Monday, 18 December 2017

Drumroll please for the big reveal...

So this weekend at least a month after we finalised all the details we finally told the boys about the special holiday we have planned for us all. The ski clothes have been bought, the airport taxi booked, passports checked and a few lightweight items picked to take with us as presents in case they feel they are missing out. My lovely friend sent the boys these colourful sunblock tubes so they can look cool on the slopes and I've kept everything hidden away for the big announcement.

I wanted to ensure that we had made a huge fuss about Blue Bear's birthday before I told them the exciting news. It's already tough having a birthday so close to Christmas, the last thing I wanted was for his day to be upstaged. On the day of his birthday party Blue Bear came running into our bedroom and in a high pitched squeal shouted, "It's snowing outside." I thought he was kidding until I opened the curtains and saw this:

"We can go outside and make snowballs he announced as he rolled imaginary snow between his palms. I reminded him that he had his party and that if it was still snowy he could make snowballs later. Hubbie and I looked at each other and I said, "Well he likes snow so that's a good start."

A week after his party I set up a trail of clues for the boys to help tell them what we had planned.

 We will get up early and get into a taxi...

The taxi will take us to the airport where we will get on a plane...

When we arrive at the place we are going to we will get on a coach that will take us up the mountain...

To a place where there is a lot of snow...

You will need these special clothes for our holiday...

They looked a bit baffled by it all if I'm honest. They tried on the clothes still not entirely sure what was going on. I tried to explain we'd be going skiing and they smiled, but still were none the wiser. I knew it had been a bit of a bust when later that day Blue Bear came home from an activity in town and sullenly told me, " I didn't go in a taxi, or a plane, or a bus up a mountain. I only went on the tram."  With a stamp of his foot and a jutting out lip he sat on the bottom stair staring at his shoes. "No it's not today sweety, we're going on a different day. Sorry I didn't explain that very well did I ?" Clearly not.

He has checked with me every day since then if it's today we are going and I have to explain that we are one day closer, but it's not today. I showed them both photos of our chalet hotel and some photos of the slopes. Blue has now taken to telling people he's going to "Snowland" and Brown Bear is delighted that he's going to get to eat breakfast at the airport. In fact today he asked me, "Who is going to cook our food Mummy ?" I explained that we have chalet hosts who will take care of us and prepare food for us. He wants to know in detail what there will be to eat - these things are important after all - and how close we are to his friend Henry who will be in France at the same time as us. Not close at all as it happens.

The big reveal wasn't quite the movie moment you see on those TV ads where the kids are excited to a degree that suggests they've been consuming industrial quantities of sugar. It was pretty muted and has taken a while to unfold as they have tried to make sense of what it going to happen. Brown Bear has told me he is looking forward to learning to ski, but his questions point to an anxiety about the unfamiliar. Blue Bear is facing all new things. His first ride in a taxi, first time on a plane, first holiday abroad and first time in a kids' club. If we keep him occupied thinking about how snowy it's going to be hopefully he won't worry about all the things he hasn't done before.

Now all I have to do is everything on my to do list. Wish me luck !

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Christmas theatre for children - it's not just panto.

There are a few things that are traditional for us at this time of year. I've always been a fan of Christmas shows and remember taking my very young sisters to see Christmas Cat and the Pudding Pirates - starring Christopher Lillicrap, remember him ? I would often go to watch the seasonal flick with my siblings and we have seen some proper shockers (Jingle All the Way anyone ?) as well as fab pantomimes. I love taking my boys to watch shows at Christmas. Of course seeing Santa in a grotto will always be a firm favourite, but it is something a bit special to go to the theatre too.

The Elves and the Shoemaker: Churchill Theatre Bromley

This week we are going to see the Elves and the Shoemaker at the Churchill Theatre which has been created in conjunction with their creative learning department and Quarter Too Ensemble. The story is one I remember from childhood, but I'm not sure it's performed that often. The poor Shoemakers find they have little left in their cupboard than the leather for one pair of shoes and go to bed tired and hungry. However as they sleep through the night, little do they know that some magical Elves have been watching and want to help. The tale of kindness and charity is brought to life in a show rich in music, song and a touch of silliness that will leave small and large alike, smiling. At around 50mins the show is ideal for a younger audience and the ticket price includes a snack and drink provided for the children. It is suggested that it is suitable for children aged 2 years+.

