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Monday, 10 October 2016

The Importance of Understanding Mental Health.

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I think its a subject that is of vital importance. I think it's a subject that's not really understood, a mental problem can be as debilitating as a physical problem. Whether it be anxiety, depression or whatever problem suffering a mental illness can be torture.

I'm currently battling with depression and anxiety. My problems stem from problems in my childhood as well as the events of my teen years. I've always been quite a shy and quiet type, and pretty much everyone who knows me will know this. It can take me time to build confidence especially when with somebody face to face. Online is different but I think most people are confident behind a screen.

My worst problems especially anxiety related an assault in January 2009, it was a real life changing event for me, it effected me socially, it effected my mentally. I'll be honest I still struggle every time I go out, especially in the evening. I know it's hard because everyone tells me it's not but I still blame myself for the whole thing and even as I type this I can visualize the whole horrific incident. It wasn't until yesterday that I'd walked the same route that we'd walked on that night, and I found it really difficult.

Basically what happened that night, Me and my friend Lucy had been at mine just watched telly and it got a bit late, around about 11.30pm and then it was time for Lucy to go home, we walked home the way that we usually did, maybe not this late usually and I think it was more my fault that we'd stayed that late. We got along the main road and there was a bus stop where 3 lads were, we obviously thought nothing of it. We kept walking, the bus stop getting nearer. The 3 lads came over to us and asked if we knew the time or if they'd missed the last bus. We checked the time on our phones and next thing I knew I'd been punched so hard in the face, it floored me. The next part was a bit of a blur, I wasn't sure what had happened to Lucy at the time, as I came back around I had a heavy nose bleed, my nose has been knocked out of place. I was frantic in fear and I just ran to the first house, and knocked on the door. A chap answered, and I guess he was as horrified, a stranger bleeding on his doorstep. After this thankfully we'd got back to Lucy's house with the help of the police. We did statements the next day but nothing ever came from that, these people who effected my life so much are still out there, oblivious to the pain they've caused.

Following on from the whole incident it really effected the following months, I had counseling from Victim Support, I only had one session as the initial session I attended I found really difficult and unhelpful and I couldn't engage. Obviously for a period everything was really difficult, going out, attending football matches, and just life in general but in time I guess the fears and problems just disappeared a bit, whether I'd just found a coping mechanism or just grew out of it a bit I'm not really sure.

So time passed and things had been okay, obviously a lot of things have happened in the last few years, we've moved house, I've met the love of my life in Megan and now through circumstances we live together, I've gotten a new job and I guess in some ways found stability. With the stability though has come great darkness. I think there has been a cloud hanging over for me some time. In the job I do it can be very stressful and can involve dealing with people who are rude or aggressive. In some cases you can understand it but in someways it's very difficult to take, I'd love to reverse the situation for the person who was being aggressive, how they'd cope doing the job and see if they cope or if they had a full understanding of the situation.

After an incident with a patient over the telephone last year I had a complete breakdown, I literally broke. I had a period of time off and came back stronger from that, but I guess the last few months the demons in my mind have been getting worse and worse. I've had times when I just want to run away and hide. If I'm honest then I've had time were I've hidden away and just had a cry. The demons have been getting worse and worse. My fears include people, a fear of what they'll do and that terrifies me, I feel like I'm always looking over my shoulder when I'm out, even when I'm perfectly okay and safe. The nighttime terrifies me, I struggle greatly with the dark, I sleep with the television on so there is some light in the room. I really have a fear of nighttime and I really struggle, it's why I'm not great at socialising, I've never been one for nightclubbing or anything like that and the whole things I've written about already are the reason why. I've a fear about mortality, thinking about it gives me horrific panics and grips me with fear. There's more things but I'd like to keep them to myself.

What I decided a few weeks ago was to get some help, I took it upon myself to give in and took myself to see a doctor, after a chat he'd prescribed me onto some anti-depressant medication, Ranitadine, I continued at work that week, hiding all my problems so as nobody could tell but the fears grew and grew and after just over a week I had to take myself to see the doctor as things were getting worse and not better. The doctor changed my medication and laid me off work for a couple of weeks, I'm currently half way through this and am just over a week through my tablets. I'm just taking every day at a time at the minute. It's been really difficult. This past weekend was horrific, and Saturday I had the worst panic attack that I've ever had, I had to go to the hospital and see the out of hours doctor as it was so bad. Following that today I had to go and see my doctor again and discuss further, I've been put on more calming medication and got to see how it goes. I've planned a day out this week with my Dad which will be nice because since I've been laid off work I've pretty much only spent time in the bedroom. We've got a few days at Disneyland next week, but I've yet to decide if I'm going to go or not.

