Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure

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Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-de-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dumdumDUM EXPLORE! RESCUE! PROTECT!

Yes, it’s finally time for my Octonauts Live review. All the giveaways, interviews, school-wrangling, rearranging and queuing over the Dartford crossing lead to this….two hours to kill in Central Park, Dartford.

I like to be early, y’see, especially when the journey involves the entire M25′s worth of traffic being funnelled over a single bridge. So, we were taking no risks and arrived in Dartford at 1:30 for a 4pm show. So, to the local park it was, chasing a police helicopter which was using the same park to land in. Exciting times in Kent.

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The park was also quite exciting. A separate toddler pay area, segregated with bushes from the bigger frames and the zip wire. Then there was a whole fake beach setup, complete with beach huts and a lighthouse. The kids enjoyed posing with a saucy seaside postcard:

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Roo also fancied a bit of cake at the park café but they didn’t take card and we needed to save change to go through a tunnel later (not that I’m bitter about that, no no. But £2? For a tunnel? At least with the bridge you get a view). So we went to a Costa near the theatre, along with every other middle-class family and their octo-clad kids.

And then…showtime. As we settled into our seats, an announcement by Dashi told us we were in the Gup X and were heading towards the Octopod. She counted down the minutes until curtain up time, and then two humans in Octo-uniform arrived to hype the audience up and show us the moves for driving the Gup-A.

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Captain Barnacles & Bob in Octonauts and the Deep Sea Adventure – UK tour 2014/2015 – OCTONAUTS™ Meomi Design Inc. OCTONAUTS © 2014 Vampire Squid Productions Ltd. Licensed by Silvergate Media & Photography by Dan Tsantilis

I won’t tell you to much more about what happened, because I don’t want to spoiler it for all you readers who have yet to see it (including my competition winners, I believe) but it did not disappoint. There were lifesize Octonauts characters, and some puppetry (Tunip and the sea creatures).  There was an exciting plot worthy of the best Octonauts episodes, involving a daring volcano rescue. I was worried that the live show would remove some of the peril from the show and make it gentler for the toddlers but no, this was full-on adventure. I don’t often get to use the word “aghast” but there’s no other way to describe the way Reuben’s face looked when the curtain fell on a cliffhanger. The Octonauts were in danger and he thought the show had finished and that he’d never know what happened. Luckily, it was only an interval and they managed to get out of danger again (sorry, was that a spoiler? Don’t tell your kids). And the tension kept mounting in the second half – as Barnacles battled to get away from the volcano, Eva hugged in tight under Nathan’s arm and grabbed his leg. As Richard Lewis, Director and Writer, said, they were utterly transfixed.

Director and writer you say? Why yes, happy coincidence had placed us right next to the brains behind the whole thing, who just recently had a Q&A on this very blog. We chatted about how much the kids in the audience seemed to be loving it, and how there were moments of almost complete silence as every tiny face gazed at the stage. The “Peppa Pig” principle of having shouty bits and quiet bits was working well.   Even when Eva got up to dance, as she did for every song, her eyes were glued to the stage as she twirled, only whipping her head round at the last moment. Claire Goodwin would have been proud. It was certainly a crowd-pleaser, and Richard seemed pleased with how things were going. Even if there was one noticeable technical hitch, when the curtain got stuck on Tweak’s ears (but such a cute technical hitch!).

Given it was such a technically complex production, one technical hitch was hardly surprising. After all, there was video, pre-recorded sound, changeable sets and a whole midnight-zone section that relied on puppeteers and UV lighting. That was very impressive, especially the siphonophore. I’m not sure how they did it, because the puppeteers were actually invisible (rather than invisible in a theatrical kind of way, a la “In the Night Garden”) but it looked amazing. The volcano itself was also very well done. It certainly made the kids genuinely fearful for Captain Barnacles’ life – afterwards, Reuben said “there were some happy bits but also some worrying bits”.  He really enjoyed it though, and this morning I came downstairs to find him performing his own version with all his Octo-toys. Eva was just picking up the characters and saying “Ooh…Tweak! She was in de show! Ooh Peso! He in de show too!” It definitely made an impact.

