Childfree in Sussex

After a long week, a childfree weekend in Sussex seems like a surreal dream. But I’m here to tell myself that it did happen. And – kick me now – I’ve got lots of ‘grammable content to share with you all. It’s not my fault I used that phrase…Savage has been hanging around with her Millenial brother too much and every time we saw a sight worth seeing, she would nod knowingly and say “Now, that’s ‘grammable content”.

The annoying thing is that she was kinda right. We were staying in Worthing and it was, indeed, very ‘gramm  able. It’s a mix of sea views, Art Deco buildings and hipster art installations. Oh, and puns. So many puns. And I have photos of it all to show you!

 

First off, the sea views:

In case you’re wondering whether we swam in that sea, let me tell you that we absolutely did. There are no photos because phones don’t do that well in salt water so you’ll just have to take my word for it that Savage and I did a full 25 minutes in those icy waters. I’ve finally redeemed myself for wussing out of a swim at Bournemouth. There was also a mobile sauna right next to where we swam, which was very tempting but sadly booked up for the weekend.

Next up, those Art Deco buildings I mentioned, with a new build that looks like it could almost be Art Deco too:

We walked probably around two miles along the seafront – from our hotel to Bayside Social in the east on the Saturday afternoon and from the hotel to Marine Gardens in the west on the Sunday morning. The architecture was ever changing and an interesting mix of eras, from the brand new build above to a row of painted Victorian house just behind:

If you’re wondering why we stopped at Bayside Social, the steely grey sky in this photo should give you a clue. Shortly after I took it, it absolutely tipped it down and we dived inside for a leisurely pot of tea. Outside, there was a statue commemorating Jumbo, a baby elephant who washed up on Worthing beach. Naively, I imagined this was a happy story about a cute animal visitor but a bit of research showed that I misinterpreted the words “washed up”.

Let’s move hastily on from elephantine tragedy to hipster art installations. There was yarnbombing everywhere – a bench was covered in knitted watches and various bits of buildings had had woolly makeovers:

But possibly the most pleasing collection of artworks were the stained glass pieces along the pier, showing different aspects of local life:

 

It seems almost incongrous to go from women’s suffrage to food-based puns but that was the other notable thing about Worthing culture. I feel like these might be a marker of the more hipster residents but there were an array of street food vans available and some of them had great names, like “Taco Look at Me Now” and this fishy earworm:

Yes, for the combining of 80s hit and takeaway food, Worthing seafront cannot be beaten. There was also this one, which confused us for most of the time we were there:

As I didn’t think the Vice Squad drove around in marked vehicles. Turns out this one belonged to a catering company called Vice Puddings.

The other thing I noticed about Worthing was the world’s neatest flint walls. How aesthetically pleasing are these?

We were only in town for one night so probably only skimmed the surface of Things to See but I’m glad I can share a few of them with you. After we’d checked out of our hotel on the Sunday morning, we decided to drive to Littlehampton to see what that was like. Google Maps tells me I’d visited before, in October 2013, but it was a bit grey and windy that day and I don’t remember it particularly well because a toddler Eva had kept me up most of the night before.  This visit was far sunnier:

Littlehampton seems less gentrified than Worthing but there is plenty of fun to be had. We paddled in the sea, which was shallower and warmer than Worthing, and we had ice cream on the seafront.

There was an interesting piece of artwork that ran along the front  – its’s called The Long Bench and runs for around 1,000 feet, with some of the slats engraved with the names of local families who’d sponsored them. At times, the “bench” gets a little crazy:

And there are notices warning not to climb on them. I’m quite glad the kids weren’t with me, as I’m sure they would have found them hard to resist. There were also some white, dome-like shelters which had quite a Tatooine vibe to them:

Don’t ask how we acquired that light sabre. I’m not sure it was legit.

Away from the beach, Littlehampton is all about the old-school seaside amusements. We played minigolf, crashed into each other on the dodgems and lost a fortune on the 2p arcade:

We also did NOT REMOVE THIS BOX, tempting as it was. I have no idea what this box is but I’m very suggestible.

Sadly, I soon had to get to the station for my complicated journey home, which involved getting off a London Victoria-bound train and ending up on a much more crowded one. But let’s not dwell on the unpleasantness on that, just the loveliness of a childfree weekend at the seaside:

Just a pity we didn’t get to go on the pedalos!

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Legoland – 02/05/22

These kids’ birthdays seem to come around more swiftly every year. Last week it was Eva’s and she put in a request for a bank holiday trip to Legoland. Yup, that sounds un-stressful. As we set off at unearthly o’clock, my thoughts were mainly on the prospect of a Harvester breakfast.

Our usual spot didn’t seem to be open for breakfast on a Monday so we’d booked at the Bells of Ouzeley instead. We’d been there once before, on our semi-spontaneous trip to Windsor in 2019. I’d remembered it having a nice riverside view and I wasn’t wrong. With 10 minutes to kill before opening time, Roo and I sat on one of the benches and said hi to a very good Golden Retriever.

The Harvester breakfast buffet sadly hasn’t survived Covid, so there’s no spending hours toasting bread products just for the sake of it. But that’s probably a good thing when we actually have somewhere else we need to be. It was all too easy to get lost in the joy of toasting and forget to even go to Legoland.

The lack of buffet didn’t mean a lack of eccentricity in Eva’s breakfast choices. She happily ordered porridge, chips and hash browns as well as sharing a fruit platter with the rest of us. Who doesn’t look a classic combo of fruit and carbs? Reuben had one of the set choices – sausage, bacon, eggs and pancakes  – which some people might also think eccentric. But he enjoyed it.

Oh and Snowy was with us. Obviously. so

We finished breakfast reasonably quickly and got to Legoland by about half ten. We were following Google Maps rather than the brown signs so went a bit of a strange route but it wasn’t quite as roundabout as some of the other times we’ve been.

I made some pretty haphazard decisions about what to leave in the car and what to put into a locker. I’d packed spare clothes and swimwear in case we went on water rides or to Drench Towers. As it turned out, Drench Towers wasn’t open and neither was the Viking River Ride so we didn’t need any of them but yknow, the thought was there. The snacks I’d brought stayed in the locker too because those Harvester breakfasts really do keep you going. I’m not sponsored by Harvester, by the way – I’m just really pleased with the system I came up with.

So we used our only pound coin to pointlessly stash stuff in a locker near the Hill Train station and then, because we don’t do it very often, decided to get the train down the hill. Snowy enjoyed it immensely, so I’m told and I’m sure the people we passed were happy to see a cockapoo toy waving to them from a train.

Our plan was to go to Laser Raiders first as we were in the vicinity but as we walked past Aero Nomad, we noticed there was no queue at all so we decided to go for a quick balloon ride first.

“This is terrifying but I love it!” declared Eva.

“It’s not terrifying, it’s just disconcerting” countered Nathan.