I'm very fortunate that in my situation that I've got such warm and love surrounding me. I've the most wonderful partner in Megan who is always by my side to offer me love and support and she's been so strong when she's got her own problems to deal with. My family, although my family weren't really aware what was going on since they've known they've been so loving. My friends and basically just everyone has been so kind and sweet and it means an awful lot. The lovely comments or messages I've had have deeply touched me. I've found it very hard to approach people back, I've had quite a few messages saying talk to me anytime but I just find it hard to start that conversation as I just don't want to annoy anyone with my problems. Thank you to everyone who has been there and I promise when I'm feeling good again I'll make it up to you all. I must also say sorry to anyone this is affecting, I'm sure it's causing problems for others and I'm very sorry that it is.

That's my story but mental health is a hidden problem, most people who suffer with a mental problem are probably hiding it, I hid mine for so long and I guess that's whats made it all worse in a way. I'd like to say this to anyone who is suffering any problem, do NOT be afraid to seek help and do NOT be afraid to speak to someone, a friend, a family member, a doctor or just anybody, cause sometimes even just unloading a little can lift it a lot. There's a lot of places out there where you can get support and help. Don't be scared to admit you're not okay, we all have problems in life, nobody's life is easy, if you're suffering with whatever problem, big or small then don't worry it'll get better. I'd like to offer anyone who reads this who has any similar problem my love and support. I'm always around, you can find me on Twitter, my username is @leicestermark or just click here for my Facebook. I'll always try and be available, where possible for a chat.

I'm getting my help and hopefully in due time I'll be feeling confident and okay again, the dark clouds are very much over me and the minute but I can see the sunshine, I just know it will take time. I've self referred myself back to counseling today so that's another positive move. Like I say don't be afraid to say you're not okay, but don't suffer in silence. We ALL matter and we are ALL important, YOU are important and YOU are wonderful. It's okay to talk, I've found writing down things the best way of coping, hense if you're a friend of mine on Facebook then you've no doubt seen quite a few posts but that's just been a way of easing.

Everyone needs to understand that mental health is as important as physical health and we all need to love and support each other in life.

Sending you all lots of love and good wishes.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Meeting Disney Characters.

One of the best things about a trip to Disneyland is character meeting. Getting a special moment or interaction is magic. Me and Megan have been very lucky that over our trips to Disneyland Paris we've enjoyed some really memorable character meets, I've chosen a few of my favourites in this blog.

Donald Duck 
During our first ever trip together and on our first day we encountered the fantastic Stars 'N' Cars parade in the Walt Disney Studios park. During the parade, basically a set of characters came out, some on foot and some in a themed car, they paraded around in a circle and then parked up and basically the characters went around the crowd which was circled around the parade area. On this parade we met the most lovable Donald Duck who took a real shine to Megan, every time they came out Donald would give special attention to Megan with looks and waves. Megan's always had a special place for Donald ever since.

Snow White

This was a special meet with the lovely Snow White for a different reason, when we went through to see her in the pavilion the Photo-pass photographer was having a little problem so we got extra time with Snow and we had a lovely interaction. This happened on our October 2015 trip and when we saw Snow on the parade again in July 2016 she recognised us.

Mickey Mouse
Meeting the main mouse is always magic, and we've had numerous great meets with him, whether it be at Cafe Mickey, during Magic hours or in his house in the park. One of the stand outs happened during our Halloween-y trip last October. We did the character breakfast at Cafe Mickey, something both of us really enjoy doing as you tend to get a decent breakfast and thrown in you get to meet some characters too, it's always a good start to the day. On this occasion Mickey came to our table, Megan took a photo of me ad Mickey on my phone, Mickey noticed himself on my phone case and wanted a closer look, upon doing this he decided to take a couple of selfies of himself. After this he went off and after the changeover of characters Mickey came back out and immediately came and sat with Megan and they had a really cute interaction. 


Anastasia and Drizella.
The two Tremaine sisters are probably one of my favourite characters that you can meet in Disney, they're always wonderful to watch and interact so well with people. Having met them on a couple of trips, the meet during October 2015 after the 'It's Good To Be Bad With The Disney Villains' show involved a bit of a scrum, which I really don't enjoy but it was worth it in the end, and I'm not going to lie I think I'm a little bit in love with Anastasia...!

