Kidzmania – 02/11/14

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After I returned from Kidzmania last Sunday, I popped to Tesco where I bumped into a friend. She’d been to A&E…and still thought she’d had the better deal when I told her where I’d been. Kidzmania is well-named – it is entirely manic. But it’s not all bad, it’s just a busy softplay on a Sunday afternoon, which some would consider the 7th circle of Hell.

Before I go on though, let me tell you how I got there. It was Boby’s christening. We’d arrived in customary fashion. bursting through the doors a few minutes into the service (apparently, other churches start on time). Afterwards we’d adjourned to a trendy Hackney pub and we were starving. Even after church snacks and cake, we were still in need of some actual food. The prices were suitably trendy, but with a selection of bar snacks we reckoned we could get enough food without breaking the bank.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. After we’d paid for the bar snacks, the barman came over and told us that there’d been a mistake – our only options were the roasts, which came in at a hefty £17. So, we took a look at the whinging, chip-demanding kids and chose the option that offered the best value – the refund. And that’s how we came to dine at the Village Cafe, opposite Hackney Downs station.

Unlike other places in Hackney, the Village Cafe is neither pretentious nor overpriced. That same £17 bought us chicken nuggets and chips for Roo, a cheeseburger for Nathan and sausage and chips for us two ladies. It’s not gourmet, but it was filling and the cafe owner was super-friendly and even picked Eva up for a cuddle. Suitably fuelled, Nathan headed home to pack up his comics ahead of the decorator coming in the next day and I was left with the two kids in Hackney, who were whiney and in need of a runaround.

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Kidzmania it was then! We hopped on a probably unnecessary bus and wandered down a road which didn’t look like it would house a soft play…but there it was. It was crazily busy, and closing in an hour and a half for a party, but that was fine as the time slots are only an hour and a half anyway. Trust me, it was enough.

For Roo’s size, Kidzmania is perfect. Not so big that I ever lost sight of him for long, but challenging enough that he didn’t get bored. And there was a bouncy castle, which always goes down well. In fact, there were two bouncy castles, so there was one for Eva’s size. There was also a toddler area, with playhouses and a ball pool and that would have been just right for Eva if she hadn’t insisted on climbing up the big frame all by herself…and getting stuck.

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I often think that softplays ought to have emergency adult access hatches. There are few things more humiliating than having to squeeze your 33-year-old self plus massive handbag through the obstacles of a soft play frame to rescue your toddler from the middle of a rope bridge. So, I mainly just stuck to following her around the outside, encouraging her to edge her cautious way across. One time, I spotted Reuben helping her over some of the bigger blocks and down some steps. It was very sweet, but I was very glad when she came back in to land and decided to play in the ball pool instead.

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She was also wearing a giant dress, post-Christening. That probably didn’t help.

So, it was busy and noisy but which softplay isn’t? The food looked nice but, given how manic it was, I’m glad we’d already eaten. It’s fairly local so I’m sure we’ll go again…but I might try to keep Eva grounded to save my nerves…

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Posted in Token attempts at exercise (leisure centres) | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Q Pootle 5 – Pootle All the Way

QP5 Christmas special DVD cover (flat)

It’s our favourite time of the year! Well, actually it’s not – it’s still Bonfire Night, but thanks to a sneak preview of the Q Pootle 5 Christmas special, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

This 27-minute episode sees a special guest arrive on Planet Okidoki and it’s not a spoiler to say who it is…I think you can work it out from the DVD cover. And if you couldn’t, you could work it out from Reuben’s panicked review: “Oh no! Q Pootle and Santa are in trouble!”

Yes kids, there’s peril in this. Santa’s rocket-powered sleigh is malfunctioning and it’s up to our alien friends to rescue him…while also preparing  their Christmas show. I won’t tell you what happens, but of course it ends happily. It is Christmas, after all. The longer length works well, allowing a fuller story than the normal episodes. Q Pootle is always a bit cinematic in scale and it’s nice to see its potential fulfilled.

Naturally, the children both enjoyed the episode. Reuben and I took the quiz afterwards (you’ll find it in the DVD booklet ) and scored a respectable 4/6. Then we did the Okidoki karaoke and watched the “Making of”, which revealed that the planet’s landscape is based on California and that one of the voices is done by Captain Sinker of “Swashbuckle”.

The Christmas special is out on DVD on Monday 17th November and includes a free poster. Happy almost-Christmas!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of “Pootle All the Way” in exchange for the review. All opinions remain honest and my own.