Laser Raiders was next, where a promised 20 minute wait time was probably less than half that. There wasn’t even time for the kids to dip out of the queue and into the Kids’ Zone…it was just straight through. Nathan won the most points, obviously, but it was something fairly gentle that we could all get onboard with.

Unlike the next ride, Destiny’s Bounty. I’ve had a lot of motion sickness lately so I took half a look at this one and decided it wasn’t for me. It’s shaped like a ship but moves in the same way as Skater Boi at Adventure Island. End-to-end and side-to-side. I was quite happy to wander off in search of the loos and leave them to it. Unfortunately, Eva decided she didn’t like the sound of it either and had to be extracted from the ride when they were doing final checks, with Nathan in hot pursuit. Reuben enjoyed it though, and Eva spent the time conquering the very tame climbing wall instead:

I’d noticed that Ninjago had gone down from a 45 minute wait to an impossible-sounding 10 minutes, probably because it was 12PM and anyone who hadn’t had a full English was probably going for lunch around now. So we dived in as soon as Roo was off the ride and got all the way to almost the red-lit room before we had to wait. It was a good opportunity to glean the subliminal messages on the t-shirts of the menfolk:

We went on Ninjago last time we visited so I think I’ve described it before. It’s pretty fun though, especially if you have a child who like the idea of fighting loads of bad guys at once. I think I came solidly last on this one and Reuben won. We all got a vigorous arm workout as well.

Our next stop was something new to us – Lego Mythica. There are loads of interaction points, where you can use the Legoland app to create 3D versions of the Lego creation. It’s hard to capture how it worked but it was something like this:

Of course, you have to persuade the children to stand still long enough for the images to load up but eventually they see the benefit.

There was a long wait for The Flight of the Skylion so we decided to come back for that later and just walk through the Mystical Forest for now.

Again, this is probably something that is better enjoyed at a leisurely pace so that you can do each AR bit and read the plot of why all these creatures are in this mythical forest in the first place. The kids were mainly just charging through though. It started with this very ‘grammable tunnel:

And ended somewhere near Mordor, as far as I can work out:

Along the way, there were lots of new Lego creations like the lava crabs:

And tiny, tiny pandas:

As well as this tunnel which reminded me of the one in the Do Re Mi sequence. Ah, to be back in Salzburg again!

After all that rushing about, it was time to pause for an ice cream. The queue at the ice cream parlour was possibly longer than any of the ones for the rides but it was worth it. We sat on a bench in Heartlake City to eat, thankfully after the Lego Friends had stopped gurlpwrring at us, and planned our next move.

The short answer was that it was time to split up. Eva was determined that she wouldn’t set foot in the Haunted House again, having been thoroughly freaked out on our last visit. So Roo and Nathan went to do it without us and Eva headed towards the Lego City Driving School. Things seemed to be going well for her until all the cars stopped and I could see her scampering across the roads. Apparently she’d crashed her car and one of the wheels came off, which is an impressive amount of damage. She was assigned a different car and the drivers were back off again.

I didn’t get a photo of her driving, but I did get this one of the road while we were in the queue. Eva, in her usual poetic way, had been enchanted by the level of detail that had gone into this ride. “I mean, just looks at the drains”.

Really, do look at them:

The boys had found us somewhere during the freewheel debacle and it was time to swap teams. Eva wanted to go on the Fairytale Brook and, as we learned from the 2018 trip, I do not fit the criteria for this ride:

The caveat “without injuring themselves and not being able to walk for three weeks” is not explicitly written on this sign, but you can see the subtext can’t you?

So Roo and I went on the Duplo Airport helicopters, where he did his best to make me airsick with the less-than-smooth ride. Then we stood by the Fairytale Brook until he declared he couldn’t listen to the wolf repeating the same thing over and over again any more. He went off to the playground and I waited for Nathan and Eva, who had taken a full two turns around the brook.

We had another couple of things we wanted to squeeze in before we left so we went back to Lego Mythica, in the hope that the queues for the Skylion would have gone down a bit. Spoiler: they hadn’t. I’m not sure how long we were waiting for but it was around 45 minutes, I reckon. There were four QR code challenges to do along the way so that helped to pass the time a bit. There were also some Lego models in a glass cabinet to look at.

Eva was getting increasingly nervous as we got near the front. As we stood on our designated numbers in the final pens, I thought she was about to bolt again. But no, she saw it through and I think she was the one who loved it the most in the end. Almost certainly more than I did!

The numbers were significant as they determined who sat where on the actual ride. But there is some shuffling about time once you’re inside, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right first off. There are also shelves to put any loose items and a short briefing before you go on. I looked at the briefing screens in front of our seats and wondered how exactly such small screens were going to provide a “flying theatre” experience. I also noticed that, yes my feet were dangling as we’d been warned, but the floor was only a couple of inches below them. This was gonna be easy street.

Anyway, then we turned around.

Suddenly, there was nothing but an abyss below us and a screen in front of us that was significantly bigger than the TV at home. Eva cried: “Why was I worried about this? This is going to be amazing!” while I simultaneously thought: “Why was I *not* worried about this?”

I won’t give any spoilers away but suffice to say, it was both amazing and worth worrying about. I was right at the end, so had a flat surface to my left instead of a pole and that was trickier to hang on to. We were very high up and, yes, dangling somewhat so if you’re nervous about heights probably best to sit in the middle and ask to go on one of the lower tiers. But as immersive cinema experiences go, it was pretty impressive.

I was a tad pale afterwards. I left Nathan and the kids making Lego models and went for a breath of fresh air. Tapping into my hardwon knowledge about nausea remedies, I went in search of salt and vinegar crisps and cold water and scored both at a small kiosk in Heartlake City. It occurred to me that this was the only savoury thing any of us had eaten all day, except for the Harvester breakfast. See, I told you my Harvester hack works.

I was just paying for them when an announcement told me that the park was closing in half an hour. I don’t know why I thought Legoland closed at 6 but apparently it doesn’t. it closes at 5. I rushed back to Mythica, threw Pringles at the kids and told them to abandon their models if they wanted to get on the new water ride before it closed. So we scurried over to Hydra’s Challenge, eating as we went.

When I said earlier that I had a raft of remedies for nausea, I’m not sure any of them involved climbing onto a raft with my child. But ho hum, here we were. In the queue I had the most lovely surprise of bumping into one of my choirsters and then I got to watch her terrified face twirling round the platform on the child-powered boat. It really prepared me for what was to come.

Nathan and Eva went on first, as Roo and I were just after the cutoff. That worked OK because we could hold all their stuff and stop it getting wet and then they could do the same for us. Eva was also desperate to finish building the lego model that I’d wrenched her away from. So I entrusted all my worldly goods to Nathan  – including my Pringles – and entrusted my life to Reuben and got in the boat with him steering.

It wasn’t too bad, as it goes. The spinning motion wasn’t the best if you’re already feeling a bit seasick, especially at top speed, but the spray of water on my face was actually very helpful. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing it straight after the Flight of the Skylion but I survived. Just about.