One more for Megan this one, meeting Gaston was a huge part of our October trip last year, we got to meet him most days but the best interaction came in the evening when the villains tend to come out in the square where the band stand is. Megan was already a huge fan of Gaston and by this meet she was pretty much
putty in his hand. He could have asked her to go anywhere and she'd have gone! Like me with Anastasia, Gaston is certainly a favourite of Megan's and I must say he's a fantastically fun villain.

Chip and Dale
I don't think you could write a Disney character blog without mentioning the Chipmunks, Chip and Dale. The character meet that you're always guaranteed a fun interaction with. On this occasion with the two troublemakers we met them during Extra Magic Hours near Casey's Corner, they begun to steal Megan's scarf and her Belle ear's that our lovely friend Vivi made for her.

Being their usual naughty selves Chip and Dale then began to ignore the cast members requests to return the items and then Chip decided to walk off and try and behind one of the bins! 

Pocahontas and John Smith
We were very fortunate to get a quick selfie with Pocahontas and John Smith during the last day we could see The Forest of Enchantment. It was such a quick moment but a magic one all the same.

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen
 We had a brilliant meet with the two main characters from the movie The Princess and the Frog, Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen, during our July 2016 trip. We had a great long conversation about all their traditions and all ours back in England. We offered to show them fish and chips and they offered us Gumbo. Naveen was going to play piano for us, and I offered my poor services on the guitar.

Baloo and King Louie
 Meeting my two favourite Disney characters was a treat and a special occasion. On our July 2016 trip we were fortunate to stumble across the pair of them together in Adventureland. Megan explained to the cast member that they were my favourite characters, and the cast member made sure the characters knew this! This made the interaction so much more magic, Baloo even wrote in my autograph book that I was his favourite!

So there you go, that's just a few of my favourite character meets from Disneyland Paris. I hope you enjoyed reading this. What have been your favourite character meets? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Update on the last few days.

As writing has helped me greatly, I decided to write out an update on things to help me express my feelings. Especially during the day time when Megan is out  at work. I've found it very hard to find anyone to talk to so writing these things down will hopefully ease my mind a little.

I'll be honest, Sunday was the worst. Yet it started well, I had a lovely slow start the day with lots of snuggles with Megan and then it was to the football, Leicester City at home to Southampton. It was the dullest of the dull football matches, neither team really created and it wasn't anything special. It ended 0-0 and then it was home. Dinner was eaten then we came to our room and my thoughts were full of darkness and fears and blackness. We were going to watch the film 'The Huntsman Winter War', which we started, I got worse, the blackness descended in my mind. I'll be honest, for the first time I wanted to harm myself, to rip my hands off. Megan says I was biting hard on my lip, I'll be honest I was a bit 'blacked' out and I can't remember it. Although I did no damage and that's thanks to the people around me, especially Megan who has been amazing through this and it being a real support. I made the decision to write down my feelings on a piece of paper that Megan gave to my mum to see. Detailing all my fears and worries. We finished the film, it was really enjoyable, but the darkness and worries still gripped my mind. After it finished we went to bed. I don't sleep well at night, haven't for a long time and Sunday was a really bad night for this, I couldn't rest, I couldn't relax and I certainly couldn't switch off.

After the darkness came the morning, and after calling into work sick, we decided to take me to the Doctors. I'd been put on anti-depressants just over a week ago, and why it would certainly take longer for these to take effect it really had made me feel worse. After a chat with the doctor about things we decided to change my tablets to Sertraline 50mg and given me 2 weeks off from work. I turned down the offer of time off previously but this time the doctor thought it would be the best. Best to eliminate one stress at a time. My work are the most lovely and supportive people and it's so hard knowing I'm letting them down.

The day was long and lonely, I spent it at home in the bedroom, just by myself as everyone else was at work. Alone with my thoughts, the darkness that stirred was still there. I found myself sleeping a lot, maybe to make up for lost sleep during the nighttime that my body feels a lot more relaxed with the sleep during the day - it's not dark and scary outside during the day and maybe I feel more comfortable with that.