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Peso, Captain Barnacles & Kwazii in Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure – UK tour 2014/2015 – OCTONAUTS™ Meomi Design Inc. OCTONAUTS © 2014 Vampire Squid Productions Ltd. Licensed by Silvergate Media & Photography by Dan Tsantilis

So, what would my criticisms be? We’re Octonauts devotees and have an obsessional level of knowledge, so there were bound to be a few things that didn’t sit right. Kwazii’s voice, for one. Of course, all the voices sounded different to the TV versions (except Tweak, who was pretty much spot-on) but we got used to them. Kwazii just sounded a bit too fey and not as gruff as you’d expect. When I was trying to think who it reminded me of, the closest I got was Jake from “The Tweenies”. Sorry, Kwaz. As I said, I was only because we are such Octo-addicts that we would notice these things.

The other part that didn’t quite work for me was having a human cadet on the Octopod. I know it’s probably a good principle in kids’ theatre to have someone with a face that the kids can relate to but it seemed unnecessary. The kids were totally engaged with the familiar Octonauts (who are pretty anthropomorphic anyway) so the human was a bit surplus to requirements. It wasn’t anything bad, it just felt not quite needed. Another thing I could live without are those spinning light things that now seem to be routinely sold at kids’ theatre shows. I find them a wee bit distracting (not that the kids noticed – a hurricane probably wouldn’t have distracted them!)

Apart from that, I can’t criticise anything. It was a superb production, hitting just the right balance of drama and comedy and totally absorbing for both kids and adults. The songs were truly in the spirit of the Octonauts – stirring and hearty – and the visuals reproduced the CGI world as faithfully as you could ever hope for. A marvellous family show and one that every Octo-addict needs to see!

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London With a Toddler – The Movie

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Well, kinda… A very talented colleague of mine filmed me and the kids blathering about Corams’ Fields and managed to make it into something quite beautiful, even with my stupid looking face. Watch it here!

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CBeebies “Peter Pan” – Our Awfully Big Adventure

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Before I tell you about our epic day yesterday, I need to make one thing clear – I am giving nothing away about the 2014 CBeebies Panto. It was magical, brilliant and remarkably well-cast but beyond that, nothing is escaping from me. Not even under torture.

And torture may be the word that flies to most people’s minds when they consider 2 long train journeys in one day with a 5-year-old. But, yknow what? It all worked perfectly. It wasn’t torturous at all, or even particularly strenuous. It was a lot of fun and, while it could have gone horribly wrong, it didn’t. So, let me tell you all about it.

When considering the madness that is London–>Manchester and back in a day, I made a few important decisions. Firstly that I would take a rucksack full of snacks and games for fuel and entertainment. Secondly I would pre-book tickets for the train so that we would have reserved seats. Thirdly, that I wouldn’t take Eva. That was probably the most important decision. So, she stayed with Nathan (and actually, they ended up going to Winchester…see Eva talking about it here) and Reuben and I went on a mother-son bonding day. We were both very excited, up at 6 and dressed by ten past, all of which led to us arriving at Euston at:

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For an 8:40 train (just to the left of the clock). I know. But better to be prepared, hey? With so much time to kill, we went for a coffee-and-juice break at Caffe Nero:

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That set us up nicely for the day, along with a second breakfast of croissants once we were in our seats (see, told you I was prepared). Roo busied himself with a Beebies magazine while I watched the horizon and tried not to let the tilting train make me travel sick. Turns out the countryside is quite pretty when you’re going past it at high speed:

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England slipped by and so too did the 2.5 hour journey. Just as Reuben starting to complain of boredom, the train manager magically appeared at my elbow with an activity pack for him.:

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That, and a pack of dinosaur top trumps, saw us happily gliding into Manchester Piccadilly at just before 11. Oh, along with the recorded “do not flush” message in the train toilets that Reuben thought was the most hilarious thing ever. Virgin must think it’s quite hilarious too, as they’ve written it on the lid as well:

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Brilliant. Anyway, back to Manchester..

