Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Netflix Stream Team Adventure

If you follow me on social meeedja you may have noticed that I was off on a rather glamorous adventure last week. I was invited to London by Netflix for a night and a day of treats. It's not often I have a bit of glamour in my life and what is rare, as they say, is wonderful.
We left Dublin on Wednesday evening and, although there was a bit of a delay with the flight, it did nothing to dampen my spirits. I was delighted to be invited in the first place and quite happy to be sharing the trip with Nicola Watkins (PR wonder-woman for Netflix in Ireland), Tracey from Love of Living, Laura from Confessions of an Irish Mammy and Debbie from Saucepan Kids. (Jolene from One Yummy Mummy joined us the following morning).

We were brought to stay in the Mondrian Hotel at Sea Containers, which is situated on the South Bank of the Thames, right next door to the famous OXO building. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous. Sculptural, stylish and so much fancier than pretty much anywhere I've ever stayed before. I could have stayed in my room forever and been perfectly content.
But then, if I had, I wouldn't have  experienced the gorgeous meal in the Sea Containers restaurant or had a chance to wander along the riverbank or gone to the wonderful event Netflix hosted for us in The Violin Factory the next day.
We were treated to coffee, cakes, a gorgeous lunch and a tipple or two. We also got a chance to watch the first episode of the brand-new Netflix Original series 'Stranger Things' - which got me completely HOOKED. I've just finished watching episode three and can't wait to see the rest.

If you are a fan of ET, The Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or if you have any kind of nostalgia for the 1980's you will love it. I promise. I'm not even a fan of horror/sci-fi but this series is utterly gripping and a brilliant story. Have a look at the first eight minutes and see for yourself.

It's streaming now on Netflix and well worth a watch.

After the screening, we got an opportunity to use Netflix as inspiration for some screen-free fun. Netflix wanted to let us know that they understand that parents don't want their children sitting in front of screens all day, by showing us how we can take their favourite programmes and movies and use them as inspiration for creative activities.

To that end - we iced some 'King Julien' inspired cookies:
I'll bet you can't guess which one is mine and which one the experts did.... ;) 
We created some 'Beat Bugs' (coming soon!) inspired terrariums:
And we made some Word Party  (now streaming) inspired bunting -which I've only just realised I never photographed...
I really enjoyed the hands-on part of the day and it's really made me 'think outside the box' when it comes to picking up on my girls' interests and expanding on them away from the TV. I am excited to see what ideas I can come up with by using their current favourites as inspiration for some summer fun. I'll share the ideas here too of course!

After a mad-dash through the airport and a moment where we seriously thought we'd missed the plane - we managed to get home in one piece. Back to the reality that I do not, in fact, live a 5-star lifestyle 99.9% of the time...

I had a really fantastic trip and am so grateful to Netflix for the fabulous treat. They really know how to make a Stream-Teamer feel special.

Disclosure: As a member of the Netflix Stream Team I received a Netflix subscription and an Apple TV box in return for posting Netflix updates and reviews. All opinions are my own and I am not being paid to give them. I already had a personal subscription before joining the Stream Team. 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Live Where You Live

I live in my home town. The town I was raised in. I haven't lived here always, but I have lived here mostly.
In my very early years it was all I knew. There was the sea to one side and mountains that curved all around the rest. There was the main street and the school bus that took me from one end of it to the other and back again, everyday. There were the houses of my relations and my school friends. There were Summers on stony beaches because there was no money for foreign holidays and Saturday mornings at drama classes, in a function room above a pub that stunk of spilled beer and cigarettes.
When I was 12, I started secondary school in another town. I slowly edged my way into a wider space by spending time with friends from other villages and towns up and down the train line. I went all the way into the city centre now for Saturday morning drama lessons. (Alone!) The room stuffy with the odour of pubescent bodies. And probably still cigarettes, because people could smoke wherever they pleased back then.
But, at age 12 I was commuting over 12 hours a week. So, exhausted by age 14, I decided to cut it down (barely) by joining a local youth theatre. Now my Saturday mornings were spent a few minutes walk from my home, in a musty, black box that held the hordes of teenagers it welcomed in some sort of magical trance. Saturday afternoons were spent in a cafe near the beach. Six of us sitting over three cups of 'lemon zinger' tea for hours. Summer evenings were spent outside the amusement arcades. There was no money to actually play anything at the arcades but there were boys to look at and teenage dramas to both witness and be a part of.
I knew my town well then. I knew which houses along the endless streets, that ran parallel with the strand, I would buy when I was older. I knew the secret gates that lead up the side of the mountain from the Newcourt Road. I knew the best place along the Dargle to catch minnows. I knew that there were strange treasures to be found on the back-strand as the sea eroded the ancient dump beneath the golf course. I knew not to talk to the men that played 'pitch and toss' under a wide oak tree in the park. 

I knew that it was a seven minute walk from my house to my bus stop for school. I knew that it took more than five minutes to get from the beach to the top of the Putland Hill - so I'd usually have to run to get to my aunt's house for the curfew that was a half hour later than my mother's curfew. I knew the rough feel of the granite platform under the statue of the Wyvern outside the townhall. I knew all the different shades of brown the river could be and that sometimes, when it got high, my father would go out in the middle of the night to measure the depth with a long stick, in case it flooded again.

I could write forever about the things I knew then. About the cold parlour in the piano teacher's house. The bright jewellery in Bannon's window. The sharp crust of the 'french stick' we'd get in Superquinn. The smell of Henry and Rose's chipper... 
...but then came the time when I felt I barely knew this place at all.

I went off to college first. And, although I still lived at home, I was rarely there. Next came work and again, although I still, with the exception of a couple of years, lived in my home town, I barely spent any time in it. I left early in the morning and came home late in the evening. I worked in the city, socialised in the city, should probably have been living in the city...

It felt for a long, long time that I never really lived where I lived. I wouldn't see the main street for months on end. I didn't know which cafés and restaurants were half-decent or what the inside of the Mermaid Theatre looked like or that Kilruddery even existed. I didn't feel like it was really my town anymore, despite being a native. 'Blow-ins' would tip me off about new places opening and old places closing down and I would feel a bit displaced. Out of the loop. A bit of a fraud. Did I really live in a place I knew nothing about? Even having children changed little. I was still working in the city and in the evening, the four walls of my house were mostly all I saw. 
It was only when I was made redundant two years ago and decided to take some time out of the workforce that I really re-connected with the town I love so well. Now I spend spend a lot of my time in and around my town and I can tell you that, on a clear day, you can see the faraway Poolbeg chimneys from the top of the Vevay Hill. I can tell you where to go for a meal that will make you feel like you're suddenly on holidays in Tuscany. I can tell you about all the cafés that have free Wifi and all the ones that don't. I know what the inside of the Mermaid theatre looks like and we go to Kilruddery at least once a week. I know that the latest Burrito place only lasted a week before it shut  - but that it's probably for the best because they had things like chorizo and feta in their burritos... I have become good friends with people who live two doors down from me but that I'd never seen before even though they'd lived there for years. I know the library opening hours and that it's quicker to walk the school run than to drive it on wet mornings. I know that the place to catch minnows is inaccessible now because of the flood prevention works but I watch my girls monitor the colour change in the river as we cross it everyday.

I live here now.

And there is a comfort in knowing a place so intimately.

In recognising each crack in the pavement as if it was a line on your own hand.

In living where you live.

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A few people have contacted me to say that this post had inspired them to write about their own love for where they live. I've decided, therefore, to make this a linky and I'm excited to collect all of these stories here. I can't wait to discover how you live where you live. Click the little icon below to join in.


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