Posted in Reviewing the Situation | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Some Fun Things to Do this Month

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November is a bit of a dull month, isn’t it? It’s kinda the void before Christmas where you have to make your own fun, whether that’s growing a moustache or finding new and exciting places to throw up (Ah, the heady Novembers of ’08 and’11). But obviously, it’s the month for fireworks as well, and LBC have kindly compiled a list of the best displays to go to.  We were planning on going to Walthamstow tonight, but a combination of cough and funny tummy from Eva have somewhat put a dampener on that. And a dampener on some other objects around the house too, but you don’t need to know about those. Anyway, we may still make it to the Coram’s Fields display, which was much fun in previous years – it’s on this Friday at 5.

What else to do once the whizz-bangs have faded though? Well, you could pop to Camden on Sunday for the EDFSS’ Family Barn Dance. Some of you might think that me plugging this is the most literal form of nepotism possible but it looks fun, so you should check it out. You remember how to dosey-do from school, right?

And for any of my readers in the Midlands, I’ve had word of a very exciting event happening on 28th November at the National Space Centre in Leicester. It’s a Q Pootle 5 day! Q Pootle himself will be making an appearance, alongside creator Nick Butterworth and there will be lots of space-themed fun.

Of course, THE event of the month is me and Bob jumping into a cold pond. Don’t forget to sponsor us!

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Chris and Pui Roadshow – A Guest Post


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Maria of Maria Made It. LWAT takes no responsibility for her opinions or her schoolgirl crush on CJ or indeed her copyright-infringing use of “big winky face”. Enjoy!

Hello, I’m Maria, standing in for Kate who was too busy/too important/too disorganised (delete as appropriate) to get tickets… ;) You will probably recognise my children from various other of Kate’s posts.

On Wednesday we jumped in the car and drove the short distance, that seemed to take a ridiculously long time from East Dulwich to Catford to see the much anticipated Chris and Pui Roadshow.  Maybe we should have followed Kate’s lead and gone by public transport because we then had the problem of parking, in Catford, on a weekday, in the rain.

Once safely installed in our seats, on the second row, the excitement began to build and we realised that just like last year, we had made the mistake of not bringing our toys, oops.  The show started with Chris asking us all to say, “Hoooowwww do you dooooo?” to our neighbours, “just like they do in Dulwich” which is right Chris, that is exactly how we talk (big winky face ;) ) and then he asked us to turn to the other side and say, “aye up!”  Which is, according to Chris, how they talk in Catford, I can’t comment on that…

The show then continued with the usual set of “Show me, Show me” characters and an extravaganza of nursery rhymes, tenuous links and jokes for the mums and dads.  We all loved it, even my husband was laughing out loud at the jokes.  I thought Thomas was going to burst during Old MacDonald’s hunt for the piglets which got the entire audience yelling their heads off, spotting the escaped little piggies, which were all eventually found and the last one went weeeeee all the way home and yes you guessed it, we got wet!

After the mayhem, was a calming interlude of “Twinkle Twinkle”, before ramping back up with some groovy moves.  Then there was what should have been a clever trick with a paintbrush, but due to operator error (first Chris, then Pui..) it didn’t quite go as planned but Chris managed to masterfully tweak something and sort it out, I am sure no one noticed, and if they did, it added to the charm.

Speaking of charm, I am sure I am not the only one who rather enjoyed Chris’ renditions of “Leaning on the Lamppost” and “Singing in the Rain” fab ukulele playing too Chris!


After the show, we hung around for 10 minutes to see if there would be a meet and greet like last year.  No one seemed to know and only a few families waited.  We were rewarded with signed postcards and colouring sheets and a photo opportunity.  If you are going to one of the other shows, you should certainly wait to meet them, they are lovely!  I told Chris and a Pui that I would be writing this blog, so I do hope they read it, and that they like it!  We bought ourselves a copy of the new CD too which is handy because our last one has gone a bit squeaky from over use, we listened to most of it on the way home, yes it took us that long!

So, if you/your little ones love “Show me, show me” you are all sure to love the roadshow.  You can find out about the next dates and tickets at and get yourself a CD too, enjoy!

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Springfield Park – 28/10/14

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Like all the best plans, this one was a spontaneous one. I’d spent the morning wrestling with a utility company that I won’t name but they’re the one that use one of my favourite ever songs in their adverts….how very dare they? So, once work hours were done, Roo and I needed to get out. Or at least far away from the phone before I did some serious damage to either myself or the wall.  Our friend Mrs Rabitt (not her real name) had suggested a trip to a park I’d never been to before and had never heard of. It sounded right up my street (or to be more precise, right up a street that I’d never heard of before) so we set off with the most cursory of glances at Google maps and a meeting point that was some kind of ice rink.