Now, the bit I hadn’t quite prepared for was the journey from Piccadilly to Media City. I knew it involved either a tram or a train of some kind, and we managed to find one of those more by luck than judgement. We didn’t have a ticket though, and every machine had a confused family in front of it trying to buy tickets to get to Media City too. I was beginning to suspect that the Beebies event might be quite popular. I was also suspecting that we wouldn’t get a ticket in the minute we had before the next tram. We didn’t. We missed the tram and the next one was a full 12 minutes away. That seemed like a long wait to us, so we dived back upstairs to get some sandwiches before getting on a tram that we assumed would take us in the right direction. The hundreds of other families talking about pirate ships gave me a clue that we might be OK. But which stop to get off at? Now, that was a question. Salford Quays? Media City? Somewhere in between? On the advice of another family, we chose Harbour City. Was it right? Well, you’ll have to wait and see. First, we had the excitement of going on a train on the road that also ran on grass. It blew Reuben’s mind, and mine too if I’m honest.

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We also had the fun of sitting at the fron and pretending to drive. Again, not a pleasure solely reserved for Roo:

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We arrived at Harbour City pretty quickly but, as you Mancunians know, it wasn’t the right stop. Still, it was close enough and we could follow signs to the Lowry to find where we needed to go.

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Arriving at the Lowry, it was pretty packed. There was the CBeebies Jolly Rodger, and a row of activity tents, offering crafts, water play, sand play and workshops. There was also the CBeebies live stage, where Dr Ranj compered a line up of poets and entertainers that had the crowd singing or rapping along. There were also a lot of queues – I think it was busier than anyone could ever have anticipated. So, we skipped the activities for the time being and went to the blissful peace of the bloggers’ drinks reception. I won’t tell you much of what went on in there…but it was pretty cool. Roo was excited enough to pose with what he calls the “Furniture Hotel” characters:

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So, you can imagine how excited he was when some real live Beebies ‘slebs walked in. As was I. I’ll show you the slightly blurry shot of him and Dr Ranj:

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But the other presenters were in costume, so that would be spoilerific. Maybe I’ll show you after Christmas.

Gosh, I sound smug now. I apologise.  It was just such a lovely experience for me Reuben to meet these people we spend every day with. We’d met a couple of them before, but Roo has a mega-short memory so he was just as excited as he was last time.

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And then on to…the panto! I really am giving no details away, but I can reveal this EXCLUSIVE review of the show by one Reuben A.Schoolboy:

“It was funny and nice”.

I can confirm that Reuben did indeed find it funny. He bounced out of his seat several times with laughter. I can also confirm that he did indeed try and ask the Controller of CBeebies which channel the panto will be showing on. If you can work it out, please do let him know.

I also can’t confirm who was or wasn’t in it, including a certain “CJ” who is a bit of a friend of the blog. But if you are a CJ fan, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. That’s all I’m saying.

After the exhilaration of the panto we headed back into the madness outside.  It was still very crowded,  so we walked through the activities and onto the grassy area on the other side of the Quay.  Now,  Londoners may not believe this but the weather was nicer in Manchester than it had been at home. It was a lovely day for a wander so we walked around and saw what there was to see.  Salford Quays has that slightly surreal feeling that new areas do when you suspect you might be in a brochure rather than an actual place. . But it’s all very shiny and nicely designed.

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Roo was keen to have a play so joined some kids on this sculpture that belongs to a channel most definitely not showing the CBeebies panto this year:

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Then we spotted the home of Beebies itself and Roo ran in to admire the Tree Fu Tom wall before we carried on our stroll. I’d noticed the Imperial War Museum from the other side of the water and we thought it’d be fun to pop in there, if only to use the loos, and then go back out to have a snack and then go back in to play in the family activity room.

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Which is what we did. Roo built a brachiosaurus out of foam blocks:

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He also had something of a meltdown, which was pretty inevitable given we’d been on the go for 8 hours by this point. Outside once more, snacks administered and a toddle back over the bouncy bridge to meet an imaginary friend…it all seemed to help.

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(To all the other imaginary friends who might be reading this – no, it wasn’t the one I’d planned to meet, who lives in Manchester. It was one from Somerset. Crazy, huh?!)

