London Fields and Hackney City Farm

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I’m writing this after a weekend of torrential downpours and intermittent drizzle, (though apparently quite localised because we got some funny looks turning up to church in wellies and coats). If you too have experienced the July showers you may be struggling to remember that 48 hours ago we were in the grip of glorious summer and on Friday Eva and I were heading to that most summery of destinations – Hackney. We were there to see our friend Bob and her baby Boby but first there was the important matter of naming all the colours on the fence of the playground:

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“Yeyyow, Wed, Boo, Geen!” said Eva. Once or twice. It’s a long, long fence they have there in London Fields, and a surprisingly big playground. We haven’t had a good play there since Roo was a 2-year-old and East London was being overrun by the EDL. Now, the 2-year-old was Eva and the EDL have largely fallen out of fashion with fascists in favour of Farage. So, it was time to revisit:

2014-07-04 09.27.58There were a couple of slides, which Eva climbed up onto and then decided were “too big” to go down. There was a natural play area:

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And the slide that you can watch the trains from – a bonus for any toddler.

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But it was time to go and show Boby some animals, so we walked through the park, avoiding the super-fast cyclists on the way and passed another play area:

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We didn’t stop and play because we were headed for Hackney City Farm, at the other end of Broadway Market.  I’d promised Eva some animals and she would get some. And Boby too, although she’s a little young to know all the words to “Old McDonald”.

We’ve been to a few city farms and are always keen to visit new ones. This was more the size of Vauxhall than Newham but still had donkeys, sheep and chickens in it, as well as some very large pigs, who were enjoying the sunshine and a roll around in the mud.

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Eva enjoyed pointing at the sheep and saying “baa” to them but was sad that the donkeys didn’t come close enough to stroke (or maybe I was sad…I don’t remember). She liked the “chicken babies” in the small animals shed and thought the guinea pigs were hilarious for some reason. It wasn’t huge, so you couldn’t spend very long there but it was nice to let our city girls get in touch with nature. Although farm-bred Bob said “it’s not a proper farm cause it’s got no cows.” So now you know…

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We’d planned to eat at the cafe, which was nice and roomy, but the mains looked to be around a tenner, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend. So we headed back up Broadway Market and found a lovely little cafe which made fresh smoothies and played the Wonder Stuff. They happily rustled up beans on toast for Eva and welcomed Boby, although there wasn’t a baby change for her (you forget just how often these babies need changing). I think it was called Caffe Villa D’avaeria but I might be wrong. Anyway, it was relatively cheap and very friendly and did some good sandwiches and salads.

Then onto the last Hackney-shaped treat of the day – back to London Fields for a paddle. The queue to the Lido itself was huge, so I’m glad we weren’t going there but we stopped off for a coffee at “Hoxton Beach”. Me and Bob had probably notched up around 8 hours’ sleep between us the night before, so we needed it. Besides, if I’m trying to gain some Hackney-hipster cred, supping a cappuccino in the paddling pool is the way to do it, right? Sadly I can’t quite pull off the bikinis that the other hipster mums were sporting, which would lead to some soggy dress issues later. But I’m skipping ahead.

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I was mostly relieved that the paddling pool was open. A post on a local parenting group the day before had suggested it was “closed at the moment” but a quick look at the sign revealed that it was closed on Mondays and Thursdays, so clearly the person involved had just picked an unlucky day. It was very much open, even if the cattle-grid just inside the gates was not conducive to pushing a buggy across. It helped to go at a kind of diagonal, but mainly it was just a matter of getting stuck and having the hipster mums laugh at you.It’s the price you pay for a paddle.

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And what a nice paddle. I love a bit of water play on a hot day, and Eva was very pleased to put on her flowery wetsuit and “wower hat” to do a bit of “splish splash”. A word of warning though – the depth of the pool changes quite dramatically and you can’t tell from the surface. It was around my ankles at one corner and up to my knees at the other corner. This was a problem in a few ways – firstly that I got my dress wet and secondly that Eva broke free from my grip when it was at her knee height and wandered off to the deeper part. I followed her but before I could grab her again she slipped over and couldn’t get her head back above water. Luckily, I was there to scoop her out and she didn’t seem too bothered (she was mostly concerned about her hat being wet) but if I’d been sitting on the side assuming it was all the same depth, there might have been trouble. And yes, I’m well versed on secondary drowning, so I kept a close eye on here for the rest of the day just in case. It’s been 48 hours and she seems OK…

Don’t let thoughts of drowning ruin what was a perfectly lovely afternoon – it’s just good to remember that paddling pools can get deeper without warning. Eva recovered very quickly from her unexpected dip and was keen to get back in and carry on playing.  Boby also dipped her baby toes in but looked fairly unimpressed. Just as unimpressed as Eva was when I made her get changed to go and pick up Reuben from school. I’m glad we got to enjoy some sunshine before the rain kicked in cause that might just be our lot for the summer…

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Posted in Token attempts at fresh air (parks) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Octowinner Announced!