We were seriously running out of time by this point. Luckily, Eva had finished her Axocorn (half axolotl, half allicorn) and we left it in situ for all to admire and ponder over:

Talking of pondering, what to make of this peacockdog?

But no time to ponder kids! We have a hill to climb! And so we did, pausing briefly in Miniland along the way. Eva doesn’t like steps so she and Nathan went up the slopes while Roo and I sped ahead on the stairs, before he squandered our lead by taking a slide most of the way down again.

We retrieved the stuff from the lockers that we hadn’t even touched and made a successful car park exit using the car registration number I’d put in when I booked the parking. No need to scan the barcode – it just let us through the barrier, super-smooth like.

All in all, pretty successful. We managed to stop at Burger King in Heston for dinner  – unlike in 2019 – and no-one injured themselves, so that was good. We didn’t spend loads when we were there – it wasn’t a particularly hot day so we just carried one bottle of water between all of us and I bought a fresh one when I was buying the Pringles. In previous years, we’ve got a refillable drink but there didn’t seem to be many places to buy them so that idea kinda dwindled in appeal until it was late enough that we knew we wouldn’t get out money’s worth. But generally, it seems like we might be getting the hang of Legoland. And Heston.

 

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Easter at Fellowship Square – 15/04/22

Yesterday was a very significant date in the family calendar. As Christians, we marked Good Friday. As Jews, we zoomed the family and ate last year’s matzah as part of our Passover celebration. But the real reason that yesterday was significant for us was, of course, the birthday of Summer the Corgi. Last year, we took her to mini-golf and this year, we treated her to a day at the fountains in Fellowship Square. Out of all 25 of Eva’s cuddly dogs, I’m not sure why Summer gets special treatment but it meant that Eva felt obliged to leave the house. So that works for me.

It was also the first properly sunny day of the year and the fountains were on, so that was a massive draw. I packed swimsuits for the kids but not for myself, which I slightly regretted. I just wandered through the fountains fully-clothed in vague pursuit of Eva but mainly just enjoying the cool water on my feet.

The toilets were open in the Assembly Hall so that was good for getting changed as well. We made a base up on the grassy slope and then just let the kids run free. We had a good vantage point to check in on them and Eva scampered back to us when she was standing on the central fountain just as it switched on. She was a little soggy about the face. And they often swooped by in search of snacks:

For the Easter weekend, there were also family games set up, like giant snakes and ladders, giant chess, a coconut shy and hook-a-duck. Reuben tried to arrange the chess places in the right way to start an actual game but was scuppered by tiny kids moving the pieces every time he put one day. So he just threw some balls at coconuts instead:

And had a go on the terrifying gyro thing:

At around 4, it grew slightly chillier and clouded over. It was almost time to head home but first, Eva wanted some popcorn from the stall in front of the Assembly Hall that was selling hotdogs, popcorn and ice cream. I think there was coffee on sale in the Assembly Hall foyer too but, for once, it was hot enough that I didn’t feel the need to caffeinate. Or maybe it was because I was mainly just lying in the grass, which didn’t require much energy. It gave me a very 90s-album-cover POV though:

Popcorn in hand, we ambled towards home, just as the clouds were gathering. We had salt water and bitter herbs to prepare after all.

I’ve hung out in front of the Town Hall a few times and I can say it’s a great improvement on when we used to have to try and stop kids from running across a road towards a fountain they can drown themselves in. The water play is a great addition to the area, especially when we’re fortunate enough to have a sunny bank holiday. The games are on until Easter Monday so go check it out!

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Four Go To Dorset

As you may have noticed, it’s the Easter holidays. Opportunities to get away and see the sea have been pretty thin on the ground lately and so we snatched a few days where our work schedules would allow and took a little roadtrip to Dorset. The main aim was a friend’s housewarming on Saturday in Sturminster Newton but I thought we’d stretch it out as much as possible by swinging past Bournemouth for a night on the not-quite way. So, laden with only four cuddly dogs between the four of us, we drove down one Friday afternoon, stopping only for a quick Katsu burger at Fleet Services. I mean, I had the Katsu burger.  As you may recall from my last post, I’m a sucker for anything involving pickles. Eva considered the vegan Whopper for a while but eventually chose to just have chips. That would be something of a theme for the weekend.

We got to our hotel just after the 3PM check-in time, which was pretty perfect timing. We were staying at the Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel, which I’d impulse-bought on hotels.com and then spent the next few weeks panicking about because the family room only had one bed in it and the pool and the parking were both going to cost extra. Turns out I was panicking over nothing – the parking was free on the road outside the hotel and so was the upstairs pool (it was only the spa pool that was chargeable). Our family room was actually a suite, with the double bed in one room and kids’ bed set up in the lounge area. Considering the bargain price I’d paid, we did very well indeed. And breakfast was included, which is one of Reuben’s top priorities.

Almost as soon as we had the luggage in, the kids were changed ready for the pool. So we went for a swim in the lovely warm pool as I was pretty sure I’d wuss out of a seaswim this time. We did go for a paddle though:

The beach was just down the hill from the hotel and had no shortage of Good Boys running in and out of the surf. What it did have a shortage of was blue sky. There was enough for the bit over the sea but the bit over the land was a charcoal grey colour:

That’s not filtered by the way – the contrast really was that stark. We’d planned on a quick runaround on the beach and then some chip shop chips but seeing the greyness rolling in, we were very tempted to change plans and dive into the handily situated Harvester. And when I say we were tempted, I mean that three quarters of us were fully sold on the idea but the remaining quarter had heard the words “chip shop” and was not to be deterred. You can guess who that was.

Problem was, there was no chip shop in sight. The nearest one had some terrible Google reviews so we set our sights on a more-average one that was a mile away and a sheer cliff-face upwards. We started trekking along the beach, with the ever-present threat of rain offset by the glorious sunshine from the bluesky side.

Of course, it did eventually rain while never ceasing to also be extremely sunny. Which meant we got to see a rainbow as we ascended the cliff steps. It was hard to get a good photo of it but here’s one end sticking out of the BIC:

And the other end plunging into the sea:

You can tell there’s a rainbow there because Nathan is pointing at it:

Eventually we made it up the cliff, up the hill, back down the hill and over a very busy roundabout until we found our more-average chip shop. And very average it was too  – not amazing chips, definitely not an amazing battered sausage but very eatable and they had Rio Riva, which is a big plus in the nostalgia column. I also got some free vinegar when the chip ship man knocked the bottle over my coat. It’s probably still pooling in my pocket. But as I said, can never get enough pickled stuff. Even when it’s pickled pocket fluff.

As we walked back through the town, mainly in brilliant sunshine this time, we encountered no less than three stag parties. I didn’t realise that Bournemouth was such a hotbed of stagtivity but I’m guessing that’s what they were. Unless the Pope genuinely was in town, in which case I probably shouldn’t have questioned his Catholicism.

