Christmas Family Theatre Preview


I went to Costa today and  I swear to you, it was Christmas in there. They had a Christmas tree, Eva was eating gingerbread Santas and I sang along to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. So don’t tell me it’s November.

In that spirit, I’d like to let you know about some lovely festive shows that are on in London over the next few weeks. And one slightly disturbing festive show. Yes, the good folks of “Funz and Gamez” have been allowed back into Soho and near children, despite the anarchy of last year’s show. If you enjoy wild games shows with depressed Uncles belching at your kids, you’ll love this. It’s on at the Soho Theatre from Sat 19 – Wed 23 Dec at 2pm & 4pm. Tickets and more information here.

Also on at the Soho Theatre is the very Christmassy “Dear Father Christmas” which sees Santa trying to sort out muddled presents, find a polar bear and save Christmas! It’s only on for a limited period – 22nd Dec to 2nd Jan – so book your tickets quickly! It’s suitable for 3-6 year olds and you can find out more here.


Another big hitter for the 3 year old market is that queen of preschool TV…Peppa Pig! She’s back in the West End this Christmas, with “Peppa Pig’s Surprise” opening at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 18th Dec – 17th Jan. This production has all-new, life size puppets…have  a wee look here:



Eva was thrilled by the show last year and was still talking about it months later so it’s well worth it. She was 2 and a half at the time and definitely old enough to appreciate it. Catchy songs too…

For the older kids, there are some fab options too. “The Railway Children“, which I watched and sobbed through in the summer, has extended its run to 10th April. With a real steam train and a script that sticks faithfully to the book, it’s a classic and entertaining tale. Bring tissues.


Also good for older kids is the stage production of “Elf“, the beloved Will Ferrell Christmas film that brought “cotton-headed ninnymoggins” into our everyday venacular. It’s opened at the Dominion Theatre already and runs till 2nd Jan. The age rating is 4+ but with a run time of 2.5 hours, I’d probably be wary of taking a young 4 year old. Of course, the Christmas magic may well keep them quiet and entertained!


Not strictly a Christmas show but intriguing nonetheless is “Snow White and the Seven Superheroes” which is on at the Millfield Theatre, Enfield from 7th-17th January. If there was ever a show that catered for my princess obsessed girl and my superhero obsessed boy, this’d be it, right? I know almost nothing about it so am hoping it’s not an “adult” show (Snow White does seem a bit skimpily dressed on the poster). I’ll report back.

While we’re on the subject of adult humour, let’s not forget that classic Christmas tradition – the panto. There are loads all over London, but I’m going to feature Hackney Empire’s “Jack and the Beanstalk“. Not just because it’s reputed to be one of London’s best pantos but also because it stars Clive Rowe, patron of the Walthamstow Acoustic Massive. I backing sang for him over the summer, so we’re practically bandmates dontcha know? True story  - the evidence is here. There’s also evidence of my ridiculous singing face, so enjoy that.

Finally, there’s lovely whimsical-sounding fun at the Unicorn Theatre, who are putting on two kids’ shows this Christmas – “The Snow Child” and “Once Upon a Christmas”. Both are suitable for around the 3-year-old market so I may attempt to take Eva to one. I’ve never yet made it to the Unicorn but have heard great things about their interactive shows and ”Once Upon a Christmas” promises to be another treat.

Is that enough Christmas theatre for you yet? If not, fear not…I’ll be updating this as I hear of more. But start booking now…these will sell out fast!


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Family Travel Show – 31/10/15



This afternoon I experienced a little bit of deja-vu. Sitting on a bus on Kensington High Street, wrangling some giant balloon creations….weren’t we doing this last week? Why, yes we were but the run up was very different. Last week, we were considering yoghurt makers. This week, it’s holidays. We were scoping out the Family Travel Show at the Olympia Conference Centre.

Travel is all about discovery and adventure. And the first thing we discovered were the Green Park station toilets. We didn’t actually use them but I was pleased to find out where they were, after many failed attempts. As you come through the ticket barriers there’s a corridor directly opposite you that leads there but it’s hard to spot with all the people exiting left and right in front of you. Press on through the crowd and you’ll find the sign. You’re welcome.

If your ambitions stretch slightly further than a Piccadilly pee, then you’ll find lots of inspiration at the Family Travel Show. The first stall we came to was hosted by Carnival Holidays, who run fab, child-friendly cruises in the Med, the Caribbean and around America. They had a whole heap of inflatables for the kids to play with, including some palm trees and they took some Polaroids of us to take away:


They have a bit of a Dr Seuss theme to their ships and so had a guy dressed as the Cat in the Hat to entertain the children. Pity Reuben shouted “You’re not the Cat in the Hat” at him, repeatedly. Once again, Cat, I apologise.

The next people we chatted to – after leaving our things in the free cloakroom – were from the whimsical world of Efteling, a fairy tale theme park in the Netherlands. It was described as “more Hans Christian Anderson than Disney” but I was assured it wasn’t the ultra-dark side of HCA. More the talking trees, flying pots and pans side. Two stalls, two holidays I wanted to go on. Oh dear, am I a chronically easy sell?


Probably yes, because I fell in love with the next holiday option too – Martinhal Resorts in the Algarve. We went to the presentation in the theatre later on and learnt about all the things you could do there – the beaches, the kids’ clubs, the watersports – and gosh darn, I wanted to go. The villas looked amazing and they even offer a babysitting service so you can go out child-free in the evening. Tempting, huh?


Talking of child-free time, there was a complementary creche at the show, courtesy of Esprit Ski so we dumped the kids there for 2 hours and went off to explore on our own. First up was that Martinhal and then we wandered around and talked to some more companies, including luxury family travel operator Tots Too and the intriguing sightseeing/volunteering facilitators Hands Ups Holidays. And also Dogs Trust, who sympathised with me about the death of my sponsordog Spike a decade ago. I was touched but to be honest, I got over it at the time. I didn’t sign up to sponsor another one though.

