“The Snowman” Winner Announced


Happy Monday, World! I’ll keep this brief as I find it hard to blog with a bowl of cereal in one hand and kids demanding things by shouting in my ear…but, we have a winner for “The Snowman” comp. Congratulations to….


Enjoy the show – we’ll be in touch soon :)

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Competition time!! The Snowman at the Peacock Theatre


Like any girl who’s grown up on the Sadlers Wells’ series of books, I get excited at the very mention of those two words. So I was thrilled when I had an e-mail from them, asking me to run a competition for “The Snowman” – a contemporary dance version of the Raymond Briggs’ classic. It’s being staged at the Peacock Theatre, rather than “The Wells” itself but still…how exciting? So, here’s the lowdown:

We are giving away one family ticket (4 people, must include at least one child) for the 7pm show of “The Snowman” on Tuesday 29th November. Yes, I know that’s soon. I’ve had a lot on, OK?

To enter, just fill in the form below, with a message to say why you’d like to win,  and don’t forget to like and share on Facebook to let me know you’ve entered. Competition closes at midnight on Sunday 27th November and the winner will be announced and contacted first thing Monday morning. Good luck!!

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Reuben Writes to The American Police


In what might be a first for this blog, one of my children is providing the copy for this post. Partly because they’re readily available labour and I don’t need to pay them but also because this is something quite special.

It’s Reuben’s idea. It’s all his words. It’s a letter to the American Police, asking them to arrest Donald Trump. He may have embellished some aspects but there are some facts in there somewhere. I’ve been struggling to organise my own thoughts, post-election and I wrote something for the HuffPost but it was all a bit vague and helpless. I don’t know what to do in the face of such aggression and hatred.

Roo knows. He’s taken decisive action. He made his own envelope. And so, without further ado, here is his letter to the American Police (translation below):


“Dear American Police

Can you please arrest the eval (sic) Donald Trump. He plans to make a wall between Mexico and America to start a war. Also he is making a tunnel to ruin peoples homes*. Hes even telling people climate (change) is not real so no one recicles (sic). He truly is superkalusfragileegoestrabraggadocus** (it’s a silly word of words). He truly is evil. Go arrest him”

*I think this is referring to the Dakota Pipeline

**Ask Randy Rainbow about this bit

Well, I don’t know about you but it pretty much sums up how I feel. Now, he wants me to post it. Anyone know the mailing address for “American Police”? It needs to get there before January…


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London Without a Toddler – “Bits of Me are Falling Apart”


9th November was a very dark day for me. I don’t need to explain why but you’ll understand why I needed an antidote to the extreme right-wing lemons that life had just given us all. And who better to alleviate that depression than a left-wing anarchist? Or, to reuse my Facebook joke, left-wing EdmondAde.

Not that “Bits of Me are Falling Apart” is Adrian Edmondson’s most anarchic work – far from it. In fact his character. William. seems a middle-aged middle-of-the-roader in most respects. And in some ways, this show was also a touch depressing. But there’s much that is wonderful about seeing a comedy legend live in the flesh and every facial expression that he had a hint of Vivian about it filled me with joy.

The play is a one-man show currently running at the Soho Theatre where, co-incidentally, Edmondson’s daughter Beattie is about to appear too, with the Birthday Girls. It’s about William’s midlife crisis so I was surprised when we walked in and the set was adorned with colourful children’s toys, suspended from the ceiling – there was even a whole Wendy House. The PA system was cheerfully playing something that I suspect was a “They Might be Giants” album. Was this definitely not a kids’ show? I had my doubts. I  even checked the tickets a few times to make sure we were in the right place because this didn’t seem like it was the setting for a 75-minute monologue on the grim realities of ageing. But it was. He walked on stage and it was very definitely Adrian Edmondson. Hence the hints-of-Vivian facial expressions.

William is a man in a rut. His relationship has broken up, he only sees his son sporadically and his body is – as the title suggests – slowly decaying. It would take a lot of talent to make this material funny and constantly interesting but of course it was. Not always uplifting – there were plenty of moments of drama and wistful reflection – but always engaging. There were diversionary anecdotes about the Norse, the life cycle of the cod, the D-Day landings and even a mention of Donald Trump, which elicited a nervous laugh from the still-raw audience.