After all this vigorous exercise, the kids were pretty quick to fall asleep. But late night chips didn’t stop Roo being hungry in the morning and we were the very first people at breakfast, arriving even before the staff did. It started at 7:30 and by 7:32, both kids had a plate of food ready to go. The hot food and pastries came out a few minutes later, and involved quite some dyspraxic juggling with a hot plate warmer, but they started off with cereal and porridge to stave off the worst of the hunger pangs

.

We were planning to squeeze another pool swim in before we checked out at 11 but I’m ever mindful of the need for a gap between a large meal and a swim. So I persuaded Reuben to walk back to the beach with me, just to let the food go down. Nathan and Eva let the food go down by sitting on the sofa and doing colour-by-numbers apps. Roo was rewarded with his efforts by several more Good Boy sightings, including a magnificent Golden Retriever and a very silly Cockapoo who hadn’t quite got the hang of fetch. Oh, and another very cold paddle.

This morning though, there was no shortage of blue sky. Still a tad cold water-wise for seaswimming though, especially as my costume was still wet from the previous day. I might be foolhardy but I’m not stupid.

One gloriously warm poolswim later, we were packed up and on the road to Sturminster Newton. It wasn’t quite as scenic a drive as I’d hoped for, as it seemed to involve a lot of roundabouts. When  I thought we were passing Poole Harbour, I shouted to the kids to look out at the view…only for the view to be of a massive B&Q. We did glimpse the harbour as we went, and there was one very scenic roundabout that had a boat in the middle of it, but it wasn’t until we were much closer to our destination that it began to get more idyllic.

They say that Dorset is beautiful wherever you go, but there are definitely some suburban bits which are pretty much like any other suburban bits anywhere else in the country. And in case you think I’m using lazy stereotypes by quoting the Wurzels, I should say that the roadside posters were advertising an upcomign gig by that self same band. Along with the Fratellis, randomly enough.

Anyway, Sturminster Newton itself is very pretty. We got our first glance of it following a truck through the high street, which I assume was meant to be two-way but became one-way as it steamed through. I don’t think it was a natural fit for the narrow streets of such a quaint town. And we sheepishly followed in its slipstream, meaning we were greeted with glares from the oncoming drivers.

A much warmer welcome was found at our friends’ house, along with many cuddles from an extremely Good Boy. We didn’t really explore the town much, though we took a few of the more energetic kids to the park at one point:

We were staying at the Swan Inn that night but got in too late to put in our breakfast choices, so I made some half-formed plans while half-asleep about where we would fuel up next. The Swan was nice and the beds were comfy but we were really only there to sleep and go. A band was playing downstairs till midnight, which wasn’t ideal for getting to sleep but the kids were once again exhausted by all that country air and were pretty much asleep as soon as they crawled into bed. I slept more fitfully, my mind turning over about which direction we’d head in the morning for Reuben’s most important meal of the holiday. Would it be time to introduce the kids to the wonders of the McBreakfast? Or would Eva cry at the lack of fries?

The answer came to me in a dream, or possibly from early-morning Google mapping, and turned out to be a small cafe in Blandford Forum that also sold 10 DVDs for a pound. I hardly dared hope that Google was correct and that this place was open before 9 on a Sunday but we drove there, parked up nearby and yes indeed it was. It was an unusual looking fella:

But the breakfast options were extensive and hearty and, to Eva’s delight, she could have cocoa pops, hot chocolate with marshmallows and yes, more chips. The rest of us went for very large plates of cooked breakfast and coffees for Nathan and me. It was cheaper than hotel breakfast, the staff were very friendly and the atmosphere most jovial. Would recommend.

After that, we left the delights of Dorset behind for 24 hours in the Hampshire homestead. It was certainly the mini-est of mini-holidays but it did us good to get some sea air in our lungs, some sand between our toes and lots and lots of chips in our stomachs….

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Bottomless Brunch at Issho-Ni – 19/03/22

Spring has sprung and it was with a spring in our steps that we set off for sushi brunch in Bethnal Green. If we’d stopped springing for a minute, we might have taken the time to check whether trains on our branch were stopping at Bethnal Green today but these are minor details that do not deter the determined bruncher.

To be fair to me, the sign in the station had made it clear that Sunday was the day when trains weren’t stopping at Bethnal Green and, last time I looked, the day after Friday wasn’t Sunday. Still, I didn’t really have anyone to complain to as we sailed straight through and arrived at an unprecedented Platform 11 of Liverpool Street. So instead of complaining, we decided that this was all part of the adventure and jumped on the 388 back to Bethnal Green Road.

If you’re wondering who my brunching companion was, well she’s requested to stay anonymous. Not for any good reason, just likes the idea of being an inter-boroughial woman of mystery. Real-life friends will soon deduce that it’s the person I hang out with on most Saturday mornings though.

We were at Issho-Ni to try the bottomless sushi brunch. I’m not super keen on fish, which is why I brought the anonymous companion with me, but the rest of the menu looked good so I was well up for the challenge of all-you-can-eat sushi. We started with the sashimi, which I gave to She Who Must Not Be Named. Then the kimchi and chuka seaweed arrived, which was much more my cup of pickles. I finished both of those and requested more because that was how this worked. I can never get enough pickled stuff.

Along with the kimchi and seaweed came a generous serving of edamame beans and a bowl of wasabi peas. This was like a collection of the best bar snacks ever. The seaweed was sweet and crunchy and the edamame beans nicely salted. The wasabi peas were a touch too spicy for me but her over there liked them.

And then came the maki rolls! Half were fish-based (spicy salmon and salmon avocado) and the other half were prawn tempura and vegetarian, which I think was mainly avocado. We cleared the plate between us and I asked for more, which may have been veering dangerously into “eyes bigger than tummy” territory. I think I had it in my mind that I could never fill up on sushi but reader, I was wrong.

So, this is how the bottomless brunch works – you have the table for an hour and a half. For the first 30 minutes, you feast on the maki rolls, sashimi and all the starters (the seaweed etc). Then you’re brought your main, which is a choice of Fried Aubergine, Salmon Teriyaki, Vegetable Tempura or Chicken Katsu Curry. I think Wagyu Steak is also available as an option, but at a supplement. I chose the katsu curry because I’ve been sorely disappointed with the version I’ve been having from a certain City-based lunchtime food provider of late. It used to be my staple comfort food at lunchtimes but the post-lockdown servings have been stingy on the edamame beans and confusing on the chicken distribution.

Anyway, Issho-Ni’s version blew that other place out of the water. Perfectly crispy chicken, in a slightly spiced batter and lots of piping hot curry sauce. Beautiful. And, as previously mentioned, the edamame beans were plentiful. My dining companion went for te aubergine and that was tasty too, although trickier to eat with chopsticks.

The only issue was that I was getting pretty full by this point. A bowl of katsu curry on top of 8 maki rolls means I didn’t really do the second plate of maki rolls justice. I wanted to keep eating and eating but my body started to protest that yes, you can fill up on sushi. But it was all so good!