What I did sign up to was buying some fudge. Yum Yum Tree Fudge were giving out free samples and while I can’t tell you what tree fudge is, I can tell you it was indeed Yum Yum. We deliberated for a long time before choosing a bag of peaches and cream. It was amazing.

Just time for another talk before picking the kids up out of their club. This was all about the beautiful country of Sri Lanka. I learnt a lot and it certainly looks like an amazing destination but, given that we’ve yet to leave Britain with both kids, it seems a tad ambitious for us. It’s still devloping as a tourist destination so I’m not sure it would have the chicken nuggets and CBeebies that my children seem to require. One day, maybe…

We picked the kids up and told them we’d spotted a balloon modeller back at the Martinhall stand. They obviously hadn’t had enough of balloon modelling last week as they stood in quiet awe and watched a speedy Mexican fashioning cars, superheroes and flowers out of balloons.


So fast his hands are a blur! I’m not even exaggerating! When it came to Roo’s turn, he requested a magni-pack to go on his back. I had no idea what that was, but the guy seemed to interpret pretty well, and produced not only a backpack with magnets on but also a sword and a shield. Reuben was very happy. Here, he’s striking a hero pose:


Eva requested something she’d seen on someone else – a fishing backpack with dangling fish in front of her face. While she was getting that made, Roo and I went off to do the reactions test at the Super Skills Experience stand. He made it onto the Top Gear-style leaderboard, on the basis that everyone made it onto the leaderboard. I think he was joint bottom with a girl called Sophie…co-ordination really doesn’t run in our family. We also tried out the slackline at the Family Adventure Holiday stall and he did try it across with only the two adults supporting his entire body weight and keeping him balanced. See that lack of co-ordination thing again.

A favourite spot over the day had been the National Geographic Explorer’s Corner. They had a dressing up box there, where Eva had unearthed a full Ariel costume, and an underwater tent to play in:


She later added a few more flower garlands, a swim ring and an inflatable fish to that outfit, as well as her fishing rod balloon. Then ran off giggling. Roo, meanwhile, was enjoying the photo frame and his new balloon-arsenal:


Roo passed up the chance to get his face painted for free, but Eva was convinced by the promise of something flowery:


I *think* this was courtesy of Wanderlust Magazine but I might be wrong. Either way, check out how very adorable she was once it was finished:



It was time to take this whole circus home. I panicked a little as I couldn’t find our cloakroom tickets but when we got back to the cloakroom, the lady had them at the desk for us. Apparently I’d dropped them a few moments after she’d given them to us and a cleaner had handed them back in. Doh!

We had all our stuff back and, with all the brochures and freebies we’d got during the day (pens! bags! sweeties!), it was an awful lot of stuff.  Both kids insisted on wearing their balloon creations all the way home:





Easier than it sounds when that involves a bus, two tubes and a train. And they were big creations. I’m happy to say we got back with them mostly intact though, just in time to finish this post the same way as yesterday’s post – with a sunset at Walthamstow Central. Awww…



Disclaimer: I received free tickets to the Family Travel Show for review purposes. All opinions remain honest and my own.



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The Shard – 30/10/15


Of late, Reuben has acquired a new interest to go with all the other obsessions. He’s into London Landmarks. Is it because his mother’s a London blogger and has dragged him around the capital on blogging jaunts for six years now? Is it because he was born opposite Big Ben and was wandering down the Southbank as soon as he could toddle?

Nope. None of that. It’s cause he’s doing it as his topic at school. In fact, he refused to believe he’d ever been to a London landmark unless it was on a school trip. He told us all about The Shard as if it was something we’d never have had heard of if it wasn’t for him and his topic book. I had to show him this photo to prove him wrong:


This photo was taken the same month I started the blog – proof, if it were needed, that I actually had a toddler when I  choose this ever-so-specific blog title. You’ll note that The Shard in the background isn’t finished at this point – Roo’s childminder was near Borough Market, so he and Nathan used to walk past the the building site daily and see how it grew. So, it’s kind of appropriate that – thanks to the Year 2 curriculum – it’s now his favourite London landmark again. It feels like we’ve cycled round somehow.

For half term, The Shard was doing a “Kids Go Free” offer, which is a substantial saving considering 4-16 year-olds cost £24.95 if you turn up on the day. You can pay less if you book 24 hours in advance and the same with the adult tickets (£25.95 as opposed to £30.95) but I didn’t know we were going 24 hours in advance, so was stung for the full £30.95 at the door. I was a little surprised by the price – if it hadn’t been kids go free, it would cost us £87 to go as a family. That’s more than entry to Paultons Park and that’s got Peppa Pig World. The Shard was going to have to be pretty impressive to justify that kinda price.


I should probably point out that we weren’t going as a family, although many people made that mistake through the day. I was with H’sDada and H and it entertained us to see how many people thought Eva and H were twins. They’re the same age and they do look a bit similar so I can see why people kept asking us. It did confused Roo somewhat to be told to hug his Daddy during the obligatory pre-ascent photoshoot.

Ah yes, the photoshoot. Another way The Shard is keen to take your money. Like a theme park, your photo is taken on the way in and then you can buy it on the way out, with the whole “family” superimposed on a background of your choice – the view by day, the view by dusk, the view by night. We were still feeling a little wallet-sore after the entrance fee, so skipped out on that one.

It did give a real day-out feel to the entrance hall though, along with the airport security that made us feel a bit like we were on holiday. They had x-ray machines and everything. At one point H’sDada almost got wrestled to the floor for the sake of a 20p in his pocket. I only exaggerate slightly.

Once we’d cleared security, the ascent was fairly swift. It was one life to Floor 33, then another to Floor 68. Within seconds we were 244m above sea level and I was feeling mildly sea sick. I may have mentioned before that I’m not overly fond of heights. But for £31, I was not about to turn around quickly. We were seeing this one through.

And seeing stuff was pretty much what we were going to do for the next hour or so. Lots of stuff, from high up.


Yeah, it wasn’t the best weather for looking at views but it was good to be indoors.

