WarHorse

I’m a big fan of Michael Morpurgo, as it would seem are a huge number of people. His Facebook page has forty one thousand likes and the film version of WarHorse grossed almost one hundred and eighty million dollars at the box office.

Like lots of people, I think, it wasn’t until WarHorse came to prominence that Michael Morpurgo came to the forefront of my mind. You may have noticed the slightly strange turn of phrase there ‘came to the forefront of my mind’. This is because he had been in my mind for a long time, but I had completely forgotten until I did some browsing of Amazon that I did actually read a Michael Morpurgo book when I was twelve. This one.

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I know I was definitely twelve because the book was a gift from my Dad and C when I broke my leg. I always remembered the book but didn’t remember who wrote it. I read it in one day while I was stranded on the sofa, up to my hip in plaster.

I read WarHorse on my Kindle a few years ago and loved it so when I saw that the stage show was touring and coming to the Hippodrome in Birmingham I headed straight on line to book tickets, and last Saturday we headed into town for the matinee showing.

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It was a packed house, not an empty seat anywhere as we waited for the show to start.

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The puppetry was amazing. The two main horses, Joey and Topthorn had three people operating them, two inside the body representing the hind and the heart and one alongside representing the head. Somehow the knowledge that the horses hearts were being represented made the depiction all the more poignant. I obviously couldn’t take photos during the performance but I’ve found a good pic online.

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On the left is Joey and Topthorn is on the right. You can see the three puppeteers. This is when they were first introduced to each other behind the lines of the battlefield in France. There were also supporting horses, but these were differentiated by being less formed, their bodies ended at their tail with no hind legs, and they were operated by just one person.

As well as the horses, there was a puppet goose. It was operated by one person using a handle attached to it, and it waddled around the stage on a wheel. The goose provided a very necessary touch of light relief.

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The title of the show is fairly self explanatory, but until I read the book, it had never occurred to me that animals were involved in the First World War. We all know of the enormous human suffering and loss of life, but less is known of the plight of the million horses that were sent to France. Only sixty two thousand returned. That’s approximately ninety five percent that perished.

The book is written from Joey’s point of view but I guess it would be hard to portray this on the stage so in this case you watch the events unfold in front of you. You see Joey bought at auction by Ted Narracott and then see his relationship grow with Albert, Ted’s son. He has to learn to become a farm horse, ploughing the land, and it is this which ultimately saves his life out on the battlefields of France.

I don’t want to ruin the story, just in case anyone hasn’t read it/watched it, so I won’t delve any more into the plot. The portrayal of the fighting, the torture of uncertainty and no news back home and the agonising choices having to be made at the front line is incredibly moving. In fact, at times I found myself squirming in my seat because I actually found it quite uncomfortable viewing. The thought that this is real, people and horses actually went through this. Millions of lives were lost, millions more changed forever. So much bravery and valour, but oh so much pain and suffering.

For me, as an animal lover, and someone who’s had to go through the pain of losing a beloved pet, seeing the First World War portrayed in this way, using animals, drove home to me how absolutely devastating the war was, to the world, to our country, to families, to individuals. It made me incredibly grateful to the men, women and animals who bravely suffered the atrocities of war, whether it be on the front line or away from the action keeping the country ticking over, and so so relieved that this isn’t our reality today.

The show has a happy ending, but put against the backdrop of such horrors, this just serves to heighten the emotion. I never normally get upset at shows or films, but I just couldn’t help it and the tears were rolling down my cheeks at the end. It was harrowing. I felt utterly emotionally exhausted, but then guilty for not being able to hold it together when real people endured the reality of the war with stoicism and resolve. The actors got a standing ovation as they came on to take their bows, which was absolutely deserved. I’m glad we went to see the show, but I don’t think I would put myself through it again.

A week of food

I’m actually halfway through a draft of a post I’ve been pondering for a few weeks, but it’s taking me a little while to get it right, so in the meantime I’ve come to tell you about my week of scrummy food. Honestly it’s no wonder I struggle to lose weight!

We had another Gousto box this week and, oh my, it was full of deliciousness!

We started the week with a veggie offering. Neither of us is vegetarian, but we are both animal lovers so we do try to reduce the amount of meat we eat. Hubby tries to only eat it once a day, and I will often choose a veggie option over meat. I’m not a massive meat lover anyway, I don’t really like the texture and I can’t bear fatty or gristly cuts. I find that I get very tired after prolonged periods without meat, so I don’t cut it out altogether. I’m obviously not getting everything I need from my veggie choices.

Anyway, feast your eyes on this.