By then, we were almost at the end of our timeslot anyway, so it all worked out nicely. It’s good value as it’s a lot of food and is served quickly by very friendly and helpful waiting staff. So if you wear your stretchiest trousers you can probably eat even more than we did in the 90 minutes. There was also a bottomless drinks option for £17 that you can add on – this gives you unlimited Prosecco or Bloody Geishas (a Japanese twist on a Bloody Mary). We didn’t go for that as midday seemed a bit early to be drinking but it seems like a good add on if you’re there for a special occasion.

So, good, filling food and lots of variety – what’s not to like? For more info and bookings, click here.

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary brunch for both of us in exchange for a review but opinions remain honest and my own. 

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“The Singing Mermaid” at Little Angel Theatre – 06/03/22

c. Ellie Kurttz Photography

Sometimes when I review shows, I like to get straight to the point and tell you what the show was actually like. More often though, I like to give a bit of context to our day…yknow, it’s the personal touch that I know you all love, especially when my own personal touch is so very chaotic. Let me tell you how I came to be at the theatre with a ukulele and a lasagne.

The ukulele is straightforward…I led worship at church this morning and, at the request of a three-year-old, played a two-chord song that was tailor-made for introducing the ukulele as a worship instrument. What I didn’t quite consider is that we were going to the theatre afterwards and if Nathan was taking my guitar home (because no, I didn’t do the entire set on uke) then I couldn’t really ask him to carry that as well. So it was coming with. I’m sure I struck fear in the audience’s hearts when I rocked up with it, just in case I decided to join  in with the show and maybe even reprise this morning’s preschool hit. But I behaved myself perfectly. 7

The lasagne is also straightforward, in a way. Eva and I had gone for a post-church lunch in one of our regular haunts but for some reason, their normal system wasn’t working and the service was a little chaotic. They’re normally so efficient but I suspect someone was off work and so the rest of the staff were struggling to cope. All of which meant that, while Eva got her lunch at 1:40 (toast, chips and halloumi – another classic Eva recipe), mine was still not there at 1:50. We were cutting it fine for a 2pm show but the cafe agreed to box everything up, including Eva’s half-eaten lunch and my untouched lasagne and we ran for a 476, with the lunch clutched in hand. All was almost lost once again when Eva got distracted by a large white dog on Cross Street (“But it’s yawning”). Somehow tho, we made it just about on time and I just had to hang on to the bag of lasagne, some half finished drinks and a ukulele for the duration of the show.

The lasagne was awesome when I did get round to eating it, which was about 4pm. Totally worth waiting for.

So now I’ve set the scene, we can relax a little and actually talk about the show. It’s based on a short Julia Donaldson book, which I don’t think we’ve read before so I wasn’t familiar with the source material. But having virtually flicked through it on YouTube, I can say that the show seems to have been very faithful to the book and incorporates a lot of the original text while also enhancing it with songs and – of course – puppetry.

Eva was wowed by the lights before the show even started. They changed colour to reflect the scene – blue for the ocean scenes and multicoloured for the circus. When I asked her afterwards, she said the blue-purple ones were just “sooo beautiful”. It might be a minor detail but the kind of detail kids pick up on.

There were three human performers on stage – they’re listed in the programme as Lizzie Wort/Ruth Calkin, Gilbert Taylor and Hedi Goldsmith. I believe we saw Ruth Calkin perform today but I’m happy to be corrected. All three acted, sang and operated the puppets with Gilbert Taylor taking the role of the main human character – the despicable Sam Sly, owner of the circus. He did some extraordinarily quick changes between “Sam” and his puppeteer persona and the costume was a good cue for us to know when to clap him and when to boo and hiss. Because if you haven’t read the book, here’s a spoiler – the singing mermaid joins the circus and life there is not as promised. Like Ariel, she’d failed to read the small print before signing a contract.

Although the circus conditions are cruel for a creature of the sea, there are plenty of joyful things that happen in this show. Characters who only get one line in the text are fleshed out here – such as “the man who swallowed fire” who performs his trick for us under the stage “The Human Volcano”.

c. Ellie Kurttz Photography

It’s Annie the Acrobat who has the most dramatic moment though, as she pauses on the high wire and asks for silence from the children of the audience. Remarkably, that was almost achieved – pretty much every kid in the room held their breath as she daringly stepped along the wire. Eva wasn’t completely silent but just whispered “Gosh” in my ear as Annie performed her stunts. It’s no mean feat to captivate the 3-8-year-old crowd but the performers somehow managed it.

c. Ellie Kurttz photography

You won’t be surprised to learn that Eva also loved the circus dogs. I thought she might get a bit distressed when one of them was carried off by a balloon but she seemed to take it in her stride.

Plot-wise, the show is fairly simple but each section – the sea, the circus and back to the sea – is rounded out with songs in lovely 3-part harmony and a bit of bantering with the audience as Sam Sly attempts to count his money. There’s also a fight with a seagull, which is not to be missed.

Overall, a joyous and charming show which had a few darker moments but if a child as sensitive as Eva can cope, I’m sure all your littlies will be fine. It was less interactive than “Handa’s Surprise” but far more complex in terms of puppetry and production. They’re both very enjoyable shows, but this one will hold the attention of slightly older children as well as toddlers. The performers were as seamless as you’d expect from Little Angel – they worked so well with the puppets that you forget there are humans there at all after a while – and, as I mentioned earlier, the songs are nicely harmonised and beautifully sung. After our chaotic start, it was a fun Sunday afternoon out.  It’s running till 24th April so get along to see it while you can.

For tickets and more info, click here

c. Ellie Kurttz photography

Disclaimer: I received free tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own

 

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“Handa’s Surprise” at Little Angel Studios – 20/02/22

Photo ©EllieKurttz

On a wet and windy weekend, what better to do than escape for a little while to sunny Kenya to hang out with Handa and her friend Akeyo? The book “Handa’s Surprise” will be familiar to most parents of preschoolers but this was a live action version which brought what was essentially a very slight tale to life. It’s staged at the Little Angel Studios (not the theatre) and the informal setting means that the audience can sit on cushions at stage level and be really involved in the show. I think there were chairs for anyone who had problems in getting down to the floor but it’s probably best to make Little Angel aware of any mobility needs when booking.

I should say that I don’t necessarily have the right age of child for this show. It’s very much in the preschool bracket (ages 2-5) and my youngest is Year 5, rather than age 5 but still…she enjoyed it. She’s not good with any kind of peril so shows aimed at younger kids work well for her. She also likes both animals and fruit, so that was a good basis for this show.

We were shown to our places group by group. We left our shoes and coats by the door and were given a spot on the long cushions that went round three sides of the performance area. As everyone was getting settled in, music was playing and Akeyo (Rujenne Green) was moving around the stage, sweeping the floor. Handa (Hannah Akhalu) was sitting in the middle stage, smiling at us all and clearly enjoying the music. For any littlies that were a bit anxious, it was a lovely reassuring atmosphere to come into.