The use of the props was interesting too – everything came into play at some point, with the Wendy House representing the spike in the housing market, a Beano used as a newspaper and a colourful vTech laptop as William’s work computer. There was even an analogy to do with arteries and balls of fat, portrayed by those spiky, light up plastic balls that work as playthings for both dogs and toddlers. He came back to them a few times, as a recurring metaphor on the state of his health.

Occasionally it all verges into the dour, but for the most part, William is just about likeable to sympathise with and there’s a lot here that will strike a chord with anyone who is feeling the inevitable creep of later life. The ending becomes more positive as William learns to break through a few of his own self-imposed barriers and I left the theatre feeling ever so slightly better about life. And on 9th Nov 2016 that’s quite an achievement.

“Bits of Me are Falling Apart” is on at the Soho Theatre until 3rd Dec. See here for tickets and more info.

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

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Comic-Con – 28/10/16


It’s been a while since I last went to a ComicCon and quite honestly, I didn’t really plan to go to this one. Nathan and the kids were going with some friends from church and I planned to finish work, hang out nearby and go home with them. Which meant I got to catch the DLR from this impressive-looking station front, instead of some covert-looking doorway at Bank:


But when I got to Custom House, there wasn’t a lot there. The way out of the station took me straight into the loading bay of the ExCeL, so I thought I might wander up to the door and see how much tickets were. That wander was more like an epic hike  - I was in sight of the next station along by the time I got there – so I gave up on turning around and just kinda paid and drifted in. Without ever intending to, I was at ComicCon. In workwear.

I might have stood out a little. Most other people there were wearing superhero outfits, catsuits or giant robot costumes. Once I’d found my family, lounging on beanbags in the kids’ area, I caught up on some of the people they’d met already. Here they are with the Avengers. I think Hawkeye was pleased that Roo was also dressed as Hawkeye.


Later on, Eva found her perfect place – in the middle of a pile of princesses:


I wasn’t sure how Eva would take to ComicCon, as I thought there would be more Judge Deaths, less Meridas. But it turned out there were plenty of both:

comc7 comc11

I also wasn’t sure what you do at ComicCon but there was a lot going on. Signings, with some Dr Whos of my childhood:


Live drawings, stalls full of toys, light sabre classes. And a lego table:


And obviously, the kind of geeky conic stuff that Nathan likes. I took Eva round the pinkest and fluffiest stalls while he and Roo went to the 2000AD stand. And then we all went for energising coffee and cake at the in-house Costa. ..it’s tiring work schlepping round the ExCeL. Did you know it’s massive? No wonder the length of it spans two DLR stations. And we definitely didn’t get to see everything – there was an inflatable wigwam that Eva reayyyyyey wanted to go to, but it was 5ish already and a long way home.


Turns out it’s even longer if you wander round Bishopsgate in a kind of post-ComicCon haze for a while and then end up at Nandos. I’m glad I went, especially as it meant Nathan wasn’t wandering around Liverpool Street with the kids on his own. But also cause it was more fun than I imagined it would be. So many people made an effort to dress up and there were some excellent costumes. Just don’t make me read any comics…


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“Kate in Oz” – The Kate & Mim-Mim Premiere – 22/10/16


London is a city of contrasts and it’s fair to say that Eva and I experienced two extremes today – a swanky Soho premiere in the morning and a romp around Epping Forest in the afternoon. Not that she wanted to leave the house at all. No, no. She had a green -pen picture to finish. It’s a miracle that I made it to our first appointment, and even more of a miracle that she was there with me. We hadn’t had the best start. Still, by the time we were on the tube she was all sweetness and light, and we got to Shaftesbury Avenue in time for the premiere of the Kate & Mim-Mim special – “Kate in Oz”.


Now, I hate to do the hipster “I was here first” thing but when it comes to Kate & Mim-Mim, we were early adopters. We reviewed it back in 2014, just before it launched on CBeebies. And today, I got to chat to Kay Benbow  - the controller of CBeebies – about what’s happened with the series since then. Turns out, it’s been a big hit and that’s led to the creation of a one-off special, based on “The Wizard of Oz”. As Kay said, it’s a show with a strong female lead which is something lacking in the kids’ TV world. It’s also about friendship, which is important and reassuring to young kids. Plus, it’s brightly coloured and fast paced and everything that chidlren loved.