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On the way we’d seen a little park that Roo wanted to explore, so it was back over the bouncy bridge and to this piece of sculpture, dedicated to the workers of the old shipyard. There were also a number of little jetty-things that were perfect for a bit of “Swashbuckle”-style plank-walking. But before you can walk the plank, you have to complete the tasks which, for Roo, involved dashing around the sculpture and climbing the rigging of this fiendishly difficult climbing frame:

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My task involved faffing about taking arty pictures:

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Well, I completed mine and Roo never got to the top of the slide so he was the one walking the plank. Not into the actual quay, you’ll be pleased to know.

Time was really starting to get on, so we started thinking about Nandos. I often think about Nandos. Sadly, Nandos wasn’t thinking of us. The Salford Quays one was extremely busy, with a 20-minute wait for tables and the alternative I found near Piccadilly didn’t exist, at least not anywhere near where the Nandos website said it was. Bah! I’m skipping ahead a bit, but the tram was so very packed on the way back in that it is probably best skipped. As is the wait at Piccadilly, where we had a much-needed Burger King and I stared at this sign for a long time before realising it said “Demonstration Only”:

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So, join me if you will on the train back. It’s only 6:45pm but we’re in that weird train-time where grown men snuggle down for sleep at that time. I too was ready for sleep and built Reuben a little bed for him to do the same:

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Of course, he didn’t sleep. It wasn’t even 7 o clock and he was on a train and it was all exciting. So, while adults snoozed all around us, he shut his eyes for seconds at a time before demanding more Dr Seuss books, more snacks and more dinosaur top trumps. We also made a short film, at his request. Doesn’t he look and sound sooo tired? And bless him, he gets very confused over chicken nuggets.

It was a long way home, but peaceful in its own way. We staggered off the train at 9, when again it felt like the depths of the night rather than the middle of the evening.  The tube home was less peaceful, and required a lot of reading dino-facts out loud but we made it to the carpark at Walthamstow without any meltdowns and Nathan and Eva were there with the car to meet us. It was, indeed, an awfully big adventure.

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Tree Fu Winner Announced!!

tftHello readers and apologies for the lateness of this post. It’s been a crazy kind of week, and not in a fun way…more in that sleep-regressive way that makes you contemplate calling the local wolf-pack and asking them to take your toddler away. I have them on speed-dial.

All of which is to say, we have a winner of “Tom’s Big Spell” and it’s…

Angela o’Rourke!! Congratulations Angela, we’ll be in touch very soon.

That’s all for now, as we’re heading to Manchester tomorrow for a very special adventure. If you live around there, don’t forget there’s loads of fun happening at Salford Quays . See you there?

 

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North Walthamstow Jumble Trail – 04/10/14

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Is anyone worried that London With a Toddler has got too shiny, too commercial, too slick? After all, we’ve had what you might describe as both decent content and decent giveaways recently. Worry not! This post has all the LWAT staples you love so much – rain, questionable parenting decisions and whining children. Read on.

Today, me and the kids were evicted from the house for the day while Nathan got on with painting Eva’s skirtingboards pink and Reuben’s green (they look awesome, in case you were wondering). So, we went down to Walthamstow to visit cousin Leo, a boy who has been on the blog since the first month.  He’s grown a bit since then. Coincidentally, that part of Walthamstow was also hosting a jumble trail today – a chain of E17 residents who were setting out stalls in front of their homes to sell clothes, cakes and bric-a-brac.  We considered going, looked at the pouring rain and reconsidered. This would be a foolish thing to do.

So, naturally we did it. Taking kids out in the rain is an absolute doddle, as long as you’re well prepared. Pity then that I was completely unprepared, despite the very obvious black rain cloud on the weather forecast. My cousin offered up to us all that she could, but Reuben refused to wear Leo’s spare wellies, instead choosing his rather leaky trainers. Eva was all up for wellies, but she has teeny size 5 feet, which Leo hasn’t had for years…probably since that first post on the blog. She was very insistent though, and she was going to be in the buggy anyway, so what harm was there in her wearing Leo’s old size 9 wellies?