Today, it's been another difficult day, long, and as I write this it's only 4pm. I've decided to join Netflix today in hope to find things to watch to distract my mind, so far I've begun watching Stranger Things. I'm currently on the third episode. I'm still finding it hard to find someone to talk to during the day, I've been lucky to speak to Eline on Facebook messenger which has helped a bit. If anyone is around in the next couple of days for a chat I'd really love the company - I'm really rubbish at approaching someone for help but I'd really appreciate it. I might go out for a walk tomorrow, take my iPod and get some fresh air. I've barely left the bedroom since Monday.

I must add that if you're suffering depression or anxiety or anything similar it's the worst thing to bottle it up inside. Talk. Find someone, anyone to talk to. There's lots of options out there. I'm just starting on the hopeful road to recovery. I hope you've find me talking a bit helps, it certainly feels like a weight off of my mind a little bit.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Taking one step forwards...

On Friday I decided to put my one foot forwards. I went to see my GP. I didn't go in with the intention to talk about what we did but that's by the by. Talk in my appointment turned to how I've been feeling, and honestly probably for around the last month I've hit such a low. So we discussed this, and eventually the outcome was to start me on tablets which I've to take daily before seeing the doctor again in two weeks time. The first steps to help.

I've suffered with anxiety for years, ever since me and my friend Lucy were assaulted, this soul event changed me probably indefinably. It rocked my confidence and I think it still rocks my core now. I had counselling briefly at the time but found that no support. In time I built confidence up again about going out or whatever. And meeting my amazing partner, Megan, in that time really helped. So I guess in time my fears and anxiety got put away. Not fully but less strongly thought of.

I work at a GP surgery and it's honestly the toughest most stressful job, lucky I work with some absolute gods in human form who make it okay, but I had an incident late last year that brought the demons up again. Ever since then I've been rocked. Confidence draining and the fears come back. Along with my skin condition, eczema, everything seemed to be spiralling downwards. I had time off from work after this and was eased back in by my lovely colleagues who whilst they never knew what had gone on or the situation properly they were rocks.

So in comes this year. It's been a mixed bag. It's had its real highs, I completed my level 3 apprenticeship and me and Megan gave continued to flourish in terms of our relationship. But yeah post our summer trip to Disney and probably a period of the worst skin flare up for a good 15 months I've crashed. I've hit a low and yeah that's where we get around to me seeing the GP.

I've had counselling before, from Let's Talk - Wellbeing. I engaged but it just never really worked for me and almost working around the setting where I see the counsellors makes it hard to really want to open up. I can find it hard to talk to my GP as I'm constantly seeing them around the workplace. But yeah back to seeing my GP. After so long I felt I had to go and seek some self support. I'd burdened it on the likes of my incredible supportive friend Emily and it just came to that point where I had to get more professional help.

I posted a note on Facebook and Twitter tonight about this and i received some really lovely comments, and I really appreciate the love and friendship. Know I'm all here for you guys if you ever needed me too.

Whether you male, female or of any type of gender, religion, age, background, I'd like to say to you get the help while you can. Don't bury yourself in it. Don't be afraid. Everyone has friends or someone they can talk too. I've put my first steps forwards so don't be afraid to join me. It's not easy feeling like every day is going to be a struggle but I'm battling it.

Don't be afraid to get help. Thanks to everyone for being here for me. Sending you all love. May you all find joy and if not don't be afraid to get help, there's so much out there these days.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Angel Of Music.

Last Thursday I completed I long time ambition, I was lucky enough to see Lisa-Anne Wood perform the role of Christine in the London's production The Phantom of the Opera. I'd wanted and hoped this day would come for years and it truly didn't disappoint. I first discovered Lisa when she was cast in the role of Cosette in Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre in London. A role I was fortunate enough to see her perform on a couple of occasions.

The first time I saw her perform as Cosette I just watched her and knew there was something very special about her. She has such a beautiful quality in her performance. Although Cosette is probably my least favourite character in Les Mis (alongside Fantine) there was just something special about her performance. I left Les Mis and instantly wanted to get people to know about Lisa. I started a Twitter fan page @lisaannewoodfan which is still going and holds a very special place in my life.

Lisa as Cosette in Les Mis
Through this fan page, I made a special friend in Hannah who is just the most loveliest person and a joy of a friend. I've been able to engage in conversations with other truly lovely theatre fans, but the biggest change came when I met my wonderful partner Megan. Megan ran a Liam Tamne fan page (who was staring in Les Mis alongside Lisa playing the role of Enjolas). We spoke first on their and then love blossomed and now we're happily still together and going strong. I put this down to Lisa and Liam and will be forever grateful to them for this.

