How to be a top Ma


By Abby Boak

Have you ever had a conversation which has changed your life, or heard a little throw-away phrase that enters your consciousness and just makes things different?

Here’s the story.

From being a teeny tot, I had ALWAYS wanted to be a mum and live a simple, family life, have a home, a steady job, family outings on the weekends, cozy nights in…. You get the picture? I discussed it with every single one of my boyfriends in my teens and early twenties. I had a bit of a meltdown in my mid-20s and ended up pregnant to a man who wasn’t on my wavelength at all. Life’s a funny bugger, hey? Since my son Alex was born in 2005, we have lived in 11 different houses, in three different countries, with three separate partners. I’ve had 10 different jobs and completed two full-time, post-grad courses. He’s attended 4 different schools or nurseries and after 7 years of battling with schools has finally this last year been diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia. This means he says and does things impulsively, is hyperactive and has exceptionally poor short term memory skills, so building relationships, both in school and in the wider family, has been very difficult for everyone. His father doesn’t live in the same place as us and seemingly doesn’t know how to use a phone on a regular basis. Suffice to say this is not the steady path that I had envisaged.

This situation used to get me down. I used to be really concerned about whether or not I was ever going to have the simple family life I desired so much, and whether or not Alex was going to be good at anything (bless him, he’s not had the most stable of times).

One day about 4 years ago I was visiting a friend. She has four boys between 16 and five. She’s also a trained Art Therapist, University Lecturer and just an all-round lovely person. I was telling her how Alex was not good at most things, how he struggled so much in school, in sports activities, in general. Rightfully so, she pulled me up:

“Can’t he just be?”

Wow. Really. It’s that simple. The fab four were right. LET IT BE.

I hadn’t realised that over the years I had been partially blaming Alex for my difficulties in not getting the simple life I wanted. I had expectations of my life, my career, of him as a son, of my partners, of myself and whilst my expectations were not unreasonable, they were only leading me to feel disappointed when they didn’t turn out as I planned. With most other things you can change your path pretty easily, but becoming a mother, that’s a one-way ticket.

This realisation changed my whole approach to mothering and I can tell you that it has mended a huge rift in my relationship with my son. I am now able to let Alex be himself. I’m no longer worried about his academic successes or difficulties- he just is where he is and it will take as long as it takes. I no longer feel mortified when he says mean things to me or others- right now he has no stop button but he will eventually learn to control his impulses. I no longer apologise when, as a more-or-less single parent, I have to take him along to social gatherings – I now embrace having this incredibly funny, charming, helpful, excitable, tactile being who is able to enjoy every adventure we have.

And guess what? We now have a pretty simple family life.




John Bishop Q & A

We were lucky enough to get tickets to John Bishop’s Q & A on the industry at Liverpool John Moores University, and it was enlightening as well as entertaining. He was too busy for an interview, but we managed to ask where he found inspiration when stuck for material, and this sums it up: ‘I just basically spend my whole life hoping something funny happens to me.’  

Another titbit we managed to jot down with regard to breaking into the industry was, ‘be flexible and stick at it’. One opportunistic chap wangled some work experience at John’s production company, and he expressed regret that most of the industry gravitates towards London, something he hopes to change.

And does he regret any career choices? ‘Wherever I go, it’s better than where I started.’ Except claiming his subject of expertise was the Irish potato famine for a game show.

Matchbox Comedy Club

When: Wednesday 8pm

Where: Lantern Theatre, Blundell St

How much: £3 advance

Liverpool is oddly lacking in stand-up comedy, and prices are often a joke. We haven’t been along to this monthly event yet, but have heard good things and that the Lantern is a lovely venue. This is what they have to say for themselves.

Matchbox Comedy Club presents a monthly line up of “outside of the box” funny. Every single one of the acts on our bill comes with our personal recommendation. Like an overexcited psychopath child with a butterfly collection, we’ve stuffed a bunch of our favourite comedy people into a matchbox and put them on display. It’s a carefully curated living museum of funny.

Daft ball of energy Jack Evans brings us stand up that ricochets from madcap to cerebral. A captivating stage presence, off kilter jokes from the acerbic to odd.

Also joining us will be the “impish” Edy Hurst, a performer known for his sweetly silly wordplay, whimsical songs and ridiculous characters. Winner of Tickled Pig 2013, “oddball” Edy brings us abstract-ish comedy jokes and a smiling face.

Our final act is offbeat and ultra-surreal character act Frank Foucault. Welsh Unsigned Stand up Awards Finalist 2015, “meek” and “bizarre” Frank is a low key explosion of inventive ideas disguised as utter nonsense.

I don’t know too much about Matchbox Comedy, except that Alastair Clark will be your compère who’s entertaining with an equally entertaining moustache, so you won’t go far wrong.