Tickets: From £10.00 (incl. childrens’ refreshments) For Snow White pantomime bookers, you can get 25% off your The Elves and The Shoemaker tickets. To take advantage of this offer please call box office on 020 3285 6000 or visit in person to book. At the time of writing all performances have sold out, but returns may become available.

Santa's Mixed Up Martian: Wimbledon Theatre 

Wimbledon Theatre will once again be home to Santa, Ellie and Rudolph as they return with the brand new festive show for pre-school children, Santa’s Mixed-up Martian, written and produced by the same team behind the hugely popular hugely popular Santa’s Dizzy Day, Santa’s Polka Dot Pirate and Santa’s Rusty Robot. The Santa shows have become a bit of a Christmas tradition in Wimbledon over the last few years and writer Iain Lauchlan says:
“I think it is really important for children to be introduced to theatre at a young age, and even more important that they have a wonderful experience. Really young children cannot be expected to sit still and quiet to watch a show such as a pantomime – that is why this show is designed to get them involved in the action. Not only that, they get to meet Santa and receive their first Christmas present of the year – what could be better at that age!”

My children are looking forward to seeing a show that incorporates all their favourite things; Father Christmas, space aliens and of course presents !! Wimbledon Theatre is a lovely venue with a rich history and is very accessible by public transport so we will take the tram and relax rather than sitting in traffic and getting Mummy all stressed.

You can book tickets for this fabulous new show which is on from Tuesday 12 until Sunday 24 December 2017 by calling the box office on 0844 871 7646 or visiting the website at:

Disclosure: The lovely folks at the Churchill Theatre and Wimbledon Theatre have offered us complimentary tickets to see these fab shows. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

Christmas books worth going to bed early for

Since I first heard about the idea of having a Christmas Eve box I've done them for the boys. It varies from year to year but there is always a seasonal book inside. It's something they can read in preparation for the big day and gives them a reason to go to bed nice and early. Well that's the theory anyway. Often Brown Bear just stays up reading his book over and over hoping to catch a glimpse of Father Christmas. 

Little Tiger publishing sent us some lovely books to review - just in time for Christmas. They are so beautifully illustrated and would be great as gifts. These are all softback versions of popular Christmas titles that have been reissued for the festive season. 

The nicest thing about reading a book with children is the active participation. We have read to our boys since they were very small so in the early days it was more about using their senses to enjoy the experience.

One Noisy Night is a touch and feel book with pictures that your child can run their fingers over to feel Little Hedgehog's velvety hat. I love stories that have a joining in element and this one is a bit of a mystery featuring animal characters and an adventure.

The Perfect Present is an adorable story of friendship and kindness. Bella and Billy are best friends and they want to give each other a present that will make them happy. It made me sob when I read the lovely ending to the story, but in a good way.

Santa to the rescue is more of a traditional Christmas story with the animals of Holly Tree Forest helping Santa when the bears of Mistletoe Mountain get snowed in. This is the one that Blue Bear would love the most as he is a big fan of Father Christmas stories. It's also a great story to tell the night before Christmas so it's a surefire entry for Christmas Eve boxes.

These illustrated stories are wonderful for reading to children until they can read themselves. I love collecting these stories and sharing them with my children. They have such a magical feel to them and make a nice bedtime treat in the run up to Christmas. I can't wait to give these to the bears (and one for their cousin too).

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Little Tiger sent us these books to review. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Brim full of Hygge

At the start of the year Hubbie gave me a book all about Hygge - the Danish concept of relaxation and being happy. A few weeks ago I went to a workshop to find out all about Hygge Box and I loved it. Not least because I found out how you actually pronounce the word - it's not hoo-gah it's hyoo-ger.