Octonauts image

It was a grey and cloudy afternoon under the ocean in a school playground when LWAT visited Octonauts to the launch bay…we have a winner!

Before we announce it, a quick word from our sponsor, Mr K. Kitten:

“Ahoy, LWAT readers! Make sure you come and see us at Octonauts live! Unless you get totally distracted by some kind of sea-creature related emergency, which you’ve decided to go off and solve all by yourself while your colleagues are still sitting around talking. That’s the pirate way. Although the pirate way seems to involve getting rescued a lot by those same colleagues because you’ve done something reckless. Yeow!”

Thanks Kwazii, and now for the winner. It’s….

Lesley Shrosbee! Congratulations Lesley!!


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Friday I’m In…formative

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Hello lovely readers and a quick post to let you know about some things. User-ful things, as Reuben would say.

Firstly, there’s only a few more hours left to enter the Octonauts Live! giveaway…I’m really excited about the whole thing and hope you will be too. One family ticket to be won for anywhere in country…as long as the show’s going there, of course. If you live in Giggleswick you might be out of luck.

I’ll draw the winner tomorrow, using the ever user-ful, but not sure when because I’ll busy launching the…London With a Toddler Roadshow! You heard that right – this blog is going on the road. It’s a fairly short road, or series of roads, and it’s mainly just the road we live on but still I’m sure there will be crazy tourbus antics (mental note: get a tourbus). It starts tomorrow, at Roo’s school fete and then next week we’re at Highams Park Day. The stall consists of a largely untested play map of London,  partially made by my uncraft-y hands out of toothpaste and stuff. No, really. The map looks rough around the edges but it sure smells fresh. Here’s the work in progress:

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And here’s the almost finished product:

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Come down to Highams Park Day at Vincent Green on Saturday 12th July to have a play and help us rebuild London from the concrete up. With lots of sandpits.

Finally, let’s think ahead a bit. To September, when the summer holidays will be over and Reuben will be safely despatched to Year 1 (I feel both happy and terrified by that). On 13th September, TWO exciting things are happening – one in our old ‘hood, one in our new.

Kennington first and it’s a family fun day at the Oval. If you’ve ever wanted to stride across that hallowed green, this is a good chance to do it and have some fun too. It’s free entry and they’re raising money for St Thomas’ Hospital, where both my kids were born. Look, here’s Reuben at a day old:


I look both young and very tired. I’m now old and very tired. Anyway, it’s a great cause (Tommy’s includes the Evelina Children’s Hospital, where Roo’s BFF was hanging out at the same time as that photo was taken) and you should support it.

On the same day is the 3rd ever Stow Festival up in Walthamstow Town Square (outside the Mall). We went there in 2012 and this year I’ll be singing in it, with the Walthamstow Acoustic Massive Choir. Both exciting and very scary. Come and watch!

That’s the news for today. Watch out tomorrow for the Octo-winner and an exciting post about some pigs in Hackney.


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The Gruffalo’s Birthday – 28/06/14

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As you probably know, we often have days out which sound great in my mind but turn out a bit rubbish…it’s the parenting way. Children throw tantrums, babies have messy accidents and everyone is kinda relieved when we get back home. But every now and then, you have a day which sounds a bit lame and turns out much better than expected. I’m pleased to report that yesterday was one of those days.

It was all a last-minute plan, following hot on the heels of a cancelled BBQ. Axel Scheffler – of Pip and the ZogTiddffalo fame – was doing a signing in the new Foyles flagship (next door to the old one) and I would take Roo. Just Roo, for a whole load of reasons but the main one being that I didn’t think it would be very rewarding for Eva. In my experience, signings tend to involve long queues and a 10-second audience with the author or artist in question before being booted out onto the street. Not the best toddler activity. So, she stayed home with Nathan and me and Roo picked a very long route around Soho in an attempt to get from TCR tube to Charing Cross Rd (damn you Crossrail!)

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And guess what? The signing wasn’t like that at all. Yes, we had to queue for a bit, because Mr Scheffler is a popular chap, but not for too long and when we got to the front, he took the time to draw Reuben a bespoke dragon picture. As requested by Roo, the dragon is reading a book about dragons:

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So, that was nice but the real bonus of the day was getting invited to the Gruffalo’s birthday party on the 6th floor afterwards, which I’d thought was sold out. We happily accepted and spent a bit of time wandering around the new store while the Gruffalo got himself ready. In the music department, we found a tiny section of a piano (muted), which shows you how it works:

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And in the cafe on the 5th floor, we found not only the toilets but also a big shiny thing:

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Then it was time to go to the party and up there we got another unexpected bonus- two Kennington families that I hadn’t seen since we left. It was turning into that kind of day, or maybe some kind of surreal dream. So I had some people to gossip with, while Reuben practised playing Musical Statues. The Gruffalo was held up in traffic, according the exuberant party hostess. So, the kids practising dancing and freezing and getting more and more hyped up until finally…he appeared. And he was rubbish at Musical Statues, which Reuben is still giggling about today. It was lots of fun, and dancing with the Gruffalo was definitely the highlight of Roo’s day.

