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  1. Moving up

    April 6, 2015 by Amy Hansford

    I like to be productive. I struggle to relax because I see it as unproductive. So when there’s a job to be done, I am… well, productive. So when my husband sent me a link to a property on Rightmove, we decided to end a year or so of window shopping and start viewing some properties.

    We'll build a Lego house

    We have a lovely three bedroom house which we’ve made our own. We use every bit of it (productive, see?) and it works perfectly for us. Well, almost. There are three things we wanted to change;

    1. Garden. We currently have a little patio out the back which looks out on to the marina. Beautiful views, but not much fun when you’re four. We have a lovely courtyard in the front with a planter for veg, then patches of grass around the property that need mowing. But we long for a safe, secure, private rear garden. It doesn’t have to be huge, just enough to kick a ball, have a picnic, that sort of thing.
    2. Space. We have two bedrooms and an office. While friends are welcome to stay on the sofa bed in the living room, we’d love another room to put people up in. Something with a bit more privacy.
    3. Schools. We find out in a week’s time what primary school Little L will be start at in September. I’m not a huge fan of the available options, and we’re aware that she needs a good push to keep her engaged (she outsmarts us a lot of the time) which the current schools won’t necessarily do. So better schools would be really good.

    We saw our first two properties on Friday (soulless, small garden). Two more on Sunday (both small gardens). Then three on Thursday (cold, old) including the perfect house. Great school area, perfect size, lovely garden, excellent condition. We saw it again on the Friday and had an offer accepted on the Saturday. We had our house valued the same day and we’re having photos taken today (Monday). Our house will be officially on the market tomorrow.

    I know this could easily all go to pot. But the owners of the new house don’t have a chain, and we have a ‘niche house’ so it should get plenty of interest. So we’re 5 days in to our adventure with buying this new house. I reckon the whole thing will take about three months, but you can place your bets now. Housewarming date to be confirmed…

    Next up: Make Your House Sellable

  2. A new year, a new me

    January 23, 2015 by Amy Hansford

    That’s a misleading title really – I’m still me, but I have different priorities this year. I’ve not blogged because I’m too darn busy. And I won’t be blogging regularly (not that I particularly was) because I am excited about other things and other writings.

    I spent Christmas between my lovely, wonderful family and my lovely, wonderful panto famalam (pictured). Panto (Rapunzel) went exceedingly well – full houses every night, many giggles, 72 custard pies received and countless shenanigans both backstage, onstage and at the pub. No post show blues for me this year as I’ve been cracking on with co-writing next year’s panto, which is all jolly exciting.



    Family Christmas was really lovely. As a child, Christmas day was spent at my grandparents. Everyone would cram in, open presents, eat, fall asleep then somehow we would make it home. As a teenager, it was Christmas with Mum then Boxing Day with Dad. And then everything changed. I didn’t have a mum anymore, so I didn’t have somewhere I was meant to be on 25th December. We had Christmas in, Christmas out, Christmas with the sibling-in-laws. Then everything finally came together – Dad and my Step-Mum got married and bought a house together. The grandparents had a house big enough to fit us all in for. 2014 was the first time I’ve spent Christmas Day with my dad since circa 1990. And it was the whole family together, just wonderfully warm and brilliant and happy and relaxed and great and… Christmas. Sharing a bottle of wine with my Step-Mum, Little L harassing my step-brother (she’s 3 foot, he’s about 7 foot, it’s a hilarious pairing), decorating the dinner table. Just wonderful. Same again next year, I think.

    Merry Christmas. (A bit late.)

  3. The educational lottery

    October 24, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    We’ve just completed the online application process for L starting school in September 2015. It was harder than you think.

    When we moved to Milton Keynes we were a happy young couple, keen for a new start and excited at the prospect of having our own house with a view. We had no plans to have children and didn’t know that L would be popping along a few years later. As such, we didn’t consider the whole ‘family’ thing when we were looking at houses. Fast forward five years down the line and we realise we *do* have a lovely house in a lovely road, but the catchment schools? Yeeeeeah.

    At first we were okay with the catchment school, which we shall call Buckaroo High. As an ex-teacher, I know how much pressure can be felt during OFSTED inspections and how their report is not always a true indication of school life, so I glazed over the “Requires Improvement” grading. They were probably having a tough day.
    I popped in and asked if we could arrange a show around and was told they didn’t do that – once your application is in and you’re allocated the school, then you get to see what it’s like. Okay.
    But then someone on a large MK parents group asked for feedback on the school. I was expecting encouraging comments, anecdotes of children achieving and happily enjoying school life. Instead…



    Yep. Not one person came to the defence of Buckaroo High. I know it’s “just” a school, but every parent wants to give their child the best chance. We decided that Buckaroo High was not what we were aiming for.