During the workshop we heard all about how Hygge has been interpreted as being all about white furnishings and expensive candles, but it's really simpler than that. Spending time with loved ones, sharing a blanket, eating nice food, soft lighting - these are all hygge. We made a lovely heart shaped decoration and tasted some traditional biscuits - no fancy hot choc for me that day. It reminded me of how me and Brown Bear enjoyed candles and cuddles under a fluffy blanket before he went upstairs to bed and it seems to have slipped away from us. Since the workshop I've introduced after school hygge with the boys getting into their onesies, relaxing on beanbags with a snack. It's a lovely time that they can unwind and I can truly appreciate the peace it brings to the house. 

I was fascinated by the idea of Hygge Box which is delivered to your home either as a one off or on a monthly basis. I asked if I could review a Hygge Box and look what arrived in the post this week - a Hygge Box in pretty packaging. the tissue paper inside is festive and luxurious so you feel like you are truly getting a box of treats. It's like the paper you used to get turkish delight wrapped up in and you'd get icing sugar on your fingers when you opened it. This wasn't quite as sweet as that, but it was filled with some lovely things to celebrate Advent. 

Of course there is an advent candle, some marzipan, mulled wine spices, hot chocolate mix and a kit to make crackers - including the jokes to put inside. There is plenty to do, things to eat, some items to help relax and overall it's a nice bit of self care. I can also see how it would work as a gift for someone else. As subscriptions go this is one that really appeals to all the senses. It would also make an ideal gift. 

Hygge Box was founded by Sally and Gabby whose travels have led to the realisation that they wanted to share Hygge with others. Once a month they send out a themed box of lovely things to get your hygge on. You can order a one off box for a friend - if you want to - or for yourself. I love the idea of a box filled with surprises and treats, like a special gift for no reason other than you deserve it. 

To see how I get on with the contents of my box follow me on Twitter for photos of the crafts and maybe even the tasty treats (if I remember to photograph them before scoffing that is !)

If you want to try a box for yourself you can order online here:  

Disclosure: The lovely Sally and Gabby sent me an Advent Hygge Box to review. 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Picture this...

It's been a while since I did a photo post so I thought I'd share some of my recent adventures and share the visuals with you. 

A couple of weeks ago I spent the day at Youtube near King's Cross Station. It is one of those millenial workplaces with fridges full of drinks and food available to staff so all us bloggers arrived with empty bellies ready to pounce on the free breakfast. However, I was more interested in the guitars they had hanging up with a sign saying you could as to play them if you wish. I know when I sent this photo to my hubbie he had his eye on the Les Paul ! 

At my sons' school we held a winter ball with a Narnia theme. It was amazing and the effect of guests walking through the wardrobe and pushing aside coats to reveal the snowy indoor winter scene was magical. For me this twinkly dancefloor was the highlight - I think I might have to have one in our home ! 

Hubbie and I are big fans of Jason Manford. We've seen him live a few times and when he announced he was doing some live gigs to promote his first LP I got us tickets to see him perform in London. When we arrived we were stunned to find we were closer than expected. In fact even Jason commented on how close we were to him. If that wasn't embarrassing enough then our pizza arrived while he was still performing and we had to wait until he had finished to eat the - now cold - food. Still, he was very good indeed. 

I've been very late to the party when it comes to Dishoom and since I first ate there the morning after seeing Norah Jones at Ronnie Scotts I've been three times. Each time it's been a different location and they all have distinctive features and colonial Indian decor. I went to the soft launch of the latest branch in South Kensington. It's in the old Barkers building and used to be a cinema. It's like all the things I adore in one place. Delicious food, stylish and cinematic.  

Since I've been at Radio Lewes I've been pestering my fellow DJ and long time friend Soraya to present a show with me and the other weekend we did just that. 2 hours of inane chatter and some pretty spectacular music and we didn't even stop for breath. It was such a wonderful experience and I really hope we get to do it again soon. 

Finally, I can't even remember the context for this one, but I saw it and it tickled me so I thought I'd share with you. If you can't see the problem then I won't spoil it for you. Also, there's far too much to even outline here. 