2014-06-28 11.25.05The Gruffalo also enjoyed a slice of his birthday cake (he’s 15 you know…):

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And there was a photo opportunity, which I totally screwed up. Look at this effort. I mean, just look at it:

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Still, Roo got to hug the Gruffalo and also got his free goody bag, with activity book and balloon. See what I mean about unexpected bonuses? I probably should have taken Eva after all…

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

I’m Bored

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That won’t surprise anyone who knows me. After all, I get bored easily. But I’m bored of something specific right now – and that’s tabloid articles about breastfeeding. The latest effort comes – unsurprisingly  – from the Daily Mail, about a mother who was asked to move tables in a restaurant while she was breastfeeding because a party of schoolkids were coming in. The reactions were fairly predictable – outrage on breastfeeding groups, bile on the DM website – but everyone seemed a little lacklustre. Even the fiercest boob-haters on the DM were expressing boredom more than venom. I always fear for my soul when I start agreeing with Daily Mail readers but “Oh no, not another one” was the first thought in my head as well as theirs. For slightly different reasons, I imagine.

This did seem like a bit of a non-story. In the article, there’s no hint that the staff were rude or aggressive. Their crime was simply to offer her a table in the corner, near the toilets. Not in the toilets, just to the side, away from the 130 schoolchildren about to rampage through. Let’s break this down for a second.

Anyone here have a schoolchild? Do they generally carry about with them an air of serenity? No? How do you think 130 of them would be when they’re all overexcited cause they’re out on a school trip? Peaceful and calming? At the risk of sounding sexist, whenever I’ve seen a schoolgirl and a baby in the same room, one of them has wanted to carry the other one off and play with all its teeny tiny toesies. You can work out which one’s which. None of it sounds conducive to a peaceful feed and if it had been me, a quiet corner to feed in would have been welcome.

I guess that’s why I’m bored of breastfeeding stories in the news. They whip non-stories into hysteria and rally up both sides of the breastfeeding “debate” while the Web Manager sits back and happily counts the clicks and the ad money. In the crudest possible terms – and this really is quite crude for me – tits mean hits for a tabloid and it doesn’t matter what format they come in, whether it’s page 3 or the hint of a nipple in a nursing top. It sells papers and sends website stats through the roof. I’m as guilty as anyone of clicking onto these “stories”.

And they really aren’t stories. Indulge me with a comparison for a minute. Imagine you were in a restaurant and your baby’s nappy needs changing. So, you go to the loos to be told by a member of staff  “Sorry, we’re about to close these loos for cleaning – could you use the ones on the other side of the restaurant?”. It would be mildly inconvenient and at worst annoying but you know what it wouldn’t be? News.  Why? Because nappy changing has slipped into the national consciousness as something so perfectly normal that no-one is interested in it. Some are disgusted by seeing it in public. Some are relieved they don’t have to do it themselves. But it doesn’t make headlines.

That’s why I don’t believe breastfeeding has a place in the news headlines. In the media – yes. Let’s see more breastfed babies in children’s books (a rare bit of kudos to “Topsy and Tim” on that one). Let’s see breastfeeding storylines in the soaps because aren’t they meant to mirror real life? You have no idea how much I’m smirking as I wrote that last bit, but point is there should be storylines about tongue tie and trouble latching on and all those unglamorous breastfeeding struggles. There’s a place for breastfeeding in the glossy magazines – a nice feeding shot in the latest “Harry and Jodie welcome little HRH Ferrari Charles Edward Gucci to the Royal Family, albeit illegitimately” photo shoot.  Or a Grazia feature on fashionable nursing tops (Good luck with that one!) There should be babies feeding in the crowds at Wimbledon and at the Olympics and Ascot and all those places were babies do, presumably, get fed but it’s never shown on TV. There are so many places where breastfeeding could be presented in a positive and normal light, which these sensationalist stories and nurse-ins just don’t.

At its most extreme, media hysteria can lead to situations like the one blogged about on this week, which I was in the middle of debating when the DM article was posted. In that post, a store manager was being confronted by a breastfeeding mother who wanted to feed on the shop floor rather than the feeding room and was angry that there was no designated area in public. It’s divided breastfeeding advocates and is fodder for Daily Mail readers but at its heart this story isn’t about breastfeeding – it’s about one woman wanting to be an arse and using lactation as the tool to do that.