Handa’s Surprise taken at Little Angel Theatre, London on 17th February 2022
Photo©EllieKurttz

The story, if you don’t know it, is very straightforward. Handa tries to take a basket of fruit to her friend Akeyo’s village but the fruit is stolen by animals along the way. Eva’s been obsessing about mango all weekend and polished off a bag of dried mango just before the show started so she was practically drooling at the sight of the ripe, red mango. The performers passed each fruit round the audience so the kids could touch and see the fruits close up….but then give them back so that they could be used in the story. Eva got to handle the pineapple but it was probably just as well she wasn’t given the mango otherwise she might have just had a nibble on it.

The story is told through some small bits of narration, some action and repeated musical motifs. Eva was still singing “Handa…Akeyo” by the time we got to the bus stop, although it did start to evolve into “Panda K.O.”, a sad tale of panda wrestling defeats. But that was just one of the musical themes, with other snippets of song every time a piece of fruit was taken and a song around the different fruits as well. Both the actors had lovely singing voices and pitched perfectly, considering it was all a capella.

It was an unusual Little Angel production in that the human actors were central to the story, rather than the puppets but, being Little Angel, there were, of course, puppets as well. The animals were enacted in a variety of ways but Eva’s favourite was the giraffe:

Photo©EllieKurttz

“I hope it comes to us” she whispered in my ear as the giraffe loped around the stage. It did almost make it over to us but then got distracted by stealing fruit. The puppets all interacted like this  – the monkey was shown round all three sides of the stage and some of the kids got to shake its paw. Again, this was unusual in just how up-close the puppetry was but it worked really well for the age of the audience.

Photo©EllieKurttz

At the end, everyone was offered a segment of satsuma and then invited to come onto the stage area for a dance. It was a lovely way to involve the whole room, in a show that was constantly looking to engage.

Both performers carried the piece off with huge amounts of charm and energy. As I mentioned before, the actual narrative is very simple (and look, I didn’t even spoiler what the surprise was!) but they teased a lot out of it. If you need an antidote to the stormy weather and the gloomy news then this sunny, optimistic story about fruit and friendship might be just what you’re looking for.

For tickets and more info, click here

Disclaimer: I received free tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own

Photo©EllieKurttz

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“Cats and Dogs” at the Horniman – 17/02/22

It’s been a while since we last ventured to deepest South London. Reuben was offered the opportunity to go to Forest Hill after church last week and he dismissed it with a shrug that suggested it was just too….far. And so it was on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But on a sunny Thursday with tickets to an exhibition about dogs? Bring it on!

Of course, the days are long gone when we could just hop on the 185 for the Horniman but there are a variety of ways to get there from Highams Park. I chose to do the changeover between overground lines in Dalston as I vaguely knew where we were going and there was only a small chance we’d get confused and accidentally go to church. So we got off at Hackney Downs, hopped on a 56 for a few minutes and hopped off again at Dalston Junction. We didn’t sit on the bench outside there for 45 minutes like we did last time we’d hung out in Dalston…instead, we went for an earlyish lunch at McDonalds. Eva has very recently discovered that she likes the vegan McPlant burger (“an ideal cinema snack” apparently) so wanted to go for one of those, fries and a strawberry lemonade. I know plenty of people would avoid McDonalds on principle but when you have a kid who’s an anxious eater, any environment she feels safe in is a total win. Especially when she’s now eating something vaguely resembling protein*

*Resemblance may be surface level only

She didn’t quite finish her burger or her drink so we took both with us on the overground, which was heading towards Crystal Palace. I know Eva’s been there before but it was when she was much younger and she’s clearly forgotten because she was filled with wonder at the very sound of the name. “If only all stations had such wondrous names!” she declared in her…distinctive way.

Turns out she’s easily impressed by station names. Surrey Quays, Canada Water and Rotherhithe also met with her wonder-filled approval. “I just can’t believe my ears….or my eyes” she said, as we slid through the grey surrounds of SE16. If you’re the woman in this picture, I also need to apologise for the child’s relentless singing of Encanto songs with half the words cut out. Snowy was practising her part as Mirabel, you see, so she only needed to sing Mirabel’s lines.

If you’re wondering, this is Snowy:

What? You thought we could go and see an exhibition about dogs and not take any of the cuddly dogs with us? How little you know. I was just thankful I only had one to keep an eye on and not the full 27.

We had 2pm tickets for the exhibition. If I’d gone full Alpha Mom, I’d have made sure we had tickets to the aquarium and the storytelling and the craft sessions and all the other bits as well. But you should know by now that I am far from an Alpha Mom. It’s hard to label yourself nowadays with Greek letters without sounding like some deadly viral strain but I’m probably around the Gamma or Delta. It was unlikely enough that we would make it out of the house at this point in half term, let alone all the way to South London so I didn’t overcommit. One ticket was fine.

It did mean we had some time to kill before our timeslot though, even with the half mile slog up the hill that I’d kinda forgotten about. Eva refused point blank to go into the Hall of Dead Things so we went to the musical instruments gallery, where she was lost in wonder once again…this time at French Horns rather than Canada Water. Who knew there were so many types of brass instrument? And so many flutes!

We spent some time at the interactive screens, listening to what a zither and a Jew’s harp sounded like (although I think my father owns both of these instruments so I could have just asked him really). When I tried to take a picture of Eva using the white screen, the weirdest thing happened:

And it was even weirder when Snowy was sitting on top of it. She looks like she’s had an 1980s makeover:

We also visited the “Hair” exhibition, which had some freaky elements to it. There weren’t as many fainters as there were when we held the “Skin” exhibition at Wellcome but still, there is something slightly unnerving about anything that was previously on a person and is now in a museum.  There were some pictures of good dogs but their owners were wearing clothes made out of the dogs’ fur. All a bit Cruella de Ville for my liking. This bit was fun though – a wall of mirrors where you could arrange nature-shaped magnets to give yourself a new hairstyle:

By the time we’d done those two galleries, it was 2pm and so we were ready to go into “Cats and Dogs”. If you’ve read this blog for anything length of time, you’ll know which animal we prefer but there’s plenty to look at in this exhibition for both feline- and canine-lovers. Eva scampered around a bit, looking at the various activities before trying out the “Can you jump as high as a cat?” test. She couldn’t…but she had fun trying.

Then a similar idea  – “Can you run as fast as a dog?” The aim was to weave in an out of the yellow poles in less than 3 seconds but Eva never quite managed it, especially not on all fours.