You really could see for miles though – as far as the Palaces of Crystal and Alexandra. Look, here’s where we used to live:


Gratifyingly for Roo, we could see a lot of London landmarks. All of them in fact. There was a telescope that you could use to zoom in on details so Reuben used it to look at St Paul’s Cathedral, another primary-approved landmark. He managed to see it almost as clearly as he could just by looking through the window.



The viewing platform is 360 degrees so you can see all the London compass points and see the crazy way the Thames never seems to pick a direction and stick to it. We saw a lot of bits of London.


It was impressive but not hugely different from the view from the London Eye. I preferred the Orbit but then we only paid a pound each to go up there, so I was probably in a generous mood. If you want something similar for absolutely nothing, then get yourself admitted to the North Wing of St Thomas’. The 10th floor has a great view.

Next, we went a few more floors up to the open air platform on Level 72. Now, Reuben wasn’t keen on that platform. It was windy and chilly and I think he was scared he’d fall off the edge. Let me reassure you that his fears, as ever, are unfounded. You can’t fall off the edge. But you do get the feeling of wind in your hair and how very high up you are and…you’re right Reuben. Let’s go back down.


What’s that? A loo with a view? Don’t mind if I do.

By now, it was 11am and we’d spent an hour wandering around at altitude. It was lunch time and the kids were demanding, variously, ham toasties, hot dogs, beans on toast and sausage sandwiches. All of which might be a tough call in trendy-foodie Borough. After a few false starts, we chanced upon Cafe Rossi. It looked tiny from the front but had a seating area at the back, which was big enough to fit five of us in. And it had beans on toast and everything else the kids were demanding. It was cheap, massive portions, fast service and totally unpretentious. Sure it was lacking in a few frills -maybe some dressing on my salad or butter on my potato would have been good – but it was a good value meal for people who’d spent a bit too much money that morning.

All of which is why we decided to follow it up with a slightly more prententious ice cream in Gelato 3BIS in Borough Market. The kids had the unadvertised “baby size” cones, which came with a Mickey Mouse wafer and cost around £2.90. I was being good and dairy-free and only had a lick of Eva’s (strawberry, delicious). There wasn’t much in the way of seating but we edged a few folks out and managed to sit together long enough to eat. And slobber a little at the sight of the gelato cakes in the freezer behind us.

After that, we temporarily parted ways with H and her Dada, with a plan to reassemble at our old Kennington haunt, the Tea House Theatre. We went a slightly roundabout way, which involved more walking than I’d remembered but along the way, we found this giant marble “Make a Wish” artwork:



Then it was time for a quick play in the park next to the Tea House before the last mission of the day – pumpkin carving. TeaHouseGrace had put out an appeal on Facebook for children to come and help pile a stack of 20 pumpkins and who were we to refuse the twin bribes of free snacks and free entertainment?

Naturally, the adults ended up doing all the work with only the vaguest supervision from the kids. Reuben drew his design on and I cut it out but I’m pretty sure “Eva’s” counts as all my own work:

After all, just because it’s Halloween that’s no reason to abandon H&S and give the children sharp implements, is it?


Ah, maybe it is. Once we’d carved pumpkins and drank tea and played some more in the park it was getting dark and we had a long way to go home. The tube was calling so naturally, we had some tube cake:


…and emerged 30 minutes later to a glorious sunset at Walthamstow Central which I have almost completely failed to capture:


All of which, I think, made for a pretty good day out. Reuben declared it to be the best day of the week, which is high praise indeed. I’m still not convinced that The Shard was worth the entry price but if it makes him happy, who am I to place a value on it?

(His mother, that’s who. Don’t imagine we’re going back in a hurry Reuben)


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Cancer With a Toddler – Holly’s Story


Holly after shaving her head

Let me introduce you to Holly. She’s been on the blog before, putting us up one Christmas in Germany and hanging out with us in London but this post is a little different. It’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in honour of that, I’ve invited Holly to share her story with you all. It’s searingly honest and I feel privileged to be hosting it. I’ll let her begin in just a second but first, a little about the person Holly, as opposed to the cancer patient Holly. Because, naturally, she is much more than her diagnosis.

I’ve known Holly for a long time. I met Nathan 18 years and 4 days ago and it wasn’t long after we met that he introduced me to her. We became part of the HollyNicky gang that is still knocking about today, albeit a little greyer than we used to be and with a few add-ons. There were wild parties, which gradually became less wild and now we all have kids they’re pretty wild again but in a different kind of way. I asked Facebook what our friendship with Holly looked like and it came up with this answer:


Now, only a handful of these thumbnails actually feature me and Holly, but fbook assures me we’re both in there if you zoom out. One of them is definitely just Reuben but I think Holly’s back might be  in it too if you look carefully. So that’s Holly – teacher, mother, army wife, Brown Owl, Janet Impersonator and most recently cancer patient.

The last one of those took me by surprise one evening last November. Nathan was out at an engagement party, I was painting the lounge and watching Children in Need. My phone buzzed with The Message, I read it and felt sick. I didn’t know what to think at all. A mouse scuttered past and I only half acknowledged it – I just stood, roller in hand, and felt like the world as we knew it was changing. If that’s how it felt for me, how could it possibly have felt for her? Well, read on as I finally hand over to the woman herself to tell us what happened then and what happened next.  

LWAT: Thanks for sharing your story with us.  You’ve had a bit of a rollercoaster year – tell us,  briefly, what’s happened.

Holly: Thank you for letting me share. The main reason I want to tell a bit of my story is to help anyone else out there who maybe is about to start theirs and to remind everyone of the importance of checking themselves, so they know what normal feels like and persevering when they know something isn’t right with their bodies. 

My story started in July when I found a lump in my right breast. However it took several visits to the local Breast Clinic before I was diagnosed with a Grade 3 invasive Breast Cancer on November 14th 2014. The tumour was approximately 8-10cm to the touch and on ultrasound 5cm.

Since then I have undergone 6 rounds of Chemotherapy, a Mastectomy with implant reconstruction, 30 sessions of Radiotherapy and am now on daily medication to reduce the risk of the cancer returning. The medication only works post-menopause so at 36 I have my ovaries shut down through an injection every 3 months.