We set out, with Eva protesting that she didn’t want to be in the buggy and Reuben and Leo questioning the whole validity of this walk. Roo kept asking where the car was and they seemed unconvinced by the promise of exercise, fresh air and bargains. To be honest, we were a little unconvinced too but we wanted to show some community spirit and tire the boys out a little.

We soon found the first stall, belonging to a lady I now know to be called Isla. She had an alluring selection of craft supplies for sale and it’s only a pity that my cousin and I share a particularly cack-handed gene pool so crafting isn’t really part of the family skill base. Eating cake definitely is part of the family skill base, so we bought some yummy chocolate and banana muffins and carried on.

There was more cake at the next stop, where my cousin bought a very nice dress. It was maternity, but you couldn’t tell. Some children were selling goodies for charity but we were still working on muffins so instead went inside to have a look at more clothes. Meanwhile, Roo and Leo had disappeared up the stairs to have a look at the little boy’s bedroom. They like to make themselves at home. Eva was digging through the toys too, as I bought her a purple spotty t-shirt. It was tough to extract the boys but somehow we did it, and sent them back out into the rain.

Approaching Thorpe Crescent, Eva was protesting loudly that she wanted to walk so I let her. Yes, in the size 9 wellies. Yes, she fell over a fair bit. But they had all found a rabbit hole to get their feet stuck in, so that was an unexpected bonus. The gazebos around the crescent were starting to pack up (it was about 3 by now, and the stallholders had clearly had a long and cold morning) so we didn’t get anything, though my cousin was tempted by a gin bucket. The boys were putting their feet in more rabbit holes, Eva was running off in her oversized wellies. It was almost time to give up.

So, we headed towards Lloyd Park, sadly not seeing any more stalls on the way. I think we’d left it a bit late, and the weather was really far from ideal from jumble trailing. But we’d had some fun, the boys had made a new friend and they were definitely being exercised.  Plus, we saw the world’s most hipster estate agent sign:

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I should have got a picture of the kids at this point, but my phone was misting up in the rain even more than it normally does. Eva had been wrangled back into the buggy and I’d taken her wellies away so she was just sulking and stretching pink-socked feet out of the raincover into the rain. Reuben was complaining loudly that the water in his shoes was weighing him down. I am totally mastering this parenting thing. Just in case my children looked too well cared-for, I decided to take Eva’s socks off as well. Barefooted toddlers just make me look like a natural parent rather than a bad one, right?

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It was clearly too wet to go to the park (clear to us, not to the children, obviously). Our destination was instead the cafe where the nice man gave us five hot chocolates for £4.50 (two adult-sized, three child-sized). The kids ate pombears and read through the stack of books there, while we observed the Mormons praying outside. The rain soon passed and we headed back to Leo’s. By 4, it was gloriously sunny but the trail was over by then. It was a fun experience which would have been more fun if it’d been sunny all day (I assume a lot of the stallholders either didn’t put stalls out or gave up early…and I don’t blame them). There is talk of putting the trail out again tomorrow….keep an eye on local groups to see if that happens (I’ll try and post it on the Facebook page too). There are still Walthamstow bargains to be had, people. Just go prepared for any weather….

 

 

 

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Q Pootle 5 – The Great Space Race

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Now, I might have mentioned before that Reuben likes Q Pootle 5. There was a long period of time where he refused to get dressed until he’d seen it (and sometimes, that still happens). So he was thrilled to get the new DVD “Q Pootle 5: The Great Space Race”, featuring 13 episodes of those cheeky aliens from Planet Okidoki. He was even more excited to get the flier about the special Christmas episode, although we had to explain to him that it wasn’t on the DVD and he may well have to wait a while to see it. Possibly even till Christmas.

But there was plenty on the DVD to entertain him. As well as episodes like “Runaway Rocket” and “The Singing Valley”, there’s also a “Making of” and even some Okidoki karaoke! We haven’t tried out all the features yet, because Eva spotted the opening credits for “Sarah and Duck” starting just as we put the DVD on and then proceeded to howl all the way through it. But when she’s in a better mood, I’m sure she’ll like singing along with Q Pootle and his friends.

