Boro Books 2: The Lost Sons of the West by A.L. Buxton

You’ve probably guessed by now that we’re not shy in telling you how much we love all things Boro, and this year particularly, how much we’re loving Boro Books. We’ve been so lucky to be in contact with some real-life local authors who have shared their books with us and we’ll let you in on a little secret – Love Middlesbrough Lass Emma is currently reading Boro Book number 3 (review coming soon)! 

I’ve always thought that being an author must be a pretty cool beans kind of job, and it’s even more fascinating when there’s a story behind how someone became an author too. Step up ‘The Secret Author’ also known as A.L. Buxton – don’t worry, we didn’t let the cat out of the bag – the Gazette revealed all way before we did  😂 but it’s such a brilliant story, we couldn’t resist sharing! Writing 90% of the book on his loo breaks at work before heading home to write it up properly – Anthony Luke Buxton, Secret Author, we salute you! #respect

The Lost Sons of the West tells the tale of young swordsman Gideon Destain and his brothers as they face loss, heartbreak, pain and treachery in war torn lands. The book has been described as epic and I would totally agree with that. There’s battles and blood and flying swords and ripped armour galore, all topped off with descriptions of long-haired, strapping heroes heading off into, well, even more battles! From where I stand, that’s pretty flippin’ epic indeed! 

I should probably have started out at the beginning by saying this genre/type of book is definitely not one that I’ve read before. It took me a while to get into the flow of all the epic fighting and heroic rescues, but once I did, I was definitely intrigued to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next to the brothers and if they survive everything that was being thrown at them (trust me when I say, that is a WHOLE lot of stuff)!

By the time I reached the last page and a half (especially the last paragraph) I actually shouted out Nooooooo cos it ends on such a massive cliffhanger and clearly I’m going to have to read the next one to find out what happens! As I said earlier, this is not my usual genre of book so forgive my amateur comparisons but I would describe it as part The Three Musketeers, part Hunger Games (the selection battle definitely!), part Lord of the Rings (the long journeys and wanderings of the brothers) and the rest medieval battles (and gore!) galore! Oof! If that brilliant description is not enough to make you rush out and buy it right now, then my job here is over! *chuckles*

Secret Author AL Buxton

Obviously you all want to follow the Secret Author on his socials, which you can do via Facebook or Twitter, cos you’re going to need to know when the second book is published! And of course the most important information: you can buy the book via fab, local publishers Sixth Element, or Amazon. Happy reading! 

A big thank you to Anthony and local publishers, Sixth Element, for kindly providing us with our copy of the book. The surprising discovery of the year has been that  books about epic battles are actually kinda cool! 😂 Any suggestions for what I should read next…? 

 

 

Claire goes classical

Always up for trying something new, when I was invited along to Middlesbrough Theatre to celebrate their 60th anniversary with a very special concert, I signed up immediately. It’s not every day that the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra will be playing, after all! As it was going to be my very first experience of a classical concert, I decided that the first thing to do was ask someone in the know to join me – step up Love Middlesbrough Dad. 

Over the years I’ve seen loads of live music. Loud, indie-rock, guitars and drums accompanied by lots of jumping about in the mosh pit and woohoo-ing and hollering my appreciation of each and every song. Bear this in mind and be grateful that I took my dad when I tell you the next bit. Turns out that sort of behaviour is not at all acceptable at a classical concert. There’s all kinds of rules about not applauding in between movements, patiently waiting for the conductor to completely bring the orchestra to rest before you start the clapping and definitely no woohoos or the more polite, oh-so-British ‘Bravo’ allowed. Who knew?!  

The first thing that blew me away was that the stage was absolutely filled to the brim with seats! I couldn’t count them all – there were definitely some brass instruments tucked away in the wings – but it looked to me like there were well over 100! I’ve never seen the stage so full! The photograph below, even though it’s from a different theatre, gives you an idea of the sheer size and scale of the orchestra *wow*

st petersburg symphony orchestra

Right from the very start I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty special evening. The polite applause as the orchestra sat down and the conductor appeared, followed by the immediate hush before the first notes danced up to my ears. From that point on, it’s fair to say I was completely and utterly swept up by it all, delightedly chuckling each time the conductor leaped off his feet, my eyes darting around the stage to see if I could figure out which instrument was the one making all the beautiful sounds…it truly was a joy for the senses! 