So, give us an idea of what your life was like before the diagnosis. You were quite low risk for breast cancer, weren’t you?

Yes – before I was diagnosed it had never really occurred to me that I was at risk. I checked myself occasionally but not regularly. I suppose I was more aware of the changes in my breasts as I was feeding my nearly 1yr old son at the time, and had been feeding for the previous 3yrs as I had breastfed my eldest son too. Strangely, I have a dark raised scab like patch of skin on my left breast that I have always kept an eye on – if it was going to be anywhere I had always thought it would be there.

So when the doctors reassured my the increasing in size and pain lump I was experiencing was likely linked to breastfeeding I really didn’t think anything of it. In fact, if I am being honest,  I wouldn’t have kept returning to the clinic if it wasn’t getting so excruciatingly painful to touch. I would have trusted the professionals who told me it was likely to go away when I finished feeding. I know it sounds dramatic but that pain most likely saved my life.

Describe those first few days after you were diagnosed. Did you feel like you’d been hit by a train?

I really did. I have described the realisation of the significance of that phone call to many people as like a Japanese Bullet Train through my kitchen. If I had been holding a wine glass or anything else breakable it would have been a perfect Hollywood slow-motion-smash-to-the-floor moment. I was dishing up dinner at the time so thank goodness I had put down whatever dish I was carrying when the phone rang. Obviously they don’t actually tell you on the phone and we weren’t waiting for worrying results. So, I was blissfully ignorant until the nurse suggested I really should bring my husband with me to the appointment the next day. It was the day before my eldest 3rd Birthday and we had a massive joint party organised for the Sunday so life carried on as close to normal as we could muster, and so begun life with Breast Cancer as a mother to 2 small boys.

How did your life change as you underwent treatment, especially looking after two children at the same time?

Life has changed in so many ways it is difficult to pinpoint exactly and even harder to explain really.  I have had to come to terms with a number of changes in my body physically and my way of thinking. I have made choices that have, at times, had to be selfish and therefore put more expectation on others to do jobs I think I should be doing, which causes immense guilt.

The main example is making the decision to let other people look after your children because the side-effects stop you feeling safe or able to do so. I have had to accept that it’s my husband’s turn to look after all of us and that it is OK to ask for help. This means that I miss out on adventures as he takes them to the beach, or to a museum so that I can rest. We chose for our youngest to start nursery earlier than he would have done, and to increase his hours as I got more exhausted.

As a result of the surgery I am physically weaker on my right side – for the 6 weeks after surgery I couldn’t lift or carry either of my children without risk of damaging the healing process. I am also more fragile – I live with fear of lymphedema (basically a build up of excess lymphatic fluid in my arm) due to the fact I had 3 lymph nodes removed during my surgery. This means I am more fearful of playing with my children. I’m wary of taking them to the park in case one falls from a piece of equipment and in catching them I injure myself.  The drug that is hopefully keeping the cancer from returning gives menearly daily headaches,  which doesn’t help with my patience. As a result, the children suffer again as I struggle to cope with the noise and chaos of a house with 2 toddlers in it.

There have also been some specific changes I’ve had to make – the first major one being weaning both my children. We had 2 weeks between diagnosis and my Chemotherapy starting. Two weeks to wean a 12month old who was feeding approximately 4 times a day. Whilst still in shock at the news,  I had to find the gentlest way to end my 3 year-long breastfeeding journey.

My eldest was only feeding occasionally but at nearly 3 he was aware that something was going on, so we had to explain the why Mummy had stopped making milk. Thankfully we where given a fantastic book called ‘Mummy’s Lump’ which has been so helpful for all stages of my treatment. I was reassured by many people how well I had done, the benefits the boys had had etc; and those came from a place of love – it was the first in a line of times when you realise our language is just not up to the job and instead you have to take strength from the intention. Somebody cares about you enough to try and make you feel better.

Holly and Miles at Christmas, after 2 rounds of chemo

Holly and Miles at Christmas, after 2 rounds of chemo

Then there were the effects of the chemo – losing the hair on my head, legs, underarms, pubis, eyebrows, eyelashes and face and the crazy unpredictable journey that my appetite and taste buds went on . The steroids that ensured my body was strong enough for the Chemotherapy also meant that things I used to love became bland, tasteless and even caused nausea. I remember a dinner at my husband’s work a week after one round where every mouthful of the meal was like eating nails made of sawdust!

However I also ate and ate and ate, resulting in +1.5st weight gain. You start to not recognise yourself on the outside, you start to not love yourself on the outside and to think that those who do find you attractive couldn’t possibly. This puts a further pressure on your relationships and personal life. Not only was I no longer fulfilling the role of a mother I expected of myself but also the role of a wife.

What was the hardest point of your journey?

That’s really hard to say so I’ll split it up. Physically the hardest part was probably recovering from surgery. I was very lucky that I didn’t experience any issues – no infections etc –  that the drains I had to carry around for the first week came out cleanly and the sites healed well. I am proud of my body for healing so well, however it has definitely taken longer than the initial 6wks.

I remember the first time I tried to take a bath, which was going to be more a sponge bath as I couldn’t actually get the scar wet. It was so painful trying to lower myself in and as for getting out –  well, there was no way any weight was going through my right arm. I was so scared of slipping & falling – needless to say I didn’t get into the bath again for some time.

Mentally I think Chemotherapy was the hardest, I had 6 rounds and you know that the week following is going to bring any number and manner of side effects. You have to be mentally prepared for whatever reaction your body is going to through at you; nausea to vomiting; diarrhoea to intense insane constipation; neutropenia, to name just a few. I think this is why I choose to shave my head. I wanted to take control – to know exactly when it was going to happen and not to watch it in clumps on my pillow. I also wanted the children to see it happen on my terms, not to worry or be scared.