That's some snapshots of what's been happening with me lately. I hope you're a bit more with it than I am at the moment. If not, then stick around kid we will probably get on just fine !

Sunday, 26 November 2017

I can't keep it to myself any more...

I've been trying to contain my excitement about this news, but I have been bursting to tell everyone. In fact I've already told all the staff in my local Waitrose, Yasmin who does my nails, most of the people I have met in passing since we planned it and now I'm finally telling you too. You see it's something I've wanted to do for so long, but it just hasn't happened. Now, with help from the fantastic folks at Mark Warner we are able to fulfil my wish to do something really special with the boys.

We will be flying to France for our first ever...

Family skiing holiday !!

Ok, I'm ridiculously excited about this and really, really want to tell the children. However, it's Blue Bear's birthday in two weeks and with it being so close to Christmas I want to make sure that it is really special for him. Once he has been the centre of attention in his own right we can do the big reveal and share all the amazing new things we are going to try.

Going on a plane: Brown Bear has flown before, but Blue Bear hasn't. I showed the boys their passports the other day and we talked about keeping them safe and what they are for. I asked Blue if he would like to go on a plane and of course he said yes. Phew ! That's a relief.

Staying in a chalet hotel: All our holidays with the boys have been in the UK - well Cornwall because we love it so much. We usually stay in a self-catering cottage and have days out and do activities as a family. This time we have booked to stay in a chalet hotel so we can relax. I don't have to cook and we will have afternoon tea with delicious cakes every day. Now that is dangerous !

Kids' clubs: The biggest departure for us, however, is that we have booked the boys into the Mark Warner kids club which is renowned for being excellent. Brown Bear will go to ski school in the morning and Blue Bear will go to a creche. They are confident and friendly children and will be cared for by British qualified child care staff - we are reassured that they will make friends and have fun.

Doing our own thing: Hubbie doesn't ski and has no interest in learning so I'm planning to head out to the slopes while he relaxes in the chalethotel. There is a heated pool, sauna and steam room and we have a balcony so he can just sit and read if he wants to. I haven't skiied for years so I'm going to tag along to ski school with Brown Bear and hopefully remember what to do. I think staying upright will be my main challenge to start with !

The last time I went skiing I looked like this

Buying ski stuff: Of course this has meant I've had to do some shopping for all the kit we need. It's a difficult job, but someone's got to do it. Family and friends have been advised that the boys have lots of lovely things so for Christmas they don't need any presents. However, some have kindly offered to get them socks, gloves and other things they can use on holiday. I can't wait to see what the boys make of that !

Do me a favour: So, now I've told you there is something I need you to do. You have to keep it to yourself. It it still a secret from the boys so please don't tell them. I promise I will share the big reveal when we do finally tell them. I think Brown Bear already suspects something as he said the other day, "I've never been skiing. I'd love to go." I smiled and said, "I'm sure you will get to one day."

You will definitely be fed up of hearing about it, but for now I'm just so excited !

Disclosure: We have collaborated with the lovely folks at Mark Warner to make this trip possible. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Is kindness hereditary ?

This week we had an email from the headteacher of my sons' school. In it he told us about the trip his family had taken to Romania during the last half term to deliver donated clothes to children living in poverty. We had given gloves, hats and clothes and the boys were delighted to see the photos of their donations being given. The headteacher was launching phase two of the support for the organisation in Romania and during assembly on Monday he had asked the children if they could give £2 for a child to have a Christmas meal. This must have really made an impact on Brown Bear. He came home and asked if it would be ok for him to give more. I said of course it would and what did he have in mind. "£10 would be good." I told him that was very generous, but it would mean he might not have enough money left to get a glow toy for the junior school disco tonight. He didn't even stop to consider the sacrifice and brightly announced, "It's ok I don't want a glow toy, I want to give all the money to Romania." I felt such a glow of pride.