If I had to pick my absolute favourite part of the programme, it would be Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 – forty six minutes of total magic! Four movements, each more animated and rousing than the last, cymbals crashing, drums rolling, the frenzied bows of the string instruments back and forth, back and forth, and the conductor jumping and leaping into the air like there was someone up above him pulling on puppet strings…I had to physically sit on my hands to stop them from rising high into the air to applaud, applaud, applaud. You could physically feel the energy from the stage and as they reached the end of the third movement, you can only imagine my total joy when some courageous rule breaker defied the stuffy rules and shouted BRAVO before breaking into loud applause. Which of course was immediately followed by everyone else in the audience joining in! The atmosphere was incredible.

As the rowdy applause died down and the orchestra began the final movement, I found myself leaning forward in my seat to soak it all up – I really didn’t want it to end! Luckily it wasn’t over too quickly as they did not one but two encores, each to more applause that got louder and louder – my hands are still sore from all the clapping! As they took their final bow, it was pretty obvious to me that the whole audience loved it as much as I did. And guess what? I let out a (slightly reserved) Wooooo! #rebel I just couldn’t help myself! If I’d have had my way I would have woohoo-ed every single time they stopped. I definitely think the polite applause only rule should be reconsidered…

St Petersburg Symphony at Middlesbrough Theatre

If you’ve never been to a classical concert before and are open to trying out new experiences I can highly recommend it. Even if your normal choice of music veers more towards loud and rock, you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised. The vibrant energy of the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra was up there with any band I’ve ever seen; more civilised for sure, but don’t let that put you off. The passion and joy for the music and their instruments was there for all to see. 

Love Middlesbrough Dad, man of few words, also loved it. Later that evening I got a text thanking me for a fantastic night and I would like to say the same to Middlesbrough Theatre. Thank you! You have a new fan of classical music concerts now and I’m already planning what I’ll try out next. And a very Happy Anniversary too – cheers to 60 more years! 

Halloween horrors – warning, contains (fake) blood!

What you may have realised is that I, Love Middlesbrough Lass Emma, am rather fond of musicals and theatre . As a result, I have self-taught special effects makeup; due to it being Halloween, I thought I’d impart my knowledge with a little help from Kindamagik. I would also like to apologise for my feet in this – I wasn’t prepared to put my face online without any makeup… sorry.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating this look ️

What you will need:

Fake Blood ️
Liquid Latex
Face Putty (This can be used anywhere on your body)
Some form of “spatula” (I uses the smooth end of a metal nail file)
Makeup remover
make-up sponge and brushes
foundation
setting powder
red, brown and black powder
tissue

Step 1 – prep your skin and work surface, I would recommend shaving if you’re applying this anywhere with hair – latex is not fun to pull off hair. Also put down a non-absorbent sheet if you are using fake blood, fake blood stains everything and anything.
Step 2 – warm up your putty so it’s malleable, you can use a hair dryer to help you along but be very careful and quite quick with a hair dryer.

Step 3 – split your putty in two. Take the first half and spread it across your skin.

 

 

Step 4 – Use your spatula covered in makeup remover and smooth the edges down – this should sit flush to your skin now. You may have to keep applying make-up remover to your spatula

 

 

Step 5 – Create a sausage with the remaining putty and cut through it with your spatula.

Step 6 – Add the remaining putty to your cut. Use your fingers to help it stick to the already applied putty, then use the spatula again to smooth it out.

 

Step 7 – cover the wound in liquid latex. If you have time before hand, do a patch test. If you are allergic to liquid latex you can replace this with child safe, PVA glue from a supermarket.

Step 8 – Whilst the latex is still wet, cover the wound with 1ply of tissue or toilet paper to help with texture as well as to help it all stay in place. Wait for the latex to dry (perfect time for cake)

Step 9 – cover your wound in foundation (preferably one that matches your skin tone) and add some setting powder on top.

 

 

Step 10 – Work into the wound with some brown powder – the darker and more matte the better here.

Step 11 – Work into the bottom of the wound with black powder

 

 

 

Step 12 – Work into the wound again with red powder. The brighter the better if you want the wound to look fresh. If you want it to look a little older try using some brown, purple and orange powder around the outside of the wound for a bruising effect.

Step 13 – be very careful adding your blood into the wound. I used a brush to add the blood into the actual wound then carefully poured the blood from the base of the wound to add the trickles down my leg.

Kindamagik does also sell a thicker type of blood for long term wear without covering your entire house in the stuff – see my towel after I’d cleaned myself up.

And then you have your finished wound. Have fun creating this look and enjoy Halloween this year guys.

The Lasses get scared by The Book of Darkness and Light!

Three chilling tales. Two ghostly performers. One thrilling night.

Legend has it that many years ago a book of terrifying tales was found. Now, you are invited to discover the secrets of The Book of Darkness and Light … if you dare.

Join The Storyteller and The Musician for an evening of spine-tingling tales and haunting live music. Three ghostly stories to delight and horrify, accompanied by the beautiful sounds of the violin.

Book of Darkness and Light 1

Be thrilled, chilled and thoroughly entertained by this charming storytelling experience. But, be warned, once the pages of the book are opened … anything could happen!

Claire 

If you’re going to see something that promises chills and thrills you couldn’t get a better time than right now. You also couldn’t ask for a better venue than the beautiful Reference Library, especially when said show involves clever lighting from floor level that casts the most excellent shadows up to the highest corner in that stunning room! 

Right from the start, as the lights went down, I was completely immersed in the atmosphere. The Storyteller was all kinds of spooky, with his long black coat and fingerless gloves, the old book flopping open to exactly the right page to begin the evening’s tales…and The Musician, oh! Can we just talk about shadows again for a minute? I couldn’t take my eyes off the shadow in the high corner that danced as The Musician played – it was like something out of an old fashioned toy theatre, stuttering, stop start motion, like something from another world – utterly brilliant! 

Book of Darkness and Light 2

Each tale was more compelling than the last, and by the third and final one I had actual goosebumps and chills down my spine! So, so clever. What a truly amazing performance piece! If you’ve not already guessed, I can highly recommend finding your nearest show and booking up quick!

Rachel 

October is the month of all things spooooooky  , so of course I was very excited to see this show!

The Storyteller made me think of a slightly creepy Victorian undertaker, so straight away I was backstorying (yes, that’s a verb) how they could have acquired said Book of Darkness and Light from a dead person. It reminded me of one of the stories from Love Middlesbrough Lass Emma’s book Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror which I read as part of the Lasses’ summer reading challenge.

I enjoyed the first two stories, and although in both cases it quickly became obvious (to me anyway) how the story would end, I still enjoyed the storytelling, the music and the atmosphere. But the third one! Excuse me while I run away and hide somewhere!  

Book of Darkness and Light 4

The third was much longer and more detailed than the first two, with a fantastic build up where you were just waiting, knowing something bad was coming, but not knowing what. Obviously my inner history geek got excited when it mentioned the witch trials!  Even I didn’t manage to guess where the story was going and how it was going to end, so I was seriously impressed! (And frightened, so we went for late night ice cream to make it better! ) 

I’d definitely recommend going to see any drama or music performances you can at Central Library; it’s such an intimate but overlooked venue which has a great atmosphere. Not to mention it really lends itself to something gothic like this, especially since, intentionally or not, a weird chill crept across us part-way through the show! *shivers*

And I’d also definitely recommend seeing The Book of Darkness and Light if you fancy a bit of a roadtrip – Hexham and Harrogate are your nearest venues for the rest of their tour.

Book of Darkness and Light 3

Visit their website for more details.

We didn’t take any photos ourselves during the performance as we were so completely absorbed! We’ve borrowed the photos for this post from The Book of Darkness and Light Facebook  page – go and give them a follow, the photos are awesome! 

We love Autumn!

Oh Autumn, you absolute beaut 😍 As if the sight of all those stunning Autumn leaves is not enough 🍁 🍂 🍁 there’s also glorious blue skies that just pop against the oranges and reds from the leaves, golden hours of dreams and sunsets that can actually make you gasp out loud at the sheer magic of Mother Nature. There’s definitely just something about Autumn – it gives me all the warm fuzzies inside ❤️

You know how much we love a Top 5 post here on the blog, so here’s my Top 5 favourite things to do in Autumn. 

1. Jump into carpets of crunchy Autumn leaves
No matter how old I get, I am always and forever going to jump into carpets and piles of crunchy leaves! The trick to a successful run through crispy leaves is to kick your feet at the same time as running. Sounds tricky but it’s actually kind of easy, as you run your feet make the crunch crunch crunch sound through the leaves, and then when you’re ready to stop pick your feet up and do a massive jump! Photos of feet in leaves absolutely required or it didn’t really happen 😂  

feet crunching in leaves

Handy hint: don’t do this with the really really big piles of leaves cos you never know what might be inside them (eek!) 

2. Carve a pumpkin! 
Obviously anything Autumn related was going to include Halloween! As a happy tree hugger, I always make sure to scrape out all the inside of the pumpkin first and use it to cook up something tasty, usually soup, but also sometimes cakes….sounds weird but it’s totally delicious, trust me! Where was I? Pumpkins! Grab your pumpkin (you can get them all over the place from supermarkets to greengrocers), pick a design – you’ll find loads of inspiration online – and start carving. A sharp knife works best here, and of course we recommend that you make sure you’re extra careful with the knife! Once you’re done, pop a tealight inside, turn off all the lights and then sit back and admire your handiwork 🎃 

carved pumpkin

Handy hint: anyone with little ones who isn’t too sure about using knives, there’s loads of pumpkin carving sessions available this October half term! Check out our round up of Half Term Activities on the website.  

3. Hot chocolate season begins!
There was a time when I was never really that bothered by hot chocolate (I know! I know! What?!) but since joining the Love Middlesbrough Lasses, finding the perfect hot chocolate has become my life goal, and the season officially begins NOW! There’s nothing better than a creamy hot choc, oozing fresh cream and piled high with marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles, a big comfy chair and your favourite book. After a hard day at work it’s the perfect way to wind down the day!

Hot chocolate in off the ground middlesbrough

If you have any tips on the BEST place to get hot chocolate in Middlesbrough, hit us up in the comments. We’ll willingly come and give it a try! Until then, we’ll valiantly continue in our search, just for you…

4. Spend time outside
This could either be your idea of heaven or the worst thing ever, but I love nothing more than being outside as Autumn arrives. The mornings have that first hint of crisp chill in the air, a lunchtime stroll looking up at all the colourful leaves can be so soothing for the soul, and even an evening stroll, as golden hour begins and the sun starts to set, is quite simply magical 😍 This one is definitely easy to achieve if you have a dog (shout out to Bob, Love Middlesbrough Lass Claire’s hairy hound 🐶) as they always need walks, but even a ten minute stroll round one of our fab Middlesbrough parks is just as awesome. Trust me, outside is grand 🌳

Bob the dog

5. Bring on the comfort food!
From piping hot soup to heartwarming casseroles, Autumn is officially the season to switch up food from light summer fayre (just me then?) to Autumn cosies. It’s kind of the food equivalent of wearing your favourite scarf for the first time 💛 If you’re an eating in kind of person, grab your recipe books and start cooking and baking up a storm. If you prefer eating out, you’re definitely in luck as there are TONNES of amazing foodie places in Middlesbrough! In fact there’s so much to choose from we can’t keep up with them all! 

cheese toastie

What’s your favourite thing to do in Autumn? Do tell, I’m always willing to try out new things! 🍁