Emotionally the Radiotherapy. This is the bolts and braces (technically I didn’t have cancer by then as the surgery had removed the remaining 5% that Chemotherapy hadn’t eradicated). However for 30 days, I had to drive to the hospital and be irradiated. My skin (again thankfully only mildly) was burnt, my breast swollen, and every day I was reminded not only how far I had come and what my body had been put through, but also how far I still have to go. It was a stark reminder that I wasn’t going to walk out the door on August 7th and be able to forget this ever happened. 

Last day of radiotherapy

Last day of radiotherapy

What was actually helpful to you?  No one ever knows what to say to cancer patients…what kind of things  did people say that were supportive and what wasn’t?

Again, what has been the most helpful has varied throughout the different stages of my treatment. I have tried very hard to keep life as normal as possible, but to do this I have needed friends to carry on as normal too. To invite me to coffee, to message me with their problems, to forgive me when I forget to do something I promised.

This hasn’t always happened, and this is not their fault but no-one knows exactly what to say and people are scared. When it has happened I have been so humbled by the support people have shown the faith people have in my strength and this has helped me to get up many many mornings. Other people have believed in me even when I didn’t. For me, it meant so much when people told me how well I looked – if I could look strong on the outside, then I was beating the turmoil on the inside. Practical help with childcare logistics, home-cooked meals and trips to the pharmacy have been invaluable. Gifts in the post that say “I wish I could be there but I am thinking of you” have brought a smile to my face.

I am not sure I could pin point anything that wasn’t supportive – it is hard when people try to sympathise with you and compare their pain, tiredness, stress etc to yours. That is not because I think mine is worse, but it wasn’t entirely helpful to either of us.. It was hope, distraction, purpose and empathy that were helpful to me.

How are you feeling now?  What does the future hold in terms of treatment/prevention?

Now I am feeling very numb, in limbo I suppose. I finished active treatment in August and medically, it’s kind of like I fell off the conveyor belt. You want so hard to return to normal – as you get closer to that final treatment date, you get more and more excited about it all being over. However you can’t just wake up the next day, brush yourself off and click your fingers. There are still side effects, my body is still recoveringand it is still getting used to the changes forced upon it.

I have to take a medication called Anastrozole daily,  which lowers the amount of oestrogen in my body, therefore reducing the risk that the cancer will return. In order for this drug to work, I have an injection of a drug called Zoladex every 3 months to shut down my ovaries and  induce the menopause. I will be on this course of treatment for at least 5 years. This has led me to consider an oophorectomy (have my ovaries removed) in order to take away the need for the Zoladex .

I am also facing a future where I am going to be double guessing every little change. At the moment I am not fearful the Cancer will return (I am very much in the “what will be will be” frame of mind). I just have had enough of doctor’s appointments, of hospital visits, of arranging childcare, of the disruption that this has all brought – I am very frustrated by the impact on our lives and so am very short tempered when anything goes wrong!

3 weeks post-surgery

3 weeks post-surgery

How have you dealt with running a business through this whole thing?

I have been a Consultant with Pampered Chef for nearly 3 years. It is a good fit with our Army lifestyle, as I can pick up and move it wherever we go. I was diagnosed 1 year after my second boy was born so I had been back to work, building up bookings and a customer base for 8 months. I knew that with the uncertainty of the Chemotherapy and surgery, I wasn’t going to be able to deliver what I had hoped so I had to cancel shows and watch the previous months’ hard work just fade away.
However having the business has been something of a lifeline during this. I have had the unwavering support of my family and would never compare it to them, but to be able to be something other than Holly-who-has-cancer; to be someone who can help others – whether that be to find a recipe or to suggest suitable product to purchase –  all this has given me a good distraction and made me feel sane. I have been able to make some money, money that I have been able to use to treat myself without feeling guilty that it is coming out of the family budget. I have met some good friends too – some people who have help me up and have given me their time. Even though they have never met me personally, they have always been at the end of Facebook chat – happy to talk about what I suppose would be the equivalent of office gossip and politics.
Pampered Chef has announced some changes though – tell us more about that and how we can help you go out with a bang.
October has been an interesting month for me with Pampered Chef. We are all still a little bit in shock that the company is to cease trading in the UK at the end of the year – this initially hit me harder than I expected. I realised exactly how vital it had been for me during my treatment – I was scared I was going to lose friends and lose part of that normal future I was dreaming of.
However October is also the Help Whip Cancer campaign, in it’s 16th year,  and so far Pampered Chef have raised over £1.5million for Breast Cancer Research and Awareness programmes by donating £1 for special pink products sold plus a % (15-25) of sales from dedicated Fundraising Shows. It has been interesting promoting a campaign that is so obviously close and raw but at the same time trying to remain objective, to ensure that my customers are not making purchases out of sympathy for my situation but to support the concept as a whole and because they genuinely want or need the items they have chosen.
I have also noticed  a certain anger amongst other ladies living with a diagnosis,  towards the “pinkification” of Breast Cancer and the ethics behind making money from fundraising which has been quite upsetting. I don’t understand getting angry at people trying to help, trying to make a difference; yes, Pampered Chef is a profit-making business but consultants take a reduction in their commission as part of this initiative, so it really does help to raise money and it is pretty selfless.

Please support Holly and the Whip Cancer campaign here!

Finally, Holly – any advice  you’d like to give to LWAT readers, based on  your experience?
There are probably any number of clichés I could come up with here. I would guess that almost everyone who is diagnosed thinks it will never happen to them, so the main piece of advice I would give is to make sure that you know and recognise the symptoms because it can happen to you. Visit and sign up to their monthly reminder to check yourself. Make sure that if you are worried you go to the doctor, that you keep going back until you are satisfied with the answer. For those who find themselves in the same situation, there is no one way to deal with it, no one way to react. However I would say take all the love and support you can, say yes to offers of help, say no when you can’t do something and enjoy the moments that you can enjoy – they will be so very precious.


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Family Travel Show Winner Announced!

shutterstock_184282520 (00000002)p

The Family Travel Show is almost on us and it’s time to reveal the winner of the giveaway. It’s…

Charlotte Story!!

Congratulations Charlotte – tickets are winging their way to you now.