I recall when we visited Waitrose on one occasion and our local food bank volunteers were there making an in person collection. I asked Brown Bear to take the list of required items and to read me and Blue Bear all the things on the list so we could put them in the trolley. We filled it up and also bought some cereal and milk that we had come to buy for ourselves. As we left the store I asked the boys to help load up the items for the food bank volunteers. They were so appreciative and thanked the boys who beamed and smiled at the gratitude. As we drove home they couldn't stop talking about how great it felt to give food to people who didn't have enough.

At the end of the last school year the boys went through their old shoes and we picked the ones that were in good condition, but no longer worn. We gave them to a charity that takes shoes overseas to children who need them. I explained that there are children who just don't have any shoes and we have so many that once we've used them and they don't fit any more they are still good enough for someone else who has none. They really took that on board and it seemed to give Brown Bear an appreciation of how different some children's lives are from his. He now asks if his shoes are going to be good enough for someone else to have once he outgrows them.

In January Hubbie and I are going to do a fundraising walk to raise funds for Help for Heroes. It's 20km and it's the first fundraiser we've done together since the Nuns Run we did for Barnardo's. At the time we didn't appreciate how wearing a synthetic habit and wimple would be extremely uncomfortable on a summer day. I'm hoping that this challenge being a 'winter walk' makes it a little less - well shall we say anti-social ? The boys are used to seeing us take part in charitable endeavours and also understand that we give to others as we are so fortunate ourselves.

This evening Brown Bear was sitting on his bed counting out the change in his Big Ben piggy bank. He worked out it was around £4 and I said I had another tin of change somewhere so we went through that one as well. He took great care to sort the coins into piles of different denominations and we made a note of the totals. In the end it came to just under £14. I said, "that is a lot more than you expected isn't it ?" He smiled and nodded. "Are you sure you want to give all of it ? Are you sure you don't want to keep some of it ?" There was no hesitation at all. "I want to give all of it to Romania. We have £14 and they don't."

On days when this parenting thing seems to be impossibly difficult and thankless I'm going to remind myself of how thoughful and selfless my son can be. I must be doing something right.

Monday, 20 November 2017

It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it

Last night I went to see a band from my childhood. As I surveyed the room full of middle aged women and men - and a fair few gay men - I checked out the fashions in the room. You see before I left the house it took ages to decide what to wear. I wanted to 'dress up,' but it was really cold and I didn't want to freeze. What I'd forgotten of course was how hot and sweaty it gets in a venue during a gig. The long sleeved striped top and carpenter jeans I'd chosen caused me to feel fair overheated, but that might have been down to the dancing. Hubbie had expressed a wish for me to dress like this: 

Well, he is a man after all ! So I laughed and went upstairs to change into something far more suitable for a woman of my stature and age. As I watched the big screen behind the bananas showing their old music videos it reminded me that pretty much all my fashion choices in my teens were informed by Siobhan Fahey - and later Madonna. Okay so it didn't look the same on chubby asian me as it did on tall and slim pop starlets, but they had a look that was accessible and - by their own admission - thrown together. These girls weren't styled by anyone - well not until the Stock, Aitken & Waterman days anyway. Before that anyone could dress like a pop star. 

I mean this look was one of my staples - checked shirt, braces and pleated trousers. Yep did that. 

Then there were the dungarees. I have revisited this look in recent years, but back in the day I did in fact own a white pair and can honestly admit I must have looked more like a pint sized painter / decorator than a member of a pop band. 

If you grew up in the eighties you will remember the big hair. Oh yes it was big. I had very long hair back then, but I still tried to make it big and would braid it overnight to make it all crimped and wavy, then tie it up with scarves or rags. It didn't quite resemble this fab look, but I did try. 

Then there were the hats. I love a hat me and in the eighties we had the fantastic Mel and Kim big hat look and of course I had one. It didn't look quite as cool as this, but I like to think I was rocking it in my own way. 

So by the time I was at uni my clothing choices were getting more indie and less pop like, but I could still look to my girls for the cool edgy look I was going for. Look at the fingerless gloves, the red lipstick and the big coat - that's hardcore indie as far as I'm concerned. 