Plans have been planned better. Google maps doesn’t work well in the middle of Walthamstow Marshes.  The ice rink was completely the wrong direction. We made a new plan, to meet in a cafe in this park I’d never been to before, which was somewhere up the road from a station I’d only briefly been to before…and somehow it all worked out. We met in a cafe. We had tea and cake. We sat outside, enjoying yet another sunny day and a view of the rolling hills of the Lea Valley. Spontaneous plans rock.

(Actually, the bit which was most difficult, confusing and time confusing was getting the tea and cake in the cafe. I emerged with mango juice, popcorn, cake, a child that was not my own and a cup of tea that had no milk. Mrs Rabitt procured the milk from somewhere but I have no idea how she did it)

Cafe issues aside, it was a very pleasant spot to sit while and relax while Reuben and Rabittkin1 ran off into the bushes. Hold on a second, relax? While Reuben is “exploring”? That doesn’t sound likely. And no, it didn’t last long as I lost sight of him in the undergrowth and had to go and check that he wasn’t a) being kidnapped b)kidnapping anyone else or c) finding things that were best left in the bushes. Turns out that the only thing he and Rabbitkin1 found was a “lovely place”  on the other side – a lake with a fountain and ducks and geese pottering about. It was very lovely. The toilets were also on that side as well, which is always useful.

In case you’re wondering, Eva was at nursery. Spontaneous plans without a toddler rock.

We had to go and investigate the playground, which was at the bottom of the hill so Mrs Rabitt suggested taking the pretty, loopy route which wouldn’t involve any steep slopes for her buggy. That was indeed a reasonable thing to suggest but the older kids thought differently and were already escaping doing the hill…so we followed. There were a few steps but she’s a pro and wasn’t phased.

And just look how lovely the playground was!:

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Yet again, a glorious day for taking photos, even on my soft-focus “beauty shot” camera. It wasn’t warm exactly, even though Roo was in shorts and no coat, but it wasn’t too cold either. The kids all ran (or crawled) off to play in the sand and on the wooden pirate ship and we sat in the sunshine, only occasionally having to intervene and break up fights/dig up treasure etc.

It’s a huge and lovely park, with a nicely dramatic gradient and it’s right next to the Lea Valley Marina, for extra boat-spotting fun:

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I honestly had no idea that Clapton was so pretty. But then I knew very little about Clapton, aside from the fact that my children have to clap every time we got through it. They have something for every stop on the line. You don’t want to be near us when we’re passing through Woof Street or anytime they get denied some food at Snackney Downs.

But I digress! Such a nice park and I had no idea till today that it existed. Clapton is near Stoke Newington, apparently, and full of both trendy parents with Ergos and Orthodox Jews. See how much I’ve learnt in just one afternoon! I also figured out how to get back to the station after a nice walk along the towpath. I saw a couple of very exciting-looking Children’s Centres along the way, including one with a treehouse in the grounds and quite a few hipster cafes, with strong coffee and craft beer. It’s, as you’d expect from a look at the map, somewhere between Hackney and Stoke Newington but I couldn’t quite imagine how that would work. Somehow, though, it does. We’ll be back, Clapton!

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Posted in Token attempts at fresh air (parks) | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pirate Playhouse – 27/10/14

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The strangest thing has happened this half term – the sun is shining, the kids are being reasonably well-behaved and no-one has been sick since Friday night. Have we actually broken the half term curse that sees us sulking in quarantine in the rain? Probably not – we’re only two days in and there is loads and loads and loads of scope for things to go disastrously wrong yet. But still, two successful days out are in the bag and I’m gonna blog the heckatty out of them just in case we don’t get any more.

And I’m also gonna plug the heckatty out of my donation page for the Memorial Plunge. Read more here. And expect this link to be in every post between now and then:

But back to yesterday. It was gloriously sunny when we met T’sMum and T in Sainsburys (let’s not discuss why…but it involved toilets) and even though we’d planned soft play, it was ever so tempting to scrap that and go for a runaround in the sunshine instead. But no, Roo had already wheedled “soft play” out of me when asking about the day’s plans and he was a man that was not for the turning. So Pirate Playhouse it was. It’s signposted from the main road, but on the way you pass the Victorian splendour of the Haringey Climbing Centre:

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That’s one to remember for when Roo’s a bit older. I’m not sure my nerves can cope with the notion of my clumsy boy on a climbing wall just yet, especially when a sign outside warns of “risk of death”.

Perhaps sensing this, the first thing Roo did when we got inside was to shimmy straight up to the top of the very high structure:

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and then yell that he couldn’t get down.I wasn’t following him up, so he would just have to get himself down…and he did. Eva would later get stuck as well and I did have to go in and rescue her, but luckily it wasn’t quite so high up.