We chatted about a few other things too, which I hope are On the Record. She gave me some advice on transitioning from Beebies to CBBC, something that I’ve so far been too scared to do. There are a few transitional kinda shows, like “Arthur” and “Operation Ouch”, which are aimed at the 7-10 end of the CBBC market and there’s a new show starting, called “Roy” which will be shown on both channels…so that might be a good one to help Roo transition. Sob. I can’t believe he’s coming to the end of his Beebies era.

But for now there’s plenty that he still likes on there. Kay and I discussed our mutual love for “Go-Jetters”,which apparently has also been a massive success and there’s new episodes coming. My kids are both hooked on it and want all the toys for Christmas. I have the theme song stuck in my head all the time…and it’s educational too.


At this point, Eva disappeared, having been playing with a large balloon moments earlier. Everyone was starting to go in to the screening, so in a slightly surreal twist the controller of CBeebies and I both had a search around for my child before the special episode started.


The episode was introduced by CatBeebies, who did some rabbity warm-up games before interviewing Kay and Tessa Moore of Freemantle Media about the special episode. We’d later get a photo with Cat, although this might not be the best photo of either her or Eva:


I was really pleased to add another CBeebies presenter to my collection though. Did I mention that Eva also got a hug from the giant purple rabbit himself? When asked later who’d she met, she fittingly quipped “Cat and Mim-Mim”. Genius.


And so to the episode itself. If I haven’t mentioned this before, I need to point out that Eva is incredibly easily spooked. She screams her head off at the mildest of peril and films that she has run out of include “Snow White”, “Secret Life of Pets” and “Angry Birds”. So it was not a surprise that the Wicked-Witch-of-the-West character (Violet, voiced by Cat Deeley) threw her into a terrified panic. But it really isn’t scary at all – Violet is very mildly evil, and her end game is to collect all the purple items in the land of Oz, not to hurt or kill anyone. And, of course, there’s resolution and redemption at the end so I’m glad I made her sit through it. She calmed down and enjoyed it after some initial squealing.

The plot is a pretty simplified version of the Oz classic – Kate find herself not in Mimiloo but at the end of a Yellow Brick Road. From there, she meets her usual friends playing the Good Witch, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. And yes, they all learn something about themselves along the way. It’s nicely done, with some funny nods to the original, and the technicolour world of Kate and Mim-Mim really suits the bright colours of Oz (the slippers are purple…of course). And it is definitely, definitely not scary.

But you can judge for yourself! It’s on CBeebies on Oct 29th, at 10:35. Something to look forward to at the end of half term. Funny Bunny Friend, it’s time to come to life again….


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Feel Good Extreme – 15/10/16


If you live in the Walthamstow area, you might have noticed a new leisure centre opening and you may even have discussed it on Facebook (which is as much as I’m saying on that subject). I had certainly noticed it so last weekend Roo and I went to check out the Extreme Play area. Why not Eva? Well, you’d better ask her. Let’s just say she wasn’t displaying the kind of behaviour that allows her to be seen in public.

Logistically, it would also be tricky for me to take both kids on my own – there’s one room for the under 6s and one for the over 6s  and the older kids have to be supervised up to age 8. So, there’s no way for one adult to take a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old and have them both play at the same time. Of course, it was the weekend so I could have enlisted Nathan but on a Saturday he doesn’t always display the kind of behaviour that makes me think he wants to go out in public.

Just me and Reuben then. I registered as a member online, which meant I could book the 90-minute play slot in advance. It was pretty full, so probably wise to do the same if you’re going on a Saturday. The over 6s area is the “Extreme Park”, which includes the trampolining park and a soft play frame. There’s also a ninja run, but that’s for over 13s only. In the same room there’s a climbing wall section, with 6ish different walls  - that needs to be booked separately as “Clip and Climb” as it’s not part of the Extreme Park. The under 6s bit is a different soft play frame, so if you’re booking for a smaller one it’s the “Soft Play” session on the website. Confused yet? Good

On the way there, we spotted this wall, which I imagine is a Wood Street Walls masterpiece:


Reuben observed that some of these shapes were symmetrical and some weren’t. Well observed, Roo. More excitingly, it seemed to have some kind of development going on in front of it….word on the street is it’s going to be a play area. On the corner of Brookscroft Rd and Northbank Rd – if anyone knows more, let me know!