Of course it’s terrible that people are still getting asked to leave cafes for breastfeeding. But the genuine injustices are becoming lost in a sea of perceived offences. I remember an incident on Mumsnet where a cafe was reported to have abused a breastfeeding mother. It was named and shamed, with the local mothers organising a boycott until….the cafe owner appeared on the thread, flustered and confused. She was a breastfeeding mother herself, had been there at the time of the “incident” and knew nothing about it. It suddenly seemed that the story may not have been entirely truthful. Mumsnet HQ took it offline and recorded an open verdict, but there was almost certainly some damage done to that lady’s business. I’m a big supporter of small businesses, especially toddler-friendly cafes, and a social media outcry can destroy them in a matter of hours. On a local parenting board recently, another small cafe was denounced as being non child-friendly and I was pretty prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt but the anecdotes kept pouring in, from unrelated people who had all had bad experiences at the same place. Was it true? Yes, probably – I didn’t get the best vibe when I almost went there with Tammy and our assorted small children. But it just shows how quickly a group of customers can strike a cafe off their list of places to go. What the Daily Mail never reports back on is the state of a business after it’s run its expose.

Yes, if you’ve been treated badly for any reason, you should complain. I complained to a supermarket yesterday about a misleading price point and I’m confident that some vouchers or maybe some sandwiches will be falling through my letterbox soon. If you’re breastfeeding in a chain store or restaurant, and they upset you in some way, your first call should be to Head Office, not the Daily Mail. See if you can get invited in to re-educate their Store Managers on the Equality Act. If it’s a small business, go straight to the owner (you can find the details on Companies House). Any decent small business owner will be happy to make it up to you in some way and promise change for the future. Those that don’t are probably worthy of a boycott, but those would be the exceptions rather than the norm. Change is more likely to come from co-operation rather than media confrontation.

To put it simply, here’s what I believe:

1) Normalising breastfeeding should be the end goal.

2) Breastfeeding in the news does not normalise it – it sensationalises it

3) Getting the Daily Mail involved in any situation doesn’t tend to help. They supported Hitler – and look how things turned out for him.

Just to end by saying, there are positive stories out there – the Canadian barista who told off a customer for tutting at a breastfeeder and then gave a breastfeeder a free drink. It’s nice to hear these kind of stories, but they still put the fear into any breastfeeding mother that she might get tutted at. Wouldn’t it be nice to get to a point where that just didn’t happen? Rather, we seem to be headed towards a culture where waiters and shop assistants are scared to even approach a breastfeeding woman for fear of somehow breaking the law. I’d imagine that the Canadian mother was grateful for the free coffee but it wouldn’t surprise me if she’d snapped at him  – “What are you doing offering me something with caffeine in? Don’t you know that’ll go straight through my milk and keep my baby up all night? And is that dairy in that? Don’t you know I’m lactose intolerant?” And then the Canadian version of the Daily Mail would swoop in with a headline about “Barista Attempts to Poison Breastfeeding Mother”…which would complement today’s headline (“Restaurant Suggests Better Table for Breastfeeding Mother”) quite nicely.

Let’s not go that way. It would be rubbish. Let’s instead sign up to a pledge of not being an arse. Not harassing breastfeeding mothers if you’re a manager. Not harassing  managers if you’re a breastfeeding mother. It’s the kind of pledge that’s seen me through both retail management and breastfeeding without ever once having to perfect my “sadface” for the DM camera crews. Is it really so hard?

Posted in Rants | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Competition Time! Sound the Octoalert!

Octonauts image

Oh yes oh yes oh yes…It’s a very exciting competition coming right atcha. Fancy winning a family ticket to Octonauts Live? Of course you do! And I have one to give away. Enter by filling in the form below anytime before midnight on Friday 4th July and I will draw one lucky winner on Saturday 5th.  It can be used at any of the venues around the country (list below) so for once I’m not discriminating against the outer-dwellers.

So, enter now! Form is below! But first a little info about what the show entails:

“In Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure the entire crew of the Octonauts, led by intrepid explorer Captain Barnacles, Lieutenant Kwazii and Medic Peso, embark on an exciting new underwater quest and visit amazing underwater worlds full of adventure, with surprises around every corner. This action-packed interactive show features new music (from BAFTA-award winning composer Mani Svavarsson) and all the Octonauts live on stage for the very first time”

Wanna go? Fill in this form (tour dates are below the form. Oh yes, it’s info overload in this post…)

Tour dates:


Thurs 16 at 4 pm

Fri 17 at 1 & 4 pm

Sat 18 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm

Sun 19 at 10 & 1 pm



Tues 21 & Wed 22 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 25 & Sun 26 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 29 & Thurs 30 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Sat 1 & Sun 2 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 5 & Thurs 6 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 8 & Sun 9 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 12 & Thurs 13 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 15 at 4 pm