When I turned to my gig buddy and told her that I dressed like Bananarama for most of my teenage years she patted me on the shoulder and said, "never mind." Actually I loved being reminded of my scruffy, experimental, cheap and cheerful teenage looks. It was a bit of nostalgia and reminded me how much effort I put into my appearance. Just as the band have grown up and their look is far more sleek now, I like to think I have developed and grown into my middle aged style.

Mind you in my heart I still want to dress like this.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Go Go Ape for fruit and nut snacks

Now that both boys are at school I find that they are always ravenous when I pick them up at the end of the day. As a result I need a supply of portable snacks that I can take for them to have on the way home. We've made a strict rule that they can't have sugary snacks during the week and I want them to feel satisfied, but not so full that it spoils their dinner.

Ape coconut snacks

stylish packaging and no monkey business !

We were asked to try these new Ape snacks - moreish bite-sized pieces of coconut that pack as much punch in taste as they do in texture. They are something different and offer a change from crisps or rice cakes. The range offers mouth-watering and satisfying treats that don’t compromise on taste. Ape Snacks is available in two variants – Crispy Coconut Curls and Crunchy Coconut Bites.  All nibbles are gluten free, sugar free and high in fibre, making them the ideal snack for any time you’re feeling a little peckish.

tasty flavours too 

As you can see there is an extensive range of flavours with the Ape Curls are available in Lightly Salted, Slightly Peppered and Salted Chocolate variants, whilst the Bites come in scrumptious Natural, Chia Seed, and Sesame Seed flavours. All natural and suitable for vegans, the Ape Snack’s range is low in calories and high in taste.  I'd keep these as a treat for the boys or a post-gym or afternoon treat for me with a cuppa.

Ape’s coconut snacks are available from Boots, Ocado, Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Amazon and Holland & Barrett, amongst other leading retailers. RSP for the Crunchy Coconut Bites is between £1.49 and £1.68 for 30g standing pouch, and between £0.89 and £1.19 or a 20g bag of Crispy Coconut Curls.

Go Go Squeez Fruit Snacks

so many delicious flavours 

I often take fruit based snacks for the boys to have after sports or school. An actual piece of fruit is always good, but a these pouches of Go go squeez offer a great fun way to enjoy fruit. Each pouch contains 100% fruit and the varieties include apple, strawberry and mango - all of which my boys love to eat. The yoghurt varieties have another distinct advantage for me which is they don't need to be kept in the fridge. Once opened they should be refrigerated, but to be honest my boys wouldn't leave any to be stored for later.

yes it's 100% fruit 
no fridge - whoop whoop ! 

The pouches are just the right size and the propeller style lid is quirky and cute. On a practical level it is easier for children to open and looks like a good shape to prevent choking - which is a serious consideration if you're going to put these in packed lunches. The brand started in North America as 'applesauce' - which is big over there. I think it will do well here and we are certainly going to pack some into our travel bags when we go on holiday as a plane snack to help the boys if their ears pop on ascent.

cute and practical lid

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Ape and Go Go Squeez sent us some delicious snacks to try. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Why I'm walking to support Help for Heroes

Brown Bear had his first sleepover with the Scouts last night. Very little sleep occured, but he came home exhausted and happy. They had put up a tent, watched a movie until late at night, slept in sleeping bags and this morning he took part in a church parade for remembrance Sunday. They also observed a silence in commemoration of the fallen. At school on Friday both Blue and Brown Bears took part in a school service of commemmoration and they stood in silence to remember the fallen. Hubbie and I were home this morning when the Cenotaph was shown on TV. He scooped up Blue Bear and we all stood watching the service and even managed to keep him quiet.

A few years ago we took Brown Bear to see the poppies at the Tower of London and we talked to him about what they meant and explained that the silence is a sign of respect. He was very young, but it seems to have struck a chord with him and he still loves to talk about it. At school his project this term is WW1 and he has taken a great interest in the topic.

I worry that talking to my children about war might frighten them. That they will be sad to hear about the young soldiers and the killing and the loss. Instead remembrance is a time to talk about bravery, sacrifice and pride. I am proud that my grandfather was in the army. I never got to meet him, but I know enough about him to feel a sense of gratitude for his service. It is also important to tell my children about those who return from service. Those who have served and might now need help to manage their lives.