We’ll be reporting back too, hopefully with some lovely travel inspiration for next summer. Watch this space…

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EasiYo Brunch – 24/10/15

yog5 The quest to understand West London continues. Yesterday morning found us wandering around Earl’s Court, trying to find a way out from the Piccadilly Line. What seemed like an exit landed us on the District Line platform, at which point Roo declared himself confused. “I’m a-fused all the time” concurred Eva. yog17 Soon, we were out in the open and power walking through what I call “Noel Streatfeild country” and we were indeed close to the Cromwell Road that Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil lived on. In fact, that was our next challenge – finding a way to cross the A4. We’ve driven along it many times and I’ve never noticed a handy way to get across the six lanes of traffic…but for future reference, there is a crossing here, between Nevern Road and Cromwell Crescent: yog18 It even has trees in the middle. Don’t say I never tell you anything useful. Our destination at the end of all this was Maggie and Rose in West Kensington, a private members’ club designed especially for children. The kids loved it as soon as they saw the abacus on the gate and they were equally enchanted by the little shop just inside: yog10 But we were not there to purchase a ride-on triceratops, however tempting it might be. We were there to learn more about the Easi-Yo yoghurt maker. I was just in time for the demonstration by Jenny Falconer and Sales Manager Paul: yog1

Now, I don’t think I’ve ever considered how to make yoghurt before but if you’d asked me a few days back I would have guessed it was something to do with straining something through something else. Maybe a muslin? But the EasiYo doesn’t require any kind of hard work – you mix the sachet contents with tepid water, give it a shake, place it inside the big red pod with some boiling water and then just leave on the worktop for about 12 hours. I don’t know what magic happens within the big red pod, but it creates a very tasty yoghurt – once it’s formed, you chill it for a bit and then it’s ready to eat. And did I mention how very tasty it was? We tried a few different flavours – strawberry, coconut, lemon and ginger – and it was super creamy. I don’t often have a lot of dairy so it was a bit of a treat to gorge on proper yoghurt for once. There were a whole host of toppings to try with it:

yog7 and some delicious recipes, including a peanut butter that tasted just caramelly, just like a Snickers bar: yog2 Then there were the yoghurt-related recipes – dips, houmous, frittata, muffins…I could go on. And I could have gone on eating all day.. yog3 But I probably needed to go and see what those darn kids were up to. While we’d been sampling yoghurt in the kitchen, there had been all kinds of noises from the room with the cushions in. There was a balloon modeller and face painter in there with them – and Nathan  – so what could be hyping the children up so?

yog4 Aha! Balloon weapons! Reuben and some other small boys had been equipped with functioning bow and arrows and were rampaging around shooting each other with them. Kudos to balloon modeller Suzi Banister for managing to fashion a working bow out of balloons though. All the balloon models were impressive, actually – Eva was very pleased with her butterfly:


It was “flying” in the picture so a bit blurry. Here’s a better one:


Suzi also produced a balloon Hulk which momentarily halted Roo’s balloon-battles. Only momentarily, though. Eva, on the other hand, was sitting mesmerised:


And then she and I had some more yoghurt:yog8

I liked the quirky décor of Maggie and Rose – there was detail everywhere, including the stools:


I was concerned about this particular piece though. As Reuben said, why would you keep a kitten in a cage?:

It was nearly time to go but first, Eva had some literacy practice to do:


Almost, Eva! Maybe Daddy can help:


Nailed it!

As we left, we were given our own EasiYo yoghurt maker, which was a nice surprise. I’d like to see how it works when a novice is trying it rather than an expert but I will report back….

Thanks to Maggie and Rose for having us and to EasiYo for hosting the brunch. All opinions remain honest and my own.


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Big Fish Little Fish Spooky Special – 18/10/15


Put your hands in the air! It’s the BFLF Halloween special, at the dark and cavernous Shapes in Hackney Wick. Of course, this being BFLF it was the middle of the afternoon when we went in and not remotely dark or spooky. Which made it all the more hilarious to see a trail of people dressed as ghosts and Frankensteins pushing buggies down the road all the way from the station. Some people had gone full committment to the spooky theme, which was impressive. I’m sad to sad we didn’t…but Reuben had his skeleton t-shirt on:



While we’re outside, let’s have a brief bit of love for this dinosaur:


“ROO”! Or possibly “Rooooar” but who’s being pedantic?

Anyway, let’s hurry on inside and get down to some dancin’. Unless Roo gets distracted by the playdough table:


This was a rare moment of stillness for one of our kids – they spent most of the time dashing about, fitting through gaps that their parents couldn’t. Bob, Not-Bob and Boby were in attendance but I didn’t see too much of them, thanks to the aforementioned crazy kids. I didn’t see much of Nathan either, if it comes to that.

Next stop after playdough was the craft table, where Roo and Eva made Halloweeny hats out of paper plates. Both would later lose their hats but amazingly, we found them and both plates made it home. Here’s Eva modelling hers:


She was enjoying herself, honest. She just didn’t like the camera flash. Are owls spooky, by the way? I figured some people would find them spooky…

A new feature of this rave was the Korg synthesizer workshop, tucked away at the back of the room. We had timed tickets so only a few children were in there at once, which was nice. They put on headphones and played on mini pianos, note bender and drum machines. I would have been happy playing in there myself, but Eva was hogging the headphones:



I think these ^^ were some kind of finger-drum-machine. I’m not sure but I think that was the gist. They were pretty cool. I also liked the notebender. I imagine that the BFLF are hoping to inspire the next generation of DJs, who will one day take over the whole business. Anyone up for Eva’s set in Hackney 2035? We’ll definitely have hoverboards by then, right?


Next up, Eva wanted to check out the play area with the traditional BFLF tunnels and tents. I sat down for a moment but as soon as I did she was off again. There were giant balloons on the dance floor and she wanted some of that action. She soon got distracted by slightly smaller balloons though, carrying a massive three of them about her tiny person (one in each hand, one between her knees). I managed to have a little dance while she was busy doing that but soon got co-opted into helping her protect her balloons from all the toddlers that wanted to share them.