Sun 16 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 19 & Thurs 20 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 22 at 1 & 4 pm

Sun 22 at 10 am & 1 pm





Sat 24 at 1 & 4 pm

Sun 25 at 10 am & 1 pm



Wed 28 & Thurs 29 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 31 & Sun 1 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 4 & Thurs 5 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 7 & Sun 8 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 11 & Thurs 12 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 14 & Sun 15 at 1 & 4 pm



Wed 18 & Thurs 19 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 21 & Sun 22 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 11 & Thurs 12 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 28 & Sun 1 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 4 & Thurs 5 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 7 & Sun 8 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 11 & Thurs 12 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 14 & Sun 15 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Tues 17 & Wed 18 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 21 & Sun 22 at 10 am, 1 & 4 pm



Wed 1 & Thurs 2 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 4 at 1 & 4 pm

Sun 5 at 10 am & 1 pm



Wed 8 & Thurs 9 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 11 at 1 & 4 pm

Sun 12 at 10 am & 1 pm



Wed 15 at 4.30 pm

Thurs 16 at 1 & 4.30 pm



Sat 18 & Sun 19 at 10.30 am & 1.30 pm



Sat 25 at 1 & 4 pm

Sun 26 at 10 am & 1 pm



Wed 29 & Thurs 30 at 1 & 4 pm



Sat 2 at 1 & 4 pm

Sun 3 at 10 am & 1 pm



Wed 3 & Thurs 4 at 1 & 4.30 pm



Wed 17 & Thurs 18 at 1 & 4 pm

Posted in Facts! And facts are important! | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Some Exciting Things Happening This Week

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You heard that right – there are some exciting things happening this week. It’s late and I’m tired, so forgive me if I skim..

Firstly, the City of London Festival started this week and is running till 17th July. There’s lots on for kids, staged inside a giant bowler hat in Paternoster Square, including the puppet show “Dogs Don’t do Ballet“. They are also liberally scattering guitars around the Square Mile if you’re proficient in the three chords of “Wheels on the Bus”

Secondly, there’s a rare public appearance from one of the titans of preschool literature – Axel Scheffler. The “Gruffalo” illustrator will be signing books in the childrens’ department  of Foyles from 10-11 on 28th June. No need to book but I’m guessing it will be busy so turn up early!

Lastly, there’s an equally rare public appearance from uke’n'banj group the Hoe Street Ramblers at the Chingford Village Fete on 28th June. A musical treat not to be missed!

Public service duties done….bed now?

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A Serious Post For Once

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This is a tough post to write.Firstly because it’s a sensitive topic that I know near to nothing about and I don’t want to stamp all over it with my half-baked opinions. Secondly because it’s so far out of the remit of this blog, which is generally more about sandpits and playgrounds….although it starts in a playground. Thirdly because it is just a tough subject and it hurts my heart a bit to think that I may need to deal with this in less than a decade as my small children turn into small teens. So, where to begin?

I guess in the playground, which was a leafy park in Chingford. The play equipment was a little old and well-worn but perfectly usable and nice enough except for one ugly feature – the graffiti everywhere. And I mean everywhere – there were entire essays written on the slides, which may be the only essays the writers have completed lately, given that the local teens seemed more interested in hanging out on the swings than going to school. Now, I’m not one to get hung up on graffiti itself- yeah, it’s annoying but it’s generally harmless. It’s just what teenagers do. Who can honestly say that they passed their teenage years without ever scratching “I <3 Damon Albarn” into a school desk (and then going back a week later and replacing it with “I <3 Alex James”)? I don’t know if I ever did that exact thing, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Teens just feel the need to express themselves on whatever surface is handy, don’t they?

And in this instance it was the slides. But it wasn’t the graffiti itself that shocked me – it was the content. Vile, graphic and targeted, it repeatedly made assertions about three girls – using their full names – and how they were “fat slags”, friendless and ugly. Not just once. Many, many different places around the park these same three names were abused and threatened. Why those girls? Who knows? Maybe they didn’t have the right hair cuts or the right accents. Maybe they refused to sleep with someone and he took his revenge with a permanant marker. Whatever the reason, these three girls are being horrifically bullied. They might not even know it yet – they might be happily oblivious to the bile being poured out against them – but they are being bullied.

This kind of graffiti is nothing new – benches in the 80s often boasted mottos like “Michelle Fowler is a total whore” – but there is a new and threatening element to it, thanks to social media. I’m a great fan of the internet and all the opportunities it gives me and my kids that we just wouldn’t have had twenty years ago. But it’s dangerous too. All I needed was these girls’ full names to find their Facebook profiles, Youtube channels and pictures. I’m quite adept at this kind of thing but if I hadn’t been, one piece of graffiti helpfully gave the Instagram and Snapchat handles for one of them.