There are also a couple of extras on the box itself – a smoothie recipe and a Q Pootle 5 quiz. The long winter afternoons are drawing in, and I’m sure we’ll get a lot of use out of the DVD! When I asked Reuben what he thought of the episodes, he said they were “brilliant” and his favourite was the one with the race. When I asked Eva, she said “I want Sarah and Duck”. Can’t win ‘em all….but I think it’s a great value DVD, with enough episodes to keep the kids from getting bored (or more to the point, keep me and Nathan from getting bored) and some good extras too.

There’s more CBeebies action on our Tree Fu Tom DVD giveaway. Don’t forget to enter!

Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy of the DVD. All opinions remain honest and my own.

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Octowinner announced…!!

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“He dug for treasure

He scratched for fleas

The bravest pirate on the seven seas”

Even Calico Jack would find it hard to come up with a foolproof way of hiding a winner’s name from the preview text but we have a winner for the Octonauts Live! Family ticket including meet and greet. It’s…

 

TANYA GRIFFITHS!!

 

Congratulations Tanya! We’ll be contacting you shortly to arrange the prize. For those who didn’t win, make sure you enter our Tree Fu giveaway as well!

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News from the Wonderful World of CBeebies…and Another Giveaway!!

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It’s no secret that my kids love CBeebies and so I’m always excited when I get any Beebies news to share with you. And this week I have four bits. FOUR! And one of them is a giveaway. It’s Big Fun Time on the blog. Oh yes.

Let’s start with something that’s not London-y. If you live inside the M25, I give you permission to either skip this next paragraph or go to the trainline.com to buy a ticket to Manchester. But I know I have at least two readers who ae Manc-based, so this is going out to you.

Remember the CBeebies panto news? Well, you’ll know by now whether you have a ticket (a big squeeee! for N at this point). But if you haven’t, fear not! There is loads going on outside the venue at Salford, on the 10th and 11th October. The panto will be relayed onto big screens outside, and there will be performances from Dr Ranj (just pretend you didn’t see this morning’s “This Morning”), Mister Liker-Biker Maker, Rebecca, Sid and Cerrie. There’s also a tall ship, which is becoming the “CBeebies Jolly Roger” for those days and featuring activities and storytelling. Then there are crafts, treasure hunts,  dance classes… Don’t miss it!

Next up, let’s talk about that giveaway. Yes, one lucky reader will be receiving a copy of newly-minted DVD “Tree Fu Tom’s Big Spell”. It has 7 episodes of magical fun, so perfect for those long, dreary autumn evenings. Just fill in the form below to enter and I’ll be announcing the winner on 6th October. But if you don’t win, you can buy the DVD the same day as that’s when it hits the shops! Talking of giveaways, don’t forget that the Octonauts Live! giveaway is on for a few more days….but be quick or you’ll miss it…!

So, what else? Well, there’s a new Q Pootle 5 DVD out next week as well, which I should be reviewing for you very soon. Reuben always refuses to get dressed until QP5 has finished so I don’t think he’ll get the whole DVD every morning…but needless to say, he’s a big fan of Planet Okey-Dokey. Lastly, we’ve been enjoying the CBeebies/Sesame Street crossover “Furchester Hotel” and there’s now a Furchester game on the CBeebies app as well s some other updates. Find out more on the BBC blog..

Phew! That’s a lot of news. Don’t forget to fill in the form below to win the Tree Fu Tom comp!

 

 

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The Bucket and Spade List Part 10 – The Met Line