Onto the centre itself. It’s all very shiny and new and there’s a big swimming pool with huge windows (again, there may have been some discussion on Facebook about this). We were super early for Roo’s play session so we went to Coffee Corner for a sandwich and a smoothie:


Then it was play time! We put on our compulsory Extreme trampolining socks (buy when you book…I didn’t have to buy myself a ticket but I did have to buy myself socks) and watched the 4 minute introductory film, which showed us a plethora of different ways you could break a bone while trampolining. Roo’s drama club friend A was cringing into her mum’s coat every time the “crack” noise happened and if my mum had been there, I might have done the same.

Luckily, he didn’t break any bones. But there was lots of trampolining. I even had a go, although I don’t quite have the endurance of a 7-year-old boy. I also wasn’t brave enough to jump off the wall sides, which Roo was. I’ve said it before, but an all-boingy environment suits him:


There was also the Extreme Play Zone, which was described on the website as “4 floors of obstacles and slides”. I’ll simplify that for you – it’s a soft play. But one that’s built on a bigger scale than the under 6s area next door. And one with a slightly creaky sounding slide. I tried my best to ignore that.


Roo had lots of fun but didn’t make it through the full 90 minutes. We left about 15 minutes before the end, which was good because we missed the rush at the cafe. After all that bouncing, the boy naturally needed a brownie and a slushie. But not, as he and I discussed, a brown slushie.


Then I’m not sure we were meant to do this but…we went for a quick run around the track. He’s studying Mo Farah for Black History Month, you see. That’s my excuse. He completed 100m in an impressive 76 seconds. A touch slower than Mo but I didn’t tell him that. I also wanted to see whether we could cut through Chestnut Field on the way back but the gate was locked and so we couldn’t.


Then we got screwed over by the 275, which didn’t stop at the Town Hall. But let’s not dwell on that. It was a lovely mother-boy afternoon out, made better by the absence of the whingey one. If you want to similarly abandon your younger child, have a look here for more info.


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Big Fish Little Fish at Museum of London Docklands – 08/10/16


Phew, that title was a bit of a mouthful. Yes, it’s BFLF time again and this time it was somewhere I’ve always wanted to go to but never got round to – Museum of London Docklands. It’s just kinda out of the way, but I’ve heard great things. So when BFLF invited us out there, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out the museum and have some BigFish fun at the same time.

It was also the perfect opportunity to find the secret entrance to the DLR part of Bank station. Last time I took the DLR, Eva and I walked miles to find the platform and Reuben wasn’t with us, despite me repeatedly yesterday that he was (“You remember, Reuben When we went to Mudchute. You remember!” He didn’t remember. Cause he wasn’t there.) So this time, I wanted to see if we could find it a little quicker. All kudos to this blog for helping me out.


It took us a little while to find it but there is indeed a secret entrance to the DLR on King William Street, right next to Starbucks. It’s a lift down to the Northern Line lobby, and it’s intended for customers with a disability or a pushchair, which makes you feel a tad guilty if you have neither. But I see myself as an trailblazer, cutting through the overgrown vines of the Square Mile to bring you new and improved step-free routes. So if you call this lift (and I believe there is an actual person who needs to send it up to you), you can descend to another set of lifts, which then take you to the top of the DLR escalator…and I think there is even a third lift for that part. Then once you’re on the DLR, the world is your step-free Oyster. We’d walked from Liverpool Street (the Central Line for one stop is just not even worth the hassle) so ta-da; step-free all the way from Highams Park to Westferry. You’re welcome.

The next challenge was to the find the museum from the DLR station, as it wasn’t immediately obvious. Luckily another family were looking equally clueless and we eavesdropped as they were given directions by a native. You basically follow the blue cycle path, circle round onto the main road and u-turn back on yourself by the cinema and this brings you out at the back of the museum. It sounds complicated but it was a 4 minute walk, according to Google. Go around the side of the big brown building and this is where it brings you out:


Entrance to the museum is on the left there.

So we’d successfully navigated Docklands. Win! There were also lockers to put all our coats, hats and spare clothes in  (we’ll come back to the spare clothes). Now for some partying. We had our usual BFLF arrangement of chasing a child each, though Nathan’s job was complicated this time by not having a child that slept through the whole thing.