After leaving Les Mis I had the joy of seeing Lisa perform in a concert performance of Little Women. This night was the night I met Hannah for the first time and we actually got to sit together for this and it was wonderful. I also saw Lisa in the Union Theatre's production of Steel Pier, which I really enjoyed.

Me and Hannah had always said from day one that Lisa HAS to play Christine in Phantom, then when she was cast in the show it was a real buzz. Even if she wasn't as Christine as such. Thankfully she was the understudy to the role. I did get to see the show with her in her ensemble role and really enjoyed it. Liam and Lisa were in the show together, Liam as Raoul and this meant me and Megan were able to see them perform in a show together for the first time during our relationship.

Lisa was promoted to full time Christine alternative earlier this year, which meant she got to perform two shows a week, but annoyingly for us up in Leicester and having to work it was usually in the week which made it difficult. I was always hopeful of being able to see Lisa in the role but in early August she announced she was leaving the show on the 3rd of September, which was with about 5 weeks notice. But as she announced she was leaving she also announced she was being the main Christine for her final week, meaning she was doing 6 of the shows 8 performances of the week and more importantly for me a midweek matinee.

Lisa backstage as Christine.
I asked my dad if he'd come and we booked to go and see her. Being a Thursday matinee means there is sometimes discount and we were lucky to get tickets in the second row of the stalls for £40 and the view was spectacular. So the day arrived. I was buzzing to finally see her and I know it was wrong too but I did hit me in the hours leading up to show time that what would I do if I was disappointed! What a ridiculous thought. As soon as she came on stage I was beaming and she was absolutely magical. Every note, every word, every step. I loved every second of her performance. She was born to play Christine and she nailed the performance. My dad came out raving about her too. Her 'Think Of Me' was stunning, and I don't think I can comprehend to find the words about her 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again'. Magic. Everything. Special.

It was lovely to see her at Stage Door after the show and be able to tell her in person that she was incredible and if she does read this, then Lisa you just were the role and you couldn't have played it better so thank you for that and thanks for everything you've done for me.
Me and Lisa after her performance as Christine on 1st Sept 2016
I must also put on this blog post how incredible I thought Ben Forster was as the Phantom. Probably the best Phantom I've seen. Such inspired casting having him in the role.

I couldn't recommend you all supporting and following Lisa's next journey. She's such a brilliantly uniquely magical star. I know she's going to go far and now that the door has shut on her time on Phantom I can't wait to see her in something else. She is an angel - an angel of music. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Rocky Horror Show - Leicester

The Rocky Horror Show, the cult musical devised by genius Richard O'Brien, has last week completed a fantastic run at Curve here in Leicester. I was fortunate enough to attend 5 of the week's 8 performances. This may sound a bit extreme to those whom don't get it, it's simply a show you'll leave the theatre buzzing from and it'll make you want to go and grab more tickets to see it and experience it all over again.

I first discovered the show through Christopher Biggins. I'd seen Biggins in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium playing the role of Baron Bomburst and been awe struck, I wrote to him and he said I could meet him after seeing the show, I knew nothing of stage door in my early teenage years. After the run of Chitty had finished Biggins was taking up the role of the narrator in The Rocky Horror Show. Back then I'd never even heard of the show, and only knew Richard O'Brien through the Crystal Maze - although I'd met Richard at the final performance of Chitty in London as he opened the show in the role of the Child Catcher.

We were due to go away on holiday to Bridlington, and the Rocky Horror Show was going to be in York on the Saturday, so we decided to book to see the matinee performance in York and also a hotel before making the rest of the journey to Bridlington. I was still unaware what I was going too, and having looked on the Rocky website and looking at the backstage photo's I wasn't really sure what to expect, it all looked a bit bizarre to say the least! The day came and we took our seats somewhere upstairs in the York Grand Opera House. I can't really remember the performance but I remember absolutely loving it and was instantly hooked. As soon as the show finished, and we were about to exit the theatre, I convinced my mum that we MUST stay and see the evening show too, which we did - and the rest as they say is history.