Guard those balloons Eva! Later on, Reuben had a similar issue and solved it by writing his name on a balloon. Because toddlers can read, obviously.


At some point, Nathan and I swapped children. I think he was finding Reuben exhausting. So, I took him for a while and he showed me his brand new dance routine. Check it out here. You can learn it too! Meanwhile, Nathan had taken Eva out for a breath of fresh air in the buggy park and they were, along with some other parents and kids, practising a bit of stage diving.


Roo and I joined them for a game of keepy-uppy with Roo’s personalised balloon. Then we all went back in and something was different. The atmosphere had gone from “Bonnie Tyler video” to “1880s Whitechapel”. The smoke that had been gently swirling about was now not so gentle. This is the actual view from the dancefloor:


#nofilter. Just lots of smoke. I recreated it quite effectively while frying sausages for tea this evening. It certainly gave things a spooky feel but Roo and I both thought it might be overkill. It was only when I saw HannahBFLF frantically fanning the room with a fire door that I realised something wasn’t quite right. I later found out that an errant child had set the smoke machine to “permanent” and no-one quite knew how to turn it off again. Hilarious.


Eventually the fog began to clear, and the groovy lighting-up glasses of the DJs could be seen once more. I’m not sure who was DJing when but I was thrilled to hear that one of the DJs was Jude Rogers, former editor of (appropriately enough) “Smoke”. Now, I’m going to sound like a total stalker but I was big fan of “Smoke”, which was an infrequent London periodical in the mid 2000s. It even inspired LWAT’s 300th birthday trip out. I swear I even have a couple of issues in my bathroom right now. The stalky bit is this – when we moved to Kennington, we realised that MattSmoke lived on the same estate as us. Then we moved to East London and I spotted Jude on a parenting group. Now she turns up at BFLF? I’m sad not to have met her, but it’s probably a good thing, given how very creepy this whole paragraph is sounding.

Let’s move on. Parachute dance – hooray! And a rare shot of all four of us together, courtesy of Bob. Mmm, flattering:


The kids always love the parachute dance and it was helping to waft away the smoke too:


It was almost time to go but first, a trip to the hipster toilets:

Chipboard and marbles. I don’t get it but I think I’m probably too old to understand hipster interior toilet design. I’m OK with that.

The kids were melting down all over the place but Reuben enjoyed a quick go on the picture wall while we were gathering our stuff:


..and then they were pacified with a well-timed Happy Monkey smoothie on the way out. Hooray! Another successful afternoon’s raving, even if I didn’t get much dancing done. That’s what partying with kids is like…



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Highams Park Playground – 16/10/15


I’m a special kind of tired today. The kind of tired that you get when you go out for a rowdy curry night with the local mothers and then get up for the school run and then wait ages for coffee and then go to a playgroup in Liverpool Street and then do some blogging and then do another school run and then walk a mile or two with tired kids in tow to go and play in the brand new playground at the Highams Park. That’s how tired I am. And that’s the extent of my devotion to you, that instead of lying on the sofa, eating Pringles and watching “You’re Fired”, I’m reporting back to you on this self-same brand new playground so that you can ooh and aah and plan your fun weekend hanging out there. Also, I don’t have any Pringles.

Let’s get something yikky out of the way first – if you’ve been paying attention to local affairs, you’ll have heard about a worrying smell that’s emanating from the Highams Park lake at the moment. I regret to inform you that the rumours are true but there are two bits of good news – firstly, that it’s being dealt with tomorrow by some people with a machine and secondly, that you can’t smell it from the playground. At least, I couldn’t today. So, please don’t let that put you off.

Because, in many other ways , the park is looking quite lovely and autumnal right now:


And Eva in her new mac quite nicely blended in with her surroundings:



But onto the main event – the newly opened playground, which has had a total renovation in the last few weeks. Disappointingly, I don’t have a “before” picture (please get in touch if you do!) but it was a pretty tired looking affair, with a giant metal climbing frame, a rusting roundabout and not much else. And now? Well, it has a train:


A rocking horse that goes really fast (hence the blurriness of these pictures):

high4 high3


A new slide:


A new, accessible roundabout:


Two sets of swings and a toddler-sized climbing frame:


Enough to keep the kids busy, as you might imagine. The sky was getting ever darker and the threat of rain wasn’t far off, so I encouraged them to try out as many things as possible before we actually had to run for it. Which leads me neatly on to what this park is missing at the moment – somewhere to shelter from the rain. Specifically a cafe, which sells brightly coloured cakes and strong coffee and probably icy fruit drinks in the summer. Luckily, this is already under consideration and a proposal has been put forward, which you can have your say on right here. With a caffeine source on site, along with a set of toilets, we’d have lingered much longer. As it was, we stayed for an hour which is good going on a chilly October after-school outing…but I know I wasn’t the only one craving a cup of tea and a sit down by 5PM.

So, back to the stuff that’s actually in the park already. Roo was delighted to see that there’s now a zipwire and I failed to get any photos of him on it because it’s outside the playground and, slack mother that I am, I didn’t follow him when he ran off to use it. He also enjoyed the obstacle course, which is outside the playground as well. The bits within the fenced off area are more geared towards smaller ones – the climbing frame is a bit too easy even for Eva – but both of them are happy with any space to play in, and Reuben amused himself by going down the slide in a variety of awkward poses and trying to catch the wind in his umbrella to make the roundabout take off and fly us home (sadly, it didn’t work. We had to walk). A favourite of them both were these rainbow bongos:


I’m guessing you’re meant to hit them, rather than stand on them but they took Eva’s weight just fine. And Reuben’s umbrella again came in useful, as an improvised drum stick:


It also got a sound out of these giant chimes, which seemed to be curiously lacking a beater:


But mainly, the umbrella was for jumping off stuff and trying to fly, a la John from Peter Pan:

high8 high9

I’m glad I packed that umbrella, even if it didn’t actually rain.