This time he took Roo to the craft table and I took Eva to the dancefloor. Typically though, she was most interested in posing with her own shadow:


After a while, she asked to go to the Mudlarks children’s area, which is an interactive play gallery. There is pirate theme dressing up:




Water play:


Giant lego bricks (this is a superhero, apparently):


And a substantial soft play area, though this is only for under 5s so she was fine but Reuben wouldn’t be. I noticed a curtain that went round the whole thing so presumably you could mark it as off-bounds if a school group went in there. I don’t think Roo went to this bit at all, but there was a lot of stuff he would have liked in there even if he had to stay off the soft play frame. Possibly not worth the risk of meltdown though.


Soon, she was all tired out and needed a drink of water, which I mention only because of the beautiful water dispenser in the cafe:


There was lots more to do in the basement, so we went downstairs in search of a hula-hooping mermaid. When we found her, Eva declared that she had a “fake tail” because it was a pair of “swimming jeans with scales on”. Still, she had awesome hula-hopping  skills and she was ready to teach tiny mermaid wannabes:


That room also had a kaleidoscope screen, which Eva loved standing in front of. Look of the millions of Mummies and Evas!


As with everything that involves looking at herself, I had to drag her away. But there was one more room to investigate…and this one involved fluorescent paint!


At this point, I took off her newish white skirt…although we still ended up with paint everywhere. Even on her newish white coat, which at that moment was still in our locker. It may have had something to do with her fish.

Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of the fish…,but I can get one any time because she yuvved it so much she made me carry it home all the way back to HP.  She painted it reallly thickly with fluorescent paint, which looked good under the UV lights of the Under the Sea room but looked a bit brownish in the daylight. It didn’t dry for a long time. I’m not sure it’s dry now.

The idea was you painted a fish and stuck it on the wall, but you could also just paint on the wall as well. This is my handiwork:


Rave on!

The floor was covered in shredded paper, for messy play and there may have been a few children buried under the piles. I’m not sure. It was dark. Lots of fun though. So much fun that we missed the parachute dance, even though HannahBFLF came down to tell everyone about it. Reuben was disappointed when we went back upstairs, but hey – he was busy adding his own fluorescent fish to the wall.


We got upstairs just as the party was finishing – I barely got to do any dancing but that’s the way of things when you kids are old enough to know their own minds. As the lights went up, they were stubbornly making playdough shapes at the playdough table and we once again had to drag them away. Still, it was a great afternoon.

On the way back, we sat at the very back of the wizard train, looking out. I wouldn’t recommend it, as I felt distinctly sick going backwards into Bank station. The kids thought it was fun though. And it took Eva’s mind off trapping her fingers in the lift door at Westferry. Who says we don’t show them a good time?

The Museum was ace by the way – we’ll go back there another time when it’s a bit calmer. Though it won’t quite be the same without the hula hooping mermaid…


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British Museum – 25/09/16



It’s been a long time since we last visited the British Museum – while I loved the idea of it from E Nesbit books and half-remembered school trips, it never seemed like a very practical place to take small children. So many breakable things. So few interactive things. But Reuben has recently developed an interest in the Romans, so it seemed like a good time to re-visit. Plus, there was some kind of vague church connection with the book of Habbakuk (I think it might be something to do with the Babylonians) and that meant that someone else organised the post-church jaunt down to Bloomsbury. First off, we stopped for a play in the park in Bloomsbury Square:


I think I’ve been there before, while looking for book benches with Roo, but it’s a handy little place to know in an area not overly endowed with slides. The kids took some persuading to leave for the museum and, to be honest, it was a bit of a mission to get in. Traditionally we’ve always gone in through the Great Russell Street gate but this seemed to be Exit Only, with a sign pointing at another gate which had a barrier across it. So how could we get in?


The answer seemed to be to just keep walking round the museum – up past Russell Square and to the Montague Place entrance at the back. I imagine you’re actually supposed to go through that other gate at the front but it really was sealed off.  Maybe it was temporary, I don’t know, but security had definitely stepped up a bit. We had to queue and go through a tent, showing our bags to make sure we didn’t have – as the security guard said – any weapons of mass destruction, barring the small child. His words, not mine.

We got in fairly quickly but I was utterly disorientated. Not helped by my friend Dan asserting that the Babylonian room was one floor up from the floor we were on. Or three. It’s all good. We did find it, but our friends with the buggy probably wished we’d taken the lift.


First, we cut through that most famous room – the Mummies. Predictably, Eva yuvved the gold sparkliness of them. Equally predictably, there was a middle-class mother explaining to her children that the British Museum shouldn’t have the mummies because they belonged to Egypt. It was hot and crowded in there, so we moved on to Babylonia and looked at some bits of pottery and things. The British Museum really is quite hands-off, isn’t it?