Liam Tamne and Dominic Andersen.
Just over 10 years on since I saw the show for the first time and now 60 something performances later my love for the show is only stronger. I love experiencing seeing the show and have recently had the joy of getting my partner Megan well and truly hooked too. As soon as you enter the theatre and are surrounded by people in fantastic costumes and outfits you can feel the buzz of a unique atmosphere, an atmosphere you don't get with any other show. As soon as the show finishes you want it to start again. On Saturday evening after the 8.30pm had finished and I'd seen my 5th performance of the week I wanted it all the start again. I defy anyone not to go and see the show and have an amazing time.
Sweet Transvestite.
The current cast are simply fantastic, possibly the strongest overall. Liam Tamne is a strong and sensationally good Frank 'N' Furter, having seen Liam previously play Link Larkin in Hairspray, Enjolras in Les Mis and Raoul in Phantom of the Opera, I knew his ability but this is different side and his strong vocals and his general powerhouse performance as Frank is really enjoyable to watch. Diana Vickers, who I will admit I was VERY dismayed when the cast was announced and she was to be Janet but clearly I was wrong, is a great Janet. Her performance is sexy and cleverly portrayed, she catches all of Janet's personality really well. Richard Meek, returning to the role of Brad, is just perfect. He IS the role for me, he portrays every bit of the character and sings the songs so beautifully.
Richard Meek and Diana Vickers as Brad and Janet.
Kristian Lavercombe's Riff Raff is a masterpiece of a performance, he is better than Richard O'Brien's portrayal and I don't think they'll ever be a Riff Raff as strong. Kay Murphy's sexy Magenta and Sophie Linder-Lee's fabulous Columbia team well as Frank's 'family'. Dominic Andersen's Rocky is physical perfection and packs a great voice too. Paul Cattermole is a great Eddie/Dr Scott. Norman Pace is superb as the Narrator, and one of the stronger that I've seen, he holds the audience well and bounces off the shout outs with great humour and control. I must mention Lauren Ingram, who plays one of the Phantom's, our little Disney Princess, who understudies the lead roles, and is from what I hear a great Janet - hopefully she'll get the chance to take over when Diana leaves. Special mention also to Will Knights who understudied Rocky fantastically on Friday evening. All in all as you can probably tell by now I really like this current cast.

Special mention must go to Chris Luscombe who has been at the helm of all the tours I've been lucky to enjoy, also to all the wonderful friends I've made through the show, Katie and Rob in particular... who knows what crazy adventure will happen next time!

Last week was full of magic and pure joy, every performance was excellent and the audiences weren't too rowdy which is always a good thing. The week flew and now it's a wait till I get to see the show again but going to the show is a real experience and one all theatre loves should experience. Make sure you catch the tour, which is touring all over the country until December - find all the dates here.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Friends and West End Live 2016

Yesterday was magical.
Me and Megan on the train.
Me and my lovely lady Megan headed off to London to meet up with a couple of dear friends and also to catch some of West End Live. We traveled down to London via the train from Leicester, blasting out some big tunes on our iPod as we journey went on. Big hitters such as the Tots TV theme song and Try Everything from the recent brilliant Disney film Zootropolis.

We'd arrange to meet our friends, Emily and Kerrie at Planet Hollywood at 12 for lunch. Kerrie I'd met before some 3 and a half years ago and Emily never met but have chatted to so much the past few months. Settling in for lunch, Megan spotted a familiar face and almost popped with excitement, on the table next to us walked in West End Wilma, for those unfamiliar with her she is a theatre reviewer, blogger and great fun. We had a lovely lunch and then wandered off around to see what was happening at West End Live.
Me being excited about West End Wilma.

We caught the incredible Beverley Knight performed 'I Will Always Love You' from the Bodyguard which she is again starring in next month when it opens at the Dominion Theatre (www.thebodyguardmusical.com/). We also caught the incredible talent which is Michael Xavier and his fantastic rendition of 'Sunset Boulevard' from the show of the same title which he has just completed a run in.

We briefly departed West End Live to take Kerrie up to the Hippodrome Casino where she was attending Nadim Naaman's album lunch (buy his new album Sides here). We bumped in the Essex family off of Gogglebox on the way to Leicester Square and stopped them for a photo!

George Gibley, Me, Pete, Lynne and Megs.
It was a joy to see Kerrie again and I hope it's not as long next time! After this we walked up with Emily and said our goodbyes to her at Piccadilly Circus. Emily is one of those friends who everyone needs in their live, she is so sweet and kind. She feels like a sister to me and Megs and I can't wait to get to know her more and hopefully get to spend more time with her in the future. She's a gem.