Next, we had a go at the Horniman breeding program. I think we tried almost every combination of dogs and I can’t quite remember what we crossed with a dalmatian here:

But Eva certainly thought it was adorable:

Mind you, she also thought this was adorable:

We watched a couple of films about the origins of dogs and how the good wolfie boys became the good slightly-less-wolfie boys. And discovered that Eva is about the same size as a German Shepherd:

We had to wait a while for the doggy version of Guess Who but I beat Eva in both games. Even though she had Snowy on her side, who really should be the dog expert:

We spent around 50 minutes in the exhibition in total. It was half-term-busy so I think we’d have stayed longer if there weren’t any queues. But there’s only so long I can deal with being bemasked anyway, so it definitely felt time to get some fresh air.

And what a glorious day for some fresh air in the Horniman gardens! I don’t know whether spring comes sooner in South London but it certainly felt springlike with the blossom out:

I’d completely forgotten there were animals in the grounds, so stumbling across a pair of alpacas was a nice surprise:

Even if Eva thought the brown one looked smug. Does this look smug to you?

We also spotted a lamppost wearing a wig, presumably to tie in with the “Hair” exhibition:

We wandered about a bit, playing on the outdoor instruments and just generally taking in the view:

“Look Eva, we can see across the whole of London from here” I said, as we stood at the vantage point. Eva looked at me, momentarily confused and told me that no, we couldn’t because some bits of London were behind us. Hmmm, so I never get a bit of poetic licence then?

I wanted to stop for coffee and cake before the long journey home and Canvas and Creams had been recommended to us. I didn’t get any decent photos but Eva was enjoying her red velvet cake, honestly. I had a soy latte and a slice of carrot cake.

We were almost homeward bound but just stopped to take a photo of this mural, which reminded us both of Antonio’s room from Encanto:

And then back northwards, with this “angelic” sky, as Eva described it to see us off. I think it was somewhere around New Cross:

Nice to breathe a bit of South London air for a while and return to our old haunt. Thanks for having us, Horniman!

“Cats and Dogs” runs until 30th October 2022. For tickets and more info, click here.

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Out and About

After I spent a long time writing about the exact reason I cry at a kids’ film, a friend suggested I might want to get out of the house more. The same friend also enabled me to get out of the house by taking me to Loughton on a Saturday afternoon. Except that those two things happened out of sequence….even after our epic voyage to Loughton, she *still* thought I needed more excitement in my life. How is that even possible?

I bet you wanna know more about that Loughton trip, don’t ya? Well, it’s true that after two weeks of Covid isolation I was happy to go absolutely anywhere so Loughton on an overcast Saturday afternoon was an exciting enough prospect. Bits of it are quite scenic:

And it has a good tree, just in front of the world’s most car showroom-like Nandos:

I had been promised a Clarks and a New Look and only one of them was still there so I did not manage to buy a handbag. I did browse Superdrug for a new hair colour and have a rifle through the racks of the charity shops. I also saw this boxing/sunbeds combo that could not be Essexier if it tried:

Then we went to a cafe, which I won’t name because it was a slightly underwhelming experience. My waffle took a while to arrive and, when it did, was a bit…basic:

But pleasing on a geometric level, right?

The next day I left the house again, for IRL church and then hanging around Angel Central while Eva went to see a film at my old stomping ground. The N1 Centre, as was, has changed a bit since my day but I realise that my day was almost 20 years ago. For instance, this is new:

I also found a functioning branch of Itsu, which is a rarity in these post-lockdown times:

It was surprisingly hard to find somewhere to have a coffee though. I did a bit of shopping after lunch – H&M, M&S, Monsoon – and still failed to buy a handbag. I did manage to find the upper floor of M&S after much wandering about and using a tiny, cranky lift. It was only on the way out that I spotted the stairs and a (non-functioning) escalator that might have helped.

 

After all that, I just wanted a sit down. Pret in the shopping centre had a massive queue. Starbucks on Upper Street has closed. The other Pret on Upper Street has very little seating, so would have been a stool-perch, which I’d already had to do at Itsu (won’t someone think of us poor middle-aged people?) An independent place called Redemption Roasters looked promising but was packed and, again, I was possibly too middle-aged to go there. I resorted to googling and ended up just opposite the McDonald’s I’d taken Eva to before her film. There’s a Costa there which, although small, had enough seats for me to sit and read for a bit. The book, incidentally, was a new purchase from the very nice Upper Street bookshop. It was a spontaneous day out, so I hadn’t brought any reading material with me. As I walked through Chapel Market, I reflected on how Islington is still very much a town of two halves. Illustrated by this Waitrose, squeezed in among betting shops and Cex:

So it’s fair to say we haven’t been on any big days out lately. It’s taking a while to adjust back to the outside world after the isolation and our Plan B-restricted homedwelling in January. Going back to the office this week for the first time and restarting choir after a two-month break have taken most of my energy, alongside recovering from Covid itself. But Eva and I were out teaching English yesterday and, on the way back, had the choice between Five Guys and McDonalds once again. Reader, I chose well this time:

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We Don’t Cry At Encanto….No No No

 

I know. I’m a grown up and clearly not the kind of person to cry at a kids’ film. Except “Toy Story 3”. And “Up” And pretty much any Muppets film. Oh and let’s not even mention the ugly crying I did over “Coco”. So maybe I am that kind of person. Maybe I’m the kind of person who puts the “Encanto” soundtrack on while the kids are at school and I’m working. Maybe I’m the kind of person who find themselves sobbing into their spreadsheet. But it’s totally logical and I’m going to tell you why.

There are two chief culprits here. Not even I could cry over a bunch of donkeys playing violins on the brow of the Titanic. But “Dos Oruguitas” is an obvious tearjerker and, slightly more obliquely, “All of You” too. Anything to do with Abuela and generational trauma, basically.

I’m going to break down the lyrics of “All of You” because that’s the one I can’t sing along to past the first verse or so. Grab your tissues and join me.

Look at this home, we need a new foundation
It may seem hopeless but we’ll get by just fine

OK, we’re starting with the very concept of “home”, which is what the whole of the Encanto is – it was created as a home when Abuela needed it most. It does a sight more than most homes do. In fact, I dreamt last night that our stairs turned into a slide first thing in the morning but guess what? Dreams don’t always come true, kids.

Anyway, a quick callback to “Family Madrigal” to start with. A bit poignant as this time round, the home is a pile of rubble but also optimistic. If I wasn’t busy hardening my heart, it’d probably get me on the first line.

Look at this family, a glowing constellation
So full of stars and everybody wants to shine

Callback continues, with a subtle shift of emphasis – everybody *wants * to shine, rather than everybody *gets* to shine. I told you dreams didn’t always come true.

But the stars don’t shine, they burn
And the constellations shift

A shift in every way at this point – thanks for the signpost Mirabel. After the major chords of the first few lines, we hear a G#m on the word “burn” and the optimism of the “shine”, “fine” and “new” just seems a little uncertain. And it gets even more uncertain as she hits another minor chord on “shift” which isn’t even on the first beat of the bar like “burn” is. It seems like Mirabel started hopeful but is wavering…or perhaps just getting philosophical. My eyes are still dry. Yes, they are.