Roo did start to get impatient after a while so we moved onto what he wanted to see  - the Romans. We spent quite a lot of time looking at pottery, jewellery and mosaics but again, it was hot and stuffy and the kids started whining very quickly.


Luckily, coffee was on hand. Here on the third floor, there is a generous-sized coffee lounge, which takes card payments (hooray!), serves soya milk (hooray!!) and has amazing cupcakes. We may have spent longer there than we did looking at the actual museum exhibits. I also had time for a quick game of CSI British Museum – how did this dent get into my coffee?


Answers on a postcard please. Preferably one with grubby 4-year-old fingerprints all over it.


Talking of postcard views, here’s the one over the balcony because, whatever else it is, there’s no denying that the British Museum is a bit of a looker.


This ceiling! I love this ceiling!

And these lovely sweepy staircases:


So it seems that our kids are still a little young to be looking and not touching in lots of similar-looking rooms. It’s an impressive collection but I would say that a short and sharp visit is best, and bookending it with snacks even better.

On the way home, we found this rather beautiful piece of mattress-disposal. Bloomsbury: flytipping with class.


Look and learn, Walthamstow!


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BerkoFest – 10/09/16


It’s Nathan’s birthday. Those of you who have seen the early morning wonders bestowed on him by our children will be surprised to learn that there was more to this day than a home made paper aeroplane (Eva) and a home made paper hat (Roo). Yes, it seems a man can desire more on his birthday than just half-arsed folded paper goods…and that’s why I took him to BerkFest. Him and the half-arsed paper folders, obviously.

BerkoFest has been running for a few years, in the Hertfordshire town of Berkhamsted but this is the first time we’ve been. The line up looked good, if a little disjointed as each of the headliners was a slightly different generation. There was Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls of the Wonder Stuff, beloved of early 90s indie and baggy kids. There was Britpop darlings Republica, who I guess I consider “my” era. Then there was James Walsh of Starsailor, who were more early 2000s and so a little past my ear – though I think Nathan went to see them once because a colleague was stalking a fan of the band.

It’s a small festival – you can tell it’s small because the parking is on the residential street just outside. There also weren’t signs to the fest from the main road, which I was surprised about. But we found it just fine and it’s certainly nice to have a hassle-free entry  - just park, and walk in. It was also, on this day, a particularly wet festival. I’d had an eye on the forecast all week and it never shifted off those double-raindrop clouds. So I went to the army surplus store yesterday and stocked up on family waterproofs, which I then managed to somehow present to Nathan as an extra gift this morning (a cagoule AND a paper hat – oh family, you are really spoiling me). Here’s Eva, weatherproofed and ready to go:


I won’t lie to you readers – we needed it. The rain did not stop all day. But the army surplus did its job and we survived the day undrenched. Hooray for forward planning!


When we got in, the Hackney Colliery Band were on the main stage and there were bubbles everywhere for the kids to chase. I would have liked to watch them but Reuben was keen to explore and only let us stay for one song before we had to go and see what was in the tent with the bunting. Turned out to be someone’s 40th birthday party. Huh, wasn’t expecting that. Luckily, a steward saw us looking a bit lost and shepherded us into the Hartbeeps tent just in time for the first Baby Rave of the day.


Roo might be a touch old for baby raving but the wigwam was dry and warm and we were happy to get stuck in. Plus, he has some immense moves. No-one has “Tommy Thumb Game” like the birthday boy though:


And you can guess who reayyey yuved the accessories:


It was fun and energetic, with pompoms, star jumps and singalongs. At one point we popped outside for a quick parachute game in the rain:


Then back inside for some chill out time, singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.  It finished when the drumming workshop started next door – you could say it finished because the drumming workshop next door started. So we transitioned to the drumming, still clutching our purple Hartbeeps goody bags (the kids liked the ducks but sadly, I think they’re probably not target market for the snacks in there. They get a bit sniffy about snacks with nutrients in).


Drumming was…fun! The guy with the whistle (from Umbanda Percussion Workshops) really loved his job. I saw him on and off all day, banging out those rhythms with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm, no matter how wet it was getting. The guy at the back – he was more restrained but he, like Baloo of the Jungle Book, was feeling the beat. I’m not sure if the neighbouring stallholders were feeling the beat too by the end of the day though.