Is the glass really half full?


This is the question that’s plagued the people of Philosophy in Pubs for centuries, a nationwide grass roots community organisation promoting and practising community philosophy. Discussions take place regularly in venues across the country, and Liverpool has the most community philosophy groups per capita worldwide because we’re so wise.

Respect is a fundamental requirement so people can put forward their views without fear of ridicule or intimidation (everybody has their limits though). No academic or philosophical background is necessary, so this may be the place to share your LSD musings (maybe leave out the hilarious anecdote about how octopuses can wear all their favourite shoes every day because they have so many legs they don’t have to choose hahahahahaha). 

Anyone can attend and it’s free, bar the price of pork scratchings and a voluntary donation. Meetings are informal and structured around a certain topic. Here is Liverpool’s schedule:

The spectre of Jeremy Corbyn: what are people afraid of? – Bluecoat – 08/12 1pm

Moral Panics – Keith’s Wine Bar, Lark Lane – 8/12 7pm

Can loyalty and equality coexist? – The Greyhound, Ormskirk – 10/12 7:30pm

Should our morality extend to non-humans? – The Friday Forum, Abercromby Square – 11/12 2pm

Conscience – Casa Bar, Hope St – 12/12 11am

Magical thinking! – The Crown Hotel, Lime St – 14/12 2:30pm

Love? – Keith’s Wine Bar, Lark Lane – 15/12 7:15pm

Is religion the sigh of the oppressed creature? – The Crown Hotel, Lime St – 21/12 2:30pm

What is peace? – The Perch Rock Hotel, Wallasey – 21/12 7pm

What is consciousness? – Lakeview Kiosk, Newsham Park – 06/01/16 1pm

Why philosophers do philosophy! – The Crown Hotel, Lime St – 11/01/16 2:30pm

Poloitical Philosophy – The Perch Rock Hotel, Wallasey -18/01/16 7pm

Cellular Memory? –  The Crown Hotel, Lime St – 02/02/16 6:45pm

Beyond the Pleasure Principle –  The Crown Hotel, Lime St – 01/03/16 6:45pm

As you can see a lot of these are at really random times of day, presumably for full-time wise asses or alcoholics. I’m not sure I’d fit in but I might go along to ‘Love?’ or the one about morality to non-humans and listen to the vegans.

If you’re interested, there’s absolutely loads of information at




On Richmond St opposite the Metquarter you’ll find a glorious place; a place so magical, students whose budgets consist of pennies found behind sofa cushions will produce a jacket potato for £1.49.  Retail workers, businessmen, builders and Jurgen Klopp alike feel the love for this place.

I’m picky about my jackets, but out of the countless I’ve had only two have been undercooked and it was a bloke cooking both times. And these aren’t those A cup sized spuds – these are genuine humdingers, fluffy inside with plenty of filling. Good D cups. There’s a wide range of fillings from chilli con carne to peri peri chicken, making for amazing value.

A foot-long baguette is 99p; lots of options but fillings are a little stingy, though the brie & cranberry I usually go for is alright. I had one every day for a fortnight so now I can’t look at them. Sandwiches, wraps, pizzas and pasties look pretty feeble, and deffo swerve those fries.

The queue out the door gives the illusion of being chocka but it’s actually just a gaggle of indecisiveness blocking the way. The staff will usually scream ‘NEXT!!!’ and glare, and you’ll stand there like a lemon thinking, ‘Who, me?’ So you’re served pretty much immediately, and orders are taken with military precision and swiftness. Staff are also easy on the eye and wear dicky bows.

Choose a different place to eat – St George’s Gardens, or Chavasse Park – and it’s practically like eating out somewhere nice every day. Boss.


Freelancers Christmas drinks & office party


When: 10 December, 7pm

Where: Pattersons, Gradwell St (behind Big Tesco).

No more sneaking into your buddy’s office party! This is a shindig especially for freelancers, the work-from-home society, small businesses and anybody else who is denied an office party. Meet other writers, models, photographers, graphic designers, musicians, painters, comedians etc. who love what they do SO much they’re expected to do it for free! Enjoy drinks and chicken you can’t afford, tunes, networking and “messy times”. See you there.




Planet Earth is under threat; aliens have abducted a small group of humans who must work together to escape capture and save the world as we know it!

Back by popular demand, AlieNation is back for two days only. An interactive and immersive experience, it was originally created for On The Verge Festival, which presents performances in unusual spaces by up and coming theater artists. Having experienced The Lemon Collective’s work at the Fire Arts Festival back in May, we were excited for a second chance to see what all the fuss was about.

Our group of earthlings was greeted by eccentric inhabitants such as Glahblah in a derelict basement on Victoria St. Guided through the space ship’s interior, we were faced with cryptic puzzles and challenges for any chance of escape.