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This is a spinach and feta tart with crispy potatoes and rocket salad. It was really quick and easy to make and so so tasty. It reminded us both of relaxed and restful Greek holidays, probably just because of the feta. Y-um!

Next up I took a bit of a risk. Tandoori fish! I don’t mind fish (as long as it doesn’t still have its eye looking at me *shudder*) but I wasn’t sure if the delicate fishy flavours would work with the strong tasting tandoori marinade, but it absolutely did. I should have known really because good old Gousto has rarely let us down. I forgot to take a photo of this one, so desperate was I to try it but here’s the Gousto pic.

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Next up was another veggie dish. I love love loved this one, and again it was super easy to make and took less than fifteen minutes. Hubby says he liked it, but I didn’t get the vibe that he loved it quite as much as I did. I love picky food – crisps and dips, crudités, a finger buffet – so Gousto’s halloumi shawarma with hummus couldn’t have been further up my alley.

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We grilled the pittas and pumpkin seeds, fried the halloumi in a tiny bit of olive oil and blitzed together chickpeas, garlic, tahini, olive oil and lemon to make the hummus …… and then the dipping commenced. The nommiest of noms!

Finally we had a meat option, chicken schnitzel with apple and potato salad. I have absolutely no doubt that this will become a regular dish in the Green Girl Gardener household. Really simple and easy to make, oh so tasty, and common ingredients that we generally have in the kitchen already.

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We had a lovely, and delicious, surprise at our front door on Monday this week. Our neighbours held their baby son’s christening at the weekend, and it seems they’d over-catered (always safer than under-catering) and they brought us round cake! How amazing! Cake on the doorstep on a Monday evening. How very kind of them to think of us.

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It was a rocky road style cake topped with teeny tiny marshmallows and hundreds and thousands all drizzled with white chocolate. Sooooooo good! Mindful of having to get into swimwear in the near future, I shared the joy and took the last four pieces to work for my lovely colleagues to enjoy.

The working week ended with another delicious meal, this time out with my Dad and our very good friend in town. Yep, that’s right, I went out! Not just out, but out out. In town! Not the local town, but proper city centre, second city, Birmingham town. Whoop! Don’t do this very often so it feels like such a luxury, and oh my goodness, this restaurant didn’t disappoint.

It’s an Indian restaurant called Varanasi, but this is not just your local sit down, bring your own, have a great time Indian restaurant. This one did Indian food and fancy dining with so much aplomb that my head practically exploded with gleeful wonderment!

First of all I have to show you a few snaps of the interior which dazzled and amazed before we’d even got as far as opening the wine list (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, obviously!) or perusing the menu.

Just look!

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You really feel like you’re entering somewhere special as you’re escorted down that corridor of Buddha-Esque statues. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know who they represented. Krishna maybe?

The restaurant on the other side is laid out over three floors with balconies overlooking the lower levels and low lighting to accentuate the ambience created by the burning incense. I don’t normally like incense, but this was by no means overpowering and made me feel completely immersed in the Hindu inspired environment.

Once we had finished marvelling at our surrounding, and we were seated, we commenced the almost impossible task of deciding what to choose from the menu. Not easy! We had some poppadoms and chutneys whilst we decided.

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Even this was done well with each of us having our own chutney pots to save reaching over each other. This is always awkward I find when you’re out in a larger group and you don’t have the chutney right in front of you and have to either keep leaning over your neighbour or cover your plate in raita which you then can’t quite scoop on to your poppadom!

The waiters were incredibly attentive without being intrusive and were around to give us advice on which dishes to choose. I decided on the Varanasi special chicken curry with steamed rice and I opted to have it cooked with medium spice.

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It was amazing. It had a definite kick (glad I opted for medium) but with a hint of ginger. The dish was beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. It was a veritable delectation for the taste buds! We shared a naan bread which again appeals to my love of picky, dippy food. We were three very satisfied diners.

Goodness knows how, but between us we managed to get through four bottles of the fruity Sauvignon Blanc so a trip to the little girls’ room was required, and luckily I took my phone with me because there were more photo opportunities.

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What a beautiful bathroom.  The hand wash smelt divine! I didn’t use the moisturiser because when our hand towels were brought after dinner which were expanded in little bowls of water in front of us, we were also given a little bottle of moisturiser, so I used that.

All in all, a thoroughly excellent evening of laughs and scrumptious food. I would highly recommend Varanasi to anyone who finds themselves in the vacinity of this great city of mine.

Must dash, we’re off to the matinee performance of War Horse today (in town again, twice within twenty four hours!) so I need to get a wiggle on. I’m super excited about seeing this show. I loved the book and I know several people who have seen the stage show and have raved about it. I’ll let you all know if it lives up to expectations. I have no doubt it will.