It is with his in mind that I wanted to tell you that Hubbie and I are raising money for Help for Heroes.

"Help for Heroes supports those with injuries and illnesses attributable to their service in the British Armed Forces. No matter when someone served, we believe that those prepared to put their lives second, deserve a second chance at life.

Every course and activity we offer aims to empower them to look beyond illness and injury, regain their purpose, reach their potential and have a positive impact on society.

How we do it

Working with a vast network of professionals and partners, we help our Veterans and their families through physical and emotional rehabilitation, identifying new career opportunities as well as financial and welfare support.

We know that those who served together, recover better together - supporting each other, enjoying the camaraderie and sense of fellowship once more.

The Nation has united behind our Armed Forces. During our first 10 years, we’ve directly helped more than 17,000 individuals and their families in this way. Offering this to thousands more who need it remains possible thanks to our supporters, and specialist charity partners."

I hope you agree that Help for Heroes is an amazing charity doing fantastic work. If you can support our fundraising efforts I'd be delighted:

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Me and my big mouth

Oh man it's been one of those days. Early on I realised I'd put my foot in it with someone and spent the rest of the day feeling really stupid and useless. Then in the evening I was at a meeting where I spoke up about inclusion and again felt really out of step with the feeling in the room. As a result I'm now thinking of ways to avoid seeing or talking to anyone for the forseeable future. This space is - of course - exempt from that.

Talking is what I do. I always have. For 4 years I travelled around the country doing public speaking to Rotary, schools, churches and any other group that would turn up to listen to me. I've trained people and hosted meetings and conferences and I produce and present a radio show. It's fair to say that my voice gets used a lot. However, I don't always think before I pipe up my deepest thoughts and on occasion this has led to me feeling daft and seeing a people look baffled by what I've said. At one point I started to do stand up and when audiences actually laughed I was so embarrassed I'd talk over the laugh so they would miss what I was saying. I wasn't a natural.

Speaking has been my job, it's been my hobby and now it's pretty much all I do. Admittedly the sentences I use are shorter and more commands than conversational, but as the boys grow older I can see that our interactions are becoming less one-sided. I hope that at some point we can even talk to each other like human beings rather than me repeating, "get your book bag," "I said put your shoes on," "Where are your socks ?"

A fair amount of my professional life has been spent in campaigning roles. I have made the case for supporting charities, for equality and diversity and worked to improve the lives of children in institutions overseas. This has made my tone expressive and at times confrontational. The only problem is that when I make a stand I get all wobbly inside and after I've spoken I feel sick and embarrassed for speaking up. It always worries me that I've said too much or made a mistake. I undermine my own efforts by feeling bad for making a stand about something. Others will say, "you were spot on," but all I can think is, "But, did I sound like a screeching harpie ?"

Today I've been called out for expressing how I feel and I've challenged a situation that really is not right. In both cases I am left feeling sick inside. This is why I am not cut out for a career in politics. I just wouldn't be able to face the criticism (real or imagined) and I'd struggle to hold back when something really bothered me. I would appear to be trivialising serious issues when I make light of things - as is my habit. Every now and again I make a decision to pipe down and not to draw attention to myself. This is one of those times.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

What's white, furry and purrs a lot ?

It's hardly news that I love my cat. From the day we met him at Battersea Cats and Dogs home and he decided he was going to live with us we've been very close. When he first came to live with us I would rush home from work to see him as he wasn't allowed out for a few weeks and didn't like being inside. He's always been affectionate and friendly and when I was pregnant he used to lie down with me. As my belly grew bigger, Neo became more protective of me and the baby. Until the day Neo got an unexpected boot from the unknown family member while he was snoozing on my belly. It was very funny.

