ourselves, a friend of ours took her lovely family.  Here’s what she had to say:

“The day was fantastic – helped by the weather of course- for all of us. I was really surprised at just how much there was to do at any given time. 

We tried a couple of the shows, which were great at getting the children involved and keeping them entertained. Probably because of the weather, the indoor shows were easy to access and find seats for. The biggest queues were for the helter skelter (we queued for about 20 minutes) and the ice cream van (there was only one!).

Andy Day, Mr Bloom and Mr Tumble were fantastic and because it was such a gorgeous day, all we needed was a picnic blanket and we set ourselves up in a good spot to watch all three. 

I was impressed that the festival responsibly gave out free suncream (good stuff too!) and water for children. When I asked Anna (age 3) at the end of the day what she had enjoyed the most… Andy, Mr Tumble, Mr Bloom, the Helter Skelter, the harp workshop, the roller skating, the hammock, the gymnastics display, the fairground rides, the horse falconry, the hook a duck…and more! The pick n mix stall was her definitive answer, but the helter skelter, roller skating and Mr Tumble came a close joint second. 

It would have been fairly easy to spend nothing, in honesty – we took a picnic (to buy food would have involved a good deal of queueing and expense) and the only money we spent was on sweets, hook a duck and a bubble gun.”

Sounds like a fantastic day for all the family! We’ll definitely be back next year. 

Disclosure: We were invited to Geronimo free of charge as ambassadors.  All opinions are our own. 

Roald Dahl adventures at Tatton Park

There hasn’t been a great deal of sunshine around so far in 2016.  When we are lucky enough to get a warm, lovely, bright day I think of getting our children outdoors to appreciate it before it disappears again!

Tatton Park is a great place to visit with beautiful scenery and so much to explore.  We paid Tatton a visit around a week ago during one of the rare sunny days. We had an amazing day – one of our best days out yet this year!

Tatton currently have a year-long programme of events based around the children’s literary legend Roald Dahl, as part of a host of activities throughout 2016 across the country for the Roald Dahl 1oo.  This is perfect for our 51/2 and 3 1/2 year olds who are just starting to discover the world of Roald Dahl through both film and literature.  We’ve read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory together recently and they love the film of Matilda.

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
As soon as we began our descent down the long driveway of Tatton, the girls were thrilled to see a giant ‘golden ticket’ chocolate bar adjacent to us and a range of other large sculptures based on Roald Dahl’s books.  I enjoy this drive into Tatton so much; you get a sense of perspective of just how huge and beautiful Tatton is.

We had a choice of activities through our family ticketwhich encompasses the Farm, Gardens and Mansion.  Each activity currently includes one or more Roald Dahl activities.  What’s great is that if you don’t use one element of your ticket, you can use this another day.  As we chose to explore the gardens, we can return and see the Farm and Mansion.

I cannot believe we haven’t visited the gardens before. They are so extensive, well-kept and beautiful, with so many different areas, hidey holes and things to explore.  We spent practically a whole day in the gardens and had such a good time.

As you can see from the photo above, the girls were thrilled to find The Twits living inside a tower…a very clever representation of some of Dahl’s most well-known characters and the mischievous antics they get up to.  Mr Twit was hanging upside down from inside the tower and all their household goods were also upside down!  The girls got the chance to try out their silly, different sized chairs, too and see their unkempt washing on the line.

Roald Dahl Tatton Park
Further along, we completed the Danny Champion of the World trail which was really well planned, with Danny and his Father’s house, shed, the fire station and other items, finishing with an activity trail made out of wood and tyres in different shapes and sizes.  This was really popular and I could see lots of children completing it and having fun.

We also say giant snakes and many other characters from books such as The BFG dotted around!

There are many other events planned for the year which we’ll definitely be attending, such as the Illyria outdoor theatre’s  performance of Danny Champion of the World in the spectacular setting of the Old Hall and a late summer evening screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder.

There’s much to see and do with the kids at Tatton – we’ll be returning there very soon.

Disclosure: I was invited to Tatton as an ambassador for Roald Dahl at Tatton Park.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Planting a gobstopper tomato (Spring week at Wyevale Garden Centres)

Easter school holidays…many of us are into our last week of the vacation and there’s still a couple of days to fill with young children full of energy and raring to get out of the house.  Today it’s beautiful weather (for a change), making me think of gardens and the outdoors.

We’ve been doing a lot of work on our garden through the Autumn and winter ready for spring/summer.  We’ve been getting our two girls (aged 5 and 3) involved as much as possible, taking them with us to choose flowers, plants and shrubs and encouraging them to help us plant them.

Last week it was Spring Week at Wyevale Garden Centres across the country with many events taking place aimed at getting children involved in the hard and yet enjoyable work- the planting! Wyevale invited us to attend a ‘plant a gobstopper tomato’ activity at our local Wyevale centre in Altrincham.

What’s a gobstopper tomato I hear you ask? Turns out it’s a variety of tomato (and we’re looking forward to watching how they turn out!).

Our local centre is a great place to take the kids. It’s huge, has a soft play area and great cafe with packed lunch boxes for children.  We always take a trip there in the lead up to Christmas, when they have a huge variety of decorations available; they each get to choose one new decoration for the tree. They also love looking at the displays (there was a flashing unicorn last year which they were thrilled by).

The ‘plant a gobstopper tomato’ activity was well planned and we enjoyed it.  The girls were given their own pot and variety of stickers to decorate it with.  Once they’d finished this, they filled their pot with compost.

Then the best bit: they chose their gobstopper tomato plant, made a little well and hunkered it down.  Finally, they decorated and drew on a tomato ‘face’, wrote their names on and stuck this in the pot too.

We then left with two happy children with their own personalised tomato plants, plus some springtime colouring sheets.

I think it’s great to get kids involved in gardening.  It’s creative, it helps them to learn about their environment and surroundings and it gets them outdoors.

We’re leaving our plants in a sunny indoor spot while they get a bit more robust, after which they’ll be a welcome addition in our developing garden!


gardening tomatoes
Spot the rhubarb…and free space for tomato plants…

Disclosure: We were invited to attend Wyevale’s Spring week free of charge. All opinions are my own.