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The first thing I need to warn you about the Met line is how much concentration it requires to actually catch it. Any Met line platform on Central London is probably moonlighting as a Circle line platform as well. And a Hammersmith & City one too. So the likelihood of getting the right line is already an unpromising 33%. That’s before you even start on the various branches and mini – branches of the Met Line itself, with its fast and semi-fast sections that alternate depend on what time of the day it is. I can’t help but feel sorry for Preston Rd and Northwick Park – what did they do to get skipped out periodically and, quite frankly,  cruelly? At least with the Harrow – Rickmansworth section it isn’t so personal. It  smacks of “Mean Girls” where Wembley Park and Harrow on the Hill are the popular ones and they’re just passing notes in class about Preston Rd’s shoes or Northwick Park’s scandal-hit hospital.  I’ve only seen “Mean Girls” once so apologies if it’s an imperfect analogy.  I believe I saw it in Croxley though, so that’s probably the last time I took this particular trip. I digress…but the point is it a complex line, and it would be easy to go very wrong and end up in Hammersmith or Uxbridge. As I write this, I’m sitting in a dark tunnel just outside Baker Street, so there’s no telling whether I’ll get to Pinner or not.  But that’s the game, and when it comes to pointless odysseys on London Transport I am most definitely a player.

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The other problem with the Met Line is how long it takes to get anywhere. When I saw the 41 minutes the poster said it would take from, Liverpool Street to Pinner, I’m not sure I believed it. You can do a Victoria Line and a half in that time, and Pinner isn’t even close to the end of the line. And the first few stops fair zipped by – up to Kings Cross, the doors barely had time to close between stations. Even Finchley Road appeared relatively quickly but the gap between there and Wembley Park. … well,  no one’s pretending that’s short. It even looks long on the map and it stretches over three zones.  Then you realise how many Jubilee Line stations that gap involves and it starts to feel realllllly long.  Additionally,  the dogs that had got on at Barbican got off at Finchley Road and I think Eva was missing them. She was certainly getting restless and climby.

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Strangely though, something else had happened with that climb into daylight. As London started to melt away, so to did the London rules. In other words, people started talking to each other. A couple sitting opposite gave me the shiny supplements from their Sunday paper (the exact same supplements that me Daddy saves for me…obviously nail varnish critiques are about my level). Then when we stopped for an illogically long time at Harrow-on-the-Hill, we all started to talk to each other about what had happened. Turned out there’d been a fatality at Finchley Road, just minutes after we’d passed through. That’s never good news. We waited there for ten minutes, maybe more, with Eva constantly heading for the exit and just as I as considering giving up and finding a bus, we were on the move again. Mere minutes later, we arrived in Pinner.

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The nice couple with the paper got off there too, and directed me to the lift that takes you up to the footbridge then back down towards the exit. Let’s hear it for stepfree Pinner! Of course, to get that far we’d had to negotiate a lot of steps at Liverpool Street, both up and down again – if it hadn’t been a Sunday, it may have been easier as the Met Line entrance would have been open. But the crazy thing is that there’s a step-free route to catch the H&C, Met and Circle Lines in the opposite direction. So, you can go East in your wheelchair but you’re buggered once you get back to Liverpool Street. Did they think this through at all? It’s like those raised platforms at stations that are otherwise completely inaccessible. I like to think it’s all part of a grand plan somehow. I may be going to a TfL accessibility event soon, so will find out more!

But, we’d made it. To the almost unfeasibly nice surrounds of Pinner. I mean, just look how lovely it is:

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We were there for Pinner Arts Week and, specifically, the Open Studio of local artist Robyn of Robyn Made. She specialises in papercuts, which are a small miracle for someone like me who can’t even guillotine straight. Look at this:

c.Robynmade

c.Robynmade

She also does fab illustrations of whimsical fairies and spiky dragons. I meant to buy a dragon badge for Roo but, dear reader, I confess that I got completely distracted by drinking tea and chatting and trying to extract Eva from the trampoline in the garden. She had a lot of fun. Robyn has been an imaginary friend of mine for a long time but she is also multi-talented (as so many of my imaginary friends are) and you should totally check out her website.

c. Robynmade

c. Robynmade

 

It was getting late, we were far from home and there was always the possibility that the Met Line was still up the creek and we’d have to go via an Overground route. So, we left Robyn and, passing the church opposite, caught sight of the top of Michael Rosen’s head. He’s a Pinner man, you know. I wonder whether he’s signed up to the Pinner Pledge.