First came a puzzle of intergalactic languages…


Homesick test specimens in the alien laboratory needed TLC, each with its particular quirk to cheer it up.


The final test involved serious teamwork, traversing a laser puzzle whilst relying on other earthlings for guidance. Our team was rubbish and only Tom succeeded, farting his way closer to freedom.


Having failed but pretended to complete all three challenges, some awesome projection mapping took us on an intergalactic journey where we activated the ship’s infamous Szyborg (Szymon Mamys), an alien who did a crazy box dance (we spotted those dreadlocks – intergalactic appropriation, guys).

The actors were excellent and genuinely entertaining, coming from someone who feels extremely awkward and cringes away from Shiverpool actors on Hope St. Laurence Glover’s (Glahblah) improvisational skills deserve particular merit, keeping it together even during a slight technical hitch. We laughed throughout, the script itself witty and well-written.

AlieNation was something different that didn’t involve the pub (though we did spot a cheeky hip flask). Basically, it was was o̶u̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶l̶d̶  boss (not just saying that because lemons are our fave thing in the whole galaxy) and we can’t wait to see what those glorious citric fruits come up with next.








Casa Italia


For once I’m straying from my favourite Italian, because I’ve heard good things about the Casa Italia. I think I’m the only student who sees pasta as a monthly treat rather than a daily staple (not because of carbs, I’m just really impatient so it always comes out crunchy).

‘The Casa’s where business people sit next to bikers, next to scallies, next to families, next to loved-up couples. It’s for birthdays and celebrations, it’s for every day and special days…the Casa is life in all its forms coming together to laugh, eat, drink, kiss and tell.’

Opposite the zazz of the Metquarter and Eleanore Rigby (she’s sad cos she’s hungry), this long-established place feels authentic amongst shops and restaurants of varying degrees of snootiness with its traditional interior and cozy, welcoming atmosphere. As luck would would have it, we’ve ended up with a window seat and can watch Eleanore picking fights with tourists (‘Soz ’bout what I said when I was hungry, girl.’)

There’s no need for a reservation, but don’t be mistaken – for a Wednesday night, this place is packed. I’d expected a quiet, romantic little Italian so am taken aback by the bustle and noise. There’s everybody from birthday parties to couples to friends having a catchup, all in such good spirits you can hardly hear yourself think.

The menu offers a huge selection of pastas, and I go for the mushroom, ham and cream tagliatelle. My pal has the Tortellini Italiana – oven baked meat filled pasta with bolognese, béchamel and mozzarella. We share home made Foccacia Toscana i.e. a thin crispy garlic bread spread with home-made garlic butter, which is delicious with some robbed bolognase smeared on top. They offer pizza but most diners seem to go for pasta, especially the oven baked option.


Granddaddy of the family Cavaliere Mario Campolucci-Bordi  (phew) was granted a Knighthood by the Italian republic for his services towards the catering industry and is still involved to this day, and his love of Italian food is reflected by his whole family who run this place.

Service is slow at times, but they make up for it where it counts – food is served quickly, portions are generous, tasty and reasonably priced. Staff are cheerful, though there is perhaps sometimes a lack of attention – it’s the kind of place you have to make yourself known. I’ll definitely be coming back after an afternoon’s last minute Christmas shopping, waving the toilet golf sets and bars of Marmite chocolate.






The Secret Diners Club

Aged 19, I had a boyfriend who’d saved his money for Valentine’s Day. Trying to make a reservation at a swish restaurant in the business district, he was answered with: ‘Not for you, sir.’ I kid you not. I didn’t know arsewipe Scousers even existed.

The Secret Diners Club is a unique dining concept that takes fine dining away from the rigid framework of high-end restaurants; the founders want to take diners out of their comfort zone to unconventional locations around the city centre, though personally it’s the restaurants themselves I find intimidating. By using unusual locations, the concept of pop-up eateries makes fine dining accessible to those who ordinarily wouldn’t step inside a fancy shmansy restaurant. Thanks to the Secret Diners Club, fine dining needn’t just represent creativity in the kitchen.


Locations remain undisclosed to guests right up until the day of the event. The menu is also kept secret, and throughout the meal guests are encouraged to interact and guess the courses on blank menus handed out at the start of service; once pudding is served, the real menu is handed out and guests compare and debate their answers with fellow diners.


For the last event, at a disused train station, diners were greeted at Lime Street and handed tickets to Edge Hill. Locations are always taken into account when curating menus, so for the last event, the menu focused on the import and export trade.

To find out how you could get tickets to the Secret Diners Club you must follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Alternatively, email to find out about future events. One thing’s certain though, tickets sell out in a flash, so if you are lucky enough to spot announcements in time grab them  while you can!