    Cue a someone emotional search (I’m rubbish at this sort of thing, it weighs on me like I am letting my daughter, my country and planet down) for a school we had any hope of getting into. Not in catchment, no siblings already there, L isn’t in care or under supervision… Then along came a glimmer of hope in what we shall call Firefly Academy.

    An email asking about showarounds was replied to by the Vice Principal, no less, welcoming us in. We had a nose around today. It was lovely – the teachers looked chilled (it was the last day of term, to be fair) the children happy and not manic, older pupils were running errands around the school (Responsibility! Trust!), lots of incentives (a tea party with the headteacher at the end of the week to reward WOW pupils!). But you know what I spotted? Loads of resources. Happy kids. Happy parents on the way out – not begrudging, or fed up, or desperate – happy. Potential. The best chance.

    So that’s it. The forms are in. We have no hopes of getting into pretty much any other school in Milton Keynes (except Crappington School – *shudder*), so we’ve gone for Firefly Academy in at number one (please please please) and Buckaroo High in second (hey, it’s better than Crappington School).

    Now it’s just a quick 6 months before we discover our allocation – easy!

    *Runs and hides in the biscuit barrel*

  4. Top 10 Musicals: Anything Goes

    October 1, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    Continuing on my top 10 musicals, here’s the last one on the list.

    Anything Goes (1934)

    In 1987, I knew the words to Anything Goes. In Mandarin. Sort of. Thanks to Indiana Jones and Temple Of Doom, I wanted to be that sparkly dressed lady singing a catchy tune (another pattern emerging here). In 2007, I was cast as Reno Sweeney in the musical of Anything Goes. I was given the chance, finally, and possibly the only time it will ever happen, to play the lead in a musical. It was incredible.


    We played to 1/3 full houses (the mistake of being a small group hiring a big theatre) but I didn’t care – I was having a ball, I wore sequined dresses, I danced with men (having been consigned to chorus up to this point in my life this had never happened) and I received standing ovations. It was a fantastic experience for me and has stayed with me since. I may not get the chance to be a leading lady again, but I will always have Reno.


  5. Top 10 Musicals: The Producers

    September 30, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    Continuing on my top 10 musicals, here’s the next on the list.

    The Producers (2001)

    You’ll never guess where I saw this. Go on, guess. Yep. NYC. Front row centre. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. I had seen the film but this was new. Fresh. HILARIOUS. I cried with laughter. We were near enough that Matthew Broderick sang, spat a bit, and it hit me. Yuk, I know, but HELLO – good seats for $20! I loved the spectacle of the show, the slickness of the delivery. I loved the comedy woman at the end of the row of all the beautiful women – seeing myself in a show again. There are so many wonderful moments in the stage show that just don’t feature in the film. Although to be fair, the film is pretty darn close. Tap dancing zimmer frames. Men dressed as women (again, I think the film misses this). And the pigeons, OH the pigeons.

    I realize I’m just spurting out highlights here – you really do need to go and see it. But make sure you get a good Max and Leo; it’ll be a mission to live up to the originals. (And yes I know they weren’t the originals, I love me a bit of Gene Wilder, but they were the originals in this format.) I wanna be a producer…


  6. Top 10 Musicals: Spamalot

    September 29, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    Continuing on my top 10 musicals, here’s the next on the list.

    Spamalot (2004)

    I was lucky enough to see this in NYC – as with a few of my top 10 – which was an odd experience. If you don’t know, Spamalot is loosely based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with references to other Monty Python skits throughout. It was odd watching it in the USA as I’d always assumed Monty Python humour was a British thing. It almost became a competition between the audience members to see who could catch on to and laugh at a reference first. Taking it away from the stage and focusing on the soundtrack, it’s brilliant. Silly songs, clever songs, amazing vocals, throw in a bit of Tim Curry and you’re there. And I’ve begun fantasy casting it. My friend Jenna is a shoo-in for the Lady Of The Lake – I can’t listen to the songs without seeing her doing it. It’s very much a silly musical in which to escape the real world. Audience participation in a mainstream musical (which is becoming increasingly popular). Dead parrots. Coconuts. And tap dancing. What more could you want?