Me, Emily, Kerrie and Megs at West End Live.
Me and Megs headed back to West End Live, via McDonalds and a lovely McFlurry, and caught the brilliantly talented Barricade Boys who performed 'I Dreamed A Dream' and 'One Day More' from Les Miserables. The Barricade Boys are a group of performers who have starred in Les Miserables on stage or screen and is the brainchild of Scott Garnham. The boys teased of a tour next year which will be well worth seeing. We also caught the brilliantly funny Ferris and Milnes who performed a medley of the songs from the West End of the past 18 months, brilliant. Following this me and Megs had a look around some of the tents and displays.

More fantastic performances followed, the uplifting West End Gospel Choir began a fantastic section of the afternoon. They brought real sunshine to the occasion. The always brilliant cast of Jersey Boys performed a medley of songs from the show. The current cast are excellent and possibly my favourite cast yet in the show. Matt Corner as Frankie Valli is superb and the ensemble cast are of such top quality. It was a real shame the microphones/sound didn't work for the female's who sung 'My Boyfriends Back'.

We were then treated to a performance from the beautiful Samantha Barks who has just released her debut self titled album. She sung 'Troublemaker' and the Les Mis song 'On My Own', the role which gave her the big break she deserves.

Murder Ballad, a forthcoming musical which has had successful runs off-Broadway, were the next performers. The production which comes to London's Arts Theatre in September stars Kerry Ellis, Ramin Karimloo, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and Norman Bowman. All four of these really talented performers I've been lucky enough to see in other shows previously and I know they'll be great in this one. The two songs they sung sounded great and I'd certainly try get a ticket if you can. For tickets see here

The final performance of the day we saw was Breakfast at Tiffany's which is set to open at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London and will star Pixie Lott in the lead role of Holly Golightly. Pixie performed 'Moon River' from the show. Although personally the show doesn't really appeal to me I'm sure it's brilliant.

Unfortunately we had to leave now and catch our train home but we'd had a truly wonderful day with the best company possibly and watching some terrific talent. We're very fortunate that London theatre is filled with such an array of talent and that I know some truly incredible people.

Finally I'd like to dedicate this blog to all the victims of the recent tragedies, Christina Grimmie, Jo Cox MP and all the victims in the Orlando Shooting. Love shouldn't matter love, race, gender or anything! Love is love. Love for love. Don't be afraid to be who you are.

Thanks for reading and always be magic.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Who I think YOU should follow on Twitter.

Hello guys and thanks for reading.

In this blog I've decided to write a post about 5 pages I think you should be following on Twitter and why you should follow them. If you can recommend any to me who you think I should start following then let me know in the comments section.

ED92 @ED92live
Live updates from Disneyland Paris every day. Well worth following to find out whats happening in the parks. If you're to follow any Twitter page about Disneyland Paris then you need to make ED92 the one.

Ellie Steadman @elliesteadman
Youtuber Ellie Steadman has had a great rise over the last year or so, her Disneyland Paris and Disney World vlogs have had thousands of views on YouTube, and she now has over 15000 subscribers on there. She also does vlogs about beauty products. She is well worth a follow and you certainly need to subscribe for her vlogs on YouTube. click here for Ellie's YouTube.

WhatsOnStage @WhatsOnStage
The number one Twitter for stagey information and news. If you're like me a big fan of theatre then you definitely need to follow WhatsOnStage. 

Dan Jones @dgjones
Historian Dan Jones is someone I've only recently followed. I discovered him through the recent series 'Britain's Bloody Crown' which I'm half way through currently and I've yet to see his first series Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets but I will start that soon. I've also started watching his other series 'Secrets of Great British Castles. Both of these series you can watch on Channel 5 on Demand. Fascinating history told so well. Dan has also written 4 books which are available to buy from good stockists. You can find the books on Amazon.

Bethany Suthers @Suthersss
Actress, Blogger and Princess Bethany Suthers is well worth following. She has recently been working at Disneyland Paris. Her blogs make for great reading and you should also have a look at her Instagram which is full of great photos. Her blog  That Suthers Kid. Her Instagram.

and of course you should follow my amazing girlfriend Megan @showbunny24601 and you can find me @leicestermark

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Stagey People: Rachel Grundy

In this and a possible series of new blogs I shall be writing about stagey people who I recommend discovering and following. These people will tend to be names who aren't currently leading shows, but people who definitely should be.