As it happened, the Met Line was not only working fine but even arrived just as we were going through the barrier. Eva was asleep, which was a good sign for my peaceful, magazine-reading trip back to Liverpool Street but would later come back to haunt me (a 10:15 bedtime, anyone?). It’s a lot more straightforward catching the Met Line southbound – you essentially just rock up and walk onto whichever train is there – and it felt faster too. But I’m guessing that was more to do with the toddler being asleep instead of dropping gingerbread men all over the carriage floor…

Either way, I think we can tick off item 2 on The List – we have indeed spent some time on the Met Line…

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Q&A With Richard Lewis of Octonauts Live! Plus Giveaway!

Octonauts image

We are ever so excited about Octonauts Live coming to the stage next month and are very honoured to have an EXCLUSIVE Q&A with the director and adaptor of the show, Richard Lewis. And we even have a sneaky extra giveaway at the bottom…don’t miss it! But first, some suitably facetious questions from LWAT to Richard…

 

Were you a big Octofan before you wrote the show? Are you now?

I’d heard of “Octonauts”, but not enough to have become a fan. Now though, having watched a zillion episodes, not only am I a fan but my wife tells me I talk like Captain Barnacles in my sleep!

Were you aware just how obsessed small children can get with the Octonauts?

It’s just beginning to dawn on me. When I tell people what my current project is and, if they have  pre-school children they suddenly become my new best friend and ask if I can arrange for the child to meet them

Do you have 24-hour security surrounding the sets in case one of them tries to break in?

We’re actually protected by the same police officers who protect the prime minister!

Is there a meet and greet after the performance?

There are meet and greets but as spaces are extremely restricted, these are only available via competitions and these can be found in local press … and your favourite mummy blogs

How do you handle the underwater elements of the show?

Through a variety of formats. On the one hand we have projected animation of water and sea life on a giant backdrop behind the Octopod and on the other through blacklight techniques that allow us to show the Octonauts in the water with weightlessness and bouyancy

My son loves a bit of marine biology – which sea creatures can we expect to see in and around the deep sea volcano?

Ah ha! Well, angler fish, jelly fish and siphonophores…and some others that will be a surprise!

The CGI on “Octonauts” is getting ever crisper and deeper – how do you recreate that on stage?

In one sense you don’t. We do have terrific projectors that illuminate our world with amazing clarity. Additionally we use the animated computer-ending that is used in the TV show. So, where we show it, it is both original and crisp. However, a key part of what we have to do with the adaptation is transfer it to a stage and live environment – so we use theatre forms and techniques to do this, but this is appropriate as we are adapting to a live medium.

What other TV shows would you like to adapt? I know you have some secret projects on the go at  the moment…

Errrrrm, if I told you that I’d have to kill you! We are working on some really exciting new projects for children but, although they are confirmed, so much of my focus is on Octonauts I find it hard to not not give 100% concentration to that while I’m on it.

Thinking of “Peppa Pig’s Big Splash” for a second…I’ve had a fair amount of experience watching toddler-aimed theatre. What do you do about the audience noise? How do you handle the sound without turning it up to deafening levels?

I would say this wouldn’t I…but the key thing is to make the noise a part of your show, then it’s under your control. We also look for a subliminal control mechanism within the show itself…so you get the kids to shout when you want them to and then hopefully create a sufficiently strong narrative that they are drawn into, being quieter in other parts of the play. I have been to our shows and you could have heard a pin drop in places as the kids were so engrossed.

Small children are also renowned for their honesty as well as their noise…what’s the most interesting feedback you’ve had from one of your audience members?

There is so much interesting stuff they say. But often they might say “it’s great hearing all the songs from the television” and quite often there are hardly any songs from the TV show at all. That usually means we’ve got our adaptation right, i.e. to the audience member , it feels like the TV show.

And finally….what is going on with Shellington and Dashi? Will we see some Octolove blooming on stage?

I couldn’t possibly comment!

You may have guessed what the giveaway is, given the sneaky reference above but here it is…we have a family ticket PLUS meet and greet with the Octo-characters to give away! Whoop!! Just fill in the form below and make sure you enter before the closing date of 1st October. The show is touring the country, so you can choose the nearest theatre to you!

 

Posted in Creating precious childhood memories or something (days out) | Tagged , | 9 Comments