    Update (27/7/2015)
    We went to see Spamalot last month (actually, the night we moved into our new house) at MK Theatre and it was still fantastic! Do note that the song below is no longer in the production. It’s been replaced by a very similar ditty subbing Jews with Stars and name checking (and impersonating) lots of famous faces. Still a giggle, but I will miss this number terribly!


  7. Top 10 Musicals: Hairspray

    September 28, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    Continuing on my top 10 musicals, here’s the next on the list.

    Hairspray (2007)

    “Come and see Hairspray,” they said. “Get dressed up,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. Wow. From the first song through to the last, every note in this show is absolutely solid. There is no other show that has left me quite literally dancing out of the theatre at the end, desperately hoping that my day could involve bursting into song and busting out a dance routine.

    (c) Natalie Kate Robinson

    My one foible? That damned corpse. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the giggle fit that Edna and Wilbur have during “Timeless To Me”? Fake. Because if you are going to build in a corpse, having the other cast member have a perfect punchline to the joke the first actor has set up gives it away every time. And for me, it spoils it, takes down the fourth wall in an unkind way, and negates the following scene. Apart from that, it’s a perfect musical – the goodies beat the baddies, everyone is happy and everyone wins. Most musicals for me are about the feelings they leave you with. Sometimes they leave you flushed with powerful emotions. Others are just plain fun and energy boosting. This one? This one leaves me high as a kite.

  8. Top 10 Musicals: Bugsy Malone

    September 27, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    Continuing on my top 10 musicals, here’s the next on the list.

    Bugsy Malone (1976)

    Bless Nicola. She leant me the VHS of Bugsy Malone, told me I’d love it, and I never did give it back. It was the first musical I’d seen with kids in. Real kids. Not a school production. I loved the fast paced bits, always forwarded past the boring bits (I was a kid, another kid singing a dirge about ‘what kind of fool’ didn’t interest me). The songs instantly got stuck. No-one had a clue what I was on about at school. I wanted to be Talulah, not Blousey. I wanted to be mobster. I wanted to have a car with pedals.

    When Alex and I got married at Pinewood Studios, Bugsy Malone played a big part. As my wedding morning gift, he’d framed artwork from the film along with a reworded version of the final song. We got married in what is technically Dandy Dan’s conservatory (or rather the entrance to it). Our wedding photo of everyone is on the grounds where Bugsy and Leroy spot the Splurge Inc vans. The very last song as we left was “You Give A Little Love” – the memory of everyone dancing around us in a circle, doing the knee-clap-hallelujah and singing at us as we skipped out will stick with Alex and I forever. You give a little love and it all comes back to you.

  9. Top 10 musicals – Gypsy

    September 26, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    Continuing on my top 10 musicals, here’s the next on the list.

    Gypsy (1962)

    My old secondary school used to put on an annual Christmas musical. I managed to get in to some of them. Some I even remember the names of. Gypsy was one. I remember the Gotta Get A Gimmick song the most – one of the comedic moments within a story that could easily get you down if you look too far into it. The songs are terrific – what a role to play, Rose. The girl in the school show lost her voice and so Miss Mazeppa sang in for her while she mimed. I was so pleased at this – not that I had anything against the original Rose, she was always kind. But Annabelle (Mazeppa) always seemed to be overlooked for the big roles because she had such an expressive, gurning face (remind you of anyone?) despite her incredible voice. I felt almost vindicated that she managed to get the big numbers in the end.

    I want to give it a few more years to grow into Rose. But if anywhere within a fifteen mile radius of where I live puts on Gypsy in 2024, watch out – it’s Amy’s turn.

  10. Top 10 musicals – Little Shop of Horrors

    September 25, 2014 by Amy Hansford

    Continuing on my top 10 musicals, here’s the next on the list.

    Little Shop of Horrors (1982)

    I don’t know when I first saw this musical. I just always owned it. And it hosted my first film star crush – Rik Moranis. The sweet, funny guy, always overlooked, with the amazing voice and hero hold. I would rewind the VHS to hear him sing “I don’t know… I don’t KNOW…” over and over just to hear the roll of his voice. Seriously.

    I eventually saw the stage show in NYC – it was incredible, the cast and the animatronics. But then I saw the alternate ending. I didn’t know there was another ending. I hide in my seat for people thinking I was odd, but for this female protagonist I’d known all my life to be suddenly taken, her story change away from my comfort zone, was heartbreaking.

    I’ve seen a few productions of varying quality. Some get the ending right, other send it up, which is the director’s right, but salt in the wound for those for whom the story runs deeper.