On this blog I'm featuring beautiful actress Rachel Grundy. You can follow Rachel on twitter @rachelgrundy_uk

Headshot by Simon Mayhew.
I first discovered Rachel whilst she was in the UK touring production of The Rocky Horror Show in 2012/13 in which she played the role of a Phantom. Prior to the cast list being released for the production I'd never heard of the majority of the cast but I decided to go through and follow the large majority of them on twitter to discover who they were.

I didn't really tweet or interact with Rachel early on in the tour, and I only saw the show twice in the first 6 months of it being out on the road. At neither of these performances in Brighton or Aylesbury did I meet her afterwards. I began supporting and interacting with Rachel more through Twitter and she is such a sweet and lovely human, through the support I was given her she was nothing but grateful.
Rachel as Janet backstage at the Rocky Horror show.

In the tour she was also understudy for the roles of Janet and Columbia, both roles she got to play, but unfortunately I never was able to see her in these roles, although I did nearly go to Bristol to see her as Janet. I've heard nothing but great things about her performance as Janet. I can imagine her being wonderful playing her innocence mixed in with the sass and sex the character becomes.

I did get to meet Rachel for the first time when the tour arrived in Nottingham and she is such a great person. She's clearly just a lovely human who has great talent and that's just brilliant. Rocky Horror for those who don't know is a special kind of show where I'd say the audience is pretty much almost part of the cast and the fans have great interaction with the actors. The following times I met her she has always been a gem and always had time for a chat.

Between the end of the Rocky Horror tour in 2013 and last year I didn't get to see her until she reprised her role of a Phantom in the Rocky Horror Show at London's Playhouse Theatre which was also screened live across the world in cinemas. It was such a joy to see her again and now that it has been 5 months on I hope it won't be too long before I see her again.

Rachel in costume for Starlight Express.

In her career so far Rachel has played Dinah in Starlight Express in Bochum, Germany. To which my friend Vivi saw her and raved about her. She has also appeared in a couple of tours and pantomimes. To find out more about her previous roles please click here.

I sincerely recommend you all follow Rachel as she is truly lovely, slightly crazy and great fun. She's Princess like. I hope she goes on to many great things in her career and I'm sure she's a name that will be around for a long long time.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Fighting the Itch.

I have eczema (although I can never spell it correctly!). I had it as a baby, it went away for a good period of my life but unfortunately the last few years it has returned and it causes havoc in my life. For those that don't know what it is, it's described as this 'a medical condition in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed with blisters which cause itching and bleeding'. 

My eczema is wide spread over my body, arms, legs, back, face, you name and there's part of my body that has been attacked by it. I've had lotions and potions of all sorts, and this past week (today is the 5th February if you do read this in the future) it's been hell. It feels like a crippling thing, my body has been in agony when trying to move. I've been as dry as the desert. I can't put my finger on what's happened, as nothing has changed in my circumstances. I came in to the last weekend feeling very happy and positive about life, we're going away to Disneyland Paris again next weekend and I'd say everything at the moment is positive.

Then boom, this all happens. I probably don't talk to anyone about my skin and why would I? You guys who read this probably wouldn't know the inner workings of my life unless you asked and I doubt that I know any of yours. It's been so hard this week, I've been off work all this week and am very much looking forward to being back on Monday. It's been a painful dark week, and I've even had thoughts of with all this is it actually worth it? Thankfully all the time that answer has been yes, it's always worth it. I've so much to kee going for.

It has grated my confidence, and I do really some days not want to leave the house, in case people laugh or even just stare. I know it shouldn't be like this but I guess it is, it's just draining. It's hard to be itchy all day and not having a way of taking that away without scratching. People tell me to stop scratching, and I do wish it was always that easy. 

I have more creams that I was prescribed on Wednesday morning by my GP who was very helpful. I am also on a short 5 day course of steroid tablets that will also help it all calm down. I will continue to cream and hope it comes down and I am more than happy to put this week behind me.

I just wanted to write this blog as a thank you to everyone who has helped (I won't name people but you know whom you are), for a small insight into my world for those of you who don't know and just to any fellow eczema sufferer I hope your daily battles and struggles ease. I'm going to do another charity run this year (I think) to raise money for the Eczema Society, who are wonderful, please click here to read about them and find out more.

Keep going, keep creaming, keep fighting the itch. It's something that won't probably go away so it's finding the best ways of coping, but if any fellow sufferer reads this, I'm here, and I'd love to talk to you.

Thanks for reading, and keep smiling.