Eva’s favourite things were the brightly coloured mushrooms, and she insisted on me taking a picture of her on each one. I probably shouldn’t indulge this kind of vanity, but I’m a soft touch when it comes to cute pictures of my kids:




So, I’d say that the new playground is a hit with the kids and the trip was pretty much a success. (Ohgoodgriefletsnottalkaboutthedinnertimebathtimeandbedtimethatfollowed). I’d encourage all local HPers to go along and take a look and support the park and don’t forget to fill in the forms for the cafe consultation either. Mama needs caffeine….



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GIVEAWAY!! Win Tickets to the Family Travel Show

shutterstock_184282520 (00000002)p Does anyone else struggle to find a holiday that’ll work for your family? I always leave it late, book somewhere in a hurry and we have an average-to-good time, sometimes in accommodation that’s average-to-bad. But you don’t have to be like me – the Family Travel Show is here to give you wonderful holiday inspiration and some exclusive deals. There will be lots of holiday companies exhibiting, interactive activities and talks from the likes of travel journalist Simon Calder and survival expert Benedict Allen.

It’s on at  Olympia on 31st Oct and 1st Nov. Tickets cost £8 in advance or £12 on the door, under 16s are free. For full details and to book tickets please visit or call 0844 209 7360. (Calls cost 10p per minute plus network extras). But we have a pair of tickets to GIVE AWAY! (don’t forget that kids go free, so 2 tickets will cover a whole family). Just fill in the form below, with a comment saying why you’d like to win, before Friday 23rd Oct and I’ll be announcing the winner in time for half term. Good luck!

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Why Can’t Britain Just be British?



I don’t know about you but I’ve been getting some mixed messages from the Tory Party Conference. First there’s Jeremy Hunt telling a meeting that cutting tax credits was all in the interests of creating an Asian-style working culture. Then Theresa May piped up with a charming little speech about how immigration makes it difficult to have a “cohesive society“. So, what is it, Tories? Do we want to integrate with other cultures or not?

I know where I stand. I’m all for a multi-cultural Britain – people of different nationalities, races and religions living and working together. All good. Immigration facilitates that. Still all fine. And drawing ideas and influences form other countries that might work well over here? Yup, that’s fine too. But what I do have a problem with is this wholesale lifting from other cultures and trying to somehow pin it onto Britain. An Asian-style working culture? Oh yes, that’s what we’ve been missing all this time. And where exactly do we get one of these cultures? Can we order it online? Maybe grow it in a petri dish? Or just make people work harder for less money until we feel that box is ticked?

There are so many issues tied up with this but mostly I just find it sad. Britain is constantly acting like that girl at school who doesn’t have her own sense of style so just copies other people’s all the time. You know the kind of thing – the most popular girl in the class gets a new bag, the next day this other girl has the exact same one. It’s the constant trying to be someone else that I find pathetic. I mean, I’ve spent my whole life trying to be Julie Andrews but I’m no closer to marrying Christopher Plummer so at least I know how pathetic I am. Yet, when it comes to Britain we are receiving these constant messages that we need to be a different country entirely.  So much of it revolves around our children and education – they’re meant to be free-range like the Finns but yet hothoused like the Chinese and at the same time eating like the French. I’m confused and I’m sure they are too.

The hothousing of children is really the key to all this – if we want an “Asian-style working culture”, there are so many things that go with it. The pressurized education system, the oppression of the masses, the censorship of the media. To use an aptly multi-cultural metaphor, it’s like ordering the crispy duck but asking for no pancakes. Or hoi sin sauce. Or those really thin bits of cucumber. You’ll get the duck but you won’t be able to roll it up and pop it in your mouth and quite frankly, it might taste a bit rubbish. Without the hoi sin sauce, you’re going to notice all that deep-fried fattiness a lot more.

Duck, ducks…I had a point somewhere. YES! It was that saying “we’d like your working culture but without the human rights violations please” is like that metaphor. Flabby and a bit rubbish.  That’s why borrowing huge lumps of culture from other people just doesn’t work. Let’s not even mention the Dutch (and believe me when I say, I actually typed “duck” there before I corrected it).  It’s square pegs in round holes, jazz rhythms in worship songs, Latin grammar rules on the English language…oh wait. Scrub the last one. If you want your country to display the kind of “culture” experience by the repressed masses of China, then you’re going to have to remove all kinds of human rights as well. And I don’t for a second believe that our government would want to infringe on their citizens’ human…oh wait again. That bit needs scrubbing too. The Latin, the human rights and the duck. Why doesn’t this keyboard have a delete key?

The ever-present argument for doing this kind of cultural copyright theft is that it’ll make Britain better. Great once more. A world leader etc etc and that too is something I take issue with. We’re not the kind of country that’s best at things. We’re about as mediocre as it gets – our weather is mediocre, our food is mediocre, our general demeanour is one of restraint, our national drink is bland and our national anthem even blander. We’re a mid league-r. We’ve produced some excellent music, but it’s balanced out by how very shocking our sports teams often are. If Britain was a schoolchild, its report would show some strengths, some weaknesses but overall, kinda average across the board. And unlike Michael Gove, I know how averages work.

We’re just not cut out to be Great. I know we had that empire once but even then it didn’t really suit us. We lacked the natural authority to keep it under control and kinda panicked and had to kill whole races of indigenous people just so we could stick our flag in their hostile soil. As conquerors we did a patchy job at best. As agreeable, appeasing, happy-to-help-but-with-no-real-power world leaders we do OK. Being the beta male of the EU suits us and the sooner we admit that, the better.

So no, I don’t want an Asian-style working culture. Or an American one unless it comes with the kind of money that’ll fund an American-style therapy habit. I just want Britain to look at itself and go “yeah, you’re OK how you are”. Not “we need to kick all these immigrants out and go back to being the White Britain that we never really were in the first place”. I’m not saying “Britain should be British” in a UKIP kind of way. Hell no. And neither am I saying that the country doesn’t have problems – we have many, starting with that government of ours. But I am saying that stealing other people’s cultures is not the way to improve our own. We should just be happy with this C Plus country. With an extra star for effort.

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