I think it’s time you learn
You’re more than just your gift

Oh gosh, is that Luisa she’s saying that too? Like, she doesn’t need to carry all of that pressure any more? I think these lines speak very deeply to anyone who’s ever felt like people only appreciate them for what they can do rather than who they are. From Malcolm in the Middle to Margot Tenenbaum to Maddie Ziegler, this has gotta chime with a few people hasn’t it? It’s also interesting how the music changes again, shifting down from E to an out-of-key D# major chord on the word “gift”, almost like Mirabel is anticipating the seismic emotional shift that’s about to come as Abuela starts singing.

And I’m sorry I held on too tight
Just so afraid I’d lose you too

This is where I lose it every.single.time. Abuela is making amends for the hurt she’s caused and explaining that it was her love for the triplets that led to that hurt. Dagnam, I’m welling up now just thinking about it. I have a rule that when emotionally stunted characters -Giles, Dr Cox, Toby Ziegler* – cry that I’m allowed to cry too and I’m not making an exception for Abuela. Look how she strokes Pepa’s face in exactly the same way as Captain von Trapp strokes Liesl’s face after his own emotional breakthrough:

*No relation to Maddie

The miracle is not some magic that you’ve got
The miracle is you, not some gift, just you
The miracle is you
All of you, all of you

The same alloftheemotions as before only this time it’s even more so because a) it’s Abuela saying it and b) Bruno turns up.

If you hadn’t guessed from the Captain Von Trapp reference, family reconciliation always makes me well up. It’s the classic Railway Children “Daddy, oh my Daddy” moment isn’t it? I was reading “Curtain Up” to Eva a few months back and could barely make it through the last chapter when their father comes home at Christmas time. I know it’s a well-worn plot device but gosh darn, it gets me every single time. Just looking at Julieta and Pepa’s faces when they realise Bruno is back could probably start me off crying without even listening to the song:

Okay, so we gonna talk about Bruno? (That’s Bruno)
Yeah, there’s a lot to say about Bruno
I’ll start, okay
Pepa, I’m sorry ’bout your wedding, didn’t mean to be upsetting
That wasn’t a prophecy, I could just see you were sweating
And I wanted you to know that your bro loves you so
Let it in, let it out, let it rain, let it snow, let it go

OK, phew there’s a bit of a light relief in the form of some Camilo-Antonio-Bruno bantz. And a “Frozen” reference, obviously. The chords are all over the place at this point – mainly somewhere around the key of G but with a fair smattering of B Majors to keep it unpredictable. But all very upbeat and it means I can get my breath back a bit before some more family reconciliation stuff

That’s what I’m always saying, bro
Got a lotta ‘pologies I got to say
(Hey, we’re just happy that you’re here, okay?)

Julieta is the best. No, Felix is the best. I really don’t know but yup, just weeping straight through this bit

Uh, But
Come into the light, the triplets all reunite
And no matter what happens we’re gonna find our way

And this bit.

Yo, I knew he never left, I heard him every day

Oh Dolores….always gotta have the last word. You never thought to mention this before? I guess they don’t talk about….who now?

What’s that sound? (Oh, oh)
I think it’s everyone in town

Just when I’m starting to get myself together, here’s another trigger. Everyone pulling together to rebuild a home. It’s like those feelgood news stories you see after disasters when you have to…yknow….look the saints in the aftermath of tragedy. Oh gosh, I’m off again.

And it’s like…EVERYONE in town. Gut man, Mariano, all of them. No one is cross at the Madrigals even after they’ve been hit on the nose by falling debris. They all appreciate what the family have done for the town and now it’s time to give back. Waaaaahhhhh

Hey
Lay down your load (lay down your load)
We are only down the road (we are only down the road)

More stuff on not putting so much pressure on yourself (are you listening Luisa?) and letting others help you. This reminds me of “Once More With Feeling” where Buffy thinks she has to fight the demon all by herself and then all the Scoobies turn up to help her (“Quick Tara, Anya…she needs back up”). After two years of Covid, we’re all carrying so much emotional baggage and have felt like we’ve had to just struggle on for so long that having an entire town turn up to tell you to lay down your load is really quite….affecting. And I gotta say, whenever we’ve needed the HP community to spring into action when while we’ve been isolating, they have been just as marvellous as the Encantoians.

We have no gifts, but we are many
And we’ll do anything for you

You see, they really want to help. It’s not all about being gifted, it’s about community. Sob.

It’s a dream when we work as a team (all of you, all of you)

Oh the three sisters are friends again too…even though we never really knew that much about the Isabela/Luisa dynamic so not sure whether they needed any kind of reconciliation in the first place. It’s all good though. And nice callback to Isabela’s theme.

You’re so strong
Yeah, but sometimes I cry (all of you, all of you)
So do I

ME TOO, LUISA.

I may not be as strong but I’m getting wiser
Yeah, I need sunlight and fertilizer
Come on, let’s plant something new and watch it fly
Straight up to the sky, let’s go

All of this is pretty jolly. OK, I’ll be fine.  Nothing but good vibes from here on in.

The stars don’t shine, they burn
The constellations glow
The seasons change in turn
Would you watch our little girl go?
She takes after you

Alright so…parental pride in a child that’s always felt a bit neglected. …kids growing up and becoming independent…all that might potentially set me off again if we don’t move on quickly.

Oh
Hey Mariano, why so blue?
I just have so much love inside
You know, I’ve got this cousin too
Have you met Dolores?
Okay, I’ll take it from here, goodbye
You talk so loud
You take care of your mother and you make her proud
You write your own poetry every night when you go to sleep
And I’m seizing the moment, so would you wake up and notice me?
Dolores, I see you (and I hear you)
Yes (all of you, all of you)
Let’s get married (slow down)

This bit is sweet. I’m not overly invested in Mariano’s heartache. Happy for Dolores but it’s all registering mild on the wibble-o-meter.

All of you, all of you
Home sweet home
I like the new foundation
It isn’t perfect
Neither are we (that’s true)

OK, let’s finish this song reallll soon before I start again.

Just one more thing

No, not one more thing

Before the celebration (what?)

No we’re good. Feel free to start celebrating

We need a doorknob

Oh gosh

We made this one for you

They got Antonio to do this line. Why would you do this to me?

We see how bright you burn

Waaaaahhhhhh

We see how brave you’ve been

Oh gosh, now we’re channelling Lily Potter at the end of Deathly Hallows. Not.enough.feels.in.the.world

Now, see yourself in turn
You’re the real gift, kid, let us in

Aw, even Bruno is getting slushy now? Wahhhhh once more

Open your eyes
Abre los ojos

Unintentional Vanilla Sky reference?

What do you see?
I see me
All of me

Fade to black and repeat “it’s only a kids’ film. It’s only a kids’ film….”

But just in case you think I’m alone in this, here are some randomly selected YouTube comments from this song. I’ve removed usernames as they might not want to be associated with this ridiculous piece of overthinking. But if you spot yourself, do wave!

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