As you’d expect, Reuben got really into the noise-making and even managed to get some of the drum patterns right when he decided to use his listening ears. Eva was a little more pathetic in his drumming but I think she enjoyed it too. As did Nathan and I!

Weirdly, it was still raining so we went to the beer tent for a coke and a mango juice, and listened to the sounds of a young man whose name I didn’t catch (feel free to tweet me if it’s you!). We chilled out for a bit, went in search of the loos, bought some lunch and came back to the beer tent. It was good to be out of the rain for a bit and we could still hear the main stage, where a band were doing the inevitable Bowie tribute (“All the Young Dudes”). At some point, both children tried and failed to splat a rat:


We still had an hour or so before Miles and Erica, so we dived into the SandyArt tent. The kids had done some sand art on the Isle of Wight, so they were practically pros. Reuben raced through his, filling his “Arsenal” footballer as quickly as he possibly could (don’t ask why he’s decided to be an Arsenal fan…we’re just waiting this phase out) but Eva, characteristically, was doing hers very very slowly and carefully. First, Ariel got a black outline:


Then a green tail:


Then her features, her skin and a stripy background….but all ever so slowly. She was doing it for a full hour. An hour! Even Roo probably burned up about 20 minutes doing it, and they were both really proud of what they’d made. Here’s Eva’s finished product:


I think it’s beautiful in its own way.

Eva was doing it for so long that I missed the start of Miles and Erica’s set – although nothing is very far away at BerkoFest so actually I could hear it from the SandyArt tent. Reuben and Nathan went down to watch while I hurried Eva along, filling in Ariel’s eyes ever so delicately with white sand.


But we made it to the front just at the right time. Announcing one of their “very old singles”, they played “Circlesquare”, whose lyrics I am very familiar with, thanks to my friend Claire scrawling them all over my A-Level English folder. We’ll put aside the issue of whether it’s acceptable to write song lyrics on someone else’s folder without their permission (it’s not) but I remain very fond of that song. Is that a smile that hangs beneath your nose?

The hits kept on coming – “Size of a Cow”, “Welcome to the Cheap Seats”, “Golden Green” and “Here Comes Everyone”. We were seriously wet by this point, but dancing to keep warm and shouting till our voices were hoarse. Along with the band, not at them you must understand. The kids were dancing too and there was even a sort of toddler moshpit at one point. Look how happy the birthday boy was:


But also how wet. Back to the beer tent for coffees and hot chocolates but when the kids spilt their hot chocolates for the fifth time, we moved to the relative quiet of the Swan Youth Centre Tent, where the kids lounged on the floor and ate snacks. It got less quiet once headliners The Visitors came onstage but Roo liked their rocking sound (this from the boy in the Black Sabbath t-shirt) and Eva just lay in my lap. I think we were nearing exhaustion. We stayed to listen to the inevitable Bowie tribute (“Moonage Daydream”) and then pulled out our final trump card – the sweetie stall.


We’d already given up hope of seeing James Walsh but we both really wanted to make it through Republica’s set so it seemed like a bag of pic and mix might be our only way of doing that. Sugared up and hyped up, we bounced along with Saffron as she sang old and new songs – the biggest cheer so far of the set was, predictably, “Drop Dead Gorgeous”.

Saffron seemed so pleased that such a lot of people had stayed to see their set, despite the rain and cold and we were pleased that she was pleased. Of course we remember Republica! I mentioned them to a friend and she nodded nostalgically and said “Mmm…#hairgoals”. You’ll be pleased to know that Saffron is still a #hairgoals icon:


Towards the end, Reuben needed to go to the loo so we nipped off and returned to the opening chords of “Ready to Go”. It was prophetic – we were back (from the portaloo) and we were ready to go (now that we’d heard the song we waiting for). I felt slightly bad for sneaking off before the very end of the set but hey, we didn’t want to get caught up in traffic getting out.

As we drove home, the sun came out and apparently it did so too at BerkoFest, just in time for James Walsh. Maybe we should have stayed but we’d pulled out all the stops with the kids and the next stop was meltdownville. Being a parent is often about knowing qhen to quit. Plus, we saw a rainbow over the Enfield reservoir as we drove home, which was a lovely end to the day.

Happy birthday Mr LWAT and thanks for having us BerkoFest!





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