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I’m aware I’m being a hypocrite here. Because of the blog, it’s easy to find pictures of my kids online and I haven’t yet figured out how we handle that transition once they have an opinion on that. But there are some key differences. The first is that I believe no-one has any malicious intent towards my kids right now.  I haven’t even pissed off any dangerous cults lately. The second is that yes, strange people can find pictures of my kids but what could they actually do with them? That’s a whole other debate, but fact remains that if any weirdo tried to contact my children via the internet they would have to come through me first.

Which leads me to my actual point (just felt the need to head off any potential hypocrisy accusations first). The girls involved are being bullied – we’ve established that. And the internet allows anyone who wants to join in on this bullying to find them and torment them in a far less public way. In other words, if you hate someone enough to write sexually explicit fiction about them on a slide, you definitely hate them enough to set up an anonymous account and cyber-bully them. That’s my suspicion and sure enough, when I did my own piece of cyber-stalking, I found that a girl’s Youtube channel bedecked with abusive comments from a user who seemed to do little else on Youtube. That’s just the public side – who knows what happens in PMs?

The consequences of this are mortally serious. I’ve been following the Izzy Dix campaign on Facebook, which seeks to close down the networking site where users can comment on people’s profiles anonymously. With the need to use their own identity removed, bullies feel empowered to ramp up the abuse to the point where the victim takes their own life. That’s what happened to Izzy Dix, at the age of 14, and it’s becoming a more and more frequent occurrence. When I saw a piece of graffiti saying “E…. X should just kill herself” I felt sick. Because it can happen. A potent combination of teenage angst, hormones and relentless torment suddenly leaves few options. Few ways out.

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So – in the words of Reuben – I’ve got something to say. To the bullies first. When I read stories like Izzy’s, I’m always left wondering one thing. How did the bullies feel when they finally pushed their victim over the edge? You’d assume the initial feeling on hearing the news would be guilt, shame or crushing regret but thinking hard about it, I’m pretty sure the first reaction would be fear. An all-consuming, terrifying, selfish fear that someone will somehow find out that YOU did it. Thoughts of jail will flash through your mind, followed by the prospect of a loveless life worked in crappy jobs because everyone knows what you did. It may not happen. Many bullies still manage to come out on top and bully people their entire lives – that’s the best you can hope for, really. But think for a second what that black pit of fear might feel like.

Right now, you’re pretty sure it makes you look cool – maybe even some kind of hacker-type, with your threatening messages and your mysterious profile pictures. But even now, people are starting to be less impressed by you. You might have even persuaded someone to go on a date with you because you abuse the same person that they abuse. That won’t last. The older you get, the more pathetic it seems to get your kicks from tormenting others. A 30-year-old bully doesn’t impress girls. A 30-year-old woman bitching about other women will find herself devoid of any meaningful friendships. That’s quite something to look forward to.

And now to those three girls – or anyone who might be reading this and be in a similar position. It does end, eventually. Honest. When you’re 13 it feels like there is nothing in your future but more of the same but honestly, if I could do just one piece of time travel it would be to go back to 1994 and have a short, sweet chat with that younger version of myself. Because if I’d known then that I only had three years to endure before I met the love of my life, I think it would have been a breeze. School will end. You may never ever have to see these people again. You can block them on Facebook, you can delete accounts. You can live without the internet entirely. You can avoid the playgrounds where they scrawl things about you. You can let their words graze you, not cut you. Because – as discussed above – bullies  have nothing but lonely misery to look forward to. They tell you you’re fat – you’re not. They say you have no friends – I’m pretty sure that’s not true and even if it was, would you really want the kind of friends that they have? Nasty, shallow, backstabbing friends? You have talents, you have futures, you have hope. It’s nuts that a seemingly random number generator defines who gets to be in “in-crowd” in school and who doesn’t – it’s not always the best-looking people and it’s certainly not the cleverest. It’s just the people that life has arbitrarily assigned to be “popular”. It’s all as pointless and shallow as it sounds. And it somehow all matters less once you do your GCSEs.

So, that’s my ill thought-out, clumsy opinion. It probably won’t be read by anyone who needs to read it because it’s nothing to do with London or toddlers but if it makes one person feel better about themselves, it’s worth the 1500 words of drivel I’ve spouted. And now to put a call in to the graffiti-removal people….

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Posted in Rants | Tagged | 4 Comments

The Rabbit Hole – 18/06/14

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I’ve had my eye on the Rabbit Hole for a few weeks now.  A play cafe opening in East London. .. It needed to be investigated. It was a bit tricky organising people to go with me and the sunshine was most distracting but eventually I assembled a panel of mothers – almost alphabetically called F, G, J, K  and L to give it a go.

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Initial impressions were good. .. me and Eva were the first ones in there and so she thought she had the run of the place – a ball pool,  an enclosed baby area, a play kitchen – but it soon filled up and Eva had to do some of that sharing she’s so good at (particularly sought after among the toddlers was the giant teapot)
If I have one regret in life, it’s Eva’s outfit.  I mean, who wears an owl jumper and deer shorts to a rabbit cafe?  It wouldn’t have been so bad,  but she has a full rabbit-themed outfit that she wore just the day before (t shirt,  shorts and tights). But I’ve learnt.  Never again will I let her go “full rabbit” the day before visiting a place called “The Rabbit Hole”. Phew,  I’m glad I’ve got that out..

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Outfits aside, I had few regrets as I enjoyed my tensies (cappuccino and croissant, only part mangled by toddler) and Eva entertained herself.  More people arrived,  tensies slid into lunchtime and I was getting peckish again. Now,  they don’t have an extensive lunch menu at the moment but a) they are bringing out a new menu soon,  under the guidance of a Mexican chef (if I heard that right) and b) they were willing to go off – menu a bit to provide F with a cheese and tomato bagel. I had the nachos with salsa, guacamole and jalapeños,  which were nice,  and Eva had a croissant of her own.  She also had a baba juice – a very reasonably priced sippy cup of part juice,  part water.

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You can see there are still bits they’re working out, as with any new business but things are running relatively smoothly and there’s a lovely atmosphere.  The owner’s daughter was playing alongside the other toddlers and it was obvious that they had really thought about what children need.  The only improvement I would suggest is to get a kid seat for the toilet (Eva was keen to do a wee and so she perched. .. But given we’re not actually potty training yet, it’s a minor concern).

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It treads a delicate balance between cafe and play space – it’s easy to linger in there for three hours (as we did) but I was conscious that it’s a business and so we needed to buy a fair bit between us if we wanted to keep lingering. Which is obviously not a problem but I can see how people might take advantage of the lovely space and the welcoming attitude of the owners and neglect to actually buy anything.  So I’m telling you LWAT readers…. Don’t do that!  Support independent business by eating cake.  I’m happy to demonstrate this model for you if you’re unclear. ..(And I’m kinda lusting after one of those jam jars full of still lemonade that L had. ..)

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I’d hope it goes without saying that my heart remains with The Dish and the Spoon but with such different geographical areas I’m pretty sure it’s OK to like both.  The Rabbit Hole is slightly different from some of the other cafes we’ve been to in that it stocks clothes as well, so is kinda a shop/cafe/playspace which also hosts baby sensory classes and led craft sessions.  It’s in a bit of an odd area – not quite Stratford, not quite Forest Gate but I think it’ll work to their advantage because there isn’t a lot else around there to compete with. I was amused to see an adult shop called “Pirate Shop” – were they aiming for “Private Shop” or is it aimed at the niche mariner-fetishist who enjoys dressing in skimpy nurse outfits? That really is what you’d call a destination shop. Arrr.

And, just for Nathan I have to point out that the cafe is almost next door to the Cart and Houses pub, aka “The Birthplace of Iron Maiden”

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Now that’s really something for the dads…

VERDICT: A welcome addition to a bleak bit of East London. Be prepared to hang out for a while – toddlers are not easily extracted from the ball pool.

More details here (official site)

Posted in Cake and the finest wines known to humanity (eating out) | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

In The Night Garden Live

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I must admit I was a bit nervous about this…my Macca-Pacca-obsessed toddler performed an abrupt about-turn sometime in March and decided she no longer liked “Night Garden” and would only watch “Sarah and Duck”. When I say “sometime in March”, I mean the day before we moved house. She was keen to remove our only secret weapon (25min episodes on DVD) and instead demand hundreds of 5-minute episodes on our soon-to-disappear iPlayer. So I was a bit worried that she might not enjoy “In the Night Garden Live” and might get bored, along with her brother who dismissed the show as “baby stuff”.

I didn’t need to worry. As soon as we reached the end of Entertainment Avenue at the O2, she got very excited at the sight of the giant haa-hoos:

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“Yook! Haa-hoos!” she cried out, which was echoed by lots of other small voices all through the O2. Even babies who seemed too young to speak managed a kind of “aa-oo” when they saw these giant balloon-y friends just outside the showdome:

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Meanwhile, Nathan was more excited about the wall of Marshall amps:

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Incidentally, if you’re wondering how to find this bit of the O2 you may find – as we did – that there aren’t any signs at the main entrance. Don’t worry – turn right and pretty soon you’ll spot this fella:

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Who will guide you towards the showdome, along with his gardeny friends. Also, if you’re wondering, there are both toilets and buggy parking facilities inside the dome. Because these are important considerations when going anywhere with small kids.

So, let’s skip forward a bit and we’re seated right at the back (Reuben’s choice, but a good one given that it’s the only bit with back support. Eeee….I’m getting old). The stage is set, the dome is full of overexcited 2-year-olds and a disembodied Derek Jacobi issues frequent warnings that the show is about to start, all in character. I liked “Oh dear, somebody’s not in their seat. Who’s not in their seat?” and “5 minutes to go. Come on Upsy Daisy, finish your song”. It set the scene nicely and both kids were pretty excited.

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There was no flash photography allowed, so the photos are a little dark..although with an arena full of toddlers with glowy things, you’d think a camera flash would be the least of the cast’s worries.

Then…it began! The children cheered as they spotted Iggle Piggle peeping onto the stage and then  it all went dark for the usual introduction….”The night is black, And the stars are bright, And the sea is dark and deep…” and at this point, I have a shameful confession to make. I may have shed a little tear. It’s that bit where Iggle Piggle lies down to sleep and finds himself in a kind of paradise..I’ve always found it a bit poignant. Luckily I’m not the only person to have made such a logical leap. And my sister for one will always cry at reunions so it’s really not just me, is it?

Phew, OK. Glad we’ve got that out of the way. Night Garden never stays poignant for very long – before you know it, it’s full of brightly coloured characters stumbling around doing funny things. The live show is no different. Each character was introduced in turn and had their own  little segment – Iggle Piggle did his song, and encouraged the children to join in. I was most suprised when Roo jumped up and started doing the dance like it hadn’t been three years since he’d done it. Then it was Macca Pacca’s turn, then Upsy Daisy, then then the Pontipines and finally the Tombliboos. Throughout it all, the characters interacted, went on the ninky-nonk together and formed some kind of loose storyline around Iggle Piggle losing his blanket (I would say he’s particularly careless, but I’m forever retrieving Eva’s lost dollies from pavements and other places…) As you’d expect from Night Garden, the plot cohesion isn’t the main draw – it’s all about the reassuring familiarity of the toddlers’ favourite characters, all hugging and dancing and working together to find the blanket. As shows go, it was a very comforting experience. It’s much like the TV show – something about it makes you feel nostalgic for your own childhood, even though it was made in 2007. It’s the music and the BBC-accent narration that could both have come straight out of the 1970s. In a good way.

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But to get back to the live show – it was very well done. The stage management was slick and impressive. ITNG can’t be the easiest show to stage – the characters change size depending on the perspective and who they’re standing next to. They got around this by having a team of green-clad stage hands who operated puppets alongside full-size versions of the characters. So, Macca Pacca appeared first as an adult-size person, but then switched to a puppet when walking past Iggle Piggle (and they really nailed his walk as well). The bigger characters also turn up as puppets when they need to walk over bridges etc. It’s all very well done and the stage hands are pretty unobtrusive, allowing you to just focus on what the characters are doing.

Amazingly, Eva did focus most of the way through. She sat still, watching and occasionally commenting “Is Upsy Daisy!” or “Yook, birds!”. Roo got a bit lethargic halfway through – I don’t think the plot had enough dinosaurs in it for him. But a 5-year-old boy is so not the target audience for this show – he was just tagging along. What’s weirder is that Nathan and I both got a little sleepy too. It was warm and dark in there but I think it’s more to do with the strong bedtime associations ITNG has for all of us. It seemed bizarre to get outside and realise it was only lunchtime. The finale was, as you’d expect, all the characters dancing together by the carousel and Roo leapt up to do the dance too, just as he always did in front of the telly as a toddler. Awww, that took us back. He said he enjoyed it and Eva did too – it was certainly a little bit magical and she was enthralled by it. There was a chance to meet the characters afterwards, but there were long queues and so we skipped that and went back outside to the freshish air of the O2 arena. I hoped Eva would sleep after all those characters telling her it was time to go to bed but no…she wanted a run around instead. Look how tiny she seems compared to the O2:

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On the way out, we stopped at the Innovation Station, some kind of free Nissan-sponsored exhibition with lots of buttons to press. Reuben enjoyed driving a racing car on a PS3:

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Though he sadly seems to have inherited the family driving skills (fast but inaccurate). He also liked designing his own car on a touchscreen, doing the Nissan quiz and recording a short video clip for the video wall:

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..which I’m pretty sure they won’t use because it was just him talking about dinosaurs. There were also games to play, a photo booth and real cars to climb inside.

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Eva liked having her photo taken, but she wasn’t so sure about the rest. It seemed entirely devoid of Tombliboos and so didn’t live up to her expectations of the day.

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But it was pretty fun, and a good way to spend 45 minutes or so if you’re ever hanging around the O2. You can even try beating my stunning record on the reaction-time tester (30 in 60 seconds….I never said co-ordination was my strong point).

In the Night Garden Live is on at the O2 until 14th June and then it moves to Richmond. Book here! And yes, in case you were wondering she has started watching the DVDs again since we saw it live…


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