Dick Whittington! A night out at the panto. 

This time last year, Rhondda Cynon Taff council invited us along to see Cinderella, a pantomime at Aberdare’s Coliseum Theatre and we had an absolute ball. So obviously we were absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity again this year, and last night me and Iris went along. As we live just over the mountain from the village used as the set for Sky One comedy series ‘Stella’ we’re big fans, and a member of the cast has joined the panto again. This year it’s Di Botcher, or ‘Auntie Brenda’, playing Fairy Auntie Bobells. Frank Vickery returns as Sarah the cook, and Maxwell James is yet again the heart throb of the show as Dick Whittington. Johnny Tudor (also in Stella, as well as 3 episodes of Gavin and Stacey) plays Alderman Fitzwarren. For me though, the real star of the show is Ryan Owen as Tommy the cat who has the best costume, the funniest lines and great songs including Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’. 

The costumes are really incredible. Tommy the cat is clad in tight Lycra with fur, heavy make up and pointy ears. Dick Whittington looks great in his stripy leggings, and King Rat has very sinister glowing red eyes! The wildest costumes, as always, are reserved for the pantomime dame. Sarah the Cook has some really impressive costume changes that made me and the rest of the audience laugh out loud! Iris gave me a look after one costume change that clearly said ‘what on earth is she wearing?’. The crew of dancers changed often too, with my personal favourite being the super sparkly rat costumes with long bumpy tails. The scenery was beautifully painted, and the set looked great. There were many location changes and they were done so well. 

The best bits of any pantomime are the songs, and there were some really great ones. Iris’s favourite was a slightly altered version of the Paw Patrol theme tune, and mine was a hilariously chaotic version of ’12 Days of Christmas’ that left me exhausted just watching. The actors must be so tired from doing that every night! The story finishes with a happy ending, of course, and a song from Hairspray that really got us up and dancing. A strange coincidence as we’d watched Hairspray on TV earlier in the day. 

As an English person in Wales, I still find the accent and the way people speak really fascinating. The panto is extra amusing because most of the characters have a Welsh accent, even though it wasn’t set in Wales, and there were lots of references to local places that got everybody laughing. Even me, with my limited knowledge of the area. 

I think the crew of dancers were mostly the same ones as last year, and some of them look really very young. Being part of the panto must be such an incredible thing to do as a child! The routines were wonderful, and Iris spent as much of the evening as I would let her dancing in the aisle trying to copy the dance moves. She’s pretty groovy, my curly haired girl. Audience participation is such a big part of the show. Lots of booing and hissing was done, as well as plenty of “Oh no we didn’t”s. 

Having ice cream from our favourite place, Sub Zero, available in the interval was an extra bit of magic that we didn’t expect. We had an absolute blast, and it’s started the Christmas season of nicely. Pantomime is such a big Christmas tradition, and being able to share it with Iris is great. She’s been talking about last night’s ‘Christmas Show’ all day today so it’s obviously stick with her even though the story and jokes mostly went over her head. 

There are only a couple of shows left at the Coliseum before it moves to the Park and Dare in Treorchy. If you’re looking for a really Christmassy thing to do with your family in the local area then this is it. It really gets you in the mood for the celebrations! Tickets are available here, from the RCT Arts website, but hurry up because they are selling out fast! 

*We were invited along free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own. Picture credit to RCT Council*

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2015

A couple of days ago I came across this old post about 2014. It was a massive year for me. The biggest year ever. I became a mother. There’s not much that’s bigger than that. But 2015 has been pretty enormous too.

I started the year focused on baby led weaning. With a six month old Iris who was sitting up and rolling but not yet really mobile. She took to eating food so well that she was eating three meals a day before we knew it. It was easy peasy, if a little messy!

We switched over to using cloth nappies full time and haven’t looked back.

Iris kept growing, and kept getting funnier and full of life. She crawled, she splashed and she developed a real love of animals. Especially ducks and chickens!

I turned 30. It wasn’t the 30th birthday I’d always imagined I’d have. I wasn’t partying and drinking. I spent it with a family I never expected to have, and it was wonderful.

As Iris became more mobile we spent more and more time outdoors, and every single hour spent in the fresh air made us feel happier.

We babyproofed the house.

Galahad came to live with us, and him and Margot became good friends.

We did some decorating. laying laminate flooring where the horrible red carpet used to live. Trev hung three pieces of wallpaper then never finished the wall.

We seemed to gain more toys every day and our house was completely taken over! Iris didn’t mind a bit.

We hung out on beaches, in woods, in the sea and in castles. We walked miles and went kite flying. We bought an even bigger tent and went camping.

We stayed home and snuggled too.

We grew as a family, and I got better at being a stepmum. Iris adored her big sisters more and more with every weekend they spent with us, and as she grew into her personality they enjoyed her company more and more. My mum beat us all at bowling. Middle kid turned 7.

Iris got her first tooth. Then she got 10 more. We barely noticed them cut through and she’s hardly suffered with teething at all.

Her sense of humour developed and we laughed with her every single day.  

Iris stood, then learnt to walk with a walker. We found out we were pregnant again.

Iris turned ONE! We ate cake and hired a bouncy castle, and the forecast rain went away and the sun came out. I got very emotional.  All of our families came to celebrate, and all of the babies from our mum and baby groups came too. We had the best day ever.

We told the world our news, and were surprised by how shocked everybody was.

Iris took her first steps, then she ran, and then she really learnt to dance. We spent the whole summer outdoors.

Walking meant being able to join in with her big sister’s adventures!

We went to a wedding, and Iris wore bloomers that my mum made for her.

We camped in Beddgelert again, just like last year. Iris was a very happy camper. The weather was both wonderful and horrific. The mountains were breathtaking, the castles were fun and the sea was splashy.

Watching Iris learn with every day and every adventure filled my heart. Seeing her relationships with her family grow made me swell up with love. The realisation that I had a family, a proper wonderful loving family, hit me hard every day. I began to feel like a grown up, despite the house still falling apart.

Grandma got a new puppy. We found out we’re having another girl. The biggest kid turned 10 and Trevor turned 40.

Seb started causing trouble and so we spent a week with a dog trainer who made a whole world of difference. Iris helped.

We realised that we’ll never all fit in the car once the new baby comes, so we bought a funky van and all fell a bit in love with it. Iris fell in love with a pair of yellow welly boots around the same time.

We walked the dog. For miles.

I grew and grew, and ached and felt sick.  Pregnancy was easier than the first time. but harder too as looking after Iris at the same time became more and more tiring.

We found new favourite places.

The leaves fell from the trees and Iris insisted I put them all in my pockets.   We splashed in puddles, and sometimes fell into them. We collected pinecones, enjoyed the swings, and tested out the new local lido.

The Guinea pigs came to live with us and fitted right in.

As I got too big to do so much outdoors, art became a regular thing on our kitchen floor.

A friend of ours started an outdoors playgroup and Iris found out how much fun it is to make mud pies! The rain started and didn’t stop for weeks. It got colder and we just wrapped up warmer. We spent more time in the library. Iris learnt to demand cake every time we passed a cafe.

Now Christmas time is here again and 2015 is coming to a close. We don’t have a baby anymore. We have a walking, talking, demanding, strong willed toddler who is affectionate and hilarious. This’ll be an even better Christmas, as Iris watches fairy lights in wonder and tries to steal the baubles from every Christmas tree she sees. This year she’ll enjoy presents and mince pies and Christmas dinner and we’ll all have the most wonderful time. Then as soon as it’s all over, our new life as a family of 6 begins. I truly am the luckiest.