His relationship with us as a family has developed to include first one baby - who grew into a handsy toddler - then a new child who he has also taught to give him biscuits. He loves company and often sleeps on Brown Bear's bed. They are such great pals it's wonderful to see. When I'm home he comes to sit next to me and keeps me company. I will admit I do spoil him. He has a soft bed in most rooms in the house and I have a special fleece blanket for him to lie down on the sofa. Recently he started to drink from my glass of water so I now leave bowls of water all over the house for  him. It's just the decent thing to do isn't it ?

People are asking me how old Neo is now and when I tell them they reply with remarks like, "well that's a good age,' or "Oh he's an old man now." None of these comments inspire me to want to talk to them much further. According to the vet if he was a human he would be around 75 years old. He's doing far better than any human I know of that age range. In reality - of course - he is an ageing cat and that means he is becoming an old man. He is on medication and when I take him to the vet these days they take his blood pressure and check his heart rate. If you have never seen a cat having it's blood pressure taken it is definitely worth it. I'm not sure that Neo would agree.

Of course the unspoken part of all this is that he won't always be with us. It's not a thought I want to consider so when anyone asks me, "will you get another cat when he's gone ?" I swiftly end the conversation and move onto something else. After all at this point he is like any old man, he is grumpy, short tempered, often loses his temper and likes to sleep a lot. As I type this he is lying with his head against me and is purring. I like to think this is his retirement and he's making the most of it.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Play it again sam...

I need some music this week. Some uplifting joyful music. There has been so much in the media to be angry about and frankly I just want to turn up the sound and forget everything else. If you are feeling this too, join me for a little self-indulgent musical interlude if you will: 

This is ridiculous, but I love it. No, not even sorry. 

TLC were epic, this song is a proper hanging out with your girlfriends and singing it loud choon:

This one is just so cool I love it:  

This one is pretty self explanatory: 

 Finally, one I have been playing a lot since I've been back on the radio again: 

Business as usual again soon - I promise. I just need this right now. 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Mythical creatures make for magical family adventures.

Years ago when I wrote reviews for the uni newspaper the best thing was the amount of time I spent at the theatre or cinema seeing shows and movies. I knew how lucky I was and now I'm able to share this luck with my sons (and their friends) when we get invited to fantastic productions for families with children.

Pokemon Movie: I Choose You - Nationwide release


On Friday evening I took Brown Bear to watch the new Pokemon Movie: I Choose You with two friends from school. He's not a Pokemon officianado so it was interesting to see what he made of it as a first timer. It helps that the film is the origin story of how Pikachu and his trainer Ash met and became friends. I liked that fact that it starts at the beginning and explains who they are and what the Pokemon world is about. There were a lot of well informed people in the audience whose reactions to scenes suggested they have a history with the characters that gave them a deeper insight into the story than we had.

Brown Bear and his friends loved the trading card games they got before the film and the Poke ball with mini figure was a bit hit. It was certainly an exciting story with lots of positve themes about friendship, loyalty and a big helping of magic. They boys didn't stop talking about it on the way home or the next day with the oldest comparing it with the resurrection story. It is an epic tale and the storytelling is engaging.

Watch the trailer below to see what you can expect when it opens in cinemas on the 4th November.

The Hunting of the Snark - Churchill Theatre Bromley 

The Churchill Theatre in Bromley is one of my regular venues to see shows and I particularly like taking my boys. It's closer to home than the West End, they serve slushies (which Brown Bear is a big fan of) and the boys really enjoy the shows they have seen there. Churchill have a great programme of family friendly shows including the upcoming production of Hunting of the Snark. Based on the poem by Lewis Carroll this production was a huge success when it premiered in Cardiff, has been on tour to Hong Kong and comes to Bromley on Sunday 5th November.

The Boy, The Banker, The Butcher, The Baker, The Bellman and The Knitting Beaver set off on a journey to search for the mythical Snark. On their subsequent adventure they meet the Jub Jub Bird, the Bandersnatch and the dasterdly Boojum. It's a wild ride with witty songs, high energy performers,  puppetry, witty songs and plent of daft humour.

We can't wait to see the show which promises: All aboard ! The ship is departing ! All children, animals and silly people welcome ! 

Tickets for The Hunting of the Snark are available from: Box office