So, the playhouse didn’t have the most amazing reviews and it wasn’t the most polished but the kids had no complaints. They liked the pirate themed play equipment and the different levels to climb around. T’sMum and I liked the comfy chairs and the coffee – we picked a spot where we could see all three kids nearly all of the time. Eva’s only problem was that she wasn’t allowed to eat on the playframe – a rule which, sadly, she’s going to have to accept as pretty darn standard at softplay. But this girl was having none of it, and I eventually had to haul her out of the ball pit after she refused to surrender her sandwich. I’d say that was her problem more than anyone else’s – she’s unreasonable like that. And it’s not even the most unreasonable thing she done lately.

Before the sandwich-meltdown, all three had been playing quite happily and we spent almost two hours in there. But truly, it was a day to be outside and the glorious Clissold Park was just down the road. Last time we’d been there, it was fluctuating between drizzling and raining, so I was keen to see it in a better light.

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See, much nicer pictures this time. And just cause I’m super-generous, have another ten thousand of my kids playing in the playground:

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Of course, the downside of such an unseasonally sunny day was that every Annabella and her nanny was in the park at the same time, so I spent the entire time trying to keep an eye on both of mine at once. Helpfully, Reuben had removed his camouflage coat and was wearing a neon yellow t-shirt underneath:

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It is actually glowing in a slightly radioactive way there. Scary.

It was 2PM by now, or 3PM BST and my body was telling me it was way past lunchtime (I’d packed food for the kids as always but not for me). So, with T asleep and Eva and Roo bribed into submission with cake and ice cream, we sat down at the outdoor cafe on the edge of Clissold House. It was a nice toastie, and a nice view and would have been a nice ambience if it wasn’t for the caffeine-needing parents of N16 shouting at the smily servers for getting their coffee orders wrong. The kids sat down for as long as could be reasonably expected:

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Before running off and trying to trample the flowerbeds and climb the trees:

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Obviously I stopped them. Equally obviously, I took a photo first. There’s a lot of good running around space near the cafe and it is, in theory, possible to sit down and eat their leftover carrot cake while keeping an eye on them. But mine were too intent on permanent horticultural damage to be left for long and we took them back to the playground for a last runaround before hometime.

So, a lovely return trip to Clissold Park (not that the first trip wasn’t lovely, it was just a bit drizzly) and some soft play fun into the bargain. You can imagine how knackered the kids were by the end of the day but trust me, you don’t want to imagine that. It was ugly. So I’ll leave you with something pretty instead:

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Aw, a tree. Oh, and Eva too:

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But mainly, the tree. Pretty!




Posted in Creating precious childhood memories or something (days out) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



That Bob and I are doing something stupid.  This might not be news, but it’s all for a good cause – two good causes, in fact. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Well, we’re kinda super-sizing that and plunging into the icy depths of the Hampstead Heath Ladies’ Pond a month from today – November 22nd.

Why? Well, cancer has claimed the lives of two great men recently. One is Bang, the other Bob’s dad Nick. We’re doing this in their memory and the money raised is being split between Cancer Research UK and Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. As you’ve probably guessed, we need our support…but there are three things you can do to help:


Easy – it’s right here (


Share this post. Share the giving page. Follow @Memorialplunge on Twitter and retweet my watery ramblings. There’s so much you can do without even spending a penny or moving from your seat. You can even do this bit while watching “The Apprentice:You’re Fired”


Does the sound of a *very* refreshing swim appeal to you? Well, come along and join us. November 22nd, Hamsptead Heath Ladies’ Pond. Everyone welcome, as long as you’re a lady. If you don’t want to swim, you can come and spectate, cheer us on and hold the thermos…

Thank you all in advance. I have never done anything like this before, so please please please help us and stop me looking like a total fool There’ll be enough of that when the post-plunge photos come out – here’s a taster of a previous freshwater swim I’ve done, with some foolhardy friends. Mmm, brisk!


So, here’s that link again…just in case you missed it:



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Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Disclaimer: I received free press tickets for “Octonauts Live” in exchange for the review. All opinions remain honest and my own.

Posted in Reviewing the Situation | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

London With a Toddler – The Movie


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

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CBeebies “Peter Pan” – Our Awfully Big Adventure


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


Brilliant. Anyway, back to Manchester..

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



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


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


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


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


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

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


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

“It was funny and nice”.

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


My task involved faffing about taking arty pictures:


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

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


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


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

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

Posted in Creating precious childhood memories or something (days out) | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments