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! 

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! 🍁 

Harry Potter! History! Magic! And fangirling!

So we have some pretty exciting news (understatement of the year)! If you’re a Harry Potter fan then your day (possibly even life) is about to be made!

Delve into Divination!
Ponder the peculiarities of Potions!
Discover magical creatures!
Harry Potter: A History of Magic is coming to Middlesbrough!!!! 😍 
There are not enough heart eye emojis and exclamation marks in the world for that last statement. HARRY! POTTER! 

What exactly is this Harry Potter: A History of Magic we hear you ask? Luckily we’re here to tell you 😀 In partnership with the British Library (woah!), Middlesbrough Library will be capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories – there’ll be magical treasures, tales and secrets deep from the archives…wahhhhhhh! We are beyond excited!!! 

To show you exactly how much we obsess fangirl over the Potter, here are just some (cos if we told you all the reasons we’d need a 1000 page book) of the reasons why we, the Lasses, love Harry Potter so much. 

Claire 🐘

It’s already been established that I’m the older Lass of the group so I was at university when I first encountered Harry Potter. I remember a whole group of us sharing one battered copy of The Philosopher’s Stone that is probably still making the rounds somewhere to this day. My own copy of it is equally as battered now as I’ve read the series all the way through about fifty million times (artistic licence is the same as exaggeration, right?)

Speaking of my series: the books are a combination of bought brand new, bought second hand, and partially eaten by my dog when he was just a wee puppy (bad dog!) Some are paperback, some are really big hardbacks (I’m looking at you Order of the Phoenix that is nearly as big as my head), all are battered, the covers are completely bleached of colour by being put on a shelf too close to a window, and extremely well loved 💓

I don’t have a favourite book or even a favourite character – I just love it all. It’s completely and utterly magical and I think it’s definitely time I started on round fifty million and one of re-reading from start to finish 😂

I’m SO EXCITED for the exhibition! And if I don’t get JK Rowling to like and retweet at least one of my tweets about it I’ll be hanging up my social media hat and heading to the cupboard under the stairs, never to come back out again. 

Emma 🍫

Harry Potter is coming to Middlesbrough and you don’t know how excited I am. The Philosopher’s Stone came out the year before I was born but 13 year old Emma was dragged into fandomness (I’m such a nerd now, Harry Potter made me who I am I think) by ‘Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number 4 Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much’. As much as the Harry Potter books are the best, I’m going to look at the world as a whole – and the history of magic – so prepare for my fangirling.

So, my favourite character from the entire universe is Newt Scamander, the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’m totally going to ignore the book for this post because let’s be real, I could go on for forever, but the character of Newt Scamander is just another one of JK Rowling’s genius brainchildren. He seems like the sidekick character: small, weedy, nervous,and weak but he is the main character of the film because he is the embodiment of caring – the point of the film. This is what I love about Newt, not only does he have the line ‘Mummy’s here’ directed towards baby magical creatures (be still my beating heart), but he also cares about people. I think this is a refreshing change for Hollywood given that the heroes of many blockbuster films now are strong physically and mentally, but Newt Scamander is the exact opposite of this and shows that anyone, no matter how weak or seemingly unimportant, can make a difference in the world – whether magical or not.

It’s very difficult for me to express my love for Mr Scamander and the movie as a whole in one blog post as I could literally spend hours talking about this delightful man. Can we just appreciate casting for a moment? Eddie Redmayne is quintessentially British and this is enhanced by the setting of America.

Also, if you haven’t seen the A Very Potter Musical trilogy then I suggest you do because it’s hilarious and oh so very American. I see a binge coming on.

Rachel 🐱

I love lists, so what better time to appreciate my favourite moments from Harry Potter (books and films) than in this post? I started out with my top 5, and that quickly became top 10. Ooops! 😳 (p.s. it’s very timely that I just got a Deathly Hallows tattoo this week…how jealous is everyone?! 😎)

Piertotum locomotor (DH)
Professor McGonagall brings the school’s statues and suits of armour to life (‘Hogwarts is threatened!’ shouted Professor McGonagall. ‘Man the boundaries, protect us, do your duty to our school!’), which is seriously kick-ass, and as if that wasn’t enough, she then follows it up with ‘I’ve always wanted to use that spell!’ The adorbs! 😍

Hermione punching Malfoy (PoA)
Let’s face it, who didn’t want to punch Malfoy at some point in the series? Hermione just did what we were all thinking. Yaaaas!

The grandmother Snape boggart (PoA)
Snape dressed as Neville’s grandmother, complete with an ugly, vulture-topped hat. I don’t think there’s anything you could want more in life, right?

Butterflies (CS)
As someone who is extremely scared of spiders, Ron’s quote of ‘Why spiders? Why couldn’t be follow the butterflies?’ pretty much sums up how I feel about having to see or read about giant spiders in Harry Potter.

Dudley’s goodbye (DH)
The scene where Harry and Dudley say goodbye really got me. To see how much Dudley’s attitude had changed, that he believed there was a real threat, even if he didn’t completely understand it, and that he’d be safest with the weird magic people, really shows a change in his character. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s being (for him) seriously nice, telling Harry that he doesn’t think he’s a waste of space. So many feels! 😭

Pudding (OotP)
Luna saying ‘I hope there’s pudding’ is just me, all the time. 🍩🍪🍨

Molly Weasley duelling (DH)
Is there a more iconic line than ‘Not my daughter, you bitch!’? The correct answer is no. Molly Weasley is a marvel! #slay

Roonil Wazlib (HBP)
Ron’s name misspelled. I don’t know why it makes me howl with laughter every time, but it does 😂

Teaspoon (OotP)
‘Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.’
Hermione giving it all the sass – I aspire to be this sassy, or at least to be in a situation where I can use that quote!

Light (PoA)
‘Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.’
Dumbledore ❤️

You can see Harry Potter: A History of Magic from 20 October – 28 February at Middlesbrough Central Library, during library opening hours. The exhibition launches on Friday 20 October at 4pm with a special magic show from the library’s very own Hogwarts Wizard at 4.30pm. Obviously we’ll see you there…we’ll be the ones at the front of the queue 😝 

Boro’s Top Ten Books!

News just in! The polls have been counted and we can finally reveal Middlesbrough’s Top Ten books, as voted by YOU! We’re so excited ❤️

In case you don’t know what we’re talking about, catch up with all our Boro Reads posts first:

What exactly is Boro Reads?
Boro Books part 1: The Law of Attraction by Roxie Cooper 
Meet our young bloggers! 
Our young bloggers tell us THEIR favourite book  
Superheroes in Boro?! 
Middlesbrough Libraries staff talk books! 
The Love Middlesbrough Lasses take on the summer reading challenge!  
The day our young bloggers met a real life author! 

So now you know how much we love books…it’s time to let you know what the Top Ten Boro books are *drum roll*

  1. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
  2. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
  3. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
  4. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
  5. The BFG by Roald Dahl
  6. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
  9. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  10. Holes by Louis Sachar

The reason we’re so excited about the top 10 books being announced is that they are going to be turned into beautiful book benches that you’ll be able to visit (and sit on!) in Middlesbrough’s community hubs and libraries! 😍 

Book bench

And it gets better than that – children in Middlesbrough are being invited to take part in the creative workshops to help design and decorate the benches…wahhhhhh! Where do we sign up?! Ha! Just kidding – you don’t have to sign up at all – children of all ages are welcome and there is no need to book a place. 

The first workshop will take place at Central Library on Tuesday 10th October (3.30-4.45pm) where any children taking part will bring (are you ready? We can’t even breathe, we’re so excited!) HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE to life. HARRY POTTER! Cue complete and utter fangirling from the Love Middlesbrough Lasses. 

Harry Potter

The next workshop is at North Ormesby Community Hub on Thursday 12th October (5.15-6.45pm) where children taking part will design a bench for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 

alice in wonderland

We can’t wait! See you there!!